James E. Baldwin

James Baldwin
1 Mineral St., Box 503
Springfield, VT 05156
Phone: 603/826-5706
jamesbaldwin@vermontel.net

From Elder to Atheist– “The Rest of the Story”

“My next goal in the recovery process is to find out how much can be salvaged from the collapsed house the WCG built for me”.

These were some of the concluding words of my letter to friends I wrote in 1992 after I had resigned from the membership and ministry of the cult. (The full text of the letter is available on another site).

Well, the “house” that I had inhabited for 25 years was evilly-conceived, poorly-constructed, rat-infested, an eyesore, and a threat to public health and safety. It was fit only to be burned, bull-dozed, and buried. Briefly, I will relate here the rest of my journey from the boring, insufferable, gray-skied world of Armstrongism to the broad, sunny uplands of freedom in atheism.

After my exit, I had a number of inquiries which I was trying to answer one by one. I wanted to write a full story after I’d had some time to rest and reflect on my experience. I wasn’t given the space I wanted, so I hurriedly wrote the letter which I eventually mailed all over the US and to several countries as requests came in. Quite a few requests were prompted by a brief quote from the letter which appeared in The Ambassador Report which also gave my address.

I received several letters from exiters who wanted to detail their own recovery from the cult. Each has his own journey and waystops can be most instructive. As an example, one lady made a statement which caused a light to go on in my questing mind. The woman said she believed there would be a Second-Coming “because He said so”. I suddenly realized the writer didn’t understand the philosophical difference between supposed knowledge and belief. And, I had to admit, neither did I. Even in my exit letter I had made the statement, “But this I know: Christ is the only mediator between me and God”. I didn’t know that! I believed it, at least at that time, that is. And there we come to see one of the major errors of logic in this society, belief masquerading as knowledge. Consider, that a great many people believe a horrendous amount of nonsense which need not be listed here. And these believers think what they hold to is true! Consider the Flat-Earth people.

I had to admit for 25 years I, too, believed in the “Second-Coming”. Where did that come from? From the stupid little booklets and articles cranked out by the cult and buttressed by the back-up sermons from the cult’s stooges who really knew how to wield that “sword of the Lord”, the Bible. I, in fact, had delivered such sermons to my fellow fools. You reading these words may still hold to that premise of the Second Coming.

The cult is a system of thought based on futurism. Some great thing is going to happen– soon. This keeps people off balance and in fear. They can therefore be better controlled and be further manipulated to keep the money flowing to HQ. The whole thing is about power and money.

Along about this time I came in contact with a theological view called preterism. This is the opposite of what we had experienced. These people are Bible believers but take the statements of the return of Christ in a more honest way; they believe that the Return had already occurred. They focused on the imminency statements scattered throughout the New Testament and admitted that there is no way these could be true in the face of the passage of nearly two millennia. And the only driving force which keeps fundamentalists clinging to this pipe dream is the clever interpretations of preachers and writers on the subject. When read openly and honestly, the NT declares the Return is soon. And that imminency had to have meaning to the people of the first century whose letters we read as epistles. Futurists say it didn’t happen, so they have to make interpretations to resolve the apparent conflict. The whole theological structure of futurist cults is based on the theological gymnastics required to harmonize plain statements of the NT writers with the jarring world of reality.

Well, the preterists have found a way to live honestly with the imminency statements (and they are numerous, 13 alone in Revelation) by another form of theological gymnastics; they accept the literalness of the time statements and reinterpret the supposed coming event. They simply say that the “Kingdom” is a spiritual one, not the physical one which futurists await. (I’m simplifying all this for the sake of this forum).

So, what do we have? Two harshly clashing theological views based on the same NT statements. I eventually came to see these two views have one common goal: To save Christ from being seen as a false prophet. In connection with this I remember years ago reading a book entitled Lord, Liar, or Lunatic which concerned itself with making Jesus look good. There is another alternative among several, he could have been wrong. Now I see there isn’t even proof he existed.

Next, I decided to face squarely the charge that the Bible has conflicting statements. For years I had tried to reconcile some of the more glaring contradictions in Bible studies and sermonettes. We’re all familiar with them. My research found that the cult world never really dealt with some of the more difficult contradictions. Again, much fancy footwork would resolve all apparent contradictions. When faced honestly, there ARE contradictions. For those still in biblicism, try to reconcile the accounts of the story of the trial, execution, and resurrection of Jesus. It cannot be done without the aid of human interpretations and “how-it-could-have-been” scenarios.

I finally came to see the Bible is just one of many “holy” books filled with the errors, fables, lies, and make-believe one might find in any humanly-devised collection of historical fiction. Again, I’m simplifying my arrival at this conclusion.

Once this is out of the way, it is the next step to consider the existence of a god or gods. Well, I’m not going to try to deal with that age-old question here. I hope this is not a disappointment for the readers who have made it to here. Get real! You are going to have to come in contact with the kind of people one would rarely meet in a cult– bright people. If the only proof you have for a belief in a god is the stupid little tracts the cult published, then you are deprived indeed! You’ve got some homework to tackle. Read. READ! READ!! Consider how much reading the cult provided to keep us enslaved. The price of freedom is to read the opposite view. And I mean opposite in the very fundamentals. The one who won’t read is no better that the one who cannot read! Exercise your mind for a change is my suggestion.

Before I come to a conclusion, I want to tell you of a major influence I came in contact with during my recovery. A friend suggested I read a little novel entitled Anthem by Ayn Rand. This pictured the kind of world control freaks like those running the cult would like to have. It’s a good read–and short!

To be again brief, this little book led me to the writings of the fascinating author who developed the graspable philosophy of “Objectivism”. And it is wonderful to study it as it is quite the opposite of the subjectivist mindset I had in the cult as a “True Believer”. And subjectivism is the basis of religion. It finds its power in feelings, not rational thought. And I can state assertively, rational thinking is definitely not wanted in cults. Just think how feelings ruled life in the cult. Armstrong was the original Dr. Feelgood of our times. Our feelings seemed to have a rational basis as they were based on the words in an old book held in high esteem by many. We really never thought to undertake a thorough exam of this literature as we were (are?) lazy. Hey! Dr. Feelgood says this is the word of god and many think so. That’s good enough for me! Come on, Dr. Feelgood, tell me the next thing I can use in my “let’s pretend” world. I love it!

This helps explain why exiters leave the Worldwide Cult of Get and run to some other group to join hands. The basic premise is not being questioned. The exiter leaves with the basic theological baggage intact. And the tool of control is also carried along–the Bible! That thing coupled with unexamined premises will keep a slave in chains until he comes to the end as we all must. I prefer to face whatever future I have left with the wonderful experience of freedom and its joys in front of me. You, too, can begin to learn how to reason apart from the goons who for power, paychecks, perks, privileges and pensions long ago sold out any respect for freedom they may have once possessed.

Let your personal journey to liberty begin soon.

I welcome any input concerning anything relating to this article. Also, if you would like a suggested reading list of the books I think can help you, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me.

3 thoughts on “James E. Baldwin”

  1. Jim! Finally I come across your name and your article. I found your address and phone number also. I see you have had troubles being inundated with mail regarding your exit from WCG, so I will not disturb your space. I only wanted to say: Bravo! Growing up in the WCG were the loneliest years of my life. Becoming a woman was difficult, as was cultivating friendships and relationships with men. I began my adult journey at 21, while still trying to attend church. The minister at that time left it up to my parents whether or not to allow me to go back. I was effectively disfellowshipped by my parents early on in 1986. Attempting to believe in a god to whom I could not relate also proved to be impossible for me. You are Atheist now; I’m a pagan *laughs*. I believe in a goddess…a MOTHER figure. Being the free-thinking woman I am now (44, mom of two, happily married) I do not begrudge the rights of others to believe as they choose. Do not hold back because I do not believe as you do.

    I gave my email address in the blank above this box, but in case it does not show: astrol64@yahoo.com

    If you should find that you would like to talk, do not hesitate to write to me. Till then, I remain a friend who still fondly remembers our letters and a certain book of poetry.

    Suzanne

  2. James,

    I hope you still check in here on this site now and then. It would be a pleasure to get better acquainted.

    Perhaps we are already acquainted, because as one of “the cult’s stooges” back in around 1973, I ordained one James Baldwin in Ft. Worth, Texas as maybe a deacon, maybe an elder – I can no longer recall everything about those years. In fact, as I now write, I may even be wrong about the congregation; it could have been Abilene, TX or another of the few I pastored. But the James Baldwin name (no memory of a middle initial) was definitely familiar to me. He was a great personality and a strong member of the Spokesman’s Club in that locale I’m not sure of today.

    If you happen to be that same fellow, maybe you’d hate to re-connect with Mark Salyer who was a young upstart minister and mouthpiece of the madness, but today I am mild-mannered Mark Manning, Humanist and blogger. I hope to hear from you whether you’re the same James or another who made the break from the cult and sound like a terrific fellow.

    Warm regards to you, fellow traveller in the known universe,
    Mark

  3. Jim,
    Your comment came directly to me today from the Unbeliever website, and I definitely want you to be able to contact me directly. Please do so at my personal email of mmmarkmanning@gmail.com or simply click on my handle of markman on the website to go to my blog. I would be delighted to have conversations.

    Mark

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