The founder of AA.

Reading between the lines.
March 15 2004 5:44 PM

The Puritan Hangover

Bill Wilson, theologian of AA.

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Alcoholics Anonymous can claim many successes in the fight against alcohol abuse. Given its tradition of anonymity, its successes are, in fact, innumerable; but so are its failures. (How might we count the unnamed people who attend a meeting or two and never return?) AA teaches humility, but its advocates often display startling hubris in recounting its successes. AA is routinely described as the only way, not simply one way, of recovering from alcoholism. You'd think it was the Holy Grail. Wilson's program "proved that the soul existed," Cheever writes. Some of us are unconvinced.

Wendy Kaminer's most recent book is Free For All: Defending Liberty in America Today.