Tuesday, August 23, 2011

* The God Problem in A.A.

The Hanover Inn as seen from Baker Library on the Dartmouth College Campus.

Co-founders of A.A.: Bill W. ( l ) and Dr. Bob  (r )

As a graduate of the Yale University Divinity School         (M. Div. '80) I am interested in what gives people spiritual sustenance and strength.  Surely the Twelve Step Programs emanating from the original template of Alcoholics Anonymous are enormously successful spiritual programs. Thus I jumped at the chance ten or so years ago to hear the son of the late  Dr. Robert Smith, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1902, speak to a  group of about 200 at the Hanover Inn when he was 85.

As it turned out, "Smitty" was not the one whose words embedded themselves in my memory. It was his second wife, a social worker who was still working at 68, who pronounced the sentence which has stuck in my memory: "About one in ninety-seven who visits the rooms of A.A., stays."

Now. you can look  at that statistic two ways: (Remember Mark Twain said "There are three types of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.") Either one out of ninety-seven is a terrible failure rate, or a terrific success rate, since most people who stay, usually stop drinking.

One of the big excuses people use to dump A.A. and return to drinking, is the religious language used in the Twelve Step Program.

Many who attend A.A. meetings reject them because of the God references. 

A.A. has several ways around this problem. "The ONLY requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking" the A.A. Preamble states, NOT a belief in God.  (Note: Not even a pledge to stop drinking, simply a desire.)

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could relive our alcoholism" is the language of A.A. second "step".  Many AA's put it this way:  You don't have to believe in God.  You just have to believe there is a power greater than yourself. PERIOD.

Now if the persistent use of the word "God" in A.A. continues to bother you, A.A. has another way around this problem ---Three  G.O.D. acronyms:

                                      Good Orderly Direction

                                      Gift Of Desperation

                                      Group Of Drunks

Simply substitute any or all of these for the word "God" every time it is used in A.A.

No more is required.

Another acronym is E.G.O.  (Easing God Out)

Simply substitute one of the God acronyms for the            G-word in E.G.O. and it makes perfect sense. Easing  out of your life the group of drunks, the gift of desperation, or the good orderly direction of the A.A. Program is a return to the emotional isolation and egocentricity which leads to a drink.

As the Old Timers used to say when the God issue came up "Don't join the debating society."

Make your own personal adjustment. 



However, if you want to reject the Twelve Step Program nothing can keep you from doing so.


(So endeth the lesson.)

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