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Trademark of the Beast [p. 2]

Accusations of Satanism, cont.

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The allegations aren't even plausible. There is no single "owner" of the Procter & Gamble Company blessed with the ability do whatever he likes with the profits, let alone tithe them to Satan. P&G is a publicly held corporation (as is Liz Claiborne, another company alleged to participate in Satan worship). The profits go to shareholders, to whom the companies' officers are answerable for every penny spent.

It's laughable, in any case, to picture the figureheads of such hugely successful companies — even if they did happen to be fanatical devil-worshippers — avowing their love of the Prince of Darkness on national television. People don't achieve that level of power and success by being morons.

What's more, we have Donahue's word for it that the president of Procter & Gamble never appeared on his show, let alone laid claim to being a Satanist:

April 5, 1995
To Whom It May Concern

It seems impossible that the rumor of an appearance by the President of Procter & Gamble on DONAHUE is still circulating after more than a decade. There is absolutely nothing to this rumor.

The president of P&G has never appeared on DONAHUE, nor has any other P&G executive.

Anyone who claims to have seen such a broadcast is either mistaken or lying. It never happened!

Sincerely,
Phil Donahue

(Source: Procter & Gamble)

Donahue wrote this letter back in 1995, remarking even then that false rumors of an appearance by P&G's president on his show had been circulating for more than a decade.

The flyer claims the interview took place in 1994.

Nor was this the first statement Donahue had ever made on the matter. Jan Harold Brunvand, who debunked these selfsame rumors in his 1984 book, The Choking Doberman, reported at the time that Donahue, along with fellow talk show host Merv Griffin, had publicly denied the rumors as far back as 1982 (which was the same year, coincidentally or not, that P&G filed its first lawsuit against an Amway distributor for allegedly spreading misinformation about the company).

Satan's number

Does the number 666 — the numeric "mark of the Beast" said to represent the Antichrist in the biblical Book of Revelation — appear in a ram's horn on Procter & Gamble packaging, as alleged in the flier?

No. There is no symbol of a ram's horn on P&G products, period. Once upon a time, the company logo featured a line drawing of the Man in the Moon with flowing white hair and a beard which curled off to a point in each direction (see example). Granted, these could be imaginatively likened to ram's horns, but there is no reason to think they were intended to be seen as such, nor any reason to suppose that the designers embedded a secret reference to the number of the beast within them.

It's a moot point anyway, since the logo hasn't appeared on Procter & Gamble products in years.

The religious factor

Despite the fact that its claims are not only demonstrably false but downright silly, the Procter & Gamble rumor continues to enjoy a global circulation both online and off, partly because it plays into the paranoid fears of its intended audience.

"There aren't enough Christians in the United States to make a difference," Procter & Gamble's president supposedly announced. Outlandish as it may seem to believe that such a prominent company -- one that prides itself on being a "household name" -- would alienate every Christian on the planet by aligning itself with Satan, there are obviously a great many people ready and willing to believe it. As Jeff Siemon of Search Ministries observes, the rumor is especially compelling to "Bible-believing" Christians because it fits into a world view that presupposes a literal battle between the spiritual forces of good and evil on earth:

When we think of hoaxes that relate to conspiracies that are being concocted against Christianity — in the case of Madalyn Murray O'Hair or Procter & Gamble — this is in some sense consistent with the Biblical understanding that a great war rages at a spiritual level. Certainly there are enemies of the faith. This does not mean that these hoaxes are real, but there will be resistance and enemies of Christianity. The Christian, with an understanding of the Biblical world view, is sensitive to these kinds of responses against the Christian faith. (Source: Christian Coalition Website)

Defending the faith does not require abandoning reason. Bob Passentino, another evangelical leader, argues bluntly that some Christians are just too gullible: "It's not just a stamp we're wasting. It's our credibility. Our credibility is on the line. People might think if Christians are stupid enough to fall for this falsehood, maybe early Christians were gullible enough to fall for the resurrection story."

The issue goes beyond credibility; it's also a moral one. People who believe they're combating evil by spreading unverified rumors may in fact be doing just the opposite. Tempting as it may be to always look for deceit in high places, we would all do well to remember that lies, intentional or otherwise, can just as easily pass from our own lips or through our computer modems. Before sharing such scurrilous allegations with others, we ought to stop for a moment and consider whose interests are really being served.

Update: In January 2003, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's dismissal of Amway Corporation as a defendant in the lawsuit, chastising Procter & Gamble for "vague and confusing legal arguments."

Update: In March 2007, Procter & Gamble was awarded $19 million in its lawsuit against four Amway distributors for disseminating rumors tying the company to Satanism.

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