I love it when people answer questions like yours based on their "impression." As a former member of AA who went to meetings for nine years, I have more than an "impression"...and I KNOW it's a cult because I've SEEN what goes on.
Here's what happened to me. Ten years ago, I had a terrible drinking problem, which had been going on for 25 years. I decided to quit drinking after some horrible things happened in my life. I "knew" because I'd heard it so much that I "had to" go to AA. So I went. My first impression was that it was nonsense, but I kept going because the people were so nice to me. They totally love bombed me and after a while I got to like it. I ignored the stuff that didn't make sense (which was most of it) and before long found myself in the middle of the group. Speaking, running meetings, becoming involved in the service structure, going to conventions, the whole nine yards. I thought I would never leave. The group replaced my family and most of my friends.
But I went to individual therapy at the same time. A lot of what I learned about myself and my reasons for drinking conflicted with AA dogma, so I found myself editing everything I was saying in AA to "fit" the approved story line. Here I was, supposedly "practicing a program of rigorous honesty"...but slanting the truth to fit within the confines of what you are allowed to think in AA. How cultish is that? They tell you what to think!
Then, of course, there were the dogmatically based abuses of AA members by other AA members. For example, people "with time" are considered within the group as being people to emulate. A person can be an axe-murderer, but if he has been sober for 20 years, he's a guru. And he can use that guru status to dupe newcomers into having sex with him or to get people to support him financially. If the newcomer should happen to get angry at the abuse, AA dogma kicks in; the newcomer is told that "anger is the dubious luxury of normal men" and to go do an inventory on his or her part in the abuse! It really is amazing.
Then there is the issue of the dually diagnosed person in AA. Of course many people with drinking problems also have mental health issues, such as depression or bi-polar disorder. And you would not believe how often such people are told to stop taking the medications prescribed for these conditions...on the grounds that one is not really sober if one takes any meds at all. I have seen suicides and relapses occur many times because of this. It is criminal.
And then there's what happens when you see all this and you decide you want to leave. That's when you find out you really were in a cult. "You'll drink!" you're told. "You can't stay sober without AA! You'll die drunk in the gutter if you leave!" I'm fairly certain some AA member will write in to say this doesn't happen, but it happened to me, and I am not unique.
Oh yes, it's a cult. A group that preys on vulnerable people, love-bombs them to get them in, controls their lives, tells them what to think and say, acts as their physician, uses group dogma to allow the elders to abuse newer members, and threatens you with death if you leave, is a cult in my book.
And by the way, if you want a great example of the sort of complete, utter, bizarre nonsense I am referring to, just read what Danny S. has to say.
Former alcoholic. Last drink 9-1-98.