The Armstrongist Hydra: Why the Movement Survives its Prophetic Failures

By Matt Hilhorst, Contributor.

I’ve been following several of the Armstrongist splinters for a while now. I stumbled across them while researching cults and their internal mechanisms, and they struck me as a particularly interesting example. Not only do they subscribe to an end-of-days worldview, but several have gone so far as to repeatedly set dates–often only five to ten years in the future. These dates then pass without anything untoward happening, but the cults simply rearrange their teachings slightly and then carry on.

On the surface it seems ludicrous that any organization (or person) which claims to be in direct contact with an all-powerful supernatural being should make clear predictions and have them fail repeatedly without this having a serious impact on their follower base. But while it is true that some leave, or head for a different Armstrong-based group, the essential belief in prophesy and the core tenets of Armstrongism often remain intact despite the perennial reality checks.

This phenomenon seems to defy all logic. In a logical world, people would see a ‘prophet,’ listen, and then simply watch to see if the prophecies come true. In the event of a failure, then the ‘prophet’ is either mistaken or out to deceive people. In the event of a mistake the ‘prophet’s’  judgement is obviously impaired–it’s a big step to go out and declare yourself the direct recipient of a divine message, and then tell people to arrange their lives accordingly. On the other hand, if the ‘prophet’ stands to gain power, influence or money by propagating a fraudulent belief system, then it is much more likely that he is seeking personal aggrandizement to the detriment of his followers.

So how do the Armstrongist splinters defy the logical outcome? What keeps people inured, even after they witness failure after failure?

I am starting to believe that the reason this seems so strange is because I thought of the Armstrongist splinters as religious movements. I would argue that this is at least partially a mistake. Armstrongist groups that I have seen so far are cults that assume the form of religious movements, but do not act as you would expect a religious movement to act. They use the forms, customs and language of religion, but if you analyze their teachings, both overt and implied, then you find a different beast entirely.

There are a few things that the splinters I have observed so far have in common:

  1. They all teach that they are the One True Church, and that certain passages in the Bible pertain exclusively to them. They are at the very epicenter of God’s plan, and have a special status that non-members can never hope to attain. Taken out of religious context, they teach that they are an elite.
  2. They all teach that the only way to do God’s work is to follow the teachings of the church, and to do so wholeheartedly. If you disagree, then God has simply not enlightened you yet, and you must follow the teaching anyway and hope God will enlighten you along the way, or maybe this is just a sign that you are not a part of the elite after all. Outside the religious context this boils down to the tenet that Obedience is Virtue. Lip service is paid to independent inquiry, but it is only allowed in certain avenues and strongly discouraged where core beliefs are concerned. You are asked to “prove all things,” and I have yet to find a single person being encouraged to prove that the Bible is the word of God, for example (except in the sense of being trained to confirm the bias that it is God’s word).
  3. None of them seem to be terribly interested in the world outside the cult, except as a source of new recruits or as a theatre in which they can look for signs that corroborate their views. They see the non-cult world as essentially bad, and something you should not have too much to do with. They are primarily focused on the good of the cult, not on the overall state of mankind. A religious movement that claims relevance for all mankind is, at its core, ostensibly an organization for the betterment of all mankind. They claim that by bringing people closer to God’s ways, they will improve their lot. By contrast, the Armstrongist cults are not that interested in this, and stress the importance of the cult itself – it is the “church” that is mentioned in the Bible, and the parts of the Bible they identify as mentioning the church have a message that is meant exclusively for them. If you remove this from a religious context, you arrive at a manifest destiny for the cult.
  4. All of them seem to have a single leader who is either spoken to by God directly, or gets his knowledge from divinely inspired interpretations from the Bible. This leader has the final say, and often a failure to adhere to the rules he sets leads to excommunication. If we were to take this out of a religious context, then we are looking at a leadership principle and a strong authoritarian hierarchy.

The ideology seems to be this – the cult is the greatest good, it is God being active in the world. It is at the very epicenter of God’s plan and the only institution that really understands it. To be a part of it is to be part of an elite. Obedience to it is obedience to God and to his plan, so disobedience is a sin against God. The church has a destiny that is directly governed by God, and the leader has a mystical connection to that destiny. To go against the leader is to go against God. To disobey the cult is to remove yourself from that destiny, and so lose your status as part of the elite. You must sacrifice for this cause – it is not for the faint-hearted. Your elite status is bought with obedience to the hierarchy.

There is a shorthand name for the kind of authoritarian, elitist and leadership-driven ideologies that claim that simple sets of rules should replace the complexity of modern life: Fascism.

To me it is not surprising that the Armstrongist splinters have their roots in the 1930’s, a time when serious socio-economic upheaval, the last gasp of the class-driven society and the increasing drive for enfranchisement of more and more people were creating a lot of confusion. Many sought safety in a return to a more authoritarian organisation of society, with simple rules and ideologies. It saw the rise of Nazism, Stalinism and Fascism as people sought strongmen to protect them from the vagaries of the complex new Age of Technology.

Now I am not saying that the Armstrongist splinters are fascist organizations per se – I am merely using it as a shorthand that reminds us of the dependence on strongman-leaders, the anti-democratic tendencies and the notions of superiority that prevail in both ideologies.  But if we consider Armstrongism to be a form of theocratic fascism, then I think the problem of explaining its ability to survive the innumerable failed prophesies largely disappears. The fulfilment of prophesy is simply not of the first importance – in essence, all theology that does not have to do with the members’ elite status as God’s particular chosen ones is more or less window-dressing.

What is important is that the theology supports the idea of the members as an elite, and that the movement provides a simple set of rules for its members to follow, a set of rules that will guarantee them a position of importance in the world to come, as well as in the manufactured reality of the cult itself. This status is earned through obedience to the church and the leader (rather than any truly meritorious efforts, it should be said).

What are a few missed deadlines in a scheme like that? They are merely challenges, even opportunities to show just how loyal the members are, how devoted, and how willing to sacrifice. Making it harder to believe only shows that it is true they are an elite – if it was easy, anyone with half a brain and some common sense would be able to do it. The cultist is made of grander stuff than that!

We can point out the gaping holes in the logic and the catastrophic failure of each and every prophesy until the cows come home – it makes no difference at all. The reason that people stay is that to leave requires a real critical assessment of the movement and of themselves, to come up with an honest answer to the question – WHY do I believe these things? This takes a considerable amount of intellectual honesty and psychological fortitude. Most people, unfortunately, prefer to seek out facts that support what they want to believe, and ignore facts that upset their existing views.

[Editor’s note] In other words, the sheep are indeed “the weak and the base.” Sadly for them, though, their delusions of unmerited grandeur, of being lifted up to the airy heights of greatness on the wings of sheer belief, are just that–delusions. They aren’t “confounding” anyone but themselves–and they aren’t “the mighty.” To do the honest work of truth-seeking, one must be “bold as a lion.” But these aren’t lions, they’re sheep. When has a sheep ever stood up for anything? We challenge our readers to be lions instead of sheep. We have witnessed before the transformation of sheep into lions. It can be done. Often, if you poke a sheep enough it will unleash on you something that sounds suspiciously like a roar. So, we poke. And poke. And poke…to awaken that slumbering lion!

Armstrongism has an emotional hold over its members – it offers simple answers to complex problems (no independent thought or research required), it offers a worldview where its members can be part of an elite (without doing anything meritorious to that end), and gives a clear reason why this elite is not in charge of running the world, which in their own view they are clearly meant to be (merely because of what they believe). It tells its members that instead of ordinary, everyday individuals they are special, chosen. It offers a sense of belonging, a community.

In most cases, you cannot hope to prevail against these emotional bonds with mere logic. Logic is a bitter pill for sheep, so it must come wrapped in some kind of emotional appeal or provocation. For example, you can point to the trail of financial and emotional ruin that these cults leave behind them, and ask “are you sure God meant for those excommunicated people to suffer loneliness, rejection, the disruption of their family life? Are you sure it was God, and not some spiteful preacher trying to protect his gravy-train? Was it really God who meant for that preacher to live like a king off the donations of followers that grow poorer?…Who says it is so? And why did you believe them?”

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40 thoughts on “The Armstrongist Hydra: Why the Movement Survives its Prophetic Failures

  1. “Most people, unfortunately, prefer to seek out facts that support what they want to believe”

    To understand the term “Postdiction” is indeed the undoing of Armstrong-ism. But it takes intestinal fortitude to reach an agreement with ones ego to admit to oneself that they themselves are in error.

    How many people in the cults of Armstrong will “examine themselves” and see if what you put forth is true?
    A better question would be, how many are willing to invest the time to investigate the comments you make here and present an answer against or for your conclusions? One, two perhaps, maybe three?

    The problem with cults is that they keep the blind at bay by re-arranging the furniture in the room. The blind never find themselves gaining access out of the room due to these stumbling blocks. In total blindness, they are marooned eternally by the stumbling blocks. Blocks of interpretation, and re-interpretation, of prophecies and predictions which always fail.

    What we have here in Armstrong-ism is a Rubik’s cube where all the sides are the same color. You can never know how to take the Armstrong-ism type of prediction and interpret it in a clear and concise manner. When the cult leader says this or that will happen and it comes not to pass by the end date given what are we to do? Allow the cult leader to explain how the prophecy failed?

    Shall we stand idly by and allow him, the leader of the cult, to blame us for the failing? Or will Mr. Cult Leader simple tell us that something did happen but we never understood the fulfillment of the prophecy? He crave and need him to explain it to us. We never can understand without the leader. Why? Because cultic people lack the ability or the will to think critically.

    I wonder, will the membership be trapped forever in blindness, stumbling around in a dark room with the only answer coming from the authoritarian cult leader? Most likely yes. Few have the gonads to step out of the darkness and into the light. With the light of reason (which is a gift of God) the people can decide to a life of servitude or freedom. The cowards will chose servitude, the light bringers will serve the light. The giver of true freedom!

  2. “Few have the gonads to step out of the darkness and into the light.”

    Those few are the ones we want to reach. The rest can stay. When spineless bottom-dwellers dominate the population of the cults their decline will proceed rapidly–and amusingly, I suspect.

  3. I came across this blog via Splinter Surfer. Reading through both blogs has been eye opening, and comforting.

    I left Ron Weinlands cult nearly 2 years ago, and prior to that I was in Garner Ted’s group.

    The questions you need to ask yourself, about your beliefs and WHY you believed them has been a painful yet liberating journey (and for me continues).

    I have thanked Splinter Surfer, and now I want to thank you all here for your work.

    Even though it’s been 2 years out for me, I feel like I’m only now just starting to get somewhere.

    If it’s been this hard for me, I can not even begin to grasp how it would be if one grew up with all this *shudder*.

    I appreciate this blog so, so much – it’s helping me ‘see’ so much.

    Thank you all.

    • Heya Kirrily!

      When I talk about honesty and the fortitude it takes to sincerely examine oneself and learn, I can think of no better example than you. You have always been a reminder to me that there are good, sincere people in those damn cults, and that the most rotten thing about them is that they use what is best in people to trap them and blind them.

      • Thanks Matt, that’s a very nice thing to say. I find it hard to verbalise the process I have been through in all of this. I am so grateful that I found Mikes blog, and now these guys.

        It’s due to them bring much more proactive in their analysis, and verbalising their journey much more effectively than I, that has helped me so much.

        Thanks again Matt for your words, both now and in the past.

      • “they use what is best in people to trap them and blind them.”

        I’ll suggest The True Believer to you, as well. Consider it required reading for contributors, if you like. The point at hand is that cults often use what is worst in people to trap and blind them. It is what is best in people that gets them out–e.g., an authentic “love of truth,” or, as you put it, “honesty and the fortitude it takes to sincerely examine oneself and learn.” This quality will never lead one into (or keep one in) the Stygian coils of a cult, whereas a deformed and deforming emotional drive to feel or appear “special” may very well do so.

  4. Kirrily, people like you are the reason why Casey, Eric, Samuel and I write these blogs in the first place. If we can help even one person, our work was worth the effort.

    Of course, we’d like to help a whole lot more than just one person lol

    Thanks for your kind words!

  5. OK folks, I must comment.

    “Because cultic people lack the ability or the will to think critically.”

    James, I respectfully disagree. Most of these people probably can think but they have not turned their critical thinking faculties towards the cult itself. Big difference. We must find a way to get them to start seriously to question the cult.

    Now to the article itself. How can the prophecies fail and people still don’t lose faith? Lots of reasons.

    1. HWA’s failed prophecies were not listed on the internet in those days (now they are, which will help).

    2. Church members who knew of the mistakes were afraid to tell new members (on pain of excommunication for disturbing someone’s “faith”) so new members did not know of the failed prophecies.

    3. Booklets of failed prophecy (e.g. 1975 in Prophecy) were taken out of print so new members could not read them and learn of past failures.

    4. Failed prophecies are being rewritten (e.g. PCG is “updating” the correspondence course).

    5. The WCG lied and said it was those “other guys” who made false predictions of Christ’s soon return. New members did not know it was the WCG also.

    6. Failures were brushed aside as being just “a little off in our timing” or “speculations” that were not really prophecies. i.e. “we are human and we just got a little carried away”, was the excuse.

    7. Nobody else was “doing the work”.

    8. The other churches were pagan. Where were people to turn?

    9. Lots of people did leave in the 1970s after Christ did not return in 1972-75 as expected.

    • “Most of these people probably can think but they have not turned their critical thinking faculties towards the cult itself. Big difference. We must find a way to get them to start seriously to question the cult.”

      This is undoubtedly true, but we must not underestimate the power of emotions in this complex equation. And, as the article pointed out and as has been supported in relevant research efforts, that goes a long way toward explicating this mystery of why so many “have not turned their critical thinking faculties towards the cult itself.”

      “1. HWA’s failed prophecies were not listed on the internet in those days (now they are, which will help).”

      This is an excellent point. The democratization of information is an important key to breaking the stranglehold of any totalitarian system.

      Your points two through four are valid additional reasons why otherwise intelligent people might be duped, having nothing to do with emotional attachment to Armstrongism, while points five and six are excuses, strategies used to relieve cognitive dissonance while retaining the beliefs.

      “7. Nobody else was “doing the work”…8. The other churches were pagan. Where were people to turn?”

      This is a subset of the True Believer mentality and evidence of the role of an emotional driver for remaining in the cult. The True Believer wants to feel like she is privy to special knowledge and/or the holder of special status among a covert and unappreciated elite. There is little chance of them finding this elsewhere once they have been indoctrinated against other belief systems. We’re here talking about it because it is such a successful con, and because there are so many who long to be conned in such a way. Without sheep there would be no cults.

      I remember my dad’s initial response to my de-conversion: “Now you’re just like everybody else…” (No shit, dad. So are you. You just don’t know it.) Ironic how those who claim special knowledge harbor instead a certain lack of knowledge that makes them “special” indeed.

      • I think we should also not underestimate the power of propaganda bordering on mind control to prevent the poor, trapped people from even seeing the bars on their cage. Be careful how you poke. Insulting the sheep will only drive them further away from the truth.

      • “I think we should also not underestimate the power of propaganda bordering on mind control to prevent the poor, trapped people from even seeing the bars on their cage.”

        And trust me when I tell you that no one here is underestimating any of the tactics of cults. We are self-styled experts on this subject, after all. The poking of the sheep I’m talking about is not a punishment for being sheep. It is (and was discussed as) a means to an end.

        As for the sheep being “poor” and “trapped,” perhaps it would be enlightening for you to read (unless you have already, in which case it was, apparently, a missed opportunity) the classic book The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer. Just keep in mind that many of these sheep are right where they chose to be. And for Christ’s sweet sake, think of their innocent children, who really don’t have a say in the matter! You trivialize their plight by pretending their parents are merely innocent dupes. I say they are colluding in their own deception, and that makes them accountable for the persistence of their deceivers, not to mention the indoctrination of their children.

        But far be it from me to endorse meaningless retribution in the form of “poking.” The poking is to provoke them out of the sleep of reason upon which they have willfully (if “needfully”) embarked. Alarms offend our groggy sensibilities, and yet we keep setting them because they serve an important purpose.

      • Sorry, Casey. It was not my intent to trivialize the plight of the children. I do realize that they are in a very deep hell. I was going by what I have read in Margaret Thaler Singer and Steve Hassan. I will find and read Eric Hofer’s book. My own upbringing was outside of WCG with a fairly progressive family, and I thank God we had no children while inside the cult. My wife grew up in it, and we are still sorting out the mess it has made of her self-esteem and her ability to function.

  6. I started attending the WCG in the early 1980s. The church was getting “back on track”. They had stopped setting dates by this time. People were reluctant to talk about the 1970s. The ministers and members kept me in the dark. Little or nothing was said about any failed prophecies. I feel betrayed by all those who knew and said nothing. I wrote in for 1975 in Prophecy so I could read it for myself but it was out of print.

    • Sorry, Chuck. In my previous reply I didn’t mean to say that I thought you were “poking the sheep.” I was thinking of something in a previous comment and trying to encourage everyone to remember we probably all reacted defensively when we were caught up in the cult – especially when we were feeling attacked or insulted.

      I actually also started in the early 1980’s, too. I can relate to being left in the dark about failed prophecies. I left the WCG just before it changed its name to GCI, but only after a long period of trying to get my pastor to actually change the cultic leadership approach instead of merely the window dressing of changing to “traditional Christian days.” It was only when I was confronted with how completely mind-controlled he and the rest of the congregation was in clinging to their ultra-authoritarian leadership that I became literally frightened enough to walk away. It was like being a character in Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters or the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

      The reasoning of the final “mediation” group I met with from that congregation was Kafka-esque. The groupthink and obliviousness to any other possible point of view were truly breathtaking and very, very scary. And this was from the group that claims to have abandoned Armstronism. I wouldn’t touch PKG or any of the splinters with the proverbial 10 foot pole.

      • “…we probably all reacted defensively when we were caught up in the cult – especially when we were feeling attacked or insulted.”

        Again, John, that was my whole point. Push their buttons, make them uncomfortable in their delusions. It’s controversial, harsh maybe, but I’ve seen it work. It worked with me. Some need to be coaxed, some need to be stirred. Different strokes/pokes for different folks. You, for example, sound like just the kind of milquetoast fellow who (still) needs some coaxing before he’ll cast a critical eye on his own beliefs. Unfortunately, as you can probably discern, coaxing is not my strong suit. Then again, a little poking never hurt anyone–we aren’t using real sticks here, after all, or stones, for that matter. Welcome to the world of AD, where evangelists and Antichrists collide.

  7. Oh yeah, I didn’t know HWA was living like a king. All I heard about were all the sacrifices he wrote about in his autobiography.

  8. Let’s suppose you are in a church and they make a prophecy that fails. You are commanded by the bible to go to church. What are you supposed to do? You can’t go back to keeping Xmas. You still believe in the doctrines. You still believe in the bible. Where do you go? There is no place that seems better. I suspect that a lot of COG people today are in that situation. They have doubts about where they are but they don’t know where else to go. Leaving Christianity altogether is the answer but it is too big of a step (too much to relearn) for them so some go to another COG and some go back to keeping Xmas.

    • It is indeed hard to wean yourself off the idea that in order to be a good believer, you need to obey a preacher. Or the idea that your belief system is inherently superior to that of everyone else, and is not one of many that has merits and/or demerits when compared to other belief systems. But these are exactly the very brave steps that are required if a person is to rid themselves of this cult-centered behavior.

      In real life, there simply are no absolutes. Only cults offer such simple, black and white solutions.

      All you can do is analyse and compare them, and discuss their relative merits. Once you do this, you turn yourself back into an individual in stead of a cult drone. It is not an easy thing to do, and requires serious bravery and honesty.

  9. John, why did you go back to traditional Christianity? Don’t you see that both the COGs and traditional Christianity are wrong? The COGs are not wrong about everything. Their criticism of traditional Christianity is basically valid. How can you disregard all you knew about the errors of traditional Christianity and go back to that?

    • Hi Chuck, (and thanks, vivisectus and splintersurfer for your comments below). Your questions are densely pack with assumptions (not necessarily a bad thing, by the way) that need to be teased out a bit, so this might be a long response. We all have come to be where we are from possibly different routes, so we aren’t all necessarily making the same assumptions.

      Vivisectus and Splintersurfer have already commented very well about Armstrong’s “proof” of pagan origins and how easy it is to just interpret the Bible any way you choose. Another assumption is that there is “a” traditional Christianity.” I’m working on an M. Div. degree at a local seminary, and one of the first things they teach in Theology class is that there are actually four things that apply in Biblical interpretation: 1) the text of the Bible, 2) tradition, 3) reason and 4) the church’s teaching. They call it the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and it is usually represented as a diamond with four equal sides (though the length of the legs may vary depending on denomination).

      If you give it enough thought, you will probably realize that nobody interprets the Bible in complete isolation from everyone else’s thinking. Even Herbie himself claimed to have “researched” before coming to his conclusions. Every church has its own traditions and teachings, as well as its own reasoning about the scriptures. This brings me to the second assumption.

      Which “traditional Christianity” are you thinking that I have gone back to? Roman Catholic? Eastern Orthodox? Even the Lutherans and Anglicans believe they are part of the original true church. Actually, I haven’t gone “back” to any of them. (I grew up Roman Catholic.)

      Your dilemma is one that I actually have given a lot of thought about over the years. You are not alone in having trouble letting go of what you learned under armstrongism. I don’t know if this will help much, but I have a story to share that I had not been intending to make public for a long time.

      I bit of my background. I became a WCG member in 1980 at the age of 19 after reading the literature on my own since age 16. In 2000 I graduated from a local Bible College with a Bachelor in Religious Education degree while still attending WCG. It ocurred to me late in 2003 that a purge was beginning in WCG, and that Saturday and the Festivals were going to go the way of the Dodo. Simultaneously it occurred to me that there would be many people in shoes very much like yours, who could not give them up for the sake of conscience. The only alternative for them to still keep them was one of the splinters. That would not have been good for them, because they actually did believe that the festival days and sabbath were not strictly required (in other words, they agreed theologically but not operationally with WCG’s direction).

      I reasoned that the only way these people could escape the splinters without losing their freedom would be for them to become their own support group. Yet how could this happen without it becoming yet another “mini-armstrong splinter”?

      I tried to lay the groundwork by pointing out the places in the Bible that teach human and gender egalitarianism and the New Testament scriptures that teach checks and balances on church leadership.

      I introduced changes the format of our Saturday service (since the pastor was only inclined to join us once per month) to allow complete participation in discussion, including disagreement with me when I taught. We encouraged respect for one another’s views, and as a result came to see that we all had different, yet valuable perspectives. This led to some push-back when the pastor tried to shut down festival observance. (It eventually led to enough standing up for themselves that WCG was forced to take action to push them out.)

      As a culture of mutual respect of diversity emerged, I introduced them to the main concepts in Margaret Singer’s anti-cult book about mind control techniques and we had several discussions about the probabilities of past and present control by the hierarchy.

      By the time the WCG was ready to purge them, more than a dozen people were ready to go out on their own to meet outside WCG and splinter control. When they left, they invited me to join them and continue bringing a diversity of ideas to their attention for discussion.

      They have elected to continue meeting on Saturdays and many (though not all) still get together locally for festivals. Every one of them will probably give you a different reason for doing so, and that is fine with me. The make other arrangements for facilitation of discussions whenever I’m working. For festivals, they try to work around my work schedule so I can join them (usually after work in the evenings).
      at my “day job” in security on a Saturday.

      In effect, I haven’t completely “gone back” to traditional Christianity. On the other hand, I try to be very mindful of what teaching and ideas the various traditions of Christianity have to offer. One of my best non-WCG friends is an Evangelical Korean pastor who opens my eyes to many cultural and religious issues I might not have ever thought about. Being open to other ideas and experiences is probably one of the most important things in life.

      I have no particular thing against Christmas and Easter (I don’t think they are as pagan as others may believe: for instance, the Sunday dating of Easter itself is based on the day of the Wave Sheaf offering), but they are still not “my thing.” Yet, if family invites me, I’ll join them at a service whenever they want to go. Family is very important. Too important to mess with when they really mean well. The same goes for eating pork products. I still don’t miss them, and we rarely bother with them at home. If somebody invites us out and serves ham, we just go with the flow.

      I have been shaped by many influences, including WCG thinking. There is a great deal of bad in armstrongist thinking, as this and other websites prove beyond the shadow of a doubt. The scars and conscience issues will remain for a long time.

      For me, the most important thing is to be in my own control, not somebody else’s. (This suggests that you are still probably better off away from WCG splits than going along with any of them.) As my conscience is better educated through study and experience, more things will become possible than were before. “I don’t know” is actually a legitimate answer to many questions.

      Can you be who you are without being a one-man mini-armstrong splinter? Only you will be able to figure that one out with time. I do wish you well in staying out of their clutches.

      • “I have no particular thing against Christmas and Easter (I don’t think they are as pagan as others may believe: for instance, the Sunday dating of Easter itself is based on the day of the Wave Sheaf offering)…”

        We’ll soon be starting up a series of articles called “The Pagan Origins of Everything,” which might make this a moot point. Besides, just on its face, stripped of all the trappings of interpretation (both in terms of the writing and the reading of scripture), the Wave Sheaf offering is obviously an agricultural ritual. That’s pretty much the definition of “pagan,” as far as I know. I would not be shocked to learn from my upcoming research that the Wave Sheaf derives from a pre-Yahwist fertility rite. In fact I will be shocked if the reverse turns out to be the case. Either way, I will be arguing that any and all such traditions arise from somewhat humbler sources than divine revelation.

      • ““I don’t know” is actually a legitimate answer to many questions.”

        Don’t let that stop you from accepting an uncomfortable truth, though. Many times people will pretend “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer when “I am wrong” is more accurate. And let’s not even go into the instances where “no one knows” is followed by, “so I must be right.” Skepticism and agnosticism are wonderful principles that are often abused by unreasonable people.

      • John, you grew up a Roman Catholic, then went to the WCG, then went and got a degree in religion, and now you don’t have a problem with the massive hypocritical anti-biblical frauds of Xmas and Easter, and you even act like they might not be all that pagan. If that’s not going back to traditional BS Christianity, I don’t know what is. Don’t pretend otherwise; you are insulting the intelligence of any ten-year old who was ever in the WCG. I have low tolerance for BS. Who cares which branch? They are all different heads of the same lying monster.

        You seem to be the one making assumptions. A am not a one-man Armstrongist. I do not keep the Sabbath. I do not keep Sunday. I am not even a Christian anymore. Christianity is a cult. I am out of the cults, you are not.

        You are not in control. You are still controlled by the liars who put together the bible, tradition and church doctrines then foisted them off on the gullible kept-in-the-dark masses. The size of your cult does not stop it from being a cult.

      • “The scars and conscience issues will remain for a long time.”

        Not nearly as long as the scars caused by traditional Christianity, the Great Widow-Maker that you are still promulgating. How many more people are going to die in your wars before it’s all over? Or will you provoke the Big One and wipe out the entire human race? You people are sick.

        Did it ever occur to you that a lot of those scars were cause by the persecution of you big cults against the little COG cults who have a lot more integrity the the big ones? Duh.

        John, I think you are a troll. You pretend to be anti-cult but your goal here seems to be to “help” people out of the splinters and into the bigger and more destructive cults. I don’t know of any wars caused by the splinters, do you? And though some of them persecute their own members they don’t persecute and infiltrate other cults, like you big cults do to them. I think you are a troll infiltrating this blog and you seem to be bringing your friends with you.

  10. I think there is a small problem here – how do you KNOW traditional Christianity is wrong? None of us can hop in a timemachine and ask Jesus for a personal explanation… all we can do is try to interpret what we think God wants from us.

    You cannot use the bible as an authority, because you may interpret it wrong. All you can do is follow your own path and try to be the best person you can be.

    This is one of the points of the post as well – the problem of authoritarianism in the Armstrongist thinking. Unless you free yourself of it entirely, you just become a one man mini-armstrong splinter.

    • “how do you KNOW traditional Christianity is wrong?”

      The logically correct question to ask is, “How do you know Christianity is right?” Christianity makes an abundance of extraordinary claims (including that its holidays derive not from earlier pagan traditions, but from some otherworldly source called “God.”). The burden of proof is always on the claimant, and as a certain great man likes to say, “what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

    • So what are you recommending? Go back to one of the pagan cults or be a one-man mini-pope splinter? I have a better idea. Give up the cult of Christianity completely and then really be free.

      How do I know Christianity is wrong? Lots of ways. But why should I argue the point with a troll?

  11. That is how the COGs trick people. They are just another head of the Christian monster/system but they act like they are something quite different. They prove the others are pagan, which they are, for following Sunday, Xmas, and Easter. What they don’t tell you is that whole mother-child tradition came from paganism. The COGs believe it, so they are pagan too. So they keep Saturday and the others keep Sunday — big deal. Just two different interpretations of the same book of frauds. They all try to follow Jesus and they really have no idea what Jesus really taught because everything we “know” about him comes from the lying pagan Catholic tradition. They even got the bible from the Catholics, so in the most fundamental way they never left paganism or Catholicism in the first place.

  12. From the article:

    <>
    Apply that to the big cults too. Yes, financial ruin because the big cults demonize and ostracize the little cults for not keeping the pagan Sunday, so you have a hard time keeping a job if you are in a little cult. And the big cults keep Xmas and anyone with principals who won’t keep it is excommunicated from the mainstream and has family problems, loneliness and rejection. Of course, all the big cults (like the hypocrites over at Escape and Support Network, ESN, who pretend to care about the victims) are responsible for a lot of this — persecuting COG members and making their lives difficult. And then they blame it all on the little COGs. And why do they hate the COGs? Because the COGs tell the world the truth about the lies of the mainstream (except of course for the lies they have in common).

    In many ways the COGs are good for society because they are exposing the big Christian cults for what they are. Too bad the COGs members are caught in the middle of this war — exploited by one side for their money and persecuted by the other side for being different.

  13. I see that this site does not like angle quotation marks, so here is the missing quote from the top of my last post:

    “…you can point to the trail of financial and emotional ruin that these cults leave behind them, and ask ‘are you sure God meant for those excommunicated people to suffer loneliness, rejection, the disruption of their family life? Are you sure it was God, and not some spiteful preacher trying to protect his gravy-train?”

    Now if you go back and read my last post it will make more sense.

  14. Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, you are making all the right noises, from the perspective of truth-telling. I especially like your damning of ESN, which is what could be called a “para-site,” a site that is an arm of the Christian mainstream, existing solely to feed on the broken souls and weakened minds of cult victims. “Confused and abused?” they say, “Come to Jesus!” They also have some nasty and inaccurate things to say about atheists. They aren’t interested in truth, but in “souls.” They’re fools and bullshitters–like you say, hypocrites.

    Now, as for our new friend John: let’s cut him some slack. He seems genuine to me, on a personal level. And remember, “the deceived don’t know they’re deceived.” John also has an academic and professional interest in his delusions being true, but he seems to be trying to be honest with himself, at least. One last quote bearing on the subject of John, and this comes from Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    Also, one caveat with regard to little cults vs. big cults. The thing that is often implicated as setting “cults” apart from mainstream “religions” is the “high-demand” nature of those considered “cults.” A major example of one of these demands would be Armstrong’s no contact policy. Big cults don’t need this abusive tactic because they are so big, whereas smaller cults have to get all big-brother on yo ass, since, for them, it is a matter of survival.

    In other words, where cults are concerned, little turns out to be worse than big on the individual level because of the specific nature of the abuses little cults must resort to. On the other hand, the abuses of the big cults are more comprehensive and widespread–on the level of cultural and social ills, rather than a high demand on individuals. They say, for example, “Don’t use condoms,” and 6,000 people die of AIDS every day in Africa. Thanks, big cults. But they don’t say, “Don’t talk to your heretic kids,” and thereby wreck the Jones family. That’s the kind of shit little cults get up to, because they are petty little prickish institutions.

    With regard to the subject of telling the truth, of course, big cults and little cults are equally enraging to those who give a damn.

  15. The Islamic states/dictators want to make it illegal anywhere to offend religion, which is another way of saying you can’t tell the truth about Islam. That way Islam will be unopposed, as the wimpy fearful faithless Christians, except for one pastor in Florida, do diddly about it. Islam is the world’s worst death cult.

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