Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Randomness About My Past as One of Jehovah's Witnesses and My Present as Not One

I really don't think much about my past life as one of Jehovah's Witnesses anymore. Of course it's all there, always sort of hovering around in my brain.....but as far as day to day goes, I don't give it much thought. This time of year though, it all begins to rumble around me like constant thunder. You'd think that I'd be here, purging all my thoughts and feelings but it really is the one thing I can't write about in any cohesive manner. I just don't have a clue where to begin. So I keep it all in until I feel like there is just no more room in my head and then I come here and spew a bunch of randomness until I feel better. It's a weird routine I've gotten into. But here it goes:

*I sometimes see Jehovah's Witnesses going from door to door in my neighborhood. When they come to my apartment I either don't answer the door, or answer it and just quickly say that I'm not interested. I have no desire to get into any theological discussion with any off those people. I hate that religion and disagree with the majority of the beliefs. But, I think that the practicers of the religion are basically good people who got swept up with an all consuming faith that completely took over their lives. In their hearts they feel they are doing the right thing because they are told over and over that they are, and I can't fault them for that. Nor can I try to change their minds about it all. Although I want to. I so want to. But you can't argue with people about faith/religion/god. Well, you can. But unless someone wants to hear what you have to say, it's futile.

*I sometimes find myself humming songs we used to sing at The Kingdom Hall (the JW church). I find this irritating because none of their songs are particularly pretty or well written. There's one called Let's Watch How We Walk and it's all about watching what you do and say because people of 'the world' are always looking to judge you and the religion and if they see it in a negative light, then they won't convert and have eternal life. And if they don't gain eternal life, then you're essentially blood guilty, and who wants that? But yeah, I hate that those songs are in my head taking up valuable brain space.

*I wish that I could talk to my dad about all this. But he's still an active member of the church and anything I say to him would be seen as completely sacrilegious. He may even go so far as to assume that my thoughts and words aren't my own, but that I'm under the influence of the devil. In recent years our relationship has gotten better but I know that we'll never be close while he's one of Jehovah's Witnesses because there is a whole portion of my life that I can't share with him for fear of offending his completely irrational belief system. I can't send him pictures of the girl dressed for Halloween or pictures of the kids faces on Christmas morning. When my dad and I do talk, there is a whole host of topics we both just sort of mutually avoid. After we talk about Jay's work and the kids, we usually end up discussing real estate or politics. Is that a normal father/daughter conversation? I don't know, it feels like something is missing.

*Random fact: There was a study done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and it found that "Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religious tradition. Only 37% of those who say they were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses still identify themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses." (The full report can be seen here.)

*As far as my childhood goes, it wasn't an awful one and I never want to give the impression that I was abused. I was loved. I had everything I needed. But I was sheltered to the point where I think it stifled my development in many ways. I was always shy to begin with, but the fact that I had this viewpoint that the entire world was evil except for those who served Jehovah, made it even worse. Plus, I was an only child. There are times I remember being painfully lonely. I see my own kids now and they have so many friends and such active social lives. I didn't have that as a kid. Mostly, I think I've gotten beyond that now. I'll always be an introvert because I think that's just my personality, but I consider myself normal. More or less.

*I regret hanging around the Witnesses as long as I did, mainly because it caused my son to miss out on so much in his early childhood. He sees the girl going to birthday parties and trick or treating and he makes comments that he wishes he could have done those things. It makes me sad because I know he can't get those years back. But there really isn't anything I can do about it now, I can only try to make the rest of his childhood as normal as possible, and I think Jay and I are doing a pretty good job of that.

Anyway....I guess that's all I have to say about this right now until the time when it bubbles up once again. As always, please feel free to leave any thoughts or questions in the comments section and I'll try to respond to them in the best way I know how.


Jessie @ Luna Pacifica said...

It took me YEARS to shake off the religion I grew up in and more years of reading, writing and soul searching for me to find if I even HAD spiritual beliefs and what they were. Keep writing! It will all make sense eventually.

Thank you for the post. It can be difficult to distill what you feel and think about a religion that no matter what you do will always be a part of who you were and who you are. Just know, you aren't alone. (Not that you're freaked out or anything!)

And don't feel bad about the boy. He's missing nothing now and that matters. Later, when he's older, he'll understand.

Tammie said...

jessie: thank you so much. it really is a process and just when i think im finally, really done with it all, something will sneak into my brain and bring it all up again.

daphne said...

You are such a good mom to your kids and I really admire how you are reconciling the things that you are uncomfortable with (in your past) and are trying to give your kids what you feel they need and should have to create a life that feels good to all of you. You are amazingly well-adjusted for coming out of such a stifling religion. I really admire you. hugs.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

I think it's awesome that you can write so candidly about religion and your experiences. My husband and I are both atheists, but I hate to press the issue/beliefs (or lack of) too much on my kids because I really want them to be able to make up their own minds and come to their own conclusions.

Brainwashing is a frightening concept -- either way. And sadly, that's what I think has happened to many in the JW religion. There are a few in my workplace and everyone tiptoes around ignoring birthdays and holidays for fear of offending -- but I think that's almost a reverse discrimination. Religion is a personal choice and I get mighty offended when someone thinks I need saving.

Layrayski said...

When I was in kindergarten I was in a Catholic Pre school. I remember one time we were up in the stage playing when a classmate said that since she and her family are members of (I forgot the name of the christian denomination she belonged to) only they will be saved and go to heaven and the rest of us will go to hell. I didn't say anything but I remember thinking, mmm what about those early people who lived in the caves, will they go to hell because they didn't know about this girl's religion?

We don't have halloween here. :( I wish we did. I wish I had costumes to wear. I remember I was so envious of my cousin's batman costume :(

mandy said...

You are a gifted writer to be able to take on your childhood religion and some of your thoughts about it now as an adult.

I certainly don't know what it would be like to grow up JW, but my own beliefs often make it hard to talk to my parents about some God stuff. I wish it was like politics and we could just agree to disagree, but their faith is so important to them and I know they wish my beliefs were different.

Hard stuff.

Theresa said...

I agree with Jessie, keep writing! Even if it doesn't make much sense later on, it's still an active way of working through it, so it doesn't have to!

Question: Do you guys do much for Christmas these non-JW days?

Dani said...

Oh, religion.

Being raised a preacher's kid has definitely had an impact on my views as an adult. Not that I don't have a strong faith or belief...it's more the church thing. I've yet to find a church where I fit. I always feel out of place. I'm not...I don't know..."good" enough. Not good as in worthy, but good as in well behaved.

The women especially don't like me. I can tell. It's just like the churchy girls in college.

I keep saying I need to find the hippie church and go there.

Religion. Urgh.

Run Lori Run said...

Great, great post. You are so honest. I grew up in family that discussed religion openly but we never went to a particular church. I feel lucky that I wasn't brainwashed as a child. Your son will understand and will benefit from your decision to leave the LW church. you rock.

Anonymous said...

tammie, have you ever read noli me tangere? do you like historical stuff? you might want to check this one out :)