I sent the following letter to my older brother, a JW elder in Grand Prairie, Texas, who actively shuns me since I left the religion for conscientious reasons two years ago.
May 11, 2017
In the opening scenes of the movie Gone With the Wind, a field worker hollers out, “”Quttin’ time!” Big Sam protests, saying, “I’s da fo’man on Tara. I sez when it’s quittin’ time. Quittin’ time!”
You and I grew up being told that our father had nobly demonstrated loyalty to God by willingly going to prison in lieu of performing alternative service during World War II, which had been deemed by the Watchtower to be a violation of Christian neutrality. Had such a course really been required by God, or merely by men claiming to speak for God? The answer to that question became apparent in the mid-1990s when the Watchtower then determined that performing alternative service during wartime was a “matter of conscience” for each JW to decide. I was stunned by that reversal, and I asked Dad how it felt to have gone to prison for nothing–not for any loyalty to God, but for loyalty to an organization and to a belief system built on shifting sand. Of course, Dad had way too much invested in being a loyal JW for him to say anything critical of the organization.
You’ll no doubt recall how Dad enjoyed witnessing at the County Jail in Fort Worth in his later years. On one occasion, a new prisoner approached Dad and asked if he was a clergyman, and Dad answered yes. The brother accompanying Dad reported the incident and the Society chastised Dad saying that claiming to be a clergyman identified one as a part of Christendom. Naturally, Dad humbly accepted the reproof. Recently, in a widely publicized court case in which the Society was being sued for its handling of evidence in a case of child sexual abuse, Watchtower lawyers tried to claim clergy privilege while simultaneously maintaining that JW elders are not members of the clergy. After two days of strenuously debating that issue, the Watchtower issued a public statement acknowledging that JW elders are, indeed, members of the clergy. (So much for the claim that there is no clergy/laity division among JWs!) I couldn’t help but wonder how Dad would have felt about that. I also found it curious that such “new light” was not revealed in the pages of the Watchtower but in a court of law. After entering that statement into the public record, the Watchtower withdrew its defense and settled that case out of court, as well as another pending case dealing with child sexual abuse.
Keep in mind that the Watchtower Society has repeatedly asserted in print that it is impossible for one to gain an accurate knowledge of the Bible without the aid of Watchtower publications. This is why JWs are strongly counseled against getting together as family groups and reading the Bible alone without using a Watchtower publication for direction. Evidently, the Watchtower views itself like Big Sam in Gone With the Wind: It isn’t “the truth” until the Watchtower says it’s “the truth.”
Please read the excellent article, “Is It Wrong to Change Your Religion?” in the July 2009 Awake, paying special attention to the statement, “No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds objectionable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family.” Does that statement apply only to those changing religions to become a JW, or does it also apply to morally upright JWs who voluntarily leave the religion for conscientious reasons, such as unscriptural Watchtower teachings and practices? The practice of ostracizing and shunning such persons is one of the reasons Russia has deemed JW.ORG to be an extremist religion.
In his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright wrote: “People have the right to believe whatever they choose. But it is a different matter to use the protections afforded a religion by the First Amendment to falsify history, to propagate forgeries, and to cover up human-rights abuses.”
Speaking specifically of ISIS, President Obama said: “We must work together to decisively and unequivocally reject hateful ideologies, teachings and practices that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.”
I have personally concluded that any religious organization which suppresses truth, or which manufactures and propagates its own truth, is a dangerous and harmful cult. Furthermore, I firmly believe that any religious organization which violates the basic human rights of its members–such as shunning members who leave for conscientious reasons–should have its tax-exempt status revoked.
I respect your right to believe differently from what I have stated here, and I would enjoy visiting with you from time to time and never discuss our respective beliefs. I have never desired to adopt a lifestyle or a habit which would, in and of itself, disqualify me from returning to Jehovah’s Witnesses if I so desired; in fact, since I voluntarily disassociated and was never disfellowshiped for wrongdoing, I could renounce my disassociation tomorrow and resume being a JW again with no restrictions whatsoever, as opposed to those disfellowshiped for wrongdoing. However, I can assure you, that will never happen. I would rather have questions I cannot answer than have answers I cannot question.
If you are ever interested in visiting under the condition I stated above, feel free to call me. In any event, be assured of my brotherly affection for you.
Sincerely, your brother,
New Braunfels, TX 78132