“When a long term Prisoner is released in to society, they are often bewildered and at a loss what to do. For many years they have been told what to do, now they have to make their own decisions, and make their own way in life. . . . Do you think that is why some stay within the confines of the prison like WT ? fear of Freedom ?”
I think much depends on a person’s fear and level of anxiety regarding death. Don’t forget, a large factor in the emergence of religion itself had to do with the psychological fear of death – the ultimate unknown – and the need to somehow come to terms with it through imaginative conjecture. I would think that those who become atheists or agnostics would have less anxiety and dissonance with taking a more personal and independent approach to their life’s course because they wouldn’t have the emotional baggage of the nagging feeling that they might somehow be disappointing or letting down a legalistic type of “god” by disobeying or not living in harmony with that god’s will.
Interestingly, a similar situation of learned helplessness develops with baby elephants in India. (I actually learned this from an article in either the Awake! or Watchtower magazine; I can’t remember which, or when it was.) Baby elephants are kept constrained with chains so that they can’t just run away or run wild. Eventually, as they grow older, the chains are removed – but the interesting thing is that they act as though they are still constrained by the chains, even though they are no longer there. That is how they are able to handle full-grown elephants with just one person. The “chains” exist solely in the elephant’s head. It has grown so accustomed to being constrained by chains when it was young that it just assumes that such is still the case, and thus it has learned to constrain itself within its own mental boundaries.
This, I believe, is somewhat similar to exiting JWs. Even when physically out, they can still manifest a degree of mental learned helplessness in that somewhere deep in their minds they feel a certain accountability and fear which transcends simple natural law and which tends to revolve around the fabricated deity and theological constructs of their upbringing. And of course everyone has that grim realization that their lifespan is only finite, and the primal fear and uncertainty surrounding this concept are programmed into our brain in the limbic system, including the amygdala and the medial and lateral mammillary nuclei. The more atheistic or agnostic a person is, the more they can deal with life pragmatically, without dependence on a “good standing” with a classic, religious “god.”
I, for one, endeavor to simply live in harmony with the universe and with whatever process can be though of as “that which caused” all that exists, and whatever metaphysical entity – “that which is” – which can be considered as close as it gets to “god.” The more scientifically you can look at it, the easier the transition.