The Growth Rate of Secular AA
By Joe C.
Originally posted on the FaceBook Page, The Secular AA Coffeeshop
Secular AA seems to follow the same growth rate as AA as a whole. We are growing as AA did in the 40s and 50s. There were three meetings of AA in 1939, by 1941, we had 200, by 1945 we were at 560 groups of drunks. What’s exciting, if AA’s story is going to be similar to atheist/agnostic/freethinkers groups is what happened after this first doubling from under 250 to over 500. There were 1,000 groups in 1946, 2,000 in 1948, 4,436 in 1951 and over 8,000 by 1959.
We hear about the Jack Alexander article in The Saturday Evening Post in 1941 as a turning point for AA growth.
What is our “Jack moment(s)”?
The internet, for one; early this century, I found out that there was a thriving atheist/agnostic culture inside AA and what a relief it was to find like-minded people in AA. That was a Yahoo Group called, AAWR (AA Without Religion). From there I found the New York City AA agnostics site and decided to catch a secular meeting or two the next time I was in New York City. Facebook and Google Groups, AA Atheists and Agnostics (AAAA), the AA Agnostica forum, AA Beyond Belief and now Facebook places of reason offer online connection. The internet is evolving and it’s making it easier for isolated people to find our kind and for groups around the globe to learn from, and communicate with, each other.
The Internet as one of our “Jack moment(s)”: here are three private Facebook Pages for secular AA members:
The initiative of Pamela Waddell and Dorothy Jean Hamilton to say, “What the F***, why not organize an international AA conference for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.” Having a face-to-face place to meet and hang with some of these friends we haven’t met yet online is vital. Santa Monica 2014, Austin 2016, Toronto 2018 and (hold the date) Washington DC in 2020. Several regional AA gatherings without a prayer have followed this lead. Arizona and Washington started biennial events on the International off-years and Ontario Canada joined in with a 2017 event in Toronto and we’re back at it in Hamilton this September with SOAAR (Secular Ontario AA Roundup).
Some geographical places take off faster and others struggle to keep afloat when it comes to Secular AA meetings. Toronto’s first agnostic/atheist meeting will be ten years old in September. It isn’t the first time someone thought of this – in 1996 there was a We Agnostics group in the East end. I never knew about it; I would have gone. Our Toronto archivist found it in an old meeting list. But since our first gathering in 2009, Beyond Belief Agnostics & Freethinkers Group meets three times a week, We Agnostics started and later, Widening Our Gateway. The North, East and West suburbs all have one or more agnostic/atheist meeting nights and there are over 20 meeting times across Ontario each week.
Last weekend I had a family event in Montreal and I planned a couple of visits to secular AA groups. Kingston has a nooner on Friday and that was a great way to start the weekend. Later than night I went to Laval Secular AA. Part of the Greater Montreal Area, Laval is one of three secular AA groups. It’s the first English meeting for nonbelievers. Only one member was there, Isabel, who’s the contact online. She told me that her group wasn’t in the Montreal AA directory yet and it had grown to three members and it’s just her now. The format now is to log online with Esprit Ouvert, a francophone secular meeting in St Jean (on the South Shore of Montreal). So it was her and me and three members in St Jean. Isabelle is bilingual and so are the three members in St Jean. They all insisted on sharing in English because they had an out-of-province visitor. We discussed getting active in AA. It was a great meeting.
My first AA meeting had been on a Saturday night in Ste Anne de Belleview. You know, one member was talking about never finding a traditional higher power and I swear the person right beside me was taking a pass like I did with the closing prayer. Hmm, maybe there will room for more secular AA in Quebec.
Secular AA meetings have doubled in size more than four times since the turn of the century. Is that remarkable? Is it underwhelming? I guess it depends where you live. If you have a meeting a day that are easy to get to, you find this growth remarkable, maybe. If you are a five hour drive or more away from any secular AA meeting (face-to-face), it may be hard to sincerely feel the excitement.
Some of you don’t have a meeting to go to – just this and maybe other sites to hangout with your heathen brethren. Interested in an online meeting perhaps? Information about those meetings is available on this particular website: Secular AA. It is an exciting time in AA. The whole secular movement has renewed my interest in AA as a whole, our milestones and our troubles. I’m glad to be a part of history in the making.
Here are three Secular AA Websites:
There are also a number of regional secular AA websites. And those are on this website, on this particular page: Secular Group Websites.
Joe C was one of the founders of the Toronto group and meeting, Beyond Belief Agnostic and Freethinkers Group, Canada’s longest running secular AA meeting. He is also the creator and manager of a fourth secular AA website, Rebellion Dogs Publishing.
Joe is the author the ever-popular book Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. This is a book of daily reflections that is often read at the beginning of secular AA meetings and followed by a round-the-table discussion.