To The Newcomer

If you are
         (a) new to this program and have a desire to stay sober
         (b) do not consider yourself “religious” and
         (c) have been apprehensive about stepping into meetings of Alcoholics
              Anonymous where you hear frequent mentions of God

please consider the following:

It is probably true that religious people come in to AA with an advantage over the skeptics.** Many have already embraced the concept of God and the 12 steps is easy for them to accept. However, the Program can also work effectively for Atheists, Agnostics, Secular Humanitarians etc.. as you will realize from many of us who have succeeded in using the AA program for long-term sobriety and learned to really enjoy the meetings and the fellowship.

It is true that even though AA claims to be spiritual and not religious, there are religious people in AA who proclaim their faith loudly, and do not distinguish between AA spirituality and their own. Old-timers have learned to filter out for themselves what is AA and what are the personal thoughts of the individual; a newcomer may not have the luxury of perspective. Such newcomers may actually get turned off by what they see as excessive religious fervor in AA meetings. This is not unusual. We ask that you do not use this as an excuse to leave these meetings, but to stick with us as you learn more.

Each AA meeting—even though it is based on the same twelve steps and twelve traditions—tends to develop its own flavor. Some meetings seem to be more religious in flavor than others. We ask you to be selective in taking in the messages and perspectives that you can relate to. Towards other comments we ask that you develop a benevolent attitude such as: “if that is what that person needs to believe in order to stay away from alcohol, I am not interested in breaking down their belief system; all I ask is that they do not impose their faith on me!” Let each of us find our own path and let us be tolerant of paths that are different from our own!

The Big Book was written around 1940 by white, married, working Christian men. It is possible that these founders had a glimpse of a spiritual program for recovery and used the language they had at their disposal to conceptualize and express it. The language was relevant to the social context of those times and was written to reach the largest group of people who were likely to benefit. The writers of the Big Book were doing their best to explain the program of recovery but they tried to stay general and non-controversial and stated, “…these are but suggestions…” and, “…more will be revealed…”

We ask that you continue to attend meetings keeping an open mind and a generous attitude; that you seek out the many people who are genuinely concerned about your well-being and about your life working out for you. They may not know you personally but they care about you and will go to great lengths to support your efforts to stay sober and to fix your life! The fellowship of AA is strong and diverse and available to you!

** The Journal of Studies on Alcohol published an article in July 2002 (click here for reference) which concluded that agnostics and atheists were less likely to persist in attending AA meetings but among those who kept coming, there was no significant difference in recovery between believers and agnostics/atheists. (MORAL: Keep coming back!)