Why You Must Go to Austin

By John S.

If you attended the first We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Convention in 2014, then you are one of some three hundred people who experienced a very special and unique event. I would even say it was an historic event. I arrived late on Friday night, the first night of the conference and I missed the fellowship speakers. When I made my way over to the church, I was in time for the business meeting. I knew nobody other than Dorothy H. and my friend R.J., yet I didn’t really feel that I was among strangers. I immediately felt at home.

At that meeting, it was decided to add “Atheists” to the name of the conference, changing it from We Agnostics and Freethinkers International AA Convention to We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA ConventionI was happy with the change since I identify as an atheist, and it was certainly in the spirit of widening the gateway. People were happy at that business meeting. It was peaceful and people were polite and deferential, and there was an air of excitement in the room that I just can’t explain. I think we all felt that we were in a special place and time.

Never have I attended an AA  Convention like this. It was like AA was brand new. We had workshops on how to start new meetings, and it seemed that I would almost always run into someone who had either started a meeting or was going to start one when they returned home. The speakers were amazing, we had the General Manager of the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous and a former Non-Alcoholic Trustee of the General Service Board. I was blown away by these speakers as was the rest of the crowd— all of them received standing ovations and very warm applause.

At the time, I was still young in my journey as an atheist in AA and I was still trying to find my way. It was helpful for me to meet people with such a varied experience, and such interesting perspectives on the program. This was all totally new to me and I know there were others there just like me.

When I returned home, I stayed in touch with people I met in Santa Monica, and I’m still connected with those people today. My how they have changed my life! Prior to Santa Monica, my AA world was contained pretty much within the borders of Missouri and Kansas. Now my AA world has expanded to the point where there are no borders.

Had you told me in November of 2014, that I would be operating a website, hosting a podcast, and helping to create an organization to support secular people in recovery, I would have thought you crazy. Yet that’s my life today! I honestly can’t think of any other AA event that has had as much an impact on my life as did the We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Convention.

If there were three hundred people at the convention in Santa Monica, I would bet that we will double that number in Austin. In 2014, I was the only person from Missouri at the convention. In 2016, I bet we could have about 10 or 15 from Kansas City. Now, imagine that experience replicated in other cities. That’s a movement!

You absolutely must find a way to get to Austin and attend this convention. You will reconnect with old friends and make new friends. You will feel more connected to the fellowship, and you will be inspired to do the hard work necessary to ensure that AA becomes ever more inclusive, tolerant, and available for all.

I hope you attend. I look forward to seeing you

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Victoria R (
Victoria R ('Vic')
4 years ago

Hi , from all the way over in Australia. I can’t begin to tell you how critical AA Beyond Belief and Agnostica have been in helping me to keep coming back to my local and mostly traditional (Melbourne) AA meetings. My recovery efforts in AA (multiple relapses and rehabs, two – nearly 3 – sponsors, and Steps work, etc) have played out in a gargantuan struggle over the past four years in particular. We have only one agnostic meeting in this State – and indeed, the whole of Australia – despite Australia being quite a bit less a religiously-oriented society compared… Read more »

Victoria R (
Victoria R ('Vic')
4 years ago

Just had a thought, which the planning committee may or may not have considered: it is possible / viable to run ‘live’ podcasts of each session so that those of us who can’t be there in Austin can enjoy the spirit of it all? If not in real time, then maybe posted a few hours afterwards online? It would be such a help!

Warm regards again,


Victoria R (
Victoria R ('Vic')
4 years ago
Reply to  John S

Thanks so much for sharing that very important part of your story, John. Wow……I knew only a little, from just this Sunday a.m., listening to you and Benn discussing Steps 1 and 2, and halfway through 3. I nod my head at pretty much all of it – including the skewering of the many weird / inconsistent / downright antiquated stuff at times: love it. Scratches right where I tend to itch with dear old AA discourse 🙂 Very good to hear you’ll do some poddies. Full sessions and / or speakers would also be terrific if technically / financially… Read more »

Benn B
Benn B
4 years ago

I really enjoyed the first convention. It truly was unlike anything AA-related I had ever attended. AA felt fresh and new and it was freeing to be around other people who thought similarly to how I thought and had many of the same concerns I’d found myself having. In traditional AA meetings I would sometimes feel like I was kind of insane thinking some of the stuff I was hearing seemed a bit unhealthy. I found out I was not alone. We have the permission to have our own beliefs (and non-beliefs about recovery/AA/sobriety) about how to do this deal… Read more »