Conference Question – Literature for We Agnostics?

The Delegate for Southern California Area 05, Thomas B, is interested in your thoughts on the subject of “conference approved” literature for agnostics and atheists in AA. Both the re-publication of “The ‘God’ Word’ pamphlet, originally published by AA in Great Britain, and a request to create a new pamphlet for atheists and agnostics in AA are on the Agenda at this year’s AA General Service Conference, to be held April 22 – 28. Both of these agenda items are shared below.

To quote Thomas: “In AA we make decisions only after much loving discussion and a thorough hearing of minority opinions. Thanks and have fun!”


By Thomas B.

Literature

A. Consider a request that AA (U.S./Canada) publish “The God Word” (a pamphlet currently published by the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Great Britain).

The trustees’ Literature Committee has forwarded a request from both an area in Florida and a group in Kansas City, Missouri to publish or adapt “The God Word” (a pamphlet currently published by the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Great Britain).

The (Florida) area’s rationale states:

There is a pamphlet that was approved by the General Service Conference of Great Britain Titled, The “God” Word, which consists of stories by AA members who identify as atheist or agnostic.

We would like to have the General Service Conference in North America Consider publishing this pamphlet to be made available for AA members in the United States and Canada.

The (Kansas City, Missouri) group’s rationale states:

We would like to include [the pamphlet] in our newcomer’s packets, but it is difficult and expensive to order from the U.K. Here is a link to the pamphlet: The “God” Word.

I understand there is a history of the General Service Conference adopting other pamphlets from Great Britain, and we believe this pamphlet will fill a need among the general membership of Alcoholics Anonymous in North America.

B. Consider a request for the development of a pamphlet for atheist and agnostic AA Members.

The trustees’ Literature Committee forwarded a request from Area 93 in California and an individual member for the development of a pamphlet for atheist and agnostic members. The area’s request states, “This would not be a rewrite of the Spirituality Many Paths pamphlet, but a brand new pamphlet.”

The full background material contains supportive rationale from Area 93, including:

  • The Spirituality Many Paths pamphlet was a good start but that it had actually detoured from the original intent. The original intention was a pamphlet for the Atheist/Agnostic members and newcomers who had a big problem with “the God Thing”.
  • The delisting and refusal to list Atheist/Agnostic meetings in certain Central Office directories is not what AA is all about – especially since we are “spiritual and not religious”. The Toronto lawsuit is a prime example of Central Offices doing something that really goes against the principles of The Traditions.
  • An AA pamphlet like this would go a long way to making sure that AA would have something to affirm that we are in fact spiritual and not religious.
  • This literature would also go a long way to let those newcomers who come to AA know that their belief or lack of belief is very much OK and they are welcome.

A letter submitted by an AA member is included in the full background material.

Some of the points raised:

  • The pamphlet “Many Paths to Spirituality,” while addressing some of the issues atheists and agnostics experience when first encountering AA, still leaves a lot to be desired. First, no atheist or agnostic would pick up (or click on at the AA website) a pamphlet entitled, “Many Paths to Spirituality,” because to an atheist or an agnostic, “spirituality” and “religion” are the same thing.
  • Creating a pamphlet specifically for atheists and agnostics would go a long way to dispel the misconception that AA is a religious institution, and would increase the chances that an alcoholic atheist or agnostic will be able to find a path to sobriety.

The background material also includes a reference to past Conference Advisory Actions regarding the development of the Conference-approved pamphlet “Many Paths to Spirituality” which opens with Bill W’s wonderfully comprehensive statement of AA’s spirit of tolerance, respect and inclusion:

Newcomers are approaching AA at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.


 


Thomas B’s sobriety date is March 17, 2000. Nineteen years ago, he was a hopeless alcoholic living a wasted, desperate shattered life. Alcoholics Anonymous saved his life. And when Thomas realized the enormity of the gift that he had been given, his AA sponsor, an atheist, made it clear to Thomas that “Into Action” means we accept responsibility to pass AA’s message of hope and recovery onward, and to perform and strengthen the services required to help make available to others what we ourselves have freely received. By application of the steps, Thomas has had his once shattered health, personal and family relationships and livelihood restored. Thomas is today a legal professional, residing in West Los Angeles with his wife. Devoted to 12th step work in all its forms, he serves as the Chairperson of AA’s 68th Conference Committee on Cooperation with the Professional Community, and is grateful for the opportunity to represent the collective voice of the 1,500 groups and 47,000 members of Southern California Area 05 as their elected Delegate to the General Service Conference.


Area 05 SC


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  1. Hal C April 3, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    When this was brought up in our CARC2 meeting, the reply was that they were afraid the next step would be to change the big book. Your rational thinking, but those who are religious can arrive at that conclusion. We are talking about a pamphlet. Linda religious people hear about a pamphlet, they will think we are trying to change AA. So we must end up explaining that we are not trying to change AA but we are trying to be more inclusive.

    • life-j April 4, 2018 at 4:12 pm Reply

      Hal, the thing is, maybe we ARE trying to change AA?

      I am, anyway. I know it won’t be an overnight thing, or if it will even ever happen, but we have to consider that if AA helps 5-10%, and there are 15% agnostics in the US population, maybe 20-25 among alcoholics, I think we tend to be more of an un-godly bunch, this leaves, give or take, around 70% who are not helped by AA and who are not necessarily not being helped because they are agnostics, so there must be other reasons why AA does not work for people than the god stuff, though there are probably some who are religious, but still don’t like getting their religion and their recovery mixed up. Other than that? Old language, too much ritual, too much hand holding, and perhaps even just too much plain nonsense.

      I think we really do have to aim toward changing all of AA. I wouldn’t bother trying to change the Big Book at all. In fact, just keep the first edition, make a separate book with stories, and make some new literature. The really odd thing is AA is so resistant to making anything new. Put the big book up on the top shelf, along with most of the other old literature, and keep it as our foundation documents (which would make me much more inclined to show it respect than if they actually want me to use the damn things) – and then make some all new, current literature, which would probably sell like hotcakes – if the religious folks didn’t get to make all the decisions.

      We aren’t trying to hurt anyone by changing AA, we’re just trying to reach more people. I know that to some the religious aspect of AA is more important than recovery, just like it was for the oxford group, but me, I’m only looking at what we can do to help more people stop their alcohol abuse, and I can’t help but think that doing it is more important than how we do it. We just need whatever works the best, and the religion doesn’t seem to.

  2. Roland H. April 2, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Hi, your outsiders of Mexico:

    they gives me the name Roland same 74 years in oll Germany, still to meeting going.There’s no need to say about the most dominant confession, catholic here , but anyway, get same close encounters with evangelic AA’s too. It refresh my heart to learn about the Beyond Beliefers .

    Personally to be more or less obligated to pray, makes me feel sad, I belief in another kind of “God” the universal love of the creator and I’m still wondering of love in all forms.

    Isn’t there same mention of this “Higher Power” LOVE in our literature?

    Thank very much about this working your peoples is doing, and as they say here, “Un gran Abrazo” to all yours,

    Roland, still AA member

     

     

  3. Suzanne Gardner March 31, 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    It is v encouraging that you have this as a Conference question this year. I am an atheist AA member in the UK and was on the literature sub-committee that put together this pamphlet.

    Through Share mag (Grapevine) We asked for people in the UK to submit their stories and, as I recall, about 40 were submitted -all of them relevant, and we had good material to work with.

    It would be great if US would agree to buy a licence for the God Word, and also set about preparing a home-grown version. It would go some way towards atoning for WSO failing to show moral leadership in the Toronto fiasco.

    i will say that I never liked the title”The God Word”. I think it will date quickly, and that the something direct like Atheist and Agnostic experiences in AA would be better

    I hope the Conference questions are successful.

    Suzanne G, UK

    • life-j April 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Suzanne,

      I do think it was the box of pamphlets you sent to me that got the ball rolling. So thanks again for that. On aaagnostica I see a William who says he bought directly, but I can’t tell where he’s from. Have things changed? Are they becoming willing to send them to us?

    • John S March 31, 2018 at 4:13 pm Reply

      Hi Suzanne. I had breakfast with you and your husband in Austin. Thank you for visiting our site, and thank you for your service to AA.

  4. piya March 29, 2018 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    I think you mean the tenth tradition. Gilbert G. However, “God” and proselytizing within AA is very internal. And that must be resolved. Not for us, but for those who will come. It is necessary to support the initiative of those who represent us. It has nothing to do with a dispute is simply a proposal.

  5. life-j March 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    At a glance it looks like this is a duplicate of the one I just filled out at aaagnostica, so I won’t fill it out here, but I think it is a good thing to do it both places, just in case some of us miss one of them sometimes.

    In fact, this is great. What we need is more of this co-ordinated, targeted effort. We won’t hire Cambridge Analytica, but I do think that if we are going to make a real change in AA we have to get way more proactive, do a lot more networking, AND keep going to regular AA meetings and speak our piece. There will be fundamentalists who will dig in their heels, and try to ostracize us, but all the newcomers at those meetings really need to hear an alternative message, and they won’t get it if we don’t go there and deliver it – AND make sure that those meetings have the alternative pamphlets available, as they get published. And if they don’t, I for one am going to double down.

    I never wanted to be this radical. And if I hadn’t met all the resistance and occasional outright hostility once I decided to open a freethinkers meeting,  I doubt that I would have been. I was quite content focusing on my own recovery the first 25 years.

  6. Gilbert G. March 29, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

    On this topic i have no oppinion.

    As a member i suggest my friend’s please draw on and observe one of our most basic principals as noted below: (Not a quote but a paraphrase)

    We should have no oppinion on any outside issues, thereby we ought not to draw our fellowship into a public controversy.

    • Jack Blair March 29, 2018 at 7:32 pm Reply

      Gilbert m’lad…..please pay close attention:

      How, please, do you Gilbert m’lad connect your various synaptic gaps in such a way as to allow you to think (perhaps even believe) that an individual’s “spiritual” or “power-greater-than-ourselves” or “god’s“ or “God’s” or “karmic deity” or anything really, that is more relevant than, say, plywood f’rinstance, is NOT the mostest biggest, granddaddy-ist inside issue there bloodywell is??

      I mean REALLY!! Gilbert m’lad; are you truly saying that the most personal, honest-t-god inside-est issue of em all is an OUTside issue? Are you really, truly, totally sure you wanna say that?

      Cheers,

      Jack.

    • life-j March 29, 2018 at 12:52 pm Reply

      Hmm, Gilbert, would you care to explain the outsideness of this?

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