Sunday, September 26, 2021

How do you follow the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program if you don't believe in God?

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
Do you just skip steps 2, 3, 6, 7, and 11?
I’m not looking for alternate ways to quit drinking here. I want to know what an atheist does if they’re required by law to attend AA meetings, or if they want to follow the AA program and not another program.


  1. There are other options apart from AA, such as Smart Recovery, Rational Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Secular Organization for Recovery (SOS), and the Lenaire Technique.

  2. If you don’t believe in God, you have to forego AA altogether. Staying addled and dopey from alcohol is really the only way you can relate to and interact with all the Christians around you.

  3. Ugh……
    *takes another drink early in the day*
    I blame God for my drinking problem. Bastard didn’t give me hands to hold the glass so I have to suck my bourbon through a straw.

  4. AA people claim that atheist clients can and have used something like a tree or a rock as their “higher power”.
    But atheist or not, the whole 12-step program is just personally degrading and has statistically shown itself as being no better than quitting on one’s own. There are infinitely better programs out there.

  5. Exactly. Which is why there are such organizations as Rational Recovery for nonreligious people who feel they want help with their drinking issues:
    Also, check out this book about resisting 12-step coercion:
    and this yahoo group on the same topic:
    Peele also has an interesting book called, “Diseasing of America: How We Allowed Recovery Zealots and the Treatment Industry to Convince Us We Are Out of Control”

  6. I once joined a Buddhist sangha that was chock full of AA members. These folks said that they decided to become Buddhists to comply with their 12-step program w/o having to “believe in” “God.” Ironically, as Buddhists “atheists,” they were all freaked out about dying with more “demerits” than “merits” on their spiritual scorecard and ending up in a fire&brimstone hell realm. To say the least, I didn’t stay a Buddhist for very long.

  7. I tried, I really tried and just could not do it. I could not perform the mental gymnastics required.
    Some, evidently, can ignore the cognitive dissonance, I couldn’t. I bounced in and out of AA for years, trying to figure out how an atheist could work the program with no success. I was unable to stay sober until I turned my back on AA, took responsibility for my addiction and my recovery.
    I’ve talked to every self-proclaimed “atheist” that I could find in the rooms, the majority were NOT atheists, they just didn’t believe in a Christian God. My counselor in treatment claimed to be an atheist. He had a PhD in Philosophy and didn’t seem to understand the definition of “atheist”. He said that he had a Higher Power that he prayed to, that answered his prayers, but he didn’t call this Higher Power “God”, so that made him an atheist.
    Ol’ Bill did that too, called himself an atheist in his younger years, but also said he never lost faith in the Creator. I don’t think Bill was very big on religious thought, he didn’t understand that The Lord’s Prayer was Christian:
    “Also, it is sometimes complained that the Lord’s Prayer is a Christian document. Nevertheless this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the arguments of its Christian origin seems to be a little farfetched.”
    The current list of courts that have ruled mandated AA to be unconstitutional is:
    The New York Court of Appeals.
    The Second Federal District Court. (NY, VT, CT)
    The Seventh Federal District Court. (WI, IN, IL)
    The Ninth Federal District Court. (MT, ID, WA, OR, NV, CA, AZ, HI, AK)
    The Tennessee Supreme Court.
    I would urge anyone in the other states to fight it, they are almost guaranteed a win if they are willing to stick it out. Otherwise, fake it. Mouth the words for as long as you need to go. Find one of the alternative support groups or one of the ‘recovery from AA’ groups online and vent.


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