Monday, March 18, 2013

Van Robison: "Religious Control Freaks"


Change "seminary" above to "Ambassador" and you have a typical Church of God


Religious Control Freaks


Are you captive to a religious control freak who stands in a pulpit, pretending that God functions and operates through his or her ministry?  If so, you have a great deal of company, because the world is an ocean of religious control freaks.  Such control freaks always proclaim "authority."  Fear is their arrow and they drive fear into the hearts and minds of anyone willing to submit to their false authority.  Another pretense is that they "need" your financial support (as in false tithes and the sowing of false "seed" money to reap a harvest), in order to preach the Gospel to the world.  Does it seem strange that $money is ALWAYS a key factor in the world of churches? And yet Jesus Christ costs no money, salvation cannot be bought with $money, eternal life does not depend upon a spiritual credit card, and the building of church buildings and church colleges were NEVER spoken of in the teachings of Jesus Christ

What is it that so mesmerizes non-thinkers to submit their lives to such people?  Does the salvation or eternal life of even one single human being really hinge upon "going to church", keeping the Saturday Sabbath, observing "Holy" days, Bible study or bowing to preachers?  If so, then those who think and believe such things have never read the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Where in the four Gospels did Jesus ever say that salvation depended upon going to church, submission to "elders" or "pastors", or becoming prisoners to pied pipers in the pulpits, or even endless "Bible" study?  What percentage of church going is really based upon false assumptions?

During the age of Herbert W. Armstrong there was a teaching that if anyone was previously married and their ex-spouse was still living, then the second or third marriage to another was "adultery" and salvation was at stake.  For those in such circumstance, they were "required" to separate, which of course destroyed their families and the lives of their children, even if happily married in a second or third marriage.  This is the type of religious fanaticism that destroys lives.  When did Jesus Christ ever appear to anyone today and make such a proclamation?  It may never have been the will of God that marriages end in divorce, but in the Old Testament even God DIVORCED ancient Israel.  Was there a valid reason?  Yes of course and there are valid reasons for divorce.  What woman would not divorce a man who sexually abuses their children?    Sure you can read that women are to "submit" to their husbands, but that verse is woefully misconstrued and many have been abused because of it.  Some men are brutes and jerks.  Some women are also spouse abusers and controlling.

Using the Bible as an excuse to abuse anyone is nothing short of religious control, based upon private interpretation of INK on PAPER.  Pied pipers in the pulpits are professional, spiritual abusers and they think nothing of demanding compliance, because their pocketbooks depend upon FEAR of non-compliance to their fake authority.  As long as NON-THINKING church goers, live in FEAR of pied pipers in the pulpits, they will forever be controlled, and those who stand in pulpits will gloat over their bank accounts and their prestige and their fake authority.  Only when common people STOP being FEARFUL of people who are public speakers, will they ever be free to live life from fear.

Van Robison

41 comments:

Byker Bob said...

I don't know why the bulk of those loyal to the original WCG doctrines (pick your own snapshot of time for this one!) don't just leave the confusion and go with a loving Messianic group! Those groups keep the Old Covenant shadows, and for the most part don't get involved with oppressive governance or perennially revised prophecy theories.

The fact that they don't proves to me that the beliefs to which they are most strongly attracted are that HWA was a God-sent, quasi-Biblical figure, that the US and English speaking nations are modern day Israel, and that the end "might possibly" arrive in 3-5 years. These would seem to be the doctrinal approaches employed by the control freaks to trap them.
And, they are very effective indeed.

BB

DennisCDiehl said...

That Divorce and Remarriage problem was a gift of the Bible itself. It says what it says about remarrying etc ad nauseum and left any church with a dilemma on just what it meant and if it meant what it seemed to mean , what to do.

I went through a number of D and R cases along the way (now who would have time!) and by an absolute miracle everyone one of the ones I had to mess with were fraudulent first marriages and no problem LOL. One of the topics I wished the church had minded its own business on as it could never be figured out.

Paul seemed to give some grounds so we jumped on that and viola!....no more problems.

Actually I read a Divorce and Remarriage book years ago by a man named Guy L Duty and he explained it the best and eventually came to be how the church looked at it too. This was written 35 years ago and came at just the right time so I didn't feel badly not wanting to mess with it.

But the Bible itself is the problem. The problem becomes worse when a church thinks it can figure out what the Bible was talking about and how to apply such old ways of thinking to modern times. I wonder how Dave and Company handle such things amongs their people and what go along of the membership is on this one.

Confusing topic especially if you compare Gospel Jesus with the Apostle Paul who is more lenient on this topic than Gospel Jesus.

http://www.amazon.com/Divorce-Remarriage-Guy-Duty/dp/0871230976

G.G. said...

I have found it interesting in my brief study of Armstrongism to read about the previous prohibitions on divorce and remarriage. It is ironic that a group so opposed to divorce keeps splitting off (divorcing so to speak) into smaller and smaller splinter groups. Divorce is a form of emotional cut-off which occurs when 2 people cannot manage the relationship with one another. The splits in the WCOG (hundreds I read) are examples of people or factions cutting off from one another emotionally because they can't manage the emotional process within the church. I think it is more likely to occur in very rigid groups that can't tolerate differences. It will continue to happen until the people involved can look at their contribution to the problem, much like the failures in 2nd and 3rd marriages when people only sees the ex- spouses faults and not their own. G.G.

Leonardo said...

G.G., what you note above is quite right. Yet in a sense isn't all that surprising, and perhaps actually to be expected. For example, surveys show that atheists have a considerably lower divorce rate than do evangelical Christians living in the Bible-belt states. Well, so much for all their verbal bluster about family values and all!

And it's often been observed that COG members can be among the most fair-weather of friends you'll ever have. You could know them for years or even decades, have shared many wonderful times together, and yet they will drop you like a hot potato if they find out you no longer agree with their religious beliefs, or no longer agree with whatever particular group they happen to belong to. I not only seen this happen repeatedly, but have experienced the pain of it on a personal level. Very sad. But it logically and consistently follows from the general assumptions they make about reality.

Greg said...

It is very sad Leo, but not at all surprising. It's part of the legacy of HWA since he was quick to separate himself from the Church of God (7th Day) and many who wanted to actually work with him and accommodate his different views. John Kiesz (I think it was) who was content to do so in reply to the circumstances surrounding HWA's departure from COG(7D) said that HWA "dropped him like a hot potato" !! And looking at the schizophrenic history of WCG etc you see the destruction he wreaked not only in the lives of members, but in his own family too ie GTA disfellowshipped, daughters wouldn't even speak to him, married Ramona a divorcee and then divorced her, incest allegations with Dorothy, etc etc! His own family life was dysfunctional so why wouldn't you expect this toxic mentality to spill over and be reflected in his work/church life too?! And that's why we see the never-ending splintering of the ACOGs! HWA stubbornly refused to stay and work with the COG(7D) group in spite of his trivial (at first!) differences and so we see COG after COG self-destruct in similar fashion over trivial differences and making mountains out of molehills! They totally lack the real depth of unconditional and non-discriminatory Love, Respect and Tolerance that is so crucial for marriage and family to work! Just my opinion~

Leonardo said...

An opinion which I share very profoundly with you, Greg.

Most ex-WCGers have only read ONE side of the history of the COG's in the 20th century: HWA's, of course, via his autobiography.

But they would be surprised to know that others alive and active in the other branches of the COG in that time period (the 1920's, 30's and 40's) have written down some very interesting recollections of their own that are quite different and often contrary to HWA's memories, which were often highly embellished in his favor. That was just HWA's style. Their view was that he quite obviously wanted to go off on his own, and to leave the other COG's behind, and often had a very difficult time cooperating with others if he couldn't be top dog. And with what I know of HWA's fiery temperament, this is quite unsurprising.

Some years ago I ran across an insightful quote, and I think it may have been from Ellen G. White, though perhaps it was another significant church leader of that general time frame. I should have written it down because I've never come across it or been able to track it down since.

Anyway, it was written in the 19th century, and something to the effect that one should not waste time with the COG's because they are always too busy bickering with each other over petty issues and/or larger doctrinal matters, and hence constantly dividing from each other in self-righteous temper tantrums.

When I first read it I thought "Bingo!" - that describes the modern-day COG's exactly.

Anonymous said...

So true about D&R, Dennis. Just one more obnoxious bum steer masquerading as god-breathed righteousness from the supposedly inerrant word of god. Another proof that the OT was written by proto-pharisee shitheads and the NT was written by post-pharisee con-men.

Allen C. Dexter said...

I remember that John Kiesz stopped by the college in the late 50s and Herb refused to see him. Herman Hoeh visited with him for a while but not HWA.

Nothing has changed in the COGs since they began way back in the 1800s. It's just an interesting fact to me. I want nothing to do with any of them or any religious organization these days.

Michael said...

Leonardo wrote:
"...others alive and active in the other branches of the COG in that time period (the 1920's, 30's and 40's) have written down some very interesting recollections of their own that are quite different and often contrary to HWA's memories, which were often highly embellished in his favor."

Is any of that on the web, to which you might have a link? It would make for an entertaining afternoon read. :-)

Greg said...

So true Leo! Though I can't imagine EGW saying such a thing seeing she was part of the problem herself! Nevertheless to answer Michael's request I found the article by Kiesz online re his view of HWA & version of events during that time. It's on the Exit & Suport Network

Douglas Becker said...

The problem with Religious Control Freaks is not money, it is ego.

When you read "The Fragmentation of a Sect" by Dr. David Barrett, you will find that it was Herbert Armstrong's narcissism that drove him, not the lust for money: Money was just a tool to get the things he needed for his great swelling ego. He was appalled, for example, when he found that the WCG actually had to pay money to get an audience with "important" people early on -- he rather seemed to expect that they would want to see him because he was the most important man on earth, not because he bribed them.

This concept is difficult to grasp for people who don't have the narcissitic personality disorder and they fall prey to the idea that it's all about money (an easier concept to grasp), but it isn't the money, it's what money can buy as a tool to sate the insatiable lust for attention.

Now there is also the issue that some people seem to think that the followers are just as bad as the leaders because they have some sort of addiction to follow con men. They say that such people are on a quest to enslave themselves and leave one ACoG to join another.

This proposition ignores the fact that there have been thousands of people born into the venue and when they leave, they don't repeat the experience. It also ignores the thousands of people who weren't looking, got trapped, got free and stayed that way.

Of course, people who have such opinions are often themselves arrogant narcissists just like Herbert Armstrong, with the same assumptions, and therefore want to believe that now that they've left Armstrongism, they are free. For the most part, they have taken up right where they left off, but in the arena of politics instead of religion. James and I have attempted to warn such people to no avail.

It is unfortunate that the arrogant who believe they are so logical are devoid of structural visualization to be able to follow the scientific method and understand 5 or 6 dimension arrays, choosing, in their ignorance, a corner case which is not necessarily representative of what has come to be known as the Ambassador College Prison Experiment. Attempting to explain the scientific method to such people is akin to explaining rainbows to earthworms -- arrogant earthworms at that.

These days, to understand cults, one must have a firm grasp of sociology, psychology, law (not the religious kind), science and it wouldn't hurt to have a degree in forensic accounting.

To reduce Armstrongism to a single or two dimensional construct is to miss the depth of the problems associated with extricating oneself permanently from the swindlers, con artists and takers so aptly described by Dr. Phil in "Life Code". Also recommended is "Moral Mazes" by Robert Jackall to understand the corporate side of dysfunction within the cult.

Follow the egos.

Anonymous said...

No religion proselytizes with the angry zeal that atheists do.

Anonymous said...

The typical atheist knows jack but thinks religious people are morons.

Example: the PhD who thinks religious people are stupid because he thinks that they think the Bible was written in English.

Anonymous said...

It was reported on Fox that Israel knew about 911 before it happened but chose not to tell the US gov. Who benefited? Israel wants the US to fight Muslims. Christians are dying in a religious war between Muslims and Jews.

Leonardo said...

Anon 10:15, please stop making such foolish conspiracy buff comments. Read a book on Islamic history - written from any perspective you want. Islam is in a war against ALL non-Muslims, whether they be Jewish or not. It's part and parcel of the wider Islamic ideology. I might recommend FUTURE JIHAD by Walid Phares for a good summary of Islam's war against the world.

Mr. Anti-atheist: please make some statements that are actually relevant to the immediate discussion and mean something for a change. You sound like a broken record spouting all your overly-simplistic generalizations. It sounds like YOU have the anger issue far more than the anti-religious. And specifically WHO is the PhD claiming that religious people are stupid because he thinks that they think the Bible was [originally] written in English? You're just going to have to exercise your brain a little more and provide some legitimate sources for your arrogant assertions.

Leonardo said...

Douglas, I agree that oversimplification is dangerous, and gets us nowhere. Very few things in the real world are sufficiently answered with easy pop answers, the kind cherished by fundamentalists. I also agree with you that money was not the major motivator that drove HWA. If it was, how then could we explain his many years of poverty (or at least, scarcity) during the early days of his association with the COG? In his autobiography he refers to 27 years years of such modest living.

It's all-too-easy for many Middle Class and poor folks to attribute the lust for money to be the motivating factor behind almost all behavior. But of course it usually goes far deeper than that.

It's like Bernie Madoff - what motivated him? I'd love to interview the man, assuming I could be sure he'd be totally honest to the best of his ability in answering the many questions I'd like to ask him. When someone has accumulated more money than they can spend for the rest of their lives, enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, a happy marriage, two fine sons, good health, an outstanding reputation in the investment community, etc., then what motivates a guy to do the absolutely nutty thing that he did? It has to be more than money for sure. Surely he was smart enough to realize his scheme would eventually be found out.

I have David Barnett's first book THE NEW BELIEVERS. But I'm wondering if his latest book you mention is just an updated rehash of the former. If not, and if it truly has some new insights and material, then I'll get a copy.

As far as HWA photo opps - yes, many of them were bought. I know this because I used to work with someone who helped arrange those foreign trips, and he told me so! Though, to be fair, not all of them were. HWA's age and dignified presence did endear him to a number of elites in international areas - the Japanese Diet, for instance. Old age and the hoary head is far more honored in other cultures than in our own youth-worshipping pop culture. Though perhaps even in those cases other favors might have been exchanged. When I went to AC in the mid '70's there were several Japanese students attending who weren't involved with the Church. I was a roommate with one. Perhaps some of HWA's Japanese "sons" sons were provided free or reduced tuition, room and board at a private American college in exchange for photo opps. But this is mere speculation on my part. I do know Osuma Goto was a key player in these Japanese connections. There were also some kids from the Middle East as well, who obviously weren't church members.

Douglas Becker said...

Leonardo, The Fragmentation of a Sect: Schism in the Worldwide Church of God by Dr. David V. Barrett doesn't rehash anything: It's new, it's fresh off the press and it includes a lot of stuff that he got privately from insiders and others like Gavin Rumney, Dixon Cartwright. While I disagree with a few things, he's pretty much nailed the detail, though I must admit I'm only 1/3rd the way through. If anyone wants to continue to comment on Herbert Armstrong, the WCG and the splinters, this is the seminal work to use. He did his homework and actually read through the Ambassador Reports, Plain Truths, Good Newses and even coworker letters. It's pretty thorough.

As for Bernie Madoff... well... here's an idea: He was a psychopath. Psychopaths are generally not in it for the money or strictly speaking ego. No, they're in it to see if they can pull it off. Ah, the risk, the danger, the stimulation -- unfettered by a total lack of empathy or any sort of conscience we would recognize in what we laughingly call the civilized world.

That's my take on it for what it's worth and hope it's helpful.

Douglas Becker said...

Oh, yeah, though: It's fifty bucks.

I paid less for F# books that are twice as thick.

Might be the hard cover, but "Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World" by Dr. Phil McGraw (pretty much a 'must have' if you want to understand Armstrongism) is just about half as much in hard cover with about as many pages.

Doctorate theses don't come cheap these days.

Leonardo said...

Barrett's new book sounds extremely interesting, and I appreciate the heads up about it.

Both HWA and the WCG have played a massive role in my life since I first came in contact with them on my own back in 1974 at the age of 18, just fresh out of high school. I excitedly read through the Bible for the first time in my life, sincerely plowed into, “proved” and accepted the Church's teachings with all my heart. I was baptized about a year later, and six months after that went to AC for 4 years in Pasadena, then worked out there as a graphic artist for another 13 years, went through Spokesman’s Club – the whole nine yards. It was my entire life, and I was passionately and totally immersed in it.

Though I just never could have remotely imagined in my wildest dreams during those times that one day, many years later, I would come to seriously question and eventually become totally disillusioned with most of it at it’s very core. Never.

But such has happened over a period of the past 8 years or so.

Frankly, I'm not much interested in the highly emotional and all-too-frequent HWA/WCG "bashing" that often takes place on sites like this - though I totally understand that many folks were far more deeply hurt than I ever was by their association with the Church, perhaps most especially those involuntarily born and raised within it.

But, to give credit where credit is due, it must be pointed out that HWA and the WCG were the first to awaken within me the search for ultimate truths by prompting me to ask, and at a fairly young age, the big questions of life. And for this, I will ever be extremely grateful. This in spite of the fact that I now realize that many of the pseudo-answers they offered to my then very naïve mind stand quite thoroughly discredited upon more rigorous investigation than I was ever able to bring to bear as a teenager.

Answers truly are out there to those willing to face the facts, and quite unwilling to sacrifice their intellectual honesty in order to “keep the faith once delivered.”

The fact that so many people I once knew, worked with and came to respect (both members, pastors, and other high-profile, well-known WCG personalities) through the years apparently prefer to sacrifice their minds and integrity in exchange for the emotional comfort of such tissue-thin falsehoods, along with the illusionary safety of the herd, well, it’s been one of the greatest disappointments of my life. It’s also taught me how remarkably few human beings are willing to move out of their spiritual comfort zones (so often determined by the wider culture they were born into) and truly seek an understanding of more objectively-arrived-at truths above all else.

My central interest is in accurately understanding the dynamics of how I ever came to be so completely hoodwinked by WCG ideology in the first place. Such ideologically-based indoctrination has quite obviously been going on since the beginning of human history, and isn't in any way unique to the COG's. But the WCG just happens to have been the specific stumbling block for most of us who exchange our thoughts and views here on this website. It could just as likely have been Islam, Marxism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism or the thousands of other secular philosophies or supernatural religions out there had we been born into a different historical timeframe or a different geographical location than we were.

Through reading, blogging and much inner personal reflection I've come to more thoroughly grasp many things. But I still have far more questions than answers. So I’m always anxious to dig into any source of sound information in order to deepen my understanding of life, consciousness, the cosmos, truth, and all other things having to do with the deepest things of the universe.

So once again thank you for the book recommend – as every little piece of the puzzle counts!

Greg said...

Ha! I've been interested in purchasing Dr. Phil's "Life Code" for a while now so I might get it along with Carol Tavris's "Mistakes were made (but not by me): why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisionsand hurtful acts."
Besides that I've been reading all the books published on WCG history and am at present reading Tuit's "The Truth Will Set You Free." This "Fragmentation" book looks interesting too.
And Leo what you wrote about Madoff and how someone who has all these solid things like career, family, money, etc. and still jumps off the deep end reminded me of the news I heard yesterday about Roger Griffiths who won $2.6 million back in 2005 and now has lost it all, his home and marriage and has only $10 left! How insane is that!

Douglas Becker said...

My central interest is in accurately understanding the dynamics of how I ever came to be so completely hoodwinked by WCG ideology in the first place.

I've been pondering this for over a decade now and one thing keeps popping up: Ego. Narcissism driving a "strong" personality.

Could it be that most of humanity is looking for answers and when someone comes along with such confidence that they seem utterly convincing that people will assume that they are inferior and totally surrender to the "Guru" in the mistaken belief that he (and sometimes she -- as in Ellen G. White) knows everything and no one else knows much at all; you feel that you cannot get the truth anywhere else and no one else can explain the mysteries of your life except them?

Herbert Armstrong certainly had a great swelling ego, a temper (giving him a significant edge in the survival of the fittest) and had an explanation for absolutely everything with the booklets to go with it.

Oh sure, take the bait and then go on to be an acolyte to cheer on your Nimrod hero! He is so important he drops in to visit emperors, kings, queens, prime ministers, members of the Japanese Diet!

You know you could never do that! He must know so much more than anyone else! He is the most important man on earth!

Except you didn't know he didn't finish high school even though he was chancellor of a college. You didn't realize that he didn't know history. You couldn't know he wasn't the least bit scientific. He just made things up and made them sound plausible. He was a fake. He was a fraud. But he seemed so real!

We aren't 18 years old any more. [The prefrontal lobes in males have a growth spurt from 18 to 25 after which the will is set and the life pattern for decision making is no longer flexible.]

At some point, some of us realize he wasn't a magician, guru, expert or even necessarily all that godly: He was just a fat, rotund, useless pathetic man who, if he had never gotten enough money to get a following and the drive to satisfy his ego, would have been a drunk on skid road, finally succumbing to third stage alcoholism and not a multimillionaire.

Now some may think that the ministers were also members of the Ambassador College Experiment [a la "The Lucifer Effect"] and hapless victims as well. That only works right up to the time that each one of them discovers the truth and decides to stick with the sham, you know, Dennis Luker, for example, who stayed in it for salary and retirement right up to his death. The insiders knew better, but they didn't have the honesty and integrity to leave -- they just kept right on purposefully deceiving the membership and kept taking the money (as well as some of them going beyond that and feeding their own egos by becoming the head honcho guru in their own right).

So maybe this will help enlighten you with an epiphany.

It's about time someone was.

Leonardo said...

Douglas wrote: "Attempting to explain the scientific method to such people is akin to explaining rainbows to earthworms -- arrogant earthworms at that."

A most excellent metaphor! I've tried - and failed - to do so many times, especially to hard-core fundamentalists. Sometimes I just explain it away to myself as a simple lack of basic intelligence on their part. Which is indeed true for many of them. I guess this keeps me from getting angry with them, as all of us have cognitive/conceptual limits, mostly genetically determined, and so out of our control.

But some just baldly refuse to face anything that threatens their ideology. Period.

I once read of a scientist who attended an “Evolution is a Lie!” public seminar by the late famed creationist Dr. Duane Gish. Afterwards the scientist spent some time with Gish, explaining why one particular aspect of his presentation was blatantly wrong, and demonstrating why in a patient, step-by-step manner. This particular section of the lecture was especially popular with anti-evolutionist audiences, obviously mostly young earth creationists.

But unfortunately for Gish, it also happened to have been the scientist’s specific area of research expertise.

And here’s the kicker: Dr. Gish openly acknowledged that the scientist was indeed right, and that he would have to change that part of the lecture! But, about a month later, by chance Gish was in another town the scientist also happened to be traveling in as well, giving the exact same lecture. So the scientist attended it again. And he found, to his great disappointment, that Gish refused to correct the error in his popular presentation. He still was repeating the identical same erroneous point that the scientist had earlier proven to him was completely false.

So even intelligent folks like Gish often tip their cards so as to reveal their real motives.

That scientist was Ken Miller and I think it was in his book FINDING DARWIN’S GOD that he relayed that particular true story.

Douglas Becker said...

Leonardo, I suspect then that you understand how I felt facing the "guru" at the age of 17 who insisted that people living in our hollow earth came out of the North Pole in their flying saucers.

Almost as bad, a decade or two later I was in K-Mart perusing the paperback books when I happened upon some guy writing about his travels to the other planets in our solar system and visiting the families living on Jupiter, Mars, Venus. Wait! What? He kept on page after page spouting nonsense as if he believed it true.

Fortunately, I was interested in and had a talent for science and technology as a preteen. I didn't understand the binary counting system at the age of 12 when I happened upon it in a science magazine (this was the 1950s) and so I built a 24 volt DC power supply, designed the circuits and soldered a rack of electromechanical relays together to make a binary counter, replete with a board with the appropriate flashing lights. With a little tuning, I even hooked up a rotary telephone dial and could add the binary numbers together.

In middle school I happened upon a book with the title something like "Earth, Wind and Fire" which told the story of the earth over 4.5 billion years, evolution of life and astronomy, physics and biology. It covered the makeup of the single cell and life coming up out of the oceans. It told of the formation of the moon. I read it about four times and couldn't get enough of the science of it.

The problem with all this is encountering non scientific types who make outrageous unscientific claims.

What clinched the end of Armstrongism for me was the DNA evidence that disproves British Israelism. I also discovered that the ACoGs can't make the calendar work right -- thus making it impossible to keep the Feast Days at the right time.

Science is an excellent tool to protect you from these charlatans if you have a talent for it.

It is unfortunate that so many don't have either an aptitude for it or an interest in it.

The scientific method is quite effective in debunking cults and should be used more often.

Leonardo said...

Greg wrote: "...reminded me of the news I heard yesterday about Roger Griffiths who won $2.6 million back in 2005 and now has lost it all, his home and marriage and has only $10 left! How insane is that!"

I remember a long time ago I gave a speech in Spokesman's Club about lottery winners. Reading I did in preparation for that talk revealed that roughly 43% of lottery winners (multi-million dollar winners) were in bankruptcy within five years. I wonder what the percentage would be nowadays - higher, I'd guess. Suddenly gaining huge amounts of wealth for those not used to it can be a real curse along many different facets of their lives.

Always liked that bumper sticker: "Please God - let me show You that winning the lottery won't spoil me!"

Leonardo said...

Douglas wrote: "The problem with all this is encountering non scientific types who make outrageous unscientific claims."

...And yet claiming such assertions to be scientific! Creationists and even Intelligent Designers are masters at this.

The tragic part is that I can only see this getting worse and worse in the years ahead considering the stupendous failure of the public education system in America. I mentioned in a previous post that a recent survey showed 23% of Americans still believe the sun revolves around the earth. This is outrageous.

I've found that most people in general believe what they WANT to believe, what makes them feel good - not that which can be soundly verified and demonstrated. And this carries with it some terrifying implications. No wonder Walter Cronkite observed that he thought the biggest threat to humanity in the 21st century would be fundamentalist religion.

You mentioned above in a previous comment about how we humans tend to trust and follow those who appear confident. You nailed that one right on. I openly confess that HWA seemed to me, as a relatively naive and uneducated teenager, to really be someone special. All the photos of him meeting with heads of state appearing on the front cover of the PT seemed quite impressive. GTA too. I didn't even remotely think to question any of these superficialities.

No wonder sociologists have found that the average age for religious conversations across the globe is between the ages of 15 and 19. Most of us are so gullible at that stage of our lives, and that factor is further compounded by the fact that we think we know it all.

But the thing about apparent confidence. It can be quite persuasive indeed. I remember sitting in the Auditorium as a student in 1979 listening to Gerald Waterhouse attempt to make some incredibly obscure passage of scripture from one of the minor prophets somehow apply to HWA in some bizarre and convoluted sort of way. And I can recall thinking "But HOW does he KNOW that?"

However, Waterhouse spoke with such absolute confidence and certainty that I checked that last thought with a resigned "Well, he's an evangelist, and I'm just a kid at AC. And he's so sure, so I guess he must be right."

Oh brother!

Greg said...

Douglas Becker wrote: "We aren't 18 years old any more. [The prefrontal lobes in males have a growth spurt from 18 to 25 after which the will is set and the life pattern for decision making is no longer flexible.]"

I'm sorry Douglas, but what does that mean exactly? I'm kinda confused. Does that mean I can't change or am incapable of making wiser decisions in future due to the pattern of my past error-ridden decision making? Hence, I'm doomed to repeat history?

Leonardo wrote: "Both HWA and the WCG have played a massive role in my life since I first came in contact with them on my own back in 1974 at the age of 18, just fresh out of high school. I excitedly read through the Bible for the first time in my life, sincerely plowed into, “proved” and accepted the Church's teachings with all my heart. I was baptized about a year later, and six months after that went to AC for 4 years in Pasadena, then worked out there as a graphic artist for another 13 years, went through Spokesman’s Club – the whole nine yards. It was my entire life, and I was passionately and totally immersed in it.

Though I just never could have remotely imagined in my wildest dreams during those times that one day, many years later, I would come to seriously question and eventually become totally disillusioned with most of it at it’s very core. Never.

But such has happened over a period of the past 8 years or so."

Also, wanted to mention Leo your story is not unlike my own! Though for me it happened about 16 years later! Perhaps it's a story that has been repeated SO many times to SO many people out there that it does make you wonder as you said: "No wonder sociologists have found that the average age for religious [conversions--my correction] across the globe is between the ages of 15 and 19. Most of us are so gullible at that stage of our lives, and that factor is further compounded by the fact that we think we know it all." I was about 13(!) when I came across the PT mag and coming from a Catholic background I thought the WCG was the true Church and so wanted to join the WCG! Mind you my parents didn't really think of my voracious appetite for all things WCG was a bad thing--not until I graduated from high school that is! When I told them my plans to enroll at AC in TX they were so upset and strictly forbade me. Of course at that time the WCG was fragmenting (1995) and I only wish I'd have woken up there and then, but alas I didn't! It wasn't until in 2010 when I finally asserted myself as a 34 yo(!!) that I joined UCG and then discovered the painful truth behind the slick and sanitized image they project in their magazines and literature. I was being counselled for baptism at the time, but suspended it as I had a few different opinions about some of their teachings and was starting to learn a host of sordid and disturbing details about HWA and the history of WCG leaving me disillusioned too not to mention the continuing divisions in the entire movement that I so vehemently detest--as it's simply an unhealthy, unbalanced and in essence toxic environment to be in period! Bizarrely I learned at the same time that a fellow student in my year at high school was a member of the WCG, but I NEVER knew it! How bizarre is that?! Crazily I mentioned the WCG, PT mag, etc, to various friends throughout my teenage years--I guess I was evangelizing I admit hell what did I know?!--but NOT ONCE did I ever know that this guy and his family were part of this church! So much for being "a light to the world" huh? Then again looking back it's not at all surprising since it is a cultish tendency to be secretive to the extreme!

michael savoia said...

Interesting. thanks Greg...

Douglas Becker said...

I'm sorry Douglas, but what does that mean exactly?

Greg, by the age of 25, all things being equal (though often times they are not), a man should expect to have reached a certain stability. The main focus of life should be more clear for the individual. There is less chaos of change as possibilities congeal to realities. There is less flexibility to changing base concepts and opinions.

This is a good thing: Who wants to repeat the confusion of the teen years? What can I be? Where will I go? What will I do?

What this means too is that it is more difficult to change -- not impossible. You aren't stuck forever like your personality is in cement -- it's just harder.

I advise those between the ages of 17 to 25 to decide who they are up front so they can have a pattern for life that is viable for them.

Not that anyone between the ages of 17 to 25 would ever listen to me, mind you.

Douglas Becker said...

"Take Back Your Life" advises that as you journey out of a cult, take a good look at your "Guru": Come to understand his faults and weaknesses and that he is not all he seemed to you to be.

Forums of this type are helpful to those who are in the process to take back their lives.

Anonymous said...

"But, to give credit where credit is due, it must be pointed out that HWA and the WCG were the first to awaken within me the search for ultimate truths by prompting me to ask, and at a fairly young age, the big questions of life. And for this, I will ever be extremely grateful."

It's interesting that similar statements come from people who have been in a variety of destructive cults, such as Scientology(to name one of MANY).

Slick, sleazy salesmen are good at using their bait and hooks to reel in good sincere idealistic people, who are their 'marks'. They are "fishers of men", whether the milieu is a carnival, a TV infomercial, or something more religious.

-Norm

Douglas Becker said...

Why give Herbert Armstrong any credit?

He never gave any credit to anyone else.

Leonardo said...

Douglas wrote: "I advise those between the ages of 17 to 25 to decide who they are up front so they can have a pattern for life that is viable for them."


Excellent advice - though it's far easier said than done in today's entertainment-crazed pop culture.

This point brings us to another vital factor here that often goes unmentioned, yet is of crucial importance: having the meaningful guidance of experienced, successful adults in one's life, be they a parent, uncle, teacher, coach, etc. A caring adult can play such a critical role in helping a teen set that pattern for life in so many different areas.

Sadly, I never had this in my life. Not "crying in the beer" here, just stating the unfortunate fact. But I think this a major underlying factor in so many young people getting involved in all sorts of unsavory and potentially life-ruining behaviors in their formative years, including cults of various kinds.

And when I look at so many of the kids nowadays "hanging" around malls and such, hunched over in a nihilistic, purposeless manner, in their grungy jeans with the beltline hanging down halfway past their butts, slathered in tattoos, mohawk haircuts died purple, large piercings all over their faces, huge holes gouged out of their earlobes that accommodate checker-sized earrings, etc. - you get the picture - I see the results of kids with no meaningful adult guidance in their lives.

This is one of the greatest and most foundational of tragedies in American culture today - and one that will have devastating implications in the not-too-distant future.

Leonardo said...

Norm wrote: "It's interesting that similar statements come from people who have been in a variety of destructive cults, such as Scientology(to name one of MANY). Slick, sleazy salesmen are good at using their bait and hooks to reel in good sincere idealistic people, who are their 'marks'. They are "fishers of men", whether the milieu is a carnival, a TV infomercial, or something more religious."


All too true, Norm - like sleazy perverts dressed in overcoats saying to innocent little children playing in the park "Hey little girl, come here! Want some candy?"

And yet, in both cases, the victimizers most likely were past victims themselves, especially when it comes to the purveyors of religious/philosophical bait.

Velvet said...

"there was a teaching that if anyone was previously married"

Yes, there was, and when it finally became apparent (which took longer than it should have, IMO), that teaching was changed. There were divorcees and 2nd marriages in the Church when I was growing up (although they seem to have exponentially increased,amongst the present-day membership) and nobody batted an eye.

I do agree there was a lot of harm caused by D&R, and I wish it hadn't taken so long for the Church to correct it. But to hold up D&R as an evil teaching (which it was) that was never corrected at all, is misrepresenting the truth.

There are other, far worse things, that can be said of the Church, then harping about an un-Biblical teaching that was changed in the 1970s. Just my opinion.

Velvet said...

"go with ... Messianic group"

Rev. 2:9. That's why, Bob. The "Messianic" leaders are playing their own shell game; they are, all of them, Evangelical trinitarians, who seek nothing more, nor less, than turning faithful Jews away from the living God, to worshipping pagan idols...all the while retaining the ceremonial laws of the "old testament" that the TRUE Jesus (not the false, idolatrous Jesus, that professing Christians worship) did away with.

Velvet said...

"For the most part, they have taken up right where they left off, but in the arena of politics instead of religion."

Gotta disagree with you here, Douglas; between Shadows of WCG, and the Exit & Support Network, not to mention the less poisonous blogs like "Living Armstrongism" or "As Bereans Did," it seems to me for the most part, that they've taken up right where they left off...they've just changed the window-dressing on the religion/God they pay only lip service to.

I'm still of two minds whether or not to read the Barrett book. It is being recommended by both UCG and the ministers in the Church (who refer to Snyder's review whenever the topic of the book comes up). We'll see. Thanks for the review.

I do consider the splinter groups to be cults, and very cult-like; but they are idolatrous in their own way, just the opposite side of the same idolatrous coin the "denominational leadership" keeps gambling on.

I do not believe, having been born and raised in the Church in Canada, that we were as "cult-like" up here, as south of the border, or in the UK. I could very well be wrong. But that was my experience of the Church.

Velvet said...

"many folks were far more deeply hurt than I ever was by their association with the Church, perhaps most especially those involuntarily born and raised within it."

And I'm sorry that there were people born and raised in the Church, who were deeply hurt by people in the Church....though I am the exception to the rule, because my life was much more stable than it would have been (or than it was, after my family fell away) because of the Church, not in spite of it; and while, yes, I did encounter a few rotten apples of the variety described here and elsewhere on the other ex-member sites, they were always in the minority, usually on the minister's hit list, and never well-liked.

The Church definitely could have toned down (or dispensed with) the end times rhetoric. They could have cracked down harder on the divisions between the "hardliners" and "liberals" (which, to be fair, a lot of the ministers seemed to be doing, just prior to the changes).

The Church was changing, and had already changed, for the better, from what is represented on these websites, which largely recount bad experiences in the Church from the 1950s through the 1970s; anything beyond that is either ignored wholesale, handwaved away as "religious delusion" or "fundamentalism" (when we were anything but --- the Church preached AGAINST "inerrancy of the Bible" for instance).

If only the Evangelicals had just left us alone, we could have progressively improved with the help of the Head of the Church, instead of degenerating into the false idol-worship of the Constantinian Shift. We could have become better Christians, without having to reject everything of first-century Christianity.

But, that was not the way it was meant to be, and here we sit, some twenty years in to what prophecy promises to be a seventy-year-long captivity to "strangers" and "foreigners" and "people who speak a strange language" (I think theology qualifies as that last one). And people are still insisting "the end is nigh" even when false prophets like Camping and Weinland demonstrate it's anything BUT.

I honestly think the Church's problem was that we just didn't think "Big Picture" ENOUGH.

Velvet said...

"However, Waterhouse spoke with such absolute confidence and certainty that I checked that last thought with a resigned "Well, he's an evangelist, and I'm just a kid at AC. And he's so sure, so I guess he must be right.""

Maybe when you were young, Waterhouse spoke with confidence and certainty, Leo; by the time I was growing up in the Church, Waterhouse's outrageous, rambling, painfully un-Biblical and idol-worship-filled sermons, were regarded by most of the members I knew (including us) as endurance marathons, and little more. Especially distressing was the idolatry of whoever was the PG at the time; when he started in on the same schtick he'd used with Armstrong, for idolizing Senior, I think for a certain percentage of us, anyway, knew the jig was up. I know I certainly thought so, and I was still a teenager myself!

Douglas Becker said...

Gotta disagree with you here, Douglas; between Shadows of WCG, and the Exit & Support Network, not to mention the less poisonous blogs like "Living Armstrongism" or "As Bereans Did,"

Um... Velvet, frankly I had others in mind and not one of those you mentioned.

Greg said...

Douglas Becker wrote: "What this means too is that it is more difficult to change -- not impossible. You aren't stuck forever like your personality is in cement -- it's just harder."

Leonardo wrote: "This point brings us to another vital factor here that often goes unmentioned, yet is of crucial importance: having the meaningful guidance of experienced, successful adults in one's life, be they a parent, uncle, teacher, coach, etc. A caring adult can play such a critical role in helping a teen set that pattern for life in so many different areas.

Sadly, I never had this in my life. Not "crying in the beer" here, just stating the unfortunate fact. But I think this a major underlying factor in so many young people getting involved in all sorts of unsavory and potentially life-ruining behaviors in their formative years, including cults of various kinds."

Ahhh now I get ya Dougie! ;-) Some really wise words!

And I totally agree with what Leo wrote! It's amazing how I've been sitting here for the past couple of days and reading your experiences and going "OMG! I understand totally! I've experienced that too or felt the exact same way!"

In my case it wasn't until I ventured abroad to stay with some rellies that I saw what an "ideal" marriage and family could and should look like in the person of my uncle and aunt! And when I came back I had to go through a lot of "Dr Phil" sessions with myself to try and explain my feelings of unfulfillment with my own life and upbringing. Granted they did the best they could, but my dad wasn't the best role model for me to be around--hell he wasn't much of a role model period! I only wish I had visited my uncle as a teenager or young adult since perhaps then I would've realized that here was a REAL guy who I could seriously look up to and emulate as he was a loving husband and father, he worked hard to provide for his family, he guided his children and they're now independent with families of their own, he volunteered at a soup kitchen for the homeless and he was a solid member of the local community and church! He was the one who sat me down while I was there and gave me some fatherly advice that I had NEVER EVER gotten from anyone else---not my teachers, not my other uncles and not my own dad!--and should have. And although it's my own personal Faith that helps me to soldier on and believe that there has to be some reason or purpose behind all the horrendous suffering we all endure in our own individual lives in this effed up world that makes me believe like that awesome
"Cloud Atlas" trailer points out: "I believe there is another world waiting for us...A better world! And I'll be waiting for you there" otherwise wth would be the point to it all?! That you've learned from this mistake or that mistake, regret the hurt you've caused to others and are determined that you'd never repeat those same mistakes if you had a chance for a redo in the end means nothing?! I can't believe that~

Anyway like yourself (and I'm sure many others) I feel for the next generation of young men who lack the REALISTIC role models that they desperately need and in truth are crying out for, but sadly aren't finding anywhere, especially in the one place they should've been all along--home.

Leonardo said...

Greg wrote: "He was the one who sat me down while I was there and gave me some fatherly advice that I had NEVER EVER gotten from anyone else---not my teachers, not my other uncles and not my own dad!--and should have."

And Greg, this is a driving though largely unmet need that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s culture. Loving adult guidance is an experience that young folks DESPERATELY need, though they generally don't realize it at the time. And they need to experience it dozens of times, especially over the span of their turbulent teen years.

I think the many teens/young adults (not raised in the church) who somewhere along the line came in contact with the WCG were perhaps unconsciously looking for honorable role models they could identify with and emulate in order to fill this gapping void in their lives. As I reflect back, I now clearly understand that this indeed was at least part of my motive for becoming so wholeheartedly involved in the WCG, going out to Pasadena HQ's as a student, etc.

It's just such a powerfully unrelenting human need that, when left unmet and unsatisfied, it becomes a dangerous vacuum that is inevitably filled by other cheap and often toxic substitutes.

For example, research has shown this to be a major factor in the street gangs that plague our urban areas. The overwhelming majority of these totally unproductive, criminally-oriented gangbanger types start out as emotionally neglected youngsters starved for attention by either absent, incompetent or totally dysfunctional family structures, most importantly missing fathers or stable father-figures. And eventually some kind of equally dysfunctional pseudo-family, i.e., a street gang, rushes in to fill that aching emotional vacuum. Right now on the streets of the wider Chicago metro area there are an estimated 17,000 separate such gangs, and thus the supply is more than capable of meeting the demand.

I once had a Hispanic fellow I used to practice kung-fu with tell me about his earlier involvement in a very ruthless and murderous gang as a teenager - and it followed this pattern exactly: poor, large Mexican family from the inner city with many mouths to feed, both parents busy working as hard as they could at numerous part-time, low-wage jobs in order to just barely make ends meet, etc.

And the rest of the story was fairly predictable.

As you point out, the breakdown of stable family structures is rampant – and truly I believe that it is THE single most vital straw that will eventually break the back of America if it’s not reversed. And regretfully, I think the chances of a serious reversal happening at this stage of the game is highly unlikely. I know history, and this trend has happened many, many times before in differing civilizations at differing epochs of time. America is just one in a long line of civilizations that have eventually crumbled to the ground.

I’ll have to see CLOUD ATLAS. I’ve seen it advertised, but will have to give it a go myself.