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Is AA a Cult - Recovered 410

Recovered Podcast

Release Date: 05/14/2013

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So we all need to take this seriously because I’m sure some alcoholics have decided not to enter because they perceive AA as a cult


For those of us that scoff at the very notion that AA is a cult,   Please recognize that we have many cult like practices...


we pray

we hold hands

we hug alot

we have our own language and talk in numbers

we have stupid slogans

we talk in unison at awkward moments, like “God could and would if he were sought”

we talk about god alot

we talk about the necessity for a charismatic leader called a sponsor

we have our own bible

we are evangelistic


I’m going to be the devil’s advocate and challenge our hosts today.  

The following are cult attributes, let’s discuss each one why the do or do not apply to AA and why.


In a cult, the group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.  What about Bill W, is he the charismatic leader mentioned? Why or why not.

In a cult, questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.  Is AA the only way to sobriety?

Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).  What about Step 11?

In a cult, the leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). Let’s discuss AA leadership.

 The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). How does Anonymity apply here?

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. What does AA say about conflict, the spiritual axiom, who is at fault when conflict arises in an AA memeber?


The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

The group teaches or implies 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 the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

The group is preoccupied with making money.

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

The most loyal members (the “true believers”) 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 (or even consider leaving) the group.


Final thoughts....Is AA a cult?