Health & Spirit

How an atheist can reconcile God's part in 12-step programs

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: I am an alcoholic and I have been attending Alcoholics Anonymous for many years. I know the 12 steps and I have tried to follow them but I have failed. I have not failed in getting sober. I am sober now and have been for 10 years, but I have a problem with the God part of the 12-step program as I learned it. I just don't believe in a God who speaks to people or who cares about me. I wish I did, but I just don't have that kind of faith. Can you help me? -- anonymous

A: Congratulations on finding a way to stay sober for so long. Now, let's start with the steps. The following list of the 12 steps is virtually identical for all 12-step programs since Bill Wilson founded AA in 1935. This one is from Al-Anon:

-- Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

-- Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

-- Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

-- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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-- Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

-- Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

-- Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

-- Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.


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