I was raised in the cult, a 'golden boy' in JW about 15 years ago. Regular pioneer, went to pioneer school and then MTS. My Dad is a Gilead graduate and is still a serving elder.
About 10 years ago I started having doubts. My morals and ethics had changed as I had grown older and I was no longer comfortable with the retributional ideology of JWs. In fact the more I read the bible, the more I realized that it was a book full of hatred, ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and genocide - often carried out in the name of Jehovah. It was a very difficult decision for me and I remember discovering one evening that ancient Jerusalem had not been destroyed in 607 BCE. My world came tumbling down around me as this one 'prophecy' was pivotal to pretty much every other doctrine. As I gradually and, very painfully, processed the various revelations that happen to you when you leave the cult, I also has to deal with the inevitable inquisitiveness of various friends in the cult -
One old-time friend texted me the questions 'Are you ever going to return to Jehovah? Are you happier since you left the truth?' I thought I may as well post my response, since it may well help other leavers as they process their decisions.
So here it is -
Thanks for your texts. I'm really shit at getting back to people in general, family included so don't be offended if I don't respond.
I remember all the good times we spent together and I DO remember trying to help you spiritually when you were going through some difficult times. I guess I look back in embarrassment at how self-righteous I was back then.
So to answer your two questions - No. Yes.
I cannot return to Jehovah after the distance I have travelled and the things I now know - the truth about The Truth. I would need you to use one of those 'neuralizers' from the movie 'Men In Black'. My memory of the last 6 years would need to be completely wiped from my mind. I can never go back after what I have learned both about the world and about JWs. On balance I have very few truly negative thoughts regarding my time as a JW. I am grateful for the childhood I experienced and the friends I made. The training in public speaking has also served me well in life outside the religion. The vast majority of my memories are fond and of happy times although, as I've already hinted, often tinted with embarrassment at my cringe worthy self-righteousness. The congregation which afforded me the opportunity to leave bore me no ill will, and the circumstances were far from acrimonious. I was lucky in this respect.
You asked if my life is better since I left. If you mean 'are you happier' then - yes, but my life is pretty much the same, just without the baggage of the religion hanging around my neck, cluttering my mind and spoiling my view. I haven't really behaved differently from when I was a JW. I haven't done any of the things JWs would term as 'worldly'. I do swear a lot more. I've smoked the occasional cigar. But other than that I've been quite boring. My mind has changed though. I feel less guilty. I worry less. I'm more tolerant of other people. I'm more peaceful.
As I've grown older I've changed and my values and morals have changed with me. I can't remember how much I explained to you and your Dad when you came to my house but I didn't say much because your Dad was there and although I have great respect for him I knew he would not tolerate much of what I wanted to say. I read an article by a reporter called Michael Nagler back in 2009 which I believe to be the beginning of my journey as it rang true with the prevailing climate of my own morals and values - you can read it here. Don't worry it's not an apostate article! It got me started on the topics of non-violence and restorational justice, the principles of which resonated deeply with my emotional bearing. Unfortunately the principles of the two interwoven topics are at best perpendicular to JWs principles, at worst directly opposed to them. And so my crisis of conscience began, a journey which could have had many endings, some of them profoundly unhappy. But in the end I choose my own way - and now I am happy and free.
Once I had made the jump, emotionally and intellectually, I started doing my research into all aspects of JWs. I looked at all sources of information, many of which you would call apostate. For me, it was like stepping out of Plato's cave. You can find a funnier and more accessible version of the cave allegory here (don't worry still no apostate sites). I wont share with you all the different revelations I discovered as I know you would probably stop reading this email and, more importantly, I have no desire to destroy your faith or anyone else's for that matter. If you do ever want me to explain things to you, I would have to be utterly convinced that you were ready to leave JWs - and no one can ever truly be ready for that journey. A prisoner can never truly plan for his escape, there are no 'dry runs', no rehearsals, no practice. It is a journey of opportunity and luck against pitiful odds. The only people I have shared the experience with are those who have already left or been kicked out. If ever you wanted to take that road, let me know when you think you are half way there and I will help you, but not before. This is probably the best poem to describe the journey - 'All the way' by Charles Bukowski (NOT APOSTATE).
I hope I haven't hurt or 'stumbled' you with the content of this email. Please believe me when I say that I have no intention to destroy another person’s faith. Everyone needs to believe in something - and when that something is as life consuming as 'the truth' - who am I to deny them?
The last time I sent an email like this it was to a facebook friend - not a real friend, just a FB friend. Shortly after receiving the email they deleted me and blocked me on FB. I wasn't hurt or offended as I understood why. If you choose to cut ties with me I will understand as I would have probably done the same 10 or 15 years ago, and I wont think any less of you. I will respect your decision and if ever you wish to contact me again - my arms will be open.
Well that's it for now. I love you to my old friend. You were like a brother to me once.
I have not heard from him since, and I doubt I will. But if ever he does make the jump I will stand by my word.
My main reason for posting here is to offer any comfort and assistance to anyone else who is leaving. I'm sure I'm not the first to offer their experience - but these boards function best with a broad range of stories. I hope I can offer some comfort and advice.