Cults: Here Today, But What About Tomorrow?

EnolaGaia

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I recall from general reading on weird and odd things (Yes. I freely admit to being addicted to oddness) there was an American religious cult called something like "Oneida". Its tenet was that all sorts of consensual sexual expression were freely permitted to believers. ...
That would be the Oneida Community (aka Oneida Commune) that existed from 1848 until 1881. The founder's name (John H. Noyes) was sometimes invoked to denote the members / followers as 'Noyesians'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneida_Community
 

GerdaWordyer

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On cults.... the big difficulty is definition. The religious establishment has a lot of clout and perhaps I'm being cynical, but it likes to restrict membership to the "club". It might boil down to controlling who gets access to the collection plate - established players really don't like any newcomers trying to get their snouts in the trough? And Christianity is a surprisingly nebulous entity. You can place most denominations on a continuum running roughly Orthodox - Catholic - Protestant, but rather like those maps that have to put the Shetland Islands/Channel Islands on little inset boxes because they simply wouldn't fit on the same page (substitute Hawaii/Alaska on maps of the USA), some groups go off the scale. But just as Hawaii is still clearly one of the fifty states, or the Shetland Islands are clearly (for now) part of Great Britain, they still clearly belong.

Groupings like the Christian Scientists, the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses clearly still count as Christian, but their theology and concepts are not "mainstream". I think "heterodox" is the appropriate term. But they'd still only tick a few, not all, of the accepted markers for "cult" status.

A real cult might be something like the Worldwide Church of God, an organisation I had an appalled fascination with for a long time. Older readers might recall a truly weird magazine called "The Plain Truth", that you could pick up for free at many newsagents. I used to read this, pretty much for the fortean value, and - wow. This organisation I'd heard of through its extensive advertising in the Reader's Digest: promising interested people the plain and simple reasons why American and by extention Western civilization was going to Hell in a handbasket, and what could be done about it. I gathered from context (RD being not exactly left-wing liberal) that the issue was liberalism and the answer was a combination of right-wing political values and old-time religion. Hmm. The promise of simple black-and-white answers to simply stated black-and-white problems. That's got to be a draw for many people.

And then you discovered the Worldwide Church of God was everywhere. Not all newsagents - but a hell of a lot - had a presentation point for this absolutely FREE! publication that promised to convey the secret of how the wicked fallen world could sort itself out and return to a state of Godliness. You picked up the magazine, you read the articles, you wrote off for more information, and eventually you'd be invited to a temple. It was as if whoever was responsible for this had moved on from the doorstepping technique of the JW's and LDS: this was doorstepping religion with the Post Office doing the knocking on the door for people who actively wanted to get the mailings, done by proxy. Evidently a product of a shrewd mind. But how did they pay for it all?

I wrote off for a few of the books. Fair play, they were free, but were accompanied by strongly worded suggestions that I should make a contribution, we suggest $x, to further the Great Godly Work. (Hey. I was a student and living in genteel poverty. I appreciated a free read. What do you think I did?)

And... wow. A new world unfolded. And if FT has never covered the theology, history and social dynamic of the WWCoG, then there's an article - or a series of articles - going begging here.

The USP of this church, I discovered, was not a new idea in Christianity. But certainly a strange one, albeit one which that very elastic book, The Bible, is capable of supporting with a theological infrastructure. British Israelism, but recast for the USA in the latter part of the 20th Century.

British Israelism is a religious world-view that begins with the observed Biblical concept that there were once twelve tribes of ancient Israel. Following the first diaspora - the expulsion of the Israeli people to Babylon following the LORD removing his favour from them, whence there was much weeping beside the river in Babylonian exile - ten of those tribes drop out of the Biblical account and only two remain. only Judea and one other are allowed to return to Israel and eventually - and maybe - become first fathers of the people we today know as Jewish. But where did the other ten tribes go?

After this the logic of the story departs from the Bible and takes strange turns. BI believers assert all ten tribes, wandering in exile, turned to Europe. In defiance of known history, ethnology, archaeology, lingusitic reconstruction and the beginnings of written European history, those ten tribes became the parents of (generally Western) European peoples and nations. One with early promise became Greece and Rome, but the LORD withdrew his favour when the Romans turned to paganism, and cast down the Roman Empire. Despite their adopting a version of Christianity, seemingly. Others became Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, Germany, France, et c. The most powerful and favoured of all became Britain, and was allowed stewardship of the world in the name of the LORD, until we all voted Labour in 1945 and fell from grace. Stewardship of the world fell to the descendents of Mannaseh (Great Britain) who had fled to new colonies and who had avoided the Satanic taint of socialism and liberalism. Yes, we are talking the good ol' USA here. (This is an editorialised paraphrase of WWCoG theology here, you understand).

And - yes - the real truth was, due to Satanic manipulation, lost to mankind until God's anointed prophet, Herbert W. Armstrong, arose in the early-middle 20th century to speak plain truth into the wilderness and found a Church.

Enter Herbert, a true autocrat and former advertising executive. And one who brooked no argument nor dissent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_W._Armstrong
At the heart of a cult, there's generally one charismatic, autocratic, dictatorial, individual. Who founds a sort of personal empire where he is in charge. and if he also knows how to sell ideas to draw people in... you get an interesting (from the outside) machine. The history of the WWCoG under Armstrong is comparitively banal (no Jonestowns) but demonstrates what a well-organised toxic ideology can do with regard to social control, propagation of some crazy ideas, the degree to which members surrender personal autonomy, and - crucially - a steady flow of money and resources from the membership to the leadership. No accident the Church was headquartered in Pasadena (now more famous as the location for The Big Bang Theory). Pasadena, California, has been described as the home of the real three R's: Right-wing, Reactionary, and Republican. A religion appealing to all three would find its home here. I remember that while the British edition of The Plain Truth was at least superficially tailored to British perceptions, one article asserted that the National Health Service was a symbol of why Britain had fallen from favour in God's eyes, as socialised medicine was clearly Satanic, sapping the will and desire of the people to be self-sufficent and for them to be content to live forever on welfare without needing to pay a doctor's bill at least once. No wonder Britain's once-legendary hardiness and self-reliance had evaporated, and THERE WILL BE A RECKONING COME THE DAY!

In full accord with his philosophy of hardy self-reliance, Armstrong insisted church members paid up to three tithes of all their earnings each year to the Church, restricting himself to the penury of only three Californian mansions and one private jet. The real hardship imposed by the financial demands was ignored, and because the Day of the Second Coming was near, members who took out pension plans or worried about things like banktruptcy or inability to repay debts were berated for lack of faith.

The whole show collapsed after his death, and today there are three or four splinter groups claiming to be the true Church, which all hate each other - largely because no one of them is getting all the money and legal wrangles continue over who gets the real estate - and terrible slanderous stories persist as to why Herbert disowned his son, the famous Garner T. Armstrong. One of the most Satanic is that Garner T. walked in one day to witness his father performing a seemingly Ungodly act with his sister. Herbert apparently said this is Biblical, as Lot, on the death of his wife, had no alternative other than to seek to perpetuate his genes through the distasteful act of sleeping with his daughters. (and, ye Gods, this is what happened after the pillar of salt business. Or so the Bible tells us. And does God's infallible word lie?)

But, if you want a cult that made it big and avoided any of that unproductive Jonestown/Solar Temple stuff (as dead people cannot continue to contribute to the Great Work, wills excepted). I give you the Worldwide Church of God and its Plain Truth. Thank you.
Garner Ted was the first crazy TV preacher I ever saw aired --late 60's. Then came Batso Robertson and his crazy network.
 

AgProv

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Garner Ted was the first crazy TV preacher I ever saw aired --late 60's. Then came Batso Robertson and his crazy network.
Some amusing snippets I came up with while I was "stalking" the WWCoG. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote a whole book about Great Britain's post-1945 plummet from divine favour. Still got it somewhere. He fumed and fulminated about the disgusting and degrading national slide into the evils of liberalism and socialism, denouncing the Satanically-corrupted Church of England for considering the mere idea that being gay wasn't all that bad a sin, and for taking the first faltering steps towards ordaining women priests (this was the middle-late 1980's), both in WICKED and WILFUL defiance of GOD'S ETERNAL LAW! (his writings did this a lot, with capital letters for emphasis, often with bold, italic and underlining. Although it tended to stop short of the ultimate expression of insanity, multiple exclamation marks).

"And believe this, brethren, while the British via their state church would LEGITIMISE the sickening perversion of homosexuality, they refused to allow me, God's annointed prophet, to procliam the ETERNAL TRUTH of GOD'S KINGDOM via any public broadcasting network under British jurisdiction!" (nececessary paraphrase, but this is much how I recall the text.)

This has got to be prima facie evidence of British decadence to a U.S. televangelist, I guess - a completely unjustified and unwarranted restriction on their right to preach, which can only be put down to Satanic interference. (Actually, I suspect the rules have been relaxed now, in the modern age of a lot more than four TV channels: various frothing-at-the-brain evangelical TV stations are now there, in the lower reaches of Freeview, and I've dipped into them: they just appear to be prohibited from demanding money every thirty seconds, or so it seems. Pretty dire fare, which I may report on in later postings).

Amusingly, even though Herbert devoted most of a chapter to blasting the un-Godly and indeed Satanic nature of pop music, what with its "Africanised" beats from a deeply degraded section of mankind sunk furthest in sin (the WWCoG was also pretty racist - did I mention that?), he then goes on, without a hint of irony or self-reflection, to bless God for Radio Luxembourg, and he offers divine blessing on the so-called "pirate radio" stations broadcasting from outside British law, which he announces were raised up by God so that His message might be broadcast to Britain, free of government interference. Despite the fact their raison d'etre was to broadcast un-Godly and Satanic pop music and to do this they'd accept advertising revenue from just about anybody. Even if it meant broadcasting religious nonsense in twenty-minute chunks, provided the money was right.

So enter Garner Ted, eldest son and heir to the empire.

People in the late 1960's and early 1970's might recall tuning into 208 metres MW at about 6:30 pm - just as BBC Radio One went off-air and handed over to Radio Two, the station your granny listened to. Before Luxy opened up with music, you got half an hour of Garner Ted bashing his Bible from a radio pulpit. Most people just put up with it , or used it as an opportunity to fiddle with the controls to get Luxy 208's notoriously bad static-laden signal as straight as they could.

Did I mention the WWCoG had a distinctly racist streak? It never said it outright, just implied it or used Biblical language like "Sons of the race of Ham" as shorthand for "Blacks are debased and subhuman". A long story to do with the sons of Noah who repopulated the world after the flood, and a failing many churches were prone to. But Garner Ted was good at this sort of subtext. There's also the WWCoG's ambivalent attiude towards Jews that didn't bear close scrutiny. Garner Ted was good at this sort of subtle insinuation too. ("Don't forget when the Chosen People of Israel went into exile, they became the white peoples of Western Europe and remained Chosen. It's a fair bet to say none of those ten tribes went south into Africa. And, the logic goes, if WE are the Children of Israel and especially beloved of God, then who are those benighted Middle Easterners who claim to be Jewish and falsely declare themselves God's Chosen?" again paraphrased, but also part of WWCoG teaching. Stop and ponder on those assumptions for a moment... and the fact this was also the rationalisation many German Christians used to make peace with the Nazis.)

There was an odd little bit of karma here. Prankster musicians, the Bonzo Dog Band, did an amusingly subversive piece called The Intro and the Outro (attached). Among the many improbable guest artistes crammed into the studio, or so Neil Innes would have us believe, is "Garner Ted Armstrong on vocals". Followed by several seconds of extremely African-American scat singing....

 
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EnolaGaia

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there was an odd little bit of karma here. Prankster musicians, the Bonzo Dog Band, did an amusingly subversive piece called The Intro and the Outro (attached). Among the many improbable guest artistes crammed into the studio, or so Neil Innes would have us beleive, is "Garner Ted Armstrong on vocals". Followed by several seconds of extremely African-American scat singing....
( And, looking very relaxed - Adolf Hitler on vibes! ... )

Thanks, AgProv - you've resolved a longstanding mystery for me ...

I was a big Bonzos fan back in the Olde Daze, and I was always mystified as to how a relatively 'fringe' American figure like Garner Ted came to be cited by a British band of the era. I wasn't aware the two raving Armstrongs had a substantial broadcast 'presence' in the UK.
 

AgProv

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AgProv, if you wrote an article for FT about the WCoG I'd happily read it.
Damn> i've just been given some FT's I must have missed at the time. FT305 (Sep 2013) has a book review for EXACTLY the sort of thing I was wondering about writing.

"The Fragmentation of a Sect (Schism in the Worldwide Church of God)" by David V Barrett. By Oxford University Press, no less. Must get hold of a copy.... the review is very positive.
 

INT21

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In October 2001,

The following appeared.

...
Hm, the notion of people "happily" following a leader who encourages
them to sacrifice themselves takes us well into Grand Inquisitor
territory.
..

or, perhaps, isis.

INT21
 

JamesWhitehead

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Nuwaubianism - a cult not previously noticed on the Message Board*.

Its founder, Dwight York, is currently serving a 135-year prison sentence for child molestation.

"Some Weirder Beliefs:
  1. It is important to bury the afterbirth so that Satan does not use it to make a duplicate of the recently-born child.
  2. Furthermore, some aborted fetuses survive their abortion to live in the sewers, where they are being gathered and organized to take over the world.
  3. People were once perfectly symmetrical and ambidextrous, but then a meteorite struck Earth and tilted its axis causing handedness and shifting the heart off-center in the chest.
  4. Each of us has seven clones living in different parts of the world.
  5. Women existed for many generations before they invented men through genetic manipulation.
  6. Homo sapiens is the result of cloning experiments that were done on Mars using Homo erectus.
  7. Nikola Tesla came from the planet Venus.
  8. The Illuminati have nurtured a child, Satan's son, who was born on 6 June 1966 at the Dakota House on 72nd Street in New York to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis of the Rothschild/Kennedy families. The Pope was present at the birth and performed necromantic ceremonies. The child was raised by former U.S. president Richard M. Nixon and now lives in Belgium, where it is hooked up bodily to a computer called "The Beast 3M" or "3666"
Cultists campaign for the release of their leader. :cskull:




*Ooops: I see there was an old thread on the case here!
 

AgProv

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Number Four doesn't seem all that insane; there are only a limited number of ways the features of a human face and body can be arranged in the standard blueprint, and there are billions of us out there. there are bound to be matches even in a random selection. And fifty-three years on, we can do a statistical analysis of that 6/6/66 birthdate - at 53, the people with that birthdate who have become significant enough to stand out in their fields must already be out there and identifiable? Jeanne Dixon said something similar too, as I recall, about the Antichrist having been born in the 1960's.
 

hunck

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Another cult.

Cult leader who claims he is Jesus arrested

A former traffic policeman who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus has been arrested by Russian security services following a raid on his commune in the Siberian wilderness.

Prominent mystic Sergei Torop founded the Church of the Last Testament shortly before the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He amassed thousands of followers after preaching that the end of the world was imminent and only he and his believers would survive.

Mr Torop, Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov are suspected of ‘establishing a religious association whose activities involve violence against individuals and of inflicting grievous bodily harm to two or more people,’ a spokeswoman for Russia’s Investigations Committee said.

Believers in the teachings of Mr Torop are no allowed to consume meat, coffee, tea, sugar, yeast bread and wheat products, according to BBC Russia.

The group combines elements of the Russian Orthodox Church with themes of reincarnation, as well as preparations for the apocalypse, according to a report in The New Yorker magazine.
1600872764807.png
 

IamSundog

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Nuwaubianism - a cult not previously noticed on the Message Board*.

Its founder, Dwight York, is currently serving a 135-year prison sentence for child molestation.

"Some Weirder Beliefs:
  1. It is important to bury the afterbirth so that Satan does not use it to make a duplicate of the recently-born child.
  2. Furthermore, some aborted fetuses survive their abortion to live in the sewers, where they are being gathered and organized to take over the world.
  3. People were once perfectly symmetrical and ambidextrous, but then a meteorite struck Earth and tilted its axis causing handedness and shifting the heart off-center in the chest.
  4. Each of us has seven clones living in different parts of the world.
  5. Women existed for many generations before they invented men through genetic manipulation.
  6. Homo sapiens is the result of cloning experiments that were done on Mars using Homo erectus.
  7. Nikola Tesla came from the planet Venus.
  8. The Illuminati have nurtured a child, Satan's son, who was born on 6 June 1966 at the Dakota House on 72nd Street in New York to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis of the Rothschild/Kennedy families. The Pope was present at the birth and performed necromantic ceremonies. The child was raised by former U.S. president Richard M. Nixon and now lives in Belgium, where it is hooked up bodily to a computer called "The Beast 3M" or "3666"
Cultists campaign for the release of their leader. :cskull:




*Ooops: I see there was an old thread on the case here!
Wow! This is great stuff!! Where can I sign up?
 

Mythopoeika

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Nuwaubianism - a cult not previously noticed on the Message Board*.

Its founder, Dwight York, is currently serving a 135-year prison sentence for child molestation.

"Some Weirder Beliefs:
  1. It is important to bury the afterbirth so that Satan does not use it to make a duplicate of the recently-born child.
  2. Furthermore, some aborted fetuses survive their abortion to live in the sewers, where they are being gathered and organized to take over the world.
  3. People were once perfectly symmetrical and ambidextrous, but then a meteorite struck Earth and tilted its axis causing handedness and shifting the heart off-center in the chest.
  4. Each of us has seven clones living in different parts of the world.
  5. Women existed for many generations before they invented men through genetic manipulation.
  6. Homo sapiens is the result of cloning experiments that were done on Mars using Homo erectus.
  7. Nikola Tesla came from the planet Venus.
  8. The Illuminati have nurtured a child, Satan's son, who was born on 6 June 1966 at the Dakota House on 72nd Street in New York to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis of the Rothschild/Kennedy families. The Pope was present at the birth and performed necromantic ceremonies. The child was raised by former U.S. president Richard M. Nixon and now lives in Belgium, where it is hooked up bodily to a computer called "The Beast 3M" or "3666"
Cultists campaign for the release of their leader. :cskull:
Number 5 explains why men have design faults.
 
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