Recently, I released a video titled, "Is AA(alcoholics Anonymous) a religion?" You can watch it HERE.
Now, I pose the question, Is alcoholics anonymous really a cult? What about narcotics anonymous or any of the anonymous' for that matter? (read to the end to get my opinion).
You've probably heard that AA is a cult, but we're going to take an objective look and find out what qualities of AA are like a cult and if AA isn't a cult, then what the heck is it?
I think the best way to tackle this question is to look at the qualities of a cult and see if AA has any of those qualities.
Spoiler alert! -- It has some of those qualities.
The first quality of a cult is having a questionable commitment to a leader. If you're familiar with alcoholics anonymous, you know that it was created by someone named Bill Wilson. Eventually, he brought along a friend named Dr. Bob, if you had to say someone was the leader of alcoholics anonymous, it would be Bill and Bob, for sure, but neither one of them is living now.
I'm not sure if you can have this undying allegiance to the leader if the leader's not alive anymore. Outside of that, alcoholics anonymous is run via volunteers. There is no one leader. There is a commitment to the ideas that Bill and Bob brought to the organization.
I would say that's true, but this undying loyalty, like a cult similar to David Koresh or someone like that, you don't see that in AA.
The second quality that cults have is that any type of questioning or doubt is strongly discouraged.
If you're questioning the ideas or have thoughts contrary to what the group believes in, you are likely to be punished. If that doesn't work, and those questions and disbeliefs continue, in many cults, you get ex-communicated(as in you're outside of the group). No one on the outs is allowed to have contact with you anymore. I admit that AA has strong beliefs about things, and they believe what they believe. I've known a few old-timers in AA that can be pretty inflexible about their ways. In general, you don't see this hardcore it's our way or the highway type of thing.
The third quality that cults have is the excessive practice of mind-altering activities like meditation, chanting, and speaking in tongues. Sometimes they even have their members engage in working-type sessions that last for so long they deprive you of sleep and food to the point that it can become debilitating.
It's one way of breaking down your thinking. It makes you more vulnerable to believing the things that the cult leader wants you to believe. In AA, they do have a way of saying and doing things. Sometimes they say things in unison, which can seem like chanting, but I would probably count that more like a tradition or ritual, which we're going to get to in just a second.
The next quality of a cult is that the leader dictates what the members do, how they think, how they should feel, who should marry, or where they should work. I have to say on this one, alcoholics anonymous doesn't meet that criteria.
The next quality of a cult is that the group has this elitist mentality.
"We are the only ones who know the truth, and if you're not part of the truth, you're not part of this enlightened group." This exalted status makes them feel like they're somehow better than the rest of the world. I guess maybe there's a tad bit of this in alcoholics anonymous.
For example, people that have worked the 12-steps that have found sobriety and recovery feel like, "We have the answer! We have the solution. If you're not following this solution, then you're probably not going to find recovery." There is a little bit of this attitude about the recovery process.
The next quality of a cult is that it usually has very polarizing beliefs like us versus them. Either you're on our side of the fence, or you're on that side of the fence. AA does have a little bit of this kind of thinking, like either you're an alcoholic or you're a normie. There's not a lot of in-between. Even to the point that people in alcoholics anonymous are like, "You're just a heavy drinker. You're not a real alcoholic."
I think there is maybe a little bit of that.
The next quality of a cult is that the leader feels that they shouldn't be held accountable to authority figures like the military, police, priest, or other religious figures in a cult. The leader feels like they are above it all. They have no one to answer.
Do you think alcoholics anonymous meets these criteria? What do you think?
Another quality of cults is the leadership uses peer pressure to make people feel. Guilty and shameful. Now, when it comes to the ends justify the means, I don't think AA teaches this. I believe AA goes against this. Alcoholics' anonymous teachings are about-- how to be a better person and interact with other human beings in a more integrity-type way.
Another quality of cults is that subservience to the group requires that you cut ties with everyone outside of the group. Cults don't want any other influence because they're trying to control the mind and thinking of the person in the group.
What do you think? Is alcoholics anonymous, a cult or not? The biggest factor that makes alcoholics anonymous NOT a cult, is the fact that you can come and go as you please. There's no pressure or threat that if you leave, you can leave. You can come back as many times as you want. The saying is, keep coming back if it works.
Other videos related to addiction: