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AA and Other Twelve Step Groups - Cults
Posted: 24 December 2006 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“Ellecram”]The basic premise is that AA et al are religious organizations and are minimally effective support groups.

Thoughts???

Elle

*************************************************************
Obligatory disclaimers first: what follows is my own opinion and not that of any Twelve-Step Group in particular. The author’s membership in any group is not implied nor should it be inferred.*** The information I cite is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and can be accessed by the general public over the Internet. Mention or lack of mention of any particular group is neither an endorsement nor criticism of that group, its members, or its philosophy.
*************************************************************
I think we need to distinguish between Twelve-Step Organizations that have as part of their collective history and culture certain religious overtones, and Recovery-Oriented Organizations that are quite obviously and deliberately religious in nature. This is relatively easy to do. For the purpose of this discussion, I will compare and contrast the statements of membership published by two major Twelve-Step Organizations and two Christian Recovery Groups.

Here is the Third Tradition as expressed in two of the better-known Twelve-Step Organizations:
[list]Alcoholics Anonymous: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
Narcotics Anonymous: “The only requirement for N.A. membership is a desire to stop using.”[/list:u]
Here is the Third Tradition, or what can pass for it, as expressed by Recovery-Oriented Religious Organizations (Christians in Recovery and Alcoholics Victorious):
[list]Christians in Recovery: “The only requirement to become a part of Christians in Recovery is the desire to recover and become more Christ-like.”
Alcoholics Victorious: Membership is open to “Believers struggling with an addiction to alcohol/drugs who, although committed Christians, may still be suffering in silence ...” and “Non-Christians still addicted to alcohol/drugs who feel compelled to search out the true “higher power” Jesus Christ ...”[/list:u]
The difference between the two, I hope, is sufficiently clear. All four groups take as their members anyone with a particular problem of compulsive behavior that, for whatever reason, the person feels completely unable to control. However, the latter two groups impose an additional restriction on their respective memberships of needing to be Christian. This requirement is noticeably absent from all Twelve-Step Groups. This is how, in my opinion, you can differentiate between legitimate Twelve-Step Groups and those that borrow from Twelve-Step Groups with the purpose of furthering some other agenda.

Note that while neither Recovery-Oriented Group requires you to join a church, you are required to accept or already have it in mind to accept a specific doctrine of faith. In fact, both of these organizations also include an identically-worded statement of doctrine that I won’t link to or repeat here, but if you know the Nicene Creed, you have the basic jist of it: the divine authority of the Bible, the Triune God, the divinity of Jesus, yadayadayada. I suspect you’ll find the same basic line of thinking in any Recovery-Oriented Group that has religious sponsorship.

In short: membership in a Twelve-Step Group is open to anyone having a desire to stop <insert problem here>, Troo Beleever, agnostic, pagan, or atheist. Membership in a Recover-Oriented Group is not. I don’t know if they’d actually kick you out, but my guess is you would not be at all welcome.*

On this basis alone, I would have to disagree with the basic premise that Twelve-Step Organizations are religious organizations. Most religious organizations would also disagree with this premise, because the approach of Twelve-Step Organizations tends to be a bit broad and far too open to subjective experience and interpretation than religious authorities can accept. The two Recovery-Oriented Groups I cited earlier contain very specific statements on how/why they are different from Twelve-Step Organizations. By contrast, Twelve-Step Organizations make no mention of why or how they are different from other related organizations, religious or secular, other than a very clearly-worded statement regarding non-affiliation and non-involvement in outside issues/controversies.

At the same time, I think a very strong case can be made that Twelve-Step Organizations have been very strongly influenced by Western religion, predominantly Christianism, but I do not believe that this influence is justified, warranted, or subject to unquestioning acceptance by its members. Certainly there is nothing in any official, published documentation that supports a religious influence in a Twelve-Step Group.**

I find it disturbing to read accounts of meetings in which religious doctrine is pronounced with authority and without challenge from the meeting chair or secretary. I am gratified to say that this has not been my experience. In fact, I attended one meeting some years ago in which one member decided to start pounding his Bible in the midst of his share time, and another member, himself a church-goer no less, promptly shut him up with little more than a hand-gesture and a very meaningful and direct look. If Twelve-Step Groups have become overly-religious, it is only because no-one has spoken up about it. Religious tolerance does not equate to silence when violations of traditions occur.

I hope this is of some value to you.

* To be fair, AV states very clearly on their website that “AV is not intended to replace Alcoholics Anonymous, Ala-non, or any other support group.”

** Discussing the phrase “Higher Power” and “God as we understand” in the context of this post would explode the length out to something approaching a full novel. If there’s sufficient interest, I think a separate discussion on the subject of an atheist’s approach to working the Twelve Steps would be very welcome, if the forum moderator would allow.

*** Meeting attendance and group membership are two very different things.

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Posted: 24 December 2006 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I would have to disagree with the basic premise that Twelve-Step Organizations are religious organizations.

Your points are well-taken, and I agree with a good deal of what you say.  I do disagree with your conclusion, however, and ask you to consider this:  What makes a religion a religion?  What is the minimum requirement?  Does a religion have to have a supreme god-figure, or is a set of dogma enough?

I’m not knocking AA.  If it did not exist, I would most probably be dead.  AA first tells you that you have a terrible affliction that if left untreated will result in only three possible outcomes: Jail, insanity or death.  You are then informed that in order to save yourself you must develop a relationship with a “power greater than yourself,” ‘cause you do not have the power yourself to overcome your affliction.  You are then taught a method that will arrest your affliction, and release you from the “obsession to drink” as long as you follow the steps and “work the program.”  You are encouraged to attend as many meetings as you possibly can, and estrange yourself from any former friends and family who are not supportive of your efforts.

Again, I’m not knocking AA, in fact I attended a meeting with my wife this morning, but how does the above differ with most of the cults and religions popular on the planet today?

The doctrine of original sin places Christians, if they buy into it, in the same position as the alcoholic entering AA for the first time.  Without “salvation,” to save them from this imaginary “affliction,” they will spend eternity in a lake of fire.  But wait, just accept jesus….. and you will be OK. 

I guess the biggest difference is, AA addresses a real problem where Christianity addresses an imaginary one with a solution involving an imaginary being.  I think you see what I’m saying, though, I think AA is a religion not because it necessarily inculcates a particular religion, (although it does at times), but because it acts like one itself.

In AA’s favor, though, they don’t operate like any religion I know where money and power is concerned.  I think everyone in AA, from top to bottom, is driven by an honest desire to help as many alcoholics as possible, and the normal donation when the hat is passed is still the same as it was when I came in.

Ah, what difference does it make anyway?  There are many parallels between AA and Zen, one of my favorites being “take what you need and leave the rest.”  Today, I can take what I need from AA, and leave most of the model behind, including the whole higher power thing.

Thanks for your post zaZen, and welcome to the forum.

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http://powerlessnolonger.com

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Posted: 24 December 2006 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]What makes a religion a religion?

People.

One person gets religious about something or someone (anything - going to the gym or Sam Harris) and presto:  an instant religion.  Then once one person does it ...

People make religions, and it’s people who support them; or not.

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Posted: 25 December 2006 03:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Well, like I said, nobody in AA demands that you believe in a certain type or condition of a Higher Power. I know of people who use the “collective wisdom” of the groups as an HP, because that collective wisdom is stronger than their own individual effort to stay sober, and it has wisdom that they, alone, do not. Is this, then, “religious?”

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Posted: 25 December 2006 04:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“PurpleKU77”] Well, like I said, nobody in AA demands that you believe in a certain type or condition of a Higher Power. I know of people who use the “collective wisdom” of the groups as an HP, because that collective wisdom is stronger than their own individual effort to stay sober, and it has wisdom that they, alone, do not. Is this, then, “religious?”

Yes, that’s a religion. 

The problem is not that someone creates a religion for themselves to follow; it’s when they (a person/or group of people) decide to begin demanding that others follow this same/self-created religion as they do, that is the problem.

The word religion has many meanings; and is not a ‘dirty’ word; and it’s helpful to remember that religion does not exclusively mean or require that someone believe in a supreme being.  That’s only one part of this words meaning, not it’s whole meaning. 

Religion:
–noun
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.
—Idiom
9. get religion, Informal.
a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.
b. to resolve to mend one’s errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
Source:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion

It’s not religion, per say, that’s the problem ... it’s what certain people will do (or not do) in the name of their religions that can be a problem.  But simply believing in a religion, or being religious about something,  doesn’t make one or it into a problem.

Ditto with “god” … it’s not god that’s the problem, it’s what certain people will/have done in his name that’s been/is the problem.

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Posted: 25 December 2006 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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The real question one needs to ask is does AA work?

The answer is an affirmative no!
It never did and never will. It’s a mish mash of pop psychology,religious fundamentalism,psuedo science and outright quackery. And this has been proven over and over and over again in many many controlled studies.
There has never been any scientific study that has proven AA worked any better than just quitting drinking.
The Bible of AA is their Big Book. Which is so moronically written, at a ninth grade reading level, it is laughable at best. Even the AMA panned it when it was first released.
AA is like Bigfoot. There are always some who will believe in it despite the facts which condemn it.
The founder,Bill Wilson, was a sick, twisted, not very bright, brain damaged drunk, who used the meetings as pick up havens for his many mistrisses.
He was a typical cult leader who indulged in sex with his converts despite the fact that he was married. He also stole front money for his organisation and cheated his friends out of Big Book royalties. He was a real life scumbag.

Does anyone need to know any more than this?

Ralph

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Posted: 25 December 2006 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“ralphcox”]The real question one needs to ask is does AA work?
The answer is an affirmative no!

Yes, AA does indeed work. 
So does Al-Anon and Alateen. 
And many other programs ...

At the heart of any/all of these programs - it’s the hearts of the people in them that makes the program work.  It’s amazing the things that happen, get accomplished,  when our hearts and mind are fully involved in what we’re doing.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 01:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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This is in response to the last post.
If you will take note Whim does not challenge any of the statements I made about AA in my post except to state that “AA does work.”
This is very typical amongst AA cult members.
That is, they offer testimonials in the place of real facts and evidence.
I would point out to Whim that just because someone believes something to be true does not make it so.
George Vaillant,profeesser emeritus at Harvard University, completed an 8 year longitudeal controlled study on the effectiveness of AA.
At the end he concluded that AA did not work any better than those who received NO treatment at all. He also discovered that the highest death rate in the study was amongst those who attended AA meetings as a form of treatment. In other words, AA attendance was killing people! That is in comparison to the non-treatment group.
The ironic part of this study is that George Vaillant is on the AA payroll as one of it’s trustees nonetheless! He wanted to prove it worked and couldn’t.
There have been many other studies besides this one and they all come to pretty much the same conclusions. AA does not work. Period!
One more item.
AA has lost every single court case that has been brought attempting to prove it is not a religion. At least 11 cases in all and one all the way to the Supreme Court. Where it was sent back to the district court thus upolding the legal decision.
AA is a religion!


Ralph

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Posted: 26 December 2006 02:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“ralphcox”]George Vaillant,profeesser emeritus at Harvard University, completed an 8 year longitudeal controlled study on the effectiveness of AA.
At the end he concluded that AA did not work any better than those who received NO treatment at all. He also discovered that the highest death rate in the study was amongst those who attended AA meetings as a form of treatment. In other words, AA attendance was killing people! That is in comparison to the non-treatment group.
The ironic part of this study is that George Vaillant is on the AA payroll as one of it’s trustees nonetheless! He wanted to prove it worked and couldn’t.
Ralph

Sir;

In all circles, it is unethical to manipulate and misrepresent data, especially someone else’s date, simply to suit one’s own personal biases and prejudices.   

Regarding George Vaillant’s study findings:  imo this article sums up the history and findings the best.

Source:
http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/1996/03.14/FiveYearsIsMagi.html

HARVARD GAZETTE ARCHIVES

Five Years Is Magic Number for Recovering Alcoholics
Attempts at social drinking frequently lead to relapse
By William J. Cromie

Gazette Staff

Harvard alumni and others who became alcoholics were not likely to return to drinking if they remained sober for five years, according to a Medical School study.

In the longest investigation to date, researchers tracked 268 Harvard graduates and 456 poor, inner-city men from adolescence to age 60-70 years. While the economically disadvantaged drinkers were more likely to become alcoholics, they were twice as likely as the college men to kick the habit. By age 60, 59 percent of the Harvard group still abused alcohol, compared to 28 percent of the inner-city men.

Forty percent of those who managed only two years of abstinence eventually went back to the bottle.

“After five years of sobriety, however, relapse was rare,” notes George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry, who headed the research. “Before this study no one knew how long an alcoholic has to be sober to be cured.”

The study concludes that it is difficult, if not impossible, for men who abuse alcohol to return to social drinking. “Of 21 men who returned to social drinking after age 40, all but five relapsed before they went five years without abusing alcohol,” Vaillant noted.

“Liberal-minded people are upset by the idea that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other groups insist you must remain abstinent,” Vaillant said “It’s an ongoing controversy, but this study supports the AA point of view. If you follow former abusers long enough, you see that most of the social drinkers relapse.”

Education Doesn’t Help

Vaillant, who directs psychiatric research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, took over the study 30 years ago after the men had already been tracked for 25 years. He found that the Harvard men began alcoholic abuse later than the poor, inner-city males and experienced fewer problems.

“Socially disadvantaged men, in part as a function of early onset of severe alcohol dependence, often become stably abstinent,” Vaillant explained. “However, because of poor health habits (especially smoking and diet) they are more likely to die [sooner].

“On the other hand, alcohol abusers with excellent social supports, high education, good health habits, and late onset of alcohol abuse are more likely to survive and to maintain a pattern of lifelong intermittent alcohol abuse. Thus, the college men, despite their educational and social advantages, were less likely to abstain from alcohol abuse.”

By age 60, 18 percent of the Harvard alcohol abusers had died, compared to 29 percent of inner-city men. Thirty-two percent of the latter group were abstinent compared to 11.5 percent of the college men.

Surprisingly, after 5 to 15 years of worsening symptoms, the severity of alcoholism leveled off. “After age 40, instead of progressing, it is rather like chronic obesity—it doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get worse,” Vaillant commented.

Alcohol, directly or indirectly, kills 100,000 people in the United States each year, according to the study, published in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. Also, the risk of heart disease and cancer is twice as high for alcohol abusers than for nonabusers, and heavy smoking dramatically increases the death rate among abusers.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Ralph -

Since you seem to have stong feelings that against AA - can I ask you some questions?

Do you have any experience with AA or 12 step groups?

If so - what was the catalyst that caused you to decamp?

What are the qualities that make AA a cult?

Do you think an atheist can work the 12 steps?

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Posted: 26 December 2006 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Whim - Have you read any of the AA Horror stories that Ken Ragge and Rebecca Fransway have published?

If not - here is a link to the website that allows you to read them free.

http://www.morerevealed.com/

This website also has an interesting article on the cult aspects of AA written by Devin Sexon -

Mind Control Tactics Of Alcoholics Anonymous
by Devin Sexson
June 2002                     http://www.morerevealed.com/dev_art.jsp

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Posted: 26 December 2006 03:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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First of all.
i spent over 25 years in and out of AA. I sponsored many people in the program,taught the steps, and The Big Book. Spoke at meetings.
I know of what I speak.
AA has a five year “success rate” of 2%.
Turn those figures around and it’s a whopping 98% FAILURE RATE!
How many people would take their cars to an auto repair shop that boasted a 98% failure rate? Obviously not many.
Incidentally, these figures are from AAs’ own 1989 triennial survey.
In other words. AA willfully admits that it’s program has been a miserable failure.
The basic problem as I see it is that AA has misrepresented what it’s actual purpose is. One only has to read the 12 steps to figure out that the primary purpose of them is religious conversion. And Bill Wilson even admits to that fact in The Big Book.

Pg 77 The Big Book

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. “

AA was never and never will be a quitting drinking program, it’s about religious conversion. Considering that Bill W. lifted the entire idea for his program from Frank Buchman of the Oxford Group religious cult this make sense. And both of AAs’ co-founders, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith,  were enthusiastic members of that religious cult before breaking away and starting AA. The fact is that Buchman was an avowed supporter of Adolf Hitler. And Bill Wilson spoke glowlingly of him. Which certainly says something about Wilsons judgement.

Ralph

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Posted: 26 December 2006 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]What makes a religion a religion?  What is the minimum requirement?  Does a religion have to have a supreme god-figure, or is a set of dogma enough?

I tend to take Alan Watts’ characterization: a religion is defined by the presence of three things: [list]1. The creed (a definitive proclamation of what is believed to be true);
2. The code (a set of rules governing behavior, morals and ethics based on the creed set forth previously); and (of course)
3. The cult (the authoritarian hierarchy of worshipful who enforce the previous two components).[/list:u]

On the face of it, this would seem to include TSGs like NA and AA. After all, TSGs do have a definitive proclamation of truth regarding a specific problem, such as addiction and alcoholism. However, this proclamation comes about as a result of collective experiences that have to no small extent been verified by medical science (at least in terms of the symptoms and behaviors of the afflicted), NOT divine revelation.

With respect to “the code,” there are the 12 Traditions which govern how members of these groups are to interact with one another and how they interact with non-members. This is somewhat problematic, as the Traditions are guidelines, not moral dictates. Interestingly, neither NA nor AA require that you stop using or drinking (respectively). Working the steps and living the program is entirely optional. You are not required to do either one if you do not find it necessary.

Finally, we come to whether or not the members of a TSG constitute a cult.  While I acknowledge the experiences described by others as to the cult-like behavior of one group or another’s members, the fact is that nothing in any of the literature I have read, nor in the experiences I’ve heard recounted by others in these groups, suggests that it is at all appropriate to indoctrinate newcomers or behave toward them in such an aggressive and proselytizing manner. In other words, these individuals who feel it is their moral duty to preach the gospel of (insert program here) have grossly misunderstood the purpose and intent of TSGs, and it is they, not the fellowships, who are in error.

As you point out, meeting attendance is encouraged, not required. You are not forcibly removed from your family or forced to stop talking to others outside the fellowship. Furthermore, I seem to recall TSGs being very specific about the problem they address and the problems they do not. Neither NA nor AA pretend to have all the answers to all of life’s problems, and state very specifically and clearly that they do not. I challenge you to find any religion that does as much.

AA first tells you that you have a terrible affliction that if left untreated will result in only three possible outcomes: Jail, insanity or death.

TSGs relate common experience, they don’t “tell” you anything in the sense of a lecture or sermon. Sharing in meetings (when done appropriately) is of the “This is what happened to me” variety, not the “Let me tell you something, buster” variety.

I don’t see you denying that alcoholism or addiction are afflictions. The AMA lists both as diseases, with particular symptoms and recommended regimens for treatment. Religions, Christianity in particular, often describe these conditions in terms of being moral problems, TSGs do not. Neither NA nor AA, in my experience, have ever endorsed a viewpoint in which addicts or alcoholics were sinners in need of redemption. The phrase I’ve heard more often than I care to remember is, “We’re not bad people trying to be good; we’re sick people trying to get well.”

You are then informed that in order to save yourself you must develop a relationship with a “power greater than yourself,” ‘cause you do not have the power yourself to overcome your affliction.  You are then taught a method that will arrest your affliction, and release you from the “obsession to drink” as long as you follow the steps and “work the program.”  You are encouraged to attend as many meetings as you possibly can, and estrange yourself from any former friends and family who are not supportive of your efforts.

Actually, I believe the first step mentions only powerlessness and unmanageability, not “higher power.” The conclusion as to whether or not one is powerless over and unable to manage or control it is left entirely up to the individual, preferably after a rigorous, and dare I say scientific, investigation into the nature of one’s behavior in relation to this problem: when one used, where, how much, consequences of, efforts already made to stop, etc. You are an addict or an alcoholic if and only if you say you are; no one else can make that decision for you.

The doctrine of original sin places Christians, if they buy into it, in the same position as the alcoholic entering AA for the first time.  Without “salvation,” to save them from this imaginary “affliction,” they will spend eternity in a lake of fire.  But wait, just accept jesus….. and you will be OK.

See previous. TSGs do not—ought not—to frame the problems of addiction and alcoholism as primarily moral problems.

I guess the biggest difference is, AA addresses a real problem where Christianity addresses an imaginary one with a solution involving an imaginary being.

Agreed. And I think we can agre that atheists can work the 12 steps and live by the traditions as well as the most die-hard book-thumpering fundie.

In AA’s favor, though, they don’t operate like any religion I know where money and power is concerned.  I think everyone in AA, from top to bottom, is driven by an honest desire to help as many alcoholics as possible, and the normal donation when the hat is passed is still the same as it was when I came in.

Agreed. Just because TSGs have some superficial similarities with religions doesn’t mean that TGS are religions.

welcome to the forum.

Thank you for responding. I enjoy these conversations. Here’s my question to you: do you think it possible for an atheist to work the 12 steps, inasmuch as there are a number of those that DO mention the “G-word?”

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Posted: 26 December 2006 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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[quote author=“ralphcox”]First of all.
i spent over 25 years in and out of AA. I sponsored many people in the program,taught the steps, and The Big Book. Spoke at meetings.
I know of what I speak.

All this tells me is that you excel in inconsistency and you enjoy trumpeting your own horn. The fact that you say you “taught the steps” tells me that you do not understand what the steps are for or how they are to be undertaken.

How many people would take their cars to an auto repair shop that boasted a 98% failure rate?

Arguments by analogy are bad, mm-kay? All cars break down and need repair. Not all people are addicts or alcoholics. I guess this means we shouldn’t buy cars and should instead drink ourselves to death.  rolleyes

Mechanical problems are precisely that: mechanical. Addiction and alcoholism are not mechanical problems. It’s not like replacing a bad set of spark plugs.

One only has to read the 12 steps to figure out that the primary purpose of them is religious conversion. And Bill Wilson even admits to that fact in The Big Book.

Pg 77 The Big Book

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. “

Bill Wilson is not the final authority on the purpose of 12-step groups. Your elevating him to such a position does him and the various fellowships a grave disservice.

The fact is that Buchman was an avowed supporter of Adolf Hitler. And Bill Wilson spoke glowlingly of him. Which certainly says something about Wilsons judgement.

Oh, dear lord, it’s the Hitler zombie. This is like the fundies who attack evolutionary theory because there are various allusions to it in Nazi propaganda. Look, just because Bill Wilson admired Buchman and Buchman admired Hitler doesn’t mean that Bill Wilson admired Hitler or even that he admired Buchman for admiring Hitler. Even if all of the forgoing were true, it does not mean that AA, NA, or any other TSG is therefore fascist and anti-Semitic.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 09:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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Here’s my question to you: do you think it possible for an atheist to work the 12 steps, inasmuch as there are a number of those that DO mention the “G-word?”

Whether or not it’s possible is pretty much up to the individual, I don’t believe it’s necessary to “work the steps” in order to recover from alcoholism.  When I would share my story, I would relate that I came into AA ‘cause a friend of mine told me (after our third vodka martini) that AA was a place where I could “learn to drink like a gentleman.”  Whatever that means.  Anyhow, I came into AA originally to learn how to drink, not to stop drinking, but the incredible pain that drove me to seek what the hell was wrong with my life (I never connected the pain with the booze) seemed to abate as I attended meetings.  So I used to use the phrase:  “I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in, to acheive a result I didn’w want, and it worked anyway.” 

The point being, I did the simple things AA talks about, and I don’t think I need to go into them.  Prayer, by the way, is an excellent tool for bringing one absolutely into the moment when they are unfamiliar with meditation, at least that’s my experience.

Cutting to the chase, step ten is where I live.  If you read it in the big book, it tells you to do four through nine on a real-time basis.  In other words, you must be aware and awake of conscious of everything you do and say.  I had been practicing Zen meditation for several years when this aspect of step ten jumped out at me while listening to a couple of old farts on an AA tape while driving.

The early steps are all Oxford Group, the later steps are all Bill, and I think that step ten is an absolute master stroke.

AA tries to address what they call the “mental obsession” to take a drink when one is cold sober.  This is what they label the insanity of alcoholism.  Sorry, but I don’t think that that aspect of it differs at all from craving for a cigarette.  In fact, it was much harder for me to quit smoking, even after a heart attack, than it was to quit drinking.  Either can certainly be overcome without the intercession of a supernatural entity.  What is necessary IMHO is to come to the realization (somehow) that once one takes a drink, one cannot predict the outcome.  It takes most folks a good deal of time to realize fully that they cannot drink, at least it did me.  Staying sober ‘till that happens is really the trick.

The AA fellowship is one place to do that, but it is not the only place.  I have danced around your question a bit.  I guess my answer depends upon the form of the question.  I recovered from alcoholism in AA, but not as a result of working the AA program, so what does that mean?  As I said earlier, if AA had not been there for me to find, I would probably be dead and you would be reading words written by someone else, or not. 

I honestly have not thought a good deal about these matters, I tend to stick with what works for me without trying to make things any more complicated then I have to.  I still maintain the computers in the local AA intergroup, and am occasionally am asked to speak at functions.  I always turn it down, though, ‘cause I no longer have an AA message.  I don’t work with newcomers for the same reason, unless they seek me out ‘cause someone has sent them to me, as sometimes happens, as it is pretty well known in Wilmington that I am an atheist. 

Bottom line is, I don’t give a damn how someone gets & stays sober, I only care that they do.  AA works for some, but not all.  Nothing works for all.

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