I really enjoyed the quasi-unofficial, gentle cult-bashing session held on Thursday afternoon after the official end of the Ambassador College Reunion in mid-March in Las Vegas this year. I really enjoyed meeting James, the Painful Truth website editor, and Gary, the Banned by HWA! website editor. Both of these men are filled with the wisdom that comes only from having been burned once and thus learning what real fire can do, as I was from 1966-1996 during my 30 years' stay in God's Great End-time cult of obsessing over the mania of Herbert Armstrong and his bogus Scambassador College that he founded in order to give his worldwide scam a faint smell of legitimacy. I especially liked hearing Len Zola and Jim Lea tell their insider knowledge of how the Ambassador Review staff had intersected in legal quabbles with the equally unstable Bobby Fischer (equally with HWA, GTA, et al., i.e.). Just like Scientology, the HWA scam had its own set of celebrity groupies and hangers-on, one of whom was that now deceased world champion of chess.
The meeting venue, the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, was perfectly appropriate for what was likely to be the last such reunion of former Ambassador College employees, students, faculty, etc., due to lack of sufficient volunteer power to organize another one and due mostly, I believe, to a lack of wanting to beat a dead horse any more. However, there is a certain catharsis in gathering for counting coup, reciting war stories, hearing new juicy tidbits of scandal from insiders, and laughing at our own youthful gullibility and at how easily we were scammed. The appropriateness of meeting in a lavishly appointed gambling casino hotel was because that fine house of quick riches is dedicated to the illusion of growing richer by partaking in the legally sanctioned scamming of other total strangers - exactly what the sanctimonious, sociopathic, and sexaholic Herbert W. Harmstrong, aka Herbert the Pervert, did for decades to all of us and tens of thousands of others worldwide. Every day one more cult such as ours was fades out of existence while at least one more new one is born. There's a sucker and a new cult born every day, to paraphrase P. T. Barnum.
For anyone still in the darkness of cultish brain-washing, here's to your speedy recovery and to your catharsis any way you can find it. I have been out of this cult for almost 21 years now, and I achieved my peace of mind through writing about my experiences, talking with others who had also left, and growing 21 years older.
Congratulations to the Painful Truth web site as you celebrate 20 years of exposing the corruption and the aberrant teachings of the Church of God. The Painful Truth is the "granddaddy" of all the blogs and web sites today that deal with the ongoing abuses in the Churches of God. From its inception two decades ago by Ed Mentell Sr. to its current direction under James, the Painful Truth site has been an invaluable tool in helping Church of God members exit Armstrongism. From exposing aberrant doctrines to telling the first-hand accounts of personal lives ripped apart by the church, the Painful Truth has withstood the test of time. May it continue its work till Armstrongism breathes its last gasping breath and people are truly free at last!
Congratulations, Painful Truth!
Wow, has it really been twenty years?
I first encountered the Painful Truth website around the year 2000. I had left the Worldwide Church of God in 1992 and was already in recovery, but a lot of memories still troubled me and I didn't know what to do about them. When I discovered the PT site, I found others who had been through the same or similar experiences (many of them MUCH worse than my own), and in sharing stories I found healing and comfort.
The Painful Truth has helped a lot of people. I know this because it helped me, and I've read emails from many others who said the same. A few even cited, as part of their therapy, articles written by me, which I found intensely gratifying. It has been both a pleasure and an honor to be even a small part of the real "work"-helping WCG survivors heal from their imprisonment in one of the world's most destructive religious cults.
Not everyone who came to the PT site found it helpful, however. Quite a few took severe offense that we would dare call into question the authenticity of "God's apostle", Herbert Armstrong (or his successors, Daddy and Baby Tkach). If we had a bad experience, these people told us, it was probably our own fault. Nobody had put a gun to our heads, they claimed, and if things hadn't worked out to our satisfaction, we should just "get over it".
That was a recurring theme for a while-get over it. A lot of people said it. What they didn't realize, or want to admit, is that telling us to "get over it" was very much like telling a Jew to "get over" Auschwitz. Not that we were held in prison camps, or gassed, or starved-it wasn't quite that bad, but it was bad enough.
The truth is they did hold a gun to our heads-it was called the 3rd Resurrection. We didn't have to attend church, or the festivals; we didn't have to pay tithes or "generous" offerings, if we didn't want to. We didn't have to let our careers suffer because we refused to work on Saturday, or divorce our spouses because one of us had been married before. We didn't have to die of cancer when corrective surgery was available, or risk prison by refusing military service. We didn't have to do any of those things if we didn't want ...but the alternative was clear-disobey the "apostle" and his interpretation of the Bible, and the Lake of Fire awaited. If that isn't a gun to the head, then what is it?
The good news is that the Armstrongs are dead, half the Tkaches are dead, and the WCG has splintered into a thousand shards of competing ideologies, all of them proclaiming Armstrongism as the "truth", yet each condemning the others as "Laodecean". I say that's good news, because there is no longer a worldwide organization with the money and power to proclaim the hurtful message and suck other innocents into the whirlpool; rather, the splinters are desperately trying to hang onto whatever remnants of the original flock they can seduce to their brand of the cult; these aging ministers have no other means of livelihood and need to hang onto these tithe-payers until they (the aging ministers) are dead. After that...who cares?
The Painful Truth has helped a lot of people. Hundreds, certainly. Thousands, probably. But the job isn't done. As long as the children in those splinter cults are being mentally, verbally, and sometimes physically abused-in the name of God-the Painful Truth has a mission. Hold that banner high, so that those who escape can see it. Proclaim the message that there is life after the cult, that healing is possible, that help is available. Provide a safe, well documented haven where survivors can gather to learn the disgusting underpinnings of Armstrongism. The Painful Truth does that. May the Painful Truth continue for another 20 years, or a hundred, or whatever it takes until the job is done.
We owe an enormous amount to The Painful Truth. For those of us growing up during the early days of the Internet, TPT was what COG ministers referred to when they warned children and teens about the "dangers of reading information online." And the ministry had reason to be afraid. When personal doubts about the church started to set in, TPT helped start the path toward freedom from the grip of WCG's splinters. It was among the few places where people of courage were speaking truth to power within Armstrongism's realm, and today continues to be a source of support and inspiration among those many seeking to make their voices heard. Its vast archives of historical information and the keen insights of its contributors over the years not only inspired the courage to breakaway from the church, but helped us fill our arsenal of knowledge to wage our own battle against the COG.
The kindness and support shown to us by TPT contributors was extremely heartening from the earliest days of Silenced and helped sustain us throughout our five-year run. The Painful Truth was there before us and remains after us, and hopefully will continue to shine the beacon of truth into the dark corners Armstrongism's dominion for as long as necessary. Deepest of thanks to you all, so much, for everything. Best of luck.
Congratulations, and a hearty THANK-YOU, to the Painful Truth web site for twenty years of dedicated and selfless work. The Painful Truth is perhaps the most influential and effective web site for debunking the religion of Herbert Armstrong and his misguided followers. It is probably the longest running ex-COG site and seems to have the highest Google ranking. Some others have come along, put up sites, done their part to expose these cults, and then moved on to other things. The Painful Truth has persevered. The war against these cults is a war of attrition, and the most effective and honorable soldiers will be those who are the most persistent. Due to this site, countless persons have been freed from harsh and crippling doctrines which have cost many people their friends, jobs, families and all too often, their lives. Perhaps more importantly, countless more were prevented from "drinking the kool-aid" in the first place. The service done to mankind has been inestimable.
The scripture says, no greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. When a man lays down a good portion of his life to free his friends, former friends, strangers, and perhaps even a few enemies, he sets an example that is truly special. Precious gems are highly valued because they are rare. Of the tens or hundreds of thousands who have passed through these cults, only a few have dedicated themselves to freeing those who they left behind. Those who have built, developed and perpetuated this site are a unique breed. A great debt is owed to all those who make the Painful Truth the success that it is: the editor, the writers, and the contributors to the blog. I emphatically hope that the site will last another twenty years, and that the next editor, when he comes along, is as well informed, fearless and dedicated as the current editor, James, who has done a fantastic job. Thank-you James, and to all of you at The Painful Truth.
The religious virus mutates constantly, but it's fundamental goal of manipulating the masses is always the same. To get to the next level, the goals and standards are set so high no person can ever reach them without some form of religious support. The WWCG was no exception in this and manipulated all it's members through threats and punishments in the afterlife, should they not follow in blind faith. The fallout resulted in a generation of traumatized people, destroyed families, suicides, raps, racism and many other abuses. This is what happens when religion gets the free pass to do as it pleases. Religion judges, but itself is it above judgement and any form of scrutiny.
Why do we allow this to continue when all the facts show that the whole thing is a lie. Is it only because we are afraid of death, that we continue to search for the answer to the meaning of life by creating a fantasy. Are we all so weak as to prefer to live in an illusion because we have become self aware? Is this our achilles heel where this virus can infect us? It will continue to be a difficult question to answer for no two people are alike. But we all have our achilles heel, only question is, will we do something about it? 20 years of uncovering the truth and the work is not finished. Thank you for all your efforts!20th
It's always interesting to observe and participate in something over a twenty year period, because generally, the moment one becomes involved in any sort of situation, it begins to change. These changes can be equally unfair to everyone in that some of the aspects each of us as individuals either love the most or hate the worst continually come and go. That is the hallmark of a dynamic living and breathing process versus that of a static one. However, what has remained unchanged is the mission of the Painful Truth website, that being to expose Armstrongism, to provide solid information, and to sound a warning so that innocent ones need not be bruised or hurt due to lack of information. On an increasing basis, information that simply was not accessible in the old ink on paper days is now available through a few informed clicks of the mouse. These are certainly the good old days in matters of due diligence!
Some of us who were around here in the early days only had a base of information derived from the original Radio or Worldwide Church of God, founded and nurtured by Herbert W. Armstrong. We anticipated shortly after the turn of the millennium that eventually we would see emerging participants from the 6-700 splinter groups suffer the same conditions as we had back in the day, see the light, leave their groups, and begin to share their stories. That is now reality on what have become known collectively as the Armstrong dissident sites, which trace their concept back to John Trechak. Many of the active participants of today, if not the majority, are refugees from the splinters. Through this all, a site that was started by Ed Mentell, Sr. has continued to grow and evolve as a resource, refined and made continuously relevant by our tireless and talented editor James and his staff. Most readers have no idea the skill set and sheer amount of work that goes into such a site. The resources found here provide everything an opening mind might need from an historic and present perspective to break free from the toxic cultism that has provided our common ground. It continues to be a pleasure to have a small part in the mission of this site, and to share long term friendships amongst fellow contributors. Happy Birthday, Painful Truth! And, thank you, James! Long may you run!
Few of us knew when Ed Mentel, Senior founded the Painful Truth 20 years ago that it would last this long and that it would help so many. In the wake of the Ambassador Report, The Painful Truth carried on the work of exposing Herbert Armstrong and his evil creations. We certainly owe a great deal of gratitude for its establishment as a rallying point of resistance to a cult and the oppression that the cult represented. Many survivors brought their stories and reflections to be published. The material became a vast collection unknown before in the world of Armstrongism. Any number of other successful sites, such as Banned! and False Prophet Ronald Weinland sprang from the roots.
The struggles that freedom fighters face are often unseen but intense nonetheless. The Painful Truth had opposition. Certain kinds of men do not like freedom of expression, particularly when it exposes them to public censure. And on a day, a cult leader from Australia struck and took The Painful Truth down. It was gone. He had called up the web host and made complaints. The web host took down The Painful Truth. It was a clear violation of First Amendment Rights given to citizens of The United States and it was also in violation of the terms of service agreement with the web host vendor, but it didn't matter, because The Painful Truth was gone! Freedom of speech be damned. It didn't matter that the cult leader was a public figure and there was no basis for his complaints. Business is business and if you are vulnerable, it doesn't matter if your vendor has done something profoundly illegal.
The story had a happy... incident (because it wasn't an ending). The Painful Truth came under new management, found a better web host and not only restored all the material but went on to add to it.
Was The Painful Truth about to give up?
The Painful Truth was not going to give up and it was not going to surrender.
The rest of that story? It's a lot like a certain political candidate in a recent election. The cult leader shot himself in the foot, so to speak, and lost 75% of his own followers through his incompetence. It was HIS incompetence although he blames it, not on the Russians, but blames it on a contributor to The Painful Truth and The Painful Truth itself. He lost whatever credibility he had and now web hosts he calls just laugh at him.
Our hats are off to the current editor of The Painful Truth. His contributions and administration have transformed The Painful Truth and brought it into the 21st Century. One of the greatest contributions for which we are thankful is the full color recreations online of The Ambassador Report Magazine bringing us full circle back to early resistance movement at Ambassador College.
It is sad that many of the very helpful blogs and sites, such as Silenced and Armstrong Delusion are now inactive. It is sad that Gavin Rumney and Ambassador Watch are now gone. We acknowledge their contribution and mourn their passing.
What's ahead for The Painful Truth? Many of the sites dedicated to post Armstrongism are being collected and integrated into The Painful Truth. It's clear the illustrious editor has some vision of the future, particularly with a 'sister site', The Painful Truth (.org). There are new formats now and new features coming. These are exciting times.
Is The Painful Truth ready to give up and die?
Having operated my own CoG-related blog, I was asked by James to contribute my thoughts on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Painful Truth website.
I reflected back earlier than the Painful Truth to 1995 and the implosion of WCG following the new understandings of Tkach. I first learned of what was going on in WCG from a short blurb in a "how stupid can people be" newspaper column describing the result of Tkach eliminating the requirement to tithe. This was followed with further details from my family, all of whom were in WCG but who left during the first part of 1995. They are all still in one of the Armstrongism CoGs, but recognize the abuse suffered in WCG. At least they learned from their experience and are wary of the blatant abusers like Meredith, Weinland, Flurry, and Pack.
The Internet was going mainstream about the time of WCGs implosion. Access was relatively primitive relative to today's broadband. Connections via dialup modem were slow, and AOL or Compuserve accounts were expensive. I started using the Internet and found a few WCG discussion groups on those services. A few years later, the Internet connection services were cheaper and faster, and more websites like the Painful Truth were established.
About nine years ago I started my own blog about Ronald Weinland, who is a copy-cat of Herbert Armstrong but not as effective (fortunately). My blog was an opportunity to work through and understand my own experiences growing up in WCG just before Christ failed to return in 1975. Weinland borrowed from Herbert Armstrong's playbook even preaching sermons from the magazine article Armstrong wrote in 1972 to explain the lack of the Great Tribulation. But he didn’t have a lawyer like Armstrong's Rader to keep him out of trouble and ended up in Club Fed.
Over time I achieved my personal goals, and somewhat burned out over time and after several failures of Christ to return on Weiland's schedule. To run a successful blog takes time to research and compose articles, and to engage readers. So it is understandable to me that the Painful Truth has gone through several editors - James is the fourth if memory serves me correctly.
In looking back over the years I've blogged, I've come in contact with people exiting from PKG. I can't point to an instance where my blog convinced anyone to leave, but I believe it helped a few people through the transition after they started thinking for themselves. Before that, my website was just a tool of Satan. My approach was to verify as best as possible and present accurate information on my website. When people were in transition, I didn’t want them tripping over alternative facts.
I've come to a few conclusions from my experience.
If/when Christ ever does return, someone will have prophesied it ... in the same sense that a stopped clock is correct twice a day.
No one ever convinced anyone to change their mind by insulting them.
Do your own thinking - It can be very, very expensive to have someone else do it for you. 20th