The Plain Truth About Homosexuality–Part One: Original Sin

Real men love Jesus.

Back in July the crack(pot) father-son team of Ron and Gareth Fraser had an article published in our nemesis, the Trumpet. They were harping specifically on a law that was passed in California that makes it illegal to discriminate against LGBT figures in the teaching of history at public schools. In other words, the precious Gareths were complaining about the non-discriminatory acknowledgment of people who have sexual preferences presumably different from theirs (though one can never be too sure). Of course they explained their reasons for being so bigoted, and those reasons have everything to do with a certain delusion that we’ve made it our business to expose. So, without further ado, get yourself a tall glass of the fruitiest cocktail you can manage, crank up the show tunes, don your leather, and prepare yourself for a fabulously fact-based polemical against the Armstrongist teaching on homosexuality.

So, what’s the big deal anyway? Why should your sex life matter to allegedly straight-laced cult elites? Well, it’s a complicated interplay of factors that give rise to this restrictive attitude toward sexuality. Let’s see if we can sort it out a bit.

You and Me, Baby, Ain’t Nothin’ But Mammals…

One likely influence is biological. If evolutionary psychology is basically correct, we are genetically predisposed to exhibit certain social behaviors that may have a positive effect on the reproductive success of our species, and many of our most deeply ingrained taboos probably result (in a more-or-less roundabout way) from this sub-rational function. It also makes sense, given our natural drive to reproduce, that most individuals are attracted to the opposite sex.

But not all. And in fact, sexual orientation, like sexual identity itself, is often not an either/or proposition. The proportion of those who identify as bisexual and fully homosexual in demographic surveys usually falls in the single-digits, although the percentage of those who have had at least one homosexual experience (but consider themselves to be heterosexual) is usually shown to be marginally higher. And, contrary to what your preacher might have told you, homosexuality is not restricted to humans: almost all other animals do it too.

We humans just happen to be a particular kind of ape. Throughout our pre-civilized stage, some of us were gay apes, and some of us exhibited gay behavior. When we started to put two thoughts together, and later two stones together to build civilizations, still, some of us were gay apes, and some of us exhibited gay behavior. Eventually, apes became temple catamites and fellating priests, apes sodomized each other in fertility orgies, gay apes and straight apes alike fucked their brains out for the glory of their gods and a good crop. It’s just the way things were, because we apes believed stupid shit and liked to have our genitals (and prostates) rubbed. So far, so good. But the shit was about to get stupider.

Us and Them

It wasn’t long before we started to impose a strict, binary dichotomy between gay and straight apes, a socialized abstraction layered over what in reality is a continuum. As our civilizations ramified and unfolded into progressively more complex structures, so did our ape natures unfurl ever more elaborate extensions of tribal instincts, in the form of divisive cultural mores. It eventually became expedient to define social rules regarding this apparent divergence in sexual behavior: now that we had perceived a difference, we had to decide whether to tolerate it or obliterate it. Western culture started out relatively tolerant.

Ancient Greece, for example, apparently tolerated homosexuality to a great degree, although they still didn’t make a linguistic distinction (they distinguished instead between passive and aggressive sexual roles, regardless of gender). It was, after all, a civilization characterized by its value-neutral attitude toward sexual activity in general. But even the Greeks had some standards: besides cultural conventions having to do with pederasty and active versus passive roles, it was also true that, although male-male relations were certainly allowed, exclusively gay men were marginalized through the use of informal social sanctions. Why? Marriage. It seems these ancients were tugged by the age-old prerogative of reproduction: men were expected to produce offspring and, therefore, to marry by a certain age. But remember that the Greeks did not even have a word analogous to our “gay”. They didn’t enjoy our overwrought conception of “sexual orientation”. So, those men who pursued same-sex relationships exclusively did not pay a social price for being gay, but for failing to “man up”, so to speak, and take a wife. (The Romans, for their part, were not so scrupulous in this regard. In Rome, free men were at liberty to take male lovers and never touch a woman if they so chose, without the consequence of stigma.)

Eventually, though, the relatively placid classical cultures were displaced by Christianity, which would in time set Europe ablaze with anti-gay passion (along with a passion for persecuting all kinds of people, like freethinkers, non-Christians, “heretics”, apostates, “witches”, and, of course, “sodomites”–the Christians would arrest, horribly torture and often kill, or have the state kill, just about anybody in the name of Jesus). This new attitude towards sexual relations can of course be attributed to the Bible. But as anyone with half a brain knows, the Bible was written and compiled by humans, and humans (especially pre-scientific humans engaged in the weaving of fairy tales) are not always rational. The biblical injunctions against homosexuality (and even this is a matter of interpretation–something we’re not interested in) can be seen as having been influenced by their authors’ own biases and prejudices, some of which may have their ultimate basis in nothing more divine than the genetic and environmental legacy of their all-too-human natures. (The stifling, bigoted culture of the ancient Hebrews, after all, had to come from somewhere.)

But far from improving this superstitious cultural substrate, the followers of the sweet, baby Jesus quickly turned it into the most diabolical machine of hate, destruction and murder the world has ever known. And, if a certain great historian is to be trusted, Christianity cut its teeth for mayhem on its bungling, unintentional dismantling of the very civilization that gave it life. Rome.

The Triumph of Barbarism and Religion

Armstrong and his spiritual progeny would have you believe that the fall of Rome had something to do with its acceptance of homosexuality, which they consider to be a decisive factor in the “breakdown of the family” (more on this later). They are fond of quoting Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as supportive of this claim (and the author certainly gave some opportunity for quote mining in this vein). However, anyone at all familiar with this classic work would be immediately struck by the irony in this, since Gibbon lay most of the blame for Rome’s decline on its embrace of Christianity.

We won’t go into detail here regarding the Christian terrorism waged upon the Hellenes: it suffices to point out that it was centuries in length, brutal, unforgivably destructive of priceless knowledge and ultimately–like so many Christ-centered atrocities–swept under history’s rug by the comparatively ignorant victors. But the Christians didn’t acquire their terrible power to eradicate Hellenic culture because of their philosophical superiority (quite the opposite). They were the lowest of the low in ancient Rome, an uneducated mass of marginalized, benighted cultists–until by a fateful historical accident they won the sympathetic ear of an Emperor and turned him to their delusions. And, as Gibbon tells it, it was all downhill from there.

According to Gibbon, the reason the Roman empire was weakened from within was not because of homosexual behaviors, but because of Christianity’s otherworldly message. It turned all of its proponents into hazy-brained lotus-eaters! Softened by fantasies of Heaven and “salvation”, the Roman populace dreamed themselves into oblivion, largely abandoning or developing an indifference toward civic duties as they followed their guru’s advice to “take no thought for the morrow”. As survivors of an insular cult, our readers can readily imagine what might befall the institutions of “this present evil world” if Armstrongism became suddenly popular (think Teabagger movement, but without the Capitalist pretensions–or, in Flurry’s case, with them–only these Teabaggers of the ancient world had an Emperor on the throne and none of our modern scruples against slaughtering ideological rivals and purging their collected knowledge). As a result of this and other corruptions (such as the increasingly aggressive Praetorian Guard), the Roman empire crumbled at the slightest nudge from hostile “barbarians” in the North.

Now, certainly there exist professional criticisms of Gibbon’s view on the Christian cult’s role in the decline of Rome, and it is not my intent here to take sides in that debate. I only wish to point out the fact of the Armstrongist misrepresentation of Gibbon.

But more relevant to this article is the indisputable effect that Rome’s embrace of Christianity ultimately had on Europe’s religious attitudes towards sexuality. Had Constantine never condescended to a conversion into the Christian cult, regardless of the veracity of Gibbon’s analysis, Europe would have turned out to be much different from what it became. Christianity would doubtless have died out in classical antiquity, while the Hellenic culture would have continued to thrive–and the European continent would not have descended into a conservative religious fervor, as it eventually did under the auspices of the Church and its Protestant daughters, with sexual repression at the top of their list of pious priorities. Thus, as happens so often in history, the fate of homosexuality in the West turned decisively upon the deluded spiritual indulgences of a single individual. However, the rise of homophobia would be postponed until the 12th century, some 800 years after Constantine’s time.

Contempt for the World

The early church “fathers” were well aware of the Levitical restrictions against homosexuality, but had already set out on a course of anti-Mosaicism, most probably in an attempt to place some philosophical distance between Christianity and the more restrictive Judaism, and thereby gain new converts. The Council of Jerusalem in 50 CE established a double-standard that allowed Gentiles to join the cult without being “on the hook”, as it were, of having to abide by certain Mosaic restrictions and ceremonial laws (most notably, having their foreskins lopped off) that Jewish Christians were expected to obey. As the Christian cult grew it became progressively less and less Mosaic and more Hellenic, until by the time of Augustine (4th century CE), the Mosaic law was effectively “nailed to the cross” (where it stayed until taken back down and flogged incessantly by Judaizing “heretics”, mainly Adventists like Armstrong).

One of the Hellenic ideas incorporated into early Christian thought was lex naturalis (“natural law”). But the classical conception of natural law was necessarily warped as it passed through the Christian filter applied to it by these Medieval theologians and monastics. What was originally an appeal to broad principles that could ostensibly be arrived at and agreed upon through common reason, became in the hands of Christians a tool of oppression, based not only on pre-scientific blunders regarding observations about the natural world, but also on a substitution of reason with preconceived bigotry.

An essay on the history of homophobia, titled “Saint Aelred the Queer”, by Scott Bidstrup, describes this phenomenon very well:

The early church fathers, particularly those who founded the monastic orders, often looked to “nature” for examples of morality and immorality. This rather risky business was fraught with difficulties, not the least of which was the fact that nature itself was very poorly understood during this period of history. Nature was considered inherently beautiful and moral, even though almost any activity of man considered to be immoral can be shown to be engaged in by animals. This inconvenient fact was simply ignored by the ancients, or they were not aware of it. The exceptions were animals that the ancients considered to be revolting or disgusting for whatever reason, or were believed to engage in bizarre behaviors.

For example, it was believed during this time that hyenas were fond of digging up graves and eating the corpses. It was also believed that hares grew a new anal opening every year, and that weasels mated through the mouth and bore their young through the ear.

Because hyenas were considered a rather disgusting animal, and the fact that they were believed to engage in homosexual sex predominantly, homosexuality itself began to be considered to be disgusting by them through their association with the animals the ancients considered disgusting.

These unfounded stereotypes were perpetuated in books called “Bestiaries” that purported to describe the natural history of the animals that were familiar to the ancients. Two of the most famous of these were the “Bestiary of Barnabus” and the “Historia Animalium.” Both perpetuated many stereotypes about animals, including those listed above.

Because homosexuality became associated with hyenas, an animal believed to rob graves and eat the corpses, it’s not surprising that early church fathers and monastics held homosexuality itself to be repugnant since it was associated with such repugnant animals.

Thus began a campaign against homosexuality by certain church fathers, among them Augustine (a rather nasty piece of work himself, the first known zealous advocate of forced conversions), and Clement, a man who mistakenly associated homosexuality with a form of child slavery in which male children were often sold into slavery as prostitutes. These two men and others like them began to associate homosexuality not just with unsavory animal practices, but with other practices they didn’t happen to like, such as paganism, or pederastry, etc.

So, according to ancient theologians and monastics, homosexuality is wrong because hyenas rob graves. Not exactly pristine logic.

But there were other factors keeping this farce of reason from catching on right away, mainly having to do with the concurrent ubiquity of homosexuality. For a sample of the overheated rhetoric (apparently largely ignored by the common lay Christian) employed by these fanatical monks, take a look at On Contempt for the World, by one Bernard of Cluny. It was written in the early half of the 12th century and is indicative of the popularity of homosexual activity in that period. Here is a particularly expressive segment (found in Homophobia: A History, by Byrne Fone):

Alas! Wickedly public are the fire and heat of sodomites. No one suppresses this sin or hides it or sighs that he is sinful…unnaturally, outrageously, he becomes she. Bemoan the world and everything in it, which are full of sin. Men forget what is manly; O madness! O terror! How like hyenas! Look how many are buried beneath this unnatural filth. What category, what name does this abomination have? The horror of this sin, alas! resounds even to the stars. Act and outcry are naked; groan, O chastened mind! Men become each other’s helpers, this one with that one. Your law, your voice, your providence, O Christ, are half-dead. Sodom’s law spreads openly…billy goats,–O madness!–replace the female. You demand to know the number of this flock. I’ll quickly announce it, broadcast it, proclaim it at once like a tragic actor: they’re as plentiful as barley in a field, oysters at sea, sand on a shore, Islands in the Adriatic, incense in India, or reeds along the Tiber. Castles, outskirts of town, and even our churches are overrun by this filthy plague. O for shame! Horrors overflow. O ultimate madness! There are now far too many hermaphrodites. The law of nature is perishing, acknowledged customs ruined by this plague.

Is that you, H.P.? By the sound of this man’s ravings, one would think the dread Cthulhu had been called up from the dreaming depths of his eldritch prison-grave in R’lyeh. “There are now far too many hermaphrodites?” Get a grip, Bernie–and for the sake of your few remaining sanity points, put down the Bible Necronomicon.

It was easy for the European populace at large to ignore such histrionics. At least, initially. By the time of the writing of On Contempt for the World, though, the winds of change were already blowing.

The Sodomy Delusion

We’re accustomed to hearing of Islamic extremism running amok in modern Middle Eastern theocracies, and we are rightly disturbed by the oppression and human rights abuses perpetrated by such regimes. But the sad truth is that this trend was inspired by a Christian Europe during the Middle Ages, at least with respect to the persecution of “sodomites”.

What began as merely stupid bigotry, buttressed by a perversion of the ethical philosophy of natural law, quickly exploded into a full-fledged paranoid delusion that swept over an increasingly theocratic and combining Europe (you know, Babylon the Great, Beast of Revelation–watch for an upcoming article on that subject, by the way). The puritanical purging was to start, ostensibly, in the “inner court”, as it were: sex acts considered to be against the “natural” use (i.e., non-procreative), which began to be called “sodomy”, were thought to be rampant among the clergy. “Homosexuality in the Middle Ages”, a piece by Warren Johansson and William J. Percy, has this to say:

As soon as the Church reorganized itself after the invasions and other disruptions of the late Dark Age, fervent clerics assailed sodomites. About 1051 Saint Peter Damian, a member of the circle of papal reformers, in the Liber Gomorrhianus, bitterly denounced male homosex, particularly among the clergy where it deemed it rampant and asserted that whoever practiced sodomy was “tearing down the ramparts of the heavenly Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls of ruined Sodom”. His denunciations presaged the attitude of later councils and canonists. He charged that such sins were not only common, but escaped attention because those guilty of them confessed only to others equally compromised. But the response of Pope (later Saint) Leo IX (1049-54) was no more than a polite acknowledgement that Damian had shown himself a foe of carnal pollution. The ardent reformer had not convinced the pontiff that sweeping measures against sodomitic clergy were necessary. Leo was quite willing to let the moral status quo in the Church remain, perhaps sensing that a campaign to identify and oust transgressors would only amount to a selfinflicted wound…A new phase in the evolution of attitudes toward sexuality began with Hildebrand (Gregory VII, 1073-1085), the most revolutionary of all popes. He demanded clerical celibacy; that priests put away their wives and concubines. Although not completely successful in enforcement, the relentless drive against clerical sexuality gave rise to a sort of moral purity crusade which also assailed Orthodox, Muslims, and Jews as well as heretics and sodomites. The intensified emphasis upon asceticism and clerical celibacy was to mark Roman Catholic morality ever after. Priestly sexual abstinence was never again doubted and condemnation of “unnatural vice” even among the laity inevitably became more strident and imperative.

But this mad push for chastity did not remain bottled up inside the seraglios and back rooms of the monasteries. It inevitably burst forth like an abscess of ignorance to wash the secular landscape in its toxic purity. The Church’s prudish paranoia against “sodomy” was then available for wider propaganda purposes, and it achieved a fluid currency among the superstition-steeped masses, their crusading monarchs and heretic-hunting popes. Johansson and Percy continue:

The Crusades whipped up prejudice against Muslims, believed to be given over to homosexual vices and against Jews, assumed to be lustful. Westerners now associated sodomy with the dualist heresy of the Bogomils in Bulgaria and the Cathars in Provence.

Toward the midthirteenth century the very word Bulgarus acquired the meaning of sodomita. But most important, the earlier reprobation was now magnified into a fullfledged obsession, which Warren Johansson in 1978 defined and labeled as the sodomy delusion. In its fullest formulation, it is a complex of paranoid beliefs invented and inculcated by the Church, and prevalent in much of Christendom to this day, to the effect that nonprocreative sexuality in general, and sexual acts between males in particular, are contrary to the law of Nature, to the exercise of right reason, and to the will of God and that sodomy is practiced by individuals whose wills have been enslaved by demonic powers.

Beginning at least as early as Gregory IX’s commission to the Dominicans in 1232 to ferret out heretics in southern France, Inquisitors in certain regions extended their jurisdiction to sodomites as well, now viewed as allies of demons, devils, and witches. Those convicted were handed over for punishment to secular authorities, which in time were independently to prescribe and enforce death. Before execution, torture wrung confessions from victims, and often the trial records were burnt together with them.

After 1250, savage penalties were ordained. A convenient political invective that the popes hurled against dissidents, sodomy was also repeatedly linked with heresy.

From the late thirteenth century onward, statutes against sodomy, with penalties ranging from mere fines to castration, exile and death, enter secular law. The sacral offense moved from canon to civil law.

Bidstrup points out that

As crusade after crusade failed to permanently dislodge the Muslims from the holy land, Muslims became a favorite target of propaganda, including anti-gay propaganda. William of Ada wrote:

“According to the religion of the Saracens [Muslims], any sexual act whatever is not only allowed but approved and encouraged, so that in addition to innumerable prostitutes, they have effeminate men in great number who shave their beards, paint their faces, put on women’s clothing, wear bracelets on their arms and legs and gold necklaces around their necks as women do, and adorn their chests with jewels. Thus selling themselves into sin, they degrade and expose thier bodies; “men working that which is unseemly” they receive “in themselves” the recompense of their sin and error. The Saracens, oblivious of human dignity, freely resort to these effeminates or live with them as among us men and women live together openly.”

The reaction of Islam to this kind of propaganda, was, of course, repression of its own. To prove the Christians wrong, Islam came to a repressive stance of its own, eventually outdoing even Christianity in its repression of homosexuality.

This is one of the most insidious of the many perils of theocracy: the delusions of the few go viral, and then hypertrophic, leading to an epidemic of harmful nonsense–an arms race, if you will, of vile stupidity, wherein the foolish and paranoid engage each other in a regressive race to the bottom. Bidstrup again:

It should be obvious by now that homophobia has its origins in ignorance. It is spread by ignorance, by repression, social conservatism and the alliance of church and state. It is self-evident that education leads to an understanding of the truth and that truth itself leads to freedom.

The history of homophobia in western culture is instructive. It tells us how, when we make untested assumptions, we can easily be led into error that can be very destructive, as homophobia has been. It shows us that the path to liberation isn’t through religious indoctrination but through reason and logic.

In a nation that claims to value freedom, let us learn from this lesson from the past. Let us throw off our chains of superstition and ignorance, and embrace the truth that our forebearers knew two millenia ago: homosexuals are a normal part of life and should be tolerated, accepted and integrated into every facet of culture without prejudice or ignorance.

Still not convinced? That’s fine; you shouldn’t be. Just because the origin of homophobia is superstitious nonsense conceived by the mother of harlots doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong to maintain bigoted views regarding gay people. Thankfully, however, we are well prepared to address homophobic claims directly, one by one, until you are satisfied they are all ridiculous myths. Stay tuned for part two: Debunking the Myths!


23 thoughts on “The Plain Truth About Homosexuality–Part One: Original Sin

  1. Looking forward to part 2. I’ve never been bothered by homosexual tendencies of my own but I have become more and more aware that the Abrahamic faiths have done tremendous damage to balance and reason on this subject.

    Truly, religion is the greatest and most insidious enemy by which the human race is afflicted. People assume the greatest among us set up the faiths. The truth is, as it always has been, that the basest and most ignorant among us have contrived all this nonsense.

    • What’s really repugnant about this fact is its corollary: that the “weak and the base” so often trampled upon the truly great. The destruction of the library and temples at Alexandria and the gruesome torture/murder of its most renowned mathematician, Hypatia, by an ignorant, drooling mob of idiotic Christian terrorists, is a good (i.e., horrifying) example of this. I’m going to be doing a piece on this phenomenon and its connection with Hoffer’s thesis soon, with the working title of “The Weak and the Base: Why Cults Attract and Generate Losers”. The true history of the true cult, and especially its state-sponsored persecution of the Hellenes, will feature prominently.

  2. Alan Turing, highly instrumental in the development of Computer Science and responsible for decrypting Nazi communications, was prosecuted by the Brits as another fallen statistic.

    The big irony is that within the Armstrongist Delusion, homosexuality is decried as an abomination, but strangely, you hear not one word about fornication. You can (not recommended) listen to thousands of hours of sermons and read tons of literature, but you won’t hear or see the Armstrongists publicly (especially on their TV shows) declare that heterosexual relationships outside of marriage are forbidden. It’s soft pedaled, and I personally suspect that they are afraid some of their own members may take their money and go elsewhere. It is so widely accepted that they don’t really dare to stand up against it. The Armstrongists would look downright foolish (as they are all the way to the core).

    So what do they do?

    They pick an easier target which more people can get behind as a draw to their prison religion.

    Consider this: In the 1970s, the Armstrongists ministers widely held the belief that in the Place of Safety, stoning (as in the Levitical kind) would be re-instituted.

    It would be hard to consider the Armstrongists even civilized at this point.

  3. “I doubt seriously that there are quite so many “fornicators” hidden amongst the armstrongite ranks.”

    On the other hand, I doubt the teens, even in PCG, are abstaining in anything like the numbers hoped for by their parents and ministers. There is plenty of external reinforcement of the properly liberal attitude towards premarital sex. This, coupled with hormonal factors and peer pressure, equates to a virtual guarantee of an initial escape from the prudish, authoritarian clutches of the cult for most young people. At least, until their lives spiral out of control due to an over-eager, naive pursuit of pedestrian rebellion, which so often sends these kids crawling back to the relative stability of sheepdom (most of them aren’t real rebels; they’re just trying to fit in).

    What’s interesting in the context of this article is the guaranteed presence of individuals in the CoGs who are not, in any natural sense, completely hetero. Conservative numbers of homosexual folks in PCG, for example, are likely to exceed one hundred, based on a guess of 3,000 members and if the low 5% rate estimated for the general population is applicable here (and there’s no good reason I can think of to doubt that it is). That’s enough for two whole congregations–all of whom must be suffering some pretty epic repression effects.

    • “Quite honestly, in hindsight, I wish I’d fucked my brains out in high school and college. What an absolute waste of potentially the best decade of my life.


      LOL, bingo. This is what pisses me off the most. All those hot chicks I had to peel off of me for Jesus. Fuck you, Jesus.

    • “Quite honestly, in hindsight, I wish I’d fucked my brains out in high school and college. What an absolute waste of potentially the best decade of my life.”

      It’s never to late! Personally I well and truly made up for lost opportunities 🙂

  4. As you know, there’s considerable hypocrisy amongst the Armstrongists. I can’t point to any article or broadcast of the Armstrongists of recent date that comes right out and tells everyone that “living together in sin” or however you want to put it, is offensive to God and He is going to punish the United States and Brits because of it. You will see and hear articles about “gays” and “homosexuals” but not heterosexual fornication.

    The 20 somethings still go out and date outside Armstrongism (and why not — there usually isn’t anyone for them in their local Armstrongist congregation). Except for possibly the most rabid among them, the ministers still tolerate this “unequally yoked” scenario, compromising their own “principles” in the hopes that they can hold on to dwindling congregations. (Fat chance for that.)

    So in the sense of the “conservative” (read: radical retentive) ministries, your stance is reasonable. Yet, publicly, I’m not seeing the “stop fornication because this country is going down for it because God hates it” (unsupportable, given the record of King David) amongst the Armstrongists.

    And for groups in other countries, such as the British Commonwealth, there are severe penalties by law for even speaking in negative terms about people practicing homosexuality.

    Nevertheless, I would not want to be subject to Armstrongism in a closed compound such as the Place of Safety scenario because I believe it would mean death, no matter what my orientation was: Stoning would be instituted and few would escape the death penalty under that kind of administration (can’t prove it, yet, I’m really sure of it).

    Not to worry though: There are fewer and fewer 20 to 35 year olds in Armstrongism all the time. In one Sabbath keeping church, there isn’t anyone in the congregation between the ages of 18 to 35. None.

    • “In one Sabbath keeping church, there isn’t anyone in the congregation between the ages of 18 to 35. None.”

      At first blush this cheers my lost soul. But then I think of all those 0-17 year olds who are still languishing under parental delusions. We need, of our own free will and the application of societal pressure and shaming (rather than legislative efforts), to stop the indoctrination of children, across the board. Where are all the liberal activists? Where are the sociologists studying this epidemic? This is a form of abuse that is far worse than spanking, for example. Why aren’t they speaking out against it? Answer: because they’re liberals, and liberals generally suffer from a fatal philosophical flaw, inherited from their flirtations with post-modernism: the lazy assumption that beliefs should be respected, regardless of their content or consequences, and the ridiculous equation of disrespect for personal beliefs with political oppression, “incivility” (a word they don’t know the meaning of), and personal attack. It’s really quite stupid and aggravating. And that’s coming from someone who considers himself a liberal (just not a stupid one).

  5. Casey, you are correct, of course.

    Nevertheless, this is a continuing self-correcting problem: As each teen reaches their majority, every last one of them opts out and never returns.

    I know that this is not perfect, but as I say, it is self-correcting and eventually the entire congregation will age out of existence and that will be the end.

    Their Feast of Tabernacles this year was half what it was the previous year: It was 45 in 2011. People just stopped coming.

    This is an over all trend in the Sabbath keeping Churches of God. I liken it to a patient getting a transfusion of a pint of blood from one arm to the other and losing half of it in the process.

    One thing about the article over all: The percentages rendered for homosexuality — was that not for the general population? Is it not possible that the Armstrongist Churches may actually have a higher percentage? (They certainly seemed to when it came to alcoholism.) Just wondering if anyone can give an educated opinion.

    • I can’t think of any good reason why homosexuality would be either over- or under-represented among cultists. Then again, I don’t know of any studies done on CoG groups to answer this question empirically. The world may never know.

  6. I remembered and another person mentioned it this past weekend that during the hay day of WCG, the ministers had an official, but relatively little openly mentioned perspective that in the Place of Safety, the Levitcal Law would be instated, particularly stoning.

    I find this chilling.

    In reference to the article, it is not beyond the realm of imagination that if the Armstrongist cults ever gain sufficient independence from being answerable to civil authorities, no matter what the venue is, that they would have the predisposition to carry out stoning, with the ministers being the judge, jury and executioners. It isn’t so much the potential of the actual stoning (for such things as being a homosexual), but the very mindset which so dehumanizes other people that it could so easily be justified — and actually discussed — among the Armstrongist ministers.

    The example I’ve seen thus far — and recently too — leaves me evenly divided in the opinion of how dangerous these people can be if they have just a little more power than they have now. Certainly, their behavior indicates that they may well be more dangerous than most people give them credit for, though I would not want to be entangled in hyperbole.

  7. We’ll never know, I hope. There just isn’t going to be a flight to a place of safety, as far as I can see, unless some lunatic in the vein of that Jonestown psychopath comes out with a pronouncement to flee for no good reason. Then, all bets as to what could and would happen are off.

      • A really great article too; fairly comprehensive.

        The scenario of having Levitical Law and stoning was not specifically mentioned (but certainly would be part of the worst case scenario).

        It’s just that stoning really was a given in the minds of the ministers with the WCG idea of the Place of Safety. I hadn’t heard it mentioned in something like 4 decades and was reminded of it this weekend by someone who had heard it taught as another one of those doctrines.

        Again, the purpose of mentioning stoning (particularly with a topic such as homosexuality) is the sick perverted minds which have embrased that as a part of Armstrongism without considering for one moment that there is something wrong with the idea.

        This is simply an extension of the Guards and Prisoners scenario within the Armstrongist churches played out according to the pattern discovered by Philip Zimbardo in the 1971 Princeton Prison Experiment. Extended into a church cult, the dehumanization and resulting abuse is clearly recognizable embedded in Armstrongist history.

      • LOL, alright, Douglas; you keep hammering on this so let’s talk about it. I’ve never heard this thing about stoning. But, if you’re serious about Armstrongism, shouldn’t you be stoning people–particularly if you’re in a position to reinstate the Levitical civil laws? It’s not necessarily evidence of pathology (unless you want to suggest that the ancient Israelites–and the peoples of all similarly harsh cultures–were crazy, en mass, for following their laws); it’s instead an indictment of the belief system. The Zimbardo prison experiment (and this applies to the Milgram experiment, too, by the way), was exceptionally flawed and its conclusion, something called the banality of evil, is not taken seriously by the majority of professional psychologists. It is simply not necessary to invoke either psychopathology or the banality of evil to explain the dehumanization and abuses of the cults. Evil ideology is the culprit–some will identify with it and some won’t. Those who identify with it think they are doing right, and they aren’t crazy–just deluded (in the non-pathological sense). In other words, it isn’t a blind and ecologically deterministic process (as per Zimbardo and Millgram); it is a problem of people doing what is wrong when they think it is right–and the solution is to educate people out of such delusions. Let’s keep in mind that the easy answer (e.g., good people do evil things as a direct result of environmental conditions or because they’re crazy) is always almost certain to be incorrect.

  8. An interesting observation and, according to Ockham’s Razor, probably the correct one. It had not occured to me that the basic premise was wrong and that people do evil because they think it is good. Goodness, that’s almost Biblical. All kidding aside, Casey, I appreciate the insight. It will change a lot of what I post on the Internet from now on. Darn, I may have to go back and fix what I’ve already written. (I’m not sure I have the energy to go on a crusade against Zimbardo / Millgram, though.)

    Casey, you’ve also brought up another interesting point about stoning. Normally, I would think it is uncivilized and barbaric, but I might make an exception when it comes to False Prophets.

    And what do you think? Could it be that peoples of harsh cultures were (are) crazy en mass? I wouldn’t want any harm to come, so I’ll just say that there are some cultures today which hold the evil idiology that anyone who does not believe in their own belief system are to be enslaved, converted or killed. I’m not certain what the mental health professionals would say exactly, but it sort of looks like they are a danger to themselves and others, particularly in the case of suicide bombers.

    Would you not think that people believe they are doing good because of evil environments? That seems logical: A rather anomalous twist on the idea that people turn bad because of evil systems — a different view with similar results. If that be the case, we should be on guard to be circumspect on how we react to our environment in any case, I would think: The Guards think they are doing the right thing in abusing the Prisoners. Subtle.

    Rather than making a separate post I’ll just mention here that at one time (in the DSM III), homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder. Enlightenment struck in the DSM IV. Unfortunately, Intermittant Rage Disorder also disappeared and with the discovery of the Warrior Gene (DARRP-32 variant TC / TT) perhaps the DSM IV (if it EVER comes out) will put Intermittant Rage Disorder back. The American Psychiatric Society seems to change its mind as new evidence springs up. What can we say?

  9. “And what do you think? Could it be that peoples of harsh cultures were (are) crazy en mass?…I’m not certain what the mental health professionals would say exactly, but it sort of looks like they are a danger to themselves and others, particularly in the case of suicide bombers.”

    My understanding is that something is considered pathological if it interferes with one’s ability to function in a given society. If that society, for example, is a jihadist one, or one that condones or even legislates the stoning of “criminals”, then a member of such a society that identifies with the ideology behind stoning or jihad is likely behaving in accordance with societal norms, rather than suffering from a mental disorder. Most people fall into the former category, which is probably why the ministry of CoGs don’t initiate a return to stoning immediately, but instead fantasize about enforcing such laws in some future society, wherein it could be made normative. Such fantasies should be expected among those who identify strongly with Armstrongism, and they don’t, of themselves, indicate mental illness.

    Another requirement for a maladaptive behavior to be considered an indicator of mental illness is that the person with the behavior experiences distress over it. People who identify with evil ideologies are not typically distressed about their beliefs, but rather proud of them. So, support for stoning and jihad would be maladaptive in the West, but even in that context it may not be accompanied by the relevant distress required for such beliefs to be considered pathological. This is why it is incorrect to assume mental illness in those who, for instance, condone the murder of abortion providers, and why those who act on such beliefs don’t usually find much success with insanity pleas. Similar things can be said, I think, in faith killing cases, or cases of murder by religiously motivated spanking.

    Belief is not an illness, and people are held legally accountable for their actions when they act on the evil ideologies they identify with. This is another reason it is so important to loudly condemn the indoctrination of children. With a megaphone. From the mountaintops.

    “Would you not think that people believe they are doing good because of evil environments?”

    I would say only that part of the environment that involves indoctrination in evil ideology. The Stanford prison experiment was an attempt at confirming Zimbardo’s preconceived belief in the banality of evil and, as such, it did nothing to demonstrate an environmental effect on the beliefs of its subjects. His foregone conclusions regarded their behavior only: in fact, part of the weakness of his experiment was that it didn’t control for its subjects’ beliefs or, for that matter, any pathology that might have been a factor in their exhibited behaviors. He even took part in the experiment himself–as the “Prison Superintendent”! It wasn’t an experiment, in any reasonable sense of the word–it was an abusive fiasco. It certainly didn’t prove anything, and the only thing it demonstrated was that Zimbardo needs to re-take some undergraduate courses.

    I have a theory of my own that attempts to explain this strange obsession with trying to prove that environmental stimuli can, by some mysterious mechanism, directly turn normal people into monsters. I think it has to do with an abject fear of calling out evil beliefs for what they are, this outrageously stupid idea that to criticize one’s beliefs is to violate some sacred code of pseudo-tolerance (I never signed up for that, obviously). It’s just common sense that people act on their beliefs, but it’s also easily demonstrated. What percentage of anti-abortionists vote pro-choice? What percentage of fundamentalist Christians support gay marriage? Do Islamic extremists run around trying to enforce sharia law, oppressing women and generally keeping the countries they infest ignorant and Medieval? Do Jews hack off the foreskins of their baby boys? Do faith killers lounge around, mumbling incantations, while their children die of treatable diseases? Do followers of James Dobson abuse their children?

    None of this should be surprising, nor is it the work of some insidious and poorly understood environmental effect, as can be simply evidenced by the existence of atheists in the Bible belt (and foxholes, for that matter). The responsible factor is well-understood but largely ignored in favor of more politically correct pop-psychology and pseudoscience like Zimbardo’s “experiment”.

    Full disclosure: I thought of warning you off of this whole thing earlier, but I didn’t know how invested you were, so I refrained. I apologize for that.

    • No, Casey, you will find that I am not invested in something when someone can present a reasonable case that my thinking is in error. This stuff is new and experimental to me and I’m certainly not set. Instead, I’m looking for a reasonable explanation for what I am seeing and experiencing.

      As I understand what you are saying, there are objectively evil beliefs. Furthermore, “good” people may be influenced (or stressed) to adapt to or adopt evil beliefs as behaviors counter to their core values? This is where I am a bit vague.

      I still believe that there are good things to be gained from “Objective Morality” although I sense there are limitations to the perspective.

      The problem I see with maladaptive behavior being defined as insanity. I cannot, for example, see any advantage to society at large to the suicide bomber. It seems to me to be distorted perceptions are the basis of insanity and a suicide bomber seems to me to have the distorted perception that he is doing a “greater good” in what seems realistically nothing of the kind for anyone.

      I hope you can help me sort this out more fully — as you have opportunity.

      I still find Zimbardo’s experiment useful and revealing even if it does nothing to prove his preconceived ideas. The real reason I find the Princeton Prison Experiment interesting is that the types of behaviors seen within in seem to correlate very strongly with the behaviors of the Ministers in the WCG and the Armstrongist cults — at least in the aspect of dehumanization and abuse. It seems to me that what happened is that people were told to keep order without having solid standards for doing so and then they overlayed their own distorted perceptions to find a solution to the problem with which they were presented. As I say, I crave clarification and will be reasonable in examining the various perspectives presented. I will, however, choke on baloney.

      • “As I understand what you are saying, there are objectively evil beliefs. Furthermore, “good” people may be influenced (or stressed) to adapt to or adopt evil beliefs as behaviors counter to their core values?”

        Sure. Definitely. For example, I no longer exhibit the evil behavior, based upon an evil belief, of handing over a double-digit percentage of my income to liars and fools. So, clearly, supporting evil institutions never was a “core value” of mine, although tithing to “God’s true church” was when I was under the spell of indoctrination. That tithing is objectively evil is pretty straightforward, and I don’t have to explain it to you. Other examples of objectively evil beliefs abound, and can be similarly judged based on their evil effects. For example, praying (doing nothing) when you have the power to save your child’s life has evil effects, often coming in the form of a needlessly dead child and a pair of so-called parents serving time for voluntary manslaughter. That is a case of an objectively evil belief. So is the belief that condoms are sinful: the Catholic church is perpetrating mass slaughter of Africans by indirectly infecting them with HIV through their diabolical teachings (read this with all the skepticism it is due–especially since its central thesis contains an obvious fatal flaw–and with the knowledge that the Pope recently backpeddled on this stance). What about the belief that abortion is murder? It leads to legislative decisions in some backward countries that cause unimaginable evils. This evil “pro-life” stance against imaginary murders also leads to real murders. Evil beliefs surrounding ritualistic genital mutilation spread torture, misery and disease. Evil beliefs about homosexuality beget evil oppression, abuse and murder–carried out by the state, in some cases. Evil beliefs about witchcraft lead to evil witch hunts (and I’m talking as late as 2001). I could do this all day, but I think I’ve made my point.

        “It seems to me to be distorted perceptions are the basis of insanity and a suicide bomber seems to me to have the distorted perception that he is doing a “greater good” in what seems realistically nothing of the kind for anyone.”

        This is a muddy slippery slope, Douglas. By this definition of “insanity” half the world is insane. I could use this logic to claim that, from my perspective, anybody who believes in a god is insane. You might be insane. Thankfully, we have a clinical definition of mental disorder. Let’s stick to that for clarity’s sake.

        We are talking about three different factors here: (1) mental disorders, (2) beliefs and (3) behaviors. Behaviors may or may not be indicative of mental disorder. Usually they are not. Usually they are merely indicative of beliefs. It has not been demonstrated (by Zimbardo or Millgram or anyone else to my knowledge) that a particular kind of environment can cause a healthy person to exhibit pathological behaviors without important causative input from any beliefs the person may hold. Beliefs that are not only incorrect but lead to maladaptive or harmful behaviors can reasonably be called evil beliefs.

        On the other hand, beliefs that are correct may also appear to lead to maladaptive or harmful behaviors, but only by way of the intercession of…wait for it…beliefs that are not only incorrect but lead to maladaptive or harmful behaviors. Take social “Darwinism”, for example. A common Creationist canard is to claim that natural selection is an evil “belief” since it supposedly leads to Nazi eugenics. No, it doesn’t. Social “Darwinism” did that. Natural selection is scientific theory, not a value judgment. And the observation of facts is nothing like “beliefs” in any case.

        Incorrect beliefs are powerful emotional touchstones, impervious to logic and fact (that’s how they get to be incorrect). And their status of being incorrect, coupled with the emotional investment with which they are connected so intimately with those who believe them, is what makes them so goddamn harmful–provided they are incorrect in all the wrong parameters (some are more harmful than others).

      • “The real reason I find the Princeton Prison Experiment interesting is that the types of behaviors seen within in seem to correlate very strongly with the behaviors of the Ministers in the WCG and the Armstrongist cults — at least in the aspect of dehumanization and abuse.”

        We should also consider the possibility that the ministers themselves are dehumanized and thereby abused by a system of beliefs that holds the believer in some special status, separate from the majority of his fellow humans, and forever unable to realize his full human potential except in a delusional fantasy that continues to be postponed beyond the horizon of each failure of the Kingdom to materialize. They may attempt to run their churches like (their personal interpretations of) mini-Kingdoms, but imagine the warping of mind and lifestyle involved in having to do so (and they only “have to” do so because of incorrect, maladaptive beliefs). All of this is assuming ministers who are not duplicitous (and we can only assume this, except in specific cases).

        I contend that the only appreciable “environmental” effect going on here is that of the abstract ecology of belief structures.

        By the way, it may sound like I’m being adversarial (you know what me being adversarial looks like), but the truth is I’m having a blast because this is actually an interesting discussion. This is as close as I get to the faddish, politically correct conception of “civil”, I’m afraid. So, thanks for rolling with it.

  10. “Let’s keep in mind that the easy answer (e.g., good people do evil things as a direct result of environmental conditions or because they’re crazy) is always almost certain to be incorrect.”

    Its the attraction for those who are sociopaths and psychopaths to draw a source to feed on. The Prison Experiment revealed those given to an environment in which they could thrive outside the external world where they would be normally held accountable.

    For anyone, the attraction of money was the first baited trap to get you to sign up for the experiment. The second was a given if you were picked as a guard and had a disposition towards violence, control and abuse.

    Your argument(s) above are well thought out and articulate. However, my experiences in this life have shown me that people are animals of opportunity. When given power some move towards the lower end of the equation. They are animals who will use every available tool in their mind to manipulate and destroy others.

    Lets say that America has a financial collapse. Just what would you experience first hand as people lose everything they worked for? The environmental conditions in this scenario dictates what is and has been known throughout history. They riot, kill and steal. Their actions are a response to environmental conditions.

    My two cents.

  11. “Beliefs that are not only incorrect but lead to maladaptive or harmful behaviors can reasonably be called evil beliefs. ”

    I would conclude then, if we use this is a basis for ‘evil beliefs’, that in the case of both the Zimbardo and Milgram experiments, the ‘evil belief’ was that 1) you can assume that the person in authority is always (or nearly always) correct and 2) it is my responsibility to carry out my authority figure’s orders, no matter what the cost to others is.

    If that is the case — and I would need some sort of confirmation to conclude that it is — then this would become the explanation of not only the Zimbardo and Milgram fiascos, but would also handily explain the behavior of the Armstrongist ministers. I, myself, do not view these two beliefs as particularly benign, for I seem to perceive that the entirety of world history has suffered the consequences of these beliefs.

    Casey, you seem to suggest (or maybe a little more than that) that a person needs a certain enlightenment to overcome the ‘evil beliefs’. I certainly concur with that and in this case, the enlightenment is to me that there is no reason at all to conclude that the “authority figures” we encounter in particularly the Armstrongist environment have any particular “truth” which would lend itself to behaviors the leaders would desire: They are not only not superior in any way, nor have any ‘secret knowledge”, but are actually quite immature in their understanding of the complexity and science of the universe around them — they don’t actually know how things work and are a poor model to follow as an example.

    Dr. Stanley Schmidt has had an editorial in the recent past about how silly it is for men to be under sanction for wearing a hat indoors. He points out that it’s just plain stupid to follow this silly rule. It gave me pause to find my initial reaction as a bias against what he had to say, but in the end, he is right. Most of us seem to have been indoctrinated to become convenient commodities as livestock for the rich, powerful and well-connected (even if they are rather limited figures such as was Herbert Armstrong, who was master only in his small to medium sized corporation of corruption). Who made up such silly rules and why should we follow them? Opinions of authority figures raised to doctrine without the support of science and natural “law” are useless.

    It’s even worse than that: Following them in their belief system actually causes harm to those who practice the beliefs. If we are looking for a basis for mental illness, causing harm to self or others is one of the first criteria. In fact the DSM IV has a solution to this particular perplexity: Shared delusion (Folie à deux). As you say, by the definition I chose, half the population would be insane. As far as I can tell, this is pretty much a low figure 😉 particularly these days.

    Anyway, this discussion is not only enlightening, but one of the few adult discussions I’ve been able to participate in for quite awhile. Thanks for the additional comment, particularly with your busy schedule.

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