Episode 53: Secular AA

In this week’s episode of AA Beyond Belief the Podcast, I speak with Courtney S., the webmaster for Secular AA, a new service organization created by the Board of Directors of ICSAA that consolidates the functions previously performed by WAAFT Central, Agnostic AA NYC, and WAAFT IAAC. 

Secular AA now maintains the worldwide agnostic AA meeting directory that was previously managed for the past sixteen years by Deirdre S. at agnosticaanyc.org. It serves as a repository of information, resources, and experience that was previously housed by WAAFT Central, and it is responsible for the biennial international convention of agnostics, atheists, and freethinkers in AA formerly known as WAAFT IAAC. 

Secular AA is coming of age. We agnostics, atheists, and freethinkers of Alcoholics Anonymous, we secularists are now more organized and united than at any time in our long history. We are leveraging our resources more efficiently, taking advantage of this newfound synergy to continue with our great contribution to AA, as described by our Fellowship’s co-founder Bill W. “We are widening the gateway so that all who may suffer might pass through, regardless of belief or lack of belief.”

There are three websites under the umbrella of Secular AA, each serving a specific purpose: secularaa.org, secularaa.com, and secularaa.net. Let’s now take a look at each site. 

SecularAA.org

At secularaa.org, you will find resources and information of interest to people who are seeking a secular experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are resources available to help start secular AA meetings, such as meeting scripts, pamphlets, and flyers. There is a system for finding others in your community who may be interested in starting a secular AA meeting. There are histories of agnostic AA groups and photographs of meeting spaces. There are links to agnostic AA group websites and, other resources of interest to secular people in AA. If you are looking for a secular AA roundup or convention, those will be listed here as well. This site is a one-stop shop for all things secular AA.

Secular AA describes itself in this statement found on the About page: “Our scope is International to serve the Secular AA community. We are an International network that supports the Agnostic, Atheist and Freethinker in AA. Our purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety, to widen the gateway to recovery, and to help make AA ever more inclusive.” (About Secular AA)

Secular AA Meeting Directory

My favorite feature is the meeting directory. The site uses a program for the meeting list that is used by Intergroups and AA Central Offices all over the world. The New York City Intergroup and the Toronto Intergroup, for example, both use this program, as do many others.

The developers at Meeting Guide created a mobile application that will automatically update meeting information after an AA Intergroup or Central Office updates their meeting list. This way users will have access to the most up-to-date meeting information. If every entity in AA that lists meetings used this program, any individual using the app would have the most current meeting information no matter where in the world they may find themselves.

The directory includes a sophisticated search feature, using filters and a text search box. When you first access the site, the default view will be of the meetings that are occurring on the particular day you access the site. To find a meeting in a specific location, time and day,  you will need to use the filters.

I created this short video as a tutorial on how to use the new international meeting directory.

SecularAA.com

This site is devoted solely to the International Conference of Secular AA. All information about ICSAA will be posted here. Ticket sales will be processed securely through the site. Courtney has installed state of the art ticketing software that will help with accounting and make the experience easier for the end user. There is information on the site about the host city, which in 2018 is Toronto, Ontario. If you would like to tour Toronto, there will be useful information about the city and other events that will be taking place around the time of our convention. 

SecularAA.com describes itself on the About page with the following statement: 

The International Conference of Secular AA will host the 3rd International ICSAA in Toronto on August 24-26 of 2018. The Host Committee welcomes Conference Participants to visit one of the cleanest and friendliest large cities in North America. Our city has a well-known history of Tolerance and Free thought. A great location to fellowship with our friends in the Secular (Without God) AA movement. Come join us and be welcome!

SecularAA.net

This site is devoted to the business of the Board of Directors of Secular AA and ICSAA. Much of the information is accessible only to Board members, but this is where information can be found to view meeting minutes and financial information about the organization. Because the board consists of people from around the world, the meetings are done via video conference, and those meeting can be accessed at this site. Board members also can post board business in the forum on the site.

You can find contact information for board members on the Contacts Page.

Thank you for listening to the podcast. I hope that you have found this informational and useful. Please don’t hesitate to send any questions that you may have through the Contact Page at SecularAA.org.

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  1. Joe C. April 4, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I’m late to the party giving my shout-out which is two thumbs up. I’ve had a log-jam of activity and I’m a little behind in my podcast consumption. This would be a great listen for anyone fairly new to us; it’s a good list of resources, how-to and history.

    It is vital to record our history by member, group and other gatherings. You are helping us all to have an online archive of the ongoing history of AA. Courtney talked about how emotional he was, reading the history of the first 1975 Chicago AA group for atheists and agnostics. A sense of identity is reinforced by knowing our history. As an aside, we have much to learn from other underrepresented populations in AA. The history of women, African Americans, young-people, the LGBTQ populations and others all have stories that include AA’s hic-ups with broadening our gateway. Every year at this time in Sedona, there is a gathering of AA History Lovers. Last year, I learned more about the first Gay/Lesbian groups and the first African American AA members. So much to learn from AA’s rich history. I presented on the ongoing history or agnostics/atheists, in part from primary research in GSO archives but also what I’ve learned from our community and great websites like this and others that support our community.

    Some news from Toronto:

    We’re feeling a sense of urgency about our one-day Secular Ontario AA Roundup (SOAAR) gathering called “Live and Let Live.” It’s September 16th which just doesn’t seem so far away when it comes to planning and outreach.

    Hold September 1, 2017 as a date to remember. Nigel will be starting to schedule regular newsletters leading up to September. I’ve volunteered to work with Thomas B on outreach. I hope we can find liaisons for groups and regions. On September 1, The Marriott will be able to start taking room bookings for ICSAA 2018 September 24 – 26, 2018. Once members are registered, I hope people start thinking about how you will want to participate – put on a workshop, volunteer, chair or offer a panel topic idea. We hope people can come early or stay late.

    There’s a lot to see and do in Toronto – art, shopping, urban hiking, biking, sports/entertainment, music, museums, science centers and more. Niagara Falls is only an hour and a half away, too. If you’ve never been, it’s a great side-trip. I travel a lot; if you drive, Toronto is 10-12 hours from New York City, 8 hours from Chicago and 4 hours from Detroit or Cleveland.

    Nice job gents. It’s great to learn more about our community from behind the scenes. To echo the thoughts of others, it’s a lot of work and I hope you both know that the effort doesn’t go unnoticed or under-appreciated. Thank you.

     

  2. Sam E March 30, 2017 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Really fantastic job gents!!!

  3. J blaiie March 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Fine work for all writers, researchers, and those who share. Makes a difference for me.

     

  4. Phil Griffing March 29, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Outstanding work by talented and dedicated folks! Thanks!!

    I am unable to search and find the secret Secular AA Coffeehouse group in Facebook. How can I become a member? Are there other secret secular AA groups out there? Many thanks again!

    • John S March 29, 2017 at 7:33 pm Reply

      Phil, I will send you an email to join add you to the group. Let me know if that doesn’t work.

  5. Jerry F. March 29, 2017 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much Courtney and John for this informative podcast. I am amazed at the sheer amount of work that has been accomplished since Austin and at the degree of organization and sophistication of this new board.

    One point that wasn’t made but that should be emphasized: all of this staggering amount of work is being done by volunteers. This is pure service work for which we – secularists in AA – are very grateful. Well done, guys, really well done.

    • John S March 29, 2017 at 1:21 pm Reply

      Thanks, Jerry. I’m amazed at how organized we are getting and it makes me wonder if other interest groups in AA are this mobilized. I look forward to our being represented in greater numbers at the General Service Conference and I think the only way to achieve this is to grow our groups by making it known that it’s okay to be a nonbeliever in AA. As newcomers find our meetings and our numbers grow, we will need to instill a culture of service to get people from our groups involved at all areas of service. When we are represented in great numbers, we should be able to effect real change at the Conference level and in my humble opinion (and I could be wrong), we need to change.  

      In my lifetime, I want to see the Conference approve a book that addresses our program of recovery in language that is as acceptable to the secularist as it is to the religious members. We need this in my opinion.

      I’m rambling now, but again thank you for all of your work for the cause too. It’s been amazing to be part of this.

  6. Bob K. March 29, 2017 at 11:18 am - Reply

    I’ve been on some committees and organized some events, so I’m not naïve about the work that goes on in the background. Nonetheless, I was astonished by the behind-the-scenes complexity of all the Secular AA stuff. Thanks for pulling back the curtain, and thanks for operating the levers.

    Re: Jim Burwell. Jimmy got sober initially on January, 1938 – “Here I was, thirty-nine years old and a complete washout. Nothing had worked.” (4th Edition, P. 219) Jimmy came to New York where he detested the “spiritual angle,” and all the “God talk.” In effect, he went to war with the support group – NOT a good idea – and he relapsed on a business trip.

    When he humbly returned to the group, he did not convert, he merely debated less often, and less vociferously. He got sober again on June 16, 1938, and stayed sober until his death on September 8, 1974, at 76 and sober 36+ years. Jimmy was proud of his AA oldtimer status, and certainly wanted his story in the Second Edition. He had been bypassed for the First Edition stories as he was not seen as being in the MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED category. Half of the more Godly “chosen ones” drank again. Jim did not.

    I think he agreed to some editing that softened his “No God” position, in order to have his story appear in the book. The 1968 Grapevine piece, “Sober Thirty Years,” makes clear that he never adopted a supernatural higher power.

  7. Thomas B. March 29, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Excellent information for our Secular AA community. Thank you John and Courtney for the incredible services your provide to insure that the inclusive hand of AA is always available for any alcohol addict who has a desire to stop using.

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