A Rewrite of Chapter 4 of the Big Book

A Secular Sobriety

In 2017 the book A Secular Sobriety was published. Written by Dale K, it contains a rewritten version of the first 164 pages of the Big Book. Here is a modern version of the fourth chapter, originally called We Agnostics.

By Dale K

Commentary: It’s difficult to articulate my feelings about the original Chapter 4. The chapter’s deceptive nature is quite repugnant. I could rant and rave, on and on. That might make me feel better, but my feelings are so negative that it would bring me down and you with me. Reading this chapter is the textual equivalent of watching “Reefer Madness.” One thing I’ve come to understand is this: When religious people read this, they believe it is spot on. Their opinion is the result of prejudice towards, and ignorance of, what it is to be agnostic or atheistic. Many of them, truly, believe they have the corner on righteousness all to themselves.

This chapter is, at best, a condescending charade. I find it to be very insulting and incompatible with any secular thinking. By using “We” in the title, it is insinuated that the authors are agnostic. That is so obviously untrue. The author is a Christian trying to save and convert agnostics. This is the part of the Big Book where their blatant proselytizing for god happens. Isn’t it odd that they would pretend to be agnostic for god? Attempting a conversion may be understandable, but their duplicity is detestable. I recommend that, if you read the original text, you read it with love in your heart, if possible. You must understand that it is a minefield for resentments.

* * *

For The Agnostic

IN THE PRECEDING chapters you have learned something of alcoholism. It is hoped the authors have made clear the distinction between the alcoholic and non-alcoholic. If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual or life-changing experience will conquer.

To one who is an atheist or agnostic such an experience is quite possible. To continue as you are would mean disaster. There is no such thing as a hopeless alcoholic. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.

But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of the secular type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a more loving basis of life—or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.

If a mere code of ethics or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. Merely intellectualizing such codes and philosophies is insufficient. The practical application of these principles is the key to success. By realigning your will to be more loving, and practicing this day by day, you will see how much nicer life and sobriety can be.

Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a power greater than ourselves. This was obvious, but where and how were we to find this power?

Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a power greater than yourself which will help solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual, virtuous, principled and ethical. And it means, of course, that we are going to talk about god. This should not be a difficulty for agnostics. Accept that most people are religious and find their spirituality through a belief in gods. We should not be prejudiced about how anyone comes to this wonderful way of living. For atheists or agnostics, this power could be as simple as the person you would like to become or the fellowship within AA. Our only concern is the results.

We know how secular people may feel. We have shared an honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious. To others, the word “god” brought up a particular idea with which someone had tried to impress upon them during childhood. We rejected this particular conception because it seemed inadequate. With that rejection we had abandoned the god idea entirely. We were bothered with the thought that dependence upon a supernatural power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly. We looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism. We looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How could a supernatural being have anything to do with it all? And who could comprehend a supreme being anyhow? Yet, at other moments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchanted by a starlit night, “The cosmos are so amazing!” There was a feeling of awe and wonder. We held on to that, knowing that we needed no god to be humbled by the immense power and enormous complexity of it all.

Yes, we of agnostic and religious temperaments have had negative thoughts, prejudices and experiences regarding one another. Let us make haste to reassure you. We found that as soon as both were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us, atheist or theist, to fully define or comprehend that power, which could be god, love, fellowship or whatever works for you.

Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of a higher power. Our own conception was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a change in our thinking. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a power greater than ourselves, we began to feel a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that these were not difficult terms. To us, the realm of love and selflessness is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all persons.

When, therefore, this book uses the term “god” it means your own conception of a higher power. This also applies to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. This was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with a higher power as we understood it. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our own conception which may be unlimited.

We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a power greater than myself?” As soon as a person can say that they do believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure them that they are on their way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built. (Please be sure to read Appendix II on “Spiritual Experience.”)

That was great news for us if we thought spiritual principles were only for religious people. When people presented us with spiritual approaches, how frequently did we say, “That’s for religious people. It won’t work for me because I don’t believe in gods.” So it was comforting to learn that we could commence without religious beliefs.

Because of a misunderstanding of how spirituality could apply to secular people, we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. Realizing that spirituality means nothing more than a profound new way of thinking about ourselves and others, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on these matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were.

The reader may still ask why they should believe in a power greater than themselves. We think there are good reasons. Let us have a look at some of them.

The practical individual of today is a stickler for facts and results. The twentieth century readily accepts scientific theories of all kinds, provided they are firmly grounded in fact. We have numerous theories, for example, about electricity. Everyone believes them without a murmur of doubt. Why this ready acceptance? Simply because, with the scientific method, it is possible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use, because we have a reasonable assumption as a starting point.

Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of scientific ideas for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof. Quite often, science demonstrates that visual evidence may not tell a complete story. It is being constantly revealed, as we study the material world, that outward appearances are not always inward reality. To illustrate:

The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons whirling around each other at incredible speed. These tiny bodies are governed by precise laws, and these laws hold true throughout the material world. Science tells us so. We have no reason to doubt it. Therefore, when the illogical assumption is suggested that underneath the material world and life as we see it, there is an all powerful, guiding, creative intelligence, right there our scientific understanding comes to the surface and we simply reaffirm to ourselves that there is no scientific evidence of it. We read wordy books and indulge in windy arguments, knowing this universe needs no god to explain it. For some who believe in god, these contentions that life originated out of nothing would indicate that life means nothing and proceeds nowhere. We agnostics understand that this explanation of the origins of life “means nothing” of the sort. There is much meaning in life and where it proceeds depends on the behavior we choose today.

We agnostics and atheists chose to believe our human intelligence is never the last word, the alpha and omega, the beginning and end of all. It is merely a tool we use to discover new truths.

We, who have traveled the path of sobriety, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. We have learned that whatever the human frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose and direction to millions. All people, believers and non-believers, feel they have a logical idea of what life is all about. Just as we wish to be accepted, we should accept others personal ideas regarding spirituality. All people seek a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness. The path we may choose is not the important thing. The most important thing is our mutual goal of sobriety.

Sometimes we looked at the human defects of people and used their shortcomings as a basis of wholesale condemnation. We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves. We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of the trees. It is time to give the loving side of life a fair hearing.

In our personal stories you will find a wide variation in the way each teller approaches and conceives of the power which is greater than themselves. Whether we agree with a particular approach or conception seems to make little difference. Experience has taught us that these are matters about which, for our purpose, we need not be worried. They are questions for each individual to settle for themselves.

On one proposition, however, these men and women are strikingly agreed. Every one of them has gained access to, and believes in, a power greater than themselves. This power has in each case accomplished the seemingly impossible. As a celebrated American figure put it, “Let’s look at the record.”

Here are thousands of men and women, worldly indeed. They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude towards that power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they wholeheartedly met a few simple requirements. Once confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence, they show the underlying reasons why they were making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory. They show how change came over them. When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the presence of a power greater than themselves is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should consider a power greater than themselves.

This world of ours has made more progress in the last century than in all the millenniums which went before. Almost everyone knows the reason. Students of ancient history tell us that the intellect of people in those days was equal to the best of today. Yet in ancient times progress was painfully slow. The spirit of modern scientific inquiry, research and invention was almost unknown. People’s minds were fettered by superstition, tradition, and all sorts of fixed ideas. Some of the contemporaries of Columbus thought a round earth preposterous. Others came near putting Galileo to death for his astronomical heresies.

Today, it is unnecessary to burden ourselves with fixed ideas like the ancients did. Nonetheless, even in the present century, American newspapers were afraid to print an account of the Wright brothers’ first successful flight at Kitty Hawk. Had not all efforts at flight failed before? Did not Professor Langley’s flying machine go to the bottom of the Potomac River? Was it not true that the best mathematical minds had proved people could never fly? Had not religious people said god had reserved this privilege to the birds? Only thirty years later the conquest of the air was almost an old story and airplane travel was in full swing.

But in most fields our generation has witnessed complete liberation of our thinking. Show any longshoreman a Sunday supplement describing a proposal to explore the moon by means of a rocket and he will say, “I bet they do it – maybe not so long either.” Is not our age characterized by the ease with which we discard old ideas for new, by the complete readiness with which we throw away the theory or gadget which does not work for something new which does?

We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people – was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar flight? Of course it was.

When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon spiritual principles, we had to stop doubting the power of love. Our ideas did not work. But the higher power idea did.

The Wright brothers’ faith that they could build a machine which would fly was the mainspring of their accomplishment. Without that, nothing could have happened. We agnostics and atheists were sticking to the idea that self-sufficiency would solve our problems. When others showed us that “group-sufficiency” worked with them, we began to understand why it took both of the Wright brothers to succeed in their accomplishment.

Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it. We have the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of humankind’s magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our ideas are reasonable, why we think it sane and logical, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we tried to figure everything out by ourselves. It takes teamwork and fellowship to come up with all these wonderful new ideas for living a good and sober life.

When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we didn’t have to decide the issue of god. There is no need to debate the distinctions of theism and atheism. Whatever your beliefs are regarding this matter, they are sufficient starting points to build a good, strong sobriety.

Arrived at this point, we were squarely confronted with the question of whether the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous would work for us. We couldn’t duck the issue. Some of us had already walked far over the bridge of reason toward the desired shore of sobriety. The outlines and promises of a new way of living had brought lustre to tired eyes and fresh courage to flagging spirits. Friendly hands had stretched out in welcome. We were grateful that reason had brought us so far. With an open mind, we could easily step ashore. As agnostics, atheists and freethinkers, we lean heavily on reason for support. Combining our ability to reason with the serenity that accompanies love and peace, we receive great support in this last mile.

That was natural, but let us think a little more closely. Without knowing it, we may have been brought to where we stand by a certain kind of faith. For did we not believe in our own reasoning? Did we not have confidence in our ability to think? What was that but a sort of faith in ourselves? Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to our own ability to reason. So, in a small way, we have the common ground of faith with religious people. We discovered that faith in reason had been involved all the time!

We found that, although we were not worshippers, we were admirers. What a state of mental goose-flesh the word “worship” can bring on! Had we not, variously, admired people, sentiment, things, money, and ourselves? And then, with a better motive, had we not admirably beheld the sunset, the sea, or a flower? Who of us had not loved something or somebody? How much of these feelings, these loves, these admirations, have to do with pure reason? Sometimes, little or nothing, we saw at last. Were not these things the tissue out of which our lives were constructed? Did not these feelings, after all, determine the course of our existence? It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, or love, or admiration. In one form or another we had been living by these things often and, sometimes, by little else.

Imagine life without some kind of faith! Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn’t be much of a life. But we believed in life – of course we did. We can prove life just as we can prove a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Could we still say the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a destiny of nothingness? Of course we could. But, even the electrons themselves seemed more intelligent than that. At least, so the chemist said.

Hence, we see that reason isn’t everything. Neither is reason, as some of us use it, entirely dependable. Having said that, there is still no reason (pun intended) to throw it out. Reason emanates from our best minds. The people that proved people could never fly were wrong. At the time, they just didn’t understand all the physical science.

Yet we had been seeing another kind of flight, a spiritual liberation in this world, people who rose above their problems. They said love made these things possible, and we only smiled. We had seen spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn’t true.

Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of love. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by admiration of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For love is a power greater than ourselves, and demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as human existence itself.

We finally saw that faith in some kind of goodwill was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feelings we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but it was there. It was as much a fact as we were. We found this great reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that love may be found. It was so with us.

We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on this broad journey of sobriety. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your beliefs are sure to come to you.

* * *

Commentary: The last two pages of the original version of this chapter describe one alcoholic’s conversion to a belief in god. I believe it is, completely, irrelevant for secular people. I will not be including it here. I have no desire to change his story, but it has no place in a chapter entitled “We Agnostics.” I congratulate him for finding sobriety. We should be grateful for all that find sobriety. Each person must find their own way. Regardless of the fact that a deity doesn’t fit into an atheist’s life, we should understand and appreciate all paths to sobriety. My big hope is that religious people, as well, will congratulate us and be understanding and grateful for our sobriety.

A Secular SobrietyDale K. has lived in North Carolina since 2018. He grew up in Michigan and attended 12 years of Catholic school, but it didn’t “take.” He decided he was an atheist at the age of 13. He moved to South Florida in 1974. He first came to AA in 1980 and had his last drink in 1981. In the mid ‘80s a secular meeting was started in his home town of Boca Raton. He attended that meeting exclusively until he moved up the coast in 2010.

There he found traditional AA to be just like he had left it. In 2013 he discovered that AA had published a new edition of the Big Book in 2001. He was quick to read it and see the changes. Realizing there were none made to the “first 164 pages,” he decided it was time to make the changes himself. With that, he began writing his book, A Secular Sobriety. It was first published in June 2017 and has surpassed 1000 sales. It can be purchased on Amazon. A Secular Sobriety: Including a secular version of the first 164 pages of the Big Book.

For a review of the book, click here: A Secular Sobriety – Review.


21 Responses

  1. Neal M. says:

    Mr. Beach, you just reminded me of that great movie. I think I’ll make me a sammich and watch it again.

  2. Larry g says:

    I’ve read this and think it’s necessary and long over due. How AA has not taken it upon itself to do this is beyond me. Well done good Sir!!

    Now for me and me only I just get plain and bored with the big book. I think many do eventually. AA’s resistance and/or refusal to embrace materials beyond it’s own stuff is pure religion. It talks a great game regarding spirituality but only promotes and tolerates a expression of it’s own material. I acknowledge that this works for some, maybe many.

    But for me I have a different take on spirituality. It goes like this. If all that is knowable regarding spirituality and recovery were represented by as a pie chart, what as offers would be represented by the faintest of razor thin lines on that pie chart. Bill Wilson’s stuff is even smaller. Operating from just the AA stuff, for me and me only is pure arrogance and folly. It’s what I love so much about as agnostics. In this forum we are willing to dine at the whole buffet. Thank goodness!!!

  3. Dale K. says:

    Gerard, my ranting and raving days are far behind me. Finding something detestable is just how I feel. To recognize my feelings is merely being honest with myself. It is no indication of a resentment. To implore the reader to be cautious and not get resentful is my intent. I think you’ve imposed things into the text that are not there or, at the very least, were not intended to be there. Nonetheless, each reader will find their own interpretation. Also, that I suggest the reader “read it with love in your heart” should carry considerable weight in the understanding my intent.

  4. Gerard S. says:

    Dale, the author, says in his post that,

    “I could rant and rave, on and on. That might make me feel better, but my feelings are so negative that it would bring me down and you with me.” AND “their duplicity is detestable. I recommend that, if you read the original text, you read it with love in your heart, if possible. You must understand that it is a minefield for resentments.”

    Sounds like a resentment to me!


  5. Jim says:

    Get a resentment? That sounds like a typicall AA’er response to any criticism of A.A.

  6. Gerard S. says:

    Your revisions are very good. By the way, there is no reason to get a resentment about the original chapter. It was written in 1939 and it reflected the prevailing culture. Also, Bill W was not the only author. Jim Burwell was responsible for the “Higher Power” idea. He was agnostic/atheist not a Christian – at that time. It was a radical idea at the time.

  7. Dale K. says:

    Now that the book is 3 years old, even I would rewrite the rewrite. I’m not stuck on my written word. It’s just the natural progression of one’s thinking.

  8. John M. says:

    I am a bit of an atheist oddity in that I actually like a lot of the phrasing in The Big Book. I have always tried to read “the secularity” in it and not allow it to be read by me in any other way than as “demythologized.”

    As a number of you have indicated, Dale’s rewriting of the “We Agnostics” chapter is a very cool exercise —a very healthy undertaking— and so is a good example of how we should all re-author a text to make it meaningful to each and every one of us in our own personal lives.

    Thank you, Roger, for featuring Dale’s rewrite and thanks so much, Dale, for the time, effort and interpretative creativity you put into it.

  9. Bobby Freaken Beach says:

    I am disappointed that you object to the term “Higher Power” when I find no capital letters in Dale’s rewrite. Perhaps we might disagree about how different “higher power” is from “Higher Power,” but I found your comment to be fundamentally dishonest. I find it fairer to critique what the author wrote than what he didn’t write.

  10. Hilary J. says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you.

  11. Steve b says:

    A cleaned-up version of Chapter 4 is still Chapter 4. Less dreadful to read, yes, but selling the same ideas in sanitized words, such as “spirituality” in place of “god.” No thanks.

  12. Dave J says:

    Well done! Thank you.

    I came in 8 years before you and I totally agree. No one in my group in Windsor (yeah that one across the river) gave much credence to the Big Book. I read it because I won one at a raffle. My take on it has never changed. I have never believed Bill was alcoholic. I think he was bi polar and used alcohol to medicate. This is not a criticism of Bill. He was the right person at the right time but those self hating, dreary steps … give me a break…

    I got sober to like myself not the other way around. The pages you omitted were made up anyway as I’m sure you already know. My hunch (and this was held by my sponsor 46 years ago) is that Bill’s involvement with Huxley and his (Bill’s) experimentation with LSD made it virtually impossible to validate all that crap he’d been forced to include in the Big Book. Today I wish I’d kept mine because I understand older editions do alright on eBay and I need a new golf cart, lol.

  13. Teresa M. says:

    Haha! Thanks for your comment Doc! I like the yellow life raft analogy.

    Yup. First 164 pages need a rewrite… especially Chapter 4… and To Wives… To Employers…

    Thank you Dale and all who have done so much to support those whose faith differs from the Christian based religion of the Big Book.

    Doing General Service work for a number of years, I understand the slow nature of change in A.A. and I still am hopeful. A.A. being a microcosm of our cultures… inclusion and diversity… is still being literally and figuratively fought for. A journey, for sure!

  14. Jim says:

    I’ve always thought that Chapter 4 is a poorly written and condescending attempt at selling a bill of goods that Bill Wilson himself couldn’t entirely buy.

  15. John B. says:

    Nicely done Dale: I was sober quite a few years before it dawned on me how little the Big book had to do with me finally getting sober. This sentence of yours caught my attention,”The practical application of these principles is the key to success.” The realignment of my will simply meant getting honest, with others, but most importantly with myself. Being honest simply meant looking honestly at the huge pile of incriminating evidence staring me in the face, and the ability to do that was created by the admission that I had to listen to what those sober alcoholics were telling me.

    You’re right, reason isn’t everything, but an alcohol free brain, tempered by the wisdom and the sober experience of others has enabled me to build quality personal relationships which for me is a manifestation of the love you refer to. Quality personal relationships gradually became and continues to be a major source of spiritual strength for me. No deity needed.

  16. Cathleen C. says:

    I don’t like the god language in the big book. But if you use terms like repugnant and a charade, you need to provide an article from yourself about what exactly you feel that way about. I’ve read the chapter many times and while I do not like the word “defect” I have much to inspire self-examination. I think the OA big book step 4 is better, but I would like to know why your reaction is so extreme. With your arguments in mind, I’ll reread the chapter again. But without them, I don’t have a lot of good reason. I will read this alternate chapter.

  17. Martin D says:

    As much as I appreciate your considerable effort, Dale, I think that this chapter cannot be revised in a way that will satisfy both the traditional and the secular communities. My own experience is that any attempt to shoehorn the term ‘higher power’ into a secular discussion doesn’t work because it presupposes a hierarchical structure to nature that I don’t think fits. I grew tired of trying to define my group or AA or Great OutDoors or anything else as a ‘higher’ entity to which I am called upon to submit my will and my life! Clearly I needed the love, understanding and suggestions from others who had recovered before me but they are not ‘higher’ than me, nor would those I admire claim to be.

    After several years within Secular AA my personal approach is to treat the so-called Big Book as an influential historical text from which one can understand the framework and perspective of early, historical AA and indeed many current traditional meetings. I don’t think GSO will ever accept a substantially revised “second edition”. Fortunately in the last few years many other texts have appeared which build on what I view as the positive aspects of the AA approach to recovery without the supernatural aspects. As long as the hardcore ‘originalists’ (that cling to those 164 pages as to a life raft) don’t try to further constrain our Secular meetings and restrict our discussion and readings, I hope we can all live and let live.

    Just my 2 cents worth of course.

  18. Maureen H. says:

    Although there is much to admire here, especially the observation of the duplicity of the title of Chapter Four, I disagree with several things. First is the term Higher Power. This still contains magical thinking. It carries with it such phrases as “turning one’s life and will” over and “his will, not mine”, “he could and would”, etc.

    Second, I wouldn’t consider spiritual resources equivalent to gods. The first is inside ourselves, the second outside. I need the power of my spiritual resources to stay sober; I work with them. They don’t direct me, they don’t solve my problems, they didn’t take away my desire for a drink, but they have helped me to achieve these things. They are more powerful than I am, but I must use my agency to listen and learn. Terms like Higher Power and the way god is used in the big book relieves me of responsibility and hard work. There is no magic wand for sobriety.

  19. Joe C says:

    I like the plain language nod to not bowing at the alter of reason with the same enthusiasm others embrace the supernatural. Reason is hardly a foe but it’s like only having one size of wrench.

    I tend to trust reason more than intuition but one is as imperfect as the other. And, as you slide to, relying on a trusted community of my peers proved to be a vital tool to navigate sobriety.

    What I like most about your re-write is that it is an example. So many point to the Mt Olympus of GSO to re-write AA lore. Your example that we each are grownups who can do it ourselves is an eye opener.

    I wasn’t raised in AA in a big book diet so I don’t need to make peace with it to have a place in AA. But for those who have been – and that’s a good sized demographic- and/or those who navigate recovery within a book-based AA community, we need a fresh and rational look like you’ve given us, Dale. This is a vital tool for many. Thank you.

  20. bob k says:

    Dale is the antithesis of the “angry atheist” stereotype. I understand his passion about the ridiculous nature of this chapter. It ranks right up there with “There was no real infidelity,” and the many classics in TO WIVES such as “Be a good wife; make your alcoholic a sammich.”

    The rewrite is excellent, albeit that we would all rewrite the rewrite a little bit.

    I was a bit disappointed to see the mocking of the fine documentary “Reefer Madness.”


  21. Doc says:

    Thanks for the revision. This version makes more sense than the original. I think that the concept of a god in AA is like the color yellow in a life raft–it helps people find the raft, sobriety. On the other hand, yellow is not really what keeps the life raft afloat, even though some may insist that it does.

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