When ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses are trying to get past that whole Watchtower thing, it can be helpful to codify their problems with the Society by making a list. This helps them understand their experiences in a simple, straight forward way. Understanding (hopefully) allows them to move on with their lives instead of creating their own “I Hate The Tower” web site. It can also help ex-Witnesses get over personal encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses who are determined to “fix” them by converting them back. These attempts at conversion can be very tedious and upsetting to say the least. In fact, they usually backfire by pushing former Witnesses even further away from the Society than we already were!
Ex-Witnesses aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this article. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in good standing might find a list of their most common blunders interesting. If you are a former Witness like myself, see how many of these you can spot the next time a Witness knocks on your door and wants to have a little chat about “The Truth.”
Here are just 5 of the reasons why I don’t like talking religion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. And here’s a hint: none of them include some deep seated fear that the Witnesses are right. It’s all about their personal conduct.
They Refuse To Listen
“I cannot hear you!
La la la la!”
Unless they’re prepared for the things I tell them, most Jehovah’s Witnesses simply carry on with their end of the conversation as if I’ve barely spoken a word. They ignore what I say and keep going back to whatever assumptions they made about me before the so-called “conversation” began. In other words, they aren’t interested in having a real conversation at all. They just want to preach down to me. Why should I play along?
If I tell them that I’m an atheist, they respond with a quote from the Bible or try to tell me that I really do believe the Society is the true religion. This is … well … kind of like a slap in the face, really. That’s because atheists like myself don’t buy into these things. This tells me that the Witness isn’t listening and they just want me to play the part they’ve assigned me. It makes me want to laugh and go, “Where’s my copy of the script?”
If Jehovah’s Witnesses want to have a real conversation, then they might earn some respect from me. But this sort of behavior takes that respect away. It makes them seem totally crazy to any normal person. Crazy behavior in this context makes us think “cult” loud and clear. That doesn’t help the Witness’s cause one bit.
They Make Wild (And Often Offensive) Assertions About My Point Of View And My Reasons For Leaving “The Truth”
It’s bad enough that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to listen when I finally open up and tell them my reasons for leaving. But when they just wave off my explanations and interrupt me with some baseless and openly biased assertion that comes from nowhere … well, now they’ve just gone too far. It’s as if they can’t believe someone might have a decent or honest reason for leaving “The Truth.” So when I give them one anyway, something in their brain misfires. And then, out of nowhere, I get something like one of the following:
“Yeah, but anyway, you know it’s not fair to blame Jehovah for the way the Elders treated you…” (Despite the fact that this has nothing to do with the reasons I just gave them for leaving.)
“Look, we both know it’s ‘The Truth.’ So when are you going to straighten up? Armageddon’s coming, ya know…” (Despite the fact that I’ve just told them I don’t believe it is “The Truth” or the fact that I clearly don’t believe in their doomsday “Armageddon” scenario.)
“I know it’s hard being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we’re talking about eternal life here! Ya know?” (Ditto for the gripes I had with the previous two examples.)
These are all very convenient assumptions for Jehovah’s Witnesses to make about a former believer. These assumptions allow the Witness to continue feeling good about their religion without forcing them to acknowledge that life in the Watchtower Society’s isn’t always a blessing. They allow the Witness to continue looking down on this poor, sad, worldly slob they’re trying to take under their wing while also patting themselves on the back for their own efforts. But people tend to be more complicated than that. So this makes the Witness seem delusional to the rest of us. That just makes us happy we got out when we did. And — dare I say it? — it makes us feel sorry for the ones who didn’t.
I have to be blunt with this one. Jehovah’s Witnesses will openly lie by denying many of my complaints against the Society. I’m not talking about scandals or rumors that are unproven. I’m talking about dishonesty regarding the Society’s directives, policies, and doctrines. For instance, the Society has repeatedly made it clear that they are Jehovah’s representatives, and — as such — they and their representatives are to be obeyed. For me, this screams “cult” loud and clear, so I consider it a legitimate complaint. Yet many Witnesses will actually deny this directive to a non-Witnesses or even ex-Witnesses like myself. Despite the fact that they know I know better because I’ve seen the magazines and heard the talks! Now I could put up with justifications for their obedience, but outright denial that the Society requires it is just an insult to my intelligence. If they want to convince me of anything, they’ll have to start by being straight with me. If they can’t convert me on the basis of truth, then their religion isn’t going to appeal to me. Besides, if they’re truly in the right, then why hide it?
When confronting a former Witness, many Witnesses will encourage us to open up and be honest. Why not encourage us by earnestly doing the same? So admit it when our criticisms are accurate. You can defend the Society’s position on the issue, but don’t try to spin it or lie about it. (Little white lies count, ya know.) That just makes us pull away.
They Expect Me To Play By Their Rules And Get Ticked Off When I Don’t
“Just like negotiating for sex
with my wife on our wedding
night. Ah, the memories…”
I always get the sense that I’m supposed to be the bad guy in these encounters. I’m supposed to be miserable because life outside the Watchtower Society is supposed to be awful. Or I’m supposed to be some mixed up kid who knows what’s right deep inside. If only the Witness can get me in touch with that inner knowledge, everything would be okay… Darn that Satan and his lies!
I gotta tell ya that this is about as condescending as you can get.
Basically, it’s as if the Witness assumes I know my role of shame and self loathing and they assume that I will play that role. Until I don’t, that is. When I point out the flaws in some argument they’ve thrown my way, or simply tell them that I don’t agree, they get sort of miffed about it. If I turn the tables and go on the offensive … well, hey now buddy! That’s just not right. Then they call foul and play the old “but it’s what I believe” card. Now I’m a bad associate or apostate who’s out to get them. Note that most Witnesses will gladly reassure former believers that they won’t do this to us because they want us to open up to them. For anyone who doesn’t know, saying one thing and then doing the opposite is called “lying.”
Sorry folks, but if you want me to take this seriously, then you’ll have to treat me as an equal. You might even have to give me a little respect. This is the exact opposite of both.
If Jehovah’s Witnesses really have “The Truth,” then they shouldn’t have to play mind games. They certainly shouldn’t try to change the rules or lie about the conditions of our conversation to trick me into some kind of confession. The fact that the Society has already scared many of us into silence for fear of being disfellowshipped is already unforgiveable in my book. Most ex-Witnesses won’t open up easily because of it, and because we fear the reaction of our Witness friends and family. Don’t get self righteous or try to pull rank when we do. We will resent it. That’s a good way to permanently sever any connection we once had.
They Act As If I Know Nothing About Their Religion And Repeat The Same Arguments As If They’re A Revelation
“Look carefully: nope,
still no anointed
brethren here. Huh.
Wonder what that’s about.”
Every conversation I have had with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses about “The Truth” has pretty much gone back to basics at some point. It’s like they’re taking me back to the Revelation Book all over again as they try to convince me that the Society has it right. Problem is, I’ve already read the Revelation Book. I’ve heard the talks. I’ve read the magazines. And I’m completely unimpressed. So why would repeating these arguments change my mind?
It’s as if they find this information so convincing that they honestly can’t believe that I don’t. So maybe they’re assuming I’ve mysteriously forgotten it all? Come on guys, I’m not that stupid. Please don’t treat me like an idiot.
If you’re going to try and talk me out of being a nasty old “worldly person,” then hit me with something original. Something that comes from your own brain instead of paraphrasing the literature. It’s your only real shot, because I’ve already read the literature and I’m not convinced. What could be more obvious when you think about it?
So there you have it. These are only five bad behaviors, but they’re all worth thinking about. If you’re a former Jehovah’s Witness … or even an atheist with aggressively evangelical family or friends … you might point out these behaviors when they come up. This can actually encourage the evangelist to treat you better instead of in a condescending way.
If you are such an evangelist, maybe you can consider how you’ve treated others when preaching to them. Are you having a conversation or are you preaching down to them?
It’s worth thinking about.
Want more? Check out 5 More Reasons Why I Don’t Like It When Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach At Me.