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Does Alcoholics Anonymous Help Grow the Spiritual but not Religious Movement?

Issue: Vol 22 No. 2 (2019) Religion, Spirituality and Addiction Recovery

Journal: Implicit Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/imre.40699


Both the 12 Step movement of Alcoholics Anonymous and the spiritual-but-not-religious (SBNR) movement insist there is an important difference between spirituality and religion. Briefly, it is claimed that spirituality is personal and heart-felt, while religion consists of human-created doctrines, institutions, and outward rituals. However, the two routes to that definition differ in significant ways. For AA the dichotomy has been functional to allow a diverse membership and reduce an undercurrent of societal judgmentalism. For SBNRs, the claim has been boundary-marking, facilitating the movement away from organized religion. Nevertheless, as AA has progressed, it has become more of a portal away from religion and toward the SBNR ethos. This essay shows some of the more significant theological themes that have facilitated this movement.

Author: Linda Mercadante

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