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. Xenia

    Summary: Atheists always hack the good things religions started. They don't exist on themselves. They become parasites and corrupt the whole. We know what atheists would do ultimately by watching North Korea. If they have any ounce of honesty, they'd admit they've been wrong and say sorry to the Creator God. They don't because they value humans over all things. Humanists ruined the world with WW1 and WW2 last century.

    August 28, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • urownexperience

      French inquisition, crusades

      August 28, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Bob Rock

      Communism or Nazism is a delusional doctrine quite similar to religion. Atheism is not a belief system. Actually, there are no atheists (that's just a convenient term to describe people that don't believe in god specifically) – just rational people that reject delusional beliefs of any kind.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Physics-lite

      @ ALL Atheist
      Andrew’s Quote “It's not all that pointless, see while you would never be convinced that your bronze age mythological beliefs about the creation of the universe are wrong, since I can rebut (with peer reviewed journal articles no less) any claim you make, in rather stunning detail, those who are not so well versed on the subject who read the dialogue could be swayed to the side of science. It's for the benefit of others, not the already horribly misinformed.”
      End of Quote.
      A genius does what it must, to advance Mankind and
      Talented Intellectuals do just what their discipline allows.
      Discipline implies the teaching and enforcing of an acceptable patterns of behavior.
      Andrew; It is all in One’s Description and Everyone Else’s
      Interruptions over the Millennium.

      Here are some peer reviewed “Nobel Prize winners”, no less.
      You pick one or all, Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, Abdus Salam, Carlo
      Rubbia, Simon van der Meer, and last but not least Richard P. Feynman.

      All of the above “Nobel Winners” describe and illustrate their finding of
      millions of particle collisions in the same way.

      All of the elementary particles divide up into packets of photonic energy
      [light energy ] that Turns [or ferments,] into two or more sub-particles and
      some of the photonic energy [ light energy ] returns [or ferments,] back into
      the original elementary particles. It is called quantum electrodynamics/or QED

      The EM-fields of each particle defines the amount of light particles are in each
      particle or sub-particle. As the EM-fields collapse back. Andrew, you know QED

      “Let there be Light and let the light ferment and the light became fermented”& there was the Heavens and the Earth.

      August 28, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • David

      Hitler hated Jews because his Christian faith taught him to. Most of the Nazis were Christians.

      August 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • god

      We know what religious people would ultimately do by watching Iran.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • god

      Religion caused the dark ages. It's so sad that people turned against god. We could still be living in our own filth and burning witches.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • nofed

      Nazis are actually jewish by blood line. related to Juda.

      August 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • mcore

      Wow. What a typically Christian view of the world. If you actually knew your world history, you would see that 90% of all war and human suffering is brought about by religion. And the Christians have one of the worst records of all for mass murder, torture, genocide, conversion-by-sword and other nastiness all based on the idea that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • geazer

      I hate to tell you this, but AA was started by two men ("humans") in Akron, Ohio. I suggest that you do some homework into some facts.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Brian

      Why are you so angry. I don't need an answer you just need to ask yourself the question.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Rob F

      @urownexperience French Inquisition, Crusades? OK... Stalin, Lenin, Red China, Hitler.......... It's a Brave New World, baby.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • A W Messenger

      Ultimately there are millions of dry drunks that pretend they succeed at going through the 12-steps, but in all actually they NEVER recover. They are only in a deeper awakened sense of denial.

      As far as AA and Atheism goes, the Big Book dedicates an entire chapter on the subject.

      Therefore, in my mind, there is NO REASON why anyone in their right mind would need to read Hornbacher's book, it would simply be a waste of time.

      If you want to save some money, google "big book" chapter 4 we agnostics pdf – the first link is all you need to know about Atheism, AA and how each relate to each other.

      August 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • JamieIRL

      How the hell did you get that from reading this article? All she did was report her experience through AA as an atheist. You may not realize it (because you are probably a Christian living in America) but it is an odd experience to hear people constantly talking about god this and god that in regards to every aspect of life, when you yourself don't believe in god. And frankly, the idea of a god is kind of silly to a lot of people. So I fully understand what she was saying when she stated; "you either want to scream, laugh, or walk back out". You wouldn't understand because you don't experience living in a country where most everyone thinks differently from you, not just differently, but in a space wizard. And they talk about it, a lot! And they think that you (me) are strange, criminal, immoral, somehow inferior simply because you (me) don't believe what they do in regards to our origins.

      You don't realize how insulting, wrong, and hypocritical you re being right now. You're insulting because you have no right to judge me or other atheist with your skewed idea of what we are. You're wrong because there's no evidence to support any of the shadow that you and yours place above people that don't believe in your god. Find me one source that claims that atheist do anything worse than Christians; crimes, jail, etc.. It's actually the opposite, go ahead, look it up. You're a hypocrite because YOU value humanity and YOURSELVES over anything else. You have a nerve, and ignorance.

      August 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Pucenavel

      @A W Messenger

      To say that the Big Book devotes a chapter to atheist is a clear statement of how little you understand of atheism. We are not on the fence.

      An agnostic is the person that has no strong beliefs one way or the other, one who is unwilling to take a position.

      There is a chapter on agnostics, not atheists. Please take a closer look at that when you have a chance.

      August 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Kiljoy616

      Making up things that don't exist can have real implications in the real world. Its nice to relax and know that the evil buggy man is not coming to get you sooner or later. Dogma of any kind is bad and don't forget people your God is wrong because there are other religion that say so. God always seem to be a child who is mad at everything and need praise all the time.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Keith

      What utter rot, the history of religion is soaked with more blood and suffering (in the name of god, of course) than any other endeavour in the history of mankind. All religions have treated the common man as chattel to be used and disposed of as the leaders of the religion deem fit (all in the name of god, of course). If slaughtering thousands of men women and children enhanced the glory of god, then it was seen to be a good thing and a feast day would be proclaimed.
      As just one example out of millions, check out what the Pope did after the slaughter of the Hugenots in France in the 16th century. Thousand of men women and children where herded into buildings and burned alive. They were of course complete innocents but the Pope was so happy he declared a feast day with lots of celebrations.
      To all you faithful out there, STOP LYING.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  2. Sean Huxter

    They really asked you, because you were an atheist, if you thought you were the biggest, most important thing in the universe?

    There's the impression religious people have of people who DON'T believe in fantasy creatures.

    The fact is it's the opposite. And you said it. We are insignificant specks. It's the people who believe in GOD who think they are the biggest, most important things in the universe, because they think a GOD thought they were so important that they created THEM specifically, and paced them on this earth, and it's always for some REASON. Those are the people who believe they are the most important things in the universe.

    I can't understand how an atheist can stand in a room of religious nutjobs and say they are helped through a higher power and the blood of Christ. Doesn't the guy who runs that room understand that Jesus said that wine was the blood of Christ? WINE!

    Yeah, by the blood of Christ, he's sober??? I'm confused, and somewhat angered.

    August 28, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Anthony

      I'm not sure what "religious people" you have been exposed to, but a true believer who studies The Word is taught humility and that we are nothing without God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit. God said that through faith in Him that all things are possible, not faith in one's self. God also said that we are created in His image and His likeness so that tells me that we are not just some insignificant blobs of matter walking around just waiting to die or be killed by someone who thinks that human life means nothing. God truly loves people and I mean all people because His is our Father and He realizes that we have ONE common enemy and that is The Devil. Once people realize that Satan really exist and is the true enemy of all mankind then we can fight the enemy and not each other. If people would accept the fact that God really has fought the major war with the devil and won through Jesus Christ then true peace with each other can begin. All of the hate and division between the nations,races, religions, political parties would be a moot point and then we could work together on other problems like feeding the hungry, curing cancer and all of the other issues that suck up all our energy and money. Also belief in God is not to be forced nor should Christians come at non-believers in a condemning and condescending approach. First, the believer must witness to others by living a worthy lifestyle and then through kindness and love talk to the non-believer finding out why they don't believe in God and just point out the facts from the Bible not giving their own opinions and then ASK not demand if that person wants to accept the GIFT of salvation because it is a gift not a system that you have to pay for. So, please do some more research, find some other believers then the few that you have been exposed to, take another look and make your own decision. Hopefully this helps someone.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • hahaha

      "The Word is taught humility and that we are nothing without God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit." the truth is we are nothing without our fellow humans and the knowledge that we have gathered. No more no less. Our only hope at being more is the progression of the scientific enterprise (if the egoism that religion teaches does not cause the extinction of our species)

      August 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • dyg

      The Bible definitely makes mention of people who can't handle their liquor, too.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  3. Sunday

    Let's see a cure from 'alchohol' for this life + 'Life' eternal, I will take that!!!!
    Pass me that 'FAITH'

    August 28, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • incorrect

      Even though the article calls it 'Faithlessness' atheists posting here are saying though one did not have faith in 'divine' still they had 'Faith' in themselves....Got to be that 'Faith' somewhere....

      August 28, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • DPLJLB

      Better yet – Let's see a cure for poor spelling especially on the topic at hand~ ALCOHOL

      August 28, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • steven harnack

      Have you ever thought about what you are going to be doing "eternally"? Just sounds like a different kind of hell to me. There are finite spans of life for a reason and I'd much rather follow the laws of the universe.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Even though the article calls it 'Faithlessness' atheists posting here are saying though one did not have faith in 'divine' still they had 'Faith' in themselves....Got to be that 'Faith' somewhere....

      The problem is that you're mistaking the usage of the word faith. Many people use it for many different things. Some even use it incorrectly. For example. "I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow." That's wrong because you don't have faith. You have a reasonable expectation based on past events.

      August 29, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  4. jimtanker

    "30 comments". Just posting to make it 31.

    August 28, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  5. Bill

    Having been sober for 29 years ( stopped drinking at 41 and I am now 70) and not believing in god I can say that I went to AA when I had to, participated as required, but did not say the lord's prayer at the end. I told my story as many have. But, you know, I never consciously went past the 1st step.

    August 28, 2011 at 7:11 am |
    • A supporter

      Good work, Bill. Keep enjoying your life on your terms.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  6. leftover

    A few months into my sobriety I attended an AA meeting. After confessing my atheism, members told me I would never achieve sobriety unless I accepted God into my life. I told them I would rather stay a drunk and left. That was 22 years ago. I haven't had another drink and I haven't accepted God into my life. God didn't save me. I saved me. I am totally free and it feels great!

    August 28, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Nostradamus

      thank you for not caving in to mindless worship as so many have, out of weakness and fear ... and thank you for sharing your story ...

      August 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Thomas


      you have me beat by one year. 21 years for me. I never attended AA for I understood its religious basis. Perhaps Atheists, need to start their own 1-step program: The only person who can stop you from drinking is you.

      Worked for me, and I doubt I am the only one.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • dyg

      Christianity argues that you were ALREADY saved by the resurrection.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  7. Wasted1

    My guess is that the Creator moved on. Organized religion didn't get me sober. AA did.

    August 28, 2011 at 6:39 am |
    • athanasius

      AA is organized religion. It's just not necessarily theological in nature.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  8. Answer

    Religion is firstly an all out assault on your emotions.

    Fear first. To crumble the mind. To accept the coming false love. When you do not properly receive the false love (doubt it) - then they hit you with fake friendship / offers to save your soul. They convince you – you have sin. So that you need them, will accept them. In complete acceptance – comes the full indoctrination.

    Religion can never win you with hate. Religion will never win you with logic.
    False love and fear leads to hate – because yes you are being exploited!
    You will hate them. Hate is a tool like any other tool. Once you accept that you hate something, it acts like a defense shield; protecting you. Use hate – and only like it in this way: Ask the christians why they hate you for trying to change you!? And only that. Because it is what it boils down to, they can not accept you, because they do not love you for what you are already. You can see that relationships are a foundation to humankind. If there is no relationship – you can not have mutual respect. They do not respect you until you become one of them. That is their goal!

    Do not hate them for being pushy! Hate them for being stupid! Show them that they can not change you and they will always curse you – wishing you are going to go to hell. That is all they can ever do to you. Just that one phrase.

    Do not accept that phrase – for the fear content it holds!
    You are agnostic because you have seen the power of logic. You are an atheist because of logic, because of your questions. Use those questions to help those other stupid people to rid them of their stupidity.

    Return the favor in helping them to not become stupid, just like they want to manufacture their control on you by pushing salvation on to you!

    This is the most sincere job that an atheist can offer to you – the theist. The stupid people. The stupid sheeps.

    August 28, 2011 at 4:35 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Answer,,,,,,,, You have stated your semantics upon which your Atheism's idiosyncrasies declares you to be of blatant concernment. You have that libertarian right. Your Beliefs regarding your stance of case-hardened opinionism is duly noted and I do sorrow for you in my fields of somberness and alcoholism's grounds of mentored soberness now for almost 2 years. I can see with kind clarity that you may(or not) have had a led, miserable and/or meager existence and your upbringing may well have been likened a shallowed grave of indescriminancies, but who am I to say with certainty. My alcoholism's 1st day sobriety date was Saturday, September 5th, 2,009 A. D.

      The group of AA of which I am membered to are of people from all walks of Life's travailing. I became an AA member on a Monday. The Sunday before my 1st going to AA, I attended church for the 1st time in years. The Saturday prior, I gave up my "love affair" with alcohol. These 3 days I will always remember for you see, My spiritualism is tied to my bondage around Acts of socialism's travailing ambers. I love GOD and I love the Gods and likewise the Goddesses that have been part and parcel of my soul-filled allness since my birthed dawning into an abbreviated materialism's aged abutments' surmounting and finality of the crowning hierarchy of manhood and womanhood within the framed works of alled Life here upon this Rock we call our celestial home.

      I am now upon Step 4 of the 12 steps of AA. My year plus of floundering in AA like a piece of paper that has no words is now becoming a diary and hopefully a book regarding my life's passing days. I find a soothing happenstance relief to look over my past deeds of illness and even goodness. If it were not for AA and the 12 Steps. I might never have found the spiritedness to bare my soul's appendaged life experiences via the written word. My encounters with otherly AA members 2 nights a week gives me the chances to alleviate my meager and smalled desires to publicly speak in front of people with a sense of ever increasing semblance toward overcoming my tenured reclusive natures that my life once was.

      AA does not disavow anyone who wants to seek a means and way to overcome their knowing' abusive alcohol usage. I in my tenaciousness years prior to giving up the proverbial ghost of alcoholic girded abatements is fraught full of discerning and immoral discriminations of leveraged fruitions truly unbecoming a righteous person's cunning. I am a devoted follower of Christ Jesus' Words and teachings of moral interpitudes/rights upon how to live a Life of righted sakedness.

      I hope that my ongoing Word be it written or spoken will give others a light to help guide them down a path of uncertainty always aware of dips and peaks in which living does harbor. Belief or unbelief does not matter to me and all the members of my AA Group meetings. We of AA are and have been learning to live together in compromising with other's views and respectfulness toward each other's ways of believe-abilities regardless of how we are be it small minded or even saultried by grandiosities' Laments for the curves of the roadways of Life does so beckon on the leanings upon the otherly of likened attributes.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • DPLJLB

      I like cheeseburgers.

      August 28, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • KT

      For all our sake please take this with all the malice it intends. STFU. Yes I'm talking to Lion boy who vomited all over my screen with his pretentious prose.......

      August 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • PZ

      I'm agnostic, but for all our sakes, if you are going to use the word stupid (or any derivation of it) that many times, then please realize that sheep is plural and doesn't require the 's'. It makes you look stupid(er).

      August 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  9. Bo

    ===========@alinghi==================== Agreed, but isn't better to lean on a friend than alcohol? Personaly, I think if they could learn to lean on God they would have a more reliable friend, but that's not what AA is about, and that's OK. Just kicking that bad habit is what it is all about. I don't even know why this is on this forum.

    August 28, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  10. alinghi

    Sounds like going from one dependancy to another, Alcohol-AA. I've not yet met an Alcoholic who has not had his soul seriouly scarred at some point in his/her life. AA doesnt help with dealing with that. Having persons (AA) tell you how to run your life, instead of teaching independance cant be a healing. It is easy and comfortable though-but is that what life's about? The positive part is not being alone.

    August 28, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • dyg

      But only one of those dependencies will cause cirrhosis of the liver, or get you arrested for a DUI, or make you humiliate yourself in front of others.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  11. Bo

    ================ Almost any memeber of AA will admit that they atend AA mettings, The anomymous part is suppoed to be that you don't revelal your identy to other members, but that doesn't always work, sometimes members deveolop strong friendships. My ex was never an alcoholic, didn't even drink socialy, but attended AA meetings and made friends. Why? I never could figure it out. I went to a couple meeting and decided I didn 't want to spend an hour listening to sob stories that I couldn't relate to. The meetings never had anything to do with Godly spirituality. These were people who needed to lean on one another and that's OK

    August 28, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

      August 28, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Carrie

      Actually, the anonymity part of AA has to do with anonymity at the public level (Tradtion 11). This article, in fact, is a violation of AA's anonymity principles becuase the author revealed her face and her name. AA does not require "secrecy" or "identify anonymity" in its rooms. AA's Tradition 12 deals with anonymity in the spiritual sense – that we are all one among many and that we keep our confidences and don't reveal one another's AA connections outside of AA. That said, I use my full name in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous because I want members to be able to find me if they want my help. My closest friends in AA know more about me and my family than some of my blood relatives. Anonymity is not about hiding.

      August 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • elle

      Carrie is the first person I've read here (and I have hardly read all of these posts, of course) who even seems to notice or care that the author of this column violated the principle of anonymity at the level of press, radio and film. I was told that the reason for the public anonymity had to do with the nature of alcoholism itself and the tendency to relapse. If an AA member breaks their anonymity to declare the,selves sober in public and then drinks. it can harm all kinds of people who then lose faith in the program and keep drinking.

      I've always been an an atheist, but I put it aside to get sober and "acted as if" as I was told to do. I was so desperate and in such anguish over my inablity to stop drinking, and so frightened of the consequences that loomed that I would do anything, even pray and try to believe. Well, I am stil an atheist, but I do my best to follow the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous and I haven't had a drink since Octyober 13 1985. It's not a conventional way to interact with the program, but it seems to ahve worked. For me, the Fellowship was the most wonderful and healing thing. The people were so kind to me, and at a time when sxnobody else was.

      September 10, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  12. WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

    Sorry, but AA is very much a cult. You are succeeding because you constructed your own program out of the pieces of a broken one. You yourself admitted that you did a lot of outside research. What is really needed is a non-religious based treatment program that teaches people to have faith in themselves and their ability to change and adapt, rather then on that instructs people to surrender to a fairy tale.

    But, I'm glad you rose about his smokescreen and found your own way. I hope the journey remains productive. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and baring your soul. This may help many people.

    August 28, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • Jon

      A cult? You must be one of those religious fanatics or a troll. Been attending A.A. for 11 years, it is no cult.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • CheeseSteak

      No, not a Cult exactly, but close.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Jon

      @CheeseSteak Not sure what meetings you've been going to, might want to look at other places if it seems to be a "cult" setting. Just don't drink the koolaid!

      August 28, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • DPLJLB

      Agreed. AA is very cultish. I went to AA for 2 years, thought I made great friends and I thought I made a great support system. I was sober for 2.5 years and had a drink. I went to a meeting and "SHARED" this with this "wonderful" support group and told them what happend and I was CAST OUT. All these wonderful people shunned me. All of a sudden, they viewed me in a different light. Their rejection was far worse than taking a drink. I realized how fake, phony and cultish this organization is. AA is great if you are willing to "swallow the JIM JONES" punch and there is very little room for error.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • gsw615

      @DPLJLB: if you were actually shunned by people at an AA meeting because you relapsed, then you were among people who don't understand alcoholism OR the primary purpose of AA. If that was your experience, I am very sorry to hear this. There are tons of AA meetings and lots of AA groups – some are healthier than others, and unfortunately it sounds like you found a group that doesn't really practice the principles of the program.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • steven harnack

      People in all cults deny that their particular cult IS a cult. It's what cults DO.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Non-Religious

      – – – What is really needed is a non-religious based treatment program that teaches people to have faith in themselves and their ability to change and adapt, rather then on that instructs people to surrender to a fairy tale. – – –

      and here are 2:
      "Discover the Power of Choice!"
      SMART Recovery® is the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group. Our participants learn tools for recovery based on the latest scientific research and participate in a world-wide community which includes free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups.


      and LifeRing – http://lifering.org/how-lifering-works/

      LifeRing provides support for your own effort to get and stay clean and sober. You do the hard work, and we offer information, advice, understanding and support, support, support.

      September 10, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  13. Mark Bowlby

    You might want to crack open your 12 and 12 and brush up on the 11th Tradition.

    August 28, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • WM

      Exactly. This isn't a "pick and choose" deal.......

      August 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • steven harnack

      @wm, which is why the majority of AA members treat you with scorn and pity when you tell them you don't believe in their god. If it works for you, fine, but telling vulnerable sick, people that it's the ONLY way is a harmful lie.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Carrie

      Agreed. This article is clearly not within the spirit of the 11th Tradition. "Tradition 11: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films." I appreciate you sharing your experience sharing as an atheist in a program centered on spirituality (been tough for me too), but I encourage you to consider leaving out your full name and photo next time.

      August 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Steve

      @steven harnack: and you know this about the majority of AA members how? I've never once seen what you describe as commonplace happen in an AA meeting, and I've been a member of AA for 15 years. I've also never seen anyone shoving God down peoples' throats, either.
      I *have* seen a lot of drunks trying to help other drunks get sober.
      Your words show the strain of ignorance.

      October 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  14. Peace2All

    From the Article:

    " The recognition that we are flawed, "

    Don't get me wrong here. I'm happy that this person has found a vehicle to a life of sobriety and happiness, etc...

    It's just one of the problems that I've always had with the AA religion is that 1) You are powerless... and... you will always be an "addict."

    And, leading to my quote from the article above..." the recognition that we are flawed." This always kind of smacked of the whole "original sin" biblical deal, which I am totally against.

    Just a bit too Christian from what I've witnessed and... from what many others have shared with me.

    However... again... let me re-state, that I'm happy for this person, and anyone else who finds that working this particular worldview helps them to be happier and healthier.



    August 28, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • fred

      Well, AA was started by one saved by Christ who wanted others to be saved. Turned out the Catholic Church did not like others usings Christs basic principles or setting up "church" on their own. That is the reason they never referred to Christ, the church or christianity in the Big Book used by AA. Their power is just a higher source and this kept the church off their back in the early beginnings. In the last 20 years all kinds of 12 step programs sprang up from that Big Book. Many lives have been turned around. Whether you beleive in God or not His principles still apply.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Fred...

      So, it's the 'ol Catholic Church at it again, putting the kabash on anything they can't control or own...?

      BTW- What did you mean when you said: " Whether you beleive [sic] in God or not His principles still apply. " ...????



      August 28, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • fred

      To the extent there is a God original sin is necessary otherwise we would not be having a conversation. Had the first created being elected not to reject God then there would be no need for God to redeem His people or Christ to save the Gentiles. Thus no Jews no Christians just that perfect world some atheists on this site blame God for not creating in the first place. In that case Marya would have nothing to write about because she never would have had a drinking problem. In a world without sin everyone is one with God, has always been one with God in perfect unity. A simple look around shows total lack of unity and an existance heading towards Chaos (indvidually and cosmic). How do you account for chaos if not for some imperfection that shattered unity.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Peace2All


      " To the extent there is a God original sin is necessary otherwise we would not be having a conversation, et al. "

      Well, I suppose it could be that way if you are working from the Christian narrative. That seems to be the way the 'the story' goes in the Christian world.

      But, that certainly doesn't mean that in order for a Deity or God to exist, there 'must' be 'flawed' people, i.e... 'original sin.'

      There could be many scenarios and realities should a God or Deity/s exist... and of course the Christian 'version' is one of many.



      August 28, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • fred

      Regarding Gods principles apply; Whether you believe in God or not does not change what is truth. What is Good is Good you cannot change that. You can dirty up the water anyway you wish but that does not change God. Truth and perfect goodness only come from God. One can come up with their own moral code etc and it works for them or does not work for them. This man made moral code is just that if not from God. What man creates can never be perfect thus man can never know good on his own.
      One of Gods basic priciples is that if you reject God you will spend eternity (that which exists outside your phyical time line) in the absense of God. This applies to the atheist and the christian.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • fred

      In the Christian version and Jewish version if man is not flawed we do not need saving so we do not need the Christian or Jewish God. All other gods are idols that leaves us to be only agnostic or atheist.
      I am not aware of any god that does not find us in need of help, are you? If we need no help then gods of no value we are on our own. To say we need no help goes against what we can see and observe in our world. Thus we are wrong and flawed.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Peace2All


      " Whether you believe in God or not does not change what is truth. "

      And 'that' will continue to be debated for most likely a long time. Just because 'you' "believe" you have the 'truth' doesn't *mean* in the world of absolute fact and reality that 'you' are accurate.

      You 'could' be right... and that's about as far as you can take it.

      And I know you've been down this road before. If you want to somehow try to tell me that you 'know' for a fact that there is a God...and... it's the Christian God, etc... etc... FYI- you'll have to wait for some other time, as it's gettin' late for me, and I'm heading off to bead.

      So, take care -Fredster... I hope that you are well.



      What is Good is Good you cannot change that. You can dirty up the water anyway you wish but that does not change God. Truth and perfect goodness only come from God. One can come up with their own moral code etc and it works for them or does not work for them. This man made moral code is just that if not from God. What man creates can never be perfect thus man can never know good on his own.
      One of Gods basic priciples is that if you reject God you will spend eternity (that which exists outside your phyical time line) in the absense of God. This applies to the atheist and the christian.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • Peace2All


      ***Apologies... see 'tired'... I left the rest of your posting in, as opposed to deleting it.

      Good night, dude !


      August 28, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • fred

      Agreed bed sounds good ! I also agree that I do not have truth cornered and would not impose my understanding of truth on anyone. Why, simply because I am flawed. This is why I hang onto Christ as my only hope to life everlasting.
      Have a great nights rest ! I will say a prayer for you and if I am wrong nothing will become of it. It's a win win for you

      August 28, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      Fuc-k dam-nation, man! Fuc-k redemption! We are god's unwanted children? So be it!

      August 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • steven harnack

      @fred, it always gives me a good laugh to see theists try to apply logic to their beliefs when their main tenet is to suspend logic and just believe.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • fred

      ackward situations
      There is only way down when you straddle the fence...............so pick a side and jump for it !

      August 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • fred

      @Steven harnac,
      makes me sad to hear atheists and agnostics apply logic to unbelief

      August 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  15. s.mcpeak

    WOW. Could I sit by her in the next go 'round?

    August 28, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  16. gupsphoo

    AA's goal is to simply turn an alcohol addict into an addict of religious dogma. If you can't believe you can control your own life without the help of an imaginary god, you don't deserve to live.

    August 28, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • starky

      AA's cult reputation comes from a specific strain of AA developed from the Akron group. It is rigid, highly religious, and intolerant of dissent. It is very Christian, though most of its followers will not admit this, saying only that they are Christian but you don't "have" to be (with a not so subtle condemning grin). They believe that we are all hoplessly evil and must repent on a daily basis.
      There is another tradition of AA which originated with Bill Wilson in New York. While it too has it's overly religious adherents, it is essentially humanistic and believes in the basic goodness of man. It does not claim that AA is the only way to sobriety, only that it seems to work for those who practice it's principals in daily life. It is not condemning or exclusive, welcomes dissent and inquiry.
      I have been lucky enough to have been helped along by people of the second type and now have 25 years clean and sober. I do not believe in God (or god) but I don't condemn those who do. I have learned through AA to lead a basically happy and contented life without the use of drugs or alcohol. In AA meetings I often encounter people who are rigid and intolerant (the Akron types). I openly challenge their opinions when they conflict with mine without fear of any ostracism. I openly say I am an atheist in meetings and have no problem explaining to those who are interested how this works for me. I most likely would not be sober today (or probably alive) without the help I have received from the people in AA. It does not work for everyone but that is no reason to dismiss those for whom it does work, true believer or atheist.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Geraldgiap

    Damn shame the author doesn't understand 'Anonymous.'

    August 28, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • God's Puppet

      Interesting observation. Are AA members expected to remain anonymous? Most AA members I know are quick to to tell they are members, does that mean they don't know what anonymous means too?

      August 28, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Jon

      @ God's Puppet – The anonymous part is, if I'm talking to you about, "Bill W once got drunk, stole a car and crashed it into your neighbors garage last year." Instead of me saying "Bill Wilson once got drunk, stole a car and crashed it into your neighbors garage last year." ( just hypothetical of course.) The anonymity to protect others I guess is the best way to put it.

      August 28, 2011 at 2:11 am |
    • V01D

      I don't recall reading any part of this article where she named anyone else in the program with her.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      The only anonominity is what is spoken of and about in their grouped meetings. An AA member can rather openly if one chooses tell anyone about their individual dealings with alcoholism's escapades. I am an AA member for just over 2 years. I will not give to the general public any issues brought up at the meetings.

      September 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  18. CommonSense

    Couldn't be more true. Very well said/written and on point.

    August 28, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  19. Bill

    first. And wow, thank you.The voice of reason.

    August 28, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Jess H

      1. I would rather be sober and in a cult than drunk by myself.

      2. I don't understand why the author is using her full name.

      August 28, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • DPLJLB

      I'd rather be drunk by myself than with a bunch of bore-a$$es who sit around and drink coffee and share their same old BORING stories week after week. YAWN.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • steven harnack

      @jess, and there's the old either/or argument that ignores the vast center. Rigid thinking always leads to fanaticism.

      August 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Scamtannehill

    To keep it you must give it away and you have done that today. Thank You

    August 28, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • DPLJLB

      My pleasure.

      August 28, 2011 at 10:09 am |
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About this blog

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.