Another experience story about leaving the society

by enderby 26 Replies latest jw experiences

  • enderby

    I was raised a dub, though not born one. My folks, especially my mother, took an interest in Witnessism back in the 70's before they had any children. They studied The Truth book but faded away upon moving from Toronto to another part of Southern Ontario. I was born in 1981 and my brother followed in 1983. From what my parents have told me, they basically believed the dubs had the true religion but didn't really care about living forever and abiding by all those rules. So, the first four years of my life were worldly ones with all kinds of holidays! Over those years my folks turned away all the dubs who came to the door with the common reply, "we've read the magazines and we're not interested". But, one day (1985ish), a particular response made by a female witness struck my mother and shortly after that we stopped celebrating holidays and started going to the Hall. My mother had told the woman her story about studying in the 70's and that she believed the dubs were on to something but just didn't really care. The woman said, "well, that's fine for you, but don't you have a responsibility towards your children to let them know what you believe to be true?" (yuck!) My mom agreed.
    At four years of age, I didn't really care about not celebrating holidays and going to church because I was too young to know the difference. My parents were eventually baptized and we were a full fledged dub family who, although having brief periods of low activity once in a while over the years, were considered a staple in our congregation and at times a model dub family. I joined the ministerial school and became a publisher at the age of seven (I still remember placing magazines at the first door I ever knocked on! April 1st 1988 set). We made the national averages for service and regularly gave talks and answers at the meetings. My mother pioneered with the sisters over the years and my father eventually became a MS (while they both were working, too!).
    But, it was only a matter of time before my brother and I would become teenagers and desire independence. I first started feeling the isolation of being a dub at the age of 13 when my school mates started to have 'parties', (which I wasn't allowed to attend but wanted to for the life of me), having 'girlfriends' (and hey! I was a cute kid so I could have had a cute little girlfriend but wasn't allowed), traveling across the province with school sports teams (I was an athletic kid and could have been on any team I wanted, but wasn't allowed). I would argue with my parents about this stuff, but they would reason with me from the Watchtower material and offer me comfort in the fact that my actions will produce a greater end then these other children would ever see. I was persuaded every time, but never liked it or really felt comfortable with my beliefs. I accepted that in order to live forever I needed to abide by dub law and I tried to get used to the idea that I would never fit in at school although I wanted so desperately to be popular. I would then spend all my lunches and spares in the school library reading.
    The next several years in highschool were a living hell and the start of my double-life. Finding the taunts and humiliation unbearable, I started to stand for the national anthem (while still publishing and giving talks). I outright refused to go on service in areas where I knew people from school and I tried to get out of going to meetings and service by faking ill or by just being an asshole teenager. (What in the world could be more embarrassing for a pimply teenage boy than knocking on peoples' doors Saturday morning with one's parents to talk about religion?!) This caused a great amount of stress in our family and with my parents. They would argue about whether to just leave me at home or force me to attend religious events. I started to rebel in other ways my parents would find out about: trouble with the police, vandalism, drugs, heavy metal music, and forming my own rock band (how cliche, eh?). Once my parents found out about the drugs, they threatened to tell the elders if I was caught again. (I was 17ish at the time) I basically broke down at that point seeing the huge disappointment in the faces of my parents - after all, they were doing all this Witness stuff to save the souls of my brother and I, and there I was throwing it all away. I told my parents I would straighten up and, having lightly sampled the tastes of the world, I felt that I had sown a couple of wild seeds and got the doubts about the religion and the teenage angst out of my system. I thought, "Ok, I have a couple of doubts, but I do believe this is the Truth and I guess it's time I start acting like it! What I need are some dub friends. Since highschool is ending, I won't have to deal with this kind of peer pressure anymore so it will be easier being a dub - I can finally do this!!"
    So, I befriended some dub youths at the hall and started to take the religion seriously. This was a relatively pleasant time in my dub life - I started to feel like I fit in somewhere. (I didn't have dub friends before because I went to a different school than all the other dub kids in my Hall.) Now that I could drive, associating with these youths had become possible. My service time was ideal and I could be counted on to give last minute talks at the Ministerial School meetings. My parents and the congo were so proud. I became baptized at the age of 18.
    During this time, much to the chagrin of my highschool teachers (who argued that I should go to university), I had been offered a full scholarship for a robotic engineering college program which I accepted. (The congo became even prouder of me for going to college for such a practical and fancy sounding program.) After a semester I found myself bored with the program - it just didn't get into the nitty gritty physics and math I had hoped for. These classes were literally the level of my grade 10 advanced math class! So, I dropped out and started to work with the intention of returning to school for something I would find more challenging.
    The next fall I enrolled in university to study psychology - I had plans on using a degree in psych to get into advertising. The congo was no longer impressed and my dub friends were jealous. At this time my brother, 17ish, (who was never baptized) decided he did not want to be a Jehovah's Witness anymore which was very hard for the rest of my family. My father was removed as an MS because my brother was still living at home. Still a faithful dub, I tried what I could to get my brother to come back to meetings - he came to a few to appease me but that was it. My folks were very upset with the way the elders handled the situation with my brother. Mom & dad wanted to take things slow with him and give him some space, hoping he may return after some time like I had. But, the elders told him/them that there is no middle ground and that he is either in or out. My brother said, "Fine, count me out".
    One course I took in my first year of university was a philosophy class in Argumentation, or what is called Critical Thinking. Now, I was well aware of the "dangers" of philosophy, but what harm can a class in Critical Thinking do? After all, it was not a class in Nietzsche, Darwin, or Marx. The professor for this class took an interest in me and we would have long discussions about ethics, law, and logic. I knew I had to major in philosophy because I had finally found a discipline that demanded the rigorous systematic methodical thinking that satisfied me... and I knew that this would NOT go over well with the congo. But, I still had good dub intentions at the time and sincerely intended to use my degree in philosophy to get into law school were I could put my powers to good use for the organization. However, being a philosophy major requires taking courses in a variety of philosophical branches, which I knew would raise eyebrows at the Hall. When brothers and sisters would ask me about school, I would sugar coat my course names such that I referred to my class in Ethics as a course in the history of social behavior and so on.
    What I was really learning in my philosophy courses was how to reason. The profs emphasized that one's position does not matter so much as how it is supported or proved. I found this refreshing and thought that it agreed with what the Watchtower is always saying about believing things based on the scriptures and using reason. My standard for accepting beliefs was becoming much tougher through my courses by learning about common argumentative fallacies and writing argumentative essays. At this time I was reading Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and parts of Darwin's Origin of Species. I came across a couple of passages which I recognized from Watchtower literature, except that it didn't sound quite the same. It appeared to me that the Watchtower had used these passages out of context. All those old doubts about Witnessism being the Truth started rushing back to me. Having trained my mind to leave no premise or inference unexamined, I decided to put to rest some of the doubts I had been carrying about the organization and do some serious research . . . and everything started to fall apart. I begin with something that always bothered me: the 1975 thing. "What was that all about?" I knew that if I started my research WITH the elders I would instantly lose all my privileges for being a Doubter. So, I started photocopying and taking out books from the congregation library. I would get funny looks and questions about all my books and research from elders and my friends. But I just told them that I was doing some personal studying for a talk or something like that. Once I started looking, I only had more and more questions and became more and more unsatisfied with the intellectual level of the Watchtower's publications. (You know the issues: Dates, the Leaders, Changes in Dogma.) I would also wonder how the studies that produced the stats which the Watchtower used were performed. I would ask why they don't have proper references and why the stats aren't presented properly with deviations noted and so on. (You know the stats I'm talking about: CRIME UP! GLOBAL WARMING! END OF THE WORLD stuff.) I would become upset hearing hasty generalizations from people answering at the meetings and how uncritical they were! And I found the Isaiah book very unsatisfying in its attempts to establish all those far-fetched analogies between ancient Isreal and the present day. I thought, "Anyone can do this sort of thing with the benefit of hindsight."
    During that year or so of quiet research, my friends and elders noticed a difference in my behavior. I wouldn't answer questions at meetings about Watchtower dogma or application of the Bible to present day Witnesses. At one meeting, an elder asked if he could use my friend and I as examples in a talk about faithful young witnesses who have grown up to be fine members of the congregation. I told him that I would prefer he not mention me in such a statement, which left him looking confused and my best friend irate. My friend finally asked me what was going on. I told him about my research and that I could no longer in good conscious honestly say that I believe in "the Truth". I just needed to step back for a while and have my doubts resolved. I approached an elder who had asked me one set of baptismal questions and told him I didn't want to pray at meetings, read at meetings, knock on doors, or give talks until I felt comfortable with my beliefs. I showed him some of my research and he assured me that I was doing the right thing and that he would quietly help me get through this. I could tell that he was not looking forward to the type of discussions he was going to have with me. I think he called me once to say that he couldn't meet with me as planned for our first meeting. The next time he spoke to me he looked shell-shocked and said that he found some of what I had researched on an Internet apostate site when doing some Google research (about the Drawin & Dawkins quotes).
    My dub friend was disappointed with this elder's response and out of concern for me he told another elder about my issues in an attempt to find me help. By this time I had moved out of my apartment which I was sharing with a fellow Witness brother because I couldn't stand living in that over-the-top Watchtower environment. (This guy had the calendars on the walls, the books on display, and the melodies playing all the time! Ewww!) So, I leveled with my parents about what was going and they wanted to see my research too. What happened next? . . .
    I met with this other elder several times and he was never able to persuade me that my doubts were unfounded. My parents, still left with a bad taste in their mouths about how my brother was treated, found my research and the elders' poor response to be the icing on the cake. By the summer of 2002, my whole family had ceased to attend meetings and stopped going out in service. My folks have sent in official letters of disassociation, but I haven't. I just disappeared and moved away from the area after completing my degree.
    I could write a book about my feelings of distress and uncertainty in leaving, but what I want to say is that it gets better! Time and distance helps make sense of it.

    There are lots of details, conversations, and interesting people I left out of my story. Perhaps one day I'll put the whole thing together into an epic poem or something.

  • sf

    Wow. Welcome to the forum.


  • mouthy

    I could write a book about my feelings of distress and uncertainty in leaving, but what I want to say is that it gets better! Time and distance helps make sense of it.
    Well I personally think one day you should write that book-you have a great writing style- I enjoyed reading it. I am so happy to hear your family are all out. I think a book about those years would encourage others to do research also... Thanks for sharing

  • Jez

    Very very enjoyable read. Your story is part of the reason that the society discourages university. It teaches you to not blindly accept, to support what you are saying, to not generalize, etc. When the society's teachings start to crumble, it is like a house of cards, the whole thing collapes.

    The more you dig, the more you find, hence the reason that people are encouraged to "wait on Jehovah", "trust the brothers leading you", "do not talk to 'apostates'", in other words while they say 'make the truth your own', they don't really mean it because if you do have doubts and research those doubts, they want to dictate HOW and WHERE and to WHOM you are allowed to talk to, and what you are allowed to READ, to conduct that research. Can you imagine doing research for an essay where the professor gives you those kinds of restrictions?

  • Jez

    Also, why the name enderby?

  • Narkissos

    Welcome enderby. Great to have you here.

  • enderby

    FX Enderby is my all-time favourite fictional character.

  • jstalin

    Thanks for posting your story - a great personal testimony.

  • MadTiger

    A book? Nah. The post is a pamphlet. That's enough to get you started. Very good experience. Pieces of it are similar to some of my story.

  • Super_Becka

    Welcome to the board!!

    -Becka :)

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