Lord’s Prayer Threatened – Fundies go Wild

Our Father

By bob k.

I belong to an old-fashioned online Yahoo AA group. The format is that every Sunday a member chairs and posts a topic, and group members have a week to respond with a few paragraphs sharing their own experience, and/or ideas regarding the topic. In this particular group, the membership is skewed in the direction of the elderly, the long sober, and the conservative. Some of the members are shut-ins. Others are deaf. Thus the group provides a most valuable point of contact for some folks who don’t get out much to face-to-face meetings. Did I mention that the group is conservative? Very conservative.

On Sunday, June the 11th, I chaired, and posted the following lead:

My name is Bob, and I’m an alcoholic, sober since October 28, 1991. Although AA is alive and well in Canada, the number of sober alcoholics has not increased in the two and a half decades of my own membership. Perhaps there are ways to make AA more appealing to a broader audience.

Many of us have a fondness for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and there’s a small “t” tradition of using it to close AA meetings in many localities. Has the time come to put aside our personal feelings, and perhaps acknowledge that we have other prayers that are more suited to AA’s “spiritual, not religious program?” In some areas, such as mine, the population is multi-cultural. Lots have no Christian background, and others with Christian upbringing associate “The Lord’s Prayer” with a childhood religion they have left behind.

Emmet Fox called the prayer “the most important Christian document.” Billy Graham and others have said much the same thing. Some would see the use of the prayer in AA as contradicting our fundamental principles of non-affiliation and non-alliance. Does “The Lord’s Prayer” adversely affect our outreach to non-Christians? Our founder’s defense of the use of this prayer dates back almost 60 years to a time before the Supreme Court decision that eventually led to Lord’s Prayer-less public schools. I’m sure there are similar letters from the same era in which university presidents defend why blacks were not admitted to their schools.

AA has its own prayers, prayers not so allied with a specific religion. Perhaps it’s time to usher in an era of AA meetings that are more spiritual, and less religious, and equally welcoming to all regardless of faith.

bob k.

Day One

Of course, I knew my post would be provocative, although I had intentionally been as non-provocative in the wording as I could manage. Day one responses were surprisingly liberal, belying the furor that was to come later.

So, yes, I enjoy it when I attend groups that end the meetings with different closings. I encourage looking for alternatives that might be more welcoming and comfortable to all alcoholics. – N.

Personally I would find AA far more acceptable if there were no prayers as this does gives the meeting a religious rather than a spiritual feel and yes I do think that it goes against our fundamental principles. I consider my self a Christian but with no particular religious affiliation and I found the use of prayers and the word “God” at meetings to be uncomfortable and alienating, so much so that I even considered leaving AA,  so I am sure that members of other faiths and beliefs must find it so too.” – S.

Day Two – Shit Gets Real!!

I am disappointed that this is selected as a topic in any AA meeting. The reason is that this topic is not only controversial, but has nothing to do with carrying a message of recovery to others. Agenda-driven topics as such are more appropriately addressed in business meetings and not in a general AA meeting. It is my experience over the years that when folks champion ideas of changing what was established by the original AAers, it is dangerous and the call in my view is to stand up for principles and traditions of AA based upon our recovery experiences! The topic here comes close to violating Traditions 5 (our primary purpose is to carry the message of recovery to other alcoholics) and 10 (AA has no opinion on outside issues, the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy). I cite Tradition 10 because this is an outside issue to this AA meeting and belongs in the business meeting. The meeting itself is public, and the topic stirs controversy since Christians are part of this meeting.  Although AA does not affiliate with any faith, the fact is, its roots come from Christianity and that fact should not be denied under the banners of equality or non-affiliation.

…there is a responsibility when it comes to Chairing an AA meeting. That is to carry a message of recovery and not to stir controversy. The idea that that a new era of AA meetings should be ushered in that makes secular folks more comfortable and is more welcoming to all faiths is simply intellectually dishonest. This proclamation is not consistent with my experiences in AA meetings throughout the US and Canada and this meeting in particular…

The fact that The Lord’s Prayer and using the name God or Christ makes some people uncomfortable is not important nor does this help people become willing or recover. Christians are part of this meeting too, and minimizing Christianity and maximizing Secularism is not an equality nor a more welcoming issue as it is agenda-driven. As a Christian, I am not always comfortable with the many uses of various HP’s and generic terms for a god of someone’s imagination either – yet again, the fact that I feel uncomfortable at times is unimportant and does not add to anyone’s willingness or recovery. We are not here to make ourselves and others more comfortable, we are here to help people recover from alcoholism! As an older traditional quote goes that a member of this group has often shared in the past, “we are here to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” This is how we all get better providing we are working the 12 step principles in all of our affairs.

It is my understanding that that the Big Book does not trash religion and hold up spirituality as a more equal, more welcoming standard. This is in fact a meeting construct. Besides, religion doesn’t mean Christianity, yet the word religion can be applied to every faith and a whole bunch of other things.  For me, I find religion in many aspects of mine and others’ beliefs whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Secular, Environmentalists, Activists and the list goes on and on and on. Again, it is not helpful to anyone in the rooms to place negative judgements to the word “religion” as it only sets up pretense and prejudice. The principles of our program rooted in our Big Book tell me to “live and let live” and that “love and tolerance is our code”. It is my experience that tolerance does not mean I allow the trampling on of our principles, traditions, and historical roots under the banner claim of equality or tolerance.

Since the Big Book actually promotes the acceptance of “the religious” and uses the specific name “God “over 400x in its first 164 pages, there would be no room for the Big Book in this new era brand of AA meetings. And without the Big Book and people of faith, AA would have died long ago.

As for me, my experience is that by working the 12 steps as instructed in our “dated” Big Book, I’ve had powerful experiences with God which caused me to seek God more and establish a relationship with Him. This life changing spiritual experience changed everything including the obliteration of bondage my alcoholism had on my life. I continue to try my best to live my life by these principles by making myself available to help others and carry a message of recovery!

Let’s talk about how we can help someone this week…! – D.

Well, I guess he told me. There was a lot from D.’s post that I have excised (due to limitations of space and the fear of causing migraine headaches). He had a lot to say on a topic he thought we shouldn’t talk about.

Look What This Will Lead To!!

Although D. wins the trophy for long-winded outrage, many others weighed in with similar feelings. Of course, one woman brought up the obligatory “If it ain’t broke…” argument, and for good measure, ramped up the ditching of The Lord’s Prayer to being the equal of jettisoning the entire program! Damn, she even got in “divinely inspired”, “death”, and a Tradition!!

So if it isn’t broke:  why fix it?  It was what our founders, who were so visionary with this program and divinely inspired, so why would anyone want to change it now? Tradition 1: “Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon AA unity.” Yes, without this program, I would be drinking alone for sure and for me, to drink is to die.  The group focus should be to stay together with our primary purpose of carrying the message.” -S.

Here comes my FAVORITE!!!

Why would we try to fix something that has helped millions around the world recover from a deadly disease. …Therefore, it wasn’t ok for me to add to or take away from what worked so Divinely. I’m not a bleeding deacon, because quite frankly a lot of the newer ones who come into AA to tell us what “they will do” and the group cowers to that – have sent me 45 minutes in the car to find an AA group that isn’t offended by everything program.

Here it comes!!!!

My sister, who has 45 yrs sober was shunned because she mentioned Jesus.  Not preaching, just how AA allowed her to experience a belief that had been shut out when she was drinking.  There was a man sitting in the meeting who was transgendering into a woman.  He was dressed as a woman, yet when he spoke it was like the All state commercial.  A man’s voice came out.  She is now using the women’s restrooms, everyone has known him as a man for 28 years in AA.  Everyone was so excited that he could become who he is.  But it wasn’t ok to mention Jesus or say the Lord’s Prayer.  Which is a Jewish prayer.  Jesus was a jew. (sic)

Don’t louse up something that works.  We drop our prejudices, and see where they have been right. I’m sorry about the soap box effect.  It’s just that AA isn’t broken!  We are! – M.

You can’t make this stuff up!!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Even Discuss it!

I don’t believe discussion of prayers is necessary and instead it is truly an outside issue just as the topic about whether one should consider medication for mental health reasons. Total outside issues! Here for the message of hope – “WE, OF Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.” Let’s focus on what has been the glue and our marching orders: Tradition 5: Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers. – S.

Jews For Jesus

This topic called me out!! I am Jewish. I absolutely love The Lords Prayer. I read the topic and felt sad. I look forward to saying, hearing, holding hands and most importantly feeling… was actually taken back by the topic. I never ..ever judged that prayer. How can I judge a gift of so many meaningful words at one time. I hope I am never bored..or looking for a topic that is so different That it backfires on me!!!! (OUCH!! That hurt!) I say..’if it’s  not broken,don’t fix it’ The outside ugly world ( at present) has now got its claws into AA. Just my opinion – L.

My Pet Peeve

Ushering in a new era of AA meetings, well, we all have our priorities, and perhaps our own agenda. My thinking would be that before I went after the Prayer, and the damage it does, maybe take a look at the language that is thrown around in the face to face meetings, words that I cant mention here, with not the slightest regard for the damage done, and the many people who have walked out of those meetings, myself being one of them. Being an Alcoholic does not mean I am a slut, yet, no one seems to wonder what the damage is, Hmmmm, Prayer is such a light weight compared to the filthy language that is so common, and when I have objected to the use of those disgusting words, it seems to fall on deaf ears, “There are no rules in AA”. Just a thought.

Gutter language o’ Goshen!!

A Shout Out To The Belligerent Savage

Thanks for being here for me.. and thanks Bob, for leading the group. In all the years I’ve been a member of XYZ  I’ve never seen this much meeting participation so quickly after a topic has been opened up…. I had to open my closed mind to new ideas about all the higher power stuff. But I wanted that serenity and joy I was seeing so badly I was willing to do what others who came before me did… get on my knees, recite prayers I didn’t understand or believe, ponder the Serenity Prayer – the Lord’s Prayer I was familiar with, but in the context of recovery it took on new meaning….

Each group is autonomous – and makes the decisions for their particular meeting format, including which – if any – prayers might be included. I respect that tradition – because I believe our 12 Traditions will safeguard our life-giving program – which I feel was divinely inspired. I don’t want it messed with. I think if anyone thinks it’s time for a new era in AA – good luck to them… I’ll stick with the original… and I do thank (my) God for it every day! peace & love” – D.

So on it went. All week long. Much of the same. Very little that really addressed the topic of improving our outreach by being more welcoming to non-Christians. I found the fear-mongering rather sad. The problem of affiliation was not discussed, other than to see the potential elimination of The Lord’s Prayer as an attack on Christians. One old retired school teacher who enjoys my occasional irreverence amidst the sea of blandness, caught on that I was amusing myself by playing head games with the devout.

Thank you, Bob, you devil, you, for chairing. Laughing all the way. Haven’t seen so many shares in such a brief time in two decades of XYZ. – G.

I’ll cop to the “devil” thing, but take consolation in the fact that, thankfully, I ain’t Bobby Beach!

It is at least worth knowing what we are dealing with.

Bob K. has been a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for almost 26 years. During that entire time, he has been an out-of-the-closet atheist. Although he jumped through the necessary hoops himself to achieve sobriety in traditional AA, he is very familiar with the perils of being a secularist in AA. Since 2011, he has been something of an activist in the cause then known as “agnostic AA.”

Click on the above image for more information about the book, Key Players.

Regular readers of the postings at the website AA Beyond Belief will recognize Bob as the site’s most frequently published blogger. Here on AA Agnostica, he is the second most frequent contributor.

His interest in AA history led to the publication, in 2015, of Key Players in AA History, a secularist’s look at the birth of the fellowship. The diligent research that went into that volume impressed two of recovery history’s great authors, Ernest Kurtz and William L. White, who together penned the Foreword to Key Players.

In his home region, just east of Toronto, Bob is active in secular AA, and traditional AA. In 2013, he co-founded the Whitby Freethinkers meeting which is assisting agnostics and atheists not well served by traditional AA.

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38 Responses

  1. Phil E. says:

    I stopped going to regular meetings after 10 years sobriety and 24 years ago. Up to then, I adjourned out of meetings during the LP. Haven’t missed the group at all.

    Pondering religion over the years, I’ve come to a theory that some folks need an oppressive being, or authority over them in order to feel secure. Hence, the “Lord’s” prayer. A monarch, if you will, that will give its grace, or its wrath, depending on whether one has obeyed its orders. I came across an anonymous quote years ago that states; “When faced with oppression, or anarchy, people will choose oppression”.

  2. Henrik B. says:

    Reading this makes me so happy that I live in the most secular country in the world. Of course some people in the fellowship over here end up finding religion after getting sober but the majority of the people I know do not use the higher power concepts from organized religion. There is to my knowledge no groups that use the lords prayer or so. Even though I have a hard time to stomach the serenity prayer, specially the standing in a circle thing I have adopted a habit of just waiting in the others and join in after the use of the word god- thinking it more a mantra then a prayer.


  3. Marnin M. says:

    When I was sober 25 years I just stopped attending all my AA meetings.

    The “RELIGIOSITY” of the meetings drove me nuts.”God would and could if he were sought” was emphasized over and over.

    This came to a head when one of my regular meetings asked me find another meeting because I spoke too much about psycho-therapy.

    Instead I started buying “six packs” of AA speakers on cassettes, funny male speakers & humorous females. I went back to AA after a year offering a lending library of these speakers on cassettes.(Even Clancy and others, although they were not humorous.)

    I feared being pulled over for a DWL (laughing while driving).

    Today almost 47 years later I am still sober, attending meetings and still agnostic. I’ve switched to CD’s and DVDs. I found my secular way of practicing the 12th step in my sober life … today I offer copies of both the cassettes and CD’s at my home Florida meetings and particularly enjoy giving them to newcomers in the hope that they will help the take the first step to a new life.

    No I do not want any of them back, “Pass it on” is my motto!

    Still at it at age 82.


    • Melinda says:

      Thanks Marnin – truly inspiring.

      • Marnin M. says:


        Thanks for your comment.

        In what part of the country do you attend meetings?

        We retired to Hobe Sound, Fla. The Hobe Sound Bible College is located here. I knew I would be in trouble in the Bible Belt !

        Our home is only a 16 minute drive to the beach. Hobe Sound reminds me of my youth growing up in Rockaway Beach, Long Island, NY

        My home group is now in Tequesta about 20 miles away. Each year I show up for my anniversary medallion.

        I no longer care what members think of my sobriety.


        • Melinda says:

          Hi Marnin – I’m actually in Australia, 2 hrs south of Sydney. The bible belt? You’re braver than me! 🙂 Melinda

  4. Sally N. says:

    Prayers are for churches… not meetings… of any kind.

    The AA org better grow and change if it wants to stay alive… Those who need us are staying away because of the Christian religiosity… Where is the respect for NON Christians?… Religion is for churches… Proof, I got sober by converting the wording in my mind… so it fit… otherwise I was not going to stay. Twenty-nine years later, and still a pagan… I’m sober but not because the Christians were nice to me. Most would have left after the treatment I received for not being a believer.

  5. Mark C. says:

    Thank you Bob! Another interesting experiment. The outcomes were predictable enough. Any legitimate question is soon swamped and killed off by Religiosity, Conformity and Authoritarianism.

    Cult-think. The only thing that matters is doubling-down on Christian Theistic Privilege of some sort or another, and that impulse is born and raised and arises from the Big Book itself. Thou Shalt Not Think, Thou Shalt Not Question, Thou Shalt “believe” Bill Wilson speaks ex cathedra.

    It was about my 3rd or 4th meeting that I came out as an atheist in a conventional AA group here in the West Texas Bible Belt. That “Honesty about me” started a Holy War.

    At first I attempted to “be a part of” by joining the holy, Protestant “LP” prayer circle. I completely opted out of that soon thereafter. I opted out as a matter of intellectual honesty. At the time I was the only one who completely opted out. The holy war was in full swing, and me opting out simply added one more log to the flames that were designed to force my conversion, my conformity, my silence or my exit from the rooms. It did not work.

    It took a short time before I saw another person “completely opting out” of the Protestant “Lord’s Prayer.” Then another. Then another. The Fundies became even more alarmed, and vicious. This process continued.

    Today it is often the case that approximately one half of those in attendance will completely opt out of this Protestant religious ritual and prayer.

    This evolution within the group occurred outside of my intentions as I opted out as a matter of personal rigorous honesty about me. I had no idea that stand would apparently serve to encourage others to be more honest about themselves and that in doing so would put a dent in the Religiosity, Conformity, and Authoritarian “attitudes and postures” of the majority of attendees.

    Eventually, today even several rather devout Christians also “completely opt out” of a prayer they find meaningful to them in terms of their religious beliefs. The gates have been slowly widened a bit. Even some of those, apparently, have decided “AA” is not their church.

    There are few today who maintain the original Holy War, but there are still a few.


    • life-j says:

      So is it still going on?

    • Done says:

      I just say my own quietly:
      “I can have
      serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      The courage to change the things I can,
      And a wise ass to know the difference. “

  6. Bill G says:

    98 % of the time I step out of the circle. I feel it’s health for people new to our program to see you don’t have to step off the cliff with the herd at every turn. Yes suggestion and choices !! Just because I’ve been a sober member of AA for 38. Doesn’t mean I gave up the right to think.
    Bill G. 38 years of Jesus free Sobriety / Anostic
    Favorite bumper sticker: You don’t know and I don’t either.

  7. Bob K. says:

    Anti-Lord’s Prayer posts from myself and others tend to provoke a response from fundamentalists that this is a God-people vs. Godless people issue. It isn’t.

    A lot has happened in North American societies since the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous 8 decades ago. The Lord’s Prayer was removed from public schools in the United States and Canada because it is not “public.” The United States Supreme Court decided that recitation of this Christian prayer was not consistent with what should happen in schools that are public to ALL Americans.

    The rights of the minority were to be respected, and some sort of “For those who will…” opting out opportunity was NOT good enough. The Lord’s Prayer in public schools was officializing Christianity as the religion of choice, as it does in AA. Choose the God of your own conception, BUT we will close our meeting with the prayer that is now encountered, in group settings, almost exclusively in Christian churches.

    Damn the Jews, natives, Muslims (for sure), Hindus, Buddhists, and those of all the non-Christian spiritualities for whom the LP is not a part of their practice.

    By choosing the LP, AA affiliates itself with Christian Protestantism. Our claim of being “spiritual, not religious” is contradicted by this lingering practice from the 1930s and our Oxford Group origins.

    It’s sad, and its an embarrassment. Intelligent people laugh at us.

    • Dan L says:

      Once again Bob thanks for a great essay. That “intelligent people laugh at us” statement really connected with me. It has long been my point that as science, medicine and psychology discover more and more about the nature of addiction and other disorders the language becomes more precise. When we cling to “The Doctor’s Opinion” Written by a man who got his MD around 1900 CE and repeat nonsense about “allergies of the body” and carry on about “spiritual maladies” when accurate terminology is available we certainly look like backwards yokels and foolishly clinging to faith healing and dead dogma makes us appear to be addicted to woo based nonsense firmly lodged in the past. We make intelligent laugh at us. This drastically lessens our impact on the recovery community. If we aren’t a cult or religion why do so many of us act exactly like it is – right down to excommunicating infidels by saying they are not alcoholic. The “If you don’t like it go somewhere else” attitude forces potential members to look elsewhere for help. Their skills and insight are lost to us.

    • Joe C says:

      Our small “t” traditions are geographical and not ordained by Yahweh. If our founders were Raj and Kumar from Darjeeling we might close with the recitation of spiritual-not religious noble truths or chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, depending on the local customs in the founder’s surroundings.

      Still, we AA’s would be making the spiritual and not religious arguments no matter what religious custom we borrowed from.

  8. Jersey gal says:

    Not everything the founders did needs to be emulated. (Bill used drugs to stay sober.)

    Yes, the L.P. is Jewish. It can be found in traditional Jewish prayer books.

    Given that era, the founders were trying to be inclusive. Given what society knows today, it is up to us to continue to be open minded.

  9. Steve V. says:

    Oh…my…goodness! Is it little wonder that AA is shrinking? What to say to all this? Nothing I guess but ensure that my group remains open and welcoming to all alcoholics regardless of beliefs or lack of beliefs. Keep on keeping on Bob!

  10. Joe C says:

    It comes as no surprise by now that when we challenge another’s worldview, ridicule or hostility will follow. I don’t know that I’m so different when someone quips, “Have your atheist meeting–just don’t call it AA.” They aren’t just questioning the rituals, just like Bob’s essay didn’t just challenge the Christian prayer rituals. These criticisms attacked the soundness of the other’s worldview.

    When either the passive-aggressive fundie dismisses my status as an AA member or if I mention that holding hands and talking about God isn’t inclusive – it’s just the opposite, the same existential angst is stirred up.

    All of those responses to your topic are as predictable as morning following night: The “if it ain’t broke” myth, the personal attacks, all of it. I guess I understand them on a certain level because I’m no different that them other than I’m a minority voice and they are the majority. Just like we left-handed folk live with systemic discrimination in a right-handed world, atheists in AA don’t have power to tip the boat if everyone’s voting based on their own feelings.

    It’s comforting that many liberal believers also agree that God-talk is counterproductive to a meeting about alcoholism and sobriety, or at least, secondary. AA will change or stagnate further but the end result will not be in our lifetime.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to braid the beard of the Lion. I encourage it. People need to hear it. But I am no longer hurt that people don’t save time and see it my way.

    As one response wisely put it, “Each group is autonomous.” My groups doesn’t pray. It’s getting bigger. What we are doing right is starting meetings and supporting them. We may be carrying the message to the few instead of the many but it may not always be that way. Other groups are starting that don’t read the Big Book and don’t pray. People with five years sobriety in Toronto have never known an AA that doesn’t have atheist/agnostic groups. More of them go to other meetings than come to ours. But ours is here for anyone who wants it, for a day or to make a new home.

    This site makes a difference and makes AA better. Ever agnostic or liberal-minded AA group makes AA better. And I would defend the right to any back-to-basics meeting to be part of AA as much as I would my own group. If they stop getting alcoholics sober they will go away all by themselves. People will vote with their feet to determine if secular rituals are better (more inclusive) that our more religious meetings. I believe in more inclusiveness and less conformity.

    Attraction rather than promotion has created a growing appetite for agnostic/atheist meetings. That’s why even a rouge Intergroup can’t stop natural selection. We are now challenged in Toronto to grow as quickly today as we did under Intergroup persecution. Their close-mindedness might have been good for business… we’ll see.

    Another great post; many great responses. Thank you.

  11. Mykel says:

    “D” mentioned the 10th tradition. On page 192 of the 12&12 Tradition 10 long form says “… outside controversial issues – particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, OR SECTARIAN RELIGON …”

    Reciting the Lords Prayer is imho a direct violation of the 10th tradition.


  12. Debra S. says:

    Thank you for your open mindedness. My travel with AA started in 1990, I’m an agnostic. My husbands travels started in 2005, he is an atheist. I always took great heart to “these are suggestions, take what works and leave the rest behind, and this is a spiritual program.” I was able to disregard and turn away from the overtly religiousness that I have found scattered throughout. My husband cannot look away from the religious tone that he hears and he rejects, it has made it very hard for his recovery , working the steps. I have tried to help, we know how that went, he feels what he feels. I am so glad we found your site and the agnostic books, they are so helpful for him. One important point I would like to make, our message should be more inclusive of all types of people. Hopefully someday agnostic and atheists will not be looked upon so negatively. I am of the notion that SOME of us in AA need to be less anonymous, those of us with years of sobriety could be instrumental helping explain the disease to outsiders. Enough hiding, BUT that is only when your ready to step-up and be counted. Never, ever expose your fellow members.

  13. Monica says:

    Today, I celebrate 3 years of freedom from drinking alcohol. It’s exciting to be free of the burden of needing drink, and although there are still some difficulties and behavioral changes I need to address in my life, there’s been SO Much ‘nifty’ that has happened for me. I have no home group (online or local meeting) and I don’t know if AA “program” is my spot or place (I stay on this mailing list though, LoL). I loved what you wrote here and I totally cracked up at the replies you’d received. Same old BS, different day with many of them – yeesh. Gotta run, but yeah me 3 years. [wink]

  14. Ken P. says:

    As an open atheist in AA (and the public in general) it has led to many interesting discussions about how I work the steps. Even my sponsor (25 yrs sober) cannot understand that “higher power” to me (19 yrs sober) has nothing to do with an entity which will answer prayers; whether it be healing hurts, taking away defects of character or finding car keys.

    The experience, strength and hope of the collective members of my groups is my higher power. None of my regular meetings close with the LP. If, I find myself at a group when traveling or speaking and they say the LP, I join hands so the circle is complete, but stay silent.

    Thank you for this article. Was very much worth the read of the original post and the various comments.

    ken p.

    • Tommy H says:

      I, too, join hands when they chant the LP, in a sense of unity.

      I like the way you put it.

    • Mike B. says:

      Tommy and Ken:

      Thanks for your opinion on the topic of prayer circles in AA meetings. I couldn’t disagree more with your rationale on the issue.

      I do not and will not join any prayer circle, regardless of what the prayer is (LP, serenity, etc.) Prayer circles are not (IMHO) a sign of unity but a religious ritual and a significant example of herd mentality. I must have been one of a few that broke the circle at the AA international convention in Toronto in 2005. I sure I was only one of a few attending (40,000-50,000) who did so.

      Today I remain sitting or just leave the meeting room prior to all the religious BS starting. I refuse to participate in the hypocrisy that I believe drives more newcomers from AA than any other single issue. We now live in a secular society not the sectarian one of 80 years ago.

      I believe that all secular members of AA should practice and demonstrate their principles, beliefs and worldviews in all their affairs including all AA functions. How else will the non-believing newcomers know they are not alone amongst all the religious fundamentalists.

      Just my opinion on this topic for what it is worth.

      Mike B.
      Oliver, BC.

      • Done says:

        Iʻm a chicken shit for the most part. I join hands and say my own versions. But your point is well taken. I remember the extreme sense of relief that I felt the first time I saw someone walk away. Iʻve been contemplating how to keep my sobriety “fresh” two years in. That could be a good start. Thanks.

        People from my professional treatment group are either all in on the god stuff or just repulsed and furious that it’s required.

  15. Pat N. says:

    And I observe that neither LifeRing nor SMART Recovery feels a need to pray at their meetings.

    Maybe they’re not real alcoholics?

    • Steve V. says:

      Good one Pat! That’s the standard “fall-back” position for some AAer’s when an alcoholic doesn’t seem to “fit the mold” – they must not be REAL alcoholics.

  16. Dan L says:

    Thanks Bob your essay was great as usual. I often think of the “open mindedness” expressed by so many in AA. It is translated to mean “get god you heathen infidel or die drunk by Friday!!”. The denial in not seeing the LP as affiliating with christianity and the totally fear based paralysing panic of the “slippery slope” are really expressions of what I view as untreated alcoholism. AA is a place where some come in and go away, others come in and recover a bit and go away after, still others come in and begin to recover and stay with the “program”. The problem is some come in and don’t get better and then they won’t ever go away. They bring their alcoholic thinking into every discussion. Who would have thought AA would contain so many untreated drunks? It comes with the mandate I guess. Thanks.

  17. Pat N. says:

    I attended a little Virginia school during WWII, and the LP was recited each morning, presumably a legal requirement at the time. We few Catholics made a big point of NOT saying the “for Thine is…” Protestant addition at the end, feeling all self-righteous about it. B.S. then, B.S. now. I feel the same way about the USA Pledge of Allegiance, but that’s a topic for another day. Some day, I hope I have the balls to suggest that an old-fashioned meeting substitute the Hail Mary for the LP – I can hear the sputtering now. The UK meetings I’ve attended never end with the LP – usually the Preamble or Serenity Prayer.

  18. Tommy H says:

    Well done, Bob.

    • Bob K. says:

      You are a man of discriminating taste, Tommy H, a gentleman and a scholar. Thanks for your support over the years.

  19. wisewebwoman says:

    I was at a meeting recently out here on the Edge of the Atlantic and was introduced to a woman beside me who has the same length of sobriety as me (30 years+). During the shares at the meeting she kept interjecting with Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Amen brother (or sister) or God be praised! I asked her politely why she thought crosstalk was OK and she corrected me by saying she was being “prayerful”. The chair did nothing. I asked my atheist newcomer if she did this at other meetings and she responded with: all the time.

    Christ on a bike! I said. And we both laughed ironically. But hell, it’s getting worse. And no one is stopping it.

  20. Tim M. says:

    There is a “big lie” in AA. Have a God of your own understanding, but, at the end we stand around hold hands and pray as Christ taught us. So as a newcomer I had to decide if I could stomach the obvious lie. We pray like Christians at the end of our meetings.

    I tolerated it but didn’t participate when I first came to AA thirty years ago. Then my brother Pat committed suicide. Alcoholic without aid because he was unable to deal with the religiosity that attended so much of AA. Is this the fault of AA? Make up your own mind about that.

    After about 15 or so years sober I became more vocal about being atheist in AA. By the way, it is not the most welcome news in AA. I only discovered that Pat had been to AA after he died. Our older brother, also alcoholic, told me that Pat had been ordered to AA a couple time but could not deal with this lie.

    How could people really want to help if the first thing they do is lie?

    As to ending our Freethinkers meeting in Rochester NY on Monday Nights, the chair simply thanks everyone for coming and says have a good night.

    I like it.

    Glad to know that I am alcoholic.

  21. Len R. says:

    J.C. and the Boys are gonna be pissed at you. Quit trying to get us all struck by lightning bolts! Oh, wait that’s Thor’s domain. All hail Thor.

  22. Melinda says:

    Thank God for articles like this..here in my little outpost in rural Australia, it is hard sometimes not to feel overwhelmed by religious zealotry. While I am open-minded about the use of the Lord’s Prayer, I am agnostic. Recently I attended an AA meeting where I used the word ‘god’ merely as an expression of passion. I was given stern looks and a certain subgroup in the area have shunned me. To which I say, get lost! Cannot abide people forcing religion down my throat. It’s your religion and you can keep it. Thank you once again.

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