So why do ex-Witnesses like me criticize the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Many Witnesses assume that we harbor some secret jealousy of them, that we’re deranged, or that we’re just a bunch of meanies in general. In reality, there are many sane reasons why ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses criticize the Watchtower Society publicly.
1. To Warn Others About Problems We Perceive With “The Truth”
Many Witnesses accuse us of nitpicking and insist that there are no good reasons to leave the Society’s truth. They say that the Watchtower Society is Jehovah’s one and only organization, hence, none of its human-wrought imperfections really matter. But this assumes a lot. What if the number one fault we find with the truth is that it isn’t true? That shifts the priorities around, don’t you think?
Arguments between ex-Witnesses and Jehovah’s Witnesses about the Society’s truth are as timeless as anything else. Headway is rarely made on either side. But like it or not, we just don’t believe in the Society’s truth any more. So telling us that it’s flaws don’t matter doesn’t really help the situation. Isn’t this really obvious when you think about it?
2. To Defend Ourselves Against The Way The Society Portrays Us
If you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may not fully appreciate just how hard the organization is on former members, just as it is on other religions, governments, and so-called “worldly people.” Witnesses sometimes lament what they see as attacks on their beliefs or their way of life, often without noticing how many ways that they – and the Society – have returned the favor. How many articles in the Watchtower have portrayed worldly people as lazy, cruel, stupid, or dishonest? I doubt anyone can count that high. Yet how many more articles have portrayed ex-Witnesses as evil nutcases who keep lashing out at the Society like a bunch of ungrateful children, while also claiming that we have no good reasons for doing so? (If you didn’t notice the irony in that last sentence, you should really read it again.)
You get used to things like this if you see them often enough. But the reality is that it’s easy to be hated and despised by “the world” when you keep picking on it all of the time. The same can be said when you demonize former members. We like it about as much as you like hearing our complaints about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Worst of all, many ex-Witnesses find ourselves being accused of some pretty crazy things by the Witnesses in our lives because the Watchtower magazine said we were doing them!
That’s not to say that every complaint is just tit-for-tat. But many of us want to know what the Society is saying about former Witnesses because our loved ones are reading every word. Sometimes, what you see is nothing more than our reaction, or our response, to those comments.
By the way, if we’re the bad guys for criticizing the Society, what does that make the Society when it criticizes us, other religions, other people, other governments, etc? Guys, this isn’t a one way street.
3. To Encourage Reforms Within The Organization
Sadly, I have to say that this one feels like a pipe dream most of the time. Authority within the Watchtower Society usually flows in one direction; from the governing body on down. 1 Nevertheless, it is probably one of the more noble reasons for criticism you will find listed here.
Ex-Witnesses who want to see the Society work on its issues (we definitely think it has issues) simply want to make life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and former Jehovah’s Witnesses, a whole lot better. Ex-Witnesses like these aren’t lashing out like petulant children, they aren’t trying to hurt anyone, and they certainly hold a more optimistic view of the Society than many other exxers. They are simply trying to make the Society’s truth a better place to live.
I realize that many Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that they are miserable. But for me, and many other ex-Witnesses, life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was truly miserable. Yet it sure didn’t have to be.
Note, I’m not talking about making changes to doctrine so much as to the Society’s practices. As an atheist, I really don’t care if the Society teaches that the Trinity is true or that all good dogs go to Heaven. From my perspective, the Society is an authoritarian patriarchy led by men who seem pretty incompetent at guiding others toward a productive, positive way of life. This is not, in my opinion, a formula for happiness. So I count myself among those who would like to see some changes. I just don’t see anything wrong with that.
4. To Share Our Pain With Others Who Understand
Many ex-Witnesses have been shunned by their relatives and former friends. Or we have loved ones who are still Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we are forced to watch them sink deeper and deeper into something we believe to be harmful. Again, the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses may not see anything harmful about the Society is irrelevant. We do, and that’s what matters here. These, and other things, make it hard to be former Jehovah’s Witnesses at times.
Many people don’t really understand this. But you know who does? Others who have gone through it.
Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses are a community in our own right. Sometimes, we just have to share our experiences and seek support from other exxers who understand. If you see a former Witness posting complaints in an online forum or social media website, they aren’t necessarily trying to denounce the Society per se. Sometimes, they’re just looking for support from those who get it, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses who experience hardships seek out other Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s perfectly human, and there’s nothing weird or “mentally diseased” about it.
Ex-Witnesses don’t have to be obsessed with hurting the organization to criticize it. Personally, I think it would be easier if the Society simply reformed itself into a more positive force in the lives of its followers. And yes, by that, I mean to say that it falls far short of that goal in my eyes. That is a criticism, but it isn’t meant to hurt. It’s simply the way I feel, just as the Society frequently criticizes other groups of people when it finds fault with them. If Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to continue criticizing others, then I’m afraid they’ll have to grow a thick skin of their own. Not that some of them haven’t, but far too many just aren’t there yet.
To Jehovah’s Witnesses: guys, you simply can’t hit us in the jaw and then cry foul when we hit back. Especially if you refuse to have a real dialogue with us because you’re scared we’ll corrupt you. That just isn’t reasonable. Know what I mean?
There are many reasons why ex-Witnesses criticize the Society and its Witnesses. Some of us really are lashing out at the organization that hurt us, but it’s hardly fair to assume all of us are doing it for this reason alone. And I really don’t know of any exxers who I would describe as jealous of the Society. To be honest, this sounds pretty absurd to most people. It sounds like a parent trying to reassure their child that the kids at school are only picking on him because they’re jealous of his freckles. Never mind his coke bottle glosses or the fact he has an extra nipple on his forehead.
Accusing us of being crazy, jealous, or even under demonic control isn’t exactly reaching across the aisle, either. These are not the kinds of assumptions you make about a group of people if you want to have an honest, open dialogue with them. These are the kinds of assumptions you make about your enemies. It’s also how you make enemies.
If you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and you can’t handle it when we criticize you, why not sue for peace by making changes within your own camp? Doing away with disfellowshipping and acknowledging that many of our complaints are valid would be a great way to start a real dialogue.
- Yes, many Witnesses will say that Jehovah is the top man in the organization. Just as Catholics, Mormons, Methodists, and others will say, too. Until one god or another pops down here to clear up all this confusion, that’s a pretty unreasonable assertion to make in my opinion. Sorry guys, but as far as I’m concerned, the Society is run by humans. ↩