The founders of AA, two very Christian and God fearing men, made a remarkable allowance nearly 80 years ago when they removed Christianity from what is essentially a religious organization, in an attempt to broaden access to treatment.

AA is religious in nature (although they would call themselves a spiritual group) and the Supreme Court recently agreed with a group that argued against mandated AA therapy for drug offenders as a violation of the mandated separation of Church and State. In AA, you do need to pray, and although no one ever tells you who you need to pray too (only a higher power) if you don’t believe in any form of God it's hard to pray for your shortcomings to be removed, and to ask for strength and guidance!

For some atheists or agnostics, membership within such an overtly religious organization offers very little assistance, and yet some others find a way to retain their spiritual beliefs, and also to work the 12 steps in a meaningful and effective way.

How do they do it?

Well, AA faithful have had a long time to grapple with this problem, and since tens of millions of alcoholics have used the 12 steps as a path to recovery, the group's membership has certainly represented people with a wide range of philosophical interpretations.

AA members suggest that if you do not believing any conventional form of God, you can use any other type of power that is meaningful and resonant to you, that is not another living person, and that is nothing from inside your being.


Some atheist alcoholics have interpreted the above in such a way that allows them to use a form of science or Mother Nature as a power greater than themselves, and to which they feel comfortable praying to in an authentic way. After all, something makes the sun shine…


Other atheists have taken strength and guidance through using the memory of a loved and now dead relative. You can pray to your dead Grandfather, ask him for advice, and feel his influence and power as you grapple with sobriety.

It doesn’t mater what you use, as long as you believe it, and there is no point in faking a belief. If it's not authentic, forget about 12 steps programs and find something else.

12 steps don’t work for everyone

AA and other 12 steps organizations have decades of experience and millions of successful case stories of success. AA doesn’t work for everyone, it may not even work for most, but because it has helped and helps so many millions, it should be respected and should very likely be attempted.

No one form of therapy or treatment works for everyone, and if something doesn’t feel right or doesn't work for you, there is no point in wasting your time on it when there are so many other valid options available. But just because you lack a belief in a conventional God does not automatically disclude you from an effective participation in the program.

Even if you don't believe in God, AA might still be right for you.

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