Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dennis on "Post Theological Stress Disorder"

Post Theological Stress Disorder

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorI would have liked to think I could have blown this all off or chalked it all easily up to just another experience in life, but after way too long, I admit  to the fact that for me, the WCG experience has left me with an ongoing case of P(T)TSD.  And no, I am not being cute or flippant about it.  I will leave posting or not posting this up to the Blogmeister.  He knows me very well and has been a great help through the years aside from inviting me to write on his blog.  It is something I'd like to say but perhaps should not get all that personal about.  We'll see.  I don't want to make this decision at this point and I think I have the freedom to do it with NO2HWA.

There are several reasons why being open and honest about feelings, emotions, perspectives and such can be foolish in most groups.  I have been told that and experienced the truth of it from time to time.  One always runs the risk of the "all you ministers...."  deserve what you get or some kind of scorn when drifting over the boundaries between this is how I feel and this is unique to just me.  I am well aware of how many have suffered in many ways .  The experience is not unique to humans but it is unique to this one. 

A few weeks ago I got a "you have email from Ms SuzyQ" from a dating site.  This dating site thing has not been the greatest experience and I let it go but this one came in just under the wire.   "Hi....I just read your profile.  It was fascinating. Until I got to the part where you 'used' to be a minister.  You must be a jerk."   Lol.  That's the South for you.  So being or not being at this point is a losing proposition no matter which way one goes.  I wrote asking why the hell she would waste her time to send me that message but as yet have not had a response.  

The last ten years have been difficult and I'd have thought it would not take so long to process this .  Divorce, broken relationships with people I love deeply and always will and with those I thought I did but disappeared and apparently were users,  and other "stuff" have taken its toll.  I either have the chemistry from hell, am too sensitive to changes in life or defective.  I chose to go with the first two but leave the door open to other realities.  Depression, which seems to me to be anger turned inward or too expensive to express is there.  Anxiety about how the future can possible work out lurks.  Sometimes I wake up at night, think a thought and it sets off a cascade of thoughts that lead to being up the rest of the night just holding the pillow close because my stomach hurts now. Sometimes I have trouble just breathing or sitting still.  My head runs like a freight train and fixing is not an option for the most part, just acceptance.  

Chewie the Wookie does help  and is about the most loyal creature I have ever encountered. 

It was only this week that I can admit that I have PTSD in the classic and very real sense.  For me, this whole WCG experience, aside from many wonderful experiences along the way, has turned out to be traumatic, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Dark nights of souls and all that.  

All my life in the ministry I was told after speaking or privately when talking about many things over the years that I "ahead of my time," and that "you say things I'm only thinking."  I used to think that was a compliment but it is a formula for eventual Crucifixion or stake burning evidently.  One prominent WCG Executive type told me way back that he didn't understand why I was in the ministry of WCG and didn't need to be because it didn't fit me, whatever that meant.  I think I now know what he meant.  

One minister told me when I left on my first ministerial assignment from college, "for you, the sky is the limit."   That both perplexed and then annoyed me as it honestly would not have crossed my mind that the sky being the limit was a goal of ministry.  It was an odd comment.  

Here is the typical list of the symptoms of PTSD minus the ones I did not feel I experience or maybe too personal even for me to write about.  

Enormous Feelings of Betrayal
Feeling of Spiritual Rape of the SoulComplex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 1
Several of a cluster of symptoms can develop, including spontaneous crying, suicidal thoughts, emotional numbing, phobias, social withdrawal, flashbacks, amnesia, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, self-loathing, fear of going insane.
Identity Confusion/disorientation
Panic and Anxiety Attacks
Obsessive Thoughts
Alcohol abuse
Problems or Inability in Making Decisions
Fear/General Anxiety Disorder  (GAD)
Grief & Sense of Loss
Grieving loss of innocence, idealism, spirituality, self, pride; sense of purpose, meaning and belonging in life; no support system; friends and family; loss of time, goals and youth
Lack of Trust
Profound Skepticism
Intense Loneliness
Sense of Purposelessness & Disconnection
Missing the peak experiences of the group
Sense of Isolation/Alienation
"No one understands what I am going through."
Overly Critical of Oneself and Others
Problems Having Boundaries
Feelings of Inferiority and Worthlessness
Sleep Disorders
Including nightmares and insomnia
Fear of Intimacy and Commitment
Anger or Rage
Toward the group and leader; towards oneself; suppression of anger in the cult actually contributed to depression and sense of helplessness
Problems with Career or Employment
Family Issues
Spiritual (or philosophical) issues
Impatience with the Recovery Process

Ouch!  All very familiar.  I only find solace in the fact that if millions did not react this way there would not be such a list in the first place.  I mean the reasons Barnes and Noble has isles of self help books and such is because millions are seeking help!    On the other hand, I believe with all my being that had I gone to the Wesleyan  Seminary instead of WCG I would have had a similar crisis of faith as my natural tendencies and questioning nature of all things theological and Bible would have still existed.  I may have had a different story, different players and even different family and kids , but the experience would have played out much the same I believe.  I could be wrong.  The Methodist would have allowed one to hold different views and not endanger the rest of the life's security.   I don't know if I would have had the same personal challenges that I did or come up with new and different ones but I suspect the story would have been similar.

So, why bother writing about this.  I dunno.  I just want to.  It's been one of those weeks I suppose (See above list) and it helps me to share and the beat can go on.  I assume I am not alone in these experiences.  I am not really pleased with myself for the length of time this seems to take.  Maybe I will never get past it or maybe it always will occupy a huge portion of my life experiences.  "Just forget it," doesn't see to work well.  I probably have ADD and touch of LMNOP.  

Member or Minister, I don't think it makes much difference when the world of theology one adopts seems so secure, so safe and so meaningful and then falls apart.  I don't feel safe or secure anymore and while learning is enjoyable for me, meaning still escapes me as I am sure it does for many others.  I tried going to a liberal church but had an anxiety attack and felt I could have given a much better sermon and why he got paid for that. lol.  I've prayed a few time as in days gone by and not much seems to come from that.  I even tried to read the Bible again "for the very first time," and....nope.  Doesn't work for me except some of the more encouraging parts which are also found in many other kinds of books.

At any rate, thanks for listening if you get to read this!  I always defined the WCG experience as "one damned thing after the next."  And this was true.  It helps me a bit to chat and perhaps it can help others not feel so weird or slow in the recovery process as well. 


Douglas Becker said...

We've tried to address PTSD over at the Painful Truth blog. It's always good to take a fresh look at PTSD, particularly for those who have been exposed to the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.

There are those out there who have left CoHA who believe former members and members exaggerate their experiences to be PTSD, "It's not like they were in a war and being shot at," they say.

Unfortunately, PTSD is very real to those who have suffered the fear of the CoHA and it has had serious consequences. People become totally incapable of dealing with ordinary day to day life.

Both the fears of (false) prophecies with the world (not) coming to an end and personal treatment by ministers and other members can be terrifying (and I've been in an area where a WCG member shot and killed several others).

"Take Back Your Life" can help a lot. For some, though, nothing short of seeing a qualified psychiatrist can help. The symptoms and experience can last a life time.

This is a useful topic to bring forward and should be addressed frequently.

Anonymous said...

PTSD is VERY real, and that's the honest truth. I have had more then my share of PTSD. What I want to tell you is this:


To this very, very day I can still hear the voice of Herbert Armstrong in a giant metal auditorium in my head, blasting out his false prophecies and speculations to listening ears and crying babies. I can still hear and know every hymn I used to sing without thinking about it. It's just "in there". I can still remember every facet of the WCG experience, I can remember every emotion, every FEAR, everything that was promised, everything I was not allowed to do, but more then that, the biggest thing I remember is the ABSOLUTE LACK OF LOVE from almost everyone that I was involved with, and this damaged me as a person more then anyone can ever understand. I was SO loyal to WCG until my eyes were opened when everything changed. Because I was protected from the world and was not trained to handle the world, the world came to me like hitting a shock wave, head on, without protection, and I've been scarred since. I have realized I cannot heal from the way my life was on my own, so I'm not doing it on my own anymore, I can't, and I know that this is going to help in time, but the biggest thing that I want to stress to you, Dennis, is that YOU are NOT alone, those that Armstrongism has hurt and scarred and traumatized experience what you experience. Hang in there sir. Getting it out and sharing it with your buddies around this planet is probably a great start and one of the best things you can do.

I know I don't see it from the eyes of a former minister, and I know that I didn't hold the type of responsibility you held, but that's neither here nor there. Some were here, some were there, but we were all in it together, and together we should heal.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Yes, it's very real, and the trauma is variable, according to our personalities and emotional makeup and the degree of the shock involved.

Like you, I deal with it by writing about it. That helps me think clearly and it's therapeutic to just express and analyze it. I'd like to believe that I've pretty much recovered, but it's still there in the back of my mind.

DennisCDiehl said...

Yes, I write to process it all and it still lurks in the background. I can relate to all these comments. I have the hymns burned into my brain along with all the ideas about what various scriptures mean .

I actually didn't read the symptoms until I looked good at the sidebar on this site. There was me with these symptoms. I don't like them. I am aware of them. But I find that unlike many who attended but had other lives and careers, it was all and all. The older I get the more I see what "don't worry, we will take care of you," meant to them. Life is real. Groceries and rent are real. I still trust something to have it all work out but it gets to me at times.

I go from "I forgive you..." to "I want to punch you in the mouth." Crazy shit. Thanks Joe. While I had my own part and made my own decisions, you lied over and over and should have been thrown out on your ass with your father long before you hurt sincere and very nice folk.

All this is not very Eckhart Tolle and Buddhist of Still working on "all negativity is some form of non- acceptance."

DennisCDiehl said...

Chewie the Wookie like Shih Tzu is my buddy and she is hilarious. She will never know how she soothes my soul.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this Dennis; I relate to a lot of that list.

I've tried for years to try to place it all in perspective, think rational thoughts, move on with my life, but I still feel lost sometimes.

My life was on hold, waiting for the end, during the WCG years. Then I checked out Humanism and Unitarianism, read about all kinds of conspiracy theories. I've rejected most of those (I just don't know) and I'm finding it difficult to not look at everything with skepticism, but at least I'm aware of it.

I've isolated myself for too long, and I'm making the effort to meet people, to start to have a life.

I'm currently reading lots of historical books about the Bible. I need to deal with reality. I can't believe in the God of the Bible any more, because it makes no sense, but sometimes I wish I could.


Retired Prof said...

Dennis, just before I read this post I made a comment on the preceding one that is relevant here, concerning the value of writing about our experiences. Check it out.

Never having fully committed to Radio Church of God beliefs (I left before requesting baptism and also before the church changed names), I received only a grazing wound from it. That was enough, however, for me to get some insight into the kind of suffering you and others felt from being pierced to the vitals. I sympathize, even while I can only imagine the depth of your pain.

Hang in there, man.

DennisCDiehl said...

Meighan , you perfectly describe how I feel and how I function. The comfort must be int he fact that it is normal and not an original thought or perspective.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that acknowledgement and understanding, Dennis - it really means a lot to me (i.e. the confirmation that it's not only me having these feelings/problems).


DennisCDiehl said...

It's not YOU Meighen. It's how we process experiences like these as caring and sensitive human beings. We meant well and being naive perhaps caught us off guard.

Anonymous said...

It's true that differing temperament types and the various known and unknown genetic factors that influence us cause us to process disappointing life experiences in differing ways. I most definitely agree with Douglas Becker's above comment that this overall topic is quite relevant, important and indeed should be meaningfully discussed more often than it is.

But you know, Dennis, I'm kind of sensing that what we tend to refer to as "the WCG experience" is really just a version of any other traumatic human experience, though perhaps our history with elements unique to the WCG may magnify and heighten this experience somewhat.

In one way or another, we were sold and bought into a series of promises that through time and experience proved to be utterly empty. Selling points, as it were, to convince us to become true believers initially. And they made sense at the time. Many were young when this happened, and it's no coincidence that the average age for religious conversions across the world is between the ages of 15 and 19.

But ex-WCGer's have had to deal with the real-life results of this reality, and acknowledge we were duped. The true believers still remaining within the ideology most likely will not or perhaps, due to any number of psychological reasons, cannot face up to this.

Just a personal observation I've noted, and one that has remained remarkably consistent over time: the vast majority of the folks I know who have left the so-called "safe and secure" confines of the WCG (or any other religious organization) tend to have extremely curious minds, and intellectual honesty means a great deal to them. To the contrary, most of the folks I know who remain in one splinter group or another, well, they prefer to still believe that they were truly given all the answers by God via HWA, and so why question things, why read books with perspectives outside the ideology's boundaries, why further one's understanding of life, why share thoughts on blogs like this, etc. In other words, they just prefer to lazily continue on in the warm and fuzzy delusionary universe HWA sold us all on at some point along our life journey.

It's sort of like buying a motor vehicle, some can admit it when they've bought a lemon - and some keep throwing all their resources (financial and psychological) at it year after year trying to keep it running.

Perhaps the latter group senses that to leave the security of the group-think syndrome the COG's are all infested with would simply be too traumatic of an experience for them to personally endure. And they would be right - it IS a very traumatic thing. Aspects of it are quite similar to those known to trigger off Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Literal battle experience is just one of many traumas that can lead to PTSD.

I can't deny having very similar reactions and experiences that you wrote about in your post - I just don't have the guts to openly write about them like you do.

But I suppose the bottom-line in all this can be summed up in the following way: ultimate cosmic objective reality is what it is, in spite of what we may wish it to be. If a personal Being or Creator or God actually exists, and we have been brought into existence for an eternal purpose, then things are what they are. On the other hand, if we just somehow spontaneously popped into existence (or gradually developed into what we currently are through time) without any kind of purpose or meaning as these words are conventionally understood, well, then again, all our wishes to the contrary won't change the fact.

But truly, the mystery never leaves us. And this is especially true for those not willing to escape through consciousness-dulling street drugs, alcohol, excessive amusements or any other available escape mechanism this present culture can make a profit from by constantly pushing at us.

DennisCDiehl said...

"Perhaps the latter group senses that to leave the security of the group-think syndrome the COG's are all infested with would simply be too traumatic of an experience for them to personally endure."

It's all about security and sometimes security at all costs. I know few if any actually who step outside the box. Men like Pack, Flurry, Weinland etc are not educated men. They are Bible readers but have no clue about the contents, origins, intent etc. They just read it and cobble their tales together with it.

Few if any ever say, "I used to believe this, but I looked at it and now I have to admit...." They don't think like that and never will.

It's our awareness that opens us up to the need for religion and our awareness that can free us from it. Not an easy path and there be few who take it, but rewarding and more honest in the end.

Anonymous said...

Just think Dennis, you still have the Lake of Fire to look forward to.

It's very little consolation, but I appreciate what you do and think about you. I hope you overcome the anxiety and depression. Both are bitches, but that comes with removing imaginary crutches.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I suppose for the gurus to admit to error - certainly in any major way - would be too much for their delicate egos to endure. I've found that folks like this, despite all their bluster and external confidence, are much like the proverbial school-ground bullies: it's all about the projection of outward strength, certainty and confidence - but deep down these people are often shriveled up little creatures who realize their utter dependent on others to bolster the imaginary fantasy image they have of themselves. They're NOTHING without an adoring, worshipful crowd gathered around them, cringing in terror.

DennisCDiehl said...

anon said:

" I hope you overcome the anxiety and depression. Both are bitches, but that comes with removing imaginary crutches. "

I wish I could explain the anxiety and depression thing. Perhaps I have always had it or it's origins go back to when a younger minister trying to work with all the once every five year WCG scandals. I did believe the message inspite of the characters proclaiming it.

It must be chemical in part. It hits out of the blue or a fear/thought kicks it in. Perhaps I missed out on some coping skills when younger. I trust few. I do get tired of it but that doesn't seem to make it stop. It's not worth it. I know it is stupid and useless, but once the chemistry kicks in , it seems to have to run its course.

At this stage being the classic underachiever haunts me and I suppose will form now on at this stage of the game.

A kind hearted, free spirited, intelligent, well read and one who loved wookies woman and best friend might All the years I told the more lonely single types to "join a bowling league or something," are being brought back to haunt me the Karma argh!

Anonymous said...

...And it also explains why prophet wannabe's like Erik King and M. John Allen get so verbally frustrated when they fail to gather a group of sycophants around them to acknowledge their God-given prophetic greatness. I mean, what's a COG guru without a group of mindless and completely dedicated followers willing to hang on to their every word and keep them financially afloat?

Anonymous said...

I can tell you in my life where some of the anxiety comes in I think.

While in the WCG everything was completely mapped out for me. I knew EXACTLY what my life was going to be like. Every Saturday would be a church day and rest where I would do absolutely nothing besides church stuff. Holy Days were the priority. Serving in the church was to be my life. Relationships with church people were to be my life. The between time was PLANNING for what was to happen on the Saturdays, the Holy Days, the Feast of Tabernacles, playing in sports, assisting in other duties and services, and studying and what not. My life was completely about the Worldwide Church of God and there was nothing else. Any job I held was simply a way to pay the bills and nothing else. The Church was IT.

After leaving the Church, what was there? Everything my brain was wired for since birth was collapsed and here I was, a stranger in a strange land, an alien among aliens, somehow trying to chart a physical direction and a physical purpose and always coming up short. This was the spur of the anxiety and depression because to be literal:

My entire brain needed an extensive rewire and an extensive overhaul, and that combined with every other problem in normal life, and some not normal problems, was just an overload.

Fortunately, I'm getting help for it and hopefully the rewiring is some degree of success, but I know there will always be some triggers, some things, some ways that are just burned in too deep I guess.

DennisCDiehl said...

anon said:

Everything my brain was wired for since birth was collapsed and here I was, a stranger in a strange land, an alien among aliens, somehow trying to chart a physical direction and a physical purpose and always coming up short.

This I understand. I was very sincere from the day I walked in until the day it was over. Transitions are messy of course and between denial of what either WCG was up to or the Tkaches kept me about my business just pastoring. But it was like a tractor pull. Those weights were crawling up the sled and were going to get ya sooner or later and bury your wheels in the dirt.

I may participate in something someday should something comfortable come along, but I won't give myself to it and it won't control me. I can walk away as easily now as walk towards.

Crazy stuff but it seems we all tend to react the same way so at least I'm not making it up!

I grew up where one did not express anger and so that is a repressed part of this experience. Yet, I think the unexpressed anger at myself for some things and others for their part causes the depression at times. It's not healthy to not express it .

Allen C. Dexter said...

"A kind hearted, free spirited, intelligent, well read and one who loved wookies woman and best friend might All the years I told the more lonely single types to "join a bowling league or something," are being brought back to haunt me the Karma argh!"

Don't laugh, Dennis. I credit what stability I've had with getting out there in the singles world through square dancing and finding two partners, the last one being perfect for me. She's an unbeliever like me and a very sharp intelligent woman that I deeply love and respect. We make one terrific team economically and every other way.

It took a while after my first wife divorced me, but I was determined to not spend the rest of my life alone. I think a lot of people looked down on me for not sacrificing myself to single fatherhood at the expense of my own well-being. In the end, I don't regret the course I took.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I also noticed when I was in the WCG how they tended to keep members extremely busy and occupied with church-related things: personal prayer and Bible study, endless streams of literature you couldn't possibly keep up with, Spokesman Clubs, socials/dances, fundraisers, Y.O.U. activities and weekends, etc.

It was only later that I realized the WCG (and now it's many splinter groups) was all about two primary goals: money and mind control. Keeping the income flowing towards HQ's was obvious. And the strategy to keep folks busy as bees was to make sure members remained in very tight orbit around the ideology and its adherents. You just never had time to read books outside the mindset of the church - after all the above you were simply too tired to do much else! In my view the classic WCG could never exist nowadays with the Internet, especially with websites like this. The widespread knowledge now of the actual results of the WCG would eventually prove devastating to its existence. That's why I think the splinter groups today are so weak and ineffectual in their stated mission.

Anonymous said...

But allen, Chewie goes with the Diehl. :dd

Anonymous said...


Such a sweet little dog. Give Chewy a big kiss for me. :-))

It has been 18 years since I left. Fear is a very powerful force. During most of my time in the WCG, it was too frightening to sleep because the nightmares were overpowering. Little did I realize the underlying cause. The most recurring was being trapped in a box, a room without windows or doors, a coffin. The losses during my 13 years in the "microcosm of God's Kingdom" enveloped every aspect of my life -- financial, family, social, career, physical and mental health. I should be over it by now. But yet, I still come back to these websites from time to time, wondering how such a dysfunctional organization that is so full of lies and deception has possibly survived.

Sometimes I tell myself the friendships were worth it. But I would have made other friendships. I also know that there are worse injustices in the world. The difficulty is the realization that this injustice was within our control. Why didn't I just get up and walk out that door, slamming it behind me as I left. That, to me, is the #1 regret.

I wish you were my minister during those horribly WCG years. You sound like the only decent person that the WCG ever hired into its ministerial ranks.


Anonymous said...

"... You sound like the only decent person that the WCG ever hired into its ministerial ranks. "

The decent were few, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

What does the P(T)TSD stand for? Plain Truth Theological Stress Disorder? LOL

Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"What does the P(T)TSD stand for? Plain Truth Theological Stress Disorder? LOL"

Well there's another way to look at it LOLOLOL!!!!

DennisCDiehl said...

Thanks DM. I got Chewie a year and half ago and wounldn't know what to do without her now. Unconditional and trusting love for sure as they say. Plus she is hilarious.

I always had a certain mental detachment from WCG due to my growing up Presbyterian etc. While I was not interested in Presbyterian theology as a kid, it was a balanced and fun church to grow up in. Some things I just never thought were all that important which I realized many thought were really important! lol. It's why I could listen to Gerald Waterhouse and hate it from way back. I just never grew up around such people with such ideas so they annoyed me at a young age ha.

thank you for your kind comments. Chew says hi

Allen C. Dexter said...

"But allen, Chewie goes with the Diehl."

Three dogs didn't go with our original commitment, but we both love all three dearly now. In fact, when Phyllis' son was on the phone offering her a free dog as a mother's day gift, I was mouthing "no" in the background. Now, I can't imagine giving that, or the other two, pooches up. A good woman would love Chewie.

Anonymous said...

If you watch King of the Nerds on TBS, you'll see some recognizable buildings.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, TBS has rented many of the dorm buildings of the old Ambassador College Campus for the new reality show King of the Nerds on TBS. So far, they have a "nerd throne" in the rosewood room, they all have cleaned off their paint poured on their heads in the loma armstrong fountain thing, (I think that's what they called it, and they spilled paint all over the floor)... I think they're using at least two dorms for the boys and girls. Who owns this part of the campus now???

Lurker said...

Departing from this path is going to be so much fun... Ah, the joys of being born into a cult. I can't wait for the inevitable conversations with family and friends. So this is only the beginning of sorrows, right? ;) Thank you Dennis. I am sorry for your pain.

Anonymous said...

"It's why I could listen to Gerald Waterhouse and hate it from way back."

You have hope for complete recovery, then. ;)

Your pain is real, similar to many folks out there who have suffered. This kind of pain can be healed if folks can articulate, discuss, come together, and your insight and talent will be helpful to others in pain. As much or more than folks need ministers/preachers, they need counselors and life coaches, or some such.

Anonymous said...

My "anonymous" quote is
above... Have always appreciated your posts, etc. Gives me hope. tw

Glenn said...

It took me 20 years before I made significant progress in recovering from Armstrongism. Those years were filled with anxiety and depression, irregular work performance, self-loathing, anger, sadness, and a litany of other things. Things that helped me were talk therapy, medication (perhaps), learning to forgive myself for having been so stupid, re-connecting with things I had enjoyed before I went to AC Pasadena such as sports and music. A real biggie was admitting to myself that I do not believe in God. Spending time online with former xcg'ers was also a huge help as was learning to accept things as they are. Also, my wife has stuck with me all through this mess. She grew up in WCG but somehow it did not damage her as much as it did most people and she really blossomed once we left WCG behind.

The past 15 years have been the best since before I became ensnared at age 19. I lost 16 years directly in Armstrongism and another 20 in recovery. Still, my life now is pretty good. I wish each of you well on your journeys.

Dennis, thank you again for sharing your life with us. You have helped me enormously over the recent years.

Glenn Parker

Douglas Becker said...

The Cult of Herbert Armstrong was an extremely insane dysfunctional environment.

PTSD is only one of several terrible things that can happen the CoHA because there is no effective way to be sane in such an irrational stress filled environment filled with lies, deceptions, hypocrisy, favoritism, harsh undeserved "correction".

Those who held the power at the very top were (are) cruel and evil selfish people.

It could be modeled loosely on a prison for the mentally insane, except the many of the people are institutionalized after joining the cult.

It's really bad business all around.

Anonymous said...

Dennis you sound like a sweet guy, would love to be your friend. I appreciate many of your insights too. Life can be disappointing for anyone, but every now and then there is joy which makes it worthwhile. You have given me some happiness reading the humorous comments at this site. We really share something special believing in all that stuff and coming out of it.

Anonymous said...

I think we all have to learn to MOVE ON!
The alphabet soup of splinters are living in the past holding on to the false prophecies, wrong teachings and distorted belief system of a MAN!
I know it's tough especially in these insane times we're living in, but we all have to learn to LET IT ALL GO! As a wise man once told me: "It's all water under the bridge!"
Take the good you got and leave the rest behind!
I truly believe that God is so much BIGGER than the entire 7 billion + people that currently live on the planet and the entire population of humanity that have ever been conceived and died so He will reveal Himself to each of us in His time and by a means of His own choosing! He LOVES us all and knows the insurmountable problems all humanity have, are and will yet go through. He is MORE RIGHTEOUS than we think! And He will SAVE US!!! The future He has planned for us is going to make this satanic nightmare of a world disappear and NEVER come to mind like a dream you forget upon waking from your sleep!! God speed that day!!

DennisCDiehl said...

anon said:

"would love to be your friend"

Drop a note to
and we can chat. Always need like minded friends.

Thanks Glenn, it was good to see you when you stopped through and you're "blessed" as we say to have had your wife hang in there with you. I know that the transition from believing to doubt and skepticism can be costly to relationships. Sometimes we are not the best folk to be around while mulling it all over and trying to figure out what next.

DennisCDiehl said...

Anon said: "would love to be your friend"

Just drop an email to me. Tis at the end of the article. New friends are always good.

NO2HWA...maybe you should open a dating service for former COG types lol. One would have to understand the background of the other to ever get along

We could call it :

Plenty of Feasts

Anonymous said...

"would love to be your friend"

drop me an email found at end of article. Always good to have new ones who understand the background.

(Posting 'anon' as can't get posts to post for some reason.

Anonymous said...

"I think we all have to learn to MOVE ON!"

That's what Dennis has done. But moving on doesn't necessarily mean the break is completely clean. There is always baggage, and the amount varies from person to person. What Dennis is going through is part of moving on.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

I'd like to arrive at moved on before I croak so none get to say, 'well he finally moved on' lol

for some reason, i have the chemistry that won't long shut the 'fear' aspect of the unknown off and thus the general anxiety thing. I can't say I have not always had that to some degree. I felt very safe in church setting, lots of friends, common ground, hopes and dreams, large support system etc. That is totally gone and it seems all up to me now which has been a challenge. Maybe a weakness I don't know but just calling it as I feel it

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Den.

I was over at Otagosh before, reading one of Gavin's posts about Bob T.
It reminded me of how it's good to have a sense of humor regarding religious craziness.
...It's better than that 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'!

Whatchagonnado? IMO it's better to forgive myself and move on with a smile while educating myself, rather than to get pissed about it.
(And part of that "education" was learning that falling for nutty religious teachings didn't make me stupid...but just the normal human that I am....(Hence, my moniker, "Norm") And no, I don't hang out at the end of the Cheers bar!

It's also good to look at those around us- it can give us insight into ourselves, where we might go if not careful, positive aspects we want to incorporate, etc.

And it's good to have a pet like your Chewy or our cat :-)


Anonymous said...

"Maybe a weakness I don't know but just calling it as I feel it."

Dealing with freedom on your own two feet isn't a weakness. The anxiety of the unknown is completely normal, especially when one has disconnected oneself from a support system that is specifically designed to alleviate the anxiety of human freedom.

Freedom can be scary, but I would rather be free and subject to all that comes with it than safely plugged back into The Matrix.

If your anxiety is chemical, then the answer may be chemical. If not, then you probably know all the little glib mental tricks to alleviate anxiety. They worked for me.

Depression is a whole 'nother ball game. Just remember that you are alive, in decent health, highly intelligent, free, and have much to offer to others, though you may be physically repulsive. It's true, you know.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...


Did you at least have a good time when you went to Hooters and bought your pooch his scarf?

Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Anonymous said...

ha, no, my son managed a Hooters when in school and now manages for 5 restaurants in charleston. other son is chief Chef at Columbia convention center. the shirt was a xmas gift to chewie


Mickey said...

Dennis, I feel for you. Am in the midst of dealing with my own PSTD (did you know they are now pushing for a diagnosis of Complex PSTD for people who have undergone long term stress and abuse?)

My own path has me in a liberal christian church. I still believe but I'm working out what exactly that entails.

I wish I could move on myself but the damnable behaviors that were ingrained into me as knee jerk reactions are a b!@ch. (No offense to the Chewie:) There's so many tripwires that have to be taken down before I get to the explosives.

The problem is that those explosives lie very close to the heart of who I am. And it scares me that in removing them, I may take out parts of who I am. That's because there is more to it than my XWCG experience. There's a very dysfunctional family to deal with as well. The tenants of wcg just happened to dovetail in with what I learned in the family context.

A few weeks ago, I had to set limits with one of those family members who was being needy beyond what is acceptable in a mentally health way. I was being ran ragged and angry all the time. When I did set the limits it scared me to the point that I wanted to crawl in a bottle of jack and never come out. All because I had never done that before and was scared to death about what the outcome would be. The actual outcome was so mundane as to be laughable.

I think my point is this. We've been violated. It robs us of our sense of security. Something that so many people around us take for granted. We have to learn a new skill. One that allows us to tolerate the knowledge that life and relationships are fragile. People are fragile. I am fragile. Compassion isn't just something I give, it is something I need as well. Easier said than done when you been fed a constant diet of perfectionism until you nearly died of it and frightened away from a more wholesome point of view.

Here's to hoping we can all find a little more compassion towards ourselves.

DennisCDiehl said...

Hi Mickey, Well said and I could not agree more. We sound alike. Boundries have always been an issure for me or as my son drove a stake through my heart and said..."'d take a beating lying down." Whoa....I have thought about that a long time and have more than enough proof it it being so. Boundries!

I am much much better at setting them now and won't allow myself to be anyone punching bag as I so often told others not to do or allow. I have learned a new phrase..."Ok...give it your best shot you SOB and we'll see who comes out of this alive..." ha. just kidding but I am older and bolder.

I identify more with old Rodney King's line..."Can't we just get along." But sometimes the answer is "No we can't." and one has to have boundries.

I am a bit too sensitive but also very intuitive and can read my clients pretty well. I had a client who was hemming and hawing around and I finally said, "that's ok, I know what you're thinking." She said. "You don't know what I'm thinking!!!" SO I told her "You're thinking ___________" and she was quiet and I said, "How'd I do?" She said:

"I hate you..." lol

It was funny and we are friends. Keep on my friend. Sometimes we just have to take a chance, reach out a bit, show some weakness and need and wait for the real friends to surface.

Anonymous said...


thank you for your heartfelt posts over the years, and opening up the way you do. Although I do agree with all you say all the time, I do value what you say and you have been through. Unlike most who post here I am still a believer, not a true believer, which I once was, yet a believer. I read here a lot of things that make for reality. One person posted here about the WCG keeping us busy in church things, that is was the Nazis did when they slowly took over Germany, WCG slowly took over our lives.

We became embedded in a different reality, not truly cult like, but rather close. We were 'in the world' but not 'of it.' Yet, how much there were really those of the world, who tore us up and were the non believers who 'acted as christians.' I remember being told by someone who was labeled a hitler type who said it was all for show, he never believed any of it. Okay, if that is the case, why waste the time?

I have to ask myself over and again, why there were so many pretenders who played the game hurting even more people? Just dont get that.

Seems like you Dennis were hit by your share of not only false members, but even those who one might label inhumane. Mr. Becker and others hint at times at pot and beer parties amongst the youth at AC, but even full blown yet hidden sexuality.

Not just humanity rearing its head, but hypocrisy. Why did they even get involved? Makes you think there were more crazies in those who were acting out carnality than those who were the fakers amongst us.

Now these Yet Another COG groups, all having their fake direction and just there for someone to make a paycheck. You Dennis, did not do this, you, although hurt by it all, found your own way out. Thankfully, we have you as a witness to it all.

Yes, it hurts, but not being a hypocrite has its costs, but the reward of people who really learn to trust you is much greater.

The many things they did to us to make us less than human, really, we could all list some things that would be a catharsis for all of us.

I too spent a lot of time alone, especially after the JWT take over. These guys isolated people they did not like, and the constant rangling and hypocrisy simply wore people out.

Not sure if you are studying psych or not, but man, Dennis, your heart is really there for helping people. When I was alone in the day, I read a lot of books. Just so I could 'hear a different voice in my head.' It helped a ton. Made me more able to cope with the world and with being more of a real person.

I guess your being here is because we all understand each other, yeah, some are angry, but you are just here, telling it like it is, while you are cleansing your mind and your thoughts, you are sharing so much and putting things into words that many of us would never know how to.

Many if not all of your stories resonate at the deepest levels of our psyche. My hope for you is that you find peace with yourself, really, you made a choice a long time ago, on the otherhand you saw where it was leading and said, STOP. You now can continue to help others see their way through bad choices and help them through it.

Thanks Dennis for all of your words. You have touched so many of us lurking out here in the netherland of the XCOG internet.


DennisCDiehl said...

Anon said "Not sure if you are studying psych or not, but man, Dennis, your heart is really there for helping people. When I was alone in the day, I read a lot of books. Just so I could 'hear a different voice in my head."

I read a lot and of coure write. Got rid of the Television 12 years ago and you'd be surprised how long nights can be without it. It's a time eater and distraction.

The vast majority of ministers and members I knew personally were sincere and just folks . The loud mouths and wanna be's tended to rise and become the celebs of the church as promoted by the other celebs.

I was so connected that one year out of school I as a local elder (embarassing for 23 lol) Two years out a Preaching Elder (24 year old elder elder lol) and then went on to pastor 14 congregations in five states sometimes three at a time and no one thought I was actually a "Pastor" lol. That's how much pull I had. Higher ranks meant more pay and I guess they didn't want to pay me any more.

I have struggled with my own masks and find EVERYONE does. I have my own "what the hell is this?" tendencies and ideas. Everyone has personal issues and I found in the formal setting of church, ministers are expected to not be human and certainly not allowed to either show it or share it on the human level. Members always expected utmost forgiveness. Ministers just get crucifried. I found that people wanted the minister to be what they never intended to be which of course is not very realistic.

I am a member of the Clergy Project where men and women fed up with the masks and such want out without all the collateral damage. Not always possible and some I have told to just take one step at a time knowing to myself what probably lies ahead in more losses and distress.

At any rate, thank you for your kind comments. We're all in this together and Earthschool is the term that seems to describe it best to me.

Anonymous said...

Amen to J's comments above.

While my opinions vary about the articles and comments, I always appreciate the view points expressed, even the obvious hardliners - both sides.

The main point is that the words do help as we seek our personal truth and comfort. My favorites include expressing anger over a wannabe prophet because you know someone will get hurt and stating that you once truly believed.

Love thy neighbor. While the COGs would say, 'Give me your money so we can preach to the world', your willingness to express emotions and verbalise experiences, shows more love for thy neighbor than any dollar could do. As one reader of this blog, I find great benefit from the willingness of a few to write words that help define their experiences in COGland.

Thank you,

Allen C. Dexter said...

I sympathize with the statement that one is still a "believer." I was in that boat for several decades and it held back my healing.

Once I wised up and saw through all the bullshit of original sin, the need for the sacrifice of a godman for my "sins," etc. and chucked the whole damn thing including the Bible, my healing speeded up. It's hard for me to fathom how I could once believe all that nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Mickey, you pointed to a great insight when you acknowledged "...that life and relationships are fragile. People are fragile. I am fragile."

It's true. We human beings are indeed very fragile. And that's exactly what abusive religion aims at and takes advantage of.

J, you mentioned "Yet, how much there were really those of the world, who tore us up and were the non believers who 'acted as christians.' "

I've come to see that it's not the unbelievers/pretenders we have to watch out for so much, but rather those who actually believe all the nonsense religion pushes down people's throats. Once you actually start buying into the lunacy as if it were real, then you become a dangerous threat to others. As Blaise Pascal once noted: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Allen wrote: "It's hard for me to fathom how I could once believe all that nonsense."

I know, me too. It's also hard for me to believe that at one point in my life I literally believed in a fat, white-haired elf dressed in a red suit who somehow got down our fireplace and left gifts under the tree we temporarily set up in our living room. Authority figures in our lives pushed the belief, the culture around us acted as if it were true, and so I bought into it, to a great degree because it was exciting and brought a certain sense of meaning to my life as a child. And how else could we explain the gifts left under the tree? Gifts demand a Gift-giver, right? And that Gift-give was the old man who lived at the North Pole. Very simple really.

Santa Claus for kids - then latter on when that wears off there's the traditional Judeo-Christian God of theism for adults raised in the western world.

Let's face it: we humans love to delude ourselves, and love to be deceived if such falsehoods make us feel good.

Anonymous said...

And the classic 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book THE DENIAL OF DEATH by Ernest Becker may be one of the most cogent explanations I've ever read as to why we seem to need to live in such delusional fantasy-lands, and fall for them time and time and time again.

Byker Bob said...

Yes, this is a very dangerous disorder, and takes many forms!

Over the years on the forums and blogs, I've become aware of a handful of just barely functional individuals. To hear their experiences, some seemingly live right at the breaking point! It always amazes me, though, what happens when a fellow blogger suggests to such a person that they ask God to walk with them, or proposes the healing that Jesus can bring (if invited to do so). Suddenly, it's "Nope, I'm OK! Got it fixed!" In at least one case, an individual I knew insisted on this right up to the point of his suicide.

Now, in all fairness, there have also been a small number of people whose hearts have apparently softened, their relationship with God has been restored, only this time without the toxicities introduced by Armstrongism, and their lives have begun a gradual upward trend. The God shaped hole within their souls was filled, and deep inner healing took place.

I wish that this could happen for everyone once associated with the false teaching of Armstrongism. What seems apparent, though, is that Armstrongism was somewhat similar to the revulsion therapy aspects of smoking cessation classes, in that HWA worked very hard to destroy any possible faith that one could have in his competitors, the mainstream Christian churches. Only the very fortunate few, and even those with an abundance of God's love and help, will ever get past that component of PTSD!


Anonymous said...

One thing you seem to overlook, Bob, is perhaps the fact that MANY folks have indeed sincerely sought God after their WCG experiences, and met with the same emptiness they had within the WCG universe. In reality, many such folks exist - and I'm one of them. One overwhelmingly simple explanation for this is the possibility that God might just be an imaginary being existing only within the confines of the human mind, and so there are no direct interventions because there is no God. Just throwing the possibility out there. Wishful thinking is a very powerful force in a human being.

Byker Bob said...


Life presents many enigmas. I don't profess to know why I might be receiving God's regular intervention in my life while others seemingly do not, although timing may have something to do with it. Our God does everything right on time. It would also seem that we are all on individualized paths, and one size does not fit all. Occasionally, there may be at best some narrow bands where humans can share and help one another.

Best I can say is never give up. Keep on seeking. Often we don't assign value to things for which there is no price. There were some pretty darned big price tags for me along the way, although not as exhorbitant as those paid by others. I'm an optimist. I believe that the majority of humanity will ultimately be led to a very fulfilling eternal relationship with our Creator.


Anonymous said...

"I don't profess to know why I might be receiving God's regular intervention in my life while others seemingly do not, although timing may have something to do with it. Our God does everything right on time."

I sense you to be genuinely sincere, Bob - but it appears to me that you really don't KNOW these things anymore than the rest of us. Perhaps you just want to believe them, so they seem true to you. I find people often mistake believing and wishful thinking for knowing. Just my opinion, though.

Anonymous said...

BB says:

" It always amazes me, though, what happens when a fellow blogger suggests to such a person that they ask God to walk with them, or proposes the healing that Jesus can bring (if invited to do so)"

No offense BB, but you have gone simplistic. All my life:

Help me to be a better person/member

Bless the Work and guide it.

Guide HWA, GTA etc...

Use me as you wish and help me to do your will.

Help me with....

Bless me with.....

Take care of.......

over and over and over and over and over and over.....

No one was listening evidently so it's not so easy and I don't find it amazing at all that people no longer trust the false idea of "ask whatever you will and it will be given you." and please don't throw in, "well it has to be God's will" because then we can just forgoe the asking for ever more.

I have "invited" God, Jesus, the Angels and all the Prophets and Apostles to heal or just show up once in awhile. Still waiting......

Please don't be so shallow. I'm happy you have gone from believer to skeptic back to another kind of believer, but sometimes you sound spacey and detached from your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Here's a short video of two other folks who at one time were very prominent in the WCG - Dr. Robert Kuhn and Dr. George Geis - talking about their views of God after their experiences within the WCG. Dr. Geis, by the way, was hands down the best instructor I ever had at AC Pasadena.

Anonymous said...

Here's another similar video:

Anonymous said...

If God exists, he has a lot to answer for. And so do the rest of the thick-headed lying manipulative assholes on this planet, which comes to about 90% of the population.

Byker Bob said...


There's the problem. Methodology.
You can't continue to employ the old methods we were taught and expect to have any kind of relationship with God or spiritual experience. They were bogus then, are bogus today, and won't work. About the only former habit I found to be of value is ability to pray for extended periods of time. But, the basic structure of that has even changed.

And, yes, I have become detached from some of my experiences, due to healing. Prior to that, there was still a sense of immediacy and hatred over stuff that had happened 30-50 years ago. It's good to note that teachers taught us false stuff, and to be on our guard against similar types, but hatred and toxicity poison the present! I can't afford that these days, because I have a real life, and I have a business to run. It's why my comments are not as prolific as they once were.

Back in the day, we were forbidden to read other what other Christians wrote and taught. No second opinion. I've read voraciously over the past 5 years, unfortunately including some stuff that was blatantly filled with error. But, sometimes you have to sort through garbage to get to the nuggets. That takes effort and motivation, and it's something one just doesn't have the heart to do if one is so turned off by it all.

It is worth getting past, if you can!