Well not quite. We have been out of the organization since 1-1-2004 - at least that is the way we mark it to remember. We began to read Ray's books in late fall/early winter of 2003 - a thousand pages later and a few weeks - viola - we were out to never return.
I was contemplating just how significantly I have personally changed in that period of time - not the stages, though there have been many stages. But the raw contrast of my opinions, moral stance, and view of the world is amazing. I am not so sure I can even dig out of my mind the old me, I have certainly changed so greatly. And I do mean GREATLY! The freeing of one's mind is an amazing experience. Coming to the point where one has discovered a near total shift in viewpoint for almost every significant matter in life is boggling to the senses for me.
I was a very strongly entrenched Jw. I lived the religion. I never played any of the games of duplicity played by others. I believed it. Now - I nearly puke when thinking of how I allowed these puny men in straight-jacket suits to bully me into accepting every opinion they printed - from their demand that I 'place' their literature from door to door with strangers to their telling me how to dress when I visited Bethel. I waited with bated breath for new releases at assemblies, couldn't contain my joy when others 'accepted the truth', and considered 'privileges' within the organization as something significant and meaningful. Like others, I put my theocratic life above everything else in life, passing up employment opportunities and education, adopting a lesser lifestyle in order to 'put the kingdom first' in my life, rejected family if they ridiculed the 'truth', and used my vacation time from work to attend district assemblies.
The odd thing is that as I compare myself with that old personality - though there is almost no comparison these days - I find that my sense of real justice, real people, and real life is totally changed. I have left off the judging of others. But in the areas that most Jw's would demand I have changed - I have not. My values are better than they were as a Jw - really! My personal integrity is intact - and based on real value instead of value prescribed for me by the Brooklyn Physicians.
My view of patriotism, politics, family, religion, sex, education, philosophy, career, homosexuality, and god are totally unrecognizable compared to the view I once held.
Though all these opinions are changed, or changing as I examine them carefully, I am not deemed as EVIL by anyone but those whom I rejected. I am considered a man of integrity in my community, by those who bother at all to have an opinion about that. I have found that most don't bother to sit about judging others as we did. I am pleased to be among those people.
I have become agnostic, perhaps leaning at times toward Deism, and at other times toward Atheism. Yet none of my true friends give one wit about that. We can have marvelous discussions from widely differing perspectives, and at the end, rise and shake hands as friends and do it again next week. I feel no need to drive them into my accepted mold - nor they to drive me into theirs. I can openly, and without moral strings, discuss matters of importance with my grandchildren, having no desire to implicate Jesus or Jehovah as rods to drive their behaviour in life.
I can stand with tears in my eyes as I watch a parade of our veteran soldiers, and tell these men 'thank you' without shame or feeling that I have crossed some 'moral' barrier in appreciating that, unfortunate as war is, we have brave men willing to fight and die so that my freedom of speech, religion, and press remains intact in this nation.
There is far too much to state in casual observation about how things have changed for me. Life is good. Freedom to think is a gift beyond monetary numeration. Freedom to really grow as a human being is remarkable.
I will likely never set foot inside a Kingdom Hall again, with the notable exception of the passing of my mother in law when that happens. I will be no more likely to visit many churches either - but rejoice in the freedom accorded me should I change my mind. The bible is a dusty book in our home these days, and will probably remain such. My days of devotion to the horrible god of that book is over, but I reserve the right to revisit that opinion - or any of those so expresses in this little ramble of mine - and to change my direction 180 degrees again should I choose.
Ain't Freedom Great?
Peace/Namaste to all those who have entered upon similar journeys of discover in life. Some of you will this day find great moments of discovery, and will begin the process of leaving the organization that you viewed as Mother all your lives. Others, like myself, have already progressed down a pathway to points you never believed you would attain in that journey. Many others are somewhere along the trail of discovery, wondering where it will lead eventually. Still others have long ago left any traces of the religious misdirections of Jehovah's witnesses.
That is the key word to me - eventually! Eventually should never happen to us again! Our eventually should be forever changing as we learn/discover about ourselves and our world. The stagnate smell of water that does not flow should not enter our nostrils - we will move, swiftly at times, and more slowly at others, toward a destination that keeps shifting, changing. The boundaries are of our making - not made by others. The knowledge is at our hands - absorb as much or as little as suits us. Live, Laugh, Love, as if each moment could be our Last - but knowing that we escaped the tyranny of lies and foolish bondage is reward enough that we no longer worry about that last moment, as long as we take, in the present, advantage of the one we have right now.