History of the We Agnostics Group in Columbus Ohio
By Ed S.
I have been an Atheist for 50 years and sober for 30 years. When I attended AA meetings I initially did what everybody else did because I wanted to fit in. I said the Serenity prayer at the beginning of meetings and the Our Father (Matthew 6:9-15) at the end of meetings. I did most of the steps, but could not deal with Steps 2 & 3 or 6 & 7. I drafted my own steps leaving out the God stuff. Eventually I stopped praying with the group although I did stand in the circle silently.
I attended a meeting in Columbus called the Meditating Peacocks. At that meeting a woman shared how she was in AA for 10 years, struggled with the God stuff, eventually stopped going to meetings and started drinking again. She explained how she lost everything including her marriage, job and children.
I thought to myself this should not have to happen. After that, I looked for people at AA meetings who did not recite the “Our Father” after meetings, thinking they might be Atheist/Agnostics also. I found two members of the Saturday Afternoon Live 1 PM group and approached them after the meeting to see if they wanted to start a non-theistic group.
We decided to meet the following week after the meeting to discuss a format. At this time I did not know there were other Agnostic/Atheist meetings in the country. I suggested reading the steps that I had developed years ago, but others thought that would be blasphemous, so we didn’t. I am glad we decided not to use the altered steps, because I learned later that groups in Canada and Indiana were not listed because they read alternate steps. We also discussed where we would meet, and agreed that it would be best if it was not in a church.
I found that Riverside Hospital had meeting rooms in their Wellness Center and they were open to us meeting there. I prepared and distributed a flyer. We held our first meeting on January 4, 2011. About 20 people attended even though some of them were just curious and some thought we were going to do a Chapter 4 of the Big Book type meeting to convince non-believers to come to believe.
I discovered from the internet that there were other agnostic meetings and wrote to them asking them to send me their format. I received one from a meeting in California and we started to use that format. We met at the Wellness Center for two years until they decided to use their meeting rooms for treatment. We averaged around 12-18 members.
There were several attempts to get us delisted. The first was someone who said we were affiliated with an outside group because we were listed in the New York’s AA Agnostic list of agnostic meetings. Next someone said we couldn’t possibly be following Tradition Two because we didn’t believe in God.
We were able to deflect these and other concerns by speaking with the Advisory Board Chair of Central Ohio Group Fellowship, our intergroup central office, the body that prepares the directory of meetings. It also helped that I was on the audit committee and was also the Assistant Treasurer and was friendly with the Office Manager and other members of the Board. In addition we have a representative from our group attend intergroup meetings.
We moved to Dublin Hospital in 2013 and stayed there for two years averaging 14-20 attendees. We celebrated our 4th anniversary there, and then their corporate office decided they needed the conference room for their hospital meetings. We recently moved up the road to the new Dublin Springs Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Outpatient Center. They are happy to rent space to us to hold meetings there since it fits in with their mission. We hope to stay there for a long time.