The AA Creed of Powerlessness or Spiritual Fascism

When I began attending AA meetings I was led to believe that AA was a source of mutual support and encouragement for people who had been addicted to alcohol and shared a common goal of abstinence.  I hoped we could help one another rebuild self-esteem shattered by years of destructive drinking.
I was disappointed to find instead that there was a pervasive emphasis on individual powerlessness, not only with regard to alcohol, but in all areas of life.  Fatalistic defeatism seemed to be an article of faith to AA members. It was expressed in stock sayings, which were repeated at meetings like mantras:
“I’m powerless over people, places and things”
and
” I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking I can run my own life”
were just two of these sayings thatI heard counless times.
It was evident that those voicing these self-sabotaging sentiments were repeating some kind of received wisdom. Their source became clear over time.  They derived from AA literature, and in particular from the writings of AA’s co-founder “Bill W”.
I tried hard to ignore these disempowering messages and only listen to the minority of people who honestly expressed their own thoughts and feelings in their own words.  In practice, however, the format and tone of the meetings paid such reverence to the morbidly sanctimonious writings of Bill W that those who did not parrot his words were forced into the position of AA heretics, who were at best barely tolerated, and were commonly treated with overt condescension and contempt.
I later discovered that this creed of powerlessness, as I call it, was derived from a now forgotten religious movement in which the founders of AA were involved.  It was  started early in the twentieth century by the Rev Frank N D Buchman, and over time went under the different names of “First Century Christian Fellowship”, “The Oxford Group Movement” and “Moral Rearmament”.  Buchman aroused hostility amongst leading Christians who considered his ideas heretical and occultist.  He also became notorious for his far right-wing sympathies, and especially his widely publicised praise of Adolf Hitler in a newspaper interview.  Nowhere in AA’s main text, “Alcoholics Anonymous” or “The Big Book”, is this debt to Buchman acknowledged, probably because of his notoriety.
A creed of individual powerlessness has obvious attractions for those drawn towards fascist ideas, and it certainly gained Buchman plenty of financial support from weathy businessmen of extreme right-wing political persusion, who welcomed the preaching of a “spiritual” message which told the underdog he must not question his place in the world.
However, the implications of this creed of powerlessness have wider and graver implications than those of narrow class politics. If this ideology had gained universal acceptance historically (as Buchman insisted it must) then it would have prevented all advances in human freedom, including the abolition of slavery and child labour and the emancipation of women.
When applied to people already suffering from damaged self-esteem and psychological problems, it imposes a particularly insidious kind of learnt helplessness.  When framed as a “spiritual” solution to a potentially life-threatening problem such as addiction, it constitutes a form of oppression and disempowerment which I think is best described as spiritual fascism.


  1. ahenobarbus458

    Yes.
    The doctrine of powerlessness serves the interests of AA. As a practical matter, power is transferred to AA. Thus, Qui bono?

    Powerlessness puts the newcomer in the ‘one down’ position.

  2. sherwoode

    I was involved in aa for many years.The damage to one’s belief in oneself far out-weighed any advantages.The doctrine of powerless is very damaging.I watched people get sicker and sicker the longer they stayed in aa.There was rampant sexual and financial exploitation.Yes it’s true that if you don’t go along with the party line most members just drop any so-called friendship.For most the meetings became an addiction and escape from life.I remain sober for many many years and am finally free from aa and so many limited and unhealthy beliefs.I believe aa is a cult and do not suggest it to anyone.Sherwoode

  3. andymar

    Thanks for that response, Sherwoode. And congratulations on staying sober without subjugating yourself to the creeds and dogmas of steppism

  4. astrobluetooth

    I said somethin in AA once and someone aid to me “stop arguing, it sounds like you are trying to take your will back!” I didnt think they would say something as blatent in the Moonies!

  5. sherwoode

    Oh Yes you’re expected to turn will over to God ,over to your sponsor and ultimately over to aa.Your primary purpose becomes all about aa.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


  • Escaping from The AA CULT!..pass it it on!

    After joining AA when I WAS 19 i felt I would die a member of AA..im now so gratefull i will not!..im 45 now and a very happy x member of AA..the mind set of the members were the same where ever I went from the middle east to the south Pacific.. YOU ARE A LOSER IF YOU DRINK..OR YOU ARE NOT A REAL ALCOHOLIC IF YOU DRINK AGAIN AND ENJOY A LIFE!…When i was going on 20 years of not drinking I so wanted to drink just so i wouldnt feel like a loser having to say i was in AA for 20 years!! im just so thrilled at being able to a drink or leave it…wish i had done this after 5 years in AA as the big book should have recommended. This is the first time i have come accross such an excellent web site to help people that did get caught in the AA CULT…though I have met many people enjoying a full life after escaping from The AA CULT!..pass it it on!
  • I found this link from the boards of IMDb for the movie 28 DAYS.

    I’m an addict to alcohol and am leaving next week for rehab. I rebuked all “Hot Line” help that pushed centers that either were AA oriented or a psych ward! My reason, which I was eventually shunned by them, was the religious and cult aura of AA. It just wouldn’t work for me. It was kind of funny when I told some operators on the hot-lines that I found a place that wasn’t AA, 12 step, and religious, that I should attend a meeting of AA when I finish my six weeks. No “I’m glad you found a place” or “Good luck”. I guess I’m not in the club.
  • Comment of the Week



    In desperation, I had decided to give aa another shot, not believing that there was any other way. I was greeted warmly into the “fellowship”, which meant a lot to me, (as most people don’t care much for ex-hookers and aren’t comfortable with the knowledge that I may have blown their husbands). Immediately, I began to feel uncomfortable with the dirge-like use of cliches that were supposed to explain everything. Outside of these cliches, there were no answers. When I expressed concern, as an atheist, about turning my life over to a higher power that I did not have, I was directed to “stay open minded”, believe in a different god other than the god of the bible, or to read the chapter on the agnostic. My lack of belief means as much to me as the beliefs of a devout follower of jesus or mohammed and I had, nor have no wish to change. somehow, my position was not respected and I became an outcast, yet again. Now, as I attend the meetings I am forced to by my (aa based) program, I watch these people in wonder. I truly believe that the program is a cult and it’s only success comes from the new high and exhultation one recieves from belief. Count me out. From the Chieftest of Sinners
  • Recent Comments

    ahenobarbus458 on Some Thoughts on Wilson’…
    ahenobarbus458 on Escape from AA
    Chaz on Escape from AA
    baneberry7 on Escape from AA
    Chaz on Escape from AA
  • Recent Posts

  • Meta

  • Blog Stats

    • 61,757 hits
  • About True Tales From AA

    Once upon a time I used to spend a lot of time getting very, very drunk. I wasn’t pleased with myself for getting drunk so much but I couldn’t stop. Someone then told me I was an ‘alcoholic’ and that the only way I could stop drinking was to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

    So I joined AA and spent a lot of time in church basements drinking powdered coffee and eating cheap biscuits trying to get rid of the ‘defects’ in my character, the defects that AA told me would keep me in the mess I was in.

    In AA I was introduced me to many concepts, and many ’suggestions’ were made to me. The concepts that I was supposed to work the hardest at were surrendering myself to a ‘Higher Power’ which would ‘awake’ me spiritually and in the meantime, while waiting for that Higher Power (or GOD) to take over, I should pray and pray and pray to get rid of those defects.

    Because, they said, if I didn’t get rid of those pesky defects I’d drink again and die.

    That was lie number One.

    This site is for people who didn’t have such a good time in AA or don’t believe any longer what AA told them. If attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous has been suggested to you as a possible treatment for a drinking problem, then only you’ll be able to decide whether meetings might help you.

    I, like many, many others have decided the meetings no longer help me.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers

%d bloggers like this: