Saturday, 1 September 2012

Craziness Unlimited

One of the few benefits of belonging to a hierarchic church - the sort that tells you what you can and should believe - is that it imposes a cap on craziness.  Crazy stuff is limited by the capacity of the leaders to withhold or provide some kind of imprimatur.

What this effectively means is that, while your church may indeed teach some pretty weird stuff, it imposes its own discipline on those who wander too far off into total loopiness.  The leadership has limits too.  Not limits from below, based on egalitarianism or participatory governance.  Oh, heavens to Betsy no!  Their limits are what they can get away with without ending up in the tabloid press.

Not exactly ideal, but better than nothing.

Over the years I've observed in some detail the collapse of just such a fringe hierarchic church.  That thing, in its heyday, was wound as tight as a watch spring.  Urban legend has it that particularly compliant members would seek counsel from their minister before buying a car - just to check that the colour choice was appropriate!

Then came the great implosion.  The scattering to the winds of good, sincere, submissive Bible-believing Christians, cut loose from the authority structure that once both dominated and validated their lives.

Not a few immediately opted for the protection offered by splinter sects, aping the security package offered by the original brand.  Others, God bless 'em, reentered the real world, abandoning the sectarian mindset completely.

And then there were, and are, the incurable crazies, absolutely convinced that they, and they alone, have come through the trauma intact and tuned in to the pure gospel truth.  Confronted with a plethora of similar-minded options available to them, they focus on the minutiae that define their differences, and declare those minutiae essentials.

Many years ago I encountered an elderly ex-member of this group who I'll simply refer to as Ben.  Ben was a gentle chap, never married, who lived on a modest bit of isolated rural acreage in New Zealand's central North Island.  Since leaving the church (he'd had the tenacity to show the minister the door, no small thing in that church's culture) he'd spent a lot of time mulling over and writing up his ideas, becoming (unsurprisingly) more and more convinced by himself in the process.  The trouble was that Ben's knowledge was limited by his reading in the King James Bible, old church publications, and such monstrosities as Hislop's Two Babylons.  He became, in effect, a one-man sect, capable of launching into an angry 'prophetic' tirade if any of his ideas were challenged.  The man was probably better off before his liberation.  At least he had the moderating influence of a community then, even if a far from ideal one.

The wilderness years continue for many of those who remember the former things.  The 'crash and burn' of one's once beloved belief system, anchored firmly in a hierarchic body that has since crumbled to dust, is a huge strain on anyone.  As the years pass, more of these lonely figures seem to be emerging, utterly convinced that they are the Lord's favoured one, soliciting tithes, finding "new truth", and railing against their near-brethren.

Pity their longsuffering spouses and families!

For some folk, regretfully, life inside the the walls of the asylum is probably preferable to the weight of freedom outside it.


  1. People want to be told what to do, what to believe and all the rules and answers. Mainly, they want someone else to be responsible for it all so that they don't have to figure anything out for themselves. Because, after all, they may get it wrong and no telling what the consequences of that might be... It would have to be bad because...well, it would have to be, that's all. And, so, it's best to let someone else make all those life decisions for you.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who are willing to do just that - for a price. All you have to do is give up your freedom to think for yourself and follow the leader and send in the money. Of course, a lot of times, it involves ignoring facts to do that, but hey, what are facts when you have beliefs?

    After all, it didn't take millions of years for coal to form from vegetation because God didn't create vegetation until about 6,000 years ago. So, we can just pretend that God buried that coal in the ground for our later use. Besides, we know that Satan buried those fossils in the ground to tempt us into thinking that the earth is a lot older than the bible says. Maybe a prior creation before the bohu and tohu or some such? Whatever. Let's just ignore the facts and continue on in faith of the guru. After all, he knows more than you do and scientists are stupid.

  2. Well, this aspect of Armstrongism was one of the factors which motivated me to check out Dianetics back in the late 1970's. AC Press had been purchased by W.A.Krueger Co, and one of the first secular projects that came into the plant was the first layer of printed material from the Church of Scientology. I say first layer, because the secret stuff that was for sale to their membership was printed and mailed from locations they deemed as being more secure. Dianetics was ostensibly devoted to ridding one of aberrations, and the enslavement of the "reactive" mind. Hours of counsel with scientology ministers (called auditors) was supposed to diffuse or negate these aberrations, and to promote clear and logical thinking. If there were ever anything needed by a recovering Armstrongist, ability to think clearly would certainly be on the short list.

    Unfortunately, the auditors were more invasive and intrusive than WCG ministers, payment for the various stages of becoming "clear" was more exhorbitant than tithing, and the whole applied religious philosophy was said to be rooted in acid trips taken by a science fiction writer, obviously their equivalent of our own advertising man. Sadly, two of my WCG friends came to conclusions different from my own, I lost them to the Church of Scientology.


  3. I am not sure if this is a celebrated harangue or a cathartic exercise, and I am puzzled about what it is actually saying about the failings of WCG, and the carnage that litters the world since God spewed it out of his mouth(Rev.314-15). But it is clear, that any former member of WCG, who is now wondering around the world trying to make sense of metaphysics, philosophy and false religion, from reading a farrago of disunited texts, was never truly converted!

    Actually, even though I don't have the evidence to support my deductive conclusion, I believe that less than 1% of the people who attended WCG were converted. And what is even more shocking, the figure for the ministry is probably less than 0.5%.

    1. Well Tom, if the cap fits...

    2. Well, Tom, if we were never converted, that's not really our fault, now is it. After all, it's God who does the picking and choosing. So God chose not to give us his Holy Spirit. But of course he DID give it to you.

      Rather unfair from my point of view, I must say. You get to rule with God in the Kingdom, while through no fault of my own I'm relegated to the lake of fire. Unless I repent and believe your hogwash that is ... but wait, I can't truly repent unless God gives me his Holy Spirit, which apparently he has chosen not to do! Oh, it's all so circular. If only I were blessed like Tom.

  4. According to Jesus, "many are called, but few are chosen." Judas was called, but not chosen, and the same applied to the majority of the former members of WCG.

    Was it unfair for God to call Judas, but not choose him? Was it unfair for God to chose Jacob over Esau, when they were both without sin when the choice was revealed to their mother, Rebecca(Romans 9:10-12)? Not according to what he revealed to Paul thus: "Have not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump,"(Jacob and Esau were of the same lump)"to make one vessel on to honour, and another unto dishonour"(Romans 9:21)?

    God also anticipated your accusation of unfairness by inspiring Paul to ask, "What shall we say then?" That is, should we conclude that there "is unrighteousness with God"(Romans 9:14), because he choose Jacob instead of Esau?

    Paul's first answer is, God forbid! Then he proceeded to elucidate of one the greatest mysteries of the bible, which can only be understood by those that are at peace with God. And he concluded with Romans 11:33-36.

    1. Most people with modern, 21st century morals and ethics would say yes, it is unfair to choose to favor one child over another before they're even born! In the primitive times this was written, on the other hand, it was seen as quite alright.

      Paul's answer, to paraphrase, says "God has all the power so it's his right to do whatever he wants". That may be good enough for you because Paul said it, but it doesn't rise up to meet modern standards of fairness.

      The human authorship of the Bible is all too apparent in this logic. A wise, loving, all-knowing being would never use such ridiculous "logic". These writings are clearly not God-inspired. And the same can be said of anyone who cites them as proof.

    2. I sure am glad that I wasn't one of the few chosen ones. I'd still be believing that nonsense and preaching it on internet blogs...even though I don't know why anyone would since it's not up to the one who runs in the race but God who chooses the winner. Predestination takes away any kind of 'free-will' of us poor humans and God is just running a rigged game on us. You're just 'special', Tom, there's just no way around it, you know, being chosen from the womb for salvation and all.

  5. Gavin, that was a fun read.
    Staying safely inside the insane asylum is a common move.
    How did you get blessed with so many readers with day-passes?

  6. skeptic said...

    >Most people with modern, 21st century morals and ethics would say yes, it is unfair to choose to favor one child over another before they're even born!<

    I thought that what you called "primitive," moral standards of decency and good behaviour were replaced in the 20th century by "situation ethics." That is, nothing is absolutely right or wrong, it all depends upon the situation in which we find ourselves. So in the 21st century, adultery, lying, stealing, homosexuality, abortion, ete., etc., are not right or wrong - they just depend on the circumstances.

    Well, I support primitive, moral standards! In "primitive times," to repeat the perjortive phrase, behaviours were defined as right or wrong-absolutely!

    >Paul's answer, to paraphrase, says "God has all the power so it's his right to do whatever he wants". That may be good enough for you because Paul said it, but it doesn't rise up to meet modern standards of fairness.<

    Even though human beings are not gods, they favour some people over others. Are black people in America treated the same as white people in every sphere of life? If the answer is yes, then 21st century fairness is great.

    1. Yes Tom, I realize you live in a world of cut-and-dried, black-and-white, right-and-wrong pat answers. But the real world is just not like that. The real world is made of of "gray areas".

      Nobody is saying 21st century values are the ultimate in fairness; however, they are a whole lot fairer than 12th century BC or 1st century AD values and ethics. In fact, I see great progress from the 19th century to the 20th century to the 21st century. Things are getting better all the time. Take your "black people in America" example. No their treatment today is not perfectly fair. But it's a whole lot better today than it was in the year 1950. And 1950 was a whole lot better than 1850.

      Space does not permit me to expand upon the many ways it is better today than it was in 1950, 1850, or 1200 BC. But, believe it or not, things are getting better and better as mankind evolves. You could refer to a book Gavin recommended on this site a few months ago, "The Better Angels of Our Nature", for examples and evidence.

      So Tom: get real!

    2. >Nobody is saying 21st century values are the ultimate in fairness;<

      I therefore rest my case! If human beings are happy to treat some people unfairly, why is it unfair for God, who perfectly just, to chose Jacob over Esau?

      >however, they are a whole lot fairer than 12th century BC or 1st century AD values and ethics.<

      There is no such thing as a "lot fairer!" Things are either fair or unfair. The conditions under which some people live today might be less brutal than they were in other times, but they are still brutal! And what is shocking, that brutality is practiced and condoned by people who often accuse God of unfairness!

    3. Tom, in the real world, things are hardly ever 100% fair or 100% unfair.

      Interest you would choose "black people in america" as your example. The bible clearly condones slavery. Do you think slavery is therefore fair, because god is the potter and we are the clay?

      Perhaps you think black people should never have been emancipated but should have continued loyal to their masters as the bible instructs. After all, the bible says they only get beaten when they're bad slaves - if they would just be good slaves they wouldn't have any problems. I use this as one example of bible "morality".

  7. I am surprised that when believers who have even some liberal leanings in their faith, hear people like Tom Mahon, that they don't bail Christianity altogether. I don't understand why they simply modify some of the Bible speculation and instead just toss their epistemology as obviously hopeless. No, instead, they just keep playing the game.

    1. I would say that since they already have the rent money in the pot (metaphorically speaking) they feel it's too late to fold their hand. They keep hoping for the miracle that their pair of deuces will win.

  8. The belief that the broad majority of people who were part of WCG were never converted seems to be nearly universal, but different camps have different rationale to support this belief. Atheists, of course, believe it because, assuming that there is no God, how could there be conversion? Some of the ACOG splinter group leaders believe that most never practiced legalism to the point of conversion, therefore were not totally committed or "convicted", and will end up coming up in the 2nd Rez. I believe that there were some converted individuals in WCG, but that since WCG was a false church led by a Deut. 18 false prophet, those folks had probably received the Holy Spirit from extracurricular activities which they pursued in addition to what was taught and expected of Armstrongites. I freely admit that during my membership in WCG, I was most definitely not converted. By the time I left following the abyssimal failure of 1975, I was convinced that most members had simply been faking in unison.


  9. "failure of 1975"
    BB: Did the failure of '68 affect you when Britain joined the Common Market after repeated explicit prophetic announcements that it "would not",they were dogmatic about this because of the [deluded]"knowledge" of the "identity of modern Israel" - A double disaster by the Two Screwballs.

  10. For some folk, regretfully, life inside the the walls of the asylum is probably preferable to the weight of freedom outside it.

    Dr. Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom observes that people abandon freedom because they cannot abide the pain of being alone: If humanity cannot live with the dangers and responsibilities inherent in freedom, it will probably turn to authoritarianism.

    As for life inside the walls of the asylum consider Robert Thiel has really gone around the bend: Truly a masterpiece of insanity (and you thought the bromance with Baron Dr. (oops! the PhD has BEEN removed!) Karl Zu Guttenberg as the Beast of Revelation was bizarre!).

    "Dr." Hoeh we could understand, but who in the world would give Robert Thiel a Doctorate?

    Some secret sect?

  11. Actually, no, Minimalist. Admission of Britain into the Common Market was plausibly explained away by the forecast that the UK would eventually be expelled, and that the other nations would turn against it. We never considered that to be a catastrophic level failure such as Jesus not returning in 1975. You just had to be there in church services throughout the '60s to realize how dogmatically they preached 1975. There was a monthly news report produced by AC regularly citing and amplifying news events and trends to support an end in 1975. This was normally read by the ministry, with excerpts shared with the congregations at Wednesday evening Bible Study. As 1972 approached (alleged beginning of the tribulation), there was furious backpedaling and massive lying proclamations of denial.