herbert w. armstrong and the worldwide church of god the painful truth about the worldwide church of god
30 years in the
Worldwide Church of God
Part 5
(Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four Part five)

Bill Fairchild
Douglas, Mass

Even more writings based on my 30 years in the Worldwide Church of God and 57 years of life.

(1) Eric Hoffer's book "The True Believer".

I read this book in the Spring of 1974. I was struck by how accurately he was describing the Worldwide Cult of Fraud and all of us true believers in Armstrongism. Too bad I didn't act on what I was reading. I am rereading his book again now.

(2) Having an exit interview.

Several times in the course of my professional career as a computer programmer I have left one employer for another. Large, well-run businesses will usually want to give you a short verbal interview with someone in their personnel department as one of the very last acts you do before leaving their employ forever. There are three main reasons why they do this. (1) It makes the person leaving feel better to get gripes and complaints off his chest. He can leave feeling that someone has "felt his pain" and that possibly something will be done to make things better for those who still remain. This satisfies his inner need for helping others, even though he knows it is too late for anything to be done to help him. (2) Some part of government has enacted legislation requiring this be done. (3) This will often remove the terminated employee's desire to sue the organization for harassment, grievance, unfair treatment, etc.

In exceedingly rare cases, there is a fourth reason, which is that the organization actually wants to improve itself. This probably never happens if there are more than 50 people in the organization. The larger the organization, the more certain the only reason is self-serving; i.e., to perpetuate the image that the top management has already inculcated among all the employees that everything is fine, the business is progressing, managers know what they are doing, etc. My favorite newspaper comic strip is, of course, Dilbert.

I do not remember any such exit interview when I was terminated from employment at Ambassador College in June, 1974 due to a "budget cutback" (which really meant that all the top dogs had been losing too much money again at Las Vegas and the drone members weren't responding quickly enough with more donations to make up the losses). My manager did generously offer to let me use the office's copying machine to make copies of my resume, and to use their telephone in searching for my next job. But nothing was done to ask about any job dissatisfaction I might have had.

Also I never received an exit interview when I left the cult. The only thing anyone said was when John Comino, my pastor at the time, said "I am shocked that you feel that way". That was the extent of his trying to succor me, comfort me, plead with me, save me from the "bonds of Satan", pluck me from the fire, etc.

(3) Louis Farrakhan's "One Million Man March".

I watched "Reverend" Farrakhan deliver most of his grotesquely long speech at the conclusion of this march in 1995. I remember thinking how much it sounded like a sermon from Gerald Waterhouse. He used all sorts of special phraseology which only an initiated member of his cult would understand. He talked (ranted) about numerology, secret knowledge, plays on words, etc. He took the word "atonement" apart and described the real meaning of at-one-ment. At this point I began to think he had been sitting in the Worldwide Church of God cult's services for a few years and had picked up on all their secret lingo. More mind manipulation. He was obviously preaching to his faithful, but also trying to attract even more recruits into his cult with all this secret knowledge stuff.

Since he had a reputation for making racist comments about whites and Jews, I was watching closely to see if he would say anything racist. Since this speech was nationally televised live, he seemed to have toned down quite a bit for this highly visible speech.

I like to watch speakers like him speak in public so I can observe their subtle techniques for whipping the crowd up into following him. I have tried to improve my public speaking abilities by adding a few things that I have seen Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King, Jr. do, because they were or are very effective speakers.

In Spokesman's Club we had to learn how to do this. It was speech lesson number 6, or the Stir to Action speech. Once you pass this speech assignment you are expected to have a stir to action component in all your speeches from then on, which I found it increasingly easy to do.

I also remember watching an old film on TV once of Adolf Hitler speaking. I turned the sound off completely just to watch his hand, arm, body, and facial gestures. He could really stir to action. So could good old single-digit-IQ Gerald Watercloset. I used to love to sit there for three hours watching him sway me into a hypnotic trance and felt disappointed when he stopped after three hours. I wanted more of his rhetoric.

Which leads me to the next subject.

(4) Cults and endorphins.

Why do we humans do what we do? How do we get into habitual behavior, whether it is constructive or destructive? Why do we grow to love another human being? How do we get sucked into cults?

Whenever a human being does anything, whether it involves someone else or not, there is an automatic mental action going on that gives the person some emotional feedback, either positive or negative. For example, if I eat a piece of chocolate candy, my taste buds sense the sweetness of the sugar and combine it with the bitter taste of the chocolate. The net result coming out of my sense of taste is that the pleasure center in my brain gets stimulated, other nerve cells fire in response to the stimulation of the pleasure center, these other nerve cells cause endorphins to be squirted into my blood, the endorphins flow throughout my whole body in a matter of seconds, and even before I finish swallowing the piece of chocolate candy my whole body is alive with pleasurable reactions. Then my memory neurons get stimulated to remember one more occurrence when eating candy is associated with endorphins and pleasure. Yeah, buddy!!! I remember that one event. Then I eat another piece of candy a week later. Same thing. Same memory. Pretty soon my neurons have learned to predict, subconsciously and instantaneously, that candy will always cause me to feel good, so I start finding it hard to resist eating chocolate. I might even turn into a chocoholic.

The same predictable sequence of actions happens when we do almost anything, whether it involves something we eat or drink, something we say or do with another person, or something we see, hear, smell, feel, taste, read, or experience. HWA used to talk about how life was just a bunch of complex chemical reactions. This is true. All these wonderfully happy things we can do as humans cause positive emotional responses in our brains, we sense pleasure, endorphins get squirted, the whole body is stimulated and feels good, and we remember the association of the pleasure with the event that precipitated it all. Memory itself is simply a complex series of neurochemical reactions.

During the 1980s I helped sell Florida oranges and grapefruits for my local Worldwide Church of God church congregation as a fund-raising activity. We would sell several thousand cases of fruit every year in November and December. I had a large passenger van at the time, and would use my van to transport hundreds of cases of oranges and grapefruit from the place where the 18-wheeler truck would unload them back to my home, where they would be picked up by people who lived near me. This way we minimized the amount of driving needed for everyone. I remember one year when I was driving to the place where the big truck would arrive at about 7:00 A.M. for unloading. I had not had any fruit in my van for 11 months. When I was about 2 miles from the house where the truck was supposed to arrive, I suddenly smelled a very intense aroma of fresh oranges inside my van. My smell memory had been triggered by the association of driving to this one particular house in my van early on a Sunday morning in the Fall. The smell I experienced was the strongest I have ever smelled, even though there was nothing physical in my van to give off that aroma. Oranges and grapefruit give off a very sweet and pleasing scent, which causes a small endorphin rush which I had experienced so often before that my brain easily created the same sensation from memory even though there were no pheromones floating through the air and impinging on the olfactory nerves in my nose.

In like manner we react with negative emotions to something sad, bad, disappointing, hurtful, revolting, etc. Our brain is stimulated in a different way and we remember the association of a certain action with the negative neurochemical reactions.

If I come into the vicinity of an attractive, smiling, woman who is wearing a nice perfume, and if I start talking to her and hear the sound of happiness in her voice, I suddenly get a MASSIVE jolt of endorphins. My eyes are giving my brain visual data, my ears are hearing pleasurable sounds and sending auditory data into my brain, my olfactory nerve is sensing the wonderful aroma of her perfume and sending olfactory data into my brain, and the happiness I sense gives me an added positive emotion that enhances all the endorphins being squirted into my blood by all three different sensory inputs. I begin to associate this particular human being with goodness. The longer I stay there and talk with her, the stronger the association becomes. The more often I do this on successive days, the stronger the association. This is basically what happens during courtship. And if she and I eat a nice meal together, my poor helpless brain will also be overwhelmed with input from my taste buds. So four of my five physical senses are telling my brain "This is better than goodness. This is great goodness!" Then add to this the pleasure created by the intellectual activity of trying to converse in a stimulating, teasing, game-playing way with some eye flirtation thrown in, and it's no wonder I fall in love with this woman. Maybe after several of these dinner dates our fingers might touch while sitting across the restaurant table from each other, and then my sense of touch also sends more signals into my brain that pump out even more endorphins as a result. Now I have all five of my physical senses unanimously agreeing on how good it is to be with this other person.

But what I have really done is to fall in love with my own endorphins. And she falls in love with her endorphins that are stimulated when she is with me. At least I hope so!

That may seem to take all the mystery out of romance, but that's really the way it is. We are really just a bunch of chemicals that have gotten organized well enough that we can move, think, reproduce, and create. This is true no matter what the action might be. And this in no way is an attempt to discuss how or when or by whom the organization took place (creation vs. evolution).

Someone with basic basketball talent can stand in one place and throw a basketball through a little metal hoop a few feet away enough thousands of times to get fairly good at this one activity. And if he is paid millions of dollars per year to do this, and if he sees and hears tens of thousands of fans standing and cheering when they see him do it, he will get really, really good at it. His synapses are being trained with all sorts of reinforcing feedback mechanisms. I used "he" in this example because I personally have no basketball talent, but I have definitely experienced the romance-induced endorphin rush I described previously.

When I am with any particular person, my emotional system is responding to everything that other person says or does, either positively or negatively. When a long enough series of positives builds up and greatly outweighs all the negatives stored in my memory, then I will tend to enjoy being with that person and desire to be with him or her. If the negatives greatly outweigh the positives, I will tend to avoid that person. If I come to associate a certain person or activity with emotional happiness and then that person or activity is taken away, I experience a sense of loss and can become sad to the point of tears because a major cause of my being able to receive an endorphin jolt has stopped happening. Our emotional memories will fade with enough time (time softens all wounds but love is what heals them), but even after many decades we may suddenly cry or burst out laughing if we remember a certain event. Do I get sad because I miss the person or because I miss the endorphin jolt when he or she was around me? Does it really matter?

After we are with someone else enough, we get to where we need the endorphin jolt from being around this person. This is not good or bad. This is just the way we work. This explains why people will come to love others so much that they will sacrifice themselves for the other person or begin putting up with more and more negative emotions in a codependent relationship because there are still so many memories of positive emotions in their brains.

The same thing can happen to us when we read a piece of free literature from a mind-manipulating cult. We read something that seems to make sense, making sense stimulates our endorphins, then we read a little more and it says that we are special, that feels good too, we get a sense of belonging and that feels good, and on and on. Pretty soon we are hooked by our own damned endorphins into going back to this cult every week to receive another jolt. Sometimes I accidentally watch a few seconds of some televangelist while surfing all my TV channels. It is really pathetic to watch people clap their hands, shout, sing, stand up and start dancing with themselves, the preacher struts back and forth on the stage working the crowd like a rock star, etc. The audience is getting a big emotional jolt of endorphins from the worship service even though they think they are worshipping God. The prancing preacher is getting a big jolt, too. He receives shouts of praise from the people for whom he is performing, and he probably gets a big jolt in his wallet right after he takes up a collection. Sometimes I see an audience getting the same kind of jolt from a saleswoman selling a new secret, amazingly effective way to lose weight (Stop the insanity!). Or laughing and being caught up in the emotions of a stand-up comedian. It's all the same. Just entertainment.

I remember seeing the autobiographical movie "Marjoe" in the early 1970s. This movie was about a young man whose parents were sideshow country revival preachers, and from about the age of four this poor guy was giving "Praise you, Jesus!" sermons himself. Finally he got out of the religion business and turned into a quasi-normal Hollywood actor. But one thing from the movie "Marjoe" really stands out in my mind, and that was when Marjoe Gortner said that he liked to watch films of the Rolling Stones performances so he could model his stage-strutting sermon performance after Mick Jagger. The two types of public spectacles produce basically the same mental reaction in their audiences, which is a mesmerizing, emotional high. A really big jolt of endorphins. No wonder people give their life savings to some strutting, shouting, Bible-thumping preacher. He's selling an instant emotional high with eternal life thrown in at the end. All you have to do is believe and donate.

How can we use this knowledge of how we learn to our own advantage? Unlike dogs, elephants, kelp, and all other earthly life forms, we human beings can use our minds to learn new things, choose a new behavior pattern, and force ourselves to act that new way. Once we know we are formed from dust and will eventually go back to dust (i.e., we are just a bunch of highly organized chemicals), we can understand the processes involved in forming habitual behavior. We can consciously choose to minimize that which is weakest and maximize that which is strongest in ourselves. We can choose to do certain things over and over again in order to train our neurons with the little endorphin jolts that make us learn even quicker. We can unlearn a habit by retraining our neural synapses. Stop doing what it was that caused problems before. Start doing something new that leads to the better, desired result. If we always associate that new behavior with something pleasurable we will train our synapses even faster.

There is pain and sorrow involved when we give up on a cult. We make a cult so much a part of our lives that when we finally wake up and smell the burning coffee at the bottom of the empty pot it is like ripping out our own heart. This is why so many people exit one cult and enter another almost immediately, and why so many people who kick a drug habit will get back into drugs. They miss the endorphin rush associated with all those drugs, and a cult is just another kind of drug. In order not to miss a cult, we have to start doing other things that also give us pleasure. Figure out what you like to do, do plenty of it, and pretty soon you will no longer miss the drug you have kicked out of your life.

(5) Cults are everywhere.

I believe a strong case can be made that all national governments are destructive cults (and especially that of the USA). Consider the following signs of a cult exhibited by the federal and state governments of the United States of America:

There is massive propaganda, deceit, and manipulation designed to get the citizenry "voluntarily" and "democratically" to go along with various policies, programs, etc., that they would overwhelmingly reject if they knew the truth.

Citizens are whipped up into patriotic fervor against some enemy to the point that huge numbers of citizens are willing to die for their country "to preserve liberty", "to make the world safe for democracy", "to protect mankind from godless Communism", "to defend our helpless ally against invasion from another evil country, "to protect our national security", "to overthrow a dictator who is the moral equivalent of Hitler", etc.

Citizens are forced to pay huge amounts of their income into the central government to pay for costly programs which: (1) most citizens would not approve of if they knew the truth; (2) involve a great deal of wasted money; (3) involve bribery, theft, or other scams; (4) enslave the very people paying for their own enslavement; and (5) are often created for the sole purpose of enriching a special interest group or industry at the expense of everyone else.

Citizens pay such enormous amounts because they fear for their liberty and lives. Someone who chooses not to pay his federal income tax could be arrested, harassed, sued, charged with criminal actions, incarcerated, etc. If someone were to resist being arrested, he could be killed. (e.g., Ruby Ridge).

Isolation citizens are forbidden to travel to certain other countries.

At least the government has not yet tried to implement sleep deprivation and hunger to make us do what they want.

I don't remember all the other classical identifying signs of a destructive cult, but I think I have already touched on enough to get my point across. All of the signs I discussed above were present in Armstrong's cult.

There is another pervasive cult in the USA, and that is the Rockefeller-Rothschild-Bilderberg-CFR-TLC conspiracy theory of world politics. I have read a lot of the material that supports this theory, and much of it seems believable. The main idea here is that there is a fairly small group of unbelievably SUPER-wealthy people who have managed to manipulate all major governments on earth into creating laws and/or programs which make it possible for these wealthy few to increase their wealth and control over everyone else even more. But whether it is true or not, many of the people who believe in it turn into bug-eyed true believers of this belief system, which makes it a kind of cult.

There is a huge number of cults in the USA, such as the conspiracy theory cult and the federal government itself. Also there are flying saucer cults, space aliens in Area 51 cults, anti-fluoridation conspiracy cults, holistic healing cults, and on and on and on. I read on another website that there are about 6,000 cults in the USA, of which about 600 are Bible-based. There is a cult for each of us no matter what we might want to believe or how loony we might be. Seek and ye shall find. Your special designer cult will find you out.

(6) When the Bad Outweighs the Good.

For a long time now I have believed that people stay where they are, attend the same church, keep working for the same employer, shop at the same grocery store, etc., as long as the good outweighs the bad. Then when the bad finally outweighs the good, they make a change.

I have to modify my rule of thumb somewhat. A better way to say this would be "as long as the perceived good outweighs the perceived bad."

Perception is reality, in spite of the fact that the Worldwide Church of God mind-raped us into believing that there were absolute truths, absolute realities, etc. The human mind is so complex and self-deceiving that we often act on what we feel strongly to be true even if we intellectually know it to be false. Sometimes perception actually does equal reality, and this will usually be the case for someone who is rational, mature, capable of thinking logically, and in possession of all the facts. But in a continually abusive situation, perception becomes much more important than reality.

A friend of mine is currently in the common destructive cult called "a bad marriage". Her husband is emotionally abusing her and her children. She continues to stay with him. I spoke with my wife about our friend. I said she would stay with him as long as the good plus the guilt outweighs the bad. Then my wife corrected me and said as long as the perceived good plus the guilt outweighs the perceived bad. My wife then asked me what I thought was actually good about our friend's life now. I said that her husband still has a good job, earns money, provides her with a free place to live, and puts food on the table. My wife then reminded me that there is no free lunch, and for our friend the cost of a free place to live may be much too expensive. My wife knows human behavior better than I do. I am a techno-nerd computer geek, and am still just playing in the pre-kindergarten sandbox of human behavior compared to my wife's expertise.

Our friend's reality is easily visible to uninvolved third parties, such as my wife and me. But our friend cannot see her own reality. All she can see is the reality that she perceives. Her perception is true, but it is not the whole story. The emotional component is currently overpowering her ability to see all the other components. She feels guilty about leaving her husband, because she would then be (1) giving up on her marriage, (2) abandoning her children, (3) admitting defeat, and (4) giving her sick husband the justification to prove to their children that it's all mommy's fault because she's the one that left. All of these reasons to feel guilt are true. But she cannot balance this out with the repercussions of staying; e.g., by staying she is daily reinforcing her husband's unconscious teaching of their children that women are meant to be abused, especially if they stay around and keep asking for more abuse. By staying she will send her two boys the wrong signal, which is that they can get away with doing the same thing to their wives 10 or 15 years from now. By leaving she will send them the signal that not all women will put up with emotional abuse, and they may learn better behavior than their father is capable of exhibiting.

If she stays where she is, she has a free place to live and free food. But at what cost? She is already paying over $100 per hour to see a therapist. She may have a breakdown if she stays there much longer. There is the emotional cost of staying plus the real cost of continuing and possibly increasing therapy. If she leaves, she will have to get a job and start paying for her own food and housing, but she will not live under constant torment any more. My wife and I would be happy to let her come and stay with us if she decides to leave her mentally ill husband.

These are all part of the equation of the reality which she cannot see because all she can perceive right now is her duty as a good mother to stay with her boys. So she has the perceived good of duty plus the guilt trip of setting a bad example if she leaves. For her this still outweighs the bad of the abuse. But she cannot see all the bad, either. She is weighing the perceived good plus guilt against the bad which she perceives. Sometimes the bad is far worse than we can perceive, especially when we are being manipulated deceptively.

The horrific evil of Herbert W. Armstrong, his son Garner Ted, Stan Rader, and most of their top henchmen continued unabated and escalated for decades. Yet almost no individual local church members were aware of it. Once in a while some scandal would break out, and then we felt that this was only a perception of evil. The reality was surely not that bad, and it was always explained away by the evil spin doctor Herbert W. Armstrong. There was no corruption at headquarters; it was actually Satan attacking God's true church. In fact, the reality was far, far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. Incest, nightly drunkenness, shouting arrogantly at subordinates, wasteful spending on themselves, gambling and whoring with our sacred tithes, bribery, homosexuality, wife-swapping, child sex, and on and on.

We stayed because we perceived the bad not to be very bad, we perceived the good to be very good, and because we had a heavy amount of guilt laid on us if we should ever allow ourselves even to start thinking about leaving. Outsiders could easily see what was going on. We insiders could not. Insiders can only see the reality for what it truly is when they finally become outsiders and have their minds given back to them. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

(7) When did we know about the changes?

I never got into using the Internet and doing email until mid-1997. Consequently I was not plugged into what might have been going around among all the employed ministers' via email telling each other the latest rumors and real stories of doctrinal changes before late December, 1994. I was a local church elder who refused to get involved in gossip, disdained the Internet, and loyally believed all the lies we were being told via official organs like The Plain Truth magazine, the Worldwide News tabloid newspaper, member letters, etc. Looking back on it now, I should have gotten wired long before I did. I might have saved myself many more thousands of dollars of wasted tithes and offerings. I was simply obeying the many sermons I had heard condemning gossip and commanding blind obedience.

I can remember now that some time in 1991 I began to hear about the change involving being born again. We were now being told that the Greek word "gennao" no longer meant to be begotten or conceived, as Herbert W. Armstrong had told us years before. This Greek word now meant to be brought forth, to be born completely, to come to the end rather than the start of the birth process, parturition, etc. In other words, it no longer meant that a sperm and an egg combined and a new potential life had been started that would take nine months in the womb to complete, but rather it meant the nine months were over and the healthy, baby had just popped out of its mother's womb, had started breathing, its umbilical cord was cut, and it was now a fully independent human being. This was quite a shocking change.

Another major change I can now recall was Kuriakos Stavrinides' series of audio tapes explaining the utterly incomprehensible, inexplicable new teaching about God's Holy Spirit. It was no longer a force, power, or energy, but was now a full-blown hypostasis, whatever the hell that was. Then we were being told that "God's true church was Trinitarian, and had always been Trinitarian" in spite of the fact that Herbert W. Armstrong had thundered at us with his voice and in his writings that the Trinity was an utterly pagan teaching. There weren't three gods, only two. (It never occurred to me that even though two was less pagan than three, nevertheless two is still more pagan than one, and there was only supposed to be one God.) At any rate, the church's teaching on the Trinity and the nature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was changed from its former mess to a new mess some time in 1992 or 1993. I never did listen to Stavrinides' tapes, thank God. (Or do I mean thank Hypostasis?) I was already starting to get pretty confused and shell-shocked by that time.

I preached a sermonette in late December, 1994 to the northern Virginia congregation of the Worldwide Church of God in which I "proved" the necessity of keeping God's law. I had heard a rumor just before this that some in the church were claiming that God's law had been done away with and wanted to refute this rumor. All the other elders, including the official local church pastor John Comino (who was presumably plugged into the rumor mill via his home computer and email), and all the members sat there listening to my silly "proof" and nodding their heads in agreement to what I was saying. The very next week we got the shocking news from our alleged leaders in Pasadena that the world was indeed turned upside down and God's law was in fact done away with.

That Friday night I received a phone call telling me that the next day we were all to hear a sermon showing how "God's law" was no longer in force, or something to that effect. Then the next day (24 December 1994) we all heard this sermon. Up until this time, I had no clue as to the massive changes that were planned. I believed the official story, because I had been obediently refusing to listen to gossip, and we were never told of any changes in the offing, of doctrinal changes being looked into, or of any statements to that effect that had been made to other Christian organizations or cult-watching groups designed to make them believe that the Worldwide Church of God was becoming more mainstream and less cult-like. The following Sabbath I was scheduled to give the sermonette. Not knowing exactly what was in the sermon tape for us all to hear, I spoke about how we must obey "God's government" even when the leaders are wrong. I gave an example of how our human government in the USA had mistakenly led the nation into the Vietnam War and how it had finally been exposed in Neil Sheehan's book "A Bright Shining Lie." Shame on me for preaching mindless obedience like that.

Whatever the "leaders" in Pasadena were promising to outside organizations, they certainly weren't saying anything to us stupid, dumb sheep, moron drone members whom they continued to keep in the dark while they robbed us of even more of our money and self-esteem up until the very last minute. The employed ministry must have known all about it, though, because they were all using the Internet and email in those days.

(8) Two types of people.

Once upon a time I heard a story that appeals mostly to mathematicians like myself. It goes like this: there are only two types of people, those who divide everybody into two categories and those who don't.

Oh, well. Now you see why only mathematicians think this is funny.

Some people can think critically, which means they have learned how to think for themselves. Some of those who have not yet learned how to think critically are actually capable of thinking critically but have not yet been allowed to by the circumstances of their life. Many others are not capable of thinking for themselves no matter how hard they try.

Herbie taught us that Revelation says the whole world has been deceived by Satan, except for the tiny fraction of humanity who believed Herbie. Regardless of who did the deceiving, the whole world has certainly been deceived. Except for a tiny handful of critical thinkers. I believe I am finally becoming capable of critical thought, but I could never have gotten to this point if it weren't for many others' leading the way and starting to think critically long before I felt the need to do so.

Another way to describe critical thought is skepticism. Question everything. Why does such-and-such have to be true? What is so-and-so's motive? If I see a "scientific study" described in a newspaper article or on a TV news program nowadays, my immediate reaction is to want to know who paid for the so-called scientific study and how can the results of the study benefit those who paid for it. I have learned to be deeply skeptical of "news" in general and of "scientific studies" in particular. I do not believe very much about global warming, acid rain, how evil the Hooker Chemical Company was in creating the Love Canal toxic waste dump, the necessity for being vaccinated against the predicted Swine Flu epidemic, etc. I still believe we must not put filth or poisons where they can hurt ourselves or others, but that doesn't mean that everything we hear or see in the news is true. Everyone has an axe to grind. Every news story hurts someone's cause and helps someone else's.

(9) Other cults I was in.

(a) When I was 14 or 15 years old, I got involved in the Order of DeMolay. This is a secret fraternity for teenaged boys that is modeled after Freemasonry. My dad was a Mason, and somehow my brother and I became interested in joining DeMolay.

First I had to be sponsored by someone who was already a member. Then all the others had to vote on whether or not to accept me. Each member in turn walked up to an altar in the middle of their meeting room, took either a white marble-sized ball or a black ball out of a box, and put that ball into another box. It was all done in secret. No one knew how anyone else voted. If any single member blackballed me, I couldn't get in. No one did, so I was to be allowed in.

Next I came to a special meeting where I was to be initiated, along with several other new members. After a special secret ceremony during some of which I was blindfolded, I swore on a Bible that I would be a good boy, a loyal DeMolay, and would not reveal any of the secrets I was to learn. Since I sincerely believed in what I was doing at the time, I have until this day never revealed any of those secrets. I am only telling things that are already publicly known and explaining my involvement in this non-destructive cult.

I stayed in this organization all through my high school years and then another year or two. I advanced through various management levels, or "worked my way through the chairs", as they say. First I was elected to one office, then a little later to the next higher office, and so on until I held the highest office possible in a local chapter, which office was called "Master Councilor." I received many awards from this organization, was very active in the local chapter, and even tried to move on into the management at the state level. My efforts at that level were unsuccessful.

This organization never did anything sinister, nor did it ask me to. We held fund-raising activities and had a dance or two (I guess, because it has now been over 35 years since I did any of this). Mostly it was an outlet for young growing boys to learn organization, loyalty, and to begin to develop leadership and public speaking skills. We were guided benevolently by the local Masonic organization. All in all, a very harmless cult. But we were nevertheless a cult because we had occult knowledge, secret things that no one else could know. We had a secret handshake and many other secrets.

For those who are interested, this organization is named after a French knight named Jacques de Molay who was born in 1244. He was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, one of several orders of knights that were created during the Crusades. He fell into disfavor with King Philip IV of France (Phillip le Belle, or Philip the Fair), who had de Molay tortured for six and one half years, and then had him burned at the stake on 18 March 1314. He refused even under excruciating torture to reveal any knowledge of his fellow knights, thus saving their lives and earning a lasting place in history as a tremendous role model for loyalty, which is why the founders of the Order of de Molay chose his name for the organization they were creating.

(b) While in college I decided to join a secret social fraternity called Sigma Pi. Just like my high school cult of de Molay, this one also had a secret initiation ceremony, secret handshake, and many other secrets which I swore to keep secret. They were more interested in having parties with alcohol and women than in most everything else. Another totally harmless cult, except for the hazing inflicted upon all of us who were being initiated. But the hazing was not dangerous. Once again, occult knowledge was known only to those who had been through the initiation process and who had sworn total secrecy and loyalty. During the initiation process I was forced to work around the clock for almost a whole week on home improvement projects at the fraternity house. They got the use of me as a slave without wages and also deprived me of sleep and my ability to think critically. Finally at the end of the week I was willing to do anything they asked just to get the initiation process over with. Then after doing what they asked I was reminded that it must all remain secret. And then a few months later I was rewarded by doing the same kind of silly hazing on the next batch of recruits.

(c) A little later in college I roomed with a fellow for one semester whose dad was a captain in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Camp Lejeune, a large U.S. Marine Corps facility near Jacksonville, North Carolina. I went home with him one weekend, stayed at the Bachelor Officers' Quarters while my friend stayed in his home, ate dinner in his home with his naval captain dad and mom, saw the enlisted man who had been assigned to his home as a slave but was instead called an orderly or something like that, went to the Officers' Club with several officer pilots, drank beer and whiskey with them, watched them in all their Top Gun arrogant bravado, and decided this was the life for me. A Marine Corps aviator. That's what I wanted to be. So the following summer I spent 12 weeks being initiated into the cult of the United States Marine Corps. Not exactly secret, but still a mind-manipulating cult. And definitely destructive, since being a hard-charging Marine can easily get you killed in combat. I knew that loyalty unto death was going to be required of me, and still I wanted in. Fortunately in my last remaining year in college I got into trouble with the law, was arrested, put on probation, and the Marine Corps wanted no more of me because with a police record I was now considered "morally unfit for military service." A few years later I could see Arlo Guthrie's sarcastic point in his classic "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" that I was morally unfit to be in an organization that wanted me to learn how to fly a multi-million dollar war machine over a civilian village and drop bombs on people. Guthrie's crimes were littering and creating a public nuisance, for which he was judged morally unfit to kill people. My crimes were more severe, but I had not killed anyone, yet I was now unqualified to be allowed to kill people on behalf of the U.S. government.

While at Quantico, Virginia and undergoing my 12 weeks of Marine Corps training, however, in typical cult fashion they broke me down through endless calisthenics, physical fitness exercises, standing at attention for very long periods while being chewed out in a shouting voice by a sergeant standing just inches from my face, being humiliated in many different ways, called a girl scout or maggot over and over, deprived of sleep, and being constantly commanded and emotionally abused. Finally you get to the point where you are willing to do anything they say just to get the hazing over with.

The Marine Corps has a different reason for its hazing than most cults. They have to produce a cohesive fighting force that will charge up the hill into the face of machine gun fire, if necessary, in order to accomplish their mission. Most other cults haze their new members in order to turn them into sheep so they can be shorn of their money. Nevertheless, many of the same mind control techniques used by destructive cults are also used by military organizations in training their new recruits.

(10) Social isolation.

The 1995 Disney movie "Pocahontas" has an Oscar-winning song in it with the following lyric:

"You think the only people who are people

Are the people who look and think like you.

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger

You'll learn things you never knew you never knew."

Herbert W. Armstrong did not want us to learn things we never knew we never knew, unless it came from him. So strangers were all pagan, deceived, and would try to seduce us into leaving the true church. Therefore we shunned strangers. The truth shall make you free.

(11) Was It My Fault?

I was in the Worldwide Church of God for 30 years. I believed what I was taught, which was that God was in charge, God would lead us all into truth and perfection, and God's ministers were fallible humans and could make mistakes but God would guide them to guide the rest of us if they allowed God to do so. When I finally left the Worldwide Church of God, I had been feeling confused and dazed for quite a while. Then I began to feel as if I had been abused, taken for a chump, and that my mind and free will had been violated. I heard top leaders of the Worldwide Church of God admit in public that the Worldwide Church of God had been a cult and that it was now turning around. I was angry at myself for having been sucked in by a cult, because God's ministers had taught me so well for so long that cults were evil and were so obviously recognizable by those not in them. I realized that I, too, was a normal, gullible, fallible human being, and I didn't like to think of myself that way. This meant that I was much less than perfect.

At first I still wanted to believe in the sincerity of all the ministry and leaders. Even now I still hope that many of the low-level ministry, at the local church pastor level or below, were and are sincere in their desire to serve their congregations. But I have learned too much about those above pastor rank to continue to hold this naive belief.

Jesus said that we would learn the truth and the truth would make us free. At first I thought the Worldwide Church of God was the source of the truth that would make me free. Now that I have learned the truth about the Worldwide Church of God I am much more free than ever before. Does that mean I am free to sin, to hurt others, to rob and steal, to deceive and lie, to hate, to rape and murder, etc? Of course not. It means I am free from being abused against my will. Even though I have never been physically abused in my life and am a man, I now think I understand a little of what it is like when a woman finally escapes from a sick husband who keeps beating her or when a girl finally gets old enough to leave the home in which her father has been molesting her. I am free from what others may do to me, not free from what I know I have to do in order to live a properly moral life. I am not in the bonds of Satan, as Herbert W. Armstrong used to say, in order to frighten most of us into staying in his fraudulent church.

We were taught that we were special, which was wrong. (Actually, in one sense everyone is special, and in another sense no one is special.) In 1996 I attended a ministerial retreat in which Joe Tkach Jr. and all the other top leaders stated publicly that all Christ-centered fellowships (their new word for "church") were equally valid. I concluded from this that teachings and doctrines were now completely irrelevant, meaningless, and useless. I was told to go find the church of my choice if I no longer felt comfortable in the Worldwide Church of God fellowship. Shortly after I heard that suggestion I did precisely what I was told. I am now in a new fellowship that makes me feel comfortable. My new fellowship has six billion members in it and no ministry. It is called the whole world. We are all very special, and yet none of us is special.

At first I didn't want to think about my former life in the Worldwide Church of God. I went four and one half years without caring anything about it. Finally about six months ago I started reading the Ambassador Reports online, then the Painful Truth website, and next the ESN website. I saw and heard enough things in my 30 years in the Worldwide Church of God to see that what I was reading was true. I now understand how and why it was started, how and why I got into it, and what it did to me.

I read Herbert W. Armstrong's autobiography in the 1960s. And now I have read many stories written by other people who knew him. There is absolutely no way that Herbert W. Armstrong could have been a sincerely spirit-led humble person following the literal interpretation of the words of Jesus and other New Testament leaders and still have acted the way he did his whole life. HWA was an arrogant, selfish criminal who got away with rape, incest, fornication, theft, fraud, drunkenness, and spiritual murder. He was surrounded by a large number of men who knew what was going on, could have stopped him, could have turned him in to the authorities, could have told the truth to the whole church (as they are commanded to do in Mat. 18:17), but instead they allowed HWA to purchase their complicity in his evil deeds by paying them fat salaries, giving them fancy homes, and rewarding them with a dazzling array of fringe benefits, such as having power over the members and also getting away with their own sexual perversions and pretty much anything else they wanted to do as long as they didn't rebel against Herbert W. Armstrong's position of authority.

I could quote many more scriptures, but I'll just mention one more, which is also Mat. 18. We are told to become like little children, humble, teachable, converted. This is what I tried to do while I was in the Worldwide Church of God, and what I am still doing now that the truth has made me free. HWA and his co-conspirators were not this way. Read everything you can find online written by ex-members. And then remember what Jesus said in verse 6 about someone who offends an adult who has humbled himself in order to become like a little child. Those bastards Herbert W. Armstrong, GTA, Rader, Meredith, and all the other sons of bitches who raped and pillaged their "church" are in big trouble.

I had a lot of good times in the Worldwide Church of God. I have written much about what I thought was good and what I thought was bad. I tried to think of as many good things as possible that happened to me because of my involvement. It certainly wasn't all bad for me. It was for some, though.

I was in Russia four years ago waiting in line to exchange some money when a stranger approached me, offered to change my American dollars into rubles, and showed me a large handful of rubles. He counted his rubles twice, and even handed them to me to count. It was the right amount. So in my childlike innocence and desire not to have to wait in line any longer I gave him my $100. He gave me the handful of rubles. Then as I watched him walk away I quickly recounted the rubles and found he had somehow deftly removed every single bill of high denomination, so I was left with about $3 worth of rubles. This is called a confidence game. It happens over and over. Who is responsible? Am I partly responsible? Yes, because I believed a stranger, didn't check him out, didn't listen to warnings, and gave in to my impatience. Is the con artist responsible? Yes, because he purposefully deceived me and stole my money. Who is more responsible?

Herbert W. Armstrong was arguably the greatest con artist of the 20th century. I was sucked into his evil empire in 1966 because I needed some religion, some authority, some guidance in life. It appealed to me on many levels. I found a growing desire in myself to help all humanity, to warn them of the coming end-time worldwide holocaust, to offer them a chance to escape as had been offered to me by HWA. These were all noble ideals. I still feel that way. I want to warn the whole world to wake up and smell the coffee, to see the huge deceptions going on, and to come out of their spiritual babylons before it is too late. The spiritual babylons we all need to come out of now include the Worldwide Church of God, Armstrongism, and all other cults.

I hope that those who read this can do more reading. There is much more to be learned. There is truth available, and it will make you free.


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