Coffee Mulling

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I am sitting in Starbucks on a Friday morning, between two occupied tables. From one I hear shop-talk–a couple insurance salespeople talking figures. The table behind me is occupied by two women chatting. Their voices fade into the cacophony of shouted orders and scattered conversation. All I hear from them is the occasional expletive, “Awesome!” followed by the fake laugh women do so well in each other’s company. Two men sit nearby on their laptops. Both are dressed in charcoal suits with identical white shirts and ties. I can’t tell if they know each other but I assume they do.

One of the guys with the laptop is wearing Brut aftershave. My first love wore Brut. Though cologne can alter depending on the chemistry of its wearer, this man smells just like Jeremy did. Jeremy. This February 5th he will be dead 18 years. Dead the exact number of years he lived. The wafting cologne reminds me of necking in his parents Audi. How many people can so vividly remember the taste of Brut aftershave?

“I’m going to need enough time to get my girls….,” the female insurance salesperson has broken into my reverie.

“Where’s that?” said one of the women behind me.

“After the 40 hours logged on time and whatever dinners…,” said the male salesperson. I stare at his back: buzzed haircut, wide back, the suboccipital fold that only beefy men get. He wears a blue checked, button-up shirt and blue jeans—I imagine him carefully selecting a wardrobe that will convey approachability to his clients. Contrary to the suit clad brokers to my right who must convey power and acute business acumen. I reflect on how much I hate people who manipulate others for their own gain.

“I have an appointment with my eye doctor,” I hear from the women behind me as they leave their table and walk past mine. Their conversation is lost to me as they exit the coffee shop. The opening door creates a chilling breeze that blows Brut back into my senses. I am thrust back to the summer of 1993 when I could smell Jeremy on my hands after a day spent in each other’s company.

“Thanks for meeting me!” said the female insurance agent.

“Yeah. I figured it was a shot in the dark,” said her companion as they arose to leave.

“I had a buddy who just sold a bunch of shares…,” one of the laptop wielding brokers has finally addressed his companion revealing their relationship and the confirmation of their occupation.

I realize all the tables around me are now vacant and I have been thrust into coffee shop isolation. I feel like a social pariah. Should I shout, “Unclean!” like a Biblical leper?

I finish my Americano and wonder why it doesn’t taste as good as normal. I contemplate another. It’s rude to occupy a table without a drink.

An elderly couple enters the coffee shop and sits behind me. They are discussing the development of their spring time flowers. I wonder at such devotion in January. Then wonder at my level of stupidity in spending hundreds of dollars the previous winter to attend OSU’s Master Gardeners program upon the recommendation of a psychic. I can be such a bubble-head!

“I told her I think that’s what makes a good employee…,” said one of the brokers to his headset. His companion has disappeared into the bathroom.

I contemplate staying longer or leaving. I don’t know where I will go since I still have a couple of hours before work. But what if I stick around and a car group comes in? A “car group” is a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses out in the door-to-door work together—in the same car. I grew up going out with car groups and stopping for a coffee break between 11am and 12pm. It’s the only part of the ministry people look forward to.

I grew up here as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and last spring, April 4, 2012, I was disfellowshipped for apostasy, witchcraft, Satanism—the story changes depending on who you talk to. But the result is the same—expulsion, banishment, figurative death. When I see people I was once friends with, they run the other way. I am a pariah—the leper. I don’t need to cry out, “Unclean!” because everyone here knows my face. They know I’m unclean.

Every suit that walks in the glass doors makes my heart stop. The coffee shop reaches a lull of conversation–awaiting my decision. I arise and gather my belongings. I flee before the hatred of those who profess love. I will always flee.

Published in: on February 20, 2013 at 10:11 p02  Comments (1)  
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“Sex & the Paranormal”

As a paranormal investigator, I find I spend more time reading about the subject than actually investigating. My absolute favorite bookstore is on Burnside in Portland, Oregon. Powell’s City of Books covers an entire city block and is three stories high. One of my favorite smells in the world was discovered when I entered Powell’s for the first time and experienced the utopian combination of books and espresso. Ambrosia for an introvert!

Roy and I hit Powell’s when we got back from Gettysburg and spent over a hundred dollars in making sure we had plenty of reading material for the winter. One of the books I picked up was “Sex and the Paranormal” by Paul Deane. I just finished reading it and must say it was very different from what I had expected.

I felt so scandalous buying the book I actually watched the expression on the face of the cashier to see if she batted an eye over such an edgy book purchased by a middle age couple. I was disappointed when the woman with the plethora of tattoos and piercings didn’t seem to care. *sigh* That means I am still the hopelessly naïve ex-Christian who believes I am far more scandalous than anyone else. Oh well…onward and upward.

The book begins with a recounting of legends in every corner of the world involving ghost rape, demon lovers, and succubi/incubi. The author quickly disproves the majority of these claims by pointing out that when somebody feels like they are being held down and paralyzed by some sex-starved entity, it is actually the natural paralyzing hormone the body produces to prevent us from acting out our dreams. Sometimes the paralysis lasts longer than it should. What about those people who swear they see an entity in their room? Again, the dream state prolongs past wakefulness and hallucinations are the result. There has never been any physical evidence of an actual sexual attack found upon anyone who claims to be the victim of one.

The book then goes on to speak of some of the history of phallic worship, sex, witchcraft, and satanic ritual abuse. Anybody who grew up during the 80’s will remember horror stories of satanic ritual abuse. Around my hometown, every cave for a hundred miles had satanic rituals in it. It is interesting to note, however, that there is less evidence for actual satanic ritual abuse than for ghost rape. Many cases were brought to the limelight based upon false memories created during hypnosis sessions. People are extremely susceptible under hypnosis, and many of the therapists would ask leading questions thereby implanting memories of things that didn’t occur. Entire communities became convinced of Satanists operating in their midst thanks to a book published in 1980 called, “Michelle Remembers.” According to the author, many cases of multiple personality disorders are diagnosed in much the same way.

Alien abduction has a similar history. Some people who awake with sleep paralysis, rather than believing they are being raped by a demon, choose to believe it is aliens (especially since the 1950’s). The few who have vivid memories of alien abduction and anal probes on board intricate space ships have been programmed by hypnotherapists that plant those ideas upon impressionable minds. There has never been any evidence of actual alien abduction, nor any witnesses. One statistic said more than a million Americans are abducted by aliens every year. If that is so, why has no one ever seen anyone getting beamed up?

As to phallic worship, I grew up in a religion that mocked other religions for their phallic worship. I learned the steeples on churches are in fact huge, pointy penises. The Old Testament is rife with references to sacred poles and pillars which were supposed to represent the male and female reproductive organs. Such worship was detestable to Jehovah’s true worshippers.

Therefore, the following paragraph brought me immense joy:

 “Yahweh, the god of the Hebrews, was himself a phallic deity, the rite of circumcision in itself indicating his real nature. In Exodus we read how Zipporah cast at the feet of the angry Yahweh the bloody foreskin of her son as a form of appeasement. Like Baal-Peor, Yahweh was referred to as ‘the opener’, thus: “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.” The frequency with which Yahweh was represented in the form of a bull, and commonly referred to as the ‘Bull of Israel’ is another indication of his phallic origin. Phallic symbolism is rife in the first books of the Old Testament; barely a chapter passes without coded references to people worshiping pillars or columns which, in the context of the descriptions given, clearly represent phallic objects….There are even signs of what is known as the ‘phallic oath’ whereby anybody making a promise or oath would place their hand upon their own penis or even that of a second party. This was a common practice that is still reflected in some superstitions and customs today, and in its time was the equivalent of raising your right hand or swearing on the Bible…the word thigh has been substituted for the word penis in some translations.” (59)

I have always wondered about the whole circumcision thing, especially that situation with Zipporah and her son. Now it all makes perfect sense. No wonder the religion of my youth was so patriarchal. It’s all about the Master member!

I strongly recommend “Sex and the Paranormal” by Paul Deane as a nice dose of objectivity in a world more obsessed with legend and sensationalism than evidence and clear thinking. And for you penis lovers out there–the section on penis snatching should have you crossing your legs like a debutante at a dive bar.

The Continuing Saga….

 

In my previous post “My Story” I marveled at the total absence of encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses. On retrospect, I feel the universe was giving me a gift–the gift of time. Though I may deny feeling any grief at being disfellowshipped, I have to admit there was some emotional backlash as I slowly came to grips with the loss of all I had ever known and valued.

In the last couple of months I have been working on meditation as a means of personal empowerment. My feelings of gratitude have gone through the proverbial roof and I am feeling happier and more content than I have ever felt in my life.

A few weeks back, I had a long day of massage at Exhale. After the third of five massages, I noticed a stabbing pain right under my rib cage, about where my diaphragm is. When I got home I put on some comfortable clothes, grabbed my foam roller and got on the floor to try to work out whatever was going on with my abdomen/diaphragm. After a few contortions, I found this tight line of tissue that extended from my pelvis, lateral to my rectus abdominus, and up to my rib cage. It felt like a line of fire, so I just slowly rolled the foam roller along this line until it pushed up against my diaphragm and I felt a flood of emotion wash over me.

It was a sensation I remembered having almost continuously as a child: shame, guilt, hopelessness, loss, fear, isolation, and the certainty that no matter what I did I would never fit in with Jehovah’s Witnesses. All those feelings were the result of that religion.

I was shocked to find that locked away in my diaphragm! I just laid there, with the foam roller pushing into that knot of pain and memory, and let the feelings wash over me. After a minute or two the pain, physical and emotional, faded.

Since then I have felt profound healing and no longer have panic attacks and severe feelings of sadness and loss. Some days I feel such happiness and serenity I wonder if I am glowing. I have been exercising and losing weight and my energy level is through the roof, which has no doubt helped with my mood (gotta love endorphins!).

So, apparently the universe has decided I can handle some JW exposure. Last week, I was at a local fruit/vegetable stand when I spotted a JW sister from a local congregation. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye and saw such a look of profound sadness on her face it surprised me! I gave her a dazzling smile, which she returned, and we both went about our business.

That look of sadness that flashed across her face gave me some insight into how people are feeling about me. They don’t hate me–or fear me and my witchy-ways–they appear to pity me as much as I do them. Which showed me all the more that they aren’t the ones to hate. Most of them are as duped as I was. It’s the Watchtower organization and its lies that is truly reprehensible.

A few days ago, I received a text from an old JW friend who is still very active. She said she just wanted me to know that she loves me and misses me. I thought about firing back a text that said something like, “I love you too, but I am not going to return.”

Today, I went to the local Starbucks for my customary “4 shots over ice, grande” when I spotted a sister I used to pioneer with (pioneer = full-time service). She smiled at me before she remembered my status. So I gave her a big smile and said, “Hey! How’s it going? You look good!” She hurriedly shuffled away. Then I ordered my coffee from another JW sister who actually treated me more warmly than she ever has. We talked massage and I told her I could help her husband’s thumb.

After that, I was talking with the acupuncturist I share an office with and he told me a JW brother (who admitted to some dissatisfaction with the religion a couple of years ago) had asked if I was still working there; then felt he should inform my business partner that “if I did anything weird, {he} needs to know I am no longer affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Wha?! What’s the point of that except to maybe slander my name and/or reputation?

So I go to the county fair and run into the JW-Starbucks worker and her husband. While I am working on his arm under the tattoo tent, he tells me he has left the religion and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. He said he was tired of the judgment and hypocrisy and the fact that the organization seemed to be pulling most of the doctrine out of their asses (my words).

After that, they go their way. While wandering through the quilt exhibit I run into the friend who texted me a few days ago. She smiles at me, but does not speak. She does speak to my husband (who is standing a foot behind me), however, and punches him in the arm (he isn’t df’d).

I admit to being a bit frayed by all the JW-exposure today. Growing up with the doctrine of disfellowshipping and always being on the other side of its application, I never realized how really stupid it was. Now that I am on this side, I see a doctrine that forces people to act counter to their instinct. We instinctively smile and greet people we know and are friends with, but JW’s are forced to stop acknowledging such ones. In fact they are told to treat former members worse than total strangers.

If  Jehovah’s Witnesses truly had the truth, why is its application so counter-intuitive? If God’s love transcends our own, why do those who represent him act so harmfully? Isn’t it possible that God (presuming he exists) is the God of life, light, and love that Jesus portrayed? The acts of judgment and excommunication and strict adherence reflect Paul’s Christianity, not that of Jesus.

Martin Luther, who ignited the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth-century, began as a Catholic Monk. He was filled with self-doubt and anxiety in his endless attempts to please a wrathful, demanding God. Then he would read passages in the Bible that spoke of how God loved and accepted the faithful regardless of how good (or bad) they were. Luther underwent a major experience of mystical insight when he came to grips with the realization that God was pure love–not the agent of anger, rage, and rigidity that his previous religious training had led him to believe.

The Protestant Reformation was begun by someone who believed God better than his strict representatives. The people in the organization that is Jehovah’s Witnesses are largely good people. But they are being used as a whipping post for those who cannot continue to worship the god of the Watchtower–a god that cannot be pleased. If it wasn’t for the doctrine of disfellowshipping, there would be far fewer Jehovah’s Witnesses than 7 million. That doctrine alone keeps people trapped in that religion. Some stay out of fear of alienation, while others stay because they know no better. They are never allowed to talk to anyone with a differing viewpoint, so doubts are never allowed to creep in.

So ask yourself: Do I truly worship a loving God? Does my belief make me a better person? Am I free to be whomever I want and speak to whomever I want? Or is my every action controlled? If you are trapped in a lifestyle that forces you to act against your better judgment, it is time for you to regain your autonomy and leave the collective. Speaking from experience, embracing the authentic-self is exhilarating!

 

My Story

It has been a little less than four months since the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses announced my disfellowshipping* (excommunicated). Apart from the rumor spreading rapidly across the state once convention season began, I have had little backlash. Living in an area where the per capita population of JW’s is quite high, I worried about bumping into ‘old friends’ and being snubbed. That hasn’t happened. In fact, I haven’t seen anybody—which is out of the ordinary. This tells me they are possibly seeing me first and fleeing.

I remember doing that as a JW (Jehovah’s Witness). I would catch sight of a Df’d (disfellowshipped) person and flee in the other direction to avoid a full-frontal snubbing. This was okay with me at the time because I felt more pious and righteous before God since I was doing his will. If that is what is happening in my case, I am thankful because I made the decision I was not going to act ashamed around them. They put their label on me. I am not defined by it, nor do I accept it. I don’t feel like I have changed—I am still me—except, I am a more authentic version of myself.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog—I was discussing with a friend recently my frustration at not being able to share my feelings with those who have labeled me. People who claim to love me, but will no longer speak with me, have no clue what is really going on with me. They must theorize and in so doing use a mountain of logical fallacies to validate their beliefs and prove I am “fornicating with the devil.”

I know this because I did the same thing many times. Whenever someone is disfellowshipped everyone wonders what the reason was and usually the first thing people think of is sex. This is because in puritanical Christian circles everything leads back to sex. What really helps, however, is if the local congregation has the practice of giving a local needs right after a disfellowshipping.  This is a well-meaning talk given to a congregation to warn of the dangers of falling prey to the exact same thing that got so-and-so “disciplined by Jehovah”. This serves the dual purpose of scaring the congregation into submission and putting to rest any speculation.

I’m only assuming this is what happened in my case, because an old roommate who was disfellowshipped 18 years ago (and lives three hours away across a range of mountains) sent me a friend request on Facebook and said she had heard I was worshipping Satan. I was surprised at the relative accuracy of the rumor as it spread. (I would have been flattered if the rumor had been sexual, but apparently the same people who never tried to hook me up with anyone while I was single would never have considered sexual liberty a part of my personality. *sigh*)

I remember the frustration and helplessness of hearing someone’s name announced from the stage, knowing they are beyond help. Average JW’s are prohibited from reaching out to Df’d ones. I remember when my roommate was Df’d; I cried like she had died, because it was a sort of death. I had to pretend she was dead so I would not be tempted to talk to her.  Now we have to make up for all the time that was robbed from us by the doctrine of a self-centered religion.

But I digress…Whenever I heard of someone who was disfellowshipped; I would ask some discreet questions and somehow come to my own logical explanation to explain things in a way that validated my beliefs.  This is called confirmation bias, and I am positive it is being used to explain my own defection.

Three days before my father died, two local elders paid me a visit to warn me of the dangers of Harry Potter. The second to last movie had just been released in theaters the night before. I had taken one of those fun quizzes on Facebook and was told I had the personality of a Dementor. I thought it was pretty funny, so I posted the results. The wife of one of the elders that stood in my living room that day had “Liked” my status and I thought, “Cool! Sharon likes Harry Potter.” Apparently she narced on me to her husband and they felt it important to come and counsel me as my father lay dying in the next room. (I promptly unfriended Sharon [I can’t tolerate tattle-tales] just like I unfriended my husband’s aunt when I found out she shared my anti-JW status updates with my parents-in-law.)

The two elders told me the success Harry Potter was enjoying in the box office was a clear indication of its demonic origins and that Jehovah hates all who love what he hates. “You don’t want Jehovah to hate you, do you?”

A year and half later I was disfellowshipped for witchcraft. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assume they have linked the two events. It warms the cockles of my heart to imagine my story has passed into JW legend as a scare tactic to stay away from Harry Potter. Perhaps, my ‘experience’ has even been shared at an assembly or convention. How cool would that be!

So, for anyone who wants to know the truth, it was not Harry Potter…it was Twilight. Haha! Just kidding!

By the time I read the series of Harry Potter I was already out. I knew the warnings against it and choosing to read the books was a beginning of my rebellion. You see, I had been an uber-obedient JW for the better part of two decades. I avoided rated-R movies, never swore, only read literature published by the Watchtower Society, read my Bible every day, learned a foreign language, prepared for every meeting, participated in the field ministry and theocratic school, etc. etc, etc.

I ignored, or suppressed, the anxiety and depression and guilt that rode around on my shoulders year after year. I knew there would come a reckoning. I knew I couldn’t maintain the level of intensity the Watchtower society required indefinitely. Thankfully, I figured I wouldn’t have to. Armageddon was just around the corner.

By the time I got into my thirties I was full on neurotic. I would punish myself for everything I did or said that I perceived as imperfect. I would leave the Kingdom Hall sobbing because I was so flawed.

Marriage and life managed to distract me enough to slow down in my intensity of religious service. Then I went a few months without going to meetings and began to heal. I started seeing a therapist to deal with my extreme anger and resentment that I had carried with me all my life. I began to heal, until I would go back to the Kingdom Hall, then all the neuroses would begin to rear their ugly heads.

I finally realized that mental health existed away from the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses—at least for me.

For anyone still reading this, I am happier than I have ever been. I will never return to that religion, so don’t bother telling yourselves I will come to my senses. I already have. My life finally makes sense to me. I stepped away from that religion and felt like I could take a full breath for the first time in my life. I thought it would be better for me to just fade away and somehow maintain my membership, so friends and family could continue to talk to me. But thanks to another Facebook traitor, I was outed as a practicer of Wicca (not because Harry Potter sold me on witchcraft but because I desire to investigate the sacred feminine and heal through empowerment and meditation). I have only felt profound gratitude since the local congregation decided to disfellowship me. I needed to be cut off from that deep abyss of negativity and have only felt happiness ever since. Thank you, elders of the Terrebonne, Oregon congregation!

I now feel profound pity for anyone remaining under the heavy yoke of the Watchtower Society. I wish that all could become just like me: liberated and grateful for life, optimistic about the future of mankind and non-judgmental.

That is my story.

*For further explanation of the practice of disfellowshipping please visit this website: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/disfellowship-shunning.php

The Song of the Rat: The Watchtower’s War Against Loyalty

I came across an interesting article in FoxNews.com called, “Survivor tells of life inside a North Korea concentration camp.” I am ashamed to say that my knowledge of Korea is woefully insignificant. I had no idea they had concentration camps, let alone what a “gulag” is. According to the article more than 200,000 men, women, and children are interned in concentration death camps. (It’s always nice to find out humanity has learned from their mistakes.) In the whole history of this gulag system, only three people have ever escaped the camps. The article is an interview of one of them.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14. He escaped by climbing over the dead body of his fellow conspirator. He is permanently scarred from the torture and punishments he received as a child and the unspeakable things he was required to do. Not the least of which is what inspired this blog.

When only 14 years of age he informed on his mother and brother who were planning on escaping the camp and they were executed as a result. Camp officials had made it very clear that all conspirators and any connected with them will die. Shin was only trying to save his own skin at the cost of his family. He was still tortured after watching his family executed, but at least he was alive.

When human beings are placed in an atmosphere of self-preservation at the cost of all else, they lack the natural affection most of us take for granted. Shin said he didn’t understand family in the normal sense. Emotion and attachments could only be a liability in such a place where people died every day.

This type of carefully controlled environment reminded me of something—life within the Watchtower Society. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to inform on one another “to keep the congregation clean.” They are told Jehovah will hold them responsible if they do not report the sins of one another and to be complicit brings the same death penalty as the sin.

This creates an atmosphere not unlike what Russia endured during the Cold War. Nobody truly trusts anybody else. Most relationships in that “loving organization” are two-dimensional at best. I can relate countless experiences in which I was “called in the back room” by the elders and asked about a situation that I was shocked they knew anything about. Private conversations, harmless get-togethers, choices of entertainment, and Facebook statuses were all things to be reported and used against those who were connected to it.

Shin was tortured because his mother and brother planned to flee. My dad was disciplined by the elders because I told another teenager in the congregation that Dirty Dancing was a good movie. My brother was called in because I read gothic romance and attended a pool party where there was underage drinking. No, he wasn’t involved in either scenario.  A local needs (which is an opportunity for elders to publicly humiliate someone in the congregation by discussing their sin from the stage)  was given in which my family was criticized for getting in an ice fight in a vacant cafeteria of the hospital—days before my mother died there. Only three people were there that day: my brother, my friend, and I. Who told?

I think you get my point. Anytime an organization/country creates an atmosphere of suspicion and snitching they undermine relationships. There are members of that religion that have not only turned in family members for discipline and ultimate death, but then turn their backs on them and never speak to them again because that is what the Watchtower requires! Nobody can trust anyone and family and friends pay the price as close connections cease to exist. The “loving brotherhood” is cold, calculating, and distant as everything is sacrificed for advancement within “Jehovah’s organization.”

Rules must be followed! To ignore the law of God’s only earthly organization is to fall into disfavor and die at Armageddon. Or worse, be disfellowshipped and exist in a purgatory of isolation and fear of inevitable destruction.

North Korea isn’t the only one with a gulag system. Jehovah’s Witnesses have created their own pseudo-gulag system and millions have paid the price with their families and their lives.

Source:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/13/inside-north-korea-concentration-camp/

“Agora” vs. Christianity

A friend recently recommended to me the film Agora (2009). I had a hard time getting into it at first, but I am glad I persevered to the end. Set in Alexandria, Egypt in the fourth century, it tells the true story of female philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz). Hypatia had the misfortune to live in a world in which Christianity was quickly becoming the dominant religion due to Emperor Constantine’s conversion. Egypt was a Roman province at the time and Alexandria was a gem in Rome’s crown. Philosophy, schools of thought, astronomy, polytheism, and paganism were widespread in the important maritime port of Alexandria until Constantine issued some edicts that quickly brought about some changes.

I had never heard of Hypatia, which is not surprising considering much of my education was based upon first century Christianity and important men of the past. I was surprised to learn this woman actually lived, but it only reaffirms what I have been learning about the surprisingly equal treatment women received within pagan many communities.

The first thing I noticed in the film was that many of the early converts to Christianity were slaves and peasants. They despised higher learning and had no problem condemning all who thought differently from them. It reminded me of the modern tendency for conversion among the lower socio-economic classes. I noticed it as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many of the people who would study and convert were typically people whose lifestyle wasn’t ideal. In fact the JW’s would call the preaching work a search for those “who are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” (Ezekial 9:4). Who but the uneducated and impoverished would look for answers outside themselves and cheerfully anticipate the demise of everyone “better-off”?

Finally we get to the root of the reason women have endured two thousand years of suppression. One particularly murderous, Christian fanatic gets up and reads from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

Let women learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”  (1 Timothy 2:11, 12)

Hypatia, an independent, learned woman, has earned the hatred of the misogynistic faith. As friends try to encourage her to convert she accuses them of “peddling faith,” forcing public baptism in exchange for permitting such ones to keep living. Then she tells a former student:

“Synesius, you don’t question what you believe. You cannot. I must.”

I was floored. I felt like the movie was written for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I realize that all Christianity at the time believed counter-points a sin. That’s why Galileo was forced to recant his findings that the earth revolved around the sun and people were burned at the stake for even reading the Bible.

When I was a JW, I developed a healthy hatred of Christianity—or I should say ‘Christendom’ because that is how JW’s differentiate themselves from the rest of the rabble. I hated the arrogance and the narrow-mindedness, the judgment and the willingness to kill, or rejoice in misfortune; all in the name of god (I do not capitalize that word intentionally). It sickens me to realize that I was a part of a faith that still practiced the kind of religion that brought about the Dark Ages.

After Hyspatia utters the words above, her Christian friend continues to plead with her to convert and save herself:

“If you don’t agree, I won’t be able to protect you any longer. I won’t be able to have dealings with you or even greet you.”

Wow! That sounds familiar. So, in the early days of Christianity when they were killing and torturing all dissenters, they practiced shunning—just like Jehovah’s Witnesses do today—robbing people of their freedom to live their life as they choose just as Hyspatia simply wanted to be left  to her philosophy and astronomy.

Where would our world be if Christianity had never been allowed to take power?  Carl Sagan once wrote that, if not for the descent of the religious dark ages that crushed rational inquiry and stifled human progress, we might have reached the stars hundreds of years ago. We have lost so much thanks to religion in general, and women are still fighting for equal rights thousands of years later. This Christian nation still feels it is their right to govern a woman’s choices regarding her own body. I firmly believe our race and culture will not evolve to the next stage until it realizes the stupidity inherent in religion. Until we rid ourselves of the thinking that still resides in the dark ages. As individuals, we should long for the peace and prosperity of the human race and withdraw from systems of beliefs that only anticipate mass destruction!

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 10:11 p04  Comments (7)  
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Rebirth

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…and so it is done–finally. The announcement was made last night that I am no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. No truer words have been said from that stage. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hear it. But I was informed that was when the announcement would be made, so I am acting upon that assumption. I have been feeling kind of depressed for the last week or so. Yesterday afternoon I felt like I was having a panic attack. But a pitcher of McMenamin’s IPA took the edge of.

Last weekend I had cleaned out the closet and pulled out the last of our Watchtower Society books, magazines, and brochures. I decided a nice little ritual burning was in order. So, last night, during the time I estimated the announcement would be made, I had a ritual. Roy piled all the books and magazines in our outdoor fire pit, I cast a witches circle, and we lit them on fire. I said a few choice words–whatever I felt ‘moved by the spirit’ to utter.

I kept out a copy of a 1980 Watchtower I had possessed as a child. It had my name written on the outside cover, and my scribbles all over it. I remember the endless hours of meetings where I would scribble and draw. I could survive the boredom as long as I had a writing instrument and something to write on. Fortunately, my father wasn’t one of those parents who banned their kids from writing in any of the literature. I burned that old Watchtower separately as representative of my childhood enslaved by the organization.

After the fire burned down, and I officially ended the ritual, Roy and Trevor went indoors and I stayed outside burning sage and circling the fire pit. I spoke from the heart, and even cried a little, then I looked up at the full moon and reflected on the blessings I have now–Freedom from fear and judgment; Freedom to live my life without always checking in to make sure my choices were permissible; A life filled with love for my fellow humans and optimism rather than negativity; A future I look forward to and can work towards rather than putting my life on hold for a nebulous promise that keeps fading into the distance. Life is a blessing. Humankind is worthy of life. I no longer look at people as potential bird-bait, but as fellow sharers in this remarkable planet.

I don’t know if I would have been able to do it without the internet and social networking. I wonder how people managed before these wonderful tools. I understand why the internet is such a danger to high control groups such as the Watchtower Society. The reason they disfellowship is so members will return out of desperation due to excessive loneliness. In a recent Watchtower (April 2012) Paragraph 17 on page 12 explains the significance behind this practice:

17 “Consider just one example of the
good that can come when a family loyally
upholds Jehovah’s decree not to associate
with disfellowshipped relatives. A
young man had been disfellowshipped
for over ten years, during which time his
father, mother, and four brothers “quit
mixing in company” with him. At times,
he tried to involve himself in their activities,
but to their credit, each member
of the family was steadfast in not
having any contact with him. After he
was reinstated, he said that he always
missed the association with his family,
especially at night when he was alone.
But, he admitted, had the family associated
with him even a little, that small
dose would have satisfied him. However,
because he did not receive even
the slightest communication from any
of his family, the burning desire to be
with them became one motivating factor
in his restoring his relationship with
Jehovah. Think of that if you are ever
tempted to violate God’s command not
to associate with your disfellowshipped
relatives.” (Watchtower)

Social media has removed such isolation and such ones can easily find others just like them, sometimes in their area. And whenever doubts and fears arise due to years of indoctrination, these are the ones who can strengthen us. So let me use this opportunity to thank all of you for your support on my journey and offer my assistance to anyone who needs it. Cheers fellow free-thinkers!

Tree of Life

I just watched the Tree of Life with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It was very poignant and has left me rather melancholy. I felt like I was watching my life: authoritarian father, 3 siblings, loving mother. I remember how we would feel happier and more relaxed when dad was gone and how we would all toe-the-line when he was there. I even remember him telling one of my brothers to stop talking unless he could say something that actually improved upon the silence. To say something like that to a child only shuts down any enthusiasm or expression. As an adult, I could never figure out why talking to him was so difficult. But most everything that was said was criticized unless it bore directly upon religion. “Let’s talk about something a little more theocratic,” “Don’t say that. How do you think Jehovah feels when he hears you talk like that?” He wouldn’t just do it to us, either. I heard him tell other people, even adults, to talk about more ‘theocratic’ subjects.

In The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt, who plays the authoritarian father, talks about how he had wanted more out of life and was ashamed at how little his life really meant.  I know life wasn’t great for my father. He was extremely intelligent and excelled at school. He became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when he was in pre-med. He dropped out because Armageddon was ‘just around the corner.’ He spent the rest of his life not using his intellect but working at dead-end jobs at the local saw-mill. His wife was an invalid and he had to raise three kids in a religion that kept kicking him in the nuts–metaphorically. Every time he would ask to be used in the congregation so he could exercise his intellect he was told he was too smart and he needed to stop being so arrogant. He never missed a meeting, assembly, or service. He read and studied all the endlessly redundant drivel the Society printed. Then he would obsessively try to fit into the mold of mediocrity the local elders required. He pounded this subservience into all our heads. It didn’t matter what personalities we might have, we needed to subject them to “God’s organization.” We needed to conform.

We learned this lesson so well, at 39 I am just now figuring out who I am–my older brothers haven’t been so lucky. I don’t know if they will ever be able to break the mold they have squeezed themselves into.  That’s what makes religion so reprehensible. It convinces people the prison is comfortable and necessary. It reminds me of a story I read while living in Northern California. Some years ago, a young girl was taken captive by some people who kept her in a box under their bed. They manipulated her so thoroughly she didn’t think she deserved any better. At some point, she was actually allowed to go get a job and every evening she would return to her box, handing her paycheck over to her captors. That is what some religions are like. They undermine a person’s sense of self to such a degree most people will endure unspeakable things in the name of God.

I don’t blame my father for teaching us to be doormats. He was doing what he thought he needed to. After all, it meant our everlasting lives. I remember reading an article in the Kingdom Ministry–which was a monthly bulletin only for JW’s–it was from the late 60′s and it instructed parents to not allow their children to go out socializing when they should be focused on serving Jehovah since ‘the end was so close.’ Parents everywhere did what they thought was right and raised a whole generation of kids in ascetic environments. Now, a great deal of that generation is waking up. They are middle-aged and their parents are dying. It has become clear that Armageddon has been “just around the corner” for almost 100 years. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no idea what they are talking about. My generation is slowly taking off the blinders. A lifetime under the strangle-hold of organized religion has created an interesting demographic. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and those who have survived the WTS are no exception. I have witnessed attitudes ranging from complacency to extreme courage. Some are angry, some are apologetic; some are born-again Christians, some are atheists; some carry the fear of eternal destruction with them, some have experienced a freedom from fear they never thought possible.

The Tree of Life never said what happened to one of the boys who died at nineteen, but it seems pretty clear he must have killed himself. The movie paints the picture of a boy with deep sensitivities. Sadly, some are affected in the same way when they leave the JW’s and cannot get past the damaging effects upon their minds. I don’t know if we will ever fully understand the magnitude of the damage caused by such mind control. I can only hope that the internet can help such ones realize they are not alone and they have nothing to fear.

My wish is that many more become like me and cast off the bindings of controlling, authoritarian religion. I want such ones to realize the joy of thinking for themselves and abandon the flawed course of their parents.

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 10:11 p02  Comments (4)  
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Lurkers Beware!

It has been a few weeks since my post, “Free At Last.” As far as I know, there has been no announcement–which is rather anti-climactic in my opinion. Somebody told me they only disfellowship someone they view as a danger to the congregation. Am I a danger? I sure as hell hope so!

Different ones from that religion may claim I am being disloyal; biting the hand that fed me; beating my fellow slave; even turning my back on the loving arrangement of Jehovah’s deluded sheep. I would ask them what that religion did for me that compensates for what I gave it. Thirty eight years of faithful service; thousands of hours in door-to-door humiliation; thousands of dollars in donations, vehicle upkeep, and gas; the best years of my life; a career; an education; my mental health—who puts a price on that? So who owes whom?

I remember in the Bible book of Exodus, when the Israelites were leaving Egyptian bondage they looted the Egyptians and took away a great deal of gold and jewelry. Was that stealing? No, the Egyptians had no right to enslave them so they owed the Israelites back pay. Well, the Watchtower Society owes me back pay and should be forced to pay for my psychological counseling in freeing myself from their mind-control. I want my youth back so I can make different decisions. I entered into a contract with the JW’s when I was 15. Such a contract is not binding. The steps I take now are in direct response to their continued need to try to control my life and thinking.

This blog was recently discovered by an old JW-friend. I hope he has enjoyed what he has read. One thing I find interesting is that the greatest sin he focused on was my celebrating of Christmas. I’m a practicing witch, and an apostate (by his reckoning) yet it was far worse that I would erect a Christmas tree in my house and exchange presents with my loved ones for the first time in my life. Does that sound like twisted reasoning? Does that sound like the Pharisaical tendency to ‘strain out the gnat and gulp down the camel’? (Matthew 23:24)But then, they are all Pharisees aren’t they? That is the whole idea of this blog:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you resemble white-washed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27,28)

Be careful who you judge. Make sure they don’t know too much about you and your penchant for apostate websites and pornography. And as to what my husband may or may not be ‘allowing to transpire in his home’—why don’t you join the 21st century. Women even have the right to vote now.

“Free at Last”

I have been thrust from obscurity into the glaring light of public censorship. Maybe this is a good time to point out that I wasn’t being as obscure as I hoped I was. I have a tendency to think most people don’t pay attention, or care, and this has proven to be grossly negligent on my part. When I began writing this blog it was specifically for the purpose of exploring my spiritual revolution. I kept it separate from my other blog and my Facebook account and even wrote it under a pseudonym. In recent weeks I have become less careful.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to an old friend who still subscribes to the tenets of my old belief. She asked if it was true that I was calling myself an apostate and Wiccan. She said everyone was asking her and rumors were rampant. This proved my earlier point–I had underestimated how many people actually were paying attention. So I admitted it to her. Last week I received a visit from an elder–only one–asking me if it is true I was posting things on Facebook regarding Wicca. Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I thought I had insured my privacy settings were set too high for any probing eyes. Once again, I was wrong. So I decided to come out of the proverbial broom closet and admit my witchy-ways. He begged me not to be so reckless and warned me of ruining my relationship with Jehovah. This surprised me. It seemed common sense that if I was becoming a witch it should be obvious that the opinion of Jehovah, or any other Christian god for that matter, doesn’t matter to me. So he asked if a couple more elders could come for a visit and share some scriptures with me. I have read the bible so many times I know it inside and out–I told him I didn’t think there was anything he could tell me that I didn’t already know and hadn’t already discounted.

Then he saw the pentacle around my neck and almost gave himself a hernia trying to get out my front door, which has a tendency to stick in winter weather. I actually laughed at him. Once he was safely on the outside of my house where no goulies or demons could get him, he turned and asked if I was in fact denying any assistance from the congregation. I said I was. Then he asked if I was determined to continue my wayward course. I said I was.

For those of you who don’t know, this means I am disfellowshipped. A public announcement is made at the next meeting and all obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses will not only stop associating with me, they will pretend I don’t exist. It’s like what happened to Ayla in Clan of the Cave  Bear when she was banished from the clan. In their minds, I am as good as dead. Initially, I was upset because I had committed the unforgivable sin. Everyone I had ever known and cared about would be grieved by my rebellious choice. By the next day, I felt incredible gratitude! I would not have taken this step on my own and it needed to be taken. I was limiting myself far too much out of fear of this exact thing. Now I have nothing to fear and I can choose to do what I want. I feel the same basic freedom as I did in El Salvador when I had everything stolen from me and had nothing left to lose.

A year ago, when I left the JW’s, I felt like the world lay before me and my options were unlimited. In recent months, I have experienced a feeling of floating. I’m not sure what the next step is and it is frustrating. The day after the elder came for a visit, a door opened and now I know where my path lies. I have used the word ‘gratitude’ more in the last 10 days than I have in my entire life, and it was brought on by the very thing I was taught to fear above all else–alienation from Jehovah and his earthly organization. I had hoped the elders would call to tell me when the announcement was going to occur just so I could thank them for setting me free, but that hasn’t happened. I guess it’s possible it could happen this week, but I kind of think it was made last week.

I think my greatest regret in all this is that none of the people who I used to care for will understand why I did it. They won’t know how miserable and neurotic I was under the tyranny of the Watchtower Society. They won’t understand my study of Wicca is to regain my power as a woman after a lifetime of humiliation by men in leadership positions. They will be unaware of just how happy and empowered I feel and how they could experience the same thing if they just chose to.

I wrote a poem in recognition of this. It’s a Shakespearean sonnet and it isn’t great but it expresses my feelings:

Free At Last—a sonnet

Praying for apocalypse day and night

Calling the birds to feast upon the slain

This world and its character gone from sight

“The meek shall inherit the earth,” is their refrain.

These do not grasp the darkness of their dream

“We are God’s happy people,” they insist.

Tired, tortured eyes betray souls that scream

Rot and ruin corrupt their very midst.

“Do not question, do not doubt. Believe all!

Hide who you are out of fear of God’s wrath.”

God is not the judge—they heed their own call

Knocking all sinners who stray from the path.

Their threats are empty, their vengeance is scant

Away bondage! “Free at last,” I incant.

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