Archive for 18 April 2009

Is Alcoholics Anonymous a religion? Sometimes.

If you ever get bored one day, and want an exercise in futility, find an AAer and ask them to pin down exactly what they believe AA to be. My experience in this shows me that answer will be situational, and depending on the objective of the AA member, it is anything from a “fellowship” to a “support group” to “therapy”. It becomes like a psychological game of three-card monte, and can be a maddening experience.

One thing to which they will rarely admit, is that it is a religious organization. This gets particularly frustrating for anyone who has ever attended a meeting, as it is overtly religious – from the citing of the twelve-steps, to the reading of the Lord’s Prayer. This fact was never an issue in the early days of AA, before the courts fully embraced the establishment clause of The Constitution. This is from a 1939 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“There is no blinking the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous, the amazing society of ex-drunks who have cured each other of an incurable disease, is religious. Its members have cured each other frankly with the help of God. Every cured member of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, like every cured member of the other chapters now established in Akron, New York, and elsewhere in the country, is cured with the admission that he submitted his plight wholeheartedly to a Power Greater than Himself.

He has admitted his conviction that science cannot cure him, that he cannot control his pathological craving for alcohol himself, and that he cannot be cured by the prayers, threats, or pleas of his family, employers, or friends. His cure is a religious experience. He had to have God’s aid. He had to submit to a spiritual housecleaning.”

Back in the early days, AA’s religious principles were just as overt as they were today, but they were less of an issue. Not until courts began ruling that the state cannot impose organized religion on an individual, did AA fully embrace the “it’s spiritual, not religious” doublespeak. Sure, it was used Continue reading Is Alcoholics Anonymous a religion? Sometimes.