Jehovah's Witnesses Hate the Smurfs

By Sarah Braasch

In the early 80′s, the primary preoccupations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were Armageddon, Smurfs, Michael Jackson and demonic attack, but not necessarily in that order. As a young Jehovah’s Witness girl, my worldview was what you might describe as surreal. Smurfs were little blue imps disguised as Saturday morning cartoon characters. They were capable of murder, rape, violence and general mayhem, and, as such, all Smurf paraphernalia had to be either banished or burned or both from any respectable Jehovah’s Witness home. Armageddon was regarded with frenzied anticipation. We couldn’t wait for the bloodletting of the wicked to begin. Demons roamed the earth, along with Satan the Devil. They lurked behind every corner, literally, just waiting for an invitation to wreak havoc on one’s mind and body. And Michael Jackson was the subject of many rancorous sermons at the Kingdom Hall. Michael Jackson and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom replaced the Smurfs as the most blatant signs of the end times, the last days of this system of things.

I didn’t know whom Michael Jackson was when I began to hear his name breathlessly bandied about with great agitation and interspersed amongst the cautionary tales of Smurfs and demon-possessed antiques. I knew I didn’t have any of his tapes or records. I felt much relieved. When news of the Smurfs’ demonic nature had come to light, I had to rid my bedroom of Smurfs, and I wasn’t able to sleep for months thereafter. I was convinced I had inadvertently invited demons into my life.

Apparently there was something quite different about this Michael Jackson. He had been one of us. He had been a Jehovah’s Witness. This information blew my little mind. What?!? How could a Jehovah’s Witness do the horrible things the elders accused Michael Jackson of having done? How could someone abandon Jehovah God after having learned the truth? Was he demon possessed?

We were given explicit instructions in how to handle the Michael Jackson situation. He was definitely NOT a Jehovah’s Witness. We were told to deny him. A Jehovah’s Witness would not do the things he did. A Jehovah’s Witness is not merely someone who claims the identity. A Jehovah’s Witness must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. A Jehovah’s Witness demonstrates his identity via his behavior. Michael Jackson might have attended a few meetings. His mother might be a Jehovah’s Witness, but that did not make Michael Jackson a Jehovah’s Witness. Deny, deny, deny. We were read an official letter from the governing body of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in New York.

All of this commotion was very exciting and titillating. We had a betrayer in our midst. He was the purveyor of worldly sex and sin and demonic imagery. We secretly relished the notoriety and the attention his fame brought us. What good was it to be God’s chosen people, the only ones with the truth, to be better than everyone else, unless everyone else knew of our superiority? Battle lines were drawn. There was a fight to be had, in the public eye, in the center of a scandalous controversy. It was so delicious.

It was also a matter of life and death and demons. JWs love to whip themselves up into a veritable frenzy. They love to terrorize themselves and their children. Everything is a cosmic battle to the death between the forces of good and evil. Even Smurfs and Michael Jackson and Indiana Jones.

One day I was the odd but accepted fixture of Lincoln Elementary School in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and the next day I was the cool kid. Everyone was jealous of me. Not despite the fact that I was a Jehovah’s Witness, but, miraculously, because I was a Jehovah’s Witness. That was something new. I was supposed to denounce and disown Michael Jackson, but, suddenly, everyone wanted to know me and be near me, because Michael Jackson was also a Jehovah’s Witness. I remember little girls telling me, “You’re so lucky, because you’re a Jehovah’s Witness just like Michael Jackson.” All of the little girls in my grade had huge crushes on him.

I felt torn. I loved the attention and the admiration, but I was terrified of being attacked by demons if I strayed from the organization’s instructions. I strived to achieve both aims. I milked the association for all it was worth and denounced his worldly ways at the same time. I convinced myself that I was doing this in order to proselytize to as many of my classmates as possible. That was the other thing. We were told to take advantage of this situation to spread the good news to people who were now open to hearing it.

While I was able to withstand the siren charms of MJ, I knew another little JW girl who was not. My sister and I often played with a little Jehovah’s Witness girl named Sandy whose mother was also named Sandy. I found that so strange. I found that to be the height of arrogance for a mother to name her daughter after herself. It seemed almost like self-idolatry. I was both intrigued and aghast.

Their family was particularly devout. They sold their home. They moved into a mobile home to simplify their lives, so that they could devote more of their time to the preaching effort. They gave us their dog, Yickey (some kind of weird Swedish name – only in Minnesota). They didn’t want to spend time taking care of a pet that they could spend out witnessing the good news. Sandy and her little brother were not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio without adult supervision. Their every move was monitored.

But, Sandy’s and her little brother’s parents had both previously been married and divorced. To other people. I was scandalized by this information. Sandy had led a pre-Jehovah’s Witness life. Her family’s righteousness was newfound. Sandy had a hard time conforming to her newly strict and ascetic lifestyle. She had a secret life in which she indulged in wicked worldliness. But, just a little bit. I was both repelled with fear and disgust and wholly enthralled by more than a little fear and disgust.

Sandy and I bonded over this shared attraction to the dark side. My mother had not been a JW until she married my father. As such, she was far more lenient than most Jehovah’s Witness mothers regarding our daily activities. I was probably worse the wear for it. It almost made me Catholic, the extreme guilt that I felt. But, it was even worse, because my guilt was coupled with sheer terror, because I was certain that I was deserving of demonic attack.

One day at Sandy’s house, she led my sister and I into her bedroom to exchange confidences and demon attack horror stories. Then, she revealed her deep and abiding love for, of all things, Michael Jackson. I think I might have shrieked. Then, she opened up the top drawer of her dresser and flung her undergarments onto her bed, revealing a huge stash of Michael Jackson pictures that she had cut from the pages of magazines and whatnot. How she had escaped her mother’s watchful eye long enough to do so was beyond me. Pictures of Michael Jackson in concert. Pictures of Michael Jackson in his videos. Pictures of Michael Jackson posing for photo shoots. She handed some of the images to my sister and I.

I didn’t want to touch the photos. I was literally terrified. It was as if she had pulled voodoo dolls or a Ouija board out from her dresser. Nothing is more terrifying to Jehovah’s Witnesses than the Satanic Ouija board. I thought demons were going to appear at any moment. I thought I was being possessed at that moment. I almost fainted. I started to cry. My sister looked scared too. I begged her to put the pictures away. Scaring one another with tales of bad Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been rightfully tormented by demons was one thing. But, actually inviting demons into our lives was something else entirely. And that’s what those pictures were. They were portals to the spiritual world, the evil spiritual world. They were doorways, and demons were waiting on the other side, itching to get in through my fingertips.

It’s truly amazing and horrifying how brainwashing and inculcation as a child stays with you throughout your life. I am an adult. I am well educated. I have not been a Jehovah’s Witness for many, many years. I am an atheist. Most of the time. But, sometimes, especially when I’m stressed out and tired, I’ll start to feel that old sense of panic and anxiety. I’m sure I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I will still call out to Jehovah to protect me from demons, but only every once in a blue moon. And, I feel the need less and less. These moments of psychosis become more and more rare. I’m really looking forward to the time when they will cease altogether, if that ever happens.

I became addicted to the drama. It was such a rush, such a high. A constant battle with demons. The ever-incipient apocalypse. The community wide martyr complex. I sometimes wonder if maybe it permanently damaged my brain. I was constantly pumped full of adrenaline, high on terror, living on a knife’s edge, waiting for the next demonic attack.

That lifestyle has maintained its grasp on me in myriad ways. I overreact. I am hyper-emotional. Everything’s a matter of life and death. The problem is two-fold. I’m addicted to the rush of chemicals in my body, and I never learned how to distinguish between the real emergency and the fake one. When pictures of Michael Jackson might contain demons, something about your life is slightly skewed.

I fell into something of a depression when Michael Jackson died. I was unbelievably sad. I was embarrassed to tell anyone. I had enjoyed his music, but I had never been a huge fan. I had never purchased any of his albums. I had never seen him in concert. I had never met him, of course. But, his death opened up a lot of childhood wounds. I felt like I knew a part of him. Like I understood in a way that few others would.

I knew the pain of growing up in an abusive Jehovah’s Witness home with a subservient and submissive mother and a domineering father. I knew the pain of loving a mother who will not protect you, because she believes that God will condemn her for doing so. The pain of loving a mother who will not leave the man who believes it is within his God-given authority to beat you. The pain of loving a mother who would rather watch you suffer in misery than expose Jehovah God or his organization to public scorn and shame.

Growing up, I loved my mother more than anything, but she didn’t love me more than anything. She loved her religion more. It still makes me cry. So when Michael Jackson died, I cried. I cried for the little girl who was terrified that demons were going to rape her in the middle of the night. I cried for the little girl who begged her mother to leave her father. I cried for the little girl who begged Jehovah God to kill her, so that the pain would stop. And, I cried for the little Jehovah’s Witness boy that Michael Jackson had been.

I worry about Michael’s kids. I know that sounds silly, but I think about them. I hope they are safe and well. I worry that they are being inculcated in that apocalyptic cult of demonology and terror that is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is not a healthy environment for children. Not to mention the fact that that cult once denounced and disowned their father as wicked and sinful.

I worry about Paris. The Jehovah’s Witnesses espouse the subjugation of women and girls as part of Jehovah’s divinely ordained plan. Raising children as Jehovah’s Witnesses is abusive, especially for girl children. It is also dangerous. The Jehovah’s Witnesses provide a safe haven for pedophiles, abusers and molesters. I imagine that Michael Jackson suffered greatly as a result of having been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

I worry about Katherine Jackson raising those kids as Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t know her. I’ve never met her. But, I am tired of hearing her spoken of as if she were some kind of saint for remaining with her tyrannical husband all of these years. I am tired of hearing her spoken of as if she were some kind of saint because she’s religious, because she’s a woman of faith, because she’s spiritual.

My mother was spiritual. My mother was a woman of faith. My mother was religious. My mother is still married to my father. They still live together. I haven’t spoken to either of them in nearly twenty years.

My mother chose her husband and her religion and her God over her children. She stood by and did nothing as her children suffered at the hands of her husband. She stood by and did nothing as her cult terrorized and tortured her children. She sacrificed us for her faith. She sacrificed us for her loveless marriage.

I got down on my hands and knees and begged my mother to protect me. I begged her to choose me. I begged her to love me. And she said no.

So, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t think women should be canonized for holding their faith in higher regard than the protection of their own children. And, I’m not sure they should be rewarded with even more children to neglect in this way.

I don’t want Michael’s kids to have to beg.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Adam Howard

    Wow, Sarah. Your accounts of growing up JW are riveting. And horrifying. Very very horrifying. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    :(

  • Gary

    Touching and eloquent. More people should read this.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Thanks for a beautifully moving post. I was never a Michael Jackson fan, but I think I will view his life more sympathetically now that you’ve provided some insight into what life can be like for JW kids.

  • http://anadder.com Michael

    It’s almost impossible for someone who’s never been through this to see what it’s like to be gripped by terror even years after you become an atheist, to experience a process of shedding the terror that takes much longer than it takes to lose your religion.

    Thanks for posting this — I’m glad you mention that for you this is subsiding over time and hope that it continues in the same direction for a speedy and complete emancipation from these moments.

  • http://indarkplaces.wordpress.com Justin

    Amen.

    So much of your story rings home for me. I was born in ’82 and raised a JW in a very religious home (all of my family members currently serve out-of-country, “where the need is greater”) and went through a religious de-conversion in my early 20′s, going through all the stages of agnosticism to eventually end up nearest the atheist end of the spectrum.

    I had Smurf dolls in my room throughout my childhood and don’t remember ever having to remove them, although I always did have an irrational hatred for Smurfette. Maybe it was more of a local thing, I’m not sure. It’s interesting; I will always remember the exact moment when I realized the hypocrisy of the organization. We used to have regular congregation dances, where really tame dance music would be played (I’m talking polkas, square-dances, and two-steps here). When I was 20 years old I drove to a similar event going on in a friend’s congregation one province over, but the music they played there was all trance and techno. They even had lasers, smoke machines, and a bar. I was shocked and appalled at first, but got over it, drank way too much at the bar, insulted some people I had just met, and spent the rest of the night passed out on top of a collapsable ironing board. The next day I gave some real hard thought to the ideas I had held about a homogenous organization with similar beliefs and values. Apparently, they weren’t so homogenous.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    Holy shit. Halfway through the first paragraph, I saw where this was going. The brand of fundagelical I fell into was eerily similar on the pop culture issue: if it didn’t glorify God, then it was the work of the goddamned Devil because it distracted you from the whole point of life on Earth, which was glorifying God.

    Choking up writing this. My eyes are sticky from reading. My heart goes out to you.

  • aoi

    This is exactly what an individual should mean when they speak of religion’s harrowing abuse of children.

  • abusedbypenguins

    Child abuse is child abuse even if is masked by religion. We humans are seriously fucked-up in allowing all of this abuse to happen. From mormon secret underwear to pedophile catholic priests to muslem suicide bombers. All of this pain and suffering of children in the name of religion. I consider myself lucky to have been kicked out of catholic school at the age of 8 because I would not let myself be brainwashed by the penguins. I was in trouble 5 days a week and they finally gave up. I suffered for it but would not bend. Then there the millions who are not so lucky and succumb for the constant hammering of religion into their developing minds and unfortunately some of them become monsters and do horrible things to women and children. I salute those who escape this nightmare of religion.

  • Sean

    “A Jehovah’s Witness must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” That is absolutely true, as it was of Jesus. The scriptures say that our worship should be free of hypocrisy. Jesus did not spend his time drumming up emotional ferver but focused on God’s word, plain and simple. The problem is today no one reads it. They simply chose to believe any kind of exaggerated story passed on by word-of-mouth by some who chose to leave for personal reasons. I usually find such stories to be more of a justification for doing nothing, rather than legitimate Bible-based differences. And usually it is full of fault finding of imperfect humans, which no one can verify. It sounds like you spent far too much time thinking about incidental matters, rather than making a serious study of the scriptures. I’ve been a Witness for over 40 years and your story just does not have the ring of truth or represent Jehoavh’s Witnesses in general. I’m not judging you..just calling for balance when others stumble upon your comments without the benefit of experience. It is obvious that the mood in society these days is to condemn christianity in general and they are quick to believe anything negative, as it appeals to their conscience. We have been telling people for years that this time was coming and it will inevitably lead to an all-out effort to rid the earth of what people see as detructive and divisive religions worldwide. All over the world atheism IS growing and political organisations ARE increasingly determined to restrict religion in order to achieve peace. Anyone familiar with the book of Revelation is well aware that these thoughts will lead to an attack to destroy ALL religion as a service to mankind. Governments will believe they have thereby provided “peace and security”. These are serious matters and I’ve lived long enough to know that the worldwide stage is being set for God to intervene and finally answer the prayers Jesus taught us im Matthew 6 – “Let your kingdom COME. Your will be done, on the EARTH as it IS in the heaven”. An end of all religion is the first step in a salvo that begins God’s war of Armeggedon and concludes by cleansing the earth of ALL wickedness, leaving Jesus free to bring permanent peace to the earth. We all need to give thought to supporting the “Prince of Peace” at this time rather than wasting our time dwelling on a man who became rich by promoting the occult and was never dedicated as a Christian or some silly lifeless dolls. There is no room for such self-serving and frivilous nonesense in the life of a Christian. Jesus was not afraid of demons and did not idolize humans who flaunted their self obsorbed lifestyle while bringing reproach on God by claiming to worship him. He “walked the walk” on “the narrow road”.

  • Pingback: A Story from a De-Converted Jehovah Witness « Snippets

  • Richard P

    Please do not feed the troll.

    Sarah, Way to go. Glad to hear your on the road of recovery. It is hard, I did not have the religious Zelit part of that life. But I did live in terror for my life with a father that new of only two ways to communicate, violence and intimidation. I know how hopeless it can seem. I also know how great life is with out the shackles of fear. So good luck, on your journey. I hope one day your mom will see the error of her ways and realize what a great person she lost for nothing.

    So, way to go girl. Be proud of your self.

  • No More Faith

    Sean is a good example of why people are moving away from religion. Sean is a little too happy to see the “cleansing of the earth of ALL wickedness”—in other words, lots of bloodshed and pain to those who don’t follow the scriptures like Sean does. Pitiful and disgusting…

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    I became addicted to the drama. It was such a rush, such a high. A constant battle with demons. The ever-incipient apocalypse. The community wide martyr complex.

    Bingo.

  • Maynard

    Reading this story makes me thankful that I was brought up in such a mild form of religion (Methodism). Sarah, I’m sorry for your troubles. And I applaud you for your ability to break free, and more so for you willingness to share your “demons” with us.
    I’m not trying to feed a troll but,

    All over the world atheism IS growing and political organisations ARE increasingly determined to restrict religion in order to achieve peace. Anyone familiar with the book of Revelation is well aware that these thoughts will lead to an attack to destroy ALL religion as a service to mankind.

    Hahahahahaha! Um, yep! Thanks you Sean for clearing that up for us.

  • Caiphen

    There’s yet another religion just like this. The Seventh Day Adventist Church. I was involved in it, on and off for about 13 odd years, but mostly off for the last 9. After about 3-4 years I started to think, what a load of nonsense! I was 1 person of the 6% of the church who wasn’t ignorant enough to be a creationist. Damn, when I think about it, 94% of 15 million brainwashed. After I married my wife, whom I met in the church, I convinced her that SDA never did hold the monopoly on truth. After my first few stupid years I always refused to adhere to the rules the church placed on its followers and refused to teach my children the same.

    What brought me out of it? The scientific method is the only thing that breaks the bondage, that’s what saved me and that’s what saved my family. Religion is a terrible thing that screws up lives. I’m a proud wearer of my favourite shirt in my wardrobe- ‘Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings’.

    I challenge the troll above to rationalise his belief. If he can’t, what’s the point of it?

  • Sarah Braasch

    Thanks you guys. Be still my heart. I appreciate the support. I wrote this not to get kudos or sympathy, but it’s nice to hear (or read), but to spread awareness. This cult devastates lives and minds, especially of women and children. It teaches hatred and fear.

    As far as the troll is concerned, I feel like making use of a latin legal phrase — res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. His comment is rather a confirmation of my piece than a condemnation of it.

    That’s what this cult does — it teaches people that wishing and trying to bring about the death and destruction of most living things on this earth through war and ethnic cleansing and genocide in order to usher in a dictatorship is reasonable and desirable. (And the arrogance! Only the JWs will be saved.)

    Thanks again. Spread the good news far and wide. We need to put an end to this cult’s efforts to legitimize itself in the public eye. Via good old fashioned word of mouth.

  • http://unreligiousright.blogspot.com/ UNRR

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 11/12/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Jehovah’s Witnesses, Micheal Jackson and Ouija boards! So did anyone else see the Sky TV seance where a medium and four “fans” supposedly contacted the spirit of Micheal Jackson. This was apparently done with the permission of his family so not sure how that sits with J.W beliefs. It was actually the most obvious bit of hocum, and so bad I couldn’t help watching it. Essentially it looked to me that there were three genuine and gullible uber-fans of Micheals, and a girl who’s behaviour on screen marked her out as a plant (at least to me). My guess is she had pumped the other three for information about themselves which “Micheal” via the medium then repeated. Who knows how many people worldwide were taken in by this crap.

    Sarah, beautifully written post as always. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    What about Prince? I have heard he is a JW. Will you be dealing with that in another article?

  • 2-D Man

    Caiphen, that’s what the troll’s screed was, a rationalization.

    Shorter troll: “It’s not like that! You just don’t understand. Do this and you’ll understand that it’s not like that. And if you don’t understand after that, you need to do this harder!”

    You can see the same bait-and-switch tactics used to defend religion all over the place.

    Sarah, I definitely understand the lingering fear of demons and whatnot. Every once in a while I’ll be doing something and my brain will misfire. Don’t do that or God’s going to throw you in hell! I get a wave of irrational fear and it takes a moment or two to get cerebral again and realize, No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    If you think Polka is tame, you’re doing it wrong! :D

  • Sarah Braasch

    Yes, Reginald, exactly. Next week I’ll present an emotionally charged article about Prince. The week thereafter I’ll delve into my conflicted feelings regarding the Williams sisters. Then Terrence Howard. And, I’ll wrap up the series with Dwight D Eisenhower. He was old school Jehovah — when they were still the Bible Students.

  • jack

    My mother chose her husband and her religion and her God over her children. She stood by and did nothing as her children suffered at the hands of her husband. She stood by and did nothing as her cult terrorized and tortured her children. She sacrificed us for her faith. She sacrificed us for her loveless marriage.

    I got down on my hands and knees and begged my mother to protect me. I begged her to choose me. I begged her to love me. And she said no.

    Sarah, this is a beautifully written and deeply moving essay. Thank you so much. I was never a JW, and my parents were in “normal” or “mainstream” religions (Catholic and Presbyterian), but even without the physical or sexual abuse, even without the cultish paranoia and frenzy, a plain-old middle-of-the-road religion can easily destroy a family. After I deconverted as a teenager, there was an emotional gulf between me and my parents for the next 15 years. We could still speak and be civil, but the emotional closeness was gone. After that the wounds gradually healed, but they never accepted or understood my atheism. Now my father is dead and my mother is semi-senile, and the emotional chasm has reopened between us — not entirely because of religion, but partly so. All families have problems, but I think they would have fewer problems without the invisible sky fairy.

    You probably know about this already, but just in case you don’t, I recommend The Truth Book by Joy Castro.

  • CybrgnX

    Sarah-I cry for your pain. There are times that I forget that my Mother, although a devote catholic, was the kindest person I knew. For her the religion was very important FOR HER. But everyone else was allowed their thing and she did not judge. She loved and protected us from all comers. Looking back from here, she had the same flaw all Xtians have….they do not condemn their fanatic brethren.
    There is religious and then there is brainwashing. Stories like yours illustrate the wide gap that exists between the various flavors jepus lovers and their relatives the jews and islamics.
    I’m amazed you climbed out of the pit to the light, it must have been a real struggle-good luck to the future.

  • leavingwt

    Thank you for sharing your story. Most people don’t realize how many families that this faith has devastated.

    http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/wrong-with-being-jehovahs-witness.php

  • http://jwsmurf.blogspot.com JWSmurf

    Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing this! Its nice to know there are others out there who went through this sort of thing but somehow found the courage to get out of it and move on. My mother is still with the Witnesses, virtually lifeless and robotic at this point. The sparkle is gone, the zest for life no longer there. Dad left years ago, but isn’t faring much better.

    Each day I’m out and RECOVERING, things improve in other areas of my life tenfold. Thanks for being a part of that!

    Keep writing…

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Sarah, I don’t have anything to say that others haven’t said. But I feel compelled to speak anyway: I am so sorry. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I am so sorry it’s still being so hard for you, years later.

    And I’m so glad you’ve come out of it as well as you have. And I’m so glad you’ve found a home in atheism.

    I’m often writing about what atheists can do to make things easier for people who are coming out of religion: to make atheism a safe place to land. Is there anything this community could have done that would have made your transition easier? If there anything we could be doing now that would make it easier on people who are leaving abusive religion now?

  • Ben Palmer

    OK, I grew up JW. For the last 12 years I’ve been free of the mental shackles, but like the lady said, every once in a while old programming will pop up.
    Sarah, my heart is with you, and if I believed in a benevolent god that loves us I would pray to him/her/it for you. But I don’t, so instead know that you are far from alone.
    Sweet Jeebus, I thought I was the only one… My three sisters must’ve had it worse than I.
    But more than anything, THANK YOU for being strong, and for reminding me that I’M not alone!
    I’m going to save a copy of your story to show my friends who just don’t understand…you are much better with words than I am.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I don’t know if this helps, but The Smurfs always kind of sucked. The only reason I remember it at all was because it was on in between Star Blazers and GI Joe.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Sweet Jeebus, I thought I was the only one…

    Hearing people say that is one of the greatest rewards I get from running this site.

    Also, just for the record: I’ll let Sarah address the questions and comments herself as she wishes to, but if anyone had gotten the idea that she’s in any way damaged or traumatized by her past, put those thoughts from your mind. I’ve met her, and she kicks ass. She’s done tremendous work to advance the cause of human rights, not just in the U.S. but around the world – in Morocco, in Ethopia, among immigrant communities in Europe – and I stand in awe of her dedication (actually, I’m a little jealous too, but don’t tell her that). Every time I feel tempted to get started on an ark and let the rest of the world fend for itself, I remember that there are people like Sarah out there, and it helps give me the strength to dive back into the fray.

  • silentsanta

    Sarah,

    thankyou for sharing that; I had no idea how awful it was for you. And while I am certain that I still can’t grasp anywhere near what that experience must have been like, after finishing your article I find I have tears in my eyes.

    I’m so sorry.

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  • http://None Nina

    That’s really odd you say that.. I attended the Kingdom Hall until I was 15, assemblies every year until I was 18, knew I didn’t believe in God since I was 8, didn’t identify myself as an Atheist until 20, because I didn’t know there were other people out there who thought as I did or know there was a label for it. I’m 25 years old right now and I have a grandmother who is a die hard Jehovah Witness advocate and she knows I’m an Atheist and respect my wishes to be one. She still preaches to me respectively from time to time and I never mind, I grew up with it.. the only thing she ever says is “evil” is movies/cartoons that have to do with magic/witchcraft for instance; Harry Potter & Pokemon. Never, in my 18 years have they ever said anything about Michael Jackson, The Smurfs or Indiana Jones in any sermon, in fact my grandmother is very fond of Michael Jackson and still listens to his music to this very day. Perhaps your congragation is diffrent than the one we attended, maybe it has to do with states… but I can guarantee you, that is inaccurate here. I’m from Texas by the way.

  • http://None Nina

    congregation** Sorry for the incorrect spelling

  • Caiphen

    My neighbour is a JW. This story has convinced me to work on him and his family.
    One of the most sad things I see. When I have a birthday for my children I see the hurt eyes of his kids who so desperately want to join in. It breaks my heart!

    Not to mention at Xmas time when my kids see the rural fire brigade Santa Claus drive on a fire truck around the neighbourhood to receive a little gift. Again his kids can’t join in the fun. Bloody cruel religion!

  • Sarah Braasch

    The whole question of how we can help people, especially young adults, transition back into society after having left abusive religions is such an important issue.

    It is so much better now — with the internet. There is so much support and community to be had there.

    Yes, young JWs turn 18, graduate from high school, and are, in theory, free to do as they please and make their own lives as they see fit. Fine. That’s a lovely thought.

    But, as I did, they have to do it completely alone, without anything in the way of emotional or financial support. Plus, they have been ill equipped often and do not possess the necessary skills for figuring out how to get themselves into school, secure employment, get a line of credit, find housing, and set themselves up financially. The world can still be a terrifying place, full of demons. And, as I was, they are often still dealing with psychological and emotional problems.

    I am thinking a lot about creating a non profit that deals, in part, with this very issue. This is yet another reason that I am opposed to any govt funding of private and religious schools, and I strongly support public education. I think our public schools need to teach more real life skills for those kids who need that, because they aren’t getting that education at home.

    In terms of atheism being a safe place to land — I found the atheism community relatively recently. My journey towards atheism was a long one. I think this is probably a similar experience for most cult survivors.

    It is just so hard to let go of those beliefs. The neural networks have been firmly established. There is still so much fear to work through. As an example — I still have never given blood (and I have a rare blood type), but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing so. As a last act of emancipation from that cult. Since giving blood is considered to be such a grave sin.

    I just cannot say enough about sites like this one and Greta Christina’s. I just cannot say enough about the importance of the internet and access to this information and these communities. I am sure that there are so many people for whom taking a look at these sites is a first step towards shedding that fear and mind control.

    Also, I just want to suggest something — I did this a bit as well — I want to suggest that those folks that like to argue here for the religious viewpoint are making their first steps towards leaving religion.

    I know that it’s easy to get upset with them and to lose patience with them. But, I firmly believe that that is why many of them are here. They are testing the waters. They want to be argued out of their beliefs.

    I know it’s easy to succumb to the temptation to ignore them or marginalize them as trolls or whatnot. But, one of the reasons that I really like Ebon and his site is because he does show them a little more care and concern and respect than the typical atheism site.

    Not all of them, to be sure. But, it’s just something to think about the next time you react to one of them.

    Instead of alienating them, we should probably be trying to embrace them. And, assist them along on their path towards complete deconversion.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I want to suggest that those folks that like to argue here for the religious viewpoint are making their first steps towards leaving religion.

    and actually even if they are not, there will be others lurking who are visiting this site for that very reason. If we engage with theists and continue to make the arguments rationally and sympathetically we could influence more people than we realise.

  • http://1minionsopinion@wordpress.com 1minion

    This piece speaks volumes about the tenacity of the humanity. Not only do we have the strength to endure great trials, but this shows it’s possible to move beyond them and help others in their quests to do the same. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been and I admire Sarah’s success. As a lifelong atheist, it’s an experience I can’t even contemplate.

  • http://twitter.com/evancass EhC

    I was *just* talking to some friends about the “Smurf” thing a couple weeks ago. I remember the craze quite clearly: early 80s, circuit assembly in Green Bay WI, the visiting Bethel speaker shared a story… ‘Smurfs are demonic. The company behind them is Natas; Natas backwards is “Satan.” There have been reports of demonized Smurf toys. A plush Smurf doll even came to life in a Kingdom Hall and bit off a child’s finger.’ Imagine being a kid and hearing *that*… I didn’t like Smurfs personally, but my cousins had to throw their Smurf toys and coloring books away. I must admit that I find it funny now. *Crazy*.

  • Ryan Wall

    Just read your story, and i can sympathise completeley! i was dragged up in that crazy cult we call “jehovahs witnesses” through the 80s and 90s, even on and off for the past few years. my wife and i have now left the “organisation”, as after many weeks of research and de-programming we decided that we did not want to bring up our 18 month old son in what amounts to a dangerous mind control cult. Thanks to the wonderful teachings of the watch tower society, i suffered many years of low self esteem, depression, guilt (over everything from feeling normal teenage sexual urges to worrying about having too much sleep when i should be “studying” for meetings, even about having so called “worldly” friends), confusion and fear of bieng killed at “armageddon”. My wife was only involed with the witnesses for a couple of years and even that short space of time they managed to instill guilt in her for having a perfectly normal, healthy sex life with her husband, to the extent that she is now on medication due to depression and is only just starting to function as a normal human being. however, things are improving for us all now that we have left that crazy extremist cult. My wife and i have never been happier, my son is growing into a happy, healthy toddler with loads of self confidence. We have even felt able to celebrate halloween. and are looking forward to celebrating christmas as a family for the first time!
    so, for all those who have had a simillar experience to Sarah, remember that you are not alone and there is life after the “jehovahs witnesses”!

  • Sarah Braasch

    Nina, I appreciate your perspective, and I think you bring up a very interesting point, which I would like to address.

    What I glean from your comments is this: I had a loving family who more or less ignored much of the doctrine of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

    Let me say — I am sincerely grateful to them that they chose to do so.

    And, I think you’re right. Mine is a single personal story. It’s true, but I’m not asking anyone to take my word for it. I think anecdotal evidence can be powerful. But, we should all require more before we are convinced of anything.

    While sheer numbers alone also do not provide definitive proof, they can be telling. Simply google Jehovah Demon or Jehovah Smurf or ex Jehovah’s Witnesses or any other number of expressions and you will have before your eyes a vast array of testimonials of ex JWs that will appear to support my claims.

    Additionally, I am providing a link here to the official website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is their official stance on demons, angels, and avoiding demons and demonic material, including music, books, etc..

    Please keep in mind that this organization considers this to be their PR friendly, ready for public consumption version of their doctrine.

    http://www.watchtower.org/e/bh/article_10.htm

    I also want to add that the organization’s delusional insanity seems to be somewhat cyclical, and, given your age, I think you might have risen through the ranks during a low ebb. Count yourself lucky.

    I was born in 74. I’m 35. After the org got bludgeoned and dealt with an efflux of Witnesses (due to the 1975 debacle — which, if you’re not aware, was yet another failed Armageddon prophecy that the group now disclaims, along with a lot of other “unofficial” tenets), they had to dial down the crazy for awhile to get new recruits. But, then, in the 80′s, for some reason or another, the demon obsession and Armageddon lust was pretty hardcore. I think they got beaten up in the public eye pretty badly for that.

    My sister has remained in some degree of contact with the Witnesses throughout the years, so she reports back to me on their goings-on.

    She said that they really toned it down for awhile. But, now, it seems that they are dialing it back up again.

    They have recently publicized a series of open public assemblies on how to survive the imminent Armageddon and evade Satan, and it appears to be the extra spicy, full demon flavored version of the doctrine.

    Of course, there is going to be some variation among congregations.

    Also, they seem to be trying to find the right balance of crazy. You need enough demon to scare and to keep the adherents in line, but not so much that people are repulsed.

    Some people eat up the megalomaniacal martyrdom, others don’t.

    This is just the demon stuff — this doesn’t even address the treatment of women and girls, the shielding of pedophiles and abusers, the denunciation of higher education and self-improvement, the destruction of families via disfellowshipping / shunning, the denunciation of political participation, the denunciation of homosexuality, the isolationism, refusing blood transfusions for their children, and the list goes on and on and on . . . .

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com Lou Doench

    “This is just the demon stuff — this doesn’t even address the treatment of women and girls, the shielding of pedophiles and abusers, the denunciation of higher education and self-improvement, the destruction of families via disfellowshipping / shunning, the denunciation of political participation, the denunciation of homosexuality, the isolationism, refusing blood transfusions for their children, and the list goes on and on and on . . . .”

    Are we talking about Witnesses or Scientoligists. The similarities are eerie.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    Lou, it’s all authoritarian dick-waving, all the way down. Well, most of it, anyhow. Welcome to the patriarchy.

    See, people are born lazy and shallow, and have to be made to be honest and mature. In my experience, people want “doing the right thing” and “victory over opposition” to come easy and naturally to them, and for that to matter, and for everyone to recognize that (and they think that all these things should “go together”). We’re success/meaning/approval junkies to the core. Or at least, that’s how most of us start out. And so we posit God as the source of right, victory, success, meaning, and approval: God’s just the shit, just ‘cuz. The ultimate authority. Everything else around religion is empty hand-waving.

  • Thomas

    She led my sister and ME. English pronouns have the accusative form, dammit.

  • http://philstilwell.com Phil Stilwell

    Great post. My evangelical background was very similar. I also cry for the little boy in my past who believed with all his heart the lies of christianity. Life is so much better now.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Jack, thanks for the Castro book hint. I’ve not read it, but I can’t wait. It looks really interesting.

    Thomas, dammit. Sorry bout that. It’s hard to edit yourself.

    Thanks everyone else for all of the great comments.

  • Mike

    I found your article very moving. I was brought up as JW,and left in my late teens. I am now in my early fifties but I still carry the emotional scars of that time. Being a JW is to be part of a closely knit community in which everyone spoke and thought the same, and any deviation from the party line was regarded with suspicion. We had our five meetings a week, plus door to door work, and regular reading of the society’s literature. Reading anything esle was frowned upon. I will never forget borrowing a copy of “The Lord of The Rings” only to be told by my father that I was to take it back to the library. It was censorship of thought and expression of an extreme kind, and we were taught to regard the world outside the confines of the relgion with fear and loathing For those who came to realize that the organisation was not in fact “the truth”, as it liked to call itself the tension between wanting to escape and fear of what lay beyond was devasting. Many witnesses remain so for years in full knowledge that it is not what it purports to be, for fear of losing all their friends and often their family, as I did.

    When I left, there was no support, and certainly no internet! One had to manage one’s way and deal with the pyschological and emotional difficulties on one’s own. Thanks to the internet though, there is no reason why anyone wanting to leave the JWs, and afraid to do so, should not receive the help and support they need.

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  • Julie

    I am upset with the post by Sean. I am on this site today because I think I may need to find a local group meeting to help me with my emotional problems. My father was an elder all of my life. He was an atheist when he married my mother. He still is a cruel man. All of the elders were cruel growing up. I was not allowed to go to school dances, play school sports, have friends outside the congregation. We didnt have a television in the home. We had the watchtower. What messed me up the most was the teachings that the world would be destroyed. I would loose my grandparents, my aunts and uncles(Catholics), everyone at school, my teachers. Everyone except that mean babysitter that would not allow us to eat, that would watch us everyday over the summer despite our outward cries. The publications would show red skies and people hiding behind rocks. I was told that there was no where to hide from god. I became terrified of sunsets at a very early age. My mother died a year ago. She was happy to die to get away from my father. He had her so beat into submission that she did not have the strength to leave him. She always said that he missed hellfire and this was one step better. My brother, sister, and I spend over 10 hours a week talking about how we are doing each week. My brother tried to drink himself to death and I have had to be on several doctor ordered suicide watches years ago. One of the elders from our congregation had one of his sons commit suicide. There are many stories of death in my life from children of those converted. My father is still cruel. I have so much anger toward him. He yells at us because god is going to kill us any day. All of his friends at his congregation are so mean to us. They glare and talk about us. My mothers funeral was at the local congregation and I sat outside.I always refused to be baptised. I am glad that I had that strength. Oh Ya! My aunt and uncle were missionaries in the 80s and were slaughtered with an axe by the local elder!! I know that god doesnt exist and that I was taught lies because it is innately wrong. I have alot of comfort now that I know I am alone and free to evolve.

  • Caiphen

    Julie

    I’m so sorry. You strong girl, I admire you.

    One thing that I now laugh about, it the God shaped hole ‘belief’. Once I thought I could not live without god. Now I think freely, I can see that it was nothing but brainwashing rubbish. If you’re still not over that, trust me when I say this. It is rubbish. I now accept there’s no god, and I accept that without any emotional imbalance.

  • Julie

    The pain doesnt come from the religion or the control. The pain comes from realizing the spiritual abuse. The pain comes from the continual abuse. Its that same anger you have when youve been cheated, but it was someone you were trusting out of instinct. The fact that we suffered a Grimms fairlytale for the reason of insanity and ignorance is why we hurt. Those years in the 70s were traumatic. I like to laugh at them alot. Its been the best medicine. I hold to the belief that my grand children, and their children will live in a more realistic world. Letting go of the pain and teaching the real truth to friends and family is the only way to fight it. Study the new advances in evolution and the new archeology that conflicts with the bible stories and push back. Knowledge is power!

  • Stefan

    Funny. I grew up Catholic, yet I can totally relate. If you substitute other people for MJ and elements of popular culture (punk outfits, rock music, smoking, ballroom dancing, of all things) for the Smurfs, and allow for probably less (but by no means no) beating, it could just be the same story. Fear of demons, the apocalypse, the scandal, being terrified of an Ouija board, brainwashing, parents… right on target.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    Julie,
    Sean’s an idiot, and his bullshit is bullshit. Fuck the haters. Your line about laughter reminds me of something a good friend told me once: “Learn to laugh at your problems, and you’ll never run out of things to laugh about.”

    You’re right that the damage doesn’t just come from the obvious sources. It’s stunting. Religion teaches that there’s something greater and we need to line up behind it; if there’s ever to be anything greater, it is we who must make it. Religion is the biggest boogieman of them all, and good on you for stopping fearing it!

  • Caiphen

    Julie

    Keep on laughing, it’s like a masage for your mind. One thing I laugh about the faith I once had. To explain, I never believed in the creation, but the church I went to did. They pushed it all the time. I stayed in that church on and off for about 13 years. Why? In hindsight, I just liked going to church and I think in a way I was also brainwashed. Also, for the last 10 years I never really believed in God, or at least I was extremely skeptical, but I just kept on going to church and I kept on giving them money. If I didn’t laugh at this I’d go mental.

    Learn to forgive because all humans, myself being a prime example, can be completely irrational. :)

  • Julie

    Although I was raised a JW, My husband grew up in catholic boarding schools and he is so insecure. I have a cousin that was molested by a priest and two cousins that were nuns and have been suicidal for years. One wrote a book and you can see by the third page that she believed that she was not worthy of gods love. Way too sad..I can relate to them very much. Its the same core problems.

    The buddists tell a story..There was an old woman that wandered into their village. She asked if she could live there because everyone in her village was so mean to her and she wanted to leave them. Her life was too hard with them. So the village chief sent her on her way. Reason? If her own people didnt want her, she must have been a bad person and you have to protect yourself against bad people. There is forgiveness and then there is self preservation.

    Irrational.. My father calls me to fight with me. I always win. I want to kill him. I have moved across the county twice now to get away from him. Do you know how hard it is to move your whole family, find new jobs and start all over? I just moved again in August. He thinks if I come back to JW then my siblings will too. Its sad and very funny. How many people are stalked across the country by a door knocker. Maybe I should write a screen play? Adventures in never never land.

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/U612575 Timothy (TRiG)

    I too was brought up a Witness, in my case in Ireland. My parents were far less extreme than yours (and my very devout mother loves Lord of the Rings), but your tale rings true. As you say, these things run in cycles. I’ve read enough older Witness literature to know how paranoid they were, and from what I’ve seen recently at my parents’, they’re ratcheting up the rhetoric again.

    My parents are the “academic” type of Witness, who can explain the “Seven Times” prophecy in Daniel, and the concept of the “prophetic year” of 360 days. (So can I, if anyone’s interested.) I have no real horror stories. (I almost feel I should, since I’m also gay. Certainly I was damaged by my upbringing, but nothing absolutely outrageous happened, and I honestly think I was fairly happy at the time.

    The real damage to me, I think, was the faux morality. You’re taught, as a Witness, that the worst thing you can do is to upset Jehovah. Morality is about what does or does not offend God. Real morality, by contrast, is about people. And rebuilding a moral code from scratch in your early-to-mid twenties is tough. The old one keeps leaking through.

    TRiG.

  • llewelly

    Sean | November 11, 2009, 9:53 pm:

    I’ve been a Witness for over 40 years and your story just does not have the ring of truth or represent Jehoavh’s Witnesses in general.
    I’m not judging you …

    You just said her story was not true. That’s a judgement. And it’s an asinine and baseless judgement. That makes you a liar.

  • Julie

    Timothy,

    My father is an acedemic as well. There was an elder in our congregation that ended up with adjustd and well educated children. His wifes sisters family ended up with well educated children, but quiet and meek. The elder is still one of my fathers best friends. They talk on the phone all the time. I had him give me my weekly studies growing up instead of my father because their home was a haven. The Children are long grown and have association but were not controlled enough to stay firm. It is more than obvious that my father is off his rocker. I think alot of those I grew up with feel the way you do.
    I have never posted anything anywhere before. I was on the web looking for info for my sister and I came across this site. I love it and all of you for being here.

    What is your story? Something led you here? Was it adjusting who you were to what you were taught? I had decided at a young age that if my behavior was not good enough then let god kill me. It was better than eternity not thinking or living.
    Can you relate?

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/U612575 Timothy (TRiG)

    Adjusting who I am to what I was taught … yes-ish.

    I actually suspect I would have left the Witnesses earlier if I wasn’t gay. If you leave a religion merely because it doesn’t suit you, you’re never going to be happy. You’ll have gnawing doubts in the back of your mind for the rest of your life: little whispers running around your head telling you you’re doing the wrong thing. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it would work for me. I left my religion because I didn’t think it was true. This was, I thought at the time, the only good reason to leave any religion. (I’ve since revised that opinion. It’s also good to leave a religion if you think God is an immoral monster. If I truly believed in the Calvinist deity I hope I would have the courage and moral fortitude to spit in his face.) And, because I was gay, the religion didn’t suit me. And I wanted to be absolutely certain, before I walked away, that I was doing it for the right reasons. So I stayed. I stayed for quite a while, wrestling with myself, until I was certain my disbelief was honest, and not merely doubts made up to suit myself. As I said, if I wasn’t gay, I would probably have left earlier.

    I’m not a regular at Daylight Atheism, though I have popped by here before, once or twice quite early in my atheist journey. I came here to this blog post from Greta Christina’s blog.

    TRiG.

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  • Another

    My experience growing up as a JW is very similar to the one written here (minus the abusive father). From the smurfs to Michael Jackson to being scared of demonized people, demonized objects and the End (cause those people alive in 1914 weren’t getting any younger!!)

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Mike Caton

    Excellent post! I’ve just recently been thinking about this also. If you know of any denomination-specific communities for on-the-fence theists, please comment at luckyatheist.blogspot.com – I’m collecting them. There are many people losing their faith who are programmed to run for the exits when they see the word “atheist”, and there aren’t a lot of middle-of-the-road sites on the internet. If someone is in the middle of a crisis and they find a blog where people are arguing about the fossil record, they might not feel drawn in. It’s easier to get them to take a couple more steps if they find a community that’s using language they’re comfortable with and making them feel welcome and supported.

  • Luis

    It was good hearing a point of view from inside the JW. In my case I
    was very lonely in High School and the person who should have been my best friend
    was a Witness. We had a lot in common and while he did try to convert me we tended to have really good conversations about other subjects.
    But the friendship never really got off the ground because of his religion.
    He was not allowed to hang out with me after school and the friendship never fully developed.
    I resented this strongly at the time and this was part of my growing dissatisfaction
    with religion in general. He was very smart but instead of college he ended up taking a jobs that allowed him to “witness” for a longer period of time.
    I have not heard of him since but I sincerely hope he was able to get out
    of the JW at some point.
    I hope that if more stories like yours get the publicity they deserve. There will
    be less cases of wasted lives like my friend’s.

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  • upliftingmofo

    Thanks for the great story and your additional comments. I’m working on getting out myself, I’ve gone from elder to inactive in a very short period of time. Stories like yours certainly help. People saying that you’ve been fooled by the demons, and everything makes sense ONLY IF you ignore anything that contradicts their message does not help, and is an insane concept of truth or God’s word. I have much more to say on the subject, and I’d like to get in touch with you in the near future. Thanks for telling your story!

  • Julie

    Funny note about people on the edge..

    I let my husbands crazy family come to our house for thanksgiving. I nick named his grandmother satan 12 years ago. There was ten of us at the table and satan insisted that someone say the prayer. everyone refused until my husbands step father was pressured by satan to do it and he started to cry. Come to find out that only two people at the table were christian. I talked to the uncle after dinner and he and his wife have been on the fence for years. He doesnt really believe in god but finds it hard to give up the idea. He said that our open atheism has been giving him strength and conviction in what he believes and that he is not alone. I do have to note that alot of our family did cut ties with us from both sides. I am now proud of our being outward with our beliefs.

  • Frank

    I must say I did not find being a JW to be all that scary. Demons were out there, but there was plenty of protection, and demons always seemed to me to be rather feeble, at least as the Bible portrayed them. Far more scary was Armageddon, and the destruction that would bring if one became apostate. Even that, however, seemed unlikely as long as one kept one’s nose clean. The emphasis on love and community that is part of the JW experience seems to have missed you entirely. And my parents never beat me, even though they knew they had the scriptural right to do so. This is a matter of your unfortunate father, not a Witness demand. The Smurf silliness is of course absurd, but I think it looms large to you out of childhood memory. Far more harmful is the silliness about blood transfusions.

    Please don’t think I am defending them; they represent a backwards step in spiritual and moral and even philosophical progress, but I am not sure dogmatic atheism is much better. We need to look for ways to be spiritual without either dogmatism and cultism nor denial and rejection, and that recognizes the limits in our ability to know “Truth.”

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Please don’t think I am defending them; they represent a backwards step in spiritual and moral and even philosophical progress, but I am not sure dogmatic atheism is much better.

    No one is being dogmatic here in demanding evidence. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite.

    We need to look for ways to be spiritual without either dogmatism and cultism nor denial and rejection, and that recognizes the limits in our ability to know “Truth.”

    Why not deny religion when there is no evidence for it? Do you similarly extend this non-denialism to unicorns and leprechauns? And, if you don’t like people talking about “Truth” then your quarrel is with the religious, not atheists. Atheists aren’t claiming to know the “Truth.”

  • Thumpalumapcus

    We need to look for ways to be spiritual without either dogmatism and cultism nor denial and rejection, and that recognizes the limits in our ability to know “Truth.”

    What makes you think this atheist isn’t spiritual?

  • Sarah Braasch

    I don’t think there is any way to comment on Frank’s comment without coming across as condescending, but I still want to comment:

    He has expressed so beautifully and succinctly the cognitive dissonance one experiences when leaving a cult like the JW organization.

    But, he is obviously able to think critically and is in the process of establishing his own individual identity.

    I’m really happy he’s here. It’s a good place for that.

  • Julie

    I think that EVERYONE wants the truth. It is elusive. Questioning everything including an atheist belief is what many see as the only correct path.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    You mean an atheist non-belief? Questioning the positive beliefs put forth by others is what led most of us to atheism in the first place.

  • Frank

    –No one is being dogmatic here in demanding evidence.

    I think there is plenty of evidence, both for and against something like the existence of God. Believers are persuaded, non-believers are not persuaded and claim there is no evidence. You can reverse the coin and say the same–that is, atheists are persuaded and non-atheists are not persuaded, and claim there is no evidence. It is largely a matter of perspective.

    –What makes you think this atheist isn’t spiritual?

    That’s not fair. I never said anyone isn’t spiritual; I only said that we need to be spiritual. I do think, however, that physicalist (aka materialist) atheism is not spiritual by definition, and it loses a lot because of this (although of course if one is persuaded that physicalist atheism is true, then what one loses is irrelevant). And, of course, it is possible to be very spiritual and still not believe in supernatural things–e.g., early Buddhism.

    –He has expressed so beautifully and succinctly the cognitive dissonance one experiences when leaving a cult like the JW organization.

    Thanks, although that’s not the half of it. Most people who were raised Jehovah’s Witnesses (rather than converted in adulthood) end up apostate. The religion teaches critical thinking, as its way of breaking down earlier religious belief during conversion, but does not apply it to itself. I think most children raised in this environment end up doing so.

    –I think that EVERYONE wants the truth. It is elusive. Questioning everything including an atheist belief is what many see as the only correct path.

    All I argue for is that we learn to see things from many different perspectives, and realize that what is persuasive to one person is not to another, and neither of them are to be judged for it.

  • Julie

    Examining our beliefs even if we dont believe in god is important is all I was attempting to say. I had always heard that the first amino acids developed in a primoridal soup. It would be argued by christians that the mathmatical chances made it too unlikely. Now they are finding them in asteroids. They occured somewhere and possible here as well. All we know is that they are here now. Man is not perfect and we must always question what we think is true. It is the path of progress.
    Spirtual? I feel such a close connection to the human race that I never felt when I was a JW. It was us against them. Now I see us all as one people who could possibly all share the same fate. Life is so precious and fragile now. a beautiful flower is that much more knowing that it came from the same source as us and has no god to protect its existance either. Spirtual is perhaps not the correct word to use. Perhaps “spirtual” could be replaced with “aware” across the board even if we dont understand someone elses awareness.

    Regardless of what truth you are looking for..there will only be more questions

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Frank,

    I think there is plenty of evidence, both for and against something like the existence of God.

    Then, by all means please present some for god, because to my knowledge there isn’t any. And, it still doesn’t make any of us dogmatic for saying, “Show me the evidence.”

    Believers are persuaded, non-believers are not persuaded and claim there is no evidence. You can reverse the coin and say the same–that is, atheists are persuaded and non-atheists are not persuaded, and claim there is no evidence. It is largely a matter of perspective.

    No, actually it’s not, as the two sides are not logically equal. One side is claiming that evidence exists, the other is saying, “Show me.” It is incumbent upon the side claiming evidence exists to present it and the rational position is to withhold belief until such evidence is presented.

    Julie,

    Examining our beliefs even if we dont believe in god is important is all I was attempting to say.

    I don’t think you’ll get many atheists here who would disagree with you on that.

    I had always heard that the first amino acids developed in a primoridal soup. It would be argued by christians that the mathmatical chances made it too unlikely.

    Using made up variables for their calculations in order to ensure the result they want.

    Man is not perfect and we must always question what we think is true. It is the path of progress.

    Which is how science works…and it does work. It’s also how atheists become atheists in many cases, because we refuse to simply eat the spoon-fed stories fed to us by religions.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Frank wrote:

    That’s not fair. I never said anyone isn’t spiritual; I only said that we need to be spiritual. I do think, however, that physicalist (aka materialist) atheism is not spiritual by definition, and it loses a lot because of this (although of course if one is persuaded that physicalist atheism is true, then what one loses is irrelevant).

    Simply because someone believes that all phenomena have roots in the material world doesn’t mean that they don’t experience an ineffable connectedness with something larger than ourselves. It’s just that we don’t assign it supernatural qualities.

    When I look up at the nighttime sky, I am seeing a Universe so vast that the light reaching my naked eyes has been traveling years. I am seeing, perhaps, remnants of the supernovae that seeded our particular corner of the galaxy with the elements that are resident in my body as I gaze upwards.

    At that point, deities and such are completely irrelevant. This is my spirituality.
    Now, tell me again how I can’t, “by definition”, be spiritual.

  • Julie

    Thumpalumpacus,
    One of the many definitions of spiritual is “pertaining to the mind or intellect”; however, most of the variations of definition for spiritual are religious as are spiritualism. I would say that I have a stong spirit but with the word spiritual it is too easy to assume that someone is relaying the meaning of a religious conection.
    One time I referred to a spider I had noticed as having a wonderful design. I didnt mean what every one took it to mean. I got tangled with some christians over it. I am afraid of the word spiritual as to me it denotes a connection to the spirit world.
    I myself am in awe of everything around me. Awe is a good strong word that no one can mistake. I am aware of my surroundings. But I do know exactly what you mean. I lived in rural new mexico for almost a decade for the night sky and mountains. It could at times be “spiritual”.

    Frank,
    I had a professor that would find fault with every one of my sources. Then I realized that someone could easily find fault with anything I stated. Understanding that we all experience the world differntly is one thing but understanding and determining truth is an entirely different animal.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I must say I did not find being a JW to be all that scary. Demons were out there, but there was plenty of protection, and demons always seemed to me to be rather feeble, at least as the Bible portrayed them. Far more scary was Armageddon, and the destruction that would bring if one became apostate. Even that, however, seemed unlikely as long as one kept one’s nose clean. The emphasis on love and community that is part of the JW experience seems to have missed you entirely. And my parents never beat me, even though they knew they had the scriptural right to do so. This is a matter of your unfortunate father, not a Witness demand.

    Hello Frank,

    It seems to me that your comment confirms Sarah’s experience rather than refutes it. You agree that, in JW theology, demons exist, Armageddon is coming soon, and parents have the scriptural right to beat their children. I’m glad that you avoided the worst of this, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that you had an unusually good upbringing, not that she had an unusually bad one?

  • Frank

    –Then, by all means please present some for god, because to my knowledge there isn’t any. And, it still doesn’t make any of us dogmatic for saying, “Show me the evidence.”–

    I think maybe you confuse “evidence” with “proof.” I would agree with a statement that there is no proof of God, but there is lots of evidence. It is just that you don’t find the evidence convincing, while others do.

    Probably the most important form of evidence for God is the widespread testimony by many that they have experienced “rebirth,” or some such thing, amounting to a visit by the Holy Spirit. You may dismiss this evidence, and no doubt at least for most cases properly, but that doesn’t render it not evidence.

    And, again, there is all the forms of evidence I see other lines on this board try to refute. Why refute something if it is not evidence?

    To me the most powerful evidence, not necessarily for the existence of “God” as we understand the term, but for the existence of super-physical phenomena, is the fact of human sentience. Another form of evidence is the fact of causation (a mystery pointed out by my Buddhist friends that took me a good long while to understand–since in Western thinking causation is just taken for granted (in spite of Hume, who is rarely fully understood).

  • Frank

    –It seems to me that your comment confirms Sarah’s experience rather than refutes it. You agree that, in JW theology, demons exist, Armageddon is coming soon, and parents have the scriptural right to beat their children. I’m glad that you avoided the worst of this, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that you had an unusually good upbringing, not that she had an unusually bad one?–

    I think one can rely on most fundamentalists to believe in demons and to be apocalyptic. It is a rough equivalent to the knowledge we all have that one day we will die. One does not live in fear, in spite of one’s beliefs. Avoiding demons is a lot like avoiding hoodlums–one takes certain precautions and avoids certain neighborhoods, at least at night [grin].

    The scriptural “spare the rod and spoil the child” is also part of any fundamentalist package. I understand that beatings are hugely counterproductive, generating hate and rebellion rather than obedience (and even if they did generate obedience, it is through fear rather than love). I would say however that one should not distort the Witness approach here into one of strict disciplarianism. Moderation and love get the emphasis, not punishments.

    Still, thinking about this, I have to say that the presence of Biblical passages that can be used as an excuse for cruelty to children is unfortunate indeed, and tends to show that the Bible cannot be taken too literally if it is to be of use.

  • Frank

    –Understanding that we all experience the world differently is one thing but understanding and determining truth is an entirely different animal.–

    We all think our opinions are the truth, or we would change our opinions. (As a matter of fact we have some sort of “reality checker” in our brain that, at least for sane people, tends to actively forbid our believing something we know is not true, no matter how much we may want to).

    I don’t know if we should call it humility, or maybe great wisdom, but we need to appreciate that our opinion of the truth of our opinions is hogwash. (Of course this can be applied even to itself, so that one ends up being a Cretan liar).

    JWs refer to their faith, among themselves, as “The Truth.” This leaves an extremely sour taste (and a bad smell), so I am suspicious of truths, whether they be scientific or religious or political or whatever. I am more inclined to ask whether something is helpful or not, and to tolerate helpful beliefs, whether they seem reasonable to me or not.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Frank wrote:

    Probably the most important form of evidence for God is the widespread testimony by many that they have experienced “rebirth,” or some such thing, amounting to a visit by the Holy Spirit. You may dismiss this evidence, and no doubt at least for most cases properly, but that doesn’t render it not evidence.

    I’ve found a more parsimonious explanation here.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Frank,

    I think maybe you confuse “evidence” with “proof.”

    No, I’m not confused at all.

    Probably the most important form of evidence for God is the widespread testimony by many that they have experienced “rebirth,” or some such thing, amounting to a visit by the Holy Spirit. You may dismiss this evidence, and no doubt at least for most cases properly, but that doesn’t render it not evidence.

    I’ll consider it to be evidence for god when you can show me that it’s the god that you believe in and not some other entity, that it has a supernatural component to it, and that it’s not simply cognitive bias and/or wishful thinking. IOW, there’s no reason to suspect that anything supernatural is happening, and even if we did suspect it, there’s no reason to select your notion of a god as the culprit.

    And, again, there is all the forms of evidence I see other lines on this board try to refute. Why refute something if it is not evidence?

    Because people like you think it is evidence.

    To me the most powerful evidence, not necessarily for the existence of “God” as we understand the term, but for the existence of super-physical phenomena, is the fact of human sentience.

    Evolution and biology are sufficient for that and you can’t logically connect a god to this phenomenon anyway. Why do you think it shows that a god may exist if humans are sentient? You can’t do it without assuming your conclusions.

    Another form of evidence is the fact of causation…

    Which isn’t really a fact and doesn’t point to a god anyway. If you want me to agree that causation is evidence, you’ll have to produce a logical chain that shows that god inevitably comes from it. It’s not enough to simply say, stuff exists, therefore god. Anyone can say that about anything. Causation exists, therefore unicorns. There has to be a connection between the two ideas.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Probably the most important form of evidence for God is the widespread testimony by many that they have experienced “rebirth,” or some such thing, amounting to a visit by the Holy Spirit.

    That’s no different than people fantasizing about having sex with someone they find desirable and then becoming sexually aroused. People have an anticipation of what they think is some form of communion with the divine and long for that experience, so they generate that feeling and then attribute it to some kind of bonding with god or the holy spirit when they in fact generated that feeling themselves.

  • Frank

    OMGF: “Because people like you think it is evidence.”

    Let it make it clear that I don’t believe in God either. Where we differ is that you refuse to allow that people who think differently from how you think might possibly have valid reasons. I don’t think it is possible for me to break through your arrogant closed-mindedness, so I think I will let you alone in your box.

  • Frank

    Tommykey: That’s no different than people fantasizing about having sex with someone they find desirable and then becoming sexually aroused. People have an anticipation of what they think is some form of communion with the divine and long for that experience, so they generate that feeling and then attribute it to some kind of bonding with god or the holy spirit when they in fact generated that feeling themselves.

    How would you know? You are not the person having the experience; it is easy to slur such experiences, a sophomoric exercise if ever there was one. Human tolerance requires that we respect others’ experiences. We may interpret them differently, but at a minimum we must respect them.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Frank, I don’t think anyone on this site denies the possibility that there could be valid reasons for religious belief. The problem is that we keep asking to hear what they are, and we consistently get no answers. Personal, subjective emotional experiences do not count as evidence, because they contain no objective component that anyone else can examine for themselves. And, as we atheists always point out, millions of people have opposing and incompatible experiences of different gods and claim to receive different messages about what they want. Any claim that can be used equally well to support two completely different belief systems cannot be evidence for either one of them.

    Human tolerance requires that we respect others’ experiences. We may interpret them differently, but at a minimum we must respect them.

    What does “respect” mean in this context? I’m perfectly willing to accept that believers are having real experiences of some kind. I just don’t accept their claims about what causes those experiences and whether they signify anything about the nature of external reality.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Frank,

    Where we differ is that you refuse to allow that people who think differently from how you think might possibly have valid reasons.

    I allow it, but I’ve yet to hear a valid reason, despite asking many, many theists, including theists who claim to have valid reasons and evidence. Funny that. You’d think that if there were evidence for god, it wouldn’t be so hard to find.

    I don’t think it is possible for me to break through your arrogant closed-mindedness, so I think I will let you alone in your box.

    It’s not closed-mindedness to ask for evidence and point out when that evidence is sorely lacking, both in quantity and quality. If you think so, then I’ll simply point out your closed-mindedness on the reality of unicorns and leprechauns.

  • Frank

    Ebonmust: Frank, I don’t think anyone on this site denies the possibility that there could be valid reasons for religious belief. The problem is that we keep asking to
    hear what they are, and we consistently get no answers.

    I gave the board three general categories of answers and none got any response except that the bald and arrogant assertion that they are not evidence. Well you can call them anything you want, but evidence is evidence. It is not proof and I already said as much.

    I don’t know what sort of answers you’ve gotten from others, but you seem quite blind in your refusal to accept that people do have answers. That they are inadequate to you doesn’t mean they are not answers. That you don’t like the answers doesn’t mean that they are not answers.

    This is typical of all “true” believers. They think they have the truth and just simply do not hear what others have to say, and I think the atheists I’ve encountered on this thread are every bit as guilty of that as any hell-fire breathing fundamentalist I’ve ever run into.

  • http://theorangesashford.moonfruit.com Steve Bowen

    Frank

    Probably the most important form of evidence for God is the widespread testimony by many that they have experienced “rebirth,” or some such thing, amounting to a visit by the Holy Spirit. You may dismiss this evidence, and no doubt at least for most cases properly, but that doesn’t render it not evidence.

    If this is the “most important” evidence you can muster, you are on pretty thin ground. Surely you can see that the personal psychological experiences of whatever number of individuals does not constitute evidence in any meaningful way. Scientifically it is not falsifiable, but even in a legalistic sense it can’t stand (imagine a court convicting solely because a witness says “I have this feeling, deep in my soul, that he did it”). If there is a God, that interacts with the world and humans in a close up and personal way, there should be demonstrable evidence of that happening, show us that type of evidence, and we will question our non-belief. In the mean time…

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Frank,

    I gave the board three general categories of answers and none got any response except that the bald and arrogant assertion that they are not evidence.

    You left out the part about the supporting discussion describing why it’s not evidence, but hey, we’re just a bunch of closed-minded atheists, so I guess that means that you don’t have to actually read what we write, right? What you don’t seem to get is that in order for something to be evidence, there must be some linkage. It’s not enough to simply claim that reality is, therefore that’s evidence for god. Going by that, anything and everything can be said to be evidence for god, which is what Ebon pointed out above, which you seem to be completely ignoring and/or calling a “bald and arrogant assertion.”

    I don’t know what sort of answers you’ve gotten from others, but you seem quite blind in your refusal to accept that people do have answers. That they are inadequate to you doesn’t mean they are not answers. That you don’t like the answers doesn’t mean that they are not answers.

    That they don’t actually satisfy the requirements to be answers means they aren’t answers. Of course, actually wanting questions to be answered in more than just a “It just is” fashion makes us all blind I guess.

    This is typical of all “true” believers.

    Wow, you’re really laying it on thick this morning, aren’t you? Yes, us true believers who are skeptical and want evidence that conforms to actual norms of evidence…

    They think they have the truth and just simply do not hear what others have to say, and I think the atheists I’ve encountered on this thread are every bit as guilty of that as any hell-fire breathing fundamentalist I’ve ever run into.

    Yeah, that must be it. We’re all here asserting that god doesn’t exist…oh wait, no we aren’t. Well, it must be because we don’t accept your iron-clad evidence for god…although it’s based on logical fallacy, so that’s not it either. Oh yeah, we disagree with you, so therefore we are fundamentalist in our approach because we won’t listen to anything you said…no wait, that’s what you are doing.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Frank “I gave the board three general categories of answers and none got any response except that the bald and arrogant assertion that they are not evidence.”
    Yours, unless I’ve misread them, were:
    1. Argument from personal experience
    2. Human sentience
    3. Causation

    1 is not externally verifiable (except, to a limited extent, under things like MRI). It also conflicts with other arguments from personal experience, some of which are not “the right” God (or gods) and some aren’t god-ish at all, and ignores things like confirmation bias and “cultural priming” (Catholics see Mary, Protestants Jesus, but a Hindu, on his own, won’t “feel” the Holy Spirit. He’ll feel the effects of some other god; one that he’s been primed to accept). Human psychology and cultural history play an enormous role in what these feelings are. The naturalistic “everybody, through no fault of their own, is wrong” fits better than “everybody but me is wrong”. “I feel”, in short, is a poor metric for truth.
    2 is interesting, but I’ve always found it odd that nobody who uses the argument includes the other sentient creatures. Indian elephants, chimps and dolphins, for example, all show signs of having that “sense of I” that we like to think is ours alone. In whose image were they made?
    3 is indistinguishable from the same universe as a deterministic (above the whacky quantum level, anyway), godless one.

    “This is typical of all “true” believers. They think they have the truth and just simply do not hear what others have to say, and I think the atheists I’ve encountered on this thread are every bit as guilty of that as any hell-fire breathing fundamentalist I’ve ever run into.”
    Keep in mind that a) we’re trying and b) we’ve seen these purported answers before and time hasn’t made them any better.

  • Frank

    You’ve come into the middle of something. I am not arguing for the existence of God–heaven help those who do that–I am only arguing with the bald statement that was made that there is “no evidence” for the existence of God. Whether or not the evidence is persuasive varies from person to person, but there is evidence. (There is also evidence favoring atheism). If people are going to be able to talk to one another on such subjects, then sloganeering such as “there is no evidence” needs to be abandoned and a level of intellectual respect that people on the other side of the fence are not as ignorant as you think needs to be developed.

    Since you address the points, let me respond a little to the specifics. The idea that anecdotal evidence is not valid is a false idea. We use anecdotal evidence all the time. The problem here is not that the evidence is anecdotal, but that the anecdotal evidence is stretched too far, at least for those coming from an atheist perspective. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Therefore the personal testimony of a believer is not adequate to convince a skeptic. That such evidence is adequate to convince someone who already is convinced of the reality of such things is, however, perfectly valid to such a person. It all depends on the framework–the perspective–and this is built over a lifetime.

    I only briefly touched the issues of sentience and causation, and, in fact, the latter argument is quite new to me. In both cases the argument depends on “the god of the gaps,” to proffer an explanation for phenomena that do not seem to be within the possible realm of physical explanation. My Buddhist friends here in Vietnam do not see these as an argument for any theist approach but, nevertheless, do see them as arguments against strict deterministic physicalism (aka materialism). Still, they admit (they tend to be more open minded than typical Westerners who, unfortunately, are still wrapped up in the Christian notion of “truth”) that such phenomena could be interpreted as good evidence of ultimate mind.

  • Frank

    Modusoperandi: I’ve always found it odd that nobody who uses the argument includes the other sentient creatures. Indian elephants, chimps and dolphins, for example, all show signs of having that “sense of I” that we like to think is ours alone.

    This is off-topic from JW’s (who adopt the normal Christian approach that mankind was given dominion over the animals). Still, I don’t know how to start a new thread here, so I have to break the rules a little.

    I would divide living things into a number of categories. There are those that are insensate or nearly so, such as plants and invertebrates. There are those that operate beyond reflex and have sentient (emotional)responses, permitting more flexible reactions (anger, fear, pleasure, etc.). For sure most if not all mammals, and probably birds and dinosaurs, have elements of this.

    The animals you mention demonstrate a “sense of ‘I’” (often passing the notorious mirror test). Only human beings clearly demonstrate fully intelligent, rational, moral (in a Kantian sense) qualities. Hence, when I speak of “sentient” animals, I would include, at a minimum, almost all mammals.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    What you don’t understand Frank is that evidence can’t be something you simply decide is evidence. Let me explain. By what you are claiming, we could claim that the existence of air is evidence for god, Baal, pixies, unicorns, leprechauns, or any number of other things. But, in order to constitute evidence (I find myself saying yet again…it must be because I don’t listen to others being a fundamentalist and all that, and the fact that you’ve ignored this point must be my fault, of course) there must be some logical connection to the thing being evidenced. The something falls when I drop it is not evidence of germ theory, but it is evidence of the force of gravity. Why is that? It’s because the latter is linked to the phenomenon, while the former is not.

    It’s also directly measureable and demonstrable and repeatable. which brings us to another issue, which is that my feelings or my beliefs don’t actually constitute evidence for anything except to confirm that which I feel or believe. If I believe that some supernatural thing is talking to me, that’s not evidence, because reality is not shaped by my beliefs.

    This is why your examples of evidence fail and why all purported examples of evidence for god fail. Inevitably, they’re based on unconnected tidbits that don’t specifically speak to the existence of a god or they are based on belief.

    I’d also argue that if they are based on god of the gaps, as you’ve admitted two of your examples are, then they also do not constitute evidence. Sorry, but using logical fallacies is not an example of evidence.

    Now, you can go back to not reading what other people write so that you can call them names, like fundamentalist and closed-minded, because it must be obvious that those who disagree with you are obviously so.

  • Frank

    Please do not say things like “now you can go back to not reading what other people write.” That was disgusting.

    You assert that use of the “god of the gaps” to argue God is a logical error. Why? What is illogical with someone asserting that something unexplained, especially if it has characteristics that make it seem unexplainable, might be evidence of a divinity? That is a rational alternative to accepting ignorance, and one that in many circumstances is the simplest. It would be a logical error to assert that because we don’t know it must be God, but I don’t know any theist that does that.

    As I pointed out, and as you denied without explanation, you confuse “proof” with “evidence.” This is I think part of your ideological conviction that you cannot give the least inch to an opposing viewpoint–quite typical of someone who has emotional problems with religion, and does not approach the subject rationally. (Of course I wouldn’t say this except that you link yourself to a web site that says, “Why I hate Jesus” and that portrays Jesus with a reptilian head?) Hate is not rational, nor, I must say, is a picture of Jesus with a reptilian head. This strikes me as, at best, juvenile, and certainly completely counterproductive to rational discussion.

    Why is it so impossible for you to see that there just might be evidence in favor of gods? It does not mean gods exist, only that those who think so might not be completely nuts. Why can’t you see such a simple, obvious thing? My crusade, such as it is, is for tolerance–for recognition that all points of view held by rational people are worthy of respect and even though we disagree we must recognize that they are held for honest and sincere reasons.

  • Maynard

    Frank, I think your mind may be so open that your brain fell out.

    Personal evidence may be circumstantial but scientific proof must be shown free of bias and misperception. That’s the gist of what they are trying to get across.

    Stop looking at it all as a personal attack. It’s sarcasm (at least mostly) and it can be a good thing. Now take a deep breath. And another.

  • http://theorangesashford.moonfruit.com Steve Bowen

    News flash* Smurfs evolve – anyone seen Avatar?

    But back OFF topic. I have some sympathy with Frank in that it’s not “irrational” to believe in God (with the proviso that you don’t then expect him to actually DO anything other than give you a warm fuzzy feeling). It is however more rational to suspend belief until anything other than someone elses gnosticism is offered as evidence.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Steve — you’re funny.

    Also, I feel like Frank is trying to make a distinction between deism and theism.

    But, I’ve never really met anyone that argues on behalf of the existence of God from a deist’s perspective. (But, yes, theists often assume the deist’s arguments, because they are not wholly irrational, i.e. the fine tuning argument, the awe inspiring power of celestial phenomena, the awe inspiring power of elementary particle physics. This isn’t to say that they are good evidence, but, as Frank says, they are evidence, nonetheless. I feel pretty confident in saying that theism is wholly irrational. Can we really say that the Bible is just really really bad evidence of God’s existence? I think that’s a stretch.)

    But, I think the reason why we never hear deists arguing vehemently on behalf of belief in the existence of God is because deism is really just the penultimate step on the path towards agnosticism — which is just a hop and a skip from atheism.

  • Frank

    Oh I am convinced as far as I reasonably can be that there is no God, at least in the traditional Western sense. My argument here is for tolerance, which demands respect–respect that alternative viewpoints are just that–alternative viewpoints, derived from alternative ways of seeing things. Assertions that other views have no evidence strike me as just simple prejudice and closed-mindedness. After all, I believed in God once, and at the time I thought I was right, and I remember the reasons I believed, and they were good, convincing reasons, to me, then. I think we all need to be honest and realize that what we believe now will no doubt be different in ten or twenty years, so how can we be so arrogant about the truth of our beliefs now?

    Personal evidence is good evidence for most things. If my daughter tells me she saw a naked man in the street shouting, I take her word for it and we have a conversation about schizophrenia. I don’t assume she is lying or has some other motive, although she might. However, as I pointed out, I believe her mainly because it fits within phenomena I am already familiar with. If she testifies to something more extreme–say she saw a man with two heads–then I question her more closely, rather than have a conversation about biological mutation.

    Claims about personal relationships with God are probably, in most cases, species of wishful thinking and compliance with cultural expectation. Fine, but we don’t approach people who make such claims by telling them this. They have already heard it and are persuaded otherwise–and who am I to say for sure? I rather doubt, unless the belief is plainly causing distress, that I have any right whatsoever to question it, although I do have the right to give my own testimony that I have had no such experience and therefore am not persuaded.

    One does not engender tolerance toward atheists by being intolerant of theists.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Frank,

    Please do not say things like “now you can go back to not reading what other people write.” That was disgusting.

    Well, when you stop ignoring it so that you can whine and complain about us mean atheists that won’t simply agree with you, then I’ll not say such things.

    You assert that use of the “god of the gaps” to argue God is a logical error. Why? What is illogical with someone asserting that something unexplained, especially if it has characteristics that make it seem unexplainable, might be evidence of a divinity? That is a rational alternative to accepting ignorance, and one that in many circumstances is the simplest. It would be a logical error to assert that because we don’t know it must be God, but I don’t know any theist that does that.

    I quoted the paragraph in full, because it defies belief that you could have written what you just wrote and actually meant it. First off, using god of the gaps reasoning is fallacious because it actually is “because we don’t know it must be god.” Duh. And, yes, that’s exactly the line of reasoning that you are expecting us to swallow as evidence for your god. (I know you say you don’t believe in god, but I don’t believe you as I find you to be too sock-y.)

    As I pointed out, and as you denied without explanation, you confuse “proof” with “evidence.”

    That I’ve gone to great length to explain my position and that you seem to continue to ignore it is rather disappointing. You’d do well to actually read what I wrote and then maybe you won’t be the one confused about what “evidence” means.

    Of course I wouldn’t say this except that you link yourself to a web site that says, “Why I hate Jesus” and that portrays Jesus with a reptilian head?)

    How dare you speak ill of Raptor jesus. He died for yur sins.

    Hate is not rational, nor, I must say, is a picture of Jesus with a reptilian head. This strikes me as, at best, juvenile, and certainly completely counterproductive to rational discussion.

    Actually, I think it’s funny, so too bad. And, no, hate is not rational, nor is it even possible to have a literary figure. It’s too bad that you don’t quite get it, but what should I expect from someone who makes snap judgements and doesn’t actually read before denouncing others as fundies?

    Why is it so impossible for you to see that there just might be evidence in favor of gods?

    Why do you not understand my position? Oh yeah, because you don’t actually read what I write. I don’t deny that there could be evidence for god…I’m just waiting for someone to actually, you know, present some.

    It does not mean gods exist, only that those who think so might not be completely nuts.

    Thanks for putting words in my mouth, but I’m not claiming that anyone who believes in god is nuts. What I am claiming is that god belief is irrational until and unless some evidence can be produced to support it.

    Why can’t you see such a simple, obvious thing?

    Maybe my view is blocked by all the straw you are throwing up?

    My crusade, such as it is, is for tolerance–for recognition that all points of view held by rational people are worthy of respect and even though we disagree we must recognize that they are held for honest and sincere reasons.

    I fail to see what is intolerant about my position. I don’t think people are lying to me when they claim they believe in god or think they hold a rational position, but being tolerant doesn’t mean that I have to lie to people and tell them that their beliefs are rational when they are not. In fact, I think that holding religious nonsense in one’s head can be rather damaging to society and breeds intolerance. And, no, I don’t see why I should hold that points of view are worthy of respect. People are worthy of respect, bats*it insane ideas about a sky daddy that’s going to throw the lot of us into hell for being born are not worthy of respect.

    And, yes, maybe this puts me at a disagreement with some of the other posters here (as I understand it, the last three may disagree with me) but I hold that my arguments that it is irrational to believe in something that has no evidence is solid, logical thinking. Else, we would have to contend that it would be rational for someone to believe in faeries, pixies, unicorns, or anything else that they dream up. (If I’ve misread any of you Maynard, Steve, or Sarah, feel free to let me know.)

  • Sarah Braasch

    OMGF, you are right — it is not intolerant to demand evidence and to reject the claims of those unable to provide such evidence. Belief in the absence of evidence is irrational.

    I just wanted to throw into the mix the fact that it may not be completely irrational to be a deist. (I do think it is completely irrational to be a theist.)

    I don’t think there is good evidence to be a deist either. But, maybe deists aren’t completely irrational.

    But, deism just leaves you in the position that Steve described.

    And, anyway, I’ve never actually heard a real honest to goodness deist argue on behalf of his or her position. I’ve only ever heard theists assume the arguments of deists.

    Are there still any deists out there?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I suppose that if one follows the first definition of deism:

    1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ).
    2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

    then by definition the deist must be rational. However, I don’t think that anyone can get to that point, since one must use irrational means to get there (given our current lack of evidence). Using the second definition also leaves one is irrational since we have no evidence that this god exists at all.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    The idea that anecdotal evidence is not valid is a false idea. We use anecdotal evidence all the time.

    Frank, you appear to be using a definition something like this: “X is evidence for a proposition if I cite it as a reason to believe that proposition.”

    For an ordinary, imprecise use of the term, that might suffice. But it’s certainly not “evidence” as any moderately rational and skeptical person would expect. When we ask for evidence, we’re asking for non-fallacious, objectively ascertainable facts supporting the proposition in question. Such evidence is conspicuously lacking for any of the claims of religion, and when we’re told we must “respect” those claims despite their advocates’ repeated failures to produce it, we do tend to get a little irritated.

    You assert that use of the “god of the gaps” to argue God is a logical error. Why? What is illogical with someone asserting that something unexplained, especially if it has characteristics that make it seem unexplainable, might be evidence of a divinity?

    Because a hypothesis is established by positive evidence for its truth, not merely an absence of evidence for other explanations. To more clearly see the fallacy, compare the argument you give above with this one:

    “I have an invisible dragon in my garage. The evidence for the dragon is that you can’t see anything there!”

    My crusade, such as it is, is for tolerance–for recognition that all points of view held by rational people are worthy of respect and even though we disagree we must recognize that they are held for honest and sincere reasons.

    Once again, no one is denying that. I doubt any commenter on this site believes that religious believers are insincere or dishonest in their convictions. That doesn’t excuse them when they use those beliefs to justify irrational and evil actions.

    I rather doubt, unless the belief is plainly causing distress, that I have any right whatsoever to question it, although I do have the right to give my own testimony that I have had no such experience and therefore am not persuaded.

    Is that what you mean by “respect”, then? We should keep quiet and not criticize people’s irrational beliefs? If that’s the bargain you’re offering, then no thanks. I respect people’s beliefs by treating them like rational adults who can listen to criticism and consider it fairly, rather than treating them like children who need to be protected from anything that might hurt their feelings.

  • Frank

    You have a brick wall built around you that will probably last all your life, and it really doesn’t matter all that much, since you will be happy enough in your fort. I can see, however, that your words do unpleasant things to my guts. Therefore you will understand that I am not interested in further exchange with you.

  • http://theorangesashford.moonfruit.com Steve Bowen

    I thought we were being very civil to Frank in the main. Although I agree with OMGF, there was a definite whiff of “sock” about.

    And OMGF, we are not very far apart on the rationality of Deism. You have to define God in a very loose and ephemeral way to make any logical leap to belief and at that point why bother?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Not that it matters, but the conception I have of most deistic thought is of a god that started the universe in motion (perhaps setting up the physical laws) and then sitting back and watching it unfold. Yet, I still find that to be unjustifiable in that we have no evidence for some entity being outside of the universe and having a hand in shaping our universal laws and constants.

    It’s moot at this point though, because Frank the sock is gone. And, yes, I’m convinced it was a sock puppet we were talking to. Smelled like a sock, argued like a sock, used the catch-phrases like a sock, ignored objections like a sock, and all the while projected all of those things onto others…just like a sock. Then, the final flurry was precious, after Ebon explained what a few of us had been saying already (albeit certainly more precisely and in better language than I could come up with!) and it all fell on deaf ears. Oh well. Anyone who blasphemes Raptor Jesus needs to re-evaluate his life, stat.

  • Sarah Braasch

    OMGF, you are probably right. I just wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I went thru many different years long phases while tearing myself away from the JWs, and I recognized his position and arguments as mine from a bygone era of my personal development.

  • Sarah Braasch

    OMGF, I just visited your blog, and I love it.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Thank you, and may I mention that I love your writing as well (I don’t think I’ve said that yet).

  • Tom

    As someone who was an atheist in my childhood, I know what it means to leave atheism, it is similar to leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses (who were my first in-depth introduction to Christianity), or any other religion. Simply, suddenly one day you realize that your previous beliefs are unproven. So I could no longer be atheist, I saw I had no proof there is no God. And later I saw I had no proof there are no gods, leprechauns or other supernatural beings. And I might even add the unicorns that some mention here. Who knows what we will find in some remote jungle one day. Simply speaking, there is no evidence at all for the nonexistence of God or gods or fairies or sprites etc. There is some evidence some of these could exist. Some people claim to have seen them. Also some think they experienced miracles. And some have had near death experiences, including seeing some kind of a God, and seeing details of doctors operating on them, details that they could not have known otherwise. Maybe all can be explained scientifically, but we cannot know that. So I continue to consider myself an agnostic.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    So I could no longer be atheist, I saw I had no proof there is no God.

    The burden of evidence is on the claimant. The “evidence” you cited is not evidence; it is merely a concatenation of personal claims which, again, require evidence.

    Also, are you seriously agnostic about fairies? Really?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Very few atheists (here at least) would contend that there certainly is no god. So, there’s no requirement, Tom, that you believe that there is no god in order to be atheist. Most of us here will tell you that there is a possibility for god or gods to exist – we simply disbelieve that any evidence has been provided for them and see no reason to believe such gods exist. If you don’t believe a god exists, then you too are an atheist, whether you have doubts or not.

  • GaryK

    Sarah, wow, incredible story. I found this site because I am a Christian and was looking for a way to speak to my sister, a JW. The events you have suffered give you every reason to come to the place that you have. I’m not sure how to encourage you. Just saying, “Jesus will never abandon you,” isn’t enough to fully give an acknowledgement to what you have been through. The “parent” “child” relationship is supposed to be representative of the unconditional love God has for His children. That torn, through a circumstance like yours, it is an amazing hurdle, maybe. But, your instincts were right all along, and your insights very well on the mark.

    If you would allow it, my prayers would be for you, and those who are praying for others, too, that the Lord would help, and that He would protect and save. Your experience is distrubing, and you have come far. My care is simply, “Lord, please help this one. In Jesus name.”

  • http://www.otroagosto.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    Dear Sara,
    I found your blog by mere chance, sometimes, when I’m bored with work, I google the words Jehovah’s Witness… as you shall see, I feel, too, that rush of adrenaline, of momentary psychotic breakdown, when the demons, and satan, and the world, will come rushing through the door (heck, through the walls ) to take over me, and all those warnings will become true.
    I also grew up as a JW, I remember feeling very proud in the congregation because I had been born a JW, never entered a church, never celebrated a xmas, a birthday; and, living in a very Catholic country (Mexico), I felt specially proud for not being baptized as a Catholic, unlike my older brother, whom I would mock and scorn incessantly for being so tainted, and touched by the “whore”.
    As I read your post, I went from laughter to tears, I remember too the whole smurfs scare, and Michael Jackson. I remember reading an article in an Awake magazine that quote him saying something like he “didn’t believe in occultism… some time later, when I saw the video in a cousin’s house (we were not allowed to watch TV alone), I felt I had been possessed, I had nightmares for years after that, the zombies getting from under my bed, reaching for me, and I was unable to cry the name Jehovah, and thus, he could not save me; when I told this to my brother, he told me that god was not going to hear my cries for help until I talked to mom and dad and told them what had I done, I couldn’t do it, I was too scared that I had committed a “sin against the holy spirit”, and they would tell me I could never be forgiven. After that, I developed migraines that would leave me in bed for days, my nose would bleed nonstop for hours, the doctors had no idea what was wrong with me, then, one day, I started having nightmares about insects, I still have them sometimes, when I’m over stressed because of work. I knew that was my punishment for leaving the door open for the demons, just like the plagues for Egypt, millions of insects swarming my body… I was five or six years old.
    To this day, I too feel the sudden rush of anxiety, the sudden jolt, the endless insomnia at nights… I pop pills in the morning to wake up, and at night to go to sleep…
    Every time I hear the name MJ, I feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and the whole media frenzy around his death was… just too much for me, I would refuse to participate in the talks with friends about it. It was too close to home.
    My mom and brother are still active JWs, and my brother is an Elder… I haven’t seen them in years, my dad and I managed to somehow get away and have a wonderful relationship, but we never talk about “it”. A few months ago I received a call from my mother, every once in a while she calls to ask how I’m doing, and to tell me she loves me very much even though I have “forsaken everything that is good and holy”, and that she hopes that one day i shall return home “as the prodigal… etc”. This time, however, was different, first we talked for a few minutes, I told her about my garden and my cats, about a book I’m writing… and then she blurted “I just called to say that I am never going to talk to you again, since it is never a “spiritual” conversation”… I said fine and we hung up. Then I found out about the big paranoia JWs developed around the whole swine flu thing… I guess she was thinking Armageddon was next week or something. I love my mom, and wish she could love me too, but I am content with the fact that she has something in her life that gives her more love and personal satisfaction that her daughter.
    Sorry for leaving such a long comment, your post stirred many memories and emotions I rarely ever revisit; but this has given me the final push to do something I have been wanting to do for over ten years, ever since I got away; I’ll start writing about the craziness that goes on in JWs families. The only thing that had stopped me was the thought that it could end up hurting my mom, and our already estranged relationship. I guess now that has become irrelevant.
    Thanks for your courageous post.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Elizabeth,

    Even if your mom doesn’t love you, I do.

    Write, please write. It is such a release. It feels so good to refuse to be ashamed and guilty and fearful and secretive anymore.

    And, I think it is so important to let people know that it is not ok to turn away. It is not ok that we are condoning the horrific abuse of millions of children in the name of freedom of religion.

    If every ex JW wrote his or her story, no one would be able to ignore the real Truth.

  • bonnie

    i left the jw’s 25 years ago and have gone from being a devout jw to an atheist. i found the only way to break free from them and the bible was to go back to the beginning and debunk all that was indoctrinated into me. this is a step i find those who remain believers even after leaving the jw’s or switch to another faith have not done. this is very scary to do when you first leave as you have thoughts of satan has won you over, disloyalty to jehovah and the organization, your weak,your being weeded out and a whole slew of other self loathing thoughts about your self. one day a light bulb went on and i seen it wasn’t me but what i tried to make my self swallow all those years. the deliberate lies of the organization, the myths of the bible and its cruelty etc. the one positive thing that came out of leaving the jw’s was critical thinking. to have a mind free to question and let the chips fall where they made is such a gift after you have been controlled all those years. of course they make independent thinking a bad thing how else would they be able to control you. my heart breaks for those still trapped and abused…to frightened and beaten down to leave. when i left there was no internet you felt alone thank goodness for the internet where you can share and learn your not alone. there is help out there.

  • http://wheresjesus.multiply.com/ Apostate Lois

    I never followed MJ’s personal life much, so I had no idea he was a Jehovah’s Witness! It certainly explains a lot, though. The guy was completely barmy, and the evidence for it was pretty obvious. If you grow up in a home characterized by fear and self-loathing, you can expect all kinds of mental aberrations to occur. For whatever reasons, Michael was more prone to them than the rest of his family. There were times when I felt sorry for the guy. He seemed so unhappy to me. He hated himself, and displayed his self-hatred by trying to change what was on the outside because he couldn’t change what was inside–or so it seemed to me, anyway. Coming from a messed-up JW home couldn’t have helped him at all.

    I am glad you were able to leave that horrid cult. Christianity is dying in many parts of the world as more and more people realize what a scam it all is. If there is a god, then it is not associated with any variety of Christianity. The child sexual abuse cases that are making headlines represent the tip of a very large iceberg. It does not matter which denomination we examine, they all have dirty little secrets that they are trying very hard to hide. It is thanks to modern communications technology–and no thanks whatever to God–that this is all being dragged out into the daylight.

  • Trina

    Hi i can so relate to this tragic story of yours, i to came from a very problematic home where my mom sat around and made pretend that she did not see what was really happening to her 6 children. I was a young girl studying everytime i turned around my parents saw the need to make me have book study after book study because they said i asked to many questions that brought reproach on jehovah’s teaching and that my evil butt needed to realize that i was doing such. I realized things in the bible that made now sense, the watchtower magazines seemed to mock and bully its people way of free thinking and mind you now i was 7 when i had questions of why we changed our bible so much, why we went from asking for payment of the books to donations and my dad slapped my face so hard and said you are a evil little girl and if you keep asking questions against the organization i will report you and have you put out of my home! I began to grow even more determined to find out why asking questions made my parents uncomfortable and my bible study conductors where actually livid with me they would say i ask questions that were stupid and they didnt want to study with me so they passed me off to so many others who would eventually act like they didnt here my questions about blacks not being in any publications but as the beast and why we were taught that we were people of sin because we were black…I was a child that wanted to have information about what i was learning and how we get the info we were given…I was later pushed to be a unbaptized publisher and recruit for this organization and that to me was a hard and terrible thing to do to other families because they would have there children endure what i had to endure and i did not like that idea at all but my parents made me and my other siblings do the work of the organization. I was twelve at the time and so many sisters there said that i looked like a little model and they would buy me suits to wear and give me there lovely garments that they once wore and i was impressed as i am a girly girl so i love pretty things well my dad had a elder approach him and say your daughter is wearing things not suitable as a young lady, now take into account that sisters were giving me these high end suits and they came past my knees and i was only a 98 pounds and why was my clothing becoming a problem so my dad took me by the hand outside the congregation and said to me that i was no longer allowed to look like a whore in Jehovah’s house i started to cry and he said well the brothers have spoken and that is what you look like to them so just shut up and remember what i said to you next you will be put on public reproof… I would have to tell you that was the end of my relationship with the witness faith as it was not of any loving God. My mom would never have anything to say against what was happening with her children and i begged just like you for her to help her children out of this horrible confusing place. My mom only worried about my dads late hours with the elder in which i always heard her discussing with my aunts, that she felt as though there were some gay things going on with the brothers and she knew of one that was really a Gay elder but he was excused because he said he would walk the path but later to find out that he did in fact sleep with some of the young men he was studying with and not to mention some other elders but he was only talked to and not disfellowshiped only the young man who told on this elder was put out of the organization after telling 1 of the elders he had been asked to do something ungodly with the Elder brother that was gay….My mom and dad are presently still practicing Witnesses and continue to look at me as the waste of life they had but i have to say something about that, i have learned to forgive and love all and tho it has taking me so long to really get the brainwashing and the scare tactics out of my system i want nothing to do with a organization where it is ok to stop speaking to your own family members! that in itself totally shows me that a religion of such ways is not one where God resides!!! Sorry to offend anyone but my son said something to me the other day, he said mom if JW’s dont like reading or doing anything worldly like reading and getting on the internet, reading apostate info then why is the organization indulging in the website business, why are they reading things people say and cursing at people that have the right to vent about things that harmed them in the religious world!! Stop flaring up like beast when people talk about things they endured in the JW world and just take learn something new if so many have problems with the faith like Jesus said according to your translation keep searching and those claiming to be my mouthpiece or doing work in my name they are lying because we dont need a mediator he is the way and only through him shall we receive salvation! I love Jesus Blind story in the Bible, it gave me the real clarity that i had been searching 4 and with that i live and love and forgive the way of man trying to set up and make money off our love of God!! Be blessed Sarah!

    Thank you for sharing…

  • mr.c

    I felt this same way ALL my pre-teen years as a JW child, im very surprisd im still here….

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I’m very glad you’re still here, Mr. C.

    Stay strong.

  • http://riverdaughter.wordpress.com riverdaughter

    Been there. My mom was JW too, but not my father. It just struck me the other day that if I had had a medical emergency while my father was at sea (he was in the Navy), she would have let me die before she let me have a blood transfusion. And you know, she really would have let me die. Of course, she would have done it to save me but you know, I would still be dead. And I think she would have grieved over it but in the end, HER conscience was more important than my life.
    And then I thought back on all of the times when her conscience trumped my well being. Over and over and over again, she has demonstrated that my feelings and who I am personally are just not that important to her.
    She left the JWs but fell into fundamentalist Christianity. It’s almost worse. She has replaced getting through the tribulation with the Rapture. She’s even gone so far as to designate me as her only heir in the rapture clause of her will. Then she delights in telling me at every opportunity that I should enjoy it for the short period of time I will have while I’m alive to use the money. For years, I didn’t think much about it except that was my crazy mother. Now, I’m genuinely offended by it. She explicitly separated me from the rest of the family and let’s everyone know it at every turn. I’m the blacksheep. She shuns me in other ways as well and treats me like a child and my siblings like adults.
    My dad would be pretty pissed to see this if he were alive. Alas, the parent who loved his life is dead while the one who can’t wait to leave it is still alive.
    I had to cut her out of my life even though I could really use the support now that I’m unemployed. I just couldn’t stand it any more. She chose religion and she continues to choose it. God is everything to her. And unless I accept her worldview, I am nothing.
    Some people should never have children. If they feel this strongly about God, they should join a religious community.

  • B_BAD

    I feel your pain and I hope that one day I can escape the heavy burden of guilt and shame I was raised with as a JW. I hope that I can be at peace some day and I hope the same for you. My parents were both very kind, they were raised as JW also, but the organization itself warps children’s minds. My father ended up going from elder to atheist, and I’m headed down a similar path, and it’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Good for you for following your heart. And to those fundamentalists who don’t realize how brainwashed they sound, you don’t understand that not having a belief in god is not a choice, it just is, believe me I’ve prayed to believe in god, and to have peace. And I’m still not a theist. If god is real then I’m sure he is more understanding of my pain, and my struggle than you are. Live and let live.

  • karina

    to river daughter: my aunt had high blood pressure while pregnant and she had to have an emergency c section at 7 month . while in the hospital she had to have a blood transfusion cause she lost alot of blood, however idk what happened but it wasnt clean and she ended up getting a disease from the person before her so not having blood is necesarily not the reason you can die either way…did you know doctors can also put a certain amount of water in your system instead of blood and it can work just fine? that happened to my grandma who couldnt take blood cause of her age and her blood type

  • Sri

    Thank you for writing this article. It’s like looking into my own childhood through someone else’s eyes. This is EXACTLY what it felt like to grow up as a JW, and it takes a lot of work to climb out of the muck they make of your life.

  • DJ

    Nice to read another ex-JW’s account with language and references that only another ex-JW could fully understand. I too heard the same horror stories of evil Smurfs.. particularly, the one where a young girl brought her Smurf doll to the kingdom hall, only to have it come to life, jump out of her arms, and walk out of the door during the opening prayer. I got out at the ripe age of 19. Unfortunately I’ve blocked out most of my life before that, as it horrifies me to think of the sacrifices made for nothing, the relationships lost, and the opportunities I missed out on because of it.

  • Jason

    Wow. Your story brings back such memories. I was born in the 60s and grew up as a JW child in the 70s and 80s in the rural South. My parents were ignorant and uneducated, which are the perfect victims of this cult. But most of all, I was the victim. That crazy congregation, and my nutty family who were all part of it, ruined my childhood. I am now in my 40s and still traumatized by it. I have been on medication on and off for years and been to dozens of therapists. My parents literally drove me crazy and emotionally abused me while following the guidance of the elders. EVERYTHING was worldly, EVERYTHING was demonized. I’m not joking. Not just Smurfs, I mean every toy, every TV show, etc. They could find something demonic in every shape. My father would some times break into my room at night to warn me about demons and to call on the name of Jehovah if the crap in my room started floating or I started hearing voices. We had a place in the woods that I was supposed to go when the great tribulation started because all of the non-JWs would be looking for us to kill us. I was only about 8 years old. I was scared out of my mind 24/7 for years. I was ostracized at school. A little boy in the south in the 70s who didn’t salute the flag, celebrate Christmas or play sports? I was picked on and beat up constantly. My parents didn’t do jack about it. Heck, even the other JW kids picked on me too to look cool and to keep the others from picking on them. I could go on and on. It was a brutal existence. I will never recover from it. I did manage to get out in my late teens and went to college, married and had my own kids. But I’ve been a miserable person my entire adult life because I could never shake the fear that was engrained in me as a little boy. I guess I did better than many. I can remember many of the older kids were forced to quit school and become constructin workers in order to become pioneers because Armageddon was going to happen “at any minute.” Those poor folks were surely cursed to a life of poverty since Armageddon never did happen.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. I’m glad there are others out there who understand the suffering I went through.

  • melissa

    i think that’s the thing that hurts the most they never love you as much as they love their religion. To have the one person who should love you no matter what not it mess with every relationship you have have

  • Ricardo

    All I can say is…WOW. Its so nice to come across people who understand and have experienced what I went through as a child. My mother has been a witness since the age of 12, and my father became a witness when he met my mom at the age of 17. They’ve been married 41 years. I’m an only child, and I remember a ver awkward, lonely childhood. My mother was never home because she was “pioneering”, and the brothers in the congregation put so much pressure on my father to participate in the hall that he completely withdrew and became somewhat hermit like. I remember once during a moment of weakness I suppose, my mother confessed (or confided) that the only reason whey she was still with my father is because of being a witness and having me. That actually explained why to this day (I’m 34) I can still feel the resentment my mother has towards me whenever I see her. It also explained a lot about my childhood. My mother only wanted to spend time with me or be involved with me when it was regarding the truth. She even taught me how to read with the my book of bible stories. I had all of the books of the bible memorized in order by the age of 4.
    The memories of being ridiculed for not saluting the flag, knowing the pledge of allegiance or not being able to go to my friends birthday parties – all came rushing back while I read your article. I never liked the Smurfs as a kid, but I remember being told that the reason why Witnesses were so against the Smurfs was that one time during a meeting, a little girl had a stuffed Smurf toy with her. In the middle of the meeting, it sprang to life, cursed out Jehovah, flipped everyone off and walked out the door. As an adult, it sounds ridiculous if not funny. As a child being told this by the adults you trusted more than anything, its believable.
    The other kids that grew up with in the truth, all turned away. Most are gay – one even had a sex change and all have been completely disowned by their families. I’m straight, but just try to live my life as a good person. I was never baptized, because I knew as a teenager that if I went that far I’d most certainly be disowned by my family. Regardless, they pretty much have done so anyway – my mother only calls when she needs help with something. My birthday was last week. She calls me the day after to let me know that my birthday was yesterday, and that she remembered, but didn’t call to acknowledge it because Jehovah wouldn’t let her.
    I wish our words could reach all of the children in the world who are going through what we did. I would tell them ” There isn’t anything wrong with you; you’re not a bad person. You’re not the reason why your parents don’t put you first the way they should. Stay strong, and when you’re old enough you’ll be able to create the life Yu want and truly deserve.”

  • wialno28

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am still trying to create that life and hearing from people like you gives me hope!

  • wialno28

    Thank you for your courage as well. I hope you find writing about your story to be healing and cathartic. Best of luck to you.

  • http://Whooshhh.com Mark Andrews

    3rd generation here, born in, disfellowshipped 20 years ago this month. Boy does your story bring back some memories! I’m so happy not to be a part of all of that these days although I do miss the family. Lost all of them on leaving, wife, son, mother, father, sister, extended family all gone. Oh well, it is what it is, the price was still worth paying than belonging to such a ridiculous outfit. At least today I’m free and no longer suffer the same fears and extreme depression which once plagued me constantly.

  • http://Whooshhh.com Mark Andrews

    Btw does anyone remember that booklet the Watchtower released years ago: Unseen Spirits, Do They Help Us Or Do They Harm Us? That as a kid scared the living crap out of me at the time we had to study it for the Tuesday evening group study.

    Demons lol. Ahhh the old bogeyman in the closet trick, ’tis all quite funny in a way looking back, if it wasn’t so sad what this kind of teaching does to a child subjected to this level of emotional abuse for years on end. What with everything else, no wonder some of us ended up practically wrecking our lives much later on.

    It’s like being released from a North Korean torture camp leaving the witnesses.

    I guess one of these days, it would be good to meet up with a few former members again, something I’ve not done now for a good number of years.


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