Q: Can an atheist enter the program? If so, how does that pertain or correlate to what I believe is the Higher Power of the Second Step?
A: OA welcomes anyone who wants to stop eating compulsively. There is no belief requirement. So as far as the Second Step is concerned, there is no official interpretation of “a Power greater than ourselves” imposed on any OA member. In the Third Step, the words “as we understood Him,” while relying upon traditional language, give a person with any belief or nonbelief total choice in how to define a Higher Power as he or she works the Steps.
To better understand this aspect of diversity in OA, I can recommend any of the following pamphlets available from the OA bookstore at bookstore.oa.org or possibly from meetings in your area: What If I Don’t Believe in “God”?; A Common Solution: Diversity and Recovery; and To the Man Who Wants to Stop Compulsive Overeating, Welcome, which addresses being male in a female majority Fellowship.
Meetings will vary in their personality, and OA recommends that you try at least six different meetings to find the best fit for you. If you live in an area with few face-to-face meetings, there are many telephone and online meetings for you to explore.
It is true that many who come into program as atheist or agnostic find some sort of belief by working the Steps, but my personal experience is this is not required for recovery. I have worked the Steps as an agnostic for thirty-seven years of OA membership, and I have found long-term recovery from that perspective. I have found OA members as a whole very accepting of my nonbelief.
— Members of the Board of Trustees provide answers to Ask-It Basket questions
Ask-It Basket Archive
Click on the link below to see an archive of previous Ask-It Basket questions and answers. Remember that these answers are the opinions of individual members of the Board of Trustees and others may have different opinions. It’s a good idea to read other OA materials that address an issue and ask around in meetings for more opinions. Also keep in mind that circumstances change and opinions are refined over time. Ask-It Basket Archive