Paul Grundy: My Story
I am the author of jwfacts.com and here is my story. See also:
- Letter Requesting Annulment
- Judicial Committee
- How I obtained my personal documents from Bethel
- My Father's Funeral
I was raised a Jehovah's Witness by loving parents. My grandmothers, an aunty and uncle and some cousins were Jehovah's Witnesses. After I left home, my father spent twenty years as a Circuit Overseer and my sister and her husband spent time in Bethel prior to having children. I grew up in a congregation where many older Witnesses expressed the strictly fundamental viewpoint that Jehovah personally directed the Organization and soon would destroy anyone that was not a Jehovah's Witness. As promoted in the Watchtower, I thought I was never going to die; I did not even expect to finish school prior to Armageddon. However, Armageddon had not arrived by the time I matriculated so, unusually for Witnesses in the 1980's, my parents were open-minded enough to encourage me to obtain a University degree. I felt I was able to justify obtaining a higher education by studying part-time whilst regular pioneering. I did not end up doing a professional year, as after university I went straight to Bethel.
Being gregarious, I came to know personally over a thousand Witnesses. What always bothered me is that many of these Witnesses were doing shocking things, and many "worldly" people I met were very nice. I could not reconcile why God will kill the worldly ones and save the Witnesses simply for a label. The worldly people generally knew nothing of Jehovah's Witnesses, so they could hardly be judged evil rejecters of Jehovah.
It was my time at Bethel that convinced me that the Watchtower Society does not have Jehovah's direction. In 1994, a Bethelite friend of mine became an elder, whilst he was committing adultery. It was later discovered that this had been going on for 7 years. This proved to me that God's holy spirit is not involved in Watchtower congregational appointments. Though weakening my faith, I did not know enough about Watchtower history or alternate doctrinal viewpoints to know whether the Watchtower at least taught the closest truth about the Bible. I was too afraid to find out, afraid that if I read anything not from the Watchtower I would be influenced by apostates, afraid that if I left I might be wrong and would die at Armageddon, afraid of being shunned by my family and friends and very afraid of entering the world knowing no one, and believing that the world is an evil and depressing place to live.
In 1994, I left Bethel feeling that the Watchtower may not contain truth. I started to wonder what would happen to the Organization in 20 years time when the last of the 1914 Generation died out without Armageddon coming. I could not imagine the Watchtower shutting up shop in 2014 saying, "well the last one has died, we were wrong", so expected a new Generation doctrine would be formulated. It was still quite a shock when this occurred in 1995, and I took this to indicate that the Governing Body are not confident that the end is really just about to happen. However, out of fear of the loneliness of leaving I still chose to attend meetings. The constant derogatory statements about the world and worldly people began to irritate me and I started to miss more meetings, until by 2004 I was almost inactive and could see no point in life either.
It was at that time that the elders started to pressure me to reactivate myself, wanting to know what my problem was. I told them that I had little faith so they told me to prove the truth to myself by studying more. It finally dawned on me that I already knew more about Watchtower doctrine and policy than most people did yet I had never properly studied the Bible outside the single point of view of the Watchtower. I started to research from numerous sources. This all happened at the time of the Tsunami in December 2004, so one of the first subjects I looked at was earthquakes. I cannot express enough the shock I felt at Watchtower deception in this regard, as the (so-called) 20 times increase in earthquakes was one of the foundation points of my faith.
The next few months I became consumed by research and the shock and disappointment with the Watchtower Society was well compensated for by the amazement I felt at finally being able to think and learn. Most Witnesses question the validity of at least some Watchtower doctrine, but as they cannot openly question any Watchtower doctrine cognitive dissonance arises. I had spent my entire life suppressing contrary thoughts and regurgitating prescribed Watchtower beliefs. To finally be able to evaluate information rather than blindly input it was quite literally mind blowing and I now see freedom from mind control as vitally important.
I stopped attending meetings early 2005 and attempted to slip out. Leaving was exceptionally difficult. I went through post-traumatic shock, becoming very emotional and finding it difficult to concentrate, losing my job in the process and experiencing two very difficult years financially. I continued to devote myself to researching Watchtower doctrine, feeling the need to prove I had not been "blinded by Satan" or misled by my own sinful ulterior motives. The more research I did, the angrier I became, and determined to help my family see through the manipulation and falsehood. I did not understand the power of mind control, and rather than assist them, all that occurred was to create alienation and resentment.
I started to locate or find out about all my childhood witness associates. I found that of 40 people, over half were disfellowshipped. Some had barely been contacted by their parents for 20 years. Others were racked by fear of Armageddon. An examination of Watchtower publisher records identifies that Witnesses have one of the highest turnover rates of any religion, with 100,000's adversely affected through shunning. Other statistics show that Witness divorce rate is on par with the general population, they have the lowest level of education and lowest income levels of any established religion in developed countries.
I posted jwfacts.com, wanting to assist people find objective and factual information in an easy to follow format, in the hope of helping other Witnesses avoid the confusion I felt for the 10 years prior to leaving. I have found many that leave need help to get over the ingrained guilt and fear that results from being raised a Witness. It is also important for Bible studies to have both sides of the Watchtower story prior to baptism. It was difficult teaching myself to present objective information. However, I believe to be most effective the information I have presented must be accurate and honest and I always look forward to emails from people that help me rectify any errors.
Originally, jwfacts.com was anonymous, but about 6 months after my last meeting and the site going live the elders found out about it. They arrived one night at my doorstep, advising that I was to attend a meeting on the charges of apostasy. I wrote a letter requesting that instead my baptism be annulled; presenting that as a minor I was not in a position to make such an important commitment to an organization, one with lifetime ramifications. They refused to accept my reasoning and went ahead with forming the judicial committee. This meeting was traumatic and eye-opening. In my request for annulment were a number of points outlining why I could not accept Jehovah's Witnesses taught truth, but throughout the meeting, they refused to discuss a single issue raised. It was readily apparent that there was no concern about whether I still believed the Bible or God, rather "did I accept the Watchtower Society to be Jehovah's Organization?" It was announced shortly afterwards that I was "no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses."
The next six months became even more emotionally traumatic. Overnight, I was cut off from my family and network of friends. Yet at the same time, I experienced an incredible high. I was 36, and for the first time finally felt real, alive - Free! I had not understood how depressed I had been for many years as a Jehovah's Witness. I could now see beauty in the world around and in "worldly" people. I now felt connected, rather than an observer. I was free from the perpetual negativity the Watchtower instills, needing to reconcile everything as the evil Last Days, filled with evil people God must destroy. However, I could not overcome the deep hurt of losing family or stop my mind constantly replaying what I could do to change things. The only way I was able to control my thinking was to spend time with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
One of the hardest things that I had to come to accept is that a Jehovah’s Witness parent or sibling puts the organisation above their family. There are few exceptions to this rule. They are convinced that shunning is for your own benefit and required to bring you "back to Jehovah," and also a requirement for their own everlasting life. But it goes much deeper than that. You are confronting their belief system, and that is more precious then family; it it certainly more precious than I am.
Another difficulty with leaving was that I realised that I could not trust any of my beliefs. Virtually everything I believed had been dictated from birth. In my research, I had come to understand the way the Watchtower presents fallacious logic to manipulate the conclusion readers' draw. It became necessary to learn how to evaluate information, and then overtime re-evaluate every belief, moral and ideal.
I am strongly against any religion that manipulates its members and look forward to a time when atrocities are no longer done in the name of religion, whether they are in the form of terrorist acts, religious wars, violence, shunning family members, refusing medical treatment or just control of beliefs and emotions through fear and guilt. I am optimistic for the minimisation of injustice in the name of religion through education, seeing the Internet as the tool to increase availability of education over the coming decades.
Over the years friends from the past have made contact, as they too come to realise that Watchtower doctrine is based on untruths and fallacies. Progressing past the 100 year anniversary of Jesus "invisible" 1914 reign, more will realise such doctrine cannot be trusted. I look forward particularly to my niece and nephew coming to such realisation so that I can get to know them, and being there to support them when other family members are not.
During the years that I was questioning things I had no desire to bring children into this world. Since moving on I now see family as an important part of life, so after 10 years of marriage and at the age of 38 I had my first baby - Zac. Welcoming a son into the world and watching him change daily has been the greatest joy of my life.
In 2015 I was interviewed about my upbringing on ABC radio for the program "Conversations." A link can be found at abc.net.au/local/stories.
Written 2007. Latest update Apr 2015