Q: Around what age did you leave the church? Was it official or did you just stop believing and slowly drifted away?
A: I officially stopped going about 3 years ago, but I had been very inactive in the church for probably eight years up until that point. As most of you know, Jehovah's Witnesses go from door to door offering literature---I hadn't done that in years. I can honestly say that my participation in the organization had been half hearted (at best) for at least a decade.
Although I've only been technically away from the religion for a few years, there is a lot that they teach that I don't know if I've ever believed. I knew I'd never be in a marriage where I was essentially my husband's property and I didn't understand the religion's views on homosexuals. In fact, that was probably another pivotal area for me. As I got older, I began to hate that aspect of the religion and be embarrassed by it. Eventually, I began to feel that same disdain for most of the teachings of the religion. Towards the end, I can remember sitting in my seat listening to the speaker and not believing or agreeing with a single thing he was preaching, and certainly not wanting my kids to be a part of it.
Q: Does Jay have a JW background?
A: Jay was baptized a few years after we were married but he truly cared very little for the organization. He was basically only going for me.
Q: I had NO idea about higher education...then what do you do to support your family?
A: Basically, you hope for the best. In a lot of the families I've known, one member will start a business (window tinting, construction, and cleaning businesses were all big) and then employ other members of the family. Growing up I knew a lot of people in various parts of the construction business. Mostly, women are housewives or they work for a friend or relatives cleaning business. (I hate that I didn't go to college.)
Q: Are there any holidays that JW's can celebrate? Do they not celebrate because it's considered worshipping a false God? Or some other reason? Is it true a JW won't knock on your door if you have a US flag hanging on your property?
A: The only holiday that is regularly celebrated by Witnesses, are wedding anniversaries. Most other holidays have pagan histories, which is why they aren't celebrated. I've never heard the flag thing so, no that isn't true. Although it doesn't surprise me. There are many rumors about Jehovah's Witnesses. At least once a month I get a hit on my blog from someone googling "can Jehovah's Witnesses wear deodorant?" (Yes, they can.)
I wanted to talk more about all of the many things I couldn't do as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Because my time with "worldly people" (non Witnesses) had to be limited, I never participated in any after school activities, I never went to any school dances. I didn't attend prom. Even though I made friends at school, I wasn't allowed to hang out with them outside of school. I remember one time in the fifth grade, my friend Jessica invited me to spend the night. I begged my mom to let me go and she allowed it. I had a blast but my mom came to pick me up the following morning before 9 AM. Evidently, the night before my dad caused a big stink when he realized where I was and instructed my mom to pick me up as soon as possible. And she did it of course, because he was the "head of the house." I was mortified and embarrassed.
These things, more so than anything else, are what I regret and resent the most. I hate that I was sheltered and wasn't able to experience any of what life had to offer until I became an adult, and even then it was hard because I was naive. All my life I was raised to believe that anyone who wasn't one of Jehovah's Witnesses was evil and meant to do me harm. Imagine trying to go through life thinking that about everyone you meet. It's exhausting and beyond stressful.
There are a lot of internet sites and support groups for ex-Jehovah's Witnesses. Many ex-members have to go to therapy and quite a few are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which I guess is common when you escape a cult like organization. I'm lucky because I escaped relatively unscathed. The only explanation I have for that is that none of it was ever really in my heart to begin with.
The Jehovah's Witnesses will deny that they are a cult, but when a religion uses fear to keep members from leaving, that's a sure sign of a cult. (If interested, here are more cult warning signs.) If you do choose to leave the organization, you'll be shunned by all of your friends and family that are Jehovah's Witnesses. When I was a baby, most of my extended family were Jehovah's Witnesses. Over the years, most of them fell away from the organization so we couldn't talk to them. I have aunts and uncles I haven't seen in years. I have cousins I've never met. I know very little about my maternal or paternal grandparents. I consider myself as having very little family anymore.
One more thing I wanted to mention was demons. Jehovah's Witnesses are constantly being told to be on the look out for demons. According to them, demons are everywhere and they want to mislead you and steer you away from Jehovah's righteous path. There were even rumors and stories told of people being raped by demons. None of this was actually preached from the podium, but just popular rumors that spread quickly. (Jehovah's Witnesses are awesome at spreading rumors.)
The demon rumor that effected me the most was the one that was spread about Smurfs. This was at the height of their popularity and I was four or five years old. I wanted a Papa Smurf so badly and my dad bought one for me. I was overjoyed. A few weeks later we had another Witness family over for dinner and they told me that my Smurf was possessed by the devil and that I shouldn't have it because it would try to hurt me in the middle of the night. I was scared to death and threw my Papa Smurf in the trash. As I got older I learned more about the Smurf/demon rumor. Supposedly, some poor unsuspecting child took their Smurf to the Kingdom Hall (church) and once the speaker started preaching about the greatness of Jehovah the Smurf got up, yelled something about how he didn't "have to listen to this shit", and walked out the door.
There were almost always similar rumors about any toy that was popular. I grew to learn that if I wanted to have any toys, I needed to grow a thicker skin.
Ok. I think I'm about drained of this topic for now. As always, please ask any questions you may have. I'll answer them within the comments section.
(I've written about this before but I again want to mention the book I'm Perfect, You're Doomed by Kyria Abrahams. It's hilarious and sad and interesting. If these last two blog posts have held your interest at all, then you'll love, love, love this book.)