In spite of the strong emphasis in AA on spiritual beliefs and practices, findings are mixed about the importance of such beliefs in predicting AA affiliation. This study of the Project MATCH alcoholics tested three possibilities about the role of client God belief and subsequent AA attendance and benefit, taking into account that some individuals may, in fact, deny the existence of a God.
Analyses were conducted investigating client God beliefs, AA attendance, patterns of AA attendance and alcohol use. Assessments were conducted at first contact and in 3-month intervals.
- 12-Step treatment was significantly more likely to promote shifts in alcoholic God beliefs.
- Atheist and agnostic alcoholics attended AA significantly less often than alcoholics self-labelled as spiritual and religious.
- AA attendance, however, was significantly associated with increased abstinence and reductions in drinking intensity regardless of God belief.
- No differences in percent of days abstinence and drinking intensity were found between atheist and agnostic versus spiritual and religious alcoholics,
- But alcoholics unsure about their God belief reported significantly higher drinking frequency relative to the other groups.
Conclusions: God belief appears to be relatively unimportant in deriving AA-related benefit, but atheist and agnostic alcoholics are less likely to initiate and sustain AA attendance relative to spiritual and religious alcoholics. This apparent reticence to affiliate with AA should be taken into account when encouraging AA participation.
Reference; Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63: 534-541, 2002.