I remember a man from my early meetings who could not abide by AA because he was constantly troubled by its religious overtones. He did not like the fact that many meetings were held in church buildings. He did not like the prayers. He did not like references to “Him,” our “Maker” and “Lord.” These things overshadowed all else he could find in AA, so he left and never came back. I ran into him five years later and he said he was not drinking, but he seemed very unhappy and bitter – like other dry drunks I had known. I do not know what has become of him since. Belief in a higher power of our own understanding is one of the most important tenets in AA. It has parallels the in saying “principles before personalities.” No matter what religious roots the AA founders may have had, no matter what zealotry the Big Book authors may have portrayed in their exuberance from time to time, no matter what overtones or undertones of religion we may detect, it is our grave responsibility to choose a higher power of our own understanding and to allow everyone else the freedom to do that. The Newcomer has a choice – to look around and count the differences between herself and everyone else in the room, or to find common ground in the disease of alcoholism. Similarly, she can listen to a few who share with heavy religious influence and proclaim that AA is not for her, or she can latch on to the phrase “as we understood” and claim her right to freedom of belief. There are many who sense that AA demands conformity, that all shares must brim over with gratitude, that we cannot really be honest about our misgivings, that we must toe the party line. In reality, AA demands very little – just some basic respect and courtesy. If that is present, then each of us can share from the heart in darkness as well as light. And we can believe in whatever creed works for us. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The only credential required of our higher power is that we are not it.