Who knew?

AA, NA and all the peer-to-peer fellowships that subscribe to the 12 Step formula of transforming from hopelessly addicted to clean and sober are criticized for a theistic bias. The catch, especially for a skeptic, is that 12 Step recovery is predicated on turning ones will and life over to the care of "God as we understand Him." By testing the waters with a secular recovery book, I found that market has an enthusiastic membership of atheists.

Last week I launched Beyond Beleif: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life on Amazon. The catch phrase is, “Finally, a daily reflection book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone.” As of February 1, it cracked the top 100 Amazon ranking in the recovery – 12 step category. Today it is 76th, in and around 45,000th in total Amazon sales.

The daily devotional market for addicts/alcoholics is about 750,000 units a year. Hazelden Publishing dominates the marketplace with Twenty-four Hours a Day selling 8 million copies, Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie for codependents is a twenty year old book that is still in Amazon’s top 900 in over all ranking. AA has their own Daily Reflections which sells over 150,000 copies every year. There are daily devotionals for women, men, young people and newcomers. Beyond Belief is the first secular offering.  

The Ingram/CreateSpace page:


A review by the AA community:


The Amazon.com page:


Rebellion Dogs Publishing:


There has always been an acceptance of one and all but many atheists and agnostics either face being proselytized to feel like we’re just not part of the club. And face it, sex, gambling, drug and alcohol addicts aren’t exactly at the top of the Western cast system to begin with, so to feel ostracized as a member of the dregs of society is especially frustrating. The chapter in the 1939 Alcoholics Anonymous “We Agnostics” sound like a welcome mat to one and all but in careful reading we see it is a grave warning, describing skeptics as intellectual holdouts who, without coming to believe, will face the death or incarceration that awaits those inflicted with the progressive illness of addiction or alcoholism.

As a reaction to the condescending attitude in many quarters of AA, secular organizations have started, mostly by one-time AA members. Life Ring, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and Rational Recovery boast the same anecdotal success stats of some make it – some don’t, that Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or any of the other process or substance abuse fellowships tout. What the secular organizations don’t have in membership numbers. In major cities you can go to AA meetings in the morning, lunch break or evening, every day of the week. Newcomers tend to need this daily reminder and/or encouragement to help steer them toward a new path.  Having a new set of running mates is one of the offerings the larger fellowships offer.

AA still preserves the words of the forefathers in the text Alcoholics Anonymous.  And why not—the Library of Congress called the 30 million selling text “one of the 20th century books that shaped America” along with 87 others. So the original text still sounds like a bunch of bewildered white American male rejects of the Christian faith, because that’s what AA was in the early days. The General Service Office of AA told me last year that 500 organizations have asked and been granted permission by AA to use the Twelve Steps for their purposes. The newer the fellowship, the less of a focus we find on a male deity that intervenes in the life of the unwashed masses. “God of our understanding” started the trend by removing the male overtone and 21st century fellowships like Online Gamers Anonymous and Teen Addiction Anonymous bypass the whole deity assumption and go with the more popular “higher power” concept, that while still to limiting for some, allows Christians, Jews, Muslims apostates and Humanists to talk recovery without offending each other.

So, if you know anyone who needed help but rejected AA, OA, GA, NA or any of the other anonymous fellowships because they were a bunch of hypocrites, you can tell them to come on back—one more won’t make any difference. And we finally have a book that talks our language.

Thanks for reading.

Joe C

Rebellion Dogs Publishing

Toronto Canada


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