After 75 years, Alcoholics Anonymous still rankles

For all AA’s seeming success and worldwide acceptance as *the* alcohol-recovery program, its references to God and spirituality have always rankled — even turned away — non-believers

IN A CLASSROOM ABOVE A TORONTO SUBWAY STATION, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting gathers. The room is dreary, with harsh lighting and plastic chairs, and every few minutes a train rumbles below. Tonight roughly 25 people have trickled in — young professionals, students, middle-aged family men, a few first-timers — all here because they are alcoholics seeking the camaraderie and support of fellow alcoholics. But unlike a traditional AA meeting, this group makes no mention of God or any kind of “higher power” as prerequisite for recovery. This is “AA for free-thinkers,” an intergroup called Beyond Belief. “We found AA was getting a little too evangelical,” says Joe C., who co-founded the group several months ago and, in the AA tradition goes only by his first name. “In its purest form, AA works,” he says. “So, we kind of take what we want and leave the rest.” Continue reading