4 Reasons Why AA is Religious

4 Reasons Why AA is Religious and Not Spiritual

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t know the difference between religious and spiritual. I know what people mean when they make that distinction. By spiritual, they mean something like a deep, unmediated connection to the universe and a sense of their place in it. And by religious they mean a that this connection to the universe has been corrupted by human mediation and codification.

I’m also not making a judgment about whether or not spirituality is real or correct – if you’re religious (and object to AA on the grounds that it betrays your beliefs), you shouldn’t take offense to my definitions. I’m just saying that I know what people mean, I’m going use that universal understanding to say why AA is not spiritual, but religious.


To see a world in a grain of sand…

There is nothing about spirituality that requires an acknowledgment of a Higher Power of any sort. Many people who consider themselves spiritual see themselves as an integral part of the universe – everything is a reflection of the whole, even you.  Not every spiritually-minded person believes this, but the thing about spirituality is that you’re pretty much free to decide on that for yourself. Not in AA. In AA there is a distinctly ordered cosmology which has a Higher Power, and, as they say, you’re not it. Not only is there a power greater than yourself, but you cannot work the program without accepting that. Your access to this Power is mediated through the 12-step code of spiritual awakening.


A rose by any other name…

I’ve made this point so many times before, but I can’t seem to say it enough: A name is a bone. It’s nothing. It’s an illusion of choice. So, you can call your Higher Power whatever you want. How does that make the essence of this Higher Power different from any other AA member’s? Some spiritually-minded AA member may call her Higher Power her Guardian Angel. Another “agnostic” sort might say Plate Tectonics. And a traditionalist might say God. But whatever you call it, it must do exactly what every other AAs Higher Power does. For instance, Plate Tectonics must be able to care about you. It must be able to care for your will. It must have a will. And it must have a will for you. It must know the difference between human faults and faults in the earth. And it must be, if not willing, at least able to remove them from you and willing to consider it. It must have the time and inclination to listen to your confession. And agree that it should hear this. It must be conscious, which would facilitate Conscious Contact. Not all Higher Powers do these things. The Christian God, for instance, gave people free will. He doesn’t take backsies. He expects you to honor and celebrate that gift, not denigrate it and give it back (“Thanks, but no thanks.”). AA has a very specific and unique God, with describable characteristics. Name it whatever you want.


Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only of knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.

What does sobriety mean in AA? Sobriety is a state of both physical and spiritual purity: you don’t pollute yourself with potions or emotions. In the real world, AA’s definition of sobriety doesn’t mean anything (neither does their definition of alcoholic – but that’s another subject). It has nothing to do with personal well-being and self-efficacy. It has to do with abstinence and adherence to the program. Why? Here’s why: Because any mind-altering substance or rebellious emotion will interfere with your contact with your Higher Power. If AA is so spiritual, then how can it dictate how you make contact with your Higher Power? Yeah, it can’t, unless it knows your Higher Power better than you do. Whatever you call it.


Anger is but one letter away from danger.

As I mentioned, the definition of religion is spirituality corrupted through mediation and codification. There is nothing more abhorrent to spirit than aphorisms, which are only mediated, codified, and stagnated spirit. The opposite of creativity and responsibility. There is no better proof of the spiritual wrangling of AA members than the fact that, when they address any criticism of their program, they always start with “AA is a fellowship of men and women…” carry on with the “suggestions” and end with “Why are you so angry?” If you can find any religion on Earth with more aphorisms than AA, I will eat my hat. Even Christians don’t fuss around too much with the Commandments or the Beatitudes (they really should more). The plain fact is that if you answer every presentation of vast possibility with a bumper sticker slogan, you are not spiritual. You are religious. Every time you say, “It works if you work it!” your soul dies a little. There is absolutely no way around that.


To sum up, AA is religious because, if you want to get well, you don’t get to decide what “well” means for you; you don’t get to decide your place in the universe, the nature of your Higher Power, or how you contact it, and you think and speak in cliches.  If your definition of “spiritual” is all about exuberance, creativity, agency, and personal responsibility, then you’re going to have to add a major dose of cognitive dissonance to your understanding in order to work a good program.

  • AndyM

    Yes, AA is undoubtedly a religion, though a very confused and questionable one in my estimation. No, as one struggling and often failing in attempting to follow what, for the want of a better term, may be called a “Christian” path, I am not offended by the reasoned presentations of humanistic, agnostic and atheist points of view.
    I have always been interested in the mystical and visionary tradition and have a soft spot for the writings of William Blake (in so far as I think I can understand them). I sometimes used to spend some time quietly sitting on a bench near his grave in Bunhill Fields burial ground which was a short walk from where I lived.
    I wouldn’t revere Blake or Swedenborg or anyone else of that ilk as a prophet or guru though, so the idea of treating a man recently aptly described as a “broken down plagiarist” in that way when in reality he was provably a cheat and liar as well as a numbskull just strikes me as patently absurd

  • AndyM

    As always, very well put, btw!

  • JD

    The reason for your crusade and this site and others is well described here. Cognitive dissonance produced by observing something that exists but should not, for your world to make sense. I understand that conflict better than you think I may.

    Much like some fellow who magically transforms his chicken into a duck and writes a book about how he and a bunch of other guys did the same.

    I just couldn’t stand that at all.

    I’d immediately discount it and the magician and prove that it could not possibly happen. If there were former chickens quacking all around my house it would only serve to rile me up, and I would never have the slightest doubt there was something fishy going on.

    Newpaper articles about the 2 millionth chicken changed into a duck would only piss me off more, and I’d wonder why no one listened to me reason out clearly why this cannot be so, and what about all the chickens who stayed chickens? What about them? Not every wannabe magician’s chicken turned into a duck, which proves…oh hell, it probably proves something’s wrong.

    There is no magic, and there is no way that anything would or could ever change a chicken into a duck, and somebody needs to do something quick about all these damn ducks. It’s just wrong.

  • JD

    Beneath the surface, here’s a much more in depth rebuttal which, should you reflect on it’s deeper meanings covers most of the bases.

    Yes TT, foster-foster and paltroon, everyone knows…no need to post 12x in a row. Make a toastie and calm down.

  • AA fits all of the characteristics of a Mystery Religion and has fashioned itself after a Greek type cult. It will be added to the history books in the future as such. Among the common characteristics:

    1. Ceremonies – Passing out of the chips.
    2. Choral Singing – Prayers at the end of each meeting
    3. Religious Experiences – Promising a “Miracle” will happen if you follow them.
    4. Revealer of Holy Things – Bill Wilson
    5. Torch Bearer – Steppers

    Many others characteristic. Can you pick hem out?

    Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/400805/mystery-religion

  • tintop

    JR Harris, good description.
    It does have aspects of a mystery cult.

  • It is a cult, tt: take me through any questionnaire on cults. It is a cult. ftg and ma retain the position that is ‘cult lite’. But you post any ‘Am I in a cult?’ questionaire. And try getting a cult member to reveal that it is a cult. That is the proof.



  • tintop

    I like the desecription of it as a ‘cult lite’. I think that it fits.
    A few cult members may admit that it is a cult; but, those that do will say something along the lines of ‘ Ineed to be in a cult’.

    But, some people like cults. That is a different story altogether: Why do some people like cults?

  • AndyM

  • you said it, ftg: “Every time you say, “’t works if you work it!’ your soul dies a little. There is absolutely no way around that.”

  • KellyRyan

    Occam’s Razor applies … One, “must,” follow the dogma within the movement. Precisely 103 as laid out in the Big Book of AA. The word God is uses 278 times, more proof of AA’s religious intent.

    AA’s use of the word spiritual rather than religious is simply one more example of the constant use of doublespeak within the movement.

  • and every time you say, “it won’t if you don’t” you realize you’re part of the populatioon that speaks poorly, gross.

  • Susan

    That was well put and succint. Thanks!

  • speedy0314

    1 reason why this blog shouldn’t take this stuff too seriously:


    i don’t care if i lose focus long as i got my [H]ocus [P]ocus™
    sitting there on the dashboard of my car.

    i’m all here because i’m not all there,


  • The beginnings of AA were at the Oxford group and AA was a more find tuned Cult offshoot attempting even more mind control by refining the “The Four Absolutes” and “The Five C’s” (Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, Continuance)

    “The Oxford Group’s focus was on personal concerns and placed the entire problem of human existence on self, the idea of personal sinfulness, asserting that individual sin was the key problem and the entire solution was in the individual’s conviction, confession, and surrender to God. ”

    Source: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/The_Oxford_Group

    (please note that the article currently has 139 verified references, including direct ties to the NAZI party, like father…… like son)

  • Ben Franklin

    So JD, when your son turned into a drunk at age 12 is that the same thing as turning a chicken into a duck? Is that your point? I’ll just assume that is what you are trying to say here.

  • JD

    Ben, I dumbed it down as far as is humanly possible just for you and this bunch here. Maybe if you sleep on it, I don’t know…you’re just asking too much.

  • causeandeffect

    FTG, I just can’t wait for your book to come out. I’m going to print this page when everyone has a chance to comment.

    Chickens turn into ducks spontaneously. When a chicken turns into a duck, some like to perform ritualistic magic on it and proudly proclaims, “Voila! Look how well my hocus pocus worked!”

    When a chicken has already turned into a duck, some like to perform ritualistic magic on it, yet oddly enough, it turns back into a chicken again! The magician still proudly proclaims, “Voila! Look how well my hocus pocus worked!”

    When a chicken turns into a duck and no magic is performed, the magician claims that the chicken never was a “real” chicken even though it had looked like a chicken, walked like a chicken, and talked like a chicken.

    When chickens turn into ducks and no magic is performed, the duck is then free to swim in the lovely lake of life.

    When a chicken turns into a duck and magic is performed, the duck must then sit in the chicken coop church basements, constantly waiting and wondering when it will turn back into a chicken since this magic that was performed to make it into a duck (after it had already become a duck) is so ineffective.

  • causeandeffect

    Yes, Ben, he’s already told us why he’s not responsible for his son getting wasted from age 12 to age 20. He was far too busy arranging flowers with the ever so fair (dead) Lady Aberdeen and climbing mountains in Scotland. It was in direct response to the questions we were asking about where he was while his son was drunk and truant at age 12. Please try to keep up.

  • Lucy

    AA is a religion, at least in the eyes of the law in certain states.


  • AnnaZed

    Wow, that chicken/duck thing may be one of the most moronic and logically mangled things that I have ever encountered. Wouldn’t you have been better off the cucumber/pickle thing?

  • JD, what???

    WE use to hear, if you pregnant then it doesn’t matter if your 9 months or 3 months pregnant. I repeated that stupid saying more then once when I was young…ok I was cutlified then.

    I don’t believe in any of it anymore. The bb written in 1936 by a guy who was such a narcissist! Sorry but Bill Wilson is no longer my idol.
    The literature is archaic, ridiculous and we need more layman’s / laywomen’s books written about recovery like AMy Lee Coy wrote.

    Great post ftg and jr harris…awesome. Yup Bill and Bob had to separate themselves from the Oxford Group because he was Aligning himself with HITLER!

  • Interesting….. the Oxford Group, which Bill Wilson used to fine tune into the super cult of AA claims that it isn’t a religion also. So let me see….. the group started as an offshoot of a group that claims it isn’t religious…… It is just spiritual …. but the Oxford dictionary defines spirituality as:

    “relating to religion or religious belief”
    Source: http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_gb0801390#m_en_gb0801390

    Very confusing………

  • Ben Franklin

    Well this thread is just Ducky?

  • Vera

    No Anna, pickles cannot turn into cucumbers, but since chickens can turn into ducks I’m guessing JD is trying to turn AA sow’s ears into silk purses.

  • tintop

    Well, vera, if god did not want them shorn, he would not have made them sow’s ears.

  • Martha

    Its a religion that that tells you you’re not in a religion.

  • tintop


    It depends upon the chicken.

  • AA is a very tricky cult and has many tricks up it’s sleeve. The Cult always uses the “bait and switch” routine to avoid the “Is AA a religion” discussions. You start talking about if AA is religion or not, and they purposely start talking about door knobs to throw you off the discussion.

    Does anyone have any stories on how the tricky AA cult members do a “bait and switch” routine to change the subject from “Is AA religious?” to “What is a door knob?” (chicken, duck…. whatever?)

  • humanspirit

    AA is definitely “religious not spiritual”. They know this, and the dishonest people who make big money out of peddling this nonsensical faith-healing know it. When I was seeking advice from an online agency (droutnow.com, the website of Triage Health Care, UK) for my desperately ill family member a couple of years ago, the apparently sympathetic and knowledgeable advisor I spoke to several times never once mentioned the 12-step program – even though all the rehab centres they refer people are 12-step. She did not at any point ask whether my family member was an atheist or whether he was likely to respond well to religious or even “spiritual” treatment. In fact there was no hint whatsoever that the treatment centres were anything but rational and scientifically-based.

    I was an innocent in those days, btw, so had no idea about the extent to which these people will lie by omission, even if it means seriously jeopardizing a person’s recovery by referring them for “treatment” that is completely inappropriate for them. It is criminally irresponsible when they are literally dealing with a life-or-death issue.

    It wasn’t until much later that I found this buried very deep in the pages of small print in the contract I signed with TriageHealthCare Ltd. – a contract I signed AFTER we’d arrange admission for my family member, and AFTER we’d handed over the money:

    “Many treatment centres follow the ’12-step’ model of treatment, which is based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Whilst AA-based treatment does not require a religious belief, those of an atheist persuasion may sometimes respond poorly to treatment in our experience if entering such a treatment centre. We strongly advise that you bear this in mind before progressing with treatment, as discharge related to such reasons will be treated as for any other discharge, and will not lead to refunds becoming payable outside of the conditions stated below.”

    It still makes me shake with anger when I read this. That they could so cynically keep quiet about this in ALL their publicity materials and in ALL of their previous phone conversations, when they know from experience that 12-step “treatment” is unlikely to work for a great many people, is just despicable. Why wait until the very, very last moment, until a stage where it would be extremely distressing to withdraw, to give this “strong” advice? And why make this vital piece of information so difficult to find? (Well, I suppose we know the answer to that.)

    I did write to them and complain afterwards about this, and they assured me (or the PA that replied to me did) that they would be giving this warning in future at the advisory stage. I’m afraid I don’t believe them. They certainly still don’t give any kind of full and honest information about what 12-step “treatment” entails on their website(s).

  • johnnycrash


  • Mike

    Lazy theology, but theology all the same. Ergo: religion

  • Sugomom

    Human Spirit, can I have permission to reprint what you said? Giving credit to you of course. This makes my blood boil. It’s like the treatment centers that say they offer “Alternative” treatment and show pictures of gourmet food and hot tubs and yoga. No mention of 12 step anywhere….but they forget to edit the testimonials page…and that’s where you see what it is. By the time I figured that out I had already been hoodwinked.

  • humanspirit

    Yes of course, but where do you want to reprint it? (I’m not that bothered about getting credited, btw, as long as the truth gets out there . . . )

  • humanspirit

    @sugomom says: By the time I figured that out I had already been hoodwinked.

    Ditto. You have to be very, very thorough and on the ball to get any hint of what really goes on in these places, and they make finding out any true information as difficult as possible for you. Also, when you’re dealing with an alcoholic in a very advanced stage of addiction and are at a point of sheer desperation, you’re not very likely to have the presence of mind to read through pages and pages of small print. I guess this is what they rely on. It would not have occurred to me to ask whether this treatment was faith-based any more than if would occur to me to ask that if I went to a dentist. It would not have occurred to me that anyone could be cynical and dishonest enough to withhold such a hugely important aspect of any treatment, especially one that clients are paying thousands for. I really don’t know how they manage to get away with it.

  • Lucy

    I went to treatment on an old dude ranch, which I expected to be exactly like the dude ranch all the characters go to in THE WOMEN (Rosalind Russel version) when they divorce their society husbands. I had no pink bar bells, no smoothies, no yoga, and no spa treatments. I just have chemical dependency counselors who spelled and spoke at a fifth grade level.

  • Sugomom

    HS, I am collecting similar stories of AA family horror. I’m currently trying to decide if the word will best be spread by a book, or blog, or website. So I don’t know where it will be reprinted, but I can promise you it will.
    AA has flown under the radar for so long. I thought my children’s father was going there to be “saved” not abducted. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
    And you are entirely correct, they PREY upon your emotions. You are naive, desperate for help and unaware of the dangers of steppism. They present a solution to your problem and you are relieved not knowing what is actually in store for you.
    This is the kicker! As more and more people figure out what AA is treatment programs suddenly “change” to look like they are not steppers. When my college aged daughter found out her dad went to AA she called me and said that when she broke the news in her all girl dorm the general consensus was that it was a sex cult. I was stunned, but came to find out that so many parents had unknowingly sent their daughters to AA during high school, only to have inappropriate consensual sex or outright be 13th raped. It’s deplorable.
    I almost never cyber shout but I want to shout this out

  • Sugomom

    Lucy, too funny! C&E, I’m going to count on you being my creative writer…very good chicken/duck post.

  • humanspirit

    And this is the one and only description of the 12-step program and 12-step treatment that the rigorously honest people at dryoutnow.com give on their website:

    “12 Step Program

    The term 12 step program refers to a popular approach to treating alcohol and other addictions. The 12 step program was originally, and perhaps most famously, used by Alcoholics Anonymous. However many organisations associated with addictive behaviour now use a 12 step program.

    A 12 step program is basically a form of self help. The central theme of any 12 step program is the recognition of one´s powerlessness over the addiction, and also to recognise that there is a higher power that can have a protective and nurturing effect. It is important to note that in a 12 step program, this higher power is not necessarily a religious one.

    A 12 step program aims to help an addicted person to beat their addiction in supported stages. The first stage of a 12 step program is admitting powerlessness. You may recognise this aspect of a 12 step program from the famous Alcoholics Anonymous scene of a person standing up and saying ´my name is x and I´m an alcoholic.´

    Other stages of a 12 step program include making a choice to change one´s life and acknowledging the wrong that has been done to others through addiction. A successful 12 step program should culminate in learning to live life in a new addiction-free way, and hopefully helping others suffering from addiction.”

    There is no way in a million years that anyone could guess what 12-step treatment really entails by reading this. No mention of prayers, compiling a list of your sins, confession, seeking God’s will or having a spiritual awakening; no mention of the requirement to study and learn quotes from the big book, etc. I understand at least one of the directors of Triage Health Care owns at least one 12-step rehab centre, so I would have thought they might be a bit more knowledgeable about the whole thing . . . (well of course they are – they just know that if they were honest about it up front, they’d never get any business.)

  • The religious aspects of AA are deeply rooted in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. In fact many hard core AA people think that it is the only “true” AA. They were the very first pages published by Bill Wilson. When he wrote them the internet was not around and he had to rely on the “standard of the time” dictionary to look words up in and decide to use them. In 1the late 1930’s I wonder what the definition of “spiritual” and “religious” was? It would help to understand the meaning of what he was actually saying.

    I think the first 164 pages of the Big Book is where we will find the answer to the religion question. Those pages are the gold standard of AA to many. It is interesting to note that the 12×12 are where most of the pure dogma comes in. AA was nice enough to provide us a tool to search the first 164 pages and the 12×12 to determine this. So when AA Steppers start to tell you they are purists and only go by the original 164 pages, you can see if they are telling the truth with there quotes.

    Search the Big Book and 12×12 at:


  • causeandeffect

    JRH, it always amuses me when they attempt to vehemently deny some concept is AA. It’s just so easy to use their own literature against them. Then they have nothing to resort to except insinuations and personal attacks. It’s funny really.

  • Martha

    Ironic isn’t it that they would label you as being too smart for the program because you research the original 164 pages of their own freaking book.

  • AndyM

    That link you provided is a handy resource for those of us who have burned or binned the big book!

  • AndyM

    This one’s dedicated to JD. I’ll be sure to remember you in my prayers, JD, unless, of corse, I forget:

  • AndyM

  • AndyM

    A witness just told me
    I’m on Jehovah’s hit list
    Bold as I may be
    This scared me shitless

    W. Nitram (10/3/2011 Copyright)

  • Dictionaries were not being updated often when Bill W. was growing up. The most common dictionary was Websters Dictionary 1913 edition to help define what he was trying to put into words. The Definitions of Spirituality and Religion were different back then and both were tightly intertwined. People are using the dictionaries of today to analyze something written 75 years ago and it has very different meanings:

    Spirituality – 1913 Definition:
    1. The quality or state of being spiritual; incorporeality; heavenly- mindedness.
    2. That which belongs to the church, or to a person as an ecclesiastic, or to religion, as distinct from temporalities.
    3. An ecclesiastical body; the whole body of the clergy, as distinct from, or opposed to, the temporality.
    Source: http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/search/_words.word,spirituality

    Religion – 1913 Definition
    1. The outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and honor are due; the feeling or expression of human love, fear, or awe of some superhuman and overruling power, whether by profession of belief, by observance of rites and ceremonies, or by the conduct of life; a system of faith and worship; a manifestation of piety; as, ethical religions; monotheistic religions; natural religion; revealed religion; the religion of the Jews; the religion of idol worshipers.
    2. Specifically, conformity in faith and life to the precepts inculcated in the Bible, respecting the conduct of life and duty toward God and man; the Christian faith and practice.
    3. A monastic or religious order subject to a regulated mode of life; the religious state; as, to enter religion.
    4. Strictness of fidelity in conforming to any practice, as if it were an enjoined rule of conduct.
    Source: http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/search/_words.word,religion

    When the first 164 pages of the Big Book were written it was common knowledge that Religion and Spirituality were hand in hand. It is the cult leaders of today which are twisting the definition to further their cause.

  • JD

    ‘It is the cult leaders of today which are twisting the definition to further their cause.’

    Reading something like that, one might believe that ‘the cult leaders’ actually exist and have ‘their cause’.

    Names please.

    Odd that I’ve not heard of them, these ‘cult leaders of today’. Were there different cult leaders in the ’80s? How often do the cult leaders rotate the position? Why don’t more people know who the cult leaders are, or anyone other than yourself?

    And how will they know when their cause is won? What is their cause? Are they half way to accomplishing their cause? Why did they only tell you about their cause?

    How often do the cult leaders of today confide in you, JR? Are they speaking to you right now?

  • AA hides behind the veil of Anonymity. It has taught their followers to remain anonymous and confuse and disrupt the concept of “Is AA a religion” by changing the subject to something else. They will not directly answer that question. They will try to get you to talk about “door knobs” or ask you to name Anonymous people instead. They also get extremely mad and resort to put downs on people talking about the subject to try and discredit it. Be aware of their techniques.

  • causeandeffect

    Another great find JRH. AA actually sounds more like the definition for religion than spirituality.

  • hulahoop

    This is what I know…I enjoy eating chicken and duck. if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If it walks like chicken and clucks like a chicken, it’s a chicken. I’ve never willingly ate any bullshit before, but I’ve accidentally swallowed plenty of it enough to know when it is bullshit. If it smells like bullshit, leaves a bad taste, and it makes you want to take a shower to get the smell off of you, then it is definitely bullshit.

    AA is most definitely a religion. They say are they not…but then they suggest people get some sort of god, pray to it, and ask for its will so they can go out and do it.

    I will never know why I can suspend my logic enough to believe as a Christian but couldn’t suspend it enough to believe in the AA religion and god(TM). I’ve often wondered why my friend the atheist had no trouble buying in to the dogma when it was the dogma that kept me from buying in to it. I could not go against what I truly believe. As judgmental as it sounds…I will never understand how someone who has the read Bible, is a Christian, can sit voluntarily sit in a meeting (turn a blind eye) and endorse and smile and nod at something that goes so much against the basic principles of Christianity without having an objection to what is going on. I will never get it.

  • Another word that has a direct religious meaning when Bill W. wrote the Big Book is humility, a word derived from humble. I don’t know how anyone can say that AA is not religious. At the time it was written the words being used meant that it was.

    Humble – Websters Dictionary 1913 Edition
    1. Near the ground; not high or lofty; not pretentious or magnificent; unpretending; unassuming; as, a humble cottage.
    2. Thinking lowly of one’s self; claiming little for one’s self; not proud, arrogant, or assuming; thinking one’s self ill-deserving or unworthy, when judged by the demands of God; lowly; waek; modest.
    Source: http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/search/_words.word,humble

  • AndyM

    I regard the “traditions” as the true manifesto of aa. To my mind, they are in large part a codification of the priciple of deniability and a useful primer in how to dodge accountability. It took me several yearsof aa involvement to really take this on board and admit to a conclusion that was always really quite obvious from the evidence of my own eyes. I didn’t want to admit to it because I wanted to believe that aa itself as a (deliberately “disorganised”) organisation and its founder were really both altruistic and well-intentioned at heart, as, I still genuinely believe, are most members.

  • Rick045

    @AndyM, It wasn’t until I was completely away from AA that I began to seriously ponder the inherent duplicity of the twelve traditions. Like you, I didn’t want to accept it, and that’s probably why I had to be clear out before I even considered it. Plausible deniability is a good term. The word ‘primer’ is also quite appropriate because they essentially provide instructions to the membership on exactly what excuse to use in a given situation.

  • AndyM

    A much-used term which is pertinent to the issue of avoidance of accountability is “group conscience. I believe that if history teaches us one lesson in regard to this it is that conscience resides in the individual rather than the group. A classic example from religious history would be that of Martin Luther. He didn’t want to be a troublemaker or found a new church really. He was just trying to be a good Catholic boy, but his hand was forced by the group conscienceslessness of his “Mother Church”.
    He also made pretty good use of the revolutionary new medium of printing. There’s a lesson there somewhere….

  • Mike


    The group conscience thing always bothered me too. I saw it most often employed as a means for a clique within the group to maintain the status quo. I remember one guy (a very hateful, insecure old-timer) who tried to restrict voting rights on group conscience issues to those with a certain amount of sobriety. He brought the measure up for a vote and I of course voted against his proposition. He angrily confronted me in the parking after the meeting saying he thought I was his friend. I told him I voted on my principles, not friendship. He looked at me weird and walked away. heh

  • AA Cult tactics are deeply rooted in the power of the supposed Anonymous group. The 12 Traditions have been designed to protect the group from harm by the use of “Plausible Deniability” and anonymity. This means that the group can not be held responsible for the actions of one member, even if it is the “Group Think” that is present at the time. The use of anonymity is a carefully designed protection device that is repeated to the members at the beginning of every meeting when they read the 12 Traditions. They learn this through repetition, not logic in a Church like setting.

  • AndyM

  • Pingback: Yes, AA Really Is A Religious Organization | Miscellanea Agnostica()

  • KJ

    If AA is a cult, I am a grateful cult member! Everyone that I know and love has recovered from a deadly addiction, and it didn’t cost them a dime. Ignorance and intolerance of 12-step programs is confusing? I can’t imagine sitting down to write negative things about programs that have saved 100s’ of thousands of lives?? So far as the question of religion, I have friends that I have had for 10 years in recovery; I don’t know, or care to know their religious affiliation. Religion is an outside issue and is therefore never discussed in an AA or NA meeting.

  • mrcanada976

    I really wish that AA would just be honest with themselves and their “prospects”. Its a faith based program, plain and simple, although the actual religion is abstracted.

    I spent over a week going to meetings, i read the big book from front to back and i got so angry that i was tricked into beleiving that the program wasnt faith based that i damn near bought a bottle and just got wasted. Those 20 hours spent of my life ill never get back. I was attending an addictions outpatient program at times for up to 8 hours a day and despite spending so much time focused on recovery i was still pressured by my temporary sponsor and friends who had done AA to not miss a meeting. My outpatient program is run by health professionals yet i was dismissed by AAers as a waste of time and that the real juice was in “the rooms”.

    I get that it works for some people. The participants in the rooms is one big self selected survey, those who it worked for and stuck around are still there, touting their years of sobriety. Those that it didnt work for, arent there anymore.

    But for me now, for AA to be looked at as anything other than a cult looking to indoctorinate people at a very vulnerable point in their lives into religion, AA has to get real, take a page from their own program and be honest with participants and themselves.

    Ive been told that i should “re read the chapter ‘we agnostics'”. As though this is somehow proof that AA is good for athiests and agnostics too. Maybe they should re read it. It basically says that members should not press the god issue, and to.get them involved into the program – they will become useful servants to god later as they learn and work the steps.

    In the detox facility, we were forced to attend 12 step meetings nightly. The panel participants fell all over themselves to show that the program wasnt really about god and it was only a minor component. Same with former AAers that i chatted with. So i opted to give it a honest try, figuring that it works.

    Well after learning that it truly is a faith based model, i looked hard for statistics to see how well it worked. If i.was going to try to compromise my beleif system i had better be doing something that really works. I found nothing positive. The most unbiased data i found from a person on the AAWS board (Villiancourt?) demonstrated effectiveness below no treatment at all, increased risk of hospitalization from relapses and a much higher death rate. The other studies i found were even worse.

    So i felt doubly tricked. Tricked into a supposedly nonreligious program that prescribes prayer and handing your life over to god to get sober, and tricked into a program that supposedly works, that doesent – not a single study demonstrates any level of.effectiveness over and above doing nothing at all. Furthermore, i saw people still going to daily meetings after years of sobriety who were miserable, still fixated on alcohol, and for whom the addiction of alcohol was replaced by an addiction to AA.

    If that wasnt enough to drive me to drink on its own, the premise of the program is that you cannot take a drop of alcohol without risking death because you are powerless and prone to going on a bender worse than you ever drank before.

    Well, F U AA. After 17 days sobriety, i drank a bit. I was very cognisant that i didnt want to go back to the state i was in when i checked myself into detox. I drank very moderately, didnt drink the next morning and despite having my roommate and a bunch of her friends here drinking throughout the whole next day and a fridge full of beer and rum i didnt feel the slightest desire to even touch it despite its easy availability and it being offered to me.

    The AA philosophy would have dictated that i had failed, that i was one step away from returning to daily drinking, my 17 days would have been wiped out and i would be starting over again. I would have faced judgement from the group and been prescribed more meetings and had my lack of meeting attendance blamed for me having a few drinks. In contrast, i view it as a success. Where i used to drink more than 15 drinks a day every day i drank much less than that and i did not.start drinking the next day, i had the power to say no thanks. I am not powerless over alcohol any longer. It was detox that helped me, not AA.

  • ben wisley

    AA is only one of many options out there today. SMART Recovery is growing and doing a great job of building an alternative, secular program, and there are others too like practical recovery. My point is AA works for some people and not for others. Here is a website about non 12 ideas and opinions. http://www.non12step-rehab.com