Topics & Questions for Discussion: Part 2 Sample Responses



After watching the 2nd part of the God as we understand Him video, we suggest the following topics of discussion:


Let’s make a list of reasons why some of us might reject religion.


Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:

Those who reject religion often point to what they perceive as negative impacts of religion on the world. They might talk about child molesting Catholic priests or religious wars. Others consider religions to be superstitious and dogmatic. Others reject the existence of God altogether. One can be against religion without being an atheist or agnostic. However, many people who are anti religious also call themselves atheist or agnostic.


How are the 12 Step fellowships similar or different from other religious organizations?


Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:

When people accuse Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12 Step fellowships of being religious, they often point to the following:

      • Saying prayers in the meetings. People especially complain about The Lord’s prayer (the “Our Father” prayer) which is often recited at the end of AA, NA, GA, and other Twelve Step meetings.
      • Individuals in the 12 Step programs are often religious. In sharing their experience, strength, and hope, these persons will sometimes express their gratitude to God or Jesus Christ if they happen to be Christian.
      • People will sometimes point to the Big Book and the 12 Steps themselves as religious, referring to the Big Book as a Bible. They might believe that Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” is the beginning of some sort of religious conversion. The language in Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him” is profound if taken to heart. An atheist or agnostic could easily interpret Step 3 as a religious conversion.
      • The more studious critics of the 12 Step movement will point to the early years before Alcoholics Anonymous separated from the Oxford Group. They might accuse AA and its offshoots of being Christian in origin, and still fundamentally Christian but perhaps thinly veiled in non-denominational garb.


How can the terms “religious” and “spiritual” be defined? What’s the difference between the two terms? (definitions found on


Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:

The term “religious” can be defined as “pertaining to a religion.” Okay, so how do you define “religion?” “Religion” can be defined as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code govering the conduct of human affairs.”


The term “spiritual” is defined in as “pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.” It is also defined as “pertaining to sacred things or matters; religious; devotional; sacred.”


Are A.A. and other 12 Step fellowships religious or spiritual?

Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:


In the historical context of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Step movement, the term “spiritual” is used to distinguish from “religious.” It is common to say that AA or NA is “spiritual, not religious.”


Following are some of the main reasons one might proclaim that his or her 12 Step group is “spiritual, not religious:”

    • In most of the major religions, the Universe was created by some form of deity or deities. Whatever God or Gods that particular religion believes in, He/She/It is a God that all the adherents believe in. In other words, all the adherents of a particular religion typically share a belief in God, and their understanding of God is shared. To use Jesus Christ as an example, a Christian can point to images of Jesus and if you ask a Christian “What would Jesus do? in a given situation, you would probably get similar answers from everyone, based on the teachings of Jesus. In the 2nd Step of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step programs, they say “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Each individual comes to their own personal belief about that Power greater than themselves. The term “Higher Power” is commonly used in the Twelve Step rooms. Higher Power can be anything greater than the individual. Higher Power could be a person’s sponsor. Higher Power could be a person’s home group. Higher Power could be a person’s family or other support network. Higher Power could be the Power of Love or the Power of Truth. It is really up to the individual to decide. This is a major difference from the prescribed God of most major religions.
      • In Step 3 of Narcotics Anonymous and other 12 Step fellowships, they say “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This is a serious commitment and that term “God” is used, but He is not a prescribed God. He is God as we understood Him. It’s personal though. I turned my will and my life over to God as I understood God.
      • Another main reason for saying that AA is “spiritual not religious” is that religions dictate a set of beliefs, observances, and code of conduct. OA, CA, SAA, and other 12 Step fellowships only suggest that you work the 12 Steps. There are no mandates for membership.