Saturday, July 16, 2011

Is A.A. a religion or not? If not, would it benefit society if "we" just called it a religion?

I know we've discussed a variation of this topic before, but I'd like to hear again why A.A. should not consider itself a religion.

Also, what is the spiritual approach and why is it effective with alcoholics?

What is A.A.s definition of a "real alcoholic" and is it valid today? 

Did Bill and Bob and the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book know what they were talking about with regards to being an alcoholic?

Did the A.A. fellowship of 1938 know anything about "alcoholism"?  Have advancements about "alcoholism" from then to now made a difference with alcoholics and addicts?


  1. Religion, by definition, entails two components. The first being a belief in a superhuman controlling power – i.e., a God or gods, and secondly the prescribed method of worship of this power. We in AA acknowledge the concept of a higher power, but nowhere do you see any form of worship involved. So AA doesn’t fit the definition of a religion. Sorry, ST.

    Back in February I wrote extensively about my thoughts on Spirituality. If anyone’s that interested, the posts are still there.

    AA’s definition of a “real alcoholic”, a person who has lost the ability to control their drinking, is as valid today as it was 75 years ago. I personally like the definition of a “real alcoholic” as a person who cannot not drink, but the meaning’s the same.

    Given the scant general knowledge of alcoholism in the 1930’s, I think the folks who wrote the Big Book had as good a grasp as possible on the subject.

    But they weren’t really interested at the time as to what alcoholism was (allergy, anyone?). They were more focused on what to do about the problem. Hence, the AA program and the Big Book. Their own experiences with the disease qualified them as “experts” in this field.

    As to advancement in alcoholism since 1938, I can’t see where there’s been anything earth-shattering that’s made a difference with alcoholics and addicts. If there were, the 12 steps would have seen some changes by now.

    Sure, science has identified genetic factors involved in the disease, but no marker gene has been located yet. Family history has been identified as a possible component in alcoholism, but only about 50% of alcoholics have a known family history of the disease. (I don’t).

    And the medical and scientific communities can’t even agree on what a definition of alcoholism, much less a definition of an alcoholic.

    So we press on, using the 164 pages as they did 70 years ago, waiting to see if anything better comes along. We have antagonists who will continue to insist AA is a religion as well as a cult (they’re right there, but so was my college fraternity a cult).

    The movement continues to grow while faced with threats from the rehab industry, the hard drinkers, etc. We’ve survived this far, we’ll be here 70 years from now.

  2. Good thought provoking question. This has become a sort of proverbial chicken VS. Egg question. I'm fucking tired of it.

    Is AA relgious? For me the answer is no, I am not down with organized religion, nothing against those that do, it's just not my deal.

    For others the answer is yes. Our critics at ST and elsewhere make valid points, The God of our understanding mentioned a million times in the Basic Text, is the Christian God, no real denying that.

    I am living proof that one can have a living relationship with God-Spirit, without being religious. Of COurse I am one of the #1 recruiters for the cult so take what I say with a grain of salt.

  3. I have a brother who is religious and he has an opinion about A.A.

    He says A.A. is pretty good as far as it goes, but nobody in the book has the balls to come out and say, "It's Jesus Christ!"

    But such is A.A. What I love about it is that it doesn't conclude.

  4. One of my favorite lines in the book is the reference to seeing where religious people are right and making use of what they have to offer.

    I am down with the vast majority of Christ's teachings, same with Buddha, same with mysticism, etc..

    Where I part ways with any sect is the belief that there is only "one way". For those of us that are truly awake and conscious, there is an individual path we intuitively walk, continuing to seek.

    I hope Jim weighs in on this, he has taught me a lot in this area.

  5. Yes, AA has become the religion of recovery. It does have all the components of a religion but because of the traditions has avoided the pitfalls of religious institutions.

    AA is more akin to the "good news" taught by Christ, the fellowship that Jesus had intended in what he called "the kingdom of heaven".

    It's Christianity that lost it's way and yes, I think your brother is right, the spirit of the Father and the Son respond to the reach for a higher power generically within AA fellowship, but because the organized church lost it's way we do well to avoid invoking Christ and the associated erroneous concepts attached to that term.


  6. I hear that being in "fit spiritual condition" just means being in tune with the people around you.

    But then A.A. says that until one day they can eradicate the abnormalities in the body, complete abstinence is required which requires a spiritual solution brought about by the conscious presence of God.

    Welcome, Colter.

  7. "God as I understand God" isn't religion. God as someone else understands and is trying to sell me is. One of the biggest hurdles I had to cross was coming to grips with God and Organized Religion. God doesn't involve a Salesman at the Altar or some young men in white shirts riding up to my door on bicycles. God doesn't involve condemning others by saying "We know the truth and nobody else does" Anyone who believes this has been sold a lie since nobody knows the absolute truth.
    Religion to me is living a good honest life so when I die I can get a set of wings and stand around on a cloud all day. Sorry. Not interested.

  8. Good to see you in here Cuda.

    I want to talk to you about my Chrysler tuneup sometime.

    I never liked the idea of buying into Christianity just to say, "I've got it, and the rest of y'all are going to eternal hell". I just couldn't get past that one.

    I like the way Gary see's it. He believes in a sort of a Karmic Wheel and he believes that all religions have some little piece of Truth, but no one is wired to see the whole picture.

    As Rob mentioned, I want to be at a place where I am quick to point out where religious people are right. I don't want to look down on or fight with people of religion.

    After my divorce with my first wife, a guy at my work invited me over to his home for dinner. I met his wife and children and after dinner, the kids went off to play and they asked me what was on my mind. They were open to hear me spill my guts. I talked of how my ex just dumped me when I was 20 months sober and doing my best... and I still feel like I was chewed up and spit out. She left my ass for another guy. When I told this story, Kyle's wife looked at me with a look of compassion and horror... she really seemed to relate to my current state and I started to realize that even other women could have compassion that maybe I wasn't all in the wrong.

    But, the discussion then turned to religion... their religion. He set me up with an NAS bible and hooked me up with a men's study group and before you knew it, they were asking my why I was in A.A. I told them that I needed that to remain sober. Then at one point, Kyle took me aside and asked, "What if you die tonight? Do you know if you're going to Heaven or not?" I told him, "Well if I get drunk tonight and kill a family in a vehicular homicide, where in the fuck are you gonna be?"

    He left me alone after that.

    Just my little religous story. Oh, that and the fact that my brother says, "Christians don't drink booze or do drugs."

    I have some opinions about that.

  9. In the immortal words of my dearly departed sponsor, "Colter, even if you had been raised by a community of saints you would have found something to resent them for. The problem is you!"

    The truth is, no matter how well the virtues of living a God centered life had been presented to me, I wasn't interested. I never took the time to read what Jesus said. While I also accused religion of "salesmanship" etc, I was a lazy ass and accepted (or rejected) religion as handed down second hand rather then taking the time to investigate myself.

    The Bible doesn’t define the afterlife as having wings and sitting on a cloud. Jesus taught that the "kingdom of heaven" is a present tense reality; in AA we call it being rocketed into the "fourth dimension". If you have taken step 3 and live a "decided life" then you should already have the conviction of salvation.

    And one can research "Hell" in Jewish Encyclopedia and quickly discover that the modern myth of a literal place of eternal torture is also a second hand distortion.


  10. I like Kushner's philosophy that God created mankind with free will and pretty much stays out of the fiascoes we make of life. If he intervenes in our lives to change/direct our actions, then there goes the free will thing. So I don't thing God does much of that.

    I wonder if sometimes God looks at us and laughs at our follies. I know he often weeps. But again as Kushner states, who's to say that the evolution of mankind is finished? Who's to say that this is as developed as we're going to be, that mankind has reached it's zenith? In evolutionary terms, it may only be Friday afternoon.

  11. Bill Wilson himself called A.A."The religion that is not a religion."

    Myself, I tend to shy away from the religious aspects of A.A. By that I mean the way we've ritualized our message with rote readings and chants and slogans and what have you.

    My experience lines up with what coulter is saying. "There is one who has all power, that one is God. May you find him NOW." Of course, to me, God goes beyond he, she, or any other label or name. I will go so far as to say that I don't believe in God anymore. It transcends belief because it is about experience.