I had a conversation with one of my friends last night and it got pretty heated. I like to think I am a level headed person so I am eager to hear what you guys think.

My friend and I were both stout atheists our entire lives. I’m not really here to stand on my soapbox but we were pretty set in our ways. In college my friend went to school on the east coast and he started abusing substances HEAVILY, he would basically snap me every single night of all the stuff he would take. At first I thought it was funny, you know how drugs at first seem like the greatest thing ever, and I was partaking in my own shenanigans so I didn’t think much of it. Fast forward 2 years later, I’m over the 24/7 partying, but he’s still getting fucked up every night with no signs of slowing down. I can even tell it’s fucked with his brain because he definitely seems slower and his mind just seems cloudier? IDK.

I’m getting on a tangent here but basically, he got arrested for a DUI a year before we were set to graduate and as part of his probation he had to attend AA. He’s KINDA clean now (only smokes pot and drinks but he doesn’t touch pills anymore) but he told me he cleaned up for his girlfriend and NOT because of the mandatory AA meetings. In fact, the more he tells me about his meetings, the more I am convinced that they are bullshit. I have so many issues about the steps they teach.

For one, how can AA help an atheist if they require you to believe in a higher power to even complete a bunch of the steps? WTF? That seems alienating and stupid. For the record my friend told me he isn’t an atheist but now an agnostic but I think requiring someone to change their “faith” in order to treat their DISEASE sounds extremely shady.

Second, the AA steps haven’t even been updated in LITERALLY decades. For other diseases, science or new research is constantly updating treatment. How can a treatment method NOT be updated or researched upon to improve in years? I don’t think there have been any pushes to “improve” the steps in terms of looking at the data for failure rates or surveys. It’s like church where we are just supposed to blatantly accept whatever we are told. If I were to be treated for my DISEASE, I would want to know that the process I’m taking to treat it has been regulated or at least examined thoroughly instead of just blindly following it like sheep.

Can anyone who did AA and thought of themselves as an atheist tell me how inclusive/exclusive the meetings are? Like what if you can’t even submit yourself to a “higher power” because it’s BS, so does that mean you are an auto-fail in the eyes of the program? It honestly seems like the program core beliefs would be MASSIVELY unfriendly to any RATIONAL thinker… or a long winded self-help scam process mixed with converting people to believe in God.



  • I attended AA a long, long time ago so I would like to chime in.

    Yes, the steps are unchanged, but I do think AA has become a lot friendlier for non-believers. In the meetings I attended, they were really adamant that the “higher power” can be thought of as more of a concept or feeling than like an omniscient being watching over you. It’s definitely spiritual but not necessarily pushing GOD down your throat, I hope that makes sense.

    I’ve been to a lot of meetings and they are definitely all different, so sometimes unlucky people end up with a group they don’t get along with and then they trash the entire program as stupid.

    A lot of the people who attend the meetings are your everyday person, they aren’t like crazy Jesus freaks, they’ve all made mistakes and it’s supposed to be a judgment-free zone. From what I can tell, AA has definitely evolved despite the actual steps being written the same way.

    I think the biggest PRO of AA isn’t that it’s “all about God and faith” but rather, the biggest pro is having that social aspect where there’s real people who can help you stay accountable and who have gone through something similar… religious or not.

    For anyone who has gone to 1-2 “bad” AA meetings I strongly encourage you to shop around until you find that group that fits you. I think AA can be successful because of the shared “group” experience and NOT because it FORCES you to have some sort of spiritual awakening to be considered healed.

  • AA is mos def not bullshit, but it can be difficult for a non believer. I actually have a friend who worked the steps (or still is) and does not believe in God or higher power. He said that it was rough at first. Some were not accepting of his beliefs (not the first time he's run into that though) but he found someone there who was also atheist. He was also put in contact with a sponsor who shared his beliefs. All of that made a HUGE impact on his experience. Not to be cliche here, but it works if you work it. That starts from when you walk in the door! You’re not expecting to have some kind of conversion experience and suddenly find that God has lifted away your obsession to get loaded. There is something to be said about the power of meetings. You can feel it, you can see it and you hear it. One of the first things they ask you to do it to quit playing God in your own life. What that means is you accept REALITY as your higher power. It may take a little leg work, but it is totally possible to have an amazing experience using the 12 Steps w/o believing in God.

  • I’m super active in a sister fellow ship of AA called Heroin Anonymous. I feel as though I can answer most of the questions you asked here. So #1, the reason the steps are not “updated” is because they work, they have been getting hopeless alcoholics sober since the 30’s. There is no reason to change them. The reason they do not have data collected on them is because of tradition within the fellowships. It is to remain completely autonomous and separate from any sect, denomination, institution or organization. AA has worked very hard and evolved over the years to remain non professional so that it is not “ripping people off” there are no dues or fees for membership. The whole debate in wether an atheist can use the steps to get sober is obsolete. The program is spiritual, not religious. I’ve met people who have worked the steps refusing to believe in any type of “god” and been just fine and stayed sober. I think people should stop dissecting the principals behind the program and just accept that it works for people and to leave it alone. It try’s very hard to stay out of public controversy but people seem to pull it in all the time just because it involves the word “God”. Most people come to the program because they have exhausted other options and feel helpless and hopeless, if a true alcoholic or addict cannot set aside prejudice and be willing to to do anything to get sober then they are not ready. They need more pain.
    /end rant
  • There are different groups out there AA being one NA being another but there is also one called atheist Anonymous. N there they have a type of step work that helps ppl with your concern. That is if you would ever want to join in this. You don’t have to go to just AA or NA for that matter. If you look there are tons of groups; gambling Anonymous, sex Anonymous, over eaters Anonymous, you name it they have it. All you have to do is look for it and it’s out there. There’s groups that will help you with any problem that you have you just have to look for it.
  • So dig this, here's what I believe. Fuck religion, religion is a scam, fuck society, the big bang is real. Now let me also tell you that I love AA, I live it. And I work it as a spiritual program. Because spirituality has absolutely nothing to do with religion! While I was doing the second step of AA I actually say down and wrote everything I disliked about religion. I wrote about all the shame and guilt and ridiculousness I went through growing up in a religion. Then I made my own spirituality. Being atheist in itself is a religion to a lot of people. There is conformity and closed mindedness in so many atheist people. I subscribe to NOTHING, not agnostic, not atheist, no labels. Man holy fuck though, thinking about a subatomic particale or less or whatever creating the entire everything including time!!! That makes everything family. Animals, plants, people, light, air, rocks, atoms, everything all related. That's Higher Power stuff to me. AA gives me a place to be siritual in my own way in an all inclusive program. Yeah it's spiritual, but my weird thinking ass is more than welcome into it. If you don't like the twelve steps, don't do them!!! Why do they court order people to go?, I have no freaking clue! You are supposed to be willing to do it. Nobody should be forcing you. If you want to just get sober, or be in recovery forever, that's on you. I do AA to RECOVER. I never spend a dime on AA. It was given to me completely freely. Nobody pressures my for "tithing" like bogus ass churches do. Again if you don't like it you never have to do it. It seems like you're the one expecting AA to have to bend what it's doing to not hurt anyone's feelings. Like AA owes you something. It's for the people it speaks to. You don't have to agree with it or like it. Love and let love. "Recovery" is a big business right now and there is a million options. People should do what speaks to them. I have done it all and AA is all that makes sense to me personally. It gave me the gift of a spiritual life that had nothing to do with money or shame or being organized or an all-knowing man in the sky that makes rules knowing I'm going to fuck up, then judges and condemns me for fucking up. It saved me from all that. Sooooo that's my rant. HAVE A GOOD DAY EVERYBODY! HOPE I RUFFLED SOME FEATHERS! KEEP THE 'OUR FATHER' OUT OF AA MEETINGS AND PEEEEACE TO YOOOOOU!!! ✌️
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