Yes, cognitive dissonance does run deep. There is a lot of wisdom in JWDaughter's post. Some stay out of loyalty; I stayed out of fear for my family's lives. I was the last JW standing in my family. I bought the line that I needed to remain loyal to Jehovah and the organization so my family would have a reason to come back. This is pure, unadulterated emotional blackmail. All exJWs do reach a tipping point. I did after over four decades of cognitive dissonance:
I never served with the hope of living in a paradise earth. My grandfather had molested me as a child, and I had no desire to live with him forever. Later as a wife and mother, I had no desire to be in paradise without my husband and children who were no longer JWs. If I was in paradise without them, in order to be happy, wouldn't Jehovah has to erase all memory of them? Who would that be in paradise? It wouldn't be me. I was a wife and a mother.
I regretted giving up a college education to "pioneer where the need was great". Why did I have to quash my desire to learn and explore my creativity to serve God? Wouldn't He want me to use all of my talents to serve Him? Even as an all-in JW, I made sure my kids knew they had the choice to go to college to pursue their interests and talents.
It broke my heart that a dear friend deeply desired to have a child, and her elder husband insisted they wait until after Armegeddon. In the late '70s and early '80s there was a lot of pressure not to have children. Why would a loving God create in a woman the deep desire to have a child, and then demand that she wait a thousand years or more. This woman became a shawdow of her former self.
Stay married at all costs. Adultry is the only grounds for divorce. As a teen I was horrified by an experience given at a Circuit Assembly. A JW wife stayed with her raging and physically abusive husband in order to "win him without a word". She even allowed another JW couple to raise her daughter in order to keep her safe from his abuse. Wasn't it the mom's responsibility to raise her dauther in "The Truth"? Jehovah blessed the wife and "called her to peace" when he died of a heart attack. Seriously?
A loyal pioneer wife separated (not legally) from her abusive husband. They lived apart, but she continued to go to his home, make him meals and have sex with him in order to fulfill her "wifely duty". You can make this stuff up.
Another dear friend stayed married to her bi-sexual unfaithful husband, because he didn't commit adultery. Adultery was defined to be between a man and a woman. A decade later, when he cheated again, she was free to remary, because the new definition of porneia included homosexuality. By then she felt she was too old to divorce, and they are financially dependent on each other. They are not legally separated, but live in separate apartments on separate floors in their home. He is DF'd. She can't pioneer, because she is "not living an exemplary life". Legalism to the extreme.
As some point in studying the Isaiah book, I discovered that the chronology around 1914 was off. I approached the elders. They couldn't help me, so they suggested I write to Bethel. I did and got a 6-page response that did not address the discrepancy. The elders asked if I understood the explanation. I said I did. I understood that they didn't have an answer.
I also wrote to Bethel about blood fractions. They wrote back that I had all the information I needed to make an informed conscientious decision as a faithful Christian. They didn't address the flaws in the doctrine at all.
As others have mentioned, I never bought the Revelation Climax book and its far-fetched application of modern-day events as fulfillment of prophesy. Do you remember having to go through the book and edit out all of the changes? "New light?" I find that so ludicrous now. What was I thinking? I didn't believe it the first time, and I certainly didn't by the "New Light."
My first thought when hearing the "Overlapping Generation" doctrine was, "That's crap!!!" I literally laughed to the point of having to leave my seat at the D.C. when, after a big build up to a change in the understanding of Daniel's dream image, they announced, 'The toes in the image have no special meaning.' After decades of pouring over their teachings on endtimes prophesy, were they now saying we are no longer living in "The End of this System of Things?"
Unloving legalism around disfellowshipping and shunning nearly killed me. It landed me in a 3-month Intensive Out-patient Program for severe clinical depression and PTSD.
I remember standing in the bathroom in my DF'd daughter-in-law's hospital room pleading with two elders on the telephone to come and shepherd our family. My DIL was dying of cancer. Her mom, my son and I were all still loyal JWs. I asked them, "Where is the mercy and love?" They reprimanded me for being disrespectful of their authority, but later condescended to visit in the family room at the hospital. They refused to enter her hospital room, and my son refused to leave his wife's side.
Later when my son was struggling with the aftermath of all of this, he was living with us and was DF'd. He had understandably acted out in his pain. I knew I would be required to shun him once he left our home. Why was it OK to have a relationship with my daughter who walked away from the organization at age 17 by simply "respectfully declining" a shepherding call. She had commited the same "sins" my son was DF'd for. The elders told me when she returned she would have to deal with the consequenses of her actions. In the meantime, I could have her in my life, but I wouldn't be able to love and support my son at the lowest point in his life. That just wasn't going to happen. Why did the elders kick him to the curb, endangering his life?
One day at a Service Meeting it all came to a head. I knew that I just could not stand to hear them say one more time , "We need to do more in the ministry because so many people are going to die at Armageddon." That was my tipping point. Somehow my brain heard, "Your kids are going to die!" I walked away a believer, but started researching TTATT within months.
Vinman, you have another thread about your absorption with TTATT and not knowing what to do with your life post JW. Give it time. I have heard others say it takes a month for every year you were in. That would be 42 months for me, and that timing is about right. Easy does it. There is no hurry. Armageddon isn't coming tomorrow!