TWO secular Alcoholics Anonymous groups in Toronto, Canada – known as Beyond Belief and We Agnostics – have been removed or “delisted” from a roster of local meetings. They disappeared last week from the Toronto AA website and will not be in the next printed edition of the Toronto directory.
The row started when Beyond Belief posted an adapted version of AA’s hallowed “Twelve Steps” on the Toronto website. They removed the word “God” from the steps, which are used as a kind of road map to help drinkers achieve sobriety.
Joe C, who founded Beyond Belief, Toronto’s first agnostic AA group, told The Star:
They took issue with a public display of secular AA.
Beyond Belief proved so popular that a second group – We Agnostics – started up last fall. It had only recently completed the paperwork to be part of AA before being booted out.
What is unusual is that this didn’t happen in some backwater, but â€¦ in a liberal, democratic, pluralistic place like Toronto.
The name of God appears four times in the AA’s Twelve Steps and echoes the period in which they were written â€” the 1930s. It invites those seeking sobriety to turn themselves over to God, who will remove their “defects of character.” They go on to speak of God’s will for the recovering alcoholic.
Said an AA member who attended last Tuesday’s meeting of the coordinating body known as the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup:
They [the altered Twelve Steps] are not our Twelve Steps. They’ve changed them to their own personal needs. They should never have been listed in the first place.
Said Larry of We Agnostics:
This is not the first we’ve gone up against bigotry. This has been an ongoing struggle in North America.
Another recovering alcoholic told the paper:
I’ve tried AA meetings and I couldn’t get past the influence of right-wing Christianity.
Another, Roger, took issue with AA’s concept of the “God of your understanding.”
First, there is a gender problem (several of the steps refer to Him). But more importantly, a creator God with a personal interest in me doesn’t fit well with my understanding of how the cosmos works.
Hat tip: Canada Dave