The Instigator
cmarrier
Pro (for)
Winning
32 Points
The Contender
tkubok
Con (against)
Losing
29 Points

Alcoholics Anonymous is NOT a cult

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 6,080 times Debate No: 9757
Debate Rounds (4)
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cmarrier

Pro

More than 100,000 Americans die a year from alcohol (Vaillant, 435). AA is not a cult. Rather helps alcoholics to achieve sobriety so they live happy, useful lives.

I would like to go ahead and thank my opponent for accepting this debate. I am looking forward to an intelligent debate, I do request only an opponent that has adequate time to spend on their responses and can respond in a timely fashion to join this debate.

Oxford English Dictionary defined "cult" as:
"Worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings"
"A particular form or system of religious worship; especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies"

Definition of Alcoholics Anonymous: a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
(www.aa.org)

For more definitions that will be use for the debate please see
http://www.step12.com...

For the purpose of this debate, the criteria for a cult is taken from Dr. Janja Lalich's and Dr. Michael D. Langone's checklist of characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups.
See http://www.csj.org....

Because of the character limitations, the first round will be on items 1-11, then the second round will include items 12-15, and then we will just take it from there.

1.Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Vaillant stated in ‘Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?' that the AA's Twelve Traditions was Bill W.'s efforts to protect AA from becoming a cult. In the forward to the first edition of the AA Big Book, they state that there are more than 100 men and women who have recovered from alcoholism. The book is meant to show others how they recovered. In a quote taken from Vaillant, Mark Galanter defines ‘cults are charismatic groups with a high level of social cohesion, an intensely held belief system and a profound influence on its members behavior' (p.435). However, the purpose of AA is to provide members a set of disciplined suggestions to prevent relapse and alcohol-related deaths (Vaillant, p.435).

2.While some members may doubt, question, and reject the principles of the program, no one is ever "punished" in AA. In beginner meetings, members are encouraged to ask questions.

3.Although there is the use of prayer and "chanting" at meetings, members do not have to participate in these prayers. Besides their use is not excessive in nature, simply serve to open and close the meeting. It is suggested that members utilize meditation in their own practices in Step-11. But it is not required that members meditate, and if they do choose to, the way they do it is entirely up to them. Meditation is commonly perceived to be beneficial to humans in quieting the mind.

4.Tradition 4 states ‘Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.' G.E. Vaillant stated that ‘most of the AA service positions are unpaid and all jobs are frequently rotated (not good grammar, was it in a quote?) so that the consolidation of power cannot occur. The organizational chart of AA that has evolved is a pyramid on its head' (p.435). AA members do not govern; they are simply sharing their own experience, strength, and hope. The program of AA does not tell members how they should think, act, and feel. Often, members come in with maladjusted lifestyles and seek the advice from other members. However, this is something they seek on their own.

5.The primary purpose of AA is to carry the message to other alcoholics. This message is based on the experience, strength and hope of other members. The main objective of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, commonly called the Big Book, is to enable alcoholics to find a Power greater than themselves to solve their problems. This does not mean any particular Power, members can choose their own conception of a Higher Power. Members do not claim to have a monopoly on recovery from alcoholism, they claim they ‘merely have an approach that worked' (AA, p. 95) for them. They are not trying to save humanity, they are trying to save themselves. For many members, AA was the last house on the block for them. They could go no further down the totem pole - they had reached their bottom. They do want to be of service to other members, whether new or old, sober or drunk.

6.Alcoholics view themselves different than non-alcoholics because they are as it relates to alcohol. In "The Doctor's Opinion," Dr. Silkworth states ‘All these alcoholics have one symptom in common; they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving…the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity.' The drinking of Alcoholics typically cause conflict in society. Most alcoholics suffer from the great obsession that somehow; someday they will control and enjoy his drinking (AA, p.30).

7.See point 4.

8.The 12th-Step of AA suggests that members are ‘to practice these principles in all their affairs. These principles include: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, perseverance, awareness, and service. There is one for each of the 12 steps, in that order. If these are the principles that are taught to the group, then they are certainly positive and not unethical.

9.Shame and guilt are often feelings that alcoholics suffer from, usually based on their own behaviors or inactions. Drinking excessively and not taking personal responsibility for feelings create shame and guilt. Alcoholics do not need to be pressured or persuaded into feeling guilty or shameful, they do so on their own. In the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, members are encouraged not to ‘wander morbidly around in the past' (Twelve and Twelve, p.88) due to guilt and shame.

10.No one is required to cut ties with family and friends. Alcoholism tears families apart. There is an entire chapter devoted to "The Family Afterwards," to help members get their family lives back in order. There is also a chapter written by wives to the wives of other alcoholics, to foster understanding and support. Sometimes, though alcoholics have unhealthy relationships that might be better dissolved. These unhealthy relationships might decrease the changes of the alcoholic's sobriety. Alcoholics who do not radically change their drinking related activities they had before they joined the group will more than likely not stay sober. This is not to say that members cannot go where alcohol is served, so long as they have a ‘legitimate reason for being there.'

11.‘Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with another alcoholic' (AA, p89). Vaillant found that new love relationships are important in recovery that it is helpful for ex-alcoholics to relate with people they have not hurt. Today, the way that many people come into AA is through the court systems or through treatment referrals.

In conclusion, AA has taken many steps to ensure that they are not cult-like. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. It is not even that members do actually stop drinking. AA is based on a spiritual foundation of anonymity. There are no rules in AA, only suggestions that members can either use or discard.

Works Cited
Alcoholics Anonymous. New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001. Print.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981. Print.

Vaillant, George E. "Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?" Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39.6 (2005): 431-436. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.
tkubok

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate. I accept all the definitions for cult. However, i think we can finish this debate rather quickly.

Here is the original 12 steps presented by the founder of AA(1).
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—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 alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Notice the multiple mentions of God. The fact that currently, AA has become more lenient in its 12 steps, is akin to the creationist movement changing their stance to "Intelligent design" in order to suppose that this "intelligent designer" does not have to be God, thus not making it a religious view.

However, despite this, for the sake of this debate, i shall adress all the points made by my opponent.

1). I agree, that cults are "charismatic groups with a high level of social cohesion, an intensely held belief system and a profound influence on its members behavior". However, this is rarely the purpose of any cult. As seen by this Cult(2), the purpose of this cult is to spread the message of the fact that aliens created human beings. Yet, it is a cult nonetheless.

2). One does not have to punish its members, in order to become a cult. Christianity, to some, is a cult. Yet, rarely is anyone punished in the USA for leaving christianity.

3). Again, when i enter a church, i do not have to pray.

4). Cults do not require leaders in order to become cults.

5). DING DING DING DING DING! Higher power. This is the keyword. The higher power is in most cases, assumed to be God. Again, this is absurd as claiming that Creationism is "Intelligent design", but claiming that this "Intelligent designer" does not have to be God, and can be anything the person wishes to choose it to be. The courts STILL ruled against it on the grounds that intelligent design IS religious.

And to settle this once and for all, id like to ask my opponent, what possible higher power could exist, other than God, that helps you move away from alcoholism, and what is the first thing that comes to mind, when someone suggests a "Higher power"?

6). What does this have to do with AA being a cult?

7). See rebuttal 4.

8). Cults are not always destructive. Cults are not always unethical. You watch too many horror movies. Raelians, for example, are non violent and have very liberal views. Yet many regard them as cults, nonetheless.

9). Again, what does this have to do with AA being a cult?

10). Again, there is nothing in the definition of cult, that requires cult members to cut ties to their families.

11). Again, there is nothing within a cult system that encourages hate or violence.

In conclusion, my opponent has watched too many horror movies, where Cult members eat babies and sacrifice nonbelievers. Rarely do these things occur. And this is the problem.

No one is claiming that the AA system does not work. No one is claiming that the AA system is inneffective. The truth is that the AA system is just as effective as any other secular alcoholic treatment program. The problem, however, is that when you have a system that makes you dependant on a "higher power", you take away someones self-worth. The twelve step program, admits this, with their first step; "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol". AA creates the mindset, that without God, or a "Higher power", you are powerless, and therefore takes away the guilt of drinking. Taking away your guilt about anything, is the worst thing that could possibly occur. Once you relapse, once you start drinking again, you have this belief that it is not your fault that you are drinking, that you are powerless to stop it. You have no guilt, because its not your fault. What youve done with AA is taken away the Alcohol addiction, but brought along all the baggage that comes with a belief in God.

source:
1. http://www.aa.org...
2. http://rael.org...
Debate Round No. 1
cmarrier

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for joining this debate. However, perhaps I did not make myself clear that I was also using Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist as to define characteristics associated with cultic groups. My opponent said that he accepted all the definitions for cult, so my question to him is: Do accept their criteria for a cult? If not, please include your own as part of your own definition.

I am not arguing whether AA can be viewed as religious to some. People choose their own conception of a Higher Power. Even atheist and agnostics can find a definition that works for them.

The AA preamble also states ‘AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes.'

The Agnostic AA meetings have their own preamble, which is:
‘This group of A.A. attempts to maintain a tradition of free expression, and conduct a meeting where alcoholics may feel free to express any doubts or disbeliefs they may have, and to share their own personal form of spiritual experience, their search for it, or their rejection of it. We do not endorse or oppose any form of religion or atheism.'
On that note, my opponent repeatedly (see rebuttals 6, 9, 10 and 11) asked what my arguments had to do with AA being a cult. I say that they are in fact relative, so long as one considers the criteria for the checklist. I would suggest that my opponent review Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist.

Rebuttal 1: For AA to be a cult, members would have be excessively zealous and committed without question to its leader and regard the leader's belief system, ideology, and practices as the truth, as law.

Truths: alcoholics suffer from a ‘primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.'
Practices of abstinence: Currently, there is no known cure, where true alcoholics can drink successfully. Dr. Silkworth states that ‘it has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence (AA, p. XXX).

These truths are not from the AA leader(s); they are from health care professionals, most of which are not even members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Besides, the practices of the 12 Steps are not mandatory. Again, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. No one makes anyone do the 12 Steps.

Rebuttal 2. My opponent stated that ‘one does not have to punish its members, in order to become a cult.' I would agree with him based on the criteria/definition of cults, ‘questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.' I have already demonstrated that AA members are encouraged to ask questions and/or voice doubt. Many of them do balk at the program. In the fifth chapter of the AA Big Book, it clearly states that some members balk at the program because they think they can find an easier, softer way. So, if members are encouraged to question and voice doubt, and can balk without being punished by the group, then AA is not a cult (based on the criteria/definition of a cult).

Rebuttal 3. My opponent stated that when he enters a church, he does not have to pray. The checklist item stated that ‘mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, etc.) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader. If one reviews the agnostic's preamble, they would note ‘alcoholics may feel free to express any doubts or disbeliefs.'

So, if cults are supposed to use ‘mind-altering practices in excess and serve to suppress doubts' and AA encourages members to express doubts and disbeliefs, than AA practices do not fit that definition/criteria of a cult, thus not being a cult.

Rebuttal 4: My opponent states that cults do not require leaders but I would like to point out that one of the warning signs listed on Howcultswork.com is there is a single charismatic leader. Regardless, I would like to request my opponent to provide 3 examples of known cults that do not have leaders.

Rebuttal 5. My opponent emphasized the point that AA uses the term ‘Higher Power.' I believe that his claim that most people assume this to mean God asserts what is true of a part is true for the whole, committing the fallacy of composition. Do you have evidence that most people equivalent wording? the term ‘higher power' to God? Or are you drawing on your own personal conclusions?

My opponent asked me what is the first thing that comes to mind when someone suggests a Higher Power? Well, my friend, I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I do not believe that my answer or your question is relevant to the debate, since it has nothing to do with the definition/criteria of a cult.

However, I would like to remind the audience that the 5th criteria stated that the ‘group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. Dr. Lalich and Dr. Langone's offered the following example: ‘the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avantar – or the group and/or leader is on a special mission to save humanity'.

I suppose one could argue that the leader in AA is a Higher Power, but there is not one Higher Power, it is a mix of many different Higher Powers, whether one is religious, or an atheist, or an agnostic. There are such conceptions as ‘Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind, or Spirit of Nature, God, and so much more.

Alcoholics try everything to stop drinking on their own will, and find that their efforts are insufficient. They cannot stay on the wagon for good. They ‘have tried every imaginable remedy…by every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves the exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic' (AA, p31). Lack of power is the alcoholic's problem, so they must find a power greater than themselves. It's not that there is an assumed power that must be adopted, it is simply a Power greater than the alcoholic and the alcoholic is free to choose his or her own conception of that Higher Power.

Rebuttal 8: I agree with my opponent that not all cults are destructive. Again, based on the criteria/definition: ‘the group teaches or implied that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining.' Active alcoholics often engage in behaviors that are considered reprehensible or unethical. AA stresses sobriety based on this type of foundation will be precarious, and suggests amending past wrongs and continuing to take personal inventory.

Rebuttal 11: I do agree with my opponent that not all cults encourage hate or violence. I was simply providing reason as to why AA members work with new members (to stay sober and to pass on what was so freely given to them) and demonstrating that they are not preoccupied with recruiting new members. Since members are not preoccupied with recruiting new members, they surely do not meet the criteria of a cult, thus AA is not a cult.

In conclusion, I do not see how my opponent can accuse me of watching horror movies, seeing how he knows nothing about my habits or me. I would argue that my opponent made an ad hominem argument, rather than a sound argument based on reason and relevance. Again, I request my opponent to review the criteria of a cult, so that we can be on the same page. If he does not accept it, then I would request kindly, that he would supply his own acceptable definition.

Unfortunately, I am running out of characters, and I will have to use round 3 and 4 to discuss items 12-15. I appreciate this debate and I look forward to my opponents' response.

http://www.agnosticaanyc.org...
tkubok

Con

I have no problem using the definitions. However, I would like my opponent to look closely at the article.

"Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a "cult scale" or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool."(1)

Clearly the article states that although these are usually defined in dangerous cults, this is not the only criteria that should be considered when determining if someone is in a cult or not.

As i have stated before, I believe there are many benign, simple, peaceful religions, that many would categorize as cults. The Raelian church was a great example. However, these are still cults nonetheless and fall under the general definition.

"I am not arguing whether AA can be viewed as religious to some. People choose their own conception of a Higher Power. Even atheist and agnostics can find a definition that works for them."

Really. And what sort of "Higher power" could an atheist call upon, to which they are helpless against?

"The Agnostic AA meetings have their own preamble, which is:"

The agnostic AA meetings are different and separate than the AA meetings. The 12 steps, the core of the AA system, is completely void from the Agnostic AA system. One could call it a different "Sect" if you will.

Again, none of what you have brought deny the fact that the "Higher power" is assumed to be God, nor the fact that any other religious organization that has been deemed a cult by one person or another, does not practice the same things.

Rebuttal 1.
"Besides, the practices of the 12 Steps are not mandatory. Again, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. No one makes anyone do the 12 Steps."

Again, no. When i am a christian, i do not have to attend church every sunday. It is not mandatory that i do so.

Rebuttal 2.
Again, there is nothing within the sects of christianity, for example, that force its members not to question their beliefs. In fact, Mother Teresa was famous for having doubts about her beliefs as well(2).

Rebuttal 3.
Although i do not consider the Agnostic AA groups, to be the same as the AA groups, Chanting is still apart of the AA group meetings. And furthermore, again, the checklist is a specific criterion for identifying dangerous cult activities. The actual definition of what a Cult is, still allows for the AA group to go under a heading of a "Cult".

Rebuttal 4.
Again, a warning sign for dangerous cult activities. Congratulations, AA does not have a cult leader. Although this is not a must, for something to be a dangerous cult, it is also not a must for being a cult in general, either.

Rebuttal 5.
As i have stated before(3), the original manuscript of the 12 steps, contain the word "God", blatantly, by the person who founded the organization in the first place.

", but I do not believe that my answer or your question is relevant to the debate, since it has nothing to do with the definition/criteria of a cult."

Actually, it does. A cult is defined as "reverence and homage to divine beings". Clearly, a higher power, that is assumed to be God, is an extremely important criteria for determining if an organization is a cult.

So i ask the question again. What is the first thing that comes into your, or anyones mind, when the word "Higher power" is mentioned?

"There are such conceptions as ‘Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind, or Spirit of Nature, God, and so much more."

And i would consider all those to be religious.

Rebuttal 8.
Since my opponent agrees with me, i suppose this is a concluded point.

Rebuttal 11.
"Since members are not preoccupied with recruiting new members, they surely do not meet the criteria of a cult, thus AA is not a cult."

Are you saying that AA is not actively seeking to help other people, via advertisement or any other public forum?

In conclusion, the thorns of the rose are in the article itself. Nowhere in the original article does it state that these are the only criterions for determining if a religious organization or any organization, is a cult. Only that these are hints, and that these point to whether or not an organization could be a DANGEROUS cult. And this is the point i was trying to make. None of these criterions need not apply, for an organization to be a cult. Although my opponent was quick to avoid answering the question of "What is the first thing that comes to mind when the word "Higher power" is mentioned", possibly because he knows the answer already, my only conclusion as to why my opponent refuses to answer this question is because he knows he will have to admit that the "Higher power" is pointing to a God, thus, making AA a religious, and a cult-like group.

Source:
1. http://www.csj.org...
2. http://en.wikipedia.org...
3. http://www.aa.org...
Debate Round No. 2
cmarrier

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for his response.

I would like my opponent to point out where the article clearly states that the checklist usually defines "dangerous cults." I see where they state that ‘The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments.'

I appreciate that he pointed out that Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist is an analytical tool. However, as the advocate I had the initial responsibility of defining terms, in which I used their checklist to do so. The article clearly states that their checklist ‘may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.'

My opponent asked me what sort of "Higher Power" an atheist could call upon. Some members use the group as a power greater than themselves, using the G.O.D. as an acronym for Group Of Drunks. When active alcoholics come into AA for help, they see that other people are staying sober, and they are drunk. They then turn to the power of the group, which is indeed more powerful than their own strength.

Others have been known to use Mother Nature as their Higher Power. Another acronym that has been useful is G.O.D. = Good Orderly Direction. This seems to help atheists and agnostics swallow the word God in a way that works for them.

Since tradition 4 states that "Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole, the Agnostic AA groups can format their meetings differently, but they are still AA meetings.

Rebuttal 2: My opponent has successfully provided an example that would lead one to believe that Christianity is therefore not a cult, when using the checklist of common behavioral patterns found in cults.

Rebuttal 3: I appreciate my opponent's opinion, but that is all it is. Where are the facts in this case? I would argue that the Agnostic groups consider themselves a part of AA. My argument still remains the same from the previous round.

Rebuttal 5.
AA originally had 6 steps (A.A., p. 263):
1.Complete deflation. (as in ego)
2.Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power. (not God)
3.Moral inventory (as in right vs. wrong)
4.Confession
5.Restitution
6.Continued work with other alcoholics.
Please notice that "God" is not used at all, highlighting the importance of the higher power. AA was built upon a spiritual foundation that evolved from the intellectual experience of 3 men who were seriously suspicious of all organized religions (Vaillant, p. 434).

I was not avoiding the answer to your question about what is the first thing that comes to mind when ‘Higher Power' is mentioned. I was attempting to avoid a forced dichotomy here. I am Christian and my opponent is an atheist (according to his Debate.org profile.). What is true for me does not necessarily reflect the rest of the world. My opponent has stated that what I have previously stated does not deny the fact that the "Higher Power" is assumed to be God.

I would like the audience and my opponent to be mindful of the fallacy of composition, or that what is true of a part is true of the whole. Surely, neither one of us can speak for the rest of the world in relation to what others think when they hear the term Higher Power. I would also argue that my opponent is attempting to make an ad populum argument. He is attempting to justify his claim that most people think of God when they hear the phrase Higher Power on the basis of its alleged popularity.

Other reported examples of a Higher Power include science, Budda, Nature, consciousness, existential freedom, the twelve-step group (or AA as a whole). Whatever or whoever an individual claims their Higher Power to be is is not important, so long as the Higher Power is greater than the individual (Baker).

According to Vaillant, "over the last 20 years AA membership has increased 10-fold in Hindu India, in Buddhist Japan, and in Catholic Spain. Membership has also risen exponentially in atheistic Russia" (p. 435).

I am curious to see if my opponent will interject his personal opinion and state that these examples are also religious in nature, as he did for the previously mentioned conceptions. His opinion does not represent the opinions of everyone else.

Rebuttal 11:
Tradition 11 (from the long form) states their ‘public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion" (12 & 12, p. 192).

Nonetheless, I would like to continue assessing AA based on the remaining items of Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist.

Item 12: "The group is preoccupied with making money."
The seventh tradition states that ‘Every AA group ought to be fully, self-supporting, declining outside contributions.' This tradition was put into place so that the financial situation would not be disruptive to the program of AA. When it was first started, people were trying to bequeath money and property. They debated on this topic for some time, since they were relatively broke at the time. However, wisdom was shared that taking outside contributions might divert AA from their primary purpose of carrying the message to alcoholics. The trustees declared for the principle that AA must always stay poor (Twelve and Twelve, p.165). AA does not own any property, which is unlike cults (Vaillant, p. 435).

Item 13: "Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group related activities."
New members are encouraged to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, but this suggestion was actually adopted from treatment facilities. When AA was founded, there were certainly not even 90 meetings available, so this would not even be possible. No one is expected to go to meetings, it is their own choice to attend however many meetings they want. There are members that practice the program of AA, but never go to meetings.

Item 14: "Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members."
Members are encouraged to interact with other members to gain experience, strength and hope; but they are certainly not required. There are some recovery houses that might incorporate the program of AA, but they are not directly affiliated with AA.

Item 15: The most loyal members feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave the group.

Some may worry that AA removes freedom of action. Vaillant compares the 12 steps to that of the rigidity of post-coronary exercise programs, stating that their purpose is not to take and individual's autonomy away but to provide a set of disciplined that will serve as a type of relapse prevention, so members will not "relapse and die" (p. 435).

Many members claim that AA gave them back their life. They mean that with alcohol, they did not have a life other than the bottle. "The Family Afterwards" chapter of the Big Book states, ‘we aren't a glum lot…. We absolutely insist on enjoying life' (p. 132)

In conclusion, AA is a fellowship and not a religion. AA has consciously integrated principles to steer clear of cultic exploitation. The preface to Alcoholics Anonymous plainly states: ‘AA is not a religious organization' (Vaillant, p. 434). My evidence that AA is not a cult has come from academic resources and opinions from experts. My opponent continues to interject his own personal opinions. I look forward to the final round of our debate, but I am sure the debate of whether or not AA is a cult will continue.
tkubok

Con

"I would like my opponent to point out where the article clearly states that the checklist usually defines "dangerous cults."

I would love to.

"This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern."
That is what this checklist is for. Usually things that are causes for concern, are dangerous to an extent.

"However, as the advocate I had the initial responsibility of defining terms, in which I used their checklist to do so. The article clearly states that their checklist ‘may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.'"

I agree. However, this still does not change the fact that this list is "not meant to be a "cult scale" or a DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST to determine if a specific group is a cult."

Emphasis has been added by me. But this is still a direct quote.

"They then turn to the power of the group, which is indeed more powerful than their own strength."

I understand this. However, i feel as though my opponent has not answered my question to the fullest. To reiterate my question here again:

"Really. And what sort of "Higher power" could an atheist call upon, to which they are helpless against?"

This is, after all, one of the main sections of the 12 step program, which is admitting that you are helpless against this higher power.

"Others have been known to use Mother Nature as their Higher Power."

In other words, Pantheism.

"the Agnostic AA groups can format their meetings differently, but they are still AA meetings."
Very well, then. I shall ask my opponent this question.

If a group decides to throw away the 12 step program in favor of a more secular, yet vastly different approach that is based upon a different Secular Alcohol rehabilitation group, is that group still AA?

Rebuttal 2.
And i have also successfully provided an example of a religion that is deemed as a cult by many, but which utterly fail when the checklist is applied. This example was Raelism.

Infact, i would like to ask my opponent a very important question. Does my opponent believe that Christianity is a Cult?

Rebuttal 3.
I shall address this in further detail once my opponent answers my question regarding AA meetings, above.

Rebuttal 5.
Yet, clearly, when Bill, the founder of AA, created the "Big book", which was an outline of the history, methods and beliefs of Alcoholics Anonymous, he produces the 12 steps, which specifically mention God. One could only conclude that by "Higher power", Bill was referring to God, specifically. Otherwise, he would have kept the words "Higher Power" and never would have used the word "God".

I fail to see what a forced dichotomy has to do with answering the question. My opponents arguments depend solely on the interpretation of the word "Higher power", and claim that one could not possibly assume that the word "higher power" directly references, or equates to "God". If my opponent is Christian, and I am an atheist, then we are on opposite sides of the playing field. Therefore, if we both reach the same conclusion as to what the word "Higher power" means, then clearly this is a representation of a larger group, and not just a single group of like-minded people.

I would like the audience and my opponent to be mindful that the fallacy of composition is only applied when the whole is assumed to be true based on the partial. However, I have never claimed that every single person on the planet will instantly point to the word "God", when the word "Higher power" is mentioned. Thus, there is no fallacy present.

Furthermore, it is even more absurd when my opponent claims the fallacy of Ad populum, when the claim is "Most people who hear the word "Higher power" think of the word "God"", because that claim IS dependent on majority opinion.

Buddha is a god. Pantheism. Existentialists are not atheists. The twelve step group is a worship in a deity. In every instance that you have substituted a higher power for, the instance is related to Theism or a deity in particular.

This is laughable. Hindu India = Theism. Buddhist japan = Theism. Catholic Spain = Theism. There is no such thing as an Atheistic Russia. In fact, the majority of people in Russia are theists(1). Maybe you are talking about the Soviet Union. I wasn't aware that we were in the 20th century.

"I am curious to see if my opponent will interject his personal opinion and state that these examples are also religious in nature, as he did for the previously mentioned conceptions. His opinion does not represent the opinions of everyone else."

Yes. Because, clearly Catholicism has nothing to do with religion. Clearly, Buddhism has nothing to do with religion. Clearly, Hinduism has nothing to do with Religion. This is not my personal opinion. This is a fact. And this is probably why you chose to write "Hindu India, Buddhist japan, Catholic Spain".

The truth of the matter is, I asked YOU, or rather, MY OPPONENT the question. I did not ask a group of people. I did not circulate a worldwide poll. I asked my opponent, as to whether or not he buys his own argument. My opponent, is christian, i agree. However, so is the majority of this country. Infact, the majority of the human race that has the means to suffer from Alcoholism, is religious. This does not create a dichotomy, or a fallacy of the majority. I am not claiming that "Since the majority of believers would point to God when they hear the word "Higher power", therefore everyone in the world would do the same". I am claiming that the majority of people who hear the word "Higher power" will believe it to be pointing to the word "God", and this is most definitely a fact. My opponent just refuses to answer this simple question because even he does not believe in his own argument.

Rebuttal 11.
Nonetheless, i would like to continue addressing the fact that the checklist is a potential checklist in determining whether an organization is a cult, but not a determinate one, nor a requirement.

Rebuttal 12.
Ditto above.

Rebuttal 13.
Ditto above.

Rebuttal 14.
Again, Ditto above.

Rebuttal 15.
Although I could ditto this too, I will ask my opponent a question instead.

When a loyal member of the AA group, who believes in the 12 steps program and also in the 12 traditions, has his faith shattered and can no longer believe that a higher power exists, what do you believe will be the most general course of action that this person will take?

Source:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
cmarrier

Pro

Thank you for your response. I saw where it said that the list could help determine if there was cause for concern. Webster defines concern as 1 a matter; affair; 2 interests in or regard for a person or thing; 3 reference; 4 worry. So clearly, concern does necessarily mean that there is danger.

This is not a debate about atheists or whether atheists can get sober in AA, because they can, and they have. It is not that I am avoiding some of my opponent's questions; I just believe that they are irrelevant to the debate. I would like to use this round wisely and continue to focus on arguments that will demonstrate that AA is not a cult.

I am not sure what my opponent means that one of the main points of 12 step programs is admitting that you are helpless against the Higher Power. The first step is "We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable." Alcohol is the foe here, not the Higher Power.

AA is based on the 12 Steps. If a group were to reject the 12 Steps and adopt a different approach, it would not be AA. There are plenty of secular rehabilitation programs that use the 12 Steps as part of their recovery programs. For example, there are three state operated programs in North Carolina: The McLeod Center, the Black Mountain Treatment Center and Billingsly Detox.

My attitude towards Christianity is the same as it is towards AA. As a whole, they are not aggressively recruiting or engaging in extreme evangelization; there is not the use of brainwashing, members are not financially or emotionally exploited, there is not false/deceptive teaching…therefore, as a whole, they are not a cult.

Rebuttal 2: Again AA is not a religion. My opponent stated that Raelism "utterly failed" as a cult when the checklist is applied. I do not agree. I think Raelism is a cult, and make that argument after assessing the group with the checklist. But since we are not debating whether Raelism is a cult, I will not get into that.

I hardly feel that my opponent and I "clearly represent a larger group" with regard to what the phrase "Higher Power" means. Although my Higher Power is based on my Christian beliefs, I respect and realize that the phrase Higher Power could mean many different things; therefore I do not jump to any conclusions and attempt to represent a larger group.

I am baffled by what my opponent means when he says that the "majority of the human race that has the means to suffer from Alcoholism, is religious." My opponent stated that it was a fact that "the majority of people who hear the word Higher Power will believe it to be pointing to the word God." What evidence does he have to back up this claim?

In the last round, my opponent explicitly stated that not every single person would instantly pair God to Higher Power. But then he said that it was a fact that "the majority of people who hear the word Higher power will believe it to be pointing to the word God." I ask you, what evidence do you have to back up this claim? I have provided many different possible answers for what the term Higher Power could mean.

This is a debate on whether AA is a cult or not. AA is not an organized religion. All my examples of possible Higher Powers were legitimate. My opponent focused on the ones that were of varying religions. What about the examples of using the acronym G.O.D = Good Orderly Direction or Group of Drunks. These have worked for many members who could not or would not swallow the word God. Again, AA states that they are not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, or religion. They are not endorsing a particular religion. That is what cults do; they worship a diving being, a specific divine being as appointed by the cult.

If AA member 1's Higher Power is based on their Christian upbringing; AA member 2's Higher Power is based on their Jewish beliefs; AA member 3's Higher Power is the group of drunks; AA member 4's Higher Power is based their Hinduism beliefs, AA member 5's Higher Power is Nature; AA member 6's Higher Power is based on Buddhism; AA member 7's Higher Power is Science; AA member 8's Higher Power is Reasoning and Logic; AA member 9's Higher Power is mathematics; etc.

Obviously, I went above and beyond to demonstrate that there is a wide variety of "Higher Power" and that AA does not appoint a particular one. Members choose who their Higher Power is. AA meetings are not a place for "a particular form or system of religious worship" (Oxford English Dictionary). If AA said that one Higher Power was the best one, and insisted on a particular way to worship, then yes I would say that AA was indeed a cult.

However, AA is only concerned with members finding a Higher Power that works for them. AA meetings are a place for alcoholics to get together to talk about their problems and to talk about recovery. It is a place for members to "share their experience, strength, and hope." In the beginning, "it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems" (AA, p. 160).

I wish I had opted for a 5 round debate, but I am coming to an end. I have assessed AA based on the 15 items of Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist, the checklist that I used to define what a cult is. Their checklist was sufficient in determining criteria for cults. By using their checklist for characteristics to define what a typical cult looks like, I was able to demonstrate that AA is not a cut. I also applied the Oxford English Dictionary's definition and showed that AA does not push a particular of religious worship.

Alcoholism affects many people, including the alcoholic and the people close to them. AA has been around for 74 years and will continue to help alcoholics to achieve sobriety for probably many years to come. Our society has witnessed some devastating results from particular cults.

Perhaps, there have been some individual AA groups that have acted cult-like. Do I believe that it is possible for individual AA groups to adopt AA principles and apply them to the extreme...yes. I would say that these are of course possibilities.

In researching for this debate, I found an academic article written by Nick Summers entitled "A Struggle Inside AA," about an AA group called Midtown in the Washington, DC area. Apparently, a young woman reported on some of the common practices at the Midtown. She said that the group's embrace was smothering to her. Her sponsor was assigned to her and told her to cut ties with anyone that was not part of Midtown. Someone told her to stop taking the medications she was taking, medication that was prescribed by her doctor for bipolar disorder. Some of the newer members were expected to do tasks for senior members. There was apparently some pressure to date and have sexual relationships only within the Midtown group. When concerned members discussed leaving Midtown meetings, they were told that they would surely drink again. Many of the Midtown members rented homes from other members and "many found work through contacts in the group" (Summers, 2007).

If I were to assess Midtown based on Dr. Lalich's and Dr. Langone's checklist, I would most undoubtedly argue that Midtown was a cult. However, I do not feel that Midtown is practicing the traditional AA program. They have hijacked the AA name and are using it to their advantage.

I would like to thank my opponent for his time and energy and participation. For my first debate, I would say that this was a rather pleasant experience. I look forward to my opponents closing arguments.

Summers, Nick "A Struggle Inside AA." Newsweek 149.19 (2007): 46-48. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.
tkubok

Con

Thank you for your response, and an interesting yet repetative debate.

"So clearly, concern does necessarily mean that there is danger."

This is a sad effort on my opponents part. When you read the previous paragraph, the article states the following:
"Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused."

These are all, for the most part, and in most cases, a bad thing. Clearly the word "Concern" in this context must be applied as something that is dangerous.

"I just believe that they are irrelevant to the debate"

My opponent has made no efforts as to explain WHY it is irrelevant, and when my opponent has used the secular AA groups as a clear cut method of trying to argue that Atheists can be included into AA she clearly is arguing about Atheists and whether atheists can get sober. My opponent had no problem arguing about AA and atheists, yet when the question arises, she refuses to answer on the grounds that "we shouldnt argue about AA and atheists because it is irrelevant", which is a clear contradiction.

"Alcohol is the foe here, not the Higher Power."

Not once have i claimed the higher power to be the foe. However, read the rest of the 12 steps.
"...were powerless over alcohol..."
"...ready to have God remove all these defects...."
"...asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

These people believe that the only way they can overcome their alcohol problem is to submit to a higher power to remove their defect. Therefore, they are helpless against this Higher power and want to ask him to intervene to help them. Otherwise, they could not possibly overcome this problem.

"AA is based on the 12 Steps. If a group were to reject the 12 Steps and adopt a different approach, it would not be AA."

Bingo. The secular system has removed itself from the 12 step program and has essentially separated itself from the core of AA. Therefore, the secular AA system is not a part of the original AA system and can be seen as a different recovery program, such as the Mcleod Center and Black Mountain treatment Center.

"therefore, as a whole, they are not a cult."

Based on the definition you gave, to which i agreed, they are. Must i bring the dictionaries definition up again?

Rebuttal 2.
Oh, how convenient. You claim that Raelism is a cult, but then dont bother going into that despite it being a very important point. Oh, and by the way, many sects of Christianity fit quite a lot of the check marks on that list.

"displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader" Check(The pope, priests, etc)
"Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged" Check(Excommunication)
"Mind-altering practices" Check(Prayer, chanting, faith healing)
"dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel" Definitely a Check
"polarized us-versus-them mentality" Check for a few sects of Christianity
"not accountable to any authorities" Catholic church, check (Pedophile priest scandal, where the church shuffled the priests around to resist arrest and/or hinder investigation by police)
"induces feelings of shame and/or guilt" Definitely Check

"I respect and realize that the phrase Higher Power could mean many different things;"
I never claimed that the phrase "Higher Power" could not mean anything but God.

However, i find it funny that my opponent first said:
"Do you have evidence that most people equivalent wording?"
to
"I do not jump to any conclusions and attempt to represent a larger group."

So, even if i were to present evidence, you would have rejected it? Thats nice to know.

"I ask you, what evidence do you have to back up this claim?"

The evidence you presented for what a higher power could mean, is dependant on the persons beliefs. A christian would not consider a higher power to mean "The government", and would instantly point to a God. Since the majority of the USA identify themselves as christian(1), it is safe to assume that the majority do infact think of God when the word "Higher power" is mentioned. My opponent has said it herself, that when the word "Higher power" is mentioned, she instantly turns to the word "God" because of her christian background.

"They are not endorsing a particular religion."

But they are endorsing a particular form of worship and devotion. Websters dictionary has the following to say on Cults(2):
"5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion"

"I went above and beyond to demonstrate that there is a wide variety of "Higher Power""
And AA member 10's higher power is this cup. Sure, you can equate higher power to anything. However, how many do you think will equate a higher power to a cup? And how many to God? Thank you very much.

"Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems"

And what do you think Confessions are in church?

"AA has been around for 74 years and will continue to help alcoholics to achieve sobriety for probably many years to come."
No one has argued that AA was ineffective. This point is moot, and this only serves to promote AA instead of actually argue anything about whether or not AA can be considered as a Cult.

"However, I do not feel that Midtown is practicing the traditional AA program. They have hijacked the AA name and are using it to their advantage."

So, there is an instance where AA became a cult. And clearly this means that there is also a possibility that other locations of AA groups could also become cults. I believe this completely disregards your original contention of how "AA is NOT a cult".

I thank my opponent for this debate. However, there are problems which i shall address in a final note. The checklist my opponent provided, may be useful to determine if a particular religious sect is a cult. However, this fact utterly fails when religions like Christianity fit more than one, and definitely many, of the points. Under the normal day-to-day usage of the word "Cult", i would not call Christianity as such. However, i would also, under the same usage of the word, not consider Raelism as a cult either. My opponent has claimed that she would call Raelism a Cult, which is great, because Christianity also fits many of the points on the checklist, especially the southern baptist religious extremists. But i wouldn't call any of them Cults either. When you consider these facts, all belief systems that are sought after have the ability to become cults and can be viewed as cults by certain people, the contention of "Alcoholics anonymous is NOT a cult" is utterly false. This doesn't mean that they are definitely a cult. This means that no one could not and should not claim that AA could not possibly be a cult.

Source:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Debate Round No. 4
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