(Hopefully, someday we’ll call you Sir Richard)
After finding your material through a friend and watching just about every you-tube video of you and the other three “horsemen” available, especially your early ’90s 5-hr Christmas Lectures, I just had to get in here and tell you my story. I think some people will take comfort in what I’ve come to realize.
I’ve always had religion in my life; usually in the form of a relative or neighbour taking me to Sunday school. In my teen years, I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is where I got serious with my religion.
Now before we go rolling our eyes, let me say a couple things in their defense. If you believe two things (which I did at the time) – (1) That the God of Abraham is real, and (2) that the Bible is the literal word of that God – what Dan Brown refers to as “a fax from heaven” than you have to give Jehovah’s Witnesses some credit for their integrity and dedication. They really do take every one of their beliefs and customs from the Bible. They really do practice what they preach, and they encourage all of their members to read the Bible cover to cover. Also, remember that these people went to the Nazi concentration/death camps along side the Jews and the gypsies, and they’re ready to do it again if necessary.
They make more sense than any other Christian religion. The best of the worst, one might say.
Moving on, one of their most famous, or infamous, activities is their door-to-door recruiting. They’ll never call it that, though. As a fellow door-goer, I was taught adequately how to shoot down pretty much every religion and religious belief there is, including other Christian faiths. I’ve gone toe-to-toe with ministers in my teens and could always get them to concede “well we’re not always meant to know…” or something equally weak.
One of my favourite sets of arguments, is about showing how the customs of every major holiday come from pre-Christian times and therefore are not to be celebrated as Christian holidays. In fact, they use similar arguments against a lot of other Christian customs.
This is really the beginning of my personal doubts, and how the JW’s unwittingly prepared me for Atheism.
I was taught, and believed, so much these arguments, that it was only a short jump to say… well, if they’re all so full of it, what if we too, are full of it? I mean who’s to say The Bible is even true? There are how many Hindu’s? Don’t they have their sacred texts too? What makes ours more reliable than theirs?
At about this time, my grade 10 science class was just getting into a 2 week portion of evolution. I’ve always been a science geek and true to form, I took the highest mark – while being a full practising and believing JW. I always believed in adaptation through a natural selection because… well duh, it makes perfect sense.
If I had to believe that we all descended from Noah and his wife, than I had to accept that all black people in Africa are black because lighter skinned people are more prone to dying of heat stroke. The same could be said for the flat-faced Inuit surviving the cold. I just thought these things could happen fast enough to have happened in the last 5 or 6 thousand years. I even came up with the idea that all bear species could have come from a pair of bears on board the Arc, and as they wandered to the Arctic, they adapted to become large and white, while others became small and black or medium and brown depending on where they migrated to. That’s right, I used speciation through natural selection to “make room” on the arc in my mind.
Anyway before I start to sound like I’m supporting the other side, what I really want to say is that evolution makes sense to me. It always has.
Next point – JW’s teach that the Bible was written by men, from human perspective and that the words are “inspired of God,” as if dictated to the men who wrote them. They believe the first 5 books were written by Moses. Like God called up on the hot line and said “Moses, take this down. In the beginning…” I think “inspired” in this case is more like a Hollywood movie that’s “Inspired by a true story.”
Another point – I got hooked on astronomy and the question of whether life could exist on other planets. The Church used to believe the earth was the centre of the solar system, then believed the Sun was the centre of the universe. Now, they’re OK with the infinite universe and us NOT in the centre of it, but Earth is the only place with life. Its really just another step to understand life might be everywhere.
Most people who leave the JW’s do so because they don’t like the rules – the Dos and Don’ts. Not me. I came to see through a lot of their social structure, and became victim to it. When I was “studying” as they say, I was invited to every party, and gathering within 100 miles. As I became a “publisher” (not baptized, but going door-to-door) I wasn’t quite as popular, and when I became a fully baptized JW, no-one seamed interested in me at all. In fact, when I needed help the most, during a serious bout of depression, I was avoided entirely.
I remember before I had even met this particular family who had moved into town, I was told I shouldn’t associate with them because “They’re not very strong in the faith.” It was like (insert Yoda voice here) “Oh, much fear I sense in you. Fear leads to the dark side.”
After moving to another city, I decided to lay low for a while before contacting the JW’s there. But they actively searched for me through the grape vine. When they found me, I decided to go to some of the meetings – and wouldn’t you know it – suddenly I was invited out to everything again. I was getting the lost sheep treatment and I saw right through it! So, I was outta there before you could say “Let there be light!”
Now, the problem here, is that when someone leaves a church, they usually go to another one. But I couldn’t do that. I already knew that every other faith was wrong. The only way I could reconcile things was to believe the JWs were wrong too. That all of it was wrong. No God. No Bible. No Heaven. No Hell (JW’s don’t believe in Hell anyway) It left me with a horrifying sense of emptiness.
As I tried to work through it, I realized that it all comes down to this: Either there is a God who’s going to come down here and kill all of the non-believers, or there isn’t.
Now, as silly as this might sound, I found the answer in the movie “Men in Black.” In one scene, Will Smith’s character says “In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a pissed off alien warlord ready to come down and kill us all. We don’t have time for all this cover-up bullshit.” And Tommy Lee Jones’s character says “There’s always a pissed off alien warlord, or an intergalactic plague, or something ready to wipe out all life on this planet. The only way these people can get on with their lives, is that they do not know about it!”
And that’s it. The choice is this: Live in fear, or live in denial. I chose denial. At the time, it seamed like a deadly gamble, considering the wager.
But as time went on, logic started to take over. Pretty soon, the words “… and He said let there be light, and there was light,” began to sound like “the earth is a on the back of a giant turtle swimming on a vast ocean” It all started to sound like old men around a camp fire ten thousand years ago making up stories to explain things. The same way men sit around a bar today, solving the world’s problems over a pint.
I eventually began to understand that any book that claims to be its own evidence for it’s contents is just like what psychologists call a self-reinforcing delusion.
We wouldn’t believe a defendant just because he says he isn’t lying? Imagine the lawyer stating “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, we know this man is telling the truth because he clearly said earlier that he’s telling the truth.”
Now, add to all of that – everything you’ve published.
I’m happy now. I even sat in a church, not long ago, and argued with the minister that there is no God. And I was not afraid. I explained that the world and my place in it makes more sense to me now without a god than it ever did when I believed in one.
Thank you so much for your life’s work and for making it all available to us. I’m about to order all of your audio books.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.