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Grapevine : August 2011
more welcoming to those of a Chris- tian background. Furthermore, while every individual is promised the free- dom to choose his or her own idea of a Higher Power, the frequent use, and capitalization, of the word "God" and the wording of the suggested prayers, does not seem inclusive of any non- Christian concept. There are almost no references in the AA literature to any spiritual practices, outside of Christian beliefs. Looking into our basic text, we are assured at the beginning of the chapter titled "We Agnostics" that many of our Fellowship's founding members were either atheist or ag- nostic, but the chapter crescendos in a coercive pitch that casts atheism as a flaw which must be corrected if one hopes to stay sober. This polemic raises a very impor- tant question, one which is argued about either overtly or covertly at many AA meetings: Is our primary purpose to stay sober---or to find faith in a Higher Power? The literature, in a very circular logic, suggests that these two issues are solved together through the taking of the Steps. This leaves the atheist or agnostic with a huge problem when he comes to the Second or Third Step. His fellows in the program may try to cheer him on the concept of a Higher Power, telling him he's totally free to choose his own idea of God. What if his choice is to believe in no God? We may hear in the words of many well-meaning believers that we are free to choose the group, the meet- ing, or the "whatever" as our Higher Power. The insinuation is ever present that those who choose not to believe in God are somehow inadequate. We hear in meetings how God is doing for our fellows what they could never do for themselves. Someone gets a job, car, a house, or recovers from an illness---and this is somehow proof of God's involvement in their personal lives. We all know that non- Christians, even atheists, have experi- ences both exceptional and mundane every day, all over the world. We know that many people refrain from drink- ing for many reasons, other than a be- lief in God. Of course, many people in the world drink as part of a religious or spiritual tradition. I think it's long past time to start asking why there is so much fear and prejudice, specifically toward atheists and agnostics---even in an organiza- tion like AA, which (on the surface, at least) claims to have no religious affiliation. If a person at a meeting is going through a tough time and happens to be a believer, the mood of the meeting tends to be encouraging. However, if a person is going through a tough time and admits he's a nonbeliever, the mood becomes one of blame, as if he's met some form of punishment. I think it's time to start calling this accepted prejudice against non- believers by its true name: Bigotry. 54 August 2011