There’s nothing special about the beginning of my story. I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, third generation. The undertones of guilt and insufficiency (you can never do enough; your salvation is never sure; oh, poor thing, you were born female?) played on my propensities for depression and anxiety. By the age of 5, I was fantasizing about ways to kill myself. I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror on Saturday mornings and cry, psyching my introverted, painfully anxious self into going out in field service. My life was about submission to others, attempting to mind-read to satisfy their demands before they made them. I was an obedient child, and promised my parents I wouldn’t “go crazy” when I became a teenager. And I didn’t. I was a model daughter/student/Witness for the most part, though my many illnesses and sensitivities kept defeating my efforts to increases my hours in the door-to-door ministry. I was extremely serious about my life and my dedication to Jehovah and His Organization, so I didn’t have many friends among the Witnesses my age and never fit into the right cliques. My friends were few and far between and quite a bit older than I was.
There came a point when, for various reasons, I thought I was strong enough in my understanding of the blood transfusion issue. I wanted to be sure I could answer any objection and provide a solid, scriptural reason for our stance and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I figured the best way to do that, since I was shaky, was to start from scratch, approaching the issue as if I had no previous knowledge of it, and building my understanding from the ground up.
But I thank them for giving me the key to freeing myself from my spiritual captivity. Unbeknownst to them, they are the reason I was able to *see* reason and leave. I am a monster of their own making. For they taught me the value of truth, of digging for facts, of not placing my hope in man. And those values are what guided me – regardless of the cost to my person, mind or feelings.
I had many amends to make once I was “out”. I approached the people I had seen only as prospective new JWs, people who considered themselves my friends, and told them my story. I offered my true friendship now. I addressed the wrongs I had committed against others in the name of religion. And I found these “worldly people” to be some of the kindest, most gracious people I had ever known. They have much goodness in their hearts – more than I ever thought I had in mine.
I am on the lowest dose of anti-anxiety and anti-depressive medication I have been on since 2002. I have a wife who gives me unconditional love and support and who challenges my mind and entertains my craziness. I have plans for the future, true friends and I define my purpose in life.
I am my own person. I own my own mind.
I am happy.
"I was raised by my aunt and uncle, because my mother died when I was a baby. My father couldn't handle it on his own, so his sister took the responsibility on. My aunt and uncle, hereafter referred to as my parents, were politically conservative, and though they were believers in God and the bible, they were not church goers. So growing up, I had an awareness of the biblical god and Christianity, and my parents had plenty of discussions about it around me, but they didn't push me into it. They felt that was a decision I would have to make when I was old enough...
By the time I was 21, I had already lived a hard and self destructive life. I grew up in a ghetto, and was filled with hatred, rage, and violence. I was a drinker, a drug user, a womanizer, and no one you'd want to know personally. My parents were good people, and they did their best, but the outside influences were more than they could overcome.
To digress a little, I have always been an avid reader from the time I could. I liked ancient history, science and science fiction, genealogy, metaphysics, paganism, religious history, and even read the bible through as a teen(Not that it helped me at the time). I also read all of Von Daniken's books as they came out, as well as The Golden Bough, and Drawing Down The Moon. So I'm old.
Some months after I turned 21, I literally looked in the mirror one day, and said, "Enough is enough!". And started trying to straighten myself, and my life out as best I could. I quit drinking, drugs, et al. and by the time I was 22, I was back to reading the bible through again. During this time, some things really jumped out at me in scripture, and I had a girlfriend who believed in God, but wasn't pushy about it. So she was easy to talk to.
For the next 27-28 years, I was a zealous, hardcore, unapologetic, fundamentalist Christian. I read the bible through several times. I studied it word for word, and sentence for sentence. I used lexicons, concordances, commentaries, and so on. I prayed day and night for understanding, wisdom, and revelation. I also kept up with biblical archaeology, and the latest finds and critiques of original manuscripts, and early church writings.
I attended church every time the doors were open. I witnessed to many people on the streets, and anywhere else I felt led to do so. I taught and preached from the pulpit, I served as an elder(deacon) in my church, and was 100% committed to serving God. I have met many in Christian ministries who shall remain nameless, and have had numerous "prophecies" said over me. I have seen instantaneous healings, and other amazing things come from prayer, and the laying on of hands.
As an elder, I was privy to things the congregation wasn't. And the longer I was an elder, the more I was privy to. I found myself counseling and praying for people with problems I didn't think existed among Christians. I knew the churches business, and everyone's dirty laundry that I didn't want to know, but kept it to myself. I didn't even tell my wife. I could live with peoples problems, because I had had plenty in my own life.
The problems really began with church leadership. Misappropriation of money, lying to the congregation, and non-Christian behavior among the leadership. Then to find out there were those in leadership who didn't even believe what they were pretending to live topped it off. I began confronting what I saw head on, and finally wound up leaving, only to find myself in another church with worse problems.
After leaving the church completely, I wasn't going to blame God where humans were obviously responsible. I had my ups and downs, but I never turned completely away from God. Finally, at one point in my life, I began praying for answers. I prayed vehemently for a very long time for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the church, Christianity, and God himself. And I never mentioned it to a soul. It seemed fruitless for a while, but then...
Things I had read many years ago started coming back to me. Things I had glossed over and rationalized as being lies from the Devil came to my remembrance. I started researching intensely. I continued to pray for truth, and dammit, I was going to find some truth. It was during this time that I realized the world did not conform to my paradigm. And God didn’t either. I had been living a consensus reality for so long, I didn’t even realize it. I knew about some of the things we talk about at ATS, but my perspective on them was “inspired” by Christianity.
I looked at all the religions again.
I looked at parallels and timelines between them.
I compared biblical archaeology, mainstream archaeology, and alternative archaeology.
I looked at contradictions in the bible.
I looked at scientific problems with the bible. (The sun standing still, and so on.)
I looked at alternative theories on Christianity, and the bibles origins. I still do.
And so much more. I did my best to be objective in my research, and to give all sides a fair listen and rebuttal. I talked with Christian and unbeliever alike...
But honestly, I think the final blow to my faith was my understanding of hypnosis, the subconscious, and the collective unconscious, which I do believe exists in some way or form. I had quit practicing meditation and hypnosis when I got “saved”. But I knew and know from experience what humans are capable of all on their own. Belief, faith, and prayer are all powerful whether you believe in a god or not. But my own cognitive dissonance wouldn’t let me connect the dots for many years.
Add to that, the other evidence that I felt weighed heavily against my faith, and I made a decision to walk away and never look back. However, it wasn’t quite that easy. It took a lot of work to deprogram myself, and the way of thinking I had become accustomed to. I had doubts and fears in both directions for a long time. As I said in a post recently, I would never want to fight that inner battle again.
Drawing Down The Moon.
Spirituality is something I'm coming to terms with. At this point, all I can say with conviction is, we are greater than the sum of our parts as individuals. And we are greater than the sum of our numbers, as a species.
Now that I truly believe.
Originally posted by Klassified
…I was a zealous, hardcore, unapologetic, fundamentalist Christian. I read the bible through several times. I studied it word for word, and sentence for sentence. I used lexicons, concordances, commentaries, and so on. I prayed day and night for understanding, wisdom, and revelation…
…attended church every time the doors were open….taught and preached from the pulpit…served as an elder(deacon) in my church, and was 100% committed to serving God…have met many in Christian ministries who shall remain nameless, and have had numerous "prophecies" said over me…
…seen instantaneous healings, and other amazing things come from prayer, and the laying on of hands.
…The problems really began with church leadership…lying to the congregation, and non-Christian behavior among the leadership. Then to find out there were those in leadership who didn't even believe what they were pretending to live topped it off. I began confronting what I saw head on, and finally wound up leaving, only to find myself in another church with worse problems…
…Things I had read many years ago started coming back to me. Things I had glossed over and rationalized as being lies from the Devil came to my remembrance. I started researching intensely. I continued to pray for truth, and dammit, I was going to find some truth. It was during this time that I realized the world did not conform to my paradigm. And God didn’t either. I had been living a consensus reality for so long, I didn’t even realize it. I knew about some of the things we talk about at ATS, but my perspective on them was “inspired” by Christianity…
… … …I would never want to fight that inner battle again.
Mixed-path = Well Seasoned
Originally posted by wildtimes
Thanks for chiming in, WanDash!
Would you care to give a bit more specifics? I'm so curious how all of us traveled and arrived at this little corner of the web...
anyway, thanks again. Insider knowledge is always quite impressive, in my view.
Originally posted by Klassified
It's always nice to meet someone who has walked a similar path, and experienced some of the same things. You know they understand certain facets of the journey that can't be described with language.
...Thanks for the kind words...
...You might add tenderized to that. Sometimes I feel like I've been beaten with one of those wooden mallets.