One thing that Bill & the Pioneers of AA seemed to pick up on was: If you tell an alcoholic that they can't do something -- they'll go to any length to prove you wrong. I've heard old talks, that indicate that this is why the first sentences of Chapter 5, begins with "Rarely, have we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path." Instead of "We have never seen a person succeed that has not followed our path."
When Fellowships are looking to use the 12 Steps to solve their problems, and they start modifying the Steps -- it seems that most of them have not TAKEN the 12 Steps -- prior to attempting to use or practice them. If one simply takes enough time to look at Step 12 -- it tells them WHAT the objective is in using the 12 Steps. It's a formula -- a recipe -- to produce a "Spiritual Awakening" (and as followed up w/ an explanation of "Spiritual Experience" -- the appendix II, in the back of the big book explains, that it's to produce a transformation of thought and attitude -- a personality change -- sufficient to recover from alcoholism.
Granted, in the beginning of the book, it explains that "And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all." So, our way of life, the 12 Steps -- do have benefits for anyone that will at least try our way of living. However, for most alcoholics -- they will discover that enough self-knowledge, and moral philosophy, will still not be enough -- to solve their problem.
I personally believe that the Atheist or non-believers, who attempt to use the 12 Steps, ARE having a spiritual experience -- even though they don't understand or realize or comprehend that they are having one. (Part of this is also explained in the "Spiritual Experience" appendix II, in the back of the book).
Here's my reasoning on it:
1. God is Principle. And, the 12 Steps are spiritual principles.
2. It's possible to be living by spiritual principles -- even without the knowledge that they are living by spiritual principles -- and even in denying a deity they are still using spiritual principles.
I had a lot of problems with what we call "the God thing" when I was a newcomer. I had grown up in a family that was deeply religious. And, I had been deeply religious, too. I was so religious -- that I couldn't even live up to the ideals of my religion -- and I began hating myself and doubting myself -- feeling, and believing, and being told that "I was no good" was the reason "why" I couldn't do it.
I was an alcoholic of the "chronic and hopeless" type, that the book was written for. So, I had to find a way -- to at least be "open minded" about Spiritual Principles -- to be able to use the 12 Steps.
I knew that I was going to die and that I had already tried other means to stay sober and I couldn't do it. The only thing I hadn't tried was "the 12 Steps".
Some ALCOHOLICS, can STAY SOBER, on meetings and Fellowship alone. I've known some that were this way. And, as Sunlight mentioned above -- it isn't uncommon to meet someone in AA, an alcoholic -- that has been able to stay sober for many years -- dodging the God issure and simply using the Fellowship and meetings to stay sober. I WAS NOT and I am not one of those types -- but, undeniably "there are" THOSE types among us.
I tried being one of "those types" on my first trip into AA, and my sobriety only lasted 5 1/2 months before I returned to drinking and couldn't get sober or stay sober.
I even went back to AA, for another 5 1/2 months -- while still drinking -- because I couldn't even stay completely sober for even one 24 hr period (on my own). Sure, I could have done it -- if I were locked up -- but, I didn't want to go there!
So, eventually -- when I did get another shot at sobriety -- I KNEW -- that I was alcoholic, AND that I was going to HAVE TO find a different way to stay sober -- because the meetings and Fellowship were NOT ENOUGH for me.
I discovered ONE spiritual principle, that I didn't even know was a spiritual principle at the time -- that was keeping me sober -- until I could make further spiritual progress. And, it was the same "one spiritual principle" -- that Bill Wilson, discovered that kept him sober -- long enough for him to get to Dr. Bob -- (who couldn't stay sober using his Spiritual principles -- AND could not stay sober -- even with his much desired relationship w/ God, and his God Consciousness).
This here is the ONE spiritual principle (and our book talks much about it) that helped me. It was: "One person helping another person." That IS a spiritual principle.
And, the way we use it is: "One alcoholic helping another alcoholic."
As a spiritual principle -- this is how it works: The one alcoholic, that is trying to help another alcoholic -- to achieve and maintain sobriety -- IS receiving SPIRITUAL help -- that keeps them sober. Even though they don't know it and even though they may deny it!
When the alcoholic is going to extreme measures "to do this" -- (helping another alcoholic to stay sober) -- they are practicing "unconditional love." And, as we, who are God-minded know, have discovered that "God IS Love... AND God IS the source of unconditional Love."
So, what's it all mean? I believe it means that the Believer AND the Non-Believer ARE tapped into God, using God's Principles -- even when they are not aware of it.
That's how I see it.
NOTE: My experiences are mine, and so are my opinions... My opinions ARE NOT AA's opinions -- they are simply "one member of AA's" opinion, and should NOT be taken to mean that they are "AA's Opinion".