Like the title suggests, Atheist Geek News is the creation of a former Jehovah’s Witness turned skeptical atheist. I write about a lot of geeky stuff, including movies and the occasional post about science and technology. I also offer articles about skepticism, atheism, and humanism for your reading pleasure. If you have a dark and off-color sense of humor, then AGN just might be the place for you to be. If not … you might want to flip the dial.
The thing I’m probably best known for is my criticism of the Watchtower Society. I’m especially critical of the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors it encourages in Jehovah’s Witnesses.
But above all these things, Atheist Geek News is about ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses – all former Christians, really – standing up to their critics and getting on with their own lives with their self esteem intact.
In other words, it’s not about them. It’s about us.
Not Just Another Site Out To Bash “The Tower”
I’m not a fan of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society to be sure, but I’m not out to get anyone either. I happen to be married to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so no, I don’t hate them or anybody else. My time as a Jehovah’s Witness helped make me who I am today, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s not a bad thing. So while I’m not writing any happy songs about my adventures in Jehovah’s Witnessing, I’m not bitter about them either. Believe it or not, if I could do it all again, I would. I couldn’t have become a skeptic or a humanist without them.
So Why Bother Criticizing the Tower and its Witnesses Instead Of Just “Moving On?”
There are a lot of former Witnesses (former believers in general, really) who aren’t being treated very well by members of their families and by other people within their former religions.1 By pointing out the factual errors and emotional problems that are encouraged by the Society’s teachings, I am reminding fellow exxers that we aren’t the monsters we are portrayed to be. I am helping them stand up for themselves when forced to. I am telling them that they are not crazy and they are not alone.
It isn’t about the Watchtower or Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s about helping ex-Witnesses keep their dignity through the tidal wave of outrage that Jehovah’s Witness so often send our way. My articles can help fellow exxers get through these experiences and move on with their lives. That’s a bigger issue than many people realize.
If you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who finds criticism hard to take, try to understand that criticism isn’t always about hurting anyone. Sometimes, it’s about making something better than it already is. And while we may not agree on what’s better and what isn’t, better is all I want life in “the truth” to be. Especially life near “the truth,” which is where many former believers like myself live and breath.
For those who take offense, I can only say this: So long as the Society regularly criticizes other religions, governments, “worldly people,” “unbelievers,” and former Witnesses worldwide, then it invites criticism in return. Like it or not, that’s something the organization and its Witnesses must learn to deal with.
A Few More Disclaimers
To my knowledge, everything I have written at Atheist Geek News is true. No lies will be spread here, though my experiences in “the truth” may not jive with your own. If you can show me that something I wrote is factually untrue, I will apologize and correct my mistake. It should go without saying that I’ll need something better than someone’s non-expert opinion or personal experience to post a retraction, however. Angry knee-jerk reactions won’t get you a lot of sympathy, either. (See my page about comments and emails for more on that.)
Oh, and if you’re looking for political correctness, no promises. Write it down. It could be important later. If you’re offended by naughty language and wirty dords, this may not be the place for you. Dammit.
Atheism And The Atheist Geek
Like most atheists, I’m accustomed to having a list of bizarre and offensive assumptions hurled my way. Let’s hit the most obvious one now: no, I didn’t become an atheist just because I had a bad religious experience with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Certainly not in the way most people mean.
Yes, I was miserable as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After years of telling myself that my misery was due to the behavior and policies of the local elders (because far too many of the elders at my old Kingdom Hall acted like serious a-holes) and that I had some sort of personal defect (which is the Society’s ongoing assumption when any of its Witnesses claim to be unhappy) I began to realize that it wasn’t that simple. In fact, it wasn’t a local problem at all.
Sure, my elders did seem proud and more than willing to intimidate anyone they pleased. But even the elders were the product of a culture that had gone very wrong a long time before I showed up on the scene. Many other Witnesses at my old Kingdom Hall were just as unhappy as I was, including many of the elders. Like kids in high school, we were all dealing with our misery in various unhealthy ways. The ones with power tended to abuse it. The ones without power resented the ones who had it. The elders, in turn, resented the burden of caring for a congregation that didn’t always appreciate their efforts. They blamed us, we blamed them, and on the wheel of misery turned.
When I look back, I realize that both parties were missing the big picture.
We all had one thing in common. That one thing was the Society’s “truth.” Note that Jehovah’s Witnesses often refer to their culture as “the truth,” and that’s how I’m using it here.
For me and many others, that culture just wasn’t working. I didn’t realize this until I began hearing the same hubris in the magazines that I had already experienced from my local elders. I would summarize the literature’s attitude toward anyone who was unhappy in the Watchtower Society’s “truth” like this:
“Don’t like being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Just remember, we’re always right until we say we’re not and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now sit down and read your Watchtower before we destroy you. And get that look off your face. We’ll tell you when it’s OK to have an opinion. Ya little punk.
P.S. Obey us or you’ll make Jehovah very sad. He’s shaking his head and frowning right now because of something you did. And so are we. Don’t act all puzzled. You know why!
P.S.S. Best regards, ….”
Maybe this was a change in the Society’s writing style, or maybe it had been there all along and I just failed to notice it. Either way, that was when I started to question my basic assumptions about everything I had been taught about their “truth.”
Sure, if it meant escaping Armageddon and living forever, maybe a few decades of misery shouldn’t matter. But what if the Society’s “truth” wasn’t true at all? Would it be worth it then? Not to me, it wouldn’t. But how could I tell if the Society’s governing body was right or not? This was a decision I had to make. I couldn’t let the Society – or my local elders – make it for me.
It’s hard to be objective when you’re surrounded by an attitude of presumed righteousness. Witnesses who question the Society’s leaders are usually accused of being overly proud and of failing to rely on Jehovah. That’s hardly a loving or long-suffering attitude, by the way. Still, this was an important question for me. I needed some space to clear my head. So I took the leap: I decided to stop going to meetings until I could sort it all out for myself. I didn’t know it then, but that was one of the best decisions of my life.
Funny thing is that the Witnesses started bugging me about my decision. Harassing me, actually. My phone started ringing off the hook as a congregation filled with over 300 people took it upon themselves to bring me back into their “truth.” Only their approach to bringing me back did a lot more to shove me out the Kingdom Hall doors than pull me back in.
Soon, I found dozens of messages on my answering machine when I came home from work every night. Most of them were from Witnesses who had barely spoken to me before. Yeah, that’s not creepy at all. Then it got weird.
A heap of interventions and confrontations followed. I had Witnesses knocking on my door night and day, Witnesses hassling me at work, and Witnesses confronting me in public places. I even had Witnesses sitting in their cars and waiting for me to come home at night. They insulted me, berated me, and told me what my problem was … despite having zero knowledge of my situation or of me as a person.
All of them talked. None of them listened.
Several Witnesses who have visited this site have claimed that these efforts were motivated by love. If that’s how loving people behave, then obsessed fans who break into celebrity homes are really all about love, too. Anyone who thinks harassment on this scale is about love has a very distorted view of what loving behavior truly is. That’s not love. That’s what cults do.
In the end, instead of drawing me back into their Kingdom Hall, their bad behavior chased me farther away than I already was. It was a lot to take for someone who just wanted to get his head in order. I invented a new term for it: shame-bombing.
It was hard standing up to so many people day in and day out. Especially when I didn’t know what I believed anymore. So I began researching the accuracy of the Society’s publications to see how much real, measurable truth there was behind their spiritual food. Let’s just say that it didn’t look good. I maintain that the Society’s literature isn’t about truth and accuracy. Its primary focus is making Jehovah’s Witnesses feel good about their religion. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Society’s bills its literature to the people who read it.
Over the years that followed, I studied religion and philosophy in general. All religions have their flaws, it seemed, while the arguments of nonbelievers were – to me at least – irrefutable. Atheism won because it made the most sense to me. You’re mileage may vary. (Duh.) I didn’t set out to become an atheist, but that’s where I ended up. The funny thing is that there was a pack of Witnesses chasing me every step of the way.
This was no snap decision. It took more than a decade to become an atheist, a few more years to realize that I already was one. Anyone who thinks that atheists are just a bunch of ingrates whining against God, or that we suppress our beliefs so we can do bad things, fails to see us as real, three-dimensional human beings. The same goes for those making similar accusations against former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Real people are not stereotypes.
I could easily accuse believers of being weak, of needing a god as a crutch to drag themselves out of bed every morning, or of having daddy issues. It would also be an easy way of dismissing them and their opinions. Not to mention a real dick-move. Which is exactly what is happening when believers do it to us.
The efforts of overzealous Jehovah’s Witnesses to save me not only pushed me away from their truth, it led me down the path to atheism. So yes, in a sense, my bad religious experiences did play a part in my becoming an atheist. Just not in the way most people mean.
I honestly don’t know if I could have become an atheist without the help of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For that, I do owe them some thanks. I don’t think they’d appreciate it, though.
So Why The Website?
I was bored. What more do you want?
OK, there’s a tad more to it than that.
I originally created Atheist Geek News as a hobby because I wanted to start writing again and because I wanted to learn HTML and CSS. The original site, which was coded on an old-fashioned text editor, can be found here. Since then, I’ve found better reasons for keeping it up and running, like those mentioned at the beginning of this page.
I’m not particularly interested in spreading atheism or leading people out of the Watchtower Society. In many cases, I’m simply hoping that my articles will help former believers move on. The rest of the time, it’s just me posting stuff, whether it be insightful or moderately entertaining. Or annoying. 😛
Enjoy … or don’t. Either way, the jokes and the commentaries aren’t meant to be taken personally. This isn’t a declaration of war. At worst, it’s just me amusing myself. You get to watch it happen is all. (I’ll be nice and keep the pervy voyeur jokes to myself. You win this time, world.)
On the other hand, if you’re interested in converting me to your religion/way of life/insurance policy/long distance phone service/or whatever … please save us both the bandwidth. Really. I tend to take a rather harsh view of evangelism. I’ve experienced it in many forms and I’m just not impressed. I’ve done my share of door knocking and I’ve pretty much heard all the reasons for it. I honestly don’t appreciate any of them.
If you’re an evangelist about to get a running start at me, all I can say is, convert me at your own risk. Please don’t be surprised if your views don’t seem as enlightened to me as they seem to you. Chances are high that we have a very different ways of looking at the world. There’s a reason that some people are atheists and others believe in a deity. The things that move us – the things that matter to us – aren’t always the same. I hope both sides will keep that in mind.
Dare Ye Email The Atheist Geek?
And for those poor souls who wish to contact The Atheist Geek directly…
Please put a subject heading in your message and be patient in waiting for a reply.
One last thing. Before you send that message, I remind you that I don’t suffer evangelists or knee jerk reactionaries well. I also reserve the right to post bat-shit crazy hate mail. So don’t say I didn’t warn you! Note that I will never post anything truly private, like a request for serious advice. Mostly, I’m talking about real nut-cases and screaming drive-by posts left by angry people who don’t get enough fiber in their diets. That sort of thing.
For more about rules about email, comments, or forum posts, go here.
- And no, that’s not a joke. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not the rare, one off exception to the norm. It happens, and it happens a lot. I know, and I continue to be one of them. ↩