The core mission of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help addicts stay sober, right?
Wrong. Atheist alcoholics aren't welcome. Even agnostics are personae non gratae.
Everyone knows that the core twelve-step program of AA rests on a belief in a higher power. Its core tenets came from the evangelical religious beliefs of founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith and were based on Biblical principles.
But in spite of this Christian foundation, I always thought that AA was supposed to be nondenominational. I thought AA put the welfare of its members above proselytizing. Even though its founders were Christian, AA's "higher power" is very generic, something that could appeal to Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Jains and even Native American spiritual beliefs. AA tries to help everyone ... except atheists.
On Tuesday of last week, Toronto's two atheists AA groups were kicked out of the organization. Beyond Belief and We Agnostics were taken off AA's roster of local meetings, removed from the Toronto AA website, and removed from the printed Toronto AA directory.
On the one hand I have to admit that AA has the right to do this. It's a private organization founded by very religious people. If they want to refuse to help atheists, the law is on their side.
On the other hand, AA has a virtual stranglehold on addiction recovery in America and Canada. Can you name even one other program for addicts? Probably not. The name is Alcoholics Anonymous, not "Christian Alcoholics Anonymous." When someone needs help, they naturally look up AA and find the nearest meeting.
AA needs to take a higher view. Their primary mission should be to help addicts, not to proselytize for Christianity. Although the founders believed that Christian principles were a good way to achieve sobriety, their primary mission was sobriety.
Apparently AA has lost sight of that mission. It's now an evangelical church, and sobriety comes second.
(For more about AA, see Christian Shocker: God-Based AA Program Harms Alcoholics.)