A Changing Landscape
By Joe C.
Rebellion Dogs Publishing
Once again the Pew Research group shows that the fastest growing choice for survey respondents to the question of religion is “None.” And the future is none – the largest number of irreligious are the youth.
Eleven per cent of Silent Generation (AA founders) are “none’s” while 17% of Baby Boomers, 23% of Gen-X and 35% of Millennials don’t buy into the “God could and would if He were sought”, assumption. From the chart below we see that while 86% of Americans start out Christian 20% have moved away from those ideas. While some switch to another theistic worldview, the majority of Christian losses are now voting “none.”
In Alcoholics Anonymous members has responded to the increased secularism with more agnostic/atheist/freethinker groups. Just as there were 37 Million religiously unaffiliated in 2007 and these nonbelievers grew to 56 Million in 2014, secular AA groups worldwide increased from 60 to 200 groups over the same time period.
Apostates from churches have let go of their old ideas. It’s not that atheism is a higher level of consciousness over theism – it’s not. But more believers are switching than the other way around. (Remember in AA literature where it suggests, “We once thought like you,” was a good way to break through the barrier of a close-minded atheist “Chapter Four, “We Agnostics”)? Well now, non-believer are saying the same thing to theists.
Like mosques, Synagogues, churches and temples, these changes are mirrored in AA. Sure there are plenty of members who walk into AA and say, “I need help with my sobriety but keep your praying to yourself”, they arrive non-theistic and stay non-theistic. There are also some who faked it, maybe they made it for a while and maybe they didn’t, but after a time in recovery they are clearer and more confident about what they believe and it doesn’t include a prayer-answering, sobriety-granting creator of the universe. People who don’t believe in the 1939 God as we understand Him are feeling more comfortable saying, “Not for me, thank you.”
If you think Twelve Steps without God isn’t AA, that’s so five minutes ago.
While there are still bigots in AA and thank (their) god they are sober, you’ll have no better luck rallying anti-atheist sentiment in urban AA centers than you would gathering anti-gay-marriage support. Yes, there are some loud and obnoxious pockets but atheist-bashing is losing enthusiasm.
We’ll look at these stats more when we get to see the 2014 AA membership survey results this summer. I, for one, am curious to see if AA’s population has picked up from it’s 20+ year flat-line since 1992.
This post-theism isn’t just an AA trend. I was a guest speaker at West Hill United Church, a “barrier free” congregation as they describe themselves, led by Gretta Vosper, an atheist minister. They sing and “pray” although not to a creator god. They believe in Christian values but not the myths of the bible (Atheist minister praises the glory of good…). I was invited there to talk about both the heart-ache and heart-warming turn of events for non-believers in AA. Guest speakers is a regular occurrence at West Hill and on this Sunday in April, they wanted to hear about addiction and recovery in a secular vernacular.
Joe’s article is based on an article published on the Pew Research Centre website called: America’s Changing Religious Landscape.
Later this month, Joe will travel to New York City where he’s visiting the AA archives to do some research about atheist/agnostic members and will report on that in a month or so. He also hopes to get to a couple of agnostic AA meetings in NYC, too.
Joe C. is the author of Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life and was one of the founders of the first agnostic AA meeting in Canada, Beyond Belief, which held its first meeting on September 24, 2009. Less than two years later, on May 31, 2011, it was removed from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) AA meeting list by the regional Intergroup.