December 2, 2011 marked the one year anniversary of my last visit to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was my father’s funeral and I knew when I crossed its threshold it would be the last time–unless someone else died. Over the last year I have had a lot of firsts: first cigar, first gamble, first birthday, first Halloween, and now I have my first Christmas tree up.
There is one first I didn’t count on however: first time fear has not ruled my life. I didn’t expect this collateral benefit. As a JW I was always told the world outside the Watchtower organization felt fear but those within the organization were free from fear. Supposedly, the world feared death, disease, Armageddon, God’s wrath, etc. Jehovah’s Witnesses knew what happens at death and that as long as they did what God–and the Watchtower–require they had no need to fear Armageddon or God’s wrath.
Yet, I remember having a dream when I was 5 years old that I was standing in a valley of skeletons–much like Ezekial’s vision of the Valley of Bones–and the names of each person was written on each skull’s forehead. I sorted through the piles looking for my best friends at the time: Jason and Eric. They lived next door and we would play Star Wars and Wizard of Oz. I finally found them, in my dream, two small skeletons with their names written on their skulls.
I remember having a dream when I was a teenager that I was standing at the threshold of Armageddon and an invisible entity was calling the names of those who would not cross-over, but die eternally. I remember the dread that I hadn’t been faithful enough and would die as a result, never to see my family and friends again. That dream spurred me on to be a more faithful Witness through all of my 20’s–until my soul withered away within myself.
I now find I do not fear flying. I don’t fear death, disease, or accident. I don’t fear violent crime or disaster. Life has become an adventure to take one day at a time without worrying about the future. I feel a measure of contentment I haven’t felt…well, ever. According to JW doctrine I should be living in morbid fear of my eventual destruction at Armageddon, but instead I feel happiness. The kind of happiness that comes with the knowledge that every choice is mine to make.
The children of JW’s have a lot to fear. They hear, from birth, how evil the world is. They hear how Satan and his demons are just waiting to devour them like a hungry lion. They see terrifying images of Armageddon, with people running screaming or dying in terror. Children are not protected from these images, but all the more exposed to them to scare them into submission. And it works, most of time, until the person realizes obedience is a worse kind of death than total obliteration at the hands of God.
In a recent book released by the Watchtower Society, “Learn from the Great Teacher”, is perhaps the scariest picture of Armageddon I have ever seen the Watchtower publish. This is a book for children. Why would they publish something like that unless they are trying to instill fear. The picture is the one you see above this article.
Am I an isolated case? No, many people have reported growing up with nightmares of Armageddon. Some deal with it differently, though. Please watch the video below to see the tragic effects of cult fear tactics.