Monday, April 6, 2009
The Cult of Alcoholics Anonymous
Free Inquiry is a superb magazine which is published six times a year by the Council for Secular Humanism. Its' editors and columnists are comprised of the who's who of leading commentators in the field of secular humanism, applied ethics, skepticism, atheism and the general advancement of reason. The most recent edition contains great articles by Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer and Canadian libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson. However, the article that I found most thought provoking is entitled Exposing the Myth of Alcoholics Anonymous by Steven Mohr.
Mohr exposes the AA movement for what it really is: "a religious cult masquerading as a self-help group". Like most people, I was generally aware of AA's 12 step program but I had never actually read what the 12 steps entailed. They are as follows:
1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable.
2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
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.
12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. [my emphasis]
Perhaps I am naive but I had no idea that a therapeutic program that has successfully intertwined itself with the North American insurance, medical and legal systems is fraught with so much religious bunk. Mohr goes on to explain how AA has managed to proliferate its religious conversion agenda despite the fact that the 12 step approach appears to be an abysmal failure at curing alcoholism. Apparently, AA reports a 5-7% success rate for a steady rate of sobriety in circumstances where "chronic alcoholics left to their own devices with no intervention still recover at a rate of about 5 percent a year." Of course, all of this begs the question as to why our Courts would direct thousands of admittedly ill people annually into a bible thumping program that is so ineffective. In any event, the article is a great read and I highly recommend checking it out.
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