Archive for the Religious Category

Atheist’s Faith in AA

Marya Hornbacher announces that she is writing from an atheist perspective in the title of her CNN blog post, “My Faithlessness: The Atheist Way Through AA.” She talks about believing in Chaos and quarks, references “frou frou nonsense,” and states plainly that she doesn’t believe in God. She also proves that it’s entirely possible to hold these ideas and still be completely blinkered by frou frou nonsense. How can someone who positions herself as an atheist formulate (let alone publicly articulate) the idea that anything based on spiritual principles is “straightforward”? This is like the Triple Lindy of all cognitive dissonance.

Hornbacher is no more an atheist than my mom is.

Not only is she not an atheist, but her own logic undermines her argument that AA is not a religion. The most ridiculous argument against AA’s religiosity is that it’s not “Christian” and doesn’t force anyone to adhere to any other established religion. Like most faithful people who don’t see themselves as members of one religion (among many of equal merit) but as believers in the obvious truth, Hornbacher doesn’t recognize that her position is grounded in faith-based dogma. Or maybe she does, since the attempt to hammer AA into a rational therapy for addiction seems so tortured.

This is the most revealing line of her post:

 I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.

By what standard does she consider herself or anyone else “flawed”? How does this chance composition of cells, water, and quarks with the amazing capacity to reflect on its own existence decide that it needs to change? And toward what ideal? Established by what authority? How can there be a universal purpose (like being of service to others)? Either Hornbacher doesn’t recognize the religious belief system that informs her argument here (and also makes it sound irrational), or her post is just as disingenuous as the chapter “We Agnostics.” My suspicion is that this writer has a more sophisticated grasp of the actual meaning of “atheism” than Bill Wilson did, and is more deliberate in her obfuscation of the religious nature of AA and her own belief system. This whole piece is about what Hornbacher believes on faith.





Enders Island

This piece has been edited to remove the name of the resident. 

This post has been sitting in my queue since AnnaZed (who is the real Mistress of This Blog, in case you haven’t noticed) sent it to me a few weeks ago. I was up to my ass in alligators that day, apparently.

The story is that there’s a little island off Stonington, CT, called Enders Island. It is home to a Catholic retreat center operated by the Society of St. Edmund.

St. Edmunds hosts a number of family-oriented retreats and events, including their annual Holy Smoke cigar dinner, for which they must apply for a liquor license. St. Edmunds also offers a Recovery Retreat — which seems to be an intense AA immersion boot camp. Continue reading Enders Island

Why We Were Chosen

Why We Were Chosen Group

Sometime in the 1980s, a meeting chairman in San Francisco gave me a wallet-sized card engraved with a portion of the text from “WHY WE WERE CHOSEN,” an eponymous speech given by Judge John T. on the fourth anniversary of Chicago’s first AA club in 1943. He said that, although GSO Conference had declined to approve the text as AA literature, the San Francisco groups had thought it such an important message that they handed it out to newcomers and visitors.

“WHY WE WERE CHOSEN” talks about drunks as prophets and saints, and places AA as a movement as important as Christianity. It’s both grandiose and inane at the same time and a real Christian might find it offensive, as Dr. Arthur H. Cain did when he called it “idolatry” in his Saturday Evening Post article. You can read both the tract and Cain’s response on Orange’s blog:

By the time I first saw the tract, I had already heard all kinds of BS, from an aging hippie explaining that Bill Wilson’s birth was the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” to how AA was so “cutting edge that science was trying to catch up with it.” I considered most “Meaning of AA” proclamations as either psychobabble or Godbabble, and I thought it was harmless drivel. But, twenty years later, I got to see harmless drivel in action.

A friend asked me to speak at a “Chicago” Group here in my home state. She explained that Chicago Groups follow the 90 minute format of the groups in that city using a speaker who introduced the topic, and a chairman who “calls up” responses from the group. She didn’t particularly like the group format, because she thought the men used it to exclude women. She had been going simply because her daughter attended, and now she hoped to change the group by bringing in women speakers. She wanted me to be her first speaker, even though she wouldn’t be able to be there that night. I didn’t know what a Chicago Group was, but I liked her and I thought it would be fun. I also wanted to encourage young women.

On the day of the meeting, I got a call from a man who introduced himself as the Powerfully Recovered Alcoholic who would give me the Chicago Group speaking rules. I needed to wear a “modest” dress and make-up, to introduce myself as a “Recovered” Alcoholic, to give both my sobriety date and sponsor’s name, to not use curse words, and to limit quotations either to the first 164 pages of the Big Book or to the “Other” Big Book.

Well, okay.

When I got to the clubhouse, a young woman wearing a flowered Sister Wife dress opened the door. She was in the middle of introducing me to the other similarly dressed Sister Wives when I realized she was the daughter of my friend. Her Andrea Yates thousand-mile stare had been so flat that I hadn’t recognized her. She handed me to a faded young man in a baggy suit, unpressed tie and scuffed shoes, and then she faded into the wall.

The young man was the Powerfully Recovered chairperson. He showed me to my seat, and began to read “WHY WE WERE CHOSEN” from the podium. He was near the end of the tract when I noticed that everyone wore oversized clothes.

I picked an innocuous topic and I told the usual jokes, but I just couldn’t connect with anyone. I was the only person wearing the right size and a smile in the room. I realized that looking like a normal person might very well constitute immodesty in this crowd.

After I spoke, the Powerfully Recovered chairperson began choosing men (not women) from the audience to give short responses. The gloomy men spoke about duty and privilege, and the (nearly) cheerful men talked about their new lives. They inserted “Praise God” an average of once every 90 seconds, and thanked their tireless sponsor, who was the Powerfully Recovered chairperson.

I was glad when the meeting was over and, for the first time in AA, I did not stay and talk to the crowd. I never went back.

My friend later told me that she had gotten her daughter into therapy and that the therapy had caused her daughter to leave the group. The daughter had the divorced her husband, mainly because he lost his job because he was missing work to be at the group. He then left the group and moved back to Iowa to live with his parents. Both of them blamed the group for destroying their marriage.

The Powerfully Recovered chairperson admitted that he has twice been hospitalized for depression, and he has left the group, which shrunk from a club house to a weekly meeting.

Recovery Thought Police

Wyoming Supreme Court: Sentence Unusual But Not Illegal

CHEYENNE — The sentence of a Campbell County man convicted of aggravated assault and battery was unusual but not illegal, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a split decision.

Willis Center Sr. pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced by District Judge John Perry in November 2008 to 36 to 80 months in prison. But the judge stayed the sentence and granted Center a furlough so he could enter an alcohol rehabilitation treatment program.

Center failed the program primarily because he refused to complete the written first step of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program in use at the WYSTAR center.

He was then sent to the state penitentiary.

On appeal, Center claimed the sentence was illegal and his right to due process was violated in the way his placement was revoked.

The supreme court majority, in an opinion written by Justice William Hill and including Chief Justice Marilyn Kite and Justice Michael Golden, said that while the sentence was “unusual and perhaps ill-advised,” it was not illegal.

Read the rest…

First, the judge diagnosis Center’s real problem as alcoholism, not violence, and sends him to an alcohol rehab program, which turns out to be nothing more than AA. Center cannot bring himself to admit he’s powerless over alcohol, so they “fail” him and send him to the pen.  I think the state has put itself in the position of having to prove that the 12 steps are effective and necessary for the treatment of alcoholism.

Maybe he should have gone to the pen in the first place for whatever violence he comitted, but now he’s being sent there for not taking the First Step, which is nothing more than a statement of belief. Insane.