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:
Earlier today, Fox News Channel’s Gretchen Carlson hosted a discussion of Senate Chaplain Barry Black, the man who’s been in the news lately — and parodied on “Saturday Night Live” — for his morning reprimands of Congress.
Carlson’s “diverse” panel included a Catholic priest (who supports what Black is saying), a Jew (who opposes the comments but used his time to rail against ObamaCare, nonetheless), and American Atheists’ Dave Silverman (who thinks the whole idea of a government chaplaincy is silly, if not downright illegal).
The discussion went exactly as you would expect — in all different directions since they all had different talking points.
Malaysia isn’t considered a progressive country for a number of reasons. Last year, its Education Ministry issued guidelines to identifying gay or lesbian children so that their “symptoms” could be corrected (Example: Gays wear “V-neck and sleeveless clothes”).
The International Humanist and Ethical Union noted that Malaysia requires its citizens (over the age of 12) to carry ID cards that list their religion. And while officials would argue there’s religious freedom, two states in Malaysia passed laws prohibiting anyone from leaving Islam (though they theoretically can’t be enforced):
Amending the penal code is the exclusive prerogative of the federal government. Despite contradicting federal law, the state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu passed laws in 1993 and 2002, respectively, making apostasy a capital offense. Apostasy is defined as the conversion from Islam to another faith. No one has been convicted under these laws and, according to a 1993 statement by the Attorney General, the laws cannot be enforced absent a constitutional amendment.
Yesterday, one of the country’s Court of Appeals took the largest backward step yet:
Over the past few years, we’ve heard some horror stories of “faith-healing” practitioners who have allowed their children to die from curable diseases or medical problems because, instead of taking the kids to a doctor, they prayed instead.
15-month-old Ava Worthington died that way.
16-year-old Neil Beagley died that way.
8-month-old Alayna May Wyland died that way.
9-hour-old David Hickman died that way.
There’s another bond all of those children share besides their preventable deaths: their parents were all members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon. Making matters worse, the laws in Oregon allowed some of them to get away with their crimes because state laws gave these parents “religious exemptions” for their crimes until only recently.
Journalist Cameron Stauth wanted to find out what was really happening inside the church walls so he went to Oregon and found somebody willing to talk. Written as a novel, though it’s entirely non-fictional, his new book explores the badly-misnamed “faith-healing” movement and why the members of that church were so taken in by it. It’s called In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013).
In the excerpt below, published with permission of St. Martin’s Press, Stauth writes about his first meeting with a church insider: