12 Steps – Spirituality In Place Of Reality?

Joe emails: It seems to me that hanging out at 12 step meetings is of diminishing returns for the rational mind. I suppose the first few times you go, you get some rush thinking, wow, it is not just me who is a drunk, drug addict, or gambling addict. But after a time, spending time with sinners is futile. As for sex addicts meetings, such meetings are obviously inappropriate due to the presence of sexual offenders who need to go to prison for criminal acts causing continuing harm such as possession of child pornography and/or pedophilia, A drunk’s only crime is perhaps driving drunk, and if no one was hurt, then there is no continuing crime. Sex offenders, on the other hand, must go to prison, and then, perhaps, go into recovery.

In any event, you do not see the Rambam, in his explanation of repentance, advocating support groups with other evil doers. No, he advocates this simple test:

What is complete repentance? When a person has the opportunity to commit the original sin again, and is physically able to sin again, but one doesn’t sin because of repentance. Not out of fear, or because of physical weakness. For example, if a man had forbidden sexual relations with a woman, and then at a later time found himself alone with her, even though he still loves her as much as before, and he has the physical strength to sin, and was in the same country as when he sinned, yet he refrains and does not sin, he is a baal teshuva (‘master of repentance’). (emphasis added)

The 12 Step program tells you that you are not in control of your addiction, and that, essentially, even with the program, you are never a master, you are always an alcoholic. I believe the inventor of AA actually got into drugs, and on his deathbed asked for a drink. Telling someone that they cannot master their conduct is infantile and talk therapy.

To take alcoholism as a “sin”, then what you must do is to completely repent from alcoholism. And for the Rambam, there is no serenity prayer or 12 steps, but only 3:

“That the person should abandon his sins, remove them from his thoughts, and resolve never to do it again.”

So, you take all the drink out of your possession, do not talk about the drink or associate with others that drink, and resolve never to drink again. None of these is precisely part of the 12 steps – they are all too difficult and demand too much in the way of acts, not words.

If you want to stop exploiting people, as you say you do, then assist people. Commit everyday to do at least 3 separate acts of kindness. It can be as simple as cleaning up a part of the street that is dirty so that others derive pleasure from your acts, it can be as involved as helping an old person with their needs. You will abandon exploitation, it will be removed from your thoughts, and you will resolve never to do it again.

But 12 steps is just more spirituality in place of reality.

>>>Do you think frum jews are any more ethical than anyone else? If not, as I think, then am not sure the worth of your suggestions.>>>

Not sure what ethics have to with anything.

I focus on rationality, and anyone alive from the neck up realizes that the 12 step program is not rationally based.

Your analysis of spirituality and its lack of rationality is why you converted to Judaism and why you deify Prager.

12 steps portray human beings as creatures who need the assistance of others to stop certain action. It is really not rational and it is essentially cult-like to follow a group as your god, versus an idea as your god.

>>>Why do you think frum jews are so indifferent in their ethics?>>>

I think that the Ethics of the Fathers has been replaced by the Talmud of the Brisker Dynasty.

Status in Judaism is now much more dependent on mastery of the presumption accorded to someone who is in possession of a garment, rather than dependent on one’s acts of kindness. It is partially driven by Orthodoxy’s repulsion to Conservative/Reform’s concept that being a good jew and being for social justice are one and the same. That concept leads to the end of Judaism because any teenager quickly realizes that keeping kosher has nothing to do with being ethical, and then, the teenager simply becomes a secular jew and his children are out of the religion from intermarriage.

So, Orthodoxy eschews true ethics because preservation of the religion is more important than kindness – anyone can be kind, but not anyone can learn 10 hours of Talmud a day sitting in a single spot.

I would think that it might make sense for jewish high schools to have courses in Gemilut Hasadim, just like they have courses in Talmud. Of course, it would not be so much study, as action, but again, remind me how helping someone cross the street, feeding the homeless, etc, is exclusively Jewish in such a way to make permanent one’s jewish identity?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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