An Ex-Jehovah’s Witness – Part 1

I spent the first thirteen years of my life being brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, the next few years being parented by a Jehovah’s Witness and the last few trying to work out my feelings towards the religion. I still haven’t worked out those feelings but I’m starting to notice the ways that my religious upbringing has affected me. I haven’t found many blogs or first hand accounts of being a JW; the few that are out there are very factual lists that don’t really give an impression of life as a JW. So, I thought it would be good to capture a few candid experiences and feelings that I have about the religion before I become a bitter old woman!

Firstly, from what I hear, congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses vary depending on where you live in the world. So, my experiences may differ from a JW in Africa or Australia. FYI, my experience as a Jehovah’s Witness was in Leeds, England.

Meet the Family

I come from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as in a entire, extended family of them. I believe my grandparents on both sides became JW’s when they were in their early twenties and it just took off from there.

I did have one auntie and two cousins that were not religious, who lived in Geneva. It was always implied that my aunt was rebellious and her being so far away from us was a kind of ‘banishment’. Though, in actual fact, she had moved there to live with her husband and was a pretty normal, nice lady. No devil worshipping or hidden crazy lifestyle to speak of! But, this was how ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses were viewed, whether they were family or not. I’d be quite interested to know how I am viewed now. Though, I can hazard a guess; the phrases ‘a person of the world’ springs to mind.

(Very) Basically

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a relatively small sect of Christianity who follow the bible quite literally. If you were to visit one of the Kingdom Halls (the JW equivalent of a church) you would find things look pretty normal; a few prayers, songs and bible readings. However, there are some extreme elements of the religion, such as; they disagree with blood transfusions and they preach by knocking on doors at least once a week. You probably already know that though, those are pretty well-known facts. However, as a child, these were not the issues that I found hard to deal with…

No Harry Potter!?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the devil is a real, everyday threat, around to tempt religious people into sin. They believe in witchcraft, spirits and magic to some extent, or the illusion of these things, at least. As a result, anything to do with these things is strictly prohibited from the community. This often depends on the strictness of the congregation or the family, but in my case that meant; no reading Harry Potter (yes, the books and the films) or The Little Witch, and no watching The Witches, The Demon Headmaster or The Worst Witch. I watched The Queens Nose and Casper, but even those were a bit risqué.
They also don’t celebrate Christmas, birthdays, New Year’s Eve or Easter. Actually, they don’t celebrate pretty much anything. As a child this was obviously a huge deal. There was no talking about what I had asked for Christmas, no count down to the millennium and no birthday presents. You have no idea how many times I longingly looked at a chocolate Easter egg or had to force myself not to join in with singing ‘Happy Birthday’. (Yes, it was that strict.)
Don’t worry guys, I am no longer a muggle ;)

A Few Beliefs

Here are a few things that stuck with me…

– Jehovah’s witnesses do not believe in hell (‘Phew, what a relief!’ I thought as a child).
– They do believe in heaven but they also believe it is ‘full’ and no one else can go there (‘Oh, that’s a bit of a shame.’ I thought).
– They believe in Armageddon; it will wipe out the bad people, a new world – paradise – will be created and the good people who have died will be resurrected (‘Got to be good, got to be good!’ I thought).
– They do not believe in evolution, they believe God created the earth and everything on it.
– Sex before marriage, homosexuality and masturbation are sins. Even some sexual thoughts are considered sins (‘Just hit puberty and don’t think.’ I thought).
– Anal sex is the equivalent of bestiality. (‘What is anal sex and what is bestiality?’ I thought. Thank goodness google wasn’t around in my childhood.)
– And they believe all celebrations of birthdays are bad because one guy in the bible got a severed head for his birthday. (‘Thanks for ruining it for all of us, dude!’ I thought.)
– Santa isn’t real. (‘Gotta tell my friends at school, I’m sure their parents wil really appreciate me letting them know the truth.’ I thought. Oh, how wrong I was.)
These are all somewhat ‘basic’ interpretations of the belief system and I hope to share some more interesting, specific beliefs in part 2. However, as I’m working from the memories of a thirteen-year-old girl, these are pretty spot on as to what I understood.

Why I Want To Share

There’s just so much to say! My friends know the basics but there is so much more to it than that, it’s like an entire other world. Being brought up a JW comes with some strange ideas, some interesting views and some hilarious stories. So, firstly, I want to write about this because a good story shouldn’t go to waste! Secondly, I want to write about because it’s about time. I want to get it off my chest before its all twisted, vague stories that I’m not entirely sure whether they happened or not.

NB. If you have a story about being an ex-JW or an ex-anything, please go ahead and share it!
However, I am in NO WAY interested in arguing about whether religion is right or wrong, or whether being a Jehovah’s Witness is right or wrong. I’ve argued these matters many times before from both sides of the field.

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17 thoughts on “An Ex-Jehovah’s Witness – Part 1

  1. I love this post and find it very interesting, looking forward to part 2. I think most of us would love to understand the basics of the religion which you do in a fun and easy to read way here. Keep it coming!

  2. Are you serious? Of course there are many exjw’s out there. Just go to reddit.com/r/exjw and see for yourself, there are 6700+ active members over there.

  3. I was raised in the religion from birth and stopped in high school. I wanted to go to college and my congregation was not big with that. My grandmother, mother, aunts and quite a few cousins are still devout witnesses. I also stopped going because I had a cousin dis-fellowshiped and we couldn’t talk to her. That never settled with me. So yea, I’m an ex-JW too!

    1. Yay, another exJW on wordpress! :D
      Your story sounds quite similar to mine. I left in Highschool and had my mum disfellowshipped. Glad to find someone else with a similar story!

  4. My mother converted to JW when I was 7 – that was 1974 – then she got baptised in 1976 but stopped going. She was in and out of the JW to this day! She is mentally ill – she is Greek and he r English is not good but luckily I speak no Greek so she can’t tell me to go back to the meetings. I started to go to the meetings on my own when I was about 15 – 1980 – I got baptised when I was 17. I did not realise that I was signing away to a life time commitment. I always refused to be a poineer. We had been poor when I was a child – my parents were divorced and we were on welfare as my mum could not work due to her mental illness. I wanted money and my independence.

    I got a local authority flat and then I met my husband who was a JW – but he was one of those that sat on the fence – lived a double life and gave me hell. He had a drug problem – I did not know this at first – he was violent and a womanizer and hated working! I never got married in a Kingdom Hall my insistence – we had no money none of our family were JW – so I did not want the hassle – that did not go down to well with elders but they could not stop us.

    He got disfellowshiped within six months. I also had to attend to Judicial meeting due to playing around with each other prior to marriage. Well when they questioned him about his adultery I was kept out of the meeting. They came the next day and then they questioned him about our games and then they called me and I was then asked what happened I said nothing. One of them asked “did you hold his penis” what I thought – I just said yes!

    I stopped going to the meetings for one year – no elders visited me thought this period. We separated and then I started to go back to the meetings on my own. When I told them I was going through a divorce – which was not scriptural – they started to interfere. The rules were changed around 1990 about divorce if your life is in danger – he had been violent to me – but I was not scripturally free to remarry – I was 24 by now!

    Well I did get a scriptural divorce – get a letter from stating he has been unfaithful one of the elders said – I got the letter but there was a problem! We lived apart but saw each other for sex!!! He was good! So after the sex i got the letter gave the letter to the elder.

    i remember going to the London Bethel – seeing the large printers the premises etc – I was not highly impressed. At the time we paid for the mags and books on a no sale no return basis. I used to have to many spare mags piling under my bed! I worked at a local newspaper at the time and was fully aware of the operations and costs and came to the conclusion that my God “Jehovah” is a big Publisher that I am worshiping and allowing to rule my life!

    I stopped going to the meetings for six months – we had a new Kingdom Hall and the meetings were changed and I had an evening job which clashed and I just could not be bothered to change or leave.

    I went to the small assembly and got ignored by a lot of people. I went to the bigger Assembly – I am naturally dark brown but decided to lighten the colour of my hair but I went very blond – no one recognized me – change of hair colour plus no glasses. I sat there on the Sunday and I had a hangover – and all I could hear in my head is “Jehovah Jehovah Jehovah but no Jesus” I thought where is Jesus in all of this and decided that it was I had enough and I am of. I left the Assembly half way on the Sunday and two weeks later I disassociated myself.

    Rollover 24 years later – I had no contact with any JW or Ex-JE there was no internet when I left but two years ago I had a car accident I smashed my head on the window screen – I suffered with brani truma. Last year I came out of the tube station in central London and there are loads of JW and I thought fuck what is going on!
    I went on the internet and saw all these websites – there are those that stick to the facts – some for support – some to have a good old rant on and there are those to meet other EX-JW and so I joined them all. I did not contact some JW I knew but that was not successful – no longer active but mentally still in!

    I checked out the JW Broadcasting – the teaching the way they have changed teachings – but the JW have a habit of changing and constantly evolving – no wonder they are called the BORG!

    I am 50 this year and I can honestly say I am so glad i got out when did – I could have got married and had a family but would any children I had stayed as JW who knows but one thing is for sure I avoided a lot of pain that I read about time and time again.

    1. That was one thing that always bothered me too. A lot of talk about Jehovah but little mention of Jesus. The Governing Body got more praise & adoration in the literature, at meetings, conventions & from the mouths of Bros & Sis’ than Jesus ever did.

  5. That sounds like such a difficult journey. It’s even worse than many stories I’ve head because you were in and out of the religion and had to deal with the pain of being cut out more than once! It sounds like your happy now though, congrats on escaping after all that!
    I found. Your point about publishing really interesting – very good points I’ve never thought about!
    And the changing rules has always bothered me, it just makes no sense.
    Also, you’re right about how hard the family issues can be if you have family who are JWs. I think any religion who makes you relieved not to have family has some problems within it!!

    1. That’s a big move, Tony! I wish you lots of luck with it. It seems like disassociating yourself can be difficult at first but, from what I read, people seem happier in the long run :)

      1. I made the decision to disassociate rather than become just inactive so I could make a clean break. If I just became inactive I figured the Elders would still visit from time to time to try & sway me to go back. My wife is still 110% JW but accepts my decision as long as I don’t try to influence her to leave. I did initially which caused a few arguments but I’ve now realised that I need to just leave her be. I’ve been attending a modern Christian church for the past few Sundays & really liking it. Do I have to believe everything they teach? No, but I am free to worship there without any pressure to believe exactly as they do. I thing the WT idea of unity is more of a forced conformity in the deceptive guise of unity. Conform or face the consequences. I went back to the Kingdom Hall a week ago to keep the peace with my wife but that was a big mistake. No one would even look at me let alone speak to me except for 3 sisters who came & said hello but walked away as soon as they found out I was disassociated. People would walk past us & say hello to my wife & ignore me as though I was invisible. I expected it but when it actually happened it was hard to deal with as we’d been in that congregation for the past 10 years. The JW love is extremely conditional. Even my in-laws wouldn’t acknowledge me. All I could feel was that I didn’t belong there anymore. It was good in the sense that it removed from me the slight doubt I had that I’d made the wrong decision in leaving.
        I wrote a similar post myself only a few days ago if you’d like to read it. http://atomicunderpants.com/leaving-the-watchtower/

  6. The experience at the KH sounds horrible! I think sometimes that the extra kick in the teeth that confirms its not a loving place to be though. Good reddens and good luck with the new church!

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