Friday, April 24, 2009

AA; 12 steps to healthy or 12 steps to holy? (or "How a religious cult got hold of our vulnerable and sick")

Most of us throughout the course of our lives have heard of AA and their 12 step program. This is a highly respected organization whose mandate is to help those who can't help themselves through a powerful support system. People go there when they feel that their lives have spiraled out of control with alcohol, the courts intervene to send people there when they cross the law because of alcohol abuse, even the military will send its troubled members there. Is it an institution set up as savior to those who have fallen victim to the monster of abuse, or is it a wolf in saviors clothing, hiding behind a thin veneer of moral intention?

I would like to share a few things that you may NOT have known.

First before I go on, I should share the most important point.

It is ineffective.

Alcoholics, when left to their own devices and with no intervention, have a 5% recovery rate. When AA steps in to offer its professional help the recovery rate it boasts is around 5%.

Confused yet? Wondering why courts would send people who are asking for help, whose lives are falling apart in the face of the ills that they have heaped upon themselves, and who are begging to be saved from their own helplessness in the face of their self professed weakness to a program whose success rates are only marginally better (at best) then just leaving them to their own sorrows and woes?
I do too.
The answer is contained within the 12 step program that is advertised with such genius as the answer to an alcoholics needs.


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.
Praying for (preying upon?) the weak and vulnerable?

Still wonder why no one questions the effectiveness of this program despite its lack of success?

Certainly makes ME think that the point is not a cure. Makes me think that the point is to evangelize and spread the god claim to those who are too vulnerable to resist.

That doesn't seem moral to me.

This program doesn't seek to empower, it seeks to enslave, to dis-empower those who need strength by telling them that they simply can't do it without an invisible friend. To show us how little we really are without "god" and his infinite wisdom and knowledge. To show us how wicked we are without him.

In short to brainwash and indoctrinate us.

Morality would be to show these people how much power they have within them, and to offer them the treatment and the support with which they can engage this personal power to save themselves. Not to evangelize and disguise your personal baseless beliefs as answers to people who are desperately in need of help.

The final immorality is the last step. The step where they pledge to continue to prey on the next generation of victims.

No one would criticize a program where the power of prayer is used to heal. An organization that is safe from recrimination because of the moral invulnerability to criticism that society lends all religious faith. Funds being directed at this organization are misplaced funds (albeit from member donations) and are actually harming the 95% of people who really need help. Those funds could go to in the form of donations to other more effective programs to greater results.

This is no coincidence that this prayer in action is ineffective.

It is ineffective BECAUSE it is prayer in action, or should I say prayer "inaction".

Lets together decide to see the elephant in the room, and send these people in need to a less crowded one where they will get the psychiatric help that they need.

"Prayer is the only way to do nothing and still think that you are helping"


  1. The religious aspect present in most 12 step programs is a real problem. I have seen people who are non-believers give up because they can't relate to it, and that's very unfortunate.

  2. Why bother if you are only ridding yourself of one addiction to become the slave to another?

  3. I am astounded. I admit it...I had made assumptions about the 12-step programme. Assumptions that it described know...STEPS towards recovery. Suggestions and tools for overcoming the addiction. Not steps towards an altar. And the recovery rate? my self-confessed ignorance...astounded. And deeply troubled.

  4. I am a recovering alcoholic...I've been off the sauce for 2 years now and I have first-hand experience of AA. I went there over a period of about 10 months between 2003/2004. It didn't help, I felt more like drinking after the meeting than before. I'm also an atheist and the higher power bit didn't help, it hindered me. Reason has helped me out in a fundamental way. It's all about taking responsibility for oneself, something which AA doesn't help with when it preaches the mumbo-jumbo of a higher power.

  5. I'm an atheist and I had no idea that AA was a religious brainwashing organization. I thought it was a neutral program until today. Thanks for this info, it's both interesting and troubling.

  6. A humanist, Joe Gerstein, has developed a very successful, non-theistic alternative to AA, the SMART recovery system. It's a very interesting alternative...

  7. Have you ever been to an AA meeting?!

    Even if a drop of alcohol has never passed your lips, before that first meeting is over they will have you completely convinced that you have serious problems which can only be solved by your 'Higher Power' combined with their expert help.