A.A. and Religious Faith

"All hope abandon, ye who enter in!
We to the place have come, where I have told thee
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect."

Dante's Inferno, Canto III

The belief which we find thus questionable, both as being a primitive belief and as being a belief belonging to an almost-extinct family, is a belief that is not countenanced by a single fact.

Herbert Spencer, Principles of Biology, Volume 1, page 336, published 1864 to 1867.

Alcoholics Anonymous has an official party line that says you have complete freedom of religion, and you can belong to any religion you wish, or you can have no religion at all. But the truth is that A.A. members will make every effort to convert you to the official A.A. religious beliefs, which are basically the beliefs of Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman and his Oxford Group cult members, William G. Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith. And the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, says so, very clearly.

In the Big Book, chapter 4 is titled "We Agnostics". It's a highly revealing chapter. That chapter explains how all of the former agnostics and atheists in A.A. got converted into true believers in Bill Wilson's religion, and how all of the new skeptics must also be converted. In fact, the whole chapter is devoted to just one subject: how everyone must "abandon Reason and human intelligence" and come to believe Bill Wilson's religious beliefs. That chapter says nothing about how to actually quit drinking alcohol. It is more proof that A.A. is a cult religion, not a quit-drinking program.

We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. "Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?" As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 47.

On his way where?

We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 46.

We commenced to get what results?

  • Was it people drinking less?
  • Was it people totally abstaining from alcohol?
  • Was it longer dry periods between relapses and binges?

Bill Wilson didn't say. He just left it to us to guess what great benefits might have accrued to some unidentified believers.

Actually, it didn't say, "benefits", did it? It just said "results". Relapsing and getting rip-roaring drunk is also a "result", isn't it?

Such vague terminology and grandiose hand-waving is typical of Bill Wilson's writing style, and of A.A.'s claims of success in general.

That line in the second quote about getting results, despite being unable to fully define or comprehend God, is really ridiculous: Theologians, mystics, and priests of all of the great religions of the world have been saying for thousands of years that God is far too big and complex and multi-dimensional for any human being to fully define or comprehend, so it isn't surprising that the A.A. members were unable to do it.

Notice how Bill Wilson deftly segued from an open-minded, generic "Power greater than ourselves" in the middle of that sentence to just plain old "God" at the end of the sentence, a "God" without even any of the "as we understood Him" qualifiers:

We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 46.

That is a classic bait-and-switch stunt, accomplished by redefining the object of the sentence at the last possible instant, by tacking just three words onto the tail end of the sentence:

"which is God".
As in:
"Oh, by the way, I really mean the Buchmanite God of William Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith."

What a slick shell game Bill Wilson plays:

"Watch the pea. Watch closely now.
The hand is quicker than the eye.
Whoops! Where did that open-minded, generic Higher Power go?"

Freedom of Religion lasts just about that long in A.A. circles.

In that last quote, Wilson said that people who didn't want to believe what he believed needed to "lay aside prejudice". Throughout that "We Agnostics" chapter of the Big Book, Bill Wilson repeatedly used the word "prejudice" for people's objections to and resistance to things like fuzzy thinking, bad logic, undefined spiritual terminology, superstition, blind faith, bombastic religiosity, and dishonest propaganda tricks. Check out this disparaging description of "their" original skeptical thinking for more examples. (And also note how Wilson used the preacher's "we" when he meant "you," as in "we have been prejudiced and narrow-minded." Bill Wilson did not think he was guilty of being an unbeliever. He thought everybody else was.)

Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Pages 47 and 48.

Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. If you drink enough alcohol, and cause enough brain damage, you can believe anything, even Bill Wilson's preaching. And if you won't abandon sane, rational thinking, and become a brainless babbling bonkers bombastic believer, then the Big Bad Booze Bogeyman will get you, and you will get beaten into a state of "reasonableness".

Some more of Bill Wilson's accusations of "prejudice":

Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you...
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 47.

Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word... Rather vain of us, wasn't it?
      We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. ... People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, We Agnostics, page 49.

Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice.   ...   In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, We Agnostics, Pages 47 and 48.

If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, We Agnostics, Page 55.

But [the newcomer's] face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored. We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 45.

One of the reasons that "the newcomer's face falls when we speak of spiritual matters" is that the newcomer realizes that Bill and his gang are pulling a bait-and-switch stunt on him. The beginner came to what was advertised as a "quit-drinking" meeting, to talk about alcoholism and quitting drinking, and now this religious nut is raving about God and true faith, and saying that you are "prejudiced" if you don't agree with his grandiose proclamations...
"Oops, I must be in the wrong meeting. This is some kind of a faith-healing religion. I thought this get-together was supposed to be about how to quit drinking."

Bill Wilson could be downright hateful with people who wouldn't believe the way that he wanted them to believe:

Let's look first at the case of the one who says he won't believe — the belligerent one. He is in a state of mind which can be described only as savage.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, Page 25.

Actually, if you really want to see a savage state of mind, you should look at Bill Wilson while he was sentencing non-believers to ostracism and death by alcohol because they wouldn't believe in God the way that he dictated. Both the Big Book and Bill's second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, tell stories of Bill Wilson and the other "elders" conspiring to kick a fellow out of A.A., and abandoning him to death when he relapsed, for refusing to believe in God.

In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pages 143 to 145, you will find the story of Ed, who refused to believe in God, and said so, loudly:

Ed was an atheist. His pet obsession was that A.A. could get along better without its "God nonsense." He browbeat everybody, and everybody expected that he'd soon get drunk — for at that time, you see, A.A. was on the pious side. There must be a heavy penalty, it was thought, for blasphemy. Distressingly enough, Ed proceeded to stay sober.
Cried Ed, "I can't stand this God stuff! It's a lot of malarkey for weak folks. This group doesn't need it, and I won't have it. To Hell with it!
      The elders led Ed aside. They said firmly, "You can't talk like this around here. You'll have to quit it or get out." With great sarcasm, Ed came back at them. "Now do tell, is that so? He reached over to a bookshelf and took up a sheaf of papers. On top of them lay the foreword to the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," then under preparation. He read aloud, "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Relentlessly, he went on, "When you guys wrote that sentence, did you mean it, or didn't you?"
      Dismayed, the elders looked at one another, for they knew he had them cold. So Ed stayed.
      Ed not only stayed, he stayed sober, month after month. The longer he kept dry, the louder he talked — against God.

Notice the propaganda trick there: Ed criticized Bill Wilson's bombastic, grandiose, "God nonsense", but Bill Wilson changed the terminology to "The longer he kept dry, the louder he talked — against God." Bill Wilson exchanged a term there, and made Ed's criticism of Bill Wilson's crazy religiosity into criticism of God.

So the elders — meaning Bill Wilson and his friends — wished that Ed would relapse:

The group was in anguish so deep that all fraternal charity had vanished. "When, oh when," groaned members to one another, "will that guy get drunk?"

Note that "all fraternal charity" vanishes if you say things that the other group members don't want to hear. Bill Wilson says so. They will hope that you relapse and die drunk if you won't conform to the group, and please them by parroting the approved jabber and praying the approved prayers. So much for the "unconditional love and acceptance" that A.A. says newcomers will find at meetings... And so much for it not being a religion.

Finally, Ed relapsed, and went off on a binge. The true believers spitefully, vindictively abandoned him, and left him to die drunk:

In those days, we'd go anywhere on a Twelfth Step job, no matter how unpromising. But this time nobody stirred. "Leave him alone! Let him try it by himself for once; maybe he'll learn a lesson!"

Eventually, the book says, Ed crawled back to A.A., ready to believe in God. While he was sick and in a fever, he had had some kind of a vision or hallucination that he wouldn't talk about, but now he was willing to read the Bible and believe in God. Problem solved.

(What was it that Bill Wilson said about "John Barleycorn promises us insanity or death"? If you drink enough cheap rot-gut whiskey and bathtub gin, you too will be able to believe in Bill Wilson's religious rants...)

And what if Ed had not survived, or had not crawled back to A.A.? The A.A. members weren't about to help him, because he wouldn't believe in God the way that they wanted him to. They weren't really his friends at all. They were not trying to save his life. They refused to help Ed.

Bill Wilson documented this vicious behavior in official A.A. literature, and even bragged about it, and offered this story as an example of how to deal with the problem of non-believers who stubbornly refuse religious conversion.

Mr. Wilson rationalized the whole story by saying that if they had just kicked Ed out for "blasphemy", in the beginning when he refused religious conversion, then the man would never have come to God. So deal with such guys the way that this story teaches:

      Nowadays, when oldtimers who know Ed foregather, they exclaim, "What if we had actually succeeded in throwing Ed out for blasphemy? What would have happened to him and all the others he later helped?"

Isn't it funny that criticizing the hypocritical religiosity of Alcoholics Anonymous is "blasphemy"? Criticizing Bill Wilson's bombastic preaching is "blasphemy", punishable by death? Who does Bill Wilson think he is, the Pope? Or Grand Inquisitor Torquemada?

Also note the total denial there: Bill Wilson and the other elders basically did throw Ed out. They ostracized him, they 'bad-vibed' him, "all fraternal charity vanished", they wished that Ed would relapse, and then they abandoned Ed to death by alcohol when he relapsed. Then they sanctimoniously pretended that they had done no such things.

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

There is a very similar story in the Big Book, Jim Burwell's story The Vicious Cycle which is on pages 246 and 247 of the third edition, and on page 228 of the 4th edition. (One A.A. member has told me that the "Ed" of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and Jim Burwell are actually the same person.) Jim Burwell was the resident atheist of Alcoholics Anonymous in the earliest days of A.A., and he is famous for having demanded that the Twelve Steps be considered suggestions, not requirements, of A.A. membership, like it says on page 59 of the book. Jim Burwell bragged that he is the one who got those words in there. For revenge, Bill Wilson would not even allow Jim Burwell's story to be included in the first edition of the Big Book, just because Jim was an atheist who didn't parrot Bill's party line. Burwell didn't get his story into the Big Book until the second edition, after Burwell had [ostensibly] undergone a religious conversion and become an A.A. believer.

Jim Burwell

In his story, Burwell described his earlier treatment as an atheist member of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Much later I discovered the elders held many prayer meetings hoping to find a way to give me the heave-ho but at the same time stay tolerant and spiritual.

William G. Wilson
"Stay tolerant and spiritual"? Isn't that a laugh?

Those "elders" sure had funny ideas of tolerance and spirituality:

  • According to the standard A.A. dogma, you will die a horrible drunken death from alcoholism if you leave Alcoholics Anonymous — "Nobody can do it alone", they say.
  • They say that alcoholism is a "progressive disease", and that you don't have any control over it — you are "powerless" over alcohol — so kicking someone out of A.A. and abandoning him to alcoholism is (according to A.A.) imposing a very cruel slow death sentence on him.
  • But somehow, "the elders" imagined that they could do that to a fellow Alcoholics Anonymous member, and still be "tolerant and spiritual."
  • So those smug, sanctimonious hypocrites held many prayer meetings, seeking just the right "spiritual" way to send Jim Burwell to his death.

Bill Wilson really had a mean, hateful, side to him (which is typical of Narcissistic Personality Disorder). He self-righteously condemned men to slow painful deaths by alcohol for not believing in God in the way that Bill dictated. Bill Wilson only granted Ed acceptance in A.A. after he experienced religious conversion, and did what Bill wanted, and believed what Bill said. Those non-compliant alcoholics may have "signed their own death warrants" by not following Bill's "suggestions", but apparently, Bill Wilson didn't have any problem with vindictively arranging their executions for them.

So much for the "unconditional love" that they say you will find in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Note that such behavior continues in Alcoholics Anonymous even today. Newcomers who refused to believe what their sponsors told them, or refused to do what their sponsors instructed, have been advised to
"Go back out and do some more research on the subject."
— In other words, to get even sicker from alcohol poisoning, so that they will become more compliant and obedient.

It is obvious now that, as far as Bill Wilson was concerned, the real purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous was not to help people to quit drinking, but to make them believe in God — specifically, believe in Bill Wilson's ideas of God, as well as to follow Bill's dictates, which he called "God's dictates":

  • Believe in God as I dictate, or die.
  • Do my Twelve Steps, which I wrote, or die.
  • "Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [MY required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant."
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 174.
  • "At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God..."
    The Big Book, William G. Wilson, page 77.
  • "Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world..."
    The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Working With Others, page 100.

And A.A. actually has the gall to say that it isn't a fanatical religion, just a nice, friendly, easy-going quit-drinking program. Will the Catholics or the Baptists abandon you to death in the streets just because you won't believe in God quite the way that they want you to?

In this town, I see the Catholics, the Baptists, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Salvation Army, the Union Gospel Mission, and a bunch of other unnamed Christian sects getting together and feeding and helping the poor and homeless, and I've never seen them refuse anything to a doubter just because he wouldn't believe the way that they wanted. In fact, I've never even seen them ask anyone what he believed before they hand out the food. Some of them preach, most of them don't, but they all just hand out the food, regardless of what you believe.

— Speaking of which, I've never seen A.A. engage in any such charitable activities. That is Frank Buchman's religion showing again: Buchman preached that all social problems were caused by sin, and the cure was to get "changed" (changed into one of Buchman's followers). The Buchmanites would not do anything to fix the problems of society. Frank Buchman considered any attempts to fix social problems by any means other than prayer, confession, and surrender to God, to be "immoral". Hence, Buchman considered Women's Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Labor Movement to all be "immoral activities", efforts too concerned with human well-being and not concerned enough with following "the dictates of God" (as Frank Buchman heard God dictating His orders, of course).

A.A. has a similar problem: it insists, in Tradition Ten, that it does not have any opinion on outside issues, and will not get drawn into public controversy. Unfortunately, in practice, that means that A.A. is so self-absorbed, self-centered and self-seeking that A.A. offers no fix for any of the problems of society except "Join A.A., Go to Lots of Meetings, Work the Twelve Steps, Get a Sponsor, and Read the Big Book."

Apparently, feeding or helping the poor and the homeless is too "controversial" for A.A. members, in spite of the fact that many of those poor and homeless people are alcoholics.

And remember the quote about service:

The minute we put our work on a service plane, the alcoholic commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Working With Others, page 98.

So don't help the alcoholics. That would make "materialists" out of them, and lead them away from dependence upon God.

Also, if you have some other problem that has nothing to do with alcoholism, then form another, separate, twelve-step group, like Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous, and then Do The Twelve Steps, Go to lots of meetings, Get a sponsor, and Read the big book...

Bill Wilson continued chapter four of the Big Book, "We Agnostics", with an outrageous world-class example of bad logic. Wilson actually invoked the terrible evils of blind faith, dogmatic religious belief, and crazy superstition as it existed in Europe during the Middle Ages as the reason why we should now have more faith, religious belief, and superstition:

This world of ours has made more material progress in the last century than in all the millenniums which went before. Almost everyone knows the reason. Students of ancient history tell us that the intellect of men in those days was equal to the best of today. Yet in ancient times material progress was painfully slow. The spirit of modern scientific inquiry, research and invention was almost unknown. In the realm of the material, men's minds were fettered by superstition, tradition, and all sorts of fixed ideas. Some of the contemporaries of Columbus thought a round earth preposterous. Others came near putting Galileo to death for his astronomical heresies.
      We asked ourselves this: Are not some of us just as biased and unreasonable about the realm of the spirit as were the ancients about the realm of the material?
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 51.

The simple answer to Bill Wilson's question is "No. We are not biased and unreasonable. We just don't like crazy double-talking religious nuts, or their irrational cult dogma."

Another good answer is, "The Realm of the Spirit: blind faith, superstition, Church orthodoxy, religious bigotry, heresy trials, witch burnings, millions of women killed, millions of girls killed, and even baby girls killed for being witches, The Grand Inquisition, mass murder, millions executed... Been there. Done that. We gave that one a really good try, for a thousand years. We don't need to do that one again."

Notice how Bill pulls yet another bait and switch stunt there:

  • First, he seems to be scientific, logical, and reasonable, and then, just when he has you agreeing with him, he switches the intent of his words to the exact opposite, and asks you to embrace blind faith and superstition.
  • He starts with a statement that is unquestionably true for Western civilization: "This world of ours has made more material progress in the last century than in all the millenniums which went before."
  • Then he talks about the evils of superstition, tradition, and all sorts of fixed ideas, and of heresy trials.
  • Then, just when he has you going along with him, he suddenly reverses the logic and tries to sell you superstition, "the realm of the spirit."
  • All of the talk about "modern scientific inquiry, research and invention" was just bait to fool your logical mind, to get you to start accepting his statements.

And then, beginning with the very next line in that chapter, he does it all again, first offering the bait, a nice morsel of science and technology, and then pulling the switch, asking you to accept his religious beliefs:

Even in the present century, American newspapers were afraid to print an account of the Wright brothers' first successful flight at Kittyhawk. Had not all efforts at flight failed before? Did not Professor Langley's flying machine go to the bottom of the Potomac River? Was it not true that the best mathematical minds had proved man could never fly? Had not people said God had reserved this privilege to the birds? Only thirty years later the conquest of the air was almost an old story and airplane travel was in full swing.
      But in most fields our generation has witnessed complete liberation in thinking. Show any longshoreman a Sunday supplement describing a proposal to explore the moon by means of a rocket and he will say, "I bet they do it maybe not so long either." Is not our age characterized by the ease with which we discard old ideas for new, by the complete readiness with which we throw away the theory or gadget which does not work for something new which does?
      We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Pages 51-52.

And "readiness to change our point of view" really means readiness to accept William G. Wilson's Buchmanite religious beliefs:

When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 52.

So dump your own ideas in the trash can and just blindly believe in William Wilson's ideas.

It turns out that the "bait and switch logic" stunt that Mr. Wilson just demonstrated is a standard persuasive technique that is used by many mind-controlling organizations and cults. Ken Ragge explained it this way:

Like a skilled hypnotherapist, a skilled AA speaker presents statements in a certain order. A statement which otherwise would be rejected has a much better chance of slipping into the subconscious if it is immediately preceded by two or three unchallengeable statements. For example, a hypnotherapist, while inducing trance, may say, "You can feel the weight of your body pressing down against the chair. Take notice of your hands, whether they feel warm or cold. Now notice how your breathing is becoming deeper and slower." The first two statements are unchallengeable and the mind is expecting another unchallengeable statement. In the third statement, the instruction to "notice how your breathing is becoming deeper and slower . . ." normally slips by the critical faculty and the subconscious will act on it. The client will notice how his breathing is becoming deeper and slower.
The Real AA, Ken Ragge, Chapter 9, "Meetings,".

Bill Wilson may have been crazy, but he wasn't stupid. He knew how to play mind games, and get people to join his cult.

Of course. He was trained by Frank Buchman's disciples in The Oxford Group, so he had a solid education in cult religion. They taught him everything he needed to know about ego reduction, guilt induction, false logic, propaganda and persuasion techniques, deceptive recruiting, and other cult religion mind games. Then he even took courses by Dale Carnegie based on "How to Win Friends and Influence People", where he learned how to sugar-coat his objectionable statements. Bill Wilson was quite consciously, deliberately, cleverly, manipulating and influencing people's minds.

He may have been crazy, but he wasn't stupid.

Speaking of bad logic, Wilson then wrote:

Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it. It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said, "We don't know."
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 53.

Bill Wilson was misusing the word "logic". There is nothing "logical" about blind faith in a cult religion. Logic is a thought process where one examines facts and then draws conclusions from them, using inductive or deductive reasoning.

Bill was also using his hypnotic bait-and-switch trick yet again. He started the paragraph by praising logic and saying that he liked it. But then he switched sides and attacked logic, and praised blind faith in his beliefs as being more logical than logic itself.

And it's funny how Bill admitted that he was "at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe..." The reason that it is so hard to defend that point of view is because it is completely irrational and illogical. It is based on no facts at all. It is just so much wishful thinking.

Then Mr. Wilson again declared that blind faith was the goal, and "Reason" was a serious impediment to faith in Wilsonism:

Some of us had already walked far over the Bridge of Reason toward the desired shore of faith. The outlines and the promise of the New Land had brought lustre to tired eyes and fresh courage to flagging spirits. Friendly hands stretched out in welcome. We were grateful that Reason had brought us so far. But somehow, we couldn't quite step ashore. Perhaps we had been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile and did not like to lose our support.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 53.

That whole paragraph is an incredible piece of propaganda, a real fairy tale. It is also obviously as delusional as can be. The object of the Alcoholics Anonymous program was supposed to be to quit drinking, remember? But now Bill Wilson insists that the goal of the A.A. program is to abandon Reason and embrace blind faith in his teachings, to reach "the desired shore of faith" in La-La-Land. This pathetic lunatic actually has the arrogance, the sheer gall, to demand that we give up Reason and human intelligence, and become insane, completely irrational, religious maniacs, just like him.

Mr. Wilson claims that we have walked far over a "Bridge of Reason" towards a "desired shore of faith..."
How do you do that?
What if we have done no such thing, and have no desire to reach the shore of Bill Wilson's "New Land of Blind Faith"?

(F.Y.I.: it's located between James Hilton's The Lost Horizon — Shangri-La, H. G. Wells' The Country of the Blind, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land that Time Forgot. Just turn left at the first dinosaur that you see.)

The flowery images like "The outlines and the promise of the New Land had brought lustre to tired eyes and fresh courage to flagging spirits. Friendly hands stretched out in welcome." are ridiculous. Bill Wilson really was living in La-La-Land.

But, finally, at the last minute, "Reason" stops us from wholeheartedly embracing Bill Wilson's world of grandiose delusions. I should hope that it does. It shows that the rest of us still have a few functioning brain cells left, and still have at least some small amount of sanity and contact with reality remaining.

While Bill Wilson is advising us to discard Reason, we should consider the words of the American Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen, the leader of the Green Mountain Boys in their capture of Fort Ticonderoga, who had this to say on the subject:

Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are laboring to dethrone: but if they argue without reason (which, in order to be consistent with themselves they must do), they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.

(It is interesting to see that even way back then, there were crazy preachers arguing that we should abandon reason and stop thinking and just become fanatical true believers, mindlessly babbling "Hallelujah! I believe!" ...)

Bill Wilson tried to argue against reason with reason, by using logic — or, to put it more accurately, by using false, broken, logic — to try to fool us into agreeing with him, thus "establishing the principle that he is laboring to dethrone".

But Bill wasn't nearly finished with his attack on Reason and sanity. He continued:

Perhaps we had been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile and did not like to lose our support.
      That was natural, but let us think a little more closely. Without knowing it, had we not been brought to where we stood by a certain kind of faith? For did we not believe in our own reasoning? Did we not have confidence in our ability to think? What was that but a sort of faith? Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of Reason. So, in one way or another, we discovered that faith had been involved all the time!
      We found, too, that we had been worshippers. ... In one form or another we had been living by faith and little else.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 54.

Now Bill seems to have logically proven to us that he is insane. He accuses us of having faith in a false god, the God of Reason, and of worshipping it. He thinks that because we trust our senses and our ability to think logically, that we should now feel free to abandon intelligence, reason, logic, and sanity, and just believe in the religious proclamations of Bill Wilson.

But what Bill frivolously overlooks is the logical conclusion of his line of reasoning: Because we simply trust that our minds and our perceptions are working correctly, we cannot really know anything for sure. We are in fact flying on faith; we can only assume that our perception of reality is correct.

But our perceptions really might be all wrong; we might not really be here at all. This might all just be a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.

So Nothing is real, Nothing to get up tight about, Strawberry Fields Forever... Nothing matters, and we can do whatever we want to do because it's all just a dream. So let's dump this boring fool Bill Wilson and go have a beer. The beer won't really be real, either, so it won't hurt anything, but the illusion sure will taste good, won't it?

(Actually, the reality of the situation is that the hangovers are real. Everything else might be an illusion, but those damn hangovers are very real.)

I find every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, "It is a matter of faith, and above reason."
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690

Bill continued his sermon:

Imagine life without faith! Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn't be life.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 54.

Nonsense. Sure it would be life. Just think about a race like the Vulcans of Star Trek. They are irritatingly logical and unemotional (to humans), and yet they do just fine. Furthermore, even if humans were logical, reasonable, and without faith, they would still have their emotions, and their passions, and their hornyness... That's life.

Think about the earthworms. They almost certainly do not have faith in any "Higher Power" or God, because they don't have much in the way of brains at all. But they still manage to eat, have sex, and make baby worms. That's life.

Bill Wilson continued:

But we believed in life of course we did. We could not prove life in the sense that you can prove a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, yet, there it was. Could we still say the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a destiny of nothingness? Or course we couldn't. The electrons themselves seemed more intelligent than that. At least, so the chemist said.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 54.

What nonsense. Of course we can prove life. I see that I am alive. I sit here, and type this, and I have hands that I can see, which hit the keys, and I inhale, I watch myself breathe, and I can see clearly that I am alive. And I occasionally eat and reproduce, and that's life, beyond a doubt. Likewise, you can see that you are alive. There is no doubt about it.

And who said that the electrons were created out of nothing, meaning nothing? Only Bill Wilson...

There is a big logical disconnect there: Bill Wilson is trying to accuse atheists of saying that
"the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a destiny of nothingness..."

Atheists don't say that, because if the electrons were created out of nothing, then Something — some "Higher Power" — had to already exist to do the creating. Theists and deists — believers in the existence of a God — say something like that:

      In the beginning was the void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Lord stretched forth His hand and said, "Let there be light," and, in an impossibly brilliant flash of light, an entire Universe exploded into existence.

But the believers don't then say that it all means nothing. They say that the Universe has some kind of a purpose or meaning.

Wilson continued:

Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything. Neither is reason, as most of us use it, entirely dependable, though it emanate from our best minds. What about people who proved that man could never fly?
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, pages 54-55.

That is some more broken logic. Reason, as Bill Wilson misuses it, is undependable, but the rest of us aren't quite that crazy. Bill argues that just because some people were convinced that heavier-than-air craft could never get off of the ground, we should all now abandon reason and stop thinking.

And become what? Unreasonable? Illogical? Insane fools without reason?

Well, actually, yes, something like that. The Oxford Group cult specifically demanded that people give up their rational minds. Ebby Thacher and Shep Cornell recruited Bill Wilson like this:

Ebby and Shep C. were now asking him to give up the one attribute of which he was the most proud, the one quality that set a man above the animals — his inquiring, rational mind. And they wanted him to give this up for an illusion.
      ... what they were asking him to do represented weakness to him. How could a man so demean himself as to surrender the one thing in which he should have faith, his innate, inquiring mind?   ...
      It might be the last arrogant gasp of alcoholic pride but, miserable and terrified as he was, he would not humble himself here. On this point he would go out swinging.
Not-God, Ernest Kurtz, page 18, and
Bill W., Robert Thomsen, pages 213-214.

Bill vowed to resist such an anti-intellectual cult religion to the bitter end, but within two weeks, under the influence of delirium tremens, hallucinogenic drugs, and intense religious indoctrination, Bill Wilson broke down and gave up his "innate, inquiring, rational mind", and "surrendered", and was "changed" into an irrational true-believer Oxford Group cult member who then went on to insist that all other alcoholics must also give up their reason and rational thinking.

(It's kind of like the Rabies virus, isn't it? Or like getting bitten by a vampire or a werewolf...)

Bill Wilson liked to portray himself as a man who had been an atheistic scientist who believed in evolution, and who was converted into a believer in God by a dramatic religious experience. That is a completely false picture of Bill Wilson. Bill was never educated in atheism or the sciences, and that's one of the reasons why his portrayals of the thinking of agnostics and atheists come across as being so moronic.

Young Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson's high school years, up to 1912, were spent at the Burr & Burton Seminary, a private school in Manchester, Vermont. As the name "seminary" implies, it was not exactly a hot-bed of scientific atheism. In addition, Bill's performance there was so bad that he did not even graduate.5 Bill's supporters explain that Bill's high-school girlfriend Bertha Banford died suddenly, and Bill went into a deep three-year-long fit of depression and neglected his studies:

That winter he took the midyear exams, but he failed in almost every subject. By spring it had become clear that he could not graduate; he was president of his class and couldn't graduate. His mother was sent for, and a series of angry meetings followed, some of them in Mr. Brook's office. Bill simply could not promise that he'd change or improve; he wanted to, but he just wasn't able to concentrate, and finally it was decided that he'd probably do better if he moved to Boston and lived with his mother.
Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 63.

Then Bill's college career was a pathetic joke.

Bill's mother wanted Bill to become an engineer, trained at the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But Bill's poor performance in his last year at the Burr & Burton Seminary necessitated a make-up year. He enrolled at Arlington High School, in Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where he essentially just repeated his senior year of high school. He did nearly as poorly at that high school. And Bill also performed very badly on the MIT entrance exam — he failed almost every subject.6

Norwich University ad
Norwich University still exists, and runs these ads.
Bill went to college in the fall of 1914, but not at MIT. He enrolled at Norwich University, a military academy in Northfield, Vermont, a small college that would take anybody with a high school diploma.7 Bill felt out of place and unable to compete there, in spite of the fact that it was a tiny college with a class of only 153 students.1

Lois Wilson's private secretary, Francis Hartigan, wrote a biography of Bill Wilson where he described Bill's college performance as:

The boy who had been president of his senior class in prep school did not get a single bid to join a fraternity. Fearful of letting his mother know the true state of things, Bill papered over this last failure in his letters. He even went so far as to say that he received bids from three of the school's four fraternities. The following semester, he claimed to have received bids from all four. Bizarrely, he claimed that he hadn't joined a fraternity because he did not want to have the unfair advantages membership in a fraternity would provide when it came to military advancement at the college.
      Bill also tried to put the best face on his poor academic performance. His grades ranged from a 94 in chemistry to a 53 in algebra. The true quality of the students he felt himself unable to compete against can be inferred from the fact that, in spite of his 53 in Algebra, Bill still ranked fifth in his class.
      Then, as he was beginning his second semester at Norwich, he fell on a slippery sidewalk and hurt his elbow. The injury was not serious, but he insisted that his mother should attend to it, and he was given permission to leave school and travel to Boston. As a young adult, [Bill's mother] Emily had had her own problems in coping with ordinary life. Even so, such an obvious attempt to elicit sympathy from her was not well received. She immediately sent Bill back to Northfield. As he boarded the train, he had a panic attack. His symptoms included heart palpitations, extreme shortness of breath, and a feeling that he was about to die.
After returning from Boston, any attempt to perform physical exercise caused Bill to collapse. He would be taken to the college infirmary, but the doctors never found anything wrong with him. After several weeks of this, Bill was sent home.
Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, pages 21-22.

Bill returned to Norwich again in the fall, where, among other things, he studied calculus. After his difficulties with algebra, calculus was a nightmare.

Pardon the digression, but this is just too funny to omit. Bill Wilson wrote his own version of the story of his mathematical education this way:

Well, as I have said before, I always had great difficulty with algebra and [calculus] required the memorizing of a lot of formulas, and I couldn't memorize them. I realized that I was going to be an absolute flat failure in calculus. In fact, the professor promised that I would get a zero.
      As I just remarked, the basis of calculus rests in a tremendous mathematical invention. Leibnitz and Newton both arrived at this advanced thinking and concept together. And the underlying theory and grasp of this thing is really a great abstraction, and not a very easy one to lay hold of. And I began to sense after I had plied the professor with questions, that he really had not laid hold in a deep sense of the underlying principle of the whole damn business. He was a catalog of formulas, he could apply the formulas, he was glib, but deep down he didn't know how the goddamn thing worked. And I made up my mind I would learn.
      So I went over to the library and I read the history of mathematics and all that led up to the evolution of the concept of calculus, and finally, for a few brief days, I did lay ahold of the concept so that I knew it. By this time I had developed considerable talent in argument, and I got the professor over a barrel and I made a fool out of him before his class, and he gave me a zero, but I had won one battle. In other words, I was the only one on the school grounds, the number-one man again, the only one who deeply understood the underlying principles of calculus.
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, pages 36-37.

The part that I find the funniest is how Bill allegedly learned the deepest secrets of calculus, but he only knew them "for a brief few days", just long enough to make his calculus professor look like a fool, but not long enough to do his homework or pass his exams... So Bill the math genius got a grade of zero.

Bill Wilson seems to have deserved a zero in psychology, too. (He obviously had not read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People yet.) Bill made no attempt to get along with the mathematics professor. Bill didn't try to use his new knowledge of calculus to impress the professor, or to get the professor's approval, or to get a better grade in the class. Bill's response to his teacher's criticism was to counter-attack — to get into an argument with the professor and try to embarass him in front of his class. Bill's behavior was self-destructive — sort of like "Komikazi college".

Also notice how Bill Wilson deftly tap-danced from admitting that he was a failure at calculus to declaring that his mathematics professor was the real failure:
      "I realized that I was going to be an absolute flat failure in calculus"
      "He was a catalog of formulas, he could apply the formulas, he was glib, but deep down he didn't know how the goddamn thing worked."

Such behavior is typical of Narcissistic Personality Disorder — Narcissists just can't stand being criticized, and they hate whomever "made them look bad", and they are likely to lash out in defiant counter-attack. Bill proudly bragged that he had made the calculus professor look like a fool — the professor who had dared to criticize him — and Bill felt that it was worth it to get a grade of zero in the class, because Bill's antics had somehow, in Bill's narcissistic imagination, made him "the number-one man again".

Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder very sensitive to "injury" from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack. Such experiences often lead to social withdrawal or an appearance of humility that may mask and protect the grandiosity.

DSM-IV-TR == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 2000; pages 658-661.

Also see: DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1994; pages 658-661.

Narcissists also like to offload blame, which Bill was also doing there by declaring that his math professor was the real failure.

Nina Brown described living with a narcissist:

Off-loading Blame

If your partner has a Manipulative DNP [Destructive Narcissistic Personality], you are likely to be accustomed to [his] tendency to off-load blame, and many times you are the recipient of the blame. It doesn't matter how big or small the offense is, your partner never accepts responsibility for mistakes as errors. Worse, you may be blamed for things that are not your fault or are not under your control.
      This tendency to off-load blame is a manifestation of the inflated self. Your partner feels that [he] can do no wrong and is superior. Other words to describe this self-perception and attitude are grandiose and omnipotent.
Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 123.

Bill did so poorly at Norwich that the commandant wanted to expel him. Only the band master's insistence that he needed Bill's violin saved Bill. Then World War One spared Bill from the shame of non-graduation. Bill enlisted in the Army.2 Bill never returned to college.

But, when Bill wrote his history of Alcoholics Anonymous, he told quite a different story. One day in the fall of 1934, Ebby Thacher, a fellow Burr and Burton alumnus, as well as an old drinking buddy and a "hopeless alcoholic", showed up sober and eager to recruit Bill Wilson for the Oxford Group cult. Bill described their conversation this way:

Then I asked him, "What's this all about? You say that you aren't drinking. But you also say you aren't on the water wagon, either. What's up?"
      "Well," said Ebby, "I've got religion."
      What a crusher that was — Ebby and religion! Maybe his alcoholic insanity had become religious insanity. It was an awful letdown. I had been educated at a wonderful engineering college where somehow I had gathered the impression that man was God.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, pages 58-59.

Obviously, that wasn't true at all. Bill Wilson was not educated at "a wonderful engineering college" — Bill flunked the MIT entrance exams, remember? So the engineering college that Bill didn't attend didn't teach him that "man was God".
(Actually, I have never, ever heard of any engineering college that teaches that "man is God." Have you? That was just more of Bill Wilson's crazy raving.)

Likewise, even though Bill Wilson was never trained as a scientist or an atheist, he described his religious conversion by Ebby Thacher this way:

Ebby knew well my prejudices. He knew that my god was science; so carefully avoiding those aspects of the Oxford Group approach that'd disturb me, he told his story. He recounted the simple principles upon which he was trying to work, especially emphasizing the idea that he'd been hopeless. He told how he had got honest about himself and his defects, how he'd tried to practice a brand of giving that demanded no return for himself. Then very dangerly [sic] he touched upon the subject of prayer and God. He frankly expected me to balk at these notions.
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, pages 133-134.

[Also note how Bill excused the Oxford Group practice of deceptive recruiting — only tell the prospect what he will like to hear, and save the ugly truths for later, after he has been "changed" into a committed member of the group.]

Up to a point Ebby had made plenty of sense. Confession and restitution might be difficult. The pace he'd set was certainly fast. But how was I to swallow this garbage? I'd had one of those modern educations and had learned that man is god, the spearhead of evolution.
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, page 135.

Obviously, Bill had not had "one of those modern educations." And Bill was never a scientist, or an atheist, or even much of an agnostic, even though he repeatedly described himself as such in his tall tales:

I'd better find what my friend had found. Was I like the cancer sufferer who would do anything to get well?   ...   Perhaps I wouldn't need an emotional conversion. After all, a conservative atheist like me ought to be able to get on, without anything like that...
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, page 139.

And Bill wrote in the Big Book of his conversation with Ebby:

...   I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be.   ...
      My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"
      That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.
Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, "Bill's Story", page 12.

Bill Wilson never had a problem with "icy intellectualism". He wasn't an intellectual at all. Bill didn't even get "a gentleman's C's". He didn't even graduate. Bill Wilson excelled at baseball in school, not in math, science, philosophy, or theology.

Lieutenant William Griffith Wilson
And Bill Wilson contradicted himself in his autobiography Bill W. My First 40 Years. After Bill's failure in college, he enlisted in the Army, where his ROTC training at Norwich got him a lieutenant's commission. In the summer of 1918, his unit assembed in Newport, Rhode Island, in preparation for being shipped to France and the war. Bill and his new wife Lois went to the seashore and watched a sunset together. Bill claimed that he had his first spiritual experience there:

It was a part of the shoreline where [we] were utterly alone, she and I, looking out over the ocean, wondering. The sun was just setting. And as the minutes passed our gloom was superseded by a growing feeling of duty and patriotism, and we talked about these things, and then it turned into an exaltation that I now realize amounted to a genuine spiritual experience. In other words, we found exhaltation in the joy of sacrifice. We were given the strength and the joy to go on in the face of utter perilousness over the circumstances. That was the first outline and trace of the spiritual experience mechanism as it evolved in me over the years.
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, pages 49-51.

Soon, Bill's unit was sent overseas. They were detained in Winchester, England, because of a plague. While there, Bill visited Winchester Cathedral:

In Winchester, there came another illuminating experience. We were, of course, permitted to sightsee the town, and one of the very first places I visited was old Winchester Cathedral.   ...
... I walked inside the cathedral   ...   There was within those walls a tremendous sense of presence. I remember standing there and again the ... spiritual experience repeated itself.   ...   And though I was not a conscious believer in God at the time — I had no defined belief — yet I somehow had a mighty assurance that things were and would be all right.   ...  
      That was very much like the experience at Newport, very much like it, except this time the notion of the supernatural and the notion of God kept crossing my mind, and the sense of some sort of sustaining presence in that place was quite overpowering. I didn't define it, but it was a valid spiritual experience and it had the classic mechanism; collapsed human powerlessness, then God coming to man to lift him up to set him on the high road to his destiny. Those were my impressions of my experience in the cathedral.
Bill W. My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson, pages 49-51.

So much for Bill's claims of having received one of those modern educations that had made him into an atheist.

Bill Wilson claimed that his feelings at the seashore and in Winchester Cathedral were "a genuine spiritual experience" and "a valid spiritual experience". Based on what standards? Whose standards? The Anglican Church's?

How and when and where did Bill Wilson get his training to be a judge of spiritual experiences, qualified to pronounce some 'genuine' and 'valid', and some not?

That was Bill's Narcissistic Personality Disorder showing again — his feeling that he was qualified to lecture everybody else on everything from recovery to religion to spiritual experiences, even though he had no training or education in those fields.

  • And just what is "collapsed human powerlessness"?
  • How does it differ from uncollapsed human powerlessness?
  • Or even inflated human powerlessness?
  • Obviously, Bill Wilson was just pontificating in meaningless flowery language again.

  • And talk about weasel words:
    "...though I was not a conscious believer in God at the time...."
    What was that supposed to mean?
    • That Bill Wilson was still an unconscious believer?
    • That Bill Wilson's subconscious mind still believed in God at that time? So Bill wasn't really an atheist?
    • So Bill Wilson sort of half believed and half ignored the subject of God and religion? — But he still got "genuine spiritual experiences" every so often, anyway?

Bill Wilson's so-called agnosticism or atheism was really little more than ignoring God and religion — having decided that getting drunk on Saturday night was a lot more fun than going to church on Sunday morning. Bill's statements in the opening pages of the "Big Book" Alcoholics Anonymous also contradict Bill's later stories of his atheism:

I had always believed in a Power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astonomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone.
      With ministers, and the world's religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory. To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching — most excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded.
The Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, chapter 1, Bill's Story, pages 10-11.

In 1938, Bill Wilson plainly declared that he had never been an atheist — that he had always believed in a "Higher Power", a "Spirit of the Universe". Bill had simply disregarded those parts of religion that he found to be distasteful, difficult, or inconvenient (like the Commandments against lying, theft, and adultery).

And, in the Big Book, Bill Wilson described his behavior before his drug-induced "vision of God" like this:

      At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs of delirium tremens.
      There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since.
      My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies.... [i.e.: Bill confessed his sins and 'moral shortcomings' to Ebby Thacher.]
      I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. ...
      My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me.   ...
      Simple, but not easy; a price has to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Lights who presides over us all.
      These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric.   ...
[Really electric. The hallucinogenic drugs took effect and Bill "saw God".]
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, Bill's Story, pages 13-14.

Bill wrote those Big Book quotes in late 1938. Bill's subsequent stories in his other writings, like his history of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age (1957), and his autobiography Bill W. My First 40 Years (based on audio tapes made just before his death in 1972), that stated that he had been a conservative atheist and a scientist and an icy intellectual, trained at a wonderful engineering school, were just some more tall tales that Bill fabricated to try to make his "spiritual experience" and his "religious conversion" sound much more dramatic and miraculous and impressive.

All of Bill's stories about his being a hard-core atheistic scientist who was converted into a true believer in God by a miraculous religious or "spiritual" experience, seeing "The God of the preachers" in a vision, were really just some more repeat performances of the old standard Oxford Group show routine of members "sharing" exaggerated stories of their "extremely sinful ways" before their religious conversion, in order to make their salvation sound much more miraculous and awe-inspiring. The Oxford Group slogans were:
        "The more dramatic the saving, the more value the alcoholic has to the Group"3
        "Interesting sinners make compelling saints."4

Bill's story of his religious conversion and "great spiritual experience" would not have sounded nearly as impressive if he had admitted that he was just another mediocre non-intellectual flunk-out whose vague muddled religious beliefs just got changed around a little bit by some temporarily-sober drunkards who were recruiting for their new-found cult religion.

Oh, by the way, this line from Bill Wilson's story above is troublesome:
"I must turn in all things to the Father of Lights who presides over us all."
The Angel of Light is Lucifer. Jesus told us to have love in our hearts, not shiny lights in our eyes.

What strikes me as one of the most outrageous features of the "We Agnostics" chapter is Bill Wilson's reversal of reality: Bill Wilson called rational thinking, reason, skepticism, and agnosticism names like "illogical, perverse, cynical, vain, biased, mushy, and unreasoningly prejudiced", while he proclaimed that blind faith was "logical, intelligent, reasonable, sane, honest, and open-minded":

People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, page 49.

Nonsense. People of faith have an irrational, illogical idea of what life is all about. They have to: By its very nature, by definition, faith is belief in spite of the contrary evidence, or belief in spite of the complete lack of any supporting evidence. That isn't logical or rational.
(It may be okay — I'm not knocking all religious beliefs. But let's be honest about what the words mean: It is not "logical" to believe in something for which there is no solid evidence. Blind faith is not "logical".)
The Bible very clearly states that faith is belief without having seen. Go read the story of Doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29).

Bill continued:

Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe than not to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said, "We don't know."
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 53.

Yes, Bill, I'm sure you are at pains in trying to explain your thinking. There is no sane, logical reason for your attitude that blind faith in your favorite religious dogma is more sane and logical than human intelligence, or reason, or realistic acceptance of some simple obvious facts, like that life exists and we can prove it. Again, by definition, faith involves believing in something in spite of the lack of any evidence to support such beliefs. Such unquestioning "faith" in the strange superstitions of the renegade fascist minister Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman isn't sane or logical.

Bill continued:

If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 55.

If you disagree with Bill Wilson, he says that you are prejudiced and not thinking honestly. But if you agree with him, then you can join Bill on "the Broad Highway" if you wish. What "Broad Highway"?

Bill Wilson's writings are just loaded with such vague, grandiose terminology, precisely because he suffered from a bad case of delusions of grandeur.)

A few more examples of Bill's grandiose euphemisms in the Big Book:

  • "The Realm of Spirit" on page 46.
  • "The Spirit of the Universe", on pages 46, 52, and 75.
  • The "Great Reality" on page 55 and 161.
  • The "One who has all power" on page 59.
  • The "Presence of God" on page 56.
  • "He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love." on page 56.
  • "... regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation ..." on page 49.
  • "We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe." on page 75.
  • "Him who has all knowledge and power" on page 85.
  • "...the Father of Lights who presides over us all" on page 14.
  • The "Great Physician" on page 351.
  • The "Presence and Power of God" on page 162.
  • "We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny." on page 164.

Just watch for all of the capitalized words.

I would love to satirize such speech in jokes. I can just imagine that bombastic little duck, Daffy Duck, wildly waving his arms in the air and screaming about "The Master of the Universe," "The Broad Highway," and "The Ultimate Reality." The problem is, Bill Wilson is himself so extremely bombastic, that it is almost impossible to parody him by being terribly more extreme than he already is. Daffy is definitely going to have his hands full, trying to outdo Bill.

Note how Wilson said, in the quote above,

If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself...

Wilson thought that everyone really believed in God deep down in their hearts. If they didn't believe, it was simply because they were prejudiced and they had dishonestly decided to overlook their own faith, to deny the truth in themselves. To be a skeptic is to be dishonest, ignoring the 'obvious truth', Bill said. In Bill Wilson's opinion, people didn't decide to believe in God, the unbelievers willfully, childishly, stubbornly, dishonestly decided to *NOT* believe in God, by deliberately ignoring what Wilson considered to be overwhelming evidence:

We had seen spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn't true.
      Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 55.

Bill Wilson said that again in this paragraph:

But [the newcomer's] face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 45.

Thus, Wilson wrote that if you would honestly look within yourself, and quit trying to evade the subject, you would find that you really do have faith in Bill's beliefs, and really do believe in the fascist, micro-managing God of Bill Wilson after all. If you can just overcome your "prejudices" against certain "theological terms" about which you are "confused", you will find "true faith".

Bill Wilson even went so far as to declare that it was actually impossible to really be an atheist, because you can't prove that there is no God.

I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Page 10.

Wilson was so insane that he thought he was scoring good debating points with brain-damaged arguments like that. He didn't seem to notice the obvious reverse argument — that by Bill's logic, it would be impossible to really believe in God because you can't prove that there is a God.

And note that there is something very dishonest and underhanded going on there:
What Wilson describes as "choosing to believe in God" really ends up being "choosing to believe in Mr. Wilson's strange, Oxford-Group-cult fascistic version of God (Whom you can contact in a séance)."

You can forget about your own religious beliefs. You won't be needing them any more. The recruiting manual in Chapter Seven of the Big Book clearly teaches the recruiters how to tell people that their own religious beliefs are inferior to those of the A.A. members, because their own religious convictions have not kept them from drinking.

Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. His religious education and training may be far superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder how you can add anything to what he already knows. But he will be curious to learn why his own convictions have not worked and why yours seem to work so well. He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Likewise, the Hazelden Foundation propaganda teaches us that religion should give us A.A.-style "spirituality", but if it doesn't, then we should set our religion aside for a while. In other words, we should abandon our current religion and just believe in Wilsonism:

"... Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program, not a religious one."     ...
"Ideally," Jerry added, "religion helps you achieve spirituality, but if it doesn't, then set it aside for a while."
The Way Home, A Collective Memoir of the Hazelden Experience, Hazelden, 1997, page 109.

And, in his own chapter of the Big Book, A.A. co-founder "Doctor Bob" Smith wrote:

If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, Page 181.

So if you think for yourself (a form of intellectual pride — being proud to have a working brain), and don't readily accept the grandiose delusions of Bill Wilson, then you are in big trouble, and Doctor Bob feels sorry for you.

So much for the A.A. statements that you can have any religious beliefs you wish.

Last but not least, consider this: In Wilson's later book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, he wrote about indoctrinating and converting newcomers:

From great numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the doubter who still claimed that he hadn't got the "spiritual angle," and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power, would presently love God and call Him by name.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 108-109.

So, the real goal, the ultimate effect, of the Twelve-Step program is to get everyone — especially the doubters — to "love God and call Him by name."

And yet, somehow, they still manage to keep a straight face while they insist that religious conversion is not the goal of the A.A. program...

"Of course we speak little of conversion nowadays because so many people really dread being God-bitten. But conversion, as broadly described by [William] James, does seem to be our basic process; all other devices are but the foundation."
== Bill Wilson's statements to the American Psychiatric Association 105th Annual Meeting, Montreal, Quebec, May 1949

See "Recruiting Mind Games" for some more examples of mind-bending stunts designed to get you to worship the God of Bill Wilson's choosing...

And the Bait and Switch chapter makes a couple of points, too.


1) Bill Wilson's short educational career was described by Francis Hartigan, Lois Wilson's private secretary, in Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson, pages 19-22.

2) Ibid, page 25.

3) Ibid, page 67.

4) Walter Houston Clark, The Oxford Group; Its History and Significance, page 110.
Also see, Peter Howard, Frank Buchman's Secret, page 120.

5) Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 63, and
PASS IT ON, The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, pages 36-37.

6) Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 72.

7) Ibid, page 72.


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Last updated 26 May 2014.
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