Our Vision for AA Beyond Belief

By John S.

Today as we launch this new site and begin our journey together, it is entirely appropriate I think to take a moment to look back and reflect upon those who paved the way, who charted the map that brought us this far. There was of course Bill W. and Doctor Bob who discovered some eighty years ago the transformative power found through the simple act of one alcoholic talking to another. Joining them was Jim B. and Hank P., atheists both, and among the first 100 members of AA who helped craft the book from which our fellowship draws it’s name. They helped make Alcoholics Anonymous more inclusive than it otherwise might have been. Jim B. with his many years of sobriety provided solid evidence that even the nonbeliever can find recovery in AA.

We should stop to thank the Nebraskan, Don W. who in 1974 spoke at a Unitarian Church in Chicago. His speech was titled, “An Agnostic in AA: How it Works for Me“, and soon after the first special purpose AA groups for agnostics, atheists and freethinkers began to meet in Chicago Land. We know these groups today as Quad A, and with each meeting they demonstrate that the road we travel is indeed a broad highway.

We are grateful also to Charlie P. and Megan D. who in 1980 founded the We Agnostics Group in Los Angeles. Charlie later went on to form other agnostic AA groups in Austin, Texas. We also remember Ada H., David L. and John Y. who in 1986 founded the We Atheists AA group in New York, the first special purpose AA group in New York for agnostics, atheists and freethinkers.

Thank you to the We Agnostics and Beyond Belief Groups in Toronto for the dignity they displayed in the face of open hostility, and for confirming that we have done nothing wrong. We are as much a part of AA as any other group of people. The commitment of those groups to service work is inspiring to us all.

We thank Roger C. who through the power of the Internet made it possible to connect secular AA members with one another, helping thousands realize they are not alone. AA Agnostica, we thank you.

And thank you Dorothy H., Pam W. and Jonathan G. who had an idea and made it happen with the first International Convention for Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers in AA. The experience in Santa Monica still holds a special place in our hearts, and provides the energy which propels us further down the road. We look forward to the next convention in Austin, just a little more than a year away.

All of these fellow travelers are ultimately responsible for AA Beyond Belief. In fact, I would not be here today, typing this message to you had it not been for the chain of events just described. Events that at the time seemed random and isolated, but are now inextricably linked.

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”
― Walt Whitman

Inspired and strengthened by those who came before us, we now throw the gate wide open and cheerfully make our way down the road. As you look at this site today, you will see a lot of white space, an empty canvas that will soon be painted with the experience, strength and hope of secular people in AA. We will publish an original article every week that we hope will display the same level of professionalism that was consistently delivered by AA Agnostica. We also expect to include a number of podcasts and recorded interviews.

As AA members who care about the future of our fellowship, we believe in effecting change by working within AA’s service structure. Although we may sometimes publish articles critical of AA, it is criticism coming from good motives. Make no mistake, we are AA and we owe our lives to this fellowship. We aren’t about tearing anything down, we want the helping hand of AA to always be there for the next suffering alcoholic. You can expect to read articles here, written by AA members who are involved with general service. We will learn about AA’s upside down triangle through the sharing of our experiences with one another. It is our hope that this will inspire others to become involved in this important work.

Perhaps nothing is more important in Alcoholics Anonymous than the sharing of our stories with each other. This is the basic foundation of AA, the language of the heart, the ability of one alcoholic to make a personal connection with another through shared experience. We will publish stories submitted by agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in AA to help educate those both in and out of AA of the special challenges facing the secular person seeking help in Alcoholics Anonymous.

We will also publish articles about AA’s history,  report on what is happening in AA today, and what’s new in addiction treatment and recovery. We will keep an open and curious mind to explore almost any subject related to alcoholism and addiction treatment and recovery.

AA Beyond Belief will strive to portray the very best in recovery, and that means humor will play an important role here. We will laugh at ourselves, we will laugh with each other. Nothing is so sacred that we can’t make light of it.

We will build  our community upon a foundation of trust and respect. So join us on this journey. We need writers, readers, thinkers and friends. Send us your story, submit your articles, your poetry, your photos, your art, we will be grateful to hear from you in whatever way you choose to express yourself and share your recovery.

Submit an article to AA Beyond Belief

Source Material:

AA Agnostica, “A History of Agnostic Groups in AA”, Roger C.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Andy L

    Howdy there, and congratulations on the new site! Here’s a typo alert to start things off with: might want to check the spelling in the header of the international directory… 😉

    I’m looking forward to what appears here, and best wishes to all!

    1. John S

      Thank you. We will fix that today.

  2. John R

    Looking forward to reading and listening to the ES&H here, and to an expanding awareness across the globe about AA for everyone who seeks recovery, not just “believers.”

    1. John S

      Thank you John for visiting and for the positive comment. I look forward to hearing from you as we go forward.

      1. John S

        And thank you for visiting and for offering the encouraging words.

  3. Denisk

    Hello John, thank you for putting all of this together, it’s both fresh and exciting. What a wonderful venue to project the love and inclusivity of Agnostic, Athiest and Free Thinkers in AA.

    1. John S

      Thank you Denis. I appreciate your support.

  4. eddie stinson

    I’m looking forward to be a part of this new beginning. I left live meetings many years ago and this site and movement will no doubt save lives and offer much peace of mind.

    1. John S

      Thank you Eddie. I look forward to seeing you around. Please consider yourself at home. You are among friends.

  5. Laurie A

    And let’s not forget the AA’s who convened a fringe meeting, with a panel of speakers, at the 1990 Seattle international reunion. I was there and it was standing room only.

    1. John S

      Thank you Laurie. I would like to learn more about the Seattle meeting in 1990.

  6. Scott A.

    AWESOME John S., thanks for your good works!
    Re-NEWed beginnings here…
    things look off to a great start,
    with a wonderful summary of our roots,
    and I love the aa sphere icon.

    Thanks for the reminder… the greatest gift aa gave me in sobriety is the ability to laugh at myself…but it’s a lesson that needs frequent refresher classes.

    1. John S

      Thanks for visiting Scott. The laughter that comes from meetings may be my favorite thing about AA, there’s something comforting in that shared sense of humor and understanding. It’s a good reminder for me to remember not to take myself or anything else for that matter too heavy. Just being sober today puts me ahead of the game.

  7. Teresa

    Thank you so much for the work being done…one person to another…freethinkers…fresh air indeed for me. Grateful member of AA for 27 years…with continual ebb and flow of frustration with Spirit of AA seeming to me to be more and more of a widespread religious notion.

    As expressed in the publications I’ve read so far, I am not opposed to others points of view. I want to remain openminded & respectful and connect with others who are open to the spirit of all…

  8. Meg B

    I like to go to meetings so that I don’t forget that I can’t drink without negative results. I love the power of any transformational group work yet the sobriety theme has come for me from AA.

    I appreciate that people often find joy in believing in a source outside of themselves yet I am not drawn to it for myself. My latest sponsor would not work with me unless I said I believed in a source outside and exclusive of my SELF. She also led a Big Book meeting where the conversation went into retorts on how atheists or agnostics should find another program and were AA fakes.

    was raised in Akron and apparently took my father to an AA meeting when I was 15 but I don’t remember it. Later in NYC a therapist suggested I go to ACOA which I did and long story short wound up in AA.

    I had a horrible rehab experience when a bunch of cons created a 90 day aftercare program I thought was for dealing with sexual abuse. It turned out to be an AA ranch for chronic relapsers and I was traumatized for days by AA slogans while I shoveled manure and was cut off from outside communication. My sister in law figured it classified as a Cult and sent in the troops to retrieve me. All of my possessions were stolen by all my friends/addicts who happened to come from families who could afford $10,000.00 a month.

    I still went back to meetings while I worked on the PTSD that resulted quite naturally from the early childhood trauma created by my abuser combined with the brain washing attempts by that program for recovery.

    I still come back to meeting 25 years later.

    I found AA for agnostics searching for a way to separate myself from all the what I call AA rightest rules that I find emerging and blurted out in meetings. None of them are in the Big Book like getting a sponsor, doing the steps immediately. What I say is that I go to meetings to be around people who have chosen to be conscious about their drinking and that I do not want to forget. That it is possible to find your own way by staying sober and seeing what is revealed either from within or without.

    People in the circle often follow with their Higher Power come backs and maybe one person will compliment the idea that we can create our own spiritual world by staying sober-not many. More will whisper their beliefs in the parking lot such as the sponsor issue about not just grabbing any sponsor.

    It has helped me immensely to clear up in my own mind what I believe since I was just ignoring what was said out of 32 years of habit. It bothers some and not others when I say it. The other day someone had a newcomer as she didn’t like all the rules so she asked if she could have the woman call me since I was like that. Perfect.

    It bothers me when meetings deny being religious in nature while the content contains mostly references to God and the likes. The model for AA was developed from The Oxford Group and scaled down as it says to attempt to appeal simply to one alcoholic helping another. Referencing that Tradition is what keeps me there despite the above conflicts I have struggled with since 1983.

  9. Michael Audley

    What is the controversy, 3 & 11 say God as understood? Sounds like democracy?

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