Most AA members say that following the 12 steps doesn’t require a belief in God but only in a Higher Power that can be whatever you want it to be. This is the “door knob theory” according to which the Higher Power can be a door knob, a tree, a rock, a Pepsi can, or anything else you want it to be.

However, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W. refers to God 133 times in the 2013 edition of the Big Book. He uses the capitalized pronouns (He, His, Him, Thou, Thy and Thee) 81 times in referring to God. He is clearly referring to God when he writes of the Creator (with capital “C”) 12 times, the Maker (with capital “M”) twice, as well as to the Father and the Father of Light (with capitals). In no case does he mention Door Knob, Tree, Rock, Pepsi Can, or the Anything Else that you want it to be. But he does say that for an alcoholic to be delivered from alcoholism, “The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.”

AA ‘s other co-founder, Dr. Bob, explains in the Big Book that “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”

None of this is surprising because Alcoholics Anonymous was built on the religious principles of the Oxford Group, a fundamentalist Christian movement at the time. It’s also not surprising that the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed appeals court findings that AA is a religious organization or engages in religious activities. That’s why it’s illegal for any governmental agent (court, V.A., social services agency, prison, etc.) to require anyone to attend AA meetings or to read AA literature.

The non-religious (but not anti-religious) St. Jude Cognitive Behavioral Education program has a demontrated long term success rate of 62%, compared with AA’s short term success rate of only about 5%.