An Agnostic Reflects on AA Today


By Peter T.

As an Alcoholics Anonymous member of long-standing in Ontario, I am dismayed and shamed by the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup (GTAI) declaration at the January, 2016 Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that AA is a “religious organization”, and that to be part of it, AA groups “must have a belief in God”.

Perhaps I’m being too sensitive, but it seems to me that GTAI was effectively trying to tell me who the god of my understanding is.

When a member of my own Kingston group emailed Eastern Ontario International Area 83 to ask our trusted servants why no mention had been made of this ground-shifting Toronto development at the March, 2016 Area Assembly – a reply came from a senior spokesperson.

Incredibly, at least to me, the source cited Tradition 10, i.e. “we have no opinion on outside issues, hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy”, as the reason for Area 83’s failure to comment on or even to talk about this matter for the past five years. It was further stated that AA’s “upside down triangle” model of governance made it impossible for Area 83 to consider the issue of discrimination, or to offer guidance, since GTAI is not part of the general service structure and is only responsible to the groups they serve.

Apparently we are meant to conclude that only if GTAI bumped their religion-plus-God declaration down the line to the next level, would Area 83 have the right to talk about it.

Be that as it may, this is not an “outside” issue. Belief or non-belief is an internal dispute, at the root of AA’s being. In fact, the organization’s survival could well depend on its successful resolution. To say that the inverted triangle model for AA governance dictates that the membership should have no opinion on this issue is a classic opportunity for the application of the reductio ad absurdum principle, in which it can be demonstrated that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable or absurd result follows from its acceptance.

And then there is simply this: if all AA authority stems from the individual members, did a substantial majority of the whole Greater Toronto membership actually vote in favour of being defined as a religious organization in which all must believe in God, a God that widespread use of the Lord’s Prayer strongly suggests is Christian? Or were they ever asked?

If, in fact, only those members who happen to attend business meetings were polled, the result may be in accordance with AA tradition – but could hardly be considered the result of a just or fair process. Perhaps, if this is what actually happened, AA should consider special provisions for “business meetings of the whole” on such important issues, preferably using secret ballots.

American AA has long made it clear that in its view, and Bill Wilson’s for that matter, an AA group can be just as sectarian as its group conscience permits. Agnostic AA groups have been a strong feature of American AA for many years. Only in America, you say?

In Canada we accept that the trusted servants of Area 83 love AA and credit it with saving their lives, as do all AA members, believers and non-believers alike. Yet they encourage individual and collective silence as our beloved organization continues to twist and turn in the throes of what may well prove to be fatal indecision.

This is a struggle between those who say AA is a spiritual organization, not a religious one (but who seem to have no trouble with the capitalized God word and the use of Christian prayers), and those who take the spiritual-not-religious dictum literally. Many times I have heard speakers in the rooms suggest that if newcomers don’t understand the difference between religious and spiritual programs they should just keep coming to meetings until it becomes apparent.

The trouble is, it never does. AA literature is contradictory on the subject, probably a result of the early members trying to draft documents that would satisfy both those who came to AA by way of the religious Oxford Group, and the equally vociferous agnostics who wanted to shed all religious overtones. The end result is unresolved confusion between statements like “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking” and Chapter 5’s no-nonsense religious assertion:

Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One that has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now!

There is history to consider when we are trying to assess what damage could be done by unresolved conflicts of this kind. Many of us may not have heard of the Washingtonian movement. Bill Wilson and Bob Smith had, apparently, and it may have been for that reason they avoided many of the pitfalls the Washingtonians fell into by making it clear that AA would express no opinions on real outside issues.

In 1840, the Washingtonians were founded by and for hard case American alcoholics who wanted to help each other stop drinking. It is believed that they had as many as 600,000 members before a precipitous decline and subsequent collapse later in the decade.

Abstaining totally from alcohol was their primary objective, but they allowed it to be watered down by embracing movements that had interests beyond sobriety, namely social reforms like prohibition, the abolition of slavery, sectarian religion, and political causes. Abraham Lincoln spoke at a Washingtonian meeting not because he wanted to quit drinking, but because he approved of the group trying to help people who did.

One irony of their demise, from the vantage point of 2016 and the current agnostic argument in favour of a sectarian AA, is that many American churches attacked the Washingtonians because they were so non-religious and non-spiritual. The more vigorous attackers accused them of “humanism” and “placing themselves before the power of God”.

At least in Canada it is unlikely, in this age of falling church attendance, that there would be such an outcry against agnosticism today. In any case, the lesson to be derived from the Washingtonians’ failings should be clear to the AA membership everywhere. We should not allow ourselves to be diverted from our primary purpose:  i.e., “to stay sober and help others to achieve sobriety”. Controversy and division of the kind being stirred up now could be catastrophic.

To those AA’s who think that the unbelievers are only a tiny, tiresome segment of an overwhelmingly God-embracing majority, I would inject a note of caution. I am an agnostic and, I have concluded, so are an increasing number of professed believers in and out of AA.  I have struggled with the God question throughout 46 wonderful years of continuous sobriety. For the most part, I did not inflict my lack of belief on my fellow AA’s. But lately I have been alarmed by AA’s increasingly bad press, as in the respected Atlantic magazine last year, The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous, and by the number of young people being turned off (and thereby turned away) by AA’s “religious” overtones.

When Greater Toronto Area Intergroup insists that AA is a religious organization and that believing in God is a requirement for membership, they’re asserting that, contrary to page 60 of the big book, the principles the founders set down are not just “guides to progress” but dogma, a non-negotiable path to recovery, and that access to AA can only be granted to people who believe in God as GTAI does. Agnostics accept that the steps are, in fact, “suggested” as a program of recovery, not Holy Writ.

I have had three AA sponsors of long-standing. One died after more than 15 good years in AA. The others died after 50 years of sobriety. I never discussed God with any of them, and I have long suspected this was probably because none of us believed that the God question was central. What was vital was realizing and embracing our own insignificance.

One doesn’t have to believe in God to achieve a state of humility, but it’s one way to do it, and it may well have been a major reason for AA’s endorsing “a power greater than ourselves” in the first place. I have no difficulty accepting the necessity of such a power in my own AA program. But for me, the higher power is rooted in the combined love, wisdom, experience, strength and hope of each and every AA member, living or dead.

The GOD acronym used so often in the rooms, “Good Orderly Direction”, helped to ease my burden for many years. However, I found room-circulated nuggets like “fake it until you make it” to be less helpful, since the implication seemed to be that believing in God is necessary, and that hypocrisy in pursuit of sobriety is quite OK. I found little comfort in the “We Agnostics” chapter in the big book, because it is clumsily condescending to unbelievers, and insensitive to boot.

My dam finally burst in 2015 when I realized that my Kingston home group, without any survey of its membership as a whole, had voted in favour of a District 36 (Kingston & The Islands) motion to de-list and eject a new group in Odessa, Ontario, called the Broader Path. That group’s mortal sin was to label itself “secular spiritual”. Broader Path had asked District 36 for no special treatment, or for other AA groups to make any changes.

De-listing would have removed the Broader Path meeting from the District 36 website, telephone answering service and meeting lists. The motion would also have deprived this GSO-registered AA group of all rights to participate in the Alcoholics Anonymous general service structure. Despite the motion’s narrow failure to achieve a two-thirds majority vote to expel, I felt compelled to resign from my Kingston home group and join the Broader Path to demonstrate the depth of my feelings.

The agnostic AA’s I know don’t want to force their personal views on God-embracing AA groups. Many of us find ourselves a little envious of the comfort that belief apparently bestows on struggling AA members. We would probably have continued in our old ways as before, if, for whatever reason, the pro-religious forces in Canadian AA hadn’t begun to raise their voices against us.

This is not a fight of the agnostics’ making. Most of us have been low-keyed dissenters throughout our sobriety. We are not asking any AA member to change his or her beliefs, or even to listen to ours as we have listened to theirs over the years.  To begin the healing process, perhaps Area 83 could be constructively proactive in developing a policy on Human Rights and a procedure for dealing with member’s real complaints and concerns about discrimination. There are multiple Districts, Intergroups, and Areas in Ontario – and more than one may be looking for guidance.

It would be a very “inside issue” discussion for Area 83 to consider a Human Rights Policy and the best wording for it and who might want to print or post it to meet our duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Throughout this escalating controversy, I have never lost sight of the fact that the love and understanding I found in AA was the most important discovery of my life. It is still the reason that my Al-Anon lady and I are happily married today and will, if we are still breathing, celebrate 60 years together before the year is out. It is the reason my three children, their spouses, and eleven grandchildren, still speak to us and appear to enjoy our company. It is the reason that, a few days ago, I found myself cradling a beautiful baby girl, our first great grandchild.

I have gained a whole new family in AA, a family that, in many ways, knows me better than my own mother and father ever did. I hope that our trusted servants throughout the AA fellowship never forget that we are not an exclusive body.  Our Unity depends on embracing diversity, not on dictating conformity.

If we want the hand of AA always to be there, we must continue to welcome all those who come to us for help, no matter how downtrodden, no matter how often they have tried to quit and failed, no matter what beliefs they profess. We hope that our treatment of newcomers will continue to be kind, tolerant, loving and hopeful. There is, after all, no such thing as a hopeless case, as AA members have been demonstrating ever since Bill Wilson drew his first sober breath more than 80 years ago.

Yours in the worldwide fellowship of the spirit,
Peter T.
Broader Path, Odessa, ON

Peter T. attended his first AA meeting, heard the speaker he had to hear, and felt at home, among friends, immediately. At 81, he reads, writes a little, walks a lot, practices Tai Chi and meditates. He also attends AA meetings in Odessa and Kingston.

56 Responses

  1. Peter T. says:

    I have already commented on Edward, and it got shuffled around somehow. However, I seem to have blown my chance to say how much I appreciate the firm but civilized tone of Murray’s intervention. It is this kind of approach that will save AA, not the confrontional “throw the bastards out” cry first uttered in Toronto and repeated at the district level in Kingston, while I was sitting in the bleachers. When I came out of that meeting, Mary F., who supported the move to delist us, said to me “the main thing is that we should stick together”. Right on Mary, and Bravo Murray for being someone the other side can talk to.

  2. Peter T. says:

    Thought-provoking blog. It will be useful to me too.

  3. Peter T. says:

    I agree that most AAs are not up to speed on this issue. This may stem, in part, from a general reluctance to attend business meetings, of which I, for example, am clearly guilty. If we ignore our trusted servants, we tend to get the leadership we deserve. Speaking for myself, not anymore.

  4. Roger says:

    If you want to be notified about posts on AA Agnostica you can subscribe on the homepage, Robert, top left hand side.

  5. Peter T. says:

    That was an excellent point about finances. I have been hearing dark warnings about the state of GSO’s coffers for four or five years now. When I first joined AA the standard contribution to the collection basket from someone with a decent job was a single Canadian dollar (worth more than the American buck in those days, I seem to recall). The point I’m trying to make, though, is that years later, despite inflation, a lot of people were still putting a dollar in the basket. Today, I admit, at least the affluent have bumped it up to about $5, but perhaps not enough of the take is making it as far as New York. Maybe group treasurers should channel more of their contributions to GSO.

  6. Robert G. says:

    Please enroll me in your posts.

  7. Peter T. says:

    Three Cheers. Our Broader Path group doesn’t only promote our own secular approach to AA. We ask newcomers to take a meeting list (all groups listed being conventional AA),
    find a meeting they like and make it their home group.

    After all, that is the route most of us took into AA in he first place. I for one would not want to go it alone, though.

  8. Peter T. says:

    If you haven’t read Marya Hornbacher’s “Waiting”, I’m sure you’d find that helpful too.


  9. Peter T. says:

    Thank you for your note. I couldn’t agree more with your final paragraph, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

  10. Peter T. says:

    Point taken about finances. GSO has been in tough shape for some time, I believe. When I first joined AA, those who could afford it put a buck in the basket. Years later, despite inflation, the increasingly affluent membership was still giving a dollar. Today, I admit, many of those beside me at meetings are donating a five, but New York is still hurting. Perhaps our group treasurers are not giving enough to GSO.

  11. life-j says:

    I went to the Area 06 pre-conference assembly this last Saturday. There were two hot topics: The GV book for atheists and agnostics, and the rewriting of the BB in plain language. Many came out in favor of the GV book. A few spoke out against it. The big topic, though was the plain language BB. Of 300 attending, a hundred got in line to comment on it, and most seemed to be against. And while I’m sort of against myself on the grounds that it is better to move forward with some new literature (if it’s any good it will never see the light of day) than to try to rewrite the language of a basically hopeless book – it seemed that most were against rewriting it on conservative grounds – we must not water down the message.

    Oh, there was another topic, which mostly was discussed before I got there – that AA World Services is in financial trouble, and that is because of the lack of increase of membership. I just got there at the end of the discussion, and it seemed to be a consensus that in order to improve GSO’s finances we need to work much harder at doing the same thing over and over – and expect different results. Doesn’t bode well for our old fellowship…

    But I did point out to those assembled, and a few chimed in with me – that the atheist and agnostic segment of AA is the fastest growing part of AA.

  12. jan says:

    Thnx. Buddhists too (or the Buddhist-influenced or inspired), don’t ‘believe in god’.

    It’s such hypocrisy and narrow religiosity, such selfishness, using the patriarchal ‘lord’s prayer’.

    AA truly needs an evolution, an opening to the needs of our times, the global awareness awakening.

  13. Glenna R. says:

    Thanks for such a detailed, inclusive article; despite the detail it is succinct. Especially, I liked the point you make of the contradictions as I haven’t heard a lot of people in secular groups admit to them? At the end of Bob Smith’s story, he quite clearly and I will add condescendingly suggests that if we don’t believe in God he feels sorry for us. I have noted with a former sponsor (traditional) that the appendix makes it clear that it is religious people who call their higher power, God. The Tribunal if it does nothing else will relieve people like me of those who say, “We are a spiritual programme, not a religious one”. If anyone has a chance, I recommend reading, rabbi Dow Marmur’s column in yesterday’s(April l1) Toronto Star. I believe it’s on page 11 across from the editorial page where he discusses that. Certainty, not doubt is the enemy of faith. I quote, “I suspect that their zeal isn’t evidence of devotion but coverup for insecurity”. I find this humility to be a large part of what I would call a truly religious person. I read religious writers and like many unbelievers often feel it would be so easy to be a believer, but I’ll stick with Albert Camus who also had some very kind words about doubt.

  14. Murray says:

    Hi Peter. Actually I’m an active member of the Beyond Belief Suburban West agnostics group. I’m the GSR. I sit beside the GSR from my traditional AA group GSR at District meetings. I pride myself in getting along with people. I am not a shrinking violet, however, and will stand my ground when necessary. I straddle the two recovery worlds. Uncomfortable? Yes at times but well worth it.

    I was honoured to speak at a traditional AA meeting tonight. Before the meeting a District member asked me about the ongoing Human Rights issue. We had a warm, constructive discussion. We both agreed that if a mediated settlement can be reached we can put this behind us and get back to fulfilling our primary purpose.

  15. Peter T. says:

    Hang in there Edward. We need all the spiritual members we can muster.

  16. Peter T. says:

    I admire your courage in staying with your own home group. At one point I too considered staying and trying to change things from the inside. But I tried the Broader Path Group in Odessa, and freed of “the preachers”, found new and simulating pieces of AA literature. The renewal of my confidence in the AA program has been exhilarating. Might I suggest that you try attending a secular meeting too if you haven’t already done so.

  17. Peter T. says:

    Group Of Drunks, actually.

  18. Peter T. says:

    You should thank Dennis K of Broader Path group for that one. He sneaked it into the manuscript when I wasn’t looking.

  19. Bob W. says:

    Hey Peter, Thanks for dealing with and articulating this issue so well. I have been sober and ever so grateful to my HP and fellow AA’s who have supported my sobriety and subsequent sanity for 27 years. I am not active in program today partly due to the angst surrounding this issue. I found myself losing my serenity and tiring of the politics. Spiritually and practically, I am a believer, but I found I didn’t have the strength to endure the animosity, so I practise my own program (the 12 steps) as best I can, and live a healthy sobriety as I understand it … and I steer as many as I can to the program in hope that they find their sobriety before they get sucked into the divisive issues that can be so distracting from the real issues that corrupt our lives and that bring us broken and confused to the program in the first place.

  20. Stephen R. says:

    The average member does not know of this issue. I mention traditions 3 and 5. I have 44+ years of sobriety. Without belief one can still study the history of the Christian organizations and clearly see the organizational dynamic of fanaticism and schism. It is playing out right there in Toronto in AA. To my view AA is and will be perceived as as religion as long as prayer, particularly the Lord’s Prayer, is a part of the format. It saddens me that it had to become an outside issue. There was no other way.

  21. Bob K. says:

    BOOM!!! goes the dynamite!!

  22. Murray says:

    I’m coming up on 20 years sober but I won’t leave my traditional AA group. When I first heard about the Human Rights thing I had mixed feelings. But I’ve come to realize that intolerance in any fashion must be resisted. I emailed my home group members to point out the hypocrisy of ending our meeting with “Although AA is not religious, we close our meeting with the Lord’s Prayer”. I have suggested at business meetings that we close with the Responsibility Declaration but to no avail. At least I’ve tried. What shocks me is that no group has challenged the nonsense of GTAI’s assertion that in the GTA you have to believe in God and AA in Toronto is a religion. And now we have the Tribunal dragging GTAI kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Someone posted earlier that we should have this all figured out by the year 3000! Let’s hope it’s earlier than that! LOL!

  23. Bob K. says:

    I think folks will find Sunday’s essay fascinating. there were numerous groups that had success in staying sober based on “one alcoholic helping another.” Most dissolved through organizational difficulties, NOT because they weren’t effective. They were, some groups lasting decades, and reaching large numbers of alcoholics.

  24. Roger says:

    Check out my article here, Michael: AA Atheists and Human Rights. It contains the tribunal’s decision.

  25. bob_mcc says:

    Here is a blog I found and it deals with this issue it’s own way; I hope one day we all can get there.

    This I plan on using as a meditation.

    It is titled Healing Through Connection.

  26. Michael L. says:

    This is a very interesting piece. I would like to get the on line links to the Tribunal decisions if you have them. Many thanks.

  27. Edward C says:

    I am almost ready (24 yrs sober) to resign from AA – I am outraged not just at Toronto GTA – I am outraged at many AA groups – yeah we are spiritual, not religions now lets close with the Lord’s Prayer – what BS.

  28. thomas p. says:

    An exaggerated ego is the alcoholic’s worst enemy, and our most common personality defect To assume that your beliefs, and only yours, are correct and insist that all others must agree with them is egotistical in the extreme.

    I guess it should be no surprise then, that so many members are currently insisting that others accept Christian or any other sectarian beliefs. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot, and wonder why we limp.

    Yes, we are definitely alcoholics.

  29. Lola says:

    “Our Unity depends on embracing diversity, not on dictating conformity.”
    Pretty much says it all right there.

  30. Peter T. says:

    I look forward to reading “Key Players in AA History” and your website piece “Not Just the Washingtonians” on Sunday.

    I’m damned glad I was born in December of 1934, though, a few months before the founders met in Akron, thereby assuring that AA would be up and running when I needed it.

    There are those who say I’m old enough to have joined the Washingtonians, but that’s just an ugly rumor.

  31. Roger says:

    And that bob k fella has written an excellent book!
    Key Players

  32. Bob K. says:

    Thanks to Peter for a thoughtful and well-written piece. The Washingtonians were an interesting group, but just one of many such mutual aid societies in the 19th Century. This Sunday, on the website, I look forward to “NOT JUST THE WASHINGTONIANS” a fascinating history piece by the inimitable bob k.

    I’ve met bob k. His good looks and charisma are a match for his wit and wisdom.

  33. bob k says:

    I was at the monthly Toronto Intergroup meeting in late February – the first gathering subsequent to the OHRC decision that the complainant’s case was worthy of moving forward to a full tribunal hearing. It was also shortly after the publicity in the Toronto Sun.

    Attendance was WAY above average.

    My understanding is that until the most recent hearing, the executive committee hadn’t taken the complaint very seriously. I expect that their solicitors assured them that they had an out – the religious exemption.

    When this defense failed, they blamed the lawyers. The shocker in the whole thing was that during the limited (15 minutes) question and answer session, no one questioned the “We’re a religion” defence.

    Not a ridiculous notion based on a reading of our literature.

  34. Murray says:

    LOL! Good one! Yes, GTAI mentioned in their letter they would consider mediation. I’m not sure but I think the complainant mentioned mediation before the Tribunal began.

  35. Peter T. says:

    I’m flattered that you read the piece and approve. I read you on a daily basis and count Beyond Belief as one of the biggest bonuses I have received since stepping fully out of the closet. I start the day with you, Marya Hornbacher’s “Waiting”, and Roger C’s “Little Book”. I feel that my AA life has come out of the shadows, and is once again in the sunlight, as fresh and exhilarating as it was 40 years ago. Three cheers for free thinking.

  36. Peter T. says:

    First I’ve heard about mediation. That’s a hopeful sign, and if it doesn’t work out, there is always meditation.

  37. Peter T. says:

    Thanks. Will do.

  38. Peter T. says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comments.

  39. Peter T. says:

    Good point!

  40. Peter T. says:

    I can understand your anger. I cannot claim that I have not felt it too. But I’m 81, and have no time to spare on negativity. Most of the so-called God people in AA feel much the same as we do about it being a spiritual, not a religious program, and they are part of my family.

  41. Peter T. says:

    We may be outnumbered but that just makes our secular meetings even more precious. Broader Path group has given me a new lease on my AA life!

  42. Peter T. says:

    I think you are right in thinking that the principles being enunciated by Toronto Intergroup are a threat to AA everywhere.

  43. Peter T. says:

    Thank you too. The motion to delist and eject came from District 36 — roughly Kingston and the Islands.It would have meant that Broader Path would be a registered group with New York, but not with our peers in Kingston.

  44. Peter T. says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I do remember some pretty rigid thinking from the early days, though, such as the heavy sarcasm that sometimes greeted any newcomer who dared to point out that the 12 steps were only “suggested”. Some old timers seemed to feel that a piece of 2×4 would make an appropriate instrument for driving home the message.

  45. Peter T. says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

  46. Skip D. says:

    Excellent article. Great move to join that group!!

    I have long thought that AA is in violation of it’s own 10th Tradition simply because of the wording of the 2nd Tradition, by which it actually posits the existence of “a loving God”. The people who exclude others because of their beliefs, or non-belief, threaten The Fellowship of AA.

  47. Jeb B. says:

    Thanks for a great piece, reflecting much of AA’s history of inclusiveness. In my early sobriety I can’t recall any of the dogmatic divisiveness being expressed in some places today. We enjoyed a common journey together, based on the love, acceptance, understanding and honesty the fellowship offered.

    Granted, we heard “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it,” but I don’t think that was taken to refer to belief in and reliance upon an external deity of some sort. We were told also “Take what you like and leave the rest” and “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” Those things invited me to trust in the fellowship and the process of finding and learning to rely upon a “Great Reality deep within,” “an unsuspected inner resource,” to which I had conceded after my last drink in 1978 that I was alcoholic, powerless over alcohol, “the First Step of recovery.”

    The emerging exclusiveness in parts of AA today, particularly in intergroups standing outside the recognized service structure are typically dominated by “bleeding deacons” who have lost touch with the primary purpose of individual groups and even AA as a whole. Bill Wilson spoke and wrote time and time again against such things, but dogmatism and exclusiveness continue to deprive suffering alcoholics of the kind of accepting fellowship and pragmatic process one finds working in the lives of those who learn to take full responsibility for their own lives and offer their honest witness and example to others.

    We end our Denver meetings of Freethinkers in AA ( with The Declaration of Responsibility as a constant reminder of the need to always keep the doors of AA open to all, demanding, legislating nothing.
    Although I never speak at ours or other meetings against other members’ beliefs, I have learned to be true to myself and share my own experience in recovery, not someone else’s story or hide behind the big book. I sincerely hope we can continue to welcome all with that kind of friendship, one based on honesty rather than pretending.

  48. life-j says:

    Peter, thanks.
    I’m a bit confused – was that motion to de-list from AREA or from INTERGROUP?

    Seems it would be a first if it was from Area, and it would be a serious issue. Bad enough when Intergroups do it, but they have no influence on the service structure, at least, and would have no influence on a group’s participation in the AA service structure in general.

  49. John R says:

    Excellent piece. Though directly concerned with AA in Canada, it certainly has applicability to AA world-wide. Thank you for your ES&H on this.

  50. Brien says:

    Great article Peter and the battle continues. Santa Clara county has over 600 meetings a week only 1 secular group, change is slow. I am thankful to have found LifeRing.

  51. Todd says:

    In 2016, people still need to deal with discrimination, anger, laws and many other negative expressions from the religious majority. Actually, I find a lot of it to be quite cute. Almost childlike. Yet, eliminating a secular AA meeting is not “cute”, and these religious people have crossed a line. Imo, they not only need to be set straight, they also need to be put in their place. Over time, religious idiocy has become less damaging. From burning people at the stake for saying the earth was not the center of the universe in the 1600’s, to the end of the Spanish Inquisition in the early 19th century to 2016 when we’re simply very bothered by the exclusion of a particular AA meeting. In about the year 3000, it should all be over. I hope.

  52. Fresh says:

    Even with direct compulsion from the courts, membership in AA is dwindling.
    Anyone can use search engines to find inclusive alternatives.
    Let the powers that be show their true colors.
    Just make sure your more inclusive group shows up in search engines near the top.

  53. Thomas B. says:

    What a wonderful essay, Peter — thank you !~!~!

    I resonate most strongly with so much of what you have effectively written with compassion for yourself as well as all other AA members, those who believe as well as for those of us who do not.

    I especially appreciated your remarks that we members of the secular AA Fellowship have no desire to change the beliefs of any ardent believer. Most of us respect their right to believe as they do, although of late I have encountered some extremely hardcore atheists who vehemently reject believers amongst our secular AA Fellowship.

    At times, I too have envied the certainty of believers strongly held beliefs, as I’ve floundered about in a miasma of doubt and uncertainly.

    Thank you again for a well reasoned and well written essay . . .

  54. Candice L Shelby says:

    Religion is no way to treat a “disease.” Addiction, however, is not a disease, nor on the other hand is it a reason to retreat to God. This whole business is nonsense, and has no better a success rate than “spontaneous remission.” See my recently published book, Addiction: A Philosophical Perspective, for the data.

  55. Murray says:

    A very well thought out and spot on sharing. I agree with the fact that none of the group’s in the GTA were consulted on such a fundamental issue of AA in the GTA as religious and a belief in God is necessary. Since there are legal issues associated with the current Human Rights Tribunal there has been a stone wall of silence at GTAI until a letter was published in their last month’s minutes. A reference to mediation was mentioned. Let’s hope a path to a compromise (granted, a dirty word these days) can be navigated.

    Credit Valley Group and
    Beyond Belief Suburban West

  56. Joe C. says:

    Bravo! Heartfelt and well articulated.

    Webinar on the Policy on preventing discrimination based on creed

    Not much time to register. Timely or what? The Ontario Human Rights Commission is offering a webinar on Creed – ensuring everyone, with any worldview – has the right to dignity, inclusion, accommodation and freedom from discrimination and harassment.

    This webinar isn’t aimed at parties concerned with the hearing where AA World Services and GTA Intergroup are being called to answer for charges of discrimination under the Human Rights Code. But it is timely for anyone who wants to understand the law in Canada and how organizations such as AA can learn to accommodate without undue hardship inflicted (No tyranny of the majority or minority).

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