When I came into the rooms in the mid-1970s I can't recall exactly what I was looking for. Sobriety? Maybe. Approval, certainly. God-consciousness - ah, no. Montreal in at era anyway (I don't live there now so I can't speak to its evolution) was pretty easy going on the spiritual side. AA's big book was an ornament on the chairperson's desk. There was nothing sacred and nothing forbidden. Spiritual - not religious talk, the idea of collective consciousness, free-will, destiny, all this type of talk around the coffee urn was not unlike chats my friends and I would have on acid. While I came to AA of the belief that Man created God in our own image (not the other way around), I didn't find higher power talk offensive at all. Fake it -'till you make it was an open license for all of us to do our own thing.
I later moved to Calgary and traveled extensively. I went to 100s of meetings in dozens of towns. When I moved to Toronto in the mid 1980s it was AA-business as usual. Around the mid-1990s I started noticing a preachy, literalist, authoritarian tone in a lot of meetings and I didn't like it one bit. I guess I was a closet-atheist but this Back-to-basics version of what I called revisionist AA history lured me out of the closet. I started making it clear that I didn't believe in an intervening, prayer answering, sobriety granting power.
While I was happy using higher purpose or higher power language to describe me reliance of the wisdom of the ages, peer-to-peer support, etc., I wanted it to be clear that this didn't mean I believed in heaven, hell, divine intervention or any of that "god's will for me" stuff.
What I objected to wasn't what other people believed or what kept them sober. What I objected too was the eye-rolling over alternative worldviews, the hyperbolic warnings about not being able to find sobriety without god. My experience showed this isn't true. There are over 200 AA groups for atheists and agnostics where members can find sobriety without prayer or religious mythology. The first every We Agnostics and Freethinkers International Conference of AA is coming to Santa Monica in a few weeks.
It's great that by the by-the-book - big book members can find groups where they can thump and quote chapter and verse and tell people this works 75% of the time (whether it's true or not). It's great that atheists can get sobriety without religion. It is great that any member is welcome at any of these meetings. What I think might be unhealthy is promoting advice as our currency instead of experience and bad-mouthing alternate views of AA recovery as "watered down" or inferior. It's so childish.
Our steps are suggested, not sacred. Lots of people have had success with a secular version of AA. We had Buddhist meetings in the 1950s that changed the word "God" to good when they read the Steps. Bill W celebrated their imaginative approach and was in no way offended that they might alter his wording. We've had atheist/agnostic groups in the USA and Canada for over 40 years.
AA works if you believe in God. AA works if you don't believe in God. AA works better if none of us play God by telling others what they ought to do or believe.We Agnstics AA
This post has been edited by Joe C on October 7, 2014, 1:18 PM