Growing Up in the UK
I grew up in the Witnesses in the UK at what felt like it’s prime, the 80’s.
I grew up amongst the excited and twisted delusion that the end of the world and death of all humans but us loyal JW’s was about to happen. The literature books had a weird chemical smell, the kingdom melody cassette tapes would play awkwardly fast and slow at the halls. Every congregation had it weird rules, ours had some about shirts and clothing, but by enlarge all JW’s were the same the world over and there was no doubt the paradise was here any day now, the Live Forever book was very clear about what was on offer if you simply obey, it had colour pictures and everything!
The Cold War, Iraq war, Financial crash, 9/11, Afghan war, Iraq 2 etc etc were all evidences that we had finally reached ’the end’ over and over. Every big storm or weather event had everyone wondering… Is this it?
On the brighter side we had ‘sing song’ nights where people would bring musical instruments to the hall and play kingdom melodies together on a Saturday night and have a buffet. There were congregation parties where we played music as a bands, where people put on little acts and shows, even a little dance. This was back in the day when congregations were trusted to meet at unsanctioned times and event and even use the halls they had built and paid for themselves.
Everyone had menial / hard labour jobs, everyone was struggling financially, everyone had family they loved but had no contact with, we all wanted Michael Jackson, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins albums…. but they were evil. We were united in our weirdness, in our unique experience in the world …but we were right. We all secretly went to see The Matrix too!
There were tough times, like the paedophiles rampant in the religion… the documentary that came out. The fact we all knew many cases of abuse around us (ask a non JW how many they know of). We all saw and heard of alcoholism, domestic violence and clear masoginistic sexism evident in daily life.
Times were often hard, my upbringing depended on government support but it didn’t matter that we had no schooling or career or pension or non JW family or money….beacause the people of 1914 were dying = the end was coming soon! This wasn’t Kingdom Hall hearsay, it was doctrine for decades. If they could have had a countdown clock for the lives of the remaining elderly 1914 people, it would have been in every hall, it was pretty much printed in the magazines at least twice a year.
Of course time ticked and nothing happened…..again….
Despite all this, it couldn’t be a cult despite the niggling concern in the back of our mind because our humble leaders were unknown anonymous men who would never publicly ask us for our money, so how could it be a scam? Also local brother new Mercedes runs a business, he’s wealthy and smart, he’s in the JW’s so it must be true right !?
I bore you with this tirade because… the Jehovah’s Witnesses I grew up in no longer exists. They now have different meetings, sing different songs, have different beliefs, have tithing by another name, damn they even have a different bible now! The internet back then was a sin, I had a hard time convincing local JW’s that the official website wasn’t an apostate website and had to show them it in the front of the magazines to avoid getting a wrist slap and even then was advised to not promote it. The internet was said to be called ‘the web’ because just like a spider, Satan uses it to entrap his prey…..… now Satan’s web is used to stream live Governing Body fundraisers!
I was a pioneer, I was a bethelite, I was involved in years of RBC work. I once painted my name in gold in an assembly hall ceiling. Embarrassing when it was visible after the paint job.
After years of ‘shelving’ doubts…I eventually remember the assembly where I sat there and realised for the first time “I don’t belong here anymore….” I had known all these hundreds, thousands of people from childhood, but they were strangers to me, my internal monologue and my mind. They were all blatantly living a lie, they didn’t REALLY live as if a god was watching them and I couldn’t take ’the game’ anymore.
I decided to go out with a bang and told my elders what I thought of doctrines I didn’t agree with, about mistakes the governing body had made with dates and prophecies and doctrines. I brought up paedophilia, finances and old literature…. everything! I had researched and learned about the Watchtower owning a Navy drone engine company called Rand Cam, I learned they had been swooning with the wild beast for …. ‘a library card’ they didn’t see the irony that the adultutterly they committed with the UN for just a ‘library card’ was worse than the truth, that they used to use their privileged access to impress bethel senior guests by taking them to the UN building on a tour of NY sites. Then there was the Governing Body member Franz who I had never been told had left the governing body due to a ‘Crisis of Conscience’ with blood and organ donation issues and marriage and bedroom doctrines he had been a part of. He wrote a book after being disfellowshpied. How did we not know this? Why would it be wrong to read his insights into the GB inner workings at bethel?
Barbara Anderson featured in the magazines as a bethel elders wife, she contributed to most of the insight books… but she had to leave because of the paedophilia she uncovered and was disfellowshiped because she spoke up. She reports that she saw the internal rifts of the governing body, some pro education some against, some pro uncovering the paedophile issue and the more senior bullish ones wanting it covered up. Go read her story, talk to her, I did!
Go watch countless court cases, read up even more cases where JW senior leaders have had lawyers represent them and deny doctrines that the JW’s absolutely held dear. If they will lie in court about this stuff who are these men we let lead our lives? Watch Jackson try to preach to a judge during an institutional paedophilia investigation. God’s spokesmen on earth admitted to having an organisational issue with child abuse management! This is not a small issue if you want to claim ‘you will know them by their fruits.’
It was all just so obvious to me all of the sudden…. It’s simply not true. Worse it is damaging!
I basically said ‘enough’.
I was asked to stop attending straight away, Within a week friends were crossing the street from me, my family called me spiritually dangerous. I was ‘bitter with god’ or ‘gay’ …. Many things I was accused of, everything but the truth…. I was done with Watchtower. I hadn’t promoted any apostate literature, I hadn’t committed a sin… so I walked away and they let me. 25 years old, homeless, no career, no money, nowhere to even call home but I remember leaving the presiding overseers house smiling. Someone asking sincere questions about beliefs and scandals would not be turned away if it was the real truth… I had my answer.
I went back to school, got my high school grades again. It turns out that telling people you were a Jehovahs Witness and did lots of ‘voluntary’ work will not get you anywhere in life. The Kingdom Ministry School I was raised on…. not so much of a school. Pitch, Pace and Power ….Audience contact…. Gestures…. this garbage doesn’t pay the rent. Years wasted on this stuff!
I worked hard, got good grades, gradated uni in my early 30’s and got a professional career, I also became an inventor, lastly I also did a PGC and became an honorary university lecturer, I got married, I bought a nice home, married an amazing woman. I simply live an honest and happy life. I’ve become one of the people that walk past a JW literature cart and feel sorry for the two miserable souls stood there, lost, scared but convinced. I chuckle to myself that they smile at an ex bethelite, ex fellow pioneer with no idea.
I now look back every now and than in disbelief at what I experienced.
Nights like tonight occur…. I watched a new Netflix documentary with my wife called “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey” and naturally my JW senses tingled.
I remember that I had a life like that once and it’s important to communicate two things….
That religion isn’t dying, it has died. A new organisation exists so very different to the religion I gre up in. Obvious distancing itself from Russel, Rutherford, Franz, all of them, the dirty past, the child abuse, the flip-flop doctrines. JW.ORG is a rebranding of an old business that flopped with failed 1914 generation prophecies and nonsense mathematical gymnastic predictions and prophecies. Don’t miss this opportunity to walk away.
Secondly, you can have a life after this thing. Just leave it! The quicker you leave the more chance you have at a life. The faster you leave, the earlier your decisions influence the people you love.
Life is too short, I hope as many get out in my lifetime as possible, I hope YOU reading this get out.
From experience, yes it’s scary but it really is as easy as saying….’enough’….. and waking away.
Sure living is hard, but it’s hard for everyone, especially if by design you have no education, career, finances or non JW support. The quicker you rectify this, the better for you and your precious life experience. JW’s have no respect for time and wasted years due to misguided beliefs about living forever and never dying. Trust me, it is what hurts the most when you leave.
We were sold stories of living forever with a log cabin and a pet lion.…
Time for the real life now.
Originally published May 2022
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023