For Atheists and Agnostics

Upon entering ITAA, many of us who are atheists or agnostics wondered whether this was a religious program. Even when we were informed that ITAA isn’t affiliated with any religion, some of us still questioned whether there were subtle religious commitments lurking somewhere out of sight.

The fact is that there are no religious beliefs whatsoever which are required to join our program, work the Steps, and find long-term sobriety. Our fellowship firmly upholds every member’s freedom to engage with any faith tradition or lack of faith tradition, as is most helpful to them in their own path to recovery. Our atheism and agnosticism have not prevented us from finding freedom from addiction, and through recovery we have developed a deeper connection to ourselves, others, and the world around us. 

What then is meant by the phrase “Higher Power,” which appears frequently in our program? The Twelve Steps center around our surrender to a power greater than ourselves, and we are invited to explore whatever concept of a Higher Power is most helpful to us in our own recovery. There is a tremendous diversity in how different members understand their Higher Power, and we benefit from asking others about their experiences. Some members understand their Higher Power as nature, the universe, reality, concepts such as love or service, the present moment, the fellowship of ITAA, the power of human connection, the collective wisdom of all people in recovery, our inner loving parent, our inner strength, or our higher self. Others find resonance with a spiritual being, force, or energy. Some members may use the word God to name this power. Each of us is invited to discover whatever Higher Power is most conducive to our personal growth and our recovery from addiction.

It has often been remarked that we don’t have to believe in God to work the Steps; we simply need to believe that we’re not God. In the journey to sobriety, we first come to terms with the fact that we have a serious problem which we cannot resolve through our own will. We then come to believe that there could be something outside of ourselves which can help us find long-term recovery from our obsessive and self-destructive behaviors, as evidenced by the fact that millions of others who suffer from the disease of addiction have found freedom through Twelve Step programs. Next, we commit to trusting the process and accepting help from others, one day at a time.

Love, tolerance, and open-mindedness guide us in recovery, and we celebrate the diversity of spiritual paths that different members walk. We hope you will feel welcome in ITAA, and we encourage you to try attending six different meetings in a short period of time to discover whether our program might be helpful for you.

Members share their experience, strength, and hope on recovering as atheists and agnostics:

While I don’t practice any religion, I’ve been able to work the Steps, have a Higher Power, and find long-term freedom from my addiction. I’ve interpreted the spiritual dimension of our program as an invitation to engage with something bigger than myself and develop a meaningful existence. Through recovery I’ve found a much richer and more fulfilling way of living than I first had when I came into the program. Today I feel comfortable when I hear other members talking about their spiritual paths—I feel I can relate to their experiences without judgment. 

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I had a big issue with the Steps until I finally understood that I wasn’t required to believe in any religion or to have any spiritual beliefs to work through them. The Steps emphasize a “Higher Power of our own understanding“. For me, my Higher Power is the power of sharing honestly with others and of compassionate human connection.

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I’m an atheist, and when I joined ITAA I had fears about being converted. I needed to find something I trusted. I started attending atheist and agnostic meetings and found them very helpful. They gave me permission to believe in the Higher Power that I now have. 

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An important aspect of my atheism is a commitment to the truth. Recovery helped me let go of the illusion that I could outwill a neurological condition. I can’t. I need help, sometimes in ways I don’t understand. Through recovery and the support of others, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of myself and am better able to live my life in accordance with reality. In the process, I’ve been able to achieve and maintain continuous abstinence from my addictive behaviors for over three years. 

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In recovery, we are each invited to translate our program’s language into something that works for us, and we are welcome to set aside anything that we don’t find helpful. Everything in our program is only a suggestion. If you have a desire to stop using technology compulsively and are interested in trying our program, we recommend attending six meetings in a short time frame to see if ITAA might be helpful to you. We hope you find in our meetings the same relief and freedom that so many of us have experienced.


Page last updated on September 2, 2023