According to Dictionary.com, a Freethinker is “a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.” This non religious AA group tries to follow that standard.
Brian, who provided much of the information on the meeting, stated that after about six years sobriety he struggled with the “God slant” and hoped for a less traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. That thought lead to the creation of Freethinkers four years later in August 2008. He was to start this with the assistance of Jim. For some time it was only the two of them who showed up. They would avail themselves of the piano in the meeting room, which they would play and sing along to while waiting on others to materialize. Once its listing appeared the sing-a-longs ended and the meeting took off.
The format is round robin going around the room after the leader shares on a topic from one of the books used. Those books are As Bill Sees It and Living Sober. Most nights the group meets in a circle but sometimes they meet around a table. One Thursday night in October 2009 the topic was service and around the table the sharing went. There were seven in attendance including a newcomer. Most seem to be regulars and with respectable amounts of sober time. It would seem to be gratifying to a visitor that the Freethinkers practice what they preach— when one person sharing made frequent references to the word “God” there was no recriminations or attempts at censorship made by the others. In other words there seemed an excellent level of tolerance.
What the Freethinkers use are the Agnostic Twelve Steps which replaces the word “God” as this example of the third step illustrates. “Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us”. This version of the steps comes out of California where this style meeting has been an acceptable alternative for many years. A quick check of New York City meeting list showed seven meetings following this Humanist philosophy in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. All of these meetings are listed on the New York City Intergroup website. The Third Tradition does state “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
Freethinkers may be the trailblazer in Suffolk County. The Archives Committee could not find anything comparable past or present. In keeping with its approach the meeting does not end with the Lord’s Prayer. One regular attendee said “we haven’t yet figured out how to end the meeting”.
Freethinkers of Bay Shore meets every Thursday evening at 7:30PM.
Please note that since this history was written, a second Freethinker meeting was started in Stony Brook.
Source: Suffolk County AA Archives