The Long Conversation: Is AA A Religion?

aalogoIn what has to be a record breaking conversation, users of the James Randi Educational Foundation forum have been debating one question for almost a year and a half. The original post asked, simply, “Why do people insist AA is not religious.”

The thread started in July of 2010, and at this writing has more than six-thousand responses over 155 pages. It is still going strong. It has gotten to the point that a Google search with the phrase “AA is not religious” brings up the thread on the first page.

The original poster told (in part) this story:
I’m dealing with a spouse who has alcohol issues. His first therapist (social worker) told him to go to a Beginner’s AA meeting, and to “Keep An Open Mind.”

He went, and was instantly uncomfortable. Not only was Jesus Christ mentioned constantly as the Savior, but the meeting ended with, “The Lord’s Prayer.”

He related this to the social worker, who berated him for not going to a Beginner’s meeting. (Which it WAS listed as.) And then told him that, “The Lord’s Prayer” is not really religious, anyway.

My husband now sees a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavior and doesn’t push AA.

That post exemplified the next year’s worth of infighting. Posters range from outright haters of anything Alcoholics Anonymous to those who credit the program with saving their lives. AA is alternatively labeled a cult and then, the next post claims it isn’t religious at all. Each side brings up documents and statistics to support their viewpoint. The Big Book is often quoted. Unlike many forums, there is very little trolling and not much flaming, so it’s a wonder that over these many months, no conclusion can be drawn. The debate rages on.

Part of the explanation comes from different eyes seeing different things. A local meeting usually reflects the values of those attending. Alcoholics who don’t “fit in” leave. The interesting thing is how much a religious flavor would help or hurt the AA movement overall. Will we see less and less attendance as alcoholism moves into the disease column? After all, we generally treat diseases in the U.S. with the input of a medical professional. Arguably, the medical community is very jealous of anyone (or anything) that trods on their turf.

You can read the thread here, but be careful, lest you are drawn into the never-ending debate.

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