Can you be an atheist in 12 Step Fellowships?
we received this email from an alanon listener
Last night, I went with my wife to an open AA big book study meeting. The meeting format starts with a reading from the big book, with interpretation and elaboration by one person. Then they break for 10 minutes and people can put questions into the "ask it basket". The second part of the meeting consists of the leader pulling questions from the basket and reading them, with anyone in the meeting giving their answer or understanding. It's a 90 minute meeting, total.
Last night, they read steps 6 and 7 (3 paragraphs). The first question was "If I'm an atheist, who removes my character defects?" As you might imagine, this sparked a lot of sharing. A couple of statements really bothered me. I'd like to hear y'all's reactions. I understand that each person's experience and view is their own, but these statements were said so forcefully and confidently that if I had been a newcomer, it might have driven me away.
One person stated, flat out, "If you can't believe in God, then you're not a real alcoholic and you don't belong here." Another person made a similar statement, "You can't be an atheist and be in AA." I will note that there were a couple of people who said "I am an atheist, and this program works for me." But there was a definite undercurrent of "if you can't believe, get out."Later, someone said "if you don't believe in God, then please don't sponsor *real alcoholics*". My thought was "what the F*** is a 'real alcoholic'?" (That phrase was used by more than one person.)
The answer of course is yes, so how do we help the atheist in recovery, inside the walls of 12 Step Fellowships?
Here is Chris Motl - is - ant - ti from the TV program the sopranos at his AA meeting
Chris is a lieutenant in the mob, Chris is Tony Soprano’s right hand man and is still very active in his criminal life
We all know about the sexual predator in AA. The guy who might be taking advantage of the most vulnerable.
Joe, your Initial thoughts?, how to spot how to avoid
What about the criminal? Still stealing and cheating.
What about the thug, the guy who can’t give up violence?
What about lures, white collar criminals, bigots, homophobes, etc?
When you encounter this type, how do you react? How do you protect yourself? What advice would you give?
What about the guy who had a criminal past, but wants to give it up? Do you treat this person different?
What has been your experience with this type?
Hat are red flags for the new guy?
What are common sense recommendations to stay safe?
What can we do to keep group safe?
So we all need to take this seriously because I’m sure some alcoholics have decided not to enter because they perceive AA as a cult
For those of us that scoff at the very notion that AA is a cult, Please recognize that we have many cult like practices...
we hold hands
we hug alot
we have our own language and talk in numbers
we have stupid slogans
we talk in unison at awkward moments, like “God could and would if he were sought”
we talk about god alot
we talk about the necessity for a charismatic leader called a sponsor
we have our own bible
we are evangelistic
I’m going to be the devil’s advocate and challenge our hosts today.
The following are cult attributes, let’s discuss each one why the do or do not apply to AA and why.
In a cult, the group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. What about Bill W, is he the charismatic leader mentioned? Why or why not.
In a cult, questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. Is AA the only way to sobriety?
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). What about Step 11?
In a cult, the leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). Let’s discuss AA leadership.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). How does Anonymity apply here?
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. What does AA say about conflict, the spiritual axiom, who is at fault when conflict arises in an AA memeber?
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
The group is preoccupied with making money.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Final thoughts....Is AA a cult?
A Vision for You
Joe this is really
Another set of promises
We close every podcast episode with a portion of this passage from the Big Book
On page 164 of the Big Book, we find these words:
Joe can you read please?
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a
little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in
your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who
is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But
obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it
that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to
pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to
Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give
freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the
fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you
trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you—until then.
The program in a paragraph
what about the following phrases, what do they mean to you?:
God will constantly disclose more
Answers come, If your house is in order
cannot transmit something you haven’t got
great events will come to
pass for you and countless others.
This is the Great Fact - notice the capitalization
Abandon yourself to God
trudge the Road of Happy Destiny - what does trudge mean? trudge and happy?