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My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA
Six of AA's 12 steps explicitly refer to God, a Higher Power, or He.
August 28th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA

Editor's note: Marya Hornbacher's latest book, "Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power," explores what spirituality can mean to the recovering person who does not believe in God.

By Marya Hornbacher, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Kicked back with his boots on the table at the head of the smoke-dense room, the meeting's leader banged his fist and bellowed, “By the grace of this program and the blood of Jesus Christ, I’m sober today!”

I blinked.

This was not an auspicious beginning for the project of getting my vaguely atheistic, very alcoholic self off the sauce.

I wondered if perhaps I’d wandered into the wrong room. I thought maybe I’d wound up in Alcoholics Anonymous for crown-of-thorn Christians, and in the next room might find AA for lapsed Catholics, and downstairs a group for AA Hare Krishnas and one for AA Ukrainian Jews.

But a decade later, I’ve become aware that 12-step programs are home to people from every religion, denomination, sect, cult, political tilt, gender identity, sexual preference, economic strata, racial and ethnic background, believers in gun rights and abortion rights and the right to home schooling, drinkers of coffee and tea, whiskey and mouthwash, people who sleep on their sides or their stomachs or sidewalks.

Anyone who cares to sober up, in other words, can give it a shot the 12-step way.  The official preamble Alcoholics Anonymous states: "The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

And millions of people want that and find a way to do it in this program. I’m one of them. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, a raging drunk. Now I’m not.

It wasn’t magic; it was brutally hard work to get from point A to B. I do believe I’d be dead without the help of the people and the structure of the steps in AA.

But I don’t believe in God.

And this can be something of a sticking point when you’re sitting in a meeting room, desperate for almost any route out of hell, and someone cites “the blood of Jesus” as the only way to go. Or when you realize that six of AA's 12 steps explicitly refer to God, a Higher Power or He.

But this shouldn't be a dealbreaker. I’m going to make a lot of old-style AA’s cranky with this, but it’s perfectly possible to sober up sans belief in God.

At first that wasn’t clear to me. It’s unclear to most people because AA has a reputation as a cult, a religion unto itself, a bunch of blathering self-helpers, a herd of lemmings or morons, and it isn’t those things, either. It’s a pretty straightforward series of steps, based on spiritual principles, that helps people clean up their lives in a whole lot of ways.

But if you are of an atheistic or strongly agnostic mindset, chances are you’ll walk into a meeting, see the steps hanging on the wall and want to scream, laugh or walk back out.

I tried another tack: I made a valiant attempt to believe. I figured a) these people were funny, kind, and not plastered; b) they believed that some kind of higher power had helped them get sober; c) they knew something I did not.

So I did research. I read every word of AA literature I could find. I read up on the history of half a dozen important religions and a wide variety of frou-frou nonsense. I earnestly discussed my lack of belief with priests, rabbis, fanatics and my father.

People told me their stories — of God, the divine, the power of love, an intelligent creator. Something that made all this. Some origin, some end.

I told them I believed in math. Chaos, I said. Infinity. That sort of thing.

They looked at me in despair.

And not infrequently, they said, “So you think you’re the biggest, most important thing in the universe?”

On the contrary. I think I am among the smallest. Cosmically speaking, I barely exist.

Like anything else, I came into being by the chance, consist mostly of water, am composed of cells that can be reduced and reduced, down to the quarks and leptons and so forth, that make up matter and force. If you broke down all matter, the atom or my body, you’d arrive at the same thing: what scientists call one strange quark, with its half-integer spin.

And I find that not only fascinating but wondrous, awe-inspiring and humbling.

I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.

I believe that I exist at random, but I do not exist alone; and that as long as my quarks cohere, my entire function on this hurtling planet is to give what I can to the other extant things.

That keeps me sober. Amen.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Marya Hornbacher.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief

soundoff (3,939 Responses)
  1. AA member

    Whatever happened to the "AA plank" of remaining anonymous at the level of press, radio, and films Marya. Evidently you do not believe in God nor the AA Traditions...

    August 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Nobody cares about your silly rules. It's just there to give you a false sense of security.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bill D

      Sadly, some are so "special". Traditions, respect and common courtesy have become optional.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • icebalm

      And just why should anyone adhere to the traditions of a proselytizing organization veiled as a help group? What makes these traditions worthy?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  2. kphillibin

    Thank you Ms. Hornbacher. String/ superstring/ m-theory aren't able to inform the average person, but they are helpful to some who need something at once a little more speculative and reality-oriented. I personally like curling up with the Bible, a nice cup of coffee, and a piece of chocolate cake - three guilty pleasures that I know may not be good for me, but they help me forget reality during those times when it is at its most oppressive. Sometimes the most blessed relief comes from allowing myself to suspend belief and pretend that a god is actually there, and s/he is caring, watching over, protecting. Many priests/ pastors I know (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to Kenrick to Princeton) believe personally as you do, Ms. Hornbacher, and merely protect the people who look to them for guidance. The truth is, most people need religion: With religion they may be quarrelsome, vitriolic, violent, but without it they are animals. As for AA, most people probably need for the steps to be a magic fix, much like the Bible. I personally after being on the wagon for 20 years, realized one day that alcohol controlled me with fear when I was sober as much as it ever did when I was drunk. So I went out and bought a bottle of single-malt. I had a shot, then I put the bottle where I could see it every day. It sits on the kitchen counter (for about a year now), and many days I don't even see it. The days that I do see it, I control it, but without fear. I don't recommend that anyone else do this: For many people, fear is the only thing that keeps them in check, and religion is the only thing that brings self-control.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Art

    Very good article. Atheist – clean and sober, 17 years !

    My favorite story in the Big Book is about the jay walker -

    August 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  4. Brian

    So you think the complexity of a human being( our ability to love, to think, every small detail of our anatomy that happens to work out perfectly ) is by chance?!! I guarantee that you and 99% of the other atheists will be asking Gods forgiveness at your moment of death.....

    August 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Laughing

      Would you like to bet on that?

      It'd be the easiest money I've ever made

      August 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • IceT

      Did you mean God's or the Gods?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ancient Curse

      At that moment of incredible terror, I doubt many are in their right mind. It's the same as "There are no atheists in foxholes." Do you really believe anyone is thinking rationally at either of those moments in time? Says something about "fear" in relation to "belief."

      August 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Brian

      Yes, when I see you in hell I'll buy you a drink!

      August 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Awww.. little boy is scared of death. It's okay, no worries. You're going to live forever, yes, in dog's kingdom.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • LRD

      No not chance.......evolution. A lot more believable than a man in the sky.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • SLC

      It's a good thing God is compassionate and forgiving, at least according to most religious doctrine. It's unfortunate that His "followers" tend to be so judgemental

      August 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • jen

      I guarantee you are 10000% wrong - my husband teetered on the edge of death due to genetic cancer, not once did either of us run to god, cuz we dont believe and you know what, know-it-all Brian, we dont need to because we're not afraid of what comes after - poor suckers like you are - sad that you must live with the threat of hell or promise of heaven to be a decent person

      August 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You can't guarantee that. That is what you believe. You have no proof of your god or any god, which is why some people have become atheists. Your silly posturing only makes you look foolish.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Brian

      I'm not judgmental. I haven't lived my life the right way to deserve to go to heaven. Too much money and greed has led to many bad choices....

      August 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • icebalm

      If you think the human body is perfect then why do we have appendixes which can rupture and kill us? Why are our shoulders formed so poorly? Why do we only have one coronary artery feeding our heart? Why is cancer so prevalent in our bodies?

      And if "god" can perform healings, why does he never heal amputees?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Brian

      I'll leave you with this, I'm no better than you here. I'm actually worse. I have the faith and the belief of consequence in the end and still choose to do the wrong things....I'm outta this forum, being around all these atheists makes me feel like I'm being surrounded by soulless zombies!

      August 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Actually, I think Jesus has a stranglehold on the whole "zombie" bit. But whatever.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • kphillibin

      This is only my viewpoint, stemming from my vocation. In observed practice, a % that appears very high is Christians who are fearful of death: The % for atheists seems rather low.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • icebalm

      I'm not completely surprised that Brian said he's not judgmental in one post, but then denigrates atheists in another....

      August 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Brian

      Your belief, or non belief puts you guys now and throughout history in the small minority of people who think like you. 80% of the world throughout history feels different about God. The author believes in math. So do the math..........

      August 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • kphillibin

      Those "80%" don't agree even with each other, often torturing/ killing for the slightest disparity.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • icebalm

      80% of people before Galileo believed the earth was flat. 80% of ancient egyptians believed the sun god ra ferried the sun across the sky in a boat. A population can be 80% wrong.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  5. jimzcarz

    8 years sober...{2.20.2003)
    jimmy
    San Jose
    It took a Grand Mall seizure and a slight stroke to get here,but I made it.
    so if CNN won't say it I will..Thank you lord I couldn't have done this on my own...

    August 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Argh. Just like those rappers on music award shows.

      Listen. Your god doesn't care, stop bothering him. He's busy giving AIDS to babies in Africa.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • IceT

      and just like every football player who scores a TD!! Thank God my team scored more touchdowns & I won the pool at work!!

      August 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  6. Tim Jordan

    Finally, a decent article on sobriety sans a belief in gawd.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Khal82

      Do you notice how the comments were a reasonable sharing of experiences until a xtian had to, just HAD to come and start judging and crying about bias – if what we have in common cannot bring us together because of a closely-held belief that apparently cannot stand up to questioning and duscussion, how can we succeed as a society?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • kphillibin

      Look no further than the comments from Christians to find "judging and crying." I believe Christians are supposed to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them into all truth? By this token they should have more tolerance, empathy and compassion, not less, except that "truth" by itself, without love, according to St. Paul, "don't mean a thang."

      August 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  7. Andrew

    I don't believe in "God" per se, but I believe in cosmic intelligence (higher power). Believing you exist at random negates the logic necessary for science to exist and thus, us. Anyone who believes there is no logic to the intricate complexity of life is naive.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Rex Lutherin

      Very nicely said.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • IceT

      & it's NOT naive to claim God or a Higher Power did all this just because you can't "yet" explain or understand it? I'd say that is naive.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Laughing

      I think it's more naive to believe that a higher power created all these and to not ask, "who created this higher power", you fall into infinite regression which hurts your case.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Andrew wrote on Sunday, August 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm, stating, "I don't believe in "God" per se, but I believe in cosmic intelligence (higher power). Believing you exist at random negates the logic necessary for science to exist and thus, us. Anyone who believes there is no logic to the intricate complexity of life is naive."

      To indulge in a Diaspora such as believing in a "cosmic intelligence" and/or higher power berates one who cannot see such cosmic intellectualness as being GOD is a quandary of diametrical infidelities unbecoming a being of intelligent design like us who are mainframed to be godly beings of the materialized awakening.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Charles O.

      AA asks only that you believe in a higher power, not a deity or "God". This only means that one recognizes that there are bigger things than oneself. This must be accepted because self-centerness is a large part of the alcoholic persona. AA members often refer to themselves as "egomaniacs with inferiority complexes". There is a whole chapter devoted in their "Big Book" called "We Agnostics". For many, the higher power is the support of human fellowship.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • icebalm

      We (humans) do not exist at random. We are the product of millions of years of evolution: random genetic mutation coupled with non-random natural selection. Abiogenesis (organic life originating from inorganic matter) may have happened on earth by chance, we don't know. This said, simply because something is complex or intricate does not make it logical, nor does it mean that if humans didn't originate logically then science doesn't exist. Your premises are false, and to think that the universe in some way cares about you because it is intelligent is farcical..

      August 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  8. sanjosemike

    Clearly some people have a genetic propensity to abuse drugs and alcohol. I could never become an alcoholic because I don't have a genetic (or family) propensity for it. This does not make me special, but perhaps lucky.

    I must assume that it is very difficult to become sober because you demand alcohol on a cellular level. Clearly it takes help to become sober. I see no contradiction on getting that help from different sources at the same time. As an atheist I wouldn't expect to get it from AA, but would not deny trying that route. It might work, along with psychiatric counseling and working with fellow atheist communities.

    The goal is worthwhile. Quit alcohol dependence. If AA can help you with this (even if you don't believe in god or gods), why not try it?

    sanjosemike

    August 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Robert Boyd

    I am an agnostic and unfortunately I find it arrogant for people to claim to have any deep understanding of the universe or existence of a god or gods just because they read a book they really liked or heard a speech telling them what to think. I think that if god exists, he or she will hold the agnostics in more favor because they are less gullible. But it don't claim to know or try to. I've read all the holy scriptures. The bible, the quran, the torah, grimes fairy tales, The Lion King... you name it. Oh... and I quit drinking last year without god. Actually... everyone quits without god. Some people just pretend they have an imaginary friend.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • icebalm

      Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. The former describes knowledge, the latter describes belief. You can be an agnostic-atheist, (one who doesn't claim to know or thinks it is impossible to know, but doesn't believe in a god), or an agnostic-theist, (one who doesn't claim to know or thinks it is impossible to know, but believes in a god). It sounds to me like you are the former, and agnostic-atheist.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • IceT

      An agnostic questions the existence of a god or gods, an Atheist does not believe in a god or gods, a theist believes there is a God, a polytheist believes there are multiple gods No one "knows" any of this for sure, so we are all in the same boat here.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • wrack

      "Actually... everyone quits without god"

      I love it!

      August 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      "Actually... everyone quits without god." – I like that.

      Remember kids, without god, anything is possible!

      August 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  10. Jeff

    I've been sober in AA a long time, and the AA I know goes out of it's way to welcome the atheist and agnostic drunks. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. I read the article carefully, and it makes it seem as if AA people will try to convert non-believers. I have not found this to be the case. Thanks for the thought-provoker.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Robert Boyd

      Yeah... as a general rule, Christians rarely try to convert people to their faith. They generally just live and let live... and that's a good thing. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to have people ask you if you have accepted Jesus as your savior? Wow... that would be dumb.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Okay, but you have to buy me a tall minty mohito if they try to slip a "Have you found Jesus?" into the conversation.

      And, no I have not found him. When did you lose him anyway? Sneaky bas-tard. [Literally]

      August 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  11. Scott Bruneau

    This is a truly fine piece of writing. I was a Believer when I quit drinking and when I went to AA meetings but on my way to agnosticism then. The whole "god" thing got to be obnoxious to me. As I have been sober I have found it was NOT any higher power that helped me. It was ME wanting a better life and to be a better person. It has been thus NOW when tempted when I see someone pouring drinks in a film and want one... instead of heading for the door to go by some nice tasty booze, I think of how crappy I will feel after I drink and I lay it aside. "Let go and let god" the religious say. "Let go and let yourself be sane and healthy" I say to myself. It DOES constantly amaze me how the religious and non believers beat the whole non believer believer thing to death. I am atheist because I do not believe in IT. I HAVE died and seen myself AFTER death then gone back to my body and knew it was all biochemical in my brain. No heaven or hell when I was dead.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Chris C

    I'm an atheist and a recovering alcoholic who has found what I need in AA. But the label I prefer to apply to my beliefs is that I'm a "free thinker." I believe in evidence and rationality. The fact that I don't believe in "God-belief" is something more of a private thing for me in the context of AA– it's not really a useful statement to make in the rooms. Most God-believers in the rooms don't use their religious views to state an oppositional argument against atheists. That's not their intent. I feel that if I say "I'm and atheist," then I'm almost saying "I don't believe in your Gods." This isn't a useful thing to say among people, many of whom have a tenuous hold on spirituality and sobriety. And while this statement– I'm an atheist– is true, I'd rather say something that doesn't start from oppositional footing. I say, "I tend to believe what is provable." I seek no debate. Discussion is okay, if we've established long term trust. And when the Big Book gets thick with religious terminology, I just rewrite those passages to fit my non-religious position. I recite prayers that my group uses out of respect to others. And I truly enjoy learning about how others use faith– which, by the way, has non-religious definitions like "hope" too. I do like my evidence that hopeful behavior has led to positive action, which has often led to positive outcomes.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Lee

    UGH...finally an article that I can relate to. I certianly dont believe of some mystical figure that is supossed to change your life if you accept him. I tried AA for a while and just coudnt make is becasue of all the god talk. I finally made it and have been sober for 6 years now by my will and determination to not hurt myself or others anymore. Anyone can stop drink if they truly want to.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Erik

    How insensitive. On an article about beating alcoholism, you post two very attractive pictures of alcohol. It's like your pictures say "don't you want one?" while you talk about one person's fight to beat it. It's been shown that pictures like this are very effective triggers to those who are struggling with alcoholism. Please, next time you talk about drug abuse, don't post alcohol fashion pics along with it.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      It's a glass of water with lemon in it, silly boy.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Joe Blow

      Actually it's a gin martini with a twist of lemon.....

      August 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • arparp

      The original image is located on thinkstock with the description "alcoholic beverage on marble counter." In a way it doesn't matter what's actually in it, but it's clear the photographer and stock photo service intended it to be representative of alcohol. Therefore, Erik has a good point. (If you don't believe me, search for 87808244 on thinkstockphotos)

      August 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Anonymous Young Reader

      i only see one picture of a glass of anything, and it looks very much like water to me. You cannot blame CNN or the writer for your misinterpretation of a photo. It's like blaming Da Vinci for the Mona Lisa making you feel uncomfortable. 2nd, the article wasn't even about drug abuse, it was about atheists trying to get sober, and struggling. It was about finding your own strength and fighting your own addictions through your own reasoning and power.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • arparp

      Anonymous Young Reader, the first picture of the alcohol is currently on the front page of cnn.com and shows an empty liquor bottle next to a glass of what looks like whiskey. Furthermore you completely ignored the point that the image used on this page was marketed as stock photography of an alcoholic drink.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  15. Bo

    =============@sober==================== There wasn't any one author, and at the time I wasn't particularly interested in the athiests stats, I was looking something else. But I was surprised because I thought the numbers were higher. The country with the highest percent of athiests was France at 14%, Spain at13%. One of the resons I thought there would be a higher percentage of atheisim is that evolution is being taught as fact in schools, but apparently most of the kids are not buying it, they just answer the questions on exams for the best grades. Surveys were done in public schools and colleges, churches and random phone calls I think the survey was done by a relgious group. In the whole book a question was stated and then percentages of yes or no or unsure, or agree, disagree or unsure(some had precentages of persons declining to answer.)I'm guessing that there must have been 1000 questions asked. Some questions delt with marriages and divorce and diets. So it wasn't just religious questions.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • ja

      The Catholic church, the largest Christian denomination in the world, accepts evolution as fact.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • RichardDawkins

      Evolution is being taught as a FACT because it is a FACT.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  16. John

    I'm not sure how the Christian and AA surrender to a higher power/god works with a rational thinking atheist who realizes that there is no such thing.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Ancient Curse

      It doesn't. AA doesn't really do much of anything. Their success rate is around 5%, and that's being generous. The success rate of people who quit on their own is about 5%.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  17. James

    I am a recovering alcoholic. I beleive in Jesus. Everything has a purpose and everything happens for a reason. I have witnessed this in my life. The things I can't explain, I accept through faith. There is a God and he loves us beyond measure. I hope and pray all people will have the opportunity to know him and share in his blessings. i know in my heart of hearts without him I woulldnot be here.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • JOhn

      I think it is high time for atheists to start challenging believers to their beliefs. Every time I hear a true believer say things like "I've seen things in my life that I cannot explain or that are due to Jesus" or something like that, please be more specific so that those of us with critical thinking skills can help you realize that what you take as mysterious or the power of god is simply due to your inability to distinguish between probability and magical thinking.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      You have to consider the possibility that god does not like you, never wanted you, and in all probability, he HATES you. It's not the worst thing that can happen.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • icebalm

      I am sorry James that you must denigrate your accomplishment by not even taking credit for it yourself. :(
      An invisible zombie sky father didn't put down the bottle, you did, and you should be proud as it is a very hard thing to do.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Rex Lutherin

      @John: if you need to challenge and/or know that badly then perhaps something is lacking?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Robert Boyd

      Awkward Situations – You are my hero for that quote!
      As for religion... why is it okay for Christians to corner atheists and question their lack of faith... but if I corner a christian and ask questions like "So... two of every animal on a boat, and that's how the world was saved... wow. You want to buy a watch?" I'm the insensitive one?

      August 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  18. Jack

    I sobered up as an athiest with Rational Recovery... If you don't have faith in god to help you get sober, that's OK, you can have faith in yourself and your own ability to reason rationally if you choose to.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  19. Lily

    I quit a 12 step program because I'm an atheist and they kept telling me that if I just kept coming to meetings I'd "get it" and believe in Jesus. It was so relentless that it was exacerbating my problem and stressing me out.

    I'm happy for the author but something doesn't ring true about her story. I suspect she's not really an atheist but something more along the lines of an agnostic or skeptic.

    August 28, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Anonymous

      Lily- AA has tons of meetings for atheists. If your truly alcoholic, the only reason to stop going would be to hold on to your right to keep drinking. Maybe your just not an alcoholic.

      August 28, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • AA experienced

      AA usually does not push a religion, so I'm surprised. (Unless you were at one of their church meetings or sometihing). They just suggest their program is successful, if you believe in a higher power, even if it involves yourself (like the author said). The other steps of the programs aren't easy, but they don't require a particular faith ever.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Glenn

      Whenever someone in the program decides to take another route to sobriety and/or questions any of it's tenents, there are always those that claim, 'well, this person isn't a true alcoholic'. What nonsense. I am quite certain the author is alcoholic by any definition. Further, shouldn't we celebrate someone's sobriety, no matter how they attain and maintain it? I go to meetings and they help. I know many other people who are alcoholic who don't attend meetings or have taken an alternate route. As long as they're sober and free I support them. If they're not, I am therer for them. But I sure as he'll am not going to question whether they're alcoholic.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  20. Charles

    “So you think you’re the biggest, most important thing in the universe?” – I always find that response to atheism SO insulting. What it says to me is you think "Well, if this person doesn't believe in God, he must think he IS god" – This also shows, to me, one of the biggest flaws and most problematic elements of Christianity – that, only next to God (shaped in his image, right?) humans are the most important things in the universe. Talk about a belief that lacks humility! Great article, by the way, I always wondered whether atheism and AA are mutually exclusive. Congratulations on your sobriety!!!

    August 28, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • chgn66

      A lot of Christians can't think outside the bounds of their beliefs. They always classify agnostics and atheists based on the premise that their religion is the truth. So if you are non-religious you must be replacing the same Christian beliefs (like mportance in the universe) with your own.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.