Can the 12 steps work without God or religion?

One major way in which the Proactive Twelve Steps differ from the traditional Twelve Steps is the notion of sin. In the traditional 12 steps, the mechanism of change is essentially one in which the sinner acknowledges their sins and, in doing so, achieves redemption through the grace of God.

You can rename God “Higher Power” or anything you want… The mechanism remains there: There is something deeply flawed about you and it takes some external power, outside of you, to redeem you.

Now, that conception of the traditional Twelve Steps is not just something that applies to alcoholics, substance abusers, people who feel stuck, or anybody else who might be using the Twelve Steps. It is essentially a fundamentalist Christian view of what it’s like to be human.

See, for instance, the following quote from Paul’s epistle to the Romans:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
— Romans, 7,15

This is strikingly similar to the wording of Step One in the Proactive Twelve Steps. So you can say it’s what happens to you when you feel stuck. And you can also say that this is essentially part of the human condition, and we experience it more acutely when we’re stuck.

However, in Paul’s conception and in Christianity, you cannot resolve this from inside. Because, in a fundamentalist Christian outlook, all humans are born sinners:
“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”
— Romans, 7,17

In fact, you would be told that trying to resolve it from inside only increases your isolation from the source of grace, which is God.

In contrast, a proactive and mindful approach invites you to find something that is inside you, as in all human beings. That something is the potential that we all have to find resilience. The human ability to grow and change when we stop getting in our own way.