Game over

Game Over—How I Finally Walked Away from Jehovah’s Witnesses


Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 009

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 9 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. In April 2021, despite no longer believing Jehovah’s Witnesses to be “the truth” I thought I might just be happier if I went back. I could see no way to rebuild a life for myself outside of the religion. I was thoroughly depressed.

I felt really lonely. I had a handful of good exJW friends who I chatted to online, and occasionally met up with, but I was suffering anxiety attacks really bad that were making it near impossible to leave my bedsit and go out anywhere. Once a week I would take a walk to the pharmacist to collect my medication, but beyond that, I was going nowhere—physically or emotionally.

I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, but I just couldn’t visualise myself ever settling down with someone in “the world”—such is the indoctrination I’d been subjected to for over 50 years. I thought if I went back to Jehovah’s Witnesses, maybe I would meet someone to spend my life with, and maybe, despite what they said, my children would change their minds and want to have a relationship with me again. At the very least I would be able to see my ageing dad again before he died. Who knows, even some of my old Witness friends might have found it in their hearts to re-friend me? I could get some semblance of a life back, but at the same time, I felt torn, because it would all be a lie.

I wanted to live my life honestly and with integrity, not pretending anymore about what I believed or didn’t believe, but I knew that in order to be a Witness again I would have to pretend, and I would have to pretend if I attended a reinstatement hearing. I would have to show that I was repentant for breaking my marriage vows and God’s laws. That wouldn’t be too difficult because I was genuinely sorry for hurting my wife, and sinning against God, but one thing I couldn’t do was hide my feelings for my ex-girlfriend. If they asked me whether I still loved her, the answer would have been “Yes”. Saying one thing, but thinking another, is what I’d done all my life in order to fit in, and appease people, and it had made me ill. I didn’t want to do that anymore.

Nevertheless, I attended my reinstatement hearing in April, hoping the elders wouldn’t ask too many probing questions. However, from the moment I arrived at the Kingdom Hall, it was apparent to me that the elders had already made up their minds. They knew about the flowers I had sent my ex-girlfriend 10 months previous. Even though I explained, at the time, I was in hospital on a drip, unsure whether I would live or die after a suicide attempt, they said it indicated I was “not repentant” up to July, and that’s when they started their “repentance clock” ticking.

Ten months, for a brother who had cheated on his wife in order to be free of his marriage, was simply not long enough for them. The deciding factor was not whether I was genuinely sorry for hurting my wife, and sinning against God—it was all about “doing the time”, and I was told that for my particular brand of sin, it would be—to quote—”a considerable time”. They wouldn’t say how long, but they seemed to be indicating maybe two or even three more years—listening to Zoom meetings, attending meetings for real if and when the Kingdom Halls reopened from the pandemic.

One of the elders seemed to get a kick out of telling me several times that even if I was reinstated, I would never serve as an elder again. That was the last thing on my mind, but it made me realise, it was all about control. These guys were loving the power over me. They had the power to, at the click of their fingers, deny or allow my reentry into the congregation, and with it my relationships—my dad, my kids (maybe), my friends. And I realised, that even if they did approve me for reinstatement, they would continue to hold power over me moving forward. They would decide when I was “good enough” to be allowed to answer at meetings or pioneer or give talks from the platform. They were and would be my judges—possibly for the rest of my life. Yet, who was giving them this authority? They would claim God, that they were appointed by the holy spirit, and by the governing body—a governing body I believed to be apostate, antichrist. The only “authority” they had over me, was what I was giving them.

At that moment, my inner voice, barely noticeable at first, said “enough”, but then it grew stronger, “enough!” and stronger still, “Enough!” and then I stood up, physically—but also emotionally, and mentally, and spiritually—and I said out loud: “ENOUGH!!! I’m not doing this anymore!” and then, I turned my back to them and I walked straight out of the Kingdom Hall, never to return again.

When I arrived home I sent an email to the elders, and to my Witness friends and family. This is what I said:

“The organisation is not ‘the truth’. Jesus is [citing John 14:6]. The Governing Body has turned Jehovah’s Witnesses into a cult (see the B.I.T.E. model). 607 BCE and 1914 AD are false teachings. The Governing Body knows this but perpetuates the lie because their self-appointed authority depends upon it. In 2013 they acted presumptuously and seized ultimate power over Jehovah’s Witnesses by claiming that they were the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ (Matthew 24:45, 48) The Governing Body now sits in the ‘temple of God, publicly showing [itself] to be a god.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-6). They are apostates and idols. They enforce compliance by means of disfellowshipping which is a barbaric, abusive, unscriptural practice that violates Human Rights. They accuse genuine anointed Christians of being ‘apostates’ when all they are doing is endeavouring to ‘worship the Father with spirit and truth’. (John 4:23, 24) In blindly carrying out the governing body’s orders, elders are complicit in their sins and run the risk of being judged as ‘goats’ by Jesus Christ. (Matthew 25:44, 45) Matthew 24:45 is a parable told by Jesus to instruct all Christians to be ‘faithful and discreet’. To please God, individuals need to ‘Get out of her [organised religion, including Jehovah’s Witnesses]… if you do not want to share with her in her sins.’ (Revelation 18:4-8) [Then I finished by quoting 1 Corinthians 7:23] ‘You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.'”

I received two replies to my message. One from an old Witness friend who told me: “Go enjoy your short, sad, deluded, lonely, narcissistic life” and then added, “if you ever try to message me, my family, [or] friends [ever] again, I [will] get an injunction against you.”

The other was from my dad, whose last words to me were: “I’m choosing my faith over your apostasy.”

After deciding not to return to Jehovah’s Witnesses I sought the help of a professional abuse counsellor. She was wonderful. She confirmed that my life has been a series of one abusive situation after another—relentless bullying at school, sexual abuse by my teacher, a 14-hour judicial interrogation that broke me, a marriage where I was constantly walking on eggshells—and most significantly she told me that my depression, breakdowns, and even my suicidal feelings over the years were all “normal reactions” to physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse.

I’m not perfect. I’ve made my share of mistakes. I married someone I didn’t love, which resulted in us both being unhappy. I allowed myself to fall in love with someone other than my wife. I then lied to my wife and hid my actions from the elders. I pretended, for years, to believe things I didn’t believe. I even shunned my two disassociated children. These are the things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of, but I do wonder how many of those things would never have happened if I hadn’t been raised in a cult.

Now, thirty-five years after my baptism as a Jehovah’s Witness, at the age of 52, I sit here knowing for certain that Jehovah’s Witnesses is not “the truth”.

Jehovah’s Witnesses is a cult.

I am no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I. Am. Free.