BIG BOOK THEOLOGY: “We Agnostics” and William James (By James R.)
May 21, 2008, 12:54 am
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Much has been made of the religious language that is sprinkled throughout Alcoholics Anonymous, commonly called “The Big Book.” Some conservatives cite this language as evidence that the Twelve Step program is really a Christian program that cannot be fully effective without an active faith in Christ. Others see this same language simply as a product of its time that does not play an important role in Twelve Step spirituality. Still others are threatened by the religious language of the Big Book and disregard the book as a whole because they feel it is aggressively religious.

It is common knowledge that AA (and therefore the entire Twelve Step movement) had its birth within and evangelical Christian movement known as the Oxford Group. AA separated itself from the Oxford Group prior to the publication of the Big Book. The Big Book contains some religious language, but only mentions Jesus once, and then only in passing. This has left historians and AA members divided over some important questions. Just how Christian was early AA? Who is the God of the Big Book? Is this the Christian God, or can we really take this to mean a God of our own understanding?

In its chapter, “We Agnostics,” the Big Book outlines its attitude toward spiritual and religious matters. In doing so, the Big Book also presents a method by which readers can investigate theological questions for themselves. By exploring this method, we should be able to answer some questions about the nature of the Big Book’s ideas about God. There are a few problems with the Big Book’s theological method, and these must be taken seriously. Some help can be provided by William James, whose philosophical method is remarkably similar to the theological method of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“We Agnostics” seems to anticipate and embrace a wide range of approaches to and understandings of God:

Whether we agree with a particular approach or conception seems to make little difference. Experience has taught us that these are matters about which, for our purpose, we need not be worried.

Alcoholics Anonymous

In fact, “We Agnostics” suggests that one need not begin with any conception of God at all, but merely a bare willingness to believe in the possibility of spiritual power:

We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commence to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Once the alcoholic is expressing willingness to believe, he or she can then begin to test “the God idea” by working the Twelve Steps:

At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him…upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.

Alcoholics Anonymous

The Big Book encourages its readers to adopt an attitude toward spiritual matters similar to the Wright brothers’ attitude toward flight. The point being that the reader ought not preclude opportunities for spiritual recovery without giving them a fair trial. In an appendix on spiritual experience, the Big Book quotes Herbert Spencer to the effect that one can only be excluded from spiritual growth if one fosters an attitude of “contempt prior to investigation.”

For “We Agnostics,” the spiritual life begins in ignorance. The alcoholic is expected to start without any preconceived ideas about God, but simply a willingness to believe. This willingness allows the alcoholic to experiment with the Twelve Steps. In taking Steps, the alcoholic begins to have spiritual experiences, and these become the basis for a growing faith in spiritual power. The Big Book insists that it is impossible to fully understand or define this power, and so each alcoholic is free to come to their own understanding of God, based on their own spiritual experiences in the Twelve Steps. The Big Book’s theological method begins with willingness, proceeds to action, from action to experience, from experience to faith, and finally conception. One important assumption of this method is that personal experience is a valid way to gain knowledge of spiritual things.

There are at least two obvious problems with this method. First, there is some confusion in the modern Twelve Step movement about what, exactly, the Twelve Steps are, and how one ought to work them. Recovery today is an intellectually diverse environment, and there are hundreds of Twelve Step guides, each with a different approach to the Twelve Step program. Some, like the Big Book, offer a clear program of action, and yet these disagree greatly among themselves about which actions are to be taken, and what the expected results should be. Other Step guides offer not action at all, but treat the Twelve Steps as a set of ideas that can be applied in a variety of ways, or simply used as food for thought. Also, while the Big Book is clear that the Twelve Steps are a means of making contact with God, many other guides see the Steps as a program of personal empowerment or resocialization.

A theological method that bases knowledge of God upon experience, and experience upon a program of action must take into account that different actions will inevitably produce different experiences. This is not to say that a variety of actions—more than twelve, even—couldn’t be included into the basic method of the Big Book. Much confusion results, however, when a term like “Fourth Step” refers not to a clear and agreed upon action, but a vast array of actions and ideas, many of which either contradict each other, or anticipate drastically different experiences. In such an environment, we cannot refer to a coherent “Twelve Step theological method,” we can only refer to a coherent “Big Book theological method,” or its equivalent, based on another approach to the Twelve Steps. In this paper, we are working with the Big Book’s theological method, with the understanding that its actions, and even its theological method, are not shared by most other approaches to the Twelve Steps.

A second problem with this method concerns the question of whether or not experience is a sufficient foundation for theological knowledge. Experience is relative, in that each individual has a unique experience of the same object or action; experience is unstable, in that an individual’s experience of an object or action changes over time, sometimes dramatically; experience is also subjective, and therefore comes with all the conscious and unconscious, genetic and dynamic trappings of the individual psyche.

Because experience is relative, a theological method based on it will not produce consistent results, even if each participant it taking the same actions. Each person will have their own unique experience and will arrive at their own unique understanding of God. This inevitably results in an environment of pluralism, wherein there is little agreement about theological issues.

Because experience is unstable, we should expect a theological method based on it not only to be pluralistic, but constantly problematic for each individual. One can experience God one way today, and a new way tomorrow. If these two experiences contradict each other, or are so dramatically different as to produce confusion, what then are we to make of God? If the divine is as unstable as our experience of it, then we are all in for a bumpy ride.

Because experience is subjective, it can be deceiving. After Freud, we must carry a certain suspicion regarding the origins of experience. There are forces, conscious and unconscious, at work within the psyche that can produce experiences that are expressive but not fully revealing of repressed stimuli. In one’s experience of God, one may simply be acting out repressed trauma, or attempting to resolve unresolved developmental conflicts.

Also because experience is subjective, we must entertain some doubt about its ability to connect us to objective reality, if such a thing even exists. Here is the basic problem: Does the experience of being loved by God mean that God actually exists and loves us, or are we simply having an experience of whose legitimacy we can never be certain?

The Big Book itself does not offer a defense of its own theological method, but one can be found easily enough in the work of AA’s “Third Co-founder,” William James. James’ work was know to Bill Wilson, primary author of the Big Book and Co-founder of AA. Wilson was introduced to James’ Varieties of Religious Experience directly after he had a dramatic “white light” conversion experience while undergoing treatment for alcoholism. Wilson found comfort in James’ work, feeling that it validated and made reasonable an experience, which initially made Wilson worry for his sanity. As a pragmatist, James posited the fundamental value of experience—a thing was true because it worked, it did not work because it was true. Therefore, one need not appeal to anything outside human experience to find truth.

James developed a philosophical method he called “radical empiricism,” wherein one’s concepts arise as a result of one’s experiences, and are tested in further experience. For the radical empiricist, concepts are secondary and tentative, always subject to revision based on new experiential data. James found it inappropriate to begin with a conceptual system and expect reality to fit neatly into it. Rather than a “universe” where all things were organized according to a single principle, James proposed the possibility of a “pluraverse,” which could never be perfectly captured by any single conceptual framework.

…the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.

Varieties of Religious Experience

James also suggests that religious experiences be evaluated by their “fruits” and not their “roots.” For James, the value and legitimacy of experiences lay in their effects, which are observable to the subject experiencing them. Thus, Wilson ’s experience was religious, and because its results were good—he was miraculously relieved of the desire to drink—the experience was valid and held a claim to truth. James would have encouraged Wilson to hold tentatively any concept of God he may have wanted to construct based upon his experience and to test that concept in light of further experiences.

If James’ definition of religion and his radical empiricism sound remarkably like the Big Book’s attitude toward spiritual matters and theological method, this is undoubtedly due to the influence James had on Wilson before he wrote the Big Book. It is possible to read the Big Book as an “applied” Varieties of Religious Experience. In the Big Book we find a radical empiricism, applied to religion, with a set of actions offered as an entrance into direct spiritual experience. The Big Book offers these actions without predicting the exact spiritual experience that will result for a given individual, nor does it impose any conceptions upon the reader. While the Big Book is thoroughly Jamesian, it also succeeds in being more pragmatic than the great American pragmatist in its presentation of a “how to” version of the Varieties. What James’ work on religious experience lacks is any entry point into these experiences. James is unable to offer any actions that might bring one closer to the experiences he describes, and even feels that he himself is constitutionally incapable of having such experiences. Here, the Big Book closes the gap and offers clear instructions as to how a reader might enter into the world of the Varieties.

The defense James offers the Big Book’s theological method lies primarily in his championing of the value and legitimacy of experience as a basis for knowledge. James does not expect experience to be constant or stable or objective, nor does he understand the relative, unstable, and subjective nature of experience to be any detraction to the utility of experience as a means to knowledge. Rather, the expectation of constancy, stability, objectivity is an inappropriate conceptual imposition upon reality. Because the unity of reality cannot be directly experienced, but only posited by a philosopher and then systematically imposed at the expense of a great deal of experience that cannot be incorporated into the philosopher’s framework, the search for unity is an essentially flawed way to approach truth. Reality is not structured in such a way as to be easily conceptualized; therefore it is more appropriate to approach reality humbly, testing our ideas as we go. The Big Book echoes this sentiment in theological terms in its assertion quoted above that “it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.” God, in the Big Book, is beyond human understanding, but not beyond human experience. Through human experience, some tentative knowledge about God can be acquired and tested. Diverse conceptions of God can exist side-by-side in a context of similar religious experiences based upon a shared program of action without having to agree with one another, and each can still maintain its provisional claim to truth.

24 Comments so far
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The problem with this discussion is that is assumes some facts not in evidence. There is no evidence that A.A. today is, can be, or will become a Christian fellowship. It isn’t. Anyone who attends A.A. should readily acknowledge the obvious. Next, there is ample evidence that early Akron A.A. was a Christian fellowship. Members regularly studied the Book of James, Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. They were required to profess belief in God and make a decision for Christ. Early AAs were cured by reliance on the power of God. And one should read page 191 of the Big Book for Bill Wilson’s own statement. The final point is that belief in God, acceptance of Christ, and study of the Bible are still quite available, viable, and dear to many of us in today’s are Christians. Love and tolerance are our code. Criticism of religious beliefs is not.

Comment by Richard G. Burns, J.D. (pen name Dick B.)

Facts are still facts even if they are ignored…..The Big Book says there is ONE who has all power that One is God may you find Him know….Let us ponder what ONE God they understood shall we…Big Book Page 9…But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!

Big Book Page 13…My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Big Book Page 14…Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.

Bible James 1:17
New King James Version (NKJV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Big Book Page My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic!

Bible James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Alcoholics Anonymous Pamphlet P53 Page 13
But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.

Alcoholics Anonymous Pamphlet P53 Page 30
Finally, there was some kind of hearing on it among the self-appointed elders. I remember how perfectly Bob put it to them. He reminded us that most of us were practicing Christians. Then he asked, “What would the Master have thought? Would He have kept this man away?” He had them cold! The man came in, was a prodigious worker, and was one of our most respected people.

I could go on and on…..

We can take a few phrases and quotes and play symantics. Looking at that facts, history and if we the reader is truly seeking, studying and following the directions in the Big Book,,,,,you will get saved by the Lord and be free from alcohol…yes…but also be totally free for eternity…I can dig it!

Hate to say but I think the people who wrote the article drank the cool-aid…I do appreciate the forum to discuss the Big Book and I love Alcoholics Anonymous. It saves through leading us to the may the Lord bless you and your families.

Comment by Doug N

“Act as if” and “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting” are classic AA phrases that James would have agreed with whole-heartedly.

A contemporary and friend of James wrote about what he called “the fixation of belief” and suggested that beliefs needed to be tested by personal experience to survive. That is: it was the consequences of beliefs that mattered and beliefs could be reduced 100% to their personal consequences. That brings us back to “HOW” – “Honesty, openness, and willingness”. James would have agreed in the importance of these principles. Finally, I remember an old timer telling me once, “If you get sober, you’ll change your story.” Another classic piece of James straight out of the Will to Believe.

AA converted me to “healthy-mindedness” not Christianity.

Comment by John Callaway

HELP PLEASE….The closest i can come to a higher power is my possible belief in deism. I’m in Sacramento and there are no agnostic meetings…only the ones that say the “our father” at the end which as a recovering catholic i find repulsive. For myself I don’t believe there is a higher power (or Possibly i dont understand what it means to have one, be it my children, dog, or tv remote,

Thanks for any input you can offer.

Comment by michael yunger

Michael, I still hope you are out there. I came across your comment today (6-28-2010) more than a year after your post just to let you know there is an Agnostic group in Sacramento, Ca. We meet every Tuesday @ 7:30 @ The Gethsemane Lutheran Church at 4706 Arden Way in Carmichael. Hope to see you there.

Comment by Craig Y

dude i hope you’re still alive!!! just buck-up and go! there isn’t anything else out there, we atheists and and free-thinkers have to deal with this archaic bull-shit for the sake of a good group of people to hold on to.

Comment by nick

Hi Michael, I do believe in a Higher Power. Alcohol is a higher power than me, so is resentment, fear, anxiety self pity. In AA I saw folk who were like me, NOW THEY ARE SERENE. Like the Detective Columbo in the TV show, this put me thinking. I read all the self help books ( I nearly needed Shelf Help with my self help books!!!) This was an accumulation of more information! A man said to me YOU CANNOT THINK YOURSELF INTO RIGHT LIVING, BUT YOU CAN LIVE YOURSELF INTO RIGHT THINKING!!! I had information of 12 recovery from AA literature, so I set about PRACTISING it and then after step 9 I experienced the Promises of AA (page 83 B.B) because I lived myself into right thinking through the practice of the 12 steps.
AA is a power greater than me, so is the AA group. I resigned from the debating society ( debate is useful) but DEBATE in itself it did not give me the POWER to use the steps and thus get a new and wonderful way of life.
Thanks for your sharing Michael, God bless you and yours.

Comment by Augustine

They still call me Do-Do-Dave. At a meeting in my early days of AA, I saw the slogan on the wall “Think, Think, Think”(before you take the first drink) and I said, ‘That sign for me should read, “Do, Do, Do.” For me I never lacked thinking power, or a theory on things, but it was the entry point into a better experience that I lacked–just like William James lacked an entry point into the Experiences he was describing. The actions I was taking on the advice of my friends in AA (including Bill Wilson) gave me the entry point, if I actioned them in a religious and repetitive way. I am an atheist who prays, who hands over my life to a fictional God, tries to be of service to others, and has so far stayed sober for coming up to 15 years. It is the religious action in AA, not the religious belief, that blows open our possibilities and our lives. Does God exist? Probably not I’d say. Does this lack of belief threaten our sobriety? Only if we fail to take the suggested actions–in early sobriety. The amount of AA-based actions I need to take today is a tiny fraction of what I needed in early days. The therapuetic dosage of AA diminishes with time, and probably should diminish as other parts of life become more enriched. And our conception of God inevitably needs to change, also, as we grow and change as people. My current conception of God, that seems to be working (the pragmatist truth test) is “Ineffable unspeakable unbearable Love, Goodness, Compassion, and Beauty: God is totally imaginary and the only real thing…” Whatever that means. Without loving action God may as well be a nothing. But it is selfless action that probably opens up the door best, I’d say. Freedom from the Bondage of Self, as we say in Step 3. Whatever… Llewis Carol advised us to think of several impossible things before breakfast each day. I believe in the God of the Mad Hatter. That’s a God that makes perfect sense to this alcoholic.

Comment by David Ackling

Thats awesome! I hope you a wonderful and long journey in sobriety. God gave us brains to use and mine no better than yours. In the book it says alcohol is but a symptom. I believe there is much more at stake than just being sober. Not everbody is a historian or like to take the Big Book and ponder every line and continue to seek. Nobody has it wrong. We all have different places with God or a Higher Power. When people like yourself said this works for me and it can work for you I think thats awesome. When someone says lets look at the facts and evidence in the Big Book I think healthy seeking and debate without hurting one another is good for all of us. I do think that early AA sought Jesus as a Higher Power because he spoke out strongly against religon and a moral code. He continually talked about the Spirit of God, forgiveness of us and others and serving those still afflicted. Simple, but as we humans get pride and humility all mixed up, as he said we would and oh by the way I could be the poster boy for pride…lol. I think it’s about us traveling a road of recovery being open minded a teachable to life of gaining a better perspective on a new way of life, a design for living that works through love and humility. Enjoy the journey and thanks for posting! Higher Power bless.

Comment by Doug N

I believe there is a higher power. Both positive and negative. As I grow old the question of what this power is gets more and more difficult. I’m 12 years sober and prayed for 15 continuing days before being uplifted and enlighted. I haven’t drank but a glass or two of white wine with a neighbor. For me that’s a miracle. No matter this wonderful gift to me, I don’t understand religion on a whole. I go to church to sing because I like singing in he choir–but I don’t believe a lot of the bible stories. Man wrote the bible. If I mention this to someone at church I’m a heretic. I don’t believe Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, that Jonah went down to Ninevah in the belly of a whale, and stories similar to that. It’s more myth and legend. I feel there’s a higher power because I canot make a flower, a waterfall, and many beautiful natural things. We have so many cul-turals in NYC, we did’t (12 yrs ago)discuss Jesus is not at our meetings, only God.

I’m half religious and half confused.

Comment by ivory jackson

I look at this way. If I want a program of recovery that does not stress the importance of a higher power, than I I should look elsewhere. Don’t step into AA and argue with it; it has saved many, many souls. Find something else. Personally, I believe if your ego makes you challenge the Principles, it’s also going to keep you from surrendering.

Comment by Tom

if i remember correctly, dr. bob’s last words to bill w were approximately “let’s not louse this thing up-keep it simple” sometimes, i think, the more theological “stuff” i read the more confused i can become. which is not to say i didn’t gain much hope and knowledge from having read books like sermon on the mount (emmet fox). i think small, regular readings and/or doses of this sort of material is useful and necessary for spiritual growth. however there is much to be said for “easy does it, but do it” all i know is i have recieved heaps of hope from finding confirmation of TRUTH in more than one place.

Comment by bob l

The foregoing comments illustrate several things about today’s A.A. (1) He who tries to tie either the original program or the Twelve Step program to William James and call it “Jamesian” just doesn’t know the history of A.A. and the changes it suffered after 1935. (2) The real origins are the early A.A. Christian Fellowship program were: (a) Salvation Army. (b) Rescue Missions. (c) Evangelists like Moody, Sankey, Gough, Myers, Allen, and Sunday. (d)Lay workers in the YMCA in the late 1800’s. (e)The program of Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. (3) A knowledge of the Christian upbringing of Bill and Bob in Vermont enables the viewer to see the Christian principles that personified the original program. It certainly was not “of James.” It was “of the Bible,” and Dr. Bob said so quite often. (4) A knowledge of the real facts about Bill Wilson’s conversion to God through Jesus Christ–and how that was preceded by the advice of Dr. William D. Silkworth, the prior conversion of Ebby at the altar at Calvary Mission, and Bill’s statements that the Lord had cured him–should put an end to efforts to limit even the original A.A. program to its long-dead predecessor William James, its never-met “founder” Carl Jung, and its tenuous link to the Oxford Group–primarily in the New York area.
(5)The long-awaited unearthing this fall of the dramatic changes in the Big Book manuscript which had nothing to do with the facts about theology or James or the Bible, but rather exemplified what Bill Wilson called them–“compromise.” This meant a belated attempt to appease atheists and agnostics and widen membership, not some great theological unpheaval that hearkened back to Jamesian roots that didn’t have any signififant impact on the original Christian A.A. fellowship at all. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Dick B.

Comment by Dick B.

The origins of chemistry are in alchemy. The origins of astronomy are in astrology. It’s abandoning these perfect, pre-1935 principles that accounts for the horrible state of science today.

I thank you.

A Dick B. Acolyte

Comment by A. Conservative

Dick B. Nicely said.

To me it doesn’t really matter if it’s going Christian, started Christian, or uses Christian principals. IT WORKS! On page 47 it states When, therefore, we speak of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Last but not least, Pg 93 Working with others, Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. I have yet to read any of these sentences in the bible. But if you are still convinced that this is a Christian program try something else. I believe there is a cure getting pimped on TV these days.

Comment by Philip

History of A.A. & its’ founders show a strong correlation between christain philosophy and A.A. My willingness to follow the program is uncondional. Step 2: drop the debate. Primary purpose is to stay sober…

Comment by bob f.

It doesn’t surprise me that after my nearly a quarter of a century of sobriety in a 75 year old working program of recovery we still can’t seem to read the very clear statements of “We Agnostics” but have to debate and debate. Agnostics and Atheists as the chapter said were “about half” of the beginning “membership”. The foundation was built on the “failures” of “The Oxford Group” to address the specific disease of alcoholism. The base was a belief in God, as has been said one of the “failed” members who was a continual relapse atheist and another “new” member, had some influence in adding the term “God as we understood Him” to the “concept”, of this debate Bill W. writes, “As umpire of these disputes, I was obliged to go pretty much down the middle, writing in spiritual, rather than in religious or entirely in psychological terms”. (AA Comes of Age, P17) One of the greatest “spiritual advisors” for our text was Emmet Fox, much of the Big Book’s spiritual principles are based on the New Testament especially the “Sermon On The Mount”. 1935 was ripe for a “Scientific Prayer”. In “AA Comes Of Age”, we find the zealous “evangelist”, Bill W. and the “medical” Dr Bob, one came for the spirit and one came for the life saving, both are needed for the “program spiritual in nature”.

It never hurts to aknowledge the God of our Understanding’s love and tolerance for those who don’t believe in Him, He still believes in us.

Comment by Terry B

See the GrapevineApril 2010 Spirituality & God-Talk by Ward Ewing Chair, General Service Board, an ordained Episcopal Priest and head of an Episcopalian seminary. The insistence of many on one dogma or another turns AA into just another church that proclaims my way or the highway and seeks to carefully divide the “ins from the outs”. I am an agnostic that is offended by much of what I read as carefully disguised Christian Theology in the Big Book particularly in the Chapter to the Agnostic. I am an agnostic because as the word is defined I am one that believes the God is unknowable. All else is an imperfect laying on and attribution by imperfect human constructs- Be still and know—The Tao that can be said is not the eternal Tao etc. etc. I like Ewing’s statement that your Higher Power is that which keeps you sober. Knowledge of which for me comes from my own personal meditation, experience, approaches to prayer and dependence. A power greater than my self that keeps me sober.

Comment by John Hall

I find it hard to believe that any discussion of christianity and AA without any mention of Emmett Fox is missing the point. This is a we program. It started with 2 alcoholics, and many different beliefs. That, for me, is the point, I can believe in any higher power if it works for me. AND I need to let you believe in any higher power you believe in. Love the discussion. Peace

Comment by Smith

Wow…i was so excited to find and read this information. I’m an AA member and love The Big Book. I was intrigued when I came across “Came to Believe” while in jail for drunk driving.
I then was drawn to read the often mentioned “Varieties of Religious Experience”. I got so much from it. I live in a small town and haven’t met anyone who has read the book. If anyone out there knows the answers to these question I would love a response; Did Bill Wilson actually know William James?
Did they have a personal relationship? Was William James considered the third founding member of AA? Was Dr. Bob influenced by the writing of William James? And besides Emmett Fox’s work are there other writer, spiritual advisers who played primary roles in the development of AA?

My name is Susan P. and email address: Today’s date is 12/12/2011

Comment by Susan Pryce

keep it simple.

Comment by Andre Dotseth

Who was the Minister son

Comment by Tim S Pelfrey

S well written piece with strong support. This in-depth analysis of 12 step philosophy is implenting precise concepts upon a varied non cohesive experiental doctrine. While some may value sound doctrine, the alcoholic who still suffers will only reach out to “hand of AA”,. Addicted people don’t search far for help. The addiction treatment industry, the business arm of AA, offers little but a crash course in AA doctrine and some pop psychology thrown in. It is impressed upon clients that AA is the only way plus a lifetime devotion to “the program” is necessary for deliverance from alcohol or any drug dependency. An unwitting consumer base is a powerful reason for this to remain the current treatment for our substance abusing population.

Comment by Maricica S

Why is the word,”Reason” spelled with a capital “R’ in multiple sections in “We Agnostics”? Example, “We were grateful Reason had brought is this far” and Perhaps we had been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile and we did not like to lose our support.

Comment by Kirk G

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