Should you Disassociate and sample Disassociation Letters
Once a person realises Jehovah's Witnesses do not teach truth, it is common to ask how to write a letter of disassociation. There are different approaches to such a letter. Some keep it to a single line stating, "This letter represents my formal disassociation from the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and from Watchtower." Others attempt to use the letter to let the elders know what is wrong with the religion. Make no mistake though, since you are identifying yourself to the elders as apostate, you have no authority in their eyes, nor can be trusted. Elders rarely find these letters so compelling that they too come to realise the religion is unwholesome. At least the effort of writing the letter can be cathartic for the author.
Sample format for Disassociation letter
To Whom it May Concern:
Information on reason for the decision to disassociate. (optional)
This letter represents my formal disassociation from the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and from Watchtower.
I do not wish to be contacted over this decision. (optional)
Following are some sample letters.
- Disassociation letter, Leaving Watchtower 2008 uses impressive reasoning and shows the official format.
- Disassociation Letter, Fugue 2011, simple and well written, with the husband and wife disassociating with the same letter.
- Disassociation Letter, Magento 2015, very succinctly lists the points that make one want to disassociate.
- Annulment letter, Paul Grundy 2005 - my letter to the Australian Bethel Branch Office requesting my baptism be annulled, rather than that disassociate, on the basis that I was baptised as a minor. It was not successful, with Bethel insisting that as an adult I had formed other "contracts" with Watchtower, such as signing a form to be a pioneer and to work at Bethel. You may find the format and information useful.
The elders instruction manual, Shepherd the Flock of God, explains that you can disassociate verbally, in which case they will want you to meet with them. A meeting is required to provide them with the required "two witnesses." They will request that you write a formal letter, but if you refuse they can write up their own report for the congregation files instead.
"Making known a firm decision to be known no longer as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. If the individual is agreeable, the committee should first try to speak with him and provide spiritual assistance. (GaL 6:1) Does he really desire to disassociate himself, or does he simply no longer want to associate actively with the congregation? Is the desire to disassociate prompted by doubts or discouragement? If he is adamant in his position, he should be encouraged to put his request in writing and sign it. If he does not, then the witnesses to his request should prepare a statement for the confidential files and sign it." Shepherd the Flock of God p.111 "Implications of Disassociation"
Should you Disassociate?
When asked if I recommend a person disassociates, my answer it generally "No, why play by the religion's rules?" All you are doing is making it easier for the elders. It is usually better to simply "fade"; that is, stop going to meetings without saying anything to anyone. That leaves more options for your future.
I have read on internet forums many discussions about whether a person should or should not disassociate, and the consensus is generally not to. Some people that disassociate later say they regret it, as they lost contact with all friends and family, hence allowing the religion to continue holding power over them.
If you stop going to meetings and fade out, you know that you are no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses, nor a follower of the Watchtower Society. That is what counts the most. Officially, you will no longer be counted as one of Jehovah's Witnesses if you have not reported time in the preaching work for 6 months, you are considered inactive and no longer included in the official Watchtower reports as a publisher. This way you will not be a Witness, yet still be able to retain a limited amount of contact with family, and that provides you with more ability to help them too.
Once you stop witnessing you are no longer statistically counted as a Jehovah's Witness, and once you stop attending the memorial Jehovah's Witnesses will realise that you no longer consider yourself one, so you do not need to be troubled by your conscience, or that you appear to be supporting something you disagree with. Even though you may be offended by the terrible and coercive tactics Watchtower uses, simply leaving is enough though to let the congregation and community know you are no longer a Watchtower follower.
The primary reason not to disassociate is that doing so is final, and severs all ties with your family and friends. You will be shunned by them, and some time down the track you may wish that you were able to speak with some of them, maybe to help open their eyes, or just in order to keep some form of family communication open. Jehovah’s Witness behaviour is motivated by rules and not principles, and so there is a huge difference between how a Witness treats a person that fades out, and one that is disfellowshipped or disassociated.
When I was leaving, for several years my family knew that I was basically an apostate, and that I was just going to meetings so I could associate with them and be invited to their houses. The week after my judicial committee process I went on a holiday with my parents, who freely associated with me. However, the day I was announced as disfellowshipped, all my family instantly stopped speaking with me. It made me realise how they are driven by rules and not logic. Since I had made it known to them a long time prior to being disfellowshipped that I did not agree with their leaders, religion and God, they should have personally cut me off, but instead they needed to be told what to do by the organisation. On the other hand, my cousin faded out, and despite having lived with a woman, and having similar ideas about the religion as I do, freely associates with the family.
Another example is how children raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses can be treated. One gets baptised and then disfellowshipped but the other never gets baptised. They can be living identical lives, yet the one that was not baptised will have free association with the family, but the disfellowshipped one will be totally shunned. So think twice about disassociating, as the repercussions are very strong and difficult to live with and hard to change.
Another experience I have read shows how differently family can treat you if you fade rather than disassociate.
"My wife and I have been out of the tower since 1983 - 30 years. We didn't write any letters or get disfellowshipped, just stopped going to meetings. Recently our Jehovah's Witness family put on an expensive 40th wedding anniversary for my wife and I. My mother and brother, who wrote letters disassociating themselves, were not allowed to come."
Whilst you are passionate with what you are learning about the religion, if you talk about it you will be disfellowshipped. You may think that your family will be grateful if you share this information with them, but almost universally, the reaction is that they will claim you are lying, that the issues are not important, and then speak to the elders that you have become apostate in your thinking. The mind control is far stronger than it appears. You need to take time to let things sink in and to calm down. That was the mistake I made. I was so angry after researching things and reading Crisis of Conscience that I decided I could no longer support the religion. I put together jwfacts.com for my family to read, for which I was disfellowshipped. Yet after 10 years I have still been unable to help a single family member leave, other than my wife and children. In my case, I feel what happened was worth it, as jwfacts.com has helped tens of thousands of other people leave, but for most people being disfellowshipped is very debilitating with little reward.
One way to receive closure is to write a disassociation letter. Then, rather than handing it to the elders, destroy it, or store it somewhere safe. This is a cathartic process that helps you clarify what is wrong and why, and provide official closure for yourself. From that point forward, you know you are not part of the Watchtower empire and do not answer to its Governing Body leadership and their elders.
Don't expect that just because you are disassociated that your family will stop harassing you to come back to the religion. Parents will never stop hoping you "come back to Jehovah," so that you can be saved with them at Armageddon. They will forever hold onto the glimmer of hope that deep down you still believe it is the truth, regardless of how many reasons you have given them to prove their religion is wrong.
"I've been disassociated since 1998, and just this morning my mom was on the verge of tears, pleading with me to speak with one of the elders, trying to convince me to come back into the fold."
Reasons to Disassociate
There are circumstances where disassociation can be the best option.
- It may be the only way you think you will reach final closure, in order to move on with your life.
- You feel like you are always looking over your shoulder, wondering if the elders are stalking you.
- You are about to be surely disfellowshipped, and want to take that pleasure away from the elders.
- You have no family in the religion, and little to lose.
It can be difficult to truly move on from the religion if you fade, and some constantly carry the fear that the congregation is watching and reporting what they do to the elders. Some parents are incessant with their faded children, constantly meddling and pestering them to return to the meetings. Disassociation can be the most effective way to achieve closure.
If you disassociate, or if you fade, in both cases you will end up being shunning by most of your friends and family. Even though someone that fades does not officially have to be shunned, Watchtower makes plenty of comments that anyone not active in the religion is to be considered bad association and avoided. People that fade are treated in much the same manner Jehovah's Witnesses treat "worldly people."
If you disassociate, you will likely be considered apostate, people will know the stance you are making. The congregation considers apostates as more dangerous than pedophiles, as seen by their treatment and policies towards both. If you fade, you will be considered spiritually weak. Some people want to make sure everyone is aware of their true stance, particularly when they first leave. Still, over time you will care less about what other Jehovah's Witnesses think about you, and it is good to let some period of time pass before making any decision.
"I just sent my letter in around 2 weeks ago. ... I'm still feeling great! I live next door to an elder, and see him often. I no longer have that tightening in my stomach - seeing him has no effect on me. I feel like I'm not looking over my shoulder, either. My friends invited me to our casino, and last time I went I had that weird feeling that I might be seen. I almost had that feeling this time, but then I thought, "Oh yeah! I sent my letter!" and the feeling went away. I feel absolutely---------------------------------FREE! But I think it is important to state that I had no family 'in' and all of my friends had already dropped me after I became inactive.
If you chose to go ahead and disassociate, write your letter and leave it. Go back a few days later and proof read it. Wait a few more days before handing it in. It will provide you with time to go through a range of emotions, and avoid making a rash decision before making things final.
Prior to doing anything final, read through experiences at forums such as jehovahs-witness.com, and even post asking for advice, as you will find good ideas and support during this difficult time that you are going through. As I write this article, it is exactly ten years since I started to fade. I remember what you are going through as if it were yesterday, and wish you all the best in what is one of the hardest decisions you will make during your life time.
Written Feb 2015. Latest update Mar 2015.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2016