Jehovah’s Witness Conference Speaker Tells Audience to Shun Family Members Who Lose Their Faith

If you’re a child raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and you decide to leave the faith, what should your parents do?

Normal person’s answer: Love you no matter what.

Watchtower representative Steven Bell‘s answer: Cut all ties with your child.

He said as much at the 2013 District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

JT Eberhard points out the irony in how this conference was advertised:

Yes, Bell preaches family values that are so strong that even if your family falls apart, it’s perfectly fine as long as you’re loyal to Jehovah.

For what it’s worth, the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website says the exact opposite — you should reached out to someone who has been “disfellowshipped” and help them rekindle their faith.

(via JW Survey)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Art_Vandelay

    WTFWJD?

    Wait…isn’t that pretty much exactly what Jesus did?

    • The Other Weirdo

      Exactly. Why are we blaming Christians for acting like Christ commanded?

  • 3lemenope

    Hey now, they’re only following Jesus’ instructions.

    I’m curious how many Christians are scandalized by this “shun your family” thing, given that. Do they not know what Jesus said?

    • Lee Miller

      Ah, you see, that’s the problem. They DON’T know what Jesus said, or what the Bible says. They only know what they’ve been told by someone in authority. Dirty little secret of the “Christian life”: no one really reads the Bible, or prays, except for a few fringe fanatics.

      • 3lemenope

        Oh, I know. Just yesterday I quoted Ecclesiastes (“Vanity, Vanity, Everything is Vanity!”) to someone I know is a committed church attending Christian, and she goes…

        Her: “That’s from a book.”

        Me: “Yes.”

        Her: “A book I’ve read.”

        Me: “Yes.

        [Very Long Pause]

        Her: “Oh, the Bible! [Beat] What part?”
        ——————–

        Which is a heckuva lot better than I usually get from Christians for Bible knowledge.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. I’m surprised she even got the book.

      • IDP

        Or they read hand-selected parts. I’ve seen adult Sunday school goers who didn’t know basic religious terms like “polytheism”. That was shortly before I decided to go shopping for a new religion.

      • kagekiri

        I have parents that are solidly in the fringe of fanatics, and I’m glad my atheism hasn’t yet been treated that way (though they have thrown the Romans 1 “atheists are just theists who want to sin” and “a fool believes in his heart there is no God” at me, along with some pretty hurtful judgments, and my atheist brother has gotten some threats of throwing him out of the house due to his religious disrespect).

        I think they cope through denial…my mother still acts like me not praying when we eat together is just some willful rebellion rather than an actual change in belief on my part. My dad just avoids religion outright since our first argument about it.

  • C Peterson

    The standard Christian viewpoint is that God itself shuns you if you fail to properly kiss its ass. This position is perfectly in line with that.

    • busterggi

      No, the standard Christian viewpoint isn’t that pleasant, god doesn’t shun you but actively plots to torture you eternally, quite a bit more drastic imo.

      • C Peterson

        Actually, the most common way Hell seems to be interpreted by Christians seems to be “complete separation from God”, which is seen by them as the worst of punishments. The whole “fire and brimstone” view of Hell is probably not held by most Christians. So for many, if not most, the punishment really is shunning.

        • WingedBeast

          Even “complete separation from God” is a form of active torture. It involves God designing you such that this would be the worst torture.

          There’s no Hell theology that I’ve come across whereby God is not the creator of Hell. I’ve come across a lot of Hell theologies where that creation is one or two steps removed, allowing the believers to engage in a bit of implausible deniability, but that’s always a thin veil.

        • busterggi

          But as god is supposed to be omnipresent how can one be separated from him?

          • C Peterson

            But as god is supposed to be omnipresent how can one be separated from him?

            Seriously? You want to apply logic to a theological question? Good luck with that!

  • ZenDruid

    I feel that any sect that burdens the public sector with unwanted dependents should be taxed double.

  • Beth

    Another way to keep atheists scared and quiet. If you want to keep peace in your family you shut your mouth and follow the rules. So sad for not only the disfellowshipped person, but the family who has to think that ‘god’ is testing them. They are suffering for nothing.

    • Beth

      and victim blaming: you left, you are the reason for the family break up.

      • Mitch

        About 5:40 in the video. That really got me heated.

    • IDP

      I have mainline protestant family who dos this. It’s bizarre, coming from a background of independent thought and calling BS when you see it. They literally whisper about what one estranged cousin did in response to being justifiably offended. Denial that anything’s wrong is the name if the game, it seems.

  • martinrc

    Around the 5 minute mark “respect the disfellowship” obviously this is because someone got out, and they fear that allowing that person to talk to any of the current members may bring some reality to the members and more will leave. Another case of keeping followers uneducated to control them

  • Anna

    What I’ve always found interesting is that despite all this, Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religion. You’d think that the threat of shunning would help to keep people in the fold. It works for the Amish, who also have an insular subculture. Insular subcultures work well for evangelical Protestants and Mormons, too. It’s just the JWs who seem to be exempt. I wonder why that is. Any theories?

    • IDP

      I suspect that for the Amish, having an 8th grade education and not handle in 21st century skills may have something to do with going back to the fold: it’s just easier to go with what you’ve always known than to have to sink or swim in the mainstream world.

      • Anna

        That’s no doubt a big factor. However, it should be noted that JWs also discourage higher education. They don’t support their members going to college. Of course, there’s a big difference between being denied high school and being denied college. Amish defectors are in a much worse position overall.

    • JET

      Admittedly I’m not that familiar with JWs or the Amish. But with Mormons, they are virtually isolated well into their young adulthood. Their lives are completely centered around the church so that they have literally no time for outside activities that would allow them to interact with anyone outside their faith. This continues right through their missions where they are paired up and not allowed to do anything without their partner for two years. By the time they are done with their missions, they’re in their early 20s and have been indoctrinated.
      Fortunately the internet is changing this and it’s becoming impossible for the Mormons to keep their kids isolated from outside influences and the “true” tenets of their religion. This might be true for JWs as well, but not so much for the Amish?

      • Anna

        It’s interesting because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are just as insular, yet Mormons have a retention rate of 70% vs. 37% for JWs. This despite the fact that Mormons are typically better educated. Given the general demographics of both groups, it seems to me like the reverse should be true.

        http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-2.pdf

        • JET

          I think the statistics regarding Mormonism are funky. First, the Mormons will continue to consider you a Mormon even after you have left the church. They simply don’t recognize leaving the church unless you fill out a bunch of paperwork and your bishop signs off on it. Not many are willing to jump through those hoops. Secondly, the LDS church is littered with “Jack Mormons”, those who never attend chapel, don’t believe a single word of the church’s tenets, smoke, drink, don’t tithe, but will still say they are Mormon due to the cultural aspects of their society. My brother is one of these. He lives in Utah and continuing to say he’s Mormon is good for his business.

          • Anna

            Well, it’s from the Pew Forum results, so I’m assuming the people in question are self-identified Mormons and JWs. I’m sure many are not devout, but there must be something keeping those Mormons willing to say they’re Mormon, while JWs are becoming active defectors, despite shunning, poor education, and an insular subculture.

            Maybe it’s the lack of holidays? Jehovah’s Witnesses do appear to be a particularly joyless religion. Then again, they do allow alcohol in moderation, while Mormons forbid that, plus things like coffee, tea, R-rated movies, etc.

            • JET

              Yes, in this regard I think the Pew results are probably accurate. While the JWs are active defectors, the Mormons are not. They will continue to be culturally Mormon even after they stop believing in the theology and stop following the rules. It’s actually the Mormons themselves who coined the term “Jack Mormon”, but that’s not listed as a religion on Pew’s list. It would be interesting if it was! :)

            • midnight rambler

              I suspect one big difference is simply that it’s possible to be a non-devout Mormon and still identify as such, because 1) there is more of a cultural/social aspect to it, and 2) there is less cult-style monitoring of members. With JWs, it seems that you’re pretty much either all in or out.

    • allein

      I don’t know about JWs but the Amish at least don’t shun unless you’ve been baptized. They even give you a chance to run around in the real world before deciding. They won’t be thrilled if you don’t come back, but they won’t pretend you no longer exist, either.

      I just saw these guys play last week at my county fair – http://www.amishoutlaws.com …their FAQ has some interesting stuff in amongst the humor (three of the six were raised Amish and chose not to be baptized).

      • kraken17

        Technically you can only be disfellowshiped (i.e. shunned) after you are baptized. However, unbaptized individuals within the congregation, for example the unbaptized children of members, can be publicly “marked” as bad association, which is essentially the same thing in the eyes of JWs.

        • allein

          Ah, ok…thanks.

  • icecreamassassin

    I have a friend that suffered from this kind of familial ostracization.

    F**k these people. F**k them, their stupid, idiotic, hurtful, in-compassionate, hateful, evil, asinine, inhuman, backwards, ignorant, damaging, sickening ideals. F**k these horrible sh*t excuses for human beings.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      If you want to curse here, you can. It doesn’t bother anyone, and it’s very appropriate for the sentiments you’re expressing.

      • trj

        I’m guessing the filter will quarantine your comment if you write too many (3 or so) uncensored swear words in your comment.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I haven’t noticed that. Testing test:

          Fuck fuck shit fuck shit

          Yeap, works fine.

          • Hat Stealer

            That’s not rigorous enough. Here, let me help.

            *ahem*

            Fuck fuck fuck these fucking fuckholes for fucking up families, friends, children, and just people in general with their fucking fuckidy fucked practices and fuckish brainwashing techniques of their shit stained prophet, Jesus or Jehovah or whoever the fuck started this fucking disgusting piece of shit disguised as an institution.

            Yup, seems to be working fine.

            • trj

              Well, fuck me. I’ll definitely have to crank up my swearing from now on.

            • Greg G.

              Lemme try:

              Blankety blankety blank
              Blankety blankety blank
              Blankety Blankety
              Blankety Blankety
              Blankety mother fucker.

              Ah, so there is a toleration limit.

            • # zbowman

              Beat me to it, I was gonna recite a certain bit’ve Tim Minchin.

    • SecularPatriot

      I, too have a friend who suffered disfellowship at a young age. She was forced out of her home by her own parents at the age of 16 due to church pressure to shun her. The same thing happened to her sister 3 years later.

      For what it’s worth, the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website says the exact opposite — you should reached out to someone who has been “disfellowshipped” and help them rekindle their faith.

      Being somewhat of an empirical guy, I don’t really care what the JW’s official statement is on the practice, I care what the practice is.

      • Carol

        Did it occur to you that the 16 year old continued to disrespect the family? She knew what the consequences were going to be and yet she disregarded the respect and care and love her parents had for her anyway. Sometimes kids have to learn tough love and for the most part it works. When other teens are asked to leave the home because of the disrespect and bad example they leave for the other children not to mention the stress they put on the family, no one questions their religion.

        • SecularPatriot

          Did it occur to you that the 16 year old continued to disrespect the family?

          “Respect me or suffer.”

          Well, at least your message to your children is identical to your God’s message to his creation.

          And I’m not sure what my friend’s personal apostasy has anything to do with respecting her parents. Part of having children is that they are different than we are. They are not the same. And when they are different, that’s not, “disrespecting,” that’s just, OK.

        • Ann Onymous

          There’s a gaping chasm between “tough love” and “kicking her out and refusing to communicate with her, leaving her effectively orphaned and homeless”.

          “When other teens are asked to leave the home because of the disrespect and bad example they leave for the other children not to mention the stress they put on the family, no one questions their religion.”

          That’s because there’s actually a good reason there, as opposed to “you’re no longer of my religion, so get out, you’re no longer our daughter”. Being kicked out is also different from being asked to leave.
          When a kid’s asked to leave due to “disrespect” and such, of course no one asks about religion; it isn’t relevant. When a kid’s kicked out and shunned entirely for religious reasons, OF COURSE we’re talking about religion.
          The “respect and care and love” which was conditional on her staying in the religion.
          “She knew she was going to get shunned, therefore shunning is okay.” Victim blaming? Really?
          Because religious doubt is “disrespect”, punishable by eviction and shunning.

  • JET

    One of the saddest things I have personally seen regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses happened in our neighborhood. A JW family lives across the street and they have two little boys, about 5 and 6. My next door neighbor was giving an birthday party for one of her kids, with a water slide, bounce house, and a bunch of other over the top attractions out front in the cul de sac. The two little JW boys could not attend of course. But they spent almost the entire time of the party peeking out of their upstairs bedroom window at the other children having the time of their lives. I can’t help but think that they will remember this forever and that a silly little incident like this might eventually break up their family. Some people’s priorities are totally fucked up.

    • Carol

      There are millions of JWs who have grown up in JW family and did not support these wordly holidays or traditions. they do not grow up screwed up. One thing taught is that the family is to be balanced when it comes to children and their activities and recreation. many of the families have parties for the children whether children video games or pizza parties or other such gatherings, these children are not left out of enjoying life. No need to feel sorry. A JW family teach their children what God’s Word the Bible explains regarding these things and inculcate these things into their children’s hearts. That’s the principle. No matter what religion you are born into, your family will have certain traditions or abide by certain principles and children can later make up their mind where they want to be when old enough to make that decision.

      • Spuddie

        And if they should ever need a blood transfusion, they should just die. Because God needs little children more than their parents do.

  • Thomas J. Lawson

    They think that the disfellowshipped person will suffer so much that they’ll be motivated to return to the fold? That sounds about right. But it is easier for the disfellowshipped person to haunt the family than it is for the family to haunt the outsider. The family has an obligation to avoid the shunned, whereas the shunned person is free to pop-in at their family’s workplace or home. They have no obligation to avoid their family, save for awkward interactions.

    That motivation to reunite is just as strong on the inside of the cult, dependent on how greatly the shunned person is missed. Disfellowshipping one’s family members in the 21st-century is a double-edged sword. Keep pushing them out, and the growing community of the un-churched will keep the safety net spread out.

    • Artor

      Mostly I think they don’t want doubters infecting the flock. It’s much easier to keep people inside the bubble if they never talk much with anyone outside it.

  • Jeannieinpa

    I went to an evangelical church at one time. They gave me a study guide, a workbook where I would read a specific passage of the bible and then read some commentary and answer questions. The first lesson was built around this issue. Apparently “Honor thy father and thy mother” was less important than walking away from the family if they did not follow the church’s teachings.

    • kagekiri

      Huh, really? I’ve seen other fundy preachers like Bill Gothard rail that God gives you your parents, so you have to honor them (though not obey them…) in everything even if they’re non-believers. That’s from the super patriarchal fundy sects, though…

  • yrathbone

    A friend of mine was raised JW. When they found out she was gay, they disfellowshipped her for drinking. Seriously, when they announce that a person has been disfellowshipped, it’s assumed that the subject of the day’s sermon is about the reason for the disfellowshipping. In my friend’s case, maybe because they couldn’t find anything in the Bible specifically against lesbians, they opted for the horrible sin of drinking alcohol.

    As she was under 18 at the time, her parents weren’t required to kick her out, but at family gatherings, no one spoke to her. She even remembers a niece running away because she’d been told some BS story about sin and well, not Hell, the JWs are very proud that they don’t believe in Hell.

    Now, I don’t play games with the JWs when they come to my door. I tell them I was disfellowshipped. Or I would be immediately. I don’t shock them with statements about my weird Pastafarian practices (although opening the door with a colander on your head is always good for lulz). I don’t invite them in for tea and debate. They’re not supposed to talk to you if you’re disfellowshipped and they’ll note your address for later avoidance.

    • Spuddie

      Oh I got to use the “I was disfellowshipped” thing when they come every 3rd Saturday morning of the month.

    • JP

      Glad to hear someone else uses the “I was disfellowshipped” line on JW’s. It’s entertaining to watch their attitude completely change. In fact I recorded one such encounter so I could laugh about it forever.

    • baal

      They have ever only stopped by once shortly after my son was born. I was wearing pants but shirtless (which is enough clothes for random door knockers). They started with “we see you have a new child”. I interrupted, “we are atheists and will be raising our son that way”. They looked horrified, turned and fled.

      I was expecting a little more out of them.

    • Artor

      I don’t even give them that much of my time. Once it’s clear that they’re selling god, I already know I don’t want any; I close the door and go back to what I was doing. Some might even say “slam.” It’s not worth a second of my time to talk to them.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    It is difficult to imagine from outside the situation how cruel shunning is, and I hope that no one ever has experiences that make it easy to imagine. Shunning is the Western equivalent of killing the family member who has left the faith. We think that Islam’s penalty of death for apostates is barbaric. Shunning is barbaric too. It says, “You are dead to us.” The parents are often the most adamant about shunning their atheist child, and the brothers and sisters often don’t want to cooperate, but the parents threaten to shun them too if they don’t go along with it. The heartbreak is appalling.

    Whether the penalty for apostasy is death or shunning, it lays bare the inability of the religion to keep its members with its virtues. It shows the religion to be a prison camp with barbed wire fences and machine guns.

  • nietzschesbreeches

    Why is the normal answer to love your family no matter what? Why are family values important? Because of blood ties you did not choose? Because of a shared history? While difference of personal belief is clearly no good reason to put your folks from your life, we shouldnt be hypocrites and claim that there is an essential family tie that it is horrible to break just because our families think other than we do, because they can think horrible and controlling things.

    My brothers are misogynistic homophobes. I do not care to have them in my life in any way. The day my psychopath criminal father kicks the bucket will be the most peaceful of my life. And I dare someone to try to reproach me for this.

    • Jim Jones

      If you have the opportunity, mention that you’ll piss on his grave every chance you get.

      • MarkTemporis

        Sadly, I expect not as fun for women as it is for men.

        • Jim Jones

          Piss in a bottle. It smells much worse after a week.

  • Gus Snarp

    My wife’s grandmother was a Jehovah’s witness. We worked very hard to get her to come to family gatherings and events, extra hard since most were Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. But mostly we could get her to come just to see the family. And various grandchildren would take her to the doctor, out to lunch, wherever. But at some point when she got older someone at the church really got their hooks back into her. She started having church people give her rides, stopped doing things with the family. We weren’t “disfellowshipped”, i.e. officially shunned, because we were never JWs to begin with. But I often wonder if this kind of attitude led to her withdrawal from the family, because obviously if we had’t converted from our heathen ways after all these years, and we were causing her to go to ((gasp)) Christmas dinner, then we were obviously a bad influence on her, etc.

    So yeah, the family pretty much blames the JWs for the fact that grandma hardly got to see our young sons, and that when she died (ever so slightly possibly because the JWs delayed her getting a blood transfusion until it was too late) she had hardly seen any of the family in a few years. They aren’t looked on too kindly when they knock on our doors.

  • imjustasteph

    I am surprised that this is surprising. My ex left the JWs, and most of his family broke ties with him. People he’d gone to church with wouldn’t talk to him. The way he explained it to me, they were permitted to speak to him only if it was in an attempt to return him to the church- not to accept him as he was. There wasn’t to be any just hanging out, chatting, being friendly- the only only only contact was to be if they were trying to draw him back in. As such, the website and speaker don’t contradict one another, really.

    • Conspirator

      Same thing happened to my friend’s wife. Her parents won’t have anything to do with her publicly, and when she went home for a friend’s funeral all the JW’s ignored her. A while back some JW’s came to my door and when I found out what religion they were I said I would never follow any religion that divides families and they insisted they didn’t act this way. I told them I would be sure and let my friend know that all was well.

  • Edmond

    I don’t understand. My partner and I hired a young Jehovah’s Witness through Craigslist to repair our crashed computer. He was in his 20′s, and was aware that we were a gay, atheist couple. He had no problem helping us out, chatting about this and that, even a short conversation about religion. He said we could call him again if we had further problems.
    If a JW can have a relationship (however brief) and interact with non-JW strangers, why can’t they do the same for family members? Why are the people closest to them them ones who are punished for having differing religious views, while total strangers get no reaction at all? It’s a twisted doctrine indeed, which does this to family members.

    • Gus Snarp

      Because it’s about shunning as a punishment for church members violating the rules. Before you’re a member you’re just an average sinner ripe for conversion. Once you’re a member, then you’ve got to be kept in line, which means being ostracized if you go against the church leaders.

      • kagekiri

        Yeah, knowing the “truth” but not believing/following it is a more “evil” position than not knowing. It’s a theme in Paul’s apologetics, that knowing the law actually makes you all the more culpable for any sins you commit compared to an uninformed law-breaker.

        And treating your family member the same despite their apostacy means you’re accepting them…and rejecting them is loving them.

        And yeah, ugh.

        • Gus Snarp

          So the best way to get into heaven is to never, ever, read the Bible or listen to a sermon?

          Heck, it sounds like putting the Ten Commandments up everywhere is condemning people to hell who otherwise might have had a chance to plead ignorance. They should be ashamed of themselves for putting up those monuments!

          • kagekiri

            Yeah, and the best way to not get damned to hell is to never see a miracle, because if you see one and don’t believe, then you’re extra-damned. Jesus says towns who saw his miracles (that he claims would’ve made even Sodom and Gomorrah turn to God) are extra condemned for not believing.

            See, Jesus never showing up in modern time just shows how much he loves us! Think of the damnation a YouTube video proving God’s existence would cause! /snark

          • Tor

            I may be wrong, but I think Catholic theology says good non-Christians can go to heaven. Because even if they have not heard of Jesus they love him, anyway. Or something.

            • trj

              There was that Unam Sanctam papal bull back in the 14th century, declaring categorically that the absolutely only way to get saved was through the Catholic Church.

              But as so often happens, this absolute statement was modified to mean something else, once it became too inconvenient. It’s still in effect (it’s a papal bull, after all), but now every person of practically any faith is considered to be a member the Catholic Church, in a figurative sense.

              Yeah, you just know that was what Pope Boniface really meant, back in 1302. No doubt he was all about being inclusive and recognizing Muslims and various Christians factions as spiritual members of the Catholic Church.

              • Tor

                Right. All lovey and sharing and stuff.

          • kraken17

            Lol yes. I remember as a child wishing I hadn’t been born to JW parents, so I wouldn’t be held responsible for my many sins. Yeah… I still mourn a lost childhood :P

    • Glitz

      I love your comment Edmond and so twisted indeed!! The reason why they feel they can do this with a complete stranger is that they have not heard the so called TRUTH so they will indeed talk to strangers with a view to converting them but there own family if have left have known it and turned away so need to be shunned!! I was a JW for 30 yrs and have been out for 8!! Very warped views!!

  • kagekiri

    A small, stupid part of me, the hollowed out echoes of my former literalist fundamentalism, almost appreciates how they’re sticking to Paul’s commands to cast out unbelievers, or Jesus’ commands that his followers have to hate their family and friends to follow him.

    The rest of me is increasingly convinced that anything, ANYTHING is better than this kind of fundamentalism. If everyone would act humanistic towards others, which seems fundamentally incompatible with fundamentalist religions with their human-hating core beliefs, I could easily live with religious beliefs of any level of ridiculousness.

    Basically, my general anti-theism now tends towards specific anti-fundamentalism; I still think progressive Christians and other religious people have some slapdash theology, but I’ll take all their ridiculous rationalizations and more for some goddamn humanism.

  • new_atheist

    To be fair, their own Bible says that God used to order his followers to kill family members who leave the faith. So…improvement?

    Deuteronomy 13:6-10

    • kagekiri

      Yeah, but when we’re grading on that terrible a curve, they’d be hard-pressed to do any worse.

      Even private torture and execution would be an improvement compared to the lynch-mob stoning they command.

  • Matt D

    Just one more thing that turned me away from religion altogether, the obvious truth that only *humans* are capable of enforcing their tenets.
    .
    Religion thrives on doubt, and that is in abundance without science and technology. They’ve used divine punishment as the cause of natural disasters for centuies (including today, unfortunately), in order to combat the idea that their diety is powerless to enforce it’s wishes.

  • allein

    I got home last week and found that “invitation” in my door; they have a convention in Trenton next weekend. Too bad that Friday is my best friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday and I have a memorial service to go to that Saturday or I would totally go. (And if you think I typed that with a straight face…)
    .
    On a side note, the memorial service is at a Unitarian Universalist center, which might be interesting.

    • pagansister

      It will be very interesting—UU here, so I can speak from a bit of experience.

      • allein

        If I were gonna go I’d rather it be for a different reason (though I didn’t know the deceased well; it’s my cousin’s father-in-law)…I didn’t even know where there was a UU congregation around here. And it won’t be a regular service, of course; but I’ve only been to funerals at churches and funeral homes.

        • pagansister

          True, it wouldn’t be like a regular service, but at least you can check out the building etc. Wonder if the deceased was a UU?

          • allein

            I don’t know; I know my cousin and his wife aren’t religious only because at his mother’s viewing last year I was talking to his daughter (who was almost 17 at the time) and she commented on how weird it was, so we got talking about religion and she said they didn’t go to church.

            • pagansister

              UU congregations are just as diverse as other faiths, and some can be more “traditional” than others. However, to be a UU one doesn’t have to follow a creed. I know of some UU congregations that have Pagan groups that meet and some have been known to have “communion”, similar to Christian groups. I currently do not attend, but my husband and I did raise our children in the UU churches. They have chosen their own paths, which was what we wanted them to do. I just wanted to give them a foundation, a liberal one, to help make their decisions as they grew and the did and have. My husband was born into the faith, I was easily brought in before we married as being Methodist wasn’t cutting it. :0) Long story short.

              • allein

                Heh, I was raised Methodist. I just sort of drifted away once I wasn’t being taken to church on a regular basis. Not looking for any kind of congregation but I figure it’s an opportunity for a little anthropological study. ;)

                • pagansister

                  Enjoy your “anthropological study”. UU’s are an interesting group. :-) I realize you wish you were going to the UU center for a different reason than the one that has occurred.

  • Alicia Hansen

    As an ex-JW I truly believe the shunning is used more as a fear/scare tactic to keep people in line. The other crap, after someone has been disfellowshipped, that’s a bonus. What’s stupid about it all is how my sister is DF’d (for marrying someone who wasn’t a Dub) and I’m not, because I “faded away”. My parents still talk to me every month or so but rarely talk to her. Our older sister hasn’t talked to me since I became pregnant with my daughter eleven years ago (being out of wedlock and all…hate that term). Apparently her conscience (gag, hate that word thanks to being a JW) is louder.

    I will forever remember a time as a teen when my boyfriend was dropping me off after a date (yeah, I lived a double life…my only way to survive). My dad came out and caught us kissing and I was so terrified. Not of my dad, oh no, but of him telling my Mom who would tell the Elders, leading to me being disfellowshipped. I was in tears, and it wasn’t until later when he gave me the dad lecture and let it go that I was able to relax. I am quite sure to this day my bf thought I was a nutcase. I never believed the teachings I was raised with, so wasn’t afraid of a god punishing me but the thought of not being able to talk to or hang out with my friends at the Kingdom Hall was horrifying. As much as I hated being a Dub, the majority of my world revolved around it.

    I haven’t been disfellowshipped, but I’m pretty sure if I had approached any Elder once I had my daughter, or after any of the other so-called horrible things I’ve done, they’d pronounce it in a heartbeat. I decided to not give them the authority over my life, so when I was done, at age eighteen, I left and didn’t look back. Fuck them. And my oldest sister that still refuses to talk to me, my sister and my daughter.

    • Jax

      How tragic! My husbands ex wife was MOLESTED by her step father.. and being in a JW home.. she was Disfellowshippped… for being MOLESTED at age 13. Wow.
      I spent a decade in Evangelical christianity.. as an adult.. ( Not JWs or Mormons).. when My husband and I began reading hebrew and greek and began realizing there is NO mention of ANY place called HELL..in those languages in scriptures.. but a total translation fuck over.. and when we went to our pastors etc and began bringin up hard questions.. we were totally shunned. Pastors told ppl in the church not to talk to us not to email us. We were very dangerous ( interesting term they used) and in serious error. LOL! Fuck religion … and its fan club. I still believe in a loving tolerant God who never created any place called hell and loves Gay ppl! When we left the church we never looked back and we repented fully to our teenaged kids for EVER teaching them such bullshit!

  • Ryan Hite

    There was also a letter made to a disfellowshipped JW from a mother who would never speak to him again… Is there a connection here?

  • pagansister

    Hello! It is like a cult—if you leave you are punished by being totally ignored. In this case, JC or Jehovah is more important than that flesh and blood child you made. JW’s have one of the most un-fun religions ever—they celebrate NOTHING! (except Easter I think with absolutely NO bunnies or candy etc.)

    • IDP

      Not Easter, just Passover, because Jesus personally celebrated it (dated a JW turned atheist some years back.)

      • pagansister

        Thanks for the correction, IDP. :-)

    • Artor

      “Like” a cult? It is EXACTLY a cult!

  • Tobias2772

    Just keep it up you dicks. You cannot kill off this mythological bullshit quickly enough for me.

  • Charles Chambers

    Wow, the amount of brainwashing going on there…

  • Robster

    We get regular visits from JW’s, of late they arrive with a toddler in a pram, I’m told to break the ice as the kiddies are cute. I know they’re children in close unsupervised contact with church staff but that’s not the main worry. It’s their ability to tell the truth. The last couple to stop by were “lovers of science” and then promptly tried to explain why biblical creationism is the truth. I often bring up shunning and every time they act as if they’ve never heard the word before and that the JW’s don’t “do that”. They look at me in the eye without a squirm. They should be selling used cars.

  • BenFromCA

    Love thy neighbor, but not thy family and friends.

  • jdm8

    Yes, because shunning is sooo going to bring them back. Good going, anyone that does this just proven they’re jerks.

  • SansDeus

    Venting/autobiographical, ignore as you see fit.

    Grew up a JW. I never got baptized (never caved to peer pressure) so I couldn’t be disfellowshipped. So my family still talks to me (my dad less so).

    Though I know full well how it feels.

    At about 8 y/o I was shunned by the congregation due to a jealous boy with a powerful father who did anything he could to make me look bad to other parents. On top of that, I was also I not allowed to associate with people who weren’t JW, but the people who weren’t JW often shunned me anyway once they discovered I was a JW. So that caused me to closet my religious upbringing from others to the best of my abilities.

    It was a very shitty, very lonely childhood.

    Thankfully the damage wasn’t all permanent. :)

  • stockham J

    This entire religion should be shut down.

    Here’s something else I don’t understand. The JWs have thousands of files of convicted child molesters at their headquarters. Nobody says a damn thing about this. Everyone knows it’s there. The cops don’t seem to be interested. It is only recently a few brave attorneys have actually spoken about the matter and have exposed the JWs for the monsters that they are.

  • Bell’s sister

    I can say that Steven Bell lives what he preaches. He is my younger brother. I too am disfellowshipped. Our father passed away 3 1/2 years ago. The family knew how much I loved Dad but none of the family even spoke to me at his funeral. That was such a painful day for me and was only compounded by the fact that they would not give me the comfort that they were receiving.
    I have 3 children, two are JW’s. my youngest has my only grandchild, I have not been allowed to even see him.
    I don’t think disfellowshipping has the effect they want it to have, I think most of us are more determined than ever to never go back.

  • Glitz

    I was JW for 30 years and decided it wasn’t for me!! Fortunately for me although it took many years I now have good relationship with my family although do not spend much time with them. I can honestly say once you Are out of this organization you realize how brain washed you were and how controlled!! Thank god I have chosen my own life and although its been difficult at times I m glad I had the courage to leave!! How discusting that you feel you have no choice but to live that life even when it’s not for you and all to have a relationship with your friends and family :(((

  • PlaceCleverNameHere

    As a “born-in” Jdub the disfellowshipping process was hammered into you from day one. I had attended my first meeting at 8 months old and continued until I was 24 (26 now). The looks you get from these so-called “Christians” can strip the paint off a Buick if you’re having doubts or realize that this isn’t exactly the line of work you want to get involved in. By 7 I was giving “talks” and became an unbaptized publisher, I had even expressed my desire to move to Bethel in upstate NY and serve there until I found a brother to marry and do missionary work with overseas. Sheesh just typing it makes my skin sizzle. Only 7 years old!!! Other kids were sleeping in on Saturdays and hitting Chuck E. Cheese like mad while I was out passing judgement on grown ups who didn’t accept a tract from me at the door. Truly a sick practice. But my how things change when you’re a teen and realize your super gay. Suppression was always the key. I’d make comments eluding to the kind of brother I wanted to marry, the type of dress and the princess cut diamond that I’d always wanted. Surprise surprise but that complete BS. The name of the game as a kid/teen is fake til you make it and hopefully you’ll come out unscathed on the other side and head into adulthood ready to put in the astronomical hours needed to be a regular pioneer and also hold only a high school diploma and 20 hours a week working at some retail chain!! Whoopee!!

    Said enough is enough on, believe or not, Independence Day 2011. Came out to my grandparents that raised me and said that I had doubts about a religion that was founded by a man (Charles Taze Russell) who walked by a sermon being given by an Adventist preacher, picked and chose what sounded good to him and formed the Bible Students. I was allowed to stay at home for a couple months but when they realized I was serious and would no longer be joining them at their meetings I was given the ultimatum to leave and move out by the end of November. I upped the ante and hauled ass the first week of October. Lived in the same town with them for about a year but then decided that running into my old “friends” at the market or wherever wasn’t going to jibe well with some mental relief from the JWs. Moved a few hours away and loving everything I never got to do growing up. Who knew you could be so well adjusted after a lifetime of JW indoctrination? Hmmm…

  • mpm

    Don’t make the mistake of being misinformed. Check out the REAL reason Jehovah’s Witnesses practice disfellowshipping. Atheist scoff at ignorance and most of the comments posted here are posted in non knowledge of the true reasons a person is removed from association.

    http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/w20061115/accept-jehovahs-discipline/

    • Spuddie

      Because ostracism is an effective long practiced tool for enforcing conformity and avoiding dissent. Plus you can’t stone apostates to death.

  • Jonathan

    I was raised in “The Faith” until I did the worst thing possible for a young JW to do… Think for myself and question things that I had be taught as truth. I’m an atheist now (bordering on anti-theist) and quiet happy with my view on life and the universe.
    I get the impression that the American witness’s are more like a cult than a Christian faith. I’ve never heard of anybody being cast out or shunned because they’ve rejected the teachings, not in the UK anyway. I just can’t understand some idiot standing at a podium and telling his audience that they should put Jehovah before their own family… What a muppet!

  • Carol

    You people are such liars it’s pathetic!
    U do everything to try and pick a part a wonderful organization that only has God’s backing. Ur language is deplorable, ur suspicions and inaccuracies will certainly be judged by non other than God.

    • islandbrewer

      Ur language is deplorable,

      Do Jehovah’s Witnesses have their irony surgically removed?

    • Alex

      Thanks Carol but Watchtower defenders seem to often come out with all these charges but do not back them up with any real examples.
      Guess it’s just easier to spew out the same old canned speech.

  • Alex

    The Watchtower is not Gods organization. The leadership pretend they get their direction from God and only God communicates through them and down to the rest of the pyramid.
    Over 140 years of teachings that don’t come true. New light they excuse themselves with. They are arrogant and intolerant of every other faith.
    This group is a non-violent hate group that uses other methods to control such as extreme shunning. Many people are forced to go through the motions of being a JW or they lose their family and friends.

    Dangerous high control religious sect.

  • Alex

    “Name-Calling” at the 2013 District Convention
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4sEdNn9NlI#t=54

  • Trotafox

    I’m an ex-JW. Was in this sick organization for 12 years. Left in 2001. I had been getting the feelings that something was amiss in this organization but I wasn’t sure what it was. I decided to investigate so I put down their books, stopped spending all of my time on their crap, and looked into their organizational history. I read Franz’s books, plus many others, and that did it. I left. I lost my best friend of 20+ years in the process. So be it. She proved to be really the much weaker person because it takes a great deal more courage to leave this organization than it does to stay in it and continue to be brainwashed. I hate this Convention speech. It’s nothing more than an attempt to sooth their consciences. It’s really difficult to look up and expand your thinking regarding the Creator (or no Creator… whatever) when you’re busy looking down on outsiders, wearing JW blinders, have your nose stuck in books they write and force you to read to the exclusion of everything else. Guilt and fear over separation are great motivators for cults. In reality, all organized religions are cults and use the same methods of control to one extent or the other. I’ll never belong to anything again that starts with “We believe…”

  • whatever

    organized religions are humanity’s greatest downfall especially this particular communistic cult. knowledge and intelligence is power to free yourself from this type of stupidity


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