Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Past and Demonic Smurfs

There were a few questions asked yesterday so first off I wanted to address them.

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.)


Mari said...

Fascinating, Tammie. I'm glad you are living a peaceful, happy life now!

Daphne said...

Yeah, say it, Papa Smurf! That cracked me up. This stuff is absolutely fascinating. You are a very strong person to have come out from all of that so well-adjusted and level-headed. I remember I met a girl once, while camping, who said she couldn't play with me because she was a Jehovah's Witness, even though she obviously really wanted to come play with me and my brother. I couldn't understand that and was totally confused, since their campsite was right next to ours so her parents could see us the whole time. They were shooting us evil looks (speaking of demons) until she said, "Sorry..." and walked back to her campsite. It was sad.

I have to think about what you wrote here, some more. It's so interesting and I can tell that you still have anger and sadness about it. I would, too.

Well, ironically, I've got to go get ready for church. :) I'll report back if our second visit was as great as the first!

Dani said...

I can understand your sense of resentment. Growing up as a preacher's kid there were many things that I wasn't supposed to do...but I didn't give a rat's ass and did them anyway. It caused my dad lots of grief with the elders and deacons at church. And that caused my resentment.

hester said...

That sounds like a really tough way to grow up and I can understand the sadness of missing out on so many experiences when you were young. I reckon you'd be brilliant at college though. Do you ever think about going?

Are you tempted to chase up the relatives who left the church and get to know them a little bit?

Carla said...

Thanks for sharing, it's very interesting but very sad that people firmly believe in that. I have a good friend who married an ex-JW and various aspects about him (the ex-JW) regarding religion and other areas of his life are making more sense as I'm learning more from you.

I've been raised in a very positive church environment in a faith that has become central to my life and for that I am grateful.

Based on your experience I don't blame you one bit for your opinion and feelings of church and religion.

Betts said...

Thanks for writing about this. My daughter had a JW in her class last year, and I really wanted to know more about what life was like for him. I'm glad your fought your way out.

Daphne said...

By the way, I would have screamed and trashed Papa Smurf if I heard that story too...

Barefoot_Mommy said...

I agree that this is all very interesting because I've always wanted to KNOW. I don't like to form opinions on people or their religions without KNOWING something about it first. I can imagine it must be hard to talk about it. I had a hard time even just leaving the Catholic church. I think I spent at least a year waiting for the lightening bolts to fall out of the sky and zap me for doubting and doing something different.

The thing about the smurf is really kind of creepy.

How do JW view other forms of medical treatment? Like doctor's visits and what not? Is it just the blood transfusions that are against their beliefs? Or do they feel that seeking any sort of medical treatment or surgery is a lack of faith? There are churches here that practice those kinds of beliefs and won't take themselves or their children to the doctor because they believe that prayer is the only medicine they need.

Tammie said...

mari: thank you. :)

daphne: ha ha. you are too funny. and i never really thought of myself as a strong person but i guess i am. I do still have a lot of anger and sadness about it but i guess right now i try not to think about it because i have my kids to take care of and i just want them to have the best, most interesting, experience filled life i can provide. but when i dwell on it i get angry. i think i could have done a lot of things really well had i just been shoved in the right direction and had more opportunities available to me. but i guess a lot of people feel that way for many reasons. :)

the camping story breaks my heart. yet sounds so familiar.

dani: i needed more friends like you in my church.

hester: i do think of going back to school, especially when my kids are a little older and they *need* me less. but there is some fear.

i wonder about my relatives and ive written a few letters but its weird.

carla: i really really appreciate you saying that. i know you're a religious gal and i know you dont agree with some of the things ive said here, so im glad you know better where im coming from.

betts: im glad you enjoyed it. whenever i see little JW kids anymore, i just feel sad for them.

daphne: i know. why would another adult even tell a child that story?!

barefoot: most witnesses take their kids to the doctor regularly. its just the blood thing they are against.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I've gotta check out that book because both of these posts fascinated me. And the Papa Smurf story cracked me up. He WAS a wise old man, ya know.
I had a very good friend when I was young who became one of Jehovah's witnesses not long after I met her. In time we grew apart, I suppose because I was a non-believer. I always felt so sorry for her because she couldn't celebrate any holidays. She still very deeply involved in the religion; she and her husband travel all over the place doing missionary work.
I also had no idea that higher education was taboo; that blows my mind.

victoria said...

Good Morning, Tammi!
Seeing a smurf storm out of church would be awesome! I remember my last visit to confession at 17 years old. I specifically remember listening to the priest's voice and the very moment when I realized the ridiculousness of it all. I still go to mass with my mom once in awhile and, at this point in my life, can take the good and leave the nonsense behind. I've known a few JWs and it's so sad the way they isolate people and then kick them out for doing something "wrong". It's so abusive. I really appreciate your story, Tammi. Thank you so much for writing about it!

Tammie said...

cyndy: ha ha ha..yes he was a wise old man. i highly recommend the book. everyone ive suggested it to has loved it, not just ex jehovahs witnesses.

victoria: i think its so interesting that you are able to separate the good from the bad when it comes to religion. im not at that point yet and i just find religion scary and controlling.

onasilentsea said...

Tammie, I wonder if the experiences you had in your congregations are geographical. We moved around to many different states, and while each congragation is different, I have never heard of or experienced the kinds of things you did--and I was friends with many of the other children growing up as well. Your experiences do seem rather extreme...

I'm glad you were able to figure things out for yourself!

Tammie said...

onasilentsea: its possible my experience were different because i was raised in the south. but ive talked to other ex witnesses from other places who relate similar experiences. also, if i remember correctly, im quite a few years older than you so you werent around for the whole smurf thing.
plus, dont forget that you're in a unique position of having studied with witnesses but yet never being baptized. im considered to have committed the ultimate sin by knowing jehovahs organization and then choosing to leave it. im viewed through much harsher eyes than you are since you technically never "took a stand for jehovah."

Tammie said...

also...if anyone doubts the validity of anything ive written here, please just google it all. the information is out there and it will take you all of two minutes to find it. sadly, my experiences were not extreme.

below is a link to a blog i used to read a lot. its written by a woman my age who used to be one of jehovahs witnesses. she seems to have gotten past that point in her life now but she has close to 50 posts detailing her life in and around the time she began to question her faith. its fascinating.

alisha said...

Good point Tammie. And being that we were "new to the truth", I was still kind of an outsider, so maybe I just wasn't exposed to it as overtly as others.

Oh, I also did have major problems with how they viewed homosexuality. I had a conversation about it with my mother not too long ago about it; I made a comment that made her shut up about it :-)

Tammie said...

alisha: bravo! :)

and i think you make a good point. i was born into it all so i saw it for many years.

Karen said...

I keep meaning to comment--I'm finding this all so interesting. I grew up in a place where pretty much everybody was Catholic, Jewish, or mainline Protestant. Living in the south, and also hearing stories like yours, is such an education for me.

Becky..AMHW said...

How did I miss this post? Complete coinkydink when it comes to my JW post!

The reason my breaking up with my missionary went badly? I relayed that the similarities in how the members are treated are much like the church I left and because of Prop 8 will never ever ever return to. Needless to say, comparing her to a Mormon offended her.

Another coinkydink, I followed a link to a demonized smurf website last week. Hilarious! I remember around the same time that little rubber cartoony devil figures were popular and many folks in my Utah community objected to having those in their homes. Little blue rubber figures...a-ok. Little red ones? Evil.

Hotch Potchery said...

Thanks for is really difficult to fathom, and when you wrote about passing out literate I was really surprised.

I will be checking out that book.

Jesse said...

I was raised one of Jehovah's witness's.From reading this story I would say that me and the author are about the same age 30. I honestly I can say that about 30 percent of her story is true.

When I chose to leave the organization. There were no fear tactic's to get me to stay. I have regular contact with my family and childhood friends who are still Jehovah's witness's. They ask when im going to begin attending the meeting again? I tell them im NOT and thats the end of that.

They are NOT a cult. they DO NOT believe people outside the organization are evil. If they did wouldnt get up early in morning and try to share the bible with you people. lord knows I wouldnt spend my Saturday morning to try save you heathens.

Here's the truth ill give you a quick history lesson. About a century after Jesus Christ death Christianity became the dominant religion in Rome. It began to revival paganism. The problem was that cesar's empire was split between the two religon's. So cesar himself began a christian and merge the religions.

Which brings about most the pagan traditions that you heathens still carry on today. for example thats why you celebrate x-mas on dec 25th even thou it would have been impossible for Jesus to have been born on that day. its because pagans who worshiped attis used celebrate his b-day on that day.

might I say how inappropriate and disrespectful to celebrate the Son of gods b-day on the wrong day.

back to the topic what Jehovah's witness's have done is strip most the of paganism out of Christianity. to return it to the purest form of Christianity available.

As far as condemning homosexuals goes that comes straight from the bible. Sodom and Gomorrah two real historic cities were destroyed in the bible by god because of there immorality.

Jehovah witness's DO NOT teach that a wife is her husbands property rather that he is the head of the head of the household and he is to love and provide for her.

at the height of smurfs popularity I was also about 4 or 5. my mother was studying with Jehovah Witness's and she loved smurfs. I had smurf blanket and sheets, wallpaper, toys the smurf kiddie pool I even had the cereal. long story short. Did we have supernatural experiences related to smurfs? I wont get into details unless you want to hear them but YES we did. The strange incidents stop once we got rid of all the smurf merchandise. So take for what you want I dont care. but you've been warned.

I want to emphasize the fact that I am NOT one Jehovah's witness's. If I was I would not be commenting here.The author is obviously bitter and quite dishonest. She is what is referred to as an (Apostate). someone who maliciously seeks to discredit the organization. Which she can tell you herself its states in the bible is the ONLY unforgivable sin.

anyhow Ive ranted long enough I just dont like misinformation. Live your life they way you want I do. but dont misguide other people.

anyone wants REAL answers about Jehovah witness can talk to me.

Tammie said...

jesse: you say you were raised as one of jehovahs witnesses but id be curious to know if you were ever a baptized member of jehovahs witnesses. if you were and you no longer wanted to be a member you would be disfellowshipped and your family and friends would be told to shun you or face disciplinary action from the elders. this is cult like.

i dont consider myself an apostate because to do so would mean i associate myself with the organization in which i was raised. i dont. and i have no interest in discrediting the organization...why would i? what possible gain would i get from that? i dont make any money from this blog. these series of posts havent even brought large numbers of new readers. im just one person telling my story, which is true.

i never had any scary incidents in the short while i owned a Smurf and i truly doubt i would if i were to buy one now.

as far as condemning homosexuals: yes it does come from the bible. no one is disputing that. i am disputing the validity of the whole book as being the word of god. in case you missed it, im pretty much an atheist at this point.

im not sure how you can disagree with me that the man is preached to be the head over the wife and family. thats one of the most basic points that is preached from every kingdom hall podium across the world. women have no say in the organization.

i really have no interest in getting into any kind of arguments with you concerning this matter. in fact i probably wouldnt have even commented back except the fact that my honesty was called into question and i pride myself (and by extension, this blog) on being truthful.

thanks for your comment. oh and thanks for calling me a heathen. we love that around here.

Tammie said...

and as always: if anyone doubts anything i have said here, please dont feel the need to take my word for it. just google "ex jehovahs witnesses." you'll find numerous sites and forums filled with folks who have stories alarmingly similar to mine.

Daphne said...

Yay for heathens! :)

Barefoot_Mommy said...

For me her comment only brings more truth to what you had to say. She seems rather disgruntled doesn't she?

Because obviously, anyone who has had a different experience than herself must be a liar and a fraud. *rolls eyes*

DysFUNctional Mom said...

Am I the only one who giggles like a maniac every time she reads something about the smurfs having some bizarre scary demonic abilities? That is seriously hilarious to me.
Obviously, you are sharing what happened to YOU. Jesse may have had different experiences but those are hers, not yours.

Tammie said...

barefoot: im glad you saw it that way because thats exactly how i felt too.

in a way i feel sorry for her. and to think that 15 or so years ago, i was similar to that. it scares me to think about my life had i not gotten out.

Anonymous said...

I was a witness for 30 yrs. My greatest sorrow is that I brought my children up as witneses and feel so sad when I think of all that they missed out on, I believed I was protecting them from Satan's world, keeping them safe in Jehovah's organisation but I bitterly regret the school bullying and cringing self-consciousness it caused for and in my children. Now my grandchildre are facing a similar future.Like you, I remember sitting at a meeting and realising that I no longer agreed with or believed in many of the things that were being taught from the platform. My position became untenable because it isn't possible to be a witness and only believe in some of their teachings. Like so many others I have read about, when I asked for help or questioned the teachings I doubted, I was either told to 'shelve' my doubts and wait for Jehovah to reveal the answers or was clearly being avoided by some who whispered that I must have been reading 'apostate' literature. It is true that you cannot question the 'faithful slave' without being viewed as a dangerous association. I was genuinly searching for answers, needing help and I was aware that in doing so my good reputation was shot to pieces. Eventually my 'shelf' held so many unresolved doubts that it fell off the wall. I like your comments because they are honest and not vitriolic. Though I feel bitter about so many things I have experienced and witnessed over the years, I know that the majority of witnesses are genuine decent people and would not want to be guilty of cruel for spiteful remarks, I have not been shunned as a disfellowshiped person would be, ie. not being spoken to, witnesses I meet are always friendly and kind and my sister who is still a devout witness spends lots of time with me, we are careful to avoid subjects that might cause us to disagree. I would be happy to answer any questions about my lifelong experience as one of Jehovah's Witnesses and can assure any questioner that my answers will be strictly honest and balanced.

Tammie said...

i really really appreciate you taking the time to comment here. it means a lot to me.

not being able to get answers about things always bothered me. i was tired of hearing "wait for jehovah. he'll reveal everything in his due time."

i feel much the same way you do, while i dont like the organization itself and think its dangerous, i do feel that a lot of Witnesses are kind, caring people. maybe just misguided, possibly too trusting.

its nice that you still have your sister. my father still talks to me but i think hes always holding out hope that i'll "come back." we too, avoid certain conversations. it can get stressful.

thank you again for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Wow, reading your story really takes me back. I was raised a JW, never bought into it, left @ 15. About half of my family is still in, and some of the most gossipy, rumor-spreading people I know. I wonder what their Bible says about that...:)

Anonymous said...

I can say your full of it..I've grown up in the kingdom hall and yes I haven't been there in quite a while however cult it is not..and it does not scare you into staying. my parents where strick and that's why I couldn't do things there were plenty of parents that allowed their children to play with anyone..but if they were a bad influence then no they weren't allowed to should know better than everything your saying here. You just want attention..if you want to be real EVERY religion has it own issues about them. I have family that are not JW's and have a great relationship with them. They don't shun you either just bc ur a JW. The devil is everywhere whether your a JW or not. I'm get tired of hearing so called "Ex- JW" talk shit. Grow up. You have your own issues and your using this religion as a scape goat!!!