The Redemption (and Apostasy) of a Devout Jehovah’s Witness

James Zimmerman grew up as the kind of Jehovah’s Witness who might have knocked on your door. Devout and fervent, he knew what the consequences were for apostates. And yet he found a way to break free.

His new memoir detailing his upbringing — and how his questioning of the faith eventually led him away from it — is called Deliverance at Hand!: The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah’s Witness (Freethought House, 2013):

In the excerpt below, Zimmerman briefs us on how serious his beliefs were growing up:

I was born into a family with a rich history as Jehovah’s Witnesses. My parents were Witnesses, as were their siblings, and their parents. But this did not mark us as extraordinary. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were all family. We were each other’s brothers and sisters.

Though Jehovah’s Witnesses only trace their organizational history to the 1870s, we considered ourselves descendants of faithful followers from millennia past. We were not so much a new religion as a renaissance; a return to the way God intended Christianity to be.

But it wasn’t simply a rich past that kept Witnesses faithful and zealous. There was also the future — the glorious hope of living forever in a Paradise Earth. Jehovah soon intended to execute judgment on this wicked world and usher in a new order — a “New Earth” where only the meek live. The Earth would finally become as it was meant to be: no war, no poverty, no pollution, no sickness, no death. This Paradise would be a panacea for humanity’s problems. Absolutely every tribulation facing mankind would be exterminated. Even more thrilling, I had a good chance of never dying. Provided my faith stayed intact, I would live through the last days, through Armageddon, and be among the faithful Witnesses granted life eternal; full, satisfying life in a Paradise where centuries pass as weeks do now.

Life in this world, then, was temporary and fleeting. It was an inconsequential stroke of the clock compared with all that had come before and all that would come after. I was powerfully thankful to God that He allowed me to be born, and that He afforded me the chance to enjoy an incalculably beautiful, endless life. I loved Jehovah. I owed my life to Jehovah.

He later, thankfully, left Jehovah.

If you’d like to win a copy of his new book, just leave a comment explaining what the tipping point was that made you realize your faith was a sham. Use the hashtag #Deliverance in your comment to be entered in the contest! I’ll contact a random winner next week.

Deliverance at Hand! is available on Amazon beginning today.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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