My parents got the “truth” while I was in primary school. I was baptised at 14. I loved school and was extremely studious. Achieved a very high Tertiary entrance score (what you in the US call a GPA I think?) and could have pursued virtually any career, but gave it up to start pioneering and commence my theocratic career at 18. Pretty boring growing up story - never got into any trouble in my youth - was always very serious and very focused on the “truth.” Always did the right things and was very serious. Never smoked, never touched alcohol etc… lived a model witness life and was very zealous.
Some theocratic highlights:
Served as a pioneer for over 15 years years.
Served as an Elder for nearly 20 years.
Worked with the writing department for a few years, mainly as a researcher but also had a number of articles published.
Speaker at Circuit and District convention level for last 15 years including Elders schools.
For some years I had become more and more bothered by dogmatic statements appearing in Watchtower articles. They would keep using words like “evidently” without actually supplying any scriptural evidence. They would admit to making errors, say they were going to be more cautious and “discreet,” and then in the same breath/paragraph make another indiscreet and dogmatic statement without any back-up, doing exactly what they had just promised not to do. Particular examples are of course the Generation, Types/Anti-types, explanations of 10 virgins parable etc. When they moved the “appointed over all his belongings” part of the F&DS parable to the Great Tribulation, without comment on the implications, I realised they had been presumptuous this whole time claiming they had already received that appointment since 1919. They had acted with unauthorised authority over Christ's “belongings,” and were not just concerned with feeding spiritual food. Of course this was all a mute point anyway as by this time I had read the Finished Mystery book and realised there was no way Jesus would have approved of that spiritual food anyway. However I continued to loyally push these problems aside in my mind and justify everything as we’ve been trained to do!
Then a couple of situations kind of lined up at the same time to push me over the edge. Firstly, I have alway had a love of science and reason, and I always enjoyed learning more about how the brain and cognitive processes work. So at this time I came across a book called “The Art of Thinking.” I read it in one go and was blown away. It opened my eyes up to critical thinking and the whole field of cognitive/logical fallacies in ways I had never thought about or applied in my life before. Well not to my beliefs anyway. I could clearly see how people were fooled by poor reasoning and biases when it came to other religions and things like pseudo-science and superstitions. But this book got me thinking for the first time whether I was a victim of my own confirmation bias and many others in my own beliefs. I pulled on a thread - 607/1914 - and suddenly the house of cards started to collapse. I could not defend my own beliefs to myself without using a ton of assumptions and biases, especially confirmation bias. I ran this by a fellow elder and he confirmed all the assumptions so it wasn't just me.
Secondly, about the same time the Australian Royal Commission was in full swing and I watched some of the elders testimony and especially Geoffrey Jacksons testimony. As the scripture promises, “do not be afraid for what you will say in that day, as I will put words in your mouth and help you, says Jehovah.” I expected to see a great witness. What I saw instead was a very smug man doing his best to avoid answering questions directly and honestly, just like a politician. He made misleading comments and even outright lied on a couple of points. I was horrified and disturbed. Then I saw some of the other Elders lie also, or admit they had done nothing, even when they had confessions they believed and didn't need two witnesses. I could not believe it, but I had to admit I had been lied to. The “abuse problem” was not just an apostate lie or a media beat-up, it was real and we had been in denial and covering it up for years.
So now I had concerns not only about the foundation of our doctrines, but also the quality of the “spirit anointed” men that God was supposedly using who I felt could no longer be trusted. So I started to do a more earnest investigation into our history, and this time I was prepared to consider outside sources to eliminate or account for any biases. So it was at this time I dared to read “Crisis of Conscience” and “Captives of a Concept.” The documented evidence of the royal commission (showing the true state of affairs with our child abuse problem) and the documented evidence of our history and the character of the men who served as our first four presidents was overwhelming.
This was my turning point. I now realised I had been conned. I had believed in a lie. And the implications were devastating to say the least. I cried for days. For my lost hope of everlasting life. For the harsh reality of my mortality. For the years I’d wasted knocking on doors spreading false and erroneous teachings instead of living up to my potential. For all the damage I had inadvertently done, even though my intentions were good. And for all the family and friends I would potentially lose, who I would be unable to rescue. I had always suffered from depression on and off, but this spun me into a deeper, suicidal level of depression than I had ever know before, one that I am still struggling with, but am very slowly coming out of. And yes, I have been getting help with counselling etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had a good life, but I could have done so much more with it if I had known the real truth. I could have been a real help to people, not just pseudo help.
My current situation:
So I resigned as an Elder and left cold turkey - I haven’t been to a meeting in over 6 months (other than funerals). I just couldn't stand sitting there listening to the fallacious arguments and disinformation in nearly everything that was said. My fellow elders have been reasonable (as far as they can be within the confines of the Society) as they are a bit more liberal here than most places, but after a few shepherding calls they have basically given up on me I think. They are happy for me to fade as long as I don’t rock the boat and talk to others. So for the moment I have managed to avoid being disfellowshipped, though I do not now recognise any authority of theirs to do so anyway. During one of their calls I actually suggested to them that they should and they would have grounds to, but they refused.
My wife and family are still in and I still see some close JW friends from time to time. We keep the peace by not discussing anything at all controversial. I plan to formally disassociate from the Watchtower Society at some point in the hear future, but waiting for my wife's health to improve so that she can cope with there situation better. In the meantime, as a kind of therapeutic endeavour, I am writing a thesis based on everything I have learned so far, which will be a sort of testament or manifesto for why I have left. Hopefully those friends who really want to know will read it.
I realise my story is quite a bit different from most here, in that I have woken up quite late in life, unlike the many young ones who see sense and get out before they devote their life to the org. However, my long time in the “truth” probably also gives me a different perspective that may be useful in helping others. So happy to answer any questions - AMA!