The Shaky Science Behind the Pseudo-Faith That Is Alcoholics Anonymous

A very interesting article in the Atlantic shines the spotlight on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous – and more importantly, on AA’s dubious claims of efficacy. At about 7,500 words, Gabrielle Glaser‘s piece is thorough and serious-minded, and while I recommend reading it in full, I’m happy to provide a summary here in five easy pieces.

1. The beginning:

In 1934, just after Prohibition’s repeal, a failed stockbroker named Bill Wilson staggered into a Manhattan hospital. Wilson was known to drink two quarts of whiskey a day, a habit he’d attempted to kick many times. He was given the hallucinogen belladonna, an experimental treatment for addictions, and from his hospital bed he called out to God to loosen alcohol’s grip. He reported seeing a flash of light and feeling a serenity he had never before experienced. He quit booze for good. The next year, he co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous. He based its principles on the beliefs of the evangelical Oxford Group, which taught that people were sinners who, through confession and God’s help, could right their paths.

2. It spreads:

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For Inadvertently “Denigrating” Buddha, Three Men Each Get Two Years in a Burmese Prison

The New Zealand nightclub manager who made a promotional image of a Buddha wearing headphones (previous posts here and here) has been given a two-year term in a Burmese jail for his insolence. The same is true for his two Burmese colleagues.

Holy crap. Two years behind bars for a picture of Buddha with cans.

I guess a picture of Buddha on the can would’ve gotten them a death sentence.

A bar manager from New Zealand and two Burmese men were sentenced to two years in prison in Myanmar on Tuesday for posting an image online of the Buddha wearing headphones, an effort to promote an event. The court in Yangon said the image denigrated Buddhism and was a violation of Myanmar’s religion act, which prohibits insulting, damaging or destroying religion. “It is clear the act of the bar offended the majority religion in the country,” said the judge, U Ye Lwin.

The image was posted in December on the Facebook page of the VGastro bar and restaurant in Yangon. …

After an outcry from hard-line Buddhist groups, the police arrested the restaurant’s general manager, Philip Blackwood, 32, of New Zealand, along with the bar owner, U Tun Thurein, 40, and the manager, U Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26. The three have been held in Insein prison in Yangon.

Of course we can’t count on the Times to actually print or post it (shades of Charlie Hebdo?). So I will.

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No, Oklahoma Isn’t About To Forbid Atheists from Marrying

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the overturning of Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban in October, social conservatives in that state have been looking for new ways to sabotage equality. And you have to hand it to Oklahoma Rep. Todd Russ: this one is at least moderately creative.

Introduced by Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell), House Bill 1125 would end state-issued marriage licenses, while providing marriage certificates as an alternative. It passed through the Oklahoma state House by a 67-24 margin on March 10.

The bill would replace all references to marriages “licenses” in state law with “certificates.” The legislation would not invalidate any marriage licenses issued prior to the bill being passed.

So what does that do?

First let’s look at what it doesn’t do. Many media (the Independent, Metro, the Voice, Reddit, Progressive Secular Humanist) have reported that H.B. 1125 will prevent atheists from getting married.

But I read the bill, and that’s really not what you find when you get to the relevant part of it, section 7, which says

The preacher, minister, priest, rabbi, or ecclesiastical dignitary who is a resident of this state shall have filed, in the office of the court clerk of the county in which he or she resides, a copy of the credentials or authority from his or her church or synagogue authorizing him or her to solemnize marriages.

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Gunmen With Assault Rifles and Grenades Attack Museum in Tunisia, Hunt and Kill Tourists

In my best Reza Aslan voice: “They could be Baptists, or Buddhists, or atheists. We just don’t know.”

From the New York Times:

Gunmen in military uniforms attacked a museum in downtown Tunis around noon on Wednesday, killing 19 people, officials said. Security forces later advanced into the museum and killed two gunmen in a firefight, state television reported.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said at a news conference that the dead included 17 tourists and two Tunisians. Eight people were killed as they got off a bus to visit the museum, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman; 10 more were taken hostage and then killed.

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Daesh Defector Describes Drug Use, Rape Sessions With Non-Muslim Girls, and Serial Marriages For Muslim Ones

An ex-fighter for Daesh in Iraq opens up about the atrocities he was asked to commit to help establish the caliphate:

“The executions, or more horribly the beheadings, as well as the raping of the non-Muslim girls … These scenes terrified me,” [Hamza] told the British newspaper [the Independent]. “I imagined myself being caught up in these shootings, executions, beheadings and raping, if I stayed where I was.”

Being a member of the Islamic State was just too brutal for Hamza, who is from the Iraqi city of Fallujah. He originally became an ISIS fighter last year when he was attracted to the religious appeal and benefits.

He got out, he says when his tasks began to include executions. He wasn’t tempted by violent sex assaults either.

Hamza says another reason he defected was because he couldn’t stand by and watch as the sex-crazed extremists raped countless numbers of captured women.

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