Atheists Struggling With Alcohol Addiction Shouldn’t Have to Go Through Religious Rehab May 23, 2017

Atheists Struggling With Alcohol Addiction Shouldn’t Have to Go Through Religious Rehab

It was a decade ago when Amanda Knox was accused of killing her roommate while studying abroad in Italy. She was finally acquitted by the nation’s Supreme Court in 2015. While sitting in jail, though, the only option she had for rehabilitation (and, really, a social life) involved Christianity.


[At Italian prison Capanne], the only reliable, non-medicinal rehabilitation available to female prisoners was Mass, Bible study, and a weekly social hour with a group of young Franciscan nuns and friars from Assisi. Otherwise, we were simply locked in our cells.

the subtext was clear: Here was a model we could emulate, an ideology we could subscribe to. Here was our path back to good behavior and social acceptance.

Writing for VICE’s Broadly, Knox compares her own experience to that of atheists in the U.S. who face something similar. If they’re in trouble for reasons related to drug or alcohol abuse, the only option for them may be a religious treatment program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

She spoke with Katie McKibben, who struggled with alcoholism and was ordered to go through rehab… but the only option the judge gave her was The Villa, where the Bible took center stage.

At the Villa, McKibben alleges she was subjected to incessant proselytizing. “There were multiple prayers every day,” she says, “before and after every meal, before and after every session.” In addition to observing guest speaker panels, where recovered addicts “told their life story about how they were saved and how we needed to be saved as well,” McKibben was sent to “Celebrate Recovery” meetings at an Anaheim evangelical church. Whenever she declared herself a secular humanist in group, the response was frosty. “They didn’t like that,” she remembers. “They let me know that accepting Jesus Christ was the only way.”

She played the game and got through the program, but McKibben says she didn’t really get better until she found secular alternatives through the Center for Inquiry.

It’s a story we’ve heard many times before. Some atheists have even filed (successful) lawsuits to get out of court-ordered religious drug treatment programs.

It’s just disappointing that judges don’t recognize that non-religious people won’t be helped by faith-based rehab. They don’t want to replace one problem with another. And there’s nothing wrong with offering those atheists one of the many secular alternatives out there.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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