What it’s like to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses

by AndersonsInfo 7 Replies latest jw experiences

  • AndersonsInfo


    What it’s like to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses

    In ‘I Felt the End Before It Came: Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah’s Witness,’ Daniel Allen Cox reflects on losing his faith after spending his early years waiting for Armageddon

    Review by Courtney Tenz
    May 19, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. EDT

    Born into a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Daniel Allen Cox was raised to believe that the end was always nigh. In the theology that is threaded through both Cox’s childhood and his memoir, “I Felt the End Before It Came: Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah’s Witness,” the believer’s main job is to remain pure and prepare for the day of reckoning; when it arrives and good is separated from evil and the divine are spared from destruction, only the faithful will be left to inherit a paradise on Earth.
    The witness’s second priority: to share this evangelical interpretation of Armageddon and its aftermath with others. It’s this missionary service that has made the sect famous, its adherents the butt of bad jokes. Every day, signs of devilish deviance remind adherents of the faith — including Cox’s mother and grandparents — who really rules this world. To them, the devil’s hand can be seen in everything from banal songs to a clock falling off the wall in a vacation home (where demons lurk).
    Apocalypse, according to this theology, is external, with catastrophe happening all around you. For some who grow up in the faith, such as Cox, however, the true cataclysm occurs internally. Tracing the traumas of his upbringing throughout this memoir-in-essays, Cox reveals his attempts to establish an adult life in the aftermath of his personal Armageddon. Organized more thematically than chronologically, the essays share tales of near misses with Michael Jackson, perhaps the world’s most famous former Jehovah’s Witness, and encounters with David LaChapelle alongside an intensive consideration of a spell spent in post-communist Poland teaching English.
    Forced to regularly confront the “living paradox” that is being a Jehovah’s Witness today — how to be in this world but not of this world — Cox may have been more questioning of the faith than most. His personal reckoning came when he realized that he might be gay while practicing a religion that is strictly against homosexuality and while the AIDS crisis was hitting its peak. “Being gay could kill me before Armageddon came — unless this was the proof that it was already here,” he writes.
    Outed to an elder even before he was firm in his identity, the teenager who had followed the religion’s anti-education edicts and who had few friends outside the Kingdom Hall was allowed to choose his preferred means of excommunication: disfellowship or disassociation.
    A memoir in which everything is classified and nothing is secret
    “Disfellowshipping is a form of JW discipline reserved for serious transgressions of the rules, often of a sexual nature,” Cox writes, noting that these rules are based on elders’ interpretations and subject to change. By choosing this form of shunning, members can be reinstated after just a year.
    Disassociation, on the other hand, requires actively disavowing yourself of the religion. In doing so, you become persona non grata, shunned by fellow witnesses, even family members. He chose the latter option, writing, as he says, “a breakup letter to Jehovah, the first proof I’ve ever had that I could think for myself.”
    When he became an apostate, the door to the overtly religious chapter of his life closed, and nearly everyone he knew turned their backs on him. “Shunning an apostate is a way for active members to confirm their choice to remain. It allows the community the option of punishing a single member rather than becoming self-aware,” Cox writes. It also opened him up to a world of grief and anger that he was left alone to grapple with. “Vulnerable people are separated from their communities at the exact time they need them.”
    A different definition of “disassociation,” which derives from trauma psychology, also feels fitting to describe what Cox experienced after the shunning. Fully embracing his queerness as a young adult, he searched for safe homes in gay nightclubs and bars, first in Montreal and later New York. Sloughing off the pain of a childhood that he found troublingly hierarchical, he would, he explains, find solace and salvation in writing and in music while mourning his past and literally burying several of his friends. “If some degree of Witness-think is a chronic condition in me — and I believe that to be the case — maybe I need music in my life forever as a buffer between me and the thinking I can’t expel.”
    Daniel Allen Cox. (Alison Slattery)
    This is ultimately a story about the struggle to build a life out of ashes with little to no support — about unlearning familial inheritances and forgiving ourselves for our own trespasses. Most of all, it is about learning how to carry on after leaving a community obsessed with finality. Though he had no idea what awaited him upon his departure from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Cox writes neatly about what he had to undertake. “I would embark on a lifetime project to redefine words that had once been used against me,” he writes. “The point is that one cannot imagine escape, or agency, or the true shape of one’s life until there is a language for it.”
    “I Felt the End Before It Came” is Cox’s way of putting his chaotic life experiences into words. In so doing, he has offered up a language for others who might still be searching for the right thing to say.

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    What's it like to leave Jehovah's Witnesses.


    You kind of need a plan. Like I've said on other threads. Do everything the Borg tells you not to do. Like,,,establishing a social circle outside of the Borg. Just even a handful of 3 or 4 friends will suffice who are not JW's.

    Make sure you have some source of income to support yourself if you find you're still with your family. Move out get your own place. Make more friends with neighbours, their friends. Attend a church, join a fitness centre or volunteer. All kinds of down to earth great people in those places. Not all non-JW's will want to be your friend. You have to remember that there are narcissistic non-JW's out there as there are in the KH,s. But for the most part if you can chose nice wholesome people to hang-out with, you'll be just fine.

    In a nutshell, broaden out, make a bunch of friends on the outside, have your own source of dependable income and your own place.

    Because the Borg wants to take everything from you. Including your family, friends and even your employment in some cases. Leaving the Borg takes planning and patience. Just do everything opposite the Borg preaches.

  • LongHairGal


    Yes, a plan is definitely needed.

    A Witness who wants out needs to have contacts and a friend or two outside. If somebody is an adult and has a secular job that helps. The problem is if the person is younger or even a born-in JW adult with a sheltered life with everybody’s eyes on them.

    They must find a way to get an outside contact.. I wasn’t raised in the religion and I already had a secular job so it was relatively easy for me.. Once your ducks are in a row you can pick a day to start your ‘Fade’. Then you can experience the wonderful feeling of freedom and lightness of being - breathing in fresh air! I remember it well.

  • Disillusioned JW
    Disillusioned JW

    Beth Sarim, I never thought of fitness centers as being social centers, or as an effective way to make new friends. Please tell me more about that. Maybe I should try that.

    Regarding your comment of "Just do everything opposite the Borg preaches" that could be understood in a very different way than you likely mean it. For example, it could mean the following.

    - Smoke cigars, cigarettes, marijuana, and elicit drugs. Get drunk often from drinking alcohol. Chew tobacco. Inject yourself with crack cocaine. Get high - as often as possible. Buy the elicit drugs illegally - from street vendors.

    - Engage in promiscuous sex, with multiple partners (without protection), and start doing it before age 15 - even as soon as you enter puberty. Become a prostitute and/or a porn star.

    - Engage in homosexual (whether gay or lesbian) sex, even become a bisexual.

    - Join a youth gang (or become a gangster). Rob stores. Rob banks. Shoot people with guns. Bully people. Harass people.

    - Practice the occult; get heavily involved with spiritism. Worship Satan the Devil.

    - Drop out of high school. Don't work to get good grades in school. Don't even try to learn at school.

    - Deliberately harm your own body.

    - Engage in arson. Heavily pollute the environment. Torture animals, including people's pets.

    - Etc.

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    Sorry, I should have elaborated. Excuse me.

    I should have said do ''everything opposite the Borg preaches about associating with JW's only''

    Branch - out and make friends with non JWs. But using your head about it.

    We know how much the Borg parrots not even going for a burger or fries with non JW's after work or for coffee after.

    Just do what the Borg says NOT to do about not making non JW friends. Make friiends outside of the Borg. But using common sense as a denominator.


    Hope this helps,

  • Disillusioned JW
    Disillusioned JW

    Thanks Beth Sarim for clarifying. I socialize with many of my co-workers at work, but not outside of work. After work I am focused on doing my own thing, and going home.

    But now i am very romantically interested in a Mexican devout Catholic very attractive woman (who is 30 years younger than I) at work who says and acts like has the same kind of feelings for me. She claims to have a position in her congregation giving a reading (apparently a lectionary reading) and she says in her congregation the Bible is read in worship and that people raise up their hands (like in praise worship style congregations). [She fits my idea of the woman of my dreams, both in regards to appearance, personality and emotional makeup, and intelligence.] I told her I am an atheist who was a believing JW. She does not have a child and she has no boyfriend. To me it feels like I am truly in love for the first time, but she is not willing to date anyone yet and thus far we just talk to each other, including while working together. I bought a gift (consisting of flowers and two kinds of chocolates) for her about one week after her recent birthday. [I visited three different stores to find the right gifts. She likes the gifts.] Previously I bought some fruit for her, of the kind she really likes. Those were the first times I had purchased anything as a gift for someone. Many people at work now know we like each other. One day I felt very jealous and angry towards her regarding her social interactions with a particular man at work, and on a later day she felt very jealous and angry towards me regarding my social interaction with a particular woman at work, but we reconciled with each other each time. She has shown far more interest in me (both verbally and non-verbally) than any woman (of the kind I found attractive) ever has in my entire life. We met about 9 months ago at work, but only in the past few weeks we have been consistently showing our interest in each other.

    I had resisted becoming influenced by her displays of interest in me (and I fought off my own feelings of desire for her) for about 9 months because I previously chose to avoid getting into any romantic relationship, thinking that my independence is much more important to me (and thinking I would be happier by remaining single). But now I have been exploring what being in a romantic relationship with her is like and I find myself wanting to be with her everyday (and thus giving up a portion of my independence). Gradually our bond with each other is growing stronger.

  • Disillusioned JW
    Disillusioned JW

    My co-worker close friend says she like to work out at the gym and I told her I am considering going to her gym as a guest in her membership and paying her half of her membership cost. https://www.silversneakers.com/blog/why-using-a-fitness-club-is-more-important-than-you-think/ is interesting regarding gym membership, but it is not specifically about her gym.

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    Fitness centers can be just places to meet people and hang out and stuff.

    Just things you never hear at the kh platforms

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