AA members: "Religion Did Not work"

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Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#1 May 5, 2012
Over many, many years of AA involvement, recall hearing a very common saying in AA: "Religion did not work for me, only AA has kept me sober". In a room full of 35 people or so, a majority of heads would be nodding in agreement. I often agreed with that, but didn't bother to reflect I'd only been to church 2 or 3 times. Or that I was so high on marijuana the one time I went as a teenager, that the paranoia and anxiety attack I was experiencing in the pews kept me from hearing any of the sermon.

All I recalled was the countless times I'd come home alone drunk. I'd go to my bedroom, pray to God, and oftentimes cuss God out for not hearing my prayers...then pass out on my bed.

But in William James 'Varieties of Religious Experience', written in 1902--decades before AA--theer are numerous stories of individuals delivered from alcohol. James emphasized the surrender to god and deliverance was complete only when they were willing to give up alcohol entirely.

That's the basis of AA. Yet somehow it is commonly believed that it has something different or soemthing special that religion lacks. It doesn't--it simply moved away from the evangelicalism of the Oxford Group from which it began. But even in the Oxford Group(s) there were testimonials of people being delivered from alcohol, etc. So it really is not fundamentally different at all from religion--in fact it came from it. Only given a more pluralist context to be more inclusive.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#2 May 6, 2012
He hits on the reason behind my (and others) experiencing harm in AA:

"...The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion...."

No time to quote more of his comment regarding that--it's on pages 330-331. But here's AA:

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Bruce Deile

Seattle, WA

#3 May 6, 2012
More of the William James quote from pgs. 330-331 of 'Varieties of Religious Experience':

"...the spirit of corporate dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed-in theoretic system. The ecclesiastical spirit in general is the sum of these two spirits of dominion; and I beseech you never to confound the phenomena of mere tribal or corporate psychology which it presents with those manifestations of the purely interior life which are the exclusive object of our study. The baiting of Jews, the hunting of the Albigenses and Waldenses, the stoning of Quakers and ducking of Methodists, the murdering of Mormons and the massacring of Armenians, express much rather that aboriginal human neophobia, that pugnacity of which we all share the vestiges, and that inborn hatred of the alien and of eccentric and non-conforming men as aliens, than they express the positive piety of the various perpetrators. Piety is the mask, the inner force is tribal instinct...."

In AA, it's more often dogmatic pluralism that gets the non-conformist run out. AA's huge Convention in Seattle (1990)--the entire top floor of the Hilton hotel in which it was held (or was it the Sheraton?) was where the gay AA meetings were held. Showing the "corporate dominion" to be pluralist, not traditional religion.

So when I decided on going solely with my heterosexuality in 1996,(capable to do so since I was bi-sexual), the motivation was in large part due to traditional religious conformity. Consequently, after years of attending both gay and straight AA meetings, I was flagged as no longer welcome. Not much different than Chuck Mayer being run out of the (gay) meetings for insisting on speaking of his having AIDS.

I've been clean and sober since 7/18/85; homeless since 1998. It took two years to bring me down, and AA dogmatists, perhaps worse in a sense than religion since AA is a secret society, have kept me down and persecuted me ever since.

That behaviour is no different than that which can and does make religion so destructive.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#4 May 7, 2012
"aboriginal human neophobia": Chuck Mayer's experience of being harassed out of AA provides a better illustration than my experience does.

Speaking of his having AIDS in relation to his recovery from alcoholism was a new phenomenon. But the "neophobia" in AA would not allow for it, with a prominent (gay) old-timer citing the Twelve Traditions in preventing Chuck from sharing of having AIDS. The oldtimer prevailed; Chuck quit AA and died months later.

I was attending both gay and straight AA meetings then, as I'd done for many, many years, so was aware that situation involved the Traditions being misapplied, and was inconsistent. In the straight meetings, I'd heard a man share of having cancer in relation to his staying sober and that was not only allowed, but he received much love and support in response. Contrast that with Chuck Mayer's experience and you get an idea how harmful neophobia in AA can be.

The big difference, and what makes "corporate dominion" rejection even more harmful is that AA portends to be all-inclusive; touting unconditional love, etc., etc. Love and tolerance of others is the code of AA.

Not in my experience, and not in Chuck's either. How many others? And how many other people's lives are ruined when AA members conspire outside the meetings and deliberately cause socio-economic harm to the point of homelessness (and worse)?

Much of this I've posted before, but William James makes many good points and it's bringing all this up again.

One other thing--that was an International AA Conference held in Seattle in 1990. I attended it, and later wondered--after noticing the entire top floor of the Hilton Hotel that AA had rented out for the event consisted of gay AA meetings--why was AA segregated? Began then to question AA meetings classified "special interest (gay)", when there is nothing special interest about it. Gay people, or bi-sexual people, or whatever (etc., etc.) should be accepted and allowed to speak freely about their lives and recovery from alcoholism in regular meetings and not be segregated.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#5 May 7, 2012
Point here being, that it's easy to agree with William James about the destructive harm of church ecclesiastics. It's why I'm unable to attend church at all, and am thereby cut off from Christian fellowship. Those controlling the system harass me out of it. Ditto AA.

James specifies that as "corporate dominion". Reinhold Niebuhr also wrote about it, and explained how on an individual level there can be much acceptance, but as soon as group dynamics become involved tremendous harm occurs.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#6 May 7, 2012
Page 359 is excellent. James reiterates some of his thoughts from his famous essay 'The Moral Equivalent of War'. It's some of my favorite reading anywhere. Really enjoyed "The Moral Equivalent of War' as well--read it over ten years ago. I agree with much of it, yet also agree with Reinhold Niebuhr's writing in defense of the just war theory. With James, it brings to mind Rousseau's Theory of Natural Man--a paradoxical truism; seemingly impractical yet nonetheless true.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#7 May 8, 2012
Was thinking last year a comparative essay of Reinhold Niebuhr and MLK, Jr. would be interesting. Found MLK's essay 'The Ethical Dualism of Reinhold Neibuhr' but it was only a page and a half or so. Not nearly as in depth as hoped. But perhaps an even better comparison would be James with Neibuhr. Nothing specific came up in that regard on a search "william james reinhold niebuhr comparative essay", although there is much that refers to them both.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#8 May 8, 2012
Agreeing with much but not all in 'Varieties...'. A few things I seem to disagree with, but won't go into them now. Overall it's very interesting reading even though I'm going at a snails pace. Ordinarily would read a book of 500 pages in about 3-4 days, but unable to concentrate (due to chronic encephalopathy?) and am only able to get through little bits at a time. Just re-checked it out.

And the page 359 referred to above--meant to say his essay 'The Moral Equivalent of War' is some of my favorite reading. Page 359 touches on it some, but the essay itself is definitely worth reading. May re-read it again soon.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#9 May 15, 2012
Also, in 'The Essential Victor Hugo', the following is attributed to Hugo:

Pantheists believe all is God; I believe God is all.

--Just finished reading James''Varieties of Religious Experience". Enjoyed it very much. Wrote down numerous things about it, may comment here in future (except posts of mine keep disappearing so may give this forum up altogether).

My personal objective in re-reading it was in hope of triggering a surrender to God. My prayer/meditations w/God are in great need of improvement--have been for many a year (if not decades).

It hasn't triggered a surrender experience, but at least am noticing glimpse and snatches of God at times. That's a funny sounding way to put it, especially as lust of the flesh is an ongoing problem ("snatches"; lol).
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#10 May 15, 2012
Funny...searched the term since it goes clear back to junior high school--wondered if it was still in use:

Snatch, a slang term for the vagina

There's some irony and paradox for you.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#11 May 15, 2012
I'm trying to be funny about a serious topic again. But it's not very genuine humor unless and until there is surrender/deliverance from the self-will/sin. Otherwise it's humour of the sort employed by Dostoyevsky's Underground Man (in 'Notes From Underground').

Which came to mind again when reading 'Varieties..'.'Notes...' really is a great in depth view of the psychology involved in a man struggling with personal debauchery (the term used then). The difference in his account and those in 'Varieties...' is there is no surrender. There is:

1. An uneasiness

but no:

2. Its solution

'Varieties...' page 498
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#12 May 21, 2012
Those vitriolic thread topic titles appeared around the time this thread was most active. It must arouse prejudice in whoever is running this forum.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#13 May 29, 2012
Interestingly, on pluralism, Niebuhr cites Will Herberg's 'Protestant, Catholic, Jew' in pointing out:..."The peril of religious pluralism is that tolerance may induce the conviction that it is important to 'believe in something' though the content and object of the faith remains undefined."

Also,..."While religious pluralism is always in danger of degenerating into a consistent homogeneity on the lowest level of common belief or common sentiment, there can be no doubt about the advantages of pluralism on the religious level of a culture."...

Pgs. 62-63 'A Nation So Conceived'

And found this online--a Kirkus Reviews of Neibuhr essay 'Pious and Secular America' concludes:

..."In Christ, Dr. Niebuhr affirms repeatedly, is to be found that assurance of final forgiveness for the ineradicable evil in the human heart that can lift the self from despair to newness of life. This is the final answer to the mystery of human existence."

Brings to mind once again Dostoyevsky's 'Notes from Underground'...
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#14 May 29, 2012
Reinhold Niebuhr is the author of 'The Serenity Prayer' (prayed in unison by those in attendance to begin AA meeting).
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#15 May 29, 2012
Niebuhr's writings are rewarding though quite dry...here's some comic relief:

Connie Francis - Goldfinger (1965)

video by rockingoldies

Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#16 May 30, 2012
That quote from Kirkus Reviews of Neibuhr essay 'Pious and Secular America' puts AA's 3rd, 6 and 7 steps into an interesting perspective (particularly when Jesus Christ is never mentioned in AA's text (Big Book) outlining how to work the 12 steps):

..."In Christ, Dr. Niebuhr affirms repeatedly, is to be found that assurance of final forgiveness for the ineradicable evil in the human heart that can lift the self from despair to newness of life. This is the final answer to the mystery of human existence."
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#17 May 31, 2012
Reading Niebuhr's 'The Nature and Destiny of Man'--very, very interesting.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#18 Jun 6, 2012
Compiling notes while reading 'The Nature and Destiny of Man'; here's two:

"..the Christian answer to the problem of life is assumed in the discussion of the problem. In that sense our interpretation is, as every interpretation must be in the final analysis,'dogmatic' or confessional. Yet it is not purely dogmatic or confessional; ..." p.6

"In fact one can assert dogmatically..." p.16

Compare to William James quote concerning dogmatic theology.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#19 Jun 7, 2012
The ending of Chapter 2 ('The Nature and Destiny of Man') summarizes things really well. Very impressive--this may be the best book I've ever read. It's hard to know though as I don't have anything near a full comprehension of what's being read. But it definitely seems a classic worth attempting.
Bruce Deile

Everett, WA

#20 Jun 14, 2012
Figured out this is Volume 2 of 'The Nature and Destiny of Man'--V.1 wasn't on the shelf when I found this volume. Has to be the best book I've ever read. Most thought provoking.

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