Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hellbound Alleee Show 124: Christian Doublethink

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Aaron Kinney joins us for a discussion about the hypocrisy of belief and action in the Christian worldview. Francois speaks about how Alcoholics Anonymous fits into the category of cult; a caller says hello.


For more download options, see the Hellbound Alleee archives.


beepbeepitsme said...

I blogged a little bit about the adam and eve thing too. At the risk of shameless promotion of my blog, here is the link

Bruce And Sheila In The Garden Of Eden - An Australian Bible Parody

thetruthword said...

Are you satan's puppet? If so pray to God. He will always take you in and heal you.

The end is coming. Pray now

Hellbound Alleee said...

You Need Mercy,


Mark Zanfardino said...

I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions the speaker has concerning AA as a cult and the 12 steps and 12 traditions. Let's first look at the preamble:

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover form alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

This bares repeating: "A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution". At the time Bill W conceive the concept of AA he did so as one who did not believe that to solve alcoholism one must believe in a specific god; only that one needed to seek help in solving their problem and often that help comes in the concept of a power greater than the self. As any alcoholic can tell you, the urge to drink uncontrollably (and what other definition can be used to describe the alcoholic?) can not be overcome without help; often alcoholics are isolationist who have already removed themselves from their social structure. The true help comes from the shared experiences of other alcoholics and their to understanding of the problem the alcoholic faces. The higher power, without being said, is the group of people who help the alcoholic gain control over their disease. You may choose not to see alcoholism as a disease , but for the moment it's probably the most general term one can use. Alternatives might be mental illness or lack of discipline. Regardless of what you call it, many choose to believe in god as this helps them abdicate responsibility for their inability to control their drinking, but this also helps them to regain control of there life.

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliations.

Clearly AA is any group of people with a shared experience with alcohol that work toward helping one another. This is not a cult. The need for anonymity is to address the social backlash of one being either defined or self defined as an alcoholic. The alcoholic in AA is not anonymous to fellow members of AA and are free to share their attendance to AA with whomever they wish.

I'm not going to quote each of the 12 steps and 12 traditions. You can find them at But I would encourage your speaker to read them, not just to scan them for the word God or Him. The 12 steps aren't steps to worship; they aren't lessons of recruitment; they are simple yet oft overlooked concepts that anyone (the alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike) could apply to live a healthy, happy life. They are not promises of happiness in and of themself; quite the contrary! Just take a look at steps 8, 9, and 10. These are the hardest steps and they are steps everyone should be willing to do for themself.

Yes, the language of the 12 steps is couched in religion. Yes, you can infer that it's religiously biased. But keep in mind, these steps were written 80+ years ago in a society in which we, the free-thinker, the atheist, the deists, the naturalist, the humanist, the non-christians, the skeptic were the minority. The social norm was to believe in god and to give oneself to him. This should not detract from the positive results of AA.

Lastly, you should understand that, 12 steps and 12 traditions notwithstanding, AA is group therapy, plain and simple. It's a place where people with a shared experience can share in the life they lived before, during and after recovery. This permits people to identify with each other and is a tool used to help one understand ones own issues. The issue of anonymity goes hand in hand with the shared experience: no one who has killed another human being while drunk wants to announce this to the general public, but being able to share this atrocity (and the subsequent repercussions) with others is a form of therapy both for the story teller and the listener. Often the only other people we would care to share our darkest humiliation are people whom we believe understand where we are at in our lives.

One note to Hellbound Allee: an AA sponsor is someone whom a new member of AA has asked to assist with their sobriety. A sponsor will work with you through the steps and is a source of support. However, there is no requirement that you get a sponsor, nor is the sponsor the only one you can call if you are feeling the urge to drink. I hope you can understand the seriousness of drinking to an alcoholic: it can be self-destructive as well as socially destructive. People can literally die either by the drink or at the hands of the drinker. When someone who knows the power this holds over them seeks help to not pick up that first drink, anyone that can be there to support them is a sponsor.

Unknown said...

I imagine 12 Step recovery programs are a slow slide into the jaws of Satan. I was involved with this evil “satanic cult” [AA] for over 30 years but was saved through the power of Jesus Christ. He directed me to a therapist who was into “real” recovery, not the mind destroying, soul destroying, cult, which is AA. I have met two Steppers recently & I imagine they are completely devoid of any emotion or insight. I feel pain because both these men are decent human beings but AA has destroyed their individuality & they have no idea how to relate apart from expounding AA propaganda. I imagine Hell to be a continuous flow of AA meetings without any light at the end of the tunnel because one never recovers'. I beg you people who are in 12 Step programs, to get out before it is too late.

How does one recover when one is handing one’s power over to AA. The 12 Steps were written out of Wilson’s head, he certainly didn’t get his guidance from the Bible. I imagine he was an agent of Satan & he & Smith’s “cult religion” has filled millions of Steppers with their anti - Christ propaganda.

Step Three of AA is "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him." While many in the Oxford Group placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, there was much leeway given. Shoemaker, a leader of the Oxford Group, says, "The true meaning of faith is self-surrender to God." He further explains:
Surrender to whatever you know about Him, or believe must be the truth about Him. Surrender to Him, if necessary, in total ignorance of Him. Far more important that you touch Him than that you understand Him at first. Put yourself in His hands. Whatever He is, as William James said, He is more ideal than we are. Make the leap. Give yourself to Him.
Aside from capitalizing the "H," which Christians do to refer to the God of the Bible, "Him" could refer to any god of one’s own making [bedpan].

Can you see what is happening to you? Ask Jesus to take control of your lives, read the Bible & instead of 12 Step groups, go to Church. Burn your Big Book or use it as toilet paper. Can you see the difference: With The 12 Steps, you never recover but with John 3:16 you are guaranteed Eternal Salvation. The “ball is in your court”

Peace Be With You

Unknown said...

My name is Cathryn Mazer. I am an alcoholic. I also have bi-polar disorder. I have also been a member of the Unification Church, known more widely as the "Moonies".

I think this triangulation of experience has given me some good insight into the dynamic interplay between mental health issues, medicine, and religion and cults as healing tools.

I first joined AA as a 15 year old in Northern California while I was at boarding school, because I knew the nature of my substance use was unhealthy and destructive. I did not believe in God at the time, but quickly adopted the mystical & ritualized attitude proscribed by AA because I was desperate to get well. I was also in rigorous therapy at the time with our school counselor, who I later discovered was actually also a member of the Indian eastern philosophy cult, SYDA Yoga.

Having undiagnosed bipolar disorder and under the supervision of a highly educated, but boundary blurring mystical therapist, I was particularly ripe for diving into "spiritualized" ways of interpreting reality. I also was being very well educated myself, so I learned early on in this process how to tolerate cognitive dissonance between what my critical thinking would tell me and what I thought God itself was communicating to me through the events around me. I tended to err on the God side, taking a cue from the old addage "God works in mysterious ways" ie. illogical, sometimes strange, ways. However, I did temper myself somewhat with my remaining intellectual powers.

Predictably this became quite an extensive routine of mental gymnastics split between a constant interpretation of signs and interconnections or synchronicities and attempts at rational analysis of a given situation.

I did stay sober and got that AA version of happy, which is sort of a subdued ecstasy, and unrelenting dedication through constant repetition of a set of behaviors and trigger terms. I seemed quite normal for a young artist, but then again, no one had x-ray glasses to view my logic process which, as I stated was split at best. Only my therapist and other AA's were somewhat in on it and that was the understood way of being in that community.

AA also practices the cultic technique of an insider doctrine and an outsider doctrine. While the steps are public knowledge, what is understood about their meaning and interpretation becomes secularized for outsiders and sacredly mystical for insiders.

That is one of the reasons it disturbs me that health professionals are willing to recommend people to AA after what can only be described as plainly superficial research on the organization. Word of mouth is not a scientific tool, and yet that seems to be enough to convince many doctors that this treatment is worthy of what often becomes a lifetime attempt at a cure.

In any case, I returned to LA to live with my family in Brentwood, just down the street from the central meeting location of Clancy Imusland's Pacific Group. Naturally, I went there, because of its proximity, I had never heard about it. I was pretty lonely at the time, being a sober teenager isn't easy, and was grateful for the swarms of people surrounding me, circling meetings in the list book for me and giving me guidance.

I quickly got absorbed into the group's meeting routine, sponsorship techniques (as a sponsee), sexist practices, elitist attitude, weekends at Clancy's house, parties, dances, dinners on and on. It was my first introduction into the structured cult lifestyle. While much looser than many hard core cults, I have come to understand that the cultic phenomena is a well defined but broad spectrum of group behaviors rather than a single point a group arrives at in its practices. In my estimation AA in general falls on the lower end of that spectrum, but is definitely a major player as one of the largest thriving cultic groups that generally flies under the radar in terms of being identified as such. I would place the Pacific Group of AA in a more advanced category of behavioral control and thought reform.

Two years later I left for college in Westchester, NY where I met an old charismatic man in AA who seemed to understand God in the passionate and dedicated way that I did. He was interesting, very verbal, and creative. Against my better judgement I took him on as a sponsor, after all, he was old, and he was speaking my language. He actually actively worked on integrating me into his life for about a month before the sponsorship occurred. We entered into a cabal of two where over time secrecy became the rule. Ultimately he molested me sexually repeatedly and I became convinced that it was God's will.

It was then that I met a Moonie recruiter on Broadway in NYC who got me to take a survey on belief and guided me up to their offices. He was young and friendly and I was instantly drawn to the idea that there might be a young community of bright believers like me. I agreed to go on a seven day "youth leadership program", which was, of course, (although I didn't get it at the time) an invitation to a compound where they could test my responsiveness to a very seriously engineered thought reform environment.

Well I was primed for this experience on multiple levels and as the week passed there I learned that the Moonies forbid unwed sex of any kind and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. I was attracted by their fervor and dedication, their energy and intelligence, and I felt like I would finally find some protection from a sexual predator like the sponsor I had been involved with.

I won't go into my experience with the Moonies, you can read about it on the web by googling "Cathryn Mazer Unification Church". There was a lot written about it at one time because the Today Show covered my family's harrowing search for me once I disappeared into the cult.

I think it's more important to point out that I have tried AA a few times since leaving the Moonies and having become somewhat educated about the nature and variety of the cultic experience. Each time I try it again I find myself more and more uncomfortable with it's practices.

While it doesn't require that one believes in a specific God, it does demand that one believes in a God, while simultaneously stating that it doesn't, by applying a kind of double-speak rhetoric, in the "as we understood Him" addendum. Double speak is one of AA's most frequently applied mind control techniques and I believe (at this time based more on experience than research) that it is the primary tool by which it retains members. For instance while it states that "the only requirement for AA membership is the desire to stop drinking", my experience has been that refusal to do the steps, get a sponsor, read the big book, and/or regularly attend meetings (usually depending on the community at least 3 times a week) clearly elicits vocal disapproval and often results in social ostracism. While the member is not banned outright he or she is shunned in various ways. The necessity, vital importance of doing all of these things, in order to physically survive alcoholism/addiction, is constantly asserted during sharing at all kinds of different meetings.

Veiled and not so veiled threats of terrible sickness and death if one leaves the group is a common feature of AA in general. Regardless of the fact that current research in no way bears this out, it is a common understanding in the program, and is a terrifying method of retaining membership.

Furthermore, sponsors are not qualified to be counselors and this is absolutely their expected role in AA. Having been in therapy and in and out of AA for over half of my life I can honestly say that my best sponsor was far less helpful to me than my worst counselor, and believe me, I have encountered some crackpots.

The internal sense of the steps and the overall behavioral program of AA is that it is a sacred science and that the only reason it wouldn't work well is because it is not being practiced rigorously enough or because of the personal shortcomings of the practitioner. It is never entertained that the system may have any fundamental flaws. To suggest so in a meeting will generally produce an arctic chill in the room and result in many fervent rebuttals, disdain, pity, patient explanation, social rejection etc.

Constant verbal repetition and loaded language which uses words in our english lexicon with new meanings ascribed to them becomes an insiders code and how well someone uses this code can help determine their status in the community. This also lends itself to double speak in that a sentence that may seem innocuous to an outsider could have coded meaning to a member. Members also learn how to reshape their perception in their minds of their drinking lives according to AA logic and language and are ritually trained by going to constant meetings how to verbally testify about their lives out of and then in AA. Any alternative view of the alcoholic life process is generally rejected, although usually with the caveat that, "it may work for them, but it doesn't work for me".

There is also a wide misconception that there is a great variety of meetings in the world. I find this to be another form of double speak. While each meeting has its own flavor and community, in general the ritual and the content is always the same. There are a few content options - the speaker meeting with sharing, the large speaker meeting without sharing, the big book study meeting, the step & tradition meeting, and the meditation meeting. The steps are hung on scrolls on the wall, the meeting is opened with a reading from the big book, sometimes other AA literature, the form proceeds according to the content category, and it is closed with a prayer and chant ("keep coming back! It works if you work it, so work it you're worth it!" is one that comes to mind). Despite the wide variety of communities in which meetings take place, I have found that the unspoken yet intense pressure to use language and logic according to what I consider to be a rigid AA form is consistent across these communities. Window dressing may be added but I've found that is mainly superficial.

I have attended meetings in Northern California - San Francisco, Berkeley, Danville, Walnut Creek; Southern California - Los Angeles including Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, North Hollywood, West LA, Venice as well as in communities south of LA; in Oregon briefly (forget the town's name); in New York - Westchester various towns including Bronxville, Yonkers, and Hastings, - New York City - West Village, East Village, Times Square, Madison Sq. Garden area, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Williamsburg and Park Slope Brooklyn; in New Zealand - Wellington; at treatment centers and rehabs; etc.

Point being - my opinion is not based on a few meetings in a few communities.

Lastly, what I find most reprehensible in the mental health, medical, and judicial systems use of referrals to AA and its sister programs is that it has clearly become an easy dumping ground for them that requires little or no effort or investment on their part. It seems that it is so convenient that the necessity for a responsible vetting that would be required with almost any other treatment regimen is simply ignored. Even the academic discussion of AA's role in addiction treatment seems mainly based on anecdotal evidence. Why do the scientific, medical, theraputic, civic, and even cult awareness communities turn such a blind eye?

Usually a cult member will tell you that they're happier and safer than they've ever been in their lives, that the group is a force for good and helps thousands of people, regardless of what group they belong to. Rarely do current members of an active cult express misgivings about their organization, only some of the people in it who are bad apples that misrepresent the group as a whole. This kind of expression of total satisfaction can be a dead giveaway that the system is successfully utilizing thought reform techniques.

I recommend Robert J Lifton's "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism" to anyone interested in learning about mind and behavioral control.