Troy, OH, USA
My story begins in the Bahamas 49 years ago. I was raised as a protestant but attended Catholic schools. I never questioned the existence of god or the authority of the bible but I wondered how and why god could be behind so many diverse religious groups.
At about 18 years of age I began to have a deep interest in understanding the origin and purpose of life. Naturally, I thought the answers to these eternal questions could be found in the religion of the bible but with such diversity in christianity I wasn’t sure where to look.
One evening I stumbled on a radio program called "The World Tomorrow" with Herbert W. Armstrong. This contact would change the course of my life and influence every major decision I would make for the next 25 years. Mr. Armstrong correctly pointed out the pre-christian origin of several mainstream christian doctrines. He also showed that christianity had lost sight of the real gospel of the kingdom of god and focused entirely on the person of Christ. He taught that god was preparing his one true church now which would then teach others in the world tomorrow. This was part of god’s plan which was all spelled out in the annual holy days. This made sense to me. God had a plan and a timetable and a church to carry it out. I became a member of the church that Mr. Armstrong founded – The Worldwide Church of God.
In 1986 Mr. Armstrong died. This came as a complete surprise to most church members, including myself. We believed that he had been called to prepare the church for the return of christ so we felt that he would live until christ returned. Soon after his death the church began a subtle movement toward protestantism, a movement that continues until now. The next few years was a period of great confusion for many people in our church. Many were opposed to the changes and left. I was still convinced at that time that god was behind Mr. Armstrong’s calling so I joined a splinter group that retained his teachings. There are now several splinter groups each with their own interpretation of what is occuring in the church. I believe that the vast majority of these are sincere dedicated people.
If there is one doctrine that is absolutely essential to christianity it has to be the resurrection. Paul said that without the resurrection your faith is in vain. About 3 years ago I found that there are a number contradictions between the gospel accounts concerning the resurrection. If this is the inspired word of god we have a serious problem. I later found that belief in a ressurrected saviour was not unique to christianity. Neither was the virgin birth. See "The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours" by Kersey Graves. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. I found the bible to be riddled with error. See "Bible Errancy" by Dennis Kinsey.
There are two different accounts of creation in Genesis. How come? The books of Moses appear to have written by at least four people neither of which was Moses. See "Who wrote the Bible" by Richard Elliot Friedman. Yahweh and El were ancient cannanite deities that later became the god of the bible.
If the claims of religion are true it should be the most important thing in our lives but if not it has to be the greatest deception in history. Despite the many fine people involved in religion I think the evidence will clearly show that its claims are false.
I now consider myself an agnostic. I have many unanswered questions about this experience we call life. Of one thing I am certain- those answers are not to be found in the bible. I feel that I’m in the process of reconstructing my life. I would welcome your comments.
Corpus Christi, TX, USA
I have to say that I’m still shocked (yet strangely pleased) by the demise of the WCG. I grew up in "the church" (literally born into it in 1962) and was baptized into CGI at the age of 18. My post-baptismal stint with CGI lasted about a month. I quit and began a long period of searching and drifting through the maze of Christian denominations, Eastern religions and various other belief systems. The more I learned… the more I experienced… the more convinced I became that there were no ‘mystical’ answers to the deeper and more profound questions of our existence. I began to educate myself… turning to science with an open mind. I learned to think rationally and critically. I learned to base my concepts of reality on factual evidence rather than blind ‘faith’. I found, much to my surprise, that "scientific curiosity"… was the key to looking for the REAL answers to questions regarding human-kind… and that the "religious urge" was nothing more than that healthy human curiosity in its ‘misdirected’ or ‘dysfunctional’ form. The answers that science provides may not be ‘profound’, ‘earth-shattering’, or able to pet our egos nor satiate our instinctive fear of death. But, they are answers based on factual evidence and not on myth, legend or fantasy. I’ve never felt more ‘free’ or more in control of my own actions and destiny than I do now. Still, I was shocked by the demise of WCG. I am sure that at a subconscious level that shock was a result of watching that massive, powerful monument that was "the church" crumble into so much impotent dust. "The Church" had been an immovable and eternal symbol (an unpleasant and unwanted symbol at that) which had impressed itself upon my mind and held influence over many aspects of my activities and thoughts. When it collapsed, what little influence it had within my mind collapsed along with it. I’m damn glad it is gone… (a bit inexplicably shaken by that knowledge or not). Its collapse only reinforces my final position on religion in general and spurs me forward to continue to absorb as much genuine knowledge that one can gain through the exploration of the sciences. I’ve seen what the WCG (and all its splinter groups) belief system can do to its adherents and it is never a pretty picture. I urge any of its former adherents to give rational thought a chance… to just pretend for a moment that religion is myth and dig for awhile into the vast compilations of human scientific knowledge. A little bit of a wise warning… I have found that "the truth" is often simple and mundane. The meaning of life in its ‘real’ rather than ‘mystical and mythical’ form may not comfort and soothe our psyche. The ‘truth’ might be as simple as this "We are here because of evolution through the mechanisms of natural selection and genetic drift. Our purpose is to survive (as individuals and as a species)… to survive and reproduce. Where we are going will be determined as a direct result of those same evolutionary mechanisms." Pretty simple. Pretty mundane. But, like I said… ‘the truth’ is often like that. Be wary of the hype and glitter of fantasy. It can be devastating and the effects long lasting… as I’m sure most former WCG’rs of our bent can attest.
I consider myself to be an atheist/agnostic because I simply see no evidence of the existence of a "God or Gods" as defined by the established religions of human-kind. I keep an open mind regarding evidence of the existence of some sentient force in the universe. But, so far, the ‘evidence’ has not been the least bit persuasive.
Well ta-ta for now. Enjoy your continuing searches for the ‘truth’.
Mark J. Brock
I was pleasantly surprised to find this link on the Internet Infidels page. I too, have often wondered how many of us there are who have left Worldwide not for some doctrinal dispute or dogma but simply for the fact that somehow we came to realize the errancy of all religion. For me, my 20+ years in the one and only "God’s True Church" are now a distant memory. However, as Robert McNally suggests, I agree that vestiges remain, as well as a near feeling of relatedness with "fellow formers".
I had previously posted a relatively short version of my years in the WWCG and Ambassador College, but have decided to delete most of it for a couple of reasons. One is that fact that I’ve found that it has been misunderstood or misinterpreted principally by current members of the WWCG or one of its offshoots. The theme of my previous post was simply meant to convey that questions regarding obvious contradictions either with the Bible or HWAs interpretation of it were left unanswered, and this helped me to break through the "veil of reverence" to realize that the contradictions were real. If that had not occurred, perhaps I may still have been in one of the offshoots, or offshoots of offshoots, and had to deal with the trauma of "how God could let this happen to his church", a question I’ve heard from a number of formers or currents. I am therefore very happy that the doubts occurred and that the answers were unsatisfactory. They could not have been otherwise.
Another reason for the deletion is that going into the story itself has convinced several current members (who for the most part believe that one must have been embittered to have left God’s true church, or at least their branch of it.) that it is still an important issue with which I am grappling. I don’t want to leave such a false impression. Those who feel their religion is all-encompassing tend to project that feeling of importance of their religion onto others as well. I don’t want that misunderstanding either.
The WWCG is one tiny sect among hundreds of religious groups in the world, and in that sense, going into our details of experiences in that one sometimes seems rather disproportionate. It also seems to provide confirmation to some members that their group really is the special one, the true Church of God. I don’t want to contribute to that, either.
I, like many others, wonder if mankind will ever be free of our mythologically based religions, and realize that faith is our inhibitor while doubt leads us to real understanding. Perhaps someday.