The 12 Steps And 12 Traditions: Is Faith Required?

Do We Ever Operate Without Faith?

It should be immediately stated that faith is a requirement for everything. It’s amazing how much we take for granted and just assume to be true.

For starters, how many of you – yes you, my dubious reader – have test drove a car?

Took it right off the lot and had faith it would be safe? Further, how many of you took it on the highway shortly after, took the acceleration to 80mph all without knowing, understanding, or proving that each instrument and mechanism in the car was operating optimally?

Instead, you trusted and placed your faith in others, in machines, in science to keep you safe and cruising.

The twelve steps and twelve traditions require a similar trust in its process, why is this so hard to digest? Because it’s argued that faith in a Higher Power is blind faith.

Sure, your thinking “science is fact. We are discussing fact-based assertions, blind faith is unnecessary.” But is this correct? Have you ever challenged this assumption?

Science is fact, by this, we are referring to justified belief. It is nonetheless built upon a foundation of assumptions or first principles that are considered fact without being justified. This is merely faith disguised as truth taken as self-evident. For example, here is a list of assumptions – self-evident truths – which make science possible:

  • Assumes the existence of an external world (this might be debated philosophically since this understood through sense organs and it not certain how accurate they are).
  • Assumes the external world is orderly.
  • Assumes the external world is knowable.
  • Assumes the existence of truth.
  • Assumes the laws of logic.
  • Assumes the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth-gathers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment.
  • Assumes the adequacy of language to describe the world.
  • Assumes the existence of values.
  • Assumes the uniformity of nature and induction
  • Assumes the existence of numbers. (1)

Can You Put Faith In Your Doubts?

You may be thinking the above list is asinine, maybe that belief is justified, maybe it’s not – who knows. However, to appease your uneasiness, I’m sure you can agree with this,

“All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.” (2)

But then the question must be asked…is the faith required for the twelve steps justified? Moreover, what kind of faith is it?

Faith in the above context is equivalent to supposedly basic beliefs which are held as self-evident and which must be assumed to make rationality and morality possible.

The faith AA requires is the opposite, it’s asking you to doubt your presuppositions, those which your psyche seemingly demand to be absolute truth, consummate rationality, and the only reasonable morality.

Then, as you suspend your doubt, AA asks you to put faith in a set of beliefs which tell you that your presuppositions/assumptions about life are unjustified – that is, what you cling to as truth, what you argue as rational, and what you hold as the only way to make accurate value judgments, may indeed be faulty, to a degree if not in totality.

The promise once these beliefs are grasped?


Which is purely another way of saying true, rational, and ethical belief.

The faith required of the 12 steps and 12 traditions is, therefore, an anti-faith of sorts, not so much faith placed in a Higher Power – which could be defined in as many ways there are minds to define it – but faith in doubt, yes that’s right – doubt. Cognitive dissonance which is humanities standard adaptive outfitting will simply not hand over the title rights to your mind yet.

When you’re asked to trust the process, you’re being asked to put faith in doubt and this, though not impossible, feels eerily close to it. You might find that your doubt actually takes less faith than the current view you put so much stock into yet never get even the slightest return of investment.


Timmy G (2018)


Works Cited

  1. House, H. Wayne, and Dennis W. Jowers. Reasons for Our Hope: An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2011.