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.
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.