Craig's Story

Reflections of being brought up in the Watchtower

14th August 2000

My name is Craig and I live in England, although I am originally from Scotland near Glasgow. I am 31 years old and was raised from a very early age as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have been married for 10 years to the girl I met in "the truth". We have three lovely children, and the knowledge that they will never have the upbringing we had fills me with such pleasure and hope for them for the future. It seems utterly ironic now using that term: the truth. If there is one thing that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have it is "the truth". Lies, deceit, backbiting, selfishness, hatred, petty rules, family wrecking, brainwashing and any other thing that removes human ability to think for oneself; yes, the truth: absolutely not! Also I am assuming at this stage you will have at least a general knowledge of how Jehovah’s Witnesses behave, or if like me you are an ex JW then you probably know how I feel.

Firstly I must stress that I absolutely hold out anyone’s right to their own beliefs and opinions; but when the practice of such directly causes mental anguish to family and friends then it is time to investigate and expose such practices. People who are termed ex jw’s are often perceived as bitter, twisted individuals with an ax to grind. Whilst this is undoubtedly true in some cases (and not without some amount of justification), I have found the majority to be reasonable, decent men and women who have done nothing other than express an opinion divergent to that of the Watchtower Society. In other cases people have simply given in to ordinary human imperfection and not shown regret sufficient to please the local elders. Disfellowshipping follows and thereafter they are forever shunned by loyal Witnesses the world over. It is this degrading, inhuman treatment of my fellow man that is the motivation for my writing my tale. Not simply "look what they did to me!" This diabolical practice of shunning must be shown for what it is and STOPPED.

This is the point where my life is now. One of the many hundreds of thousands of people (or is it possibly millions?) who class themselves as an ex-JW. I have come to the realization over the past year that the religion that I grew up in will continue to have an effect on me for the rest of my days. There is no escaping it. I read and listen with increasing anger at how a cult (and that is all they are) manipulate and destroy the lives of ordinary and fundamentally decent people the world over. I have watched intelligent learned men and women who would otherwise have glittering careers and wonderful lives flush them away in the pursuit of the Watchtower religion. A friend of mine who I attended school with recently remarked to me how he was fascinated at how I carried on in my latter years at high school. A benevolent arrogance of belonging to the religion that "had it right". Family bonds broken without a second thought because it is assumed that the one taking this action is obeying the creator of the Universe on the instructions of his earthly representatives.

This is the paradox facing anyone with friends and family in the Watchtower organization; until they have left they cannot see the fallacy of it. But not until they have seen the fallacy of it can they leave. A vicious circle. Jehovah’s Witnesses are so convinced of the correctness and divinity of their own doctrine, that they cannot tolerate any other opinion. Thus those still within the Watchtower mostly shun their non-witness family in the hope that such shunning will bring their non-Witness family into "the truth". And those without watch in continual frustration as their beloved family devote all their energies to a lie. It usually takes a major change in life circumstances, that cause a JW to be at a low ebb before they will allow their mind to question the doctrine.

Or like me at the time I left, they will continue to believe the doctrine but be unable to continue the day to day practice of it because of the treatment meted out to them. Some ex-witnesses despite being forced out of the organization will never question the doctrine, such is the force of the conditioning received whilst being a JW. They will go through their lives in a sort of day to day misery, feeling they have let everyone and everything down by their conduct. Hopefully the easily available voluminous information on the Internet will cause this to happen less. It is a tragic waste of one’s life to have left the Watchtower for whatever reason, only to become ensnared again by not taking the opportunity to study the error of its doctrine.

Although I have not set foot inside a Kingdom Hall in over a decade, for many years after leaving I was in constant self-doubt. I worried myself sick sometimes over my imminent demise through my leaving "the one true faith". I recollect that in 1993 I was in the local public library, and saw a copy on the shelf of Penton’s "Apocalypse Delayed". At this point I had not been at a meeting in 3 years but old habits die-hard. I put the book back on the shelf as if it were on fire, lest I be struck down from above, or at least spotted reading "apostate literature" by any local Witnesses. I bitterly regret now that I did not read this superb reference. The Watchtower conditioning was too strong. It was to be many more years before the barriers had come down enough for me to objectively review Watchtower doctrine. Last year a friend who is also a former Witness highlighted to me some reading he had come across regarding the "generation change" in 1995. I looked at the web sites in question and was hooked. After 9 years the barriers came down and I have never looked back.

The mushrooming of ex-JW communities through the Internet, printed and spoken word in recent years is to be highly applauded. Fewer people will now suffer that period of "being in the wilderness" as I was unfortunate enough to find myself for 9 of the last 10 years.

At the time I got baptized I thought I was doing the right thing. But as any informed person will know, a 17-year-old raised in "the Truth" knows nothing, absolutely nothing about life to make a decision of the nature and magnitude required at baptism. It never fails to amaze me seeing young teenage JW's at the doors in the town where I live. They always look so self-assured. So full of the knowledge that they are "right". My thoughts upon seeing this usually are: "If only I knew then what I know now!" I find it sad that these teenagers are throwing their lives away in pursuit of a futile ending. Will they be fortunate enough to see through the Watchtower religion for what it is; or will they waste anther 10, 20,30 or even more years before they come to their senses. Or will they go from cradle to grave in complete ignorance, always waiting for an end that is "imminent".

After reading of the experiences of many others, it appears to me that the main reason people leave the Watchtower is for doctrinal inconsistency or bitter personal experience. Mine was purely personal but I will elaborate on that later. It's only very recently having gone online have I seen the widespread emotional damage done by the Watchtower. What I for years assumed was a limited experience has been experienced by hundreds of thousands of others. I have been even more shocked by the fact that what I was raised to believe as Bible truth is in fact total error; covered up with decades of lies at the highest level.

But my story begins when I was a mere baby in early 1970.

My mother was newly married with a young baby (me) when she was contacted in early 1970 or possibly late 1969; I don't really have the details. She was taking a Bible study using the "Truth Book". The 1975 campaign was in full swing and the urgency of the times was being impressed on the JW rank and file by the organization.

My father though was having none of it. An ultimatum was issued to the effect that it was her family or "the truth". He had threatened to leave her and take me with him. At the time my mother was not sufficiently hooked to raise enough of an objection. She stopped the study, although I heard her year’s later mention that even back then she knew it was "the truth". What my father’s objection to the Watchtower was I don't know but in any event my parents separated before the birth of my brother in 1972 for reasons totally unrelated to JW's (as far as I know). They divorced in 1975 and to this day I have no memories of my father and have never seen him since. I really have no coherent memories before this time.

My mother was a single parent and emotionally vulnerable when the JW's came calling again in early 1974, by August of that year she was baptized. Although I say above, I have no coherent memories, I do, however, have very vivid snatches of memory. I particularly remember hearing my mother cry herself to sleep at night saying my father's name aloud. This I presume was just her coping as best she could with her separation from my father. She was recently separated with very little material resources. I remember we had very little in the way of belongings and my mother constantly seemed to worry where the next meal would come from. Now at the start of the 21st century, there is so much support for single parents and children available. But in Britain in the early 1970's it must have been a very daunting task to face bringing up 2 young children alone with no support. So by the time the witnesses contacted her again, she was in a very vulnerable state. I hesitate to presume what is in anyone’s mind, but I have little doubt that a lonely, emotionally vulnerable woman with 2 young children and almost no resources would have been easy prey to the Watchtower. In early 1974 the Watchtower was working itself into a frenzy as Armageddon was coming the following year. 1975 and "the end" was coming. To be fair at this point, it was well noted locally by moderate elders that the 1975 thing might not happen. In point of fact when ’75 came and went only a handful of die-hards left the Watchtower in my local congregation. In the fallout that came in the years immediately following 1975 our congregation was considered a model of balance in not succumbing to "the fever". In my opinion it was simply the case that a few shrewd elders foresaw what would occur if nothing transpired and played the issue down in the early 70’s. I know this was not the case in the majority of congregations worldwide though.

So a combination of timing, circumstance and emotional disfunctionality played the biggest part in my mother joining the religion. I often wonder how things would have turned out if she had time to stabilize herself, get a job and generally get over how she was feeling then.

Thus was triggered that summer of 1974 a decision by my mother a chain of events that would not only directly affect the next 16 years of my life, but also to this day indirectly affect it. My life was made an absolute living hell at school by being different. There was probably nothing I was not ridiculed for as being known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

My earliest memories at school are of being laughed at and ridiculed for not celebrating Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and any other of the "normal" holidays and festivals that go to making one’s childhood a varied and pleasant experience

Imagine the trauma of a child at the impressionable age of 5 and for a decade thereafter being denied what everyone else took for granted! My school memories are all of emotional despair. I achieved reasonable grades but socially I was a wreck. It took me many years after leaving school in the working world just to interact with normal people on a daily basis. One of the earliest examples that I can remember occurred when I was in Primary 2 (2nd Grade). Our new class teacher was telling us what a wonderful sunny day it was outside when she noticed that I was crying. "What’s the matter?" she asks concertedly leaning over me. I cannot remember my specific reply but it was to the effect that I was embarrassed at having to leave the class during the recital of the Lord’s prayer. Because I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses! I am 5 years old and being put through this trauma! This is my earliest school memory from August of 1975. Not some happy playtime or other childish memory but being traumatized for my religious beliefs. This was to become routine for me over the next decade or so.

When I look at my daughter now who has just finished her first year at infant school, it is utterly and totally beyond me how any parent can allow their child to go through what I and countless others went through.

I will not labor the issue, because any ex-witness who had the experience of being "brought up in the truth" will know exactly what I mean.

Whenever any social activity was going on I was always left out. "It’s a waste of time asking him!" they would say. "He’s not allowed to do anything." So in the end I had no Friends. I had to console myself with the thought that "I was making Jehovah’s heart glad" by not associating with these "worldly people". The most dreadful time of year was going back to school after the Christmas holidays. Everyone would be describing or showing the gifts they received from their friends and family. A good year was if they left me alone. Then I would sit and feel sorry that I didn't get any Christmas presents. But kids being kids I was invariably the object of ridicule if not actual physical abuse. Because I was different. School for most of the time was a constant worry. Every day I just wanted to be normal. Not different. My parents would try to portray my contemporaries as evil. Doing evil things in Satan's world. In point of fact most teenagers in the 80's despite the torrent of abuse they received from the Watchtower Society were just ordinary everyday people getting by with normal teenage problems. As if being a teenager in the nuclear paranoid, unemployment-ridden Britain of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980's was not enough without having to be a Witness as well. I recollect now that very few of the people I went to school with were immoral, mindless, drug abusing, drinking, evil people. Apart from the one or two idiots, (and every school had them), most of us were pretty much the same. Except me! I stuck out like a sore thumb. Usually in conversations I would spot trends that might lead to ridicule of me and I quickly became adept at diverting attention to something else. But the determined amongst my peers would find reason to ridicule. Naturally, my parents had no clue of what went on, and to be totally frank, don't actually think they really cared. So long as I obeyed their rules and kept out of trouble, was all they were interested in.

There was no facet of life, however trivial that my parents did not subject to Watchtower scrutiny. The most irrelevant aspects of what went on at school were opened up and the entrails pored over lest I might be subject to some "worldly influence".

It might seem laughable to the sane, rational individual reading this now as it does to myself; but it was not at all funny going through it. All of the following activities were withheld from me routinely: Parties (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, or indeed any party) Dances, Dating, out of school sports, going to schoolmates house for some fun or for that matter any activity which would make me appear normal. Even the clothes I was given were what my parents wanted me to wear. Nothing fashionable in my wardrobe then! No only did my activities (or lack of them) make me look odd, my mode of dress compounded the matter.

As I write this I try to tell myself that because it is some 10 to 20 years since this happened it no longer matters. But it does, because the hurt will never go away. Yes certainly the pain recedes with time and I don’t spend every waking moment consumed with bitterness, but I can never go back and reclaim these times. My childhood was destroyed in the name of a false religion and nothing I can do now and no matter how I feel will change this.

I suppose what makes it slightly easier to bear now is that I have seen the Watchtower Religion for what it is; a dangerous cult that requires to be exposed for the inhuman treatment of their followers.

So the years 1974 to 1980 passed. My one friend (who was my best friend) in "the truth" moved from Scotland to the North East of England in February 1980. I was fortunate up to that point in having not only a constant companion, but to some extent someone who whilst sharing with me what it meant to be a Witness child took the sting out of some of the ridicule experienced at school. Then in the summer of 1980 my mother began to date a divorced Ministerial Servant at our Kingdom Hall. Our lives were turned upside down after she married him in January 1981. If I thought that up to that point life as a JW was hard, it was nothing in comparison to what was to follow in the next 10 years or so. Everything, and I mean everything, was done by the book. Absolutely no exceptions. I have amusedly read online of the accounts of JW’s who take every Watchtower regulation to the extreme, but when I think back, my step-father was as big an idiot as the rest of them.

For example every Sunday we used to visit my Grandparents. After the meeting, come whatever weather, we would take the bus to see them. But that stopped. Field service became more important on Sunday afternoon. It had come as a bitter blow to my Grandparents when my mother joined the Watchtower in the mid 70’s. My brother and I were the only grandchildren they had and the sudden realization of the restrictions Jehovah’s Witnesses imposed on holiday celebrations left them very sad indeed. Notwithstanding this, however, my mother until she remarried continued to take us weekly to see our Grandparents. Until 1981. Then we got to see our Grandparents only when it suited my stepfather; which translates as whenever it didn’t interfere with his family planned "theocratic" activity.

Until the day my Grandmother died in 1991, I only saw her a handful of times. I still feel terribly ashamed when I see my Grandfather now, as he never complains about not seeing us during those years. I invited him to our house in 1997 for Christmas. I remember that he and my Grandmother used to find Christmas terribly lonely as my brother and I were the only grandchildren they had. In a private moment that day, I apologized for any hurt that I had caused him and begged his forgiveness. Through tears he told me he never held it against me; it was my parents fault. His only regret was that my Gran was not there that day to see us and her Great Grandchildren enjoying Christmas for the first time in 24 years. My parents of course remain oblivious of the hurt they have caused over all these years.

The Watchtower Organization has so much to answer for.

Looking back I find it amazing how my parents swallowed everything issued by the Watchtower. But they did as they still do to this day.

Another thing I have been astounded at is the parallel between the Watchtower Organization and the novel 1984 by George Orwell. In 1984 I read Orwell's novel 1984. This was simply required reading at school for and English Exam. But recently I read it again and was amazed at the parallels with the Watchtower organization. Doublethink, thoughtcrime et al. It could have been written for them. (Actually the Freeminds website has an excellent comparison called "1984 and Big Mother <>.) The reason I mention this is that my parents were beyond doubt the most idiotic adherents of the most ridiculous and obscure Watchtower regulations. If something was even hinted at that may be questionable they treated it as if it was in the same league as apostasy or serious sexual sin. Also the ability to swallow any change of doctrine without questioning it was to my mind the epitome of "doublethink".

The truth as they saw it had no gray areas. If it was printed in the Watchtower, IT WAS LAW.

I particularly recall in my teenage years being dragged out in the field service on summer evenings. Being trussed up in a shirt and tie walking the neighborhood with my stepfather. He used to deliberately take me to houses where he knew my school friends lived. The embarrassment of being at someone's house preaching the Bible, when everyone else of the same age is hanging out, riding their bikes, listening to music, was most times too much to bear. I was allowed very little in the way of music, TV, videos or any ordinary entertainment. The shame and humiliation of being seen by those who you knew the next day would make your life a misery at school. Of all the things I did during my time associated with the JW's I can truly state that field service was the worst to endure. I'm actually cringing with embarrassment now thinking of how as a jumped up 14 year old I would be telling some better informed householder they were doomed at Armageddon. God! What an idiot I must have looked.

The other thing my parents were fond of was lifting their hands, physical discipline. Up to the age of 16 (yes 16) my mother and stepfather would not think twice about using physical discipline for any transgression of what they perceived to be right. Imagine the shame of any 16 year old being physically punished in front of other JW's, never mind ordinary people? Eventually the local Elders counseled against this, not because they cared about me; just the adverse comments that some had heard from the public who happened to see it. From the point of view of my peers at school I knew I must have looked an absolute fool. I don’t think I can really underestimate the damage done psychologically to Witness children who suffer years of taunts because of their parents following of the Watchtower Religion. Any time I raised objections as to how I was raised they would simply state I could leave if I wanted to. "When you have your own house you can do as you wish. But while you are in OUR house YOU will do as WE tell you." They said this in the full knowledge that a 13-16 year old could not support themselves without financial resources or other material assistance. I wish now I had just gone to social services and reported them for their abuse. Of course in the intervening years the Watchtower has realized the danger of this stance; i.e. threatening minors with eviction from the family home through non-compliance to the Watchtower. My youngest brother, born 1982, who is at the time of writing 18, has not attended meeting or participated in field service since he was about 14. My parents tolerate this now but a decade ago would not have. Yet more double standards. When the Watchtower feels threatened it changes tactics. Hence it goes somewhat easier on teenagers in "the truth" nowadays. Or so it appears to me.

So as far as I am concerned my childhood was ruined, because of this I cannot begin to put into words, the absolute and utter contempt in which I hold Jehovah's Witnesses and everything they stand for.

The regimented life we led as a family bore no resemblance to my school friends. Meetings, field service and family study. 1981 through to 1987 were just routine based around what the Watchtower wanted. I kept telling myself that it was not right to feel the way I did. Why the hell did I have to be the one unlucky enough to be being raised as a JW? But what else was there. You were raised to believe that it was worth all the short term suffering for the wonderful future. My parents kept telling me they knew how I felt. How could they? They were never raised in the truth. They had all the benefits of a normal contemporary childhood. They went into it as grown adults.

This was the ultimate irony in my book. Parents, elders, and other authority figures within the organization telling us how good all us "youth" were. How we were setting such an example etc. etc. Experiences were told at Circuit and District Assemblies of young ones who proudly shouted "the good news of the kingdom" from the rooftops in their locale, and were an example to us all. Like "nineteen eighty-four" the reality of the situation was at great variance with the facts. Most "youth" I knew in "the truth" looked bloody miserable most of the time and would never admit they were a JW to anyone if they could avoid it, much less go out of their way to shout about it. And above all else, telling us they understood what we went through. They neither understood nor cared. Whenever a problem arose, us "youth" would be directed to some "superb article" in the Awake or Watchtower. Or even worse, that derisory attempt at understanding by the Governing Body "The Youth Book". Even the rehashed version in 1989 they gave to us free was just as bad. The same advice with a few photographs. (I'm sorry. I'm not intending to be frivolous here but the advice to the "youth" in the organization in the 70's and 80's were really of no use at all. The Watchtower had only one aim: to keep the young people within its walls by using guilt.) The people of my generation were going to parents, teachers, careers advisors and other helpful people and getting sound advice on sex, dating, careers, jobs, their fears and ambitions and so on. Not so for the offspring of the JW's. The plan for the school leavers, in the congregation I attended, around the mid 80's, was as follows: Get a lobotomy, leave school at the earliest legal opportunity, pioneer, never read anything but the Watchtower (or other authorized books) and get a job cleaning windows, or other mundane occupation that won’t encourage you to make a career.

As I have said, by the time I was 17 I got baptized. Looking back now from a distance of nearly 15 years I wonder what my real motivations were. I had nothing to thank "the truth" for. It had caused me at that point over 10 years worth of misery and anxiety. The closest I can get to an answer is that I suppose it was the route of least problems. Weighing staying in against getting out it was the least unattractive option. Notice that I say "least unattractive" and not "most attractive". I just did it because it was the right thing to do seems to be the shrug of the shoulder type answer I can give. Since I have been online researching the religion I grew up in I have had a strange mixture of emotion. On the one hand having put it out of my mind for nearly 10 years it was a painful experience to read material that made direct reference to things like "The Watchtower", "Field Service", and all the other buzz words that are part of the JW genre. But it was also very therapeutic to read material that finally convinced me I had done the right thing by leaving. To explain: after I initially left and all the "shepherding calls" etc. that go with trying to get you back, I was very guilt ridden. I would be sitting watching television thinking to myself; "tonight is meeting night" or whatever the occasion would be. It took years to stop feeling like this. Also I would watch the news and some disaster would be reported. My mind would immediately link this to some bit of Watchtower theology reminding me that Armageddon was coming. I would feel very afraid. I would say things to myself like: "Is it worth losing your life?" and "Why not make the effort to get back?" Thankfully I never gave in. Except once.

Summer 1991 my wife and I thought we would give it one final go. We would attend the district convention where we could hope to not be seen by local witnesses who would immediately pounce on us. The reason for this was as we put it "to see if the feeling was still there". On the morning of the day we decided to go we had a blazing row. Not about going to the convention but something so trivial I now do not remember what it was. Consequently we didn’t attend. To this day I thank whatever it was that started that row from preventing me from going. I never gave into this temptation again.

Gradually the routine of life took over and eventually with the arrival of our children we had the catalyst for the final changes. We realized that as a couple we could sit on the fence forever, but children changed that. We owed it to them to give them the secure and NORMAL upbringing we never had. At this time the chain was really broken. We started with a clear conscience to do things that even a few years before, even out of the truth, we would never have considered. The Christmas tree went up for the first time in December 1995. My children were now enjoying all the things I never had. I cannot begin to describe the joy on their faces when they come down on Christmas morning to open their gifts. There’s not a great deal I can do about my own childhood. But I can stop my own kids being screwed up.

Not a day passes now that I don’t stop and think how lucky I was to get out of the Watchtower and see it for what it is before it was too late. The Internet has proved its worth to me on this subject alone. The constant exposure of the failings of the Watchtower on this medium is a hammer that is and will continue to drive the nails into the coffin of the Watchtower organization.

Back to 1987. Despite my being baptized I can truly state now (with the benefit of hindsight) that I never really believed in the doctrine. For a time I might have thought I believed it but really I didn’t. Much of it was far too fanciful. I always had doubts that I couldn’t reconcile with facts. For example: the "faithful and discreet slave" was a case in point. I just could never get my head around that. I suppose I just developed a black hole when the Watchtower doctrine disagreed with the facts. Either that or start to question one’s sanity. I think especially of Watchtower and Book Studies in the mid to late 70’s. Types and Antitypes, modern day parallels prophetic visions and so on. (I now realize that these were the ramblings of Fred Franz). It amazes me that if you accept that the Watchtower Society as the mouthpiece of the Governing Body who represent the "faithful and discreet slave" are representing God on earth; then there is nothing they say you will not believe. No matter how ludicrous it my seem or sound. I just cannot believe how they wriggled out of "this generation" in November 1995. 80 years worth of doctrine dumped in a couple of paragraphs. It is a tribute to their absolute control methods that such a transparent about face was accepted without the majority of the rank and file blinking an eye. But above all else all I remember about the meetings was the sheer damned boredom of sitting for 2 hours to the most irrelevant crap imaginable. Having to sit rigid or else face a belting for fidgeting. Armageddon held no fears for me as a small child; if I misbehaved at the Kingdom Hall it was Armageddon in the toilet. The end of the world couldn’t hold a candle to that.

But, I digress…

For a time the pressure was off. I had left school, got part time work, did a bit of pioneering. It is amazing how "in" you get with the cliques in the congregation when you are doing the right thing. That’s what they were: cliques. All about who talked to who and why. Who was "in" and who was "out". The latest gossip. No real love at all.

To be honest, things seemed to go from strength to strength for the next year. Doctrinally things seemed to make sense. Well, I didn’t read anything else but Watchtower Publications, so any independent critical thinking was nipped in the bud. So having nothing to compare with, the doctrine made perfect sense. Any bits I had doubts about, I just employed a bit of doublethink to take care of it.

At this point I will not even begin to detail the incalculable loss caused by deciding not to go to a University. To this day my ability to provide for my family and the career options available to me were decided by the misinformation and bigotry of the Watchtower against secular education. Again, one more thing they have to answer for. I consider the "drama" at the 1984 convention against secular education the single most damaging item ever put out by the Governing Body on this subject. Within minutes of the close of the session that Saturday morning, I was hearing ill-informed comments from people sitting within earshot of me. My parents of course were among those involved. Matters were not helped by the fact that in order to meet timescales, any application I had to submit for further education had to be in by October 1984....

Then it all started to go wrong, big time. For me it all came to a head in 1988-1990. Firstly I had to quit my job following congregation pressure. You see I worked for a firm, which had military links. I was not directly involved in this but others in the Kingdom Hall saw fit to manipulate my immature 18 year old conscience and force me to leave. Although technically it was a conscience issue, the elders left me little choice. I don’t really need to elaborate on this. This not only stopped dead a career with further education which I since reflect was probably the biggest practical mistake I made as a Witness, but there immediately followed a period of financial difficulty and unemployment that to be honest has repercussions to this day.

Secondly, I met a lovely girl (also brought up in the truth). We started dating, and by 1989 we had plans to marry. Her family was very weak in the truth, considered locally to be a problem case. So my involvement was considered "ill advised" at the very least. She had a disfellowshipped sister, and none of her family was active except her father. The disfellowshipped sister was at one point the "star pupil" of a local elder. As far as he was concerned her conduct epitomized how to grow up in the truth. So when she started dating a Catholic, and married into it, she was disfellowshipped. From this point onward, this local elder pursued a personal vendetta against the family using every opportunity available. (This in itself is another story of absolute abuse of authority by ONE congregation elder. It is not my place here; however, to write it as it is someone else's tale. I only mention it insofar as it affected me).

We still went to the meetings together, and gave every appearance of getting on in the truth. Privately we started to have very serious reservations about the organization we belonged to. I had very very guilty feelings about feeling this way. Surely we belonged to the true faith. But we had nowhere to go. Our families and friends were in the truth. And it was the truth wasn't it? All other doctrine was false. The total control exerted over the mind by this cult cannot be underestimated. To actually feel that you are putting your life in danger by not doing things as trivial as attending meetings or going out in the field service is a powerful motive for conforming. Even more cultlike is the power they control of fear of one’s own thoughts; not only must a Witness be seen to carry out the Watchtower requirements, they must not actually doubt them in their own mind. Any doubt is down to "spiritual weakness" and must be confessed to the elders forthwith. So to have these sort of thoughts running through our heads as well as all the other things going on left us with serious psychological problems. Not that we were aware of this at the time.

Also at the same time, we had the usual problems with dating. Anything other than holding hands was considered outright devil worship. I particularly remember one evening my stepfather caught us heavily petting. The absolute hell we got for that still makes me squirm to this day. We were always guilty until we proved ourselves innocent. Every trivial action was treated with suspicion. For example not being allowed in a room together on our own. Did they seriously think that we had absolutely no morals? That we were going to get straight into to bed the minute their backs were turned? There was absolutely no trust shown in us at all by my parents, elders or anyone at the Kingdom Hall. Talks at the Kingdom Hall were on one of 2 subjects. Get out and preach more or don't have sex. My mother in law who is also no longer a JW tells me she had never heard half of the sexual practices referred to until she became a JW. It's not that she was prudish or naïve but simply such subjects were not mentioned in polite conversation, and certainly not in front of young children. One knew such practices were contrary to what the Bible taught, but that didn't mean every other meeting had to be full of the discussion of a variety of sexual practices. There is a time and place for every subject and Sunday mornings at 10 o'clock were not (and to my mind still are not) for discussing lesbians, sodomy, bestiality and any other form of perversion that happens to be on the Watchtower agenda for that week. Children of 3 and 4 year old should be coloring in pictures of Noah's Ark with the rainbow behind it if they are to have any kind of religious input on a Sunday morning, not asking "Daddy, what does a lesbian do?" out loud in the Kingdom Hall. True story, I was there and heard it! I recall with the utmost clarity the Watchtower study article on Masturbation in spring 1985. I was utterly incredulous that a highly personal, tasteless and embarrassing subject was being publicly discussed. Various individuals in the Kingdom Hall sticking up their hands and venturing their weird opinions on the subject. But as usual no stone was left unturned in the Watchtowers pursuit of control of the lives of its members.

To teenagers with raging hormones it is simply fuel for the fire. The rule is very simple: Make something forbidden and it acquires a mystique. The way to extinguish the flames is to use guilt. Guilt equals control. At this time of life when teenagers are at the most vulnerable, the worst thing to do is go on and on about sex every 10 minutes.

Things stumbled along and although we were not the most active people in the Kingdom Hall; we were doing just enough to keep the elders off our backs. As our wedding approached in the winter of 1990 things started to go very seriously wrong. Elders approached me stating that there would be certain people not "allowed to attend" our wedding at the hall. One of my closest and dearest friends (who thankfully left around the same time as me, and was on a downward spiral well before), was told he would not allowed to be of the wedding party. My wife and her mother were told to stop seeing her disfellowshipped sister or our wedding at the Kingdom Hall would not go ahead. Threats were made which had no (most importantly at that time) Scriptural or for that matter official organizational backing. When we sent out wedding invitations brothers and sisters sent them back. These witnesses were being told by elders not to come to our wedding, because there would be undesirable people present. The gossip and rumor spread about us and my wife’s family then was of a scale I had never seen before and was shocked to see within "Jehovah’s Organization." Rather than make an informed decision themselves, these ignorant fools chose to do as the elders told them, keep their heads down and avoid bringing any trouble on themselves.

To be honest I could go on and on about all the things that went wrong, but it is too painful to do so. What I have said in the paragraph above is just the briefest outline of what went on, I neither have the time nor the inclination to detail the events. There were a lot of tears shed and fists banged on walls in private moments. (My mother in law told me many years later she thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.) The experience of it is too much to recall, and I would never ever wish treatment that we received on my worst enemy. What should have been one of the happiest days of our lives was totally ruined in the name of the "true faith". Every anniversary my wife will always at some point makes a comment to the effect: "I don’t really know what we’re celebrating." Our wedding day was destroyed before it began and every year we are reminded of it. We cannot look at our wedding video or photographs without it leaving a sour taste in the mouth.

The conduct I witnessed at that time was the final straw for me. My wife never attended another meeting after our wedding, and although I struggled on for a few months more; my heart was not in it. I attended my final meeting a little after January 1991. Well that was it. I didn't do anything to get disfellowshipped, or disassociate myself. I just along with my wife gradually stopped going. The usual tricks were employed to try and get me back, but I had had enough. I haven't been inside a Kingdom Hall since 1991 and I will never NEVER go back. When I read about the tactics used to get people back and the lies and innuendo spread about them when they don't, I consider myself to have had a very lucky escape.

I would like to go back to what I said at the beginning. It's not doctrinal. At least it wasn’t when I started this story. Initially my problem with the Watchtower was/is the way it treats people from a human level. I have been utterly astonished, however, at the flip flopping of doctrine that has gone on over the decades within the Watchtower. To have families broken apart for the absolute truth and if God really demanded it might be said to be a price worth paying. But to have families hurt on the scale inflicted by the Watchtower when the doctrine clearly is in error is obscene. Part of my self therapy was to read "Crisis of Conscience" by Raymond Franz. I was shocked but not really surprised at what I read.

Any organization that demands loyalty to itself over blood ties is fundamentally wrong. My younger brother doesn't speak to me. Even though he no longer is a JW. The damage done during his time in it has caused a rift between us that may never be healed. My parents only have some contact, (when it suits them) because they hope one day to get at their grandchildren. Something that I can say, they will never do. Amazingly, they cannot see that they have caused any damage. They just think that we have "fallen away" and will one day come back. They have not the slightest conception of what they are in or how their lives are controlled by it. Basic family relationships are sacrificed on the alter of The Watchtower. My oldest daughter has already begun to realize that one of her sets of Grandparents doesn’t give her Christmas or Birthday gifts. I can’t think of anything to tell her that won’t be hurtful. What I said at the start: The legacy is inescapable.

When you hold your own child in your arms for the first time, the experience is burned on to the memory forever. It hit me at that moment, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, and looked down on her beautiful face through my tears of joy, that the child you hold until it leaves your care, is totally reliant on you. Everything you do from that moment on will affect your child. So to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to give your child a legacy over which he or she will have no choice. Every decision made in the name of "the truth" will have the most far-reaching consequences. Similarly, to abuse your child's trust as a JW is unforgivable. As harsh as this may sound to others reading this; I will never forgive my parents for putting me through what they did. Some things I went through will go with me to my grave. To also find out, after the fact, that I went through it all for a lie, to perpetuate the power a false organization is equally unforgivable. Ignorance is no excuse.

It was only after 5 years or so that I finally started to get my mind back together. Professional help was needed along the way.

So now I just carry on. Doing normal things, like normal people. And it does get better. I have my fair share of everyday problems but unlike the mind slaves of the Watchtower I face them on my own terms. One of the very unfortunate side effects of leaving the Watchtower is that I have virtually no tolerance of any religion at all. Yet, there are some very decent committed people out there trying to make life better for everyone using the message of Christ. I hope one day that my intolerance will subside.

I know my story is very tame compared to some of the terrible things that others have gone through but I also know that every person who tells their story is one less person suffering in silence. I have been very lucky in that I was not disfellowshipped, didn’t have to disassociate myself but just faded away over a couple of years.

As for the future I remain hopeful my parents will see the organization they belong to for what it is. Before it is too late. I also hope one day to reconcile the differences with my brother.

The knowledge that you are not alone is the start of the recovery.

This story has been a long time in the writing. I started it in August 2000 and it has undergone many revisions, updates and changes. There have been so many incidents that have come to mind when I have been writing. I would have like to have written them all down but time does not permit. Sometimes I have been barely able to contain my anger as events long forgotten come unbidden to my mind. Feelings of hurt, anger and guilt that I have spent a decade trying to forget have resurfaced. Despite this though I feel better for writing what I have down. If only one person reading this is averted from the Watchtower then my minor effort will have been worth it.

Thanks for reading.


Somewhere in England Tuesday, 05 June 2001

Update: July 2002.

My father that is my real father died on 29th March 2002. God this has changed everything. But I will tell you all about that later. Update to follow.