Whilst 12 Step Programs require a belief in God, Alcoholics Anonymous claims to be non-discriminatory on matters of belief for the purposes of membership.
Third Tradition: The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
However, whilst Atheist and Agnostic members are tolerated, the sobriety of the non-believer challenges the very assumptions that underpin the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous:
‘(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
(c) That God could and would if He were sought.’ - p60
Chapter 4 of the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous, We Agnostics, demonstrates the contempt for the non-believer that is at the core of the Program, its beliefs and values.
Alcoholics Anonymous attributes the following traits to the non-believer:
1. The non-believer is prejudiced
· ‘We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p46
· ‘Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p48
· ‘We, who have travelled this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p55
2. The non-believer is intolerant
· ‘We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves. We never gave the spiritual side of life a fair hearing.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p50
3. The non-believer is arrogant
· ‘Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn’t it?’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘We used to amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and practices.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p55
· ‘True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.’ - 12 x 12, p33
4. The non-believer is antagonistic
· ‘Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p48
5. The non-believer is unreasonable
· ‘Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p48
· ‘We asked ourselves this: Are not some of us just as biased and unreasonable about the realm of the spirit as were the ancients about the realm of the material?’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p51
6. The non-believer is illogical
· ‘When, however, the perfectly logical assumption is suggested that underneath the material world and life as we see it, there is an All Powerful, Guiding, Creative Intelligence, right there our perverse streak comes to the surface and we laboriously set out to convince ourselves it isn’t so.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘We read wordy books an indulge in windy arguments, thinking we believe this universe needs no God to explain it. Were our contentions true, it would follow that life originated out of nothing, means nothing, and proceeds nowhere.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about. Actually, we used to have no reasonable conception whatever.’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p49
· ‘Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe than not to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said, “We don’t know.”’ - Alcoholics Anonymous, p53