A Cult In Decline – Armstrongism In The 21st Century

Hoeh officiates at Armstrong's funeral.

Armstrongism’s death knell?

This is a subject that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time now. In fact, I started writing the article several months ago but it’s taken me a bit longer to get all of the pieces assembled than I thought it would. The subject? The slow but inevitable decline of the religious movement known as Armstrongism (my former religion and possibly yours). The irony should not escape us, considering that decline appears to be their favorite subject. For over 75 years, the general theme of Armstrongism has been “Nation in Decline” (regarding America, Britain and other western nations). Today, I’d like to focus on the tragic irony of this theme.

I’ll be discussing the factors that ultimately led to the success of the movement in the first place and those which have led to its steady decline in recent years. I’d like to take a look at the most “successful” splinters of Armstrongism, to see how they’ve succeeded at all. Lastly, I will hypothesize on the bleak future that will be faced by so many people still caught up in the grip of these cults.

This is a subject of great importance to those with friends and family still stuck in these cults. Understanding the decline of these groups will enable us to help these people when they need help the most. To be there for them when their religious “support system” no longer operates. But first, a look back at how it all started…

The Early Days

Before we can look at the future of Armstrongism, let us first look to the past. Let us observe the conditions that gave rise to the movement, and for a time, allowed it to thrive. The year was 1934. The primary methods of mass communication were print and radio. At this stage, radio broadcasts still carried a semblance of authority. Broadcasts were taken seriously by many people (especially those in rural areas) as a source for news from the outside world. (the War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast is clear evidence forthis). The air of authority assumed by broadcasters, coupled with the widespread proliferation of radios in American homes during this time, was the “perfect storm” that would allow for the formation of a new religious movement. The only thing lacking was someone ambitious enough to make it all work.

By the early part of the 1930’s such a man emerged. His name was Herbert Armstrong (HWA), a man who – according to his Autobiography – was at first overly ambitious, cocky, self-confident and conceited. (Perhaps later, we can debate the level of conceit required for him to write his 1300+ page autobiography). By January of 1934, Herbert and his Radio Church of God took to the airwaves.

Building an Empire

The early days of the Radio Church were touch and go, for a while. Eric Hoffer wrote: “A rising religious movement is all change and experiment” and so it was with Herbert. Despite his personal flaws, here was a man who had real vision and tenacity. It’s actually easy to admire him from a business standpoint when you consider how fast the Radio Church of God grew. He ran his church like a Fortune 500 CEO. He wasn’t just your average snake oil salesman. He wasn’t only selling superstition, he was selling himself. This was the first factor in the success of Armstrongism: Herbert became the product. He had a talent for marketing. He had panache. He had a way with the microphone. He had more flair than the average bible-thumping, sensationalist preacher. In no time at all, business was booming.

Like any good businessman, Herbert utilized these talents to create a thriving empire of his own. Like any earthly nation, his needed its own form of government. One which could best suit the needs of the businessman who’d constructed it. In the case of Herbert Armstrong, there could be only one: Autocracy. This constitutes the second factor in the success of Armstrongism: the iron fist of dictatorship.

The “Called Out” Ones

There is a third and equally important factor to be considered. The success of Armstrongism required a specific type of believer to begin with. One who would fully commit (perhaps I should say submit) to the ideals of the group. People who would unquestioningly and unflinchingly dedicate their time and money when called upon. Herein lies the third factor in the success of Armstrongism: The recruitment and retention of the ideal member.

Prior to attending services, each prospective member (PM) was subject to several ministerial screenings. They were asked a lengthy series of questions before being allowed to join. In many cases, they would be asked to make serious life changes (such as quitting smoking, or giving up a job) to be able to attend. The tithing doctrine was explained to them and their reactions gauged. The church was actively seeking out a certain type of member. If the PM didn’t make the cut, the minister could simply exit gracefully with the age-old: “We’ll be in touch!” The ones who’d passed inspection were led to believe that they’d been specifically called by God. Right from the start, they were at their most devoted.

The Culling of the Flock 

Recruitment, was only one side of the coin. Once the new member was in place, great effort was made to keep them attending and to keep them loyal. The WCG was undeniably a very successful church in its day. If the numerous co-worker letters are to be believed, the WCG grew at a steady rate of 30% a year. It would be great if these claims were verifiable, (especially attrition totals) sadly, they are not.

What we do know is that during the entire reign of Herbert Armstrong, there was no shortage of members who became unhappy and left the cult. Whether they took issue with doctrines like “Divorce and Remarriage” and the makeup ban for women, or, because they became disillusioned with HWA’s heavy-handed leadership, people were always leaving. The never-ending battle waged by those in power was one of damage-control: a constant search for the disaffected, a race to find these “rotten apples” and stop the spread of the infection before it could reach others.

In the end, the tactics of selective recruiting & culling the herd left the deck stacked highly in Armstrong’s favor. As the years progressed, the group grew to become something more than just a religion. Eventually, it became a Cult of Personality.

The Cult of Personality

The death-blow to Armstrongism was dealt on January 16th, 1986 with the passing of Herbert Armstrong. That it was a death-blow, was not immediately apparent. The church administration still had a corporation to run, the ministry still had a flock to tend to, and the members still had the “return of Christ” to prepare for. There was only one small problem… For the first time since 1934, the machine was missing its most vital component. The GCI website puts it this way:

In 1986, shortly before he died, Herbert Armstrong appointed Joseph Tkach (pronounced Ta-cotch) to be his successor. Tkach had been a loyal administrator who supervised all the ministers. He did not have the magnetic personality that Armstrong did, and he assigned other people to present the television program and write the articles.

Fast-forward 25 years: Since the death of Armstrong, the church he founded has disintegrated into hundreds of splinter groups. Groups that grow smaller with each passing year. Yet his adherents maintain a strong reverence for Herbert. Certain groups even mandate that prospective members must acknowledge HWA as the “end time Elijah” before they can attend. They ignore his flaws left and right. They make excuses for his numerous failed prophecies. They replay his various sermons, ad-nauseum. It’s the closest thing to idol worship I’ve ever seen. Not only does this validate the Cult of Personality theory, it indicates that HWA’s death was the impetus for the decline of Armstrongism in general.

The Winds of Change

The years following the death of HWA are similar to those following the death of another dictator with a cult of personality. Following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, change was nowhere in sight. However, by 1955 the Soviets were entering a period later known as the Khrushchev Thaw. During this time, the iron grip of Stalin was eased and massive changes were implemented within the USSR. Contrast this with the new WCG administration in the years following 1986: With both Tkach & Krushchev, there were initial purges of political/ministerial enemies, followed by a period of ever-increasing change. By 1956 Krushchev gives his famous Secret Speech denouncing Joseph Stalin. In 1994 Tkach gives his “Russian Christmas Present” sermon renouncing the old beliefs.

The parallels between these two events are quite evident. Tkach & Krushchev both set out to change their organizations as much as they possibly could. In the case of both the USSR & the WCG, those changes had unintended consequences that forever changed the lives of millions of people and, arguably, for the better.

Well imagine that, they even look alike!

Armstrongism & Communism

The similarities between Armstrongism and Communism do not end with Russia. The comparison can easily be made today between the largest remaining communist nations and the larger of the Armstrongite cults. Communist China could easily be compared to UCG (and more recently, COG-WA): While China is still Communist by name, their policies have changed so much as to make them almost unrecognizable to Communists of decades past. UCG too has changed dramatically from Armstrongism of yesterday. It is not uncommon for new UCG members to have never heard of Herbert Armstrong. Similarly, visit their “About UCG” page and you’ll see that HWA is naught but a footnote.

The next largest nations, Cuba and North Korea, easily compare to the next largest COG splinters. For one thing, both countries have brutal, autocratic governments: Cuba has Castro: An athletic man in his younger years, who found his purpose later in life, one that led to a violent revolution. Later, as his health began to fade, he reluctantly handed the reins of power over to his closest living relative, in a charming (if not familiar) display of nepotism. North Korea, has Kim Jong Il: a xenophobic despot of questionable sanity, sitting within a fenced-in-compound of a nation, reveling in his delusions of grandeur, his love of fine wines, and always collecting new and ever more grandiose titles for himself.

All Results Not Typical

Remember, these are comparisons to the largest Armstrongite splinters, groups that are unique for being successful at all. Most Armstrongite churches are considerably smaller and probably contain 100 people or less. The last Holy Day I attended with COG-FF (a fairly well-known group with a substantial web-presence) had barely 100 people in attendance. Even this pitiful number is likely to be much larger than the majority of Armstrongite groups. Why have the vast majority of these cults utterly failed? Put simply, none of these groups have been able to replicate the success of the original WCG. (1) They all lack a dynamic leader like Armstrong (playing tapes or videos of him is not a solution to this problem), (2) An autocratic form of government is difficult to maintain when the group lacks a strong & charismatic leader with whom the members are enamored, (3) The selection of splinters to choose from provides the membership with considerably more options than were ever available to those in the WCG. Instead of a single “one true church”, the members now have 700+ “one true churches” that they can choose from, should they become unhappy with their current group. Or, if push comes to shove, they can simply form their own church. Many have done just that.

Everyone is Doing it!

Just how difficult is it to start a new church? Not very. Here’s what the Armstrongist tree of splinters looked like, circa 1997 (source):

That’s a lot of splintering. But notice that only three of these flocklets boast memberships exceeding 3,000. The vast majority surely possess far below that number (and probably not much more than that number in aggregate). It can be estimated that, by 1995, some 25,000 (or, by some accounts, 50% of the membership) had left WCG to join or start splinter groups since Armstrong’s death. Safely assuming that almost all of the splinters’ members are former WCG affiliates, we can derive a number of at least 9,000 (but certainly more–we know for a fact that one single group snatched up about 12,000 WCG attendees) who left for the three major groups. This wildly conservative estimate leaves only 16,000 to divide up among the approximately 50 or so smaller groups, yielding an average of about 300 per group. This is the economic environment wherein the disaffected and ambitious heretics fall all over each other trying to snipe sheep a few at a time from the rolls of the more established juggernauts. And yet they have little reason to be daunted in their efforts (provided they don’t require a large following). Armstrongism has become an increasingly diversifying market, a smorgasbord of variously Armstrongist options in which the barriers to entry are exceedingly low. In fact, it doesn’t even take a bricks-and-mortar operation to constitute a splinter group.

Anyone with a computer, internet access and a little startup capital can pastor his own E-flock. Once the Articles of Incorporation have been filed (perhaps using Legal Zoom), the new splintrepreneur need only create a website (don’t forget that “Donate” button!), write a statement of beliefs, work a little SEO magic and then they can just sit back and watch the hits roll in! The doctrines are already written (have been for 30+ years now) and require only minor modifications to distinguish this “one true” clone from the others. Long gone are the days of the ordained ministry hogging the podium. Now, anyone can “spread the gospel”. It’s like some insane infomercial: “Are you tired of being forever stuck on sermonette rotation? Have your long years of faithful song-leading, sound-crew jockeying, door greeting, seat-reserving, coffee brewing and bringing the minister his water not paid off with an ordination of your own? It’s just not fair! Well congratulations, good and faithful servant, your ship has finally come in! Just fire up this website and start writing. Now you too can have a piece of the pie!

But the market is surely on the verge of saturation. What these fly-by-night mini-gurus don’t realize (or care about) is that there is only so much of that pie to go around. To carry the analogy a little further, it’s a shepherds pie, and the shepherds will soon outnumber the sheep

You Can’t Stop the Signal

In addition to the three factors of success that I mentioned earlier, I believe that there is one other factor essential to the original success of Armstrongism. The fourth factor: The control of information. In the golden age of Armstrongism, there was no such thing as the Internet. Dissenters were reduced to word of mouth to spread their message. Print runs on books like David Robinson’s: Tangled Web and others were ineffectual in the grand scheme of things. Even the much vaunted Ambassador Report was severely constrained by finances, a problem not shared by the WCG.

We, today, do not have that problem. We have the Internet. The information age has proven to be a powerful tool in combating the control of information. Try though they might, Armstrongite ministers are not stopping members from going online. Ex-COG sites are sprouting up left and right, in many cases, created by younger members. In just the past year or two, sites like Armstrong Delusion & Silenced have come online – both run by ex-members in their twenties and thirties. It appears that the days of COGs controlling information have come to an end. They’ve lost that fight, among others. To quote from one of my favorite movies: “You can’t stop the signal.” The truth will be heard. And that truth will promote further splintering and reductions in membership.

The Tampa Bay Microcosm

Even going by the possibly inflated attendance numbers provided by the cult itself, we are able to track a precipitous loss of membership. But perhaps the best way to view directly the full scope of the decline of Armstrongism would be to look at what happened to one of the largest and most successful church areas in the original WCG.

During the 1980’s, one such place was St. Petersburg, Florida. For one thing, every time the Feast was held there, the festival coordinators would receive more transfer requests than they were ever able to accommodate. It was a popular location, with a temperate fall climate, pristine beaches, close proximity to Disney World, Busch Gardens and numerous other attractions. Presumably also for these reasons, Tampa Bay had a larger concentration of WCG members than did many other regions across the United States. By 1986 there was a total of four congregations spread out over a relatively small area (the two outlying churches were less than 70 miles apart).

In addition to the 500+ people meeting weekly in St. Pete, there were three other congregations of similar size meeting in Sarasota, Lakeland and Tampa each week. Combined, this put the population of WCG members living in Tampa Bay at around 1,600 people. Twenty-five years later the question becomes: where did they all go?

Scattered to the Four Winds

Tracking down 1,600 people is no easy task, especially given the passage of time. It is, however, a safe bet that many of them are no longer connected with Armstrongism. Hard data is tough to acquire, but I’ll start with what I do know: the largest Armstrongite congregation remaining in Tampa Bay was UCG as of two years ago. When I last spoke to a friend who attended, they numbered at around 150 people. This, however, was before the UCG/COG-WA split, so that number has probably changed. LCG also has a congregation in Tampa. I have no information on their attendance figures, though I’m pretty sure they are less than UCG. When I was in the Tampa congregation of the PCG (at its peak) we almost never had more than 50-60 in attendance. Of those, a dozen or so left when my parents did. Furthermore, according to sources within the PCG, the Tampa congregation has been moved and possibly merged with another congregation (presumably due to declining attendance in both areas).

All told, the three largest splinter groups combined have an estimated total of only 350 members in Tampa Bay. Let’s assume an additional 150 members scattered among the smaller splinter cults (generous estimates, both) and we’re still left with 1,100 missing members – almost 70%.

The Ever Dwindling Flock

Again, exact numbers are impossible to obtain, but if we consider Tampa Bay as representative of the greater WCG (circa 1986), we can reach a pretty astounding conclusion: Armstrongism is quickly fading. When a belief system loses nearly 70% of its adherents over the course of 25 years, it simply cannot survive. This is the ugly truth faced by these groups: it is they, and not the world, who are in decline.

The last Armstrongite church I attended was COG-FF. For the five years I attended, I noticed a steady decline in attendance. Each fall, I’d pack up and fly off to the Feast only to learn that more friends had left. By 2009 (my last Feast), the meeting hall resembled a ghost town. It was depressing to say the least. (I was told that Festival attendance for 2010 & 2011 was even smaller still).

They are a dying church, and they are not alone. Many are starting to see the futility of it all, many are starting to have doubts. More and more are leaving Armstrongism each year. Some are returning to mainstream Christianity. Others, like myself, are becoming Atheists. Some hold out hope, but leave to attend the larger of the corporate splinter churches, others cling to the beliefs and just stop attending with a group. Whatever the case, the prognosis is anything but good for those they leave behind.

Prodigal Sons & Daughters 

In reality, the majority of Armstrongite groups have more in common with retirement homes than anything else. The elderly are warming the majority of the seats, while the youth are jumping ship faster than the lifeboats can be lowered. Facebook groups and forums are filled to the brim with ex-members in the 18-35 age bracket. More are starting to question things every day. Perhaps they see the futility of spending their lives in a dying religion? How many more years will they sit and watch as the “Great Tribulation” creeps ever closer, and is perpetually postponed? They will slowly start to realize that their best years are being utterly wasted. They are beginning to see the lie for what it is. They, the youth of a modern age, see the growing disconnect between our society and the backward, homophobic and racist doctrines of Armstrongism. They won’t sit there forever.

Once the future of the cult, they are now abandoning it in droves. Unlike the biblical parable, I suspect that these prodigal sons won’t be returning in any large numbers. In light of this undeniable reality, how can Armstrongism continue to sustain losses of this nature and still survive the 21st century? Put simply, it cannot.

 Endgame

Considering everything that you’ve just read, the next question seems obvious: Where does it end? If the 70% figure for Tampa Bay is accurate and we apply it to the aggregate, we can surmise that Armstrongism will probably not survive to the 23rd Century. As more and more elderly members succumb to the passage of time, and as more and more of the youth flee the cults, the state of decline will reach fever pitch. If the movement loses another 70% of its membership, at the same assumed rate as the last 25 years, they will be gone well before the close of the 23rd Century. Again, if the 70% reduction is accurate, then by the year 2036 (another 25 years), the cults will be down to 9% of their original strength (1986 numbers). By 2061, that number will fall to only 2.7%, and by 2086 they will be down to 0.81%.

Yes, you read that right. If my estimates are accurate and we assume a steady rate of decline, by the year 2086, Armstrongism will have shrunk to less than one percent of their 1986 attendance figures. In absolute numbers (and assuming the self-reported attendance statistics are accurate), that’s a reduction from around 120,000 to less than 1,000 individuals worldwide! According to this rather generous projection, there will be not one Armstrongist left by 2236.

If that sounds too long to wait, consider that this is likely an overly rosy trajectory. It’s quite possible that compounding effects of shrinkage (like the loss of administrative manpower and financial incapacitation among competing sects, and the persuasive effects of apostate family members on clinging individuals) will accelerate the hemorrhaging of true believers to well beyond the proposed 70% rate. There will most certainly come a point (definitely before 2236) at which further cannibalization among splinters will become impossible, as so few will still be viable. It goes without saying that Armstrongism, already finding it difficult to recruit members from outside the constellation of Armstrongist cults, will grow less and less attractive to the wider world. It will progressively become a belief system imploding in on itself as it passes the event horizon of history’s black hole.

During this time, groups will continue to fracture. Power struggles will invariably arise. People will become more and more disillusioned with each passing year. In the end, those who remain will not even resemble the originals. The strongest then will resemble the strongest now: the group which has deviated the most from Armstrongism’s original form. It is inevitable. Soon or sooner, Armstrongism will cease to be.

Final Thoughts

The end of Armstrongism will not be heralded by the ringing of trumpets or great fanfare. It will simply come and go, as any other day, to be quietly and forever forgotten by history.

At least, that is, until the next Herbert Armstrong comes around. I can only hope that this future generation can learn from the lessons we had to endure–and in so doing, skip many of our trials…

Onward…

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40 thoughts on “A Cult In Decline – Armstrongism In The 21st Century

  1. ” fast-forward 25 years: Since the death of Herbert Armstrong, the church he founded has disintegrated into hundreds of splinter groups. Groups that grow smaller and more numerous with each passing year.”

    Lmao. And who is the Great Whore, the one with all the ‘daughters’ that have come out of her! Oh the irony.

    Thanks for the great article.

  2. Your analysis parallels my own thinking, and the faster it happens, the better for the world and the entire human race. I don’t think Herbert’s hodge podge of doctrines could go over now or possibly go over in the future because of the explosion of knowledge and communication you mentioned. At least, we can hope that’s the case.

  3. Wow, that is beautiful! Groups of this type, no matter the name, need to go away. The fact Armstrongist CoG groups are fading as fast as they are is just…heart warming!

  4. You have probably already heard, but Weinlands been indicted for Tax Fraud – alleging unpaid taxes in excess of $300k covering a few years. Lmao!!

    Check out Mike’s blog if you want all the news!!

  5. I, for one, am grateful for having experienced Armstrongism. Had I been raised a christian in a mainstream church, I may not be the science-loving atheist I am today. Because of it, I was able to see the delusion of religions and gods. Glad to see there are many who are waking up from this madness.

    • Hey, Scott; welcome to our little party. I’ve come to the same conclusion you have. We were well-trained in sniffing out pagan origins, and we can apply the same skill set to Armstrongism. Those who come out of Armstrongism and still cling to religion have to resort to some pretty pathetic rationalizations (process theology, etc.) that just fail to persuade a scientifically-minded person (since they are unfalsifiable, lack parsimony, and make no predictions). All four contributing editors here are also science-loving atheists, so you’re in good company. In fact, this is probably the only anti-Armstrongist site around (edit: besides Silenced.co–highly recommended) that focuses on science-based refutations. Granted, it’s a deep niche we’re exploring here–but that’s what geeks do, after all. And we’re Armstrong geeks. So, stick around and enjoy the debunking.

  6. I came to “the Church” as a teenager in 1993 because I was dating someone in WCG and he convinced me I had to join to continue our relationship. I was a Catholic and needless to say I was pretty impressed with my boyfriend’s knowledge of the Bible. Anyway, I attended Ambassador Big Sandy and graduated in 1995 and went through the whole Tkach change. At first I was thankful that Mr. Tkach was bringing the church out of cultism. However, I quickly became upset that I had basically “fallen” for the whole belief system in the first place. I had totally cut off my family as far as religion went, and they were pretty hurt when I refused to visit on, or even acknowledge, holidays with them. My boyfriend (now husband) ‘s family were clinging to old beliefs and ended up in a splinter group (UCG). I had become very close to my in-laws and this whole upheaval basically tore our family apart for a while. We were all judging each other, and trying to convince each other of “the truth”. They have since gone on to further splinter to UCGWA and I feel very sorry when I hear about how small their church is. I feel bad that they cling so strongly to this belief system.

    It has taken years for me to come back to a church at all. The damage that WCG did to my ability to trust organized religion was great. My husband and I stayed with WCG for maybe a year after the changes, and then just stopped going to church at all for a while. Maybe five years later we tentatively attended a Methodist church which has since become our home. I look at my current church home and how much good our church does for the community and then I listen to my mother in law say she’s going to travel to KY for a Wnter Family Weekend. What family? No one else in her family will be there? Meanwhile her actual family, which includes her grandchildren, will be celebrating Christmas.

    I see how many ministries exist in my church for church members, like small groups for newly divorced. That would be unheard of in “the Church” – you don’t get divorced in God’s church!

    I wonder, where is the love in the churches of God? Where is the focus on helping our fellow man?

    I wish these churches would just completely implode as soon as possible, so that maybe my in-laws (and others) can enjoy some kind of real life. A life where they aren’t constantly judging their friends and neighbors, and family, but can look on them with love. What a freedom it is to be out of that church.

    • What a touching, sad story. Thank you very much for sharing.
      The nice thing about modern mainstream religion is that it is NOTHING like “traditional” religion, which is was the CoGs are trying to hearken back to. It used to be “you go to church or you’re killed as a heretic or witch”. Now that religion has lost most of its power (on most people–fundys excluded), all the churches have to vie w/ one another to be the most friendly, inviting, caring, thoughtful, “church families”. It is good they have to cater to us for a change! 😉

      • Yes, good point. When religion is made to serve us instead of vice versa, we have a neutered god. God, put in his place, created by humans to serve humans. I’m totally drunk right now, so this might be weird.

  7. Fantastic article! I have to say my biggest fear for my children is not drugs or pre marital sex. Which is one of the best kinds 🙂 What scares me is religion. I have literally spent more time talking with them on this subject then anything else. It’s up to me to provide all the information and possibilities available so they can develop thier own sense of self. I am 36 years young with 2 teenagers and I love this new generation of youth coming up that questions inherited political and religious views. Cheers to the progression of humanity when the restraints from the past are being shed. Racism,homophobia, and intolerance will eventually just be bred out.

  8. You have to put Armstrongism in its proper context to understand it. It is a religion born of the Great Depression, the World Wars, and a massive crisis of capitalism. What is “the way of get” but a euphemism for capitalism? You are correct to draw analogies between Armstrongism and Communism, but you should complete the thought. The Soviet Union did not exist because people desired totalitarian dictatorship. It was a desperate reaction to the carnage of WWI and the the contradictions of capitalism as described by Marx, which appeared to be validated by the barbarism of world war. Armstrong (arguably a utopian socialist) criticized self-interest, competition, war, and emphasized a globalized utopia he trademarked as “The World Tomorrow”. Can’t see the forest for the trees? The world is globalizing. Nation states will give way to a single world community. War will not be possible (or else it will kill us all). I am an atheist. I was raised an Armstrongist. I do not subscribe to Armstrongism, but it wasn’t just some meaningless cult that took advantage of people. It grew large on the issues of the day, and it did so by standing in stark opposition to standard American capitalist values. It found a niche by dressing socialism in Christian garb. Socialism could not be preached to an American audience any other way. Mainstream Christianity does not preach the New Testament socialism found in the book of Acts. In America, it is the most vocal supporter of right-wing capitalism, of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman (www.godonomics.com). Here’s the real irony: as Armstrongism and Communism decline and fade away into the dustbin of history, their prognosis for the world comes to fruition. We will exist in a united, worldwide, international, globalized, living association of mankind in a state of fraternal love. That is the good news, and the plain truth. You have to look beyond today to the world ahead. It won’t come by dictatorship or Christ’s return, but by exponential advances in technology that make the information available via market transactions and money pale in comparison. Armstrong was a capitalist who was wiped out in 1920 and saw the handwriting on the wall. That is what birthed our church (how else could he articulate it in his day?), and the Cold War only suspended temporarily contradictions between a world economy and competing nation states, and these contradictions are as yet unresolved. A particular example is the United States dollar, which, as a national currency and the world reserve currency must pursue inherently contradictory policies which lead inevitably to financial crisis. This is why Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard in 1971 (perhaps Armstrong was thinking of this in his 70s “prophesies”)? Armstrong and Lenin could not foresee how the future would unfold, but they knew that it couldn’t continue as competing capitalist nation states armed to the teeth with economies that must grow or else they self destruct. Enough of the whining about abuse or homophobia or racism or patriarchy as if these things are unique to the WCG and are not a part of the general society. What made the WCG unique was the myth of the man and the vision of utopia. Vision is a magazine of one of the splits. Look at the language used. The Incredible Human Potential. The Mystery of the Ages. So he got the details wrong. He was asking the right questions. He was speaking in religious metaphor whether he realized it or not. “Give your heart to the Lord” is uninspiring and irrelevant in the turmoil of the worldwide industrial-social revolution that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

    • “Enough of the whining about abuse or homophobia or racism or patriarchy as if these things are unique to the WCG and are not a part of the general society. What made the WCG unique was the myth of the man and the vision of utopia.”

      I didn’t write this, guys. Just so you know. I would add, though, that this unique Utopianism was predicated on propositions that can be and have been thoroughly discredited by science and history–just like Communism itself–and that Armstrongism was in fact far from cozy with Marxist thought (its Utopianism was based on a de facto monarchic rather than a proletarian vision, one in which a just, benevolent, and infinitely wise aristocracy would be “restored” to power from above without reference to class struggle of any kind–in other words, not opposed to or developed from Capitalism, but orthogonal to it).

      To our credit, though, Jeffrey, remember that Armstrong himself admitted his own failure to clarify this vision in the minds of his followers (and I would go so far as to argue that he didn’t fully appreciate its full implications himself, if that doesn’t sound too strange). The splinters (and, by extension, the community that arose in opposition to them) are a stark reflection of this virtually wholesale misapprehension. A large part of our mandate is to ridicule the likes of Flurry and their failure to make the case for their various “designer” versions of Armstrongism. But make no mistake; we are also deeply interested in the larger problem of their failure to comprehend their own declared belief system. We are, in fact, of the opinion that they have fallen into “designer” Armstrongism precisely because of their failure to grasp the essence of original Armstrongism as you have so succinctly elucidated (in words uncannily similar to those I have often used myself for the same purpose). Utopian Armstrongism no longer exists and, in its place, we have various degraded forms that tend to emphasize particular aspects of the original while either liberalizing or politicizing the general message, sanitizing it for their various core audiences. And from these audiences are drawn the apostates who produce and frequent sites like these.

      This is the milieu in which we find ourselves battling “Armstrongism” in its many mongrel forms. It is peculiar that there exists an apparent need to teach the ideology before refuting it, but here we are. It was no different when I was in the cult, wondering why no one else seemed to be listening to or remembering what we had been taught by the original guru. The upshot is that many are confused about how to disprove what they never understood in the first place, and so emotionalism prevails, leading some to believe ridiculous things about a “bad experience” with Armstrongism turning atheists off of religion in toto, while others flail about for some other comforting belief system to replace the one that hurt them and/or others. Most of the remainder inevitably go crawling back to the ideology that gave them so much comfort in the first place, caring not one bit about whether it’s true, but pretending to and getting away with it because they could never be bothered to really investigate or even develop a basic knowledge of its claims.

      Most people are sheep who crave comfort rather than truth, and this is the singular reason for the two issues you brought up: (1) Armstrongism is readily hated but rarely understood and, (2) The majority of those who hate Armstrongism yammer incessantly about real and perceived abuses, apparently without feeling any compunction whatsoever to investigate the truth claims involved.

      The problem with this kind of emotionalism is that the truth claims, while consciously ignored, have an unconscious influence on the beliefs (and therefore the behavior) of those who come into contact with them. And so they may hate the cult, but they also fear what they hate. “What if they’re right?” echoes over and over in the backs of their minds. And so, to counteract their fears, they go shopping for contradictory belief systems that provide easy answers they won’t bother to fully investigate but will adopt nonetheless wholeheartedly because of their palliative effects. The resulting ideological drift is ultimately responsible, then, for the proliferation of predatory counter-cult ministries (both incorporated and personal–I’m looking at you, Byker Bob) and the equally harmful and divisive confusion they engender in those who are not well practiced in the art of cognition. At the end of the day, we have a bunch of reformed cultists who have merely traded one delusion for another (though I hasten to add, on the advisement of our sponsors, that our most loyal readers–you know who you are–do not themselves fall into this category!).

      These sheep simply don’t take responsibility for their beliefs. If they did that, they wouldn’t have anything to complain about. And then where would they be? The anti-Armstrong community would be much smaller, for one thing. It’s full of sheep (for a reason). And it is our self-inflicted mission to inspire these sheep to “rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” A big part of that involves convincing these people to sincerely “prove all things” and to demonstrate to them that doing so is well worth the sometimes Herculean effort.

      /soapbox

      • No, I wouldn’t call that whining, either. But I know where you stand. I can see this from Jeffrey’s point of view: without realizing that you are in fact a proponent of shifting the community’s focus away from what could legitimately be called “whining” (i.e., a morbid fascination with emotionalism and sensationalism) to factual, logical refutation of Armstrongism’s claims, he may have reasonably assumed that this was more of the same. Given more time to peruse this site, however, I’m sure Jeffrey would come to a rapid appreciation of yours and Armstrong Delusion’s full efforts toward turning the tide he rightly complains about.

    • By the way, why don’t you write some articles for us, since you get what we’re trying to do? Oh, and you stated your case eloquently and factually. We like that. Also, we’re trying to collect all the ex-Armstrongist atheists under one banner so we can take over the world.

      I take this back with tremendous passion.

    • Here’s an HWA letter explaining why the WCG isn’t socialist (because it was, even if it wasn’t of the Marxist-Leninist variety):

      I always want to give our listeners and our reader the frank, straight forward explanation.

      I want to tell WHY there’s nothing else on earth like this Work.

      So let me tell you what inspired this letter. A few weeks ago I was reviewing an article that appeared in the November PLAIN TRUTH, “The Unfinished Revolution,” by our managing Editor, Dr. Herman L. Hoeh. He returned recently from Russia. He spent a large part of the summer traveling through much of the USSR. Things in his article inspired this letter. You will see, differently than ever before, the answer to the question: Just WHAT is our motive in this Work–and WHO is back of it and WHY! It will also make clear some things you probably never knew about Communism, traveling in the exact OPPOSITE direction from this Work.

      Right now a supreme CRISIS exists–a crisis OF THE WHOLE WORLD and it threatens YOUR life at every point–just as it threatens mine, and the lives of everybody else.

      Communism is the RESULT. That is, one result!

      Forty years ago I began to study and research into Communism. I wanted to understand what it is. At about that time United States Communists were offering a “home study course” about Communism. I read it. In the early years of the WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, beginning 1934, 1 had an arrangement with a secret investigator, working in connection with a major city police department, to receive regular weekly bulletins, containing inside information in regard to Communist activities in this country. I always suspected –though he did not say so– that this secret agent was in reality connected with the FBI.

      I knew the Communist purpose and goal. I knew the Communist methods and tactics. I knew their philosophies and teachings. I knew how actual Party members are yielded completely to Communist Party discipline, obedient at any cost-willing to make any sacrifice for it.

      But what I never could understand was WHY American college professors, and educated Americans, could ever become inner-core Communists, actually working for the overthrow (by violence, finally, if necessary) of the government of the United States.

      WHY? And yet I knew many did!

      Knowing that Communists are taught to use every deception, to lie, to pretend they are what they are not, to resort to the most unethical, dishonorable tactics, it simply didn’t make sense that professional men–some in high position, like, for example, Alger Hiss–high in the State Department–would join such a movement. Incidentally, I met Alger Hiss–never dreaming he was a Communist. He signed my special State Department Press Card, at the United Nations Conference in 1945, at San Francisco.

      I could never understand WHY such brilliant, intelligent and able men turned Communist–and I wondered–until I read Whittaker Chamber’s book, Witness, published in 1952.

      I want YOU to understand why such men turn against our country, and become loyal to Communism. For it EXPLAINS the real REASON for The WORLD TOMORROW and the PLAIN TRUTH.

      The world crisis had already started prior to World War I. Only most of the people of the world were not yet aware of it. But men like Karl Marx and Nikolai Lenin knew. This world crisis resulted from the impact of science and technology–and injection of godless “German rationalism” into education. World Wars are the military expression of that crisis. Worldwide depressions are the economic expression. The so-called “New Morality” is the moral expression-“plummeting morals into the cesspool.” Universal desperation is the spiritual expression. This has spawned the beatniks and hippies-the riots-the marches-the “civil disobedience”–the breakdown of law and order.

      Teen-agers (sic)–many from affluent homes-turn beatniks and hippies because they see NO HOPE for the future. There is no longer PURPOSE. It is now possible to erase all life forms from this earth. They see NO FUTURE, but more wars, and, perhaps, human extinction.

      THAT IS THE SOIL THAT SPAWNED COMMUNISM. Communism is the VULTURE of decadent, dying politics, religion, and society.

      Whittaker Chambers explained WHY educated, intelligent people become Communists: “It is” he says, “a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.”

      And there–when I read it–was the answer!

      These men are intelligent enough to know SOMETHING IS FATALLY WRONG with the world! They were not perceptive enough to recognize that Communism could never SAVE the world–but ONLY ENSLAVE IT!

      One of America’s most lucid, clever writers is Philip Wylie. He is fluent in picturing a world’s eye view of WHAT’S WRONG in the world. But he doesn’t offer the solution. Like the philosophers, he explains the world–but offers no way to change the world.

      Communism does offer a program to CHANGE the world. But not the kind of change Americans and Europeans–as a whole–want. But Communism appears to those who “fall” for it as the ONLY straw they can grasp. It offers THEM a chance to help CHANGE THE WORLD. They know it needs changing. Communism is the WRONG way to change it–but they don’t see that. It’s the ONLY way they know–the only one offered them. THAT EXPLAINS WHY COMMUNISTS ARE SO DEDICATED-willing even to sacrifice career, fortune–even their lives–TO HAVE A PART IN CHANGING THE WORLD!

      They become dedicated. They submit to military-like discipline.

      As Dr. Hoeh points out, “Communism appeals to faith–faith in the power of MAN to change the world! He continues: “What does the United States send the world to counter this revolutionary faith? Not a more powerful or righteous faith, but GUNS and MONEY!”

      “The Soviet Union knows that the United States cannot supply the world’s desperate millions with enough food…. But the only power that the United States could provide the world to defeat Communism — the strength of a more powerful FAITH than Communism–that faith America does not have!”

      “Though Communism,” Dr. Hoeh continues, is thriving on human faith and human works, it nevertheless lives. It lives, as cancer cells live and spread.”

      “Under the lead of the USSR, all Asia and Africa are becoming alive, even as a cancerous growth in the world system. Their peoples have found an active faith in the doctrines of Communism. Amid their poverty, they have something to live for.” (So they are led to believe–though deceived!) “They are out to change their environment by human sweat and toil apart from God.”

      Then Dr. Hoeh continues: “For two centuries the Western World dominated the Orient and Africa. But the West failed to deliver these peoples from squalor and misery. The West failed to give them the right kind of education–failed to show them the PURPOSE of life–failed to give them a real goal or a right knowledge of God. Why? Because the West does not itself know the purpose of life or why man was put on earth! Hence, the deception of Communism looks alluring to ignorant and even to educated minds who have no knowledge of the Plan or Purpose God is working out here below.”

      “The dead faith of missionaries from America and England has not dented Oriental thought. But the active belief of Communists is moving millions…. The U.S. might as well face the facts. THERE IS NO HUMAN WAY FOR THE WESTERN WORLD TO RESCUE ASIA FROM THE CLUTCHES OF COMMUNISM, unless the nation can somehow acquire a more POWERFUL faith!

      “But national leaders have turned their backs on the Good News of the Kingdom of God. They have cast the Bible aside … It is time we opened our eyes to the real cause of Western weakness.”

      And THAT, dear subscriber to the PLAIN TRUTH, explains what THIS GREAT WORLDWIDE WORK IS ALL ABOUT.

      Biblical prophecies have been fulfilled–precisely ON TIME–in every case so far! Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled TODAY! This world and all its present-day sickening conditions are described in the prophecies. The only possible SOLUTION is in these prophecies. And the OUTCOME is written plainly!

      There is only ONE HOPE–ONE SOLUTION!

      Man doesn’t have it! Man has FAILED! Man has demonstrated. by 6,000 years of human experience, that he is incapable of rightly governing himself–so as to produce universal abundant well-being!

      We are in the prophesied CRISES AT THE CLOSE–the close of the AGE–and the Beginning of the happy and peaceful WORLD TOMORROW!

      YOUR BIBLE SAYS that God is now ready–in VERY FEW years-to send Jesus Christ again to earth–this time in all the Supreme divine POWER and GLORY of the AWESOME, ALL-MIGHTY GOD–to restore PEACE to this earth and universal right education, universal prosperity, and good health, and HAPPINESS to all peoples and nation!

      The Almighty God has raised up THIS WORK–HIS WORK–using us as His instruments, to pave the way–to WARN this world–to proclaim the GOOD NEWS of the soon-coming KINGDOM OF GOD to bring abundant well-being for all this earth!

      This work, for 34 years, has grown in power and scope and impact on the world, at the rate of 30% per year continuously! There is nothing like it because it is GOD’S WORK!

      It has a tremendous MISSION. It is actively, dynamically, performing that Mission! It grows mightily because the POWER OF GOD, AND HIS SPIRIT, empowers it–the living JESUS CHRIST heads, directs, and blesses it!

      And WHO sponsors it? ONLY GOD!

      (Armstrong includes several paragraphs about how…)

      God opened the door of MASS COMMUNICATION–radio and printing press to proclaim Christ’s’ Gospel to the small few, who had living faith, and could HAVE A PART in not only CHANGING THE WORLD, but SAVING THE WORLD in total world peace, prosperity and happiness–that little few voluntarily contributed their tithes and offerings.

      ARMSTRONG’S CONCLUSION………..

      God does conduct HIS work through human instruments–through those whose hearts are willing, whose minds are yielded to Him. I didn’t have to ask or solicit people for support. The living Christ whom I serve was able to move those yielded to Him to recognize His Message, and voluntarily to want to have a part in His Work. Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

      THEY–and we who now devote full-time to God’s Work–are gratefully having a part, not only in CHANGING, but also in SAVING the WORLD–yes, soon THE WHOLE WORLD, after Christ’s second coming. And we have a part, now in preparing THE WAY for the world-shaking blessed event!

      Millions have been deceived into dedicating their lives to godless Communism, in the misguided faith they are having a part in CHANGING THE WORLD. Actually they are only enslaving it–all but the FREE world. In all candor, how REASSURING it is that, in the Free World, there are a few thousand who want to have a part with the living CHRIST in the glorious WORK OF GOD, leading not only to changing, but SAVING the world–with Peace, and universal prosperity, happiness, abundant well-being, and ETERNAL LIFE!

      There is, indeed, an astonishing parallel in the progress of atheistic Communism and THE WORK OF GOD–a contrasting parallel in OPPOSITES! They are doomed to ultimate failure–but we by the grace and power of the living GOD are destined to glorious SUCCESS bringing eternal life to the MILLIONS!….

      THAT is my explanation. That tells you, in frank and straight forward manner, WHO we are, WHAT are our purposes and goals, and WHO is in back of this great WORK OF GOD!”

      THANK YOU, sincerely from the heart, for your interest – for granting us the GREAT PRIVILEGE of serving you. We know it’s indeed true, as Jesus said, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” This explanation is NOT intended to solicit your money. We do want to GIVE–to SERVE–to HELP–as God has graciously enabled us to do.

      Sincerely, with love, in Jesus’ name,
      Herbert W. Armstrong

    • My “case”, as stated above, is nothing more than our church was a reaction to the Great Depression and the crisis of capitalism that is as yet unresolved. It was dismantled in a period of capitalist triumphalism, and I do not think that was coincidental.

      It is all the more interesting that we are presently in a period of economic crisis with conditions not experienced since the time that birthed our church.

      I don’t think this will give new life to Armstrongism or Communism as experienced in the USSR and its copycats.

      I do think it gives more creditably to Marx’s analysis of capitalism than has been acknowledged in the West in the 20th century. It is apparently true that capitalism and competing nation states lead to economic crisis and war (see “socialism or barbarism”), and Armstrongism is a religious reflection of this state of affairs. It grew large because of this reality, and it is unique because of its utopian socialism.

      Overt criticism of capitalist values can be seen in The Plain Truth About Christmas:

      • Ah, I see, Jeffrey has exchanged the Armstrong delusion for the Marx delusion. I studied this question long ago and came to the understanding (almost hit upon by Armstrong, but not quite) that Communism attempts to change human nature by changing the world, whereas Armstrongism attempts to change the world by changing human nature. This is what Armstrong meant when he said that Communism is similar to “the work” but moving in the opposite direction. And, apologies to Jeffrey, but Armstrong was right when he said that Communism won’t succeed. And it famously hasn’t (maybe Jeffrey missed that history lesson). Of course, neither will Armstrongism. Human nature is what it is and science and history show unequivocally that we are stuck with it for better or worse.

        Jeffrey, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t spam our comments section with Marxist propaganda. It’s fine to respond directly and intelligibly to comments made by others, but copy/pasting from the Communist Manifesto is not welcome here. You should be able to construct your own arguments, and if you can’t do so then that might say something about the ideology you’ve unfortunately bought into.

      • And it just occurred to me that this could be made into an article. This is something I thought about a lot as a fledgling “scholar in the temple”. Books like Heaven on Earth and hoary classics like The Protestant Ethic were formative sources for me in those days. Jeffrey must assume he is the only one to have listened carefully to the guru, but it was clear to me that Armstrongism was a Utopian (but not socialist!) vision, and the precision of the Communism/Armstrongism distinction was a prominent feature of my cognitive structure back then. Granted, no one I knew even noticed the similarities enough to even begin to appreciate the differences. In fact, I remember getting clucks of disapproval for even bringing it up, despite the fact that Armstrong himself explicitly made the connection. Memory hole and all that. The article would reveal Armstrongism as a primarily Utopian (rather than primarily Christian) movement; draw the appropriate parallels and distinctions between Armstrongism and Communism/Socialism; and, following on from a discussion of human nature, explain why all such Utopian visions are doomed to fail, providing evidence and anecdotes from the history of the rise and fall of socialism and of the many aborted attempts at establishing religious Utopias in the U.S. and elsewhere.

    • To Casey:

      The world is in motion and constantly changing. Infinite growth is unsustainable. Total automation is within reach (ever read Ray Kurzweil)?

      How can you make the assumption that Utopia is always doomed to fail if it is the case that war and human alienation are the result of human labor power exploitation, and that condition, for the first time in human history, might finally be transcended in a few short decades?

      Marxism is not a delusion. It is the understanding that there are contradictions within the capitalist mode of production that undermine its own profitability (which is its growth engine). This understanding says nothing about future societies. But it makes it clear that crises are not anomalies within capitalism but normal, anticipated outcomes to be expected.

      The failure of “Communism” has no bearing on Marxism. The failure of an economic experiment does not suddenly resolve the inherent contradictions of the capitalist mode of accumulation. It does provide valuable lessons about how not to try to transcend the contradictions of capitalist production. But the problem is still with us, and any resolution that is post capitalist deserves the name SOCIALism or COMMUNism because it is motivated by the desire to eliminate exploitation and war, and increase human freedom. It is concerned with the social, the community, of human welfare.

      The Socialist Party of Great Britain predates the Russian Revolution and criticized it from the outset. Its predecessor party included Engels and one of Marx’s daughters as a member. It sees “Marxism-Leninism” as a way for backward countries to industrialize without being dominated by already developed capitalist economies. Marxist rhetoric is useful on both sides of the Iron Curtain for propaganda purposes. It gives workers in the “Communist” countries an ideology to believe in while they are ruthlessly exploited to industrialize their countries, and it gives populations in industrialized nations a reason to be afraid of “Marxism”.

      But these are the struggles of a century ago. Today, the world is capitalist. Marxism-Leninism is dead. Capitalism (surprise!) is still in crisis, just as Marx (and Armstrong) anticipated. Technological unemployment and the end of market economies is on the horizon, because total automation and an incredible infrastructure of communication and information technology is increasingly available.

      The crisis of the American dollar is one example of the problem of globalization without a single world currency. Another example is the Euro. One outcome of that crisis would be a stronger political union of the Euro nations. Armstrongism commented on this. The United States and Britain are/were the preeminent capitalist empires. This is why the US and Britain in prophecy was a best seller. Armstrongism is entirely wrapped up in events of the 20th century and speaks in religious metaphor. It starts during the Great Depression and implodes at the end of the Cold War.

      Call me an optimist, but its prognosis, and the Communist prognosis, of world government and peace, and incredible levels of sustainable production, and human happiness and freedom, are not, in my opinion, off the mark.

      • Baseless conjecture, wild speculation, and obvious non sequiturs. That’s all this is! Examples:

        “Total automation is within reach (ever read Ray Kurzweil)?”

        Yes, avidly. He’s mostly a crackpot. Interesting that you bring him up, since he shares a couple instructive commonalities with both Marx and Armstrong: all three pretended to be prophets (which is a creature of fantasy) and inspired a cult following.

        “How can you make the assumption that Utopia is always doomed to fail if it is the case that war and human alienation are the result of human labor power exploitation, and that condition, for the first time in human history, might finally be transcended in a few short decades?”

        Who’s assuming here? You say “if” followed by a baseless conjecture and a wild speculation and pretend this supports your conclusion. All you’re doing is reasserting your ideology in the place of an argument to support it–begging the question, that is.

        You do it again here:

        “Marxism is not a delusion. It is the understanding that there are contradictions within the capitalist mode of production that undermine its own profitability (which is its growth engine). This understanding says nothing about future societies. But it makes it clear that crises are not anomalies within capitalism but normal, anticipated outcomes to be expected.”

        Since you seem to be engaging in semantics, let me clarify: economic determinism is a delusion. Fair enough? Defending Marxism by pretending it only claimed that capitalism isn’t perfect is both useless (sense it reduces Marxism to an obvious triviality) and patently false.

        “Capitalism (surprise!) is still in crisis, just as Marx (and Armstrong) anticipated.”

        I anticipate that people will still be having heterosexual sex in the future. Now, tomorrow or the next day or 1,000 years from now I will be hailed as a prophet. This is one of the hallmarks of the prophecy delusion: predict something that is practically inevitable and your adherents will praise your sagacity and foresight. So stupid.

        “Technological unemployment and the end of market economies is on the horizon, because total automation and an incredible infrastructure of communication and information technology is increasingly available.”

        End of market economies? What!? Wild speculation with no supporting evidence (except the economic determinism of Marxism, which itself is delusional and needs propping up). Useless as a defense of your position because it is a glaring non-sequitur. You’re making this too easy. Why don’t you try some valid arguments?

        “The crisis of the American dollar is one example of the problem of globalization without a single world currency. Another example is the Euro. One outcome of that crisis would be a stronger political union of the Euro nations. Armstrongism commented on this.”

        So what? None of this necessitates or even implies socialism–nor, for that matter, does it necessarily follow that, because globalization without a single world currency is problematic, it will lead to a single world currency (and then, by some leap of logic, to global socialism). This is a complete non-sequitur from start to finish.

        “Call me an optimist, but its prognosis, and the Communist prognosis, of world government and peace, and incredible levels of sustainable production, and human happiness and freedom, are not, in my opinion, off the mark.”

        Again, even if this is true, it is not an argument for a future Socialist Utopia. Market forces can arguably lead to this kind of felicitous arrangement (they have already given us much in the way of peace, sustainable production, human happiness, and freedom–not to mention scientific and technological progress, health, life expectancy, improvements to access to education, etc). But, either way, it wouldn’t be Utopia, since Utopia is, by definition, impossible, a fool’s pipe dream. Human nature is stubbornly persistent across cultures, economies, and history. This, then, is another non-sequitur.

      • Jesus Christ. I said I gave up and you’re still going. So I’ll retaliate, then maybe you’ll shut up and stop insulting me.

        At least I got the ideas into your head. Now that they are there, as you observe events and behaviors that are consistent with them, they will come to mind and influence your thinking.

        Think of it as a mind virus. There’s no going back. The more you fight it, the more it will sink in.

        To reiterate:

        Gayness is men’s liberation from militarization (all of the characteristics that define masculinity are consistent with the ideal traits for soldiers).

        Homosexual desire is universal and intensified in sex segregated societies. It is harnessed by the military; athletics and military service are purposely homoerotic (how else do you get men onto the battlefield, but to threaten their masculinity and offer them the only outlet for their same-sex desires?), which also explains the military’s self conscious homophobia.

        Heterosexual desire is sadomasochistic and based upon the subjugation of women by men. It is not biologically determined, but socially constructed. Husbandry is the efficient use of resources and the marriage contract is made with the state.

        Armstrongism is a religious reflection of the political and economic convulsions of the 20th century. As such, it has something in common with other movements that were reactions to capitalism, and in particular, fits the description of Utopian Socialism in the Communist Manifesto.

      • “Jesus Christ. I said I gave up and you’re still going. So I’ll retaliate, then maybe you’ll shut up and stop insulting me.”

        Don’t bet on it, since you apparently count valid arguments as insults. And why shouldn’t I respond to you? Am I supposed to give you the last word? You’re the one who attempted the flounce (and failed, tellingly), not I. I still have lots to say, whereas you…well, you keep perseverating. Not surprising.

        “At least I got the ideas into your head.”

        Fuck you.

        “Now that they are there, as you observe events and behaviors that are consistent with them, they will come to mind and influence your thinking.”

        Again, fuck you. How many times does your foolish presumption have to be pointed out before you will feel ashamed of it?

        “Think of it as a mind virus. There’s no going back. The more you fight it, the more it will sink in.”

        You really are delusional. Unfortunately for your “mind virus”, I am securely vaccinated against such memes: my dedication to reason and science and the passionate pursuit of dispassionate truth will protect me. In fact, the virus was dead on arrival, since (contrary to your constant obnoxious, obstinate presumption) I have indeed encountered it already and knew to be wary of it.

        “To reiterate:”

        Precisely. Like someone with a traumatic brain injury.

        To wrap up for the audience (poor, misguided souls):

        It’s fine to have a pet theory and to speculate on non-falsifiable ideas. What is not valid is to propound that theory as though it were verified. Just because some idea sounds superficially plausible doesn’t mean it is true–if there is no evidence for it, or if, in fact, no evidence can be brought to bear on the question at all, then there is no good reason for believing it. If the pet theory is, on top of all this, a vehicle for bigotry, then that is all the more reason to reject it, since, after all, the only reason one has for believing unsupported ideas is to influence behavior, and bigotry is bad behavior–as Jeffrey has so amply demonstrated.

  9. When the Family of God concept entered the church? Hmmm, now I’m feeling left out of the loop–I always thought it was an organic part of Armstrongism. I do realize the many changes (DNR and Pentecost maybe being merely famous examples), but I don’t remember a time when God Family (and our entrance into it) wasn’t preached.

  10. Glad you guys brought this up. I hinted at this “dancing to science’s tune” in my article on Armstrongist epistemology but didn’t go into much detail. While I was researching for that, I ran across some interesting stuff archived in the articles section of the Armstrong “searchable” library site, especially under the heading “Science vs. Theology”. This seems to have been a regular feature in the Tomorrow’s World magazine, and would definitely be a good place to start digging up material for the kind of article you have in mind. In fact, I’m going over there now to re-find something that I vaguely remember as being relevant to the article I’m working on now (scientific evidence against gap creationism and a 6,000 year divine plan).

  11. I quote the Communist Manifesto:

    3. Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism

    We do not here refer to that literature which, in every great modern revolution, has always given voice to the demands of the proletariat, such as the writings of Babeuf and others.

    The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends, made in times of universal excitement, when feudal society was being overthrown, necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation, conditions that had yet to be produced, and could be produced by the impending bourgeois epoch alone. The revolutionary literature that accompanied these first movements of the proletariat had necessarily a reactionary character. It inculcated universal asceticism and social levelling in its crudest form.

    The Socialist and Communist systems, properly so called, those ofSaint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, and others, spring into existence in the early undeveloped period, described above, of the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie (see Section 1. Bourgeois and Proletarians).

    The founders of these systems see, indeed, the class antagonisms, as well as the action of the decomposing elements in the prevailing form of society. But the proletariat, as yet in its infancy, offers to them the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement.

    Since the development of class antagonism keeps even pace with the development of industry, the economic situation, as they find it, does not as yet offer to them the material conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. They therefore search after a new social science, after new social laws, that are to create these conditions.

    Historical action is to yield to their personal inventive action; historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones; and the gradual, spontaneous class organisation of the proletariat to an organisation of society especially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans.

    In the formation of their plans, they are conscious of caring chiefly for the interests of the working class, as being the most suffering class. Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them.

    The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favoured. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without the distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see in it the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?

    Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social Gospel.

    Such fantastic pictures of future society, painted at a time when the proletariat is still in a very undeveloped state and has but a fantastic conception of its own position, correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of that class for a general reconstruction of society.

    But these Socialist and Communist publications contain also a critical element. They attack every principle of existing society. Hence, they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class. The practical measures proposed in them — such as the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production — all these proposals point solely to the disappearance of class antagonisms which were, at that time, only just cropping up, and which, in these publications, are recognised in their earliest indistinct and undefined forms only. These proposals, therefore, are of a purely Utopian character.

    The significance of Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism bears an inverse relation to historical development. In proportion as the modern class struggle develops and takes definite shape, this fantastic standing apart from the contest, these fantastic attacks on it, lose all practical value and all theoretical justification. Therefore, although the originators of these systems were, in many respects, revolutionary, their disciples have, in every case, formed mere reactionary sects. They hold fast by the original views of their masters, in opposition to the progressive historical development of the proletariat. They, therefore, endeavour, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realisation of their social Utopias, of founding isolated “phalansteres”, of establishing “Home Colonies”, or setting up a “Little Icaria”(4) — duodecimo editions of the New Jerusalem — and to realise all these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the feelings and purses of the bourgeois. By degrees, they sink into the category of the reactionary [or] conservative Socialists depicted above, differing from these only by more systematic pedantry, and by their fanatical and superstitious belief in the miraculous effects of their social science.

    They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new Gospel.

    The Owenites in England, and the Fourierists in France, respectively, oppose the Chartists and the Réformistes

  12. Pingback: The Future Kingdom of God Looks a Lot Like Foxconn: Part 5 | The Supreme Cult

  13. My only regret about being a baptised member of the original WCG, is that I unwittingly indoctrinated my four children with this filth….mercifully, they all turned out to be beautiful souls and have forgiven me.

    A walk the walk convert, I felt like the beloved sister among my adoring brethren…and for those of you who have eyes to see…I had the cleanest toaster in the congregation 😉

    When my unconverted violent husband would abuse me at home, my minister would not give me permission to leave him…saying that in the end, my faithfulness would save him….but I left anyway. Afterall, I had my dear friends in the church to support me.

    Shortly after separating from my husband, he began attending services. If Herbert Armstrong was a con artist, this guy was his teacher. He could shed heartfelt tears on command. After only a few months, he had convinced all my dear brethren that it was I who was the evil one….whereupon I was promptly asked to leave.

    Church freinds who had witnessed his brutal attacks at my home, would not testify for me in court…even though the bible clearly states that a true friend should be willing to lay down his life for his brother. I figured out quickly that statement was taken literally and didn’t include sisters. I was branded a Jezebel of course.

    Within weeks he walked out of the church laughing….”where are all your friends now bitch?”

    The greatest sin of mankind is hypocrisy. Flee from whatever remnants are left of that abomination that calls itself a haven from the world.

    The true church is within….and therein resides our Creator. Glad to say I am home at last.

    Thanks for all the posts….I still cry for the lost years…and I wish you all gospeed.

    • My personal opinion is that Jezebel was hot in every way, and it enrages me that ignorant worshipers of Yahweh, the blood-guzzling Canaanite hill deity, had her murdered and desecrated her corpse. She was a thousand times more awesome than their dusty patriarchs. Speaking of scum, your husband sounds like a sociopath of the lowest order: I hope you are not still married to that piece of shit. Thanks for reading, Bella, and it’s good to hear that you’re out of the cult.

  14. I hope all of HWA books will be banned! And the groups still existing within the Flordia area just break-away. These groups are still holding sermons over the Internet under Armstrongism beliefs and teachings. The followers from HWA teachings are still in the delusional mind-set that their the chosen few left waiting for Christ’s return. This is so exhausting dealing with someone just living day by day waiting for their Spiritual Death. I would like to see all these mind control groups and ministers being charged with passing all their depleting propaganda over the Internet and legal charges to be put forth for manipulating human being for their salvation and their money and for instructing the isolation from their families with all this Armstrongism Cult ” Get Ready for your Spiritual Death” mind control, end if day’s threating awakening junk!!

    • I’m in contact with a family that is out of the CoGs, but still in contact w/ many former WCG and PCG members. Most of these have moved on to other PCG splinters, or splinters of splinters, etc…and the general trend is all about Pentecost! The end will come then! And if not this year, than by 2014! Some are saying the tribulation has happened already (pretty sure we would have all noticed…) and the Day of the Lord is upon us.

      In short, as each prophecy, or expectation is deferred, new interpretations of the same old scriptures are dreamed up…b/c we can’t just simply be WRONG now, can we? I think for people like that, if it wasn’t Armstrongism, then it would be Scientology, or the Fundamentalist LDS, or they’d just be “the government is coming in Black Helicopters to get us!” conspiracy nutters.

  15. Lost Childhood

    I was pretty much born into Armstrongism in 1973 and upon the death of HWA, my father left the organization due to some insights about the type of leadership coming out of Ambassador. I remember scandals and the haughty types who presumed that their seat at Jesus’ table would certainly be close to the height of HWA’s and only slightly lower than that of Jesus Himself. *winks*

    However, I did not take the path toward absolute rejection of God simply because HWA was most likely a confidence man who L. Ron Hubbard shares some very eery similarities. In fact, I see a lot of similarities in Scientology’s glazed look as the look on many of those who sat in high positions in Pasadena. In fact, I know some of the splinter groups attracted the people I was permitted to share a childhood with. The glazed look seems to be permanently affixed to their faces and when questioned about this or that particular, their expressions and mannerisms seem to tighten to a degree of resolving to not want to talk about it.

    I am now 39-years-old and am confident I could sit face to face with HWA and present a barrier of an intellectual value to many of his doctrinal misconceptions. As a child though, I think I may have vomited due to the legend of mythological superpowers that seemed to be presented through the grapevine of the Holy Chosen disciples of Pasadena. In the 70’s, these men became ever increasingly powerful. In fact, the spell that the “whisperers” placed into HWA’s ears seemed to even work against HWA’s own family. I am convinced he fell under the same problem that L. Ron Hubbard fell under. The beast that he created became more powerful than he was able to contain and then restrain.

    I must admit, I spent many years literally stunned by my upbringing. Cut off from the world and told that I am superior to those around me somehow, I mean, God wants me, He chose me. I was not to intermingle with ones of the not-so-chosen and not-so-special spiritual persuasion. Yet, I was forced every morning to attend my public school beside the bastard children of Baptist pagans. To say the least, I felt rather like an odd-ball.

    “Oh, you can’t color that, you don’t celebrate it.” *laughter*
    “What did YOU get for Christmas? Oh yeah! YOU don’t celebrate it.” *laughter*

    In the end, I resolved to decide God for myself. I don’t make assumptions and I fervently research anything before accepting it as true. I am glad for it. I do agree with a tenant of Crowley’s religion. “Do what you want”. Why? Because I don’t give a shit. I think if God has a problem with anything, He will take care of it and doesn’t need all these pipsqueaks ordering people around on His behalf. Societies rise and fall like clockwork. All a person who believes in Christ can do is say they believe in the tenant of the message. I do.I don’t set requirements about it to those that would wish to have a relationship with me. I don’t need others to believe. I am not special.

    I wholeheartedly believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ became the gospel of Pasadena and was orchestrated by men with intentional deceit (of which, HWA was the founder but lost power somewhere along the way). It was a rich tract of land of innocent and naive men and women who created a familial ground that was sowed with psychological terrorism in order to reap a financial reward. Still, it was sad when we parted just before my 13th birthday. I didn’t get any Y.O.U. benefits. But I got something better. Rock ’n’ Roll, a guitar and hair. My 80’s were sweet.

    J.R.

    • Exchanging YOU for Rock n Roll is definitely a Win in my book! lol!

      The book The True Believer is pretty enlightening about people like HWA and organizations like the WCG (and the various HUNDREDS of splinters). But really, the answer was there all along, and we just didn’t realize it–just read the Autobiography! He talks all about how he was a salesman…who found religion when the Depression smacked him down. I mean, if that isn’t the most stereotypical experience out there, I don’t know what is. He also talks all the time about how he was “cocky and self-assured” and “full of human conceit”, so it makes sense that FINDING religion wasn’t good enough–he had to FOUND one!

      But all the explanations for who he was and why he did what he did were right in front of us, but we just didn’t realize it.

      I’m glad you escaped…yeah, that whole “I’m better than everyone else” thing can be hard to get over…but I guess time heals all wounds.

  16. Pingback: My Atheism Explained |

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