Three years old!

Fireworks

By Roger C.

AA Agnostica is – on this day, June 15, 2014 – three years old!

It has been, in so very many ways, a remarkable year. The keyword that jumps to mind to describe the past twelve months is “growth.”

So: let’s have a look at what has happened at the website over the last fifty-two weeks.

Sixty-two posts and a book

Over the course of the year sixty-two different articles were posted on AA Agnostica. Most of these were posted on Sunday mornings, with reviews of new books and individual chapters of The Alternative Twelve Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery posted on Wednesdays.

These articles were written by 31 different people, eight of whom were women. This year, all of the writers were from North America and came from a dozen difference provinces and states. I wrote the most articles – eleven – while our history guru, bob k, came a close second with eight pieces. A number of people wrote two or more: life-j, Joe C, Thomas B, John M, Chris G and Sher G. While we want more posts from these wonderful folks, over the next year we will be looking for more articles from other parts of the world and, most assuredly, from more women. We remain convinced that the often unique perspective that women can bring to alcoholism and recovery is frequently ignored or in other ways lost within the rooms of AA.

And what did people write about?

A lot of stuff!

We are history buffs, so twenty-two of our articles were about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. These were evenly divided between early history and the more modern developments within the fellowship. Many of the early pieces were by bob k, such as Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group, while current history focussed, naturally enough, on the status of agnostic groups within Intergroups and the fellowship itself.

Some of the latter posts include Two new agnostic meetings by Russ H. and Denis K., Is listability the new AA? by Joe C. and Yet Another Intergroup Fight by life-j.

We love to do reviews of new books on AA Agnostica, especially those that are supportive of agnostics and atheists in AA. A few examples: Thomas B. did a review of the wonderful book, A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous, authored by John L. and Experiencing Spirituality was reviewed by John M. This book was co-authored by our long time supporter and AA historian, Ernie Kurtz.

And we published our own book!

Don't TellDon’t Tell: Stories and essays by agnostics and atheists in AA, reviewed by Chris G., is the very first book of its kind and was published in April. It contains a total of 64 stories and essays originally posted on AA Agnostica over the last three years and is a diverse and eclectic sampling of writings by women and men for whom sobriety within the fellowship of AA had nothing at all to with an interventionist God.

A crucial work to share with our fellowship, which has always chosen to pretend that there is no problem with the religiosity of AA.

A new category for AA Agnostica articles over the past year has been “Many Paths.” Our purpose here has been simply to acknowledge that AA is ultimately and essentially an umbrella under which all alcoholics are welcome regardless of belief or lack of belief and regardless of what program of recovery is being followed, if, indeed, any is being followed at all. AA is “one alchoholic talking to another alcoholic,” as Bill W. once put it.

There are ten articles in this category, and the two favourites over time would appear to be LifeRing by Mahala Kephart, a board member of the organization, and A Buddhist’s Views of AA by Taiyu.

Over the past year we have published nine articles about the experience, strength and hope of agnostics and atheists in AA. Some of the more notable articles in this category include John L.’s Perry Street Workshop, in which he talks about attending his first AA meeting – in January, 1968. Last Sunday, we published an article by Sher G., My Last Traditional AA Meeting, which attracted the most intelligent thread of comments I have ever read online. We look forward to more from Sher, and from others sharing their personal experience in recovery.

One of my favourite posts was written by my dear friend, Wayne M. who died on March 21. It is called A higher purpose and inspired quite a number of readers, with its wonderfully secular and comprehensible approach to Step 2. Wayne and I discussed this issue a lot, and I like to think that he was happy that I talked him into writing this bit of inspiration.

But there are, of course, a lot more great articles that were posted on AA Agnostica over the past twelve months. You can access a complete list of them right here: Third Year List.

A chat room and more agnostic meetings

Over the past year, indeed over the past three years, the number of visitors to AA Agnostica has increased every month. That is quite inspiring – must be doing something right! – and actually surprising since there are very few websites that link to AA Agnostica and that is always one of the most important sources of traffic for any website. The vast majority of people get here because they have been told about us by a friend.

Because of all this traffic, life-j. decided back in January that it would be a good idea to start a chat room on AA Agnostica.

And right he was!

Participants join in from Australia, Argentina, England, South Africa, New Zealand, all over Canada and the U.S., and more.

Continuous sobriety for the people joining us online ranges from having drunk earlier that day to 40+ years. Meeting numbers range from 5 to 12.

Based on feedback, online meetings are most valued when a recovery topic is suggested and discussed and it’s not just about bashing the AA fundamentalists or about being bashed by them.

Moderators for meet-ups (mostly informal, some formal) include Gord, Soda, JHG, life-j, Jaye, Bob Mc. and Thomas B.

Meanwhile another feature of AA Agnostica that has been getting a wicked amount of attention over the past year is “An Agnostic Group in My Community.” This is a form that people fill out if they want to be part of starting an agnostic AA meeting in their own town or city.

A lot of people have been filling out the form. We have completed forms from Russia, United Arab Emirates, UK, Netherlands, Spain, El Salvadore, Poland, and Taiwan, as well as all over North America.

Chris G., who also produces e-books for AA Agnostica and recently helped start an agnostic group in his own southwestern Ontario town, contacts people when at least three have completed the form and asks them if they are still interested. Here is a typical response, received only yesterday:

I would love it!!! I know a few people who expressed interest and we thought about starting a group but the politics and the time commitment were a deterrent. I am almost a year sober but have all but stopped going to meetings since the last few times the readings seemed to be more anti agnostic than pro recovery. I couldn’t take it. But I am grateful to AA for starting me on this path and want to continue.

There is a lot of enthusiasm; and plenty of comments about how the religious bent of normal meetings isn’t helping any more, and they really want to meet with like-minded folks.

Agnostic Meetings

The growth of agnostic AA meetings over three years as reported by Deirdre S.

In January of this year, Deirdre S., the website weaver for AgnosticAANYC.org, put together some encouraging statistics about the growth of agnostic meetings in AA. If the chart on the right looks impressive, we here at AA Agnostica can guarantee that you will be astonished at the numbers for January 2015. We are witness now to a true explosion of new agnostic meetings and groups.

Growth and more growth

Sixty-two posts over the last year. A book of stories and essays by agnostics and atheists in AA. A chat room. More agnostic groups and meetings in AA.

Are we missing anything?

Oh yes, a convention!

A WAFT IAAC (We Agnostics and Free Thinkers International AA Convention) to be exact. Coming to Santa Monica in November.

We first posted an article about the convention, An AA Convention for We Agnostics, almost exactly a year ago, on June 16, 2013. We hope to post a progress report from the convention steering committee over the next few weeks.

There is a saying in the political world about being “in the right place at the right time.” That expression, we figure, applies one hundred percent to AA Agnostica.

We certainly don’t take credit for the growth of agnostic groups and meetings and conventions yet to come for we alcoholics with a non-religious understanding of ourselves, our recovery and the world we inhabit.

But we’re sure as hell happy and proud to be a part of it.


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Comments

Three years old! — 40 Comments

  1. Happy Birthday to US! Happy Birthday to US :}

    thank you Roger and all who were brave enough to think outside the box. I am a very grateful recovering alcoholic.

  2. SOME OF US GET WHAT WE NEED, NOT WHAT WE WANT.

    When I read some of the horror stories from atheist/agnostic women, I realize how very fortunate I was. First of all I only had 3 sober women to choose from to ask for a phone number, as it was a small town. If I wanted to find others, I could drive 70 miles north, or the same distance south. I thought I was very deprived, especially when none would give me their phone number. Two were business numbers, and one was unlisted. And I was so suicidal, I think they were afraid to get involved with me.

    Then after five months, I was going back home to visit my parents, so I asked the one with the unlisted number to be my sponsor. She agreed, and did give me her phone number. I made my trip, and returned safely. I started on my 4th and 5th steps. After a couple of statements, she proceeded to give me a Freudian analysis of what I had told her, which she was quite unqualified to do, since she had only her own experience as a patient to go on. I continued to work with her a few more weeks, until she suddenly leaned over and kissed my lips, saying, “I know what you want.” I left quickly and never went back. (My usual way of dealing with things – RUN.)

    A fourth sober woman moved into the area when I was about 10 months sober, and I finally asked her to be my sponsor. (Actually, both of us showed up at the hospital to visit a sick group member at the same time. As we left she asked me if I would like to talk, and through tears I said, “Yes.” As we talked, she asked me if I was thinking of hurting myself, and through heavier tears, again I said, “Yes”. Then she asked me if I would want her to be my sponsor, and again through even heavier tears, I said, “Yes”. So strictly speaking, I didn’t ask – she offered.)

    She was quite full of good advice – “Don’t drink even if your ass falls off, just come over and we’ll have coffee and you can cry on my shoulder instead”. “ “If we both are working our programs right, there will come a time when you will need something I don’t have to give you, so don’t worry when that time comes”.

    When I heard women talking about their close relationship to their sponsor from the first, I used to be envious – until I read some of women’s experiences. It seems I was fortunate that I couldn’t get a phone number, as both other sober women talked about god a lot. I was left to find my own way and I decided the 12 step program itself was my “higher power” since I had tried it by myself and it had not worked and here were plenty of people that the program was keeping sober. Thirty nine years, it is still working for me.

  3. THIS is the kind of story I want to be a part of, and I’m so grateful that you are all part of MY evolving story of my now sober life in AA. Thank you for my sobriety!

  4. Hi all: Just wanted to say thank you for your kind comments. I for sure do my bit at AA Agnostica. But, looking at the past year in particular with thirty-one writers, the chat room and our efforts to help others start new agnostic groups, it is clear that a lot of what I do is coordinate the labour of other men and women. AA Agnostica works in the end because it is a collective effort. Love you all and look forward to the next year. Roger.

  5. happy birthday Roger.
    and well, happy birthday to us all. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help put together the chat room, and hope it will serve the agnostic etc. AA for a long time until all the sectarian nonsense is done with, and we can all just be alcoholics in recovery

  6. Hi: From the bottom of my heart I am so grateful to Roger and all the fine writings and posts that have aided my sobriety for the last three years. Cogratulations and may you all enjoy more good recovery.

  7. I am tickled pink to be mentioned. And thrilled to be able to share my experience, strength, and hope with like minded individuals. Being in Toronto, and chatting with people from all over the world is a truly rewarding experience. I can’t believe how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time and standing alongside such influential leaders feels amazing. I wouldn’t be doing this without my friends Jaye and her husband John M. Thanks 2 Life & other friends 4 being super cool. It’s great to be so grounded and know your people are there for you. Thanks agnostica and congrats!!

  8. Thank you Roger for developing this site and tirelessly operating and maintaining it.
    More than three years ago I was fed up with conventional AA meetings, the scripted and predictable sharing from many and the religiosity that has become overbearing over the past decade. I spoke with several friends who shared much the same opinion; collectively we agreed we would try something new in the manner of discussion group that focused on recovery rather than ruminations of our drinking experiences.
    Initially we used daily reflections for our discussions which had a bit too many references to higher powers imaginary friends and other magical thinking. We told our stories, expressed our skepticism, discussed our own worldviews on spirituality; as today, we bonded, we respected one another, we stayed sober.
    Three years ago we found this site, investigated the Toronto Agnostic meetings and liked what we heard and saw. Each week we discussed the newest posting from that Sunday and found each and everyone thought provoking and enlightening. Along came Joe’s wonderful “Beyond Belief” and Roger’s excellent “The Little Book”. Both books along with the wonderfully genuine comments we read each week related to the posting have enriched our sobriety.

    • there’s an excellent daily reader called 365 TAO, thats a sorta down to earth chinese spirituality

      • here is one sampler I read yesterday, this is as bad as it gets the very few times the word god appears, and i think it is really quite good:
        Faith
        In spite of knowing,
        Yet still believing
        Though no god above,
        Yet god within.

        There is no god in the sense of a cosmic father or mother who will provide all things to their children. Nor is there some heavenly bureaucracy to petition. These models are not descriptions of a divine order, but are projections from archetypal templates. If we believe in the divine as cosmic family, we relegate ourselves to perpetual adolescence. If we regard the divine as supreme government, we are forever victims of unfathomable officialdom.
        Yet it does not work for us- to totally abandon faith. It does not follow that we can forego all belief in higher beings. We need faith, not because there are beings who will punish us or reward us, but because gods are wonderful ways of describing things that happen to us. They embody the highest aspects of human aspiration. Gods on the altars are essential metaphors for the human spiritual experience.
        Faith shouldn’t be shaken because bad things happen to us or because our loved ones are killed. Good and bad fortune are not in the hands of gods, so it is useless to blame them. Neither does faith need to be confirmed by some objective occurrence. Faith is self-affirming. If we maintain faith, then we have its reward. If we become better people, then our faith has results. It is we who create faith, and it is through our efforts that faith is validated.

  9. This site is fantastic! Happy Birthday aaagnostica! Thanks for building this wonderful community of sober people.

  10. Thank you for this great website. We have recently started a “Freethinkers” meeting in the Charleston are of South Carolina. Being in the bible belt sure doesn’t help the diversity of recovery and we’re hoping to mix that up as much we can. If it wasn’t for this site I wouldn’t have had the same effect I get from finding commonalities with another recovering individual at a meeting. I’m currently reading “Beyond Belief” “Don’t Tell” and the secular 12 step book. These are a breath of fresh air. After almost three years of sobriety I don’t believe I would have been capable of remaining a member of AA if it hadn’t been for sites like this one and the individuals that maintain them!

    • Roger, please give N.G. my email address so I can visit his meeting when I visit family in the Charleston area (if that’s within your power) Thanks

    • Good for you and your chums, Christopher! Be sure your meeting is listed on agnosticaanyc.org, where many of us first find compatible groups.

  11. Congratulation for 3 years of letting AA members know it is ok to be Agnostic in AA. I wish I had found your site sooner.

    Here in Florida I introduced AA Agnostica by giving a copy of “Don’t Tell” to the chair lady of Stuart, Florida Inter group.

    They had originally refused my story saying they did not believe anyone could stay sober as I described.

    She was impressed and said that as a result of reading the stories they would have to adjust their attitude towards members who do not follow the prescribed path.

    We’ll see how this plays out.

    Marnin

    • Marnin, I am so impressed with your courage to give the book to the chair of Intergroup. It is small and gentle acts like this that help to gain our acceptance by those who thought a different way of recovery in AA was not possible. Thank you for spreading the word.

      • Jaye,
        Thanks for your comment. They’ve trusted me with a key to their Intergroup office since 2003.
        I answer their phones. To turn around and say they don’t believe my story has been a thorn in my side.
        I’ve really been pissed off at them ever since.
        Now maybe they will pay more attention to alternate routes to sobriety.
        Marnin.

  12. I attended AA meeting fairly consistently from 1982 through the mid to late 90’s.
    Then like no small number of other people who got sober at around the same time in the same place I just quit attending regularly at all.

    That’s not to say that AA didn’t do anything right in my direction. They sure as hell did. And back then it was more diverse anyway, with lots more variety in meeting formats. Nor did I have any difficulty finding agnostic sponsorship in the early going of my own sobriety, which was an absolutely vital component of my recovery.

    My first sponsor, Ray W in Galveston Tx, taught me how to take what I could use and leave the rest without accumulating resentments toward the Billy Graham types.

    We eventually helped each other, and some others, to learn to laugh at how utterly preposterous some of the attitudes we encountered were. I think I mentioned once before that, in a memory I shall cherish to the end of my days I was once accused—in an AA meeting now—of being demonically possessed. What the hell can a person do about something that ridiculous but laugh?

    But I have been very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, and the support for my own atheism, while nowhere close to being the majority within AA, was there nevertheless, and in sufficient quantity.

    I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must be for someone with atheist/agnostic preferences, but surely nervous, uncertain and probably self-conscious as they embark upon the very beginnings of their journey toward sobriety finding, instead of the non-judgmental support which is supposed to be AA’s duty to provide, inflexible rituals and evangelical pressure.

    So three cheers for AAAgnostica, a resource I myself came across quite by chance only a couple of months ago.
    Some of us have been waiting for this dam to break for a long time, and many others will finally find the support, the humor and the true non-judgmental fellowship without which sobriety would likely have been impossible for almost all of us.

    Well done. All of you.

  13. Congratulations to US, who under Roger’s inspired (no pun intended) guidance and leadership steers us through the Scylla of the Back-to-Basics-164-only folks on the one hand and the Charybdis of the AA-haters on the other.

    I am extremely privileged to be a part of this “not-glum lot,” as we continue to support each other by staying sober and growing together in recovery thru HOPE — Hearing Other Peoples’ Experience. That what kept me sober in my first year and that’s what keeps me sober in my 42nd year — I am most grateful for AA Agnostica which has been the core of my AA recovery for the past couple of years I’ve been involved. I shall certainly continue . . .

    At the Beyond Belief meeting in Portland, OR, this morning there was myself and six (6) first-time attendees from 27 days clean and sober to three years !~!~!

  14. Many thanks to Roger, article authors, and the fellowship of viewers and participants. My sobriety of three years has been greatly strengthened by you.

    As regard the upcoming convention for agnostics, class appears to be as great a problem for AA as God issues. I would like to participate in person but the costs are prohibitive because there are no transportation or accommodation cost supports available, at least none offered thus far.

    Most agree that AA must diversify to thrive. The process of inclusion is filled with problems/opportunities.
    Boyd P. , ever the optimist, since finding sobriety

    • It’s not about class. It’s about one small group having the gumption to inaugurate such a gathering. Unfortunately, they’re in a high cost area. Perhaps you could take the initiative to start planning for the 2nd convention to be in your area.

    • boyd, that’s definitely an issue, and I’m concerned about it myself. I think we need to begin to coordinate some room and ride sharing. Where are you?

  15. Three years old! Congratulations! Many thank for all you do, Roger.
    Yours in fellowship.

  16. An idea whose time has come. Bill W wrote, ‘The story section (of the Big Book) is far more important than most of us think. It is our principal means of identifying with the reader outside AA…’ And the frontispiece of the fourth edition notes that the personal stories are updated in each generation ‘TO REFLECT THE WIDER AGE RANGE AND DIFFERENT LIFE EXPERIENCES of alcoholics over the years since 1935…’ So in the fourth edition, published in 2001, one writer says, ‘I can say that doubting God’s existence was no barrier at all to a spiritual experience. Also I can say that having such an experience didn’t lead me to any certainty about God. Alcoholics Anonymous gives me the freedom to believe or to doubt as much as I need to’ (Flooded With Feeling). Another author wrote, ‘Alcoholics Anonymous, I was told, is a spiritual program, not a religious one. Through my years of darkness, some spark of spirit remained in me, helped me survive until I found a way into AA. Then, nurtured by the program, the inner spirit grew, deepened until it filled the emptiness I had so long felt inside. Step by step I moved to a spiritual awakening. Step by step I cleared up the past and got on with the present…’ (Because I’m An Alcoholic). And someone else, ‘I looked at the faces of the people in the room and I saw the understanding, the empathy, the love. Today I believe I saw my Higher Power for the first time in those faces.’ (Student Of Life). Just three stories. Who can doubt that the fifth edition will contain more such expressions of nonreligious recovery as AA continues to reflect the growing secularisation of western society; and AAAgnostica is a spearhead of this ‘ever advancing evolution.

      • And also from the old stuff on pages 28 and 29, “We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired.” and “We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. This should be and entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself in the light of past associations, or his present choice. Not all of us join religious bodies….” and “the agnostic…we find such convictions no great obstacle to a spiritual experience.”

  17. ATTABOY, Roger! I can’t exaggerate how much AA Agnostica has meant to me, and how many eyes I’ve seen light up when they hear about it. I got to go to an agnostic meeting in London with two new AA friends I met through AA Agnostica, Laurie and Michael. Laurie is a journalist and used to edit the UK version of the Grapevine, and Michael is talking about a new London agnostic group. The present two meet in the same place, and he’d like one in his corner of town. Right now, I’m attending a “regular” meeting in Normandy, which is made up of two people – great fellowship. The regular UK meetings are far less religious than in the US, in my experience, so I don’t think agnostic meetings are as badly needed there. I’m so lucky to get to travel. I was scheduled to die wrapped around a phone pole years ago, so thanks to you and all the others who got me sober and keep me committed.

    • Hi Pat, Whilst I agree with you that meetings in the UK are far less religious than those in North America. I still feel that Agnostic meetings in the UK are just as important to those in North America.

      My reasons are simple. One is that North America is the spiritual home of AA. Long long gone are the days when British AA was almost totally different to that practiced in North America.

      Perhaps it was tourism that made the difference but I can assure you that AA in the UK is becoming more increasingly religious in my 36 years of sobriety.

  18. Congratulations to every one who appreciates AA Agnostica. It is still my favourite recovery website – no surprise there, I guess.

    And thanks SO MUCH to Roger who had the vision to start this, the patience to maintain it, and the perseverance to stay calm in the face of a diverse set of opinions that he has to read every day in the comments section.

  19. I will admit that it took me awhile, but my resentment is now gratitude towards the person who spearheaded the delisting of the Toronto agnostic groups. Without him, my husband (John M.) and I wouldn’t have known about the existence of the first two groups until they got delisted. With this new awareness, we started another group (Widening Our Gateway) and got delisted, and a few more WAFT groups have started in the Greater Toronto Area. As Deidre’s statistics and your post reveal, the trend is growing rapidly. Joe C. correctly labels this event of, “from the delisting of WAFT groups to the growth in numbers of WAFT groups”: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

    • With special thanks to Barbara H., then chair of Toronto Intergroup, for her unwitting service to agnostic groups in AA.

      • An equally special thanks to Jim J. former chair of Vancouver Intergroup for his unwitting service to our Vancouver Agnostic Groups.
        Without Jim, we would have never been able to create the buzz and discussion that he so willingly handed all of us.
        Long live the law of unintended consequences!

    • This is so, “right on”! And thanks for adding the poem, “Outwitted”, to the sidebar on the site. It’s a great secular statement full of meaning, insight, principle, and challenge.

    • Jaye,

      As unintended as they are, the consequences are completely logical.

      Larry

      • Agreed, Larry, especially if one takes the time to read the abundant writings of Bill W. about inclusivity, flexibility of recovery, etc.