The roots of the current “spiritual but not religious” movement (if one can call it a movement, since it isn’t organized as such) got a great boost from the addiction recovery movement of the 1990s.  The connections are both theological and sociological. Oddly enough, the roots of the addiction recovery ethos, particularly as advanced by Alcoholics Anonymous, comes from an evangelical Christian para-church group of the early 1900s known as The Oxford Group, led by Lutheran minister Frank Buchman. You can read more about this in my book *Victims & Sinners: Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery.*   What do you see as potential connections or disconnections between the “SBNR” upsurge and addiction recovery movement?
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9 thoughts on “Do you call yourself “spiritual but not religious?” Are you involved in an addiction recovery group? Do you think there is any connection?

  1. Salvador

    The spiritual roots of the addiction and recovery movement seem, to me, to straddle both the SBNR universe, on the one hand, and that of the traditional churches. For example, the religious imagery embraced by AA (references to a Greater Power, turning one’s will and life over to God, the use of prayer and meditation…), appears extremely traditional, and may be warmly embraced by most mainline churches. The irony perhaps is that the AA culture has come to replace those same churches, providing a basic theology and a sense of community, without officially identifying itself as a religion and offering broader “Church” support. For some participating in the AA program, the program is the closest they come to participating in “religion,” In that way, AA seems to approximate the definition of an SBNR movement.

  2. Dick B.

    The person who wants to find the spiritual roots of the addiction and recovery movement needs to start much farther back than these writers. A.A. did not originate in the Oxford Group. And 19 years of research have enabled the following roots to be identified: (1) The Christian organizations and people that preceded A.A., particularly in the 1800’s–the evangelists, rescue missions, YMCA, Salvation Army, and Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society. Later, the influence of the Oxford Group and Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker became paramount four years after A.A.’s founding when Bill Wilson wrote and published his Big Book in the spring of 1939 and incorporated in his famous 12 steps the life-changing principles of the Oxford Group. (2)The Original A.A. program founded as a Christian Fellowship by Dr. Bob and Bill in Akron on June 10, 1935 did not spring from the Oxford Group though both men were associated with the group. It arose out of the training that Bill and Bob had received as youngsters in Vermont from their families, their respective Congregational churches and Sunday schools, revivalists and conversion meetings, Bible study, the YMCA, and the rigorous Bible training administered by their respective high school academies–St. Johnsbury Academy and Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. The details are laid out in Dick B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous and Dick B. The Conversion of Bill W. (http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml). Once people turn from the myth of Oxford Group origin to the truth of Vermont roots will they see the direct transformation from Vermont to Akron when Bill and Bob studied the Bible for three months in the summer of 1935; emphasized Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13, adopted the essentials of the Christian Endeavor Society of Dr. Bob’s youth (conversion to Christ, Bible study meetings, old fashioned prayer meetings, Quiet Hour, and the reading and discussion of Christian literature). Based on the convictions of Bill and Bob as Christians and as men who emphasized conversion, that became an essential. Hospitalization, surrender to Jesus Christ, regular Bible study and use of Bible devotions, and working with other drunks were the characteristics of the early program. It is that Original program that achieved the documented 75% success rate by November, 1937, and put A.A. on the map as a new fellowship of drunks who worked with each other and helped members establish the needed relationship with God. The International Christian Recovery Coalition, a growing, no-cost, group of Christians in the recovery arena is devoted to bringing the early history to the fore.

  3. Jim Davis

    Dick B.is right in pointing out that the founders of A.A. read the Bible and engaged in old fashioned prayer meetings in a way that many modern A.A.s would find uncomfortable. In a way, the founders were spiritual AND religious, but in their zeal not to force particular doctrines on newcomers the importance of formal religion has been lost. The word “religion” comes from the Latin word “to bind.” Many early A.A.s were ex-Catholics; and they didn’t want to be “bound” by doctrine.
    Dick didn’t mention two books that were widely read in the old days: Emmet Fox’s “Sermon on the Mount” and William James, “The Psychology of Religious Experience.” The latter, with its notion of conversion of “the educational variety,” was significant in helping them move beyond a requirement that everybody had to have a dramatic spiritual experience like Bill did.

  4. Carl Inniss

    Lectures and advice only go so far. Addictions are such a subject I think we have only begun to understand. The addict is told a million times their addiction is wrong they know this. But the chemical connection the power of the mind is immense.

  5. Jeff

    Dick B.is right in pointing out that the founders of A.A. read the Bible and engaged in old fashioned prayer meetings in a way that many modern A.A.s would find uncomfortable. In a way, the founders were spiritual AND religious, but in their zeal not to force particular doctrines on newcomers the importance of formal religion has been lost. The word “religion” comes from the Latin word “to bind.” Many early A.A.s were ex-Catholics; and they didn’t want to be “bound” by doctrine.
    Dick didn’t mention two books that were widely read in the old days: Emmet Fox’s “Sermon on the Mount” and William James, “The Psychology of Religious Experience.” The latter, with its notion of conversion of “the educational variety,” was significant in helping them move beyond a requirement that everybody had to have a dramatic spiritual experience like Bill did.

  6. Patrick

    The spiritual roots of the addiction and recovery movement seem, to me, to straddle both the SBNR universe, on the one hand, and that of the traditional churches. For example, the religious imagery embraced by AA (references to a Greater Power, turning one’s will and life over to God, the use of prayer and meditation…), appears extremely traditional, and may be warmly embraced by most mainline churches. The irony perhaps is that the AA culture has come to replace those same churches, providing a basic theology and a sense of community, without officially identifying itself as a religion and offering broader “Church” support. For some participating in the AA program, the program is the closest they come to participating in “religion,” In that way, AA seems to approximate the definition of an SBNR movement.

  7. Dave

    Dick B.is right in pointing out that the founders of A.A. read the Bible and engaged in old fashioned prayer meetings in a way that many modern A.A.s would find uncomfortable. In a way, the founders were spiritual AND religious, but in their zeal not to force particular doctrines on newcomers the importance of formal religion has been lost. The word “religion” comes from the Latin word “to bind.” Many early A.A.s were ex-Catholics; and they didn’t want to be “bound” by doctrine.
    Dick didn’t mention two books that were widely read in the old days: Emmet Fox’s “Sermon on the Mount” and William James, “The Psychology of Religious Experience.” The latter, with its notion of conversion of “the educational variety,” was significant in helping them move beyond a requirement that everybody had to have a dramatic spiritual experience like Bill did.

  8. Joe

    Dick B.is right in pointing out that the founders of A.A. read the Bible and engaged in old fashioned prayer meetings in a way that many modern A.A.s would find uncomfortable. In a way, the founders were spiritual AND religious, but in their zeal not to force particular doctrines on newcomers the importance of formal religion has been lost. The word “religion” comes from the Latin word “to bind.” Many early A.A.s were ex-Catholics; and they didn’t want to be “bound” by doctrine.
    Dick didn’t mention two books that were widely read in the old days: Emmet Fox’s “Sermon on the Mount” and William James, “The Psychology of Religious Experience.” The latter, with its notion of conversion of “the educational variety,” was significant in helping them move beyond a requirement that everybody had to have a dramatic spiritual experience like Bill did.

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