Does God Have a Gender?

Does God Have a Gender?

Does God Have a Gender?

Well… it all depends on who you ask!

If you do a simple Google search on the question, “Does god have a gender,” you will get all kinds of search results that talk about this topic. But, as a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous, all I have on this topic is MY own experience.  I was given the gift of sobriety on 11/17/87 and I’ve often said that I came into the rooms with an enormous amount of “god baggage.” To be clear, that reference comes as result of the experience I had growing up in the church.  Without going into that whole hot mess of a story, suffice it to say that as a gay man, at that time, I never felt completely a “part of” because of the Christian church’s stance on human sexuality.  That left me with an enormous amount of confusion that eventually began to carry the moniker, “god baggage” by the time I came into A.A. (Oh, and you can only imagine the amount of alcohol I threw at that! LOL!)

One of the constant sources of confusion for me has always been about placing a gender specification on God. As most of us know, in the Christian church, God is often referred to as “Him” or “Father,” so as a child, I felt like who was I to question that?  By the time I grew up and came into A.A., I had studied all kinds of philosophy and world religions that also use this gender identification for God.  Again, at first it seemed simple enough not to question but as I grew into my own and started working on the maintenance of my own spiritual condition, I found myself over the years in A.A. beginning to question why Bill chose to refer to God as a He/Him.

I believe (and if my readers know differently, I will be happy to stand corrected) that Bill has been quoted as saying that he chose to use the word God in our literature because it was just easier to get his point across.  I am assuming the same thing applies to Bill’s use of gender labels.  I am not 100% sure on that, but that’s the info I have up to this point.

I would not presume to think I know better than Bill W., so when I first came into A.A., I just took that “god baggage” I was carrying and tried my best to mold it into what the Big Book was teaching me. But somewhere along my journey, I started questioning it within myself.  When referring to God, do I always HAVE TO refer to God has a He/Him or a Father, or can I use my own conception of God to maybe call God a She/Her or maybe even an It? For many years after getting sober (because I have always wanted a God of some kind in my life and because I couldn’t bring myself to go back to a Christian church), I started attending Unity Church’s in whatever city I may have been living.  In the Unity Church, many congregations are comfortable with calling it, “Mother/Father God.” THAT felt good to me because it neutralized the whole label issue for me. But all these years later, the question still remains at times (as recently as this morning in conversation with another member of A.A.) and so I thought I would just sit down and write on it.

In the Big Book in Bill’s Story, he says this, “Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”  In that same book in the chapter How It Works, it states, “This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.” Lastly, in the chapter, “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare, Bob’s last words in his story state, “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”

I wasn’t there and I didn’t live in that time period, but maybe, just maybe, they chose the words they chose because they worked for THEM.

If you look at just three of our Steps, they say…

  • Step 3 – “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
  • Step 7 – “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
  • Step 11 – “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

If you pick up the A.A. Conference Approved pamphlet titled “The Twelve Steps Illustrated” you will notice a few things… Step 3 quotes the language of our Step Three. It has a picture of a man at the helm of a boat with his hands on the wheel. It says, “I let a Higher Power take over.” Step 7 correctly quotes the language of our Step Seven. It has a picture of a man with a chain that appears to have been broken. It says, “I ask a Higher Power to help me be free.” Step 11 correctly quotes the language of our Step Eleven. It has a picture of a man at the helm again, with a searchlight beam shining on what might have been a compass. It says, “I ask a Higher Power for help to live the right way.”

If you know your A.A. history, you know that the Steps do not now and never did have the phrase “higher power” in them. You know that the First Edition of the Big Book did not capitalize the first letter in both words. And you know that the Big Book text to this very day only refers to “higher power” twice*. Both times, the reference and the context are to God–the same God that the Big Book called “Creator,” “Maker,” “Father,” “Spirit,” and “Father of lights.” All terms that refer to the God of the Bible. All terms that refer to the Big Book’s urging that there is ONE that has all power, that this ONE is God, and an imperative wish that the newcomer “find Him [the same ONE God, ONE Creator, ONE Maker] now!

In the pamphlet, The “GOD” Word printed in 2018, the introduction says this:

“A.A. is not a religious organization. Alcoholics Anonymous has only one requirement for membership, and that is the desire to stop drinking. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and non-belief. Many members believe in some sort of god, and we have members who come from and practice all sorts of religions, but many are also atheist or agnostic. It’s important to remember that A.A. is not a religious organization; we have a simple idea that there is a power greater than us as individuals. What we all have in common is that the program helps us find an inner strength that we were previously unaware of — where we differ is in how we identify the source. Some people have thought of the word “God” as standing for “good orderly direction,” or even “group of drunks,” but many of us believe that there is something bigger than ourselves that is helping us today. This power may lie within some person’s religious beliefs, or it can be completely separate from any religion. For example, one member looks at the sea and accepts that it is a power greater than him. We could ask ourselves, “Do I believe that somehow there is a power greater than myself?”

It goes onto say, “As A.A. co-founder Bill W. wrote in 1965: We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In A.A. we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of A.A., so long as he or she declares. Whatever you do, please don’t let someone else’s religious beliefs prevent you from finding the solution that is available to you through Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Bill W., at that time, was known as a master raconteur and was famous for altering details of stories to make his desired impression upon listeners. When describing events of his life that had significance for Alcoholics Anonymous, he typically was not as concerned with maintaining historical accuracy as he was with conveying the spiritual truths that the events taught him. In talking about one particular interaction with Father Ed Dowling, Bill remembered that “it was a sleety, bitter night” when Father Ed came to meet him, his memory altered the weather to fit his mood. For, according to Dowling’s desk calendar and his speaking schedule, Father Ed visited him late in the evening on Saturday, November 16, 1940. And, on that night, according to contemporary newspaper reports, Manhattan’s temperature was indeed chilly—just above freezing—with some wind gusts, but there was no precipitation.

Why do I share that?  To put an exclamation point on the statement I made above that, “maybe, just maybe, they chose the words they chose because they worked for THEM.”  Maybe Bill chose to label God as a He/Him/Father because it was his way of getting the point across. I don’t know, but what I do know is that our Big Book is very clear that I have been given the latitude to develop my own conception of God and there are times I am cool with it being a He/Him, sometimes I am more comfortable with it being a She/Her, and at other times, most comfortable with it being an It.  It all depends on where I am in my spiritual condition, but the one thing I know for sure, I do not have the right nor the invitation to suggest that any other member of A.A. do it my way because my way is the right way.  It’s only the way that works for me.

So, I will wrap up the way I started…. “Does God Have a Gender?” It all depends on who you ask!  I am grateful today that my God is ever evolving and never finite but always filled with love and compassion for a drunk just trying to take his life ODAAT and be of service to the still suffering alcoholic!

In love & service,


* “Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.” – “More About Alcoholism” – Alcoholics Anonymous and “ Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present ­circumstances!” – “Working With Others” – Alcoholics Anonymous

This post contains excerpts from the article, “Our Creator and Early A.A. – By Dick B.” ( and excerpts from “A Higher Power” by Dawn E.G. (


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