So, here goes ...
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I’m a single guy in my late 30s. I currently live in Bolton but I come from Orpington, Kent. My family on my mother’s side originally comes from Orpington/Farnborough and my dad’s side comes from Stockwell/Vauxhall (London). My family and in-laws are scattered all over the place. My mum died in 2004 aged 51. My dad lives in south Wales. My maternal aunt lives in Kidderminster. My maternal cousins live in Tottenham, Cardiff and Hunstanton (Norfolk). My paternal aunts and their grown up children live in Rainham and Gillingham … and finally I have in-laws in Nethy Bridge (Scottish highlands).
Were you a born in or a convert?
Kinda between the two, if that’s possible. JWs knocked on my dad’s door and started studies with my him and my mum. This was when my mum was pregnant with me. After a few months, my parents stopped studying. This happened when we lived in Penge. We moved to Farnborough in 1982 when I was three.
However, my parents still believed, particularly my dad, and so as a kid I grew up hearing about ‘The Truth’ and when I prayed, I didn’t pray in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; I prayed to Jehovah in Jesus’ name.
Then in 1987 or 88, JWs from the local congregation called on my dad and he told them about his study in Penge, etc. and he and mum started a study. Me too, I had to have a study with a JW. That pissed me off – on Monday evenings when my mates played out after school, I had to stay in and have a study at 7.30. We attended most meetings. This went on for a couple of years until 1990. I told my dad I didn’t want to study any more. He said I should tell my study conductor so I did. I can’t remember the details of that conversation but the JW must have made me feel guilty for wanting to stop because I remember crying. But I did stop and so did my parents soon after.
As a family, me, mum and dad (I have no siblings) would still attend the memorial every year. Then in Nov 1992, aged 13, I rang up my old study conductor and asked him for a study. Me mum and dad would associate with the JWs for much longer this time.
Are your parents / family JWs?
My dad was baptised but faded at the same time as me. My mum never got baptised.
How many generations have been JWs?
Just two generations (dad and me).
Did you hold any position in the WTS? (MS, Elder etc...)
No. I was an unbaptized publisher from Dec 1993 to March 1995. I was a baptised publisher from March 1995 to the end of 2006.
Did you *really* believe in the bible, in spirits (angels, demons)?
I did at one time, yes.
Did you get baptised? When and why?
I got baptised in March 1995, a month before my 16th birthday. From Oct 1994, I worked hard to qualify for baptism.
Why did I get baptised? – well, I believed in ‘The Truth’ so there was that. But, looking back, there were specific factors that pushed me to get baptised at that particular time.
First, my dad was baptised at the 1994 summer convention at Crystal Palace. Weeks and weeks of my dad saying to me “when are you getting baptised? You know what’s coming up” and “you don’t want to miss out” obviously had an influence.
Second, at about the same time (1994) I was kinda half in, half out ‘the truth’. I was an unbaptized publisher, my meeting attendance was excellent and I had one or two JW friends. But I also had lots of ‘worldly’ friends, male and female. I remember one ‘worldly’ girl (Emma) I was quite sweet on. I liked her but as I got more involved with the WT, I kinda saw her less and less. Then I found out she was going out with one of my ‘worldly’ mates (Rob). That was a bit of a shock but I quickly accepted it.
Then, a month or two later, another one of my ‘worldly’ mates (Dan) asked me “are you going out with Emma?” I told him no. It was completely out of the blue so I asked him why he wanted to know this. He told me that he liked her and wanted to know if she was available. I told Dan matter-of-factly she wasn’t because she was seeing Rob. I thought no more of it. Then a few days later Dan came back to me. Apparently, he’d been asking two or three other mates and they had said nothing, they had basically said they “didn’t want to get involved”. Dan had also asked Rob himself and Rob had said that he wasn’t involved with Emma. I think you can see where this was heading - we were teenagers and a storm was brewing! XD
I felt a bit for Dan there – he was asking awkward questions simply because he was being honest and wanted to find out if he could have a crack at this girl. And, from his point of view, one of us wasn’t being honest. I came back from a two week holiday and the situation was still there. Me and Dan were chatting about it one day and he wanted to sort it out. He wanted to go to Emma’s house first and then on to Rob’s and he asked me to come with him, so off we went. He knocked on her door and she walked out … followed by Rob. XD
I went mainly to prove to Dan I was telling the truth but, I suppose, a small part of me wanted to see a red face or two. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Rob was seriously caught out lying and he had a complete shit-fit. He literally stormed off with tears in his eyes and walked around punching and kicking people’s garden fences. Dan tried to talk to Emma, until her dad told us to piss off through the letterbox. XD I guess crap like this happens quite a bit among teenagers but I could never understand why Rob would deny being involved with the girl. Yeah sure it was an awkward situation but all he just had to tell Dan that she wasn’t available because they were going out. I mean, he was 16 at the time but he was acting like a six year old.
Anyhoo, crap like that kinda reaffirmed to me that the JWs were right – marry when you’re older, more sensible, etc.
What was the initial trigger that made you start questioning things?
The Nov 1995 Watchtower. It had the generation change plus an article on paedophilia that basically stated JWs shouldn’t go to the police if there was no evidence and the paedophile denied all charges.
Where did you find information? Internet sites? Books?
The internet (I first got a laptop in 2009)
How difficult or painful was the process of leaving?
It wasn’t really painful. I just stopped going to meetings. I was lucky, I suppose.
Was it a big dramatic exit or a careful quiet fade?
A gentle fade.
Did you convince anyone else to leave with you?
No. My dad kinda stopped at about the same time. But the difference is that he still believes it, I think, whereas I know the WTS is a load of horseshit.
How were your family relations affected by your decision?
They weren’t really affected (see above).
Were you or are you still being shunned by those who didn't leave?
I’ve experienced being shunned one time by a JW but she wasn’t a member of my family.
How long have you now been out?
My last memorial was in 2006 and I made a decision to leave in Jan 2007.
Was there anything you looked forward to doing when you left?
Not immediately after I left, no. I just felt relief that I was away from it all.
What are you most proud of achieving since you left?
I suppose it would be going back to full time education in 2009 aged 30 and on to university. I guess my uni degree is one of my proudest achievements – one of many more to come, I hope.
Is there anything you miss about life in the congregation?
I sometimes slightly miss my JW friends but no not really.
Red pill or blue pill? Do you regret waking up to reality at all?
RED PILL ALL THE WAY!
Did you become an atheist or transfer your faith elsewhere?
I never joined another organised religion but I kept some belief in God for a few years after I left. This changed when I studied evolution at college and then uni.
How do you now feel about religion in general?
I dislike organised religion but I also passionately believe in freedom of thought and speech so I accept that some will be religious. I think government should better regulate religions – in particular the WTS and Islam.
Do you feel any guilt celebrating xmas or birthdays or doing any other JW "no-no"s?
No, it’s fine. I celebrate birthdays and xmas. I’ve smoked marijuana a few times.
Have you attended any face-to-face meetups of ex-JWs?
No but I may do in the future.
Describe your circle of friends - mostly other ex-JWs or regular people?
Regular people – no ex-JWs, unless you count the posters on here. I don’t have many friends but I have reconnected with 4 of my old ‘worldly’ friends on FB.
I got on well with my project supervisor from uni. A year after graduating, she emailed me about a BIAZA zoo conference in Doncaster, the idea being that (former) students could send the organisers their abstracts and make a scientific poster based on their project. So she helped me make the poster and then me, her and a retired lecturer stayed in Doncaster for 3 days. She’s also a FB friend. I got on well with my uni colleagues but only one of them is a FB friend.
I also have in-laws up in Scotland – they’ve been my friends for the past 4 years.
Do you tell people about your JW past?
No I don’t, not really. Although I have told my maternal aunt and one of my maternal cousins a bit about it.
Do you feel animosity or pity toward current JWs?
I feel a bit of animosity towards the GB and a bit of pity towards the rank and file.
How do you respond to witnesses when they call at your door?
I live in a flat in a student hotel. I’ve never had JWs call on me despite living there for the past 4 years. I suppose I’d just say I’m not interested.
Storm the barricades or tend to the wounded? (do you favor activism or support)
I think I’m inclined towards the latter. Some activists do about their activism sensibly, others unfortunately don’t.
I guess I’m lazy as I do neither. Unless you count my posting history here at JWN. If any of my better posts help lurkers leave the WTS then that’s a good thing …
What do you think is the most effective approach to reaching people still in?
Get them to ask questions. I think talking doctrine is likely to be waste of time. Showing them the ARC might be better.
Do you think the WTS can or should be destroyed, will continue on as-is or grow / change?
Governments should take away their charity status and be all over them because of the child abuse crisis …. hit them where it hurts – in their pockets. And generally monitor and regulate them better.
How has your life been impacted by your JW past?
Quite a bit but I’m more of a look-to-the-future kinda guy. The WTS hasn’t helped in terms of my relationships with the opposite sex but I’m not really bitter about it.
Are there things in your life you blame the WTS for?
No not really, although see above.
JW upbringing - a protection or a curse?
For me it was mostly a curse but there were a few occasions when it was a blessing. I remember one time before I was baptised. I was out with my ‘worldly’ mates and one of them had ecstasy on him. I left because it was illegal and I didn’t want anything to do with it. From what I heard, my mates had a close brush with the law, a near miss I think.
How do you fill your time now it's not filled with meetings and field service?
I’m looking for paid employment, I’ve nearly completed an application for a master’s degree and I do voluntary work 3 days a week.
Do you still have an interest in JW beliefs and doctrines?
No, unless it’s to come here and laugh at the latest WT lunacy.
How much of your time is still spent on JW related matters?
None, thank goodness.
What do you think of the ex-JW community?
It’s quite good. I’ve learnt quite a bit from you guys, including how to discuss and argue my point. Not all of you have uni degrees but you’ve all been to the university of life.
Do you see yourself still being associated with the ex-JW community in 5 or 10 years time?
Do you fear the future?
No. You only have one life. Live it.
What advice would you give to anyone starting the journey of leaving the WTS?
Take your time, try and do a gentle fade, try not to be bitter, try to focus in your education and career.
What would you change in your life if you could go back and talk to yourself?
I don’t know. My time with the JWs was a learning curve. Maybe I had to join them to discover it for myself. I suppose I should have faded much earlier – I’m talking about when I first read the Nov 1995 Watchtower.
Do you have any regrets about life since you left?
No – no regrets.
Can we read your life-story anywhere? (links to online or books)
No – I’m just an ordinary guy.
I had my reservations about doing this questionnaire but I did it in the end! XD
Want to share your own story? Please use the Interview with an Apostate: Template and post it in the Personal Experiences & Reunions section with the title "Interview with an Apostate: [your name or alias]"