The Truthiness, The Whole Truthiness and Nothing But The Truthiness

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.

  • friendthegirl

    "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."
    –Ronald Reagan

  • Dana

    This trivializes faith in the living Lord who alone is God, because if the system works no matter who you fit in the slot, then clearly the power is not in God, but in the system.
    Its all about beliefs true or untrue. Buying into AA beliefs system, that is untrue for livng in freedom but beliefs set in bondage and no Freedom/
    Its all about BELIEFS. You can change your beliefs you can change your life. If you belief your in denial-dry or going to die if you leave the cult AA then so it is. Its a set of beliefs that are set up in the 30's and people in that cult AA try to stick it in that there are right. 1930' beliefs trying to work in 2010 sure….. AA is not the bible if though it claims so. (yOUR BELIEFS THAT IT HAS CHRISTIAN ROOTS) Just because you claim it or believe it doesnt make it so. Why dont you start believing in your own human right in your gut that tells you to. Listen to that reasoning about the cult of AA, it is not lying to you. CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS CHANGE YOUR LIFE…ITS THAT SIMPLE FOLKS..

  • Cuda

    Funny how a couple marks on the ground will get us believing in UFOs or Bigfoot but we need a burning bush to believe in God.
    There's no way to prove or disprove God.
    Why not live life like he does?

    MA, this is rediculous
    "The above quote summarizes, in a nutshell, AA’s approach to recovery — or their approach to almost anything else for that matter".

    What you've managed to do is summarize everyone who believes in God or has faith in God.
    Not just AA.
    I expected more from you.

    • M A

      What you’ve managed to do is summarize everyone who believes in God or has faith in God.
      Not just AA.

      Trust me on this one – not every person who believes in God believes in faith healing. You might believe in a god who arbitrarily chooses to heal certain alcoholics, but not all believers in God subscribe to this idea. I believe in God, and I believe He gave us two essential things: a brain, and free will. A common thing I've seen among AAs, is dismissing those who disagree with you as atheist. That is far from the truth. One doesn't need to be an atheist to be rational, and see the absurdity of what AAs believe. Really, all it takes is a grounding in reality.

      • Anonymous

        Now you're scrapin. AA is not "Faith Healing" you need to get the "Disease" concept out of your head.
        No "Disease" No need to heal.
        Illness is a malady centered in the mind. A "Disease"is centered in the body. Time and time again you are told that, and time and time again you choose to disregard this little tidbit. Mainly because it tosses a big wrench into your arguement.
        I suppose you think "Anorexia"is a disease.
        It's not. It's an illness.
        Mental Hospitals are full of Mentally "Ill" people. Not Mentally "Diseased" people.
        Knowing that, you've managed to say anyone that turns to God for strength and guidance is off their Rocker.

        • M A

          Disease is AA's term, not mine. I know, I know. Not your AA. Your AA is different. But it is AA that promotes the disease concept. I use it so we have a common point of reference. Regardless of what you want to call it – disease, malady, addiction, disorder, whatever – AA uses faith healing to treat it, and yes, anyone who believes in that is off their rocker.

          • Cuda

            The Book says "Illness"
            1.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER EIGHT P118
            At such moments we forget that alcoholism is an illness over which we could not possibly have had any power.
            2.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER EIGHT P115..our husband at length, you can quietly let your friends know the nature of his illness.
            3..BIG BOOK-CHAPTER EIGHT P107
            dealing with sick men. Had we fully understood the nature of the alcoholic illness,
            4.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER SEVEN P92
            Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady.

            5.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER FOUR P56.
            Business failure, insanity, fatal illness, suicide-these calamities in his immediate family embittered and depressed him. Post-war disillusionment, ever more serious alcoholism, impending mental …

            6.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER FOUR P44
            If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.

            convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness.

            8.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER TWO P18
            An illness of this sort-and we have come to believe it an illness-involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness…

            9.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER TEN P142.ASP
            At this point, it might be well to explain alcoholism, the illness. Say that you believe he is a gravely-ill person, with this qualification-being perhaps fatally ill,

            10.BIG BOOK-CHAPTER TEN P139.ASP
            brother-executive suffered from a serious illness. There was nothing to do but wait.

            Of course in all fairness the book does say "disease"

            Resentment is the 'number one' offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.

            Once we take away your "Disease Card" you haven't got much of a hand.

          • M A

            Once we take away your “Disease Card” you haven’t got much of a hand.

            That makes no sense. I'll use the term "illness". I don't care. The 'Big Book' doesn't always use terms in their proper context, anyway. "Sanity", for example, is a legal term, not a medical standard. God knows what their intent was in using the term "illness".

            So let's be clear. AA uses faith healing to cure your illness. It seems like God would step in before you became an alkie, or wouldn't twiddle his thumbs waiting for you to get approved membership in your club, but he is your god, not mine. I'm not questioning his logic.

          • Cuda

            "So let’s be clear. AA uses faith healing to cure your illness".

            That's a step in the right direction becase an "illness' can't be fixed with a pill. A disease can.
            And yes the term "Insanity" is also used correctly in the book.

            Pg 8
            "Then came the insidious insanity of that first drink,

            Pg 40
            " I rather appreciated your ideas about the subtle insanity which precedes the first drink"

            Pg 154
            "Again it was the old, insidious insanity-that first drink"

            "Insanity" is nothing more than the act of takling the first drink without showing any ability to grasp what has happened every time in the past.

          • M A

            No, sanity is a legal term. It is often used in the wrong context, as it is in these examples. It doesn't matter, 'Cuda. The intent is understood, so it doesn't matter.

            Of course drugs can be used to treat illness. Like these. Now, you might have a bastardized definition of "illness". Illness and disease are synonyms, and are used interchangeably. I know AAs think alcoholism is a spiritual malady, so if that is what you mean by "illness", that's fine. It still doesn't make it true. Alcoholism can and is being treated with drugs. It is physiological. One thing it isn't is a character flaw or moral weakness.

          • AndyM

            Why should anyone really care what that silly book says? It is not the fount of all knowledge. After over seventy years, this constant appealing to the supposed authority of a poorly-written self-published book is wearing very thin.

          • M A

            It is called "godbotting", Andy.

            AAs cite it like it means something. Poor, deluded bastards.

  • Jonathan Riley

    I don't actually think most AAs believe the stuff they preach, hence they repeat it again and again and again. It's all about trying to fit in the rooms and pretend you belong there. When I first went to AA I never used to listen to anyone else but instead practiced in my head what I was going to say to sound credible as if I knew the BB inside and out. In our meeting we laugh about how ridiculous we were in this behaviour. It's all about "he's got a good recovery, he knows his programme etc." Complete crap but you have to laugh at them !

  • Cuda

    Since you insist on bringing up the word insanity and it's legal use I'll quote it.

    "Insanity is a mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot manage his/her own affairs, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior".

    Isn't it amazing that the words used are "Illness", "Cannot manage" (unmanagable) "uncontrollable".
    All words used in the book time and time again.
    Such as,
    "Once he started, he had no control whatever" Pg 32
    "The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker" Pg 30
    "The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink"

    I've already quoted the book on "illness" which you disregard time and time again and "unmanagable is Step #1

    You're the one that's throwing out Illness and Insanity trying to get people to believe they mean something they really don't.

    • M A

      Jesus, Cuda. I don't disregard the definition, but it is a legal term, not a medical term. It is used to establish whether a person is mentally competent to meet a specific legal standard, like standing trial. I brought up the distinction, because the 'Big Book' uses it in a medical/psychological context. They are using the wrong term.

      I'm not going to argue semantics with you. I don't disagree with the idea that alcoholism makes people's lives unmanageable. It did mine. I just know the solution isn't with faith healing. That is what you believe, regardless of what label you apply to it.

      As for citing the book, that is your scripture, and your personal interpretation of that scripture, not mine.

      • Cuda

        "Jesus, Cuda".

        That has a nice ring to it!!
        From now on you will only refer to me as "Jesus Cuda"

    • mikeblamedenial

      When defining words in regard to the bigbook,its assertions, and the overall behavior of the inveterate drunkard I believe this one is much more appropriate, and potentially theraputic than "insanity":

      Main Entry: 1stu·pid
      Pronunciation: ˈstü-pəd, ˈstyü-
      Function: adjective
      Etymology: Middle French stupide, from Latin stupidus, from stupēre to be numb, be astonished — more at type
      Date: 1541
      1 a : slow of mind : obtuse b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish
      2 : dulled in feeling or sensation : torpid
      3 : marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless <a>
      4 a : lacking interest or point <a> b : vexatious, exasperating <the stupid car won't start

      • Cuda

        I'm going to slow down my typing a little since I know you guys probably can't read that fast.
        "Insanity" by AA definition means nothing more than the act of taking that first drink. Especially when normal thinking person would have admitted defeat years prior had it got away from him like it does an alcoholic.
        It has nothing to do with our behavior or some of the things we did while drinking.
        I thought I gave some examples thet I picked from the book where it pointed to exactly that.

  • joedrywall

    For me this essay brings to mind the episode of My Name is Earl. Great show by the way. You know the one with Rosanne Barr in it. Anyway she is a bitter old meanie so Earl plays a prank on her and tricks her into thinking that she is hearing the voice of God. She goes on to become a nun and do really nice things for orphans and such. That is until Earl wants to cross her off his amends list telling her of his trickery. Then she goes back to her mean ways for a while, and Earl convinces once again to go back to being a nun.
    I guess the moral of the analogy I am using is that perhaps some folks are better believing the "big lie"
    But there really is only one truth, and that is the truth.

  • Jonathan Riley

    Apparently, though this is an opinion as well, you can get to believe that repeatedly banging your head against a brick wall will relieve your headache.
    In fact like much of what is in the big book, this does have truthful foundation, because you will eventually render yourself unconscious and suffer no more pain.