"A person joins and leaves a group for many reasons.. Within the last four years, all of our immediate family has left the Witnesses.. The difference I feel now, looking back, is that I am not a rigid person, but many people with authority are very rigid. I also feel strongly that this organization as a whole has become far more rigid, controlling and authoritarian than they were 15 years ago.

"I recall many cases were elders were cruel, gave poor advice, and made rigid hurtful rules. I know elders, including those at Bethel, who have drinking problems themselves but disfellowship others, usually the young people, for the same reasons.

"My family lived through the build-up and deceit of "Armageddon Coming in 1975." .. I was told constantly and did believe that the Governing Body, those few old men who run this organization, somehow had "special knowledge" and "knew" that 1914 marked this generation as being the last one before Armageddon would come.. When in Nov. 1955 Watchtower changed the meaning of "generation," I emotionally blew up, but said only to my husband how I felt.

Within six months our youngest child tried several times to commit suicide. At that point I really questioned everything. Using only the Bible and the Society's publications, I really studied. We also went to family counseling. We did not read anything against the Witnesses.. It was a very personal choice. Still, from the first time we didn't go in the service or attend meetings, we were shunned.. I was very shocked that we were branded as "apostates" and completely shunned.. I tried to ask the Circuit Overseer and an elder a Few Questions on the JWs beliefs, but they didn't want to help me.

"We are no longer Witnesses. It was very hard for me to stop going to the Kingdom Hall.. We are again a smaller happy family. While there was a painful period of adjustment and still is somewhat, I am much happier and much more realistic than I have ever been. Our youngest child is doing well now and is attending college.


1. I love to read. I never heard or read anything against the Witnesses, nor would I have because we weren't allowed to and I was obedient. I wasn't allowed to go to college because I was raised a Witness, but I encouraged our children to learn all they could. In order to support ourselves I believe we need further education, so we gave our children freedom of choice in their education.

2. I don't like to be treated meanly. I like fairness. Three women have visited me since we stopped going. When I phone up a past "friend," she is abrupt, or if I leave a message on her phone, the husband phones up and asks "What do you want?"

3. The vivid realization that we have been deceived all these years propelled me out. I lived through the 1975 build-up and know the Watchtower Society was being untruthful. When they changed the meaning of "generation" in 1995, I reacted with tremendous emotional upset. Nobody I knew mentioned the article, which to me was the biggest change the Society ever made. I was used to "going along" with whatever the Society said, with all their changes of belief and rules over the years.

4. There was no help of any kind when our son was suicidal and all the local elders and the Society knew about it. Our son really believed and practiced what was taught, but none of us understood why he was shunned by many at the Kingdom Hall and they wouldn't tell him. It seemed impossible to measure up. Later on, he was quickly disfellowshipped for briefly smoking.

5. Many of my Witness friends were depressed and taking Prozac or other depression medicine. I felt I would have to change (leave) or I would be just like them.

6. I studied carefully the blood transfusion and military service issues. I fell the Society is changing its policies now because it doesn't want bad publicity. When a group is small, all publicity is good publicity. When an organization becomes large and has huge assets, it wants to protect those assets and doesn't want adverse governmental and community "persecution." The Society doesn't care about the individual at all. It cares about the numbers and control.

7. I left because I became tired of not being able to make my own decisions. I was tired of being controlled by the authoritarian group I did not respect. I think by the time I reach half a century it's time to grow up.

"This short story illustrates how I feel having been a Witness. I feel I've been in a very long child's game of "Follow the Leader." The game starts out as a great adventure. We're led through all sorts of twists and turns, jumping through scratchy bushes and muddy puddles. Some are falling down and getting cut on the rocks we're climbing over. When one little kid way back in the line quietly asks a question, "Where are you taking us? Some are getting hurt!" he's hit on the head by the guy in front of him. The leader yells back, "I'm smarter than you. I know where we're going. Just keep playing the game and follow me." Eventually the little kid figures out the leader is just another kid like himself. He gets tired of being hurt. The game isn't fun anymore. So he decides to play by himself or find other kids to play with. When he stops playing "Follow the Leader," a few rude kids yell back, "We won't play with you anymore. You're not our friend."

Now I think that will all the changes the Society is making lately, they'll mutate into a completely different group. Perhaps the majority of "faithful" Witnesses won't even notice. I did notice the Memorial attendance was down from 426,000 in 1998 from the previous year, so I think more than a couple people are disenchanted. This group advertises that it's a "spiritual paradise," but it has become a spiritual concentration camp for many. The advice I give to every former Witness is "Be kind, be polite! ALWAYS!" If you find yourself disfellowshipped, or shunned by your family and friends, always talk to THEM. Phone up your parents and friends. If they continually refuse to return the call, answer the letter or talk to you, those persons have to take the responsibility before God that they are unkind. There are many people on this planet who are willing to be kind if you take the initiative. (Free Minds Journal, col. 18, no.2 Spring 1999)

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