I Finally Left The Armstrong Cult

The following blog is by Ron Rubottom, a former Armstrongist and editor of the now defunct website “plaintruth.info”

Putting Armstrongism Away.

I am a former wwcg member from approx. 1985 to the nineties. (not exactly sure as confusion seemed to cloud my mind after the death of HWA. My experience is a bit different from many of you that grew up in the church or spent many years there. I should say that I appreciate the work you are doing. It is painful for me to see the allegations about HWA on your site, but even though today is the first inkling I have ever had of much of this, I can see that it is most likely accurate. I had already figured out on my own that he was deluded on certain subjects and greatly enjoyed the prestige and high life of his office but blamed others in my mind for encouraging his human nature. (Those like Gerald Waterhouse with his wild eyed predictions and numerology nonsense and carrying on about the prophetic significance of everything Armstrong) But, until today I did not think that he had consciously deceived us. A sad day.

I, unlike many of the victims testifying here, was raised SDA. In that cult we were taught that their prophetess, Ellen G White, received direct revelations from God. She wrote 65 books and I grew up in Takoma Park, MD (world headquarters for the adventists) and my father (a second generation SDA) was a florist with his flower shop directly across the street from the Takoma Park SDA church AND directly across the street from the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists (world headquarters) AND directly across the street from the Review and Herald publishing company. The world headquarters publishing company of the SDA’s.

I grew up in that flower shop. It had a huge Hallmark card section which brought in all the SDA employees and executives on a regular basis. I was well known and knew many of the leaders of the church. I placed the flowers in front of the podium every Sabbath morning. My dad taught Sabbath school. I was baptized several times. I sang solos in front of hundreds. I attended SDA schools and studied the bible and Ellen White daily. I took it all quite seriously. I read most of EG Whites books and believed all they said. My family and I sat front and center in the Takoma Park church every Sabbath.

I was an intellectual child in spite of my devotion to the “truth”. The sermons were usually incredibly boring and all I had to read were the church hymnal and the Bible. After wearing out the hymnal to escape the boredom I began reading the old testament. The kings and such historical parts were pretty boring to me and the psalms didn’t do anything for me and then I discovered Solomon’s writings. I read about how Solomon choose wisdom and understanding over all else, when offered anything he desired, and was thrilled by that. In my childish innocence, I was about twelve, I bowed my head right there and prayed for the same things. Whether or not there is a God or if he answers prayers, this is a powerful thing.

After that I began reading Isaiah and other latter prophets and trying to figure out what in the world they were talking about! In SDA doctrine we never heard anything about a peaceful world, only heaven and lakes of fire. I began questioning ministers in the church and because of my family’s position I was able to question the higher up’s and talk to Ellen White’s heirs and others the average member did not have access to. I was given the usual double speak and told the the unconditional promises of the old testament and the prophecies of a peaceful just world were the “way it would have been if Israel had obeyed God.” They had convinced me that the Bible was God’s word so they laid the groundwork for my rejection of the church. Eventually the “White Lie” came out. (The facts the Ellen White copied much or all of her writings from earlier protestant writers, how easy it was to get away with before the internet!)

I was through, and extremely angry. I was really pissed off for years, but had not lost my faith in the Bible as the word of God so was easy pickings for WWCG. When I first heard HWA in the 80’s I had to drive to the top of a mountain in WV where I was living to get the station clearly. The reason I did was because what he was saying finally made sense of all the things I had read in Isaiah and elsewhere and never could make any sense of. JW’s were too weird so I couldn’t get it from them. HWA made sense of it and I determined to disprove him because of the deception I had experienced with EG White. I read every scripture he quoted and the context on either side of it to disprove what he was teaching and found that he was teaching scripturally sound doctrine. (I was used to total inexplicable fantasies like most protestant religions use).

The more I tried to prove him wrong, the more I proved him scripturally correct. I was hooked, line and sinker. I dragged my family along and joined the church. Gave them a lot of money just like the rest of you. I am now divorced and I can’t say it is the fault of the church but I am not sure. Our life was significantly altered and it is possible that the church life prevented us from developing a healthy relationship. I generally blame myself but don’t we all, and not necessarily correctly. I guess I am rambling on but it is such a relief to find a group of folks that have some similar experiences.

For years I have wanted to get in touch with former members that were with us through all that but could not find them as I had moved away and left the church. Couldn’t help but wonder what their thoughts and experiences were since the dissolution of the church, the Joseph T debacle and all. Didn’t even know about all this HWA stuff but it makes sense now in retrospect. I have read most every page on your site today and I have noticed that there are multiple “moderators” and some seem to be atheistic or at least agnostic, while others seem to be somewhat still open to scripture being possibly authentic.

I admire the attitude of all here and cannot begin to understand what some of you experienced in the old days before standards were somewhat relaxed as they were in my time in the church. I do have a clue though. Because of all that I have been through I have been compelled to write out my thoughts and beliefs and to publish them online in the delusional imagination that I understood all as I prayed for at 12. I had a site called the plain truth.info for a few years. This exercise taught me a lot and writing out your thoughts and beliefs is a great way to examine your beliefs as I found myself constantly having to correct myself.

To me the conclusions that I derived from this several year exercise has been helpful and comforting. I don’t know if it would be of any interest or profit to anyone but it has been to me and so I include it here just in case.

I could not let go of the belief that the Scripture was inspired, (a teaching I received in the SDA church that led me to leave it) only that I had been fooled again. In the WWCG I had finally been able to understand all the things that drove me crazy in the SDA in the “inspired” word. I realized that HWA was somewhat deceived and that the WWCG was not the “TRUE CHURCH.” I did not, of course know the rest of the story. After Joe Tkach I left in disgust. It’s funny, the teachings of the SDA’s caused me to disbelieve them, AND the teachings of HWA caused me to disbelieve him too.

In my analysis on my plain truth site I first reasoned that belief systems were choices that serve us or not and that none of them are provable. Creationist, atheist, or whatever is you choose, you can’t prove it’s true. It’s just your choice and as an automatic side effect of your choice you MUST discredit/disprove (to your satisfaction) opposing views. I chose the belief that was hammered into me, that scripture was inspired BUT, I had actually been thinking for myself for some time and came to a different view than I have seen expressed anywhere else.

1. “Scripture” means the Hebrew “old testament”. That was what Christ said could not be broken.

2. The “new testament” was canonized by the Catholic church but has been accepted as “the word of God” by virtually all groups, even those (such as the WWCG) that see the Catholic church as the Great Whore. It seems that it never crosses anyone’s mind to question the validity of this document and every word, especially Paul’s, is given reverence as God’s utterances. This is plainly naive.

At best, if we can trust that the works are genuine, the four “gospels” are not “scripture” they are eyewitness accounts and hearsay of the life and acts of Christ as recalled by his companions/disciples. Then we have Acts, purportedly written by Mark which is just a documentary of events. After that until Revelation, we have the “epistles” which are personal letters from the apostles to churches with their advice, admonitions, and sometimes personal opinions and specific instructions or advice to individuals and groups. I can’t imagine that when they wrote these letters to their congregations that they envisioned this “Christianity” that has evolved placing their correspondence on the same level as the prophets of old, and calling it “the word of God”

Then finally comes “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” purported to be dictated to and written down by the beloved apostle John. If we can believe that this is genuine it would be the only part of the “new testament” that qualified as “scripture” as it would be the only part that was received in the manner that we are told the prophets of old did. i.e. a direct dictation session from God, which is the premise that we are asked to accept from the old testament scriptures. Ok, sorry going tangent.

3.I/we learned in wwcg the Biblically correct teaching that Christ hid the truth from the masses. (“why do you speak to them in parables”….”because to you it is given to know the secrets of the KOG but to them it is not given…) so we knew that according to what we believed that evangelism was not Christ’s agenda. There is no need to convince or convert anyone as God’s “church” is just a group chosen to serve mankind in the age to come. So, no pressure I reason. It makes no difference what anyone believes and there is no reason for a church that recruits members and solicits money from them for what?

My conclusions include that all of Christianity is false BS and that God if he exists has no religion and that religion is the curse of the earth and that one possible explanation for our existence is the plan outlined in the Scriptures. It would be the obvious conclusion that I choose that belief because I was taught it as a child. I have rejected much of what I was taught as a child. I think that the reason I hold to this choice of beliefs is because it makes sense that God is creating a family and that the only way he could do it was by allowing, or actually causing, us to experience the consequences of living in a selfish, non-loving world and seeing the horror of living outside of God’s law of love.

I know it’s sophomoric but as Christ pointed out the whole law can be summed up in two commands, love God and love your brother. We don’t need any commandments if we love. Thanks Beatles. When money and power come into the picture is when all people, who are basically good, run a-muck. The love of money and power has consumed so many. (money is power) HWA loved his power and prestige it seems. You always hear (when people visit some third world country where the population is dirt poor) “the people were so sweet and kind and beautiful! I never in my life met such kind, good people. Yes, because they have no access to the “root of all evil” (oh no, I just quoted PAUL!

Thanks for your work and patience.

Ron Rubottom

10 Replies to “I Finally Left The Armstrong Cult”

  1. Welcome Ron, welcome to the reality we all found!

    Your story is much like my own. I was into the 7th day movement also. What bothered me was their reverence for Ellen White. She was an obvious false prophet. Why couldn’t these people see the truth? What I did later was proved to be an exercise of folly. I joined Herbert’s little group of heretics! Such fools people can be when trying to follow a book with a million different interpretations!

    “Creationist, atheist, or whatever is you choose, you can’t prove it’s true. It’s just your choice and as an automatic side effect of your choice you MUST discredit/disprove (to your satisfaction) opposing views.”

    And that is just what I did. With prejudice.
    Prejudice for Herbert Armstrong’s teachings chosen deliberately. You see, I WANTED to be part of his movement. I lied to myself holding out hope that the old bastard was a genuine article of faith/God. My vision was of being only “a few” of the “chosen” of God. It made me feel special, worthy, and with a higher purpose. In the end I was broken, homeless and bought down to nothingness. All for a fantasy. Thanks Herbie, you prick!

    But in the end this is what unethical people do for money. You and I get all the liabilities and they, the leaders, get all the benefits!

    The leader of the various COG groups have a day of reckoning coming soon. When the economy goes south (and I highly suspect that this will come to pass soon enough) the people have a choice to make. Feed themselves and their families or feed the minister and their families, along with paying for the monuments these men have made for their own grand egos.

    1. Wish I had the money now that I gave the church. Actually when I was about to be homeless the church paid my rent once. They also came (most of the congregation) and built a room on my house. This was in WV and we had some pretty awesome folks there. Unfortunately the bad far outweighed the good. I remember some sweet elderly couple that the wife only was a believer and she travailed constantly about having to leave her husband behind to go to the place of safety. I was too poor to own a decent car but gave thousands to the church so hwa could keep a rolls in London.

  2. Ron, you’ve come a long way and I sympathize with what you have gone through. We all have our stories to tell and we have all evolved if we haven’t stagnated in some splinter group.

    I walked away in fitful stages beginning in 1975. I was where you are in most respects 15 and 20 years ago. It isn’t an easy or a smooth path, but if you stick it out, full clarity will come.

    1. Thanks Allen,
      I didn’t even realize it till recently how retarded my thinking had become because of the influence of religion. Clarity would be great and now seems attainable.

  3. Like Ron, I was greatly influenced by the idea of seeking wisdom and understanding as a child. My Great Grandmother had taught me the story of Solomon when he asked for wisdom and understanding, and how God was pleased by that. Wisdom and understanding have been my two main goals ever since.

    Regardi ng the writings of Paul, however it should ke kept in mind that Paul was allegedly a renegade Pharisee, and though many Talmudists have challenged that idea, I tend to agree with Paul’s telling, for a very simple historical reason. Many people do not realize that, about the time jesus allegedly walked the earth, rabbi Hillel had dealt with aproblem not unlike the problem faced by Ron, my self, a nd most everyone who reads these posts. How in the world can you possibly know “God’s truth”? Hillel addressed this proble because the jews had reached a kind of bottleneck in history. They had the Mishna and Talmud with its thousands of decision s and “dicta”, their parallel to our christian denominations in the thousands. So how to know what is truth? Hilel proposed seven laws or rules by which the gifted intellectual could discover the relation between human reason and “God’s truth”. IOW, Hillel said the human mind CAN be subject to God, but only a gifted few could grasp it, and those few were the Pharisee rabbis. Next stop, biblically, Matthew 23. Jesus came out preaching and apparently leading a “libertarian” group of Jews, saying to call no man, rabbi, master, or father, and that the Pharisees were “shutting up the kingdom of God” to men(Matt 23:13).

    While Hille told the jews that the right person, gifted with intellect, could be subject to the wisdom of God’s law, the renegade Pharisee Paul came alon g, and in Romans 8:7, said the natural mind CANNOT be subject to God’s law. It is not subject to the power of human intellect or human reason. That is basically the philosophical split that occurred about the time Jesus allegedly walked the earth.

    If the natural mind cannot be subject to God, then it stands to reason that no human organization can truthfully represent God. Every attempt to do so MUST logically splinter into as many different interpretations as there are people to interpret them. That is just what we see today. “My” ideas of God are no better or closer than “your” ideas of God, and Paul goes to great lengths in Romans 9:16-22 to point out that very fact. There exists no algorithm, no human decisin procedure, no “works”, by which you may provably get from “here’ to “God”. It simply cannot be done, which means, in terms of human systems, we are free of all of them, which is why Jesus allegedly made the statement of Matthew 24:23. Whether there was a jesus to make that statement is irrelevant, since it is logically correct. There is no need to believe any person who says “here is Christ”, for the very simple reason there is no way to prove it, which is consistent with Romans 8:7.

    Regarding “God’s true church”, therefore, you have cer tain alternatives:
    1.There is no church, and probably no God
    2.There is a church, but it must be composed of people who are secretly called by God, yet we have no logical way of knowing

    If (2) is correct, there is no process of reason or logic by which we may discover that church, but if that’s true, there is no way for a person who actually IS in that church to know whether s/he is in it or not, since it would not be subject to human reason. That’s basically what Paul tells us in Romans 8 and 9. God does the choosing. That’s also what you see in John 6:44. If Gd does the choosing, then man cannot. Therefore, we are free of all human organizations. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. 2 Peter 2:19 says much the same thing.

    If you believe any human system, however close it may seem to be, you gain nothing, si nce you are referring to your own human reason, which cannot be subject to God. Paul also dealt with that in Romans 7. What he tried to do by effort, he could nt do. It was simply impossible. That is merely a process of logic, consistent with discoveries in Artificial Intelligence(Godel’s theorem, Turing’s halting problem). It is mathematically impossible to get all truith into one package, so if there is a God consistent with truth, we know from Godel’s theorem and Romans 8:7 that there is simple no predictive way to get “there’ from “here”. Paul’s writings, therefore, are correct.

    1. Thanks to all for your encouraging words.

      Ralph’s thoughts on the church organizations are something like the conclusions I have reached. If anyone claims to be part of the true church I would never listen to them unless they can heal the sick and raise the dead. It’s plainly stated that these signs will follow them. No oily handkerchiefs, no sir, I’m talkin’ pick up your hammock and walk! I thought that all along but was too chicken shit to say so to the masters. Anyway even HWA’s teaching if followed out with logic leads to the conclusion that there is no need for an organization that recruits members since God calls his followers and there are only a “chosen few” needed.

      Based on those two premises the “church” would have to be invisible because they would be mobbed with people wanting to be healed and raised from the dead and the church logically would follow Christ’s example of hiding the truth from the masses so he would NOT have to heal them.

      It’s fun to prove them wrong with their own book.

      I hope there is a God. If there is I hope that there will be something good like the KOG in the future..

  4. It’s always good to have some new blood around, and some fresh ideas and approaches. Welcome, Ron!

    Addressing some of the points you made, and in no particular order, it’s my understanding that Luke wrote Acts. He was a gentile Christian, and Paul’s apologist. Mark was associated with both Peter, and Paul, but his gospel is understood as presenting Peter’s point of view.

    A point others have made over the years is that the books which make up the New Testament were circulating in Christian circles long before the canonization by the then new Catholic or “Universal” Church of God. If we read the writings of the Antenicene fathers, we learn that they understood that certain of the epistles, and Revelation, were considered questionable even during the time leading up to the canonization of the texts carefully evaluated and compared with one another, and now considered “orthodox”. The so-called Gnostic gospels and letters were considered either spurious or heretical. In our current era where textual criticism has evolved into a science, there are many opinions as to authenticity, pseudonomous writings, and periodic editing over the past 2,000 years.

    Jesus taught us that the law behind the law, oft called the “royal law of love” captures the moral intent of all of the laws of the Torah. It is possible to keep laws without love, and even to hurt others with the law, as exemplified by the ACOGs and other pseudo-Christian groups. Isaiah 1 gives us God’s opinion of ritual without love.

    I’d never heard the ideas you advanced regarding Revelation, particularly the part about it seeming to be revealed in the same ways as the word was given to the prophets, ie, dictated by God. And, you are quite right in that many of the books of the Old Testament purport or appear to have come into being in a very similar way, although there are others which appear to have been written first person style, such as the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job, and others. I have recently come to appreciate the Maccabees as providing valuable insights into the intertestamental period. Many of the books of the Old Testament were edited over the years, one obvious period of editing having been during the Babylonian captivity, when preparations were being made to go back to Jerusalem and get it right, with no idolatry or worship of other “gods” this time. You can see evidence of this editing in passages where a statement is made such as: …”and it still stands today…” regarding a monument or landmark known to the readers. Reading the works of Josephus was very insightful to me in terms of understanding many ideas and events surrounding the Old Testament.

    It would seem that there are two main approaches to the Bible. One would be to imbibe of its instructions and principles in faith. Another would be that one should figure out what the heck it is, and where it came from before taking it too seriously. Actually both approaches can inform us. But, then other choices come into the forefront. What type of behavior is required of us under Old Covenant, and what is required under New Covenant?
    There would appear to be many profound differences. And, it appears that Christianity is intended to work in a variety of cultures, not just the Jewish national culture revealed to Moses to make Israel a “set apart” people. That’s why we seem to have Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, with circumcision not even required of the Gentile ones. In order to even keep the rituals of the Torah, circumcision was actually required.

    As far as the SDA connection goes, I’ve had some SDA people as friends over the years. And, like my Jewish friends, most of them would never think of the laws of the Torah as having been cruel, harsh, or cause for embitterment. That seems to be a unique aspect of the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. In fact, when I explained to my Jewish and SDA friends the abuses I personally had suffered while in the WCG, they were totally shocked. Obviously, they were much less cultic in their daily lives, and “felt the love” in ways which all of us never could. Probably the most diabolic aspect of Armstrongism is that it actually spawned a distaste for or aversion to God, although we were improperly taught that since the ACOG doctrines were correct, our natural aversion was an attitude problem straight from Satan. Now, we can all appreciate that this aversion was a wholesome and natural defense mechanism straight from the minds that God gave to all of us and expected us to use.

    Anyhoo, it’s so good to be free. Again, welcome, and I look forward to more of your perspectives!


  5. Byker Bob writes:
    “Probably the most diabolic aspect of Armstrongism is that it actually spawned a distaste for or aversion to God, although we were improperly taught that since the ACOG doctrines were correct, our natural aversion was an attitude problem straight from Satan. Now, we can all appreciate that this aversion was a wholesome and natural defense mechanism straight from the minds that God gave to all of us and expected us to use.”

    When I left the hurch in ’74, I heard this same story repeatedly from ex- members, and I had experienced it myself. “The harder I prayed for ‘the work’, the more I resented and despised the very act of prayer. I thought I was battling directly with Satan…”. BB is correct, it was their true natural defenses kicking in, getting them to see the flaw of their reasoning.

    “There would appear to be many profound differences. And, it appears that Christianity is intended to work in a variety of cultures, not just the Jewish national culture revealed to Moses to make Israel a “set apart” people.”

    If Romans 8:7 is true, the logical result will be a continula splintering of ideas as to how to worship God. The ONLY logical conclusion is that all of them are wrong, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:23. There truly is only ONE logical choice, and that is to follow none of them. If ANY ONE of them can truly define God in such a way that they are THE true church, then everything can be reduced to rules, laws, and doctrines that will provaly guide us to salvation. But it can’t be proven. Impossible.

    Mathematically, we have Godel’s theorem, telling us that there is no way to put all truth in one package, and in regard to computers, algorithms and decisin procedures, there is no way we can predictably determine the truth of every statement. Even worse, there is Chaitin’s Algorithm Information theory which tells us that even if we can demo nstrate the existence of certain things, there is no predictale decision proc edure by which we can hope to get there.

    IOW, we come right back to the teachings of Paul in Romans 8 and 9. There simply exists no predicta ble decisin proc edure by which we may get from “here’ to “God”. Therefore, Matthew 24:23. Ephesians 2:8-10 says pretty much the same thing. When people try to “prove’ the Bible, they are actually tryi ng to prove exactly what the New testament says it is impossible to do: to define any organizational, logical , mechanical process by which we can get to God. Either God makes the decisio n and there is nothing we ca n do to alter it(Romans 8:29-30) or there is no God, and there is STILL nothing we can do to alter it. In either case, you have only o ne reality to choose, and that reality consists of truth here and now. That actually makes the atheists correct, sort of.

  6. Ron replies to me:

    “If anyone claims to be part of the true church I would never listen to them unless they can heal the sick and raise the dead. It’s plainly stated that these signs will follow them. No oily handkerchiefs, no sir, I’m talkin’ pick up your hammock and walk! I thought that all along but was too chicken shit to say so to the masters.”

    I wouldn’t believe them if they could a ctually heal amputations, re-grow arms or legs. If I were the recipient of their heali ng generosity, I would say “Thank you, I appreciate what you’ve done, but I ain’t following you, and I ain’t proclaiming you to anybody”.

    Assuming that statements assigned to jesus were actually made by Jesus, we see consta nt wrnings against deception and “great signs and wonders…that if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect”.

    If there is an elect, there is only one possible reason they won’t be deceived by any man. They won’t be following any man, just as Jesus said in the preceeding verse, Matthew 24:23. The most logical choice to truly “choose Christ’ is precisely the choice that seems most counterintuitive to the “faithful” mind: don’t be joining religions. The ‘elect” if such group exists, will be undeceivable.

    OTOH, assume there was no Jesus to say that, that Jesus never existed. It would still be correct, like Matthew 24:23, since there is STILL no reason to believe any person who says “here is Christ”. In either case, the truth is the same, just as it logically should be. Therefoe, whether you are atheist or a “true believer”, you will still make the same choice: do not believe or follow any person who claims to represent Christ, or Messiah. If you DO try to make such a choice, you will see exactly what we see today, with over 38,000 estimated versions of Christianity, because both Romans 8:7 and Godel’s theorem tells us that it is impossible to put truth all in one package. The harder you try, the more undecideable propositions you reach. So Ron has pointed out yet another truth: HWA’s own teachin g inevitably led us to the recognition that all human religions are false. If God is truth, we can only conclude that as “God’s will”.

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