Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alcoholics Anonymous, Without the Religion

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/22/us/alcoholics-anonymous-without-the-religion.html

Three floors above a Manhattan street of loading docks and coffee shops, in a functional room of folding chairs and linoleum tile, a man who introduced himself as Vic began to speak. “Today is my 35th anniversary,” he said. The dozen people seated around him applauded, and several even whooped in support.

By most overt measures, this gathering two weeks ago was just another meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of its multitude of meetings worldwide. At the session’s end an hour later, however, as the participants clasped hands, instead of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in usual A.A. fashion, they said together, “Live and let live.”

This meeting, as the parting phrase suggests, is one of a growing number within A.A. that appeal to nonreligious people in recovery, who might variously describe themselves as agnostics, atheists, humanists or freethinkers. While such groups were rare even a decade ago, now they number about 150 nationally. A first-ever convention will be held in November in Santa Monica, Calif.

The boom in nonreligious A.A. represents another manifestation of a more visible and confident humanist movement in the United States, one that has featured public figures such as Bill Maher, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens. Yet this recent trend within A.A. also marks a departure from the organization’s traditional emphasis on religion.

“A.A. starts at its core with honesty,” said Dorothy, 39, who heads the steering committee for the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention. “And how can you be honest in recovery if you’re not honest in your own beliefs? If you don’t believe in the God they’re praying to, that’s not honest practice.”

(A.A. members hold to a tradition of not being identified by full name. I sat in on a portion of one secular A.A. meeting with the advance consent of the attendees.)

Seven of A.A.’s famous 12 steps refer either to a deity — “God,” “Him” or “a Power greater than ourselves” — or to religious practices such as prayer. The ultimate goal of sobriety, as the final step states, is to achieve a “spiritual awakening.” Besides the Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer is a staple of A.A. meetings.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/22/us/alcoholics-anonymous-without-the-religion.html

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