Reading for November 9

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 way.” 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!

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