Alcoholics Anonymous
Is Not A Religion
Kay F. Gibbs

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kay F Gibbs"
Subject: Alcoholics Anonymous is a Religion
Date: Sunday, October 08, 2000 2:33 PM

AA is a faith-healing religion and a coercive religious cult. Not only that, AA doesn't work for the vast majority of those who try it.

(Although I avoid using the word cult as much as possible, I will use the term here as it is used by most of the people who do use it: according to these definitions, AA fits almost every criterion I have ever heard for what constitutes a cult.)

New York State's highest court, on June 11, 1996, ruled that Alcoholics Anonymous "engages in religious activity and religious proselytization" in the case Griffin v. Coughlin. "A fair reading of the fundamental AA doctrinal writings discloses that their dominant theme is unequivocally religious," the court said. "Adherence to the AA fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization."
http://www.positiveatheism.org/rw/nycase.htm

AA is not only a religion, it is a religious cult by ever definition of the word. I wrote the original outline for Jack Trimpey's classic article on the subject: "Alcoholics Anonymous: Of Course it's a Cult!" The outline was based upon the 17 criteria for a religious cult laid out in (charter Positive Atheism subscriber) Chaz Bufe's book, Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Though Bufe concluded "neither," I concluded differently when taking into consideration the coercion brought on through institutionalized AA. If all we had were regular AA, I would agree with Bufe (as this, I think, is what Bufe had in mind). However, my involvement was not with regular AA but through a court order. It was this court order to undergo religious instruction and participate in religious ritual that turned AA into a cult.

If AA would stop signing those court attendance slips, I would respect AA as a private organization. But until they issue a recommendation to the groups to refuse to sign the slips, AA is culpable in the government and industry institutionalization of its own program, and subjects itself to being deemed a coercive religious cult with a captive audience of impaired people -- a faith-healing religion that doesn't work for over 95 percent of the people who try it (according to AA's own Triennial Surveys).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kay F Gibbs"
Subject: Alcoholics Anonymous is a Religion
Date: Monday, October 09, 2000 11:10 AM

First, please turn off the Return Receipt function when sending e-mail to us. We get over 100 e-mails a day, and getting rid of the (just clicking on them) gets real old real fast. So, we will be asking people who do this to please stop, and then will begin ignoring letters from those who have been asked but choose to continue.

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I don't care about hippies and yuppies practicing religion in the privacy of their own group. This is not what I'm after. I have no problem with people gathering to practice religion.

Where I draw the line is when the government forces people to practice religion -- either willingly or unwillingly. If you had read my previous letter, you would have seen this very clearly, as I have been honing my presentation of this opinion for twelve years and one month now.

I also get a little bugged when people insist that AA is not a religion when we all know damn well that it is a religion. I do not care for that level of dishonesty which will call a thing what it is not in order to bring credibility to that thing. I particularly despise when people say that AA is not a religion because the stakes are so high in this game that they choose to play. If it were a matter of even being allowed to exist (for example, in Russia) then I could see mincing your words and coming up with a concept to substitute for "religion." But, in the case here, we are talking about AA using the government as its recruting arm and getting away with it because "were not religious, we're spiritual" or worse, "we're not a religion, we're a self-help group."

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kay F Gibbs"
Subject: Alcoholics Anonymous is a Religion
Date: Monday, October 09, 2000 11:11 AM

Of course she had the answers for you. Her answer was that you needed to be in therapy.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Kay F Gibbs"
Subject: Alcoholics Anonymous is a Religion
Date: Monday, October 09, 2000 7:43 PM

For you to judge AA as "not religious" based upon your limited experience is the fallacy called "Statistics of Small Numbers." I will not honor your attempt to write here and portray AA as "not religious" based upon such a limited perspective because my failure to point out your doing this would show a lack of candor on your part.

I would wager that my experience is much broader: I have worked directly with thousands of people in person and perhaps as many as ten thousand over the telephone and the Internet, and their most common reason for calling me was because they saw AA as being religious. But, even my slightly less limited experience does not hold a candle to that of the New York high court (which came up with a legal description of AA's religiosity) and the United States Supreme Court (which, after reviewing the findings of the New York court, refused to contradict it).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "kayfgibbs"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section "Alcoholics Anonymous is a Religion"
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000 4:58 PM

Yes, tens of thousands is, I fear, way too low a figure when describing people who have directly encountered my views. I looked up the statistics for my "Recovery Watch" section, and this section has been hit 470 times since the first of the month (10 days). Word gets out. Add to this years of meetings, years of lectures, years of staffing hotlines, and years on the Internet and on the boards at AOL and elsewhere (and hanging in bars, for gaud sakes), plus private and posted e-mail dialogues.

I've been at this for twelve years, now, without a vacation, and you have the audacity to make a remark like that!

Thus, we have placed a filter on our account which will any move any further e-mail from your account into our "Abuse" folder, which we monitor periodically. We do not tolerate falsehood and false accusations, especially when made for the purpose of casting doubt upon a specific philosophical position (the ad hominem). Tarnish my credibility just to cast doubt on a philosophy held by thousands? Nope! Especially not when the numbers I gave you were deliberately low.

But, this is common, especially from the Twelve Step camp, which is singularly the most vicious and untruthful group of people who have written specifically to this forum, even more so than those who are Christian but not Twelve Steppers. You can see this easily by browsing through our Letters section: all the Twelve Step pieces are conspicuously marked as such in the Index.

Have a nice life. As far as we can tell, it's the only one we get.

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"With this recognition of the finality of death, no one should willingly withhold acts that would bring benefits, joy or happiness to others."
     -- Joseph Lewis, from "An Atheist Manifesto."

 

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Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.