(That is, doubts)
In Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", a futuristic story of life inside a repressive, abusive Big Brother-style society tightly controlled by religious fundamentalists, there's a passage in which the protagonist is alone with another woman at a state-controlled centre where prayers are generated -- then printed out and read out -- by a machine. The other woman asks, in barely more than a whisper, "Do you think God listens to these machines?" The protagonist is shocked by the question; although she knows the prayers are meaningless and contrived, she is forced in that instant to decide between denouncing the woman as a traitor and heretic ... or agreeing with her, knowing that it could be a deadly trap designed to extract from her an admission of her disbelief and reveal her as an apostate and enemy of the state.
In the last year or two of my life as a JW I faced the same agonising decision as the woman who dared to utter that question. There were many things I questioned or disagreed with, and my wife and I would ask ourselves if we really wanted to live forever in a society ruled by the tyrants in charge of congregations and assemblies and JW branches. At meals or parties where Witnesses gathered and drank, or even out witnessing and alone with a brother, I would try to subtly, carefully, raise those questions and air those doubts.
There were three different types of reactions. Two elders, whose own constant but sly criticism of the org seemed to invite further comment, each suddenly turned on me and warned me against apostasy. As elders they could complain, but clearly I was out of line for joining in. The most common response was people shrugging it off and looking for the positives. And then keeping their distance. Only with one couple did we get some agreement: they shared our contempt for the flimsy reasoning behind the JW ban on birthday celebrations and the wife had also delved into the doctrine of the 2520 years and concluded it was all shonky. We ate out with them one night and told them how we were beginning to see right through it all. Soon after, they did the dirty on us with a business we had and the friendship ended; we never spoke with them again. I think they still attend meetings.
But just how hard is it to open a discussion with others also "in the truth" about valid, genuinely troubling issues that go to the root of your belief? Did you try? Did you succeed? How much does it say about the level of intimidation and fear of repercussions that exists with the JWs that open discussion is off limits?