Anyone who tackles the question of whether A.A. is spiritual, or whether it is religious needs to put aside the shibboleths, pull out his dictionary, look at how many times the word “God,” “Creator,” “Maker,” Father of Lights, Spirit, and Heavenly Father are used in the Big Book and other A.A. Conference-approved literature.
Next, he needs to define whether he is referring to the original Christian Fellowship program of A.A. founded in Akron in June of 1935, learn the 7 point program summary, learn the 16 practices that early AAs observed, and then look at Acts 4:31-37. He also needs to see why early Old School A.A. was said to be like First Century Christianity. And why it called itself a Christian Fellowship. And how many of its original program ideas were shaped by the influences of the Evangelists like Moody, the Rescue Missions like Water Street, the conversion meetings of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Salvation Army, and the program of Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor—together with the Christian upbringing of Bill W. and Dr. Bob in Vermont. Was it religious or was it spiritual?
Next, he needs to look at the entirely different program Bill Wilson fashioned when he drew the Big Book ideas primarily from Dr. William D. Silkworth (a devout Christian), from Professor William James who reported and validated the conversion cures of alcoholics at such places as the missions, and Rev. Samuel Shoemaker who taught Bill the remaining 10 Steps—based on the Bible and derived largely from A First Century Christian Fellowship called at time the Oxford Group. Was that program religious or spiritual?
Then, he needs to look at the changes Bill made in Steps 2, 3, and 11 just before the Big Book went to print. He removed the word “God” from Steps 2, 3, and 11. But he still retained all the capitalized references to God that were spread throughout the Big Book. Spiritual or religious?
Today, people hear in meetings and from programs and counselors that they need not believe in anything at all or that they should fashion a “higher power” that can be a tree, radiator, light bulb, chair, Santa Clause, or Great Pumpkin. Spiritual or religious?
With all that before them, most courts have looked at the program, the literature, the arguments about “spiritual” and ruled that A.A. was a religion within the meaning of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.