Are religious-based twelve step programs better at stopping addiction than other programs?
In 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous was formed by two men struggling for sobriety, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. Theirs was a new type of program in that it formalized a series of twelve steps that an alcoholic must follow in order to get sober and stay that way. The original Alcoholics Anonymous was only the first of many such programs set up to address just about every type of addiction and obsessive behavior you can think of: Overeaters Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Underearners Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and even Online Gamers Anonymous. Today we’re going to look a bit into the history of twelve stepping and also how it compares to mainstream psychological treatment of addiction, but mainly into the most important question: Does it work?
It’s impossible to discuss the history of the twelve steps without acknowledging that it is first a religious practice, and second a recovery method. Seven of the twelve steps invoke God. This is the main thing that separates it from medical or psychological addiction treatments that are primarily targeted at the biochemical and psychological causes of addiction. So let’s get started by reviewing the actual twelve steps, and these are the steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
Wilson and Smith were both from an evangelical Christian organization called the Oxford Group, and the twelve steps they formalized were reminiscent of practices from the Oxford Group. It had standards it called the Four Absolutes (honesty, purity, unselfishness, love), a set of four spiritual practices, and the “Five Cs” procedures: confidence, confession, conviction, conversion, and continuance. Thus, salvation through evangelical Christianity was deeply interwoven with the concept of twelve stepping. In the words of Bob Wilson:
“…Early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Rev. Sam Shoemaker, their former religious counsel in America, and from nowhere else.”
Because of this, twelve step programs have been strongly criticized, usually by people who dropped out of the programs for one reason or another, and became disgruntled. Some have written books and devoted whole web sites to the idea that twelve stepping is just a bait-and-switch program; come to stop your addiction, but stay to join our church. It’s the same criticism that’s been leveled at Scientology’s Narcanon; it promises to help you get off drugs, but is in reality just a side door into the Church of Scientology.
Yesterday I saw an article making rounds on pro-science and anti-anti-vaccination Facebook pages that was written by a “Christian” blogger who was claiming that God does not support vaccines. (Read the article here)
The author of the article uses several classic anti-vaccination claims to spread her propaganda, although the one that was mostly talked about in that article is the claim that vaccines contain parts from aborted fetuses, which is false.
She combines this along with passages from the bible and her “interpretation” of those passages in an attempt to make it seem like God does not approve of vaccines.
Before I begin I’m very well aware that many of you reading this are atheists, but for the moment just for fun consider the possibly that God exists, and if you are someone that believes that God exists then please and hear what I have to say.
First, God is, according to Judea-Christian beliefs, an all powerful being that created the Universe and everything about it, including what does and does not work.
If God is all powerful and didn’t want people to use vaccines, then couldn’t God just will vaccines not to work?
I asked this question in the comments section, and the author responded to me:
First, before anyone points it out I believe she meant to say (although I could be wrong) that research into vaccines have not been proven to be clinically effective. This is ofcourse not true. Vaccines are very effective, and there are multiple published research papers showing how effective vaccines are. Doing a simple Google Scholar search for vaccine effectiveness will bring up thousands of papers concerning vaccine effectiveness.
The second thing the author claims is that no vaccines have a life time immunity. This is completely false.
Certain vaccines (as seen here) only provide immunity for a few years, but for other vaccines they could give a person immunity against a disease for the rest of their life, although for most additional vaccinations are recommend just to be safe, and with certain vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine, getting another vaccination several years after the first one is usually all that it takes for lifetime immunity.
I replied to the author’s reply to my comment pointing these things out to her, and also once again asking her the question if . . .
Via randi.org written by JREF Staff
We get mail: a Catholic Priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago recently sent a veritable love letter to Randi for his decades of good work exposing supernatural fraudsters. It ends with an appeal for JREF staff to convert to Catholicism immediately. He included two objects with the letter:
- An “Image of the Divine Mercy” (which we are told Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in pre-WWII Poland) and
- a medal that he says the Blessed Mother gave to St. Catherine Laboure in LaSallette, France in 1832.
The priest’s big point: “The Lord created the you without your consent, but he will not save you without your consent.”
Especially interesting was the talk of Randi’s age and how right now is surely the best time for him to finally convert: “Mr. Randi, you doubt so much that I know you must want to believe!”
He also provides some helpful instruction: “Go into a nearby Catholic Church, sit before the Tabernacle (which Catholics believe the Risen Lord Jesus IS Truly, Really, Substantially Present in the Eucharist Host) and open your heart, saying “Lord Jesus, if You are real, give me the grace to believe.” Then we are told we can “enter into the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity!”
Our question is Since when have Catholics become so evangelizing?
We thought you might enjoy reading Randi’s response:
Deepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.
In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.
The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.
This is an interesting bit of historical revisionism, although I think it probably just reflects Chopra’s complete unfamiliarity with his subject matter. The modern skeptical movement predates Dawkins by decades. We have had a clear philosophy and scope long before Dawkins appeared on the scene.
Dawkins is a highly respected figure among skeptics because of his powerful writing, his popularizing of science, and his unflinching criticism of pseudoscience. Most skeptics are atheists, and we also respect his defending science from the intrusion of religion and spirituality.
Where many skeptics, myself included, disagree with Dawkins is precisely in treating “the God hypothesis” as if it were only a scientific question. I say “only” because certainly it is possible to treat any supernatural hypothesis as if it were in the realm of methodological naturalism, and there is general agreement among skeptics when approached in this way the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any god exists, or that the laws of the material universe need to be extended to account for any alleged supernatural phenomena. If you frame God as a scientific hypothesis, it can be scientifically refuted. Looked at another way, the psychocultural hypothesis is a far better and more parsimonious explanation for belief in God than the actual existence of such a being.
The big “but” is that not everyone believes in God as a scientific fact. Some people choose to have faith in an unfalsifiable god, one that resides outside the realm of science. Once someone’s faith has retreated outside the realm of science, then science is no longer the tool by which one should address such faith. Logic and philosophy are now more appropriate, but you cannot say, by definition, that an unfalsifiable God can be scientifically proven to not exist.
- Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses (theness.com)
- Shermer and Harris pwn Chopra at Caltech (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Richard Dawkins en México – Live Stream Nov 9th (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Is Science Broken?|Steven Novella|Neurologica (theness.com)
- Scientific Skeptic (evangablog.wordpress.com)
- Richard Dawkins en México – Live Stream Nov 9th (richarddawkins.net)
- Shermer and Harris pwn Chopra at Caltech (uglicoyote.wordpress.com)
God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? Far more mysterious ways than the measles virus does, at least — we know a hell of a lot about the virus, like how to inoculate people against it. But God, He’s mysterious, and one of His earthly servants, Kenneth Copeland, is not a fan of vaccines, instead urging his flock to “teach our children to eat right” as part of “God’s health and wellness plan.” (And yes, in that video, Copeland promotes the completely discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.)
Big surprise: Copeland’s church is at the center of a measles outbreak that has infected at least 10 people in Tarrant County, Texas. As another famous Texan said, oops.
The Dallas Morning News says that Copeland’s megachurch released a statement Tuesday explaining that a “visitor” to the church had been exposed to measles on an overseas trip:
Eagle Mountain International Church, about 50 miles northwest of Dallas, released a statement Tuesday that said a visitor attended a service who had been overseas and was exposed to measles.
“Therefore the congregation, staff at Kenneth Copeland Ministries and the daycare center on the property were exposed through that contact,” the statement said.
Al Roy, spokesman for the county’s Public Health Department, said the 10 cases are connected and the department has “been working with individuals who attend the church.”
In what appears to be first-time concern for vaccination, the church offered two free vaccination clinics so that parents could add a little extra to God’s natural protection from disease.
- In Completely Unforseeable Coincidence, Anti-Vaccine Church Hit By Measles Outbreak (wonkette.com)
- Vaccine-Denying Pastor’s Flock Smote with Measles (reason.com)
- Measles Outbreak Traced To Kenneth Copeland’s Church (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- There’s a Measles Outbreak at Vaccine-Denying Pastor Kenneth Copeland’s Fort Worth Church (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Faith Healer Convinces Followers To Never Vaccinate, Now Church The Center Of Measles Outbreak (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
- Vaccine-fearing Texas megachurch urges flock to immunize after measles outbreak (rawstory.com)
Via The Soap Box
There’s been a lot of doomsday predictions and prophecies over the years (and I mean a lot), and fortunately none of them have ever come true. While I have noticed a lot of things about them, there are five things that I have really noticed about them that tends to stick out.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about doomsday prophecies:
5. They have a bad track record.
Every single doomsday prophecy and prediction ever made has always failed to come true, including the big ones that a lot of people believed would happen and were actually preparing for. The most recent example of this is 12/21/2012 ending of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which many people thought would mark the end of the world, despite the fact that nothing in any Mayan religious texts ever stated this, and even if there was, it wouldn’t have meant that the world was ending anyways…
Thinking about, it’s actually a pretty good thing that these doomsday prophecies and predictions has such a bad track record…
4. They tend to get pushed back.
While sometimes when a doomsday prediction fails it will go away, more often then not they just get pushed back to a later date, or will inspire someone else to make a similar prediction for a later date.
One of the most common types of doomsday predictions to this are the New World Order type of predictions. These are predictions that proclaim that the imaginary “New World Order” is going to take over the world and kill lots of people in the process. These types of predictions have failed every single time to come true, and have been pushed back so many times I can’t even count how many times now, and that’s just from Alex Jones alone…
3. They’re pretty vague.
Most of these doomsday predictions and prophecies are quite vague and often times lack many details, if any.
While some of these predictions will at least say what type of disaster is suppose to occur, sometimes they don’t even do that. This causes people to add in their own details about what is suppose to happen, which often times gets very… strange.
- After Failed Prophecies, Harold Camping’s Ministry May Be Facing Doomsday. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Doomsday cult (disiplm.wordpress.com)
- Prophecies, Panic, and God’s Covenant of Peace – Part 2 (hanginoutwithgod.wordpress.com)
- Peter Schiff doubles down on Doomsday views (sgtreport.com)
Deepak Chopra is a master of the vague, cognitively empty but emotively charged expression. Science and spirituality should be friends, says Deepak. Like Dick and Jane, I suppose. The only sensible thing he says in his entire article published in Michael Shermer‘s Skeptic magazine (vol. 16 No. 2, 2011) is “With no data to support the existence of God, there is also no reason for religion and science to close the gap between them.” Of course, he asserts this truism only to deny it.
Deepak gets aligned with reality by proclaiming that “God is inside the consciousness of each person.” (In each of us, I suppose, there is a divinity trying to escape.) Does this mean anything more than that God is a thought? Yes, according to the Master:
The physical building blocks of the universe have gradually vanished; that is, atoms and quarks no longer seem solid at all but are actually clouds of energy, which in turn disappear into the void that seems to be the source of creation. Was mind also born in the same place outside space and time? Is the universe conscious? Do genes depend on quantum interactions? Science aims to understand nature down to its very essence, and now these once radical questions, long dismissed as unscientific, are unavoidable….
It is becoming legitimate to talk of invisible forces that shape creation – not labeling them as God but as the true shapers of reality beyond the space/time continuum. A whole new field known as quantum biology has sprung up, based on a true breakthrough – the idea that the total split between the micro world of the quantum and the macro world of everyday things may be a false split. If so, science will have to account for why the human brain, which lives in the macro world, derives its intelligence from the micro world. Either atoms and molecules are smart, or something makes them smart. That something, I believe, will come down to a conscious universe.
Yes, the universe might be conscious, and Deepak might be giving it a giant headache with his frequent, noisy jabbering about quantum this and that. Deepak ought to . . .
- Confusing Standards for Censorship – Chopra Edition (skepticblog.org)
- Deepak Chopra: Dear TED, Is It ‘Bad Science’ or a ‘Game of Thrones’? (huffingtonpost.com)
- What Buddha Might Say To Deepak Chopra. (elephantjournal.com)
- Just Because TED Doesn’t Promote Pseudoscience Doesn’t Mean They’re Censoring Deepak Chopra (patheos.com)
Via The Soap Box
Ever have a boring Saturday where you can’t find anything worth watching on TV, and eventually come across a preacher (commonly known as a Televangelists) preaching what they claim is the word of God? Well, I have a many of times, and there are certain things that I have noticed about Televangelists and what they tend to do.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about Televangelists:
5. They’re very entertaining.
I openly admit, I think a lot of Televangelists are very entertaining to watch.
Their charismatic actions often times make them very humorous to watch. My personal favorite (in terms of entertainment value) is Benny Hinn with his “ability” to make people fall down on the floor when ever he touches someones.
Of course that entertainment value gets taken away when you realize the next four things:
4. They’re always asking for money.
Just about every single broadcast a Televangelist makes, they’re always asking for money.
Of course they don’t actually outright ask you to give them money. They call it something else, such as pledging, or a gift, or “sowing a seed”.
They also make it seem like they need that money right away, and they always do that while wearing suits worth $2,000 to $3,000, in studios worth $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
3. They act like they have supernatural powers.
Televangelists often times act like their extra special with God, and that if you send them money, you will be in God’s favor (and usually the more money you send them the better favor). Sometimes they will even pray on camera for the people who sent them money, just for that extra “favor”.
Some of them also act like they can heal people from long distances away, or up close by touching you (and knocking you down in the process).
- Broke Benny asks for millions of dollars (ivarfjeld.com)
- Senate committee investigating six televangelists (virginiahinostroza4.wordpress.com)
- Televangelist under fire over comments (wcpo.com)
- Benny Hinn Asks Followers for $2.5 Million to Get Out of Debt (praiserichmond.com)
- Televangelist Juanita Bynum Arrested (thebuzzcincy.com)
- Pat Robertson, Who Prophesied ‘Romney Will Win,’ Urges Viewers to Beware False Prophets (alternet.org)
- Why Do So Many Televangelists Land Themselves in Jail?. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Pat Robertson Cheating Advice, ‘Well, He’s A Man’ (VIDEO) (hngn.com)
- Wait… What?!!? Televangelist Pat Robertson Claims All Men Cheat And It’s The Wife’s Fault When Her Husband Is Unfaithful (bossip.com)
Images of angels surround us all the time, and especially during the holidays. They appear in paintings, figurines,T-shirts, and just about everything else. Angels appear in several religions; in Islam angels are said to be made of light. Early versions of angels had no gender, though later Christian angels were tall, slender males with soft features, often dressed in flowing robes specially tailored around their large white wings.
The word “angel” can be traced back to the Greek word “anglos,” which means “messenger” in Hebrew. Angels can take many forms, usually appearing as human or a glowing light or aura. Often—especially in cases of averted tragedy or disaster—angels will not be seen at all, but instead recognized by their actions. If something good, unexpected, and seemingly inexplicable happens, it’s often assumed to be the result of angelic intervention. [Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places]
The angels most people are familiar with today are the Christian angels, which originated from the Hebrew Testaments. The Catholic Church has devoted considerable effort to describing and developing an extensive hierarchy of angels. There are nine different types of angels within three groups or choirs — seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels — with an official census of 496,000 angels.
In Christianity and Islam, angels function mainly as God’s messengers (mostly announcing births and deaths), but in modern times they function more as guardians. Indeed, the word “angel” has come to describe any hero or benefactor. Angels are said to appear to people in times of need; other times they are sensed as comforting but unseen presences.
Despite centuries of theological speculation about angels — from their number to their duties to how many can dance on the head of a pin — no one knows if they exist outside of stories and legends. Many people believe they do: Polls suggest that nearly 70 percent of Americans think angels exist. In their book “Paranormal America,” sociologists Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker note that “Angels pervade popular culture in books, television shows, and movies…. Believers exchange informal testimonials in newsletters and interpersonal conversations about the potential power of angels to influence the world, and more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe that they have personally been saved from harm by a guardian angel.” [Senator Claims Angels Visited Him in Hospital]
A 2007 Baylor Religion Survey found that 57 percent of Catholics, 81 percent of Black Protestants, 66 percent of Evangelical Protestants, and 10 percent of Jews reported having a personal experience with a guardian angel. Curiously, 20 percent of those who identified themselves as having no religion also claimed having encountered an angel.
In one famous 2008 angel encounter, a North Carolina woman . . . more . . .