When i saw simons thread and the "interview" series of threads that came from it i really enjoyed reading the life stories of those that shared. A bump for newer people seems like a good idea and i figured i would add mine as well. Again, thanks to simon for the concept of a guided interview thread and the template.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Hmmm... Easy question, hard answer. i was married more than 20 years to a jw woman. We had two wonderful kids together. Our marriage had more than few ups and downs but once i learned the truth about the truth (herein referred to as ttatt), it really went downhill. she never made peace with me stepping down as an elder and her loosing whatever status that conferred on her. I was more than happy to end things with her but have tried to maintain something of a relationship for the kids. Frankly its better now that we are apart than it ever was together.
Were you a born in or a convert?
ahh.. again, easy question, not a strait forward answer . born in. Sort of. My parents were jw's before i was born and i went to meetings for the first 7 years of my life. After my brother and sister were born (pretty close together) my parents simply couldn't keep and became inactive until i was about 14. They went back and of course drug me along. i ended up taking to the life pretty quickly.
Are your parents / family JWs?
see above for some of that. Also my fathers parents were witness, several aunts and uncles as well. my brother and sister bother were raised and baptized but are both now gone as are my parents. thank thor. my grandparents passed away still believing and my other aunts and uncles are still active. one cousin works at the palm coast teaching facility.
How many generations have been JWs?
see above. third generation for me. hopefully my kids are the last to be exposed.
Did you hold any position in the WTS? (MS, Elder etc...)
ahhh.... frankly its more than a little embrassing to remember and\or admit these things but... i was a bethelite from 1992-1994 (end of 92 beginning of 94 i left after seeing how disloyal and heartless it was). I went on to pioneer, be an ms and ultimately an elder. did all the little jobs in the congregation from PO (as it was called in those days) to secretary to wt conductor, school overseer etc etc. all thankless unpaid work that i remain very very glad to be rid of.
Did you *really* believe in the bible, in spirits (angels, demons)?
sigh... yea. I did. all of it. i was a true believer. anything the org taught i more or less took as gospel. I was never a 'drink the coolaid' no matter what type guy, but i believed the basics and the infallibility of the bible as well as demons and angels are a part of it.
Did you get baptised? When and why?
well to serve as noted above one must be dunked so indeed i was dipped at the age of 16. It wasn't peer pressure or parents. i was eager. i really wanted to serve god and do the right thing. god what a sucker.
What was the initial trigger that made you start questioning things?
funny thing.... i didn't. not really anyway. as an elder you see all sorts of things that don't always add up but you are on such a hamster wheel you sort of compartmentalize and dismiss the questions. its all about the org and the org wouldn't let you down, right?
well... one day ole morpheus got hurt at work. nothing major, lower back muscular injury. it laid me up for about four weeks to let it heal and get some rehab. in that time there was a guy in FS who asked me a simple question at a door and since i had time i decided to a quick google search for some information... wanna guess what web site i landed on...? yep right here. Since i was laid up basically 24/7 i had plenty of time to peruse. lots of topics here.. i made a few defenses of the org, but time and again the double standards people talked about really rang true. it also was right around the time the overlapping generation thing hit. that was the final nail. it was so stupid i simply couldn't make a defense. i began to see that if critical doctrines like the generation were mutable than it was all a house of cards. the rest, as they say, is history.
Where did you find information? Internet sites? Books?
as noted, this web site was the primary source of information for me. being here also lead me to JWfacts.com which i really loved as well. i have read ray franz books and crisis of con really struck a cord. everything he described was exactly what i had seen at bethel. everything he described at gb meetings rang so true with my experiences as an elder. those sources were invaluable. one other source i will mention in the next question.
How difficult or painful was the process of leaving?
internally it was awful. as the underpinnings of my beliefs were shaken it really left me unsettled. I no longer knew the answers to life big questions. Hell i no longer felt i knew the answers to anything. I developed these unbearable panic attacks as the foundations of my life were shaken. add to that the stress of being an elder and no knowing the way out, my marriage falling apart and i was, for a brief time, suicidal. literally gun in my hand. thankfully i didn't make that final choice and if anyone reading this is in that place, please... please don't do it. it gets better. so much better. reach out for help. suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I found help and things obviously got much better, pretty quickly in fact. Reading steve hassens book "combatting cult mind control" is the other source i mentioned in the previous question. it was the objective source i needed to sort of get my mind right. It struck me deeply that he had THE EXACT same experiences.... in a different cult. It all came together and along with a little professional help, i pretty quickly pulls out of depression and began moving forward. so for about a year it was the worst experience of my life. after that it was pretty strait forward.
Was it a big dramatic exit or a careful quiet fade?
once i got myself together i realized there was no way i was going to play their game and give a dramatic exit so they could df me and ignore me. i was going to stay in good standing so that i could keep interacting with my kids and have a voice. I realized that as a former elder i still carried some respect and could use their words against them.. provided i wasn't df'd. So i carefully faded. My wife at the time gave complained to the other elders that i wasn't really handling things at home. that was my chance to step down as an elder. they begged me to stay on and told me they would just lighten the load... i ran like hell. told them i wouldn't be comfortable with my wife having complained and stepped down. After that it was only about 3 short months of coming as regular publisher... i began to quickly fade off from fs and find reasons to work during the mid week meeting. as soon as i heard about he change in format to the "clam" midweek meeting i set a goal to never attend one of them. Mission accomplished. My last meeting was two weeks before the change. i can proudly say i never went to a "clam" and the sunday meetings were abandoned shortly thereafter.
it has served me well to still be in good standing, well at least not DF'd. i would always encourage fading over a pointless stand and getting df'd, but of course everyone has to make their own choice and live with it.
Did you convince anyone else to leave with you?
i did! not at the same time but i have convinced 8 people thus far to see ttatt. my parents and brother among them. My sister saw the light long ago on her own.
How were your family relations affected by your decision?
well, my grandparents has passed away before i left so that wasn't an issue. my parents were already on the fence so they didn't mind. my inlaws ( inlaws at the time) were pretty heartbroken but again, it was a fade, not a dramatic exit. i've already mentioned things with the wife fell apart. the kids love me no matter what and i played it slow and careful for them specifically. i lead them along to see things logically and rationally and they are pretty much now out anyway. my daughter has to make it look good for her mother and she has lots of witness friends but she dosent take it seriously. my son is df'd and dosent really care but he's gong to get reinstated to keep his mother happy then fade away. he was df'd as a shot at me. d
Were you or are you still being shunned by those who didn't leave?
yep. shunned by a few for sure, who are just plain disappointed that their favorite elder left. many on the body i served with have given me a wide berth (not outright shunning). they are defiantly pissed that im not there to do the dirty work for them and carry the load. for the most part however, because i faded and kept it reasonably friendly, many of my former jw's acquaintances are still polite when we speak, despite my beard
How long have you now been out?
totally gone for about 2 and half years, mentally for about 4.
Was there anything you looked forward to doing when you left?
having my damn life back. not working an unpaid job (elder). not being beholden to a corporation for my decisions.
What are you most proud of achieving since you left?
living true to myself. I've taken classes and done lots of traveling and devlovped many relationships but it all summarizes as living free and true.
Is there anything you miss about life in the congregation?
oddly i do. The congregation was built in community. for a long time i missed the sense of purpose. i liked the scheduled life as well, in its own way.
Red pill or blue pill? Do you regret waking up to reality at all?
my avatar says it all. Red pill. Never ever ever would want it another way. while i do miss some of the things i mentioned above, the real life i live now i wouldn't trade for any of it.
Did you become an atheist or transfer your faith elsewhere?
I am a very firm believer in Thor and the germanic religions. There is more evidence for Thor than there is for jesus or the desert god himself. We hear the thunder, we see the lightning.
on a bit more sincere note, i suppose atheist describes me best. the god the bible is the biggest son of a bitch in history if he is real. look around and tell me someone who could end suffering but dosent isn't the biggest ass of all time. Read the bible and let him tell you what he is in person. He's atrocious.
I do also have an affinity for zen philosophy but thats more a philosophical thing for me and not the religious aspect.
How do you now feel about religion in general?
i have no specific hate for anyone who chooses a religious system of belief, even Jw'S. i do think, however, the wold would be better off without most of it. I think education is the best way to help people grow past their need for a belief in a sky daddy.
Do you feel any guilt celebrating xmas or birthdays or doing any other JW "no-no"s?
hell no!!! given my lack of specific religious belief i don't celebrate Christmas or other christian holidays to feel guilty about. i have observed Thursebolt ( a feast in january to invoke thors power to end winter) yes seriously i have. No i don't believe it, of course, but i did it. i also celebrate my birthday without regret or remorse. i don't make a super big deal but i enjoy a nice night out with friends.
Have you attended any face-to-face meetups of ex-JWs?
I have. I've enjoyed meeting all of them and look forward to more
Describe your circle of friends - mostly other ex-JWs or regular people?
at this point its all people who have never been jw's.
Do you tell people about your JW past?
a select few and really only if it comes up for a specific reason. Its just a thing in my past, it does and has contributed to who i am but i don't focus on it.
Do you feel animosity or pity toward current JWs?
a little animosity if they choose to be assholes but mostly pity. they are stuck in the same mind trap we all were. I believe very much in helping get them free, if they are interested.
How do you respond to witnesses when they call at your door?
lol well most don't. they know i was an elder and give me wide berth. those that do are my "friends", nominally anyway, and know where is stand. if they knock its to say hi and use the bathroom. more broadly, when i see witnesses who may not have know me ( not a lot to be honest, i had parts on most every CA and DA so i was sort of well known) i do take the opportunity to lay a little ground work for questioning their beliefs without scaring them away.
Storm the barricades or tend to the wounded? (do you favor activism or support)
lol my dislike for aggressive activism is pretty well known on this board. that said, reasonable activism (not being an ass) is morally the right thing. trying to lead people out of the cult is sort of "pay it forward" thing that i try to engage in, and its activism in its way. be it running web sites like this, people who make reasonable well stated videos, podcasts all these type things are great and i fully support them. I also think tending the wounded is totally necessary. they aren't mutually exclusive
What do you think is the most effective approach to reaching people still in?
as noted above, im very much in favor of reasoning. Breaking into kingdom halls and disrupting meetings to rant does absolutely nothing. reason and logic. Not everyone can be saved but those that can will be through education not stupid grandstanding tactics.
Do you think the WTS can or should be destroyed, will continue on as-is or grow / change?
i don't think it can or will be destroyed but i don't think it will continue as is per say. we are seeing it change right before us. It looks like it is changing and accepting a smaller base. who knows what the future will hold. PT barnum is famously quoted as saying "there is a sucker born every minute". he prob didn't really say it but the sentiment holds true. there will always be takers for doomsday cults.
How has your life been impacted by your JW past?
lost out on a lot of opportunities for school when i was young.. but then i wasn't super into it anyway. honestly i don't blame the jw for much. I made choices, as well do, and i live with them.
Are there things in your life you blame the WTS for?
of course, we all have somethings, in the end however, i think i have largely moved past it and its in the rear view.
JW upbringing - a protection or a curse?
a little of both? i was on a very destructive course as a teenager and the cult gave me some structure. in that sense it was good. in retro spect i would have chosen the military and gotten the same benefits.
How do you fill your time now it's not filled with meetings and field service?
with life!!! i have tons of hobbies and interests. I spend so much more time with my kids now instead of chasing the hamster wheel of jw life. god life is so much better and full now! even my downtime is better. no guilt wondering what jw activity im missing.
Do you still have an interest in JW beliefs and doctrines?
i do. Still have those few family members and my kids are loosely exposed. i also feel an obligation to pay it forward, as it were, and help others so i stay current so i can stay conversant.
How much of your time is still spent on JW related matters?
oh maybe an hour a day a few days a week on this site. if work is slow i read a few threads and comment.
What do you think of the ex-JW community?
its like a wonderful herd of wild cats. All sort of personalities and people being people. I love them all even if i don't agree with them all. its great to see so many alive, really living, after the shared cult experience.
Do you see yourself still being associated with the ex-JW community in 5 or 10 years time?
yep. I hope so anyway. I hope i never feel like i have paid it all back and that i have a little something to share.
Do you fear the future?
hell no! life gets better all the time and the only thing i fear is missing out on it.
What advice would you give to anyone starting the journey of leaving the WTS?
go slow!!! theres a rush of new ideas and things alternate between "goddamn those liars" and "what the hell am i doing". don't make any rash decisions. don't tell people things you can't take back (like what you think of the org). relax. Armageddon isn't coming. you have time to make choices and really be sure your exit is what you want with the end result you want.
What would you change in your life if you could go back and talk to yourself?
pass. not sure any of us is qualified to have an undo button. we are who we are because of the choices we made. i wouldn't want to unlearn anything i paid the price to know today.
Do you have any regrets about life since you left?
a few.. but then if you haven't got regrets did you really live ?
Can we read your life-story anywhere? (links to online or books)
right here on the forum. Beyond that its not worth the ink or digital space. im nobody remarkable, just a guy :)
Want to share your own story? Please use the Interview with an Apostate: Template and post it in the Personal Experiences & Reunions section with the title "Interview with an Apostate: [your name or alias]"