In the four weeks or so since I started visiting this forum, the overwhelming amount of information my brain has had to process thanks to your fascinating contributions has been highly stimulating and thought-provoking. But it has also made me painfully aware of two facts:
1. The poor optimization (?) of the time spent at meetings: I must have attended approximately 11.700 meeting hours (5 hours a week X 52 weeks a year X 45 years -I started at age 3-). Assuming I had learnt the basics of the doctrine by age 13 (I should have, since that's when I got baptized), the next 35 years all I heard was basically a repetition of subjects I already knew (how many times did you have to go through the item "How to start a Bible study with the book ...", to mention only one). Mind you, I nearly always paid undivided attention to what was said from the platform, often more out of respect for the speaker and the time he had devoted to preparing his part than out of real interest. But I was always happy to be at meetings in spite of that.
I realize now how much more interesting meetings could have been had we been given a fraction of initiative to do our own research from secular sources and expound it at the Hall for everybody's benefit like you do here, if we had been allowed a little bit of freeedom to express our respectful opinion on the Scriptures and their meaning (always with good moderators so things wouldn't get out of control), if we had been allowed a margin of doubt. My mind must have been accumulating rust over the years due to lack of use. You guys are really putting it to work these days! I have to thank you for that.
2. What the brothers have missed out on when you walked out: most of you, with your bright minds and beautiful personalities, were once in the organization. How you must have enriched your respective congregations while you were in! And how many more wonderful people will yet leave...!
You may not understand my reasons for being sad over that. You see, from what I read, my personal experience in the congregation differs dramatically from many of your situations. I fully understand you have very legitimate reasons to feel the way you do, but what the word "organization" evokes in my mind seems to be quite different from what if evokes in most of your cases. All I can think of is the hundreds of brothers and sisters I've met these 45 years who were always warm and friendly to me. I've had the luck of travelling and spending weeks, sometimes months, in different countries (France, UK, Germany in Europe; Alaska, California and Montana in the USA -longest stay: 5 months. Question answered, Leolaia-). Without exception, every one was very welcoming and supportive (to be totally truthful, there was an elderly French sister in Paris who was mean to me, but I guess she would have been just as cranky had she belonged to any other religion). As far as I know, nobody ever lied to me (I must say that my husband, who is not a Witness, has always told me I'm extremely gullible and naive, but I really don't have any evidence they ever did), no friends ever failed me, no one disappointed me. I'd be ungrateful and untruthful if I said anything negative. But now there is a "great chasm" between them and me. Pure reason brought me here (I've been thinking about your questions, JWoods, Daniel-p and others: I don't think anything triggered it, it was pure logic, a gradual awareness). And here I am now, inactive and out of contact with all my friends and acquaintances for four months now (how time flies by!), something I NEVER thought would EVER happen. I understand them, but they wouldn't understand me even if I tried to explain. I've been on both sides, they only know theirs. I won't be walking with them any more. And I sincerely wish them the very best.
And I've met you, and you've added joy to my life. You've made me think a lot in a short time. You make me laugh every day. You've helped me to see the reverse of the coin even more clearly. I thank you for letting me express my opinions even if they are different from the general trend here. You give the Witnesses and may others a lesson on tolerance. And to you too I wish the very best.
With love, GOLDENSKY.