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"Faith is not a good reason to believe in any one thing. It's a bad reason to believe in everything. Faith is not synonymous with any one idea; it is synonymous with any strongly held idea, true or not. But one thing faith is not synonymous with is a logically justified idea."

March 24, 2010

12-Step Programs are Religion?

Before I begin this rant I’d like to get this one simple thing off my chest. I personally don’t know jack-shit about addictions. I’ve never personally experienced an overwhelming attraction to a controlled substance. The farthest I’ve ever dabbled with drugs is social drinking and the occasional cigar. I’ve never once inhaled a single puff from a marijuana, never shot a single CC of heroine, never snorted a single line of cocaine! And I’m not kidding. When it comes to controlled substances I have very limited personal experience and when it comes to real addiction I got no clue what-so-ever! I don’t even know what the word “addiction” really means.
My father and a few select others in my life had addiction problems but I do not and I’m thankful I don’t. If you’re fucking up your life by constantly consuming alcohol or using narcotics I have no idea what you’re really going through. But if this paper is supposed to be educational I need real facts. Luckily I did my homework and got a whole plethora of knowledge from real drunks and dopers who know how 12-step programs are supposed to work. If you think I’m wrong in anything that I say because I’ve never experienced what you’ve been through, well then fine. That’s your right to your own opinion, but not a right to your own facts.

It is estimated that 14,000,000 Americans (1 in 13 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholics themselves. With all these self-proclaimed addicts the 12-step programs are a big business! There are over 300 different types of 12-step programs operating in America alone. Everything from “Alcoholics Anonymous” to “Gambling” and even “Sex-Addicts Anonymous!” The phrase “12-Step” sounds like good technology right? After all it has numbers that represent the progressive steps needing to be taken to turn your life around and quit that awful habit for good. Almost like a “build-it-yourself” handbook. Step one, two, and three and all the way to 12 and you built a porch; or in this case you’re cured or at least no longer a slave to an addiction! But 12-stepping isn’t technology as much as it is religion.

Religious culture takes the people in their congregation with problems and teaches them to think of themselves as lonesome sinners. They teach these people to be ashamed of themselves and tell them they are weak and helpless and then they offer them one way out. You show them a single infallible authority (God?). Tell them they are totally dependent upon the forgiveness and healing powers of this deity and they go running to preach the word! Let me lay out the steps to the well known 12-step program and you tell me if they sound more like medical treatment or religion…


Step 1: Admit that you are powerless over (Your Vice of Choice Here) and that your life has become unmanageable.
(That’s the hardest one I’d suppose. Most addicts are in denial of their ways and cannot accept the truth. Often it takes a loved one to point out their obvious flaws. This one I almost agree with… Except the part about being “powerless.” You’ve started taking the necessary steps to fix the problem yourself, that makes you powerful!)

Step 2: Come to believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.
(First of all you are not insane. Unless you’re addicted to eating your own shit, then you might be insane. Second, what if you don’t believe in a power greater than yourself? Not in a conceded way but in an atheist way. Then who do you see as more powerful than yourself? The Federal Government?)

Step 3: Make the decision to turn over your life to the care of God as you understand him.
(Okay, now it can’t be the Federal Government. They flat out said it has to be God! But they say, “as you understand him.” Does that mean it doesn’t have to be the Christian God, it can be Buddha, right? Or Allah?)

Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
(This means to take inventory of all your ethics and values. See what it is that you hold dear and want to keep and protect. For a married man struggling with alcohol addiction it might be his wife and kids. He doesn’t want his flaw to hurt his family and he decides to change it before it ruins them all. I like this one. Even non-addicts should try this one, just to see where they stand.)

Step 5: Admit to God, to yourself and to another human that nature of your wrongs.
(There’s that “God” again. What if you don’t believe in God!?! What then! What if your addiction is too embarrassing to be told to another person? You can’t go tell your mother that you’ve been helplessly addicted to getting boned like a fish! Plus, getting away from your flaw and being around people who don’t know it ever existed is the prime idea for some people. Why tell them about your flaw if they don’t need to know?)

Step 6: Become entirely ready for God to remove all these defects in your character.
(Why is it up to God to take my bad habit and squash it? I thought I was in charge of my life and my addiction! I thought I needed to change! If it was all up to God anyway why didn’t I just go to church and pray it away?!?)

Step 7: Humbly ask God to remove all your short comings.
(That sounds a lot like what I just said before. So is the answer to getting off the booze a simple prayer?)

Step 8: Make a list of all the people you have harmed and be willing to make amends to them all.
(I’m not against making amends for my wrong doings. That’s what a good person should do in life. If you hurt someone wrongfully then you should make things right. Or at least try. That’s not science though, that’s just good rules for life. But even still I agree.)

Step 9: Make direct amends to such people whenever possible unless to do so would injure them or others.
(That’s not bad either. But I’m curious… When would making amends to someone ever injure them or anyone else? Just curious.)

Step 10: When wrong, promptly admit it.
(Not a bad idea. I hate it when people are flat out wrong but still try to cling to what little bit of their argument still exists. If you’re wrong then you’re wrong.)

Step 11: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscience contact with God, praying only of his knowledge for his will for you and the power to figure this out.
(So I need to pray and meditate to ask God for the method to the madness. What is my destiny in all this? Was I a drunk in order to save the universe? This is just needy people looking for an explanation of the simple things in life they are still too far in denial to admit. If you were a drunk then it’s because you were stupid enough to make it a problem, it’s not destiny. The blame is still on you, there is no ultimate excuse.)

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening due to these steps bring this message to other addicts and practice these methods in all your affairs.
(A spiritual awakening? The cure for addiction is a spirit journey? Seriously. I thought addiction was a chemical dependency, not a demonic possession.)

AA has no respect for their 12-steppers. They tell you to pity yourself and see yourself as weak and helpless and look to a higher God-like power for salvation from what has been proven to be a chemically scientific addiction. As if God could cure cancer but needs you to cry and pity yourself first. If it worked that way for all chemical and biological ailments then you could cure cancer and diabetes with the 12-step method too.

We hear it everyday. People claiming that their alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity and even their anorexia is a “disease.” Is this right? Are these habits a real disease or are they based on personal choice? Are there genetic abnormalities in their body make them drink, smoke and puke or is it all in their head? Do they make the choice for themselves to do these bad things? Who is really in control, the addiction or the addict?

“Addiction is a choice; it is not a disease… Addiction is a behavior and because it is a behavior it’s always voluntary. There is no such thing as an involuntary behavior. In the scientific community we hold a particular view of what constitutes a disease and drug addiction and alcoholism do not meet those criteria for a disease. Drinking alcohol and putting it into your body expresses your choice. A real disease, something like cancer is not a choice.”
-Dr. Jeffrey A Shayler, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Assistant Professor at American University

What really is an addiction? Addiction is a psychological and chemical issue. Which means it needs a scientific approach to cure. However AA and the other 12-step programs do not do what is scientifically necessary to treat the problem. They do not change their tactics to meet their results. For all the years the 12-step program has existed it has never been changed. It is still the basic program it was when it began. Real scientific treatments change with time thanks to new technology and the further understanding of the treatment’s results. AA isn’t science.

12-Stepping and the Law?...
In 1988 the trial of "Traynor v. Turnage" came to light. It involved a veteran who had applied for education benefits but missed his deadline for full enrollment. He sued, claiming his “disease” of alcoholism made him neglect to file on time. The argument went all the way to the Supreme Court where it was finally decided that alcoholism was most certainly not a disease. It lacked the raw evidence to prove that it was a disease. Instead it proved a waste of time.

The truth is you choose to drink or do drugs. You don’t choose cancer. Ask someone who’s dying of cancer if alcoholism is a disease. If they still have the strength they will slap you! A real disease is something you do not choose! You get stuck with it! Alcoholism is an issue you choose to have or choose to refuse to have.

Do you know what percentage of AA members actually get off the hooch and stay off? Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t publish it’s results anymore since it’s considered to be a “religious” method. But at one time it did publish them. It found that only 2% of its members ever really stayed sober. Only 2%! That sounds pretty low, doesn’t it? If a prescription drug only cured a patient 2% of the time doctors wouldn’t prescribe it! But here’s the catch… Alternative methods for sobriety, which aren’t considered religious and therefore must by law post a report of all their results, have a 2% success rate as well. Can you guess how many people are able to successfully quit cold turkey? Yep, it’s 2%. So it doesn’t really matter what you do. Whether you use the AA 12-Step method, alternative methods or just plain quit on your own, your odds are still 2% out of 100! Shouldn’t you be aloud to choose the method that you feel will best suit you if the results are statistically all the same?

PS: Sorry Dad, AA isn't science, it isn't medicine, it is religion. It's pseudo-scientific religious dogma.


Anonymous said...

Very well written. It is a cult. There is no doubt. I do believe there are some things within AA/CA/NA/WhateverA that can help people come to understand they need to get their shit together, but it is a cult, and they do make people feel as though they are nothing, and if they don't go to 870000000 meetings a day, they will die. That by writing down the names of every person who has ever pissed you off at some point in time in your life since day 1, every single person you have had any sort of sexual interaction with, etc. will help you heal from your "disease". It was when I got to my 5th step, and my sponsor told me I had done it wrong and I needed to redo it, I walked out. I dealt with the issues that caused me to use alcohol and some hard drugs a little too much. If it works for people, then they should use it, but always remember to think for themselves, on their own, just as you would wish someone who went to church would pick up the Bible and read it on their own, and then get back to us on their belief system. Peace.

Anonymous said...

As an Atheist and a member of a 12 step-program I am slightly angered by this post. I'll get over it. I hope that other atheists who struggle with addiction will not take it all to heart - but I hope they find their own way. I REALLY want to go line by line and rebut each of your comments on the 12 steps, but I will focus on the insanity that is talked about in step 2. By your own admittance, you haven't felt the raging phenomena of craving. It is insanity to continue to do the same thing over and over even though it hurts you. (and it does hurt - in a pitiful, incomprehensible way). It is like having a desire to step in front of a bus. Fresh out of the hospital, arm in a sling the street calls to you "maybe this time you'll get it right..." You see the bus coming and you know it is gonna hurt like hell and that this time it might kill you, but you just cannot help yourself. As the bus approaches, you try to resist the urge, but at the last second the craving takes over and BAM. Then the raging phenomena of craving is in full swing. Next thing you know you are broken again. If that is not insane, then I don't know what is!
Seriously, I do not pray and I do not believe in one entity or universal power. I know that people do, but it is just like regular life: tradition, fear and availability play a big part in wanting to believe. I believe in chemical dependency and I know that I can battle the urge to drink by hanging out with sober people who share my struggle. I know that I have to do ALL the work to stay sober (they are doing the work but they attribute it to a god). I feel gratitude to AA for being there and allowing me to be an atheist. Yes, many know my non-belief and NONE have tried to prothelesize me in the slightest way toward the christian religion or any other. PEACE

SgtHaile said...

First of all, thank you for sharing your side of the issue. Like I said, I don't have any experience with addiction in my personal life, so this is merely an argument from my observation, statistics and what the AA 12-step program says. The way you explained the feeling of addiction does sound like insanity. The problem is that AA tells you to feel helpless. By going to AA in the first place you're proving you're not helpless. You are not powerless against your addiction, you're powerful. You're taking back your life by any means. Whether or not AA works is not decided by how well you follow their steps but by how strong your willpower is. Your AA has not pushed you to accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior, but you're an exception to the rule. The standard AA, the ones my family and friends have attended, make you accept a higher power. They make you accept a God, because in their view your rehabilitation cannot be effective without the help of God. This sort of dependent variable that AA tries to insist sounds exactly like the Christian rhetoric of original sin. Even those AA's that don't push a specific God end up finding Christian churches to sponsor them and in turn the organization allows the church to preach to them. This sort of shameless proselytizing is just another way for AA to make you feel helpless and force you to give your life to Jesus. The instances where the state has forced people into religiously based AA treatment is an obvious violation of the 1st Amendment. There are many secular rehab organizations out there, but they don't have the funds that AA has, so nobody hears about them. They have the same success rates too. In the case where doctors can prescribe medication to cease your chemical need for alcohol, AA and Christian churches have been together on suppressing the medication. Even going as far as to push for the FDA to ban the drug! Their reasoning for this is that by having a medication that stunts alcohol addiction immediately, the patient will be unable to come to a love of God. End of Debate, right there. If you wish to respond further, please send me an email. I may be able to use this to write a follow up post.

snatalie said...

I believe that addictions are diseases. They change your body. You become dependent to litterally function. It is kind of like cancer, but not totally. My husband is genetically shit out of luck. He abuses alchohol; he chose to yes, but that specific gene runs in his family. It is most strongly passed from father to son that from mother to son, etc. This is very very real and this is something that has been very difficult to handle. Alcoholics like my father in law have a disease. However he choses not to get "chemo" because it's too painful. And for an alcoholic, it kills them not to drink. In the end their disease will be what kills them though. AA does not treat alcoholism as a disease with it's bull shit 12 step program. Addictions need to be treated as the diseases they are and this whole 12 step as "god" for help thing is not doing that.

C. Allen Thompson said...

I hate to say this, Alex, but plagiary is a pretty serious charge in this country ;)!/note.php?note_id=120113262558

snatalie said...

Also, as much as it is a choice, for these people once it's been done, it's very hard to stop and not do it. That is why it's a problem. You don't think that if they knew how to stop, they would? It's not as simple as just stopping. The body freaks out.

SgtHaile said...

There is a gene for addiction, especially alcoholism. However, having a gene for an addictive personality is not what constitutes a "disease." Alcoholism is not a disease because even if you have the gene it doesn't mean anything unless you decide to drink. "Decide" is the main word in that sentence. You might have a predisposition to cancer in your family due to genetics, but you don't choose cancer. It just happens to you. Alcoholism will not happen to you, even if you have the gene, unless you choose to drink. Not a disease.

SgtHaile said...

C Allen Thompson...

Are you kidding or are you serious. I gave a quick skim through your writing and I didn't see any plagiarism. We are simply talking about the same subject.


Regardless of how your body responds to the alcohol/drugs you still made the choice to do it in the first place. Sure, it's hard to quit. It's not as simple as putting down the bottle and doing something else instead. But that's not the point. There are a lot of choices out there that have hard to deal with consequences, but we don't consider them diseases. Also, if it were a disease then people without the alcohol gene would be immune. They are not.

snatalie said...

Ah i see what you mean. I just wish that this 12 step think wasn't the one that is required. I can see why it is ineffective.

C. Allen Thompson said...

Of course I was messing with you. We did make a lot of the same points though. But I think it's just as much as a coincidence that I used to bring up the Heliocentric Universe on the topic of scientific theories, and then Richard Dawkins did the same in his own book. Good atheists think alike.

But as far as AA, it's just stupid pop-psychology. It's oversensitive and robs people of a sense of personal responsibility. It also robs them of the power needed to overcome addiction. I'm a former addict myself and AA failed me for the same reasons it fails most people. I've been half way writing a book called Atheists Anonymous for a while now about why AA is an ineffective system because of its reliance on theology and pop-psychology.

I'll get that done someday...maybe.

Roxane said...

Snatalie is right--we don't cure cancer patients by asking them to give themselves over to a higher power. No real "disease" is treated this way.

Penn and Teller brought up these same criticisms in their "Bullshit" show. Apparently there is also a non-theistic 12-step program that emphasizes taking responsibility, but when alcoholics are being sentenced in court to undergo rehab, the judges almost always send them to AA. Unfortunately the success rate of the non-theist one is about the same.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn expect someon like you to understand. You have to experience Jesus Christ in your life to understand. its all about faith and realizing that you cant do anything without Him in yourl ife. Im just sorry that ur going to hell but ill pray for you.

SgtHaile said...

I got a weird feeling that the last comment was a joke... If not however, I will answer it... What makes you think I didn't have Jesus Christ in my heart at one point? What makes you think I am somehow worse off now? How do you know what you believe is true? I know you think the things you believe are true, otherwise you wouldn't believe them. But how do you know?

Anonymous said...

i know what i believe is true because ive read the Holy Bible which is absolute truth. obviously you havent read it or you wouldnt say the thing you say on ur blog. ill continue to pray for you.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

SgtHaile said...

I'm still not sure this isn't a joke... However, assuming I haven't read the Bible is a bad way to argue. You think I haven't because if I have, we'd be on the same page. Guess what, I have read the Bible. 3 times cover to cover, in two different languages.

Anonymous said...

then why are you still an atheist? thats a religion too

SgtHaile said...

Religion means to have a belief in a deity that utilizes faith and regulates conduct.

Atheism has no belief in a deity. It has no need for faith. It rejects faith based reasoning. It has no doctrine to regulate conduct. The only thing needed to be considered an atheist is that you do not currently subscribe to a God belief. It's not a doctrine or a dogma, simply a qualifier. There is no atheist pope or supreme leader. Atheism is not synonymous with evolution, abiogenesis or the Big Bang Theory of cosmology. Atheism is not a positive claim that there are no Gods. It's a negative claim that denies existing God claims. Atheism is not a religion any more than "OFF" is a TV channel... If you'd like to continue this conversation then you can email me. Check the "Contact Us" tab at the top of the page. I'd appreciate it since this conversation has gotten off the topic of 12-Step programs. I'd like to allow this comment page to remain on track as much as possible. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

i feel so bad for you. i dont even thinkyou were even in the army because no true american wouldnt believe in God

SgtHaile said...

This has got to be a joke, although there are morons out there who think like this. It's almost not worth a reply... So, instead of trying hard to reason with you, I will resort to this... Suck It.

Anonymous said...

AA is explicitly religious. It specfically requires religious conversion in the 12 steps. Read the big book chapter on atheists and agnostics. Read "How It Works". AA critizes non-believers as arrogant and dishonest. AA cites alleged defects of moral character as the root cause of addiction. When 12-step defenders claim their "program" is "spiritual, not religious", that is pure theological sophistry; this hokey formulation is a dodge which comes straight from the evangelical Oxford Group, which formed the basis of AA in the 1930s and promoted itself as "a movement, not a religion." Trying to "take what you can and leave the rest" as folks say about 12-step meetings (along with "just make your Higher Power a doorknob for now") is itself spiritually and psychogically dishonest, as well a logically false. It's cruel and dangerous to bamboozle struggling, desperate addicts with toxic nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Very ilinformed. There are many atheists doing well in these programs....myself included. You are talking about a subject for which you seem to have done very little research. The goal of these programs is to help the addict. God is a tool. There are many others. On the success rate: that concerned me as well. However, I don't think that number represents the number of people who have actually completed the twelve steps and continued to practice the program. If someone stops taking their anti-depressants does that mean they don't work?

Anonymous said...

I am a polite atheist. I don't ridicule people about their beliefs no matter how illogical they seem.
I'm also in a crystal meth anonymous group right now.
I have a sponsor and being able to call him at any hour really helped me get thru my 1st 30 days.
Happily, while he is Christian, he has other sponsees like me.
What he told us about a higher power is this...
"go take your cloths off and run up and down the sidewalk naked. In less than an hour, a higher power, driving a police car will haul your happy ass to jail."
So the gist is, don't stress over every little thing, study the book and steps - the rest will work itself out.

Anonymous said...

a l l o w e d

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on the Foxhole Atheist Blog do not necessarily represent those of Atheism or all Atheists, seeing as how Atheism has no tenets, dogma or doctrines. So Suck it!