Choose Freedom, Choose Happiness (my book)

by Faith after Deception 8 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Faith after Deception
    Faith after Deception


    Choose Freedom, Choose Happiness

    After finally leaving, it can be tempting to “hibernate”. We attempt to turn the page, “move on” and create a new life for ourselves. This is important, but if we’re going to achieve this, it’s necessary to become truly free from all the negative and harmful thought patterns that were instilled in us. Otherwise, we could end up falling into despair and deep loneliness, which could lead us return to the Group or become prey to destructive behaviours such as alcoholism, other addictions, mental illness and even suicide.

    It is possible to become free, in Christ, who tells us: “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Why is it then that so many of us who follow Him don’t feel free? There seem to be so many sermons and messages preached from the pulpit about how we should be feeling, that it can be very hard to admit that it’s not what we experience on a day to day basis.

    Jesus also tells us: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). Very sadly, many church leaders and organized religions who claim to “abide in” our Saviour and to teach “the truth” are in fact “ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15). Are we free to question them? Could we have an open debate with them, in public or in private, to discuss what they do, teach and how they behave? Surely, there must be some Groups whose leaders are open, transparent and humble enough to be willing to do this, but the majority put themselves up on a pedestal above public scrutiny.

    This is the root of our lack of freedom, in my opinion. If we’re part of a High Control Group whose leaders seek to govern every aspect of our lives, how can we be free? And even when we manage to escape their grasp and get out, they’ve already infiltrated our minds, so they can carry on influencing our behaviour every day of our lives… Until we put a stop to it!!!

    That is the aim of this book, in a nutshell. To identify the ways and areas in which the Group poisoned our minds, so we can gradually start to think for ourselves, and free ourselves from their toxic influence.

  • Faith after Deception
    Faith after Deception

    Choose Freedom, Choose Happiness – Part 2

    free will

    The Question of Control:

    Perhaps the most common question that people of faith regularly get asked is: “Why does God permit suffering in the world?” Before even attempting to answer this, we should stop and listen to a person’s own experience of suffering before we engage them in an academic debate. Then, when the opportunity arises, it’s possible to give a few words in response to this loaded and impossible question.

    The most common answer usually boils down to two words: “free will”. God didn’t want an army of perfect automatons to love Him and each other out of compulsion. He chose not to compel us to do good. Humankind has been given the freedom to choose to do good, or evil. As a tragic, but inevitable consequence, we are surrounded by crime, hatred and insecurity, as well as cases of extraordinary generosity and kindness.

    In any case, the aim of this book is not to argue the case of God’s existence or the ins and outs of free will, but to explore how victims of Cults and High-Control Groups can break free from their fears and indoctrination and learn to choose happiness on a daily basis.

    However, before doing so, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the nature of these groups. The basic litmus test to evaluate whether a group is acting ethically or not, is whether they allow their members free will.


    To evaluate this, take some time now to consider the group you were part of, and try to answer the following questions, (which I have shared in a previous post), with all honesty:

    1) Did your studies or training in the group seem to be endless?

    2) Did you have to give up things that you liked doing in order to be accepted into the group? (e.g. music, places you used to go, clothes, family life, celebrations, etc.)

    3) Were you encouraged to cut off good friendships or close family ties with people from outside of the group?

    4.) If you belonged to the group for most of your life, are there things that you would have liked to have done but you couldn’t, as they were incompatible with the rules of the group?

    5.) Did belonging to the group involve dressing in a certain way and using a particular terminology?

    6.) Did you notice a double moral standard in the group, where individuals pretend to be an ideal person in order to be accepted?

    7.) Did you have to project or maintain an outward appearance of happiness within the group, although deep down you were sad or dissatisfied?

    8) Did you have to make more and more of an effort to continue being an active member of the group or are you requested to give more and more money?

    9) Was criticism within the group or listening to critics forbidden and punished harshly?

    10) Could you reject any instruction or order from the group, although publicly it is phrased as a “suggestion”?

    11) Could you question any teaching or doctrine of the group, although the criticism may be well founded and expressed respectfully?

    12) Are those who reject or criticize the group or its leaders said to be rejecting God himself?

    13) Are the leaders enormously relevant to the group members, and does their influence affect every aspect of the group members’ lives?

    14) Are the leaders seen to be superior the rest of the members?

    15) Do they claim to have divine authority or to have been appointed directly by God?

    16) Do the leaders affirm that only they can communicate with God directly and receive his instructions for the group?

    17) In the meetings of the group, are certain phrases or concepts reinforced periodically and topics repeated frequently?

    18) Did expressions of love/brotherly affection within the group often seem fake, superficial or insincere?

    19) Is it forbidden to date or marry someone who does not belong to the group?

    20) As well as the communal meetings, is it obligatory to attend large conferences or other special events, and are members constantly kept very busy in activities related with the group?

    21) Did you ever have the feeling that you were never doing enough to reach the prize or recompense that the group promotes?

    22) Out of loyalty to the group, were there things that you must not say or secrets that you could not reveal?

    23) Did the members of the group claim to be the only ones who could please God?

    24) In general, do the group members feel superior to those who don’t belong to it?

    25) Does the group teach that they are the only ones who will be saved, and that God will destroy or punish all those who don’t belong to it?

    If the majority of your answers to these questions are “yes” (except 10 and 11) you were definitely involved in a sect/cult. Perhaps, as you were considering the questions, you recognized that your church or denomination was not particularly extreme, but that it could be classified as a “High Control Group”. In either case, the probability is that you have been left scarred and wounded, and eager to make a fresh start.

    On the other hand, it’s possible that you’re following this blog because you have a friend or loved one who is trapped in a destructive cult or religion. I sincerely hope that reading it will leave you with some pearls of wisdom that will help you to understand and empathize with them better. However, for a more in-depth analysis of how to help people wake up from one of these groups, I would strongly recommend Steven Hassan’s book: “Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs”.

    This blog is primarily directed towards those of us who have suffered at the hands of an extremist or fundamentalist religion, that sought to override our free will for years.

  • Faith after Deception
    Faith after Deception

    My Story – Choose Freedom, Choose Happiness (Chapter 3)


    I was born and brought up in the Church of England, which is part of the Anglican/Episcopalian Communion. My father, a man of great intelligence, love and integrity, was an Anglican priest. Once I became a Christian at age 15, I would love to sit with him for hours, talking about all the different questions I had about my faith and life in general. He allowed me to develop my own views, whilst providing support and loving guidance. Very tragically, he died when I was just 17 years old.

    At that time, I had a strong but very immature faith. I was young, idealistic and very intolerant of the flaws I saw in my church, so I started to seek fellowship elsewhere. I ventured into Evangelical and even Roman Catholic groups, before deciding to explore the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My path may seem unusual to many, but I was young and very impressionable; easy prey to those who sought to influence and control me.

    Eventually, after associating with the Watchtower Organization for just over 3 years, I began to see the terrible mistake I had made. I felt deeply ashamed for “allowing myself” to be indoctrinated by them, because I didn’t understand how Mind Control had been used against me. I see now that when they discover a young, impressionable and idealistic mind, they do everything within their power to bring you to baptism, no matter what it takes. In my case, they “love bombed” me with seemingly genuine affection, at a time when I was extremely lonely; I was finishing my last year of University, thousands of miles away from my fiancé (now husband).

    Desperate to find meaning, purpose and a sense of belonging, I was enticed into the cult. As my heart was still grieving the loss of my father, it was no trouble for me to give up things like Christmas, Easter and birthdays, because they all reminded me of him. Being able to skip over these celebrations meant that I could numb the grief and avoid feeling the deep pain at my core.

    During my time in the cult, my personality changed notably. I became harsh and judgmental, driving many of my closest friends away with my incessant and unrelenting attacks on their cherished beliefs and observances, such as Christmas, heaven and the Trinity.

    My poor mother was at her wit’s end. The warm and affectionate young woman she had raised had transformed into an argumentative, proud and irritating Pharisee. I managed to ruin at least one Christmas with my toxic criticism and constant reminders of its “pagan” origins.

    First my mother lost her beloved husband, then within just a few years, her own daughter slipped through her fingers to join a cult. She quickly realized that debating with me about the Scriptures or giving me books to read was going nowhere, as I was skilled in the art of refuting Bible verses and simply refused to listen to reason. I would hide the books she had lovingly purchased as they felt like dangerous kryptonite in my hands. One day I filled a whole shopping cart with my old Christian books and ornaments that I believed to be “demonic”, and threw them all away.

    Beyond any shadow of a doubt, this was one of the hardest periods in the whole of my mother’s life. She felt powerless to help or influence me and simply didn’t know what to do. She has always been a woman of faith, and one particular day back in 2007, she knelt down to pray, in desperation. Much later, she shared with me that on that occasion, an image came into her mind while she prayed:

    “I saw a very large rubbery web-like structure that Emily was stuck onto. The cables were as thick as an arm and very sticky; covered in powerful glue and crisscrossed like a web. I knew that I had to get her out and tried very hard to pull at her but she was firmly stuck and bounced back. I got help to cut through the thick bonds but it was impossible, as under the rubber was an extremely strong metal cable that we couldn’t cut through with anything. I was dismayed.

    A few days later, while praying with other believers, I experienced God saying that I could not pull my daughter out or cut her free but that that His mighty love could completely melt away the bonds that were holding her.

    It was an enormous weight off my shoulders and I knew my job was to join with the Lord in loving her. I did not have to worry about researching books about Jehovah’s Witnesses or arguing Bible verses with her but just love her and not worry or be afraid as God had it all in hand.”

    My mother obeyed that voice, and within just 3 years I began to open my eyes.


    ‘The Awakening’

    Some people are fortunate enough to have an extreme “awakening” experience, in which they suddenly become aware of the true nature of the Cult or High-Control Group they have been enslaved to. On the other hand, it can be a much more gradual process spanning several years. Such was my case.

    The first “red flag” that I can identify was on the very day of my baptism. I was standing in the changing rooms with the other young girls and women, getting ready to go out and take the plunge. I remember noticing how silent everyone was, and how afraid they all looked. There was no joy on their faces or excitement in their eyes. Nobody even glanced at me with a smile. It was an eerie, troublesome feeling.

    Another observation that I made was regarding some of the elderly people that I had met. I thought to myself: if this is the ‘One, True Religion’, it stands to reason that the older people, who have dedicated decades of their lives to this Organization, should be the most spiritual, holy and loving people around. However, I found that many of them seemed to be embittered, unfriendly and prone to gossip.

    Sadly, I ignored these red flags, and continued to associate with the Witnesses for an extended period. There were other “warning signs” that should have awakened me from my indoctrinated stupor, but somehow, I couldn’t get free straightaway. One of these was during a Congregational Book Study, back in 2007 or 2008. We were studying a rather frightening, red book called “Revelation – its grand climax at hand!”

    I found most of it to be somewhat irrelevant and even ridiculous, but one concept particularly shocked me. I can’t remember the precise details, but it had something to do with locusts with women’s hair and stings in their tails. The explanation of this was abhorrent to me; absolutely antithetical to a God of love, so I quietly got up and walked out.

    I should never have gone back after that; why didn’t I have the sense to stay away??? The truth is that I did start attending less regularly and never returned to the Book Study, but it was a while before I could break free altogether.

    There were two main reasons why my husband and I kept falling back into the arms of the Watchtower, despite becoming increasingly aware of their shortcomings.

    1. You can find yourself explaining away many things, when you’re seeking a “higher goal”. We were willing to turn a blind eye to many of the darker aspects of the Organization, because we couldn’t identify any other religion that was preaching the “Good News of the Kingdom” in the same way. At several points on our journey, when we were sick of the Watchtower, we would venture into other churches. We found most of them to be close-knit “social clubs”, who seemed to have no interest in seeking the God’s Kingdom. In each place, we felt afraid to reveal our true identity as “ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses”, to avoid being judged or misunderstood. Therefore, we were perpetually outsiders, looking in with semi-indoctrinated eyes. This meant that it was easy to return to what was familiar and where we felt we could be useful.
    2. The instructions in Hebrews 10:25 not to “forsake meeting together” hung heavily over us for a long time. It’s incredible how these words can be used to manipulate and coerce people to go back to a Group they are deeply unhappy with.

    Thankfully, I started to realize that when I was out preaching from door to door as a Jehovah’s Witness, I wasn’t actually sharing the ‘Good News’ with people. In fact, it was an indoctrination exercise, designed to bring people into association with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. When that dawned on me, it was much easier to walk away for good.

    Another very significant, eye-opening moment was at a large Convention, in which one of the speakers mentioned “Serving Jehovah’s Organization”. When my husband heard that, he was deeply shocked and troubled. Jesus’ words in Luke 4:8 came to his mind powerfully, reminding him that: “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”

    We were also encouraged by Jesus’ promise that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). We finally saw that we don’t need to be part of any church or organized religion at all to be a follower of Christ.

    That’s not to say that we don’t long to be part of a church family where we are loved and accepted for who we are. As John Donne wrote in his famous poem: “No man is an island”, and we are no exception. Some ex-cult members are lucky enough to find a congregation where they feel at home and are able to enjoy meaningful fellowship with others; this is something that we have finally discovered. Sadly, it’s not that easy for everyone. In addition, it can be recommendable to avoid throwing yourself into another Group before processing what happened to you and giving yourself time to heal. Otherwise, you risk perpetuating the cycle of hurt and disappointment.

    In the following chapters we’ll explore some ways we can break free from destructive thinking and habits and move towards true happiness and freedom.

    Flying Eagle

  • Faith after Deception
    Faith after Deception

    Freedom from Regret (Chapter 4)

    One of the most painful things about waking up from a spiritually abusive group is the sensation that you’ve wasted so much of your life. All the sacrifices: maybe you weren’t allowed to follow your dreams, get an education, travel, get married or have a family. Maybe you worked for minimum wage for years and find yourself facing a very poor retirement. Whatever it is, we all have regrets that burden our heart.

    You’ll need a safe space and people you can trust to express these feelings freely. Suppressing your doubts, fears and regrets will only make them stronger; and putting on a brave face or a positive attitude can lead to serious mental health problems, such as “Smiling Depression“. It can seem easier to bury these concerns and put them to one side; some people feel so weighed down by all of it that they seek refuge in mind-numbing drugs and/ or alcohol.

    The truth is that there are no easy answers or quick solutions to these issues; it’s normal to experience feelings of great anger and even rage towards the Group for all the years of your life that they robbed from you. Again, it’s good to acknowledge your anger and try to give it a productive outlet. Many of the Psalms include prayers of desperation, anger and grief. This shows that far from “putting on a brave face”, we can cry out to God in anguish, begging Him for peace in our inner torment.

    Jesus tells us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).

    The key to this is found in the previous verse: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you” (John 14:26).

    If you feel overwhelmed by feelings of regret, confusion and a general lack of direction, the best thing to do is to ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit, to make sense of everything and guide you on your path.


    There are no “one size fits all” tips on how to move forward, as we are all at different stages in our search for wholeness. Some people are a little further ahead on their journey, so they’re able to offer pearls of wisdom that we can learn from.

    Some weeks ago, I asked an open question on an internet forum, about how we can move past these dreadful feelings of regret and pain. Unfortunately, most people responded briefly, with comments such as: “Be bold, have faith, move forward!” and “Don’t become too busy dwelling in the past to build a future! While these words would be great for a fortune cookie, they’re not particularly helpful here. The issue is: how?

    When we receive this type of advice, the tendency is to feel guilty for the dark feelings inside, and attempt to cover them up to become more socially acceptable. However, that will not help anybody. If you find that the people around you lack empathy and are not willing to listen to what you’re going through, you need to seek out a better support system for yourself. We will be reviewing some practical steps on how to do this in the next chapter.

    In addition, I really recommend doing a quick search on Youtube for information about moving on after narcissistic abuse, as you’ll find that there are many parallels to be drawn with leaving a cult. There are also some excellent videos on spiritual abuse and cults, by experts in the field. In order to leave behind our regrets and move towards happiness, we need to understand what happened to us. It can be a great idea to speak to a properly trained counselor or psychologist; which can be the key to helping make sense of everything. Whatever route you take, know this: you are not alone.


  • Faith after Deception
    Faith after Deception

    NB: This is a great video about cults and mind control:

  • steve2

    Faith After Deception, I'm left uneasy by your multiple posts promoting your book and your religious views. You may not be aware that many people on this forum do not take well to being preached to - especially by yet another person who claims to have seen the light. It is not on the main list of what people need to do after leaving.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    Yeah this seems like shameless self-promotion: how I got rid of a cult, by starting my own.

  • OneGenTwoGroups

    God gives a person the power to choose the same way a mob boss does.

  • OneEyedJoe

    I chose freedom in the form of not believing the dubious truth claims of those who lack any corroborative evidence.

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