Reading for November 9
[The behavior of] people under the influence of cults is similar
to that we observe in addicts. Typical behaviour for both
includes draining bank accounts, neglecting children,
destroying relations with family and losing interest in
anything except the drug or cult.”
Keith Henson (born 1942)
How cult-like are Twelve Step meetings or members? A society
is a group broadly distinguished from other groups by the structured
systems, protection, continuity, security and identity available for its
members. In a secure, highly cohesive group, members have the freedom
to disagree. “Cult” is a pejorative way to describe an organization of
ritualistic practices that is authoritative and exploitive.
The textbook Social Psychology defines a cult asa group that isolates
its members from the mainstream and is characterized by distinctive
rituals and its devotion to a god and/or a charismatic leader.% Cults
separate newcomers from previous social support systems and isolate
them with other cultists, where they lose access to counterarguments.
The cult offers a new identity and reality. Cults frown on disagreement
and consensus helps eliminate any lingering doubts. Lonely, depressed
and susceptible to influence, newcomers have their problems defined by
the organization. Members are offered a promise of a new tomorrow.
The warmth with which the group accepts rookies is appealing. They
are encouraged to trust the “master,” join the “family” and learn “the
Twice Harper s Magazine has used the “cult” word in articles about
AA, in 1963 and 2011.’ Though criticized for transferring dependence
from booze to meetings, AA promotes free will in members, autonomy
for groups and democracy in the fellowship. The “cult” test doesn’t fit
AA lore per se, yet legitimate criticism has fallen at the doorstep of
certain members and meetings who sacralize a rigid interpretation of a
suggested program. The cult label could be attributed to any of us who
discourage free will, but hey—we can always go to another meeting
where the culture is more to our liking.
Do I feel a freedom to choose, or group pressure from meetings and
members? Do I ever lean on others to conform?
C., Joe. Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life:
Finally, a daily reflection book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone!
back to main page