Sunday, August 1, 2010

A.A. Gets Honest with Clergy about Atheists and Agnostics

A.A. puts out a pamphlet, #25, called Members of the Clergy ask about Alcoholics Anonymous. It makes for some very interesting reading. It appears that A.A. is willing to tell the clergy things that it has a problem saying to the membership in general.

For example, in the Introduction, 3rd paragraph, it states:

  • "It would be unrealistic to assume that all A.A. members are spiritually inspired. Many, too, are not committed to a formal body of religious doctrine."
The second sentence is so obvious it's almost a non-starter. But the first sentence is a shocker. To hear that it is "unrealistic" to expect everyone in a God-driven program to be spiritually inspired is like saying "the god of your understanding is not important". Of course, there is no reason except tradition to link a god to "spirituality", since I am a spiritual person without a god. But A.A. doesn't link them together, either, at least not if you say one sentence "necessarily follows" the other, because it doesn't necessarily follow, and A.A. doesn't make it out to be that way.

But the next section of the pamphlet makes it clear that A.A. is indeed "religiously oriented", because they tell the clergy that A.A. is "a nonsectarian, nondenominational ally in their efforts to help alcoholics..." It would not be necessary to disclaim any link to a sect or a denomination if AA was entirely "sectarian".

Sectarian groups are religious, political or ideological organizations whose services are limited to a particular sect..." So A.A. makes the truthful claim that they do not ally with any sect in particular, but we must assume that they are not secularist or they would plainly say so.  Instead, they claim "non-sectarianism", the same as Universalist-Unitarian churches.

And yet, speaking of the honesty shown to the clergy, A.A. says that "Nonalcoholics attending an A.A. meeting for the first time are often surprised to note...[that] some members recount their drinking experience [in] a decidedly agnostic tone..."

If the GSO already knows this, why don't they tell those yokels down in Georgia who believe in the Christian God alluded to in the A.A. Big Book as though it was the Bible?

And under the heading of "Is Religious Belief Part of the A.A. Program?" the pamphlet specifically states:

"Individual members are free to interpret these values as they think best, or not to think about them at all." [emphasis added] 

And going on, where the Big Book tells us several times in different ways that we will "find a higher power" or "find God", etc., this pamphlet merely says that members "will in time find an answer to this distinctly personal dilemma."

Step Two says we will come to believe in a power greater than ourselves; Step Three says we turn our will over to "the care of God as we understood him"; Step Five says we "Admitted to God"; and on and on. 

But we are guided in the Steps by the Traditions, including Two: "For our purpose there is but one ultimate authority--a loving God..."

Then this little pamphlet tells the clergy that "The Traditions are not formally binding on A.A. groups." Period.

Show that one sentence to any person in A.A., even one who is not necessarily religious but still adheres to A.A. as closely as he can, and he will look at you with open eyed astonishment and say, "But!---then how is A.A. supposed to work? Those are our working guidelines!" I know this happens because I've shown it to people, and most of them are none to happy to see it in print. That makes it official.

There is more out there in our official material than we know about. How many dozen books have I never even laid eyes on, like all those from the Grapevine?

Never let another member tell you there is only one way to do things in A.A. The book "Living Sober" states, "There is no wrong A.A. way and no right A.A. way."

Alcoholics can get sober without god, since there is none. Bill Wilson was wrong about self-will; but we must direct our will toward what keeps us sober. A higher power (HP) is no power at all if it doesn't help us. But as you will read in the page titled Higher Power, Part 2, that HP does not necessarily need to be outside yourself. ©
The Atheist AA, The Atheist AA Blog,
The First Free Church of Atheism
and the Google group Atheist AA
are all © or SM of the
Free Assemblage of Metaphysical Naturalists LLC


  1. Curtis: Any chance you might create a meeting directory here? The site has pretty high Google rankings, and adding a meeting list might be a good thing.

    We Agnostics
    Alcoholics Anonymous
    Thursdays, 6:30-7:30 pm
    Carvel Club, Upstairs
    4627 Carvel Avenue
    Indianapolis, IN 46205
    (317) 255-0037

  2. I consider my higher power to be freedom from illusion.

  3. Looking for updated information. Is this group still current? There is no contact information for Kalamazoo. Does this group still meet?