This can be really hard and is something that I failed at miserably when I first spoke about my issues with family and friends. You have to remember that they are just not at the place you are at and to come at them with ideas that are completely alien all at once is a recipe for disaster and a shutting down of communication and thought on their part.
I get it, your excited. Your mind is free and thinking for itself for the first time maybe ever and you want to ‘liberate’ those you care about. I was there too. It’s like how when people first become Jehovah’s Witnesses. There minds are blown and they see the world differently from everyone else. They get so pumped up about their new-found beliefs that they can’t shut up about them. They tell their family and friends, who might be deeply entrenched in their own religious beliefs. And what usually happens then? They get shut down. Why? Because people so ingrained in their own perspective, especially in religious matters, can not grasp mentally what your saying. Your destroying there sense of balance in the world, and upending their whole theology. Cognitive dissonance simply cannot allow them to see what you see at that time.
It works the same way when your on the way out as well. Except this time it’s the current JW’s cognitive dissonance that is in the way. So while the things your learning and freeing your mind from make the most sense in the world to you, as logical as saying the sky is blue, it cannot be grasped by those still in. High control groups like the JWs condition people to think and reason in a very specific way and it is nearly impossible to break through from the outside.
So slow down! Think back to when you used to go door to door as a Witness (pause here to throw up in your mouth a little bit). You were always advised not to give the whole “Adam to Armageddon” presentation. You just popping up at some random person’s door and giving them a whole new perspective on the entire Biblical narrative and simultaneously crushing their own cherished beliefs was not only ineffective but downright offensive. It doesn’t work, so why would “preaching” to a JW be any different?
My own process of deconstruction from my former religion took well over a year of my own studying and research in private before I was even ready to seriously question the organization. Yet, I foolishly thought I could just sit down with my family and friends and casually have a short conversation that would help them ‘see the light’ over just a couple of hours. It was not only arrogant on my part but disrespectful to them as well.
I really believe that the best we can do for those still in is to drop little ‘knowledge bombs’ every once in a while. Depending on their readiness to listen, offering a small piece of ‘independent thinking’ can be like a mental time bomb that they will then have to store in their brain to deal with (sometimes a lot later). Bit by bit you are helping them see and think for themselves. And that, I believe is the key. You can’t persuade them, or anyone, out of their beliefs. THEY have to convince themselves. Over time the land mines you buried in their brains might yield fruit. Maybe all it will take is some disruption to their view of the congregation or organization. An elder could piss them off or treat them badly. A pioneer is being a totally hypocrite or bitch to them and no one cares. The organization could change a teaching that they don’t agree with. Something. Then all the seeds you planted will all of a sudden start to produce.
Another thing that I struggle with is in this regard is being able to talk at other people’s level. For a student who is learning basic arithmetic, trying to talk to them about calculus is pointless. So if your at the point in your life where your beliefs have brought you to Atheism, for example, going straight to trying to convince a JW that there is no God and the Bible is made up is absolutely insane. You have to go step by step. Now I am in the small minority of ex-JWs that still consider myself a Christian. However my beliefs on several things differ widely from a typical JWs. It’s almost like you have to work them them step by step. From a Jehovah’s Witness – to Evangelical Christianity – to mainstream Protestant Christianity – to Liberal/Progressive Christianity (where I’m at) – to Spirituality in General – to Agnosticism – to Atheism. You can’t jump around the progression line with people. For me, I owe a great deal to Evangelical Christianity for helping me start to break free from my JW thought pattern, and I think this was so because in a lot of ways it is similar to what I had already believed. If I had plunged right in to Progressive Christian thought, it would have scared the crap out of me.
So if you currently believe in evolution, or don’t believe that the Bible is 100% the inerrant word of God, or reject the idea of penal substitutionary atonement, or believe in universalism – maybe don’t start there. Or if Atheism is your thing, maybe start A LOT smaller.
Maybe, ‘hey CT Russel sure had a lot of weird ideas right?’