Going to AA as an atheist


This is one of the things that has kept me away from AA.
Religion goes against so many of my core beliefs that I find it too hard to look past unfortunately. I know people say that “God” is just a word and can mean anything, but for me that doesnt work.
Words have meaning.
Not bashing AA or religion. Each to their own and Im happy people have things that works. But its not for me. Smart is more up my alley.


One of the pod casts I listen on (Real Sobriety) is a 2 to 5 minute monologue from an athiest who has achieved many years of sobriety through AA.

Of the many episodes, He had 12 episodes where he talks about the 12 steps and what it means to him. As an atheist, he said to replace “god” or “higher power” with the word truth.

Came to believe that a truth greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

And when it comes to truth: There’s my version, there’s your version, and then there is the truth. Our own lives lie somewhere in between.


Hi Amy, listen to these people, what they are doing is working. And they are all different in their beliefs.
Like you I don’t believe in “God”. But I believe that there is something higher than me in this universe and I totally except that I wasn’t doing so good a job on my own!
I totally agree that you should slow down. If you go jumping in you may well rush and miss something important.
I’m 6 months sober, I go to AA but as yet I have not got a sponsor or started the steps.
But I have opened my mind to the possibility, and that I will need help from somewhere else.
So far that somewhere else has been like @Dasindog says “the truth”.
I see it as the truth within me. The guiding power that has got me to where I am. I’m not talking about the alcoholic voice that has spent time trying to drown the truth. I’m talking about the goodness, the light to the alcoholic dark if you like.
My advice to you, and this is purely based on my experience, bearing in mind I’m a beginner in this, is just open yourself up. Let the “truth” inside guide you, it will come when it thinks that you are ready.
When you are ready, you will know!


Hey there!

Fellow atheist here and I have found a way to make AA work for me, including the HP stuff. Not just work for me, but it has honestly made my life so so much better.

You are very early on and I guess my advice is - you do not need to figure out your HP right away. Mine has been a slow, evolving process and I’m sure it will continue to evolve.

When I first came into the rooms, I bristled at all the God, He/Him stuff. But I was desperate to get sober, and I knew I needed to be there and do whatever it takes. At the same time, I needed to be true to myself.

Now I don’t bristle so much at the God stuff (though around here, they say the Lord’s prayer, and I don’t say that, but I do hold hands and close my eyes and do a mini meditation). I quite like listening to people talk about the different ways they came to their HP and what it means to them. I listen to a lot of Youtube AA speaker tapes on steps 2 and 3. In Particular, Bob D and Sandy B have been really helpful to me.

All we look for is something bigger than ourselves and to understand that I am not the center of the universe. My HP is a combination of the universe and the group power of AA. It is like the energy that is creates when people connect to each other and how it is bigger than the sum of it’s parts. I connect with it when I hear someone at a meeting say something that I feel is profound, or a song lyric strikes or, or when I experience synchronicity - the Jungian concept of meaningful coincidence. For example, the morning after I went to my first AA meeting, I went to work and there was a Barred Owl in the tree by the door. That never happens. And I am a bird enthusiast. It felt important. No like some Big Guy in the sky that I don’t believe in manufactured it, but like a meaningful coincidence that I should listen to.

There are many cool acronyms used for God which I love:
Group of Drunks (the group consciousness)
Great OutDoors (this is certainly bigger than me)
Gift Of Desperation (for me, it took what it took to get there)

For me, I stick with it and keep an open heart and open mind. I take what I want and leave the rest, though am open to trying new things. Then interestingly, I go back to certain things that I initially dismissed and find I am ready for them. I didn’t start praying right away as I didn’t understand it, but gradually that changed and now I find a lot of comfort in it.

There are some cool resources out there. Here are different versions of the 3rd step prayer, including an atheist version: https://orlandorecoveryfamily.com/2016/03/20/versions-of-the-third-step-prayer/

there is an AA book “one big tent” about stories from atheists and agnostics.

And here is a Bob D talk that I listen to often lately:

For me, I do the steps slowly. There is no need to rush to the end. I am 7 months sober and I am at the START of working on my 4th step. I did a long thorough step one and step two. When it came time to do step 2, I listened to a lot of tapes, listened to people, talked to others about their HP, and then wrote 4 pages about mine.

Check out the appendix on p 567 - "Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the ‘educational variety’ because they develop slowly over a period of time’

Feel free to reach out anytime. I’ve gone from bristling over this stuff to finding it to be one of my favourite things to talk about with fellow AAs.



The Word God is a funny Word. It’s original meaning was the Sun. People worshipped the giver of life, the Sun. Christianity and others have Just monopolised many things that I think we should take Back. Like praying is concidered a religious privilege while it was performed lot lot lot earlier than JC or Allah or who ever is marketed as the holy boy locally.

I Look at religions as the McDonalds of spirituality :sunglasses:


Interesting! When I was on this yoga retreat, we were doing sun salutations outside, facing the sun. It felt like a real HP moment for me - giving thanks and praise to the sun. And one of the poses is forehead, hands, chest and feet on the ground - the teacher talked about this being a position of surrender, having forehead to the floor, with sun on your back. For me, it was kind of like a 3rd step moment - “Sun, I give myself to you”. It was pretty cool. And then I repeated that progress one day during the sunrise on the beach on my own and it felt very powerful. it is moments like these that I feel like I connect to my HP, which I do not call God and is not a Santa Clause in the sky, but is represented by special moments like this and many others (usually connected to the natural world, for me).


I know both God and Satan exist, for I have seen both of their work.

But I am me, and you are you. Your mileage may vary, and that’s just fine by me.


Tomi needs Jesus


There is a We Agnostics meeting in my hometown, so, maybe there’s more of them out there?

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Some very interesting points raised. Thank you for this new perspective.

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If there is a particular mythology that I need…it would be the one that we had here before the crusaders came and destroyed our cultural heritage with violence. That is what religions do…they take their “righteous” place with fascism.
Seriously. Give me back my culture.

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I’m somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic still I love AA. But it really did bother me at first. The chapter to the agnostic actually pissed me off. I didn’t like that it implied that it was okay if you didn’t believe now you will believe as you work the program. Grr. But still I went to meetings and I realized that most people don’t believe in a traditional God yet the program still works for them. For me the concept of God in AA is simply admitting that we can’t do this on our own. We admit that there are things in this world that we can’t explain entirely with science that there is wonder and mystery. And by putting faith in that wonder and mystery we let go of our own need to control everything in our lives and letting go/surrendering is necessary for recovery. For me, my “God” is Mother Nature. That life grows from single cells into complicated multicellular systems is awe inspiring to me.


You need Thor


I’ve been thinking about saying something about this this afternoon. That is exactly what it’s all about.
I was going to say that we all get hung up on this God thing but ultimately this line is where it all starts. So there must be something else that can help us.
It’s the ability to open up to that concept that enables us to move forward in our recovery. Wether it’s with the AA or not. But obviously AA gives us a structure to work to.

Great photo Sue!:grinning:


My higher power is the power of those rooms, the energy in them, and the miracles I see on a weekly basis happening in there.

Besides, even if you don’t believe in God, its better to be in an AA meeting than a bar. Just keep putting your butt on a seat, your head will follow in good time.

Amazing work on your 10 days


I would have sat through any amount of religious/God lectures, talks, events, etc if it meant there was an open bar at the end. Now I realise that letting that stuff stop me from engaging in recovery is just my disease and ego talking. Now I am better at keeping an open mind to others’ faith being different from my own, but I constantly have to work at it and set my ego aside on the daily.


You worded it better than I ever could :heart::pray:


I was definitely an agnostic when I came into AA. I would have been an atheist except I didn’t care as much.
My sponsor was awesome and supportive and my “God” was AA at first.
I struggled with step 2 but I was WAY overthinking it (the “god thing”).
It’s totally ok to be an atheist or Agnostic in AA (don’t let anyone tell you any different).
Today my concept of a higher power has completely changed.
Do the work (with a sponsor) and know it will all fall into place.


Ariel, this is such an outstanding reply. I absolutely love it.

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Hi, not read all the replies so apologies if I’m repeating. One big tent is a book about AA from atheists or agnostics view. It describes how they work and interpret the programme. It starts by people sharing their reservations about AA which you may be able to relate to. I’m not an atheist but I try to read and understand lots of different view so found it useful.

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