Why do anonymous programs not allow atheism?

It’s discrimination against atheists who might really have alcoholism or an addiction to a narcotic.

I’ve never once seen an atheist being told to leave a meeting. Ever. I was welcomed and gained 23 (and counting) years sobriety despite proclaiming myself an atheist upon arrival at such a program. I’ve since transitioned to a confused agnostic who thinks that what your average Christian needs is a shot of Haldol in the ass (swap Jesus/temple with aliens/mothership and tell me the scriptures don’t sound like what I was spewing?!?).

12 Step programs work just fine for atheists. Ignore the crap you hear swirling around the ‘professional’ communities on this one. I know hundreds of sober atheists.


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I wouldn’t say it’s QUITE discrimination, but I DEFINITELY understand where you’re coming from @mortimermouse. I was caught up in that brainwashing stuff for 2 years, and I tried to ignore the spirituality aspect of it. Unfortunately, it’s such an ingrained facet of the system, it’s hard to divorce it. Having said that, I met a few atheists in it, and they just ignored it. I couldn’t. It was too vital to that form of recovery that it’s VERY hard to look past it. The good thing is you don’t have to be associated with AA/NA/whateverA if you don’t wanna be, so if it’s causing a problem with you, find a different recovery model, if you and can(and if you’re even considering it).

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Spirituality is not religion. In fact, very few religions seem to embrace sprituality. Heaven forbid (pun intended) members of a faith find their own answers.

Spirituality frees. Religion controls.



It is a touchy subject for many of us.
I take what helps for me and leave the rest. Purists hate this approach but I’m not trying to write a book or proselytize either. I’m trying to stay clean!
Personally, I like to take credit for my sobriety and not give it away to something intangible. I may get flack for that but I can honestly say I have no desire to use.
I am proud of myself and consider it a personal accomplishment.


It is VERY difficult to find a progressive group. And it is equally difficult to hear “this ain’t the Burger King program” over and over again if you catch my drift.

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I’ll also add this: If anyone ever finds themselves in a group where they are told they must pray a certain way or believe a certain way according to a particular set of beliefs…


That is not a healthy group. Three signs of a healthy group:

  1. You are made to feel welcome to attend and encouraged to share if comfortable.
  2. You are welcome to find your own way, not have other beliefs jack hammered into you.
  3. The group attracts healthy old-timers. The ones who are cheerful and just radiate peace.

Can’t find a group you like? Start your own! The most basic magic of AA is two drunks sharing with each other, and getting strength from each other. People hear ‘God’, ‘Higher Power’, etc. and just plain lose their ■■■■. That part isn’t important. Sharing and listening, that’s what counts. Go there for that. And the really horrible coffee. :wink:

Edit: The Steps are important (swap God out for Good Orderly Direction if that riles you), but the steps are just a process of introspection where you cut away those parts of you you no longer want or need. It’s through the companionship and support of other addicts we gain the strength to do this. Too much for one person to tackle alone on most days.


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@mortimermouse To answer the title query, because the 12 Step programs were designed to operate on the far more widely accepted, authoritarian belief model rather than the only rarely utilized, egalitarian observation model. That Wilson understood this is strongly suggested by Huxley in his descriptions of his many interactions with Bill. I think Watts wrote about this as well. Maybe Leary and Alpert; I’m not sure. They were all running together. Even Krishnamurti (who was as egalitarian / observant as they come) saw the utility given the nature of the problem.

Some 12 Steppers will transcend the anthropomorphic god model in time; most won’t. But they’ll stay sober. For most, that the best they’ll ever get. And who’s to judge?

I’ve worked in addiction treatment since 1987 (as well as way beyond that since the late '90s… when I wasn’t collapsing into the bipolar dive bombing). I could see how effective the authoritarian, “religious” model was years ago. (Far more people get sober in church than in AA, though they do not get the tools AA provides to be able to stay that way more or less comfortably.)

The Veterans Health System runs the largest addiction treatment system on the planet. The tx model there is firmly authoritarian and confrontational. Though it does not insist upon a “god,” per se, involvement in AA or NA or church (e.g. Celebrate Recovery) is strongly suggested.

I’m no longer conventionally religious (I was raised Pentecostal, btw), and I do not attend that many AA or NA meetings anymore. But I do get to a pair of 11th Step meditation meetings on Sundays, where we sit silently (in one) or listen to John Brashaw (in the other), then share what came up with each other. I love them. (Hey! High-ticket MBSR / MBCT for a coupe of bucks a hit? Works for me.)

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Very thoughtful replies everyone, particularly @velociraptor and @anon40540444, also you @animalchin. I live in the bible belt and they prayed and ■■■■ at the one I went to. It was heavy on the religion. Im heavy on the “I’ve had enough religion for my lifetime”. My doctors both say that I am not an alcoholic anyways.

I do worry about the xanax addiction- it is kosher with my team because I actually do have tremors, which benzos are given a green light for, and I also have ridiculous anxiety which drove me to drink to feel normal before my current meds.

But NA is even more serious than AA in my 22 year old never-been-to-NA opinion. I mean narcotics are illegal to begin with and also very dangerous.

I am worried that my lovely 98/100 on the AAS (addictive) scale on the MMPI-2 will really shine one day and already looked into NA- the ■■■■ was loaded with “Only God can save us” like no thanks nope thats making my schizophrenia worse which is why I am getting drunk and high in the first place, bye!

And thanks @notmoses for your insight, I really have a gripe with

I hate authoritarians.

I found a few old friends when I came back to town and started one.
It’s very intimate in a friend’s studio. We usually start with a guided meditation and discussion follows. The best “meetings” I’ve been to.
A so called “judgement free zone” with incense burning and amazing music. These are the only meetings I attend anymore.

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Exactly. That’s what’s meant by “take what you need and leave the rest.” I do attend regular meetings, but mainly because someone was there for me and now it’s my turn to be there for the next fellow. Besides, we do have one member who likes to swing a bible around so some sort of disruptive influence is needed to keep him from chasing away all the newcomers.


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I have a suggestion for you @mortimermouse. Buy a Big Book, read it and do a 4th step. Don’t pressure yourself, just be honest with it and I really think you will gain insight to your life and possible addictions. Could be the best preemptive strike you’ve ever made. There is a lot at stake here.

Not for nothing, but how is spirituality described? Belief in a spirit or spirit world?

The 12 Step view of things as you’ll most often hear it articulated:

“Religion comes from man. Spirituality comes from God.”

I tend to think of ‘God’ as ‘Good Orderly Direction’, or the support of my fellow addicts. That’s never cost me more than a cup of coffee for a fellow drunk. Religion has cost me dearly and I refuse to let it into my life ever again.

I think your current living circumstances – which are vile – cause one to become confused with the other.


You make an excellent point, kind sir. Right now I am so blind-sided by religion and stuff that I can’t see the forest for the trees. This is my own personal problem, and I own that.

Okay, I can get behind that. Yeah, no religion for me either. EVER!! I’ve had my fill of the absurdity that is religion…enough for several lifetimes. I don’t know how I can go on in this situation. Not like that. Realized that sounded bad. What I mean is I can’t tolerate this for much longer. My wife and I are making progress towards getting out of this situation.


Mouse , if your an atheist I don’t think these meetings will work for you.

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According to twelve step doctrine you are supposed to turn your life over to the care of a higher power “as you understand him or her”. There is no stipulation as to the nature of your higher power. If you can’t believe in God you can find another higher power. Sometimes for atheists they recommend that you use the group as a higher power because they have managed to stay clean and sober when you haven’t. If you want to, you can even use a doorknob as your higher power. The important thing is to find something to follow that is greater than yourself.

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This makes no sense to me. How is a doorknob, something created by man, “higher” than anything? If we are to look at things such as the group for inspiration of a higher power, because they “have managed to stay clean and sober when you haven’t” why don’t we also look to elephants? They are bigger and stronger…certainly more so than a person. How about electricity? Is that a higher power too? You must admit, this is starting to get a little silly.

That’s just what I have heard a few people in AA say. I think the people who said that were being facetious. I was using an extreme example. The point is that you can choose the nature of your higher power, whatever you want it to be - whatever works for you.

That sucks big time. I mean BIG TIME .