Why Do I Describe Conservative Christianity as a Cult?

Image result for image of a cult

If you look up the word “cult” in a dictionary you will find many different definitions, such as this one:  a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious. But when most people today use the term “cult”, they usually mean something more sinister.  They are usually referring to a group of people who:

practice some form of mind-control.

teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.

teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.

teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.

I believe that conservative Christianity easily meets this definition of a “cult”.  Let me give you a couple of examples from my life that prove this point.

First example:  I grew up fundamentalist Baptist.  In this branch of Christianity, the fire in Hell is literal.  People who die as unbelievers will literally burn, in horrific torment, forever and ever.  Not only is there literal fire in Hell but there is “utter” darkness.  So not only will you be burning alive, but you will not be able to see anything.  Pretty horrific.  But that’s not all.  In addition, there will be worms; worms that will crawl on your body, possibly crawling into your mouth, nostrils, ears, etc..  And “the worm dieth not.”  So in Hell, they have fire-resistant worms.  There is also “brimstone”.  If you are on fire already, I’m not sure that the fact that you are standing on hot stones will make a difference, but its a nasty addition to the scene of utter horror, isn’t it?  Burning to death has to be one of the worst ways to die.  The only thing worse is burning and never dying!  Just imagine the horrific agony…never…ending.  It is unimaginable, actually.

Now, teach all this to a five year old child.  Teach the child that unless he (or she) believes as they are told by the authorities in their lives (parents, pastor, Sunday School teacher, Christian school teacher) they will be thrown into a “Lake of Fire” to burn forever.

If that is not cult behavior, I don’t know what is.

Second example:  When I was sixteen (and still a fundamentalist Baptist) my best friend’s father died.  He was not a member of the church.  He was not a believer.  However, my best friend and his mother were believers.  Our church performed the man’s funeral.  No mention was made of the man’s eternal destiny at the service, but we all knew where he was:  in the scorching fires of Hell!  Imagine what went on in the minds of my best friend and his mother.  For the rest of their lives, the memory of their father/husband will torment them because when they think of him, they will know that at that very moment he is still writhing in horrific agony in the flames of Hell…and there is nothing they can do that will stop or even diminish his suffering.  How horrific.

Third example:  In my forties I became an LCMS (conservative) Lutheran.  No where in the LCMS doctrinal statements does it say that Hell has literal fire.  That is a definite improvement over fundamentalist Baptist teaching.  However, LCMS teaching does not rule out the possibility that there will be literal fire in Hell.  The LCMS teaches simply that people in Hell will experience “unspeakable suffering” forever.  Still sounds pretty horrific.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, when I discovered conservative (confessional) Lutheranism, I thought I had discovered the true, original form of Christianity.  I was ecstatic.  I loved confessional Lutheranism!  I wanted to share the good news of true (Lutheran) Christianity with everyone.  I wanted to convert all my former Baptist and evangelical friends and family to confessional Lutheranism.  That was the original purpose of this blog!

In my excitement, I became keenly aware of those whom I loved who had not been baptized (saying that one believes in Jesus as one’s Savior but refusing to follow his command to be baptized was a strong indicator that one was not a true believer, according to Lutheranism).  Two of those people I was concerned about were my young nephews (at that time younger than five).  I went to my LCMS pastor to discuss this issue.

My sister (the mother of my nephews) had been baptized in an evangelical church but had left Christianity and was now an agnostic.  Her husband (the father of my nephews) had been baptized as a Catholic but he too was now an agnostic.  Was the fact that the parents of my nephews had been baptized, enough to protect them from Hell until they were old enough for me to somehow convince them to believe in Jesus as their Savior and to then follow his command and be baptized?

No, my LCMS pastor said.  He could offer no hope for my nephews.  If they were to die before being baptized, we could not be certain of their eternal destiny.

I was horrified.

That is cult belief and behavior, friends.

Conservative Christians will respond (and have responded on this blog):  But if the teachings of conservative Christianity are true, then all these “cult” teachings and behaviors are true and correct! 

My response:  That is what EVERY cult says!

Conservative Christianity is a cult.  It needs to be exposed, my friends.  No child should be forced to endure the fear-based mind control used by this group.  No child should grow up fearing being burned alive or suffering “unspeakable torment” by some sadistic invisible boogeyman who threatens them with eternal torture for refusing to love and obey him.  This belief system is sick.  This belief system (cult) must be debunked.  Its members need to be freed from its fear-based superstitions.  Let all of us who are ex-members of this cult renew our efforts to defeat all superstitious belief.

Image result for image of say no to superstition

 

 

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38 thoughts on “Why Do I Describe Conservative Christianity as a Cult?

  1. Oh, like the insistence that materialism is absolutely the only true way to view the world, and if you deny that you’re deluded and brainwashed?

    Would you encourage your kids to marry devout Christians without the intention to show them that they are brainwashed? I’d imagine that’s discouraging them from intimate relationships with people who don’t share your view of the world.

    Do you think there are good consequences or negative consequences for converting from atheism to Christianity?

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    1. Note that I specify that it is conservative Christianity that is a cult, not Christianity in general. I do not believe that liberal Christianity is a cult. I would have no problem with my children marrying a liberal Christian.

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      1. Liam, addresses a concern, though, that I’ve been deeply thinking about for my own life.

        You’re a physician, and I’m a social worker. I think we both have this natural inclination, Gary, to want to “fix people” with the best intentions. I know that I want to see people whole. I want to know that they’re healed, and have every good thing.. I want to have conversation, and share my faith, and to receive input and hear other’s thoughts as well. We both want truth.

        Every non theist that I’ve conversed with on the blogs tends to think that all people have a natural inclination toward love and acceptance, and therefore that once folks are free of myth and superstition their lives will be so much better. They will all gravitate toward humanism. What if this isn’t true? What if for some people, absence of faith leads to a lose of meaning that they can’t fill, and leads to emptiness, or worse.

        I’ve known people in prison whose lives were immeasurably changed for the better after coming to faith in Christ. I would not have liked to see any of these folks as atheists. They would not be humanists. I can tell you that.

        The other concern, I would have is that if humans are innately spiritual creatures, well a vacuum wants to be filled. I can think of faith systems much less benign that could fill this space in the place of a balanced and open Christianity.

        On the other hand, for myself, Christians need to also be thoughtful and careful. For instance, I think for people dealing with OCD, any mention of “sin” has led in their lives not to thoughtful and positive reflection about amendment of life, but to scrupulosity. The Christian teaching of “eternal life” which I personally find to be a positive thing can lead to a fixation on death for others ..

        In other words, we are all very different, and not coming from the same place. We can get a better feel of this in relating with people personally in real time, but not in blogging across the internet. Truly we don’t know each other at all, really.

        Anyway, while I totally agree with your concern to speak out against fear based religion. I think to work toward the total eradication of faith and spirituality in general is no light thing. I hope you’re able to realize this. And, sharing the Christian faith should not be taken too casually either.

        I think I”m going to focus for the coming year on relating with the people who come into my life in real time, contemplative prayer, and the works of mercy.

        Here’s wishing for you again, every blessing and good thing, in the coming year, Gary.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Rebecca. Best wishes to you too.

          You, like many Christians who have commented on this subject, seem to have the perspective that a competition exists between Christianity and non-supernaturalism/atheism for which belief system is the most comforting personally and which belief system is most beneficial to society. That is not my perspective nor the perspective of most ex-Christian non-supernaturalists. We are not attempting to prove that non-supernaturalism/atheism is the best worldview. We simply believe that non-supernaturalism is the TRUTH.

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  2. Here, here, Gary. I’m with you all the way.

    As for the suggestion that materialism is a cult – just run it by the checklist of cult characteristics, Liam, and you’ll see It conforms to none of them. I’m surprised you didn’t do this before making your absurd claim.

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  3. I’m not sure where you got these guidelines for identifying cults.

    – practice some form of mind-control.
    Huh? What do you mean by “mind-control”? I thought this was only possible in comic books.

    – teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.
    Every group teaches their beliefs are the one and only truth.
    Your view is that atheism is the one and only truth, is it not?
    Any form of theism is inferior to the truth of atheism. You don’t use the word “evil” because evil doesn’t exist in your worldview.
    Atheism is not a cult even though it claims to be the only truth.

    –teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.
    Huh? This isn’t part of mainstream Christian doctrine.

    –teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.
    I was told that if I leave my insurance group, I’ll face the horrific consequences of paying my hospital bills out of pocket.
    Is Anthem a cult?

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  4. Rebecca,

    I have no doubt that many people attribute positive changes in their lives to their faith in Christ. But how would you respond to people who claim their lives were immeasurably changed for the better after adopting Islam? Or Buddhism? Wouldn’t that suggest that such transformations are dependent on the person rather than the beliefs themselves?

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    1. Ron, I’ve only recently connected, and am starting to become friends with Muslim refugees. I’ve never known or personally had a friendship with someone who practices Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism. I also hope this will change in the coming year. So, I have to pass judgement on the question for right now.

      However, even though I don’t feel that all belief systems can be equally true, I do think that God can certainly work in some measure through other faiths. He meets people where they’re at. (And, we can always find common ground.)

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      1. You seem like a really nice, caring person, Rebecca. But why do you spend so much time here (at this blog)? Are you trying to convince yourself that your supernatural beliefs are true??? It just seems that if you were truly confident of your beliefs you would be using your time in a more efficient manner to spread the Good News of Jesus.

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  5. Gary, I am planning to spend less time on the blogs in general this year as I’m beginning new goals and enterprises. But, before I go, I have one last very important question. I”m probably going to ask this on another blog as well.

    What do you feel is the most important way Christian believers can bless and show support/encouragement toward those who are questioning or who have deconverted from Christian faith? What are somethings we should absolutely avoid doing that would not be helpful?

    Your response is much appreciated.

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    1. Rebecca,

      Honestly, I can’t believe you are still asking how you can support us. I just reviewed exchanges with you from 2009/2010. I can’t imagine anyone having done a better job at explaining over and over and over again in attempts to help you understand deconverts. I can’t picture anyone doing a more patient job at conversing with you than Bruce G, DagoodS, Lorena, myself and others along the way. And honestly, I think you think you’ve evolved but I’m looking at the same sort of rhetoric you used back then and I do not see evolution on your part. I know you believe that to be the case but seriously, I do not think your attempts here have anything to do with us. I think they are about you. You are trying to make the dialogue cozy, and we continually say, take it up with your God, with your Bible, with your brand of Christianity as you understand it. The attempts at trying to get us to understand it undermines our previous experiences. We know! Been there, done that.

      What is not helpful? You have a history of coming on to the blogs and going through the same thing over and over again. You find a new convert and start the process over again. Those of us familiar with that history watch you all over again as you attempt to somehow connect in a theistic way with non-theists. We can connect with you on a human scale but not on a theistic scale because you and most theists think we’re missing something. I mean we’re 7 – 8 years along and I do not see anything new in your approach. And I do not see each new convert you pop into visit giving you anything that different than what you received from many of us all those years ago. And you know the results. After awhile it’s daunting. Simply daunting. It’s as though you did not hear us and in an effort to get you to hear we drove ourselves crazy and to no avail. As is your custom, you go through these patterns of arriving on the scene. Engaging and then you leave. I don’t care whether you come and go. It’s your life. I’d ask you to note your patterns of behaviour.

      I think you do know how to proceed with deconverts. Stop asking how to do it.

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      1. I get the feeling that Rebecca’s real aim is…shock of shocks…evangelization. I’m personally sick of it, but since she is not verbally abusive, I tolerate it. I can only listen to how wonderful her version of this ancient tall tale is just so much before I want to puke.

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        1. Gary, you only needed to ask me to leave your site, and state that you did not want to continue the discussion, or to have dialogue, and I would not have continued to come around.

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      2. Zoe, you’re right. There is a pattern. 🙂 I get caught up in discussion, and dialogue that I also find interesting and beneficial, and then realize, I probably am spending way too much time on the internet. I’m not leaving forever, and will probably pop in from time to time.

        But, here is where we are different in this. I don’t think of non theists in terms of “we” like a collective. When I talk with someone, I’m engaging with that person as an individual. Everyone to me is very different. So, even if I asked a question years ago, which to tell the truth, I don’t even remember stating the issue in this way, I don’t see the wrong in revisiting this if folks want to talk and share insights. If not, that’s perfectly fine too.

        It seems to me that people are raising these various issues on the blogs and are asking for feedback and discussion. I hope I am not being disrespectful or pushy in my responses. That’s certainly not my intention, to drive you or anyone else over the edge. Please do not drive yourself crazy.

        It’s sad, Zoe. But, maybe it’s better that you and I personally do not talk about these issues together. I actually think we probably have quite a bit in common, and I like you very much as a person. You’re kind and compassionate. I think, though, for us it is better to say away from spiritual discussions of any type.

        But, Zoe, neither you or I can speak for anyone else across these blogs. We can only speak for ourselves.

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        1. Rebecca,

          I could always posts links to previous discussions if you need a refresher Rebecca.

          But, Zoe, neither you or I can speak for anyone else across these blogs. We can only speak for ourselves.

          Where in your God’s name did you get the idea I was speaking for anyone else? You pissed because you were talking to Gary and I butted in? Good grief Rebecca.

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          1. As an observer … it seems Rebecca and Zoe have some bad blood between them. Personally, I have found Rebecca’s comments to be quite even-handed. Certainly NOT like many believers and their intrusive preaching!

            As for her “evangelizing,” from my perspective no more than any other believer. It’s just what they do. Some are just nicer about it than others.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Rebecca Your last question? May I turn it around: “What are somethings we should absolutely do that would be helpful?” It think it means the same. What I would like to see Christians do, and Muslims too, is stop proselytizing, stop telling how blessed you are, and how wonderful heaven is. Quit lying about things that can never be proved or disproved, like resurrection. GROG

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    3. We should all be considerate, polite, and empathetic in our conversations. We should try to understand where the other person is coming from. We should try to understand his or her view. And instead of trying to prove the other person wrong and you right, direct your conversation to WHY they believe something and whether or not they are using reliable methods to come to their positions.

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  6. Thanks guys, appreciate your input. We can’t read and study enough.

    BTW, have you read or heard anything by this Canadian psychologist, Jordon Peterson? Dr. Peterson examines many Biblical stories and myth from a psychological (cultural) perspective, and links this with relevant issues people face in our society and lives today.

    As far as I know, Dr. Peterson is not an orthodox Christian believer, but I’ve read and heard that many non theists find him quite interesting. He offers quite a unique view of Biblical interpretation.

    Not sure what I completely think about him yet, but I do find much of his thinking fascinating.

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    1. If he is Christian he has nothing of interest for a normal person to read while the foundation of his worldview is first and foremost governed by supernatural nonsense.
      This sounds similar to the way the Templeton Foundation try to inveigle religious beliefs into science.

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      1. “inveigle”

        What a marvelous repertoire of vocabulary, you have, Ark! 🙂 It reminds of something someone said in the film, Blazing Saddles.

        “Well, Gahl-lee, your tongue is prettier than a …”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. LOL, I had to look up” inveigle.” No, I honestly don’t think that’s where he is coming from. I could be mishearing him. I’ve listened on you tube to some various Biblical lectures. He’s had discussion with Sam Harris.

        I just think it’s always good to be open to new ideas, and fresh insights. I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but I graduated from a secular university majoring in cultural antho. with a focus in comparative religion. I don’t think I had a single prof. there who was actually a Christian believer. Not a single person.( I also spent a year out of high school studying at a fundamentalist school. ) What a contrast. I can tell you that.

        Then I studied at an very progressive seminary of my denomination. My major was more in the counseling track, though. But, all my Biblical and theology professors at this school were Bart Ehrman, so to speak.

        Anyway, in my own life studying and hearing all these differing points of view has helped to clarify and sharpen my thinking all the more. For my perspective, it’s all just been a gift from God.

        But, certainly do as it suits you guys. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from our conversations off and on all these months, for sure. 🙂

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        1. Well, I am a firm believer that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then …

          So, anyone who is a Christian – no matter how liberal they say they are – who is trying to sound reasonable and attempting to open dialogue with non believers, and especially deconverts, but has no intention whatsoever of deconverting is still trying to sell me Scotch Mist.

          And on the subject of converting ….

          May I ask , Rebecca what made you decide to become a Christian?

          Ark.

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  7. Atheism/agnosticism/materialism are all ‘cults’ if we take Gary’s definition of what counts as a “cult.”

    “– practice some form of mind-control.”

    According to evolutionists their theory is a “fact.” Try to argue to the contrary and they will laugh at you and tell you what an idiot you must be. Indeed, you are told you must be an ignoramus who needs to be educated. Apparently, Gary hasn’t a clue about just the barest amount of “mind control” he repedeatly tries to exert over the readers of his blog. Indeed, why blog at all if you aren’t trying to alter someone’s thinking to conform to your own? The entire purpose of publishing propaganda for one’s cause is to attempt control people’s thinking in one shape or another. Gary actively pursues such mind control and the evidence is this blog.

    “– teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.”

    The opening page of Gary’s blog serves to illustrate his belief that he, and his like, have the “cold hard” truth. Just read the comments by those who support Gary to find that there is no “wiggle room” for having truth and disagreeing with them. For example, do you believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead? You’ll have no agreement from Gary or those in his camp. Indeed, one of their major tenets is that there can be no miracles such as resurrections from the dead.

    “–teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.”

    Read the comments above and Gary says that he’s OK with “liberal” Christians, but he frowns upon relationships with conservative or fundamentalist Christians.

    “–teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.”

    There is no doubt that Gary would not wish well anyone who left agnosticism/atheism for fundamentalist Christianity. Gary quite often refers to anyone who disagrees with him as “brainwashed.” What this means is that if you disagree with Gary and his crew, then you are going to suffer what they consider the greatest, horrific consequence, and that is losing what they believe are the cold hard facts about the world.

    Folks, it isn’t hard to see that Gary will never satisfy the requirements he has set before others as a test of truth. Gary fails to meet his own requirements over and over again. He is a weak minded hypocrite of the worst kind. He and his ilk wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them over the head. It is truly a sorrowful thing to behold. May God have mercy on his soul.

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  8. Gary claims that if a group satisfies the following criteria, they can be called a “cult.”

    – practice some form of mind-control.
    – teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.
    –teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.
    –teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.

    The list Gary provides is comprised of so much ambiguity that even Gary and all agnostics/atheists can be defined as belonging to a cult.

    “practice some form of mind-control.”

    Just read through the pages of this blog. If Gary isn’t engaged in trying to convince all others that his perspective is the “cold hard” reality, and everyone who disagrees with him are “brainwashed,” then what else can he be doing? Gary is most assuredly engaged in trying to control minds through persuasion. Disagree with Gary and his ilk, then you are not thinking critically and independently.

    “teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.”

    It does not take much effort to read previous blogs by Gary to see that he not only believes he has the “cold hard truth” but that those who disagree with him are “brainwashed” and in need of the ‘salvation’ that can only come by thinking much like him. Gary certainly makes it clear that he, and those thinking like him, have The truth. Just support the resurrection of Jesus, or the existence of Yahweh… he’ll go off about you being a brainwashed dolt.

    “teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.”

    Just scroll up in the comment and see how Gary would disapprove of a relationship between an agnostic and a fundamentalist Christian, for example. Gary writes, “I would have no problem with my children marrying a liberal Christian.” It appears that Gary does have a problem.

    “teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.”

    The front page of Gary’s blog indicates his preference. It does not take a genius to figure out that unless one accepts the “cold hard” reality that Gary claims to have then one hasn’t that reality. Not having the truth, that is, living in a lie, is certainly a “horrific consequence” in anyone’s book. Surely Gary would try his hardest to persuade an atheist thinking about become a fundamentalist Christian not to go down that road. Otherwise this entire enterprise of Gary’s blog is futile. No, Gary has played his hand and anyone with a brain can see his card on the table. Leave the “cold hard truth,” or “reality” advocated by Gary and there will be dire consequences; you will no longer have the truth.

    We see from the above that Gary, once again, can’t meet his own criteria. According to Gary he is a cultist. Why would anyone be surprised? Gary can’t consistently meet his own criteria for truth. He is on a raft lost upon a stormy ocean and doesn’t even realize it.

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  9. Gary claims that if a group satisfies the following criteria, they can be called a “cult.”

    – practice some form of mind-control.
    – teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.
    –teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.
    –teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.

    The list Gary provides is comprised of so much ambiguity that even Gary and all agnostics/atheists can be defined as belonging to a cult.

    “practice some form of mind-control.”

    Just read through the pages of this blog. If Gary isn’t engaged in trying to convince all others that his perspective is the “cold hard” reality, and everyone who disagrees with him are “brainwashed,” then what else can he be doing? Gary is most assuredly engaged in trying to control minds through persuasion. Disagree with Gary and his ilk, then you are not thinking critically and independently.

    “teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.”

    It does not take much effort to read previous blogs by Gary to see that he not only believes he has the “cold hard truth” but that those who disagree with him are “brainwashed” and in need of the ‘salvation’ that can only come by thinking much like him. Gary certainly makes it clear that he, and those thinking like him, have The truth. Just support the resurrection of Jesus, or the existence of Yahweh… he’ll go off about you being a brainwashed dolt.

    “teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.”

    Just scroll up in the comment and see how Gary would disapprove of a relationship between an agnostic and a fundamentalist Christian, for example. Gary writes, “I would have no problem with my children marrying a liberal Christian.” It appears that Gary does have a problem.

    “teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.”

    The front page of Gary’s blog indicates his preference. It does not take a genius to figure out that unless one accepts the “cold hard” reality that Gary claims to have then one hasn’t that reality. Not having the truth, that is, living in a lie, is certainly a “horrific consequence” in anyone’s book. Surely Gary would try his hardest to persuade an atheist thinking about become a fundamentalist Christian not to go down that road. Otherwise this entire enterprise of Gary’s blog is futile. No, Gary has played his hand and anyone with a brain can see his card on the table. Leave the “cold hard truth,” or “reality” advocated by Gary and there will be dire consequences; you will no longer have the truth.

    We see from the above that Gary, once again, can’t meet his own criteria. According to Gary he is a cultist. Why would anyone be surprised? Gary can’t consistently meet his own criteria for truth. He is on a raft lost upon a stormy ocean and doesn’t even realize it.

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  10. Gary, thank you. You are certainly not alone. I’ve certainly said things out of frustration or in the heat of the moment that could have been much better said as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Let´s see what the Lord says:

    22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

    23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

    24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

    25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

    26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

    27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YE WORKERS OF INIQUITY.

    28 THERE SHALL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God,AND YOURSELVES THRUST OUT.

    29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

    30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

    /Luke 13:22-30 (KJV)/

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