God or no God in AA?

We have an intriguing – and important – survey for you today. It has been put together by our friend, Zach, who has created this survey – about religion and AA – as part and parcel of his PhD at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. More info from Zach here:


Hello everyone,

If you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and are 18 years of age or older, I am inviting you to participate in a survey on religious and non-religious participation in AA. This research is being done through the University of Waterloo (Canada) and is about better understanding how religious and non-religious worldviews inform experiences and participation in AA. The survey should take only 15 minutes to fill out and all information collected is completely anonymous. There are no details collected that can be attributed to you personally. You can find out more details about the study and your involvement by clicking the link below.

To begin, go to the following webpage:

[Survey Link]

Have any questions? Please email me at zamunro@uwaterloo.ca. This study has been reviewed and received clearance through University of Waterloo Research Ethics.


18 Responses

  1. Bullwinkle says:

    Re: Section 1: Religion, Spirituality and Unbelief. The first category are labels “Aboriginal/Indigenous Spirituality”. Spirituality can be a belief in a nature deity that can be in charge of nature, a place, a biostope, the biosphere, the cosmos, or the universe. Nature worship is often considered the primitive source of modern religious beliefs and can be found in theism, pantheism, deism, polytheism, animism, totemism, shamanism, paganism. Science is not only compatible with atheistic spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When I recognize my place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when I grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. Spirituality is just another term for my human feelings of awe and wonder, which are common to me and the religious alike.

    The second category places Buddhism in religion by asking “What religious affiliation were you raised with as a child (5-12 years old)”? From my frame of reference, this survey appears to be based on a Western point of view of Buddhism as a religion. Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Siddhartha Gautama a Hindu, the historical Buddha and founder of Buddhism, which means enlightened one, practiced a philosophy that aimed for liberation from conceptual thought and the relinquishing of all views. The philosophy of Buddhism is simply a tool to reach that goal. Everyone in Buddhism that becomes enlightened is Buddha.

    Finally, the text, Alcoholics Anonymous, A Vision For You, page 164, is more of a Western point of view meditation. It reads “Ask him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick”. Meditation is receiving, prayer is asking.

    I digress, all belief is valid but becomes invalid when it becomes injurious to others.

    • Maureen F. says:

      You are mistaken about Buddhism. I know both religious Buddhists and secular Buddhists. It is not a philosophy. It is a practice. It is experiential.

  2. Bob B says:

    Good survey, glad I took it. I have just as many issues with secular as I do with religious AA, both at times are dogmatic so I take what I can use from each and try not to get too concerned about the rest.

  3. Pat N. says:

    I appreciate being given “apatheist” as a choice. A map is not the territory it represents (Hayakawa).

  4. Ngaire says:

    There are many flaws in the AA program, the religious side being the biggest flaw.

    I just went through a horrendous period in my home group when we tried to bring in the Responsibility Pledge rather than the Lord’s Prayer. People nearly went bananas at the thought of not having the Lord’s Prayer. It’s no longer my home group.

    I feel badly for young people coming in today, the religion turns them off.

  5. Annette says:

    I’m with life-j, and I believe that’s the experience of most women. I attend mostly traditional meetings, and no one EVER questions that fucking book, excuse my French.

  6. Mark C. says:

    Cudo’s to Zach for his research. More needs to be done along these lines. I was happy to complete the survey and look forward to the results.

    The survey questions “missed my class” of folks. Those of us who were not raised in a religious household, but who, nevertheless, converted in early adulthood… when he grinds the numbers this missing category can show a misfire. 🙂

    I provided Zach with a bit of my “testimony” at the end. Ha.

  7. Jane H. says:

    Thank you for a survey that allows me to comment openly about my feeling on the subject. I am originally from a province that is stuck in the 30’s when it comes to AA. No change, discussion of change or welcoming new ideas to bring in the younger generation to the world of sobriety through AA. Archaic methods based upon Christian God will not help this generation and opening up discussion on change made my day!

  8. Christine L. says:

    The survey is pretty accurate although there are some items which I think need further definition:

    Agnostic vs Atheist. I am an agnostic atheist, which means that I reject the concept of a god but cannot say with certainty that there is no god. This is not the same as being an agnostic.

    Also, the term spirituality needs further definition. The term has been so bastardized over the years that many people, especially in AA, conflate it with being religious.

    I have a few other quibbles but it is refreshing to have someone ask for our opinions.

    • Tim says:

      Ditto.

      Thank you Christine. Perfectly stated.

    • Tomas L says:

      I think the survey handled those questions fairly well. I am also an agnostic atheist and chose the option “not religious – atheist” because it seemed more relevant to the context than agnostic. There are people who say they are agnostic but not atheist, although they do not believe in any god, so I guess they should have an option too. As for spirituality, I chose “neither agree nor disagree”. Spirituality can mean anything and everything, so whether I’m comfortable talking about it depends on the context. (If I use the term myself, I mostly mean it as synonymous to “emotional”.) Those issues and words could be material for a survey of it’s own, so I think it was probably reasonable to not get too deep into the meaning of the words.

  9. Lon McCanne says:

    It looks like Zach has made a serious attempt to preserve objectivity in his survey. I expect he will continue to do so with the fruits of his investigation. Thanks, and best of luck, Zach.

  10. Darrell D says:

    It’s not God or no God it has to to with religion for me. Too much religion for me. Praying for others God, etc., etc.

  11. John M. says:

    Yes, I too thought that Zach’s was one of the better phrased questionnaires where one doesn’t feel trapped in simplistic dichotomies.

  12. life-j says:

    The part which was not addressed, and it is a blind spot in AA so far is what kind of personality are we? It is presumed in AA that we were all like Bill Wilson: Egomaniac.

    I was the low self esteem, slightly depressive, introverted kind which gets no attention in traditional AA literature.

    • Mark C. says:

      life-j, yep. The Projection of Wilson’s psychopathology ONTO ALL DRUNKS… is a biggie.

      It is one of the elephants in the room.

  13. Maureen F. says:

    God or no God is really not the question, and it sets up a dichotomy that is not helpful. There is so much more in between. I want to thank Zachary for his well-worded survey questions which help us get to the heart of the matter.

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