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“Newcomers are approaching A.A. at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In A.A. we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as they try to make their way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of A.A., so long as they so declare.”

Bill W., from keynote address, July 1965 International Conference at Toronto,

30th Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous

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A misconception about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is a religious organization. Since A.A. groups often rent space in churches, attending an A.A. meeting in a church basement can reinforce that impression, and the possibility of hearing a prayer at the end of a meeting can further cement the idea for some.

 

Yet A.A.’s pioneering members realized from the beginning that their sole purpose was to help people gain sobriety, and they went to great lengths to ensure the broadest membership among all who suffer from alcoholism.

 

A.A. is a Fellowship, a community of like-minded sufferers who have found a way out of a hopeless condition. We came to A.A. out of desperation to stop drinking, or reeling from the consequences of our actions while drunk. A.A.’s sense of community and partnership is strong because of our shared suffering and our shared solution.

 

In our meetings people from all walks of life come together with a common purpose. Some members return to their religious roots, others find different spiritual paths. Some may find this “God of their understanding,” yet never become involved with organized religion. Still others make the A.A. group itself their higher power.

 

But one thing was sure — whatever our backgrounds, our beliefs or our lack of belief — our drinking had gotten out of hand.

From Many Paths to Spirituality, pgs. 4-5 Copyright © 2014

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

All rights reserved.