The Kid That Got Away...
By Stephen

I've just stumbled across this website and was amazed to see what has happened to the Worldwide Church of God since the last time I took any note of it, about 25 years ago. It certainly seems that a lot of people have been hurt and many of them are still unable to get past their experiences or their anger. On the positive side, it seems at least that many now finally recognize the Worldwide Church of God for the sham, fraud, and self-serving perpetrator of misery it always was.

I thought it might be helpful to some, and possibly cathartic for me, to relate my own experience with the Worldwide Church of God, what it was like to be born and grow up in that environment, how I managed to walk away at age fourteen, and what it cost me to do so. If I can get past my experiences, I have to believe that possibly you can too.

In the 1950s, my parents were among some of the earliest members of the Worldwide Church of God. At that time, there was no ministry in Alaska, certainly not in the rural area where they lived, so for years their only contact with the church was through religious correspondence courses and written letters to church elders. They spent many hours per day in bible study and prayer and became exceedingly devout in their beliefs. Prior to their involvement with the Worldwide Church of God, they were active and respected members of the nearby community, which indeed they had helped to found by homesteading years before. However, by the time of my birth in 1963, they were considered religious freaks and were outcasts in their community.

There were reasons for this. Among them: two years prior to my birth, an elder brother was born, suffering from moderate Down's syndrome. According to the strict and very explicit tenets of the Worldwide Church of God at the time, no medical assistance or care was provided for him. When he contracted mild pneumonia at the age of four, my parents dropped a few drops of 'sanctified' oil on him (specially sent from Pasadena for the purpose), and, in essence, over the course of a few days, allowed him to die without ever receiving the basic medical care that likely could readily have saved his life.

A few hundred yards from a log cabin in the Alaskan outback is a tiny grave marked only by a large stone. In it lies the body of the first victim the Worldwide Church of God claimed from my family.

Perhaps only someone familiar with the psychology of these early church members could appreciate how, rather than causing my parents to question their faith, this event only served to make them even more devout, operating as they did under the assumption that they had been found unworthy of God's miraculous intervention and therefore needed to redouble their efforts at piety. At the same time, perversely, because of the their sacrifice, they grew in stature in the eyes of the handful of other church members who got together once every two weeks in Anchorage for 'fellowship'; weekly when a minister was eventually assigned to the state.

 From where we lived, it was a 500 mile dirt and gravel road round-trip to Anchorage. I calculate that over the years I bounced over a quarter million miles of rough road, summer and winter, rain and snow, in beaten-up old secondhand cars, all in order to attend services with my parents. Oddly enough, I actually looked forward to these grueling all day trips with their twin three-hour sermons interspersed with an inevitably bad-tasting potluck lunch and concluded with an hour or two of insipid 'fellowship'. The reason is simple, it was practically the only time I ever saw other human beings.

Indeed, my childhood, prior to the age when I began to attend elementary school, was largely characterized by two things; an absolute acceptance and belief in a supernatural realm that overlay the physical world like a tangible and fear-inducing shroud, and an almost complete absence of social contact of any kind.

My days were spent in chores, prayer, fasting (from the age of four onward) and listening to my father spend endless hours reading aloud from the bible while having me memorize ever-longer passages; all with corporal punishment for the slightest recalcitrance or infraction. Naturally, I also experienced the same array of thousands of small thefts of simple, innocent pleasures, as did many, if not most, of the small children of churchmembers of that era.

Indeed, I see that many posts here are bitter indictments dedicated to re-telling the loss of the joys of youth, which we all experienced. I can confirm them all. Certainly, while we were rural poor to begin with, belonging to the church and tithing scrupulously ensured that we remained rural impoverished. In fact, I have unusually vividly memories of twice going to a nearby deserted beach for a picnic lunch with my parents. These occasions stand out in my memory with such clarity because I believe they were they only time, during the entirety of my childhood, that my parents and I ever did anything together simply for fun! We couldn't afford it. The money went to the church.

Several times when I was a child, our log cabin home was 'blessed' with visits by Garner Ted Armstrong, Roderick Merideth Gerald Waterhouse, and Herman Hoeh, among many other church luminaries. It was like a visit from royalty to the hut of a peasant. My father would guide them on expeditions to hunt moose or other game, and I would often be trotted out as the curious backwoods child prodigy who could recite huge sections of the bible from memory.

However, even as a five or six year old, it was apparent to me that these people, for whom I performed like a trained ape, were mostly men of little or no spirituality, especially Garner Ted who was incredibly vain, bombastic, insecure, and frivolous. They simply did not live the scripture *seriously* in the same way as I and my parents. Even my unshakeably devout father was frequently shocked at their behavior and 'worldliness'. He made apologies for them ('they were on vacation, needed to relax, be away from scrutiny', etc.), still, many years later he clearly felt justified in his unspoken dislike of GTA when the latter was kicked out of the church.

None of this, of course, effected my unquestioning belief in the endless parade of supernatural bogeymen and just-around-the-corner horrors with which the Worldwide Church of God inundated its membership. However, two things then happened which began to change my worldview:

First, quite suddenly, between the ages of three and four, I discovered that I could read. Thousands of hours of watching my father's forefinger pore over the lines of the bible as he read aloud, and I memorized, had taught me to recognize a very sizeable vocabulary of words in a pictographic fashion. I didn't know the alphabet, and I couldn't use a dictionary, (I would have to learn these skills much later, and with some difficulty) but I could read, and read at a quite advanced level at that.

Suddenly, I began to have exposure to things other than the bible; for example, the fifty volume set of Harvard Classic's, a set of books that were almost immediately accessible to me as they were largely written in an older style of English vocabulary similar to the King James with which I was so familiar. These books graced my parent's bookshelf, but they had never read them. Before, I entered the first grade, I had read nearly the whole set. I also read much of Aristotle's 'Organon', in which he capably lays out many of the basic principles of logic and argumentation.

Second, between the ages of five and six, I began to experience occasional instances of what I can now identify as synesthesia, in my case, the sensation of seeing bands of light and dots of colors in response to hearing sounds. When I mentioned these experiences to my parents, it caused an incredible fluster, in them and in the local church. Quite obviously, if not demon-possessed, I was being attacked by the unholy and was in mortal danger. I was repeatedly anointed, prayed for, prayed against, and prayed over by more people than I had ever met before.

However, I inherently knew, beyond the slightest doubt, that the sensations I experienced were not harmful, not dangerous, and certainly not evil. When I accepted that a dichotomy existed, I knew, for the first time, that my parents and the church leaders were human, fallible, prone to over-reaction and, just possibly, stupid.

In a few years, that understanding, and my early introduction to Aristotle's two thousand year old treatise on logic, would set me free.

Over the years, my parents became mired even further into the Worldwide Church of God, enjoying their status as minor celebrities, ("first people baptized from Alaska") and my father's elevation to regular preaching duties and his status as something of a 'bible scholar'; you know, the type whose Strong's concordance, hebrew-greek dictionary, and copy of Josephus' history are nearly as well-thumbed as are their bibles, who are always discovering intriguing relationships between this bit of scripture and that, but who are constitutionally incapable of following a three point syllogism to its conclusion. My father spoke on festival holydays, I once got to play chess with Bobby Fischer, and when we visited the campus to see my much older sister who was enrolled in Ambassador College, we were even given a brief tour by God's Apostle on Earth, HWA himself.

During the same time the church moved from its highly strict 'homespun' beginning to the somewhat more relaxed, and significantly more insincere, 'leisure-suit' period of the 70s. I excelled in school, remain polite, obedient, and out-of-the-way, did as I was told, and quietly began to reject the church and it's teachings.

At the age of fourteen, with my parents still forcing me to attend weekly service and twice weekly bible study, I was ready, and I challenged my local church leadership, the regional authorities, and eventually some of the church's senior evangelists to 'stand ready, and give an answer'. Beyond the slightest possibility of refutation, I demonstrated the logical fallacies of the 'Seven Proofs God Exists', showed copious errors and contradictions in church doctrine and reported history, and demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that "Dr." Hoeh, the church's supposed chief intellectual, had received his doctorate for a dissertation (I can still remember it's green cover and clumsily mimeographed pages) that was not only hilariously full of contradictions and lapses of logic, but which was, in fact, largely plagiarized.

These supposed scholars folded like a bad poker hand. Still, despite their inability to answer me, I could not get permission to stop attending church. So I took the only course of action I could; the church was just then setting up various youth indoctrination groups and bible study programs I went to every one of them and argued loudly and vociferously with the ministers and elders running them. They inevitably got the worst of every encounter, and within two weeks I was asked to never return.

While these events demonstrated to me that the church leaders were wildly wrong, and many of the were insincere, I only surmised the possibility that they were corrupt. Even 25 years later, I am somewhat shocked to read, on this website, accounts which detail corruption on a scale I did not even consider at the time.

In any case, those of you can remember the church's evaluation of parents on the basis of the results of their child-rearing (in practical terms, they were having recruitement and retention problems) can understand why, as a result of my actions, I was not only kicked out the church, but, to prove their piety, shortly afterwards asked by my parents to leave home as well.

I knew it was coming, and I was ready to go. I had to support myself from that time forward and never attended so much as a day of high school. Life was rough for a few years, but I got through it.

All told, the Worldwide Church of God has robbed me of the life of a brother, normal childhood, a high-school education, an inheritance, the affection and approval of my parents, contact with my family, and a great deal of "quality of life". The list could easily go on. At the same time, I have achieved a measure of worldly success unequaled by any in my family and lived my life with an inviolable independence of mind that few attain. The exchange was costly, but definitely worth it.

Today, my parents have passed away. My mother in 1990 from a three-year long battle with bone cancer for which she refused treatment and pain medication. As she was a kind woman, I don't resent her taking her delusions with her to the grave if they gave her some comfort. Conversely, I feel some slight vindictive pleasure that my father, who was far less kind, did not pass away until late 1995 when, although defiant to the last, he clearly knew that his Worldwide Church of God beliefs, which he had enforced with such miserable result on all those around him, were a farce.

My siblings, who are fifteen to twenty years older than I, never escaped the church or the consequence of their involvement in it; one brother became a lifelong hypocrite who is perptually impoverished, another is an alcoholic trapped in a miserable marriage he is afraid to end, and my sister, like many graduates of Ambassador College, has led a life characterized by low self-esteem and involvement with domineering and abusive men.

I feel sorry for many of the children who grew up in the church and who may have lacked my stubbornness or willingness to endure suffering to escape. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if I would have escaped myself had the church had its various youth indoctrination programs fully in place when I was a few years younger.

On the flip side, I have little sympathy for many of the adult entrants into the church who have posted here and who, to my eye, appear primarily to wish to avoid all personal responsibility for the wrecks they have made of their own lives and the lives of their families; claiming instead that they are essentially blameless dupes who were deceived by unscrupulous con men.

That doesn't wash. There are few cons that work unless the mark is seeking the undeserved. And anyway, I know who you were! I remember you!

A long time ago, our local pastor used to preach that all sins are founded on lying. He was right, of course. Only, there is more than one kind of lying. There is the kind that was practiced by the church administration the denial of the truth and fabrication of untruths. Then there is the kind that was practiced by you the willful effort to avoid discovering the truth. The church's beliefs were fraudulent; the church leaders knew they were fraudulent. I ascertained these things as a child, and IT WAS NOT DIFFICULT!

You had only to look. If you did not discover these things, it can only be because you were extra-ordinary fools or because you chose to avoid the knowledge.

Yes, I remember you, with your sanctimonious callousness, your emotional abuse, your drinking, your racism, your wife beating, your putrid combination of arrogance and ignorance; your lives lived in an unholy alliance of self-abnegation and secret superiority. Yes, I remember you. Herbert Armstrong and his gang of thugs were undoubtedly scoundrels of the first water, but you, you were their enablers.

Stephen  


REPLY:

 Stephen,

Thanks for your message. A very touching and interesting story. Until the end.

Fortunately for yourself, you were, as a child, and are now, very intelligent. Not many truly intelligent people get sucked into religion. Most people in a religious organizations are not highly educated and have not been schooled in how to reason and make rational decisions in regards to religion. Probably a very high percentage of church members of any church do not know what their church believes.

I don't recall anyone on the PT website saying that they were not responsible for what happened to them. For the most part, it happened because we were stupid and gullible. The whole point of the site is that, even though we were stupid, it does not excuse the people that took advantage of our stupidity.

In my 25 years in the church, I do not remember anyone who was there trying to get anything other than what they thought was the Truth from God. Not counting the ministers.

Now, if you want to condemn us for being stupid, fine. But there was no ulterior motive on our part.

"The willful effort to avoid discovering the truth." That is just plain unfair and you are in no position to judge those of us that stood to lose our eternal lives by even reading anything that would take us out of God's true church.

If we had had the facts we could have made the proper decisions. The facts were hidden from us or explained away. I have friends and relatives today that are still in the Worldwide Church of God and will not listen to me about any of the facts. They remain afraid of losing their salvation. The fear of death is a very powerful tool to use on people. I understand them and the way they think. I do not condemn them.

You were never a member of the Cult. You do not understand the psychology that was used on us. It is very easy for you to stand back and condemn those of us that were suckers for this con-game but this was not some new thing that was foisted off on just a few hundred thousand stupid people. This has been going on from day one and it encompasses all religions.

And to call us enablers is not a term that is even near to being correct. Hillary Clinton is an enabler because she knows all about Bill and his evilness and allows him to continue and supports him, for her own gain. We never knew the truth about herbie and gang while members of that church. But, when we did, there was no hesitation about leaving.

It is very easy for me, now, to condemn all Christians and all religionists as not extra-ordinary fools; just ordinary fools. The multitude of people believing things, religiously, that they cannot prove, makes it a very ordinary thing.

Now, I have to decide whether to put your message on the Hate Mail page or on the regular email page.

It just goes to show that you are not as smart as you seem to think because you have little understanding about what went on and how they fucked with our minds.

Editor


REPLY:

I appreciate what you are doing with your website. I also appreciate the personal courage you have demonstrated in fighting against something you understand to be wrong. Again, I appreciate the honesty and thought you have put into your reply.

Certainly, you may publish any part of my message you wish, or not. And, clearly, you will categorize it in whatever manner you deem appropriate. I do, however, believe that you have perhaps misunderstood me in part, and certainly you seem to have come away with a couple of misperceptions that I would like to try to correct.

Specifically, you appear to have raised two areas worthy of discussion:

1. My personal qualification, understanding, and experience of what it was like to be in Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, and

2. Is there validity to my general condemnation of the behavior of adult members of the church?

I'll address them in turn.

First, let's start with the ad hominem parts. You state:

 You were never a member of the Cult. You do not understand the psychology that was used on us. It is very easy for you to stand back and condemn those of us that were suckers

 It just goes to show that you are not as smart as you seem to think because you have little understanding about what went on and how they fucked with our minds.

 you are in no position to judge those of us that stood to lose our eternal lives by even reading anything that would take us out of God's true church.

Frankly, I'm a bit irritated by these assumptions. I've seen these same sentiments a couple of places on your site and it sounds suspiciously like mental boilerplate and perhaps a bit of personal excuse-making.

I invite you to consider me as an individual, because what you've stated simply does not apply to me as a person in the slightest. On the contrary:

I grew up in absolute isolation; no radio, no television, no electricity, no running water, no people around. In short, it was an environment more akin to the mid 1800s than the mid 1900s. More importantly, it meant I had no source of other information or any baseline for comparison to understand what the world was like other than what my parents told me and what I learned in church.

My mother and father were not 'seat-warmers'. My parents were part of that core of initial fanatic true-believers that is so necessary to any cult. They believed with all their hearts, they lived what they believed, they sacrificed a human life for what they believed, and they required at least as much of me as they did of themselves. Like any good Worldwide Church of God parent, they wanted to secure a high place for me in the kingdom to come. That meant constant instruction and correction, hours spent on my knees in prayer daily, constant effort to do more and be better, and constant questioning and self-doubt in the face of impossible standards, standards which the church itself later confessed to be too harsh and inappropriate to apply to adults, let alone children. To even attempt to live up to these kind of standards eventually required faith; i.e. a personal commitment on my part. And I believed, oh yes I did. Like you mention some places on your site "it was the only life I knew", and from my very youngest years I took it damn seriously.

For example: on the emotional side, in the wilderness area in which I lived, demons were every bit as much of a reality to me as were bears or wolverines and I believed, and conformed my behavior to the belief, that spirits surrounded me constantly. I was as familiar with superstitious terror as any aborigine. On the intellectual side, I exercised a level of discipline that crossed the border of obsession. How many three year olds do you recall who could sit rock still for six hours? I did. How many four year olds could give you chapter and verse for the quote on every one of those endless stacks of two-by-three flash cards? I could. How many five year olds had memorized the Pentateuch entire? I had.

You are correct to think I was *able* to do some of these types of things because I was a fairly smart kid. And yes, in part, I did them to please my parents, particularly my father, who like many Worldwide Church of God fathers was a tyrant, but who, in contra-distinction to most, actually *was* a powerful and fearsome man, as you might imagine someone who lived in primitive conditions in the Alaskan outback to be. Mostly, though, I did them because I was self-motivated, and I was self-motivated because I *believed* and I put my whole heart into being worthy to be 'found righteous'.

Not part of the cult? Poppycock. Even after I began to understand that my parents and church elders could be wrong, I merely presumed they were more fallible than I had thought. I never questioned the basic tenets of the faith till much later, and in the duration I continued to sweat blood to do everything I could to 'live as God instructed'.

Don't understand the psychology used? Hogwash. Not only have I worked with abused and addicted populations as an adult, as should be clear by now, I understand the psychology quite well, on a personal as well as a scientific basis. From the inductance of a sense of obligation, to the perversion of the functioning of the intellect, to the paralysis of self-doubt, to the gibbering fear of the hindbrain, I understand it very well indeed.

Found it easy to stand back and condemn? Balderdash. The church was not only practically the only thing I knew, church members were practically the only *people* I knew. The church contained my only friends. To walk away from the church meant losing the affection of my parents and having to begin to earn my keep in the world at fourteen. I certainly knew this in advance, as I knew that the minute I walked away, all of my friends, the god-fearing members of the church, would turn their backs on me, as, of course, they did including my girlfriend, a sweet sixteen year old girl with whom I was very much in love. I was too young to take care of her; I could scarcely keep myself fed and clothed. I couldn't ask her to come out and live on the road with me. In desperation, she shortly thereafter married the first eligible church boy she could find so as to get away from her abusive father. Without going into details, it turned out to be a bad bargain for her. I watched it happen, largely as a result of my decision, and I was helpless to prevent it. Easy? Not by a long shot.

No, "easy" would have been to remain and to apply my understanding of the psychology involved, and my by-then encyclopedic knowledge of doctrine and scripture to advance myself in the Worldwide Church of God organization as a career con artist. I imagine I could have done very well indeed.

Enough! Let me now address the question of culpability.

Don't misunderstand; it is not my desire to vilify everyone who was in the church. Many of these people were 'just folks'. The majority likely had some good, even laudable, intentions. Almost all of them were duped.

That does not make them blameless.

It was my intent to suggest that churchmembers, particular those who entered as adults, were not without significant blame, for allowing themselves to be duped, for much of their behavior while members, and for the resultant misery it caused so many. I also suggested that a number of people had posted to your site with a fairly strong theme of overly ready self-absolution; a 'twern't our fault a'tall, we'z used!' attitude that I found distasteful and blatantly self-serving.

Apparently you disagree. Not unreasonable, since you have expressed some of the same sentiments yourself. Here are some of your responses with which I will take issue, one at a time:

 I don't recall anyone on the PT website saying that they were not responsible for what happened to them. For the most part, it happened because we were stupid and gullible. The whole point of the site is that, even though we were stupid, it does not excuse the people that took advantage of our stupidity.

I don't much care about whether you accept responsibility for what you allowed the church to get you in to. It's a minor confession, and even so, I note, one laid carefully at the feet of inherent qualities for which you can disclaim control, and thereby, most responsibility.

*My* whole point is that just because people took advantage of you does not make you blameless for what you individually and collectively did to others. So you were poor duped souls just 'carrying out orders'? Not good enough. It's a general principle of both law and ethics that people do not have the right to claim that their abdication of decision-making authority frees them from responsibility for their own actions. Yes, they told you what to do, but you *let* them tell you what to do. That was *your* decision and therein lies *your* culpability.

The fact that Herbert W. Armstrong and his henchmen may have been the ultimate cause, does not excuse churchmembers from being the proximate cause for a tremendous amount of suffering and misery, particularly that meted out to unconverted family members and churchmembers' children. Neither does it shield them from partial responsibility for allowing themselves to *remain* duped, but more on that later.

 In my 25 years in the church, I do not remember anyone who was there trying to get anything other than what they thought was the Truth from God. Not counting the ministers.

Really?

Almost everyone I knew was a janitor seeking to become a god.

Let me reiterate an earlier statement: almost all scams require the mark to be seeking the undeserved. I think that this applies very well to a great number of churchmembers. Some expected tremendous rewards in the hereafter. Others expected actual wealth, abundance, good health, etc in the present. Yet, others were attracted to the idea that they were justified in living out their desire to be petty tyrants, in the church or in their own homes. Many, possibly most, were people who did not know how to succeed in their personal, economic, or social lives (what advertising and marketing types classify as 'strivers') and who were desirous of being re-evaluated in a different light by a group other than the general public which most felt had rejected them or found them lacking. Ultimately, most churchmembers were people with low self-esteem seeking a way to feel that they were important (special, unique, select, 'chosen') without actually having to achieve the accomplishments that might warrant that assessment.

What, you never noticed that not only were there not that many highly intelligent people in the church, but that most were plodding through life, that there was also a real dearth of *accomplished* people or high-achievers?

Additionally, most churchmembers lacked courage, an essential requirement for success in the real world. Courage requires the expenditure of effort and the willingness to do. Self-martyrdom or 'heroic victimization' on the other hand requires the expenditure of far less effort and relies on the willingness to do without. Let me be both crude and cruel for a moment what kind of miserable schmuck willingly hands over the control of their and their childrens' existence to someone else? Quick answer: a knock-kneed coward. The church offered a handy refuge for intellectual and emotional cowards who were unwilling to put themselves on the line in the real world and who preferred instead to achieve their sense of self-importance by playing the role of the victim, by suffering rather than by doing.

Take a look at some of the posts to your site. While I, admittedly, have written with some pride of what I have overcome, notice how many of the people who have written in have expressed such pride about what they have *suffered*. Same people, same dynamic.

 If we had had the facts we could have made the proper decisions. The facts were hidden from us or explained away.

Twaddle!

First, a few stray thoughts:

About a hundred years ago, the famous American educator, Dewey, was one of the first to suggest we have a moral obligation to use our minds.

Religious belief is largely not a function of intellect. Therefore, it might be reasonably argued that intelligence is not a prerequisite and stupidity is not a defense.

There were many people in the church who were both intelligent and well educated (granted, they were a fairly small minority).

Now, let me ask you to consider these:

Could you not judge the church by its works?

Were you blind to the fact that Worldwide Church of Goders were unusually petty and spiteful?

Did God ever actually communicate with you?

Did you have a basis to believe that your prayers were being answered or listened to?

There were many starting points and many routes to freedom; logic was only one of them.

Almost all faults of logic can be traced to the simple proposition that it is impermissible to posit a possibility on the basis of an absence of evidence. E.g. I can't prove that God doesn't exist, therefore he *may* exist.

Almost all sin can be traced to the unwillingness to accept a knowable reality, for example the reality that you do not have an answer or an an explantion for something. This is what underlies the urge to lie.

A human being is a creature of volitional consciousness, not only can we choose to ignore; we can choose to not think. This is not a function of the intellect, we all can do it. Choose your own code of conduct, but at the root of mine is this: to accept the validity of a proposition by choosing to not think about it is to abdicate the unique thing that makes you human, your mind. Almost always, we do this when we want the proposition to be true but suspect that it is not. To fear reality, and so choose not to face it, that is my definition of sin.

In your heart, you know that you had hundreds of experiences which caused you to have doubts about your religious convictions. In doubting, you should have followed the mandate you accepted to prove all things. But you chose not to; it was too much effort or you were fearful of the result. By my lights, you sinned. And it didn't involve Herbie one bit.

I submit that most churchmembers had all the facts they ever needed, but chose to ignore them. As you yourself said: "I told them, but they would not listen". In truth, they heard you, but they would not think. This, precisely, is the behavior of an enabler.

Generally speaking, I dislike Nazi analogies; however there are close enough corollaries to perhaps warrant one here: while we all agree that Hitler was a horrible man and one who bears much of the blame for the atrocities carried out at his direction, there were many more atrocities carried out in his name, but not at his direction. Was Hitler partly responsible for these acts even though did not commit them order them committed? Absolutely. Were the perpetrators of these acts blameless merely because they had been taught to think that way? Clearly not. Take it one step further, most everyday Germans at the time knew nothing of the worst of these activities and certainly did not participate in them. Were they blameless? Most that I have talked with have had the good grace not to think so. They believe they should have known. That they did not know only because they willfully refused to think about the evidence that was all around them And they are right. They are not without blame.

Yes, Herbert Armstrong likely deserved a slow and intimate introduction to that meat hook he was always talking about. But, by the same lights, his congregation deserves at least a rebuke.

You needn't accept it, you don't have to like it. But I suspect you know that it is deserved.

Stephen

 


 REPLY:

 YOU WROTE:

 "Let me be both crude and cruel for a moment what kind of miserable schmuck willingly hands over the control of their and their childrens' existence to someone else?"

REPLY:

 I can answer that one very easily. A schmuck that truly believes that he is handing his children's existence to God.

 YOU WROTE:

 Could you not judge the church by its works?

REPLY:

 We didn't know its TRUE WORKS. All we knew is what they told us. We were preaching the gospel. The good news of the kingdom was being spread around the world. We could read all the stories in the PT and the WWN. We could hear about it at the BS's and services. We had the telephone projects and the projects to put the PT in waiting rooms. There were evangelistic campaigns. Herb was going around the world, being a witness. We were doing the work, no doubt about it.

YOU WROTE:

 Were you blind to the fact that Worldwide Church of Goders were unusually petty and spiteful?

REPLY:

 We got it all out of the Bible.

 YOU WROTE:

 Did God ever actually communicate with you? AND Did you have a basis to believe that your prayers were being answered or listened to?

REPLY:

 I thought so. I started keeping a diary of all the times where I thought God had intervened in my life. It is a seven page Word doc, single spaced. Much of it may have been coincidence but some things could not have been.

I don't understand it to this day. I truly believe that some "god" has intervened in my life, yet I find it so illogical for this "god" to help me and let others suffer unknowable pain and unfair deaths and injustice.

I would say that, rather than answered prayer, as a whole, although I have had a couple of undeniable answered prayers, I would say that my life has been manipulated by some being other than myself. Maybe this is self delusion, but I have no other answer for it. My only deduction would be that there is more going on here than meets the eye; at least in my life. I can't explain it.

YOU WROTE:

 As you yourself said: "I told them, but they would not listen". In truth, they heard you, but they would not think. This, precisely, is the behavior of an enabler.

REPLY:

Now that is just silly. You seem to be fixated on the word "enabler." You can't put cult members into this category. Just because they have given their minds to a cause, does not mean that they have all the facts of the matter. This may be partially their fault, but it does not carry all the guilt of being an enabler. These people cannot accept what they are not ready to accept. It is not a matter of intelligence. It is a matter of the mind not being ABLE to accept the facts. There is too much invested in the beliefs to give them up, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. We are talking about RELIGION here. Religion on its very face is irrational. You expect rationality from religious people? How ridiculous. Even so, I do not condemn the religious drug-takers (of which I was one) as much as I condemn the drug pushers. As long as there is a fear of death, there will be a market for religious con-men. And, the most attractive part of herb's sales spiel was the understanding that nobody would be lost. That everybody would eventually have their chance to understand God's great plan and we would all be in some great kingdom together. That gave hope for all those in the past and present and future. It made sense of all the horrible, unjust things we see in the history of the world.

 YOU WROTE:

 "It's a general principle of both law and ethics that people do not have the right to claim that their abdication of decision-making authority frees them from responsibility for their own actions. Yes, they told you what to do, but you *let* them tell you what to do. That was *your* decision and therein lies *your* culpability."

REPLY:

 Well, then you must condemn every religion and every member. They are all cults and they all do some amount of damage. Some more than others. You have to understand that it was not the "church" that was telling us what to do, it was "god." We truly believed that. Once you accepted that premise, any rebellion or thinking to the contrary would lead you to the lake of fire. That is why I don't think you really can understand what our thinking was and for some, still is. If your mind was not controlled to the extent that you believed that God was speaking through Herbert W. Armstrong and his minions, you were not a true believer. David Robinson, who wrote the book "Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web," continued to believe until he died a poor janitor, all the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. He couldn't accept that the man's teachings were just as wrong as Herbert W. Armstrong was evil. You couldn't call this man an enabler because he sacrificed the rest of his life to tell people just how evil Herbert W. Armstrong was. He was unable to break the spell of religion that had been cast on him.

One of the constant sermon points was that "God is in charge. We have to let God take care of it." I truly believed that. I had seen too many instances where "God" had manipulated my life. If something bad were happening in "the Work" or even in my life, God would take care of it and it would all work out for the good.

 YOU WROTE:

 "What, you never noticed that not only were there not that many highly intelligent people in the church, but that most were plodding through life, that there was also a real dearth of *accomplished* people or high-achievers?"

REPLY:

 You may not have noticed, but the world is made up of the majority of people plodding through life, just barely surviving. To think that you would have a different percentage in any religion is unrealistic. And the church kept us poor so that we could not improve our lives and taught us that any education, other than at God's College, was not worth anything and almost Satanic.

 YOU WROTE:

 "Additionally, most churchmembers lacked courage, an essential requirement for success in the real world."

REPLY:

 Most of us did not have the courage to go against God. Simple as that. God was in charge. We accepted that. You didn't. Good for you. Bad for us.

YOU WROTE:

 "Choose your own code of conduct, but at the root of mine is this: to accept the validity of a proposition by choosing to not think about it is to abdicate the unique thing that makes you human, your mind."

REPLY:

 Fine for you and me, but religious people do not think that way. Why is it that I can understand them and you cannot?

YOU WROTE:

 "Yes, Herbert Armstrong likely deserved a slow and intimate introduction to that meat hook he was always talking about. But, by the same lights, his congregation deserves at least a rebuke."

REPLY:

 I accept rebuke. I am sorry that my generous donations were used to suck other stupid people into this cult. I did it unknowingly and ignorantly, as I think most members did. I think that people cannot accept change easily. I think the mind rebels against it and will not accept what it does not want to believe, until it is ready to believe it. Coming into the church, people have to be in the right frame of mind to accept the teachings. They needed answers that no other church teaches and this church had all the answers. Leaving the church has to follow the same path: there must be some kind of crack in the armor that will allow a person to continue to peal it away to see the falsity of it all. People have to be vulnerable in each situation. First, vulnerable to deceit. Second, vulnerable to truth. I do not condemn those who cannot accept the understanding that I now have about Herbert W. Armstrong's religion and religion in general.

I think that we are going to have to agree to disagree. You seem to have a problem with your father that you are trying to project on the rest of the loyal members. I can understand your feelings as a child of a member of the cult. We did a lot of damage to our children and it is a terrible legacy. All in the name of God.

If only we could have just ruined our own lives and not hurt others.....

Editor


 

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