Truthiness noun – 1) the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true; 2) truth that comes from the gut not books
“The truth only carries so much weight. What we believe to be the truth will trump the actual truth every time.” – Cuda
The above quote summarizes, in a nutshell, AA’s approach to recovery — or their approach to almost anything else for that matter. There is a reason why the endless debates which take place in our comment section will never be end, and that is because the two sides are playing with different points of reference – with one relying on logic, skepticism and rational thought; and the other relying on what they want to believe.
The primary differences between religion and rationalism, and between science and pseudoscience, are the same: one side is reliant of the process of searching for the truth, and the other is reliant on defending what they want to believe is true. One side is fluid and ever changing, and improves upon itself, where the other is never changing.
Stephen Colbert invented the word truthiness. He said in explaining why it is important to think from the gut:
Did you know that you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now, somebody’s gonna say ‘I did look that up and its wrong.’ Well, Mister, that’s because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.”
That is funny stuff, and it is the same type of rationalization we see from AAs defending the indefensible, or rationalizing what is patently absurd. AA is obviously a religious organization, as anyone with half a brain can discern from reading a single page from the ‘Big Book’, or spending five minutes in a meeting. Still, an AA can look a person in the eyes with a straight face, and with all sincerity, and claim it isn’t religious — not because they are lying, but because their concept of truth falls into the confines of truthiness, not reality. It is not much different than the fundamentalist who believes the earth is 6,000 years old, or that paradise awaits at the tail end of the Hale-Bopp Comet. These people aren’t being disingenuous, they are simply being trutiful.
There is a homeless guy I pass in Harvard Square every day who believes with certainty that the passers-by are sinners, and are doomed to eternal damnation. His name is Lenny, and I consider him a good guy, and have on occasion given him a sandwich or a couple of bucks. It is not his fault he is deluded. Anyone, regardless of intelligence, is capable of delusion or believing far out, wacky things if subjected to enough gaslighting and conditioning. Just because there some people who, unlike Lenny, have one foot in the world of reality, does not mean they are less deluded. Tom Cruise is a great actor, and seems to be a fairly smart guy, but anyone who has seen him rant about the virtues of Scientology can’t help but believe that he is a taco short of a combination plate. What seems obvious to you or me, is not to Crazy Tom, because he is dictated not by reason, but by the truthiness of Scientology.
What makes AA so insidious is that their story is told not by the L Ron Hubbards or street vagrants of the world; but by often bright, articulate people, who honestly believe what they are saying, and what they are saying contains elements of truth. It might be true that they were alcoholics who drank their way into the fringes of Hell, only to be pulled away and helped by people who have been there before. It might be true that they gave up the bottle and turned their lives around at the moment they entered AA. The problem with truthiness is that it builds itself around elements of the truth, and fills in the blanks with what feels good, or what one wants to believe. Truthiness builds around a supposition, which it presents as a default for all things that cannot be readily explained. With AA, the default answer is “God did it”. How do you know God did it? Because I just know.
There is a reason why someone who tries to question the AA dogma with logic and reason is so often reacted to with name calling and ad hominem attacks. Much like if I tell my friend, Lenny, that the voices he hears are delusions, and that his perceptions are a consequence of gaslighting and false perceptions – an AA gets that uncomfortable feeling of explaining the illogical. Knowing something is true, and not being able to show it as truth, creates a disquiet feeling that manifests itself in anger. Sometimes that can be entertaining, but often it just comes across as outright mean, and even sad. Those who fall under its spell are no less victimized by AA than those who wasted their time there and left. I think they are more victimized, because among the greatest gifts we have is our ability to think, to reason, to understand. AA takes that way, and supplants it with truthiness.