Our families have cut off contact with us for the last several months. They found out that we were celebrating holidays with our non-witness family.
Our families were our last tie to the organization, as our former friends stopped associating with us about 3 years ago.
This is a letter that I recently sent to our family. We felt that we owed them an explanation for our decision, to give both them and ourselves a sort of closure.
I wanted to post it here, because I was helped immensely in my exit by reading the experiences of others ... and if reading my letter helps somewhere here, even just to articulate their feelings, it will be worthwhile.
Please note that I've highlighted a portion of the letter that are not my words - they are from an article written by Daniel Genser (What I Believe To Be True, and How I Have Come To Believe It - a very good read, highly recommended). He expressed the same sentiments as me better than I could. There are probably other sentiments and phrases scattered throughout that I've read here on this forum, or other articles written by others too.
Dear Mom, (my sister) and (my sister),
It seems we have reached the inevitable conclusion that we have been heading towards for the past five years, and it breaks our hearts that you are choosing to change your relationship with our family because of it.
While we understand that the leaders of your religion require you to do this, we do not agree with it. However, we feel we owe you something of an explanation for our decisions. Please do us the courtesy of reading this letter in its entirety – this is after all, a decision that affects our entire lives!
This is not at all about wanting to celebrate holidays, or about the sins and crimes that others within the organization have committed. This is not about being depressed, burnt out, or hurt by others in the congregation. This is not about our extended family, and wanting a relationship with them over you.
The simple fact of the matter is, we just do not believe what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach.
Please understand that this is not something new for us. Even as children, (my husband) and I both knew that the so called “truth” wasn’t in our hearts. To be fair, we did try very hard to find a place in the organization, and it was different when it was just the two of us - we could go through the motions and it didn’t hurt anybody but ourselves. But once we had our children, we had to honestly ask ourselves whether we could, in good conscience, raise them in this religion - raise them to believe this was “the truth”. Ultimately, after months of soul searching, and legitimate questioning and research, the answer was no.
We don’t want you to think that our experience in the organization was 100% negative, because it wasn’t . We have many fond memories from growing up in the congregation, and we will admit that there are some aspects of the religion that we like, and will even miss, and people whose friendships we treasured very much. But when we weigh those few positive things against the many negatives, we must follow our hearts and consciences out of the organization.
We can no longer support the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, some of which are harmful (the blood doctrine, shunning), and others which are downright bizarre and unscriptural (“overlapping” generations (lol), the concept of “new light” as used by the organization, the faithful and discreet slave etc). We also cannot support the “god-like” status of the governing body,which has become disturbingly more evident in the past couple of years.
You ask us, where else would we go to learn about Jehovah? The truth is, we were troubled for years that we had to continually contort our minds to see Jehovah as an all-loving person, when all evidence IN PLAIN PRINT points otherwise. The God of Abraham as presented in the Bible is a jealous, vindictive, capricious misogynist who commits widespread genocide, and can’t live by his own rules. He is the worst example of a parent we can imagine – the stories of Adam and Eve, the flood, and Abraham and Isaac come to mind. If we as parents did some of the things Jehovah has done, we would end up in jail. The Jehovah of the bible has all the hallmarks of an abusive husband (google it!), not a perfect, just, supreme being, and he is not someone we welcome into our home.
We do believe the Bible has value — philosophically, historically, and anthropologically. There are recurring themes of social justice and personal emancipation that we find inspiring.
On the other hand, the Mosaic Law is extremely sexist. And the myths of Genesis often promote extremely immoral acts — Lot offers his own daughters to appease a rapey mob . Lot’s wife is turned to salt for one moment of looking back at the city she spent her entire life in, while God is OK with Lot’s stalling and negotiating. How about the poor concubine of Judges 19:22-30 who was gang raped, murdered and cut up into 12 pieces? What are we supposed to learn from this disgusting, horrible story? Abraham undergoes the mental anguish of having his God ask him to murder his son. Isaac undergoes a near death experience at the hand of his God. Abraham, Solomon, David, and many other Israelite kings had harems, yet fornication is a capital offense. Wives are always ‘taken’ — consent is almost never mentioned in the Bible. God kills all male firstborn of Egypt for crimes they didn’t commit. Joshua leads a complete genocide against the nations of Canaan, on God’s orders. Samson is a psychotic murderer who God is buddies with. And the list goes on and on throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
We appreciate the themes of freedom and personal emancipation found in the Christian scriptures. Jesus was an apostate. He saw what was missing in the religion of his upbringing, and revolutionized it, getting kicked out of the Synagogue in the process — sure social and economic death, at the time. Jesus emphasized love for all, regardless of personal circumstance, and dramatically condemned Pharisaical legalism. It is quite possible to be inspired by the stories of Jesus, without subscribing to the cult of his death.
In the matter of holidays, please be assured that they have no religious significance for us. And we’re not sure at this time what fun and cherished family traditions may be created as these holidays come up. But we would like to make it clear that the bible literally does not say anything about the celebration of modern holidays or birthdays. What it does say is not to add to the things written (Revelation 22:18). What it does say is that “one man judges one day as above another. Another judges one day as the same as all the others. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind ... And who are you to judge the servant of another?” (Romans 14:1-5). As parents, we consider the days our children were born as two of the most important days of our entire lives , more precious to us than even our own wedding day. To acknowledge, and celebrate those days seems only natural to us. After all, the gift of life was so precious, that the father sent the son to redeem it. Why wouldn’t you rejoice and celebrate? Would the devil want you to celebrate something he tried to get you to lose in the first place? And if you are concerned about pagan origins, we would urge you to then reconsider your own position on the matters of wearing white on your wedding day, having bridesmaids, going on a honeymoon, wedding rings, wearing mascara, having a pinata at a party, and perhaps stop using the calendar as the days of the week and months are named after mythological gods. And while we are on the subject, perhaps the wearing of neckties should be banned due to their origins in the military.
While we don’t know if we’d place any ‘labels’ on our belief system at the moment, the closest thing that fits is probably Secular Humanism. We are deeply invested in our children, and every day we are humbled by the responsibility of parenthood. We hope very much to by example teach them kindness, justice, cooperation, respect and tolerance. Alongside science, history, philosophy and the arts, we want to teach them about all religions and give them the intellectual freedom to wonder, question and come to their own conclusions. And if their conclusions are different from ours, as many inevitably will be, we will respect them. We hope to encourage a lifetime of curiousity, questioning and exploration in the pursuit of more knowledge and their own truth. To teach them that THIS LIFE is our gift and our purpose. It’s our opportunity to live richly and to make lasting and meaningful change for society and humanity.That, we believe, is the greatest gift we can give to them as parents.
Mom, you say that because I am a mother, I can understand what a difficult decision this is for you. But it is precisely because I am a mother that I cannot agree with or respect your choice. Because I am a mother, I finally know what unconditional love is, and I know that there is nothing in this universe that could ever change the relationship I have with my children. For a religion to destroy the bond that should naturally exist between a parent and their child is one of the most evil things I can imagine. But I understand why the governing body must be so strict about the disfellowshipping policy - If people could leave without the threat of losing their friends and family, they would lose half the membership, if not more.
Don’t be mistaken though – disfellowshipping and shunning is NOT a loving arrangement. Shunning of any person, in the hopes that this will make them miss the association of their friends and family and therefore return to the organization, is emotional blackmail. Threatening your children with emotional isolation and abandonment to keep them in your religion is not love, its abuse.
You say that you love us, but you can’t. Words cannot be seperated from action. You can’t say that you love someone, and then treat them as if they are dead.
Please know that it doesn’t have to be this way. In your own literature, it says that if a family member is disfellowshipped, only the spiritual bond is broken, not the family bond, and so normal family relations can continue. What difference does it make whether that family member is living in the same home or not? If there is scriptural evidence that says otherwise, please show us, we would love to see it. Please note that we will not consider anything from the Mosaic Law as evidence. Often quoted is the fact that even Isrealite parents were required to take part in stoning their children if they sinned, thus severing family ties. Aside from the fact the Mosaic Law was voided upon Jesus death, the Isrealites were an apostate nation that was rejected by god. Why would Jehovah’s modern day organization want to do ANYTHING they did, in principle or otherwise?
If you were to do an honest and objective examination of the support for the disfellowshipping policy (even so called evidence from the Christian Greek scriptures), we’re sure you will find that, like so much of witness doctrine, it is a misapplication of scripture that was never intended to apply to family.
In the past few years, we have shared countless good times that have become treasured memories for us and the kids, that have had nothing to do with this religion. They were based on love and normal family relationships, and special family events and milestones. It had felt, for the past couple of years that we were having the best relationship we had ever had with each other in our entire lives. We see no reason why that cannot continue.
Don’t let this religion rob you of the joys and and experiences that should naturally happen between grandparents and grandchildren, and aunts and neices and nephews.
Yes, we chose to leave the Jehovah’s Witness religion. But you have a choice too. And if you choose to shun our family, any resulting heartache is on your shoulders, and yours alone. We will not be blamed for it. If you do choose to cut off contact with our family though, in a way we thank you, because it makes us even more certain that this organization is not the place for us. We don’t want to be part of a community where parents are expected to do that to their children.
Please remember too that you once left the religion of your families and caused them much heartache and grief. Imagine, the sadness they must have felt, to suddenly lose the opportunity to celebrate cherished holidays and birthdays with their grandchildren, and to have much limited association with them. They did not turn their backs on you. They didn’t cut off all contact with you. They didn’t disinherit you. They came to terms with the fact that you were doing what you thought was in the best interests of your family, and even though they did not understand or agree, they knew that FAMILY is one of the greatest gifts in life, and treated it as such.
And please do not be angry with your extended family. They love and respect you very much and are deeply concerned about your feelings, and do not wish to hurt or embarrass you in any way. They are all just trying to do the best they can to find balance in a difficult situation. You can’t fault them for that. They are our family too, as imperfect as ALL of us are at times. No ones imperfections and mistakes define them (thank goodness!). And they are, it seems, the family that will stick by us no matter what.
To end this letter, we’d like to share with you these three very thought provoking quotes:
“No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family”. (July 2009 Awake, pg 29)
“The distinction between cult and religion lies squarely in how those leaving or those wanting to leave are treated.” ( `When Organized Religion Becomes A Cult`, Diane Benscoter)
"...When our own thoughts are forbidden, when our questions are not allowed and our doubts are punished; when contacts & friendships outside of the organisation are censored, we are being abused for an end that never justifies its means. When our heart aches knowing we have made friendships and secret attachments that will be forever forbidden if we leave, we are in danger. When we consider staying in a group because we cannot bear the loss, disappointment and sorrow our leaving will cause for ourselves and those we have come to love, we are in a cult."----Deborah Layton, Jonestown survivor. (from the book: Seductive Poison, page 299. Anchor Books, New York, 1998)
We love you all very much, and it is our sincere hope that one day you too will wake up to the truth as we have, before too much more of your life is wasted in this religion.
Our door is always open, and you can see our family whenever you want.
Love always, your family,