INDIGNEZ-VOUS! GET ANGRY! CRY OUT! It is only natural to question the reasons for the failure of our societies. When you live in a society that is malfunctional, the very first reaction is be outraged. - Stéphane Hessel 'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

October 25, 2010

Who is the Real Anti-Christian: the Atheist or the Fundamentalist Christian?

Chain The Dogma    September 16, 2010

by Perry Bulwer


I was recently publicly accused of being anti-Christian by a Christian fundamentalist who believes that everything in the Bible is literally true. It is a false accusation, but doesn't surprise me given the confused, narrow worldview of my accuser and the fact that I publicly identify myself as an atheist while helping to expose on my website abusive religious behaviour that violates the rights of others. Other believers who have contacted me through my site stopped communicating with me after they realized I was an atheist, or have told me my website is too 'dangerous' to visit, perhaps out of fear that they might stumble on some uncomfortable facts or that I might try to 'convert' them, a practice I left behind when I deconverted from Christianity. It seems that some believers automatically assume I will be hostile towards them because I openly declare my unbelief, help expose religiously motivated harm, and occasionally blaspheme or ridicule religious dogma in the process of exposing that harm.

I'm writing this, therefore, to clarify for my Christian family members and friends, who probably do find the accusation surprising, as well as for Christians and other believers who visit my website, that just because I am an atheist does not mean that I am anti-Christian (or anti-Muslim or anti-Jew, etc.). In fact, I will argue that even though I have completely rejected my Christian indoctrination, no longer believe in God and think the Bible is a book of myths, metaphors and misrepresentations, I am more respectful of Christians as a whole, and their right to believe whatever they want, than is my fundamentalist Christian accuser.

I am one of those atheists who came to that position via fundamentalist Christianity, so I know that mentality too well. I was indoctrinated into that belief system as a naive teenager in 1972 by manipulative, evangelical Jesus freaks called the Children of God. After almost 20 years of being a psychological prisoner of fundamentalist Christian dogma, I managed to break free of the hold that Christian cult, now called The Family International, had on me. But getting out of the cult was just the start, getting the cult out of me was an entirely different matter that took much time, introspection and education. So, a year after I escaped that mental prison, I started university, which became for me a kind of self-directed cult exit therapy.

Getting a formal, secular education was the best decision I ever made as it exposed me to facts and ideas I had completely closed my mind to as a result of Christian indoctrination that taught me that worldly knowledge separates you from God and a carnal, worldly mind is the enemy of God. (Genesis 2, 3; Romans 8:6-8) For almost twenty years I subsisted intellectually on nothing but the Bible and the writings of the self-proclaimed end-time prophet, David Berg, who said he was God's final mouthpiece on earth before Jesus' return in 1993. We know how that turned out. The false prophet rotted in his grave a year after that failed return, and Jesus will never come back, if he even existed in the first place. With that measly dogmatic diet, my mind had turned to mush from under use, so exercising it with academic studies was exactly what I needed to get my brain back from the brink of madness.

The eleven years I spent in the British Columbia education system prior to joining the cult never taught me how to think critically on any subject, let alone religion. In fact, at public elementary school every day started with a legally mandatory reading of a Bible passage and saying the Lord's Prayer. Christianity pervaded mainstream culture in various other forms and not once did I ever hear anyone, including the non-church goers and non-believers in my large extended family, criticize Christianity, religion or belief in God. In hindsight, I think my life would have turned out differently if one of those unbelievers had dared to discuss with me their reasons for their unbelief, or if I had been made aware of criticisms of Christianity, such as Bertrand Russel's tract Why I Am Not a Christian. Surely I would have thought twice about dropping out of my family, school and society to serve Jesus with an itinerant band of garbage eating hippies if I had been exposed to such a different interpretation of Jesus' message. But as it was, it never occurred to me to question the Bible's authenticity and authority since I was so softened up by my family, the Catholic church and the dominant culture to blindly accept the Jesus myth. That made me an easy target for unscrupulous, fundamentalist cult recruiters.

After nearly twenty years of the cult's mind mush, I finally left in 1991. It was clear to me even before then that Berg was a false prophet and that the ring-leaders of his cult were as corrupt, manipulative and abusive as he was. I was in the Far East at the time, though, and totally controlled by those leaders, so it took me a couple years to make a plan and secretly save money to get back to Canada. After escaping, I spent time recovering at my mom's place and soon realized that without an education my job prospects and ability to create a new post-cult life for myself were severely limited. So, regardless of low self-esteem as a result of Christian dogma that denigrates and denies self (Luke 9:23,24) I was cautiously excited to start university exactly a year after I escaped the cult.

Although I had recognized the cult was corrupt, I still held on to my Christian beliefs for awhile as I tried to sort out what to do with my life, but that started to slowly change as I began to read more and more books in preparation for university. I discovered in the small local library a fantastic encyclopedic series called The Great Conversation, which directly exposed me for the first time to many of the great works and ideas in the Western canon. I would revisit many of those books at university, but it was a different book I stumbled on by chance during the first month of classes that started me on the path of discarding the dogma I had been indoctrinated into.

That book is God is Red: A Native View of Religion by Vine Deloria Jr.. It was not on any of my course reading lists, but I caught a glimpse of the cover on a display shelf as I climbed some stairs in the campus library. It was still the early months in my student life, so fortunately I still had the luxury of time for extracurricular reading because the book helped change my life. It provides a critique of Christianity from a unique point of view I had never considered. As I began to question my religious beliefs, I realized that the best course of action was to suspend my belief, but I did not become an atheist over night, or even over a year. I concluded that I needed to try and start my life over with a clean slate, and defer any decisions on what I now believed concerning God and religion until I had a chance to more thoroughly examine the facts, evidence and ideas that education would expose me to.

That strategy worked. I opened my mind to knowledge, theories, facts and evidence. I questioned, doubted, and debated. I applied my new critical thinking skills to my knowledge of the Bible, reading passages in it for the first time without the blinkers of dogmatic literalism, critically citing it in numerous course essays in philosophy, literature, and history. Perhaps most importantly, I discovered the facts of evolution and came to the conclusion that far from being The Big Lie, as I was taught by fundamentalist indoctrination, evolution is a beautiful theory that is far more convincing and sensible than creationism. Of all the issues I struggled with most as a fundamentalist believer the most difficult was the dogma that the Genesis creation story is a literal one (or two, since there are two different versions), because there is so much about it that is simply unbelievable. It was a great relief intellectually and psychologically to put an end to that particular cognitive dissonance. Thanks Charles!

My pre-cult 11th grade education did not adequately instruct me on the nature of evolution, inform me of the solid, scientific basis for it, or deal in any way with the 'controversy' between evolution and creationism. My grasp of the issues was extremely simplistic, based largely on that widely used chart that misrepresents evolution as being a straight line from monkeys to humans, like that opening sequence on The Simpsons showing the ascent of Homer and the descent of Mo. I only understood that some people claimed humans were animals that evolved from monkeys and that others thought humans were 'higher' than animals, special creations made in God's image. So when the fundamentalists did their dirty work on my uninformed mind they had an easy time over-coming any feeble reasoning I attempted to counter their arguments with. I was ignorant of the facts, so faith took over. It was only when I finally read Darwin's original work, in my third year of university, that I realized the biggest lie is not evolution but creationism, a lie that continues to keep millions imprisoned in ignorance. The evidence for evolution has been piling up for 150 years, unlike the evidence for creationism, which simply does not exist except in the imaginations of its proponents.

After graduating with distinction and an award for the highest GPA in my program, which was a bit of a boost for my persistent low self-esteem, I continued my education a few years later at law school. By now I was no longer a believer, but never had occasion or reason to publicly declare my unbelief, or even privately with family and friends, as religion was a subject I now avoided. Then one day I was in court, not in my usual position representing a client, but as a witness in a criminal trial. It was the first time I had to decide between swearing on a Bible, or other 'holy' book, or simply swearing an oath. I had not given it any prior thought, but on the stand I immediately decided to swear an oath. I had seen plenty of people, including police officers, lie after swearing on the Bible, so I knew that was a charade and no guarantee of truth-telling. I realized afterwards that that was my first public rejection of the Bible and my former beliefs.

So, as I said, I did not become an atheist over-night. I was never on an anti-Christian crusade and don't consider myself a militant, evangelical atheist or other similar pejorative used to describe atheists. I was simply on my own personal path of recovery, discovery and enlightenment that led unavoidably to atheism. The fact that I now openly discuss my unbelief, work to expose religion-related abuse, and in the process sometimes criticize or ridicule beliefs of others, some of which I too once held, does not make me anti-Christian or an atheist crusader.

In law school I focused on areas such as human rights, civil rights, aboriginal rights and social justice. I was more interested in being an advocate for those on the margins of society and speaking truth to power than in supporting the elite and the status quo. I became a community advocate and activist for drug addicts, street prostitutes and the poor. It is that human rights training and experience that I bring to this question of who is the real anti-Christian, me or my fundamentalist accuser, who is also a former member of the same Christian cult as me, I should point out. However, his path to cult recovery was very different than mine, as he chose to remain a fundamentalist and close his mind to any further inquiry outside of that dogmatic system. He took some theology and pastoral courses, and discarded the more radical, extra-Biblical doctrines of the cult, but otherwise simply moved from one fundamentalist position to another. It's as if we both escaped from the same dangerous situation, but he simply moved across the street whereas I moved to the other side of the world. [SEE UPDATE BELOW - Pastor Don is a member of the Assemblies of God]

He made his accusation on a website chat-board for former members of the cult, where he and I have clashed more than once in the past. I used to be a frequent commenter on that site, but have rarely posted there the last couple years. Now I just check the site for any news about the cult, and occasionally post a link to news items. Here's what happened to provoke the recent accusation by him.

In July, a woman named Jewlz posted a short message [see postscript below] that some members of the cult were infiltrating an Australian church called Hillsong and that she had warned the church about those extremists. My accuser, Pastor Don, responded with: “Thanks, I like Hillsong. They do great stuff!” I then replied: “Here's some of the "great stuff" Hillsong does [links take you to news articles archived on my site]” and provided links to seven news articles archived on my website [see links below] about abuse in the Hillsong church and Mercy Ministries, which Hillsong helped to support in various ways. I purposely mentioned in my reply that the links were to my website as a heads up to Pastor Don because I knew he was one of those who had repeatedly said he had no interest in going to my site. I was attempting to respect his decision not to go to my website and didn't want to ambush him with links. I posted the links not for him, but for the benefit of others reading the conversation who would be interested in reading those articles. Here is his unedited response to my post:

You and I never change Perry, I am a Christian and you are anti-Christian. There is not much more to say than that. If you think I am going to go to the websites you linked I have better things to do than that. Maybe you can research me and find about bad things I do and have done. I'm sure you are more than happy to do what you can to fight the cause of Christ, who you some blatanly [sic] hate. Myself being a firm believer, in the Bible, there will come a day when every knee will bow. The main word being every. Sorry to be religous [sic] on GenX but I did not feel like being silent.

I've been called far worse, so it is hardly a devastating accusation, and considering where it was made not many people outside of that community have likely read it. However, it does reveal what may be a common assumption about me, and atheists in general, that I am trying to correct with this article, as well as show who the real anti-Christian is. Here's how his comments break down. He starts by saying that he and I never change, which may be true for him, but not for me, as I have demonstrated above. I have not only constantly changed since leaving the cult, including my entire worldview, but I remain open to changing my current position on any issue if proper evidence is presented to me. For example, I would revert back to belief in God, or accept that reptilian aliens from space live among us, if any reliable evidence is ever found, though I'm not holding my breath.

Pastor Don could never change in such a dramatic way as long as he remains a fundamentalist. How can I say that with such certainty? Well, he admits he never changes, but also because there is already abundant, strong, verifiable evidence that the earth is older than 10,000 years and evolution by natural selection is how we all got here, evidence that Pastor Don will never accept because it would require him to abandon his creationist beliefs. But he can never change his beliefs as long as he subscribes to Biblical literalism, which does not require empirical evidence, just blind faith. My new belief system, however, does require scientifically verifiable empirical evidence, and I can easily change my belief that something is either fact or fiction based on the latest reliable evidence.

Next, he seems to think he is simply stating an obvious fact by calling me anti-Christian. I'm not entirely sure what he bases that on since he doesn't provide any examples. He won't go to my website and we have never met in person, so he is either basing that accusation on something I've written in our debates on those ex-member chat-boards a few years ago or on the simple fact that I am an atheist who warns others about abusive religious behaviour. It is probable that in the heated debates I've had online with him and others that I have said something offensive to Christians, but does merely being offensive make me anti-Christian? If, for example, I express my opinion that the Bible is a book of inconsistencies, inaccuracies and impossibilities, that will surely offend many Christians, but my mere opinions do not make me anti-Christian. If a Christian says to me Jesus is real and if you don't accept him he will force you or send you to hell, and I disagree saying Jesus is a myth and there is no hell, my opinion may be offensive to Christians, but not any more offensive than the Christian's opinion is to unbelievers.

Perhaps Pastor Don has a problem with reading comprehension. Although my comment he reacted to was only one short sentence, half of which pointed out that the included links all went to my website, he still replied that he would not “go to the websites you linked”. If that is the case, maybe his accusation is based on misinterpreting something I've written. If anyone can find any original statement by me, whether on my website, those chat-boards or elsewhere on the net, that they think demonstrates that I am anti-Christian, then I will either explain in context why I think it doesn't, or retract the statement if it truly is an anti-Christian sentiment.

Pastor Don goes on to claim not only that he is certain I am happy fighting “the cause of Christ”, but that I blatantly hate Jesus. Wow, he really must have some divine super power to know the state of my emotions. Apparently, I am a happy hater of someone I doubt even existed. And what is the cause of Christ he speaks of? According to him it is to make every knee bow down, “[t]he main word being every”. In other words, in his version of Christianity, Pastor Don believes that Jesus is a dictator who will force everyone, under threat of eternal punishment, into conformity and servitude. This really gets to the heart of the matter, because many Christians do not subscribe to that fundamentalist dogma. In fact, there are many individuals and churches who consider themselves faithful Christians that fundamentalists like Pastor Don do not consider Christian at all because they do not adhere to strict Biblical literalism. That makes Pastor Don an anti-Christian in my opinion because he does not believe in religious freedom for others, but instead believes that everyone, including other Christians, must eventually conform to his particular brand of Christianity.

I do not make that discriminating distinction between Christians. Unlike Pastor Don and his dictatorial Jesus, I am content to let all Christians of any church, denomination, sect, or cult believe whatever they want to believe, and have no desire or motivation to deny them their religious freedom. However, religious freedom is not absolute and the law draws the line on religious behaviour that harms or infringes the rights of others. For example, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, you have the right to make a martyr of yourself, but not the right to make martyrs of your children. That is where I focus my advocacy work that Pastor Don calls fighting the cause of Christ. Remember, I simply posted links to news articles that provided factual accounts of religious harm in the Hillsong church that he had endorsed. Those accounts included stories of abusive exorcisms, which as he knows, was a serious problem in the cult we were both part of. But as a fundamentalist he still believes in demon possession and so rather than investigating the stories I provided, he automatically defended the church from this 'dangerous' atheist by declaring me an anti-Christian who hates Jesus and fights his cause. Well, if the cause is to make every knee bow through denunciation, abuse and torture, then yes, I will fight that cause, but it is not a Christian cause.

So, who is the real anti-Christian? Is it the atheist who thinks everyone should be free to hold any religious belief, interpretation or opinion they want, including Christians, as long as they don't harm or hinder others? Or is it the Christian fundamentalist who implicitly thinks that no one really has religious freedom, not even Christians, because there is only one correct interpretation of Christianity and everyone will eventually be forced by a divine dictator to accept it? I think the answer is obvious. If Pastor Don was not so afraid to visit my website, he would notice that I name it Chain the Dogma, not Chain the Christians. It is religious behaviour and rigid dogma that promotes, condones and incites harm to others in any form that needs to be restricted, not religious belief or opinion. As a secular humanist who recognizes humanity is unlikely to shed superstitious beliefs anytime soon, I think religious pluralism is preferable to fundamentalism, and that religion ought to be confined to the private and kept out of the public sector. As Paul, the former anti-Christian, said: “Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God.” (Romans 14:22, KJV) In other words, keep your faith to yourself, but that doesn't make Paul, or me, anti-Christian.

Postscript

Following is the chat-board discussion referred to in the article above. I have included only the originating post by Jewlz and the replies by me and Pastor Don. I have excluded comments by others joining in the discussion. You can read the other comments on this chat-board on the exfamily.org website.


Posted by Jewlz on July 15, 2010 at 23:26:08

I have heard that many of TFI have been infiltrating Hillsong in Sydney for quite a while now. I work for a Christian company so am pretty much in the loop as to who is where etc. TFI have spun a very different tale regarding their sordid past - but I have told them the truth & to BEWARE.

Posted by Pastor Don on July 16, 2010 at 07:18:16   In Reply to: Re: Hillsong Church - Sydney posted by Jewlz on July 15, 2010 at 23:26:08:

Thanks, I like Hillsong. They do great stuff!

Posted by Perry on July 16, 2010 at 14:59:18   In Reply to: Re: Hillsong Church - Sydney posted by Pastor Don on July 16, 2010 at 07:18:16:

Here's some of the "great stuff" Hillsong does [links take you to news articles archived on my site]:

They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/03/they-sought-help-but-got-exorcism-and.html
Cult-rescue group 'concerned about' Mercy Ministries http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/03/cult-rescue-group-concerned-about-mercy.html
Mercy Ministries claim exorcisms cure mental illness and drug addiction http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/07/mercy-ministries-claim-exorcisms-cure.html

Mercy Ministries exorcism books leaked http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/11/mercy-ministries-exorcism-books-leaked.html
Hillsong: Exorcism in the suburbs http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/11/hillsong-exorcism-in-suburbs.html

Hillsong accused of closet zealotry http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/07/hillsong-accused-of-closet-zealotry.html

Hillsong hits schools with beauty gospel http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/07/hillsong-hits-schools-with-beauty.html

 Posted by Pastor Don on July 16, 2010 at 16:39:23  In Reply to: Re: Hillsong Church - Sydney posted by Perry on July 16, 2010 at 14:59:18:
You and I never change Perry, I am a Christian and you are anti-Christian. There is not much more to say than that. If you think I am going to go to the websites you linked I have better things to do than that. Maybe you can research me and find about bad things I do and have done. I'm sure you are more than happy to do what you can to fight the cause of Christ, who you some blatanly hate. Myself being a firm believer, in the Bible, there will come a day when every knee will bow. The main word being every. Sorry to be religous on GenX but I did not feel like being silent.

Posted by Perry on July 16, 2010 at 19:41:36  In Reply to: Re: Hillsong Church - Sydney posted by Pastor Don on July 16, 2010 at 16:39:23:

You mistakenly think my post was directed at you personally. It was not. I posted it as a response to your post because you claimed Hillsong does great things. Where else should I have posted it?

For the benefit of others, I simply wanted to counter balance your opinion with some facts about how that organization abuses young people, including through exorcisms, which is a relevant topic on this board, in my opinion, especially when someone endorses their abusive methods, and considering the news that some TFI members may be getting involved with that church.

You've made it clear in the past that you have no interest in my site, so I did not post those links for your benefit, and in fact, I purposely gave a warning for your benefit, and others like you, that the links go to my site. There was nothing personal in my post directed at you, unlike yours, which pretty much sums up what kind of person you are.
********************************************************************************

UPDATE:  FEBRUARY 2, 2011


One thing I neglected to mention in my article above is the church that Pastor Don is affiliated with, namely the Assemblies of God. This is an important piece of information that bolsters my claim that his departure from the The Family International cult was akin to simply moving across the street. What I meant by that metaphor was that dangerous dogma in both groups is identical in many ways. Pastor Don has abandoned some of the cult's more radical doctrines, but continues to evangelize other equally harmful fundamentalist doctrines.

Pastor Don is proud to be a fundamentalist, and does not seem to be bothered by the fact that the Hillsong church and Mercy Ministries were involved in abusive exorcisms. His affiliation with the Assemblies of God seems to explain that lack of concern, because they believe in such nonsense, just as The Family International cult does.

I have archived on my news blog several articles on Teen Challenge, an abusive program run by the Assemblies of God. The most recent article details abusive attempts to 'cure' a gay man of homosexuality as if it is a disease.

See: Inside look at abusive Teen Challenge program run by fundamentalist Assemblies of God that claims to cure homosexuality http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2011/02/inside-look-at-abusive-teen-challenge.html and see the links at the end of that article.

Here is what the Assemblies of God teach on the subject of homosexuality from their website: http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/topics/relations_11_homosexual.cfm

And here is what David Berg, the decease founder of the Children of God/The Family International, and the current leader Karen Zerby, teach about homosexuality: http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Berg_on_Homosexuality

If you exam both sets of dogma you will find they are almost indistinguishable and cite the same scriptures. On this subject and many more, there is no doctrinal difference between Pastor Don's church, the Assemblies of God, and the cult we both escaped from.

I find it extremely ironic and somewhat disturbing, therefore, that he is major contributor to an online forum for ex-members of that cult, offering spiritual advice that is often no different from what The Family International cult teaches. See: http://www.exfamily.org/chatbbs/jrny/index.html




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7 comments:

  1. Hmmm, I did see where DOn says he is a firm believer in The Bible, but I failed to notice where he said he believes everything in the Bible is literal.
    I believe in The Bible, but I do not believe every word is literal. The Bible was written in a popular poetic form of the day which was popular in Israel from the prophets to Jesus and beyond.
    Jesus also spoke in this poetic apocalyptic poetic language and the meaning goes much deeper than the eye can see, or what one can research in Young's or Strong's concordance or even The treasury of scriptural knowledge. It goes deeper than that.
    I do believe in what was meant to be literal as being literal, such as eternal life and God is love, the golden rule as it is called, that is to say, not to treat others as you do not want to be treated.
    If I were an atheist then I would just begone from this "system" and live up in some mountains and be a hermit the rest of my life until I died.
    why is that? Because without God, without salvation from Jesus, the world and all who live in it is barbarous, killing one another and trying to get more that you need. The rich don't care about the poor, the poor get poorer, and disease and poverty spreads rapidly. Mankind has not learned yet how to live harmoniously side by side without bigotry.
    If there is no God and if Jesus is not the son of God then I do not want to live in this wretched world where crime and corruption seem to prevail and justice cannot find its alloted place.
    I'd go up and away as far as I could go, into the wilderness and live off the land, live among the wild beasts, birds and small animals who appear to have found their purpose in life and balance in nature.
    Man is destroying nature's own balance, and will destroy his own world if not stopped.
    That is why I choose to believe in God and continue to be a missionary on a foreign field even though I have been out of The Family for a number of years. I believe people can change, if they are connected to God.
    Without a God there is no hope of change so you who say you do not believe in God and are atheist, why not just screw it all and leave this world system, go out and build yourself a log cabin and live among the pines and natural foliage that nothing created and live out your life enjoying what's left of it?
    The truth is , you can't! Because deep down inside you know that God really does exist. the problem is you have been fed the Children of God /David Berg version of God and their so called Christianity. The Cog Berg fiasco is NOT Christianity. What you see in the churches today is mostly very un-Christian.
    If people would only do what Jesus said to do and love one another, then you would see a different story entirely.
    But they are stuck on their doctrines of men, and traditions of men, slavery and bondage and lust for control and power such as Berg and Keren Zerby and co. Thst is not Christianity and The Family International is not a Christian organization. It is a cult and a dangerous one and are way off the beam, so far away from true religion, true Christianity as night is from day.
    But I do not leave this society and go off to live in the mountains. Why not? Because I do believe that people can change because there is a God who alone possesses the power to change them. And so I will continue my mission as long as I live , without a label or name of a church or organization, but solely in the name of God, to help those who need help and use the knowledge and wisdom I have gained to save life not destroy it, because in God's eyes they are worth saving, whereas without God and an afterlife, life has no value and will only cease to exist. So good luck to you my friend and may you find the peace of mind you are searching for.

    all The Best, Chazz

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know... this all sounds like activism to me. You say you got the "cult" out of you, but it sounds like you haven't gotten the "sectarian" way of thinking out of you (despite the title of your blog). It seems to me like all that's really changed are your opinions, but you're just as dogmatic as you accuse the cultists of being.

    This is all quite common of former cult members, they go from being ardent supporters to vehement detractors. If you'd start by having a more open and impartial approach to the cult and your past, you might just convince me that you're sincerely searching for truth, and not just seeking revenge on a part of your past which you were ultimately responsible for.

    And Chazz is saying that the Cog/Berg "fiasco" is not Christianity, so essentially he's being dogmatic too.

    It's all a bunch of baloney if you ask me... this is all about every man seeking to be a law unto himself.

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  3. Regarding the first comment above, Chazz complains that I did not include a quotation from Pastor Don stating that he believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible. I did fail to initially identify Don as a member of the Assemblies of God, which I have now amended. That information would have been enough to establish his biblical literalism: see the Assemblies of God statement of faith at
    http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/statement_of_fundamental_truths/sft_short.cfm

    However, in my article I do discuss having debated with Don more than once on the exfamily.org chatboards and I provide a brief glimpse into the latest of those debates. I think Chazz could have taken from that that I know Don well enough from those online debates to know that he is a literalist.

    Chazz tells us that he/she (is Chazz a female or male name?) was also a member of that same cult as Pastor Don and I. He says he is no longer a member of that cult, yet like Don, he retains some of their teachings. His assumptions about atheists, for example, are no different than what David Berg taught, as well as many other fundamentalist churches. It would be laughable if they were not so serious in their denunciations of atheists, who they equate with Satan.

    Chazz makes some common mistake regarding atheists, assuming because of his religious beliefs that anyone without belief in god must be evil or so horribly depressed that the only solution is to escape from society. Not believing is so foreign to him that he simply cannot imagine unbelief so he asserts that deep down atheists really do believe in God, they just have been shown the wrong one. That is absurd and offensive. Millions of atheists around the world live perfectly normal, moral lives (often far more moral than believers) and contribute immensely to society, without ever feeling the need for a deity in their lives.

    Chazz ends his religious rant wishing me the peace of mind I've been searching for. What an offensive assumption. I finally gained peace of mind only after I rejected belief in God. It was that religious belief that caused my troubled mind. It was only after I shed the fantasies of belief, rid my mind of the cognitive dissonance caused by those fantasies, and returned to reality that I gained peace of mind.

    Chazz's position is that the world is a really horrible place so he sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts, "la,la,la,la,la,la, I can't hear you", or "God is love" or something similar when presented with reality. Yes, Chazz, that's the best way to deal with the reality of life, deny facts and retreat to an imaginary world of make-believe. It makes me sad because his comments reveal that he continues to live a life of fear, just as the cult taught him.

    Chazz says he doesn't believe the Bible literally except those parts that are intended to be literal. First, who gets to decide which parts are meant literally, and which parts are mere metaphors, myths or lies? Second, he says that the doctrine of eternal life and the notion that God is love are meant literally. He also equates the maxim "do unto others..." with the idea of God is love, which is not accurate. Do unto others is not a concept original to the Bible, Judaism or Christianity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule and is not related to the notion of god is love, but rather it is a maxim that holds up without any god being necessary at all. It is about human relationships, not gods.

    Extraordinary claims, such as there is life after death and God is love, require extraordinary evidence. Chazz has not offered any evidence at all. He is simply regurgitating religious indoctrination without recognizing it as such. There is no reliable evidence whatsoever that there is life after death. It is simply wishful thinking.

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    As for the idea that God is love, all of the evidence points to exactly the opposite. Everyone knows that simply saying "I love you" is meaningless without action to back it up. Likewise, saying "God is love" or "God loves you" is meaningless. Believers accept that notion on faith, which means without any evidence, and simply saying "faith is the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1) is no solution to the problem of evidence. But real world evidence shows us that human love, which is the only real love we know (as opposed to imaginary love) is nothing like God's love as expressed in the Bible. That God thinks nothing of slaughtering an entire world of people. Apparently, he's done it before and will do it again, much to the delight of believers in that kind of love. That God supposedly created us, but with built in design flaws pain is a central feature of human life. That is spiteful, cruel behaviour, not love, to cause pain instead of relieving it.

    Believers will say, yes you are right, God's love is not like human love. It is a mystery, they say, and who can know the mind of God (Romans 11:34) But that's bullshit. If God is love and humans are made in his image then human love ought to be a reflection of God's love, but it is not. Real human love is far superior to the imaginary love of an imaginary god.

    Finally, Chazz claims that without God no one can change. My article makes the opposite claim, that it is believers who are unable to change, even when presented with overwhelming evidence. Atheists, on the other hand, change constantly according to new evidence. Since rejecting my faith and beliefs I have constantly adjusted my understanding of the universe(s) the more I learn about the realities of life.

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  5. This is a reply to the second comment above. I do not have much patience with anonymous opinions. At least the first commenter above had the courage to put a name to his post, although still anonymous to me. The difference is that Chazz also provided some personal details, such as the fact he was in the same cult, and made his position and beliefs very clear. I know where he stands and I can easily debate ideas with him. I applaud him for the courage to visit an atheist's website.

    The second commenter, on the other hand, does not display the same courage and clarity. He (or she) does not reveal any personal details about his own belief system, but merely snipes safely hidden behind anonymity. I think this person is completely disingenuous and merely playing mind games with two cult survivors. Although the entire comment is somewhat ambiguous, after reading it several times, I think this person is a believer and may even be a member of that cult.

    The first sentence is just bizarre. What the hell does “this all sounds like activism to me” even mean or refer to in the context of my article and Chazz's comment? It made me wonder if he even read my article. If he did I doubt he read it closely as he makes the ridiculous claim, which I’ve heard and read often from believers, that atheists are just as dogmatic as believers. Here's what I wrote: “I have not only constantly changed since leaving the cult, including my entire worldview, but I remain open to changing my current position on any issue if proper evidence is presented to me. For example, I would revert back to belief in God, or accept that reptilian aliens from space live among us, if any reliable evidence is ever found, though I'm not holding my breath.” Does that sound dogmatic to you.

    So, he pulls that false claim that I am dogmatic out of his ass because it certainly couldn't have come from reading my article. He adds another put down by saying all that has changed are my opinions, which is just as ridiculous and offensive. My atheistic worldview is not based on unsupported opinions, but on facts. Belief that there is a God is an opinion unsupported by fact. Belief that the Bible is God's word is an opinion unsupported by fact (see The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine). So yes, I have rid myself of those opinions, and I have replaced them not with unfounded opinions but with scientifically verifiable factual information about how the universe works. Far from being dogmatic, I am willing to adapt and change my understanding according to knew knowledge I gain and the latest scientific discoveries.

    The second paragraph of that anonymous comment is somewhat mysterious and is one of the clues that leads me to speculate that this person could be a current member of The Family International cult. He does refer to the group as a cult, which could just be a red herring, but it is his comments on cult recovery that are suspect. He seems to indicate an awareness of me that goes beyond what he could know just by reading this one article he is commenting on. The language he uses is suspiciously similar to that used by leaders and academic apologists of that cult to label and denigrate survivors of abuse in that group. He claims it's common for ex-cult members to turn against the group, criticizing them as detractors for trying to expose that abusive group, which no one truly concerned for cult survivors would ever do. In other words, his position is exactly the same as the cult's leaders and apologists.

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    He then lectures me to be more open and impartial in my approach to the cult. Who the hell does he think he is? He knows nothing about my personal recovery from that cult. Thousands of peoples' lives ruined by that cult, families broken up, hundreds of children abused, institutional promotion of pedophilia, incest, prostitution, physical abuse, psycho-spiritual manipulation, etc., etc., all of it well documented, and he wants me to be open and impartial? And what arrogance that he thinks I should convince him that I'm sincerely searching for truth. I have no obligation to convince him of anything, and I doubt he would listen anyway since he can't seem to read. I am not searching for truth in the way a believer like him interprets it. That's what got me captured by the cult in the first place. I am only interested in factual reality.

    What he says next is another clue that this person might be connected with the cult in someway, “... seeking revenge on a part of your past which you were ultimately responsible for.” That is a really loaded statement. First, he characterizes my work exposing the cult as seeking revenge, which is simply a lie. There was only person who left that cult and truly sought revenge. He was the son of the current leader, and committed murder and suicide in a vain attempt to reek revenge on his mother, Karen Zerby, aka, Marie Fontaine, an abuser of children. (see my article linked below) After that tragedy, cult leaders began calling certain vocal ex-members detractors and accusing them of being vengeful, just like this anonymous commenter has done to me.

    He also claims I am ultimately responsible for my past cult life. I have heard that accusation before, from one of The Family International's academic apologists, James Chancellor. I wrote a long article criticizing Chancellor's book on that cult and in his response to that article he falsely accuses me of being responsible for abuses in the cult because I was a male adult member at the time some of the worst abuses occurred. I gave my answer to that deceitful attempt to smear me so I won't repeat it here, except to say that accusing me of that is like blaming a battered wife for the abuse she and her children suffer. It's disingenuous and despicable. Read my article, Chancellor's response, and my reply to his response at: http://perry-bulwer.blogspot.com/p/response-to-james-d-chancellors-life-in.html

    He then goes on to criticize Chazz for saying that The Family International are not Christians, calling him dogmatic for doing so. I actually agree with him on that. They are Christians just as Mormons or any other sect or cult claiming to be Christians are. In fact, there is such a great variety of Christians that the entire field of Christianity just looks foolish. But why did he put “fiasco” in quotation marks? Does he think the cult has not been a fiasco, a complete failure, or does he think it has been worse than that? Where does he stand and why he is criticizing from a safe hiding place? He claims both Chazz and I are being dogmatic with regard to our stance on the cult, so where does that leave him but as an apologist for religiously abusive evil doers. I think he has an agenda, which is partly to discredit me, a vocal critic of those abusers.

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    Finally, what is he referring to when he says, “It's all a bunch of baloney....”? What is? The dispute between me and Chazz, our dispute with the cult, the cult itself, religion in general? It's hard to tell from that statement, but then he cites a scripture from the King James bible. Whatever he is referring to by “it”, he says “it” is all about every man being a law unto themselves. The phrase “law unto themselves” comes from Romans 2:14. I doubt very much it is a coincidence. This person knows the Bible well enough to toss out a phrase like that, even if it has completely out of context, which the cult is famous for doing. I realize it is a huge assumption, but there are enough clues in that comment to make me highly suspicious that this is merely a Family cult apologist playing mind games. But even if he isn't associated with the cult, he is still comes across as a cowardly apologist.

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