How do you know you’re in a cult? It isn’t like they have a sign on the door that announces it: The Sweet Sunshine Cult of Destruction! Cherry Tree Cult and Fellowship! Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Cult! Usually, there’s a charismatic leader and friendly followers eager to love bomb you the minute you arrive. There’s so much love, so many hugs, exchanges of pleasantries, and maybe coffee and appetizers that one can easily believe this new group can easily become your new family. There’s just one catch: They believe in a doctrine you might be skeptical about. But, they already know you’re doubtful, and tell you that’s ok. They were doubtful once, but then the miracle happened. Sure, some left the group and many died as a result, but it wasn’t the group’s fault. Those who haven’t died say nasty things about the group, but that’s because they’re bitter and resentful and don’t have the peace and serenity the group gives to those who surrender. And one must SURRENDER because it’s actually a cult, and cults use words like SURRENDER.
The trouble with Alcoholics Anonymous is anyone who’s anyone can walk in through the door, and that person may be troubled with problems other than alcohol. It can be mental health issues, a past history of abuse, or a past experience in a different cult. It’s easier to program a person who’s already fanatical and quick to latch on to a new cult promising Utopia.
How fanatical is the language of AA? This is from page 62 of the Big Book: So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
AA members must give up previous moral and philosophical convictions and entirely get rid of one’s self. Surrender! Obey! Compliance! Oh my! The scary part is when a mentally ill fanatical personality is immersed in cult-culture, their rebellion can become deadly. It’s one thing to be critical of a cult and another thing to take the criticism to a level of physical retaliation. However, how doesn’t AA’s loaded language that selfishness kills and only God can save us contribute to damaging psychological thought processes? How can AA simultaneously ask a member to stop playing God and also develop a God consciousness where one has direct contact with God and knows God’s will for themselves and perhaps everyone else around them? Are they not still playing God, if not at least becoming God’s vessel on Earth where if God tells them to do something they’ll do it?
In October, A 33 year old man posted a blog titled “Is my Dad in a Cult? Even Worse, Is It Satanic?” Within the blog he included a video urging his dad to examine the teachings of his preacher. He writes of truth and natural law being unchanging. He notes that the preacher relies on “anonymous testimony, he doesn’t even respect his audience enough to provide a name.” Sounds eerily like the written testimonials in the back of the AA Big Book. The Pastor’s name? Bill, naturally. The blogger writes that Pastor Bill uses a “classic hypnotist style” in his “bag of tricks.” Think of AA slogans: Repetition. Another connection to AA would be Pastor Bill’s insistence to act, not think, as the blogger writes, “because knowledge and understanding before acting requires a whole lotta work and fortunately is totally unnecessary.” He accuses the pastor of being a Satanist “keeping fundamental knowledge from you with the express purpose of controlling your mind and keeping you unaware of the Truth of your own sovereignty.” Sounds a lot like AA and rehabs keeping information about naltrexone, SMART Recovery, and harm reduction away from the people they claim to treat with the best possible services available.
The blogger goes into all caps next: CAN’T YOU SEE HOW YOU ARE BEING CONDITIONED TO OBEY! — THE REAL LIFE MATTERS AND WAITING ALL DAY FOR A FUCKING MIRACLE TO CHANGE THAT IS DUMB AND IGNORANT, AND IN FACT FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE. THIS MAN IS POISONING YOUR MIND AND CONFUSING IT TERRIBLY!
The blogger wants to convince his father that he is enslaved by a cult ran by Pastor Bill: He’s keeping you unbalanced by having you try to completely identify with the spiritual while subconsciously tying you to the physical world and getting you to disown your own capacity for coming to true understanding and knowing. —This man preaches nothing about true understanding. He feeds your laziness with an opportunity to externalize all of your power. He offers no real wisdom, and it is clear he is hiding it intentionally with intent to confuse and profit in the material world.
What happens next is pure mayhem. This blogger is Noah Jacob Harpham from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He attended AA meetings and had a sponsor. His blog indicates both his parents for at least 10 years had subjected the family to a “cult,” and the mother had also written a book about “unique challenges and spiritual conundrums Christians face” in recovery, a biography that mentions her son’s addiction as well. Was a cult partly to blame for Harpham killing three people on a daylight shooting spree on very same street he lived on, eventually being killed himself by the police.
The evidence of Harpham’s family’s involvement in a cult and his subsequent involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous indicate he was mentally tormented by not one cult, but two. Tragically, and unforgivably, his tortured mind turned murderous when he selfishly took the lives of three innocent individuals—2 of which were women who lived in a sobriety house on the street. One can say these were random shootings, however, it’s fair to speculate the entire street he lived on became emblematic of his hatred for all things cultish.
We can choose to brush off Harpham’s words as the musings of a madman, when in actuality the mad part was when he took a gun onto the street in broad daylight and murdered people for reasons unknown. All we can do is speculate. This isn’t the first time an AA member has snapped and murdered others. Unlike other support groups that provide strength and the courage to survive hardships, disease and cancer, in AA members are encouraged to attend or else they will die. There are steps, suggestions, promises, traditions, prayers, slogans, books, pamphlets, memos, guidelines, handbooks, manuals, chairpersons, treasurers, secretaries, GSRs, committees, conferences, trustees, board members, paid employees, legal departments, and more. This from a supposedly simple program!
In AA, if a member molests a child, they may be told it’s their alcoholism causing it, and not be reported to authorities. If someone sexually harasses you, they’ll just be told to knock it off it they’re told anything at all, and you will have to put up with it or find a different meeting where it very well could happen again. There is no HR department to make sure consequences are clearly defined and carried out. There are no safety or personal conduct policies or policies against sexual harassment. This from a supposedly spiritual program!
Admittedly, I know little about the Bethel Church in Redding where Bill and Brenda Johnson are pastors. Bill teaches his congregation that Jesus performed miracles as a man who was close to God, not as God, which means humans are able to perform miracles as well if they get right with God. In AA they’d say, “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.” Although Bill doesn’t go so far as to say Jesus was not God, his teachings are described as confusing and misleading. He claims to speak for Jesus. In AA they call that “god consciousness.” Hell, AA even claims they have no leaders and that God is their ultimate authority. Does God know AA assigned her/him/it this authority? Or does this mean God designed and speaks through AA?
In a side by side comparison, Bethel Church is non-denominational church whereas AA is a spiritual organization not a church. Bethel has an estimated 8,000 members and AA claims at least 2 million members. And with Harpham’s murders, there is now a link between AA and Bethel that we cannot ignore. If a cult can distort the thinking of an average sane person, how does it distort the thinking of the mentally ill with violent tendencies? People who escape a cult have a healthy amount of anger to direct towards those who harmed them, but what about people who seek murderous revenge because of cults?
I thoroughly understand some reading this will be outraged I call AA a cult since AA itself denies this, however, I arrived at this conclusion because of my prior involvement and experience within AA. This is my solid opinion and one day in the future history books may refer to AA as: “A medically-endorsed spiritual organization that operated in the 1900s and a good portion of the 2000s which has fallen out of favor due to its lack of efficacy and ex-members’ reports of abuse. AA is now widely perceived to be a cult.”