Can you be an atheist in 12 Step Fellowships?
we received this email from an alanon listener
Last night, I went with my wife to an open AA big book study meeting. The meeting format starts with a reading from the big book, with interpretation and elaboration by one person. Then they break for 10 minutes and people can put questions into the “ask it basket”. The second part of the meeting consists of the leader pulling questions from the basket and reading them, with anyone in the meeting giving their answer or understanding. It’s a 90 minute meeting, total.
Last night, they read steps 6 and 7 (3 paragraphs). The first question was “If I’m an atheist, who removes my character defects?” As you might imagine, this sparked a lot of sharing. A couple of statements really bothered me. I’d like to hear y’all’s reactions. I understand that each person’s experience and view is their own, but these statements were said so forcefully and confidently that if I had been a newcomer, it might have driven me away.
One person stated, flat out, “If you can’t believe in God, then you’re not a real alcoholic and you don’t belong here.” Another person made a similar statement, “You can’t be an atheist and be in AA.” I will note that there were a couple of people who said “I am an atheist, and this program works for me.” But there was a definite undercurrent of “if you can’t believe, get out.”Later, someone said “if you don’t believe in God, then please don’t sponsor *real alcoholics*”. My thought was “what the F*** is a ‘real alcoholic’?” (That phrase was used by more than one person.)
The answer of course is yes, so how do we help the atheist in recovery, inside the walls of 12 Step Fellowships?
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