Shooting sacred cows is not a habit, but lately I’m finding some things objectionable and I want to voice the discomfort that it causes me.
Shooting Sacred Cows?
One of my recent posts was about the harm that well intentioned but poorly based advice does, specifically when that advice suggests prayer as a course of action and no other.
Well, not without cause, I’ve had reason to study the 12 steps of AA program. I
Before I start this I’ll say that if AA or similar worked for you, congratulations. This is not about you, nor your recovery or in any way a statement about you or others who suffer. It must be said that critiquing medical procedures does not make any comment on the ill who received them.
These are the original twelve steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
This is irritating in a way that sand in your swim suit could never be. The very first step is to tell yourself and others that you are powerless, out of control, unable to manage your own life. It is a negative statement which has many repercussions over time. If you thought you were dependent on a ‘substance’ then just wait till you have told yourself this little diddy every day, every hour, for several years. Any lie can have the strength of truth if you just believe it.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The next self defeating step is to convince yourself that something else has the power that you do not have. I’m told that some are suggesting that your higher power might be nothing more than a jug of milk. Clearly a jug of milk has no power over your life and you actually do, certainly more than a jug of milk does. Aside from this misconception the word sanity is not really defined well here. The dictionary says: the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health. This reinforces the thought that your previous behavior was insane, not mentally sound. Generally, those with mental health issues are urged to seek proper counselling. If you are not lacking sanity repeating this to yourself daily will help convince you that you are not sane. Restore has the ring of cure to it but that is not what is meant – it actually means get you addicted to group therapy so that you feel comfortable pretending to be rational and normal.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Here it is, you can be ‘restored’ to rational thinking by believing in a myth. To get through the program you have to not only say you believe but dedicate yourself to believing it. Without that belief in a higher power with more power over your life than you have, you will presumably remain mentally ill. Let’s compare this to Abrahamic monotheism:
- You are born a sinner and will burn in hell if you do not believe in god.
- You believe that there is an afterlife and god might let you in.
- Dedicate yourself to following god’s rules for entrance to heaven.
Both are nearly identical. This is important to understand as we move on to the other steps.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
This is called being honest with yourself. The implication is that if you have been honest with yourself, you would not have succumb to reliance on substances. Think that through. Think about all those ‘personalities’ who went to rehab. Also note that one need not be honest with themselves to be completely sober, nor does being dishonest with yourself endanger you with addiction. They do seem to go hand in hand a lot.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This meant to keep you from going into denial about what you feel is morally wrong about yourself. Again, morality is not well defined but the program does call for belief in a magic being.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change. This step requires that you not only believe in a god, but that this god can cure your mental instability. This kind of wishful thinking is generally called prayer. There are many reasons that can be shown as to why prayer is simply not going to work – not with the logic of your ‘understanding’ of a god or higher power. Remember that milk jug? Read this next sentence a couple of times. You have to be entirely ready for a milk jug to make you mentally stable and remove all your character defects. Is that like being entirely ready for lunch? Is it like being entirely ready to retire?
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Whatever it means, the next step is to ask the milk jug to remove your mental instabilities and character defects. If you’re keeping score, 6 of the first 7 steps involve god or a milk jug… and the negative reinforcement of your mind/will to encourage you to believe that you are broken, worthless, incapable of doing good on your own. There is not one thing positive about all this so far other than being honest with yourself. Both monotheism and AA fail to positiviely support anything but themselves.
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.
Again, this is what most people call normal only you do it as you go along rather than save it up for a special time some years in the future. Step eight is one of those to-do lists you want to take care of before you get more than one item on the list… every time. Again, you don’t have to be a drunk or alcoholic to mess up this normal part of life. Some people are just ass-holes.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Here is some more normal stuff. At least this is my understanding of what normal people do. By normal I mean your average kind of person rather than some Miers Briggs score.
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.
For the big reveal we finally get there… pray and meditate, work to be closer to god and his plan because we are incapable of running our own lives. We ‘re broken and hopeless without someone imaginary to do what we cannot.
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.
What monotheistic religion is complete without proselytizing? Here it is then, stay in the group, preach, get converts.
If you were keeping count 8 of the 12 are all about brainwashing yourself into the cult and keeping you there under the guise of helping you be a better person. Ask yourself why they can’t help you be a better person by encouraging positive change with positive thinking? Why is the only redemption to come from an invisible person that is not you?
Both AA and monotheism are cults of a kind. Membership requires you do the psychological lobotomy on yourself. Once you’re a member it’s okay if you stumble through life but if you leave it means your imminent doom, and often enough leads to isolation from the group members.
Both cults have their own language to ‘assist’ which further isolates, as do their traditions and so forth. While you might argue with me that AA isn’t really like that I’ll ask again: why is the cure just negative reinforcement of negative self image, cult behavior, and belief in a magic invisible being to ‘cure’ you or make you whole?
AA has yet to be shown to be more efficacious than simply deciding you don’t want to get drunk anymore. Monotheism has most decidedly not shown that membership in the cult makes you moral or good. Both cults will forgive members who screw up as long as they stay in the cult and continue the traditions.
Yes, I do know there are some differences but the principles are similar enough to toss them both in the same trash can.
They both crush self esteem and inhibit personal growth outside of the cult by creating the idea that we are worthless.
Sure, I can hear someone asking ‘well, how would you do it different?’ but that is for another post.