By Pat N.
A Rose is a Rose
My brother Dick, who led both me and our older brother into AA, died recently, and family members made sure he had various Catholic, Jewish, and New Age rituals to send him off. I’m sure he appreciated the sincerity and love behind all their efforts, but I’m also sure he was amused, since he was an early member of the We Agnostics AA group in L.A.
This reminds me that selecting a new name for WAAFT is one of the most important things which will happen at our international convention next month. WAAFT has served us well so far, but it is unwieldy, and tries to cover an array of beliefs much wider than just “atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers”.
We have each reached a sober set of beliefs by which we perceive the Universe and direct our actions. We may find our beliefs evolving, and the label we prefer for them changes as well. At various times, I call myself atheist or agnostic or freethinker interchangeably, and I don’t really care what I’m called. The philosophical reasons to choose one or the other just aren’t that important to me, although I respect those who really care.
What I believe is that we all do the best we can, including with issues like this. I cannot judge your reasons for believing what you do, and what you call that set of beliefs, any more than I want you to judge me. Our one common, bedrock belief, and what brought us together in the first place, is that we couldn’t drink safely and wanted to stop. Our brothers and sisters in AA, believers and nonbelievers alike, taught us how. Our second common belief is that we don’t need to share religious or philosophical beliefs in order to get sober together and help others achieve sobriety. In fact, as we know too well, trying to force a set of beliefs on the struggling alcoholic is a surefire way to screw up the process.
Some of the other terms folks like us use are secularist, humanist, deist, and many others. It would be ludicrous to just expand our movement’s name to “WAAFTSHDetc”, and if we tried, we might wind up arguing about the order our favorite term is listed. We need a single, acccepted term.
I cast my vote for SECULAR to be the core of our new label — something like “Secular AA Sobriety”, although I’m not certain of the best set of words.
Here are my reasons:
• “Secular” has always been used to distinguish church and state. While AA isn’t a state, the same principle of official neutrality ought to be emphasized;
• ”Secular” is a positive word, unlike atheist or agnostic, both of which are based on what a belief doesn’t include.
• It’s simple. I’ve heard or taken part in conversations in which people debate the meaning of either “atheist” or “agnostic”, and while entertaining, they rarely resulted in agreement. Secular just means “no official religious belief”. It doesn’t mean nonbelief in a god or uncertainty about a god. It just means irrelevant to a belief in a god. And belief in a god, generic or specific, IS irrelevant to sobriety.
I’m secular, and my remaining brother is active in both AA and the Catholic church, but neither of us is “more sober”. Religion may help many, but it’s not necessary. Nor should the beliefs of others keep us drunk.
Let’s just be secular. And sober.
About the Author, Pat N.
Pat N. is from Olympia Washington and is one of the organizers of the Widening Our Gateway Secular AA Convention that was held in Olympia on January 16, 25016. Pat will be a keynote speaker at the We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Convention that will be held in Austin, Texas from November 11th through the 13th of this year. You can learn more about Pat in the podcast we posted on August 31st, On the Road to Austin with Pat N.