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It Works for Me

It seems that theists aren’t always the ones who lack reason. Many times even normally reasonable atheists fall into the trap of using anecdotal evidence to justify an irrational belief. The old, “it works for me” claim is not actually evidence!

I usually hear religious people and new age people make the claim that something ridiculous works for them despite all the evidence to the contrary. But we also see this type of thinking in relation to homeopathy and this is where atheists occasionally get dragged into this logical problem.

Not long ago, I got into a discussion about Alcoholics Anonymous, which has a 5% success rate. I was surprised that normally reasonable atheists would make the claim that it works because they have some relative or friend who was saved. This anecdotal evidence is supposed to convince me in the face of the actual numbers?

Anecdotal evidence is not sufficient except if it confirms or highlights what other forms of evidence suggest. But just because my grandfather smoked a pipe until he was 93 years old doesn’t mean that smoking a pipe I not harmful to one’s health.

Logic, it works for me… and everyone else too!

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  • http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/EFTCoaa/ Laurance

    Well! I’ve been wishing that the atheosphere would catch on to the notion that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religion, and that when courts coerce people to join AA, they’re violating the First Amendment. It could be argued that AA has become a State Religion. But AA doesn’t seem to be on the radar of Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens or other such folk.

    Yes, you’ll hear atheists giving their anecdotal evidence, not only that AA worked for their uncle or brother and therefore it works, but also that “AA works for atheists, too, because I got sober”.

    The language of AA is unambiguously religious. The steps are full of god “as we understand him”, full of prayer and meditation.

    So how do atheists get around this? Casuistry! Rationalization! Sophistry! Interpreting To Mean!

    To get along in AA the atheist plays word games that would make a Jesuit blush. Turn words every which way but loose. “When I think of god, I feel ____. Spirituality means ____ to me. I interpret my higher power to mean ____.”

    And all accompanied by the eyes rolled heavenward, then modestly downward, together with that smug, self-satisfied AA smile.

    Yeah, sure, some atheists do stay “sober” in AA. I was such a one, and I was there for 12+ years.

    But to do so requires being dishonest and playing word games that I am ashamed to remember.

    When I was honest about my atheism I got abused and trashed. To survive there I had to dance around and play games.

    I got the link to this blog from Planet Atheism. I wish the atheosphere would look more closely at what AA actually does and promotes. I had to get away from the survival word games I was playing and look at what was actually going on.

    Laurance, co-listowner of yahoo groups:
    EFTCoaa (Escaping From The Cult of aa)
    12-Step_Coercion_Watch
    without_aa

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    My brother wrote a great article about AA for Examiner.com. I made sure that he promoted SOS at the end of it.

  • Mike

    Reminds me of my brother. He used to go to AA meetings. It didn’t work for him. It wasn’t until He stopped going and admitted to himself that he’s really an atheist and that he has to take responsibility for himself, that he actually found the willpower to control his drinking habit.