Ska8erboi - Thoughts of a 17 Year Old
[This is my experience when I was a Jehovah’s Witness. This is not to be anything argumentative.]
The majority of my life, my mother had raised me as a Jehovah's Witness. Amongst many others, I was taught that this was truth - the absolute truth, and that some supernatural force was guiding this organization. I did actually believe this and when you're really young and brainwashed into thinking something is true and anything critical of it is false and anyone outside the organization is this and that, then you really don't know what to believe. There's a reason why they tell people to always go to the meetings. That's how you get conditioned and put under cult mind-control. If you stop going, you slowly begin not to believe in it. Why is that? Because conditioning only lasts for so long.
I probably didn't start becoming skeptical until I was around 16 or 17. There were many red flags that really got me wondering if this really was 'The Truth', like it claims to be. I never really 'felt' what others were feeling. Others would always say ridiculous things like 'Oh, Jehovah has helped me so much.' and so on, but I, for whatever reason, never could relate to them. I'm assuming, by nature, I'm just not a religious person, and maybe I was just too intelligent to actually believe all of this? I never came to my senses until I began to learn and use rational thinking. I find it pretty silly that people think an imaginary god is going to protect them from getting in a car accident on their way to work or whatever, but then looking at history, millions died during the holocaust, thousands died during 9/11, millions died by Stalin, Mao, and so on. I'm not playing the 'These bad things happened, therefore, God doesn't exist' card, but it's silly for an individual, especially an adult, to believe in such childlike fantasies.
I even remember talking about getting baptized and I was even on the Theocratic Ministry School and read Scriptures [off and on] from around 2005 to 2011. I never truly wanted to get baptized, but I felt like that was the only way I would be able to make it to paradise. Silly, I know.
The first time I dropped out of the Ministry School was because I claimed that I 'needed' a break due to school or something. I can't exactly remember, but I did drop out and then rejoined again later. I really started to loathe this, because of the anxiety I was feeling, and I just wasn't interested like I was before. I wanted to drop out again, but I was afraid to, simply because of the judgment I knew I'd receive. When I first stopped, I could say that I probably had a reasonable excuse, but this time I wanted to be honest, and whenever I'd talk to one of the guys there, they would always try to persuade me not to drop out, even though I really did not want to stay in it.
I sensed a lot of pressure and this made me really uncomfortable, so I continued to remain in it. Eventually, I just stopped going to the meetings altogether. When I stopped going, I was expecting things to get rough for me. I thought all kinds of bad things were going to happen and that 'God' was going to kill me for leaving. Nothing changed. Now when I think about it, that type of thinking is highly ignorant and that's more evidence of cult mind-control.
The last time I went to the Kingdom Hall was October of 2011 and I'm going to be honest, I have never felt better. The relief wasn't sudden though. It took a few months, because I was still open to the fact that it just could be the Truth after all. At that time, I was going by feelings, not any objective information. I learned all the critical objective information later on, AFTER I stopped going. I was really depressed when I stopped going and didn't really care whether it was the truth or not. I was depressed because I had just recently quit my job and I felt hopeless. This contributed to apathy, which was another reason why I left. I just didn't care. Eventually, I started to use more rational thinking and things started making more sense. I started doing research.
I did get into a huge argument with my mom about her indoctrinating me with her religious literature and she has not tried to push anything on me since. From time to time, we will get into arguments, but I find her every time attacking my character and trying to make it a personal matter rather than attacking the evidence. The facts. Of all the times we have got into arguments about this, she has failed to win any of them, or prove any kind of point to me except that she is clearly delusional. She takes offense, has not proved anything. Everything that she tried to debate me with was all based on religious faith. She has not once looked at the evidence and when I state irrefutable facts to her, she simply denies it and refers to her faith in the Bible. It's a shame to see an adult be so narrow-minded and bigoted. This is one of the many reasons parents should not label their children with any religious beliefs. Indoctrinating your child is such a sick thing to do. The thought of any parent doing such a thing really makes me wonder. It's like they think they're doing their children a favor.
I've been spoon fed this religious b-s since infancy and I had enough of it. I told my mom that unless she will discuss and view the irrefutable evidence I have about her beliefs and religion in general - I don't want anything that she has. It really doesn't matter what she shares with me anyway. I've seen it all and none of it is convincing. I think this is only fair, and I have read and listened to just about everything every JW has ever shared with me. Like I said - none of it is convincing. Now, I am an open-minded individual, and I'm not quick to make conclusions.
When I officially stopped going to the kingdom hall, it was sudden. I just quit going, but I did not feel the need to have to write a letter or confirm it to anyone. I did not want to write a letter anyway. I figured that they would eventually figure it all out, and if they didn't, I really did not and do not care. I'm sure they would believe the ridiculousness that my mom was telling them. I am sure she told them things like "Satan's got a hold of him" or "He's spiritually sick" or "He's been reading things online." and plus like I said...I didn't feel the need to explain anything to them. If someone were to ask me why I left, I would gladly explain, but it doesn't need to be a personal issue. I'd much rather have a less subjective conversation on religion rather than going by personal feelings. Let's look at the facts, accept reality, and let go of the fantasies.
I stopped attending before I educated myself and started being more rational, but even if I stopped going because of what I found out, how wouldn't that be a justifiable and reasonable cause for doing so? I was already skeptical and began looking up information to try to confirm it was the truth, but I found out otherwise. I think that's the base of being a skeptic. Seeking for what's true.
What really frustrates me about religion is that it demands respect. With religion, if you don't have anything supportive to say of it, then it's 'shut down'. How exactly does faith and superstitious beliefs deserve any kind of respect? How does indoctrination deserve any kind of respect? Shunning, information control, behavior control, and brainwashing do not deserve an ounce of respect. Beliefs based upon no evidence don't deserve respect. If you think it does, then please, explain why.
I wasn't quite convinced that this was not 'The Truth' until December of 2011. I was even afraid to even search 'Jehovahs witnesses' into the Internet because I've been conditioned all my life that anything critical of it is false and that we are not to even listen/read to what "Apostates" have to say. So it took me awhile to actually break from that type of thinking and to actually see what it was that they didn't want us to see so badly. That right there should raise a red flag to anyone. Telling someone NOT to read something or listen to what someone else has to say is a sign of information control, and is a sign of insecurity. If this was truth, then it shouldn't even matter what you read, because you have evidence to actually refute. This is to only keep people in this organization. After doing further historical research, I learned that the Watchtower Society really is not unique after all. I have found plenty of other similar groups even before it was founded!
One thing I truly hated about being a Jehovah's Witness was 'field service. It was always (always) a relief after I was done knocking door after door disturbing countless number of people. I felt like I had to or I was just going to die, and at that point, I just didn't care. Death or not, I was truly sick of it. The only thing I probably liked about being a JW was the association, which is the main reason why so many stay and think it's 'the truth'. I have met a lot of really interesting people there, but if only it wasn't religious, it would've been so much better. If it was a group based on reason, evidence, and scientific thinking, I think it would be absolutely amazing. Something that could be put to good effective use is being used for ignorance and superstitious beliefs. After all, that's how religion came about; superstition.
Some months later, I self-diagnosed myself with social anxiety disorder, and I am 99% sure that attending the indoctrination sessions and field service attributed to this. I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Even my brother did. Of course, he still goes because my mom makes him go, but he has told me that he doesn't want to be part of a religion, but still wants to believe in a god. It frustrates me to the core to see my mom doing this to him. Religion discourages independent thought. How are you supposed to learn if you believe in something only because you're told to do so?
Anyway, I felt very insecure and sometimes I would even break into sweats while I was sitting there listening to the nonsense. I felt like the person sitting behind me and others across the room were just staring at my hair thinking of how "nappy" and "unkempt" my Afro looked. I recently just learned what social anxiety is, and this is surely what I was feeling. No doubt. I think I've made great improvement with my social anxiety, but there is still much work to be done. I'm still working on it and trying to learned more about my social issues and learn more about myself as an individual.
At the time, I was growing out my hair for the first time, and I had an Afro. I had gotten quite a few negative responses from others, and this is what started my insecurity. My mom, grandma, and others would occasionally make negative comments about it. A lot of the men/women there would compliment my brother about his new haircut, and then look at me and not even say anything, or some would be bold enough to say that I "needed" one or "should" get one and so on. I appreciate honesty, but I was certainly offended. Why was I offended? Because I knew why they were making such negative opinionated comments. I didn't fit in, and so I was critiqued.
Not knowing how subjective these words really were, I was deeply affected by them. I never once wanted to cut my hair, and I still haven't. I love nature, and I figured, well..."This is me. This is my natural hair, and I love it." I definitely changed the style though, which is yet another thing that raised a red flag for me. I would get so annoyed talking to people there, and then them constantly looking up at my hair while conversing. For one, my hair wasn't even [that] long, but compared to everyone else I guess it was, when it really wasn't that long. Every guy there was practically bald and looked boring to me, so I guess this explains why I stuck out so much. This surely contributed to my insecurity, but I don't regret anything. :-)
In August of 2011, I started my first set of dreads. This is something I have wanted practically all my life, and the only reason why I never got them sooner was because my mom never agreed with it. I presume that you know why. Once I started my dreads, I went to the kingdom hall with them 2 times and that was it. The condescending attitudes were highly annoying and pathetic.
When I left, I was still having my Bible study. While I was still having my study, my instructor gave me one of their books that basically gave excuses for all the contradictions in the Bible. Granted, some of it made sense, but most of it did not make sense, and like I said, they were simply excuses. I also educated myself more about religion in general, and I noticed that every religion claims to be true, so how can they all possibly be true if they contradict each other, and who's to say any of them have to be true? Once I learned more about superstitious behavior, this is where I concluded how religion probably came about.
I was not going to conclude that this organization wasn't the truth simply because I had a negative experience, so I began to start an investigation and a seek for evidence. Once I finally started researching this organization with a fair-minded yet skeptical view, I then realized that it was not the truth, and I was relieved, because I often wondered if it really was. I always had a rough time believing in a lot of the things taught in this organization, I really did. Of course, it's all based on belief. Many of my indoctrinated beliefs I found to be based on mere opinion. In fact, they are.
I accept life for what it is rather than looking at life in such a negative, degrading view. Life is beautiful and I enjoy it now more than I ever have before. I appreciate things more and I'm gentler. This is not from religion, but from rational thinking and scientific knowledge. It still bothers me to see people believe in such idiotic views. Even children don't believe in some of these 'ancient' mythological, superstitious, superfluous, irrational views.
Now, I'm a Freethinking Naturalist (or Atheist), and I'm living life. I'm more into science and scientific thinking, and I have to say ... it feels great to have a reasonable and evidence-based understanding of the world rather than one based on religious faith. Maybe someday, we will evolve into a more reasonable society, but as religiosity continues to expand, it doesn't seem like it'll be happening anytime soon.