Taking God Out of Alcoholics Anonymous

Friday, February 26, 2016

If you have ever been to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), there is good chance that you have heard some things said or read that reminds you of a sermon you’ve heard from a pulpit. The Lord’s Prayer is often times recited at the end of a meeting in place of the Serenity Prayer. While it’s hard to argue that reciting such words is not religious, it should be understood that AA has no religious affiliations and the only requirement  for membership is “a desire to stop drinking.” While every member should create a relationship with a higher power of some kind, it does not have to be a deity and can be whatever you choose. One’s higher power can differ from everyone else’s.

Interestingly, a man from Toronto, Canada, plans to file suit against AA World Services and its local chapter in Toronto, Ontario, Toronto Sun reports. Larry Knight is claiming AA of discriminating against atheists and agnostics by refusing to list secular groups on their website.

Toronto has two secular AA groups, Beyond Belief and We Agnostics.

In 2011 the two groups were expelled and “delisted” from the local meetings roster after they’d removed the word “God” from AA’s 12 steps to recovery found in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and replaced it with the words “mindful inquiry,” according to the article. The two groups were also barred from voting “on matters that are important to all AA members.”

“The reason we went this way is because after three years of discussion, nothing happened,” Knight told the Sun. “The clock ran out and we’re still not allowed to vote. It’s important to feel that we are equal partners with an opportunity to speak.”

“The only requirement for membership in AA is this desire to achieve sobriety and to help others in this achievement,” Knight told a summary hearing last month. “AA was not meant to be presented on any religious terms and … atheists and agnostics have been included as members in other parts of Canada and the United States over the years in order to promote an inclusive approach to AA membership rather than promote any religious perspective.”

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