Max Carey

Troy, OH, USA
Phone: 937/332-1991
maxcarey77@frontier.com

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.

Sincerely,
Max Carey

Troy Witte

webmaster@whogivesafish.com

Read Troy’s story (off site.)

Mark Justin Brock

Corpus Christi, TX, USA

Hello folks,

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

Michael Savoia

Saitama, Japan
msavoia@nifty.com

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.

Larry A. Taylor

Pittsburgh, PA, USA
larry-a-taylor@worldnet.att.net
www.humanist.net/~ltaylor/

In 1964, I was twelve years old and searching the radio for different opinions, a search for "the truth." I wrote to Herbert Armstrong’s World Tomorrow radio program. This was very much against the wishes of my very Baptist parents.

I attended Ambassador College from 1969 to 1973, staying working in the Data Processing department for five more years.

I remember crossing Pasadena to attend the lectures of the Leakey Foundation at California Institute of Technology. Also reading Scientific American on the subject of evolution, I could see that the scientific community was not just making it all up — that there was a large body of fossil evidence, not just a bone or two.

I discovered that much of what I had learned of creationism from AC and the Worldwide Church of God was plain wrong. Even the book used in Ambassador’s classes, The Genesis Flood, was being disavowed as unrealible by the same faculty that had used it.

There was no sign of a worldwide flood, as had been supposed to have happened in the time of Noah. If there had been a flood, it was invisible four thousand years ago.

Fossil evidence showed that all animals and plants could be connected in time in a series of great families. There were not great gaps, but rather an impressive number of closely related species, with a lot of little gaps.

In addition, I found that historical formation and transmission of the Bible was not what we were led to believe.

The Old Testament was not definitively collected as the exact 37 books we use (22 in Hebrew) until sometime in the second century, CE (AD). Christians continued to use various books, including books preserved in Greek which are now found in the Apocrypha. Whoever wrote the New Testament used exotic books such as 1 Enoch (see Jude 9).

There is no evidence of a list of exactly 27 books of the New Testament until the Festal Letter of Bishop Athanasius, circa 363 CE. In the previous century, attempts at "canonization" had produced lists that had included either more or fewer books than what we have now. Several Eastern churches refused to accept the Revelation of John for several centuries later.

Thus, the New Testament was not established in the form we know it until Sunday-worshipping orthodoxy had been well established, and the Canon of the Bible was established more or less by a series of ecumenical councils.

Armstrongism was a dangerous cult of personality.

Will it be all better when the Worldwide Church of God adopts more of mainstream Protestantism?

Hardly. So far as facts of history are concerned, the whole of Christianity, Saturday or Sunday, law or grace, organized or disorganized is built on a faulty foundation. If you try to follow the Bible, you are trying to make sense of a book with manifest contradictions to history, and which shows disagreements within itself on vital matters.

Early Christianity was not one single monolithic movement, but a series of groups that gradually fell in major alignments. The very first Jewish followers of Jesus probably were Adoptionists who believed that Jesus was a great man, but not God. These Jews probably became the Ebionites, which we read in later Christian writing rejected the writings of Paul, and denied the divinity of Jesus.

Should you temper the use of scripture with tradition? Is the truth about Jesus nevertheless contained in the general beliefs of the Church, or in the teaching of bishops? If you follow this course, you will be disappointed as well.

I have been involved with the Humanist movement since about 1980. I mainly identify with the American Humanist Association (www.humanist.net). I have participated with the Ethical Culture Societies of Los Angeles and of Baltimore.

Am I an atheist? Yes, I have decided to accept that term. I do not believe in God. However, I make no claims that I know the truth of the proposition, "God does not exist." I hope you can make the distinction. Under the use of the word as I prefer it, I am a member of Atheists United, which is based in Los Angeles.

I prefer the word agnostic; I don’t know whether a god exists, but it is most logical to live as if one does not exist.

Best of all, I prefer the term, Humanist, as a variety of non-belief in God that emphasizes concern for humanity, both as individuals and as groups, nations, and the ecology. One of my Humanist friends said it well: the Humanist philosophy is that "We are alone together on the planet Earth."

Take care. No god will save you.

John Halloran

New York, NY, USA
cratylus@aol.com

My name is John Halloran. I was a WCG member from August, 1978 until around November, 1996. I was in contact with the church—–and, as so many others, without realizing for quite some time that there even was a church—–via The Plain Truth, Correspondence Course, and booklets for about ten years before beginning to attend.

Count me among those who, before and since exiting WCG, have questioned not only the policies and doctrines of WCG and its offshoots, but the underlying premises inherent in the whole theistic worldview.

Actually, this had been a task I’d set myself long ago, before beginning my WCG existence, but one I abandoned once, for reasons too involved to elaborate on now (yet probably rather familiar to many members and ex-members), I accepted the basic premises of the church which, to me, were: 1) God exists; 2) The Bible is God’s inspired revelation to humanity (well, to those of humanity who knew how to piece the puzzle together anyway!); and, 3) The Worldwide Church of God was the one and only True Church, and therefore the only one actually led by the Holy Spirit, and therefore the only one that knew how to put the puzzle that was the Bible together.

Somewhat later came the acceptance of Herbert Armstrong as, effectively, pope, and therefore the mindset that all real truth came through this man and, to a lesser degree, through the upper echelon of church leadership.

Once these beliefs became firmly entrenched, all thought of researching the basics was dismissed as irrelevant at best, heretical at worst. Doubts and questions, which recurred for various reasons and in diverse places, were relegated to the ever-more-crowded "back burner".

In autumn 1996, when the back burners could hold no more (even though I’d added extra burners!), and when I became persuaded that those guys just didn’t have a clue what the truth was and, in any event, were being evasive and duplicitous, I took my leave. I’ve never gone back, don’t plan to, and don’t regret it.

My position now is essentially agnostic. I am thus far unconvinced by the arguments of either theists or atheists, as those I’ve encountered both appear to me to assert more than can be comfortably supported by the evidence (a VERY important word to me these days, evidence), though I will say I find the latter’s arguments generally more compelling.

I am far more likely these days to be found poring over a copy of Skeptic or Skeptical Inquirer, and enjoying them more, than The Plain Truth or The Good News. I am enjoying the sensations of being a free individual, and of once again using my mind without feeling hamstrung by doctrinal drivel posing as the truth of God.

I’m not beset by any especial bitterness or anger toward most of WCG or its people—–in fact, liked most of ’em I met in 18 years!—– but that may be partly, at least, as a result of learning about so much of the cynical wickedness in high places so long after departing, when it no longer had a lot of emotional relevance to me anymore. Too, I wasn’t among those who suffered greatly at the hands of stupid, venal or vicious ministers, or as a result of horrific doctrines or policies (divorce & remarriage or healing, for example). And, there were a number of positive church experiences for me as well, not the least of which is that I’m alive to write this (unexpectedly epic…..sorry) email. The John Halloran who entered the WCG in 1978 at age 25 was a confused, agitated and ocassionally quite depressed young man, and I don’t know what might have become of him sans the discipline and sense of purpose the church provided. Suffice it to say, the path he was on was a risky one.

So here I am, 20 years later to the very month, mostly alive and tolerably well and thanking you for a very interesting and informative webpage. I’ve found much to think about in reading the remarks of my co-scribes, especially Messers. Bruce Renehan, whose book I just finished today, and Neil Godfrey, who at times sounded like he’d been in my mind.

Julie Penner

Vancouver, B.C. Canada
julie@sharpimaging.com

Read Julie’s story (off site.)

Neil Godfrey

Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
neilgodfrey@dodo.com.au

My name is Neil Godfrey, 48 years, divorced, live with my 2 school-aged sons, presently work as a librarian at an academic library in Toowoomba (Queensland, Australia), and was a baptized member of the WCG for 22 years. Before that I grew up in a Methodist family. My evolution from ‘son of God’ to born-again atheist was both gradual and traumatic, but has left me feeling a far more ‘spiritually’ mature, loving, compassionate, open and relaxed man.

The first chink in my religious-thinking came in the 1980’s when, just for the sake of some variety, I decided on a new approach to Bible study. I had always swallowed the teaching that the Bible is like a jig-saw puzzle, that the only way we could ‘understand’ the writings of Paul, for example, was to refer, say, to what James said in a letter addressed to someone else while discussing a different theme! What I wanted to do for a change was to study thoroughly each of the Bible books in isolation from one another to explore the mind of the writer of each book and understand its meaning to its original audience. That sounded a more intellectually honest approach so I expected it to verify afresh ‘the truths of God’ that I had been taught. What happened, however, was that when I let Romans alone interpret Romans my confidence in all I had been taught by the WCG began to be shaken. Peter warned of those who twisted the writings of Paul, but surely the ones twisting Paul were those who forced isolated texts to fit with books written in different cultures and times to different audiences for different purposes and with different theologies!

But I was very much a believer and I had my personal Martin Luther transforming experience when I believed I had been unconditionally accepted by God. It was a real ‘born again’ experience — I felt more at peace, joyful, accepting of others and incredibly blessed. I even discovered that I could speak in tongues once someone showed me how — and if I wanted to.

There was just one niggling question, however. Was not the source of this new ‘spiritual’ power in my life my own personal faith? I was believing all these things about God and Jesus and these beliefs really did change my life. But could I not substitute Dagon, a totem pole, or any mythical god, and if I believed exactly the same things about them as I did about Jesus, then surely would I not be just a empowered, transformed and ‘born again’? When honest with my darkest recesses of faith I had to admit that it was no divine power from heaven that was in me, but that I was simply playing a very clever mind-game. It was my own faith in a particular God-concept that changed me, not God himself. It was the same psychological power that every animal feels when it fully trusts that it is totally and unconditionally accepted by a significant other. One main difference was the addition of all the doctrinal details to keep this faith fresh and active in one’s mind and linked with a particular group of others.

This thought was too scary for me to face up to immediately. I questioned many ministers in various churches about it, and read widely. Most disturbing was Edmund Cohen’s The Mind of the Bible-Believer. I desperately tore at his arguments the first time I read it, but finally had to concede that I was reacting to it with fear, not honesty. I could not escape the conclusion that the Bible was a ‘mind-control’ book that required the reader to abandon all honest, consistent and rational scrutiny of its very own text to avoid any risk of hell-fire.

So I seriously studied the origins and nature of the Bible for the first time in my life. Strange (or just lazy or cowardly or both?) that I had spent my whole life studying its content (as passed on through a particular set of translations and manuscripts with dubious histories) but all that time I never before thought to study in any real depth, and with true open-minded honesty, the origins of that content.

The history of the NT canonization turned out to be a history of a power struggle in the Catholic Church; the gospels were not eyewitness accounts of an historical event but were midrashic expressions of various faiths about a Jesus concept; and there was not a shred of independent first-century evidence that Jesus had even literally existed. The only reliable thing that could be said about the gospels and Acts was that they were a re-working of motifs not only from Old Testament and Jewish apocryphal writings but also from pagan religious festivals and literature — that they were statements of faith and not historical records was easily demonstrated. Even Jesus’ so-called revolutionary new teachings were found in much earlier Jewish and gentile literature. Finally, all I had been taught about how accurately the Bible itself had been preserved through the centuries proved to be nothing but a lot of wishful thinking and fairy tales.

The theological scholars who brought such things to my attention (e.g. Austin Farrer, John Spong, Steve Crossan and others) would often simply jettison all their arguments and evidence temporarily to assert a personal mystical faith in a real Jesus and God behind it all despite the evidence they uncovered. (Significantly however, the theological scholar who became the bridge between Farrer and Spong, Michael Goulder, did become an atheist himself.) Most Christian scholars really write apologetics for their faith: very few seem to have the mind-set or the ability to consistently apply the methods of true historical research. Earl Doherty’s web page, The Jesus Puzzle, sums up the historical evidence, or lack of it, for a single historical figure behind the origin of the Christian religion. The Journal of Higher Criticism also raises serious questions that arise out of the application of true and consistent historical research.

If God were really behind the Bible, then he did not leave an honest inquirer with any way of proving its message to be historically true. On the contrary, he left honest inquirers with all the evidence stacked against its divine inspiration. To believe in the Bible on these terms is like believing that God let the Devil plant dinosaur bones in rocks to test our faith in Creationism. How could I take such a God seriously?

It was a small step to think through the whole idea of God from that point. His attributes were supposed to be self-evident, but different cultures saw these attributes differently. So much of what I had believed had really been determined by the language of the questions I had been taught to ask. (e.g. “Creation” demands a “Creator”. Of course by speaking of “creation” I was predetermining my conclusion. Why not simply use “universe” instead?) God had really been an adult version of my childhood Santa Claus, a Jungian archetype. Joseph Campbell in his writings and talks on mythology helped me understand where Christianity sat in the world of religion and psychology. I also found that the theories of evolution were dishonestly or just sloppily misrepresented by fundamentalists. Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative opened my mind for the first time to the plausibility that our ethical sense really could be biologically based, and did not necessarily have to be some spirit entity in us. Even near-death experiences, I discovered, had long had very plausible biological explanations that were obviously far less exciting to circulate widely.

As a fundamentalist WCG believer I believed I had all the big answers to the big questions of life. I simply shut my mind to any idea that questioned those answers. Today I feel much more comfortable with questions without final answers. Living with questions rather than answers has made me more open to all that life has to offer. The only authority I accept as my guide to life comes from within me, and I have been surprised at how ‘moral’, ‘compassionate’, and ‘complete’ we can be when we finally learn to listen to ourselves and be truly free.

I had recently a chance to thank Bishop Spong for helping me (albeit unintentionally) on my path to atheism. I told him that since becoming an atheist I felt much more loving and relaxed and mature than I ever felt while a believer. He replied that he had found that many atheists do feel this way, while sadly most religious people he knew do seem to have an ‘uptightness’ about them.

Bruce Renehan

49502 Alan Avenue
Tehachapi, CA, USA 93561
renehan@lightspeed.net

In 1969 at the age of eighteen, I began attending the Worldwide Church of God. I was disfellowshipped in 1992 after challenging the paradoxical teachings of the group and authoring a book entitled Daughter of Babylon. What I learned about Christianity from more than 20 years of being in a religious cult is that cults are only crude versions of a more sanitized orthodoxy. Edmund Cohen adequately points out in his book "The Mind of The Bible Believer" that the Bible is a masterful work on brainwashing. It takes time to create the appearance of stability, like the older churches have, but the fact remains, Christian history and Christian dogma is replete with chaos because the very foundation upon which they are built is the very essence of confusion and contradiction. That foundation is the Bible, an anthology of books that generally represent an array of beliefs of two distinct religious groups, Judaism and Christianity. Both claiming the writings belong to their religions exclusively and that the SAME God has rejected the followers of the opposing view. This is a God who claims he "never changes" but can be seen to change from legalistic patriarch who requires blood sacrifices and fought wars for his followers to benevolent Father who often betrayed his children so they could have their faith tested as martyrs.

The ministers of the WCG were forever trying to piece together the patchwork of inconsistency of their Bible based doctrines into a whole body of knowledge that stuck them between Judaism and Christianity. And, it actually worked for a while. But, eventually they learned that all roads led to Rome and stopped trying to re-invent the wheel. They embraced the orthodox view, whatever that is.

But, this is not meant to be diatribe of the nonsequiturs found in the Bible. Scholars have been doing that for centuries. To paraphrase James Baldwin, once I came to see the Bible for what it is, the next challenge for me was whether or not to believe in the invisible God aside from scriptural revelation. And I came to see that logic and rational thought eventually erodes God’s existence away. The arguments are far too numerous to list here. There is Ludwig Feurbach’s insight that God is strictly bound to one’s own hermeneutics and thus having a God concept is oxymoronic. Then there is the logical conclusion of Bernard Spinoza that since infinity is indivisible by finitude, we cannot possibly exist if the infinite God does nor could God have created a finite universe. So the very concept of God is self-defeating and illogical and although I concede, could be possible (I can’t figure out what the universe is contained in either) but is an exercise in futility for the finite mind–ANY finite mind.

Now I realize that the first argument one will counter with is what is known as Pascal’s wager: that is, just in case there really is a God, it would be a good idea to believe in him. Pascal was a pretty smart guy and all but that’s really a lame argument if you think about it. If my not believing in him makes God not like me, than I guess God’s a rather petty and fickle person. You see, he’s never introduced himself to me and I can’t believe the paradoxical Judeo-Christian Bible is REALLY something that an omniscient God inspired. If I believe in him just in case then isn’t my motive rather selfish? I’m claiming to like someone I’ve never met and can’t even prove exists just so I can live for ever in Paradise or escape the flames of Hell.

For a while I let the "just in case" rule be the excuse for me to be an agnostic but eventually I felt I had to either be consistent and be a believer or nonbeliever rather than a just-in-caser. So, I asked myself, "Okay, let’s say there is some type of divinity or creator out there? What does that mean to me?" Well the fact that this Great One chooses anonymity seems to imply that It is NOT trying to get fame or worship or to have us believing in Its existence. Maybe believing in something that you can’t conceive of is a type of blasphemy or idolatry or insult. Think about it. I know I certainly don’t like to be misunderstood. Does God like to be misunderstood? What if I believe that God looks like Charlton Heston but in reality God bears a strong resemblance to Mother Theresa or Yoda? I’ve still wasted my time trying to believe something that is not really the case. And, I’ve not really believed in God even though I gave it my best effort.

Now if God created everything, that’s pretty impressive and that presents another problem. It’s a concept that Clarence Darrow wrote about–the ant hill concept. How do we compare to God if God is so great? Is the difference between us and God greater than that of humans and ants? I think any rational person would conclude that the difference is vastly greater than that. Now really, how much time do you want to spend with ants? When you see an ant hill do you spend any time at all pondering which ant is the most virtuous? Do you care if any of the ants believe that you exist or don’t believe in you at all? Why should we flatter ourselves that God even ponders the greatest thoughts of humans? Darrow concludes, I think rightfully so, that the less you have in common with something the less interested you are in it. And so, I conclude that it is better to be humble and not believe that this superior being cares in the slightest what humans think or believe. That is why atheism makes more sense to me than any other system of belief.

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.