Q. I am currently a baptized JW in good standing but have allowed myself to fade. My question for you is, “Do you now celebrate holidays as an ex-JW?” I personally do not, but I’m curious about how others handle things.
A. I personally don’t celebrate holidays. This is not because I feel there is anything intrinsically “wrong” about doing so, but just because I don’t feel the need to follow what others do, often due to peer pressure. Having escaped from the controlling, cult-like environment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I now prefer to only do things I want to do.
I will wish a friend “happy birthday”, and I like to get my girlfriend a birthday present or Valentine’s card each year, but I see these as personal things that I choose to do rather than the en-mass expectations of, say, Christmas or Easter.
My life now is free of organised Religion, but I haven’t defaulted to atheism as many ex-Witnesses have done. As someone who resonates with Pandeist and Advaitist philosophy, I still have a strong belief in the Divine, although now I believe Everything Is It, including you and I. My beliefs and my morality are now things I choose rather than being prescribed. For example, I don’t drink excessively, smoke, or take drugs. In some ways I still feel very “JW-like” in terms of my morality, but not because I think these things are inherently “sinful”, just harmful. I am now living with my girlfriend which JWs would disapprove of, but we are in a committed relationship which feels like being married.
The biggest change for me has been in my beliefs. I no longer believe in a transcendent “Jehovah” who demands worship from us and judges us according to JW definitions of “right and wrong”. I no longer feel like a “sinner” needing to be saved. I no longer live in expectation of a future “Armageddon” but remain present in the Now. I live my life with purpose and aim to love and help others escape religious control.
I feel the Bible has some useful, even “inspired” passages, but I don’t swallow it whole anymore. There are parts of the Bible I simply cannot agree with doctrinally or morally. I believe Religion uses the Bible as a weapon to control people.
I believe the answers to what is true lie within. If you are feeling a sense of cognitive dissonance it’s because something doesn’t align with your true self. I would encourage you to continue listening to your inner voice and not do what I did for so many years. I tried to ignore what I was feeling for the sake of family, friends, and reputation but it took a terrible toll on my mental health. I have found that living honestly and with integrity, even if it results in great loss, is where true peace and spirituality lie.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”—Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni