Sunday, December 26, 2010

Indianapolis Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) For Atheists and Agnostics - A.A.'s Earliest Agnostic

While stories abound of the early years of A.A. and how so many of those members were often "converted" from non-belief, atheism or agnosticism, one rarely hears the story of Jim B.

Jim Burwell was one of the first 10 members of A.A. He was also a self-described "militant agnostic." His insistence that the "God bit" be toned down eventually resulted in the commonly used terms "Higher Power," and "God as we understood Him." He's also credited with the adoption of the Third Tradition which states, "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking."

Jim was a founder or supporting member of groups from one coast to the other, helping to found A.A. in both Philadelphia and Baltimore. His dedication to helping the still suffering alcoholic is felt to this day. His story "A Vicious Cycle" is included in the 2nd & 3rd Editions of "The Big Book."
"I don't think the boys were completely convinced of my personality change, for they fought shy of including my story in the book, so my only contribution to their literary efforts was my firm conviction, being still a theological rebel, that the word God should be qualified with the phrase "as we understand him"— for that was the only way I could accept spirituality."
The We Agnostics Group of A.A. in Indianapolis is doing its part to carry on the legacy of that important character in A.A.'s history.

Thanks, Jim B.


  1. I've often wondered if Jim B is "Ed" in the chapter on Tradition Three. Does anyone know?

    We have a tiny little agnostic meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. Please visit our Facebook page and Like us!!/note.php?note_id=162438350448017

  2. I chaired a meeting some years ago and choose the topic,'how much of your recovery are you doing and how much is "god" doing? It amazed me that so many said god was doing it all! I then asked then why do we nrrd steps, meetings, sponsors, etc. But no one could then or since convince me what god actually does. When it goes well, all credit to god, when it gets hard it is my fault. Does this compute with you?