Let's say you're looking to purchase a used car. You haven't decided on a make and model yet, but you go to a dealership to see what deals, if any, you can find. The dealer shows you a car and says how amazing it is. You have to admit, it is a great color, nicely sized, and even fits your family very comfortably. You ask the dealer for more details; Has it been in any accidents? Obviously there's been previous owners, what did they have to say about owning the car?
The dealer doesn't answer your questions. Instead, he tells you again how wonderful the car is. He advises you once more how nicely it fits your family, and repeats to you that you like the color. He then tells it handles great and drives smoothly. You find it strange that he didn't answer your questions, but since he mentioned how well it handles while being driven, you request a test-drive.
The dealer declines. He says you have to buy the car before you can drive it. Again, that seems very odd to you. What is this guy trying to hide? you think to yourself. You tell the dealer you'll think about it and get back to him. He gives you a brochure about the car on your way out. As you open it, you read the exact same "wonderful" things he had just said. You thank the dealer for the brochure, but inform him that you'll be checking out Consumer Reports, some reviews of current and past owners of the car, and even researching the blue book value.
The dealer's eyes darken. He tells you that you are forbidden to do independent research. The only reliable source of information is himself, and the brochure you're holding in your hand. What would you think? What would you do?
Most people would find this scenario laughable. Anyone with any wits about him would immediately diagnose the dealer as mentally unsound and walk out of the dealership. Everyone knows you're allowed to do independent research when buying a car. In fact, most would argue that it would be crazy not to do a thorough examination before any large purchase, or major decision in one's life. And to be told that you are forbidden to do so--well that's just ridiculous.
Isn't it? Wouldn't it be just as crazy to commit your very life to an organization without hearing both sides of the story? What would you think about someone who told you that you couldn't do independent research about said organization in any materials but those produced by that very group? Would you not think there was something wrong with that picture?
This scenario is exactly what plays out in the cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. Our car dealer, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, forbids reading, viewing, or even discussing anything that criticizes or just plain disagrees with the materials it publishes and dispenses. It also readily forbids questioning the organization. Don't believe me?
"The 'faithful and discreet slave' [Governing Body of Jehovah's
Witnesses] does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that
are not produced or organized under its oversight. For those who wish
to do extra Bible study and research, we recommend that they explore
Insight on the Scriptures, All Scripture is Inspired of God and
Beneficial, and our other publications..." (Our Kingdom Ministry September 2007 Question Box)
"How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by
questioning the counsel that is provided by God's visible organization."
(Watchtower 1983, 1/15, p. 22 par. 21)
What about if you meet someone who is a former Jehovah's Witness? Would you not want to understand why they left? Wouldn't you want to know their experience, so you can make an informed decision? Well what does the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society tell us about that?
"We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch TV programs that feature them, examine their Web sites, or add our comments to their blogs." (Watchtower 2011, 7/15, p. 16, par. 7)
Okay, so you are strictly forbidden from talking to others who used to be involved with the organization. Can you at least do some research on your own?
"The scriptures warn against isolating ourselves, thinking that we can figure out everything with independent research." (Worship the Only True God, Ch. 3, p. 26 par. 8)
Well what happens if you find out that there are things that the organization has been just plain wrong about in the past? Shouldn't you be able to make up your own mind as to what you believe?
"There are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: 'This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.' This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous? Such thinking is an evidence of pride... If we get to thinking we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: 'Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of truth if it hadn't been for guidance from the organization? Really can we get along without the direction of God's organization?' No we cannot!" (Watchtower 1983, 1/15, p. 27 pars. 19, 20)
When you think about it, this is just as ridiculous as buying a car and being told that you cannot research anything about it, and you cannot speak to anyone who has ever owned it. If you wouldn't take such a gamble with a purchase, why would you take a gamble with your life, and family?
The truth of the matter is, like the car dealer above, the organization doesn't give you the opportunity to test-drive before you buy into it. You are not told what you are getting into before you accept. Some of us were born into the religion, and were thus forced to accept and conform. Why?
What happens after you become a Jehovah's Witness, and then find that you no longer agree with their teachings and practices?
"We now come to the matter of being loyal to Jehovah's visible organization. Certainly we owe loyalty to it, including the 'faithful and discreet slave,' through which the Christian congregation is fed spiritually. Suppose that something appears in the Watch Tower publications that we do not understand or agree with at the moment. What will we do? Take offense and leave the organization? Loyalty includes waiting patiently until further understanding is published by the faithful and discreet slave." (Watchtower 1996, 3/15, p.17 par. 10)
"It may be that you left Jehovah's organization because you had a different understanding of some Scriptural point. Perhaps the point has been clarified, either being changed or established by further Scriptural research under the direction of God's spirit. Would it not have been better just to have stayed with the organization, waiting on Jehovah?" (Watchtower 1988, 1/15, p. 22)
"What if we individually have difficulty understanding or accepting a certain point? We should pray for wisdom and undertake research in the Scriptures and Christian [Watch Tower] publications. Discussions with an elder may help. If the point still cannot be understood, it may be best to let the matter rest. Perhaps more information on the subject will be published..." (Watchtower 1996, 7/15, p. 17 par. 7)
So, no matter how much you might be struggling to buy into what the organization is selling, you are admonished to suppress it, and wait for them to correct themselves. What if this never happens? What if you decide to leave? Can you just walk out and let that be that? Well if you make your doubts known to the elders they must give you firm and direct counsel. If you still continue to have doubts, and make them known, you risk being disfellowshipped (removed from the congregation and subsequently shunned by all, including your own family).
"Any with sincere doubts should be helped. Firm, loving counsel should be given. If one obstinately is speaking about...false teachings, this may be or may lead to apostasy. If there is no response after a first and a second admonition, a judicial committee should be formed." (Shepherd the Flock of God, p. 65, 66 under subheading: Deliberately spreading teachings contrary to Bible truths as taught by Jehovah's Witnesses) So really, you don't have to disagree with the Bible to get removed. It's about disagreeing with doctrine as taught by Jehovah's Witnesses. And once you are expelled from the congregation, it is as if you are dead to their members. People you once called "friends" will no longer speak to you, greet you, or even look at you if you pass their way. Your family members are instructed to follow the same course of action:
"What if we have a relative or a close friend who is disfellowshipped? Now our loyalty is on the line, not to that person, but to God. Jehovah is watching us to see whether we will abide by his command not to have contact with anyone who is disfellowshipped... Think of that if you are ever tempted to violate God's command to not associate with your disfellowshipped relatives." (Watchtower 2012, 4/15, p. 12) This applies to those who disassociate themselves from the religion as well. It does not matter whether you are involved in "gross sin" or just merely disagree with the teachings. If you leave, you fall under the same umbrella, and you will lose your family who remain in the organization.
These things are not told to people who are contemplating joining the religion Jehovah's Witnesses, nor those born and raised inside the organization. The thousands of children who get baptized every year thinking they are doing the right thing or gaining their parents' approval are not told that if, at a later time, they choose to leave the religion--they face the harsh reality of being cast out and shunned by the very ones they trust and love the most.
I know this from experience. I have been disowned by my brother, grandmother, aunt, uncles, and even my own mother. This is the same actuality also suffered by thousands upon thousands of others who have left the Jehovah's Witness religion.
You should not have to choose between a religion and your family. It says so right here regarding those who are considering leaving their religion and converting to Jehovah's Witnesses:
"No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family." (Awake! 7/2009, p. 29) Why, then, should the rules change when you are considering removing yourself from the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses? "Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above everything else--including the family bond... Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through email." (Watchtower 2013, 1/15, p. 16)
So, please, test drive before you buy! It is your right! This is your life. Check the "blue book value" of this religion, and really consider if it is worth surrendering your children, family members and freedom.