God is not the solution to eating disorders.

Will of Godless Teens had a group come into his school to talk about overeating disorders.  Awesome!  The later high school years are when a lot of eating disorders pop up.

However, like charity often works with the Catholic church, combating real problems, in this case, was an excuse to talk about god.  The group that came in was Overeaters Anonymous, and look at their steps:

  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.

This is 100%, unquestionably illegal.  And Will did the right thing: he documented it.  If a public school teacher is proselytizing or teaching creationism, whip out your cell phone and record it before you say a word.  Getting evidence is crucial.  Now Will can (and should) send this off to the FFRF, who will use it to make the fear of god sound like a whimper for whatever administrator failed to do their homework by checking the group’s website (or, worse, checked the website and allowed them to come anyway).

And I love this bit from OA’s website:

OA is not affiliated with any public or private organization, political movement, ideology or religious doctrine; we take no position on outside issues.

Sorry, I said “love” when I meant “loathe”.  This idea that people’s lack of belief in god could somehow be responsible for their overeating is insulting, and it certainly places you firmly in the camp of pro-religion.  You may not be affiliated with a particular religion, but you’re damn sure affiliated against non-belief.

What’s more, there is a way to make life better for people with eating disorders.  You shouldn’t beg god to help you, you should ask the experts in modern medicine and psychology.  If you have a mental illness, the solution is not to plop your ass in a pew and fork over 10% of your income to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about psychology and who does not, at all, have the ear of god.  If a person spent money on a big cross for their church before spending a penny on a psychology course, they’re not equipped to help you.

Christ, religion disgusts me.  It’s all about finding people at their weakest, so they are more likely to make bad decisions.  It’s about promising them a quick and easy solution to their troubles, even if it delays or keeps someone from getting to a doctor for help.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Ah. I see. Just believe in god, and pray, and he’ll fix you.

    If you don’t get fixed, well…. that isn’t because of our failure to actually help, but rather you just don’t love Jesus enough. Why don’t you love Jesus? He’ll help if you let him.

    Coincidentally, I need 10% of your shit. For god.

  • John Jones

    Saying that though, I know from experience that it can be possible to tackle a long term problem by sitting quietly and offering a blessing to oneself, whether through a deity or not.

    • Glodson

      And going into a school and telling kids with a psychological disorder that god can fix it, and that it stems from not understanding god, is vile. It is a form of psychological extortion, a false promise and a blatant attempt to proselytize.

      It is both illegal and immoral. This isn’t help. This is a con.

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

        Worse. All the “Anonymous” groups (OA, NA, AA, etc) are not only religiously based (and this is documented in AA’s Big Blue Book), they’re a direct offshoot of Bill Wilson’s Oxford Group, a highly religious organization. In short, these groups are cults.

    • baal

      Single individuals can be amazing. For most folks, accredited university trained board certified help (and maybe psycho-pharmaceuticals) is needed or reduces the amount or duration of pain involved.

  • Mina

    That’s a typical re-write of the standard AA 12 step formula. And it’s why I can’t abide 12 steps… There are some seriously valuable things in the meeting/support group formula, but handing things over to a higher power, even if you only think it’s the collected good of the world, isn’t one of them.

    I infinitely prefer these versions: http://www.sossobriety.org/12steps.htm

  • smrnda

    Eating disorders should be treated by psychologists using the best treatments. Last I read cognitive behavior therapy was shown to be helpful with eating disorders, but that’s outside of my area in psychology.

    To me, the problem with the whole 12 steps deal is that it’s taking a psychological and possibly a physical problem, and deciding that it’s a ‘spiritual’ problem. I don’t see how the steps even address the issues at hand, but they probably work to get people sitting around talking about Higher Powers. Something that makes me think 12 step programs don’t work is that they’re exactly the same steps for every problem – alcoholism is not an eating disorder and you can’t deal with them the same way.

    A problem too many religious people have is to believe that if you thrown in a ‘god as you understand him’ that somehow it’s no longer sectarian but that only seems true if you’re a member of one of the Big Monotheisms who disregards the existence of all other religions and atheists. “God as you understand him” is already pretty clearly a Christian way of referring to god.

    • Loqi

      To me, the problem with the whole 12 steps deal is that it’s taking a psychological and possibly a physical problem, and deciding that it’s a ‘spiritual’ problem.

      Not just a spiritual problem, but a moral one as well. Four through nine make it sound like you went on crime spree while hopped up on calories. An eating disorder is not some kind of moral failing. Unless you broke into my house and emptied my refridgerator, you don’t need to apologize to me for overeating (even then, you’re really apologizing for breaking in…and maybe not washing your dishes afterward).

  • Loqi

    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.

    Anyone else wondering if these were written by Lois Griffin’s brother?

  • Bob Jase

    Considering the crap served for communion and at church socials, religious organizations have no right to pretend they promote good nutrition.

    • Loqi

      That makes me wonder…is there a low carb or vitamin-fortified version of Jesus? Organic Jesus? I suppose vegan Jesus is out of the question…

      • Glodson

        The whole transubstantiation thing does kill Vegan Jesus.

        Maybe some low-sodium Jesus would be helpful.

      • MikeyM

        Oddly enough, the Roman Catholic Church forbids the use of gluten free wafers, even for communicants who suffer from celiac disease.

        • Glodson

          That feeling they get in their stomachs? Jesus. They are blessed.

        • Michael Busch

          That varies on a diocese-to-diocese basis. but it is certainly incredibly wrong in those dioceses that have declared that wheat is required for consecration.

  • John Jones

    “Psychological” “disorders” are not just myths, but senseless. No-one knows what they mean by either of these words. They are our culture’s blindest spot, yet calmly offered up as rational alternatives.

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

      Oh lucky day, a reason to pull out my old debate files! That was the topic my senior year (increase mental health care in the US) and one of the common Neg arguments was that mental illness wasn’t a real thing. Of course, no one actually believed it; they were just playing the game. But still.

      Psychological disorders exist. A lot of them have organic markers in the brain; ie, on MRI, the brains of people with certain mental illnesses function differently. People with certain mental illnesses have altered brain chemistry- high or low levels of chemicals like dopamine or seratonin. Illnesses with a marked physical component, such as eating disorders, are complex in how the brain affects the body and the body affects the brain. Starvation sets up a cascade of brain chemicals that interferes with normal brain function, on top of the fact that many anorexics are depressed before they become anorexic. The pain/reward cycle of overeating can be addictive in its own right.

      How do we know this? Well, we asked people who suffer from these illnesses how they felt and tallied the answers. We did studies of brains and brain chemistry, comparing the brains of mentally well people with those of people with mental illnesses. We found that the same types of differences correlated very strongly with the same types of mental illnesses. For example, low dopamine levels happened in depressed people, but not in non-depressed people. When we raised depressed people’s dopamine levels to “normal” levels, the depressed people often felt better. This is how science works.

      What’s your alternate suggestion? Demons? Personal weakness (and fuck you if that’s your answer, btw)? A post-modern critique of the idea of “normal”?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      The existence of psychiatrists and psychologists, along with a whole discipline of science behind them, is a real mystery then, ain’t it?

    • Loqi

      I happen to know what both of those words mean, actually. Apparently I possess some kind of unique and important knowledge. I wonder if I can copyright it…

    • Glodson

      “Divine” “revelations” are not just myths, but senseless. No-one knows what they mean by either of these words. They are our culture’s blindest spot, yet calmly offered up as rational alternatives.

      • Nate Frein

        I strongly support this message.

        • Glodson

          And it has the added bonus of being factually correct, rather than steaming bullshit.

          Cause, it isn’t like we have well known and well documented evidence in support of psychology, supported by our understanding of brain chemistry, which is adjusted as we better understand human behaviors and how the brain works.

          Or we can take the word of a bunch of scriptures written by desert nomads thousands of years ago full of lies and misinformation, and interpreted by a bunch of men operating under epistemic closure.

          Tough call.

    • AmyC

      Thanks to everybody else who gave a well-reasoned and thoughtful response, but all I can say this asshole is: fuck off

      • http://www.godlessteens.com Godless Teen

        I think, in this scenario, the response is well-deserved.

        • Glodson

          His first reply was meaningless. But this one was vile ignorance. So, I agree that a hearty fuck off was in order.

    • Michael Busch

      I join everyone else in calling out your nonsense.

      Psychological disorders/mental illness cover a very wide range of problems, each of which has specific symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and indicated treatment. Pretending that those problems do not exist contributes the the stigmatization of mental illness, which has contributed to far too many people I have known not seeking help when they needed it.

      Cut out the bullshit.

  • smrnda

    This guy (John Jones) has subverted discussions into anti-psychiatry on other blogs here. He did this on hallq. I’m not sure what the deal is with this guy.

    To people who say that ‘psychological disorder’ is a meaningless term, I’d suggest you read the DSM. Within the DSM, you will find very detailed and specific lists of symptoms for different disorders. We know what we mean by ‘bipolar disorder’ or ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ or any other things by looking at symptoms.

    Beyond that, we have evidence that medication often works to solve these problems. We also have no reason to believe that the brain itself cannot malfunction. Lots of organs end up not working right because they are complicated systems. The brain is no different. We’ve found medication can actually fix a lot of symptoms. Even if we aren’t totally sure of how the brain works in all cases, are knowledge is getting better all the time.

    • ecolt

      So he goes around saying psychology on other blogs? Anyone else think maybe he believes in e-meters and thetans instead?

      Just saying…

      In all seriousness, though, my response to this tool would be the same as that I’ve given to people who face-to-face have told me they think eating disorders are imaginary:
      Really? Have you had one? Because I have and I can tell you without a doubt that there is something fucked up with my head.

  • Mark

    I know former alcoholics who have completely turned their lives around on very similar twelve steps.

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Seems more like five steps, plus a sales pitch for a religion. Selling a holiday villa time-share to a recovering alcoholic as part of their “treatment” is unethical, but selling a religion to a recovering alcoholic is apparently A-OKAY, after all they’re only expected to tithe 10% of their income forever.

    • Nate Frein

      First, eating disorders |= alcoholism.

      Second, AA is getting a lot of criticism for it’s slavish devotion to a spiritual “higher power”. Hemant Mehta has done a couple of posts recently pointing out the flaws in the twelve step programs and the comments are full of further anecdotal evidence that points to the harm that spiritual twelve step programs can cause.

    • Loqi

      1. Heat pan on stove at medium heat
      2. Crack eggs into pan
      3. Flip eggs when whites become solid enough
      4. After 1 minute, remove eggs from heat and serve

      I know people have made over-easy eggs that were completely life changed with these steps. It should cure eating disorders then, right?

      • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        Needs more God. About 8 additional steps all about God should improve that no end.

        • Loqi

          1. Heat god on stove at medium heat

      • Loqi

        You’ll be happy to know that I slightly overcooked my eggs because I didn’t type my steps hastily enough (yet still managed typos…). I hope you’re happy with yourself, Mark.

    • Kodie

      12-step programs do not have a higher rated of recovery than any other method of curbing an addiction, one simply has the best PR. People will quit if they quit and not if they don’t, meetings or not. I am not even sure overeating is anything like alcoholism to apply the well-known alcoholism program to it to any positive effect. You basically take something with the widest renown, assume it’s the most effective, and then randomly apply it to everything else – doesn’t seem like the best or most appropriate idea anyone ever had, especially, since I said, if people want to quit drinking they do. AA is not the only way known to curb alcohol addiction – it is said “it works if you work it” and then the 95% of people on whom it doesn’t work, does not imply that nothing will and they have rejected their only hope (that’s what they want you to think, though, as well as the courts who sentence people to mandatory meetings). It probably does work for the people who religiously attend meetings, emphasis on “religiously”. It doesn’t work for most people, which mathematically means more people get clean out of AA than in it. If their whole lives were changed as a result of seeking help at a 12-step program, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

    • ecolt

      I know plenty who have gone through AA, too. And I know a lot who have used other methods.

      As others have pointed out, the recovery rate for AA is no higher than any other method. I think the major thing is that people with any kind of addiction have to make the real choice to get clean or no program is going to work. It isn’t god or the number of steps that makes people get clean, it’s a combination of will-power and a support network. Professional psychiatric attention can certainly help, but I think the success that some people have with AA and other 12-step programs is more a testament to their real desire to change than anything else. In fact, I know people who found AA didn’t work for them in large part because the reliance on a higher power absolved them of personal ownership of their choices and made them feel as though it was out of their hands if they relapsed or not. Most people I know who have gone through AA have not succeeded on the first (or second, or even third) attempt, and most have severed ties with their groups at some point because the AA mentality has proven detrimental to their lives after the initial struggles of early recovery.

      AA has helped a lot of people, sure. But so have a lot of other programs that don’t emphasize god and the absolution of personal responsibility.