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. – Awake! July 2009 p.28, 29
How do I begin a letter that is essentially a reply to my father whom I haven’t physically spoken to in a long time and has become somewhat of a stranger to me? A stranger who writes me two letters and doesn’t ask once how I am, what I’ve been up to, or how my family is? Yet, also in his letters, claims that he loves me—but, only if I come around to his belief system or he will never speak to me again (giving me an ultimatum)? It’s actually quite mind boggling that I even have to write a response on a subject of this magnitude to my own flesh and blood. My response won’t even come close to saying everything I’d like it to say. In fact, it won’t even touch the surface. But like many others who have been prompted to send a response/letter like this to friends or family members, I guess it’s my turn.
Before I start some of my main thoughts, I first want to say that I truly love you. I know you think that I have a heck of a way of showing it, but I do. Even though we’ve been somewhat at odds lately (due to religion), I will love you always. You consistently provided the love, support, and things I wanted and/or needed when I was growing up. I can’t thank you enough for all of your love, care, and generosity during my childhood and some of my adult years.
During my childhood, as you know, I was born into a family who was active in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation. You were an elder during some of my younger childhood years, and mom full-time pioneered off and on when it was, I believe, a ninety hour a month quota. I grew up being taught all of the society’s teachings and doctrines, and knew absolutely nothing else. I was told it was the truth, and believed it was the truth. Throughout my adolescence, I knocked on doors probably a little more than the average Jehovah’s Witness child, due to mom being a full-time pioneer. I also attended meetings regularly, gave talks, carried microphones, worked on the Kingdom Hall lawn (many times), helped at quick-builds, and was involved in other various witness activities. When I got out on my own and married at a young age, I no longer had someone making sure that I made my door-to-door quota, studied my articles, or went to the meetings. It was very easy as a newly married young couple to basically be lazy and simply not go. To be honest, even though my wife and I believed, we were young and would rather stay home on meeting nights, because meetings to us were boring and repetitious. I especially felt like nothing new was being learned. It felt like I was stuck sitting in a movie theater watching the same movie, with the same topics being repeated, over and over and over again. It was all like a broken record to me. When my wife and I did attend, we were typically the ones arriving late. We were not doing anything majorly wrong, we were just not strong attenders like we once were, and our door-to-door time was almost completely non-existent.
With that backstory summed up kind of quickly, it brings me up to your letter(s). I can’t help but notice that in the letters you’ve written to me, you still think the reason I started questioning things is because of my father-in-law. I want to put this way of thinking, or rumor to rest: In no way whatsoever did he have any persuasion on why I started questioning and researching Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. He only asked on one occasion about one scripture (Now on the road at the lodging place, Jehovah met him and was seeking to put him to death.Exodus 4:24) because he thought it was peculiar, and this very brief conversation was after I’d already started to question some of the witnesses teachings (which he did not know at the time). We’ve already had this discussion before dad. In fact, I believe mom was even in on that one. Not to mention, I’ve put the question on Exodus 4:24 aside a long time ago.
So instead of assuming (if you were) that others (my wife, father-in-law, etc.) are the reason I started questioning things, you should know the true defining moment when my examination of Witness teachings / doctrine began:
I’m 36 now. My story starts when I was 29 years old. I had to fly out to Las Vegas for a 3-night stay and work a trade show for the job I had at that time. One of those nights, I went out for dinner and drinks with some of my coworkers. As the night went on, after my coworkers and I ate dinner and then consumed some alcoholic beverages, some of my coworkers decided that they wanted go to a strip club. While almost everyone said they wanted to go, I kept quiet. One coworker noticed that I was being quiet about it. Later, everyone but him left our dinner table to grab more drinks from the bar before getting ready to taxi off to the strip club. The coworker that stayed behind asked again if I was going along. I told him that I couldn’t make the trip and probably would just head back to my room. He gave it another go and said something like, “Come on, it’ll be fun.” I again said that I was going to have to pass, but he kept ribbing me so I finally laid my cards on the table. I told him that I was a Jehovah’s Witness and the place we were at already was somewhat pushing the limits for me, and if I went (to the strip club), not only would I be hurting my reputation as a JW, but also I jokingly explained that my wife would also probably kill me or divorce me if she ever found out that I went to a strip club.
To my surprise, he stopped ribbing me and took the conversation somewhere I would’ve never guessed it would go. He told me that he never knew I was a Jehovah’s Witness, and he went on to say that when he was a kid his best friend converted into being a Jehovah’s Witness. They grew up and hung out together from kindergarten until their late teen years. Then, all of a sudden his best friend completely stopped talking to him, wouldn’t accept his calls, and barely waved to him when he was outside. He had no idea what he had done and it finally bothered him so much that he approached his best friend to ask him why he would no longer hang out with him. His friend explained that he was now a Jehovah’s Witness and was busy devoting himself to Jehovah. When my co-worker tried to get more information, the friend offered up the “worldy” term without really explaining himself. His friend told him that if he decided to study to become a Jehovah’s Witness too that he could still associate with him. My co-worker explained to me that he never really understood that reasoning, and it bothered him so much that later in life, when he had matured, he did some research on Jehovah’s Witnesses, but didn’t go on to tell me where his examination took him. What he did do, was ask me one simple question in a kind, awkward, yet non-judgmental way. He simply asked, “Have you ever researched the roots or history of your religion?” Even though I was slightly on the defence at this point, I had to honestly tell him I had never researched it. He replied something to the tune of, “I understand that you don’t want to go to the club, it’s probably better that you aren’t hungover like the rest of us will probably be tomorrow.”
That was it. He didn’t say one more thing about the history, about me being a Jehovah’s Witness, or try to get me to go to the strip club again. He just left that one simple, yet valid question in my mind about my religion’s foundation, but didn’t say if what he researched was good or bad. That night, I grabbed a taxi and went to my hotel room to sleep, but that question lingered. I wondered to myself, “What is he talking about?” Finally, a couple of weeks later on a slow day at work, and against everything I was warned about from the platform, I fired up Google and YouTube to do some initial minor investigating. I was nervous, like Satan was watching me, I felt like a lightning bolt from Jehovah was going to come crashing out of the sky to get me. What was I doing researching “The Truth?” I almost felt sick to my stomach because of how nervous I was when pulling up websites on the topic. I was going against everything I was ever told, to see what my co-worker was talking about.
What I noticed first was that no matter where I looked I kept seeing pyramids in old society books with titles, diagrams, charts, and dates. Even the pictures of Charles Taze Russell’s grave marker, which I discovered to be a nine foot tall Pyramid. I found this information along with many links on Jehovah’s Witnesses and major connections to pyramidology. I had absolutely no idea what pyramidology was, and honestly thought it was all a complete fabrication / huge apostate lie — at that time.
I also started reading internet forums and noticed a lot of people were mentioning former governing body member Ray Franz’s book (Crisis of Conscience). I decided to read the book, which was about the time Ray Franz spent as a governing body member (nine years), and what goes on behind closed doors on the top floor at Bethel. How the governing body addresses/researches matters (voting within themselves) and why his conscience would no longer let him stay silent on some atrocious matters he witnessed, which was majorly why he was no longer a Jehovah’s Witness.
For the next couple of months or so, I visited multiple libraries, downloaded old Watchtower / Awake magazines, accessed court documents on microfilm, visited various justifiable websites, etc. I also gathered a complete set of every Watchtower publication dating back from 1879 to present day. Doing this, I also used the Societies discs and also attained Awakes that are no longer available on disc or JW.org even now. Every time I could get my hands on a hard copy I would because they are factual and from the period. I even sat in the back of Kingdom Halls and used some of the older reference books (Studies in the Scriptures, etc.) that were still on their shelves.
During this time, I also decided to commit myself to reading every page of the bible (New World Translation) meaningfully, and in order. After I read the bible in its entirety, I also attempted again and listened to the entire bible (KJV) via audiobook.
All of this research started with the intention of proving to me that the apostate information was lies and also solidify my belief in the bible. When I started this research, I was still attending meetings, but majorly starting to doubt and question things.
Skipping ahead: After more than a year of major research, so much so that it actually started taking a toll on my family life, I put my cognitive dissonance aside and let it truly sink in that almost every single thing I sought to disprove about these “apostate lies” I was reading, was actually true.
I’m not going to waste my time listing all of Watchtower’s craziness, cover-ups, intentional misquotes, twists, turns, predictions, and lies that were happening 100+ years ago, with many still happening today. It’s a LOT of real research (I’m not a moron that does random searches and believes everything on the internet — I do real fact checking), and you would never believe it unless you did the research for yourself.
I just want to ask you a couple rhetorical questions on the subject of researching one’s religion.
Let’s say you are in field service and started a discussion with someone at a door. The householder told you that their church leader(s) teach that they are spirit-directed and God communicates ONLY through them. They tell you that they know that they have the true religion / truth. Would you tell them to question or research that religion or its leader(s)? Do you think it would be okay if they did their research using only materials that are written by those church leader(s)? Would you not be very skeptical of church leader(s) who forbade looking at materials other than what they wrote?
I believe there is a reason the men (governing body) in charge of the Jehovah’s Witness religion hate when someone does outside research on them, their doctrines, and their past using any materials they haven’t written or approved. Why would that be? They say because it is the works of Satan, filthy apostate lies, and lies designed to crush your faith in Jehovah’s organization, etc. etc. I truly believe that the main reason is because they know the intricate details about the organisation are out there to be found. They know that those findings will shatter the organization to pieces if they are discovered, drastically reducing its membership.
So, these men proclaiming to be spirit directed by God, came up with something that can silence anyone who questions them or their teachings/doctrine: Disfellowshipping / Shunning.
By disfellowshipping/shunning a person who has simply researched and chooses to no longer attend meetings, the men at the top, know the person’s family and friends will throw them away like garbage. Literally over night, with one single sentence from the church’s platform, or a talk from an assembly saying to stay away from disfellowshipped / disassociated / inactive ones. It’s an immediate remedy to keeping factual research at bay. It’s a simple method to immediately silence any critic/doubter. The sad part is it works. Family members and friends, thinking they are doing the right thing, will never speak to that person again unless they play by Watchtower / governing body rules. They never question, or say anything that disagrees with, those men that made this rule.
Here’s the thing: the person who gets disfellowshipped from the platform never gets to address with their friends why they’ve been disfellowshipped / shunned. They are forced to leave / walk away with absolutely no dignity. Then rumors take off like wildfire, and before long, ridiculously outrageous false rumors start.
Present Day (August 4, 2016)
I’ve been inactive for over six years. It has been roughly five years since I believed that the Jehovah’s Witness religion is “spirit-directed”. My wife and I have been loyal to each other for the entirety of our seventeen years of marriage. Not to put anyone down, but how many of my former Jehovah’s Witness friends can say the same about their past or present marriages? Our children are taught values and to be respectful of all others. Are we perfect? No. Do we strive to have a good moral sense? Yes. Do we do our best to try and in-still those values in our children? Absolutely.
Moving on. I understand that you and the rest of my birth family will probably never make another attempt to speak to me again. I know how this works: I’m now evil and dead to you already. I’ve seen this happen to others in my situation. I’m deeply saddened by this and hope I’m wrong. I’m sure that you’ll obey the governing body without doing any research and take these men at their word before your son. Then, I’ll eventually be forgotten and I’ll be lumped in the “Armageddon garbage bin” of your mind. This is a place where you threw away all the other ones that left the organisation before me.
Since you won’t talk to me again, I want to address the situation with our children. My wife and I don’t enjoy keeping our children from having their grandparents in their lives. In all honesty, we know that you and mom are good-hearted people dead down. We love you both. The reason I’ll no longer let our children associate with you is because my family is a package deal. With my family you get all of us or nothing. And you made your choice clear when you decided to shun me for simply researching the organization. You do not respect my personal decision to no longer believe what you believe.
Last but not least, I want you to know that the love for my family is not conditional. I’m not shunning you. You’ve chosen to shun me. Even though I don’t agree with your stance, I would like to extend my love to you until the day I die. Although your door is closed, my door will always be open. It is open to any family member that wants to visit or who is in any kind of need. I also would not deliberately miss things like weddings, family events, hospital mishaps, tragedies, or funerals unless I wasn’t notified, or you did not want me to come. I’m not a person that would disrespect anyone at a funeral or other function and would only be there to show that I care.
I love you Dad. I really do.
I wish you and the rest of my family members regardless of what they believe, nothing but the best.
*Not actual name of the writer.