Guest Speakers at Public High School Encourage Students to Turn to God Instead of Food

We already know Alcoholics Anonymous is notorious for pushing the idea of God in their Twelve Step program (though there are secular alternatives to AA). But they’re not the only ones.

Will at Godless Teens is a freshman at a public high school in Colorado and, yesterday, his health class played host to guest speakers from Overeaters Anonymous, who were there to talk about “how people will often overeat to deal with stress.”

Initially, that wasn’t a problem… until Will saw (and took a picture of) what they had written on the board before class:

It’s hard to make out, but those are their Twelve Steps. And seven of them deal directly with God:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  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.
  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.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  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.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Will writes about the real problem here:

Nothing — nothing — justifies the fact that this group came and proselytized to us. As somebody who suffers from mental illness and has a lot of friends (some of which are atheists) that also suffers from mental illness, this is disgusting, revolting, and absolutely insulting. It uses students like us in an attempt to turn us into proselytizing Christians.

I’ve suggested to Will that he should contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation or his state’s ACLU affiliate. But we should all learn a lesson from him — when he realized something shady was about to take place in the classroom, he documented it (with a picture). It’s not just his word against the teacher’s — it’s his word, with proof that the guest speakers were suggesting to the kids that, if they’re overeating, they should turn to God for guidance.

That’s a heads-up move from a young atheist and one other students would do well to imitate.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    If all theists would turn to God instead of food, most of the problems of the world would be gone in a few weeks.

    • Blacksheep

      Not a bad point actually…

      • flyb

        It means that if they all stop eating food then they would die. Dark, but funny.

        • flyb

          OOps, meant that reply for Art Vandelay….

    • Art_Vandelay

      I don’t get it.

      • TheG

        Theists turning to their god and not eating = no more theists by Tax Day… Memorial Day at the latest,if they are especially well stocked with adipose.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Oh my! That’s the only thing I could come up with as well but then BS thinking it was a good point threw me off. (I’m assuming BS is a theist)

          • Blacksheep

            yeah, I guess I was looking at his comment in totally the wrong way! :)

      • Blacksheep

        I took it as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on:

        - The fact that many Christians don’t follow their faith

        - The fact that the Bible Belt is also the belt with extra holes punched in it.

    • Chris B

      Sadly, I think your point hits far too close to home for many Africans who have been subjected to missionaries.

    • Randay

      I like steps #11 and #12. Whenever they think of food, they pray instead, which would lead to a lot of praying and finally to what you suggest. “to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Because of medical treatment, I often have trouble getting an erection. I wonder if this program would help even though I am single and it would be a sin.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    The program looks like a recipe for victim-hood: we are useless, hopeless, and powerless, and we give all of our own authority to another being (sight unseen).

    Meanwhile, if the plan is to lose weight, then at least we can agree on the caloric and nutritional value of their god…. ZERO.

    • Chris B

      Welcome to Christianity!

      • baal

        Bingo!

    • WoodyTanaka

      Quite the opposite. The program is really designed for people who, for whatever reason (be it brain chemistry or what) cannot deny the compulsion they feel to eat/drink/whatever in a manner that most people would view as crazy. This program, for those it helps, provides a way for them to achieve what they want but which they are not able to achieve on their own.

      • http://twitter.com/Don_Gwinn Don_Gwinn

        Do you have any good data showing that OA or the other 12-step programs are more effective than secular programs, or more effective than simply working on one’s own without joining any particular program?
        I ask mostly because the 12-Step programs themselves have no such data. Lots of reasons why it’s impossible to gather (some of them genuine obstacles, it must be admitted) but not the actual data.

        Anecdotally, I quit my OA group after 3 months (they tell you to give them 6 meetings, so I gave them 12) after realizing that I was binge-eating, gaining weight, and miserable in the bargain–and nobody else in that group was making any progress either, whether they’d been at it for a month or 20 years. It may work for some people, but it wasn’t working for anyone I met.

        My experience is that they’ll tell you whatever they have to about the religious requirements; they’ll tell you they’re full of atheists, but when I met the atheist members they always turned out to be theists. Their literature says that atheists are welcome, but only because atheists will soon have their eyes open and come to worship their Higher Power. They’ll tell you that a “Higher Power” doesn’t have to be supernatural or a god, that it can be anything from Yahweh to a doorknob to a golfer who’s got a lower handicap than you do–but they’ll still tell you that you can’t do anything unless you worship that doorknob or pray to that pro golfer.

        In short, my experience was that OA folks lied to me because they were convinced that their lies would save me.

        I left, stopped binge-eating on my own, joined a great gym, gave up sugar and starch, and have now lost 75 pounds and rehabilitated my joint injuries. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but in my case, the progress didn’t start until I accepted that OA was never going to work.

        • WoodyTanaka

          Don, I have no data. My guess is that you will never be able to get it based on how the organization is structured.

          And congrats for finding something that works for you and on your successes. Keep it up!

          My experience has been different. I tried the path you’re on without success but find that OA addresses some issues I’ve had that I haven’t been able to address in any other way. I’ve made it known that I’m an atheist and people have been very supportive with the issues around Higher Power, etc. I haven’t found the program to be atheist friendly, but more like atheist tolerant. (and I’m sure it’s in large part due to the area of the country. I’d imagine groups in the South are more hostile.) I figure out what works for me and so far it’s good.

    • http://twitter.com/Don_Gwinn Don_Gwinn

      That’s precisely the teaching. Accept that you are powerless, beg a Higher Power to do it for you.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Nah, the crackers and wine have to have some calories in them! Nutritional value, probably not so much though …

  • Blacksheep

    I’m confused about his “Proselytizing Christians” comment – the list looks like it goes out of the way to say “…God…as we understood him…”

    They mean whatever God means to an individual.

    AA is very clear that it’s a “higher power” that helps, not Jesus per se. From wikipedia:

    “In current twelve-step program usage a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, Nature,consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is “greater” than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring.”

    • tubi

      It’s begging the question. It assumes that everyone understands something to be “God” and will be able to submit to that understanding of Him (why capitalized, I wonder?). But the problem is, many people don’t have any understanding of anything that could be classified as “God.” It’s proselytizing by making that assumption and inherently casting anyone who doesn’t “understand God” as an outsider and, possibly, as beyond help.

      • Blacksheep

        My understanding of it – from what I’ve read and also anecdotally from acquaintences – is that 12 Step programs have learned over the years that the “Higher Power” part of the program is key to it working. I really think it’s more about that and less about “proselytizing,” a word that really means that you’re trying to convince or convert someone. I don’t think they want to strip the teeth out of something for the sake of pleasing people, I think their primary aim is for it to work.

        • TheG

          So, telling someone that they will continue to suffer unless they come to a god isn’t proselytizing? That was the OP point: “come to god or die” is a pretty strong endorsement of religion, even if it isn’t a particular religion that they are advocating.

          Oh, and it is a pretty dick thing to say to someone who has life-threatening problems already.

          • Blacksheep

            Not what I said. I know several people who have gone through twelve step programs. Only one is a Christian, a few are atheists. ALL of them relied on the “Higher Power” concept to succeed. It’s pretty known and accepted that this is an important part to AA and OA. And it works – I think it’s because God is there, the artheists felt it was a psychological construct. Either way, it helps addicts.
            (It’s also not “proselytizing.” to tell someone that part of THEIR process is to identify a higher power – and it can be whatever they want).

            • tubi

              In the example given in the OP, though, the steps as written out only refer to “God, as we understood Him.” Asking Him to “remove all our shortcomings.” Having “knowledge of His will.” That is very far removed from some nebulous concept of a “Higher Power.”

              I, personally, would be unable to participate in this OA program, because I would fail at Step 2. I don’t believe there is a Power greater than myself, and if I have issues with food (or alcohol, drugs, sex, etc), only I can fix me. With help from counselors, but not some “Higher Power.” In the steps shown, though, even if I somehow got past Step 2, I’d fail at 3, because I have no understanding of anything that could remotely, with the most fungible and expansive parameters, possibly be categorized as “God.”

              So this program is worthless to me, and while it might be very helpful to others, presenting in a public school setting is wholly inappropriate given its reliance on turning to God (not a Higher Power, but God, with a capital H).

              • WoodyTanaka

                This should not have been in the school for a number of reasons.

            • Danielle

              I grew up in AA. My parents have been in it most of my life, and one of the things the groups do is proselytize. They say it’s a family disease, and that you can’t live a full and happy life unless your entire family is in the program. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous exactly states that either you need AA to avoid an alcoholic death, or you are not a real alcoholic. In theory, the program is “spiritual” and not religious. In practice, all the hundreds of meetings I attended ended with the Lord’s Prayer, and worked hard to reach out to “newcomers” and the potential alcoholics or friends or family of alcoholics that weren’t in the program yet. I was sent to high schools like this one when I was a teen to hold exactly these types of presentations about Alateen for children of alcoholics. My job was to reach out, proselytize, and recruit more people.

              • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                AA totally fucked up my family. i have very strong negative feelings about it as a ‘program,’ and have a great deal of experience with it, Al-Anon, Alateen, the whole kit and kaboodle. it’s a fuzzy minded mostly religious guilt tripping mess of BS, imho.

                what really gets me is the number of AA and NA “graduates” i know who have basically replaced the “bad” substance (booze, crack) with a “good” one (Rx downer pills, pot) and call this ‘success.’ and i can’t stand the Al-Anon crowd of folks who have let that program convince them that everything and anything they feel is wrong in their lives is because of the alcoholic/user in it. talk about shifting blame and responsibility.

                the religious aspect of it is undeniable, and there’s a lot more to dislike about it as well, particularly the part about being a pathetic and powerless nothing who can’t ever be happy until after experiencing regular public shaming. it’s particularly disgusting that this religious organization preys upon the most vulnerable, those in need of real help and usually too desperate to afford the medical kind, being at the bottom of the barrel.

                if AA has worked for you, that’s great. but please don’t pretend it’s the best, or the only way to learn to control addictive behavior. every time i bring up this subject i feel compelled to stress: addiction is a medical issue, not a moral one. the day our society funds treatment centers all based on this fact is the day a much greater percentage of addicts can get the help they need.

                • Danielle

                  Yeah, it really messed up my life while I was in it, and I’m still not really speaking to a lot of my family because of it. What really scares me are the kids. I reached out to teenagers, who at least have more of a hope of not being indoctrinated, but I saw groups forming to teach this stuff to kids as young as 6 and 7. They had sponsors and worked the 12 steps just like their parents.

                  Another scary thing is that my mom, the “recovering” alcoholic works at an alcohol and drug treatment center today. Her job (funded by US taxpayers) is basically to get these people to AA meetings. In bad cases she can give them methedone or send them to inpatient care or halfway houses, but the long-term solution is to get them to go to AA or another 12-step program.

        • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

          First of all, you’re assuming it works at all, and while it’s really very /difficult to prove the benefit of a program where all participants are anonymous, most studies suggest it not only doesn’t work for well over half the people who attempt it, but it may actually make things worse.

          Second, at its core, AA and the 12-step programs it spawned, was NEVER created to cure alcoholism. It was created to bring the drunks on skid row to God. AA is an outgrowth of a The Oxford Group, a particularly nasty Christian movement from the early part of the 20th century. You can read about the history of AA here: http://www.morerevealed.com/mr/brief-aa-history.html .

          I want you to consider for a moment a program that asks you to complete a physically difficult thing, like a marathon or a century ride or climb up Denali, and as a first step instructs you to look at the task in front of you and admit that you can’t hack it. Excuse me? Every training program I have ever encountered says to look at the new challenge and say, “It’s going to be rough, but I am the measure of this, and if I keep my wits about me, focus, and keep going forward, I can do this.”

          • WoodyTanaka

            “I want you to consider for a moment a program that asks you to complete a physically difficult thing, like a marathon or a century ride or climb up Denali, and as a first step instructs you to look at the task in front of you and admit that you can’t hack it. Excuse me? Every training program I have ever encountered says to look at the new challenge and say, “It’s going to be rough, but I am the measure of this, and if I keep my wits about me, focus, and keep going forward, I can do this.””

            That simply demonstrates that you do not understand the program, what it is, what it is trying to accomplish and what people who benefit from it need and get from it.

            • TheBlackCat13

              “That simply demonstrates that you do not understand the program, what it is, what it is trying to accomplish and what people who benefit from it need and get from it.”

              Can you explain exactly what is wrong with it?

              • WoodyTanaka

                Because the people who try these programs have tried, without success, the kind of “trust yourself, you can do it” pep talks without success for years. The first step doesn’t say “you can’t hack it” it says “admit to yourself that you can’t do this thing as you are without changing the thing that’s caused you to fail again and again and again.”

                • TheBlackCat13

                  That is a total straw-man of Tycha said.

                  First, Tycha never said that a “pep talk” would work, only that telling people they can’t accomplish their goals is not a good way to start a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

                  Second, the first step, and the subsequent steps, most certainly do say “you can’t hack it”. If your statements are correct, then other steps, like step 3, lose all meaning. If someone is supposed to be changing themselves, then why do they need to hand all responsibility for their recovery to another power?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  And then later, they turn it around on you and tell you that it’s all your fault.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Not a strawman. He (and you) don’t understand the step. Because it doesn’t tell people they “can’t hack it” nor does it tell people they can’t accomplish their goals. It simply recognizes that there are some people for whom self reliance and reliance on their own “wits” as tycho stated, has proven again and again and again to be insufficient to overcome the compulsion. It is not saying the person has no hope and won’t accomplish their goals, it’s saying if you are a person who believes that no amount of his own effort will overcome the compulsion, here’s a program that might help. And incidentally, if you are a person for whom a pep talk will work, like tycho suggested, then the program probably isn’t for you and good luck with that pep talk program.

                  And the other steps don’t lose meaning. You simply don’t understand the first step and are building on that false belief.

                  We atheists are supposed to pride ourselves on reasoning and rationality yet you appear to be making some big assumptions and conclusions based on next to nothing, the mere summary of the steps. Believe what you want but I would think that it is more reasonable to actually listen to someone who has experience with the program, how it’s actually run, what it’s all about, what the steps mean and why they are the way the are over for someone to jump to conclusions based on their own biases and a speculation of what is meant by the word “powerless,” having gathered no information other than reading the steps a day ago. But whatever. Believe what you want.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Typical 12-Stepper. “You don’t UNDERSTAND the Program!”

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Typical self-centered jerk-off who can’t stand that someone, somewhere might have different ideas than they do. Grow the fuck up already.

            • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

              i understand the program quite well, thank you. and i think he gets it quite right.

              • WoodyTanaka

                Well, he doesn’t, but please feel free to believe whatever you want.

                • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                  Woody, you’re not the only one here to go to a meeting, or read the Big Book, or any of the rest of it. stop pretending like you are. maybe it worked for you, that’s great. but it doesn’t work for everyone, and in fact, may be more harmful to more people than it helps. like any other cult, it has serious flaws that prevent it from becoming a universal application and solution to individual problems with addiction.

                  science, on the other hand, has many solutions for addiction that do work. AA style programs are generally not compatible with that fact. this is what people like myself object to, as we advocate alternatives to this quasi-religious approach to the treatment of a medical disorder.

                  we don’t use leeches to cure ‘brain fever’ anymore either, just sayin.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  I’m not pretending I am. However, there are clearly people here who have not gone to a meeting or read the Big Book. Nor am I saying that the program works for everyone. In fact, I specifically said it didn’t and it’s not for everyone. If something else works for someone, great. I am happy for them. That doesn’t change the fact that 12 step programs do work for a lot of people.
                  I appreciate that you have had negative experiences and I am sorry that happened to you. My experience is different and I was sharing my experiences. I was not aware that there were a set of acceptable opinions to express among the freethinkers. Perhaps if you would provide me a list of acceptable things for me to think I won’t do it again.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  “Well, he doesn’t, but please feel free to believe whatever you want.”

                  Why is your experience with the program automatically more correct than theirs’? You just assert that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, despite the fact that a number of people who have at least as much experience with the program report the opposite of what you report.

                  You basically just assert “everyone but me is wrong, I have no evidence for this so everyone just has to take my word for it”. That is not a very convincing argument.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  “Well, he doesn’t, but please feel free to believe whatever you want.”

                  Why is your experience with the program automatically more correct than theirs’? You just assert that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, despite the fact that a number of people who have at least as much experience with the program report the opposite of what you report.

                  You basically just assert “everyone but me is wrong, I have no evidence for this so everyone just has to take my word for it”. That is not a very convincing argument.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Pretty much boils down to “AA works because the Blue Book says it does.”

                • WoodyTanaka

                  “Why is your experience with the program automatically more correct than theirs’?”

                  That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that tycho’s description of what the first step is all about is simply objectively wrong. What he’s describing is not what is promoted, and not what is in the literature and not how most of those who are in the program (in my experience, having discussed this issue with many of them) view “powerlessness.”

                  “That is not a very convincing argument.”

                  I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply sharing my knowledge and experience. Again, believe whatever you want. If you want to believe that clouds are made of cotton, I will disagree but if you want to continue to believe it, go right ahead.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “But the problem is, many people don’t have any understanding of anything that could be classified as “God.””

        It doesn’t have to be “god” or supernatural. It can be anything greater than one’s self. it can simply be a belief in the group and the program.

        “It’s proselytizing by making that assumption and inherently casting anyone who doesn’t “understand God” as an outsider and, possibly, as beyond help.”

        It’s been my experience that this is not true.

    • CultOfReason

      In current twelve-step program usage a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, Nature,consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is “greater” than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring.

      How can Nature or Science be “loving and caring”? Loving and caring are attributes we assign to living things (normally, with an intellect to understand what they mean). Seems a little deceptive if you ask me.

      • meekinheritance

        If I were to subscribe to their plan, I would use Humanity as my higher power. Yes, the loving and caring may not be omnipresent, but I believe it’s there.

      • WoodyTanaka

        It would be enough that the person who chose those things believed that they are.

        • CultOfReason

          Perhaps, but not everyone is capable or willing to subscribe to that line of thinking. If I believed that nature or science was a higher power that exhibited love and caring, then I would more likely be a pantheistic than an atheist.

          • WoodyTanaka

            That is true. The program may not be suitable for such a person.

    • Edmond

      If an atheist can do it, then no “higher power” is necessary.

      • WoodyTanaka

        I think you misunderstand (understandably) what is meant by that. It should be “external power” in my opinion, because it simply means that the person, with only his or her internal resources, is unable to conquer the compulsion. That applies to atheists who have the addictions, too.

        • Dezzydez

          Then the program needs to be rewritten to make that clear. It’s clear in this specific example that the program was religious and unacceptable for school.

          • WoodyTanaka

            I agree that it doesn’t belong in schools. I also agree that the program needs to be tailored to be more inclusive (in some ways the program is ossified with the social mores of the 1930s), but it’s probable unlikely as a practical matter given the decentralized nature of these organizations and the resistance of some members.

  • ggsillars

    FYI, there are secular meetings in AA for those who have trouble with “Bible thumpers.” There’s even a Facebook page called, “Agnostics and Atheists in AA.”

    • A3Kr0n

      Doesn’t help if they’re not in your town.

    • Blacksheep

      Interestingly there’s also a Christian version of AA called “Celebrate Recovery” – since many Christians don’t like the randomness of the “higher Power” concept.

      • ggsillars

        Some people just feel compelled to ram their own dogma down everyone else’s throat.

    • WoodyTanaka

      There is a great deal of conflict in these groups with regard to atheists and agnostics. The reality is that religious people do bring their religion into it and it is a “spiritual” program. But many atheists and agnostics find no trouble in stripping the religion off of it to get to simple human truths underlying the program.

  • Randomfactor

    Pretty standard “*.Anonymous” stuff. Just as disturbing is the fact that such programs (at least judging from AA) don’t work. The success rate is artificially inflated by simply not counting the failures.

    MY higher power is tetration.

    • alfaretta

      There is no claimed rate of success — that’s the thing about being anonymous — there are no official records.

      I have known atheist Anonymous members who have said that they and other atheists/agnostics use their group as their higher power — I don’t see how that works.

      If you google AA, you will find: “The origins of Alcoholics Anonymous can be traced to the Oxford Group, a religious movement popular in the United States and Europe in the early 20th century.” Critical discussions of the history of AA I’ve read have stated, IIRC, that the Oxford Group used steps like those of AA which had the effect of making members feel dependent (because you’re helpless, right?) on the Group and therefore on their idea of God.

      • Randomfactor

        Yet judges routinely sentence DUI offenders to a program for which there is no evidence of success over any other method.

        Some boosters have called the success rate “miraculous” (and you know what skeptics tend to think of “miracles”) but it apparently ALSO has a 40 percent dropout rate in the first year–which failures aren’t counted.

        • Art_Vandelay

          The actual success rate of 12 step programs is about 5%. This hasn’t changed at all over time. It’s actually lower than the rate at which addicts simply detox and recover on their own.

          • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

            I don’t know how that percentage was arrived at, but your second statement is probably correct simply because those who resort to 12-Step programs are a pre-selected group; they are the much tougher cases. Addicted people almost always try detoxing and recovering on their own first before trying any kind of organized recovery program. Those who still retain enough of their ability to resist the obsessive-compulsive nature of addiction will succeed, and those who are fully out of control will fail and then seek help from programs. So the various programs are working with the sub group of addicted people who are significantly less likely to recover regardless of what they do.

            • Art_Vandelay

              That’s a fair point but over time, there are many addicts who will remiss on their own. Most people will eventually chose sobriety as more pleasant alternative to death. Sure, it may take some time before this happens and in cases many years so if someone that will have recovered on their own in 10 years joins a 12 step program and recovers 8 years later, that will always be a success story of the program. In a lot of cases though, they are simply taking credit for the natural rate of remission.

              • WoodyTanaka

                “Most people will eventually chose sobriety as more pleasant alternative to death.”

                If it were simply a matter of choosing the more pleasant alternative, there would be no need for these groups. They are for people who wish to have the more pleasant alternative but are unable, through their own volition, to deny their compulsions.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  Oh man…I don’t think it’s simple at all. I have no doubt that it’s an absolutely brutal thing to go through and I have the utmost respect for anyone that overcomes it regardless of how they get there. You’re completely missing my point.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  I’m sorry if I misunderstood your point.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  Think about it in terms of prayer. Let’s say (hypothetically speaking of course because we know this would never happen in a nation with a secular government) that a state is suffering through a drought and the governor decides to hold a prayer rally to make it rain. Now, we have evidence that sometimes it just rains and can predict from that evidence that eventually it will rain again. So after the rally, the region proceeds to get overtaken by wildfires, but eventually it rains again. Sure, you can credit the prayers all you want but there’s no reasonable way to correlate the two.

                  We also have evidence that there are addicts that will eventually kick their habits without asking for intervention from a higher power. So after years of addiction, let’s say someone decides to get help and join a twelve step program. Now, they’ve already decided for themselves that they want to quit but even after joining the program, they suffer through another decade of battling the disease to no avail. Then one day, they eventually get there. Again, provided that there is a natural rate of remission, how can we logically attribute their success to the program?

                • WoodyTanaka

                  There is probably some of that, for sure. How much is anybody’s guess. These groups are not something that judge’s should be sending people to in any event. My approach is that it seems to work for some people and to them I hope it continues to work. For those for whom it doesn’t, I hope they can find something that does.

                • Danielle

                  I would have no problem with 12-step programs if it was only something that had a questionable success rate. The problem is that they proselytize. They convince addicts and the addicts’ families that they have a problem, and that they are the only solution.

                  A slogan I remember hearing over and over was “we are a program of attraction, not promotion.” That is bull. It’s bull because they sell you the problem before selling their solution. This is why I was told as a child that I was doomed to either be an alcoholic or marry one. That I needed to be in the program for the rest of my life to prevent a problem I may or may not develop in the future.

                  Here’s Dr. Silkworth, one of the co-founders of AA, explaining exactly why “attraction” is not a method of recruitment that works for AA:

                  “You’ve got to deflate these people first. So give them the medical business, and give it to them hard. Pour it right into them about the obsession that condemns them to drink and the physical sensitivity … that condemns them to go mad or die … Coming from another alcoholic … maybe that will crack those tough egos deep down. Only then can you begin to try out your other medicine, the ethical principles you have picked up from the Oxford Groups.”

                  As questionable as this is, I could almost say that’s OK if you’re trying to help that drunk or addict with no other option than destroying their life more. But it isn’t. Over time AA has spread not only to other types of addicts, but also to their spouses, their adult children, their friends, their teenage children, their young children… When does it become a bad thing? How many addicts does it have to save before it negates this wrong? This is where AA’s lack of success becomes a problem. If AA might not be doing better than nothing, then we need to stop them from indoctrinating people who are in the vulnerable situation of trying to recover or help a friend or family member recover from addiction.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Danielle,
                  I can’t speak to AA, because I don’t belong to that program. I haven’t experienced anything like what you are describing regarding OA, and that may be the differences in the effects of the additions on the families of the addicts and the fact that there are no similar programs like the family programs in OA.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            “It’s actually lower than the rate at which addicts simply detox and recover on their own.”

            This really needs to be emphasized. And publicized. Especially in the legal and judicial circles.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “I have known atheist Anonymous members who have said that they and other atheists/agnostics use their group as their higher power — I don’t see how that works.”

        It works because the person is someone who simply does not have the ability (be it physiological, psychological, whatever) to engage in sane eating behavior on the fly or in certain situations (stress, emotional detachment, etc), so they try to identify and correct those parts of their personalities that they believe are leading to those behaviors by relying on other people for advice, planning their eating, etc.

        • TheBlackCat13

          “It works because…”

          You still have not provided any evidence that it actually does work.

          • WoodyTanaka

            Nor will I. It’s a program of attraction, not promotion. I’ve met people who’ve been decades sober in their program. Would they have been sober following some other program? Who knows. The fact is that people do become sober in the program.

            • TheBlackCat13

              So in other words you don’t have any grounds for saying “it works”.

              • WoodyTanaka

                Except for the people for whom it has worked.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  Except you readily admit that you don’t know whether they would have turned sober anyway, so you don’t know whether the program really made things better for them or not. All you know is that some people got better while in the program, but you don’t know whether the program actually had any role in them getting better.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  “Except you readily admit that you don’t know whether they would have
                  turned sober anyway, so you don’t know whether the program really made
                  things better for them or not.”

                  No, I have to trust their word when they say that it was the program that got them sober. Perhaps every one of them is lying.

          • http://twitter.com/Don_Gwinn Don_Gwinn

            That’s true, but I do accept that some people find success in it. My in-laws met in AA and have been sober for years; I didn’t meet them until they’d both been sober for several years, and it’s been at least 15 years since then. They do AA the way God and Bill intended, full-on religiosity, and they’re sober and happy.

            I couldn’t make the idea of the group as my Higher Power work because after they tell you to do that, you move on to the next step, in which you have to pray (to the group) and beg (the group) to take away your afliction using its ominpotence. I couldn’t suspend disbelief well enough to pretend that this group of people could remove my “affliction” by sheer force of will somehow.

  • Rain

    They say that they are just “spiritual” but the masculine gender of their god and the capitalizations of its pronouns leads me to suspect they are evangelists lying through their teeth. (Please pardon the pun).

  • SeekerLancer

    Another scheme to get religion into schools under the radar with a seemingly non-religious organization or intent.

    We had some pretty zany speakers when I was in High School, some of them not-so-transparently religious and some of them so insane that the faculty apologized to us afterwards. Sometimes I wonder how often things like this happen in schools across the country that we never hear about because nobody speaks up about it.

    • wright1

      One social studies teacher (I think it was my Jr. year in HS) had a preacher come in and tell us with a straight face that all STDs were caused by bestiality. Fortunately the sex ed teacher heard about it and made sure to counter it with the facts. He never mentioned the first teacher by name, but he made it clear he didn’t approve of her BS.

  • Rain

    Why the past tense of the twelve steps? And who are “We”? Right off the bat we are presented with strange religious thingies that we don’t know what the hell they mean.

    • WoodyTanaka

      It started out as part of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” written by people who found sobriety in the program and is actually written to answer the question (paraphrasing) “what did you do to get and stay sober?” So it’s what a group of people answered, writing about what they did in the past. Hence the “we” and the past tense.

      • Rain

        Okay I guess they’re just mimicking AA. I didn’t realize both 12 steps are practically the same. It’s like Bette Midler’s cover of “Optimistic Voices”. Nobody knows what the hell she’s talking about unless they go and look at the original.

        • http://twitter.com/Don_Gwinn Don_Gwinn

          Yes, OA is explicitly modeled on AA, as are most (all?) 12-Step programs. They like to joke that when they have meetings near each other, it’s always a problem because the coffee and doughnuts at AA meetings cause trouble with the OA people.


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