Hello, everyone. Long time lurker, first time poster.
Rather than just posting a no-content hello post, I wanted to share my story. This gets long, but consider it a form of self-therapy or something :)
My association with the Society began when I was 10 or 11. As often happens, my homemaker mom got visited by two Witnesses one day and bought into it. She became active and all us kids were assigned study buddies as well. Initially I took the bait hook, line and sinker. Everyone was amazingly friendly, plus what young kid DOESN'T want to hang out with cool older kids? My studies progressed well and I was put into the ministry school. That's something I'm actually still grateful for to this day. I had some self esteem issues as a kid, but public speaking classes helped me overcome them somewhat.
Back in the day role playing games (you know, Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, that kind of stuff) were a hobby of mine and I was friends with some geeky "worldly" kids. There was only one boy roughly my age in our parish and he was kind of a freaky basketcase so I didn't have any JW friends. The Elder who was studying with me learned of my role-playing hobbies and told me I had to get rid of the games. I guess my problems kind of started there and then, seeing as my immediate reaction was to ask why. The answers varied from the plausible ("it's wrong to mess with demonic things") to the laughable ("it offends Jehovah that you want to take on the role of someone else"). I kind of dodged around the issue until one day I was told that I had to either burn the game books (which cost hundreds of dollars) or get terminated, which would cause my mom to disown me. That's some pretty heavy bullcrap to lay on a 13 year old. So I did what I had to, and gave him some of my books to be burned, while still keeping others.
I've always been an inquisitive and scholarly person. Knowledge is my passion and I absorb it like a sponge. This enabled me to make great progress in the Society and I was given loads of responsibilities in the parish and I was baptised at age 15. But it also led to my downfall. As I learned more about my faith I started asking myself questions about OTHER religions. I was strictly told by my elders that I shouldn't mess with them and was in fact prohibited from studying them. This confused me. We were the true religion and it was supposed to be perfectly obvious to all. So shouldn't looking into these false religions just reaffirm my faith by showing me how right we had it? I obeyed, believing that they knew better. After all, they were Elders.
Around this time there was a religious reform in Russia, and they organised the first ever convent there. A huge deal was made of it and the Elder who was studying with me brought up the possibility of rending a winnebago and going along with my mom and siblings. My mom thought this was a great thing so we did. The trip itself was reaffirming and it was extremely cool to see St. Petersburg. I regret not having the chance to see the sights, but all in all it was a great event... Except for the Elder. In short, he was a complete dick. His good guy facade wore off after about 3 hours and the campfire songs with guitars were replaced with yelling at my 8 year old brother and my mother. I lost all respect for him on that trip, and the rest of the Elders when they did nothing about this afterwards.
At this time I was starting to have some real doubts about the very fundamentals of the bible and our faith. For instance, the story of Noah and the Ark clearly had to be just a story, not a literal event. Two of every species? What, even the hundreds of thousands of insects? Or the species that didn't exist anywhere near where Noah lived? The logistics just didn't work, even to a 15 year old me. And eternal life seemed like a horrible punishment to me. Humans are not meant to live forever, our minds just can't handle it. And again, the logistics. People living happily and reproducing to fill the earth... in about 10,000 years, if I'm generous. What then? Does Jehovah take away our ability to reproduce? Do we travel to other planets? In short, I lost my faith.
I still attended meetings and kept up the facade of being a good JW, because the alternative (disfellowshipping, being shunned by my friends and mom) was too bad to contemplate. But really I was done. I played my part for some years, learning some absolutely shocking stuff about the "good people" and seeing behind the false smiles. I did meet lots of awesome people, people I wish I could still be friends with. But I can't. I just met one of my oldest friends at school the other week and he just looked away.
I pretty much stopped going to meetings about five years ago. My mom had drifted away and the world "lured" my younger brother away. My heart hadn't been in it for nearly a decade, so I took the easy way out and just never went back. Many of you may not be aware of it, but military service is mandatory in Finland. Jehovah's Witnesses are excused for three years at a time, until they reach the age of 30 when the service is waived completely. Since I was no longer an active member, I was drafted and entered service in an artillery brigade in the summer of 2003.
Then in November, one of the Elders from my old congregation called me up to ask how I was doing. When I told him I was in the army, he was shocked and told me the Elders would have to "discuss things". A week later he called back and told me I'd be disfellowshipped unless I immediately denounced my sins and left the army. I told him I'd do no such thing. I was disfellowshipped there and then. I had known this day was coming, and I did feel a large void inside me. Religion had been a huge part of me for almost all my life, and all of a sudden it was gone. I didn't cry, but I can't say I didn't feel some regret.
It's now been over two years since I got booted out. I still think about the Society and the people daily. For a time I really did believe. I was mortified about the upcoming apocalypse and did all I could to help people avoid it. That leaves its mark in you. I still have some doubts. What if they really were right? After all, so much of what they teach is actually true. Am I setting myself up for oblivion?
And that's where this site and many others like it come in. I can't properly express the relief I feel as I read posts and articles about past errors and outright lies perpetrated by the Society. It's like a huge weight is being lifted off my shoulders as I realize that I was part of a cult and effectively brainwashed.
Do I regret my time with the Society? Some of it. I did grow up surrounded by friendly and kind people, living a moral and troublefree youth. But I also missed out on so much of the stuff that "normal" kids are meant to do. Practically all of it, in fact. Like many others, I never got a proper education, believing the crap about the end of the world being mere years away and deciding to dedicate my life to the society. I am now paying the price for that, as I am only getting my university degree at 27. For that I hate the Society.
So anyway. Glad to be here and looking forward to contributing the discussion. Hopefully I can help free others from the bondage of religious slavery.
EDIT: OH MAN, the formatting, the formatting! Need paragraphs!
New here - wanted to get this off my chest
Hello, everyone. Long time lurker, first time poster.
Welcome! and could you please go answer the Finnish Bible thread for us? thank you.
Welcome, I didn't realize about the mandatory military service. Thank you for sharing your story.
Welcome to the board!
Congrats at going back to school and getting a degree!
Nice to have you here!
please go answer the Finnish Bible thread for us?
Welcome Thrall and congratulations on converting from lurker to newbie. Thanks for sharing your story, there's a lot in there I can relate to.
Hi Thrall.. I enjoyed reading your story
I love how you told your story. It's good to have you here posting now