My parents were critical believers. They would regularly get together with two other couples, send all the kids out to play, and then criticize every single part of being a JW. Us kids heard a lot more than our parents thought we did.
When I was growing up, while the other JW kids were having home studies (I remember this being a recommended part of our lives in addition to all the freakin' meetings and service) my dad took us to the library and made us look up outside sources and write up critical thinking papers about our own beliefs.
My mother saw the light and believed herself to be annointed since before any of us kids were born. I can tell you that long before new light came out talking about how women and mentally ill people couldn't be annointed, my mother made a huge distinction between Jehovah and the very fallible humans (men) who were the Governing Body.
My father was a scientist. He became a scientist after he became a JW. He spent my entire childhood going through college all the way up to his doctorate. He learned Greek so that he could read the original Greek scriptures to understand them better. His critical comments became real questioning in my early teens.
And yet... we still went to the meetings, and in service. Part of cognitive dissonance is muscle memory and autopilot. A big part of cognitive dissonance is engaging in your normal patterns of behavior even when your mind is questioning things.
I was introverted, shy, and super submissive. Even with that, I knew that the men in the congregations I was growing up with were domineering misogynistic arses. But they were also Elders and Brothers with capital letters.
My father's family were all Catholic.... which has a lot of the same themes as the JWs. They are mostly nice people. But they are religiously conservative. We didn't have a lot of contact with them. My mother's family are almost all JWs. And her side of the family is German-American. Men are precious people, and women are dirt. Another recurring set of themes.
Even though I was submissive, shy, and introverted I still had eyes and ears and I knew when things were, Just. Wrong. I watched all the kids of the critical parents as they were treated with disdain, refused baptism over and over again, shunned for no reason sometimes, marked for no reason sometimes, and eventually forced to leave or kicked out for no good reasons. They were the children of non-conformists... people who voiced opposition. They were dangerous.
I didn't leave because of all of this. It kept me from going back. But it isn't what initiated my departure. The one defining moment for me was when I asked to get baptized. I had put in a mountain of time and effort and anyone who knew me saw it. The elder I went to told me no right away. He didn't even consider talking to the other elders. Just... no. What I didn't know was that both my sisters had made the same request at the same time. The elders apparently thought we were doing it as a game. But, it was still their responsibility to talk to us and find out if that was the case. They didn't. What I knew was that I was another kid who was being denied because my parents talked about things they shouldn't.
I was the first of my siblings to get baptized. I got baptized at the very next summer convention at the Vet Stadium. I think it was 1992 or 1993. I actually can't remember now. And it was the first and biggest act of defiance I had ever engaged in. My parents approved, as did my siblings. I didn't ask the elders again. I didn't answer any of the questions. I simply went to a convention that wasn't my own, sat with the other candidates, took the vow, and then got dunked. I was having my period, I had bronchitis and a fever of 102 but I was damned if the ignorant elders in my congregation were going to keep me from getting baptized. At the point where you are dedicating your life to the organization, I swore to Jehovah that I was devoting my life to him and not his clearly dysfunctional organization.
Then I went back to my congregation and notified the elders that I had gone and gotten baptized. To this day I wonder if it was complete shock that made them announce it from the podium to the entire congregation. And that was the beginning of the end.
I didn't even realize it at the time. I defied them in a HUGE way and nothing happened... I truly believed that God was on my side. But I also lost all faith in the organization. It was then that I started changing my life. I still struggled for a couple of years in the cult. I was still in high school. I had big problems to deal with in my personal life. But I continued to operate on autopilot.
I stopped going to the meetings when I started experiencing panic attacks so bad that I would lose control over my body and literally couldn't walk into a Kingdom Hall. It was the PTSD that finally stopped me from operating on JW autopilot. And it was the PTSD that got me thinking... but not until much later when it got better.
It was being away from the cult and leaving the guilt behind (at least a little bit of it) that made me leave mentally. It was also the fact that my little sister started a rumor about me that caused my entire extended JW family to shun me that made me leave. The rumor was a lie. No one even tried to find out from me what happened. I didn't even know my sister had done that. I was just suddenly shunned. So... I took a couple of days to think about how I wanted to live my life and I made the decision to be true to myself. My mental connection to the 'truth' ended in that moment. I went home and told my immediate family a truth about myself. My dad and my older sister were on their way out and they didn't receive the news well, but they didn't shun me. My mom and my other two siblings did. And I just never even tried to go back after that.
I mentally snapped out of it, just like that. But I still had PTSD and recovery to go through, which took decades.
So, why did I write all this out? Because leaving a cult, or a religion isn't simple. You can ask a question like you have like it is super easy, black and white, and completely illogical to stay... but that isn't how life works. We aren't just brainwashed by the cult. We are a product of our heritage, our cultures, and our societies. We are the product of our backgrounds. Then you take the fact that we were taught what we were taught... akin to the earth is flat and now we have to re-educate ourselves and figure out what is real, what is not, what we believe, what we don't and learn to find a new equilibrium and that is a massive undertaking. Nothing in life is as easy as you just made it out to be..
And, shame on you for trying to make people feel like it should be simple to sift through, figure out, and deal with all of that on top of the very real threats of losing their families and being shunned! Give people a break. That they are even questioning is huge! That they are here... is a big deal. Don't invalidate that. It isn't your place. It will take the time that it takes.