As America becomes more pluralistic, organized religion is not the only institution that is changing. Alcoholics Anonymous, influenced by co-founder Bill Wilson’s religious experience in the Oxford Group, is beginning to change as secular humanists gain a voice within the organization through the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention:
“They had this fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude,” recalled Glenn, 72. “This feeling that the religion will catch up with you. It worked in the sense that I got sober. But I got weary of it. It felt mindless.”
After 10 years without alcohol, Glenn ordered a glass of wine and spent the next five years suffering from what he wryly diagnoses now as “the merlot flu.”
Soon after resuming A.A., though, he heard about a meeting designed for atheists. Though he found that group dogmatic in its own way — more concerned with criticizing religion than with reinforcing sobriety — he subsequently discovered a meeting for humanists and freethinkers.
In its “fellowship of concerned, loving people,” he said, he found a secular version of the “Higher Power” to which A.A. literature refers. Humanist A.A. groups also have drafted their own nontheistic versions of the 12 steps. Instead of needing divine assistance for recovery, for example, one step states that “we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.”
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