Alcoholics Anonymous’ Theology – Is AA a Religion?

Alcoholics Anonymous’ Theology – Is AA a Religion?

Alcoholics Anonymous does not have a rigid, published “Theology” as such. Much of the talk you will hear in AA circles is based upon the co-founder Bill Wilson’s (known as “Bill W.”) spiritual journey. The beginning of Bill W.’s experiences can be found in pages 9-15 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (The “Big Book”) The 12 steps are adamant about God “As we understand Him”. AA does not attempt to force their concept of God upon anyone else. The newcomer to AA will hear about how Bill W. found God, and how the other members came to believe, and hopefully, they will find a way to connect with God, themselves.

AA is not a religion It is a spiritual program. In a religion you do certain things or act certain ways to gain God’s favor. But AA is a growing relationship between you and God (See the twelve steps. Search for the term “12 Steps” on AA’s website They are also on pages 59-60 of the “Big Book”). You will not hear in AA that you have to act a certain way. Though people will make suggestions that work for themselves.

There are people from all faiths in AA. Most that I’ve met are Christians. But I’m sure in other parts of the world, the ratios are markedly different. Just like in other walks of life, some are more active and zealous than others. There are also many who have made AA their God. One guy I know has remained atheist. As far as I know, he’s been sober over five years.

AA believes “come as you are” Even a rough concept of God (God as you understand Him) will be sufficient starting place. AA does not ask you to believe in God in the same way that they do. But most would agree that the program is based upon Biblical principles.

You’ll usually not hear the name of Jesus much in AA, but He is there in many members’ minds. The idea of the nameless “Higher power” is to draw people who have pre-conceived notions about God into the fellowship without scaring them off. A lot of people had bad experiences in sanctimonious churches and think the experiences are from God. Sad, but a fact of life.

AA is not intended to save your soul. I’ve heard it said many times, “Jesus saved my soul, but AA saved my skin”. And it is true. If going to church by itself could keep a person sober, AA would never have had to form. Because most people went to church in the 1930s and before. And low-bottom alcoholics had virtually no hope of staying sober before AA.

AA’s spiritual principles are almost without exception, straight out of the Bible — focused on the areas that the alcoholic tends to lack. You can hear the spiritual principles here and there if you go to church often enough, but never cohesively enough to stick well enough to form a program in a person’s mind. Especially a mind pickled by alcohol.

  • By Dick B., July 6, 2010 @ 10:21 am

    The Howard article is unusual. The author clearly has learned some of the Christian roots of A.A. and probably that Dr. Bob said that all the basic ideas came from the effort and study of the Bible. The principle segments were the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. As one who has attained 24 years of continuous sobriety and spent 20 years researching and publishing the history and Bible roots of A.A., I would commend the author for his presentation. I hasten to say, however, that it would have been better to note that A.A. was changed from its Christian Fellowship, Bible study, old fashioned prayer meetings, Quiet Times, and surrenders to Jesus Christ. That was the Original A.A. Christian Fellowship program. But Bill Wilson and three others changed that when they finally published the Big Book and opened the door to atheists and agnostics. Hence A.A. today is not a Christian Fellowship, but it does embrace tens of thousands of Christians who do not know the roots. Our class answers that starting point–“Introductory Foundations for Christian Recoery” See

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