We atheists can remain sober without AA.
But, for the same reason that AA members with religious faith have a hard time finding serenity and sanity in their lives without the intermittent wisdom of others to listen to, we atheists find ourselves in the same position. We "take what we need" from the things we hear at the table in order to contemplate our sobriety, just as they do, and we "leave the rest" of the gobbledygook for others to ponder--just as they do.
I was supposed to chair my "homegroup" today. When I got there I discovered the topic in "Daily Reflections" was, "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience."
My homegroup knows I'm atheist. I invoke my atheism many times when I disagree with the theme of the day. I have been heard to say, "The Big Book says we can't get there without a god or a higher power, but I'm here to tell you that I have neither one and yet I sit here clean and sober and sane for nearly four years."
There are people who don't like to hear what I have to say. Some don't come to that meeting any longer. But the "elders", including a Babtist minister, support my right to work my program as I see fit, and they understand the freedom needed to speak one's own truth in order to stay sober. After all, "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." No one can be kicked out of AA. The book says so.
My group upholds that rule to the letter. Of those who refuse to attend the meetings because I speak my mind, they have only one thing to say: "The group is better off without them if they cannot accept the AA tenet that all are welcome who wish to stop drinking." I like the elders of my group, and we get along very well.
I did not chair today's meeting. Part of the continuation of the Daily Reflection for the day is this: "God guides my words and my actions, and my responsibility is to heed His suggestions. Trust is my watchword, I trust others who lead. In the Fellowship of A.A., I entrust God with the ultimate authority of “running the show.”
And you know what? I just couldn't sit there one more time and say the same thing again that they've all heard me say before--that God does not guide me, and I do not entrust a non-existent supernatural nonentity with anything of mine, let alone with "running the show". I am not there to be disagreeable; nor do I have a desire to restate myself everytime the subject is so blatently in my face.
What would be the point of it? They know my position. They know I started a registered AA group for atheists in Kalamazoo. And I certainly did not want to spend the next hour listening once again to other alcoholics affirming how their invisible, omnipotent, all-knowing "maker" helps keep them from picking up the bottle.
I asked someone else to chair for me, and I left the building. And now that I have written this blog, I feel my serenity returning. It left me when I considered staying to chair a meeting the topic of which is anathema to my sensibilities. I don't like it "in my face". As a side dish, I can leave it, or speak to it.
When the topic of god or a higher power comes up more generally, when it is not the "main course" of the day to say that AA's ultimate authority is a mysterious, invisible yet omnipresent force, one that I believe rewards us for sacrificing our selves to a "greater good" (if it only existed), then and only then am I able to interact with the other members and sometimes manage to say things that don't offend them.
But so long as the official office of AA in New York continues to officially recognize atheists in their midst, I'm willing to tell a whole room full of the faithful that I don't need to turn my life and my will over to the power of god.
And they don't either, but they wouldn't believe me.