My story is quite unusual, because Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) did not make the first contact with me in their signature door-to-door ministry; it happened at school and I took the initiative.
At the age of fifteen, halfway into my freshman year of high school, I started studying with a Jehovah’s Witness, using one of the Watchtower’s Bible-study aids.
During my lunch period, I usually avoided the school cafeteria and spent my time in the library where I noticed a fellow student reading his Bible. It turned out to be a Watchtower translated version of the Bible – the New World Translation. I observed him several times and he seemed mature, intelligent and appeared to know his Bible well.
Because of my interest in the humanities – philosophy, history and religion – his actions sparked my interest. One day, I approached him and asked a question about the Bible, to which he responded quickly and calmly, using his Bible to answer my question.
After this, we began to talk regularly. Finally, he asked if I would be interested in having my very own personal study of the Bible, and I enthusiastically agreed. The next day, he gave me a copy of the New World Translation and a brochure entitled “What Does God Require of Us?”
I was excited to have a personal copy of the Bible and the opportunity to learn about this book that I had so little knowledge of . So every day during my lunch period, we read four paragraphs out of the brochure, and I was asked to answer the corresponding questions at the bottom of the page.
This carried on for several months. During the summer break, he conducted my Bible study over the phone. I kept this a secret from my family, because I knew they would not receive the news well, as they viewed Jehovah’s Witnesses as a bizarre sect. This was especially true of my grandmother, who would walk in the opposite direction any time she spotted a JW.
As my studies progressed and I mastered what JW’s refer to as “the basic Bible teachings,” I was encouraged to attend meetings at their Kingdom Hall. In 2005, I began attending meetings on a weekly basis. I recall being hugged and embraced many times, congratulated and commended for having my very own personal study of the Bible and regularly attending the meetings.
I fondly remember how kindly I was treated when I began attending the Hall, so much so that I mentioned to my Bible study conductor that I felt like royalty. People crowded around me just to shake my hand and introduce themselves. By this treatment, I was made to feel like I was a valued, respected and cherished human being.
In spite of the initial positive experiences, it took me five years to dedicate myself to God’s only approved organization, in what is known as water baptism. During those five years, there was always this peculiar feeling that I had about the religion, this thought at the back of my mind that I could not possibly learn “the truth” about all of life’s mysteries and life in general – the answers to questions about which great thinkers have pondered for centuries – within just a few years.
I felt that I needed time to think, assess, and evaluate, but the more time passed, the more shamed and embarrassed I was made to feel for being an unbaptized member of the congregation. So I opted to cast aside my doubts and be baptized.
As a baptized member of the congregation, my eyes began to gradually open up and I started to see the congregation for what it really was. This was an aloof, emotionally detached group of individuals incapable of thinking for themselves, unable to produce an original idea, thought, or sentiment . Intellectual curiosity was never acted upon or exercised within this group of people. All of them were preoccupied with attending meetings and spending time proselytizing in the door-to-door ministry.
Virtually everything that came out of the mouth of the JW’s in my congregation was either a biblical scripture or a quote from the Watchtower. I longed for differences of opinion and perspectives on issues that would allow me the opportunity to grow and broaden my horizons. But this was not going to happen at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
After years of studying the Watchtower’s take on the Bible, becoming a publisher, a student of the Theocratic Ministry School and ultimately being baptized, my initial interest and intrigue steadily declined.
Now that I was a baptized member of the congregation, I was also subject to all of the sanctions and punitive measures meted out by the elders at the Hall. “Woe is me” for any JW who dares to disobey, question, criticize or scrutinize the Watchtower Governing Body’s long list of dos and don’ts and their legalistic doctrines. This was now a serious conundrum for me.
I also no longer felt like a respected and valued person. I observed for the first time preferential treatment given to elders, their wives and family members, nepotism in the congregation, the cliques that formed, the harmful gossip that went on and the immature behavior of supposedly “spiritually mature” individuals.
I began to tire of hearing and reading publications about how to conduct oneself as a righteous person, now seeing and observing contrary behaviors, attitudes, and practices – all of this being ignored by the elders at the congregation if one had the right connections. And yet, I still believed JWs had the truth.
Out of my intense desire to engage in some sort of intellectual exercise to defend my faith, I started to surf the Web and Google for information about the Watchtower. I watched YouTube videos and read articles and news stories about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their unscientific beliefs and their violations of basic human rights. An overwhelming majority of the information that I discovered was unpleasant, but sadly also true.
An article penned by John Cedars, http://jwsurvey.org/cedars-blog/the-racist-history-of-watchtower-literature, concerning the racist beliefs and practices of the Watchtower organization during its first fifty years of operation, is what really enraged me, spurring me on to dig deeper into my objective research.
From that point on, I tenaciously resisted subordinating myself to a demeaning and denigrating characterization of me as a “meek and teachable” individual, or a “servant”. I turned the light switch on and began cultivating what had been my dormant critical thinking skills while still a member of the Watchtower’s organization.
I checked out all of the Watchtower quotes that I could find in the Watchtower Library CD-Rom, although this was difficult, as the Watchtower magazines prior to 1950 are omitted as well as the Awake! magazines prior to 1970. My critical thinking skills told me that this probably happened because the Watchtower organization had something unpleasant to hide.
My continued research led me to jwfacts.com, which is a comprehensive website about JW history, teachings, and practices. Some YouTubers, such as Mike and Kim, Dallas Canada, TheScrewedGeneration, JWStruggle, Truth4JW’s and Danmera were helpful. But I would have to say that jwfacts.com is what really awakened me to Watchtower’s mind-control methods.
If there are any truths that I have learned from membership in the Watchtower organization, it is that the organization is inculpable by default: it never takes responsibility or accepts the blame. If a member chooses to leave, Watchtower reports that it is due to the member’s shortcomings, unfaithfulness and disobedience. The organization never admits to fault: there is absolutely nothing that the organization has ever done to make anyone leave.
And it is this strongly held belief that makes it virtually impossible to convince or persuade a thoroughly indoctrinated JW of the deceptive nature and undue influence of their organization. Any hint of the truth – the real truth – about the Watchtower organization will instantaneously turn them away. People are more willing to listen, give contemplation and cling to pleasant lies over unpleasant truths. For them, Watchtower mind control rules the day.
I am one of the lucky ones, who has awakened to the fact that Watchtower is a pseudo-religious group, deceiving members with false promises by psychological manipulation.
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about a high-pressure group that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!