Secular groups remind Toronto: alcoholics can be good without god

Saskatoon’s next Secular Organizations for Sobriety meeting is on June 12th.

Repeats: 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Avenue Community Centre, 201-320 21st St. W., Saskatoon, SK

A secular group in Toronto called Beyond Belief had been listed with Alcoholics Anonymous there up until Tuesday. AA pitched a hissy after Beyond Belief posted a modified 12 step list on their site, with the god parts removed. Another group, We Agnostics, had barely finished their paperwork for joining but got the boot, too. Guilt by association, I guess.

The name of God appears four times in the Twelve Steps and echoes the period in which they were written — the 1930s. It invites those seeking sobriety to turn themselves over to God, who will remove their “defects of character.” They go on to speak of God’s will for the recovering alcoholic.

“They (the altered Twelve Steps) are not our Twelve Steps,” says an AA member who was at Tuesday’s meeting of the coordinating body known as the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup. “They’ve changed them to their own personal needs. They should never have been listed in the first place.”

I’d like to know his rationale for why. I also can’t tell if he means their list, or their group entirely. He’s quoted in the next paragraph as liking the Lord’s prayer and thinks it should good enough for people to step out of the circle if they don’t want to say it. (Presumably the prayer will still work effectively via osmosis?) “He’s doing what he needs to do for him.”

Okay, but if this other guy doesn’t want to pray, shouldn’t secular options be open for him? And shouldn’t those options be listed with AA so people don’t have to hunt all over the place for the information they want?

Maybe Beyond Belief shouldn’t have taken it on themselves to rewrite the steps that make AA exclusively godly. Maybe they just should have made their own independent list. It’s hard to tell by the article if they wanted their version to completely replace AA’s or if they just wanted theirs on the site in addition.

The article quotes a 50 years sober Catholic priest, Pete Watters.

“People and agencies can help,” Watters says, “but the only one who can restore that person to permanent sobriety is God. But that’s the God of your understanding — that can be anything you want.”

Bullshit. It doesn’t matter if people want to pretend GOD is an acronym for “good, orderly, direction.” The notion that one must follow a religious tradition as the only way to remain off the booze happens to be outrageously outdated. It does a great disservice to those in need of help when people continue to parrot this misinformation at truth. Even if they really do believe it, it’s still wrong. Secular versions of AA are proving it’s wrong every time they have a meeting.

Does AA, with its world-wide membership, and 500 weekly meetings in Toronto alone, actually feel threatened by that? A few rinky-dink secular groups are standing up and saying god’s not a necessary step for regaining sobriety and the giant AA is suddenly on the defensive? Do they fear a 21st century David and Goliath showdown here?

We know who won that. Maybe that’s why.

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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7 Responses to Secular groups remind Toronto: alcoholics can be good without god

  1. Laurance says:

    Hi-ho, Minion…and here I am responding on your blog again. I’m involved in the anti-AA movement. We heard this news when one of our members posted about it on without_aa, which is one of the anti-AA yahoo groups. There’s also EFTCoaa (Escaping From The Cult of aa), blamedenial, and 12-Step_Coercion_Watch, as well as 12-step-free which is the granddaddy of the anti-AA groups.

    We find ourselves (with the exception of one or two people) wondering why on earth bother re-working the AA steps at all. Alcoholics Anonymous is a stand-alone religion – the better known of the two sects that Buchmanism split into (the other one is Initiatives of Change). Despite the insistence that it’s “spiritual, not religious”, the fact is that whenever AA gets taken to court, it’s found to be religious, and that coercion into AA is unconstitutional. Despite the pretense that each member chooses hir own god, the fact remains that the chosen god is supposed to remove the desire to drink, remove character defects upon demand, and be available on a conscious level through prayer and meditation.

    Why bother? Why try to re-write the steps? Why try to agnostify and atheise AA? Presbyterianism Without God? Methodism Minus Prayer? Jesus-Free Catholicism? AA Without God? Gimme a break!

    Some of our forum members who want a group or method to stay sober are using SMART Recovery ( ). There’s also harm reduction ( ). Then again, most people who get off the hootch do so without any group.

  2. Joe C says:

    Great post, thanks. The world is full of irony. It would almost make me a believer. Toronto Intergroup wants to supress a secular alternative to recovery and they make it Front Page News.

    The secular Steps (agnostic Steps) have been around for years. The first Agnostic AA meeting was 1975. NYC aa agnostics has a world directory. There are several versions of God-free 12 Steps. BF Skinner wrote a Humanist Version which strips all the Christian morality out as well as the theistic focus.

    Beyond Belief and We Agnostics will have our own website, hotline, “how to start an agnostic AA meeting” outreach page, etc, all coming soon. We have a couple of SOS members. I’ve read and enjoyed the book. It’s great to know your out here. Keep in touch. we’ll link to you if you like.

  3. 1minionsopinion says:

    Can if you want, yeah. Thanks =)

  4. Janet K says:

    You said it – “bullshit.” Unfortunately Addictions Services in Saskatchewan is promoting this BS and alternatives are often predicted to fail. But AA isn’t failproof – even true believers have failed and that must be quite a blow for people who have made that leap of faith.
    Thanks for mentioning SOS Group of Saskatoon. The webpage is here.

  5. 1minionsopinion says:

    Thanks for the link, Janet. I should have looked for that myself but never thought of it at the time.

  6. Pingback: The Images of Support Groups | Beit T'Shuvah

  7. 1minionsopinion says:

    Sorry for the delay in getting your comment up, Laurance. Darn thing was sitting in pending all this time. I’m such a procrastinator!

    Thanks for the additional links. It’s good to know there’s a variety of support systems out there to pick up the secular slack.

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