Atheist Big Book Study: Forward to 3rd and 4th Editions
By the time the third edition was published in 1976, A.A. had grown to over one million members with almost 28,000 groups. Not only was the fellowship growing in numbers, it was becoming more diverse. According to the forward to the third edition, by March of 1986 25% of A.A. members were women and 7% were young people under thirty years of age.
The authors point out that the basic principles of the A.A. program “hold good for individuals of many different lifestyles, just as the program has brought recovery to those of many different nationalities”. What is meant by “different lifestyles” is not specified, though when this was written during the 1970’s the United States in deed the world had experienced a huge cultural change. An increasing number of women were working outside the home, the gay rights movement was underway, and an escalating divorce rate changed family dynamics.
The forward to the third edition presents an image of a fellowship that was growing and moving with the times, and they were right. A.A. was in fact growing and changing. In 1975 the first A.A. group for atheists and agnostics was born in Chicago, Quad A.
When the fourth edition was published in 2001, A.A. grew to a membership of over two million with over 100,800 groups. The authors attribute this growth to the expansion of A.A. literature and the translation of the Big Book into forty-three languages. The membership of the fellowship was becoming ever more diverse so new personal stories were added to reflect this diversity.
Some mention is given to the impact of technology on the fellowship. A.A. members began gathering in online communities sharing recovery with other members from around the world. This was an interesting time for A.A. as no one could anticipate the Internet and the impact it would have on society. The fourth edition even uses a word that was completely unnecessary in years past, “face to face meetings”. We are now in a new era with new challenges for the fellowship.