Spiritual not Religious”



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Spiritual not Religious”

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance, that principle is contempt prior to investigation”

- William Paley
Is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous Spiritual or Religious?
This question often evokes an emotional response within the rooms of A.A. What often follows is a very strong admonishment from older members that the program is “spiritual not religious”. Most, if not all, group members nod approvingly and thus the concept of the A.A. program being “spiritual not religious” is perpetuated and reinforced among the fellowship and with the newcomers. Let’s consider the following questions.


  • What is the difference between “spiritual” and “religious”?




  • What is the history of the terms “spiritual” and “religious” and have their “operational” meanings today been changed under the influence of Twelve Step Programs and other new socio-religious movements such as “New Age”?




  • Why is the term “religious” viewed with negative connotation within the fellowship of A.A.?

This document will attempt to answer questions as factually as possible. It is intended to provide interested A.A. members with more information so they may make informed decisions regarding such matters as religion and spirituality.


What is the difference between “spiritual” and “religious”?
The definitions of these two words are taken from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

re·li·gious. adj.



  1. Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity.

  2. Of, concerned with, or teaching religion: a religious text.

  3. Extremely scrupulous or conscientious: religious devotion to duty.

n. pl. religious A member of a monastic order, especially a nun or monk.




spir·i·tu·al. adj.
1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.

2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.


  1. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.

  2. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

n.

1.


    1. A religious folk song of African-American origin.

    2. A work composed in imitation of such a song.

  1. Religious, spiritual, or ecclesiastical matters. Often used in the plural.

Because the definitions of the words “spiritual” and “religious” both have references to God and religion we will include those definitions as well. They are both from the previously referenced dictionary.




God. n.

1. God


                  1. a. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of

the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.

b. The force, effect or manifestation or aspect of this being.

2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people,

especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality


  1. An image of a supernatural being; an idol


  2. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god

  3. A very handsome man.

  4. A powerful ruler or despot.


re·li·gion. n.

1.


    1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

    2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

  1. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

  2. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

There are many common points and a great deal of overlap in the definitions. “Conceptual definitions” in use in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (and elsewhere) are not consistent with long established and empirically accepted definitions. Frequently we hear that “religious” refers to the doctrine and ritualistic practices of organized religion while “spirituality” refers to the personal pursuit of our own conception of God. The reference source definition for “religion” clearly includes both “personal” and “institutionalized” systems of belief in contrast with common conception in the rooms of A.A.


To understand the complexity of spirituality vs. religion better, we should review the research of notable sociologists. Relevant commentary is taken from an article published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 30:1 0021-8308 and titled:
Conceptualizing Religion and Spirituality: Points of Commonality, Points of Departure

This paper, in its entirety, is a must read for any A.A. wishing to obtain a better understanding of the terms “spiritual” & “religious” used so often in our program, literature and fellowship.

“The veritable flood of interest in spirituality witnessed in the popular culture during the last few decades has resulted in disagreements and perhaps even confusion about what is meant by such terms as religion and spirituality. Both spirituality and religion are complex phenomena, multidimensional in nature, and any single definition is likely to reflect a limited perspective or interest.”
“Given the significant sociological and psychological overlap among religion and spirituality, attempts to measure spirituality as a separate construct from religion are difficult. Beliefs and experiences that are considered to be an aspect of traditional religiousness (e.g., prayer, church attendance, reading of sacred writings, etc) are also spiritual if they are activated by an individual’s search for the sacred. In the absence of information about why an individual engages in a particular religious or spiritual behavior, it can be difficult to infer whether the particular behavior is reflecting religiousness, spirituality, or both” (1)
What is the history of the terms “spiritual” and “religious”?
Throughout the ages the words spiritual and religious have been used interchangeably by scholars of theology, philosophy and sociology. To best illustrate this point there are two books of interest to A.A.s. The first, by William James, was a major influence on Bill Wilson and the writing of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
In William James’s The Variety of Religious Experience, James uses the words spiritual and religious interchangeably and transitions back and forth with great ease between the two. Much of what is currently considered “spiritual” by A.A. was defined or discussed as “religious” or “religion” by James.

In the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous, there are dozens of usages of the words spiritual and religious. Throughout this text the words are used interchangeably, often in the same paragraph or sentence.

In order to understand why, with the writing of the Big Book, A.A. was “deliberately” described by Bill Wilson as “a spiritual program” (why should anyone have cared in 1938) one needs to be familiar with A.A. history. The program and fellowship grew out of the Oxford Movement which was considered “First Century Christianity”. Open to all denominations, it found its roots in “Classic Liberal Protestantism”. The Oxford Group was also greatly influenced by “New Thought” writers and thinkers such as Emmet Fox, James Allen, Henry Drummond and others, and would be considered “spiritual” by today’s interpretations of “spiritual” and “religious”.
In the early days of A.A., Bill Wilson had to walk a public relations tightrope in describing our “life changing” program and the new fellowship. If A.A. was described as “religious” then the various “denominations” would have asked “with whom are you allied”? Bill effectively pre-empted this by touting the “spiritual aspect” of “our way of life” and stressing that “we are not allied with any particular faith, sect or denomination, nor do we oppose anyone”. In early 1939, the Catholic Church in Cleveland was troubled by the attendance of some of its members at Oxford Group meetings in Akron because of the group’s “Protestant” roots. As a result, the Cleveland contingent, who had many Catholic members, was forced to split from the Akron Oxford Group. This group began to hold its own meetings in Cleveland calling itself Alcoholics Anonymous.

The description of the program as “spiritual” in effect ensured that Christian sects would not come out against A.A., which would have doomed the movement in its pioneering days. An added benefit was that newcomers recoiled less in their introduction to what was described as a “spiritual” program.

With the advent of “The Age of Aquarius” and the New Age Movement the “conception” of “spiritual” and “religious” began to change.

“The latter half of the 20th century has witnessed a rise of secularism and a growing disillusionment with religious institutions in western society. The effect of these changes during the 1960s and 1970s was that spirituality began to acquire more distinct meanings and more favorable connotations separate from religion (Turner, Lukoff, Barnhouse, & Lu, 1995). This cultural differentiation has resulted in the present-day trend of viewing spirituality as having positive connotations through its associations with personal experience of the transcendent (Spilka & Mclntosh, 1996), and to view religion with its demands of tradition in a much more negative light as a hindrance to spiritual experience (Turner et al, 1995)
As spirituality has become differentiated from religion (and religiousness), it has taken with it some of the elements formerly included with religion. Therefore, recent definitions of religion have become more narrow and less inclusive. Whereas religion historically was a “broad-based construct” (Pargament 1999) that included both individual and institutional elements, it is now seen as a “narrow-based construct” that has more to do with the institutional alone (Zinnbauer et al., 1999).”
As a result, “… religion has become increasingly reified in contemporary society; that is, frequently religion has been transformed from an abstract process to a fixed objective entity expressed through a definable system (e.g., denominations, theological traditions, major world religions, etc) Smith (and Wulff) conclude that this is an unfortunate reification of religion, though sometimes useful for classification purposes, it is a serious distortion and deprecation of religion because it overlooks the dynamic personal quality of much religious experience.” (2)

Why is the term “religious” viewed with negative connotation within the fellowship of A.A.?

The commentary below is especially true of modern A.A.
“As the label of spirituality has become distinct from religiousness, it has been adopted by identifiable groups of believers. For example, many of the 1,599 “baby boomers” studied by Roof (1993) had defected from organized religion in the 1960s and 1970s. Roof also discovered an increase in “New-Age” religious participation, with its emphasis on direct spiritual experience over institutionalized religion, especially among “highly active seekers” who had rejected organized religion and more traditional forms of worship in favor of a personal faith that they characterized as a “spiritual journey” or spiritual “quest”.
What are the differences in belief and practices between the spiritually versus the religiously committed? In a recent study by Zinnbauer et al. (1997) a group of respondents who identified themselves as “spiritual but not religious” were compared with a larger group who identified themselves as “spiritual and religious”. Findings indicated that compared with the “spiritual and religious” group, the “spiritual but not religious” was less likely to view religiousness in a positive light, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance

and prayer, less likely to hold orthodox or traditional Christian beliefs, more likely to be independent from others, more likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to hold non-traditional “new age” beliefs, more likely to have mystical experiences and more likely to differentiate religiousness and spirituality as different and non-overlapping concepts.” (3)

Many reasons exist for prejudicial thinking among A.A. members regarding religion and religiousness. They are discussed in the big book in both Bill’s Story and Chapter Four.

How do others outside the fellowship view A.A.?
Regardless of how Alcoholics Anonymous classifies itself, it is important to see how the movement is viewed and defined by sociologists and researchers. The following paragraphs are taken from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society.
Quasi-Religions
Concept developed in the sociological study of religion by Arthur L. Greil (Alfred University) to encompass activities and groups that deal with the sacred but are anomalous in the context of American folk definitions of "religion."

Many of the phenomena that Greil would classify as quasi-religions probably would qualify as religions under standard sociological definitions but either do not see themselves or are not seen by others as unambiguously religious. Quasi-religions straddle the line between sacred and secular, as these terms are commonly applied. Examples would include New Age and holistic health groups, spiritualist groups, witchcraft, Alcoholics Anonymous, and some excoriated "cults." With David Rudy, Greil developed the concept of the Identity Transformation Organization (ITO) and has argued that all organizations that try to "change" people have certain organizational features in common, whether or not the organizations are explicitly "religious."


Alcoholics Anonymous

Perhaps the most famous of all "self-help" programs for dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, AA began in 1935 in Akron, Ohio.  Started by an alcoholic stockbroker named Bill Wilson, AA was strongly influenced by the Oxford Group movement (see Eister 1950).  AA has grown into a worldwide movement with over 1 million participants in nearly 50,000 groups in over 100 countries.

The AA "twelve step" program of rehabilitation, which involves a major focus on a Higher Power of God, begins as a first step with persons admitting to a group of fellow alcoholics that they cannot control themselves concerning alcohol and that their lives are out of their hands.  The twelve step program has become the model for many different types of self-help programs since the inception of AA. A number of scholars have noted the heavily religious dimension of AA and derivative programs, and such programs have been studied as religions and as ways to develop commitment and meaning in individual lives. (4)

Some of Alcoholics Anonymous’ closest friends in our early years described our program and fellowship in great detail, with all sincerity and humility.
“Among physicians the general opinion seems to be that chronic alcoholics are doomed. But wait! Within the last four years, evidence has appeared which has startled hard-boiled medical men by proving that the compulsion neurosis can be entirely eliminated. Perhaps you are one of those cynical people who will turn away when I say that the root of this new discovery is religion”.

Liberty Magazine 1939
There is no blinking the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous, the amazing society of ex-drunks who have cured each other of an incurable disease, is religious.  Its members have cured each other frankly with the help of God. Every cured member of the Cleveland Fellowship of the society, like every cured member of the other chapters now established in Akron, New York, and elsewhere in the country, is cured with the admission that he submitted his plight wholeheartedly to a Power Greater than Himself. He has admitted his conviction that science cannot cure him, that he cannot control his pathological craving for alcohol himself, and that he cannot be cured by the prayers, threats, or pleas of his family, employers, or friends. His cure is a religious experience. He had to have God's aid. He had to submit to a spiritual housecleaning.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a completely informal society, wholly latitudinarian in every respect but one. It prescribes a simple spiritual discipline, which must be followed rigidly every day. The discipline is fully explained in a book published by the society.

Discipline

That is what makes the notion of the cure hard for the usual alcoholic to take, at first glance, no matter how complete his despair. He wants to join no cult. He has lost faith, if he ever had it, in the power of religion to help him. But each of the cures accomplished by Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual awakening. The ex-drunk has adopted what the society calls "a spiritual way of life."

How, then, does Alcoholics Anonymous differ from the other great religious movements which have changed social history in America? Wherein does the yielding to God that saves a member of this society from his fatal disease, differ from that which brought the Great Awakening that Jonathan Edwards preached, or the New Light revival of a century ago, or the flowering of Christian Science, or the camp meeting evangelism of the old Kentucky-Ohio frontier, or the Oxford Group successes nowadays?

Every member of Alcoholics Anonymous may define God to suit himself. God to him may be the Christian God defined by the Thomism of the Roman Catholic Church. Or the stern Father of the Calvinist. Or the Great Manitou of the American Indian. Or the Implicit Good assumed in the logical morality of Confucius. Or Allah, or Buddha, or the Jehovah of the Jews. Or Christ the Scientist. Or no more than the Kindly Spirit implicitly assumed in the "atheism" of a Col. Robert Ingersoll.



The Cleveland Plain Dealer 1939

"The beginning and subsequent development of a new approach to the problem of permanent recovery for the chronic alcoholic has already produced remarkable results and promises much for the future. This statement is based upon four years of close observation. The principal answer is: Each ex-alcoholic has had and is able to maintain, a vital spiritual or 'religious' experience, accompanied by marked changes of personality. There is a radical change in outlook, attitude and habits of thought. In nearly all cases, these are evident within a few months, often less”

"Considering the presence of the religious factor, one might expect to find unhealthy emotionalism and prejudice. On the contrary, there is an instant readiness to discard old methods for new which produce better results.” (5)

Dr. William B. Silkworth 1939

"The group sponsoring this book began with two or three ex-alcoholics, who discovered one another through kindred experience. From this a movement started; ex-alcoholics working for alcoholics, without fanfare or advertisement, and the movement has spread from one city to another.”

"The core of their whole procedure is religious. They are convinced that for the helpless alcoholic there is only one way out-the expulsion of his obsession by a Power Greater Than Himself. Let it be said at once that there is nothing partisan or sectarian about this religious experience. Agnostics and atheists, along with Catholics, Jews and Protestants, tell their story of discovering the Power Greater than themselves. 'Who are you to say that there is no God,' one atheist in the group heard a voice say when, hospitalized for alcoholism, he faced the utter hopelessness of his condition. Nowhere is the tolerance and open-mindedness of the book more evident than in its treatment of this central matter on which the cure of all these men and women has depended. They are not partisans of any particular form of organized religion, although they strongly recommend that some religious fellowship be found by their participants. By religion they mean an experience which they personally know and which has saved them from their slavery, when psychiatry and medicine had failed. They agree that each man must have his own way of conceiving God, but of God Himself they are utterly sure, and their stories of victory in consequence are a notable addition to William James' 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'" (6)

The Reverend Dr. Emerson Fosdick 1939

“This organization of Alcoholics Anonymous calls on two of the greatest reservoirs of power known to man, religion and that instinct for association with one’s fellows, which Trotter has called the “herd instinct.”


Religious faith has been described by Matthew Arnold as a convinced belief in a power greater than ourselves that makes for righteousness, and a sense of helpfulness from this can be acquired through a kind of spiritual conversion which might well be called a variety of religious experience.” (7)
Foster Kennedy, M.D.

Neurologist, New York City 1944
“If he applies to Alcoholics Anonymous, he is first brought around to admit that alcohol has him whipped and that his life has become unmanageable.  Having achieved this state of intellectual humility he is given a dose of religion in the broadest sense. He is asked to believe in a Power that is greater than himself, or at least to keep an open mind on that subject while he goes on with the rest of the program. Any concept of the Higher Power is acceptable. A skeptic or agnostic may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, man's wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of the atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely upon it and, in his own way, to pray to the Power for strength.”

Jack Alexander 1941



How does the legal system in the United States view Alcoholics Anonymous?

Since 1984 there have been at least eight significant courts cases where the “religiousness” of Alcoholics Anonymous has been argued. These landmark cases have all been tried in State Supreme or Federal Circuit Courts. In all cases Alcoholics Anonymous has been found to be either “religion-based” or expressly religious, whereby forced participation (court or government ordered) is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The decision below has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court firmly establishing this legal precedent. The following is an excerpt from one of these cases.

IN THE MATTER OF DAVID GRIFFIN, APPELLANT, v. THOMAS A. COUGHLIN III, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, ET AL. RESPONDENTS. 1996 N.Y. Int. 137. June 11, 1996. No. 73 [1996 NY Int. 137] . Decided June 11, 1996
“On this appeal we hold that, under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution's First Amendment, an atheist or agnostic inmate may not be deprived of eligibility for expanded family visitation privileges for refusing to participate in the sole alcohol and drug addiction program at his State correctional facility when the program necessarily entails mandatory attendance at and participation in a curriculum which adopts in major part the religious-oriented practices and precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous (hereinafter A.A.). Thus, we reverse the order of the Appellate Division and grant judgment in favor of petitioner prohibiting respondents from conditioning petitioner's participation in the Family Reunion Program on attendance in the subject Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program (hereinafter ASAT Program) as presently constituted. “
In presenting the court’s opinion, the justices weighed heavily on AA’s literature, in this case the Twelve and Twelve was quoted:
“A.A.'s Twelve Steps/Twelve Traditions volume, describing the spiritual evolution of atheists and agnostics through working the 12 steps, states;

Consequently, in Step Three, we turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. For the time being, we who were atheists or agnostics discovered that our own group, or A.A. as a whole, would suffice as a higher power. Beginning with Step Four, we commenced to search out the things in ourselves which had brought us to physical, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy (A.A. Twelve Steps/Twelve Traditions, at 107)


So, practicing these Steps, we had spiritual awakening about which finally there was no question. Looking at those who were only beginning and still doubted themselves, the rest of us were able to see the change setting in. From great numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the doubter who still claimed that he hadn't got the "spiritual angle," and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power, would presently love God and call Him by name (id., at 109 [emphasis supplied]).

The foregoing demonstrates beyond peradventure that doctrinally and as actually practiced in the 12-step methodology, adherence to the A.A. fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization.” (8)


How did Bill Wilson describe Alcoholics Anonymous throughout the years?
“Certainly nobody invented Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. is a synthesis of principles and attitudes which came to us from medicine and from religion. We alcoholics have simply streamlined those forces, adapting them to our special use in a society where they can work effectively.”…
….“ This idea of mutual need added the final ingredient to the synthesis of medicine, religion and the alcoholic’s experience which is now Alcoholics Anonymous.” (9)
Alcoholics Anonymous —

beginnings and growth
By Bill W.

Presented to the

New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism

April 28, 1958

“At the very outset we would like it made ever so clear that A.A. is a synthetic concept — a synthetic gadget, as it were, drawing upon the resources of medicine, psychiatry, religion, and our own experience of drinking and recovery. You will search in vain for a single new fundamental. We have merely streamlined old and proved principles of psychiatry and religion into such forms that the alcoholic will accept them. And then we have created a society of his own kind where he can enthusiastically put these very principles to work on himself and other sufferers.”…

…Now to recapitulate. Alcoholics Anonymous has made two major contributions to the program of psychiatry and religion:



  1. Our ability, as ex-drinkers, to secure the confidence of the new man — to “build a

transmission line into him.”


  1. The provision of an understanding society of ex-drinkers in which the newcomer can

successfully apply the principles of medicine and religion to himself and others.
So far as we A.A.s are concerned, these principles, now used by us every day, seem to be in surprising agreement. Let’s compare briefly what in a general way medicine and religion tells the alcoholic:
1. Medicine says: The alcoholic needs a personality change.

Religion says: The alcoholic needs a change of heart, a spiritual awakening.
2. Medicine says: The patient ought to be analyzed and should make a full and honest mental catharsis.

Religion says: The alcoholic should make examination of the “conscience” and a confession— or a moral inventory and a frank discussion.
3. Medicine says: Serious “personality defects” must be eliminated through accurate self knowledge and realistic readjustment to life.

Religion says: Character defects (sins) can be eliminated by acquiring more honesty,

humility, unselfishness, tolerance, generosity, love, etc.


4. Medicine says: The alcoholic neurotic retreats from life, is a picture of anxiety and

abnormal self-concern; he withdraws from the “herd.”


Religion says: The alcoholic’s basic trouble is self-centeredness. Filled with fear and

self-seeking, he has forgotten the “Brotherhood of Man.”

5. Medicine says: The alcoholic must find “a new compelling interest in life,” must “get

back into the herd.” Should find an interesting occupation, should join clubs, social activities, political parties or discover hobbies to take the place of alcohol.



Religion says: The alcoholic should learn the “expulsive power of a new affection,” love

of serving man, of serving God. He must “lose his life to find it,” he should join the church, and there find self-forgetfulness in service. For “faith without works is dead.”


Thus far religion and medicine are seen in hearty accord. But in one respect they do differ. …. the main difference seems to add up to this: Medicine says, “Know yourself, be strong and you will be able to face life.” Religion says, “Know thyself, ask God for power and you become truly free.” In Alcoholics Anonymous the new man may try either method. He sometimes eliminates “the spiritual angle” from the Twelve Suggested Steps to recovery and wholly relies upon honesty, tolerance, and “working with others.” But it is curious and interesting to note that faith always comes to those who try this simple approach with an open mind — and in the meantime they stay sober. If, however, the spiritual content of the Twelve Steps is actively denied, they can seldom remain dry. That is our A.A. experience everywhere. We stress the spiritual simply because thousands of us have found we can’t do without it. (10)
Basic concepts of

Alcoholics Anonymous
By Bill W.

Excerpts from an address presented to the Medical Society

of the State of New York

Section on Neurology and Psychiatry

Annual Meeting, New York, N.Y., May 1944

* consider substituting “AA suggests:” in place of “Religion says:”

Spiritual not Religious”

When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you.”

- William G. Wilson
Is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous Spiritual or Religious?
No member speaks for A.A. and it is not our intention to answer this question.
We would point out however that our founders and our literature do not claim that Alcoholics Anonymous, either its program or fellowship is “spiritual not religious”. Our founders and our literature describe the recovery program and the book Alcoholics Anonymous as “spiritual” and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous as “not a religious organization”.
If I had a wonderful down filled coat that kept me warm in the winter would it really matter if it was filled with goose feathers or duck feathers? Isn’t the fact that I’m safe, warm and protected what really matters? If I were to publicly declare that my coat is filled with “goose feathers not duck feathers” aren’t I really saying or implying that goose feathers are some how better than duck feathers? Is there a certain amount of arrogance or self-righteousness in this attitude?
Does the drowning man care what his life preserver is made of?
Polarization, whether intended or not, occurs when members express their opinion that the program is “spiritual not religious”. Why can’t it be recognized as both spiritual and religious?

“First, to speak of either individual spirituality or institutional religion ignores, according to Pargament (1999) two important points: 1) virtually all religions are interested in matters spiritual and, 2) every form of religious and spiritual expression occurs in some social context. Second, to argue that spirituality is good and religion is bad (or vice-versa) is to deny a substantial body of research demonstrating that both religion and spirituality can be manifested in healthy as well as unhealthy ways (Allport, 1950; Hunt, 1972).” (11)

Polarization is not the intent of Alcoholics Anonymous when our text says: “To us the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.” What did Ebby bring Bill in November of 1934?
“He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said “I’ve got religion”…
…“In a matter of fact way he told me 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!”
“He had come to pass his experience along to me – if I cared to have it” (12)

(1) (2) (3) (11) Conceptualizing Religion and Spirituality: Points of Commonality, Points of Departure

Peter C. Hill, Kenneth I. Pargament, Ralph W. Hood, Jr., Michael E. McCullough,


James P. Swyers, David B. Larson & Brian J. Zinnbauer

Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 30:1 0021-8308
(4) Encyclopedia of Religion and Society William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor
(5) (6) Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, ©AAWS Inc.
(7) (9) (10) Three talks to Medical Societies by Bill W., co-founder of AA (AA Pamphlet P-6)
(8) Griffin v. Coughlin 1996 NY

(12) Alcoholics Anonymous 2nd Edition, William G. Wilson



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