You are a Jehovah’s Witness or you are nothing at all…
This morning I got a call from a friend of mine who I was actually roommates with at Bethel in the 1990’s. He left that organization about 3 years ago. He was crushed because it was the 10 year anniversary (for lack of a better term) of the day that his brother took his life after being disfellowshipped many moons ago and not being reinstated. We talked about how screwed up the organization was and what the key factor was that drove his brother to take his own life.
It wasn’t the loneliness, it wasn’t the imposed shame, and it wasn’t even the weird feeling that many get that Jehovah would not forgive them. He said that just 2 days before his brother committed the act he called him and told him that he had no idea how he could make it in life without being a Jehovah’s Witness., his exact words were “I feel like I have no identity… I am nobody if I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.”
This kid was a very talented musician, he had all the girls in the entire circuit, he was also extremely outgoing. So the idea that he would view himself as not having an identity or being nothing without being linked to the JW’s seemed weird… at first. That is when I remembered something that my father told me when I was about 9 years old. He said, “I am a Jehovah’s Witness before anything else. I am not black, I am not a man, I am not ***insert family last name here***, I am only a Jehovah’s Witness.”
This got me to thinking just how true that statement is, and why people will kill themselves or never leave the org even when they are doubting so strongly. Basically, when you are a Jehovah’s Witness (a serious one at least) your ethnicity, race, nationality, family, friends, profession, history, skills, etc… all take a backseat or are outright abandoned when you become a JW. Even worse if you are born-in because you never identify as anything but a JW.
Imagine being a 65 year-old JW who has just found out it Is all hogwash… now what. Why leave? After all, you have nothing else to gravitate to or pick up on. If you are a young twenty-something born-in and you just learned something in your Religion 101 that destroys your beliefs. You might as well ignore it, because once you give up that JW hat, what are you?
This is why, when I see people of any age, that leave the JW eco-system and proceed to live life my hat goes off to them because they literally have to find out and establish who and what they are all over again.
We had a comment (from the platform!) from an all-in fairly recently appointed elder a couple of years back, to the effect of "If you aren't one of Jehovah's Witnesses, you have no right to be alive."
Same guy, more recently, in an attempt to "encourage" the parents of a recently inactive JW kid: "He realizes he's going to die at Armageddon, right?"
Home-schooled JW....can you tell? No social skills.
The whole family is loony. Seriously. Buncha fruit loops.
That place turns great people into shadows of their former selves and prevents born-ins from ever reaching their full potential.
WT breaks down the natural personality and replaces it with the cult personality. I agree, finding your natural personality after waking up is daunting and takes time but well worth it.
I do think that one of the biggest lies WT instills in it's members that stops them from leaving is the lie that they are nothing in their own right.
Well-composed OP! Thank you for taking the time to write it.
It is pretty much like an abused spouse who stays in a toxic relationship/marriage because the abusive partner reminds them they will not be able to survive outside the relationship; for example, "You'll come running back if you leave; you have nothing - and are nothing - without me." It is psychological blackmail.
Under conditions like these - and repeated often enough - people begin to believe the craziest things about themselves.
Of course, when you're raised in the religion, you've embraced that corrosive world view without being aware of how toxic it is until you begin to try to assert your own identity at which time you feel nothing outside of the organization.
Can't live in the organization, can't live without it. Young people in particular are highly vulnerable to this absence of identity and direction. With the internet, there's the likelihood they'll educate themselves about how to leave toxic relationships and groups.
Knowledge is power!
All these points are sad but true.
Yet another factor I believe is in the mix, at least for those who have converted into the faith. And that is, many of these ones have become a Witness because they are unable to make sense of the world around them. Perhaps they are grieving due to the loss of a loved one and are unable to move on. Maybe they have been involved in some natural disaster, lost everything and cant reconcile that event with their views on a loving God. What ever their life story, the 'Truth' provided them with a frame of reference that has helped them make understand the world and where they fit it to it. Unfortunately its fake. And when the reality comes crashing down on them for whatever reason (be it through fellowshiping or some other form a awakening) they are unable to mentally cope and they are in a worse situation, then when they started.
This is because the Organization is great for one thing; destroying peoples confidence in all the other world's religions. But when it becomes clear that even it is just another man made religion, they have nothing to latch onto ... and are left drowning in the sea of reality.
My wife told one of my kids when I left that I don’t matter anymore, hows that for f*^cked up!!
many of these ones have become a Witness because they are unable to make sense of the world around them.
So true - those who find the JW view attractive, likely fall into this category.
My observation is that well-adjusted, happy and fulfilled people do not find the JW - or any high control religion's - message the least bit appealing.
You have to be 'damaged' or resentful about the world in some way to fall prey to the cardboard-cutout paradise promises of JWs and perhaps a little lacking in empathy and also passively vengeful to long for a supreme being to smash to pieces all who aren't in your chosen group.
'all or nothing.' hmm
A dear friend or German and Jewish background escaped the just pre-war holocaust because her father realized something was up. That friend's taken away fro questioning were not coming back.
He tried to tell other members of Synagogue of the looming dangers. Their replies were telling, "We are Germans before we are Jews".
He arranged to slip away to Denmark with his little family and then to Britain. After the war they returned to find their house intact but trashed and neighbours still there who told them that a mere 30 minute after they left that fateful morning the gestapo arrived....
"We are witnesses or nothing"...
Good thread! (Bookmarking)