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Subject: Out of the frying pan and into the "fire"?
Date: Saturday, March 06, 1999 3:31 PM
I agree with much of what you write as far as psychological principles are concerned [in a couple of the articles you have in the Painful Truth), but it seems to me that you're "throwing the baby out with the bath water" when you suggest that God is just a figment of our imaginations based on a projection of human needs. Regarding this, let me quote a portion of chapter 5 out of the book "Fallacies of Unbelief", by A.J.Hoover (Biblical Research Press, Abilene, TX, 1975) [with my comments in brackets-(annonymous email writer)]:
"SIGMOND FREUD AND THE GENETIC FALLACY
We find another classic example of the Genetic Fallacy in Freud's attempt to explain belief in God as merely a psychological projection. Freud argued that God doesn't exist but that the belief in God is widespread in all human cultures because man "projects" his fears onto the universe as a whole.
As the child grows up, argued Freud, he learns to lean on his (real) earthly father for psychological support in the early, fragile years. When he matures he finds out that he must give up this paternal crutch and face the world alone. Such isolation is too much for most people; they create an imaginary cosmic father, God, and then proceed to fear him and propitiate him and trust him for lifelong protection. (Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (New York: Doubleday, 1957), pp.39-40))
This form of the Genetic Fallacy can also be called the "Psycho-Genetic Fallacy", which is assuming that just because you can account for someone's having a certain belief, his belief is less likely to be true. For example, some people are born suspicious of others, but, then, there is also good reason to be suspicious of some people. The psychological reason for a man being suspicious doesn't prove that there is no good evidence for suspicion. It proves only that a "suspicious nature" [based on one sampling-(annonymous email writer)] isn't enough by itself to be suspicious.
The same is true of Freud's theory of projection: the psychological reason why I believe in God in no way renders it less probable that God exists. It proves nothing either way. I could put the shoe on the other foot and argue that all naturalists believe in materialistic determinism because they are insecure and have failed to relate to people in their lives. Failing to relate to human beings, they turn to things, to atoms and molecules, whose behavior can be perfectly predicted [and to thestudy of psychology, it may be argued, for the same reason.- (annonymous email writer).].
I could argue this way [as one might also in your case-(annonymous email writer)], but it wouldn't prove at all that naturalism is false. You don't refute an idea by simply showing (even correctly) why some people have the idea. Freud overlooked the fact that you can explain our "fatherly" concept of God with a religious hypothesis just as well [I think the religious hypothesis explains the phenomenon even better, but that's just me-(annonymous email writer)]. The Biblical Image of God theory would explain the same phenomenon coherently. If we are made in the Image of God, then man's desire to project something of his own nature in attempting to conceptualize God is perfectly understandable. Freud was just reading religion from the bottom side up, not from the top side down, as the Bible does. If God made us for himself [sic], as Augustine observed, and if our hearts are restless until we find him [sic again], then this projection is very intelligible.
John Hick shrewdly observes that the most interesting thing about Freud's theory is that he may have unwittingly uncovered the very mechanism by which God creates in us the correct idea of himself. If the relation of child to father is similar to the relation of God to man, as the Jewish-Christian tradition teaches, then we shouldn't be surprised if man "projects" ideas about God that he get from his earthly relationship. "It is not surprising," concludes Hick, "that human beings should think of God as their heavenly Father and should come to know him through the infant's experience of utter dependence and the growing child's experience of being loved, cared for, and disciplined within a family." (John Hick, Philosophy of Religion (Engelwood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall, 1963), p. 36.)" In conclusion, we should, as Paul said in I Cor. 14:20, "...do not be children in [our] thinking [notice Paul isn't against critical thinking> something which I find to be generally lacking among evangelical religious-types- but that's another story-(annonymous email writer)];be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature." If I may be bold enough to suggest some books that you can read on the subject, try out:
Philosophy of Religion- Thinking about Faith, by C. Stephan Evans
(Intervarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 1982) &
Philosophers Who Believe- The Spiritual Journey of 11 Leading Thinkers, Kelly James Clark, Editor ( (Intervarsity Press, Downer's Grove,
Yours Truly, Tony (annonymous email writer)
Thanks for responding about my articles. I read your letter with deep interest. The articles that I have contributed to Ed's site are for thinkers like yourself and those who wish to send me their thoughtful comments are certainly welcome to do so. Of course, I realize my articles are going to reflect my opinions and, hopefully, learning after leaving the Worldwide Church of God and searching for the meaning of life.
When I began to challenge what had been shoved at me during my time in the Worldwide Church of God, I pretty much felt alone. The rush for the door had not happened yet. So, I consulted with people like Phillip Arnn at Watchman Fellowship, Dr. Earnest Martin (ex-WCG faculty member and evangelist), John Trechak (Ambassador Report), ministers in the Church of God, Seventh Day, the public library, and so on. That's where I started. I also have a brother-in-law who was a minister in the Worldwide Church of God at the time who gave me some good advice. Most helpful, was another friend, who has always remained nameless, but had a degree in theology and was an avid reader. I took a two year sabbatical and poured over books on religion, philosophy, archeology, and history. At the same time I was writing my own book, Daughter of Babylon. So, I started at the core of a belief system and the more I began to investigate and bounce ideas off of others, the more I began to see that a person can live in a paradigm as comfortably as a baby can live in the womb. I then began a phone correspondence with an ex-minister by the name of James Baldwin. After leaving the Worldwide Church of God he too began to research philosophy and theology and was coming to the same conclusions that I and several of my colleagues were discovering, namely, that the bible was an anachronistic anthology of edited stories and finally put together by Constantine's bishops in Rome. Much of what people came to believe was holy writ was in actual fact fabricated myth. The more I read, the more clear this became. I initially had started a quest to prove whether Herbert Armstrong was right or wrong and ended up discovering that not only were the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God erroneous but so was the entirety of Christianity and Judaism. Where could I go from there? Then I went back to college and received a degree in Liberal Arts, graduating with honors. After that I received a degree in psychology with a minor in biology, again graduating with honors. By this time, I was no longer questioning where I should go nor in any particular need to dissuade others from their own beliefs. (If Jehovah Witnesses come to my door, I can comfortably stand my ground and not care if they don't believe the way I do.)
Now, as for your letter about the Genetic Fallacy and the beliefs of Sigmund Freud--I was not aware that Freud came to those conclusions you had quoted but it doesn't surprise me that he did. Carl Jung, one of Freud's earlier students, also came to the conclusion that this religious stuff is of the mind. But these men were by no means alone, many philosophers drew the same conclusion (especially the so-called humanistic and existential philosophers starting with Kierkegaard in the 19th century and on down to Nietzche who stated "God is dead..."--I believe the context was "God is dead and we (science and industry) have killed him."). I think that there is some truth to what Nietzche stated. I have seen deeply religious people explode with anger and stomp out of classes after an anthropology professor or a biology professor makes an innocuous statement about fossil evidence or genetic discoveries. The professors continue their lectures fully aware of the history of religious debates over scientific discoveries. When someone explodes in anger and storms out of a class because a provable statement is made, then I would conclude that some psychological stuff has been tampered with. The religious right has been successful in handcuffing educators at the public school level. The theory of evolution is generally not taught there. It isn't until one gets to the university level that certain knowledge is revealed openly. Even though I had read about biology and evolution before going to college, I discovered things in my classes that were amazing and that I had never heard of.
Your quote from chapter 5 out of the book "Fallacies of Unbelief", by A.J.Hoover was interesting. I don't know what it proves though. The father/child metaphor is much like the chicken and the egg controversy. It reminds me of the metaphysical philosophy of Kant who simply concludes that the existence of metaphysical things such as God is unprovable (that's why its metaphysical). Metaphysical things can only be taken in faith and that has become a pretty big rub for some of us.
Freud is only one of many psychiatrists who built a theory for human behavior. Today, he is one of the least popular theorists because A) His theories are all built upon interesting but unprovable constructs, B) Many of his teachings are based upon observations about sexual repression during the Victorian era, and C) Feminists say he has a strong bias against women with his conclusions on things like "penis envy," the Oedipal complex, and the Electra complex. Freud is not considered scientific because, for example, we cannot measure or prove that there is a sub-conscious mind. His psycho-analytic approach is still practiced in some pockets of our society but is generally felt to be out dated. More modern approaches are the systems therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapies and the bio-psychological theories.
In my writings, I do not ask anyone to change their belief systems but I do introduce some concepts that may explain how we think and why we believe what we do. I also like to defend empiricism and science, although I state that science does not have nor claim to have all of the answers. Science is not built upon metaphysics but does not throw the baby out with the bathwater either. Science simply believe in things that can be observed or somehow proven. Among the latter would be atomic theory which has been proven even though we have not yet seen atoms. The science of chemistry is completely dependent upon atomic theory for instance.
Thanks for your letter.
p.s., I am passing the letter on to Ed, in case he wants to post it. Hope you don't mind.
Subject: Church of God
Date: Tuesday, March 09, 1999 9:37 PM
Dear Mr. Renehan, I've been reading the material on the website regarding the Worldwide Church of God and its various offshoots. I am continually amazed at the revelations regarding Herbert W. Armstrong and his church. Having never been caught up in a cult, I don't understand how people can so easily surrender free will. To know that people continue to maintain the beliefs taught by Herbert W. Armstrong is really shocking.
I've been conducting research into the theology of British Israelism. This doctrine forms the core beliefs of some very violent white supremacist groups. From what I've read on the website, it seems that Herbert W. Armstrong was quite the racist himself. The whole notion of God's "Chosen People" are from Britain and other Northern European countries is appalling. Do you know if there are any ties between the COG and white supremacist groups? Do you know what Herbert W. Armstrong position was on segregation? As an American Indian, I find the whole doctrine of British Israelism very disturbing.
What I find even more appalling is that an "Indian" man that I know maintains the beliefs taught by Herbert W. Armstrong. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than exploiting your heritage to make money while maintaining white supremacist doctrine. Are you familiar with Triumph Prophetic Ministries (Church of God)? They have some government conspiracy articles posted on their site.
They also have a migration theory that claims the American Indians are descendents of the Canaanites that were driven out of the Promised Land by "True Israel" and were here in the "Promised Land of America" to be thorns in the side of "True Israel." After reading some of the material on the TPM (COG) site, it appears that this particular group of the COG is taking a turn toward Christian Identity beliefs. This is a very disturbing development. As I continue researching British Israelism, I would like to continue a dialog with you.
Perhaps you could help me prove that the Armstrong doctrine was/is racist and not too far removed from the beliefs of such groups as the Aryan Nations and the KKK.
Thank you. -
Thank you for writing. I will try to answer your questions as best I can. You stated that you had never been caught up in a cult and therefore could not understand how people could surrender free will so easily. There are a lot of things I don't understand about human behavior either but I have set myself on a path to understand as much as I can after my experience in the Worldwide Church of God. For instance, it is hard for me to understand why incest happens in as many as 25% of families or why battered women will stay in an abusive relationship until getting killed by their husbands. But these things do happen.
Social psychologists study social behavior in groups and in particular they have studied the "group think" that happens in them. Usually a person who gets captured in a cult, grew up in a family that held a similar belief system. For instance, authoritarian parents who distrust strangers model the paranoid behavior for their children that makes them feel they are in a nurturing environment once invited to fellowship with the cult. It becomes de ja vu all over again because the new proselyte finds him/herself in a familiar environment. This, they are led to believe, is a calling from God. All cults are led by authoritarian leaders who make unbelievable demands on their followers. The cult leader knows just how much guilt and fear will increase the loyalty of the unwitting members. The final catch is the bait and switch used by con men to lure the unsuspecting. People who get taken in a con, do so because they get greedy for gain while trusting in the good nature of a stranger. You may have heard of the person who goes to New York City and gets approached by a desperate stranger in need of some food who is willing to part with a diamond ring for twenty bucks. The mark thinks, "It's my lucky day!" and buys the ring only to find out later that it came from a Cracker Jacks box.
Armstrong promised his followers that they were being trained to be rulers, kings and priests, in paradise, if they would only follow him, the humble servant of God. God, of course, would not have his one and only man dressed in rags or living in squalor so it was imperative for those chosen to follow this modern day prophet to sacrifice their worldly goods to him. After all, God was going to make them as wealthy as kings in paradise, as well as making them Gods "as God is God."
As far as your belief that Armstrong was a racist, I suppose that depends on your definition of racism. Certainly, British-Israelism is a racist doctrine but I don't know of any violent or terrorist types of behavior condoned by Herbert Armstrong. They were racist more in a sense of elitism and self-exaltation. Now, I did hear that the Worldwide Church of God did practice segregation in the 50s and 60s but I came into the church in 1969 after they had integrated their Ambassador College and had a more tolerant view toward non-white races. You'd have to ask someone who had suffered more because of their race (and I'm sure you could find several).
The types of prejudice I experienced had more to do with the group's other pecking orders. For instance, if you belonged to a church family you were considered more superior than if you were alone in the church; if you were in a family with a minister or deacon in it you even had more rank; if you were a woman, you needed to be submissive to your husband; if you were a child, you had to be unhesitatingly obedient, or else. Ministers could publicly humiliate you in sermons, counseling sessions, or the dreaded Spokesman Club (a speech club for men where you could just never do anything right). Armstrong taught "government from the top down" and I believe that just about every week I heard an announcement about someone being booted out of the group for following Satan or of some person dying of a disease because of lack of faith.
As far as British-Israelism, per se, the Worldwide Church of God no longer teaches it but many of its off shoot church's do. British-Israelism was thought up in the last century and is based upon a lot of faulty logic. It is not surprising that its founder, mentioned in chapter 11 of my book, was committed to an insane asylum. Next door to Buckingham Palace in London is a quaint old building housing the British-Israel society. When you enter, you get one of those feelings like you are in Sherlock Holmes' personal library. There you can buy books that mythologize the story of Jeremiah bringing Jacob's pillar stone to Ireland centuries ago when Israel was cast out of the promised land and so on. For the skeptic, there is always a sign: I bought a book there in the early 80s that took every alleged Israelite country and showed that their national symbols showed which tribe they were. For instance, America has an eagle grasping 13 arrows, an olive branch, and 13 stars above it's head. This they say was in Joseph's prophetic dream in the book of Genesis. Whether this is a coincidence or what I don't know but the Anglo-Israelite pundits certainly can show volumes of "proof" that many European nations are mystically linked to the Bible. I personally believe that it is more like centuries of wishful thinking that has led up to these so called proofs. After all, Ireland had Christians there in the 3rd century AD. That's a long time to create a myth.
It is true that in the Worldwide Church of God's prime (circa 50s and 60s) they had published an article claiming that the Native Americans were descended from the Caananites. It was up to the reader to connect the dots.
Were the Worldwide Church of God teachings racist? Yes, but in a more innocuous sense than the more overtly racist beliefs of Aryans and Nazis. Of the changes for the better that the church has made, I would say that dropping British-Israelism was certainly a good move.
Received on 3/11/99:
Date: Thursday, March 11, 1999 1:05 AM
Just a note to let you know I really enjoy your site.
Additionally, I would like to suggest another book you may want to add to your suggested books portion of your site.
The title is: The God Part of the Brain by Matthew Alper.
You could look at some info. explaining its basic premise at: http://www.godpart.com
Keep up the good work. As a former Worldwide Church of God member who was booted out by an offshoot while living in Montana and never supported by Worldwide Church of God headquarters I know what sort of "love" one can expect from Christians. It was the only real revelation I received in 20 years as a church member. Sad isn't it.
Now I find more to appreciate in the writing of someone like Joseph Campbell than I ever did from those stupid free booklets.
Looks like an interesting book. I know this subject has been addressed in many ways down through the centuries and of more recently by those who started experimenting with hallucinogenics and finding those inner mechanisms that represent "God." (I'm assuming that you've read my "Journey of the Shaman." I got a critical review by someone who quoted from the Bible and a religious writer lumping my way of thinking with the conclusions of Freud (viz., that the belief in God is a fabrication of the mind). I think Carl Jung (one of Campbell's mentors) had a much better grip on this mechanisms of archetypes that creates our own human instinct.
This is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who wanted to believe in Christian love. Did you see the interview with Campbell before his death by Bill Moyers? It is available on video. During the interview, Campbell stated that it's okay to enjoy mythology, but one should avoid believing in it. That was our problem. We really believed there was a Santa Claus.
p.s., What is your PhD in?
Subject: getting back
Date: Thursday, March 11, 1999 8:13 AM
My Ph.D. is in social work. I am also a licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified alcohol & drug counselor. You can just imagine the consternation my education and choice of profession cause with ministers and church members. I immediately fell under suspicion because I had not received my education at gods college and had chosen a Satan-inspired profession. No wonder the time in the church lead to nothing but frustration. My wife never understood why people in the church would not sit next to us at pot lucks and other gatherings.
Well that is behind us now. My wife is still in a desperate search for a relationship with God so she attends a nondenominational church. My older son is not interested. My younger son goes with my wife. And I describe myself as an "apathesist" that is, I am willing to entertain the notion that there may be a god (theist) but I don't care (apathy).
My reasoning goes something like this and is similar to what one of the counselors I supervised told me. You see his father left his mother when he was was yet a baby. When he got older people wondered why he did not search for this dad. He answers was simple, "He left me, I did not leave him. Besides, he's the adult, I am just the kid."
I take the view that if there is a god he took me at the age of 19, honestly and sincerely seeking him and put me in the Worldwide Church of God. This is a dirty trick all by itself. But after 20 years the church and god abandoned me. So my attitude is that I am not seeking god, he can find me. After all, he is the god while I am just a human being. I figure god, if there is one, owes me a huge apology.
Another view, supposedly god does not test someone beyond their abilities. I would suggest that given my attitude toward god and religion that I was tested beyond my limits. If that is true, I can not trust god. If I can not trust got on this one, how can I trust him about other things like salvation.
Anyway, you can understand how I got into trouble in the Worldwide Church of God. I was thinking and asking questions which immediately meant that I lacked faith.
Again, I really enjoy your Web site and I usually check it out a couple times a week.
Currently I work completely via phone, fax and internet.
Keep in touch.
With your permission, I will forward our correspondence to Ed. I do this with all those who respond to what I have posted on his site so he may consider posting the comments. My purpose is to provide articles for those few such as yourself as well as challenge those caught up in the Worldwide Church of God paradigm (of opinion and propaganda). I became compelled to contribute some articles after reading some of the misguided and delusional responses he was getting and posting on his mailbag sites from people still struggling to leave the cult.
I'm really impressed with your credentials. So, how on earth did someone like yourself ever get caught up in the Worldwide Church of God? I think the consternation you felt with those ministers in the Worldwide Church of God was the fact that they knew they were out-gunned by someone like yourself. Did you ever get one of those Envoys at the Feast of Tabernacles? Most of the hallowed and revered college FACULTY had never gone to graduate school and those with doctorate degrees often had them bestowed at Ambassador College (Isn't that illegal?). The most erudite of them--Dr. Herman Hoeh--had his PhD given to him by Herbert Armstrong (a high school dropout). In 1970 I met one of Hoeh's TAs who had a legitimate PhD in Egyptology. His name was Ron Long. Ron's job was to edit Hoeh's opus magnus "Compendium of World History." Ambassador's presses awaited its completion so church members could be overwhelmed that the Worldwide Church of God had the only true knowledge of ancient history. The Compendium was never completed and therefore Hoeh never produced his thesis for his PhD. How does that go? He was a man whose reputation preceded him.
Several of us have become non-believers after leaving the Worldwide Church of God. Some of our stories and rationale are posted at:
My wife is not in "desperate" need of religion. Neither her nor my children will ever darken the doorway of a church again. But, she does maintain a personal belief system that there is some spiritual meaning and purpose to life. I respect her feelings and she respects mine. I am beginning my internship as a therapist and wondered if I could deal with clients who are deeply religious. Currently, one of my clients is a minister's wife and I can say that my experiences both in and out of the Worldwide Church of God have helped a lot.
I really appreciate the fact that you have written and that you enjoy my postings on Ed's site. I would like to continue a correspondence with you.
Received on 3/12/99:
Subject: keeping in touch
Date: Thursday, March 11, 1999 5:23 PM
Sure, go ahead and send my messages to Ed or whoever you want.
The way I got into the Worldwide Church of God started when I was around 14 or 15 years old. Raised Methodist, I have begun to listen to GTA. I did not really take anything very seriously util a got out of high school at the age of 17. I was idealistic, sincerely looking for a spiritual direction. I was really on two different tracks, one which was more Eastern philosophy, meditation, etc. and the Worldwide Church of God. For whatever reason Worldwide Church of God won out. Perhaps it was because I wanted to change the world and what better way to change the world than to be a god.
After I got married I found she believed in the Worldwide Church of God, lock, stock and barrel. So I hung around the church for her, to keep the marriage together, the kids, etc.
I really irritated the ministers though. In spokesmans club most of my speeches were tongue in cheek. Rather than looking at the Job myth as a story of his faithfulness, I asked if it were a story of god's abandonment. I also asked why god did not live up to basic human standards of how he treated his children. As I would suggest, if I treated my kids the way god treats his, my kids would be in foster care, the wife would divorce me and I'd be in jail.
Anyway, I'll tell you more as time goes by. So you are counseling too. What are your plans for the future? Is there any area of specialty area you like more than others?
Anyway, I need to get to work. Keep in touch.
Received on 4/9/99:
I read your brief synopsis on Herbert W. Armstrong and have a question. Can bipolar disorders occur in 'degrees', that is, occur at sub-acute and sub-clinical levels? Or does a bipolar diagnosis always describe the full-blown symptoms described in your essay?
I'm assuming that you read my rebuttal to someone else's false notion about Herbert Armstrong being bi-polar. Again, I want to qualify, that I only have limited experience in this area and my answer will reflect that experience only. If you feel that you have a mood disorder, it would be good for you to visit a psychiatrist for his opinion.
Your question is a little vague but here is my answer. Both psychologists, family therapists, and psychiatrists use the DSM IV to diagnose different types of mental health disorders. This manual was put together by professionals as a way to categorize behaviors and moods they commonly see in patients. In the past few decades there has been much debate over what we see in MH patients is the result of biological factors, poor parenting, social stress, or manipulation on the part of the patient. There is no clear view yet of what causes mental breakdown. There is also debate over whether the DSM IV gives an accurate view of mental illness or creates a faulty construct.
With all of that said, my answer to your question is, "It depends." There are many types of mood disorders. Bipolar disorder is broken into two major categories. Bipolar I is a disorder that is "full blown." The patient experiences mania in cycles. Bipolar II is a disorder where the patient has not yet experienced a manic episode but could. There is also a disorder called Hypomania where the patient is just below the threshold of mania and another disorder known as Dysthymia where the patient has always reported feeling mildly depressed. But this doesn't even scratch the surface on diagnosis. Other rule outs in diagnosis would include: Borderline Personality Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenaform Disorder and so on. It is the clinician's job to use the manual to accurately develop a treatment plan. But, another problem that I have seen in diagnosis is that every person is unique and this only adds to confusion in diagnosis. For instance, when I used to work at a mental hospital, I used to get calls from other hospitals asking if we would take a patient who no longer recognizes her family, flies into rages, and is very depressed. My second question would always be, "How old is the patient?" And the reply would always be, "She's in her 80s." A quick and accurate assessment would be that the patient was suffering from dementia and could not be helped in a psychiatric hospital. BUT, on very rare occasions, it turns out that the patient genuinely is depressed. The psychiatrist always made the final decision and most usually refused to take the patient.
I hope this answer helps.
Bruce, Thank you for taking time for your thoughtful reply. I manage an apartment building, and the question was in regard to a couple of tenants who exhibit exaggerated and causeless mood swings that impact negatively on other tenants.
As a one-time member of the Worldwide Church of God (left it after a VERY brief stint in 1971), I was searching the web out of curiosity to see if any of Herbie's old bunch, Garner Ted et al. are still around. That's where I ran into your essay which pretty much confirmed my own experience with that cult. Another issue concerning Garner Ted Armstrong that I've never heard discussed publically is WHAT drives Garner Ted Armstrong's obsessive Don-Juanism. A private consensus back in the 70s was that he is a heavily closeted, self-loathing homosexual, and the Don-Juanism with females is an obsessive compensatory mechanism. Just wondering if you had any thoughts on the subject.
Regards.. Bill (o.c.)
I was in the Worldwide Church of God from 1972 until 1995 and never realized at the time what a hold it had on me. Yes, I believe it was a cult and Armstrong wasn't what he said he was. The whole experience had many damaging results. It took the Sabbath issue for me to finally see that the physical organization was not the church. I still happily observe the 7th day and believe that it is binding on all Christians. So some of the doctrines were right in my opinion.. The hieararchical structure, most of Armstrong's teachings, his super tithing, his abusive co-worker letters, and his manipulation were totally in error! I really didn't learn my lesson until I left the United group after 3 years. They profess to be open to other Christians, but conduct themselves very much like the mother church. The real caper came after I read "Tangled Web" and felt all the anger and rage from being so duped and having become a "dump sheep," as Armstrong called us all behind our backs. How could I have fallen for such a cult? Well, I was looking for repentance in my life. I was looking for the "true church" and out of ignorance and knowing that the main stream ideas weren't my cup of tea, ( they still aren't) Armstrong's broadcasting "the soon return of Christ" put fear in my soul, and also gave me a goal for the future.
Yes, it is amazing how sucked in we all were. It has taken me 4 years to finally get over that time in my life with all the gestapo ministers and the heavy handed ways. The grieving process takes time, but we all, with Christ's help, can get over it. Even though I and the rest of my family and friends were hurt and abused, I can now ask God to forgive Armstrong and the rest, but still believe all those minister who knew and didn't stand up to warn the brethren or weren't really striving to serve but just keep quiet and follow the party line and were on the take owe us all an apology and should ask for OUR forgiveness for what they did. I can't forgive them until they ask for it from me, but still must be in a willing attitude now to do so when that time does happens.
The truth should be told, but we all should not be bitter after we are healed by Christ. Easier said than done, but at least we haven't been burned at the stake, or had to flee our home land, as our sisters or brothers experienced in the past. Could I put up with loss of health, jobs, homes, family members, slavery, and even my own life?. What I have experienced so far will be considered a mere annoyance compared to what the future holds for this world before the wonderful return of our Savior.
Yes, again I say that the truth of the Worldwide Church of God and Armstrongs should be exposed, but we all must go on to do what Christ expects of us with the rest of our lives. You did give a good response to that Carlos chap, by the way.
Thanks for your letter. It's always good to hear from those who find some benefit in what I write. Before David Robinson died of cancer I did get the opportunity to call him and thank him for writing his book. He too had maintained the belief system that he had learned from Herbert Armstrong. For years he kept the Sabbath and holy days in his home with his wife and a few close friends.
I also got to know a few people in the Church of God, Seventh Day and attended some of their services. It struck me how compassionate they were to those of us who had come out of the Worldwide Church of God. One of my friends who had left the Worldwide Church of God about the time I did, had grown up in the church and his mother, a long-time member, spent her last days in his home dying of cancer. Very few members came to visit her. Though she had been gravely disillusioned by the coldness of the membership, it was her dying wish to have a Worldwide Church of God funeral. I chose to attend and was allowed to sit next to my friend and his cousin grave side. All three of us had just left the church and all three of us had attended Spokesman Club and Graduate Club with many of those at the funeral (including the local elder who gave the eulogy). The only compassionate soul in the group was the Church of God, Seventh Day minister who came to the funeral by invitation of my friend's cousin. The man came up to all three of us and embraced us in his arms as fearful WCGers shunned us after services.
The irony of the whole thing is that it was the Church of God, Seventh Day that Armstrong branded as "Sardis"--cold and dead--while in reality it was Armstrong's church that was that way. I hope you will continue to be tolerant with those of us who no longer maintain the belief system taught to us by Armstrong.
Received on 4/15/99:
I enjoyed reading your article concerning the spirit in man. Would you consider the following possibility: You questioned how individuals with many physical diseases and neurological diseases would have a spirit in man, and concluding that the mind is a physical substance. You may be correct however all the examples given do not allow the individual to communicate effectively and is it still possible that their minds are functioning correctly even during their struggles with these afflictions? I would like you to define what you view as the mind before going on with the argument. It is very necessary to define this term before we can go further would you not agree?. Thank you for your consideration of this matter
Thanks Mike, <p>
That one particular article is the result of an e-mail letter I received from someone who quoted scripture and one book written by a Christian author challenging that naturalists simply cannot understand how the thought processes work because it is all too obvious that the mind has to have a spirit guiding it.
I'm not sure what an invisible essence of spirit is supposed to do that the complexity of the human cerebrum cannot do in its wholeness. I took a class in sensation and perception while getting my BA in psychology it astounded me how the mechanisms of the brain works to produce its own perception of the surrounding world. It can be demonstrated by showing a subject certain optical illusions that the brain quickly produces its own wholeness when only parts are given to it. Unless pointed out to the subject, it is not perceived by the observer that (s)he is looking at an illusion. One of the best examples I can think of to demonstrate the incompleteness of human minds is that of color blindness. People who are color blind usually have a shift in the color spectrum causing them to be unable to see the full spectrum. Color blind people are not aware that they are color blind until being tested. The person doesn't necessarily miss the inability to see all colors but those who do see the full spectrum can observe their deficit and know that there is something that they are not sensing about their world. Nevertheless, the color blind person is able to function very well with the deficit. The book An Anthropologist on Mars shows this phenomenon repeatedly with people who suffer from various neurological problems. The point being that the human mind has its own way of filling in the gaps to function.
You asked, "is it still possible that their minds are functioning correctly even during their struggles with these afflictions?" Let me give an example. We have a clock on our wall that runs with a D-cell battery. About a month ago we started noticing that it was acting crazy. It would be behind by an hour one day and ahead by fifteen minutes the next. Was the clock's spirit malfunctioning or unable to function or was it the weak battery that caused the problem? The answer is simple when we are talking about clocks but not simple when we're talking about humans, in my opinion, simply because we have convinced ourselves that humans have a spirit in them. But, the fact that a clock malfunctions when its nervous system breaks down seems to point out that the clock is a physical mechanism working electro-mechanically. Couldn't the same be true for humans?
You asked me for a definition of the mind. The mind is probably best defined as the entirety of the neural system. This includes the nervous system that is in our finger tips and causes our heart to pound as well as the brain. Under the cerebral cortex we have primitive sensory parts of the brain: the cerebellum (which helps us learn physical coordination), the amygdila, the thalamus and hypothalamus. We know that emotions like rage lie in this area. The cerebral cortex is where more sophisticated thought processes take place. Since the 1930s surgeons have performed brain surgery with their patients awake. This has helped scientists to map the cerebral cortex and its functioning. We know about the mechanisms of the left and right hemispheres, the temporal lobes, the frontal lobe and the visual cortex and how these neurons communicate with the rest of the brain. I can go into more detail with you if you like, later, but the result of decades of studying the brain show that it is quite capable of performing all of the functions that we ascribe to being human.
At the turn of the century, Albert Einstein proved that there was no invisible force that caused light to behave the way it did. Prior to that, physicists believed in an essence called the ether. The same is very likely true of the brain. If you can show me how the brain must have a spiritual essence, I would be interested to hear your argument. But please, don't quote from the Bible.
I hope this e-mail comes through because the last time I tried, it didn't.
I have been associated with the Worldwide Church of God since I was 1 and a half since 1971 when my mom came. I was baptized two years ago this April 25th. Right now I have given myself a leave of absence (not a resignation) from the Worldwide Church of God (I come to their services on Holy Days or a special occasion). My mom has quit the Worldwide Church of God all together and is now associated with a charismatic group with a few ex-Worldwide Church of God friends. For myself churchwise, I either visit and attend Dr.Desmond Ford's Good News Fellowship (an evangelical Adventist group) or actually a contemporary service SDA church in the city.
I read your book "The Daughter of Babylon". You definitely put a lot of work and effort into it and should be commended for it. I hope you will update that book and give your feelings of where do you think the Worldwide Church of God will end up. I do though disagree with you on dispensationalist view of scripture as you written in your book (Old Testament vs. New Testament)and I do side with Dr. John D. Garr of the Restoration Foundation (www.RestorationFoundation.org), a Hebraic Christian organization stressing the importance of Christianity's Jewish roots. Personally, I think the Worldwide Church of God is headed for a slow and painful death. I think it is simply wrong for the present leadership to continue the organization the way it is. I can only think the reason why they are doing this is for the money. If anyone could prove otherwise, I'd be willing to listen but probably I would not be thoroughly convinced. I have constantly told friends that the Worldwide Church of God should cease to exist and two healthy orthodox (believing the Trinity, the proper role of the deity and humanity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone, etc.) denominations would rise from the ashes. One of the denominations, let's say New Covenant Church of Christ and the other would be Worldwide Church of God (Seventh Day). I of course would be part of the latter than the former.
The creation of the Worldwide Church of God (Seventh Day) would benefit those who are too orthodox for the United Church of God and do not fit with Pasadena's vision. Also it would probably be beneficial to people like Don (from the previous letter) and other people who have written Mr. that they know about the allegations about the founding leadership but are frustrated that the splinters give too much credence to the founding leadership and who still believe in either keeping(or at the least understanding meaning and relevance of)the Sabbath and Holy Days, believing in the relevance of prophecy and universal access of salvation. Believe you me, it is very frustrating to be in that position. The sooner the Worldwide Church of God evolves into two new denominations, the better it is for everyone in the long run.
I look forward to your comments about this.
You grew up in the Worldwide Church of God. You probably have only vague memories of the church embroilment's of the 70s. You have taken a leave of absence from the Worldwide Church of God but have started attending an Adventist group. I did something similar after abandoning the Worldwide Church of God. I fellowshipped with the Church of God, Seventh Day People but really found little contentment with them or any other church that I took my family to.
Thanks for your favorable comments about the book I wrote. It took me about 3 years to complete. You asked if I will update it. Actually, I have been out of the group for so long now, I don't think I could do such a thing. I know very little about the church that Joe Jr. has created. What I do know is that he and his father had to do a lot of lying to create it. Both he and his father insisted openly that they were not going to do the things that they systematically did do. Since I knew several people in the ministry or who worked directly under the Tkachs, I also knew they were making the changes years before official statements finally were given to the lay membership. I was in a restaurant in Pasadena in 1991 and a long-time member saw me and came over and started a conversation with me. I had just finished a lobster dinner and covered up the dinner with my napkin. After listening to his brainwashed statements, I told him then exactly what was going to happen in the church in the upcoming years. It was rather unpleasant for this man to stand up flush-faced and publicly call me a liar. About 3 years later, I received a call from John Trechak telling me that this same man had just called him in tears wondering why the church leaders had made all the changes I had told him they would be making.
You said that you disagree with what I wrote about Dispensationalism. The only thing that I recall writing about Dispensationalism is in chapter 11 of my book--that John Nelson Darby established that doctrine in the mid-nineteenth century and that the theory breathes new life into a two thousand year old Bible by giving followers a reason to continue believing that there is a modern purpose for those ancient writings. Which part do you disagree with?
You said that you'd like to see the founding of a Worldwide Church of God (Seventh Day) which believes in orthodox teachings and "(believing the Trinity, the proper role of the deity and humanity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone, etc.)" Isn't that the modern Worldwide Church of God?
I thoroughly disagree with your statement, "The sooner the Worldwide Church of God evolves into two new denominations, the better it is for everyone in the long run." Oh my goodness! Did you really read my book? This foolishness has gone on for so long. Why do you want to see this malignancy continue to grow? There are already over 100 subdivisions of this bizarre organization.
Thank you for you kind and thoughtful response to my comments concerning your argument about the human mind. There is much information and research needed by me concerning this subject and you have started me in that direction. You at the moment may know more about this aspect of the argument. Are there any animals with essentially the same physical makeup in the brain as man? If so I then have difficulty understanding the vast difference between the "mind" of humans and whatever animal with the same physical aspect. If there are none than that aspect of the argument is moot. Thanks again and I agree to keep the books out of this argument.
How would you define the human mind?
I think the notion that humans are distinct from animals is an illusion. Humans are a distinct species but there are some animals that humans are more similar to than others. Genetically, humans and chimpanzees differ by only a small percentage. Compare a chimp to an earthworm, a microbe, an oyster....Wouldn't you say we are more alike than they are?
Chimps are able to think abstractly, can be taught to speak in sign language, and use tools. It has also been discovered that chimps have a sense of self which other animals don't appear to have. The sense of self is one of the hallmarks of being human which appears at about age two. Most of our philosophies deal with the self and being. Socrates told his students, "Know thyself."
It is often mistakenly stated that modern apes are the ancestors of humans. This is not correct. with humans. The lineage of hominids started around 5 million years ago with an ancestor called ramapithicus. On the eastern coast of Africa most of the hominid discoveries have been made. There are three distinct subspecies of australopithicus that have been discovered. We know that they stood upright because they have a straight thigh bone and a human-like pelvis. They also had in-line big toes like humans. About the time that early homosapiens appeared (circa 100,000 years ago) there was another hominid specie on the earth--Neanderthal. Neanderthals shared many human traits: They buried their dead and had rituals for example. Neanderthals suddenly died out and it is speculated that homosapiens killed them off. War is one of our major traits.
The competitive nature of humans and the fact that they have most likely killed off all other hominid species is probably why we think there is such a vast difference between us and other animals.