I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For those that understand the lingo: I’m a third generation born in. This means that my generation is the third generation to be JWs and I was born “into” the religion. I didn’t know much of anything else for a long time. I had a superiority complex, something I’ve discovered is quite common with those of the religion. When you’re in a group that calls itself “The Truth” and claims to have “The Truth” and that we, meaning Jehovah’s Witnesses, are the only ones to have “The Truth” it is kind of inevitable that you’re going to encounter a major superiority complex. One of my memories from early childhood is when I was in about the 2nd grade, maybe 3rd. It was around Christmas time and I was, once again, in a new school (my mother and step-father moved quite often, I have only attended the same school once and only for 2 years, every other year I was in a new school), and my classmates were asking what I wanted for Christmas. As I remember this experience from my youth, I cringe. I feel embarrassed for the young girl I was because my answer isolated me from all of my classmates. You see, you’re taught as a Jehovah’s Witness to take every opportunity to witness to those around you. Spread the Word, speak of Jehovah’s greatness. I proceeded to inform my classmates that Santa was fake, that celebrating Christmas was akin to worshiping Satan and that real Christians didn’t celebrate holidays and birthdays. Yeah, going to a new school was a good way for me to “hit the rewind button”… too bad it took me until my early preteen years to learn to just shut up about the beliefs because the kids were only going to make fun of me and make my life hell for the entire year. I hated school for that reason, but I always loved to learn. I found that learning was what set me apart from them, that was the only way I could get any kind of recognition was through my lessons at school. Unfortunately that didn’t endear me to my classmates either because I ended up being “teacher’s pet”.
I stopped being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 16. I was disfellowshipped for those that understand that. For others… I was excommunicated and am shunned by the Jehovah’s Witness community including my family. While I do have some contact with my family, it is strained and kept to an extreme minimum… their wish, not mine. They would say it’s not their wish but the way that it has to be because I choose to not return to the religion and my being disfellowshipped is a punishment. The shunning, in my opinion, is emotional blackmail. If I want anything to do with my Jehovah’s Witness family, I have to go about proving my repentance for my actions of my youth that got me disfellowshipped and getting reinstated… which is not a simple thing, remember… actions speak louder than words. You have to attend the meetings, you still cannot associate with anyone because you’re still a spiritual leper, you have to live your life just as you did as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses before. There is nothing unreasonable about how one goes about getting reinstated. But I do not wish to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was baptized because I felt pressure from people in my family (while I must insert here that members of my family claim that I only got baptized because a friend was getting baptized, a friend that I was no longer very close to so that argument on their part actually holds no water), but I had planned on “fading”, just riding it out until my 18th birthday when I could move out on my own and begin my own life. Things didn’t work out that way; everything changed when my grandfather died. But… I do not believe in god. I have become an agnostic atheist as I’ve grown older. I have a love of learning about religions, I find it very fascinating and intriguing. I just do not believe in any kind of higher power. But because I am disfellowshipped I am to be shunned, I am to have close to no contact with my own family, my own parents. Like I said, emotional blackmail.
In recent years I have gotten fed up with how I’ve been treated by my JW family. I handled being shunned and ignored by them from the time I was 16 until I was in my mid-30s just fine. It bugged me but I shrugged it off. They had their life, I had mine. That all changed when one family member decided to indirectly attack me on my niece’s Facebook post back in 2011, trying to “throw mud” at me about something they didn’t have any information about, just had heard a couple things, they didn’t have the whole story. But because I was no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, because I had battled drug addiction, homelessness, had been engaged in illegal activity in my past, this family member decided to pull up something from my past that had occurred before the majority of these above issues and use it to make me look bad and irresponsible and that any advice I could give was bad. This during a time when I was trying to get my life back on track (which I was successful in doing and have maintained stability since then), after I had left an abusive relationship that left me disabled, this family member felt the need to drag up something that had happened years before, something that had nearly killed me inside to the point that I had been suicidal, all because I was no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This family member has never once apologized for what they said. This same family member I found out later had a habit of going onto my Facebook wall and checking out my Instagram account and telling the rest of the family of all the things that I was doing, causing problems between me and my mother, one of the only people in the family that really would speak to me. I’ve heard conflicting stories since then that this individual in my family was never stalking my Facebook page while I’ve been told by others that the person did stalk my page. I cannot say one way or another but I do know that my Jehovah’s Witness family raised hell with my JW mother and JW sister for coming to my house when my daughter who none of us had seen in nearly 10 years came to see me. And then I found out that my JW family wanted my JW mom and JW sister to take my daughter and her at the time boyfriend (now husband) all the way out to their place, well over an hour’s drive from my home. The family that had no time for my children at all when they were little wanted to take my time with my daughter who I had not seen in almost a decade away from me. And then they wanted to berate my mother and sister for being at my home to see my daughter, their granddaughter and niece. And they wonder why I became vocal about my feelings about their religion? Because everything they do is dictated by their religion. Because being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is more than belonging to a religion, it’s a way of life.