No Grapevine Book for Atheists in AA

No

By Roger C.

I want to share with you two letters, with a document in the middle of the two letters.

The first letter was written to the Grapevine and to the AA General Service Office and mailed in early January.

This letter was a follow-up to many things: some 40 articles by nonbelievers published by the Grapevine between 1962 and 2014 and collected together as a possible book by life j; a lengthy discussion by several people involved at the time with the AA Agnostica chat room including life j, Chris G., Dianne P., Alyssa S.,  Ann M., JHG, Robert Mc., Gord A. and Thomas B.; a letter written by Thomas B. to officials at the Grapevine; and, finally, several articles posted on AA Agnostica.

Following the letter is the document, “The need for literature specifically for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in AA”. This document – composed of requests made by readers of AA Agnostica – was included with the first letter and sent via traditional “snail” mail. Grapevine officials had indicated that a book of its previously published articles by agnostics in AA would not be considered unless there were requests for such a book.

And at the very end is the response of the AA Grapevine, a letter which was received yesterday, February 17.

__________

1. The Letter to the Grapevine and the General Service Office


January 2015

Terrence Bedient, Chair AA General Service Board
Phyllis Halliday, General Manager, General Service Office
Mary Clare Lynch, GSO Literature Committee
Michelle Mirza, Chief Archivist, AA World Services
Ami Brophy, Executive Editor and Publisher AA Grapevine
Jon Witherspoon, Senior Editor AA Grapevine

Hi folks,

The most haunting quote I have ever read in AA came from Bill Wilson and was published in the AA Grapevine in 1961: “In AA’s first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking… God as I understood Him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging – perhaps fatally so – to numbers of non-believers.”

In these later years have things changed for non-believers – atheists and agnostics – in AA?

Meetings are invariably held in churches. There is usually a huge poster with the 12 Steps – six with a God or a Him or a Power in them – somewhere at the front. Increasingly at meetings, “How it Works” is read and at the end everybody joins in for “God could and would if He were sought”. And most meetings in North America now end with the Christian Lord’s Prayer.

Need I go on? Suffice it to say that in some ways things have gotten worse – much worse – for non-believers in AA.

Perhaps fatally so.

Certainly, one of the things that is in short supply in AA is literature for agnostics and atheists. And I don’t mean something like “Many Paths to Spirituality” in which a Jew says the Lord’s Prayer and an atheist does the 12 Steps “just as they are written in the Big Book”. Please. Show some respect.

I have attached a document called “The need for literature specifically for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in AA”. It is a somewhat expanded version of a document I had previously sent to some of you.

The comments in this document eloquently express the need for a Grapevine book consisting of articles by and about atheists and agnostics in AA and, more generally, for literature of all kinds by and about non-believers in AA.

And I would like to make two formal requests:

  1. That the Grapevine decide whether or not it will publish such a book, and
  2. That the document “The need for literature specifically for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in AA” be distributed to ALL those attending the 2015 General Service Conference.

It is my hope that the latter request will result in Conference-approved literature truly by and about agnostics and atheists in AA.

All we can do is try, right?

Folks, as noted in the attached document, in 1976 a member of the trustees’ Literature Committee wrote that conference-approved literature was necessary to “assure non-believers that they are not merely deviants, but full, participating members in the AA Fellowship without qualification.”

It is now 2015.

The need for that literature is even greater than it was 40 years ago.

Conference-approved literature. A Grapevine book of already published articles by and about agnostics and atheists in AA.

It’s time.

Your consideration of this letter and of the two requests is much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Roger C.
encl.

__________

2. The need for literature specifically for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in AA


On September 7, 2014 an article was posted on AA Agnostica calling for A Grapevine Book for Atheists and Agnostics in AA. It listed thirty-nine articles by sober atheists in AA published on the Grapevine between May, 1962 and June, 2014 and then asked: “Now, wouldn’t this collection make a wonderful book?”

Next, AA Agnostica published a review of a new AA Grapevine book, Sober & Out, a collection of fifty-seven stories about gay, lesbian and the transgendered in AA.  These stories had first been published by the Grapevine between 1975 and 2011.

Finally, on December 21st, a Grapevine article about an atheist in AA called From Believer to Non-Believer was re-published on AA Agnostica.

At the end of these three articles there was a form that could be filled out which allowed a reader to explain why a book specifically for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in our fellowship, published by the Grapevine, would be of value in AA.

Following are comments culled from the responses after the articles were published. What is most interesting is how modestly and yet eloquently people explain the need for this literature.

───────

I would like to feel more included. My quest for sobriety is as valid is a person who believes in God. A Grapevine book without constant reminders that I must have a higher power or believe in God would be very helpful.

Patrick W. (Atheist, 2 months)

It is imperative for the still suffering nonbelieving alcoholic yet to come in, and the newly sober nonbelievers to be fully assured they are in fact welcome, and that AA is a place that truly desires to be of service to every alcoholic who wants help. All too many of us are the objects of scorn, ridicule, and harassment simply for what we do not believe. This can be corrected easily with a handy publication that lists stories of experience, strength and hope from nonbelievers who remained nonbelievers, and who found profound assistance and change within the Fellowship of AA.

Mark C. (Atheist, 4 years and 9 months)

It would help to balance the overwhelming god talk with practical experience without it and help AA as a whole be more like the spiritually inclusive fellowship it claims to be and not the religious fellowship it appears to be.

Christopher G. (Possibillian, 12 years)

This would be a very useful book for non believing newcomers and would encourage them to stay around and receive the love that the fellowship has to offer.

Ed S. (Atheist, 27 years)

I have struggled with this “God of the Bible” concept for a long time. A few weeks ago, I finally admitted to myself and the groups in my town of my decision. Boy, did the “merde” (pardon my French) hit the fan. I began standing outside the group circle when they said the “Lord’s Prayer.” One evening a few weeks ago, the chairman of the group decided that we would recite the AA Responsibility Statement instead of the LP. Then one of the devout Christian members said, in effect, “You mean you are going to let one idiot (looking straight at me) decide that we are not going to say the Lord’s Prayer?” He then, followed by one other member, stepped out of the circle as the rest of us recited the AA Responsibility Statement. I have not been back to a meeting since then. I participate in Agnostic/Atheist chat meetings online, since there are no such meetings within 200 miles of my town.

I live in southern Illinois in a small, very conservative Christian community. I have no choice but to attend these very “Christian oriented” AA meetings, or choose other outlets available to me online. Please consider making the Agnostic/Atheist members of AA more a part of AA. The higher power talked about in the Big Book of AA does not have to be the “God of the Bible!” There are other choices. I have heard many AA members say how they felt at their first meeting to hear about the “God” idea in our literature and in our meetings. If those people had access to a book such as the one being suggested, the newcomers might feel more comfortable about attending meetings. Thank you for considering the needs of us “outsiders.”

Donald J. (Agnostic, 1.5 years)

It would provide many stories of how one got and stayed sober without the religious entity, God, and without an assumed external/nebulous force, a Higher Power.

Dianne P. (Atheist, 6 years)

I have stopped going to AA meetings because of the constant emphasis on god in my area and then if I express myself openly, someone invariably tries to talk to me after a meeting to convince me that I am wrong. This is simply not right. I would love to be able to attend meetings freely, be myself and be able to give back. I know I could help the newcomer.

Susan B. (Agnostic, 22 years)

This is my fourth experience with AA, the last being over twenty years ago. Had there been more literature welcoming a non-theistic viewpoint, rather than insulting it, I might not have had such a struggle. I have known two people who died of their addiction rather than finding sobriety because of their exclusion from the AA way. They were open atheists and were shunned by the available groups of the era. It’s time to take a closer look at the Third Tradition and the Responsibility Pledge.

Andy L. (Buddhist, 3 months)

The book will enable, empower individuals who believe in Socratic methodology, critical thinking and inductive and deductive reasoning to feel that they have their own ability to decide what is right and wrong for them.

Frank P. (Atheist, 2 years)

My sobriety is still young, and vulnerable to any hint of false hopes. As with alot of us, this path of recovery is the only road I can take to go forward and I cannot afford to allow myself to be misled. The absolute, harsh reality of my situation and life itself must be faced straight-on for me to find the strength to stand-down this hideous disease.

I was extremely lucky to figure out for myself early on that the god concept is a gimmick to help us “let go” of some of the overwhelming burden we have accumulated over the years to clear the slate a bit for the serious positive changes we must make. By understanding the truth that I really don’t carry the weight of the world, whether there is a superhero to lift that burden from me or not, was a defining moment in my sobriety. I do not think I could have come this far if my only choice was to blindly trust in a concept that just doesn’t make much logical sense to me.

I live and attend my meetings in the Bible belt, and I know that my struggle could have been eased and my strengths made more obvious to me sooner had I been dealing with rock-solid realities from the very beginning rather than having to block out large portions of the program out of a sheer survival instinct.

Ted M. (Agnostic, 10 months)

To reach out to agnostics/atheists who are alienated from AA by all the god-talk.

Hilary J. (Agnostic, 3 years)


A Grapevine Book

This is the form that readers could complete at the end of one of three articles posted on AA Agnostica between September and December 2014: A Grapevine Book for Atheists and Agnostics in AA, Sober & Out or From Believer to Non-Believer. When “submit” was clicked, the form was automatically forwarded to the Executive Editor and Publisher of the Grapevine.


I love AA. As an atheist with over 26 years of continuous sobriety, I don’t have any trouble taking what I like and leaving the rest, but I have met a number of people who get the message from AA that they have to believe in God to be a member. I want them to be able to view of AA through the eyes of people like them and to know that it is possible to get and stay sober without having to violate their own sense of integrity.

John G. (Atheist, 25 years)

We have recently started a secular meeting in Swanley (England). There is, I believe, a real need for believers and non-believers alike to realise that A.A. can work for and accommodate everyone. This is particularly the case for the countless newcomers who are put off by some members overly religious posturing. Please publish a book that helps recovering alcoholics.

Lee C. (Atheist, 8 months)

There is no AA-approved literature that truly represents the agnostic or atheist in AA. Since there have been articles about this in the Grapevine, a compilation of those would easily meet this need.

Nita S. (Agnostic, 23 years)

Please publish a book of the stories of atheist and agnostics in AA. It is much needed.

Jo-Anne K. (Atheist, 27 years)

Most of the people that I associate with have lost faith in a Christian God, and prefer to be known as agnostic. They tell me they can live “not knowing”, rather than believing in something that might not be true.

Edward C. (Agnostic, 27 years)

AA folks who describe themselves as “agnostic” (of any level including “atheist”) are generally supportive of the original concepts which Bill Wilson articulated in founding AA… except, an agnostic AA-person chooses to live without a belief in God or Higher Power, and therefore rejects those portions of the AA-12-Steps in gaining (keeping) sobriety.The GRAPEVINE articles… many already published dealing with agnostic open-mindedness, would be great as a collection encompassed in a book exclusively dealing with agnostic views regarding that subject. As a Foreword, it would be wise to make the point that “agnostic AA-folks” are NOT ridiculing God-believers… they are simply saying that the need for a Deist orientation is NOT necessary for themselves. Education and fairness would be the only objective. I believe that the GRAPEVINE is well justified in being a publisher of such a book.

Les C. (Agnostic, 10 years)

To help all those members in AA that are atheist, agnostic, humanists etc feel accepted within the fellowship as legitimate.

Steve K. (Humanist, 9 years)

This would be a great addition to AA. I hope they allow the publication.

Camille L. (Atheist, 25 years)

This will offer hope that many do indeed stay sober without an interventionist higher power, and will help reflect AA in a 21st century light. We can’t keep telling people that have found a different, or no, path to spirituality that they are doomed. It is NOT true.

Ian B. (Freethinker, 6 months)

I tried to get sober in 1994. I was told I had to believe or I couldn’t get sober. I was told to fake it til I make it. In other words, lie or die. I did. But I didn’t come to believe. After 3 months at a party I had a beer. I didn’t feel safe to tell anyone, and eventually left. Took me 10 years to come back. I lost everything. But this time, because of my past experience, I knew what to expect. You don’t have to lie or die. You can be who you are and get sober. I follow the steps. I sponsor women and men, atheist, theist, agnostic and unidentified. It doesn’t matter. And as a result of my experience, I understand that all roads lead to Rome. I would like others for whom interventionist deities are not part of their belief system or not sure, know that you don’t have to believe in a god to get sober. You can be honest and thrive, not lie or die.

Jim B. (Atheist, 19 years)

There is a significant population of AA members who are not believers in the “God” or “Higher Power” described in AA’s most prominent texts (“Alcoholics Anonymous” and “12 Steps and 12 Traditions) and referred to in the “12 Steps” and “12 Traditions” posters displayed in most meeting rooms. We are minority but a substantial one. We have achieved and sustained sobriety as active and devoted members of AA. A collection of Grapevine stories written by people from this minority and published by AA Grapevine would be a meaningful statement of inclusiveness. We have yearly editions of the AA Grapevine devoted to alcoholics in prison. Why not a collection of stories written by people who hold alternative belief systems? I hope the Grapevine editorial staff gives this idea full consideration.

Russ H. (Atheist, 19 years)

It would include all who suffer.

Dan V. (Agnostic, 30 years)

We need to make the door to AA as wide as possible – this book will widen that door.

Ernie K. (Seeker, 4 years)

I came into AA an agnostic who was fearful and angry. I felt comfortable in AA because I was with my fellow alcoholics. I did not feel comfortable with the emphasis on god or a higher power because my politics and experience did not justify such a belief. However I was fearful and tried to adapt. As time went on and I began to gain confidence, due primarily to the fellowship and service, I accepted that I was not all powerful (as I insanely believed) but that the State or two people were more powerful than me. Eventually I accepted and understood that time was the arbitrator on all human and material existence and so I gained peace of mind. I was raised in a religious family but rejected god from an early age. The emphasis on a “Higher Power” or a “God” was only important to me in that it encouraged me to investigate and understand the subject. However I do believe that many folks will either not go to AA because of its emphasis on the need for a supreme being or be chased away due to members’ hostility.

Charles M. (Atheist, 32 years)

Experience has shown us that a humble surrender to the truth and willingness to live life on life’s terms (not mine) lies at the root of the healing spiritual experience. This is just as possible for the hard atheist as it is for the agnostic, pantheist or born again believer. Good sources of truth and healthy direction come from many places and many systems, a fair number of which are not theistic and do not employ the God idea in ANY sense at all. This is a fact, and we do know it if our eyes are open. Let us always be willing to surrender to humble truths such as this on a fellowship level, the same as each of us must do individually with all the facts of life.

Frank M. (Non-theist, 5 years)

I’m sick and tired of hearing the word miracle, as if the gift of sobriety is God’s work (a “miracle”) then bad things are an “un”miracle? I’ve yet to hear a member who relapsed say I had an “un”miracle. I want to read stories of agnostic/atheist members who take responsibility for their actions and the results. The AA Chapter to the Agnostic did not reassure me that it was ok to be agnostic in AA. It assumed that eventually I would see the light and have God as my Higher Power. To be truthful being an agnostic in Florida AA I often feel like a leper in AA. The nearest agnostic AA meeting to me requires a 100+ mile round trip. I’m planning to start making this trip once a month. Yes, yes, to a Grapevine Book of atheist and agnostic member stories.

Marnin M. (Agnostic, 43 years)

As a Buddhist, I do not believe in God. The insistence from AA members that I had to find a “higher power”, meaning God, kept me bouncing in and out of the rooms for 5 years. I was finally fortunate to find a sponsor who told me it didn’t matter what I believed in. What mattered was what I did to stay sober. 25 years later I am still sober and not for one day of it have I believed in God. And 25 years later, I still feel like outsider because of the standard belief that sobriety without God is impossible. The only reason I still attend meetings anymore is to be there for the person questioning the God issue, as proof that no supernatural higher power is required for full, meaningful sobriety. Publishing a book of such stories would go a long way to eliminating an obstacle many are facing in their recovery.

David M. (Buddhist, 25 years)

It would provide a resource for all AA’s to improve the ‘opening of their minds’ in relation to a proposed concept of a HP, whether believer or non-believer. Such a book would allow a further resource to be available to the general public, the same as Beyond Belief is, and show by personal experiences that ‘sobriety’ is continuously achieved and sustained by members of AA who hold no belief, or differing non-religious beliefs related to a concept of a HP. A reasonable proposition as I see it.

Harry C. (Atheist, 27 years)

I keep wondering about AAs future – some time in the future it will be irrelevant unless we evolve.

Con J. (Sober agnostic, 32 years)

Being an atheist or believing in god doesn’t get you sober. Taking a set of actions does. Keeping company with fellow travelers helps. People who cannot or will not believe in god can achieve long term sobriety. I know quite a few examples personally. Those who have difficulty with the religious nature of AA need examples of how other alcoholics have stayed sober by taking action and that they are not alone in AA.

Garry U. (Agnostic, 25 years)

It will help retain persons who otherwise would leave AA because of its religiosity.

Daniel H. (Atheist, 25 years)

Many years ago, in 1976 to be exact, an AA trustee and member of the Literature Committee, wrote that an AA pamphlet was needed “to assure non-believers that they are not merely deviants, but full, participating members in the AA Fellowship without qualification”. That pamphlet has never been approved or published by the General Service Conference. Agnostics and atheists in AA often do not feel comfortable in the rooms of AA. They do feel welcome.

A book by the Grapevine for agnostics and atheists in AA would go a long way towards making us feel as though we have a right to be a part of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many of the articles by agnostics and atheists that have been published by the Grapevine over the years are encouraging and inspiring for we un-believers. Please consider putting together and publishing such a book. It would well reflect the Responsibility Declaration adopted by AA in 1965 and its International Convention in Toronto, Canada: “I am responsible. When anyone anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there. And for that I am responsible.”

Roger C. (Agnostic, 5 years)

I NEED to hear stories of other nonbelievers that have been successful in living a happy sober life. I need understanding of how to approach the steps from an atheistic point of view. And I need to know that there are other people with the same AA struggles I am having.

Nichole K. (Atheist, 5 months)

One third of young people in the U.S. now identify their religious affiliation as “none,” according to scientific surveys. U.S. courts, in deciding that the non-religious cannot be ordered to attend A.A. meetings, have ruled that A.A. is, in fact, religious. We need to make it clearer that our doors are wide open to the increasing number of non-believers in today’s society. None of our current literature, including the new pamphlet “Many Paths to Spirituality” makes this clear enough. I heartily endorse the suggestion that Grapevine publish a new book of previously published articles written by nonbelievers.

Eric C. (Atheist, 31 years)

I spent many years in AA on the “fake it till you make it” plan. There were many AA’s that said if you don’t believe in God or you don’t pray, you’ll drink. I now know that is not the truth. I think getting the message to the others who do not believe in a deity, that they too can get sober and stay sober is the fair and humane thing to do. A book such as this would be most helpful in doing so.

George S. (Atheist, 30 years)

Over the years I have sponsored many women who struggled with the GOD word and with the religiosity of some meetings. I have been able to help them with some AA literature (Living Sober) and also most of the pamphlets are now gender neutral so women feel included. To have a collection of Grapevine stories from over the years from non believers would be VERY helpful to be able to hand to new comers and non believers alike. I have stayed sober without a belief in GOD and enjoy a wonderful, happy life full of AA friends and service work.

Sandra T. (Free thinker, 27 years)

I have long appreciated the Grapevine’s breadth of coverage of the world of alcoholics. No one could read an issue without recognizing what a varied lot we are. It would be well within the spirit of AA, and another credit to The Grapevine, if you were to agree to allow publication of selected articles related to nonbelievers as a means to bring still-suffering nonreligious alkies into our fold. They deserve a chance to live.

As the recent Pew study shows, almost 20% of Americans are non-religious, as am I. I have heard many newcomers in We Agnostics meetings express their relief at finding a nonreligious setting in which to get well. That’s what AA is for, Let those who prefer or are indifferent to more traditional God-talk continue to have the bulk of AA meetings and literature, but let’s make sure we encourage those who can’t stand religious references. Keep up the good work!

Pat N. (Atheist, 34 years)

It would be nice to read about others belief in the power of themselves or their higher self to keep them sober.

Mary Ann H. (Humanist, 2 years)

Widen the gate.

Jennie K. (Freethinker, 1.5 years)

Since I’m the one who wrote the article about it, I have already argued at length for it. Seeing the responses we have gotten I guess I would just like to stress that this needs to be a book by us nonbelievers, and for us, and about us.

We have seen plenty of attempts to write a book with stories about and for and by everybody, such as Spiritual Awakenings, which I really think is a good book – at any rate I found quite a few stories of “our kind” in there, and read those, and even some of the others. I do appreciate that we got some representation in that book. But representation is not enough, we need our very own book, and with the stories selected we can have it.

Again I think this is important because it does help foster unity if this is done within a mainstream AA framework, and the grapevine can help us with that. We can easily write books with our own stories, and already have. But we need to feel welcome in AA, we need a gesture to the effect that AA does not want to keep sending non-believers out to drink some more “until they are ready”, but wants to include us, the way we are.

life-j (Agnostic, 26 years)

“Our atheists and agnostics widened our gateway so that all who suffer may pass through regardless of belief or un-belief.” (Bill W., AA Comes of Age) Perhaps many AAers are not aware of statements like this from Bill W. The word must get out!!!!

John M. (Freethinker, 7 years)

I came to AA in 2002 because I was unable to control my alcoholic drinking. I struggled for nearly two years trying to understand and accept the Twelve Steps and the writings of The Big Book into my life. I failed miserably. I finally arrived at a treatment centre, Homewood in Guelph, in July 2004. I finally realized I had to take responsibility for my own life and change accordingly. This I did and continue to do.

When I talk to new fellow alcoholics I find that accepting a higher power external to themselves the greatest stumbling block to their recovery. I try to relay my own experiences and it would help greatly if there was AA literature (i.e. The Grapevine) which also expressed an alternate view.

Bob H. (Agnostic, 10 years)

After almost 17 years of sobriety, I admitted I never felt “connected to H.P.” So, I threw in the towel when my shoelaces broke, never having “gotten” steps 2 & 3 with this “God” business. After all that time sober in AA, I convinced myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic. But, quit the fellowship? I figured if I really tried harder to sabotage everything, and sank even lower, “God” would answer my prayers once I really qualified as an alcoholic. THEN I would believe. Been there. Done that. Several times. Still don’t have the T-shirt. Coming up empty-handed again.

Laura M. (Agnostic, 6 months)

I feel so alienated by the literature in general, there is nothing in the official cannon from AA that makes me feel welcome or identified with. Guess you guys would rather have me die than find a way out that doesn’t include your concept of a higher power. Thanks for that.

Suzana V. (Non-drinking, nil)

I continue to see people driven away from the help they need by the religious language and practices in most AA meetings, e.g. beginning and ending with prayer, any kind of prayer to an unseen being. They need to at least read that there are non-religious members who find and grow in sobriety through support of the Fellowship and/or practice of the 12 Steps without the “god idea.”

Jeb B. (Monist, 36 years)

Since I got sober, there has only been one other man who was openly agnostic/atheist. He got fed up with being told he had to find a God & pray in order to stay sober. He left AA. Fear keeps me quiet about my NON-belief. I am in the closet in sobriety, which is pretty sad.  I am so grateful to a man named Wally from CA, who was sober 30 years & visited our group one day. He spoke openly about being agnostic & gave me so much HOPE! Sound familiar? What are you guys so afraid of?

Joy R. (Agnostic, 9 years)

I’m not going to be polite about this. AA service structure as a whole, its unwillingness to acknowledge the secular nature of a vast contingency of its members through official literature publication, in a respectful and collaborative manner, is a slap in the face. For AA to continue to remain relevant and actually help newcomers recover in an inclusive non-theist manner, it is absolutely necessary to address these individuals in an open and direct manner through literature channels. Publishing of such a collection of alternative non-higher power related recovery experiences would be a step in the right direction.

P.S. The recent publication of “Many Paths to Spirituality” as a means to address more atheist members in AA was downright vile. I piss on that pamphlet.

Neev G. (Freethinker)

Newcomers, especially millennials, younger people born between 1980 and 2000, many who profess no religious orientation, need stories which demonstrate that one can get and stay sober in AA without belief in God. Since 1962 the GV has published many such stories, relating the reality that long-time and successful recovery does occur for agnostics, atheists, freethinkers and others who don’t follow the predominant Christian orthodoxy as depicted in the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve. Why not collate these stories into a book for non-believers? Our co-founder Bill W. often emphasized that anyone, with belief or without belief, are members of AA if they ascribe to the Third Tradition that the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.

Thomas B. (Apophatic, 42 years)

So other with beliefs such as mine will feel included.

Peggy H. (Agnostic, 2 years)

There is a countless amount of people like myself who believed that AA was unsafe for unconventional believers or non-believers. I was lucky enough to have a WAFT group in my home town who gave me the love and support to remain sober but more importantly didn’t care if I believed in a higher power or god because ALL that mattered to them was not picking up the first drink! I believe a collection of Agnostic/Freethinker/Atheist voices will save people’s lives and will fulfill AA’s mission of 12th step work!

Dorothy H. (Agnostic Pagan, 3.5 years)

Although I have only been sober 3 years I first attended AA 42 years ago and was a repeat offender but did manage a 10 year sobriety but always got fed up with the divine message and stayed away but then after various periods returned to alcohol. I had to come back or die but feel I am always being judged for my non belief with most telling me that it is my lack of faith that is making me drink. The ironic part is that I am the only member that still attends my local meeting that I first attended 20 years ago after moving to Ireland; all the god fearing members seem to have departed.

Lionel M. (Atheist, 3 years)

AA isn’t supposed to be an exclusively Christian organisation, but is not very welcoming to non-Christians.

Sean M. (Atheist, 18.5 years)

I know that as many believers go back drinking as Atheists. Whatever else God may be, He is not the way. Of course people can believe in whatever they want to believe in and for some their belief may help them, but, getting and staying sober is different. An atheist feels insulted by Chapter 4, and it does them no good at all. All mentions of God, prayer etc. is also an insult to Atheists so that is why I find it hard to swallow. AA should be for everyone.

Duncan Mc. (Atheist, 36 years)

It’s been tricky trying to stay honest and true to self when listening to suggestions by believers in a personal god/higher power. This type of literature (adhering to the 12 steps & principles) has been extremely comforting and helpful.

Carolyn O. (Agnostic, 3.5 years)

So many of us don’t buy the magical, miracle or the mythical preached as necessary to stay sober in AA. Life is a beautiful gift, full of wonder, awe and mystery, without sobriety I missed it all. Other alcoholics who, like myself, are realists, need to feel welcome in AA without any form of coercion to believe in the bizarre! All we want/need is sobriety.

Andy M. (Skeptic, 32 years)

A.A. today is stuck in binary thinking and this book could shake our fellowship lose from the “Either God is or he is not” ultimatum of “We Agnostics.” Deists believe “lights are on – nobody home,” or more literally that a supreme being created the universe then left. So while there’s a god there’s no one to pray to. Humanists believe in the goodness and value of people. They believe in a “higher purpose” more than a power. Do they have to squeeze themselves into some G.O.D. acronym for full membership in AA? The Big Book is not central to every A.A. member’s sobriety nor is such adherence obligatory or necessary. Having literature that describes the A.A. experience that doesn’t assume an interfering/intervening higher power levels the playing field for those who want A.A. but don’t care for the Amish-like devotion to old, quaint practices and tenets.

Give A.A. members a choice and let them vote with the power of the purse. Given more choices, we will engage and grow the membership. Living Sober is a secular A.A. text but written by one person. This Grapevine Book could be a collection of the A.A. way by skeptics, doubters, apathesits, realists, and the rest of a much wider membership than was conceived in 1930s middle-America.

Joe C. (Realist, 38 years)

I am a current subscriber to Grapevine, and appreciate your work. Such a collection in a book would be a great help to me, and many of my friends in AA. I “take” an AA meeting for women into a local rehab facility each week. Having a book like this to share and distribute would be a great thing.

Mary R. (Atheist, 7 years)

This book will make visible to all that the family of AA is open and tolerant to all who have a desire to stay sober, and that they can achieve successful sobriety as non-believers.

Wally K. (Atheist, 42 years)

For me, for the newcomer, for the believers and the non-believers.

Vic L. (Agnostic, 35 years)

AA has many SOBER Agnostics, Atheists, and Free Thinkers who get shouted down by more dogmatic AA’s all too often. This book would help to balance the tide waters…

Herb Y. (Sober, 7 years)

I have been sober for 30.5 years and for 30 of those years I have been a nonbeliever. I came in and was hungry and hit the ground running… I loved it all so I never really cared that “normal” AA members thought I should believe in God, I knew the Third Tradition meant what it said (My sponsor was Earle Marsh, the Author of Physician Heal Thyself) but I have seen others struggle mightily and I think we are disenfranchising an awful lot of people with all the higher power stuff and we are stagnant in our growth.

David S. (Nonbeliever, 30 years)

AA’s fellowship is both its prime attraction and dynamic for me. I could use more readings that don’t rub religion or spirituality in my face, but keep up the welcome I find – and need – in working the program alongside everyone who simply is an alcoholic first & foremost.

Kurt W. (Agnostic, 10 months)

I believe we need as many tools as we can provide to our fellows so that nothing may impede one’s progress in recovery. Such a book will be extremely helpful with newcomers who are unsure of their “religious leanings”.

Devon D. (Agnostic, 10 years)

I’ve read many of these titles, but would love to have them all in one place. They would be of good use to Newcomers who aren’t Religious and feel outside the group – give them a sense of belonging and help with the loneliness we all feel as alcoholics. It would be nice if they were able to satisfy their deep need to belong. The alcoholic who comes to AA feels quite alienated from society; he/she does not need to feel this from fellow alcoholics. Perhaps it would free them to add their experience to the group and we all might gain thereby.

Glenna R. (Skeptic, 17 years)

It will increase unity in the AA fellowship for nonbelievers and reach out the hand of AA to those who think they have to adopt another’s concept of higher power. Bill Wilson wanted all seeking sobriety to find a home in AA. Not just believers in an interventionist god. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. Thank you.

Craig C. (Freethinker, 33 years)

This collection would make for very useful and supportive reading in my effort to end my dependence on alcohol.

Jack W. (Atheist)

It would provide examples and ideas for likeminded AAs, and, more particularly, to encourage atheist and agnostic prospects and newcomers.

Gabe S. (Atheist, 2 years and 10 months)

Being a humanist, freethinker, atheist, agnostic, etc. is not a character defect.

Robert B. (Humanist, 1 year)

This book would help those in early sobriety and are reluctant to fully participate in AA due to the sometimes intense emphasis on God to better understand how AA can work for non-believers and non-religious types.

Paul M. (Agnostic, 2 years)

I never found the BB of any major help except for the stories which helped me to identify. Grapevine was a major tool for many years-again due to the storoes shared. A book of stories from fellow atheist /agnostic / freethinker / non-theist alcoholics who have found ways to stay sober in AA by finding their own tools or by modifying / adapting those of the “12 steps”, I believe would help many who now are lost to sobriety due to the great insistence on the “god factor” by most AAers.

Sarah C. (28 years and 9 months)

I would love to see a grapevine book published which speaks directly to the agnostic or atheist AA. This would surely help to make more newcomers feel welcome and at home in AA.

Ingrid S. (Agnostic, 26 years)

There is not enough literature for freethinkers and such. This book would just be one more small step in the right direction.

Whitney P. (Epistemology, 1 week)

I am an alcoholic and an atheist. AA has saved my life, however I have never felt 100% comfortable in meetings until I came across an Agnostic meeting in London. After that I started two other Atheist / Agnostic groups with the help of like minded AA members. Had there been a pamphlet or book such as the one proposed, which had a bunch of stories from members who are sober without belief in God or a higher power my journey would certainly have been helped.

Andy B. (Atheist, 6 years and 6 months)

This will be so helpful, especially with sponsorship of newcomers who are struggling.

Devon D. (Agnostic, 10 years)

It might make the difference between a non-religious newcomer deciding to come back or keep running. Which is what it is all about isn’t it? Our Area does not have any AAA meetings, so this book could be very useful for the newcomers as well as myself and others.

Janet Z. (Agnostic, 19 months)

AA literature that does not emphasize a Judeo-Christian patriarchal philosophy would provide an inviting alternative to many suffering alcoholics who are turned off by by what they experience as a limiting religious focus. It would also provide a welcome relief to those many AA members who accept a higher power, but whose spirituality is not religion based.

Lee O. (Spiritual, 28 years)

So that we can feel connected to other sober atheist and agnostics and know we are not alone.

Holly D. (Athiest, 4 years)

I have been an active and sober member of the Fellowship for 30 years, in constant service, sponsoring etc, but hugely regret the absence of any literature or support for those of us who respectfully do not share a god consciousness as classically described in the Literature. This initiative gives us the opportunity for AA to rectify this, primarily as many potential members who are currently put off by AA because of their personal belief, are missing out on the opportunity for a healthy and sober life which is our primary objective surely.

Cyril C. (Atheist, 30 years)

I am aware of how many people either will not come near AA or whose relatives and/or other professionals will not tell them about AA because it is a “religious” programme. I was with two professionals only recently who both stoutly told me with certainty that “AA is a religious programme” so they “would never recommend it to clients”. We have to change this image which seems to be gaining ground. My daughter has a friend to whom she would like to talk about AA, but she has told me clearly that she will not do that “because of all the talk about God”. AA has to change with the times – people nowadays are highly suspicious of religion and the religious – however much we may stress that it is a “spiritual programme” we must acknowledge that the word “spiritual”, however mistakenly, is now seen as a synonym for “religious”, and we have to change our language to reach out to those still suffering the lonely disease of alcoholism. I believe that a book such as is being suggested would be a wonderful tool to convince people that there is room in AA for all sorts of people and beliefs and that sobriety is possible for all, and has been achieved by many with non-religious and non-spiritual beliefs and practices.

Mary-Rose P. (Alcoholic, 37 years)

To retain new members who retreat because of the religious undertones of the program.

Lisa T. (Atheist)

Why would it be helpful to print Grapevine stories by recovering atheists for nonbelievers?  Because the third tradition demands it. Period. Whenever ANYONE anywhere reaches out for help, let the hand of AA always be there and for that I am RESPONSIBLE. Everyone is in a different stage of development regarding belief in a higher power. Who are we to judge those behind or ahead of us? Start where the client is. Welcome both nonbelievers and believers. Don’t discourage them to quit before the miracle.

Helen L. (Non-hierarchic, 25 years)

I find the traditional AA book to be too religious, sexist and outdated. I tried to read it and it didn’t help. I couldn’t get through it. I’ve had more luck finding articles and blogs on-line that I can relate w/that have helped me stay sober. It’d be nice to have these in a condensed book that could be readily available to newbies to AA, like me. 🙂

Tab W. (Agnostic, 231 days)

I’ve been to many thousands of meetings in more than 40 states and love being sober. I’ve been to all sorts of meetings, obviously, and am convinced AA would better serve its Primary Purpose if it practiced inclusion of people who believe in something other than what our Christian founders did. That includes Freethinkers, Buddhists, Atheists and Agnostics, and non-religious people. My home group is primarily composed of people who see God as an anthropomorphic interventionist masculine deity and it makes it hard on me as well as many, if not most, newcomers. The Big Book is still treated like “The Gospel”.

Curt F. (Non-theist, 32 years)

Over frustrated by the god thing in AA!

Tom V. (Agnostic, 8 months)

A book of collected Grapevine stories from atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, non-theists is something needed by both long-term members and by newer members of AA with sincerely held viewpoints involving the non-existence of any sort of higher power or god. I believe that such a book will reduce isolation that is currently experienced by those of us who are not believers. It is also something that I may give to newer members who are committed non-theists.

I have been a long-term member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am tired of the disrespect and callous indifference that is foisted on anyone who dares to state that he or she does not recognize any sort of intercessory supernatural deities.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Chrissy Q. (Atheist, 34 years)

Very recently I was about to step out of AA. I was so scared and torn. I know I am an alcoholic and I know I need recovery, but I couldn’t stand trying to fit a square peg into a round hole anymore. I just couldn’t pretend anymore. I’m so glad that I spoke out, as a fellow member led me to aaagnostica.org and all of the wonderful information and resources that have made me feel like I am not alone. I have new hope and enthusiasm for my recovery. I believe that a book of this sors would help SO many people. Not just help people, but actually save lives. I wonder how many people leave the program and die each year because they don’t believe in god? Please publish the book!! I know Bill would agree.

Tiffany O. (Atheist, 2.5 years)

Please continue to print agnostic atheist stories that show that members stay sober but don’t find God. Too often times the stories are shaming in so far as the storyteller sees the error of their ways and finds God. Recovery is possible without this being the case. I am proof of that.

Nick C. (Atheist, 8 years)

After a good try in my youth and college years, I decided there was nothing to it – religion, that is, and I dumped it. Fairly quickly, I felt like I’d shed a ball and chain, and I’ve never looked back.

Dave B. (Atheist, 1 year)

I’m still an agnostic, even after trying to believe in God for all of my life. It would be helpful to read a book of AA literature that didn’t tell me that I will eventually “get over it.”

Denise B. (Agnostic, 27 years)

Literature that tells the story of how “even” athiests like these speakers, managed to get and stay sober within the fellowship of AA would go a long way toward helping potential members scale the god-barbed-wire that keeps so many of us at bay and perhaps doomed to the alcoholic’s alternatives to recovery.

Further, for those who do make it into AA, this particular consolidation of ESH could help many athiests stay in AA without using the god-excuse to flee in horror from a fellowship that is meant to be about staying sober and helping others achieve sobriety and not about the g-word religions so many members are peddling in the rooms of AA.

Scott A. (Atheist, 14 years, 1 month, 2 weeks)

Because “the truth” is important. There are many in AA that are telling newcomers that if you do not believe in God/A Higher Power you cannot stay sober. This is simply untrue. Some those who stay sober without God are not “real alcoholics”. I think AA needs to be accepting of all who want a sober life. Should I live a life of alcoholic pain and misery because I do not believe in a deity? We need to make everyone feel welcomed in AA. A book such as this would be helpful in doing so.

George S. (Atheist, 30 years)

It is a mystery to me that it isn’t already written and available. All minority groups in AA should be catered for. Our Fellowship is open to people of every persuasion who wish to recover. Why should atheists and agnostics be excluded and disregarded?

Ian H. (Freethinker, 28 years)

There are no meetings of nonbelievers in my area and I have yet to meet any non believing members. It would be important to me that AA as a whole recognizes the struggle and success of nonbelievers in the program.

Alan S. (Atheist, 5 months)

We must be an inclusive organization or fall by the wayside in a changing world.

Charles M. (Atheist, 32 years)

It would certainly make it harder for critics to call AA a religious cult.

Ted R. (Non-theist)

From my first meeting in 1981 to May 1, 1988, I never put 90 days together in a row. I heard consistently that it was vital that I believed in God or there was no chance that I could be sober. And I believed it. I had begged to believe in God those 7 years, but I never had any indication there was such a force. Then in November 1987, I went to We Agnostics in Hollywood. I saw a group of people who were sober, studying the steps, and who either did not believe in God or were uncertain. A few more months stewed but thinking of this, I went to the hospital on February 1, 1988 for my 4th detox, and have been sober since.

The suggested book will provide a means for those who do not believe in God, whether they are certain there is none or (like me) have no clue, to understand that they too can stay sober. Isn’t that the idea? “When anyone anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there. For that, [WE] are responsible.”

Sherril Nell W. (Agnostic, 26 years, 8 months, 7 days)

As the world moves in a more secular direction, AA is seen as religious, especially by young people. Although there are sober atheists and agnostics in AA, it is my experience that we do relatively poorly in helping this demographic. The wider our gateway, the better.

Bob K. (Atheist, 23 years)

In a word, recognition. In another word, acceptance. The AA Grapevine might ask the trustees Literature Committee for the stories which atheists and agnostics submitted in connection with the call for stories made as a result of the Advisory Action calling for literature on spirituality. These stories have not been used and with the issuance of the pamphlet “Many Paths to Spirituality” clearly will not be used. Why not benefit from them?

Paul W. (Atheist, 25 years)

This proposed/suggested book would be a wonderful way for the Grapevine to re-enforce the idea that AA is open to and embraces anyone and everyone regardless of their belief or lack of belief; that a belief in god is not necessary to achieve a lifetime of sobriety.

Denis K. (Atheist, 39 years)

Please, PLEASE: it is an embarrassment that such a book has not yet been published. A.A. should be – and in many respects is – a beacon of open-minded tolerance in an overcritical world.

If we can not only put up with but love drunks, how can we draw a line that excludes any who have the misfortune to be like us?

Ernie K. (Unconventional, 5 years)

Congratulations to the Grapevine for taking yet one more open-minded initiative, publishing a book for LGBT people. Gives me ever more hope that the book for and about agnostics and other non-believers is going to happen soon.

life-j. (Straight, 26 years)

So that those new and not so new to the program can learn that you can stay sober without a personal, intervening God.

Gord A. (Post-believer, 37 years)

I so desperately needed to warm welcome of the rooms of AA to start my recovery. But as I learned that my atheism was not a character defect but a valid part of myself, those same rooms became unwelcoming. The insistence that sobriety could not be maintained without turning one’s will over to a Higher Power eventually drove me away. A recovering alcoholic needs that support, not the dogma. Any small recognition that for some, the path to sobriety does not include a HP, could be the difference between feeling included or feeling cast out.

Kjerstin G. (Atheist, 23 months)

It would help the still drinking or newcomer non theist alcoholic to feel she or he belonged in AA and could stay sober here.

Alma P. (Atheist, 28 years)

After 17 years of heavy attendance and participation in AA, and in the midst of a real mental breakdown, I drank for one day, and then had 4 more drinks over the next 5 months. When I stopped again last March, realizing I was playing Russian Roulette with a bottle, I started processing the rage and resentments that had been building against AA. I was pissed at AA because I had never found “GOD.”

I had tried church shopping, reading spiritual books, praying to a God that I really didn’t believe cared about me. I had been raised in a faith-based home, but my religious upbringing coupled with some childhood trauma made me fear the God of my understanding. When AA said, “God as you understand him,” I finally admitted I had never understood him (and it DEFINITELY had to do with God’s MALE gender as espoused by the Christian religion that permeates AA). Saying the Lord’s Prayer at the end of each meeting made me angry. “Heavenly father” and “earthly father” were definitely being confused emotionally, although intellectually I had already “dealt with” my past. I felt like I was such a freak, not having GOD all wrapped up at 17 years sober. After I drank, by the way, several people told me they were glad I drank because they thought I was going to kill myself.

Since my return this March, I finally started the first “We Agnostics” group in Arizona and have been vocal about my disbelief in an interventionist GOD that AA promotes. I wish there had been more in AA literature about those of us that stay sober without GOD. I wish I had seen the webstite, www.aaAgnostica.org as a resource, a site that connects me to thousands of agnostics and atheist alcoholics who stay sober by staying ACTIVE in AA, not thinking about it (which is what prayer and meditation seem to be for me).

I recently read the Many Paths to Spirituality pamphlet, but found it still condescending to agnostics and atheists, just like the Big Book’s chapter called We Agnostics. No wonder people are looking for other solutions outside AA that offer secular recovery. The problem is, it’s not AA and after looking at the alternative versions of AA steps offered on the website, I just wish AA would allow the experience of atheists and agnostics to be expressed in “AA Approved Literature.”

To me, spirituality is LIVING the principles of the program, not reading spiritual books. I am an action-oriented person, and I’d like to see AA expand itself. Otherwise, more and more people like me will continue to feel like an outsider, and I know that is not AA’s purpose, but it sure felt that way since I wasn’t “buying in” to the God concept.

Laura M. (Adventurous, 8 months again, after 17 years)

AAs who either don’t believe in God or aren’t sure if He/She exists deserve to be represented. Whenever God is a big part of someone’s story I feel that it is far less helpful to me than a story from someone who is an atheist or agnostic. I benefit from anything program related much more in a huge way when God is not part of the equation.

Mireille W. (Atheist, almost 2 years)

A book for the atheists, agnostics, naturalists, freethinkers, rationalists, humanists, and non-theists in AA is a smart idea. We are a loyal, literate, book-buying bunch who are growing in numbers and have been neglected by the publishers of AA literature. Right now we are buying lots of non-AA books about how we can get and stay sober in AA – simply because AA doesn’t publish one.

Your new book, “Sober & Out” is a fine example of the Grapevine’s ability to provide what is needed. Please publish a similar book for the secular community in AA. We will buy it.

Skip D. (Atheist, 13 years)

We nonbelievers have been part of AA since the very beginning. We belonged to the Fellowship of recovering alcoholics even before there was an Alcoholics Anonymous. Our sobriety is based on the true heart of AA: the Fellowship and the 24-Hour Plan. The AA Preamble, written by an editor of the Grapevine, expresses eloquently how AA works for us. A pamphlet for us is long overdue.

John L. (Freethinker, 46 years)

A meeting in print where identification takes place in more than one form.

Chris G. (Agnostic, 12 years)

I first got sober in 2002 and stayed sober in AA for 5, but the god thing was always bothering me. Came back last year and contacted our intergroup and got the names of two Atheist/Agnostics in AA. Shortly after that we do have a “We Agnostics” meeting on Tuesday in Jacksonville, Florida.

Luke O. (Atheist, 18 months)

There is very little in our literature to help the agnostic or atheist who truly wants to get and stay sober, but cannot accept a theistic way of life. Many people get and stay sober without a conventional Higher Power. The Grapevine already has quite a collection of stories that share this type of experience, strength, and hope. It would be great to compile those stories for atheists and agnostics the way it has been done for the gay and lesbian community.

Nita S. (Agnostic, 23 years)

It would be helpful for material for newcomers and meetings.

Chris R. (Atheist, 9 years)

We have just started a “We Agnostics” meeting in Palm Springs, CA. There has been a much greater positive response than expected. Seems like it’s time for atheists and agnostics to come out of the closet. Reading the stories of others has always been helpful to me and I presume it will be for others.

Faith R. (Agnostic or Freethinker, 36 years)

It is essential that the position of god in the AA program does not stand in the way of people’s ability to use AA to get and stay sober. People can get sober no matter what they believe and this position makes AA even stronger. As a side note, people getting sober in, for example, Iran, are not calling their higher power god.

Bob C. (Skeptic, 5+ years)

There is too much emphasis on religion in AA. Many meetings close with the Christian Lord’s Prayer. This puts many a person off the program. I had resentment from childhood against my parents and the religion they indoctrinated me with. This was a factor in a 14 year relapse after struggling in AA based sobriety for 6 years.

An Agnostic meeting in Durham NC saved my life. While I now accept other people’s beliefs and their need to express them, I still don’t think the endless discussions, about god’s will vs. self will, do any good. The whole thing is nonsense. All I needed was to understand that I was not-god; and that there was a power greater than myself in the universe that I could tap into. As it says in the chapter to the agnostics, the great reality deep within me.

Eric H. (Agnostic, 3 years, 11 months)

I feel it would be wise for AA to get ahead of the curve on this. The upcoming generations will find it increasingly difficult to relate to the BB as written, and are also increasingly rejecting and/or reformulating traditional religion.

Consider the responsibility pledge. It is our job to reach out and be there. A book of this sort will serve a population that is only going to continue to grow.

Ian B. (Freethinker, 9 months)

I need to hear & share with others who do not believe in god.

Myrna E. (Fabulous)

My husband who has 6 years, has, and is really struggling with the use of the term God mentioned so much in the literature and at the meetings.

I had a hard time at first understanding his problem with this, but now I can see his concern, and having read a bit of atheist AA literature, I see no reason to exclude their viewpoint. AA is not wholly a religious organization, yet it does seem at times we slip into quite a bit of the religious rhetoric. Even I, who have religious beliefs, become uncomfortable with the members who express the program in a strict religious context. We should be tolerant and open to the atheist, this is a program for alcoholics. Many principles of the program came from many different beliefs, as well as good psychological practices. Please consider the good this will accomplish for the better of all.

Debra S. (Agnostic, 25 years)

This book would be helpful because I feel excluded by a lot of AA literature. I hear “How It Works” read at every meeting, basically telling me I have to have a Higher Power or I will die. It says I can define my own, but that’s not really true. If you read the steps, it has to be something I can turn my will and my life over to, loving and caring, responds to prayers such as remove my defects, listens to me and provides me with direction, etc. I am tired of being told I don’t “get it” and to keep trying. I am a non-believer and I have stayed sober a long time without a higher power, so stop lying to us and telling us it can’t be done.

Beth H. (Agnostic, 29 years)

I’m concerned that if I can’t find a way to feel that I still fit into AA, my sobriety will be at greater risk.

David W. (Atheist, 32 years)

I love the stories in the back of the Big Book but would appreciate stories I can really relate to. For many years I’ve tried to get sober in AA but the continuous mention of “God” would justify my going back out, because I “didn’t fit in” or the persons who would verbally accost me and my lack of belief.

Elyssa M. (Atheist, 6 months)

I know many atheists/agnostics who are not availing themselves of AA due the perception, rightly or wrongly, that it is a religious organization. I urge the organization to display its openness to accept those troubled by alcoholism regardless of faith or lack thereof.

Christine L. (Atheist, 18 months)

I think it is past time to have a book of stories by atheists, agnostics, free thinkers, etc. There are certainly plenty of us out here who would appreciate one.

Tom H. (Atheist, 23 years)

The agnostic, atheist and freethinker in A.A. needs to know that A.A. and the steps can work for them without their being required to change their worldview or to adopt the beliefs of others.

The Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions portray agnostics and atheists as people who have not yet seen the light. Meetings open with a reading from “How it Works” proclaiming, “There is One who has all power. That One is God”, and then demands that “We find Him now”!

This creates an atmosphere that makes the agnostic, atheist or freethinker feel that his or her views are unwelcome and that the program cannot be properly worked without belief in a supernatural and all powerful God.

A book of stories written by others in AA who are staying sober without belief in a God will provide support to these people, helping them relate to other alcoholics and assuring they have a place in A.A. The book would also be useful in educating believers that there are indeed many paths of spirituality in A.A., and that even an atheist can practice the underlying principles found in the steps and find sobriety and happiness in the fellowship.

John S. (Atheist, 26 years)

Since I was an atheist before I came to the 12 steps, I came up with an acronym for “GOD” as “Grateful, Optimistic Disorder”. Since there is, for me, no “order” in the universe and, further, because being thankful for where I am and optimistic about the future guide me to a better way of life. I adopted that definition of a “higher power”.

Mike P. (Atheist, 3 years)

Such a book would help all members of AA understand that it is possible to get sober, remain sober and have good long term sobriety even if a member doesn’t believe in a god. This would definitely help the non theistic members to be accepted and feel accepted by everyone in the fellowship. Since being a part of the AA Community is a key and perhaps the critical key to recovery, this book would open the gates for many who reject AA because they do not feel accepted by AA. It’s time.

Neil F. (Atheist, 28 years)

It would help others like myself who “go along to get along” about “God” see they could be A PART of AA and stay SOBER without God.

Glen G. (Atheist, 5 ½ years)

I recently started an open meeting for agnostics, atheists and all others not only for myself but for the several alcoholics in our local fellowship who have died by their own hands in recent years, and most importantly for those still alive and suffering. Those that died were atheists, agnostics or terribly ashamed and self-loathing Christians. Identification with mainstream, traditional, God talking AA was difficult for them.

Beliefs are surface identifications just as alcohol is only a symptom, one of many, of alcoholism; but identification is what attracts us to the fellowship and inherent program within it. Atheists and agnostics and attendant beliefs are a special interest group, just as young peoples, LGBT’s, men’s and women’s groups are. I feel that any book, booklet, or pamphlet in each of these venues would be most appropriate as an identification tool of attraction to the fellowship and suggested program of recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Christopher G. (Atheist, 12 years)

I would love to see an AA book that tells of the experiences of sober AAs who do not believe in a “Higher Power” as it is presented in all the main AA literature. I would love it if newcomers who don’t believe could have hope that they, too, could get and stay sober in this wonderful fellowship. Thank you for your consideration.

John G. (Non-believer, 32 years)

There are so many people who come to A.A. but do not stay, and one of the chief reasons I have noticed is the emphasis on God and “God talk.” A.A. needs to evolve in order to serve the changing ideas of people who seek recovery. A book or pamphlet provided specifically for this growing “special interest” group would reaffirm our primary purpose.

Patrick N. (Humanist, 5 + years)

There are some that can’t stomach a “Higher Power” of any sort. This book would be a life saver for those unfortunates who are stranded in areas where non-believer meetings are verboten. I would include a section on how to gently inform the others that “I don’t believe…”. I was surprised when I did it, and everyone there was cool with it. Wisely, I picked the right meeting to reveal that info!

James T. (Atheist, 3 years)

It would be a step forward towards the inclusiveness which our founders repeatedly stressed throughout AA literature.

James O’D. (AA member, 7 years)

Had it not been for an Atheist and Agnostic AA Group in a nearby town, I would never have entered the doors of AA. It took me 35 years to get there. Now that I truly understand what AA has to offer, I feel comfortable (most of the time) going to any AA meeting. I have sat at meetings of alternative programs where people have shared the trauma they’ve experienced via AA because “God” was shoved down their throats. The proposed book would let others know that the only requirement for AA is a desire to stop drinking. Period.

Marianne P. (Atheist, 65 days)

I find myself struggling to feel like an equal partner in recovery. My fellows, who are almost exclusively Christian, are all polite and friendly. However, it’s quite clear that they do not understand my lack of belief. Most of them will openly share that a belief in God is absolutely fundamental to recovery. I find myself avoiding several meetings I used to attend regularly because of the constant testimony. At times I feel very uncomfortable and alien.

Ken T. (Atheist, 9 years)

Many of the new-comers I have worked with over the years have found lasting sobriety because I didn’t insist they have a “God” to get and stay sober. In the last decade or so, the number of people coming in with alternative views to the judeo-christian path, or even the “God” path, has increased. Who knows how many have been lost because of the propensity for some groups to insist they must have God or even a “higher power” to stay sober. A lot of my Native American brothers and sisters do not respond to the idea of “higher power” but do to other powers. It would be helpful if we had an “AA-approved” publication that would show the varieties of non-believers that stay sober in AA. Especially now, when so many of our groups seem to think that such a belief is a requirement for AA and sobriety, which untold numbers have proven throughout AA history is not true (untold, because no such records are kept). I was fortunate to know several Atheists/Agnostics and non-theists in my early sobriety (1981) who helped me tremendously.

John R. (Non-theist, 33.8 years)

I was religiously abused as a child by a teacher. The god message that I drag with me is not only difficult but counter productive. I can tolerate a wide swath of religious concepts, but dogmatic language causes a near allergic reaction. Thankfully I got sober a while back, in a community that wasn’t inclined to proselytizing. It would be great to hear voices that share my experience, strength and hope.

Larry K. (Humanist, 21 years)

Because there are thousands of us out here!

Neil M. (Atheist, 30 years)

Balance.

Steve A. (Atheist, 6 years)

It can be one more tool I can use in my recovery by hearing from like minds.

Peggy H. (Agnostic, 2 years)

People need to know that they can recover with or without a “god”. AA needs to move away from 1940’s thinking and language.

Ken S. (Freethinker, 27 years)

As time goes on it appears that the Catholic Church and people of Christianity have found one of the last bastions of desperate people to convert or reinforce that which many in the world now find distasteful, harmful and a divisive big business. AA has become less secular as the years go by, when I started AA the Christian “Lord’s Prayer” was never uttered at meetings. The old timers, as religious as some were, recognized that it did not belong in meetings.

The world is a much more open and secular place, AA is not although our traditions strictly forbid any affiliation with sect or denomination. Why do most physicians, psychiatrists and medical professionals refuse to recommend AA, because by definition we are becoming cult like.

Suffering alcoholics of all walks need a place to come to to get well not get god unless they choose. The truth needs to be open to all, that to many, any sort of belief system is repulsive, primitive and has absolutely no place in modern AA.

AA literature is rife with miracles and magic. The literature does everything it can to scorn we “savage and belligerent” ones. New comers looking for help need to know that there are thousands who have found happy, contented sobriety and are giving back to AA and society without soliciting the gods help.

Please publish a book about those who have, and continue to find a godless and good life of sobriety. It may upset believers, but is it not our primary purpose not to “stay sober and help others to find sobriety”?

Andy Mc. (Realist, 33 years)

It would add to the (currently very small) armoury of literature that helps people put off by the god stuff in AA. Presumably these people slink away and die. So it would be a lifesaver and expand the number of alcoholics helped by AA.

David K. (Atheist, 16 years)

In Indiana, a large number of people believe that a belief in God is necessary to get sober. There are very few role models for new people who are not believers. A book would help the newcomer find a role model which appealed to him. It would give him hope.

Jan H. (Agnostic, 41 years)

I do think at book of stories about and from atheists / agnostics / freethinkers / scientists would be welcoming to more people than I would have guessed prior to the WAAFT convention in Santa Monica. The halls of AA must have a significant percentage of people who are covering up their true beliefs as was I until recently. I did not want to hurt anyones’ feelings and did not want to be ostracized for my beliefs which do not conform to those expressed in the big book. It is even difficult for me to speak of my beliefs here because I’ve had far more practice acting like I was not so different and finding ways to talk about, for example, the third step, without offending anyone in the room. I have the words to do that but could use stories of how others are able to express themselves honestly without damaging AA. I certainly don’t want to damage the most ubiquitous and inexpensive treatment for alcoholism. But I do want it to be available to people like me as well as people who can accept a belief based on nothing more than faith.

Lance B. (Scientist, 28 years)

I have known far too many men and women who were not programmed as children to believe in unseen deities, and therefore couldn’t swallow the god idea. One such member in desperation committed suicide 30 years ago. I however stuck with it because it is the process of the steps, minus the make-believe, that produces the desired result in my life and those I sponsor. It is an action program based upon rigorous honesty. Freethinkers meetings are a necessity in the modern world. I am responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out to AA for help… I am responsible.

Jeb B. (Monist, 36+ years)

There are dozens of AA meetings a week in my area (outside Ann Arbor, MI). NONE of them address the needs of non-believers. A book like this would help me immensely. Thank you.

Jill A. (Agnostic, 2 months)

No alcoholic should have to continue to feel “different” in recovery. By different, I mean the feeling that I still need to withhold sharing my truth. The dishonesty of my reticence about what works for me feels like a barrier to me feeling fully a part of my AA meetings.

Phil O. (Agnostic, 2 years)

Agnostics and atheists need to know that the program can work for them too. Most AA literature does not adequately convey this, leading non-believers to reject the program (or feel rejected by it!).

Hilary J. (Agnostic, 3.5 years)

There are many of us in AA who do not wish to leave the programme, but want to feel no longer alone if we are agnostics, atheists, non-believers or freethinkers. We expect to be accepted into a programme that gives us the right to our own beliefs and doesn’t judge us as lesser than, if we do not agree with a religious spitituality or seek to say we are not alcoholic if we have sobriety without religion, Christianity or theism.

Glenna R. (Non-believer, 17 years)

There are many atheists, hidden in the rooms but more importantly, leaving the rooms because it is in the literature we can’t do it. I would like to see more of us out in the open to show what can be accomplished with a little work and understanding on/of self.

Dave S. (Atheist, 2.5 years)

I peeked into AA in 1999, again in 2005, in San Antonio. Both times, the meetings ended in the Lord’s Prayer after much discussion of a supernatural power keeping everyone sober. I left immediately both times. Bouncing in an out from 2009 to 2012, I finally gave up on the aggravating god-talk and the judgement. Then I experienced some trauma and grief that sent me into the hospital several times in a short period during 2014. I’m back now and there is an agnostic/atheist meeting in San Antonio now and I feel I can work a program. If I had had a book oriented to my worldview, I might have saved myself a lot of time.

Michael K. (Atheist, 7 weeks)

It would be helpful to know how people who are struggling with the concept of a Higher Power are able to function within AA.

Philip M. (Male, 1 year minus 4 days)

When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help I want the hand of AA to always be there….. Does that extend to Atheists?

Doug P. (Atheist, 21 years)

There are many that do not and quite possibly will not believe in a metaphysical higher power. To make it seem like one must believe in one in order to be in AA (which I know isn’t the case) keeps some from sticking around the rooms. If not for my most recent foray into speaking with other non-believers in the program I likely would have left A.A. Atheists are a growing segment of the population. The words of Bill W through the years support this population being a part of the program and he stated we must be willing to continue to change as an organization. Please consider more explicitly non-believer friendly literature in the future to help ensure ALL segments of the problem drinking population have the chance at recovery through this program. Thank you for your consideration in this matter!

Benn B. (Atheist, 7+ years)

To NOT assist ANY alcoholics in achieving and maintaining sobriety goes against AA’s primary purpose. If it were not for the efforts and influence of pioneers like Jim Burwell and Hank Parkhurst in the early days, working with Bill W., AA would have been another strict version of the Oxford group and I would most likely be dead. It is hypocritical of AA to state its primary purpose, but reject the needs of any body of its members with a lack of literature or genuine support. By definition and various high court rulings, AA is a Christian sect, period. AA’s “non-believer” population has been around since day one. The need for appropriate, respectful and helpful literature in this area is decades overdue. Thank You.

Bob F. (Non-believer, 10 years)

Although the program teaches us about spirituality most meetings that I have attended lean very much towards Christianity and it makes me uncomfortable.

Sara B. (Agnostic, 1 year)

I welcome the inspiration such a book would provide, written in a “language” that doesn’t require “translation”.

Fred K. (Agnostic/freethinker/Buddhist-ish, 2 ½ years)

There is a lot of fear and confusion among non-believers in AA. We feel the pressure to stay silent about our views and then feel as if we are not being honest with other AAs. Please publish these articles as a collection. AA needs to respect and embrace ALL belief systems including those of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and humanists. Thank you.

Suzanne G. (Atheist, 7 years)

I want to hear the stories of other people like me. I want to develop more courage to be who I really am in the rooms of recovery and I think this book would help.

Jo M. (Freethinker, 5 years)

───────

3. The response: A letter from the AA Grapevine


First, to explain the process of how such a book for atheists and agnostics would be published by the Grapevine, Ami Brophy wrote the following in an email on January 3 of this year:

AAGrapevine, Inc. has received requests (via AA Agnostica) to publish an anthology about the atheist and/or agnostic AA member’s experience, strength and hope in recovery from alcoholism as a book topic for consideration at the upcoming Conference in 2015.

The process provides that the requests go to the GV board first, then to the GV Conference Committee and then to the Conference.

And now the letter from the AA Grapevine:

January 30, 2015

Dear Roger,

Greetings from the Grapevine office in New York.

Thank you for sending the request for “A Grapevine Book for Atheists and Agnostics in AA.”

Your request was presented at the AA Grapevine Board of Directors January 29, 2015 quarterly meeting. The Board reviewed the request with great interest, appreciation and lengthy discussion. The Grapevine Board made the decision not to forward this request to this Conference.

We at Grapevine truly appreciate your interest and suggestions. Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you have further suggestions or questions.

Yours in fellowship,

Eugene O’Brien
Secretary to the Conference Committee on the Grapevine

cc: Mary Swart Cummings, Conference Coordinator; Andrew Ware, Chairperson, Grapevine Board of Directors; Ami Brophy, Executive Editor/Publisher, AA Grapevine


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No Grapevine Book for Atheists in AA — 86 Comments

  1. I’m a nonbeliever or free thinker if you must say. I’ve worked and am applying the steps in my life. There is not a need in my sobriety for a god or higher power at all. All that is required is truth and willingness to help others recover. I’ve taking many men AND women through the steps and leaving the higher power choice up to them. We can do this without a bronze age bible god. It can and will continue to be done without it!!!!

    Jason K (free thinker) 5yrs sober

  2. I have cancelled my subscription to the AA Grapevine. I found it annoying that it had so many references to god and the recent cover bannering GOD was the last straw.

    Thank you for your website.

    Peter

    • Peter,

      Cancelling your subscription to the Grapevine seems like a good move if they notice the cancellation – will they ?

      I leave my copies at my MD’s office for some one to read. My doctor knows who left them and is pleased have them in the magazine rack.

      Personally I’m very happy to see some occasional free thinker, agnostic, atheist articles in our Grapevine magazine

      Better than none. Maybe if more of us spoke up at meetings the Grapevine would be more aware of the need.

  3. As an Atheist, I don’t see a way to honestly work the steps. I did a lot of faking while drunk, so I’m not doing that either.

    AA isn’t very welcoming to atheists who aren’t willing to bend to the program.

    AA desperately needs to change if it wants to reach non-theists. But, so many people in AA believe that “the program” is divinely inspired. I do not believe AA will adapt.

    No matter what theists in AA love to claim, there are far less resourcecs for atheists who wish to get sober than for theists, especially Christians.

    I’ve been sober 3.5 years, and haven’t been to AA for over 3 of those. My “treatment” program wasn’t much more than an introduction to AA. This was at a medical facility, and they loved to say it was “evidence based.”

    I reject it all. In my opinion, there aren’t any good treatments for alcohol abuse. Instead, I’ve been focusing on CBT for issues that have real, evidence based therapies.

    Write your Grapevine or don’t. Whatever. IMO, AA runs off the atheists well before they’re able to read the Grapevine. We get run off by being in a church, holding hands, and reciting Christian prayers. While being told AA is non-religious. My drinking wasn’t rational, but I hadn’t lost the ability to see how irrational the AA program is.

    I’m glad it works for some of you. But, it will not work for everyone. Calling those people “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves” just pushes us further away.

    AA is NOT a program that is open to everyone, unless you’re willing to give up your own beliefs.

  4. It strikes me that AA the elder is going to yield to AA the younger. I was at a regular AA meeting the other day and an old pal of mine, guy’s 80 and verging on 51 years of sobriety asked me how I was doing. I mentioned that I was doing work for Agnostic/Atheist AA and he had a fit of apoplexy.
    “That’s not AA!”, he said, his face turning red and spit accompanying each of those words. And I realized he would never ever consider anything other than what he was used to, as AA. But there are fewer and fewer of guys like him. Half a century of sobriety, so long since his last drink he doesn’t really remember the drunken horror show that drove him to seek help. He feels he’s earned the right to pronounce on anything AA because of the credits he’s built up. I could have mentioned how many times the 12 steps have been co-opted with AA’s permission – Gambler’s Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous – to name a few. But the contempt for, and outright hatred of, something that is seeking to accommodate a growing minority of alcoholics who are only seeking what he sought all those years ago is unnerving. Certainly it goes to show that time in AA doesn’t mean much with respect to developing tolerance, patience and an understanding of oneself and others. A good enough reason for me to say, “sure, I’ll try another approach.”

  5. Roger

    One of my favorites from the big book in the appendices the spiritual experience is the quote by Herbert Spencer:

    There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

    Herbert Spencer WAS AN AGNOSTIC!!!!

    Bill W also says in the second step: “you can if you wish make AA itself your higher power”.

    Keep up the fight.

    MTFBWY
    Jedi

  6. I am well recovered (23 yrs – clean – sober – nicotine free). At times like these I get close to leaving AA – I dont need AA – I do want it and intend to stay aboard to help other atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers. I will not attend any meeting that uses the lords prayer and have a nice, very liberal meeting at our local VA hospital – even ok to ID as an addict.

  7. Recommend we solicit our own stories and do our own eBook. Even those who submitted articles previously published in Grapevine may be available to write ‘updates’ – original writings for our use. AA leadership AND membership are adverse to changes in favor of athiests and naturalists, regardless of what Bill W wrote. In a generation there will be a critical mass for shedding the religious trappings.

  8. How disappointing the Grapevine board reply.

    But they are not the AA group conscience. There are other avenues.
    It’s not over.

    There were always such divisions in AA. This is nothing new. We used to have race- segregated meetings. We should consult the procedures and those who have been through this before us. How did Sober & Out get approved, how did gay members manage all these years?

    When we have exhausted all our internal avenues, there are always the external ones, including printing an unauthorized copy of what we are requesting, and withholding basket contributions in order to fund it. If GV board were to attempt a public copyright challenge, so much the better.

    Never give up your rights as a member.
    I will continue in the meantime to attend and identify myself for the benefit of both believers and nonbelievers. I never belittle anyone else’s religious beliefs nor belittle the steps. Some atheists actually use the steps without a deity. Attacking the steps is counterproductivein my opinion.

    Thank you Roger for organizing our letter campaign to the GV board. No doubt there exist loving allies in there who were unhappy to be outvoted. And there are potential allies in each district. Become a GSR for one of your meetings and attend your monthly district meeting! Become a Grapevine Representative for your district and attend your state Grapevine committee meetings! If they hear it from the groups, they can’t ignore it.

    Keep the faith: in Love and Service. We only have to do the Next right thing.

    Helen

  9. Question for the group.

    How do people feel about withhold contributions from the 7th tradition in meetings you feel ignore the 3rd tradition or worse actively promote a particular religious tradition?

  10. Roger,
    Thank you again for keeping things up to date.

    How many people are on the committee who declined to advance this request up the chain?

    Who are they? How many? Are those votes recorded?

    Or is this sort of thing done under the cover of White Sheets, and cone head caps?

    • Cone head caps, Mark. Ever see the minutes of a General Service Conference with, say, the results of votes? And you never will. Same applies to these meetings. White sheets.

    • Hey Mark,

      One can get a summary account of the recommended actions that make it to the floor for consideration by the General Service Conference every April.

      The General Service Conference consists of the 93 Area Delegates, staff members of GSO and the GV, and the members of A.A.W.S. and the GV Boards of Directors, plus, I believe, some emeritus members of former delegates and board members, such as the Rev. Ward Ewing, the previous Chair, who are ex-officio, non-voting members, but all you get is the final up or down vote on each agenda item, no details about the discussion, such as who advocated for what issues – it’s all hidden behind a lead curtain of non-transparency, much more non-porous than cone caps and white sheets… 😉

      I’ve heard anecdotes that in accordance with Concept V, Right of Appeal, minority points of view when given the opportunity to advocate their position as a final part of the approval process have on occasion persuaded the body to reverse its position from approval to disapproval or vice versa, but I don’t know of any concrete instances when this has happened. Perhaps, Joe C. or Roger might.

      The inner workings of AA are as cloaked in secrecy and security as deliberations of closed sessions of Congress, or the executive chambers the Pentagon, NSA, CIA, etc. or any multi-national Corporation – some democracy, eh? Bill’s comment in the 50s or 60s about AA being a “benign anarchy” is woefully outdated today. My sense is that he is ferociously spinning in his grave.

    • In case you have not seen it there is an article in this months Grapevine called Out of the Closet a long time atheistic member gets to share her truth in meetings. Cheers Daniel

      • Two other stories in the same issue are pretty good too, Danger, Construction Ahead and Ready to Bolt.

        Maybe our efforts are having some effect, at least on the GV editor, although the cover story is titled I Found God on Madison Avenue. Oy vey!

        Denny

  11. I have 29 years in AA. Over this time I have seen so many fellow atheists & agnostics come in and leave. Some sober some not. Myself and they do not feel included in our beliefs. I see the meetings become more and more openly religious. Live and let live is not part of meetings where I live.

    The publishing of already published agnostic stories in a book would help so many. There is a no threat to the majority in AA. There is a very obvious agenda that is not keeping with the purpose of AA in helping the struggling alcoholic.

    The 3rd tradition.

    Richard J

  12. I would like to participate in online chat meetings mentioned above. Does anyone have a link(s) where I could go?

    I live in Cuenca Ecuador and would so appreciate the opportunity to participate in a fellowship.

    Muchas gracias from South of Zero,
    Suzanne Sober 17 years

  13. How disheartening. I am sorry for those of you who worked so hard on this. I am sorry for us. That is such a patronizing reply.

    I am done with AA. I am 100 days sober and haven’t been to a meeting in at least two weeks. A weight has been lifted. One hundred days is the most sobriety I have ever had since officially trying not to drink.

    My first AA meeting was in February 2002, thirteen years of banging my head against the wall in the rooms, trying to bend the outdated and ignorant words of the Big Book and Twelve Steps into something I can work with. For the most part alone on my journey to find truth in fiction, the only beacon of light, aaagnostica. I can no longer stand awkwardly silent while a room full recites The Lord’s Prayer. No more crawling out of my skin as person after person says the only way to work it is with God. No more condescending pats on the hand with comments like, “don’t worry dear, the higher power stuff will come eventually.” No more passive aggressive sponsors. No more reading How It Works, because I’m trying to be a team player, but feeling like a hypocrite and wondering if I am driving any newcomers away. I could go on but I’m preaching to the choir.

    I have been trying, unsuccessfully for over a decade to get sober in AA. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Time for something different. I truly believe that my anxiety and frustration with AA sent me straight to a drink, many times. I applaud so many of you who are able to stick it out for so many years. There are good people in AA and I will miss the fellowship but it just isn’t worth it anymore. I have my health and sobriety to consider.

    I still plan to visit this website and root for all of you fighting the good fight, championing for the change that is so desperately needed.

    • To Holley S.

      Re: your posting… I willingly went on Antabuse while attending traditional religious AA in 1970.

      I did this until I felt comfortable in AA.

      Stopped when I was sober 7 years. This was part of my going to any length. It worked for me.

      Marnin

  14. Oops that got real long…

    TL;DR version: Reducing the overt religiosity would promote AA unity and better carry the AA message to ALL alcoholics. And, of course, individual AAs can feel free to continue to use their HP/God if it works for them.

  15. I have been sober just over a year, today I was listening to an audio by our agnostic founder Jim B…in it he spoke of unity being primarily responsible for our sobriety. So while I think it’s great we start our own meetings and websites it’s very against aa traditions to bombard our non beliefs into the program of action. Religion is an outside issue and so is a lack of faith! I think it’s best to operate as one with AA if that’s what we choose. We have the tools at our disposal right here to discuss our lack of belief.

    • If religion is an outside issue, then why close meetings with the Lord’s Prayer? Why do so many common AA meeting rituals refer to the Judeo-Christian “God,” “Him,” etc.? Why do many AAs tell a newcomer they “must get right with God, or they’ll get drunk again”? Through the use of this language AA is often (and in my opinion correctly) perceived as Christian/religious organization. Yet it should solely be a sobriety organization with no opinions on outside matters.

      We atheist/agnostic AA are not attempting to bombard other AAs with our non-belief, we would like an AA which respects all faiths and non-faiths equality. (Fun fact, according to many a pious Jew should not say the Lord’s Prayer since you know Jesus. I’m guessing they aren’t the only people of faith with such qualms.) AA states the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. That’s the only requirement! Yet, one of the most common, if not the most common, reason newcomers give for walking back out the door is the “God-talk”. How does this overt religiosity help carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers? (Personally, it strongly influenced my willingness to give AA a chance.) Our responsibility is to answer the call for help, not to demand faith. Overt institutionalized Judeo-Christian religiosity is in direct conflict the stated AA position of not being aligned with any sect, denomination, etc and with stated AA primary mission to help alcoholics.

      While society has become more secular, there are many old-timers who say AA has moved the opposite direction towards greater religiosity. This can only lead to the marginalization of AA and worse the continued suffering of those who are turned off by all the “God-talk.” Much like portions of the BB chapter To Wives seems rather out of place today (maybe Bill should have let a wife write it…), perhaps it’s time that the “God-talk” is reduced so that we can better carry the message to all. Let’s be inclusive.

      I, and I think I speak for many on atheist/agnostic AAs do not wish to ban the mention of deities/theism by other AAs within meetings. If a theistic HP works for them, fantastic! Instead we wish that AA as a whole would take no position on matters of faith and focus on sobriety through the 12 steps, 12 traditions, and fellowship which though written include God some generations ago, do not require God, nor even a theistic higher power.

    • I agree with you totally Rick, and congratulations on your recent milestone of a year sober !~!~!

      Whether a believer or a non-believer, religion IS an outside issue. Let me refer you to an article I wrote for AA Agnostica in July of 2013: One’s Religion is An Outside Issue.

      We are in no way trying to enforce our non-beliefs upon anyone; we are only striving to insure that anyone, believer or non-believer, who wants to stop drinking is welcomed and respected with our code of love and tolerance within AA, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe. Our AA Third Tradition states that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

  16. I have been a member of AA for a little over 3 years and benefit greatly from my participation in the program. When I first came in, it didn’t bother me that everyone used the word “God” so much; I was so sick and desperate for help. But now that I have been able to do the work of establishing contact with a power greater than myself, I much prefer the “HP” terminology rather than “God”. I started reading your website just a few months ago as things began to crystallize for me, and I have found some of the articles helpful. I suffered terribly from resentments about the program’s assumption that we all believe in God. But I had to resign from the debating society. I do not want to leave AA. I am not an atheist or agnostic or religious person. I am a human believer. I am finding my way. I am learning to speak my truth. I urge you all to stay in the program; we need you. I just read 2 articles in the March 2015 issue of Grapevine that were written by atheists. I will comment on them and support the authors. You may want to do the same.
    If your proposed book does not get published, or moved to the next step in the process, its not because the ideas are unacceptable or wrong. It is more likely due to causes and conditions beyond your control. What you are proposing is frightening for a group that has been so comfortably ensconced in Christian beliefs. Keep speaking your truth and let go of the outcome. You are making progress whether you see it or not. Thank you.

  17. How could they? For about 7 seconds I wanted to blow my 38 years in the program and drink.

    I wonder what they are afraid of.

    • Hey Gord — had I not found AA Agnostica in early 2012 after my wife and I moved out to Coos Bay, Oregon from New York, I might very well have drunk also, blowing 39 years of recovery in AA, due to the egregious religious bigotry of shaming and shunning we encountered in a very fundamentalist Christian environment of small town USA . . .

  18. I have never been a delegate, but I do know that they often feel overwhelmed with all the information they are expected to absorb, consider, present to their districts which in turn are to present to their groups so that a well considered opinion can be made at the area assembly.

    In the case of Montana, that assembly is held over the second weekend in April and there is no way that a petition such as this would even get out to the groups by then. Two weeks later is the conference in New York.

    It seems to me that even I would have had to move that we not send such a motion on to the conference committee this year. There just isn’t time for them to give it the consideration it deserves.

    But the secretary who wrote the response to Roger (and who, I suspect, is a GSO staffer) could certainly have done a better job of explaining the decision to us. Might not even respect us very much.

    • This was in no way a last minute surprise for the Grapevine. It was a follow-up to several previous requests, with letters and emails beginning last June. So that can’t be used as an excuse. Just saying…

  19. I have been a lifelong non-believer and a secular humanist for 20 years. We practice ethical lives, reasonable ones and lives without superstition. Most of us are fine people as, I am sure, are many Christians. But AA’s attitude to us is decidedly non-Christian. I live in New York City with 13 agnostic meetings sans prayers so I have plenty of meetings but when I go to another city, I am sunk.
    Donna 15 years.

    • I need to get on the train and go to meetings in the city. What you describe sounds lovely.

  20. The Grapevine Board made the decision not to forward this request to this Conference.

    We at Grapevine truly appreciate your interest and suggestions. Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you have further suggestions or questions.

    Roger, have you followed up with the obvious question to Eugene O’Brien: “Why was this decision made?”

    Just because they don’t offer their (ir)rationale doesn’t mean you can’t press for it. I for one would like to hear the attempts of the gatekeepers on The Broad Highway at justifying the unjustifiable…

    • Yes, Andy, I sent an email with the question to the same six people that received the original letter. So far, no answer. But I shall continue to push for one, that’s guaranteed.

      • Yeah, I figured you weren’t sitting on your hands – ones that should be locked in prayer! 🙂

        May want to keep a running chronology of this – your communications to them, whether they respond and if so, the content – to help us know just how open-minded and responsive (or not) AA is to its members.

        And do you think it would help to post the email addresses of the six so those of us who wanted to could express our disappointment in their decision? Maybe making them uncomfortable in their prejudice might get them to rethink the position, if only to shut us up…

      • Without going into detail, Andy, I am led to believe that I can expect a (fuller) response directly from the GSO. Apparently, the seriousness of the matter raised, the hurt often experienced by nonbelievers in AA, has been – at least to some degree – acknowledged. I am choosing my words carefully. When I receive that response I will share it.

  21. The Grapevine’s graciously smug dismissal of our reasonable request is infuriating, if not entirely unexpected. The Grapevine — on an intellectual level a notch or two below the Reader’s Digest — is selling a commodity or line of goods, in which a tacky and sentimental religiosity is a key ingredient. It was one thing for them occasionally — perhaps once a year — to publish a mild story from one of us freethinkers. But an entire book of such stories, even if already GV-published, might threaten their product.

    As Steve B. says below, we should “fight on all fronts.” Subscriptions should be cancelled, with letters explaining the reason why. All Agnostic AA groups should cease selling the GV. If feasible, freethinkers in regular groups should request that GV no longer be on the literature table. We should request “group conscience” meetings, with ample time to discuss all of our issues — the ample time recommended in “The Group”, one of AA’s better pamphlets.

    On the positive side, we should continue to promote Living Sober as the only good “conference-approved” book. We should continue to promote the true AA: the 24-Hour Plan, the Fellowship, and everything said in the AA Preamble.

    I celebrated my 47th anniversary last week, no thanks to religiosity.

  22. Hi All. I have 18 years of sobriety with all 18 spent as an Atheist. I was largely unaware that there were any meetings that were secular in the beginning years. I clung to my group as a Higher Power and in later years refined that to an approach that took in the certainty of the Powers that actually exist within the Universe we experience.

    It was, however, necessary for me to concentrate on the technical working, and teaching of the steps, allowing for “God” as we understand”. I did not feel I had the luxury of finding somewhere to go or creating my own group. Recovery for me was in the south first then Appalachia second.The Church on every street corner was the norm. I spent the first 22years of my life in the San Francisco-Berkely Area. Freethinking was everywhere… upon moving to the South and Rural East that all ended.
    I am a current DCM and Area WebChair, which puts me in the middle of the controversy in a very visible way. YES… I am criticized and often openly insulted and chastised. Why don’t I leave …?? Because I want newcomers and long-timers alike see a person who can think for himself and advocate for change. Change from within is often the most powerful form of persuasion.

    Yeah… many nights after meetings I wish I could just go to a meeting and find “my people”… but I am also a realist and understand I have to fight where I stand.

  23. I sent a lengthy excerpt from my writings from my website to the appropriate Grapevine website in response to the earlier Agnostica request. I received no indication that it was ever received and since then have not been given the courtesy of a reply. In the absence of further evidence I am left with the impression that, contrary to the professed intentions of the co founder, Bill W., Alcoholics Anonymous is not welcome to Agnostics, Atheists and Non Believers. It appears to have been “captured” by organized Christianity.

    Bill P.

  24. I notice here, and don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, is these GV books go thru the conference approval process.

    I wonder if this committee that rejected our request thought it would be pushing things?

    OTOH, like everyone else, why not?

    • Oh Boy,

      What a shame. I have seen an increase in the insistence on the God of the Bible since my first acquaintance with AA in 1990. I’m afraid in discussing issues with other members (mostly on FB AA related groups) there appears to be a lack of reasoning required for the acceptance of Christian tenets that precludes the ability to understand the ramifications of the over emphasis Of the God of the Bible in AA. It does not take much psychic ability to predict the eventual splitting off of more and more intelligent newcomers to sobriety into AAA. This is not a good thing as I’ve never seen anyone too stupid to get the program but plenty way too smart 🙂

  25. No one relies on god for sobriety because there is no god. A few of us realize this; most do not. Many of those who are dumb enough or brainwashed enough to believe in a cherished ideology such as much of AA is, reject and condemn any rival beliefs that conflict with their own, and are obviously willing to violate AA’s rules for inclusivity to achieve their ends of religious purity. So, what to do? Fight on all fronts. Press for change in AA, set up atheist AA meetings that rewrite the steps or ditch them altogether. Combine with LifeRing, speak out at traditional meetings. And then we’ll see.

    • “Fight on all fronts.”

      I agree. The GV people have shown their true colors and should be exposed. We should demand to know the names and salaries of all the top GV officers and employees. Perhaps pickets would be in order. Boycotts. Media releases and interviews. We should certainly speak out in meetings — in one-on-one talks and in group sharings.

      AA still belongs, and has always belonged, to us rationalists just as much as it does to the religionists. It is our AA, and we shouldn’t give it up without a fight.

  26. I was beginning to think of the General Service Board and the Grapevine as the Opus Dei of recovery, but I was mistaken. They seem to be the ISIS of recovery.

    • LMAO, Vic, at this most appropriate reference to an outside issue — thanks for the guffaw, even though I had just taken a big bite of lunch and nearly choked rather than spew it on my computer screen . . . 😉

  27. Thanks for all your work, Roger. Very discouraging to be told that a book of selected WAAFT stories won’t be published by the GV. At least not right now.

    If we get our stories written for an anthology of WAAFT stories, let’s make sure that it gets published.

    At our WAAFT meeting, We have a a flyer of current WAAFT literature plus the http://www.aaagnostica.org website referenced. This makes literature easy… We don’t need to get involved in selling literature nor displaying it. Every now-n-again, someone brings a sample book to the meeting so people can see what it’s like.

    I believe we WAAFTy’s are more inclusive than the general AA folks. For the moment, the openness of our meetings and our welcoming approach can be our calling cards.

  28. Thanks to everyone who made this possible! Despite this setback there is hope. The use of the internet and social media are making it possible to overcome the monopoly on words and thoughts that AA Conference Approved Literature has always enjoyed. Things are changing; the WAAFT meetings numbers below don’t lie.

  29. It is disheartening that AA is so threatened by diversity. I got sober in AA 30 yrs. ago as an atheist. I’ve never gotten too involved, primarily because the God talk at meetings and in conversations bores me.

  30. I am really have a very hard time trying to support the “politics” of the agnostics and stay sober fighting AA when they don’t give a rats ass about us, while contributing $$$$ to the head office, or paying rent under the AA name. Why do we keep knocking our heads against a brick wall? I really feel We Agnostics can support ourselves.

  31. I know the GV response feels discouraging, but it doesn’t derail me at all from keeping at it to push AA as a whole to become more inclusive and give the 12 Step process without “the god-idea” a chance to prove itself to the Fellowship as a whole. I am convinced that as more of us find the courage to be true to ourselves in more traditional religious meetings, more people needing our honest experience, strength and hope will find a welcome and join in opening the doors to all, in the spirit of the Declaration of Responsibility. Our Denver Freethinkers in AA Group begins every meeting with The Serenity Goal (in the plural, as it should be) and closes with the Declaration of Responsibility. We have no axe to grind with those who wish to continue in “spiritual make-believe” as Bill calls it in the Big Book; our only purpose and goal is to carry the message to the still suffering alcoholic so that we are encouraged to continue using the proven process. I decided over 30 years ago that I would never allow the dogmatic, narrow-mindedness of some AA’s to drive me away from the Fellowship that has saved my life, nor would I pretend to believe anything or anyone outside of myself could and would fix me. The journey inward, to find that great reality and “unsuspected inner resource,” is a journey of increasing liberation from the bondage of self-limiting and self-destructive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Life is good!

  32. Roger, I applaud your efforts (and everyone who took part in this effort to get AA to literally listen to reason). You’ve fought the good fight (sadly, only to be rebuffed once again)…

    Despite all the later Bill W. quotes that called for greater inclusion; despite the growth in meetings that have a more secular approach; the trusted servants of AA have made it clear that they don’t want the non-religious to be a part, just apart.

    They delist meetings even as we toe the narrow AA line (for the sole purpose of not being delisted!) Send in believers to question and disrupt agnostic meetings (as has happened here in Dallas). And now provide this ridiculously curt response to your well-mannered, well-reasoned campaign that would broaden the AA reach and even make them book sale money in the process.

    The much quoted daffy-nition of insanity – doing the same thing and expecting different results – seems to apply here. (I prefer the more traditional definition – of lacking sanity – which the AA board seems to be exhibiting once again). You can keep trying – part of me hopes you do – but I think it’s like trying to knock down the milk bottles at a county fair. Throw as often and as hard as you can but the bottles are glued to stay up. The game is rigged – full measures avail us nothing!

    And trying to placate the oppressors enough to be allowed to exist is implicitly accepting a second-class (or lower) status and is not a healthy mindset. The Big Book and 12 steps are based on God doing us for what we could not do for ourselves, which is malarkey. I got sober by my revised thinking and actions proceeded by desperation, usually helped – but sometimes hurt – by the fellowship. No higher power entailed.

    Ultimately, the dogma of AA defines a faith-based cure. The steps are based on Oxford Group religiosity, I really have never believed them (though taking inventory – when it includes good as well as bad – is a good think – self-awareness). While I could be considered one of the <5% who got sober and stayed that way (and thus am counted as an AA success story), my sobriety was for the most part despite – and often in spite of – "the program".

    Just because a group of Christians call themselves Christian Scientists doesn't make them any more scientific when they don't respect science. And AA is not willing even to take baby steps – a simple pamphlet (40 years in the non-making), a collection of stories already published by them – to be more inclusive.

    Once again, with the intransigent arrogance of these self-important AA muckety-mucks, AA has made it clear its unwilling to open up the rooms to those who still suffer yet don't believe. The keepers of the slowly-dying flame have chosen dogma over compassion and open-mindedness.

    After 25 years, I've left AA. Just too damn frustrating to try to deal with an obstinate, hypocritical organization that ultimately is not worthy of us freethinkers. Just not willing to allow personal growth to be retarded by the mindset of this holy-rolling GOD (Group of Dogmatics).

    Will keep checking in here out of curiosity and wish you well but not holding out much hope for progress…

  33. Although I have been, and still am, committed to fighting the good fight to get atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers recognized and respected as full participants in good standing everywhere in AA, I am becoming much more sympathetic with those calling for a break with AA. This latest “rejection” by a sub-group of AA International has justifiably provoked our frustration and understandable ire.

    A schism within AA seems to have been something certain folks at GSO worried about as last November’s WAAFT International Convention was approaching — we were told this by a couple of those present. There was much relief then that it was observed that it was neither the convention participant’s intent nor desire to create a schism in AA.

    But if a schism does indeed emerge down the road, it will not be from our desire to bring this about, but from feeling compelled to admit that no further recourse is available to us.

  34. Well Roger,
    Despite your calm and reasoned approach on this as well as the support and heartfelt comments of members with months, years and decades of fellowship experience you get a typical passive aggressive “Official” response that would do any bureaucrat here in Washington (or Moscow for that matter) proud in terms of dismissal!
    We are an AA member if we say we are.
    We are an AA group if we gather together and say we are.
    They cant and wont change that and I have a deepening conviction that we don’t need any form of blessing or absolution from the likes of them.
    We need to contribute and give back to AA as a whole and we can do much of that by the steadfast adherence to the proposition that we have the right to be here. Many of us seem to be doing well in AA within the context of our beliefs and it is as individuals speaking up at regular meetings and in the creation and sustaining of active AAAA groups that we will hold out the hope of a reasonable sobriety to other non-believing members. As to these people at the Grapevine and GSO HQ in NYC, we don’t need them.
    These “folks” don’t want to take us seriously? So what?

  35. All atheist and agnostic members who feel comfortable doing so should “out” themselves at their meetings. I have and it went surprisingly well, but I expected that as I live in Portland, OR and I have intentionally chosen to attend meetings open to outside beliefs.

    Staying silent allows the great AA membership to ignore and minimize our existence. If they are true to their word that the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking and that their most important mission is to carry the message and hope of sobriety to the alcoholic who still suffers, then clearly being open to non-theist alcoholics is a must.

    • I absolutely totally agree with you Chris, and I’m pretty sure I know you, if you come to the Beyond Belief meeting on Sundays at the Alano Club. I also go to several of the Nooners Group meetings at the Club. Of late, there are quite a number of us who have been much more forthright in speaking our truth at the noon meetings. There is safety in numbers . . . 😉

      I also infer that you were the person from the Portland Intergroup office who insured that my report on the Santa Monica Conference was included in the Intergroup newsletter to all groups — THANKS, if you are . . .

      • I’m not that Chris (oh the issues with anonymity and a common first name), but thanks for note about the Alano club meetings (my Alano meeting tends to be Nite Owls). Perhaps I’ll check out the noon meeting some coming weekend…

    • I agree with Chris. It takes individual acts of courage to “come out”, as our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters did many years ago, to even greater vitriol than we gentle humanists have to endure.

      I have shared my experience, strength and hope at various AA meetings that the fellowship of AA and the 12 Steps are two different entities. For me, as a committed humanist, they are mutually exclusive. I have shared my belief that the 12 Steps is the greatest tragedy that has befallen AA. At one meeting, I thought I was going to be lynched, such was the animosity!

      It’s a delicate balance. I respect the right of people to hold whatever views they want but I don’t respect religion. Silence is not really an option for me.

      I have been sober and clean and an active and engaged member of AA for over 32 years. I’m also an addictions therapist and I’ve lost count of the number of times clients have told me that they will not go to AA meetings because of the religion and the “whole god delusion thing”. This both saddens and angers me as I know that there is a wealth of wisdom and compassion within the rooms of AA and that the mechanics of fellowship is where the heart of AA abides.

      I will not be silenced.

  36. It is time for a split in AA. There is a scientific reason based in neuroscience, psychology, and sociology that the 12 steps can and do work without a mention of god. AA didn’t start with meetings available in every city and town on almost everyday. It grew to that level of saturation. Similarly a new organization based on the 12 steps and tradition without mention of any god could and would grow if it were sought. In large cities and perhaps many other locations a new Open AA (we can workshop a name later since I’m sure the AA lawyers would be quite bothered by the use of AA in the name) would be active, viable, and most importantly life-saving. We should rewrite the steps without mention of god. We should admit to ourselves and others that pretending that we must continue to belong to a Christian organization (and AA is) which claims that the only belief required for membership is a desire to stop drinking is unhealthy and surely limits the message to the alcoholic who still suffers. It’s for the greater good that we must leave AA and their god as they understand Him.

  37. It is unfortunate that there is only silence from the many of us who are six feet under the sod earlier than necessary simply because we felt non-acceptance and often de facto frank rejection by a majority of God fearing AA’s “group consciences”. Would not an infinitely wise God inform the AA service leadership that they should perhaps give extra attention to non-believers who may be at greater risk of succumbing to alcoholism before they can get constructive help? Why is God silent on this? To non-believers the answer is obvious. It is the true fellowship of sober alcoholics which saves us, not a distracting belief in something that is non-existent.

  38. I have been continuously sober since 1970 and still feel deep down in my gut that I am a heretic in AA.

    A “We Agnostics” meeting has started here in Stuart Florida and I will be very surprised if the meeting will be included in the Martin County meeting list.

    I do not think a hell of a lot has changed in AA all these years. The attitude of most AAer’s is “If it’s not broken, don’t fix sit”!!!

    We’ll for me it is broken.

    I’ll be glad to update you all if I am right.

    marnin

  39. I check into this site from time to time, and I have to ask – Why all this wailing and gnashing of teeth over an organization that has made it clear that your way of thinking is not welcome here. There are options now! AA is not going to change. Shake them off, free youself, leave them behind and get involved with one of the other organizations that are based in reason. Even the modest success in secularizing AA in some locales only results in a few segregated meetings that only survive on forebearance. In LifeRing meetings, believers and non-believers alike share their wisdom in the same room witout conflict, because no absolutes are imposed on them. I’m not just saying this to promote LifeRing. WFS, SMART, SOS are all viable alternatives. Begin something new in your area! To quote John Galt, “stop making terms with your own destroyers”.

  40. Thanks for all that you do Roger to try and bring light to the darkness of exclusion that is the fellowship today.
    I am reminded of when women were banned as not being “true alcoholics”. Does GSR doubt that us godless creatures are not “true alcoholics” and thus fly in defiance of the Responsibility Pledge which promises help to anyone reaching out for it as we did through you?
    Numbers are diminishing everywhere.
    I fear for the future and the cult that AA has become.

  41. Perhaps it is time to split off from the closed minded and evangelical AA organization! Take the good and leave the religion behind. Traditional AA can give Freethinkers a successful pattern of recovery without the “God thing”. The number of freethinking meetings are increasing world wide.

  42. After reading this post, I can only define how I feel as profoundly sad. To have a simple NO, without any explanation, feels like a kick to the gut. It is because of this unbending insistence on a religious god, that I fear for the future of AA. AA has not grown in 20 year! In fact it has shrank and my belief is that it is this paranoid focus that is a significant contributor to it’s demise.

    For all the ones that will need AA in the future, we must continue to try to have these attitudes change.

    Thank you Roger for your continued championing of our cause.

  43. Thanks for your work here! Yes – a power greater than myself is certainly greater than a mythical phony god invented 2,000 years ago in the deserts on Israel! We humans have moved up and over such delusions of this mono-theistic deity that is, for any educated and scientific-minded human – an obvious fiction.

    Many great powers can be found in modern science. “The sun is god” said the Taos Pueblo Indian to Carl Jung on his visit to NM (Memories, Dreams, and Reflections). So our life-giving star is a great higher power for me…

  44. Indeed, Roger, your dedication and ceaseless energy in advocating for the voice of agnostic, atheist and freethinking members of AA to have a recognized place within all of AA is unparalleled.

    You with all of us here on AA Agnostica in association with our colleagues at WAAFT, though disappointed by this action on the part of the GV, Inc Board of Directors, will not be daunted. We shall ceaselessly continue to advocate for our just and righteous cause to be full-fledged and legitimately recognized members of AA even though we doubt or do not believe in the doctrinaire ideology of the majority of AA members, to perhaps include a substantial majority of the attendees and delegates at the upcoming General Service Conferences every April. We shall continue to advocate that conference-approved literature be published by AA that reflects our beliefs or lack of beliefs.

    When I found out yesterday about this latest action on the part of the governance of AA to continue to suppress the expression of our beliefs or lack of beliefs, I felt like I had been kicked simultaneously in the teeth, the solar plexus and the groin, but I shall not cease to advocate for and to strenuously strive, with dignity and respect and with our code of love and tolerance, to insure that our voice and the stories of our experience, strength and hope are fully included within AA.

    As we evolve together what our next steps are, I shall in the meantime focus upon manifesting within me, the Serenity Wish:

    May I have the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
    The Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom
    to know the difference.

  45. I hope I can respond without the language I learned in barracks and while working on railroad tracks!

    It’s too bad the GV Board is too chicken to deal with this legitimate need. They must be as cowardly and evangelistic as the rest of the hierarchy.

    I don’t see any alternative to finding a way to publish our own book, either using the GV articles or collecting new stories. A skilled editor like Laurie A. could provide direction, and amateurs like me would pitch in if possible.

    If such a tome was online, many of us would use local resources to print and distribute it.

    My Mom, who never reached sobriety, used to quote:

    “I shall not wince, nor cry aloud; my head is bloody, but unbowed.”

    • I found the complete poem, which has some famous lines:

      Invictus
      by William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

      Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
      I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

      In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
      Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

      Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
      And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

      It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
      I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

  46. This is just what all of those letters pointed out. We are not wanted in the fellowship. I have decided that the AA fellowship does not want atheist, agnostic or other such deviants to have anything in AA but god, god and more god. They are showing a hostile attitude toward me and other non-believers. Guess what AA? I quit. I will stay sober (try to) but I may never go to another meeting. Why should I go somewhere that only tolerates me? Just because I say No God? If you keep ignoring us like you have we will go away? How about we all get drunk and revert back to all the alcoholic behavior? We will all die off and AA will only have the believers to deal with. One less defect in AA’s eyes? No more. I’ve been atheist all my life (59 yrs) and sober 8.5 yrs. with the help of AA. I will keep at it but I won’t help anymore. AA has told me to bugger off and I’ll accommodate them.

    • No, no, no, Steve S!
      WE stick around until THEY all die off!
      There’s bound to come a day when respectful believers & respectful non-believers can work happily together. It’s happening already. Has been for a while.
      Just have to wait until the blinkered ones “go to meet their Maker”!

  47. I would like to thank Roger and everyone else who have put their hearts and souls into making AA inclusive for non-believers. However, I have to say that the response received simply confirms my own experience with AA. It is a religious movement and I have come to believe that nothing will change this. I’ve been sober for 26 years, with little help from anyone in AA because I didn’t believe. I have been told that my sobriety was of the dry-drunk variety by people who didn’t even know me. I was told I would not keep my sobriety if I did not believe in a (Male) God. So, I quit attending altogether.

    I made one attempt to go to an AA meeting here in a smaller centre in Ontario after I moved from Saskatchewan 6 months ago. I hoped that being in a more populated region would make AAs more open. It was the same; in fact it was worse. Nothing but a litany of God this and God that… I stayed quiet at the meeting because there was no way for me to speak to the issues. I am quite ok with other people’s beliefs, I don’t want them shoved down my throat and that’s what AA does. It is a non-denominational religious movement.

    All of this is intensely disheartening for those of us in smaller cities and rural areas. Quite frankly, we’ve nowhere to go. Even at 26 years, I still need to touch base with sober / recovering people.

    Perhaps I should end this rant by asking if it is time to stop wasting energy trying to make AA change and instead, change ourselves by setting up our own groups separate from AAs structure? I believe that there is a need for this and that it is particularly strong in smaller centres. Anyway, kudos to all who tried. I just needed to have my wee rant.

    Susan F.

    • Thanks for your comment Susan. Though I have been tempted more than once to walk away from AA because of the AA Taliban, I continue to attend meetings and speak honestly about “my” experience, strength, and hope. The result is that others have done the same at my home group. I know it can feel lonesome in AA at times, but it’s a great feeling when another nonbeliever approaches you and thanks you for being there for them. Thanks for staying sober and being here. People like yourself are very important to me.

  48. It saddens me that the Grapevine, and AA as a whole, are comfortable with not making a greater effort to reach out to suffering alcoholics who do not believe in a deity. The truth will not be silenced. People do get sober and remain sober without god. Thanks you Roger C. and all of the AA members who continue to speak the truth.

  49. Thank you, Roger. I noticed in the last quarterly report from GSO that the Literature committee decided to “open a file” for study of this issue. They surely must have a file by now, since “this issue” has been raised at least since 1975 or so. I know it was raised since I got sober in 1981.

    I think we all just need to keep putting the pressure on them by continually bringing this up. In addition, getting involved in your local district and area can help. Specifically requesting that it be followed up by your delegate (to GSO) might also help.

    Again, thanx for all you do … the wheels of AA do grind exceedingly slowly … keep on trudging!

  50. WHY? What is WRONG with these people? How does a collection of articles by sober believers in a power GREATER than themselves (i.e, our own fellowship) diminish AA? HOW? And they don’t have to give us any rationale for the refusal? Just a “NO”? Roger C., your undying efforts continue to inspire us to forge ahead and create new meetings. As I read these heartfelt requests by all the people you cite I just want to cry. Can we get a sober lawyer to work with us on our behalf? I met a couple attorneys in Santa Monica who were able to get their groups re-listed because delisting violates “the only requirement” proviso. It appears that the Grapevine and GSO are violating that as well. This is fricking 2015, as you say.

  51. Thank you Roger for the time spent putting this all together and in corresponding with Grapevine.

    I’m wondering if it is the hope of the Grapevine Board that their response to you will suffice and we (you) will pursue this no farther.

    Whereas I can appreciate the Grapevine Board wanting to keep the particular details of their discussions in camera, would you be willing to ask that they give a brief summary of the reasons why they decided not to send the request to the Conference Committee.

      • Strange to mention their “review”, “interest”, and “lengthy discussion”, and then curtly state “sorry, no”.

      • Roger –

        We have a tradition that states “…we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.” I assume “those they serve” refers to all rank and file AA members. A request for reasons to support decisions made following requests of AA Grapevine editorial staff from AA members ought to informed by this tradition. So far it has not been. Similar problems have arisen at our local Intergroup. Perhaps a grievance regarding Tradition 9 violations should be pursued separately from the question of the proposed AA Grapevine book?

    • I notice that the chairman of the Grapevine board is a recipient of a copy of the letter Roger received. That means Adam Ware knew of the decision but probably did not participate in the response.

      Conference is coming up in April. I know Adam from Montana and I know he would gladly offer a complete and reasonable reason for the board’s decision if he had the time. But that board must be going crazy with details at the last moment and I suspect it was really just that the agenda for the panel 65 conference was completely full before the January 29 meeting at which this was discussed.

      Adam is a new board member and still an active professor in Montana. I believe in the sciences in fact. I would almost suspect he might be one of us.

      So before getting too excited, I think we should reach out to the board for more than the secretary’s terse report of their decision.

      And having met Roger, I suspect his current action will elicit the very thoughtful response I know Adam will provide whenever he gets the time.

      Best, Lance

  52. Wow. This does not bode well for the world of AA. This is a complete lack of respect for people who do not share their theological beliefs.

    I thought this was about not drinking. But it’s the old “bait and switch” to draw people into their religion? And if we don’t, we’re weak, or ignorant.

    Wow. I’m thinking I am seeing some ignorance at the top here.

    As an agnostic, I don’t claim to know if there is a God or not. I hope that there is a God, and that these people who are knowingly excluding and alienating people who suffer but don’t share their belief, well, any decent God would wholly condemn that.

    Steve
    – living a more moral and true life than many, many Christians.