“By their fruits you will recognize them.” – Jesus of Nazareth
I’ve spent the last few months blogging about my views of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the most part I have done so in the hopes that my family members that are still in will read the arguments I present and it would spark a brief wave of individuality in their brains. To that end I have incorporated many lines of reasoning from Jwfacts.com and other sources in my blog posts to aid that cause. For while there is a 0% chance they would get any info from what they viewed as an ‘apostate’ site, there might be a 1% chance they will hear it if it comes from me. Not great odds, but worth a shot anyway. While I always will maintain hope that my loved ones will wake up one day as I have so that we may again be a family, I have come to a realization that no amount of empirical data or logical information will be enough to persuade them. Maybe the seeds I have planted will yield fruit one day, but it is no longer worth my mental health trying to persuade a brick wall. So looking back over the last year since I left ‘the truth’, here is a some highlights and insights I have learned and what my goals are moving forward.
I left for simple reasons. None had to do with my feelings. I wasn’t hurt or offended by someone in the congregation. I wasn’t treated unfairly. No ‘apostate’ website caused me to start being critical and slanderous of individual elders or even of the governing body. I didn’t leave because I just didn’t love God enough or didn’t want to participate in the field ministry or follow the rules. Since I have left I haven’t used it as an excuse to party, drink, do drugs, or have sex. No, I left because the evidence lead me to believe that ‘the truth’ I had learned wasn’t true. It is no more complicated than that. Does that make me a hypocrite? I think not. In fact it would be hypocritical to remain in a faith that you really do not believe anymore. It definitely is not hypocritical to change your mind once you are presented with new information. It is a mark of maturity and humility. To look at those you love and care for, and that have known you your whole life, and to tell them publicly, ‘I was wrong’.
Do I hate Jehovah’s Witnesses now? No. They are simply wrong about their beliefs. They are people too that other people love and care for. Even when my family members tell me that ‘I lack good sense’, or when my mother refuses to answer any text message I send to her, or when my beliefs are compared to ‘Nazism’ simply for disagreeing with them, I know deep down that its not their fault. They too have spent decades in a high-control group and have known nothing else in that time period. Their very sense of being is wrapped in their religious identity. They sincerely believe that what they do and how they treat me is the right course of action. That by rejecting me and my children completely they are serving Jehovah. (John 16:2) God will always come first in their lives over me. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way for them. God should come first, and though I would strongly disagree that you need to throw away your son or brother or best friend to serve God correctly, I understand and empathize with their struggle. I too felt the exact same way only 1 year ago. I would have, and did, completely cut off people who were close to me because they left. I never gave it two thoughts because that’s just what we did, and I could always point to a verse to pacify my mind about it. But one day (really one year) I came to see that I was wrong in my views, and in order to serve God correctly I had to sever my connection with the religious organization I was brought up in. Whether my family agree with my decision or not, I stood up for what I believe is right. For that at least, I hope they are proud of me.
Since I left I haven’t always reacted the best way to my family member. There have been harsh words and sarcastic comments said that I regret. I will always look back and think that somehow if I had said things differently I might have gotten through to someone instead of perhaps making the divide bigger. For that I am sorry. I never have viewed myself as particularly close with my family. It just wasn’t a feature of growing up with us. I, however, completely underestimated the amount of pain that would come from knowing that some occasion might have been the very last time I got to hug my mother, or talk, really talk, to my best friend, or laugh with my siblings. Human beings just aren’t programmed to handle that kind of pain. And then for them to say that by doing so it is a form of love of God absolutely rips my heart to shreds.
I have lost much over the last year when it comes to relationships. My best friend called me one evening to invite my family to go camping on the beach with his family. The next day I texted him about some doubts I was having about the faith. Within 3 hours I was told to never reach out to him again, unless I was about to hang myself, in that case he MIGHT answer the phone. I never even got a chance to talk with him or hear his voice. I tried to explain to my parents over one weekend my concerns with our religious organization. That ended with probably the last words I will ever hear from my dad, which were to ‘not speak of my concerns to my brother’. As well as the last time I will ever get to hug my mother, as she pulled away sobbing. My in-laws came over one evening to talk with me about my concerns I was raising. 2 minutes into the ‘conversation’ I was being yelled at by my father-in-law for daring to doubt the organization and being called a ‘bad son-in-law’ by my mother-in-law. During all that time, 6 whole months that I was not attending meetings or field ministry, I received zero calls, texts, or visits, from anyone in the congregation. The moment I disappeared from the meetings I ceased to exist for people that saw me grow up. All of those experiences happened months before I ever officially disassociated myself from the organization. It was only after months of silence from everyone that I officially left. After all, if I had already lost everyone, what is the point in staying? I ask myself sometimes if things would been different if people had not given up on me as quick as they did. If one single person would have fought for me; tried to save me. If even one elder, who are supposed to be spiritual shepherds, had taken time to see if I was alright and offered me help or just a listening ear; would it have made a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. If Jehovah’s Witnesses are indeed the true religion, however, those people that left me to die (spiritually now, and physically at Armageddon) will have the blood of me and my children on their hands.
Points of Contention
Since I have covered all of this in previous articles I wont go into details here, but in summary here are points about the JW organization that motivated my questioning:
– The many changes in doctrine since the early days of CT Russel and the subsequent hiding or downplaying of its magnitude and significance.
– The provably wrong dates and time prophecies that are tied to the organization, such as 607, 1914 and 1919( among several others which they have since disavowed), that if taken away remove the entire foundation of authority that they claim to have.
– The demonization and caricaturistic portrayal of other religions, especially other Christian denominations, that misrepresent and misinform about their beliefs and the reasons behind it.
– The unloving and scripturally inaccurate shunning of disfellowshipped and disassociated ones.
– The scripturally inaccurate position on blood transfusions.
– The scripturally inaccurate belief of global genocide of all non-JWs at Armageddon by God.
– The many documented instances of child sex abuse cover-ups and abuser protection by means of a twisted view of the ‘two-witness rule’.
– The scripturally inaccurate belief in a two-tiered salvation system of anointed/non-anointed ones.
– The idolatrous ‘worship’ of the organization, JW logo, and the governing body by its members. (I heard a person name drop all 7 members of the governing body in a prayer once)
-The business model they use to run things. Including turning in time, and the organizational focus on how much you are doing for them, instead of your spiritual health, which can’t be measured on a publisher card.
– Its downplaying of Christ Jesus in its publications, while still claiming to be christian.
Some of these things would pop up in my mind every so often while I was still a believer. But I would always soothe myself by saying something to the effect of, ‘well, even if THIS belief or practice is wrong, we still are the only ones that worship Jehovah (no trinity), reject the immortality of the soul, and reject the doctrine of hellfire, so it is still the truth.’ For me, as long as those ‘big 3’ beliefs were true, everything else didn’t matter. Even today, when I read a book and it begins to agree with a particular JW teaching (such as a case against the trinity, or hellfire) sometimes I have moments of ‘uh oh, did I make a mistake?’ At those times I remind myself that even if a particular belief JWs have is correct, that doesn’t make the Organization correct. Let’s say for instance that the minority opinion JWs have about the trinity is correct. Then what? Does that mean everything else is supposed to be ok because they believe correctly about this one point? Hasn’t the Watchtower itself even made the argument that even one false doctrine makes a religion false (I believe the illustration used before is with a glass of water and one small drop of poison)? And aren’t you supposed to ‘get out of’ a false religion ‘if you don’t want to share in her sins’? Besides, they do not hold those ‘big 3’ beliefs uniquely. There are other denominations and groups that will also reject the trinity and hellfire, so does that make them also ‘the truth’? At the end of the day, I left because I disagreed with the organization and its policies and beliefs as a whole, not for one or two beliefs that may or may not be correct. So it strikes me as terribly dishonest when someone tells me that I ‘left Jehovah’. I did not. I only left the organization that claims to represent him. The Bible says that salvation is a gift God gives freely to those who have faith in Jesus Christ – not because of what organization where one’s name is registered at.
Ironically now that I have more free time that is not dedicated to five meetings a week and expected weekly participation in ‘preaching’, I have become more spiritually inclined than I have ever been. Reading and exploring different ways of understanding God and the Bible has deepened my love for both even more. I am now at rest, building on my relationship with God, rather than constantly focused on doing more and more in hopes of pleasing God enough to survive destruction. To me that was the model the Pharisees made famous and that the Watchtower is taking a page from. Freedom from ‘the Law’ (the never ending JW to-do list) and finding rest for your soul in Christ is all I hope for my family to experience one day. I’ve heard my mother in tears talking about how she feels so unworthy and that she questions her chances for survival at Armageddon because what she doesn’t do for Jehovah and the organization. Conversely, I have heard my father-in-law, an elder and someone who does more for the congregation than most people I knew back then, question his chances of survival too. That’s the life of a JW. Always unsure of God’s love for you. Constantly worried that the slightest slip-up or even slow-down will bring his wrath and destruction on you. That is not the God I worship anymore. It breaks my heart that they let an organization of men convince them that they are only acceptable to God through what they do for them. The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses will answer to God for their sins one day. Hopefully my family will wake up before then.
Though I have suffered from depression most of my life, the decision to leave an organization that measures your value based on a scorecard, was, mental health wise, the best decision I ever made. I am happier and more contented now than ever. My relationship with my wife and children have improved because the pressure to always look good and do more so the elders don’t pull us in the back room is gone. Though the pain of being rejected by those close to me still is an open wound and is the greatest cause of pain in my life right now, I know that it is a choice that they are making under duress. It is accomplishing some good in my life though, and that is by their doing so to me they are unwittingly reinforcing my conviction that I made the right decision. That any organization that commands family members to treat each other this way is not worthy of my devotion. Everyday that goes by that I and my children are shunned teaches me that I will NEVER go back. That my children will NEVER set foot in a Kingdom Hall.
I am proud of who I am today. Proud that I was able to think my way out of a cult on my own. Not that I didn’t have any influences along the way that I am thankful for. But for over a year I was alone with my doubts and questions and my research and was able to solve the Rubik’s cube in my head that paved the way towards my freedom. I had a dream a few months ago where I ran into my currently-shunning-me best friend. Though he still didn’t want to talk to me, he did remark that I was surprisingly more self-confident now. That is absolutely true for me. For all my life I let my parents and ‘friends’ and elders convince me that I wasn’t good enough. But now that I have escaped, I can hold my head high and feel good about myself for the first time.
My goal now is just to be a source of light to others. And not to force or coerce anyone anymore, even my family. There is no point running around trying to shine your light at everybody. Simply shine like a lighthouse (or dare I say, a watchtower, lol), and the ships that are ready to find their way out of the dark will gravitate towards you on their own; when they are ready and not a moment sooner. Just like I wasn’t ready until I was.
The picture at the top of this post is one of the Witnesses from the early 20th century. I wish they still affirmed those messages because I still believe in them: “Face the Facts”, “Religion is a Snare and a Racket”,and “Serve God and Christ the King”.
Since my new beliefs were recently compared to being a Nazi by a relative of mine I thought I would conclude this with a quote from the ‘German Resistance Memorial’ which commemorates those that also lived under an oppressive regime and sought to escape from it. Those brave Germans during WW2 who fought against the Nazis to take down tyrannical leadership and save their fellow countrymen from disaster. You can certainly see the parallels with those that leave the Witnesses today :