One of the favorite quotes I came across in early recovery was the following: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782)
Jefferson might well have added, “You can get sober with a God or without a God. So what?”
Exactly. No broken legs. No pockets picked.
This is a reality that conventional AA needs to come to understand. It has to stop insisting that a Higher Power – whom many choose to call God – is an essential part of recovery and sobriety. It has to stop suggesting that if you don’t get that, you will get drunk.
Plain and simple. Or the future of AA is not good.
That has been put very gently.
My very favorite quote about AA is from Bill Wilson. It was part of a talk he gave to the 1965 General Service Conference in New York. After thirty years, Bill was now able to perfectly define and describe the fellowship he had co-created thirty years earlier. Here is that definition:
In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a universal suffering. Therefore the full liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy should be a first consideration. Hence let us not pressure anyone with individual or even collective views. Let us instead accord to each other the respect that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way towards the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.
A kinship of a universal suffering.
The full liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy.
Let us not pressure anyone with individual or even collective views.
The respect that is due to every human being.
Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.
So who are we alcoholic agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in the rooms? Well, the correct answer to that question is very simple:
We are members of AA.
As we so declare.
And many of us are inspired to work to help AA do what it must do in this twenty-first century. And that is to move forward, to drop some of the “very bad dogma” (Bill W) so often prevalent in the rooms of AA today. We shall do this work so that the hand of AA will always be there “when anyone anywhere reaches out for help”.
For that we are all responsible.
A History of Agnostics in AA can be purchased at Amazon US.
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