Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 015
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 15 OF ONIONUNLIMITED–THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. In this short episode, I will answer the question “What would it take for me to return to Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
As it stands now, I’m disfellowshipped and classed as an “apostate”, but I’ve been in this position before, in 2006 to 2009. Despite being accused of apostasy, I somehow managed to get reinstated in 2009, and then for 10 years—until I was disfellowshipped again—I served as a regular pioneer, I did a spell in the foreign language ministry, and I was even being considered for reappointment as an elder.
Despite huge cognitive dissonance—I still believed the things I was disfellowshipped for in 2006—I did a pretty good job of blending in as a Witness. I used to get grief from a few of the brothers and sisters for being one of the “anointed”, but I had some good friends. I enjoyed teaching—from the platform and in my pioneer service—and I was used by the organisation for roles related to circuit assemblies and regional conventions. I was a first aid trainer by trade, and I delivered much of the training for the assemblies and conventions.
But then, in 2019 due to the way I handled difficulties with my marriage, I ended up disfellowshipped again, only this time it was for “sexual immorality”, so my wife divorced me. I was made homeless, my business—which had a lot of connections within the organisation—failed, and my kids disowned me. I had several mental breakdowns from the trauma of it all and attempted suicide on a number of occasions. I tried to get reinstated again but in the end, I found the process just too traumatic. Eventually, I just walked away and decided I would never return to Jehovah’s Witnesses because I no longer believed it was “the truth”. So, I announced to the elders and my friends and family that I thought Jehovah’s Witnesses was a cult, and thus started my second round as an apostate.
Nevertheless, from time to time I find myself asking, “What would it take for me to return to Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I know! Crazy eh? It’s definitely possible insofar as anyone who commits any sin is allowed to return if they can convince a reinstatement committee that they are repentant enough, and I am genuinely sorry for breaking my marriage vows and God’s law on the sanctity of marriage. However, in my case, just being repentant wouldn’t be enough. I feel if I was to return to the organisation while not believing it is “the truth” that I would just be living a lie, and I don’t want to do that. So, what would need to change in order for me to return to Jehovah’s Witnesses in good conscience?
Well, first, I think I would need to really believe it’s “the truth”, and I just can’t see that ever happening. Doctrinally, so much of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology is built around the 1914 date, and I just don’t believe 607 and 1914 are true. So, that means a number of key doctrines just don’t sit right with me—the date for Jesus’ presence, Satan being thrown out of heaven, the start of the heavenly resurrection and so forth. If 1914 was changed, and all these other teachings were shifted to have a future fulfilment, that would be a start. I could then accept that Jehovah’s Witnesses were in harmony with the Bible, at least as far as those key doctrines were concerned.
However, my view of the Bible as the inerrant word of God has changed. I no longer believe this. Although I still find certain truths contained in the Bible, I don’t believe every single word of it is “inspired of God” as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. I guess if I went back I could keep my opinions to myself on that, but it might cause some cognitive dissonance again and that, I’ve found from experience, is bad for my mental health.
Then there’s the governing body. Basically, I don’t like them. I think they’re proud, arrogant, controlling men who love the power that comes with being cult leaders. I don’t think they were appointed, or anointed, by anyone other than themselves and the organisation. I certainly don’t see Jesus at work in their lives. They just strike me as very physical, fleshly minded men—not at all spiritual or “Christian” even. Unless they were to show some real humility and distance themselves from their near-idol status, or confess that they were not the “faithful and discreet slave”, I don’t think I could ever buy into a religion with them at the helm.
Obviously, the situation with regards to child abuse within the organisation would need to change for me to be able to go back with a good conscience. Instead of them using the Bible as an excuse for not doing the right thing, I would need to see the organisation being completely transparent and making substantial reparations to historic victims of child abuse. Then, I would need to see a major change in policy and in the way future reports of abuse were handled. Rather than basing policies on what the Bible says, or can be interpreted to say, I would need to see the organisation doing the right thing—ethically and morally. That, to me, is more important than claiming you’re “just doing what the Bible says.”
I would also need to see much more liberty granted to members—liberty of thought, certainly liberty of action. Members would need to be allowed to make their own decisions when it came to things such as blood transfusions, rather than compliance being mandated at the threat of being disfellowshipped.
As for disfellowshipping, in its present form of complete shunning, that would have to be scrapped, at least when it came to family members, and disassociation would need to be just a simple case of resigning from a church. It should not affect relationships, especially with family.
The organisation’s obsession with the Old Testament would need to end. It’s not the Jewish religion—it’s supposedly Christianity, so much more emphasis would need to be placed on the New Testament, and on Jesus rather than on “Jehovah” who I believe to be just a man-made, fictitious, deity. That could be a real sticking point. How could I be a Jehovah’s Witness if I don’t believe in Jehovah? My personal belief in God finds its roots in Pandeism or even Panendeism. To return to Jehovah’s Witnesses I would have to supress my personal feelings on religion and spirituality.
So, why would I ever think about returning? Well, I miss my kids. I miss my dad and I miss one or two close friends and the general feeling of structure, but most of that—I think—came not just from being in a strict religion but also from being married, having children at home, a dad, friends and so on. All of that has now gone. Most of that is irretrievable. I’m lonely, really lonely, but I also like the simplicity of my life now that I don’t have a cult dictating every single aspect of my existence.
All things considered, I don’t think I could ever go back because to do so would mean pretending. I would have to live a lie and I don’t want to do that.
Thanks for listening. Join me next time as I continue with part 3 of Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?