Update: Does ‘The God Word’ Pamphlet Need a Name Change?

All the way back in late October, we posted Does the “God Word” Pamphlet Need a Name Change? ,which addressed our concerns that the recently published pamphlet, “The God Word”, was titled in a way that wouldn’t attract newcomers struggling with the religiosity in AA. The post was accompanied by a survey and we’ve been meaning to write a follow-up post, letting you know what the results of the survey looked like. Though it took us about 6 months, we’ve finally managed to write the follow-up.

The poll received 113 responses, which is many more than we expected! Thank you so much for providing your feedback! The breakdown of the quantifiable-type questions are below.  As you can see the overwhelming number of you disliked the title and would like to see it changed.

  • Do you like the current title? 25% Yes, 75% No
  • Do you think it should be changed? 76% Yes, 24% No
  • It doesn’t really matter. 71% Disagree, 29% Agree
  • Is it worth the trouble of trying to change it? 68% Yes, 32% No

A space was also provided for free-form feedback for you to suggest a better title and any other thoughts you might have on the subject. About half of the responses favored either something like “AA for Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers” or thought the existing subtitle, “Agnostic and Atheist Members in AA”, should be made the main title.  One not-very-opinionated person felt that “This Is Christian Apologism Disguised As a Hip and Cool ‘Atheist’ Pamphlet, Hep Cats, Dig?” would be a more appropriate title.

The free-form text is a bit harder to summarize but there were a couple of themes that came up more than once. Some of you felt it was too early to decide on the best title for the pamphlet, that we should wait to see what the reaction is, and how newcomers respond to it. Another couple of responses felt that the current title might provoke more religiously inclined members to read the pamphlet and gain some exposure to how non-religious members approach their sobriety. We think these are good points to consider, and we’re really grateful for your input.

As we’ve noted, the survey results were overwhelmingly in favor of change, so it might surprise you that we are not planning to ask the 2020 General Service Conference (GSC) to consider a change to the title. There are a couple of reasons for this change of heart. In the year since we started this process, we have been talking about how the GSC often seems to be asked to spend time on small things rather than tackling the issues that are of core importance to AA as a whole (one of you alluded to this in the comments).

Also, while we feel that a change in the title would be a good thing, we are also aware that we can’t say for sure that we are right. Several of you suggested that we run with current title to see how it does before requesting a change, and we were swayed by this argument.

If there are widespread reports that the title is putting off newcomers, a more serious effort to change the title could be launched. We do plan to send GSO the results of this survey and hope that they will take this into account if there is a need to revise the pamphlet in some way.

Thank you again for participating and for your thoughtful responses!

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Karl H.
Karl H.

I struggled with the “God” word for quite some time.  When I finally came to a “consensus with myself” as to what worked for me as a ‘higher power,’ I simply started accepting the word “God” as a placeholder for my own concept of my higher power, and I find I have far less trouble fitting in now. God is many things to many people, but in the end, “God” is just a sound, a placeholder for ideas, even for people who militantly believe in the classic Judeo-Christian, white-bearded patriarchal God.  I simply accept the reality of what the word… Read more »

George
George

Recently, I was part of a workshop at a Young People’s Conference. The subject matter was “The God Word” pamphlet and the “One Big Tent” booklet. Our purpose in presenting the workshop was to let nonbelievers know that they are accepted members of A.A. and that they can, get sober and stay sober in A.A. without believing in a god or a higher power. The covers of the pamphlet and the booklet were placed at the entrance of the room in which the workshop was presented. The turnout was small, about a dozen people, but most of those who attended… Read more »

Jack Blair
Jack Blair

Nothing that I’ve read here, including the article, says it better than “look for better battles”. The most common head slapper in AA is that so very many good people with honorable intentions can get so insanely trapped in pissing contests about what are, at best, picayune and ridiculously complex  ego battles. That whole modus has got to go, or we will (to some degree we still are) losing credibility and members. Science and medicine are making some breathtaking advances in the whole field of addiction. Personally I am an alcohol addict: in nearly identical fashion as meth, coke, junk, crack, fentanyl… Read more »

MarySusan
MarySusan

Progress not perfection. Newcomers will never see the pamphlet if the groups do not embrace displaying it.  They will for the most part boycott this unless they themselves get friendly with it.  The fear that their AA indoctrination might be shaken is intensified by their concepts of a lifetime. The majority of the members where I live are god based with or without religion. They promote god incessantly.  Social sanctioning and ostracizing for not conforming is painful.  I kept still for years personally.   I say leave the pamphlet be for now and use your energy to get it seen.

Marty N.
Marty N.

How about the first line in the text?  “AA is not a religious program”! You gotta be kidding me!