So what if AA is a Pagan cult? Whether or not you think alcoholism is a disease, AA helps people who are in a really bad spot and keeps them out of trouble. They are less likely to drink or do drugs while attending meetings and performing the 12 Steps. Why so stuck up on Christianity? What’s the problem here?
There are so many problems with the above statement I don’t know where to start!
So let’s start from the beginning. Well not quite the beginning. Let’s start with the story of Moses and the 10 Commandments. In this story we see the advent of monotheism and the Israelite’s God’s crushing of the practice of paganism/polytheism. Now, put aside your prejudices about monotheism and polytheism. Those are actually irrelevant for our purposes. We are just looking at what happened:
God had rescued the Israelites from 400 years of slavery. They had escaped from Egypt, and had just started wandering in the desert. God called Moses to Mount Sinai. So Moses went up. But it was taking a while. From Exodus:
32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. 32:22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief [alternate translation: You know how prone these people are to evil.]. 32:23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.
The point is, from ancient times, the practice of paganism is associated with evil. There is no clear authority, and therefore the people can follow and worship the god, and the code of ethics, of their choice. This lead to chaos and mischief. Exactly what kind we can only assume, but probably the kind that went against the new laws that God issued in the form of the 10 Commandments. The first of which is:
20:1 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Then it goes on the remaining commandments: honor your parents, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife. Etc. Etc.
But what a strange first commandment! Why does it matter what god you believe in, as long as you are a good person and do good things? This puzzled me as a young religious school student. And no doubt, many Sunday school class hours were dedicated to this very issue. Why does it matter?
It matters a lot! This is a HUGE problem in ethics. For even if we create a code of ethics that sounds pretty reasonable, ultimately we have no reason to accept it over any other, except by our own judgment. And no doubt that was a big problem in ancient times. And no doubt, people could justify all kinds of injustice from plausible principles. For example: God doesn’t want poor people to suffer so it’s ok to steal from the rich. The great innovation of the 10 Commandments is that the question of authority is answered in the very first commandment. Now of course, you don’t have to accept that commandment either, but then you are at risk of death, along with 4 generations of your descendants. Scary stuff.
Fortunately for the sake of civilization, the 10 Commandments are pretty reasonable, and have stood the test of time. (The only thing inexplicably missing is a commandment against abusing children, sexually and otherwise.)
If you are a good person at heart, it doesn’t matter what you believe in. You’ll generally do the right thing. The problem is, what if you’re not a good person? What if you are angry, a liar, manipulative, or cruel? What if you enjoy hurting others and taking things which are not yours? What if you are tempted by a beautiful woman walking alone? In this case, the purpose of the first commandment really shines. You don’t do these things because you will be killed, and your children will suffer too. If you believe it. And no doubt, many people believed it, for how could they know otherwise? And this belief lasted thousands of years, until people stopped believing it. And injustice reigned again. So they had to raise the stakes. Jesus came along and emphasized the greater reward of eternal Heaven, or punishment of eternal torture in Hell. Be good, children! And this worked for a while too. Still does, for the most part. But lots of people stopped believing in God. No problem for the ones who are good at heart. But what about the bad ones?
Alcoholics Anonymous came along in the 1940’s, introducing its 12 Steps. The first 3 are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Yes, there is a mention of God. Is this a Christian God? Clearly, not at all. It’s the God “as we understood him”. It’s about as opposite to the Judeo-Christian God as you can get. In fact, in the Big Book, you can choose any concept of God that you wish: “You can, if you wish, make A.A., itself your ‘higher power.’ Here’s a very large group of people who have solved their alcohol problem. In this respect they are certainly a power greater than you.” (Big Book, p. 27) Or it could be a tree or coffee pot, as Steppers are wont to declare. Of course, this is pure heresy. If you can believe in anything, then you can believe in any code of conduct you like. If you’re a good person, no sweat. If not… Houston we have a problem!
But at least it cured their compulsion to drink, right?
Wrong! AA is a drinking club for mischievous young people one small crisis away from their next relapse. Also in the club are older men who model the abstinence-binging cycle (which in their case lasts through middle age). And finally are the sad and socially inept, who go to AA seeking companionship but end up being brainwashed into addictive behaviors and manipulated for sex or money, and ultimately leave the group in disappointment and anger.
AA is a refuge for scoundrels and criminals. They can justify any type of behavior due to the pagan belief system, including lots of well-documented criminal behavior. We tend to think that alcoholism causes criminality. In fact the opposite: criminals use alcohol as a cover for their mischief. They do this with the help of AA: as long as you claim to be unable to control your drinking, then you can attend AA and everyone thinks you’re trying to get better. But remember, this is a bad person. A scoundrel. A criminal. Do we believe them when they say they have an unbearable compulsion to drink? I don’t know about you, but I tend to think not. They are perfectly in control of their drinking, and will do so when convenient. (Yes extreme alcohol use can cause withdrawal symptoms (delerium tremens), but these do not contain actual cravings for alcohol, and can be alleviated medically.)
Most people in AA do not choose a Christian god as their higher power (e.g. Jesus Christ). Most choose a pagan entity such as a ‘creative spirit’ or any of the many gods in the many spiritual pantheons like Buddhism, such as a god for prosperity. Yoga is very popular within AA. People in AA are not Christian, and it would be a mistake to assume they bring Christian concepts to bear, such as alcohol being evil. Mentally ill people may choose a voice in their head as their Higher Power, and in fact sometimes are encouraged to do so. One poster on the recovery forum on Craigslist was encouraged to use one of his spirit guides (ancestors) as his higher power. Only problem was, he couldn’t always tell which ones could be trusted.
Again, whether or not you think Paganism is inherently evil, certainly it is attractive to the rebel and the trouble maker, and it is much easier to justify evil behavior under a Pagan theology. AA lays it out on a silver platter: the alcoholic has carte-blanche to do as he pleases. If sober, he can act according to a belief system of his choice. If drunk, he can act any way the evil spirits in the alcohol direct him. And as the innocent sufferer of a disease, it’s not really his fault. It’s a brilliant scheme!
The most common ‘sin’ encouraged by AA is philandering, and in fact AA is a sex club for many. This is certainly true in the gay community as aging men seek an alternative to the bar scene. Many are quite open about going to AA simply for the purpose of hooking up. If they have to claim to be alcoholic, so be it. Also, many lonely people are attracted to AA, and these people are often abused and manipulated by the cult for sex or money. Some people drink in order to escape the wife and kids, but of course they don’t want the family to think that, so they go to AA and pretend to be alcoholic. “It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that I can’t help drinking. I’m sorry. I’m just a sick person.” (Though the family is usually complicit in this scheme, to some extent.) And then they go to a couple meetings. Or say they are going to an AA meeting and do something else.
Another reason for excessive drinking is to provide a convenient excuse to dump the current girlfriend: “I need to be single. This relationship threatens my sobriety.” Closet homos love AA because it keeps personal questions at bay: “Why don’t you go out? Because I’m an alcoholic and can’t be tempted.” (And then go to a gay bar or cruise online.) Many people involved in criminal activity drink to soothe a troubled conscience. Alcoholics seem to have no difficulty justifying any kind of reprehensible behavior, including for example, meeting and flattering foreign dictators who threaten world war.
And of course, many women drink as a way to express anger and engender sympathy. It’s a “cry for help.” Often this is out of anger toward a parent who did not provide adequate love and attention. Most female speakers at AA meetings I’ve attended have shown great resentment towards their mother. Drinking and drugging was an effective way to get attention and revenge, without admitting one’s anger and jealousy. It’s a form of self-destructive revenge, like cutting. And it can lead to suicide in extreme cases.
And then there are those who just enjoy fighting, bullying, arguing and being cruel. Many people are perfectly good at this sober. But why not have a few drinks before hand? All the more fun, plus you can always say that you were just drunk. Plus you can later claim that you were addicted to alcohol.
One could also view alcoholism as a form of demon possession. When someone drinks, it’s like they are possessed by an evil spirit. We may have experienced this with a friend or family member, and it’s scary. There is no way to control the person, other than to hope they sober up and calm down. Now add to the mix that the alcoholic has an irrational craving, or a subtle corruption in thinking that tells him to take the first drink, and we are off to the races. So the 12 Steps could be viewed as a process of exorcism — overpowering and expelling the demon. We might be tempted to think that it is then compatible with a Christian ideology. But this parallel is illusory. We are just replacing one demon with another.
And what of the claim that AA keeps people from drinking? In fact, AA is no more effective at reducing drinking than any other therapy, or no therapy at all. Most people moderate drinking on their own. And what about the claim that AA keeps people out of trouble? There is no evidence for this either. AA does not reduce criminality over no group attendance.
When someone says, “AA works for me and it’s the only thing that ever worked for me,” they are not saying that they will no longer drink, or will not engage in criminality. There is no evidence for this. All they are saying is that they figured out how to use the drinking club for mischief and for abusing and manipulating others. To what extent this is conscious on the part of the members I don’t know. But if not, I hope to make it so!
In addition to the concept of God, there are other important differences between the 12 Steps and the 10 Commandments, that point out the dangers of the AA ideology. The next most important is how we deal with sin. In the 10 Commandments, we are prohibited from killing (6), adultery (7), stealing (8), bearing false witness (9), and coveting our neighbors wife or property (10). The reward for keeping the commandments is God’s “steadfast love”. We can only presume that the punishment for failing to do so is death.
Compare this to the 12 Steps:
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.
This presents an entirely different concept of sin. Instead of being prohibited from evil behaviors, we are praying to our god to remove the kind of thinking that leads to the urge towards this type of behavior. For example, we may find ourselves with lust toward our neighbor’s wife. Pray to god to remove it. We may want to steal money from a house. Pray to god to remove our greed. We may be jealous of a more successful friend or sibling. Pray to god to remove this ‘character defect’.
Obviously this is impossible. These are normal human emotions and cannot be removed as if they were a psychic tumor. The key is to learn to deal with these emotions in a healthy and mature way, without acting on them. With good parenting, most children learn how to do this. In a way, the God of the Judeo-Christian religion is like a loving parent: “Don’t hurt, don’t steal, don’t be jealous.” Whereas the god of the 12 Steps says, “Pray to me so that I can remove your anger, jealousy, and resentments.” In fact, according to the 12 Step ideology, the key to ending the cravings is to remove our daily resentments about things. This then enables us to contact our HP (Higher Power), which then removes our defects of character and then the cravings to drink. Yes, this is actual AA theology.
Imagine a child who is walking with a parent and steps into the street without looking. The parent might say, sternly, “David, don’t walk into the street without looking. You can get hurt.” If it happens again, the child gets a whack and another stern warning.
Or the parent might say: “David, don’t walk in the street without looking. You could get hurt and then you’d feel sad and I’d feel sad.” If it happens again, the parent says, “David, I’ll give you an ice cream if you don’t walk in the street.”
These two different parenting styles show the difference between the two ideologies. The first approach will be more successful in the long term in fostering good behavior. The second approach may work briefly, but will ultimately backfire. A child isn’t necessarily afraid of feeling sad. So it’s not really a disincentive. Plus, they are rewarded for pushing boundaries (which is the child’s job). In the same way, bad people are not necessarily afraid of their own foibles. They may actually cherish them. Thus, they can easily choose a god who is unable to remove this defect. Or the god of their choosing might be out to lunch when the prayer is offered. It is too easy to blame the mischief on something else.
And in fact the AA cult lionizes criminals and scoundrels. Recently a Craigslist post eulogized the mafia gangster and murderer Henry Hill (also alcoholic), and the group members all offered condolences. The post has since been deleted, as are many posts that are unflattering to AA. Henry Hill excused his own mischief, with the easy excuse that his god simply failed to remove the defects of character that caused it. The AA cult is a refuge for scoundrels, criminals and liars.
Step 10 says: “when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” This sounds good. One should apologize quickly. But this becomes a habit for AA members. Commit the crime, then apologize and blame the addiction. We’ve all seen children who do this. They get into trouble and then quickly hug mom and say “I’m sorry. I love you.” But of course they learned this behavior from the parent who failed to properly discipline the child (in the second parenting example above). It’s a sign of an incipient sociopath.
The 12 Step theology cleverly exploits Christianity’s requirement to forgive and to turn the other cheek. They can get away with mischief because we feel like we are being ‘divine’ by forgiving someone who is sick. Plus they are praying, and that can’t be a bad thing, right? So what if they are praying to a different god.
They also exploit the Christian concept of Redemption, as taught in many New Testament parables such as the “Eleventh Hour” and “Prodigal Son”. Like the subject of the parables, the alcoholic lives a sinful life, often self-professed liars, cheaters, and master manipulators, until late in life when they repent and seek forgiveness. And as good Christians, we must admire them and accept their conversion. Never mind that they are a disciple of a god of their own choosing. And in fact often they will reunite with the family they abandoned, and become more honorable. But with one glaring exception: these people are the strongest proponents of the myth of addiction, claiming that they were unable to stop drinking under their own power — thereby paving the way for young alcoholics to repeat the cycle. (Note: these people were liars before their first sip. Do you believe their account of addiction?) These Paganists are clever!
And whereas Christianity values “peace on earth”, AA extols “serenity” — inner peace. This sounds good because it would mean they’d be less likely to crave a drink. But in fact, it simply suppresses normal emotions that we all must learn to deal with. It leads to the “Serenity Now” paradox, in which one tries to calm oneself down with a mantra, but then suddenly explodes due to suppressed anger. You can’t suppress or excise negative emotions, although the Big Book claims that the HP will give you the power to “match calamity with serenity”. This philosophy only sets up the drinker for the binge-abstinence cycle.
An outsider looking at the group might assume it is Christian simply because it believes in the devil (which uses alcohol as its tool). But the devil exists in many religions. And in fact the reality is that the group idolizes drugs and inebriety! (Just go to your local AA meeting or listen to their stories — see the Meetings Blog.)
Bill W, the founder of AA and creator of this brilliant scheme, was a philander both before and after his sobriety. If you want to believe that he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol, fine. But the simpler explanation is that he used alcohol as a tool to escape his wife and roam for sex.
As heresy, Paganism has an inherent appeal to rebels and trouble makers, though it is not clear to what extent its followers are aware of this.
Paganism has been around longer than any other established religion. AA gives it acceptance and credibility, and allows it to enter the mainstream using drugs and alcohol as the vehicle. As with any good heretical cult, it is cloaked in the prayers of Christianity, the religion of the establishment, to avoid scrutiny and controversy. In fact, many people dislike AA at first because it seems too religious/Christian. But anyone who gets too hung up on these pedantics is probably not AA material to begin with.
If AA is so heretical, why is it tolerated by established religions? For example, some churches allow AA meetings. Also, the Jewish group Taglit-Birthright Israel offers “sober” trips to Israel for young people. Perhaps it is because they don’t realize that AA is a Pagan cult. Or maybe they don’t think it’s dangerous. Or maybe they know it’s dangerous but prefer to keep their enemies close.