This is not an atheistic rant over my leaving God. In fact, my faith in God and Christianity has never been stronger since I left the Watchtower Organization. This is a goodbye of sorts to the IDEA of who I thought God was and who I had worshiped all my life. This ‘God’ is very much like the actual God in some ways. Almighty, loving, forgiving, wise. However, he diverges greatly when you look at the details. For one, the true God says, “Truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) The God I had worshiped says that faith ‘is only the beginning of our obedience to God. It sets us on the way to everlasting life, but it does not mean our final salvation.’ (This Means Everlasting Life p 181)But that’s not all- ‘Jehovah is using only one organization today…to receive everlasting life we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it’, and, ‘God requires all prospective subjects of his kingdom support his government by loyally advocating his kingdom rule to others.’ (Watchtower February 15th 1983 p 12). You see the difference? Instead of being secured with the knowledge that “no one can snatch you out of my (Jesus) hand.” (John 10:28), you are reduced to only ‘a perspective member of the kingdom’. With that frame of mind being what you are raised with, it really does a number on your mental health. As a child on into adulthood, I didn’t think in terms of unconditional love or mental peace and security. It was ‘Am I doing enough?’ ‘Is Jehovah pleased with me?’ ‘Will I survive Armageddon?’ Oh sure, I paid lip service to the importance of faith, we all did. But it was only in the framework of what you were doing. So the more you were doing in the organization meant the more faith you had. You could, with no big stretch of imagination, reduce the whole thing down to a ‘faith bank account’ where the number of hours you spent in the door-to-door ministry each month (which you have to report to the elders of the congregation), the meetings you attended multiple times weekly and your comments you make during those meetings (during the question and answer parts) all fill up you faith account. This would give you a boost of confidence that MAYBE you and God were on good terms and your chance of everlasting life were looking up. After all, didn’t Jehovah owe me for all that I was doing for him? Or conversely, if you were not doing to good, if things got in the way (family, work, depression, etc), well…..obviously you have a problem and expect a phone call from the elders to see if you could do more. You want to love God with your WHOLE heart right????? I was continually fed with the idea of ‘Paradise’ if I only proved worthy of it and stuck closely to ‘Jehovah’s organization’. The carrot at the end of the stick- An everlasting earthly paradise where I would never grow old, sick or die (after Jehovah kills permanently everyone on the planet that is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses). Loved ones would be resurrected to live forever with you, and all animals would be tame and somehow always in the picture. In this panda-strewn paradise you would have the opportunity to learn and obey Jehovah even more. Of course, you had to pass the final test at the end of the first thousand years, THEN you would finally be in the clear. You made it! Hopefully all your loved ones did to. I would spend a lot of time thinking of what my life would be like in this ‘new world’. What kind of house I would build for myself. What talents I would would develop with an eternity of time on my hands. And of course what kind of formerly wild animal I would have as a pet. A gorilla would be pretty useful I thought. They are pretty intelligent and could help you move heavy stuff. Everyone’s favorite choice was a tiger. Imagine the litter box though! For me, my first choice and my favorite animal was always an elephant. Super awesome creatures. Plus you can ride them! So now……what? I am faced with the prospect of my mortality for the first time. One day I will die. I will never get my elephant. Never pet a lion. Never spend an eternity honing my jumpshot skills, or composing piano sonatas. I am not without hope though. A real hope. From a real and everlasting God. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) Whatever He has planned for me after I close my eyes for the last time I know will make me eternally happy and fulfilled. Because that God, my heavenly father, loves me. He loves me, not because I am good, but because HE is good. So I will see when I get there. Who knows maybe I will get my elephant….heaven is a pretty big place!