A controversy about the place for atheists in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been spreading throughout the recovery organization, according to The Fix (June 14), a newsletter reporting on America’s drug and rehab culture.
The controversy started when two AA meetings that cater to atheists and agnostics were expelled from Toronto’s official directory. The meetings in question had adapted their own version of the 12 Steps, leaving out the part about the higher power. The incident raised a furor in AA circles around the world, bringing up questions about how monolithic its culture should be throughout the various meetings. The two meetings were more agnostic in orientation rather than atheist, but their removal of the AA clause to seek help from “God as we understand him” led some members from several “God-focused AAs” to report the agnostic “sects” to the organization’s administration.
Although the leadership responded that a belief in God is not a requirement for membership, the effort to oust the agnostic groups gained the support of 30 groups (among 200) in Toronto. The ousting ignited protests from other AA members who had similar experiences of their “freethinker” or agnostic groups being excluded. An anonymously authored “White Paper on Non-Believers” was circulated last year among various representatives that criticized the “sobriety without God” camp in AA. But the newsletter adds that agnostic and God-based AA groups in New York, San Francisco and Chicago have long coexisted. Writer Jesse Beach speculates that the decline in membership in AA (a 5.6 percent drop from 2000 to 2008) may be leading to the need for a scapegoat.
(The Fix, http://www.thefix.com)