The less religious someone is, the more they notice how prevalent the focus on God and religious symbolism is in AA. The word God appears 315 times in the Big BookThe basic text of AA was the first to methodically introduce the 12-steps. It is still the main source for meetings and is quoted in just about all AA and other 12-step literature. the Library of Congress named it one of the 88 “Books that shaped America.” Read more about the Big Book of AA. More of AA.
What makes the 12-step conception of religion unique is that every addictAn individual with an unhealthy dependence on a substance or behavior. An individual remains an addict even years into recovery and must therefore remain active in recovery. Read more about drug & alcohol addiction & withdrawal at Withdrawal Info. More can use their spiritual conception. Since there is no specific dogma that guides belief, there is an infinite variety within the membership of the groups.
The Christian Background of AA
The first 12-step programA 12 step program includes 12 steps of recovery to help those struggling with substance addictions or behavioral addictions. The 12 steps are also used in programs dedicated to helping loved ones of addicts. 12 step programs include 12 step meetings where members go to share their experience strengt... More was Alcoholics AnonymousThe original 12-step fellowship, formed in 1935, to help alcoholics, regain control over their lives. It remains the largest 12-step organization and has contributed to the sobriety of millions worldwide. Read more about Alcoholics Anonymous More (AA), and it is very much a product of its time and place. Founded in a time when the United States was a very Christian and Protestant nation.
The two founders of the organization, Bill W.One of the co-founders of AA. His story is recounted in the Big Book of AA and has inspired millions. Due to his instrumental role in shaping the 12-step program, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most important people of the century. More and Dr. Bob, were firm believers in Christianity and many of their ideas had blossomed out of religious-oriented seminars they had participated in. Not surprisingly, the basic AA literature is strongly influenced by these beliefs. When they refer to a Higher Power12-step programs greatly stress surrender to and daily communication with a Higher Power. Having trust in something greater than yourself is considered essential for returning sanity in the unmanageable life of an addict. This can be a traditional deity, a spiritual entity or a social one such as th... More, they explicitly refer to God.
Another religious element in 12-step meetings is the “serenity prayerThe prayer is: “God, grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. It is almost universally recited at 12-step meetings and is meant to foster acceptance of the will of the Higher Power and encourage serenity amon... More”:
“God grant me the SerenityOne of the goals of recovery in 12-steps and many other formats is the attainment of serenity. It is dissatisfaction and disquiet which often drives addictive and destructive behavior and attaining a level of serenity nips cravings in the bud. In 12-step fellowships, this is often cultivated through... More to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.”
Although it does not contain material that is strictly Christian, it was written by an important theologian of that faith. However, the wisdom behind Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr’s prayer transcends religion and belies a deeper universal truth.
However, the founders of AA were well aware that not all of the members of the fellowshipThis refers to the members of AA and the bonds of support between them. It is this fellowship that allows addicts to share their stories and accept each other in a world that is not always understanding. More are Christian and they wanted the programThis refers to any official course of treatment for addiction. This could be anything from in-patient facilities, to 12-step programs to harm-reduction programs. More to work for everyone. Therefore, the original literature does not refer specifically to Christian doctrine, even if it does use that language extensively for cultural reasons.