A Rational look at the 12 Steps of AA : An Atheist perspective

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The Traditional 12 Steps of AA has long been a dilemma for the committed Atheist or Agnostic. The constant references to a Higher Power and the aggravating Religious references and dogma, certainly are “off-putting” to non-believer. But what about those desperate individuals desiring to get sober “no matter what ??.”

What if there is no Secular AA anywhere near where you are, or you want to have “structure” in your recovery, but are repulsed by the antiquity of 1935 AA  and its nascent beginnings as an “Oxford” step child. Religion and Religiosity are more and more in Decline, with “Magical Thinking” succumbing to Clear and Rational thought. Would I rationally be expected to follow the prescriptive instructions of a 1939 Doctor??. After all, Lobotomy was practiced upon thousands of Alcoholics and other Psychiatric patients at the time…should we also cling to these barbaric beliefs as the only answer to recovery from Alcoholism. Of course not! Many more Modern and Rational Alcoholics have struggled and attempted to offer “Alternative Steps” to the Traditional AA prescription. One school of thought suggests rewriting all 12 of the steps to conform to non-religious thought. Another categorically rejects all of the steps.

Still others really only accept a few of the steps, i.e., Step 1 & 12.  Since a principle of AA describes its “Program” as containing only “suggestions” , perhaps a “suggestion” for “Non-Theists” would be Rationality. A divorce from “Spiritual Make Believe” or god-centric drivel so anathematic to a “real Atheist”, or even the theoretical Agnostic who is repulsed by the text of the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.

So for those who desire a schematic plan of action toward recovery that you can Rationally Accept no matter where your recovery process is occurring, the following “STEPS” may be a solution the Non-Believer can use until their understanding of the Recovery process matures to the point of making this process totally unnecessary.


AA Step 1 : We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Rational Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

AA Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Rational Step 2: Held a steadfast realization that Human Power could restore our sanity. Accepted responsibility for my own wellness.

AA Step 3: Made a Decision to turn our will and our life over to a power greater than ourselves.

Rational Step 3: Came to an understanding regarding  the “Power” of the Group, “One Alcoholic talking with another”.

AA Step 4: Made a searching and fearless Moral inventory of ourselves.

Rational Step 4: Rationally evaluated the role self-seeking behavior dominated our lives.

AA Step 5: Admitted to God and another human being the exact natures of our wrongs.

Rational Step 5: Sought Counsel on our progress thus far.

AA Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these character defects.

Rational Step 6: Entirely rejected any notion of God, or that we were inherently defective in character. Made a list of undesirable behaviors.

AA Step 7: Humbly asked him to remove these character defects.

Rational Step 7: Took personal responsibility for changing my aberrent behaviors.

AA Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Rational Step 8: Made a sincere attempt to make amends to those we have harmed.

AA Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Rational Step 9: Made reasonable amends where possible if safe or prudent to do so.

AA Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Rational Step 10: Became mindful of our daily actions and took swift action to correct our short comings.

AA Step 11: Sought through Prayer and Meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Rational Step 11: Sought the habit of daily rest and restoration as an essential component of recovery.

AA Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Rational Step 12: Having gained a new self awareness through the process of these steps, we shared our new understanding with other Alcoholics.

Author : Courtney S.

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