Letters, We Get Mail, V

Orange says: This message is in reverse order — that is, I sent out a question, and got the answer back. I stumbled across a web site about a recovery program called The Saint Jude Retreat House at "http://soberforever.com/", and read that 95% of the newcomers to A.A. don't even come back for a second meeting. Those numbers were even worse — far worse — than what I had written in my web pages, so I sent the following query:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Agent Orange" <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 11:30 PM
Subject: A.A. dropout rate

Hello. I noticed that your home page at soberforever.com stated that 95% of the people who go to A.A. meetings never return. I was wondering where you got your numbers.

I'm not disputing your numbers, mind you. They are just even more extreme than mine, that I use on my website, which says that 81% are gone in 30 days, 90% in 3 months, and 95% gone in a year. But my numbers are based on A.A. triennial surveys, which may well be biased by observational selection — "don't count somebody as a member unless he does 10 meetings", or something like that.

So anyway, I was just wondering what your source of statistics is.

FYI, my page of numbers, rating the miserable success rate (really, failure rate) of A.A. is at:

Thanks for your time. Have a good day.

*               Agent Orange             *
*            [email protected]         *
*      AA and Recovery Cult Debunking    *
*   https://www.orange-papers.info/   *
* Heisenberg said, "I'm not really sure if    *
* that even was Shrödinger's cat.   I think  *
* he might have used somebody else's cat..." *

I received the following answer. It was obviously cut and pasted from an answer sent to somebody else, because it answers a couple of questions that I didn't ask, like the sobriety of the staff and treatment of eating disorders, but that's okay. The information is very interesting.

> > The particular
> > statistic you ask about comes from a variety of sources, but the most
> > credible source is Alcoholics Anonymous, itself.  On an hour long
> > special report by ABC's 20/20, Alcoholics Anonymous stated that only 5%
> > of those who go to their first AA Meeting return another time.  It is
> > reasonable, then, that 95% do not return after their first meeting.  But
> > more important is the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous does not work for
> > at least 95% of those who try Alcoholics Anonymous.
> >
> > Bear in mind, however, that if Alcoholics Anonymous reported
> > (with substantiation) a 95% success rate, we would have been just as
> > disposed to reporting those results.  Moreover, we would change our
> > entire program to include Alcoholics Anonymous. But, the truth is for
> > people seeking help, conventional treatment, which includes Alcoholics
> > Anonymous as a portion of aftercare, is far less effective than no
> > treatment or no AA at all.
> >
> > As for your question about length of sobriety of our staff, it
> > ranges from a couple years to over 20 years with the average being
> > (circa) 5 to 6 years.  As for their treatment experience, we consider
> > treatment experience a detriment to becoming an instructor in our
> > program.  Treatment programs actually lower the probability of recovery
> > for those having problems with drugs and alcohol.
> > (See 
[Currently dead link.]
> >
> > With respect to 20/20's report, it quoted Alcoholics Anonymous
> > [World Services] as its source.  How AA arrived at the 5% stick rate was
> > not reported.  However, I can refer you again to our website where we
> > published an AA study.  In 1989, Baldwin Research, more specifically, I
> > conducted a year long study of 10 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
> > This was an observational study that counted and anonymously identified
> > new attendees of the ten meetings in the study.  As I recall N = (circa)
> > 83 new attendees with only 9.6% still attending meetings at the end of
> > the one year study.  Information about this 1989 study is reported on
> > the Jude Thaddeus Program | Baldwin Research Tab of the Saint Jude
> > Retreat House Webpage.
> >
> > It is important to understand that this study was not presented
> > as being definitive of anything, but rather as a pseudo-random sampling
> > of reality at that time.  While normalization of the data was done, no
> > accommodation was made for geography or other demographics.  However, it
> > is reasonable to assume that any adjustments for these items would not
> > have appreciably changed the outcome.  Thus, AA's 2000 statistic of 5%
> > does not seem inconsistent with our 1989 findings.  Additionally, there
> > is conclusive data that shows AA's efficacy has been declining for the
> > last 42 years.  AA's 5% success rate in year 2000 is consistent with the
> > negative slope of this trend line of the last 42 years.
> >
> > Regarding your questions about eating disorder and sexual
> > compulsivity disorders, we have not kept any statistics for these
> > maladies.  Certainly a significant number of individuals have come
> > through the program with eating problems (e.g. Bulimia) and sexual
> > problems.  Most, perhaps 60% to 70%, experienced a complete recovery.
> > With that said, please keep in mind that these individuals came to the
> > program with drinking and/or drugging problems.
> >
> > I hope I have adequately addressed your questions.  If I can be
> > of any additional help please let me know.

I have to comment on one line:
"Additionally, there is conclusive data that shows AA's efficacy has been declining for the last 42 years."
Has the success rate really declined, or are the current bean-counters simply not as outrageous at cooking the books and faking the numbers as Bill Wilson was? In the Big Book, and in the Big Book publishing company Stock Prospectus, Wilson bragged that his "spiritual method" had a very high success rate — 50% — but that was not true at all. Wilson was lying. Bill's New York group actually had a terrible relapse rate. In the end, everybody from his business partner Henry Parkhurst to his sponsor Ebby Thacher went out and died drunk. That wasn't a whole lot of "efficacy".

(And Bill Wilson was committing felony securities fraud when he made those extravagant claims in the stock prospectus, because he was deceiving prospective investors about the potential worth of the company and the real value of its technology. Never mind the fact that The One Hundred Men Corporation did not actually even exist, so Bill was also comitting felony fraud by selling stock in a non-existent corporation.)

— Orange


I have been reading your writings about AA As A Cult. I wanted to give you my reaction. First I want to let you know that I have come to many of the same conclusions based on my experience with NA. I went to NA meetings everyday for two months and then stopped because I was afraid of getting too involved with these people.

I found my first meetings to be very helpful. I successfully stayed off the drugs when I had previously been unable to do this.

But there were somethings I didn't like. I didn't like being called insane. I didn't like being told not to think. I didn't like being attacked when I asked questions. I didn't like being told that "Your best thinking got you here". I was confused by the instructions I was getting. In my opinion, the organization is designed to manipulate and brainwash etc. in order to propagate itself. As you point out, the NA program fails to help most people. A very very small percentage of people in the program actually get off drugs.

But, I am not sure this means that the program should be abandoned. After listening to the amazing horror stories of drug addiction, it was incredible that anyone can ever get off drugs for any length of time. It may take something as crazy as a cult to help even a small percentage of the people.

I think that the program is helpful for people who need to be told what to do (some people really can't think for themselves). These kind of people seem to respond well to cult thinking. The small fraction of the population who are susceptible to cult thinking may succeed in the NA program.

Do you rememeber the Jim Jones Guyana cult a few years ago? If I remember correctly, several of the members were street people and drug addicts. But, they were turned into productive, sober people by the cult. Of course, it ended in many deaths. But, NA does not appear to be so extreme.

I guess I believe that NA is helpful for some people, but not for most. Why destroy it for those it helps even though they lie and manipulate? Isn't it the lesser of two evils? I quit the program because I was afraid of it. I was unable to buy into it for the reasons you mention. I am also afraid of being brainwashed. I am also afraid of the people. They want to borrow money. They want to manipulate.

Aside from this, I would like to make some comments about the NA culture. I found it to be a closed society. The people generally did not have associations outside the group. They also depended on each other for employment or living situations (some shared apartments). They socialized together. These people were very angry and there were many conflicts. There were even death threats among members. I didn't see much serenity at all. I did not want to have any of these people as my friends. I distanced myself from them.

I don't know if these observations are universally true. All of this took place abroad where the group was small and it was natural for foreigners to depend on each other.


Hi, Craig.

I have to agree with your observations about N.A.. I've been to as many (maybe more) N.A. meetings than A.A., and while I mostly write about A.A., and use the name A.A. when I talk, I often really mean both. About the only big difference I see between the two is that the N.A. people consider themselves more hip and cool because they allow talk about both drugs and alcohol, rather than just alcohol. (But I've also been to A.A. meetings where the ban on drug talk didn't exist.) It always seemed to me that half of every N.A. meeting was just a sales pitch for why you had to Keep Coming Back to more meetings.
"The most important thing is to just suit up and show up."
(I thought the most important thing was supposed to be "Just don't use drugs, no matter what." I guess I was wrong. :-) )

I have searched hard, trying to find some good in N.A. (or A.A.). About all I found is the idea that you really can be in recovery, and not feel ashamed of it. You can even feel positive about it, which you should, because you are saving your own life. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

But yes, I see the same negative things as you have seen. I too have mixed feelings about whether it should be abandoned. I have often wondered whether a positive recovery cult might be a useful tool to help with getting some people off of drugs and alcohol. "If we could just keep the positive parts and dump the worst parts." It just seems like some people do like cults, and do respond to the environment.

Unfortunately, it seems like every time someone has tried that experiment, it has gone sour. Synanon and The People's Temple are the two most famous examples of such recovery cults gone crazy.

I have done short write-ups of those two as part of the question of whether there is any validity to the argument, "Well, it was really a good thing for some people. It really helped some people. It got some people off of drugs and alcohol."

See Jonestown here and Synanon here for the gory details. (Also see The Seed and Straight, Inc. for children's gulags and cult-like "Tough Love" recovery camps.)

Yes, your observations about Jim Jones' People's Temple cult are true. For a while, it was a very successful drug and alcohol rehab program, literally grabbing addicts off of the streets of San Francisco and Oakland. Jim Jones won praise from all quarters. Mayor Moscone appointed Jones the head of the San Francisco Housing Authority. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner named him the Humanitarian of the Year.

Unfortunately, the People's Temple turned into a textbook example of a cult in the classic self-destructive spiral dive. That is an interesting phenomenon, the dramatic end of a sort of birth-growth-maturity-decline-death cycle. Pardon this long-winded rap on the dynamics of cult growth, but I find it fascinating stuff.

It works like this:
First, the new cult grows by leaps and bounds. It is the Next Great New Thing. Everything is positive. Everyone is excited, optimistic, and in high spirits. They all believe that the Millenium has arrived, and they are going to save the world and usher in the New Age of Peace and Enlightenment, and create Heaven on Earth. The cult grows explosively.

But after a while, when Heaven never really arrives, the people start to lose their enthusiasm, and they grow tired of making sacrifices for a pay-off that never comes. They become disillusioned. The cult stops growing because people are leaving, as well as joining. And people aren't as cheerful or as optimistic as they used to be.

That stage only lasts for a while, because the cult leader reacts to the downturn with suspicion and paranoia. "Our enemies must be doing this to us. They are all out to get us. The forces of evil are trying to stop us from completing our Great Work." The love, trust, and joy are replaced with discipline, suspicion, and punishment.

Naturally, more people leave, and the cult shrinks further. The cult grows increasingly paranoid and isolated, violent and repressive. The cult leader demands that people swear loyalty, and guarantee that they won't leave. But they do, of course, even if they have to sneak out and run away in the middle of the night, which just makes the remaining situation even more negative. The cult leader becomes increasingly crazy and paranoid. He thinks that everybody is betraying him, and he can't trust anybody. The cult goes into a power dive, accelerating towards some kind of a crash.

In the case of Jim Jones' People's Temple, they became so paranoid that they fled to the jungles of Guyana to hide from the world, while guards with automatic weapons patrolled the boundaries, "for security". And they ended up shooting those people who tried to leave, as well as Congressman Leo J. Ryan and the TV newsmen who came with him to see Jonestown. And the rest is history. Jim Jones then chose suicide, rather than to get arrested for murder, and he insisted that everybody else had to keep him company on the trip.

Synanon did not end with mass suicides, but it did degenerate into a real nightmare at the end. And the leader was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. I quoted a piece of Escape From Utopia, William F. Olin's great book about Synanon, under the Cult Test item "No Exit", where he described what it felt like to be there near the end of the organization, and to leave it. It's really interesting reading.

You know the old saying: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That really holds true in cults where the leader becomes intoxicated with power (like the People's Temple). That's another parallel thread that runs through the above scenario. In the beginning, the leader is bright and positive, and so cheery that it rubs off on his followers — it's infectious joy, and it attracts more cult members. (The organization doesn't even look or feel like a cult at that point.) The leader becomes intoxicated with his own success. It seems like no matter what he does, no matter how outrageous his speech or behavior, people just worship him, and his "movement" grows and grows, and it seems like he is blessed by the Powers On High, and can do no wrong. He develops a good case of megalomania, and starts to believe his own hype. He also comes to regard it all as a joke. He says and does even more outrageous and stupid things, and the followers still believe it and eat it up. No matter what he does, they just ask, "What is Master trying to show us now?" The leader begins to wonder if there is anything he could say or do that the stupid fools won't believe. So he tries even more extreme stuff, and does whatever the hell he wants, and it is still okay. They still buy it. The leader begins to believe in his own invincibility.

But when the cult stops growing, and the downturn comes, then the leader becomes depressed and paranoid. He can't believe that people could have just grown tired of waiting for the promised miracles — he thinks that it must be "our enemies" who are doing something to him. Besides, he knows he can't really deliver the promised miracles, and he's afraid that people will wake up and realize that. So he becomes even more paranoid, and starts punishing anyone who dares to question or criticize him. So, of course, more people leave, which makes the leader even more depressed and paranoid, and authoritarian and punishing, which makes even more people leave... And then the cult goes into the classic spiral dive towards self-destruction.

So while some people like cults, and respond to cults positively, I can't help but feel extremely reluctant to think that a "nice" recovery cult might work.

Fortunately, A.A. and N.A. are not following that spiral-dive-to-death pattern. The leaders of A.A. — Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob — died without doing that. (Perhaps one reason was that A.A. never stopped growing during their lifetimes.) Now, there are no charismatic leaders who can go crazy, so nobody is going to lead A.A. or N.A. into mass suicide.

But how good are A.A. and N.A. at getting people to quit alcohol and drugs? That's a question that I have asked a lot. In fact, I guess it is the single most important question (besides whether they all commit mass suicide). I wrote a whole long chapter on just that one question, and collected the results of every valid test that I could find. See "The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment".

We don't really know for sure what the N.A. success rate is. I suspect that it is about the same as A.A., which makes it approximately zero. Those few people who quit are those who were going to quit anyway, because they just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. The 12 steps and the cult religion really had nothing to do with it, and just wasted people's time, and made them act like deluded fools.

I agree that being surrounded by a group of people who are also not using, who are also in recovery, can be a big help. And a change of environment, and a change of routine, to get away from old habitual behavior, is a giant help. I've often thought about wilderness camps or something, where you can go take a month-long vacation from your addiction, just to help break out of the old rut (and maybe get into a new, more healthy, rut). — I mean a good camp, where people are nice to you, not a nightmare "Tough Love" hell-camp.

It seems to me that the whole question of whether recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous should be promoted or shut down hinges on the questions of how many people they help, and how many people they hurt. If the true success rate — those recoveries actually caused by the program — is zero, then it is a foregone conclusion that the program is hurting more people than it is helping. I have seen people flat-out walk away from recovery because they decide that they would rather not recover, if recovery requires becoming one of those crazy religious fanatics. (That is, of course, bad logic, a mistaken assumption. But at least one of those people that I know of has still died because of it.)

By the way, to end on a positive note, the rate of spontaneous remission from drugs and alcohol is surprisingly high. I don't have exact numbers for recovery from drug addiction, but the Harvard Medical School gave a number of about 50% for alcoholics. That is, half of them will eventually just quit and stay quit, and save their own lives. (And 80% of those successful abstainers do it alone, without any treatment or recovery program.) Unfortunately, that statistic also means that the other half die, rather than quit drinking. (That is the same number as my own doctor gave me — he said that the death rate from late-stage alcoholism was the same as for cancer — 50%.) The Harvard Medical School did say that heroin addicts break the habit in an average of 11 years, which sounds good. But that does not, however, tell us how many are still alive at the 11-year point.
See the quote in the page on The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment.

Thanks for writing. Have a good day, and congratulations on your recovery.

— Orange

P.S.: I don't know which version of my pages you were reading, the old stuff on AAdeprogramming.com, or the new stuff on Tripod. I suspect, from your question about Jonestown, that it was the old pages, where I had not put in the stuff about Jonestown yet. All of the newer pages are on Tripod. You should see them.

UPDATE: Now Tripod is obsolete. I have my own domain name and a better server:

--- Gillian wrote:
> Hi, I laughed so hard when I read your web site. I've been there,
> done that,
> and I can completely identify with it.
> You have a great sense of humor and a lot of insight!
> Thanks:)
> ~ Gillian ~
Hi. Thanks for the thanks. Have a Merry Christmas.

— Agent Orange

Jim M. wrote:

I read your AA put-down page with interest. I wonder do you still feel the way you did at it's writing? Your words 'may' be right for you, but they are wrong for me, at least 'at this present time'. I've been sober just over ten years thru AA.

Actually, I like to think of the web site as a little more than just "a put-down". Maybe an essay, or a study, or a book, or a web site.

But before we go any further, let me congratulate you on your ten years of sobriety. Good going.

When you say that you have been "sober ten years through A.A.", just what does that mean? That's an important point, the really big point in fact.

  • Did something about the Alcoholics Anonymous program *make* you quit drinking, or somehow *cause* you to quit drinking?
  • Is there really a cause-and-effect relationship between going to A.A. meetings and not drinking?
  • Does practicing the Twelve Steps somehow keep people from drinking?
  • Why do all of the tests of A.A. as an alcoholism treatment program show that it is useless? Even one of the leaders of A.A., Professor George E. Vaillant of Harvard University, discovered that when he conducted an 8-year-long test of A.A. treatment of alcoholics.

I think AA does help some people. Mostly, the people who want to quit drinking (or whatever drug). For me, I knew I wanted to quit, SO I DID! AA helped me to see what I already knew, that I was a very unhappy person who needed to deal with basic life issues. These issues were mosly brushed past or covered over by me just so I did not have to deal with them. AA HELPED~~~IT DIDN'T SOLVE!!!.

I agree with you that "I knew I wanted to quit, so I did." That is really it. That is the whole ball game. When you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you quit drinking.

I wonder if you aren't confusing "It works" with the fact that you like A.A. meetings, and somehow get a kick out of them.

The part about "AA helped me to see what I already knew, that I was a very unhappy person who needed to deal with basic life issues" sounds good, like simple healthy psychology. A.A. certainly has no monopoly on that. In fact, it looks like what simple, healthy psychology there may be in A.A. gets buried under the teachings of Bill Wilson and the Twelve Steps.

I agree Tx centers charge a load of money to: "tell them to go to AA and teach them how to read the big book"~~~[My view anyway]

Yeh, mine too.

I think most folks in AA don't get there because they are healthy or sane. I suspect most AA's have a hard time of it right form the start in recovery. I still feel AA "HELPS". I am open-minded to that because I know AA is a bunch of folks who try to help another or get help from another.

Yes. I agree with most of that. I seem to remember that I said that "Healthy, wealthy, and wise people do not join A.A. or N.A., so your odds of getting a wise, intelligent, compassionate, saintly sponsor to help you with your recovery are very, very low."

I only disagree with half of your last sentence. I know that some people are not there to help others, or even to get help. They are there to get their ego kicks by shoving their superstitions on others. (Not to mention those who are there looking to 13th-step somebody...)

Still, if A.A. was just a self-help group, then I would have no reason to criticize it. There are zillions of other self-help groups that I don't write a single word against. There are, for instance, some pretty goofy diet plans or organizations that I ignore. To a certain extent, you have to just say, "Let the buyer beware", and let it go.

But it seems to me that Alcoholics Anonymous has really gone way over the line in the following ways:

  • Coercive recruiting — talking judges, parole officers, therapists and counselors into forcing people to go to A.A. meetings. Also using everything from drug-and-alcohol treatment programs to homeless shelters to shove the 12-step religion on people.
  • Deceptive recruiting — lying to the newcomers about what the program really is.
  • Spreading misinformation about alcoholism.
  • Making false claims of success.
  • Pushing voodoo medicine and faith healing as a treatment program for a deadly medical problem.
  • A.A. is an arrogant, dishonest religion — one that lies and says it is not a religion.

I did get a life in aa also. I do a lot of things other than spending every waking min working with drunks. Fly planes, SCUBA, sail, play guitar...none of it was me before I quit the boose.

Yes, indeed. But I would suggest that getting a life, and developing all of those new interests was caused by your no longer wasting all of your time, energy, money, and health on alcohol, rather than anything that A.A. did for you.

Heck, before I quit drinking, even keeping a web site together had gotten to be too much of a headache. I was too sick to do anything. Now it's a whole 'nother world. And yes, I too am on a jag of swearing that I'm really going to learn to play my guitars before I die of old age...

I dont speak for aa but I say:

  1. "If you want to stay sober~~~stay sober".
  2. "If you want to learn a way to deal with some of the issues that drove you in here, the 12 step program MIGHT help".
  3. "If that is better than what you have now, I will help".

First off, yes, you are speaking for A.A.. That is such a standard line, "I'm not speaking for A.A.".
Yes, you are speaking for A.A.. Now that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you are praising A.A., or speaking in defense of A.A., then you really are "speaking for A.A.".

I do not begin every page by saying, "I'm not criticizing A.A., because no one has the authority to criticize A.A., but I want to say..."

Now your attitude sounds okay. I can't argue with that. The only part I have any objection to is the 12 steps themselves, because I believe that they do more harm than good.

I am in AA AND it works for me.

Once again, I still have to question WHAT works, and how does it "work"?
Why has every single fair, unbiased test of A.A. that has ever been done show, at best, no help, no improvement, a zero percent success rate? And why do so many tests show negative results, where A.A. is worse than no treatment at all? --Like Prof. George Vaillant's discovery that his A.A.-based treatment program had the highest death rate of any kind of treatment program that he examined?

Speaking of which, if you know of any tests that show that A.A. does work, I'd like to see them. I mean real tests — fair, unbiased tests with control groups, not just some "survey" that is just the collected opinions of some A.A. boosters, a piece of propaganda intended to fool people into thinking that the A.A. program somehow works.

I wonder if you are happy and I wonder if you are still sober? I hope you are. I have not read all of your page, only a small portion so far.

Yes, I am happy, and I have two years clean and sober now, and I'm doing just fine, thank you. And it really is wonderful, waking up without a hang-over, and being able to breathe...

No offense intended~~~I wish you well.

Happy Holidays, Jim.

No offense taken. You have a good Christmas, too.

(23 December 2002)

I have enjoyed and benefitted from a lot of the writing on your site but I really have to ask you what you have against the Hare Krishnas? I would not consider them a cult - any more than Methodists, Baptists or Catholics etcetera. They are merely a branch of Hinduism (as I am sure you are aware). I don't have any connections with them, I do like to read the Bhagavad Gita though and cannot fathom what it is you dislike about them.

Hope you are well


Hi Mark,

I am well, thank you, and I hope you are too.

I have a bunch of reasons for considering ISKCON a cult. It seems to me that to call them merely a branch of Hinduism is like calling the Ku Klux Klan merely a branch of Christianity. Specifically, it is an organization with a history of:

  1. Gross dishonsty, ranging from deliberately short-changing people who buy books or make donations, to drug smuggling to raise funds. Nori Muster, who was a member for about 10 years, and who was one of the three people who ran the internal newspaper, documented a lot of this in her book, Betrayal of the Spirit. I quoted some of her descriptions of ISKCON activities in The Cult Test.

  2. Deceptive Recruiting. Nori Muster specifically asked about the treatment of women in the organization, and was lied to. A friend had warned her that women were just servants and second-class citizens in the organization, but the recruiter assured her that women were treated just fine. "Just fine" ended up meaning virtual slavery.

  3. Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada
    Crazy Leaders. Swami Prabhupada was just another phony guru who feathered his own nest. Instead of living in poverty in India, he came to America and lived off of the American kids. And he mistrained his followers so badly that he made them into really evil creeps. The eleven "Zone Gurus" who replaced him after his death were guilty of everything from selling heroin to murdering a critic. Neither Prabhupada nor his eleven disciple "gurus" did anything to stop the evil practices like unethical fund-raising or child abuse.

  4. Inability to tolerate criticism, and attacks on critics:

    Tim Lee was kicked out of ISKCON in 1980 for raising questions about the succession of the 11 gurus — whether they were really appointed by Prabhupada. But before they kicked him out, Lee says they offered to make him the guru for Ireland. "When I refused that," he says, "they said, okay, you just better watch your back then."

    Lee went on investigating, and in 1986, he found out that those threats weren't empty. On May 22, at 1:00 a.m., his friend Steve Bryant, who was also investigating ISKCON, was assassinated on the orders of GBC guru Kirtananda. In the assassin's pocket was a piece of paper with Lee's license plate number. He was next on the list.
    © PortlandMercury.Com Vol 2 No. 3, Jun 21 - Jun 27 2001

  5. Goofy dogma. "Science is all wrong. The world is flat. Swami Prabhupada is the world's guru for the next 10,000 years."

  6. Characteristic cultish intrusiveness into people's private lives. They will dictate everything from what you may eat and when you may sleep to when you may have sex:

    Since Krishna Consciousness principles set out by Srila Prabhupada emphasize "no illicit sex" as one of the "pillars" of the Movement, Srila Prabhupada's view was that sex should only be employed for the propagation of Krishna Conscious children.
    © CHAKRA 25-January-2001

  7. Abuse and mistreatment of members. Swami Prabhupada kept them chronically sleep-deprived, making them either work or chant instead of sleep, which keeps members from being able to think. And he kept them malnourished, which also makes critical thought difficult. And he kept them raising money. They are, of course, infamous for trying to sell you Swami Prabhupada's books in airports.

    Nori Muster documented how the treatment of women was positively medieval, and women "could be mistreated unless a male sympathizer acted as an advocate."

    Members were also considered expendable. Muster documents how unprofitable ashrams were simply shut down and the residents booted out onto the street — people who had served ISKCON for many years and who had expected to stay in ISKCON for life.

    But it was the children who fared the worst. They were taken away from their parents at an early age, and sent to special schools where they were kept ignorant of anything outside of the cult. They were taught, for instance, that the Earth is flat, and that the American astronauts never really went to the moon. They were taught only enough arithmetic to be able to short-change the customers. And they were beaten mercilessly by strangers. There is a lawsuit in the courts about that now, where grown children of ISKCON are suing ISKCON:

June 12, 2000


Today 44 young adults filed a $400 million dollar damage suit against the "Hare Krishna" for sexual, physical and emotional torture inflicted upon them as children. The suit says Plaintiffs were sexually, physically and emotionally abused, along with hundreds of other children, who were kept during two decades at Hare Krishna's boarding schools.

The suit, filed in the Federal District Court in Dallas, Texas, names the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS (ISKCON) as the lead defendant, along with sixteen other ISKCON entities and seventeen individual members of its GOVERNING BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, including the Estate of the movement's founder, BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA. The Plaintiffs reside in various cities in the United States, Canada and England.

Dallas trial lawyer WINDLE TURLEY, attorney for the plaintiffs, said today, "This lawsuit describes the most unthinkable abuse and maltreatment of little children which we have seen. It includes rape, sexual abuse, physical torture and emotional terror of children as young as three years of age. The worst of the practices spanned two decades, starting in 1972 with ISKCON's first school in Dallas, Texas. The abuse continued in a half-dozen other schools in the United States and eventually at two boys' schools in India.

"Although the leadership in ISKCON has long been aware of the mistreatment and abuse inflicted upon little children entrusted to it to raise, the full scope and profound maltreatment of its children has only recently been exposed.

"We believe the facts as they are developed will reveal more than a thousand child victims, many of whom have already taken their own lives or are today emotionally and socially dysfunctional.

"Elements within this new religious movement have attempted to operate outside the child protection laws of a half-dozen states. As a result, a generation of ISKCON children are permanently, and many profoundly, injured."

The suit also seeks a Federal injunction to force ISKCON to stop all forms of child abuse.

More details of the child abuse and of the plaintiffs' legal claims, including Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), are set out in the Complaint.

Click here to view the complaint.
You must have Acrobat Reader to view the complaint.

For more information contact:

Windle Turley, attorney
6440 North Central Expressway
fax 214/361-5802
Dallas, Texas

== "In the News with Windle Turley, P.C."

And there is more:

Children Abused in Hare Krishna Day-Care Centers.

June 16, 2000

NEW YORK, (ZENIT.org)- A group of 44 former pupils of Hare Krishna day-care centers in the United States are suing this movement for $400 million in damages. According to Windle Turley, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, the abuses suffered by his clients are "the most unthinkable maltreatment of children ever seen, including rape, sexual abuse, physical torture, and emotional terror against children of up to 3 years of age."

The Hare Krishna movement began to develop in the United States in the 60s, at a time when there was great interest in Eastern religions and philosophy. The founder of the sect, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, believed that children should attend the movement's schools to become devotees, and enable their parents to carry out their religious activities. As a result, more than 10 institutes were founded in the United States.

But, according to the 44 abused children, these schools very soon became a nightmare. The accusations include forced sexual relations of young girls with elderly men who supported the movement, physical torture, and lack of medical treatment. "When all the activities become public, it is likely that over 1,000 children "became victims, and many of them have committed suicide or developed mental illnesses."

Dhira Govinda, director of a working group established by Hare Krishna to investigate the abuses, said that "there is no doubt about the sufferings endured by many children while they were being cared for by the organization." The group has allocated $250,000 a year to investigate the accusations, and give advice and financial support to the victims. Spokesman Anuttama said he was "distressed over the fact that the issue ended up in court."

Hare Krishnas state that the movement has changed and those guilty of abuses have been marginalized.
From: Dr. Jai Maharaj ([email protected])
Newsgroups: alt.fan.jai-maharaj, soc.culture.indian, alt.religion.hindu, alt.support.ex-cult, alt.religion.vaisnava, uk.religion.hindu
Date: 2002-07-08 20:33:25 PST

Just to give you one small example: An ISKCON child found a $5 bill on the ground on a city street. He took his friends, other young ISKCON members, to the store and bought them all candy with the money. (Candy was something that they never got in ISKCON.) He was severely beaten by one of the adult male members of the cult for the crime of "selfishness" — for not donating the money to ISKCON. Can you imagine a childhood where it is always like that?
(Never mind having to sexually "service" rich ugly old men...)

[More on the Hari Krishna child abuse here.]

That really isn't Hinduism. The Hindu religion is much better than that.

And I just found a book review of Muster's book in my files. Here are a few lines from it:


by Lauren Winner

Nori Muster had everything going for her. Sure, her teenage years had been a bit rocky, but nothing more than the normal teenage rebellion in the wake of her parents' divorce. Now she was graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the world was her oyster.

The day after commencement, Muster drove to the west L.A. temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)--more commonly known as the Hare Krishnas--and joined up. She would spend the next 10 years in the religious group, which she now considers to be a cult. "I had finished college, I could have just walked out into the world and done anything, and instead my life has been sucked up," she now reflects bitterly.

In 1997, Muster published Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life Behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement (Univ. of Illinois), a memoir of her days in ISKCON. This spring the press is reissuing the book in paper with a new preface that is more critical than in the original. "When I wrote the book, I was sort of half-in, half-out" of the Hare Krishnas, says Muster. "Now I am totally out."

Muster's time as a Hare Krishna went from idyllic to nightmarish. At first there was a feeling of community, of family. Muster, who had found the college social scene far too dominated by beer and pot, appreciated the Hare Krishnas' rejection of drugs. She also found a good job within the Hare Krishna community, working on their newspaper; she eventually became the assistant editor. It was that "central position" of editor, says Muster, that gave her a different view of the movement. "I began to see that it was very hypocritical," she recalls. Hypocritical, and worse: she asserts that Hare Krishnas were involved in murders, kidnappings and child abuse, crimes they didn't want Muster to report on. When Muster finally did begin to publish articles probing the underbelly of the Hare Krishnas, the movement's top dogs cracked down. She resigned from the paper and left the Hare Krishnas at the end of 1988.
Muster hopes the book will help others who are attracted to cults, and their families. To the former, she counsels, "Be aware when you're in a dysfunctional system, and don't let it control you. Back away--then heal yourself." To families, she says simply, "If you have a loved one that is in a cult, just stand by them."
Publishers Weekly, 03/26/2001, Vol. 248 Issue 13, pS26, 1/3p

Thanks for the question.

— Orange

[1 Jan, 2003, 2nd letter from Mark:]

Hello again and thanks for your reply. I guess I was a little ambigous in my question as I originally thought you had an issue with the Vaisnava side of Hinduism (which as far as I understand is well respected and long standing in India) but if it is just ISKCON then that would be a different matter.

I wasn't aware of the nature of this organisation I must admit. I suppose this means that their translation of Hindu scriptures may well be biased toward their own interests? - in which case I have been wasting my time to a certain extent.

I have started reading a fair amount of religious / spiritual material since my attempts to stop drinking in July. This was going very well until I slipped in November.(the not drinking rather than the reading!!) I have had a turbulent couple of months since and am hoping the New Year will be more successful for me. (Just by way of explanation of my interest in Hinduism etcetera in the first place)

Best Regards and thanks again for taking the time to answer. I expect your site generates a fair amount of email traffic.


Hi Mark,

As you surmised, my gripes are aimed specifically at the organization called ISKCON. I have nothing against Hinduism or the Vendantic teachings, per se. Like I said in my previous letter, I don't regard Swami Prabhupada or ISKCON to be any more representative of Hinduism than the KKK or Reverend Jim Jones' People's Temple cult are representative of Christianity.

I must confess that I don't know enough about Hinduism to know how the Vaisnava side differs from any other side, or whether Prabhupada's translations are significantly different from anybody else's. Back in the 60's, when my friends and I were reading the Bhagavad Gita, there was just the one common paperback version, and nobody really thought about which translation we should be reading. We just found it to be an interesting read, with some good stuff in there.

I guess I would just ask around. I seem to recall that there used to be (and probably still is) something like The Vedantic Society, which was a bunch of people interested in the Vedas. Perhaps you could ask them about the different translations, and whether the differences are worth worrying about.

About the drinking, just hang in there and keep working on it. One slip doesn't mean you've lost the war, and you really don't loose all of the benefits of your sober time from a few drinks. I think the most important thing there is to not give up and resign yourself to drinking.

I only relapsed once in my life, but when I did, I went out for 9 years. What happened was that I started to believe that it was okay to drink a little, and then accepted the thought that my dry period was over (I had been totally sober for 3 years). I thought that I had it under control now, so it was okay. Of course, my drinking spun out of control very quickly.

But the reason that I stayed out for so long was that I was resigned to just drinking. Either I thought that it was okay, or I thought that I was powerless over alcohol and couldn't quit. Getting back on track required learning that both of those thoughts were wrong — it isn't okay for me to drink, and I am not powerless over alcohol. (Or cigarettes either.)

So I would just suggest that you could save yourself years of grief if you don't buy into those ideas. That's just my two cents worth.

So just keep working at it, and don't give up.

Thanks for the letter. Have a good day.

— Orange

[Tue Dec 24]

Wow! I think one's obsession can be anothers survival. Remember, Live simply so that others may live.

After reading the information supplied at this site, I can only feel sorry for you and others who waste such valuble time on....well it's quite obvious....time is very preshious you know.

As a wise man once said, fear breeds anger and anger brings hate and hate brings forth destruction.       Yoda

Have some children, relax, and smell the flowers.
A. There are no secrets.
B. We are all going to die, eventually.

"Just go away, and quit telling the truth about A.A. because life is short"?
"Let evil reign supreme in this world because life is short and time is precious and we are all too busy smelling the roses to bother working to make things better"?

"Yoda says don't get up tight, there are no secrets, we are all going to die anyway"?
(Back in the sixties and seventies, us hippies used to call that kind of pseudo-spiritual talk "Cosmidelic Bullshit".)

By the way, if there are no secrets, then why does the Alcoholics Anonymous headquarters, AAWS and the GSO, keep the archives locked and sealed? Why do they never allow people like me to even see all of the historical documents about Bill Wilson and early A.A.?

See Ernest Kurtz, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hazelden Educational Foundation, Center City, MN, 1979, page 136 and pages 416-417, "Closed Sources and Their Status To Scholars".

Also see Susan Cheever's hero-worshipping biography of Bill Wilson. In spite of the fact that she went to great lengths to avoid saying anything bad about Wilson or A.A., she still had to say:

Almost twenty-five years after Bill Wilson's death,   ...   Bill's sex life is still a secret ... something which has been excised from the official literature and — for the most part — from the official A.A. archives.
My Name Is Bill; Bill Wilson — His Life And The Creation Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Susan Cheever, page 224.

So, they are purging the archives of embarrassing historical information? "No secrets" indeed. And so much for their boasting of a lifestyle that demands rigorous honesty.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.


[Thur 26 Dec 2002]

Hey, secret-agent-(orange)man:

First, ever hear an AA speaker get heckled? This is a must-listen.

Below are two links to a talk that Bob Earll (36 years) gave in 1999 that you might enjoy. He suggests that AAers get out and seek outside help for their problems. The die-hards in the audience don't like it much (all down hill from there). It's pretty funny. His final words to the audience are so insulting that I doubt that they'll ask him back. Ever.

Both links lead to the same file (Bob E. from Redondo Beach...).

http://www.elmoware.com/dld_fram.htm [Now a dead link.]

His talk pretty much sums up what I feel about the program and why I rarely bother going anymore.

Second, you have a great site. The amount of research you've done is astonishing. Plus, you write well, so it's a nice (and funny) read. Apple's is really good, too.

I still show up to meetings from time-to-time, but it's really hard to stay there after reading all of the articles you've written. I bail when they "pass the hat" now. I spend the dollar on Jelly Bellies. Moreover, the Big Book seems so much smaller now...and the meetings, well, they're just silly. I went to a meeting this afternoon, and almost started laughing during the "More About Alcoholism" reading, thinking it should be called, "Moron about Alcoholism" in honor of ol' Bill. (Sorry about that; it was funny at the time).

Please don't post my name or e-mail address if you decide to post this message.

Take care,
[name withheld by request]

"Moron about Alcoholism", or even just "Moron Alcoholism" — I still think it's funny. Thanks for the letter, and I'll have to go give those links a listen.

Have a good day.

— Orange

--- Mike F. wrote:
> Would it be a violation of our freedom of religion to be
> court-ordered to attend AA meetings, when the IRS our federal
> government, considers AA a religion based on their non-profit
> status?

Hi. The quick and simple answer is, "Yes."

The courts have repeatedly ruled that A.A. engages in religious activities, so no one can be sentenced to A.A., but it is done every day anyway.

Often, it is just a matter of "Don't make waves. You really don't want to annoy your parole officer or the judge. Just go along with the standard program if you know what is good for you."

— Orange

Orange. Thank you so much for this on-line book. I lost a friend to the "anti-drug therapy" crowd. She was bi-polar and to be accepted and belong she went off her medication got drunk fell asleep and burned to death (nobody wanted anything to do with her after she went off her meds). I am still sober, inspite of the people in aa. I hope many more good and trusting people read more of your book...

Hi. Thanks for the complements. Sorry to hear about your friend. I fear for a friend of mine, too, for the same reasons. Congratulations on your sobriety, and keep up the good work.

By the way, I just ran across a survey on A.A. members' attitudes towards medications, and it claimed that A.A. members were not at all dogmatic about medications — only 17% of the sponsors were against them. What the writer of the article did not seem to be able to realize is: that meant that any person with both a psychiatric and a drug or alcohol problem had a 17% chance of getting a bad sponsor who just might kill him or her with stupid orders...

(See: Alcoholics Anonymous and the Use of Medications to Prevent Relapse: An Anonymous Survey of Member Attitudes. ROBERT G. RYCHTARIK; GERARD J. CONNORS; KURT H. DERMEN; PAUL R. STASIEWICZ. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Jan 2000 v61 i1 p134.)

What I know is, the very first friend of mine who went to Dual Diagnosis Anonymous ended up in the "lucky" 17% — he got told to quit taking the Paxil that he really depended on to keep his head together. Fortunately, he ignored the "advice" of his sponsor and the other old-timers, and stayed on his meds, and was still okay the last time I saw him. I am, of course, telling him to ignore those fools and just stay on his meds. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

— Orange

P.S.: Oh, by the way, 17% is almost exactly the odds of death if you play Russian Roulette with an old Colt 45 6-shooter. One bullet in one of the 6 chambers gives odds of 16 2/3% of blowing your head off.

It seems like Alcoholics Anonymous is just as dangerous as Russian Roulette, for people with psychiatric problems.

[2nd letter from Daisy:]

Have you ever heard of Clancy I of the pacific group or the notorious badger group in Waukesha Wisconsin? its worth you checking out...

[3rd letter from Daisy:]

Orange. its me Daisy, I just received a i book for xmas and was flustered that I had not created a different identity like I usually do for the web. I usually use xxxxxx, so I was a little concerned about my name getting out there, at times, I have been harrassed by aa fanatics.

No problem. I just created a new untraceable one for you, "Daisy"... Amazing what text editors can do...     :-)

It has taken me approximately three nights to finish reading your book along with the letters. The letters from aa people do not surprise me at all. What has always been shocking to me is the rationalization of a death after a person has quit taking their meds under the so-called direction of their sponsor. I know of many incidents and because I became so outspoken was shunned by my homegroup (lucky for me, because I started to get involved with my life and living it). I am certain that you are aware of many horrific stories of people damaged or killed by the so called sponsorship. I used to attend the badger group in waukesha, the biggest aa cult in waukesha, once a year they fly their guru Clancy I. in to tell his story. The same one for the last 17 years or so... the same story over and over again... the new york office was contacted many times because of deaths over the years, but there have never been any consequences set upon them. They all scatter under the dictum, "aa is made up of individual members". I have forwarded your site to another ex-aa who never listened to her sponsor and now has her doctorate in psychology. I would say it has taken me about 5 years to get over the events and the damage done to me (I attended meetings faithfully for 3 years). If you are interested I have a couple of horror stories for your body of work (I would like to remain anonymous). Your website has helped me quite a bit... especially the information on cults... once again thankyou for the effort you have put in to it...

Thanks again for all of the compliments. I'm glad that somebody benefits, at least a little, from all of this. And yes, I'm always interested in more horror stories.

Have a good day.

— Orange

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