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”.

rose 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. 

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Dave J
Dave J
4 years ago

If defining the organization as a conference is desirable, if maintaining an AA focus is important, if secular allows it to be more inclusive, then keep it simple- Secular AA Conference. Why organizations feel the need to put “international” into their titles is beyond me. Take a look at truly international organizations and you’ll find no general rule to do so. Keep it simple. And if people want to make an acronym out of it, let them. Why you feel the need to do it ahead of time? Almost certainly unnecessary and definitely forces people to think of the acronym… Read more »

joe C
4 years ago

I like “secular.” For bible-phobes we can change the order of the letters. Doctors and Lawyers use IDAA and ILAA respectively. If we were ISAA our gathering could be CISAA ICSAA ISCAA or ISAAC. I agree that our gathering is a conference rather than a convention, in keeping with AA language. Secular includes everyone. I prefer the definition of “neither religious nor irreligious” over “not spiritual.” Our AAAA meeting in Toronto includes at least one church-going Christian. While the group discussion is of a non-religious nature, the attendees don’t have to be; all are welcome. Words and language are more… Read more »

Dan L
Dan L
4 years ago

“”Secular” is a positive word, unlike atheist or agnostic, both of which are based on what a belief doesn’t include.”

I find atheist a very positive word. It smacks much more of honesty.

“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. ”

It’s quite easy to settle the argument on what atheist means. It’s in the dictionary. Perhaps much confusion in the rooms stems from language in the Big Boko and 12&12, which betray a complete misunderstanding of what atheism is.

steve b
steve b
4 years ago

Yes, Secular AA  is a nice name, but do you know what? Somebody else beat you to it: There is already an organization called Secular Organization for Sobriety, or SOS.

Eric C
Eric C
4 years ago

Pat N. has the right idea.  I have posted a position paper on the WAAFT Coffee Shop website and in an email to the WAAFT IAAC board explaining why I think we should be called the International Secular A.A. Conference (ISAAC).

John S
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric C

Below is Eric’s position paper for a suggested name change to ISAAC. You can also download the pdf file:  In favor of ISAAC In favor of ISAAC Eric C., GSR, We Agnostics Group, Traverse City, Michigan (District 11, Area 34) Email:  Let’s change WAAFT IAAC to the International Secular Alcoholics Anonymous Conference, ISAAC. The word “secular” best describes who we are and what we hope to accomplish.  We are not seeking to turn anyone in A.A. into an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, or any other type of unbeliever who might be added to an even more cumbersome title and acronym. … Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  John S

Not in favor of ISAAC – its  such a remembrance of a Biblical Character. I thought WAAFT was wierd as an acronym but it is way better than ISAAC  There is already  The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) works to improve the lives of children and adults who use AAC.  I hear Isaac and I think Abraham Isaac and Jacob then Jesus Joseph and Mary.  I personally don’t need to be reminded of biblical indoctrination every time I thinks of sobriety and our wonderful WAAFT.  Its a pity SOS is already taken