This website is here primarily to encourage members of Alcoholics Anonymous to establish more secular A.A. meetings and groups in Michigan. Currently, there are seven secular A.A. groups and twelve secular A.A. meetings weekly in Michigan. There are hundreds worldwide.
Many dictionaries define the word “secular” as “not religious.” For more on that, visit our FAQ page.
The main difference between secular A.A. meetings and other A.A. meetings is the way the meetings are scripted. No one is asked to recite any prayers or readings that invoke the name of any deity as part of the regular format of most secular A.A. meetings. Instead, other A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature may be read aloud, for example, the beginning of Chapter 3 of the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, “More About Alcoholism;” or Appendix II, “Spiritual Experience.”
Secular A.A. is an international movement within Alcoholics Anonymous that seeks to widen our gateway so that all who suffer from alcoholism may feel free to join us and maintain long-term sobriety in A.A. “regardless of their belief or lack of belief”* in a God.
The secular A.A. movement traces its roots to one of A.A.’s first atheists, Jimmy B., who helped convince A.A. co-founder Bill W. to substitute the term “Higher Power” for God and add the words “as we understood Him” in a few places in our Big Book. Jimmy B. was also a driving force behind our Third Tradition: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
Despite what some may think, secular A.A. meetings are not just for atheists and agnostics. As written on Page 181 of the Big Book, A.A. co-founder Dr. Bob said he felt “sorry” for atheists and agnostics because of their “intellectual pride.” Similarly, on Page 21 of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill W. characterized atheists and agnostics as “belligerent” and having “savage” minds.
It’s true that secular A.A. meetings are often attended by those who prefer not to be judged for their lack of belief in the God that Bill W. and Dr. Bob believed in. Secular A.A. meetings are also attended by people of religious faith who would rather pray and worship at church services than at A.A. meetings.
Anyone with a desire to stop drinking is welcome to attend secular A.A. meetings or even start secular A.A. groups.
Why does A.A. need to be more secular?
A.A.’s own survey data show that A.A. membership has declined since the early 1990’s even though the overall population has increased. At the same time, other demographic data show that the percentage of Americans who characterize their religious affiliation as “none” has gone up dramatically in recent decades. In fact, the largest single category of religious affiliation among young people in the U.S. currently is “none.”
In addition, more state and federal courts across the U.S. are finding the A.A. program to be “inherently religious,” thus inhibiting A.A.’s ability to provide volunteer support for publicly-funded corrections and substance abuse treatment programs. Courts are increasingly requiring that “secular” options be made available to those who ask for them.
We want the hand of A.A. always to be there.
We hope you will take the time to read our Start a meeting! page, our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, our Judicial Outreach page, and the other pages on this website. Most of all, we hope you will help us welcome an increasingly secular population of newcomers into the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
*“…this was the great contribution of our atheists and agnostics. They had widened the gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.” (A.A. co-founder Bill W. in A.A. Comes of Age, 1957)