For a while I've wanted to write about my time as a Jehovah's Witness and I'm just starting to put the words together. So far I'm working on an intro that will grab the readers attention as well as forshadow why I took my stance against the religion.
What I've got so far:
I had become deprogrammed. “This little girl had given her life praising our God.” The man behind the podium declared in a loud, booming voice that only a District Overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses could muster. Part of me will always be in that old Phoenix high school auditorium that the local Witnesses would rent out for our assemblies twice a year.
I was appalled. Looking for some sort of solidarity in the masses that were sitting around me, I began searching the surrounding faces for an expression that matched the one that was imprinted on my face. Instead I found only the teary eyes of the old women, the cold, apathetic stares of the men, the inspired guises of the energetic pioneer sisters, and the I’m-bored-to-death faces of the young children and teenagers. The tears of the old women were not tears of sadness, mind you, but tears of joy.
I sat in my seat with a deep sickness tugging at the bottom of my stomach. I had never felt so alone in a crowd of thousands before. What could have given me this reaction? The speaker had been telling the story of a young 9 year old girl who was in grave need of a blood transfusion but had turned it down because of her beliefs – or, more accurately, her mother and father’s beliefs.
Why this little girl’s story had affected me was a mystery. None of this was out of the ordinary. The brothers, as the baptized men were called, made a routine of reminding us all of the sacrifices that we would have to sometimes make to worship our God. Martyrdom was a subject that was often discussed, though the speakers were always very careful to never call it that, and most born-ins had become accustomed to it; in fact, most of us were even comfortable with it.
Yet I sat there with my intuition screaming into my head that something was amiss. I was horrified by this sudden realization. “Was I becoming an Apostate?” I thought to myself. Apostates were the worst thing that you could be, after all. Like most of my friends at the time, I had been born into this religion and I knew it was right. Still, even with my thorough brain-scrubbing, I sat there uncomfortably thinking of this unnamed little girl. Everyone was so happy with the fact that she had given her life for a guaranteed ticket to paradise.
Suddenly, things didn’t seem so clear. “What if this isn’t true?” I wondered. This was both the most powerful thought that I had ever contemplated and the most difficult question that I had ever asked. It flew in the face of all that I knew. Everything inside of me told me that I should just try to hide my doubts; though, fortunately for me, once you start thinking you don’t stop.
For the first time in my Jehovah’s Witness life I, quite by accident, had started using something that every parent in our religion feared their children would acquire: independent thinking. Yes, independent thinking was scorned in our faith. Critical thinkers need not apply. This seemed logical to all of us; why keep searching if you’ve already found the truth? If you were thinking independently it would mean that you had been thinking outside of the information that we had been given and that information was absolute.
We were instructed to be innocent lambs that would follow the lead of our shepherds. Our shepherds, as we were promised, had been put in place by Jehovah God himself.
Where was all the proof for this? We were assured that it was in the Bible.
This was my religion.