The Last Post on AA Agnostica – Eleven Years Old!
By Roger C
This is the 747th article posted on AA Agnostica and it is the last – the very last – article to be shared on this website.
While the website will remain online and accessible to all, there will not be any new articles.
That’s it, that’s all!
Launched in mid-June of 2011, what was the purpose of AA Agnostica? Well, there were two of them.
A comfort zone
As we learned back then, AA Agnostica was a comfort for those in recovery who couldn’t stand all of the God stuff at traditional AA meetings. You know, meetings that end with the Lord’s Prayer and then pretend there’s nothing religious about that.
Here is a recent comment (by Larry G.):
AA Agnostica has been the most important part of my recovery in the last five years. It’s been immensely satisfying to read open minded and well reasoned articles on non faith based recovery. Its been really helpful to disentangle the AA God belief from my recovery.
I totally understand. When I first got sober back in 2010, I had the same experience. I personally was treated with disrespect at traditional AA meetings for not believing in a God – you know, a supernatural, male, interventionist deity – and I was told that without a God I would be a drunk again.
To put it simply: BS, that stuff. And that’s how AA Agnostica turned out to be a comfort zone for non-God believers in recovery. As part of all of that, in 2015 it was a treat to publish a book, Do Tell! Stories by Atheists and Agnostics in AA, which contains fifteen stories by women and fifteen by men. Each one of these people found AA Agnostica to be a comfort zone. Just as do many of the thousand or more people who visit the site each and every day.
Comfort is obviously an important and very helpful part of recovery.
The other purpose of AA Agnostica has been to make AA more inclusive.
Hard to do, that. Traditional AA is rather dogmatic. Bill Wilson once talked about that, suggesting that AA was indeed moving in that direction. As he put it:
Whenever this brand of arrogance develops we are sure to become aggressive. We demand agreement with us. We play God. This isn’t good dogma. This is very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing.
AA can be indulgent. Only literature that is published – and sold – by AA is “conference-approved”. All other books and pamphlets about recovery are by and large banned or ignored by AA Intergroups, Central Offices and at the literature tables at traditional AA meetings. That is indeed a form of arrogance and bad dogma, as Bill put it.
The goal of this website has always been to make AA less dogmatic and more inclusive. Has that worked? Here are the posts and pages viewed on AA Agnostica on May 27th of this year:
Secular 12 Steps have always been a major interest of those visiting AA Agnostica. On that day in May, 213 people went to the Alternative 12 Steps, where there are six non-Godly versions of the Steps. Roughly 150,000 people have been there over the last eleven years.
And, as you can also see in the above image, people are also interested in Step Interpretations, Secular Group Websites and The Little Book, which contains 20 secular versions of the Steps and 4 interpretations of each.
So yes indeed AA Agnostica has made every effort to make Alcoholics Anonymous more inclusive. Here is a quote from Bill Wilson shared in a Grapevine article, Responsibility is Our Theme, in 1965:
Newcomers are approaching us at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. 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.
So has AA Agnostica achieved – at least a little bit – its goal of making AA more inclusive?
We’ll let you decide.
And we will see what happens over the next years…
So this is it: the final article!
Our very best wishes to all you folks in recovery.
For some of the history of the website, click here: Ten Years Old! And for a PDF of today’s article, click here: The Last Post on AA Agnostica.
Wow, I haven’t visited this site in a few months, and I’m surprised and a bit saddened by this announcement. However, the fact that I haven’t visited in a few months and I’m only now coming across this announcement speaks to the fact that many of us who were long-time readers and contributors to this site have slowly moved on and it may have been time to close up shop. One of my stalwart local Agnostic AA meetings that had been going for about 20 years recently finally became a pandemic casualty. We tried to get it going again, but it was a small meeting even before the pandemic and keeping it up even once things slowly reopened proved to be too much.
My guess is that secular AA often struggles to attract and maintain support because it’s kind of a niche within a niche. It’s already a niche to actively pursue recovery from addiction. Tragically, as most of us well know, few of us afflicted with addiction actively and continually seek help and recovery. Countless numbers of us stumble along in a degraded life and an early death (Anne Heche’s terrible story is yet another recent high-profile example). Among those who DO seek recovery, traditional AA really CAN do a wonderful job at EARLY recovery. It provides a relatively and generally safe environment for those coming off of often quite desperate circumstances, it’s readily available and can provide a good structure, schedule, guidelines and principles to those who are quite physically and mentally ill and have become used to living in extreme dysfunction and chaos. Once many of those people get cleaned up, though, and get some clean time and get their feet underneath them most of them slowly drift away again, either back into regular life or sadly, back to their addictions. Those who do remain to become “old-timers” are usually VERY wedded to the process, to the Steps in their entirety, to the Big Book as it’s originally written word for word (especially the first “164 pages”), and the process generally as they usually credit it for saving their lives. Those of us who’ve remained sober, gone to many, many meetings, been part of and around the rooms and program for significant time and STILL want to speak out and against many of its inherent contradictions, rigidities and dogmatism end up being a vanishingly rare breed.
In short, many of the challenges I see in “secular recovery” are the same challenges I see in “liberal religion”. After leaving the Catholicism of my youth, as a young adult I used to attend a Unitarian church near where I live, and it was a great experience. The services were often fantastic, the talks and sermons thoughtful, the congregants sympathetic and heartfelt. However, it always felt like a waystation for me out of religion in general. The idea that “recovery” is a life-long, permanent state of being is a curious and sad idea to me. I haven’t drunk alcohol in over 10 years and plan to never do so again. OF COURSE I respect and understand how one can slip back in, how we can go back to our addictions at any time, how fragile sobriety can be (just like life itself) and how we must care for ourselves and nurture strength and peace of mind to navigate this crazy world and all the various large and small challenges of life and all its stages. I just don’t think that defining myself first and foremost as a previous stage of life (always an “alcoholic”) is helpful after such an extended period of time. I’m so many other things, ESPECIALLY since I made the decision and commitment to stop drinking and remain stopped. As much as I’ve enjoyed the small community of secular recovery, I do believe there comes a time and place to simply start walking on your own two feet and trusting and having confidence that all the lessons you’ve learned along the way will serve you well.
I’d like to still come back to some meetings here and there if we ever more fully emerge from this blasted pandemic. I’ve been to a few in-person meetings here and there over the past couple years and while it’s been nice to see it still around, I don’t feel the need for it like I used to. That actually seems like a very good and healthy thing to me. Similarly, perhaps it’s also time to look to other resources outside of simply “recovery”, even “secular recovery” when dealing with long-term sobriety. Let’s celebrate not just overcoming our past, but also continuing to solidly build our own futures, futures WE get to define ourselves. Perhaps we’ve all taken the road less traveled here, but I do believe that’s really made all the difference.
Be well, friends!
Mike O. (sobriety date 11/4/2011)
A few years ago in an AA meeting I had a sudden insight. In a blinding flash of insight I saw that each person felt more moral than others. And the reason was that each was evaluating themselves on their own standards.
When I tell others of that spiritual truth the usual response is something like “Duh” or of course or something giving me the idea I must be a bit of a dunce not to have known that all my life.
Now that I’m old and have tried to show others how they have been indoctrinated into believing things which may or may not be true, but in all likelihood are untrue, I realize how impossible it is for a person convinced of a few basic half truths to see around conspiracy theories which have come to threaten my country and possibly the world. I watch in horror as Russia’s propaganda machine apparently convinces pretty unconcerned people that she is in the right.
And, of course, I must also look at how I was pretty sure the US was on the moral high ground in Viet Nam. Mass hysteria?
So what can I do about it? I have some money I won’t be able to use before I die and needed to find a way to use it responsibly. AA is one responsible way for me to use it–especially secular AA since I’m quite sure of it’s intellectually truthful assumptions.
But what about all the kids in the Catholic school on this same plot of ground as my AA meeting this morning? I’ve had very little ability to change their minds now that they have made those basic assumptions of what is true in the company of so many adults who all carry the old convictions and attend mass regularly. Plus the nuns and priests who visit and answer the simple questions of young people. Duh again.
One day I walked into the Freedom From Religion Foundation offices in Madison, Wisconsin as I pondered what I could do which might make a difference to critical thinking. And it changed my life. I found around 35,000 older Americans who did see the world much as I do regarding the basic truths–or am I kidding myself like I did before finding how many Americans could believe the most preposterous conspiracy theories?
At any rate Annie Laurie Gaylor (co president) spent a couple of hours listening to me try to formulate the problem I wished to work on. Public schools were a good part of the answer I have always been convinced. Home and religious schools create the very problem which I think I see so clearly.
She told me of a girl in Los Angeles named Cheyenne (I later learned that is a misspelling) had been kicked out of her home if she would not go to church with the family and was being mentored by a small non profit named Black Skeptics of LA. Sikivu Hutchinson, a teacher, had set up that organization as a non profit in 2012 and had also set up a small scholarship awarding function which FFRF contributed to.
So, for the last few years I’ve been contributing funds for large scholarships to FFRF which in turn passes them on to BSLA which recruits applications from any person who in grade twelve has not become convinced Christianity is “RIGHT” and provides morals for the world. Then because I also would like to support Sikivu’s mentoring such that she can personally contribute some funds beyond the first year of college to people whom she thinks might profit from them.
Black Skeptics of LA does not have the organization size to be rated by charity navigator et al, or even the internal revenue service allows a charity of less than $50,000 income per year to meet rather minimal accounting standards. But FFRF actually writes the checks and they are among the highest rated charities in the US (4.0 in charity navigator’s rating system) so I feel pretty confident my money is not being flagrantly wasted.
I guess this post has turned into a promotional article-but I wanted to review my problem and solution someplace and on Sunday morning this is the place which comes to mind even though only Roger will probably see it. I would be glad if I could impress him.
After years of looking in every Sunday morning and often gaining inspiration for a meeting 3 hours later in Miles City, MT, I wanted to see if anyone was still posting here. Sure enough, a few more comments though I guess we’ll gradually become weaned away from dependence upon this aid to sobriety and reality. I can report that our little meeting which used to regularly have myself and one open minded Catholic fellow, last week hosted 5 people, two of whom are non-believers. What a pleasure it is when some new person arrives who shares much of my secular view of the world. And then they move on most often.
But I’ve been opening that meeting since the January after our 2014 convention in Santa Monica, a few times sitting alone, and regard it as well worth my time. I show up at least an hour in advance of the scheduled meeting, make coffee, read Beyond Belief and often a stoic thought, or perhaps one of the old articles from aaagnostica which I’ve printed out and put in the back of a notebook. Half an hour later my open-minded Catholic shows up, we socialize about mostly non AA things, and then, at 10AM often a surprise one or two or three old or new friends show up. They always say they like this meeting best, but often are not seen again for some years. Don’t know why–not in the habit? Really don’t like the format? Drink again and are embarrassed? Whatever! I stay sober and show up again for next week’s surprises.
Sitting alone at an AA meeting is still productive for me.
Thanks for everything and your help and guidance with my article, “The Common Sense of Drinking and Alcoholics Anonymous.”
I have a request. Where can I find Bill Wilson’s comment on what constitutes an AA group? To paraphrase: any two or more people gathered for the purpose of recovery from alcoholism, can call themselves an AA group, regardless of how obnoxious and spiteful of Alcoholics Anonymous they may be.
I believe it was a private correspondence or published in a Grapevine Issue. Thanks.
I think this is the quote you are looking for, Charlie:
So long as there is the slightest interest in sobriety, the most unmoral, the most anti-social, the most critical alcoholic may gather about him a few kindred spirits and announce to us that a new Alcoholics Anonymous Group has been formed. Anti-God, anti-medicine, anti-our Recovery Program, even anti-each other — these rampant individuals are still an AA Group if they think so!
This was in Bill Wilson’s article in the Grapevine, “Anarchy Melts”, published in 1946.
You can find more (inclusive) quotes here: Relevant Quotes for Secular AA.
Thank you all. Mission accomplished. What messages of hope you have shared.
Roger, we Polish agnostics are in deep sadness. We got used to your every week’s inspiring texts.
However, thanks again for your great job. You are in our hearts.
Thank you all for your very kind comments.
As Joe C. touched on this point, it would be helpful if one or more secular AA websites were launched. If I could do it, believe me it is really not that difficult.
Again, thank you for your comments. They are much appreciated and brought a few tears to my eyes.
Thank you to all for so many thoughtful and sustaining words over the years… in person, and in life saving print.
Could someone please tell me when the “D.C. Conference” takes place? How can I get information about it? Am I too late? I have never had the privilege of attending an Agnostic AA conference. Thank you!
All the info about the conference is here, Susan: Secular AA.
I have read every word of these postings and looked forward to them all with interest. Whether I was up or down they carried the burden of my alcoholism & were always welcome & gave me a new beginning for the day. Even if I never got to them immediately. I’m always sorry to see anything I count on to come to an end.
These postings have kept me out of the relapse circle & spurred a deep respect for your service, Roger.
The Pandemic made them all the more helpful and me more grateful. I came into AA with a background that was not too successful. After a year in AA in 1984, I had stayed sober for 10 years without any programme. Alas, I realized I was in the same camp I had been & left that many years before. I was very unhappy & did not know if I woukd make it. It was with great relief I found the Secular Group, Widening Our Gateway which Dianne & John started in Richmond Hill ON. Not sure how I would succeed with the Pandemic, I just kept on with your generous work & it worked to the point where I am coming up to 25 years, a real milestone for this alcoholic in a long line of alcoholism in my family, my father’s family.
I’m happy to report I have the respect of all those people still living in this family. One brother died in prison for rape & 2 others committed suicide. A long time ago I spent almost a year in hospital for depression. My family lines are not pretty. Younger people still imbibe to the point were one wonders if they will ever kick what seems t be a recurring habit.
Anyway, this was meant to be an accolade to Roger & a sincere thank you for all you have achieved with alcoholics far and wide. You have no idea how far your reach has extended. None of us do. That is why this kind of service must not ever end. With love and gratitude, Glenna R
Thanx, Roger; With the inspiration received at the Toronto conference we have started several secular meeting in northeast Conn. and south central Mass. Two pre covid and two post covid. The two pre covid meetings are gone due to the deaths of two of our members [non-covid] and other covid related issues. [Closed meeting halls etc.] You have kept the home fires burning and so secular AA lives. Catherine an I will see you at the DC convention. Peace.
Thank you Roger I appreciate what you’ve done for all of us.
I struggled for countless years with all the god stuff. It was very hard, being told over and over, that I would eventually “get it”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have contributed to my own sobriety and the sobriety of many thousands of others.
Goodbyes are important; and as writers, commenters sometimes and readers many times, an intimacy develops. It’s okay to be grateful and sad at the same time.
If build it and they will come was proven to be true, stop it and it will be replaced will prove itself. If an unmet need was satisfied and the need still exists, I expect it’s already in the imagination of one or some, now.
Thanks to Roger and the whole community.
You saw a need and filled it. That’s what service is all about. In the meantime, your life has continued to grow and change. Thank you for your service. Someone will take up the work in a way that may not be just like what you did, but it will be a benefit.
Best to you,
I hate to see these articles come to an end. Do they have to? As someone above posted, I wish there was someone who would continue on this platform.
Thank you Roger for helping me to keep things alive and breathing in pandemic times ….Your creativity and generosity of spirit are exemplary…Rest up Dear Sir…and do the right thing…rest,renew, and recreate as you are inspired and sustained to fulfill your next creative impulse…
A gigantic THANKS, Roger. Your efforts these past many years have earned you a permanent seat in agnostic AA Heaven … … … … if there were such a thing.
Yes, much thanks Roger for all you have done. I have immense gratitude for the many since the beginning of A.A. who held as firmly as they could to the fact (not the belief) that one can get sober and live a satisfying, sober life without a belief in a god or higher power.
For myself the power of those living sober with the help of A.A. were definitely greater than me, myself & I when I walked through the doors. AA Agnostica was a huge part of my summoning the courage to start a freethinkers/mostly agnostic group. Virtual now. Not sure where it is listed other than locally…Live & Let Live Group, Monterey.
I had the privilege of going to a day long Agnostic conference in Tacoma some years back. Yay! The “part of” comfort is so important, in my opinion.
Being a part of General Service, I can say A.A. is a little more inclusive than it once was. Not all meetings are. May progress continue. Much thanks to you again Roger!
This could be a celebration but it feels like a funeral. I’m sad.
What a journey eh Roger! I’ve looked forward to the new articles each week. But like so many things in recovery, we learn new things then move on. I hope you take a healthy pride in what you have given our secular recovery world. And like some have said, it feels like these last 10 or so years are pioneering ones. The secular community has faced prejudice, intolerance and ignorance. But we’re still standing thanks in large part to you and other authors, podcasters and those starting in person or Zoom meetings. The best is yet to come!
Thanks again Roger. It’s an honour to know you.
Sincere thanks to you, Roger, and all who have created and contributed to this terrific resource. I’m very pleased to know that the website will remain, long may it, and you, wave!
Thank You Roger for your Service to the Recovery Community. You are a true Pioneer of Secular Recovery.
When the question of “What can I do to be of Service to the Secular Community?” comes up, your example would be one Elegant answer.
Boom boom; right you are “Bobby” and well said, Courtney.
Let me just repeat what I’ve expressed to you earlier, Roger, AA Agnostica was one of the best things about my years of early recovery. The sense of purpose we all had, in the midst of much hostility, had a lot to do with maintaining the “fighting spirit” to stay sober and to demonstrate to believer and non-believer alike that one didn’t need God to get and remain sober. As well, everyone’s creativity and joie de vivre was stimulated by having AA Agnostica around as our (often) only milieu for communicating the profundity of secular recovery (without having to dispense with AA as a whole).
And, as always Roger, thanks for leading the way with AA Agnostica and for your perseverance in keeping it going for so long.
At 0700 I hit the refresh button on my e*mail and there was nothing new from aaagnostica for the first Sunday morning since 2013 when I became involved with the web site. Tried again at 0701 and for the last time, there it was. The secular meeting which I started in January 2014 discussed the importance of ritual to people like me at the meeting. Should we read the preamble? The modified preamble of we ICSAA? Some form of 12 steps? One step? A tradition? Tradition 3? Should I say “my name is Lance and I’m an alcoholic every time I speak? Most times? The first time?
There were just two of us and mostly it was just me deciding how much ritual was important. The other person has never said he was an alcoholic. Maybe even to himself. But he has been sober over 10 years though the courts have encouraged him. Me? I got sober in AA and don’t feel shamed to say or believe I’m powerless over alcohol.
I awoke at 0430 thinking that I’d told the story of Audrey Kishline last week and hoped I’d told it accurately. So I looked it up at 0500 and was encouraged that I got it mostly right. Also added the name of that book which has her listed as a co-author and which she later wrote was totally inaccurate as she had been too unpredictably inebriated to write even a grocery shopping list.
I have little idea of what each person’s internal monologue (or is that a dialogue?) is that leads to sobriety and sustains it. Nor do I know what the people who I no longer see in meetings are doing, thought, or are thinking and doing. Some are happy and continuously sober no doubt. Some are probably drinking moderately. But I do believe that Lance would be as powerless as I was in 1984 when I felt AA might help me, if I were to drink one alcoholic drink–and maybe one pipeful of something I don’t know much about. Anyway, for me Audrey’s story and ultimate suicide is valuable to me and I choose to say without shame or guilt that I am Lance, an alcoholic.
So a tradition dies Sunday morning before I go to the secular AA meeting in Miles City, Montana. That’s OK. Perhaps the ritual was not necessary. I think it was essential for me when found it after 25 years tolerating religious AA–pretty much running my little corner of it so that I could not be evicted for apostacy.
A few weeks ago I thought maybe I could write an article thanking Roger and really, the whole crowd up there in Toronto for what they’d done and for me through aaagnostica plus books published. They know they have been important to many of us humanist/agnostic/freethinker/atheist/scientist/non-believers in AA and perhaps are embarrassed to hear me gush over their gift to us.
So let me close by just saying: Thank you.
Thank you for everything. I have really enjoyed and got a huge amount from the articles that you have shared.
I wish there was someone who would continue to pen/post articles on this platform. I have always taken time to read the offerings on this page to get back to reality in my recovery .