Although I myself was never a member of WCG, it probably had a bigger religious influence on me than I readily realized.

I was not brought up religious. My mother is atheist, brought up that way by my grandparents. We lived with my grandparents when I was little. At one point in his late 50’s my grandfather got religion and took up with the WCG. This was in the late 70’s when I was 7, 8, or 9. There was no church in the area, but my grandfather got all of the subscriptions, had visitors from the organization a number of times, and talked to them on the phone, and harped about it constantly for a time.

Since this was the only religion in the home, I had no other contrasting perspective other than my mother’s dismissal of it. Because I was attracted to religion, I listened to my grandfather’s views, and developed a rather superstitious awe of the Bible that many conservative Christians have.

As a teenager I chose on my own to be baptized in a Methodist church. I didn’t think deeply about the doctrines at the time, because I accepted my mother’s one stated belief, that reincarnation was likely. I have put more thought into these things since. I have decided that I remain a Deist, and believe in God, but distrust religious doctrines as mostly man made, and that nobody human has all the answers.





I was raised in the WCG from the age of 3. My parents were always much more strict than the church itself, but in my view, everyone’s life is hard, people choose their struggles according to what their souls need to learn, and I chose what I needed to help me recognize my strength and courage to live my truth.

I am now 36, and my belief system has evolved over time to encompass many different pantheons of ideas. In a nutshell, I believe that each living being creates her/his/its own reality. I do not believe it is appropriate to judge anyone else, and that people’s beliefs (or non-beliefs) are, by the very definition, sacred.

I practice solar magick, and sometimes practice earth-based magick, both of them known in the archaic sense as witchcraft, depending upon what I wish to accomplish, calling gods and/or goddesses into my space, but more in the sense of defining an energy pattern rather than worshipping a particular deity. I believe that the energies in us and around us are largely untapped, and when one hooks in with the source of that energy (which I believe is our capacity for love), much can be accomplished to raise the vibration of the planet to one of love and light and peace.

I believe that what most people think of as ‘god’ (with a big ‘g’) is really just all of us -our collective consciousnesses – all connecting in with one another. Since we perceive that core of energy to be so much bigger than our physical existence, our minds attempt to define it as something greater, a kind of ‘creator’ or deity. I believe the capacity for creation and divinity lives inside everyone and everything, and that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

I do not claim to know anything for sure, but this is how I live my life, and it works well for me. I aspire to be transparently loving.


Norman Zimmerman


My name is Norman Zimmerman. I was born into the WWCG in 1962. As my father was not in the church at the time and we lived many miles from other church members my mother gave me a complete indoctrination. I remember being so proud to keep my first Day of Atonement at the age of three. I had to be able to explain the symbolism before I could fast. (I can’t imagine a three year old going 24 hours without food or water.)

I was in Y.O.U., went to S.E.P. for five summers and to Ambassador College 79-83. I had a good childhood compared with many that grew up in the church. Aside from being considered strange at school and the guilt I felt for not being perfect my adolescence was good.

At Ambassador College I managed to stay in trouble a good part of the time. Which in looking back was a very good thing! Public speaking came very natural for me and had I not been in trouble there is a good chance I could have ended up in the ministry. I am so glad that did not happen to me. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for the ministers to go through all the church has gone through. And have not only "your eternal life" but you and your family’s welfare tied up in such a mess. Around 1985 after years of guilt I decided that I could not live up to the expectations of being a Christian and was living a lie, therefore was wasting my time so I quit attending church with no small family drama. This was the best thing I could have done and I think the only way I could make my way out of my religious prison. I was so indoctrinated that I would have never asked the questions that one must ask to be free from that control.

After about ten years away from the church I started to research and to ask the questions a free mind would asked when presented with Christianity. I have come to the conclusion that I am a "soft atheist." That is to say I do not think there is a god in contrast to I know there is no god. I tend to think there may have been a creator at some level but it is clear that man can not determine the creators existence or intent.

I really enjoyed your web site as I love to see to what conclusions others have come. The greatest benefit of my new knowledge or lack there of is that I do not have the feelings of guilt that I lived with for the first 40 years of my life. Thanks for your site.

Norman Zimmerman

Sue Frederick

Round Lake, IL, USA

I do appreciate this non-believer site. It’s very affirming to see in print the comments of so many others who have made this spiritual journey too, and to see the critical thinking and academic study that have been applied. (Since I have been accused that my exodus was guided by my "emotions," (God forbid), I’m quite tempted to direct some of my "critical thinking fundamentalists" (a phrase I now consider an oxymoron) to this site as well).

I "came into the church" in 1971 through a co-worker while living in Roswell, New Mexico. I was 22 at the time. In retrospect, I realize that I had some dysfunctional family "credentials" that would make me vulnerable to "a cult," which is what we were after all, one big happy dysfunctional family! We made the 220-mile trip to Albuquerque each Sabbath, then were there the morning the Lubbock, Texas, church was "raised up," (only 180 miles each way). When a friend’s husband returned from some business training in Chicago with a "good report" about all the bachelors in Chicago, I decided that returning to my native Chicago area seemed like a good idea. While "checking out" Ambassador College at the feast in Big Sandy that first year I’d actually been told that I should be "looking for a husband" instead of applying to A.C.. My first Sabbath in Chicago I met the man I would be married to for 24 years (by the time the divorce was final), marrying him less than 5 months after meeting that first Sabbath. (Though I’d wanted to wait a few months, he said he wanted to have the same anniversary as his parents. Since "insisting on my own way," while ‘betrothed,’ would have been a total departure from the sweet submissive lady I wanted to be, of course I went along with the earlier date. Besides, who was I to question this obvious "third tithe year blessing." I was told the deeper feelings of love would follow if I just "did my part" and "submitted." Eventually, of course, he would tell me that the earlier date was "so we could have sex.").

Mr. Herbert Armstrong had often said that the only place "God’s government" was being practiced was "in the church" and in our families where "God’s government" was in place. So our marriage was "governed" the same way as the church, government "from the top down," a benevolent dictatorship. (Some may recall how it was cleverly pointed out that when Christ returned and set up his government it wouldn’t be a DEMONocracy, but rather a benevolent dictatorship). Though I had totally "bought into" the idea of submitting to my husband, I never dreamed that after years of making decisions that totally ignored what "I" might have wanted, that he would explain to me that though he WAS "obligated to listen to my input, he was under no obligation to take any of my input into consideration when he was making his decisions." Of course, I had just assumed that his "love" for me would cause him to want to do that. (When I eventually asked if the concept of "compromise" could occasionally be considered, he explained that "compromise" took a beautiful, perfect "ideal," (i.e., what he wanted to do) and then "polluted it" with impurities. This, he explained, was what was so bad about politics and why we have phrases such as a "compromising woman"). He believed that "God’s government" totally eliminated the need for any "conflict" in the marriage. All we needed to remember was who was in charge, cheerfully go along with the decisions, and, voila, no conflict!

When I "got mad" about this, which was eventually pretty much most of the time, I was told that my problem was "with God, not him," and that if I got angry about it I was "insubmissive," even if I DID eventually go along with the decision ("Does Christ have to drag the church??"). I was called "spoiled" for getting mad about not "getting my way." I was told that whether there would be "peace in the family" was all up to the one who had been offended "choosing" to "let it go." He never seemed to notice any connection between his awesome ability to "let it go" and getting to have his way all the time, though he admitted the only "complaint" he really had about me was "my anger." If I stayed quiet for too long, I’d be told he was "calling the minister." "We’ll just see if you have the right to be mad at me when I tell you to do something." The marriage turned into a literally endless debate over "my right to be angry," or "to have been angry," as he had actually "mellowed" somewhat toward the end, but still insisted he "would not have gotten angry," like I had because, "When you love somebody, you don’t get angry." In my continual attempt to "justify" the anger I had experienced (so he would have a better opinion of me than he had), I shared with him a passage from a book I’d found that described a couple who looked just like us! (She was having a hard time loving her husband too!) Since this book labeled what we had experienced, "spiritual abuse," I’d hoped the understanding and maybe even the "apology" I’d yearned for for so long might finally be forthcoming. Instead he said HE was the one who’d been abused (by my anger) and that if I thought I’d been "abused" for 20 years, he no longer wanted to be married to me. So that was that.

By that time, we’d left WCG and were attending the largest church in the United States (Willow Creek). Thanks to starting a study of dysfunctional family issues sometime before all "the changes" started, I was very receptive to "the changes," sometimes even seeing them coming before they were announced. (More than once, during such announcements in Sabbath services, my husband would say to me, "Well, you don’t have to write that letter to Mr. Tkach after all."). Though we loved the changes, "church" at WCG had turned into endless debate about them. One video sermon from Mr. Tkach spoke of people who were "fasting and praying for his death." Logically, since we realized we were no longer the "one true church," we decided to go to a place that was already doing what Mr. Tkach was trying to talk our church into doing. (Indeed, much of the new truth was coming from Willow Creek, and here the place was practically in our backyard).

Actually, I loved Willow Creek. I’d found the book mentioned above in the bookstore where I worked as a volunteer. Once the separation and divorce started though, it became "awkward" for both of us to go there, to say the least, since my soon-to-be-ex-husband now began dating old friends of mine from WCG who were going to Willow Creek too. Seeing him holding hands with these old "friends" while the divorce was going on was more "pain" than I cared for, so I decided that if what was going on at Willow Creek was "for real," it had to be transferable to other churches too, so I looked for a new church home.

Under the heading of, "It’s All Good," (as the bumper sticker on my car says), I can now be grateful for this "nudge" out of Willow Creek, or I suspect I might still have been stuck in evangelical fundamentalism. Instead though, the church I found was indeed "Willow-styled." The church had been "planted" (Willow jargon) by two young ministers who’d "interned" at Willow. Things were going fine until a series they started on "What Jesus Said About . . ." then fill in the blank. One week was it was "lust." Then came, "What Jesus Said About Divorce and Remarriage." They said that Christ’s teaching was "clear" that if two "believers" divorced, though God would "forgive you" of the divorce, remarriage for either was not an option. (I thought, yes, so "clear" that there’s a great deal of disagreement even from one church to another, including the church down the road where these men had interned, the largest church in the United States! I caught myself noticing that "all I’d need to do" to get back to where I preferred the teaching was to skamper back to the very church I’d come from, where my ex-husband was obviously not bound by such teaching!). The previous week "lust" had been covered and I was considering letting my "small group" hold me "accountable" for lust (or worse) as long as I remained single. Now, at the ripe old age of 49 we were talking about celibacy for the duration. Fortuitously, at this very same time I was taking a humanities class at the local college. I was learning about "myth" and "archetypes" for the first time, and seeing vividly how ALL peoples at ALL times in ALL cultures have "created God in their own image." Learning about the Renaissance and Copernicus had direct application to the changes WCG had been through. ("This changes everything."). I realized that, for me, far from visualizing a God who expected me to "repent" of my divorce, I saw a God who was smiling, happy that I’d FINALLY gotten out of this marriage, saying, in effect, "Geez Sue, I was wondering what more I’d have to do to get you out of it." There was no way I could "repent" with integrity, and no way I could go back to Willow, knowing in my heart it would just be so I would hear teachings I prefer. As I pondered all this, the next week at church, in something of an "alter call," the minister challenged anybody who was considering "accepting Jesus" to ask any one of us who had, if he (Jesus) had ever let us down. I thought of my own marriage ("God" only knows how hard I tried) and of all the people from WCG now sitting home absolutely shell-shocked as everything they’d put their belief in was rearranged for them, re-packaged, and now they were told to accept it. I realized vividly, "It’s not Jesus’ fault at all. Why, he’s no more "alive" today than my great-grandma Mumsey. I just have a HISTORY of letting MEN tell me what to do, and I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT ANYMORE. And that was my last week there. Once I stopped "trying to be a believer," I found that there is no end to information out there that is available to discredit the validity of the Bible "as God’s word for all mankind for all time." (I would particularly recommend the writings of John Shelby Spong, as well as Joseph Campbell). I now firmly believe the Bible to have been written "by men," (not God through men) and reflects the "image of God" that these writers had. Any image of God that "I" now may have not only never required animal sacrifices to satisfy him, but "he" certainly didn’t later require the sacrifice of a "perfect lamb" in my place in order to want to have a "relationship" with me. When the church (WCG) started realizing that what we believed had been built on a wrong foundation, I only wish they had KEPT GOING and considered the whole foundation of "original sin."

Since I had been "cultured" to be a church-goer, I did try to find another church where I could flourish and grow, find community, and believe it or not I actually found one where such beliefs are the rule, not the exception. And that is the Unitarian Church. (I hope this does not disqualify me as a "non-believer." Believe me, most of my "believing" friends do definitely consider me a "non-believer!"). I would certainly encourage any who are reading this to visit the www.uua.org web site for more information about "UUs" (Unitarian-Universalists). Unitarians tend to be known for appreciating the good that can be found in most of the religious traditions (as interpreted broadly – admittedly we do get a little impatient with narrow-mindedness). We tend to be much more interested in the big questions and in the Mystery of life than in presuming to know all the answers. Since most members are at best "unsure" about whether there is an after-life, they tend to make the most of the time we have here. I have met many atheists in the Unitarian church. Though I would not describe myself as an atheist, my "image" of God has certainly changed greatly over the years, and will continue to change I’m sure. I do like this definition: "’God’ is not God’s name, but our name for that which is greater than all and yet present in each." I find that I can substitute the word "love" for "Jesus" in a lot of the Christian music I had come to enjoy and do just fine. Unitarians are terrific at seeing the METAPHOR in things rather than actually missing the point by narrowing it down to a literal interpretation. I’ve never been happier.

Editor’s Note: I don’t consider UU attendance or membership to disqualify one as a non-believer in the least. I have attended UU services a couple of times, and decided that if I ever wanted a church environment around me again, the UUs have the most inclusive and welcoming environment I’ve found, even for atheists. I wish all organized religions were as tolerant as the UUs.

After 24 years "in the church," years 22 through 46 in age, I remember feeling a bit like "an alien" who had just landed on this planet when I joined "the world." But I’m feeling more and more "normal" all the time. Like so many who contribute to this site, I also feel no bitterness for the time I spent in WCG. I believe I had things to learn that were apparently best learned in WCG and in my marriage. Once the lessons were learned, I got to move on, though I still find it important from time to time to question where some current thinking might be coming from. Sometimes I do worry about folks who think they can just make the switch from "cult" to "mainstream" without a little more examination along the lines of: "What was it about ME that made such beliefs seem as right as rain?" There really IS some level of conscious deprogramming that needs to take place when one leaves a cult I think.

I’m grateful for the friendships that were made, the good times and not so good, and especially for the children born to my husband and I. My daughter is married to the son of the last minister we had at WCG. Though there was a time when I could have had BOTH bumper stickers: (1) I’m proud of my honor roll student, and (2) My kid beats up your honor roll student, one for each kid, they’re both doing well and they seem to have "landed on their feet" too.

Thank you for reading this lengthy story. I’d love to hear from anyone who would care to e-mail me.

Sue Frederick

Brian J. Magee

Washington DC, USA

My memories of the WCG are vague and fragmented because my family left the church in 1974 when I was only 12 years old. I have recently starting reading through the various sites on the web about the WCG and have learned many things I didn’t know at the time. Being so young, I would not have known many of these sordid events. I didn’t know anything very negative at all until my parents allowed me to watch that apparently famous 60 Minutes broadcast shortly thereafter. But that is all I really knew until recently.

I do have memories of the various teachings…no trinity, the return-of-Christ predictions, food restrictions, Saturday sabbath, no birthday celebrations, no Christmas, etc. To this day no one in my family celebrates birthdays. Sometimes I even forget the birthdays of my family members, even my own sometimes. I have no idea when the birthdays of any of my friends come up. It is just something that I never thought about as a kid, and can’t bring myself to think about now. Others in my family have tried to do a more traditional Christmas in recent years, but it never really took hold.

Another memory is the topic of Ambassador College coming up a great deal, but no real details except once during a sermon. The preacher was describing a carpet in a new building as looking like "someone had stood from above and dumped jewels on it." I don’t know why I remember that.

I specifically remember getting weird looks from the Jewish kids at school when I was eating matzos at lunch during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I also remember a rather odd meeting with school officials telling them I would not be in school during the Feast of Tabernacles. They couldn’t understand why I would be gone for so long. Being members of the Washington, D.C. church, over the years we went to the Poconos site and the site at Jekyll Island. One memory of a comment my father made when in Jekyll Island for the third for fourth time comes to mind. He stated that it seemed unfair that the longer someone was in the church the further away from the meeting tent our hotel was located. We didn’t even get to stay on the island the last time we went.

Another memory comes from a meeting my parents had set up with the minister where he never showed up at the house. I believe it was a meeting to go over the family budget. I was sent outside to meet his car and show him where to park, but he never came. After reading what’s out there on the web, the meeting must have been as a result of the many requests by the church for more money. I have since learned that my parents took out at least one extra mortgage on the house to give the money to the church. My parents resent that to this day, I believe, but really don’t like to talk about it, or anything about the church really.

Although now I am an atheist, most of my childhood memories of the church are not bad. I remember being taken on trips as a member of the "Pre-Teen Club." I also was looking forward to becoming a member of the "Teen Club," but we left the church shortly before my 13th birthday. For a few years after I tried to latch on to other Christian groups. I was a member of a Presbyterian church and very active in the youth group called Young Life. But shortly after high school I realized that I am an atheist and have been ever since.

If there is anyone out there who was an adult member of the Washington, D.C. church during the late ’60s or early ’70s, I would love for you to contact me. Maybe you can help me further understand some of the things that were going on back then.

Dennis Diehl

Greenville, SC, USA

Editor’s Note: Also see Dennis’ An Open Letter to the Worldwide Church of God Administration (And anyone else who cares to listen) (offsite).

Hi all….I came to the WCG when I was 14 and attended Ambassador college from ’68-’72 going into the ministry for the next 26 roller coaster years. As a student of science and theology in general I found that the more I studied the fewer and fewer sermons I felt comfortable giving and the list of available topics kept getting smaller and smaller. I have come to believe in the process of evolution of all life as generally understood by science, and have always suspected it to be true even back in the "Whale of a Tale" days. Theologically I have come to accept that the Bible is errant and a relatively small example of the hundreds of non canonical documents available to christians. The gospels are not a coherent account of the life of Jesus and a number of the books attributed to Paul are simply not his. It may well be that the Christian story has evolved from all the dying savior godman cults that preceeded it. The story of Jesus in every detail is certainly not unique to Jesus. I have no current use for organized churches, shoulds, musts and threats of punishment should I not chose to believe with my heart what my head cannot accept. John Spong has said that "Sanctified Ignorance is still Ignorance" and I agree…

I enjoy the study of current thought on quantum physics, reality and metaphysical thinking. I am easy going, live and let live and pretty much just wish to be left alone by fundamentalist, literalist, creationist Christians. Each to their own. I study buddhism and holistic healing and have a therapeutic massage practice here in Greenville, SC with several chiropractors. I am going thru a divorce for which I accept responsibility. My oldest son owns a restaurant in Columbia, SC and my youngest is a chef in Seattle, and so to me he is Chef Seattle…:) I am very proud of them.

Thanks for letting me chat. Would love to hear from any past friends.

Warm regards,
Dennis Diehl

Betty J. Hayley-Brogaard


I am quite a bit older than most of those who have already posted on your website. As a child, I went to a Baptist church and sunday school in Memphis, Tennessee. It wasn’t until 1957 in Raleigh, North Carolina, that my mother and I started listening to The World Tomorrow radio broadcast. Two years later, when my father was transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas, we were baptized by the "team" of Allen Manteufel and Charles Dorothy into the then "Radio" Church of God. I, also, at the age of 22, was accepted at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, where I worked my way through college in the Letter Answering Dept and later as the secretary to various executives and ministers of the church. These included, at times, Stanley Rader, Ralph Helge, David Jon Hill, Roderick Meredith, Herman Hoeh, Albert Portune, Richard Plache, Leslie McCullough, Norman Smith, Paul Royer and finally, Herbert W and Garner Ted Armstrong.

I was secretary to the "apostle" and his "evangelist" son on two different occasions. The first time was when Nevelene Swaney became seriously ill with meningitis. For several months while she recuperated, I was the Armstrongs’ secretary. The second time was after my husband Fred Brogaard (we married in 1964) and I returned from Portland, Oregon, where Fred was the summer assistant to Carlton Smith, for his final year at Ambassador. I was instructed, unceremoniously, to go back to the penthouse and work for the Armstrongs. Nevelene had been "disfellowshipped" from the church, I was told, because she was "demon possessed." (She, apparently, had confronted Mr and Mrs H W Armstrong about Ted’s "indiscretions" involving some Ambassador coeds who had confided in Nevelene.) I never knew the straight "skinny" on this; but I was devastated because I greatly admired and respected Nevelene. I, of course, was not allowed to have any contact with her.

Fred was ordained as a preaching elder after his senior year, and we were sent to Seattle, Washington. Eventually he became a "pastor," and we remained in the Pacific Northwest where Fred oversaw several congregations until the "great exodus" from the church in the early to mid-70s. The accusations against Ted became more public and frequent. In addition, doctrinal questions were being discussed by many of the ministers both at headquarters and in the field. To make a long story short, Fred and I left the Worldwide Church of God after a long, tortuous investigation into the legalistic and nonsensical doctrines we had been living and teaching. It was not an easy decision to make as we had both believed this truly was the TRUE Church of God.

After several years Fred and I joined a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in the Seattle area. This was the denomination Fred had left to join the Worldwide Church of God. Fred is still a dedicated christian and is currently an Elder in the Lutheran Church. I, however, have evolved, after many years of soul searching and personal, in-depth study, into an atheist. Even though I feel, at times, alienated from our families who are for the most part all orthodox christians, I have never felt so "free." I no longer fear offending any god, and I don’t feel I must strive for perfection in order to be "accepted" by some deity or by an organization.

In several months, hopefully, my book manuscript, "Dare To Think For Yourself," will be posted in installments on another author’s website. It will disclose in much more detail my spiritual metamorphosis. If you would like me to, I can let you know where it is when this becomes a reality.

Thank you for your informative website. I hope many more will add their experiences.


Betty J. Hayley-Brogaard

Note: Ms. Hayley-Brogaard’s book Dare To Think For Yourself is now available on this site. Just follow the links.

Michael Gibb

Age 32
South Eastern USA

I was a third generationer on one side of the family (American side) and second on the Canadian/British side. My mothers family were poor Southerners. Her father, who started it, was a rebelling pentecostal PK.

My father was the middle child of a wealthy, alcoholic Scottish industrialist. He left the Canadian navy and college for Herbie.

Needless to say, I guess I owe my existence to Herbie. My parents would have never been an item in the "real" world.

I went to AC, maybe should have been a groupie for AC/DC (would have been more wholesome). I left after two years due to my eyes finally seeing. I married in the church. Luckily, I married someone intelligent. I would throw around questions and she would take the challenge to think about it. We have been married nearly 9 years with two boys now. Her parents still attend. My parents wish Herbie were still alive.

I returned to the faith that my family has been for the past 400 years (Anglican – Episcopal in the US). We were Catholic before that, obviously. I enjoy the frankness and ability to hear other viewpoints in that sect.

My personal views are agnostic. I really, really hate to hear people comment about the death of someone, especially a child, being "God’s will". Why would a loving god allow something so evil, unless it were not involved? I believe in a supreme being, but it is not here to subscribe to our whims. We are on earth to learn – good and bad. Que sera, sera.

My British family is overjoyed that the future of the family is back. They especially enjoy the boys. Christmas’ are so nice and loving. Family is everything. Church and god should come way down the line in importance to that. Andrea Yates and her husband are a good example of the opposite.

Bill Fairchild

Boston, MA, USA

I was baptized on 02 NOV 66 in Greensboro, NC. I attended in Fayetteville, NC from SEP 66 to JAN 67; Greensboro, NC from JAN 67 to DEC 69; Pasadena, CA Imperial Schools from JAN 70 to AUG 74; Boston, MA from SEP 74 to NOV 75; Washington, DC from DEC 75 to JUN 96.

Worked in Data Processing Center at WCG headquarters JAN 70 to JUN 74; sang in HQ church choir MAY 70 to JUN 74; married Big Sandy graduate Bonnie Bird in DEC 70; ordained a deacon in SEP 83 and a local church elder in OCT 86.

I left the church in JUN 96. I separated from my wife Bonnie in APR 97; divorced AUG 99.

I now live near Boston, MA and am remarried. I have submitted 50 to 60 pages of material to the Painful Truth website and the Exit Support Network website. I now vacillate between being an apathetic agnostic and a borderline atheist.