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Sober Thoughts On A.A.'s God

Proof I was there

Sober Thought #1: Only God is God

Since men are so weak, there are plenty of relatively "Higher Powers". For example, Satan is a higher power (some even use "my" instead of "a" when talking about him). But there is only one Supreme Being, endowed with all perfections at an infinite degree. And there is a perfectly correct word in the English dictionary to talk about Him.

Sober Thought #2: Some imaginations of "God" are ungodly

Our imaginations do not necessarily reflect reality. Everybody has his or her concept of God. But it does not logically follow that everybody's concept of God is true. For example, some imagine a "God" who wants them to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers. Others imagine a "God" who considers a still-suffering drunkard as somebody who should not be helped, because he's "paying for bad karma" in a previous lifetime. All concepts of God are not equal.

Sober Thought #3: An Atheist is not the same thing as Atheism

Even drunken Atheists are created in the image and likeness of God, therefore the hand of A.A. must always be there for them. But Atheism is a serious philosophical error, which attacks the very foundation of A.A.

Sober Thought #4: If God doesn't exist, nothing is forbidden

If God doesn't exist, we are just bunches of molecules temporarily assembled by a purposeless evolution. So what if a drunkard killed your child because he was drinking and driving? All he did was to rearrange some molecules! So what if a still-suffering alcoholic drank himself to death? His molecules are all still here among us! If God doesn't exist, sobriety is neither "good" nor "evil". (And if you believe you can pull the rabbit of morality out of the hat of Atheism, please contact me. I will post your magic trick on the Internet and take back everything I say here.)

The day A.A. drank itself to death

On April 22, 2010, late in the evening at the 60th General Service Conference, Item C of the Conference Committee on Literature was approved. The Item itself was rather harmless, and you don't need to know what it was. What is important is that the arguments used by delegates, both for and against the Item, showed that the above sober thoughts about A.A.'s God have been blacked out. On that sad day, the majority, with good intentions but drunk with political correctness, crucified the heart and soul of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I'm not predicting A.A. will disappear overnight. On the contrary, I think it will superficially continue unchanged, while progressively transforming itself into a kind of "Group-Hug Club" that will have more and more problems helping alcoholics become sober. Just like a car can't work if you siphon out the gas, A.A. can't work if you siphon out A.A.'s God.

Stefan Jetchick, Class A translator

6) Post-scriptum: Sharing with A.A. members about this article

6.1) "Are you trying to start a controversy?"

I'm well-aware that A.A. doesn't like controversy. (See Traditions #6 and especially #10.)

But we have to be careful not to loose sight of the primary objective of A.A.: to help members stay sober, and to help the still-suffering alcoholic become sober. Bill W. and Dr. Bob didn't found A.A. to avoid controversy, but on the contrary, the two Founders asked that we avoid unecessary controversy, in order to better be able to help alcoholics.

We must therefore avoid controversy, unless a specific controversy is necessary to pursue the primary objective of A.A. For example, if a trusted servant started to steal Seventh Tradition money to buy himself a Rolls-Royce, and that denouncing that crime would cause a controversy, should we be quiet? Of course not!

My goal is not to start a controversy, but to help A.A. pursue its primary objective. Yes, I talk about a sensitive topic, but this topic already causes a controversy inside A.A. (the controversial Item on the agenda has been causing heated debates at the General Service Conference for 11 years already). Not only did the controversy exist before I arrived, but A.A. is in far greater danger than if somebody stole all the contributions money, in my opinion.

6.2) "I wasn't there and I don't understand anything about your "Item C of the Literature Committee". What are you talking about?

First, I must say that I love verifiable facts, precise quotes, references to original sources, etc. The debate surrounding that resolution was recorded. Ideally, I'd offer you the written transcript of that debate, and you'd know exactly what I heard, and even who said it (since everbody who goes to the microphone gives their full name and service position).

All this information exists, but I can't use it, and anyway it's not necessary. I can't use it because:

- A.A. has a long tradition of anonymity, therefore I can't give names;

- I must respect my Code of Ethics as a translator, which forbids me to disclose the client's information;

- the A.A. General Service Conference works in camera, and that deliberative assembly (not me) decides what it wants to make public, and what it wants to keep private.

But I don't need to disclose this information. It's like the old story about the monk who was pointing at the moon, and his disciple who thought it was all about that monk's finger! The specific Item on the agenda is like that finger: it's not important. In my article, the "moon" can be summarized as:

- A.A.'s God is not just any "god";

- without A.A.'s God, A.A. will self-destruct;

- A.A.'s God has been blacked out in the minds of a large proportion of Panel 59 and Panel 60 delegates.

6.3) "How do you dare speak in public of a private issue of the A.A. General Service Conference?"

To start with, I have a good memory, and I'm revealing almost nothing of what was said during that Conference.

Also, I'd rather just shut up and cash my paycheck in peace! Indeed, the A.A. contract pays me well, and I like to eat three meals a day and pay my rent. Why run the risk of A.A. not hiring me anymore, when all I need to do is shut up? Because my conscience tells me to speak out. If something destroys the A.A., then the still-suffering alcoholics will destroy their families and themselves.

6.4) "Who says A.A. is seriously threatened?"

I claim A.A. is seriously threatened. I could very well be wrong. I often am, unfortunately. And yes, I'm often blinded by pride. But am I mistaken in this case? I don't think so. But if I'm wrong, please make a reasonable effort to cure me! See the medication I'm suggesting in #6.6 here below.

6.5) "The Conference delegates are our democratic representatives! How dare you accuse them?"

If the "group conscience" were God, then since God is infallible, the "group conscience" could never make mistakes! Any democratic decision would necessarily be perfect.

Except that doesn't correspond with history. For example, Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. That doesn't correspond with the writings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob either, who clearly said the decisions of the General Service Conference were not untouchable, that a subsequent Conference could contradict a previous Conference.

Is it possible that the delegates of the 60th Conference made a mistake about Item C? I think yes, and a serious mistake at that. But as I've said here above, these delegates obviously love A.A., and they made that decision with excellent intentions. In my opinion, these delegates are mostly victims of some intellectual errors that are very popular these days. In other words, since Canada and the USA are "infected" by some philosophical errors, and that these delegates are chosen among the citizens of those two countries, it's normal that several delegates are infected.

6.6) "Do you have a solution?"

I think a solution to this whole problem could be fairly simple: a good electronic debate, or to use an A.A. expression, an Internet "sharing session".

First, that would eliminate the whole problem of anonymity and closed meetings. (see #6.2 here above). Indeed, no names would appear on the Internet, and the participants would state their own opinions (therefore no private information belonging to the General Service Conference would be revealed).

Also, that would deal with the case of me being mistaken (see #6.4 here above). If I'm wrong and A.A. isn't threatened, that would quickly emerge from the debate, and since everything would be in writing and on the Internet, everybody could see it.

Finally, and especially, if I were right and A.A. was really threatened, the simple fact that many A.A. members would be warned of this threat might be enough, since next year at the 61st General Service Conference, the delegates could solve the problem.

Anyway, that's my suggestion!

6.7) "The idea we have of God is at the heart of the A.A. traditions. Why do you want us to change what has been working so well for so many years?"

Careful! We have to make a distinction between the sign, and what is signified. It's a bit like the following expression: "This year's Stanley Cup Champions". That expression remains the same year after year, but the ice hockey team this expression signifies doesn't necessarily remain the same each year!

Let's imagine a sociologist of religion who studies the expression "the idea we have of God". (By the way, divine Providence arranges things well, since my neighbor to the left is a professor of sociology of religion at Laval University!) This scientist could determine the precise meaning of this expression, but for such a country, and at such a time. The same expression could totally change meaning in another country, or in the same country, but at a different period of time.

What about this expression, if we compare the USA of today with the USA of over 60 years ago, during the time when the A.A. were founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob? I think that, statistically, most Americans would have claimed membership to one of the Christian denominations. Their "idea of God" would roughly have been the one described in Sober Thought #1. I'll try to describe this with a drawing:

Popular beliefs, over 60 years ago, in the USA

If we let a few generations pass, and that we repeat the same poll with Americans, the graphic would change. Even though Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, etc., existed already over 60 years ago, they were marginal in the USA. Moreover, so-called "New Age" religions were practically inexistant during the foundation of A.A., but they are today very popular. The graphic would therefore look more like this:

Popular beliefs, today, in the USA

Of course, I'm not a sociologist, but such a scientific study could be done, and I think the results would be roughly compatible with these two drawings. In my opinion, the expression "the idea we have of God" has changed meanings, and this change threatens the very existence of A.A.

6.8) "A.A.'s God is not the same as the God of Catholics or that of the Protestants."

As usual, we have to start by defining our terms. If we define "God" as "all of the teachings of a religion", then yes, the "God" of A.A. is not the same as the God of Catholics or Protestants. Except this definition of God is much too broad!

If we define "God" more like Sober Thought #1 here above, then the God of Catholics is the same as the God of Protestants, and that God is also the same as that of the A.A. Traditions. If you don't believe me, we can make a two-column list, with to the left all the characteristics of A.A.'s God, and on the right the characteristics of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. You'll see that no point on the left lacks a corresponding point on the right. It's rather on the right that you'll have points without correspondants on the left. Mathematically, A.A.'s God is a "sub-set" of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, we can add that this God is the same as the God of the better philosophers. Indeed, in the history of thought, many philosophers have demonstrated the existence of God, a God which is the Supreme Being, unique and personal, infinitely good, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, different from us and from the universe, who loves us and wants our own good, etc. Here again, if you don't believe me, we can go read together a good book on the history of philosophy, or a good philosophy textbook, in the chapter on "natural theology" (the study of God, using only reason without faith).

6.9) "A.A. must be always inclusive, never exclusive."

Once again, in order to agree or disagree with that statement, we have to make sure we understand it correctly. "Inclusiveness" is a very popular idea these days, but it's often misunderstood. There is such a thing as good exclusiveness.

What is "good exclusiveness"? Some examples: a fire department which refuses to hire an arsonist, a hospital who kicks out a nurse who also happens to be a serial killer, a country which prevents a terrorist from passing its border, etc.

Does that mean A.A. should refuse to let Atheists into their meetings? Of course not! See Sober Thought #3: the hand of A.A. must always be there for Atheists. But letting Atheists into A.A. meetings is not the same thing as letting Atheism into A.A. Atheism is fundamentally incompatible with the A.A. (as well as being incompatible with civilization in general; see Sober Thought #4).

In other words, A.A. must always be reasonably inclusive, and never unreasonably exclusive. It is reasonable to be inclusive with Atheists who have a desire to stop drinking. It is unreasonable to be inclusive with Atheism.


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