Dysfunctional Beliefs of a Jehovah’s Witness Apostate

by Melissa Karnaze

pier over a lake on an overcast dayIf you haven’t already read the article on dysfunctional beliefs, I recommend you do so before continuing here.


Because to be honest, this article is pretty dark. But it needs to be shared. And I would feel better knowing that you have a nice flashlight handy before we move further into the darkness together.

So are you ready now? (At least open up the article in a new tab so I know you can refer to it as needed.)

The Jehovah’s Witness cult

I have had no religious upbringing, nor do I consider myself religious. (Spirituality however, is an entirely different matter, which I won’t get into here.)

So I make the following statement not from the mindset of any Biblical warfare, but simply from the perspective of psychology.

The Jehovah’s Witness organization is a cult — in that it:

  • Censors all of its members’ reading material through the Watchtower Society.
  • Prohibits its members to refer to any other media (including internet) or alternative scriptures for answers to important questions in life — even gain a better understanding of the Witness scriptures. This means no individual interpretation allowed.
  • Prohibits member dissent from the orders of each Kingdom Hall’s network of Elders, which is why child abuse has been kept hush hush and has been rampant within the organization.
  • Prohibits its members from interacting with non-Witnesses, beyond the extent of trying to convert them.
  • Threatens its members with disavowment should they consort with non-Witnesses beyond the extent of trying to convert them (that includes any family members who have left are not a part of the organization).
  • Threatens its members with Hell-sentences should they invoke disavowment (which is explained below) — and this is some serious brainwashing.

So why am I getting into all this heavy stuff?

Because whether or not you are affiliated with the Jehovah’s Witness organization in some way, by looking into their dysfunctional beliefs, you can start to see the depths of your own. And you can start develop your discernment to spot out dysfunction built into other organizations (or cults) that make up society as a whole.

And why would you want to do that?

You need to do so in order to develop your own mindful construct, which will ultimately put you in charge of commandeering your emotional health for the better.

Jehovah’s Witness apostasy

I once knew a former Jehovah’s Witness. He had left the organization two years before meeting me. He was a brilliant, beautiful young man whom I was very privileged to know.

Now because he was a Jehovah’s Witness, and he “knew” the word of God and turned his back on it — he sunk beneath the level of a mere non-Witness, or someone ignorant of the word of God. This psychological burden wrecked havoc in his life, yet he was too cognizant of the organization’s inconsistencies (and his unanswered questions) to return to its clutch.

In this way, he became an apostate. Apostasy is literally a Hell-sentence according to the organization. (When the Apocalypse passes and the Earth is destroyed, apostates are prohibited from entering God’s New Kingdom.)

In the time that I knew this man, he shared with me what he titled, “Entrenched Beliefs Buried Deep in a Former Jehovah’s Witness’ Psyche: A Self-Analysis.”

It is essentially an exhaustive list of the dysfunctional beliefs he inherited from the Jehovah’s Witnesses from a very early age. You might see some that echo beliefs that have been ingrained within your own mind. Or, they may be so foreign to you that they easily illustrate how dysfunctional beliefs can be.

Refer to it with an open mind; that is, recognize that these beliefs were ingrained into him, even if they seem unimaginable to you.

Limiting Beliefs from the Bible/Witnesses:

    1) Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones who know God, he has shown them the truth about the world because they are honest and sincere and want to know truth.

    2) Studying the Bible with the Witnesses is the only way to understand the full truth we need to know right now so that we can love and live forever.

    3) The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York are God’s channel of truth, like Moses was. They are full of love and truth.

    4) I am on an evil course in life because I have left the Witnesses and disassociated myself.

    5) Everyone who is not a Witness is knowingly or unknowingly under the devil’s control.

    6) I should not trust myself.

    7) Thinking independently from Jehovah/the Witnesses/the Bible is evil.

    8) The devil is trying to mislead everyone into thinking independently and opposing the Witnesses so they will die when the end of the world comes soon.

    9) People like me who accurately understood the truth as taught by the Witnesses but rejected it are even worse than those who never knew. I am an apostate.

    10) Since I was the spiritual leader of the family, God will hold me responsible for stumbling them and leading them into apostasy.

    11) I am a special target of the devil, now that I have left the Witnesses he will trick me into opposing all that is good and will lead me into suffering and destruction.

    12) Alternatively, the devil will bless me with abundance and prosperity, but it will only be temporary and deep down I will still be an evil traitor.

    13) If I practice hypnosis, evil spirit beings called demons will enter my mind and posses me. By doing so I am inviting great evil and harm into my life.

    14) Only someone evil like me would undergo hypnosis to purposefully transform their beliefs after knowing the one and only truth about reality that I’ve known.

    15) My evilness must be even greater than most others because of the depth to which I understood the truth. I was a teacher of the light, now I am in deep shadow.

    16) All spiritual or religious belief systems besides the Witnesses’ belief system are special tools that the devil uses to mislead people and invite demons.

    17) Those who celebrate Christmas and other holidays are under the devil’s control, since it prevents them from understanding the truth about Jesus and Jehovah.

    18) Jehovah is the Creator and source of all life. The only way to know truth is to know him. The only way to know him is through Jesus. The only way to know either of them is through the Bible and the Witnesses’ lives and teachings.

    19) The only way to know truth is also through the Holy Spirit. Only the Witnesses really have Holy Spirit, that is how they understand the Bible more fully.

    20) I do not deserve to live because I am a sinner, that is why people die (they are too).

    21) I should not be living for this world but for the New System, when everything will be perfect on the earth. Only perfection is good enough for life to be worth living.

    22) God’s Kingdom, a heavenly government that will destroy all other governments soon, is the only solution to mankind’s problems.

    23) Efforts to make the world better or to change the world now are futile. The world outside the Witnesses is a dark and evil place controlled by Satan.

    24) Non-Witnesses cannot be trusted, they will betray me, they have no real loyalty, they do not know real love. We are deep in the time of the end in a loveless world.

    25) The devil wants us to live for now instead of the New World that God will bring.

    26) Going to college or making a lot of money is dangerous to my spiritual health.

    27) Success in this world is dangerous to my spiritual health. The more I succeed in life outside the Witnesses, the more I am under the devil’s control.

    28) Non-Witnesses are dangerous to my spiritual health.

    29) Not going to Witness meetings or from door-to-door is dangerous to my spiritual health.

    30) I am going to be responsible for the deaths of others when the world as we know it ends because I stopped preaching about the end of the world. I am heartless.

    31) I have no future in this world because soon the world as we know it will end and I will die if I do not go back to the Witnesses.

    32) The sincere Witnesses will live happily forever in the paradise without me.

    33) Loving people do not leave the Witnesses. Only crazy and/or evil-minded people like me do.

    34) Jehovah (God) will forgive me if I go back to the Witnesses. Then, and only then, will I be happy and truly satisfied in life.

    35) The demons can drive people crazy when they leave the truth.

    36) The only other explanation for my leaving the Witnesses, if I am not evil, is that I am crazy.

    37) It is better for me to be locked in a mental institution and be crazy or die than to live successfully as a non-Witness. Then maybe I wouldn’t be evil after all.

    38) I am a liar because I dedicated my life to do Jehovah’s will and work and now am purposefully not doing it.

    39) I have taken the evil side. There are only two sides, Satan’s and Jehovah’s. Satan has convinced me to decide for myself what is right and wrong.

    40) I am like Satan. All those like me who know of but reject Jehovah’s Universal Sovereignty and try to decide for themselves what is right and wrong are not loving.

    41) I am a betrayer, just like Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. I am betraying the loving God and his Son and all those who love them. Therefore I will be betrayed.

    42) Only an unloving person like me would forsake the sacrifice Jehovah made through Jesus by opposing Jehovah’s work being done by Witnesses.

    43) In a marriage, a man is the head of the household.

    44) It is wrong to have sex with anyone, even if you love the person, unless you have a legal certificate of marriage.

    45) Any sexuality of any kind outside of a legally recognized marriage, including masturbation, deserves the punishment of death for the unrepentant.

    46) I deserve to die just by being born sinful and for overstepping the law of God after knowing the truth. The only way for me and other sinful humans to receive forgiveness and be happy forever is to pray to Jehovah through Jesus.

    47) I will die at Armageddon because I have stopped praying for Jehovah’s forgiveness of my sins through Jesus. He is the only way to life and truth.

    48) Even if I seem happy for a while living as a non-Witness, eventually if I am a loving person I will realize the truth that the Witnesses were right all along.

    49) Deep down I know the truth — the Witnesses are always right on the main points.

    50) I will never really be happy living as a non-Witness.

Clearly, this list would be the perfect programming for any robot slave.

The master creates his robot servant, and then programs it in such a way that it can never, ever leave the grip of its master’s control. The robot’s existence can only be justified by its loyalty and allegiance to its creator (the Witnesses act as the gatekeepers to God’s New Kingdom).

From a psychological perspective, this is an incredibly unhealthy way for any person to live. It is deep, dark, mind control.

Where to go from here

If you couldn’t make it through the list, that’s okay. You’re not obligated to read something dark if right now you don’t see the value in doing so.

If you did make it through the list and you are having negative reactions to it, I encourage you to sit with and explore those feelings deeper. Please refer to the “What you can do to get functional now” section of the dysfunctional beliefs article when you are ready to mobilize these uncomfortable feelings.

If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, or an apostate, then thank you for reading. It is my hope that it reached you somehow. I want you to know that you are not alone — there are networks of support out there for people just like you. People have recovered from leaving the organization, and they have been able to reprogram their dysfunctional beliefs and start a new life.

I encourage you to visit these resources: Freeminds, “Advice for Recovering JWs,” the Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Forum and Recovery Site, and Jehovah’s Witness Recovery.

I encourage you to believe in yourself, no matter what anyone — Elder or otherwise — has told you. If you don’t yet believe in yourself, or your ability to recover from leaving the cult — know that I do, and I will continue doing so.

Beliefs are strong, but we’re in this together

Beliefs are strongest when they remain unquestioned. It is by uncovering them and looking through them that we can begin to choose beliefs that are healthy for us — not the harmful ones that are handed down to us.

It is through introspection and self-acceptance that we can begin the process of honoring ourselves.

And we are not alone in this — dysfunctional beliefs are everywhere. We are in this together.

{ 118 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronald June 29, 2009 at 11:53 am

While I believe it would be more accurate to say that the JW leadership threatens an apostate with the possiblity of the lake of fire (rather than “hell” – hades/sheol], most the rest of the information, I believe, is good.

telson June 30, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Jehovah’s witnesses are heretical cult and this article tells it very assertively.


Joel Sousa July 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Thank you for this article Melissa. I like your writing and I am definitely going to check out some other articles of yours.
I am a Sociology graduate that have been born to a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ family and baptized when I was 15.
I started to question my beliefs more systematically after entering University. Ever since then it has been hard to conciliate my rational free sociological thinking with the JW’s beliefs. I just turned 26, and after being away from this cult for the last 2 years, not preaching or attending meetings, I doubted myself, I let my parents, my wife, pretty much all my relatives convince me that I am making a mistake, that I will never be happy as I was before if I don’t go back to Jehovah God. I tried going back, by talking with the elders, by studying the Bible, reading more Watchtower publications, but in the end, my feelings are coming out even more reinforced then before. The more I study the more holes I find in the JW’s doctrines, not to mention the Bible itself, and the absurdity of believing in God. I had an epiphany last week, when I realized I have been self sabotaging myself by doubting myself not only now and related with this, but also in other fields of my life. I have this duality in me. On one hand I have self esteem and confidence in myself, but on the other hand I see that this self confidence is sometimes squeezed out of me by a very dysfunctional belief I have been having, which is shame for being proud. Pride, or too much self-confidence, arrogance, I believed are bad things and I have been living my life downplaying myself for fear of displaying these traits.
I realised last week that it’s ok to be arrogant sometimes, it’s fine to be proud and self-confident as well. If it means that you’re the only one that believes in yourself then be it. I need to love myself and not apologise for my beliefs and for who I am. I also realised that two great stars in European soccer/football, my countrymen, most expensive football player of the World, Cristiano Ronaldo, and “Special One” football coach, Jose Mourinho, are the epitome of Arrogance, Pride and Self-confidence, and yet, they are extremely successful in what they do and regarded by many critics as the best football player and the best football coach in the world. They certainly consider themselves the best and they haven’t been shy in letting everyone else knowing that.

So, when I read what you wrote:

“I encourage you to believe in yourself, no matter what anyone — Elder or otherwise — has told you. If you don’t yet believe in yourself, or your ability to recover from leaving the cult — know that I do, and I will continue doing so.”

I could only think: “Spot on”. That’s it. And I am proud I realised it by myself last week. My self analysis has been working great for me despite the dysfunctional belief n.6 that I have been thought:
“6) I should not trust myself.”
based on a Scripture, Proverbs 18:1 (New World Translation):
“One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”
which everyone in my family have quoted back to me.

I am now writing my resignation letter from the JW’s which I hope to finnish this week.
That’s how, when googling for some ideas from other fellow “apostates” on what to include in it, I came across your website and this article. I think I might use the dysfunctional beliefs list from my fellow deserter in my letter. What do you think? I think it’s brilliant and I subscribe them all.


Melissa Karnaze July 12, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Ronald & telson, thank you both for sharing your thoughts.

Joel, wow, reading your words really affected me. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

I will say, I am *proud* of you for having the courage and the strength to find your own answers, no matter how hard, painful, or threatening it is for you. And to have your loved ones and those you’ve been close to stand up to you and tell you not to trust yourself on this — you are setting an example for all of us with your bravery and commitment to self.

It still floors me how wretchedly efficient the whole JW guilt-shame system is for re-snaring anyone who considers leaving, let alone anyone who actually leaves. But as you demonstrate, the human spirit is strong, and you have the will to reclaim your life and your beliefs.

I’ve found that recognizing a dysfunctional belief is the most important and most powerful step in replacing it with a healthy belief. In many ways that one step alone does most of the work for you. It sounds like you are making great progress looking within and sorting out those beliefs that are limiting you and trying to tame your “rational free sociological thinking” — which I totally support you in nurturing… your education is yours and yours alone, and no one can take that away from you!

I can tell from your writing that you do have much pride and confidence in yourself, and I encourage you to keep that alive. What a wonderful example from football too. (And some education for my U.S. self, as we seem to be out of the loop when it comes to this international sport.) Humility (in public) can be a virtue, but the shaming pushes it way too far.

I think it would be very empowering to use the beliefs list in your resignation letter. The letter is as much if not more for you as it is for them. I wish you all the best in creating your own closure at this chapter in your life, and moving forward with your best interests at heart. You have a strong soul Joel, and your quest for growth inspires me. You are walking a very difficult path, and you are finding your way. :)

Allen September 1, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Thank you for this extensive list. I was born and raised into this cult for 37 years, and it has literally ripped my former life apart over the past year as I finally figured out that they are not the one and only true religion as they claim.

As someone born-in, these beliefs are programmed in week by week, month by month, year by year. They become who you are, whether you like it or not if you take in the regular Jehovah’s Witness diet of meetings and study. While it was easy to shake off most of these beliefs once you realize you are in a cult, vestiges of many of them remain in me.

Particularly difficult is #6 – Learning to trust yourself. For so many years, you are programmed to only trust the religion’s authority, that you are not able to direct your own steps. They quote a scripture in Jeremiah 23 to emphasize this frequently. You literally are immobilized with fear once you ponder your exit. Of course, the eradication of your social system through the shunning is also designed to keep any doubters/troublemakers in their place.

Its like being on your own after leaving home for the first time, though I had to do as a nearly 40 year old! The pain and consequences the cult heaps upon you is great at first, but the reward of having a free mind is certainly worth it in the end.

Melissa Karnaze September 3, 2009 at 10:45 am

Allen, thank you for sharing your story. It’s important for readers to hear from an ex-Witness that there is serious mind control going on.

You literally are immobilized with fear once you ponder your exit. Of course, the eradication of your social system through the shunning is also designed to keep any doubters/troublemakers in their place.

Yes, they set it up so ingeniously that you aren’t able to develop relationshiops outside of the organization, all to keep you intimidated.

But as you’ve experienced, you can make it out. And the freedom to make up your own mind and start learning to trust yourself is worth it.

Any thing, person, or organization that pushes you to distrust yourself, rather than learn how build up trust (and self-love and self-acceptance) has its own agenda that is probably dsyfunctional. And many social systems, that aren’t even cults, are set up this way. Living is a constant challenge to know, understand, and trust yourself.

All the best to you Allen in continuing your journey of recovery.

Cole Bitting October 17, 2009 at 7:01 am

Some beliefs are dysfunctional. Some are pathological.

Melissa Karnaze October 17, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Yeah, Cole, pathological is an accurate way to put it. The sad part is that to you and me, it’s obvious — to someone conditioned with these beliefs from an early age, the lines blur. But, as I’ve been touched to see on some of the comments left here, it’s possible to step back, even after all the programming, and see these beliefs as what they really are: extremely harmful. There is hope.

Johnmars1 October 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Vary good Melissa- As a former JW I can’t believe that this sect is so out of it — I wonder how long can it last.

Melissa Karnaze October 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Thank you Johnmars1 for your comment. It means a lot to me, and the readers. The internet, thankfully, is providing resources and communities that are making a big difference.

Virginia October 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

JW’s dont MAKE you do anything.
Hanging out with non-JW’s is dangerous to your SPIRITUAL health. If you have a kid you dont want him hanging out with ppl that smoke drink and do stupid stuff right???? Nowhere do JW’s say you can’t go to college or make money thats stupid and extremist. Everyone knows that money corrupts the mind so they encourage you not to become a lover of money.
Basically JW’s follow the bible to the letter! They dont only follow some parts and leave other parts out like other religons.

Melissa Karnaze October 26, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Virginia, are you a Witness?

Money does not corrupt the mind. That is in fact, another dysfunctional belief.

Virginia October 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm

No its not a dysfunctional belief. its true.
no i am not a witness, i just call em’ how I see em’

Melissa Karnaze October 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Virginia, if you are not a Witness, then why would you equate hanging out with non-JW’s as dangerous to spiritual health?

That’s a statement that a Witness would likely make.

Virginia October 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm

because it makes sense. if you actually do what the bible says then wouldnt hanging out with ppl who dont care about the bible hurt your spirituality?
i’ve talked to witnesses before and they make alot of sense.
why does it matter so much if i am a witness or not?

Melissa Karnaze October 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Every reaction you post here matters. Because my readers are smart.

Many of them are here to learn about dysfunctional beliefs. They are going to listen to what a Witness has to say about this article, or someone overly sympathetic with their cult-like ways, with a grain of salt.

Virginia October 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm

If they are here to learn then they shouldn’t have a problem with what i am posting. Better to have two sides to a story.

Melissa Karnaze October 28, 2009 at 4:39 pm

You’re right, I mentioned a grain of salt, not a problem. ;)

I appreciate your comments Virginia. It is important to see see both sides of a story as you say, even if we still have our separate opinions in the end.

Russ Painter October 29, 2009 at 1:55 am

I believe what Virginia is doing here is what is called “Spiritual Warfare”. It basically means that it’s OK to lie, if that lie would forward the cause of their group. Others refer to it as “Lying for Jesus”, but the JWs call it “Spiritual Warfare”. I thought you might find the psychological aspects of that interesting Melissa. These people will generally be very honest (like all normal people) but if put in a corner where their organization is made to look bad, they will say anything to avoid losing the argument. I did it myself when I was stuck in that cult.

What she says is somewhat true though. They don’t tell you “you can’t go to college”. But what they say (at least once a month) is that if you go to college this may be a sign of “spiritual weakness”. When I was 17 one of my older friends DID go to college. There was no “official” punishment, but his family were effectively black-listed. I was no longer allowed to hang out with his little brother because that family would be a dangerous influence on me. The entire family was looked down on from then by the congregation. The message was loud and clear – while I was given the chance to go to college, I knew that if I DID decide to go to college, I would be condemning my family to the same punishment. My parents would loose all of their friends (since they obviously wouldn’t have outside friends). So I wasted my opportunity. These are the methods they use to control their members.

Melissa Karnaze October 29, 2009 at 10:14 am

Russ, thank you for your comment, it means a lot to me.

It really is sick how much they get away with. That’s an important distinction that explicit words may not be necessary to threaten members; actions do just fine. Hence: cult.

I didn’t think that Virginia was telling the truth about her religious denomination — because no right-thinking person but a Witness would defend them so vehemently. I think most readers can pick that up as well. Still, her side of the story is not invalid, as you’ve also commented on.

The psychological aspects of “Spiritual Warfare” are very interesting to me. I’ve had good arguing practice with a former Witness, and this is what I learned about the fear-based attempt to control another person. Witnesses may debate for their life, but the way they use debate is delusional.

And since you’ve got me on the topic, I’ll talk about this some more, as I have come to understand it.

Witnesses are programmed not to feel any self-worth; their worthiness is dependent upon Jehovah, so without his graces, they are nothing. This means, that they don’t have security in themselves. This is why they get upset at the rest of the world when they don’t agree with their ideology… because maybe deep down they do doubt themselves. (And this can go for other Christian sects as well.)

So what this comes down to… Witnesses debate and argue and lie and do whatever it takes to “look good” because deep down they’re not so sure if they’re right. How can they be? How can they honestly 100% be right if they are not worthy without the approval of someone who is not in the flesh to give them the type of validation that they can’t deny?

Argument works like this: it’s warfare. When someone is so sure of themself, when someone knows that they are in fact right, they don’t even waste a breath arguing why to those who disagree, and will likely continue to disagree. Because they have better things to do with their time than flinch around because of their inherent fear of unworthiness and of not ever knowing if they can trust their inferior minds to be “right.”

Now, Witnesses will probably say that the reason they try to convert (and thus argue and debate with) non-Witnesses is because they’re trying to save them. But — putting a person on the defensive and intimidating them with fear is no way to really convince them to love Jehovah. At best, it may convince them to fear the consequences of not “loving” him.

Arguing is a defensive act, not an offensive one.

Thanks again Russ for stopping by and sharing your insight. :)

Sarah November 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I came across this after desperately reserching this cult. About 2 years ago my Mom with reservation told me she was “Studying” with the witnesses. A complete shock to me because she has always been the most open minded, free spirited, and politcally aware person I knew. My mom also has MS and has had a decline in health. They started coming around and tried talking to my Dad who pretty much told them to shove off. They caught up with mom while she was working in her gardens. Being the kind, open minded person that she is was happy to speak with them. They came back again and again, lending her a hand in the garden. I don’t know what happened. When she broke this to me I kept an open mind and wasn’t going to tell her what to do. I myself had found my own sense of being and existance and wanted desperately share it with her. Of course when the past presidential election came around talk she made mention that the time of the anti christ was coming , I quickly changed the conversation. I still just left it alone. A few days ago she made mention that she wasn’t exactly the most popular person right now. I asked her why and she proceeded to tell me that she wasn’t doing Thanksgiving this year. I thought maybe the dinner was too much for her, i was about to offer to do the cooking of maybe she was going somewhere else. No. Its a nationlaistic holiday and she will no longer be celebrating it. My whole life I was brought up to appreciate holidays not for gluttony or greed, but for the family togetherness. Thanksgiving was about being thankful for each other and thankful for the thing we do have. For this to make sense I need to say that this woman is actually my god-mother (ironicly enough) who saved me from my birth mother who was a dangerous, dysfunctional, and abusive alcoholic. I have seen great tragedy which I have rose from like a pheonix. I have my (god) Mom to thank for that. I have a three year old son who thinks his grandma hung the moon. My grandma was the same to me, and holiday’s and birthdays were special because of her. I feel my son will miss that. Bigger than that………I don’t want my son to ever hear the preachings of doom and gloom. Will they pull her in so far that she will completely cut us out of her life? Reading this blog I am very curious to your or and other intelligent opinion to this matter. Can i save my Mom? How would I even go about it?

Russ Painter November 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Yes you can help your Mom. I’d suggest getting a copy of “Combatting Cult Mind Control” by Seven Hassan.

Also – post your story on an ex-jw forum like http://www.jehovahswitnessrecovery.com where you will find other people dealing with the same thing. You’ll get support and advice there.

The most important thing is to not attack her religion. If you do that, she WILL cut you out of her life. You gotta be smart about this and take it slow. But you should start now since she’s only just recently joined you got a better chance of getting through to her than if you leave it.

Melissa Karnaze November 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Russ, thank you so much for stepping in. I will add the forum to the list of resources in the article.


As you can see from the list of dysfunctional beliefs above, it’s not a safe set of beliefs to expose any child to. I would encourage you to continue protecting your son and yourself.

You ask if you can save your mother. I don’t have direct experience with this, but Russ and other ex-JWs do. So I strongly encourage you to take Russ’ advice and share your story with recovery forums. You will get valuable feedback on the different ways to approach your mother.

I think you do need to be mindful about how you approach her. People can be very defensive of religious beliefs, especially if they turn to them for their “sense of being and existence” — which runs really deep in the psyche.

On the other hand, you need to speak your truth too, and it sounds like you can see through the dysfunctional belief system. I don’t how to strike the balance, but hopefully the book Russ mentioned addresses that. And other cult-recovery books and research should as well.

I would recommend doing all that you can to educate yourself and still stay connected to her. Be honest with your feelings and show her that you care about her. The organization will try to program her to distrust you any other non-Witness; you have to be especially patient and compassionate to combat that “distrustful non-Witness” image of you that could turn her more toward them.

You mentioned a few instances where you changed the topic or tried not to go deeper into the Witness issues when they came up in conversation. If those instances happen again in the future, they are good opportunities for you to tell her how you feel, what your concerns are, and how much you care about her. It’s better to talk to her from your heart, without putting her on the defensive, than to be silent, hold it in, and let distance form between you.

As you said, you found your own sense of being and existence, on your own. As much as you want to share it with your mother (which would probably “save” her from vesting the Witnesses with the power of giving her life meaning), she really has to find that for herself, as everyone does.

So while you become proactive to get through to her, it’s also important to respect that only she can make the final decisions on what to do. Based on the principles I write about here, I can recommend that you reframe your role from “saving her” to: educating yourself, being honest about your true feelings, expressing your feelings to her in safe and appropriate ways, sharing you concerns with her, and keeping those concerns focused on her well-being and the continuation of having her be such a special part of your and your son’s life. From my perspective, communication only improves when you know how to work with your feelings, and there are lots of articles here on that topic. :)

Sarah, I wish you the best in finding the right resources to help you get through to your Mom. There are so many resources available to you, and like Russ said, it’s good that you are acting early.

Arvind Devalia November 13, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Melissa, this is my first ever visit to your blog and I am glad I made it here:-)

This is a truly excellent piece full of insights and advise for coping and escaping the clutches of what is clearly a cult.

Next time, I have Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on my door I shall point them to your website.

The lesson here really is that we all have to be vigilant and careful of our minds being distorted by people with extreme beliefs, people who have themselves quite often been deeply indoctrinated.

Thanks for this great contribution.

Melissa Karnaze November 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Arvind, it’s great to see you here. :)

I like how you use the word vigilant. We all need to protect our minds, from dysfunctional beliefs — because they are everywhere and can be so easy to adopt.

I think that this extreme example is a good wake up call for all of us. A non-Witness may not have to worry about the list of beliefs above, but everyone does have their unique list.

Sheri O'Connell December 8, 2009 at 8:49 pm

It’s all true. My JW father won’t talk to me. My mother and sister start acting like my friend but then they avoid spending time with me outside of business. I tell them that I want more then charity. They say it’s got nothing to do with my being dfd. My JW sister even said she doesn’t judge people anymore as she once did. I thought this meant we could be closer. I started talking about my experiences as an ex Jehovah’s Witness, things I have been learning and why I can’t get reinstated. She stopped letting me read her blogs and wouldn’t agree to be friends on myspace as I’d hoped. The door didn’t stay open for long. Now it’s really quiet here. I have become a pained skeptic. Nothing I do relieves the angst of not knowing if there is a happy ending for me after all. I just know I”m not going back.

Melissa Karnaze December 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Sherri, it takes a lot of courage to endure your experiences of being disfellowshipped not just from the organization, but also your family. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to take a look at the online resources linked at the bottom of the article. You might find others in your situation or a similar situation who can share some ways that helped them adapt.

I do think that just having your resolve, of knowing that you aren’t going back, is the first step to creating your own happy ending. You may or may not be able to persuade your mother or sister to leave, but you can protect yourself from the organization so that you no longer have to live under such a dysfunctional belief system. I wish you the best in continuing to do what’s right for you. Take care.

Heidi January 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

Outstanding article – nice to see insightful peers. I especially appreciated that you set out inherited beliefs. I think many recovering JWs still struggle with what to accept, reject, or put on hold…

Melissa Karnaze January 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Heidi, thank you for sharing this article on the list of great JW recovery resources you linked to.

Yes, it’s hard to become aware of and then choose your beliefs, which is why I think the best bet is getting as much out in the open as you can. And spitting it out into explicit wording. At least that way, they’re not so invisible, and you can start to see what’s been going on and driving your behavior behind the scenes.

Heidi January 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

Hope you don’t mind – I used this list as a therapeutic post to reflect back and mark the difference between now and then. There are others I was going to add – having to do with abuse, women’s issues, and other things – but I think in some ways they are already implied and the list is long enough! lol

It went in some odd directions, but it was very helpful to me, and I hope it might be to some others as well.

I love the Mindful Construct idea so much. Keep writing!

Melissa Karnaze January 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Wow Heidi, your re-written list goes into some very deep topics with great insight. It will probably take me a few read-throughs just to let it all sink in.

I’m really glad you did this for yourself and for us all to learn from! I appreciate how it’s very personal to you, and captures what you’ve experienced and reflected upon… you have demonstrated such a powerful exercise.

Let us know if and when you compile more. Thanks again for sharing, you are truly an inspiration!

Fred January 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Hello Melissa:

As you are familiar with pscychological theory, you are know doubt aware that there is absolutely no consensus among social scientists regarding the place “brainwashing”, “hypnotic mind control” etc. in so called “cults. Well documented evidence suggests that individuals remain autonomous agents.

While undue social influence can be found in any social context, including a faith such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it does not rise to the level that you suggest in your blog.
“The Devil Made Me Do It” theory remains a remarkable, yet unacceptable proposition from both a legal and psychological perspective. It is unfortunate that your language here is less than cautious in advancing such a theory. If you are familiar with the Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, you might have come across Anthony and Robbin’s article regarding Conversion and Brainwashing, where the theory is seriously challenged.
While I certainly wouldn’t dispute any individual testimony of a former member, such as the one you cite, from an empirical perspective other factors are in play in the exit process. Evidence suggesting that some former members offer reconstructed and/or embelished experiences has been documented, and may play a role in their view of their past faith. This is not accounted for in your blog.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have gained legal recognition, and remained that way, in most lands in part because their teachings are not viewed as harmful or destructive.

Melissa Karnaze January 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Hi Fred,

“Pscychological theory” is a sweeping generalization. There’s no consensus among social psychologists on the term “emotion” at present… but that doesn’t discourage me from dedicating an entire blog to emotion. ;)

“Well documented evidence suggests that individuals remain autonomous agents.”

Feel free to drop some sources. Autonomy is a sticky term. We’re still hacking at it. So this is not a well-documented argument against the existence and continual practice of brainwashing that I will take seriously.

“Evidence suggesting that some former members offer reconstructed and/or embelished experiences has been documented, and may play a role in their view of their past faith.

Again, you’re welcome to drop a link any time, and I may take a read. Anything can be spouted as evidence these days.

Russ Painter January 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm


Both as a former member and as someone who has researched mind control techniques I can tell you that this “brainwashing” does indeed occur.

I’d suggest reading Steven Hassan’s “Combatting Cult Mind Control”. It’s clear when dealing with these people that they have an extreme internal struggle between their cult and their pre-cult personalities.

Look into the eyes of one of these people when you say one of their trigger words. Watch them freeze up, panic, and do or say anything to get out of the situation. Then you’ll know that something isn’t right.

Various cults operate in most countries simply because the authorities aren’t aware of their dangers, or don’t know how to control them. Public awareness is getting a lot better now thanks to the internet.

Are you involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in some capacity yourself? Are you free to post your full name and credentials here?

Melissa Karnaze January 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Yes, I’m sure the readers would love to know how long you’ve been a Witness Fred, if that’s the case.

Fred January 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hello again Melissa:

Forgive me for assuming that you were familiar with the research I alluded to.

Here is a link to Dr. Bryan Wilson’s (of Oxford) landmark work:

Fred January 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm


You can also go to Cesnur.org to review some of the studies to which I refer.

The American Psycological Assocation has also not found sufficient evidence to warrant an endorsement of brainwashing theory. Here is a quick link to that:


Fred January 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm


Yes, I’m free to post my name and credentials, but I choose not to.

I am familiar with Steve Hassan’s work. He has provided fine research, but it has its limitations.

Mind control does exist, but not to the extent that he and others suggest. Feel free to look at the links I left for Melissa.

Fred January 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm


I apologize:
Here is a link that I left out from Psychology Today:

I think that Lifton’s comments are noteworthy because a consistent application of his theory would have exonerated Lee B. Malvo.

And yes, I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Melissa Karnaze January 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm


Thank you for sharing these links. At this time I won’t be digesting them all, but I look forward to when I can research this topic more thoroughly in the future. Just as a note, most articles from Psychology Today I don’t take very seriously.

What’s especially fascinating is that while the APA has not formulated a definition of mind control or brainwashing, it’s been a crucial topic of study by the CIA.

When you get to institutional levels, it’s important to get wind of the bigger picture.

I appreciate your comments and they definitely call for a more critical look at how to place responsibility (and define autonomy) when it comes to cults. However, I still stand by my article, and I presume you stand by your beliefs as well.

Fred January 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm


I appreciate your gracious comments as well. Let me just add that Psychology Today is simply reporting the case findings, not endorsing them.

We should all be thankful that the court correctly rejected the expert defense testimony in the Malvo case. Certainly, an acceptance of Hassan’s and Lifton’s theory would have effectively placed Malvo as a victim, rather than a domestic terrorist. Otherwise, we would be one liberal judge away from having the “Underwear Bomber” certified as a brainwashed zombie.

This issue is much deeper that the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Best wishes to all. Goobye.

Russ Painter January 27, 2010 at 5:56 am

I think “Fred” is a good example of this actually. He thinks he has intellectual freedom. in the back of his mind he knows that if he posts his contact details here, that he would be in danger of being punished by his group, but he claims that he just “chooses not to” post his name. He really thinks the choice is his. It’s impossible to see the control when you’re on the inside.

You’re argument that people would not be responsible for their actions if they were influenced by brainwashing, therefore brainwashing does not exist is false reasoning. It’s a complicated situation alright, not black and white.

Imagine if someone held a gun to your head, hands you another gun, and tells you to shoot someone else or else they will shoot you. If you do shoot an innocent bystander, should you be accountable for the murder? I think so. Even though your actions were heavily influenced by outside pressure, you did still have a choice.

Fred January 27, 2010 at 12:35 pm

“Even though your actions were heavily influenced by outside pressure, you did still have a choice.”——- Exactly. That’s the point. That’s why cult brainwashing theories do not stand up to objective scrutiny.

I will add that Ms. Karnaze’s article contains several gross distortions on the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which includes her list of the JW’s cult attributes. This needs to be challenged and I invite Ms. Karnaze to interview current JW’s in her locality, reference Jehovah’s Witnesses Media Site for specific responses and consult the Witnesses publications if she has not done so.

So, at the end of the day, we all choose to do what we do because we freely choose to do so. This does not mean that the choices are simple, easy, or black and white or are without consequence. This does not mean that some former members were not hurt, didn’t suffer, or that their feelings are not real. It does not mean that you have to like the JW religion. In fact you might find it deviant, pathological or perhaps even criminal. So please do not misunderstand. We can be pressured to conform by family, ethnic, cultural, legal, and religious expectations, as well as our own personal physical, psychological and emotional limitations. Pressure is exerted to varying degrees within the faith, but never to the point that you are “brainwashed” in the sense espoused on this blog.

Finally, let me say that I believe there is inherent danger in brainwashing theory that is not talked about, and it needs to be a topic for discussion on this forum, in my opinion. Acceptance of a concept which seeks to remove responsibility and accountability from an individual opens a pandora’s box of truly frightening scenarios.

Thank you Ms. Melissa for allowing me to post here on last time.

Melissa Karnaze January 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Fred, I won’t be interviewing current JWs in my area. Interacting with you and others here, and talking at length with and getting to know several former Witnesses has shown me all I need to know.

I think the brainwashing that goes on in the cult is disgusting, and that its beliefs contain several gross distortions. I won’t be changing my opinion because you want me to give you “fairer” treatment. The children who are molested within the Jehovah’s Witness organization aren’t getting fair treatment.

You are welcome to post your comments here, because this is open to discussion. But keep in mind that I’m a very opinionated person, much like yourself. :)

Russ Painter January 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm

You missed my point entirely. My point was even if you are a victim of brainwashing, that does not eliminate your personal responsibility for your actions.

In my example, the person had little choice to do the right thing because of the extreme pressure put on them. That’s what it can feel like in a group like this. And the pressure is so extreme that your brain forces you to accept that your actions are justified. If you force a person’s actions, then you indirectly change what they think. This is brainwashing.

When a parent refuses to speak to their child, this is an extreme action which is not at all natural. That parent is forced to do this, but they then convince themselves that they’re doing the right thing some how.

The idea of removing personal responsibility in these cases is something that you brought up. It seems to be a red herring. I’m not for that.

Fred January 27, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to respond. Indeed, not only are you opinionated, but quite passionate as well. I respect that.

My invitation to interview current Witnesses was simply a suggestion. I will admit though that it’s puzzling that someone with training in the cognitive sciences would lean exclusively on subjective testimony of former members to form an opinion, then use an unproven hypothesis to confirm, not test, the validity of your opinion. But, it’s your world here Melissa. It appears I misinterpreted the intent of this blog.

In regards to child abuse, you are off the mark. I, like every Witnesses I know, detest every single maggot that ever abused a child, regardless of religious affiliation. Child abuse is a societal problem, and the JW organization is grappling with it within their theological framework and with current law like every other organization. The policy remains in a constant flux to better protect children, so further strengthening of policy is expected. I don’t know a single witness that would not hesitate to call the police or Child Protection if they learned of a child abuse allegation. While no public announcement is made from the stage that there is either an accused or convicted pedophile amongst them, they warn individual families with children that so and so is not good association for children, that so and so is not someone who he would leave alone with his kids. Some congregations make its members aware of the existance of websites detailing the addresses of pedophiles within their local communities…..and so forth.
Please consider the following.
I hope that every JW who ever abused a child is brought to justice under man’s law. Indeed, God himself will enact His justice too.

I also understand the sickening feeling you speak about. For centuries, atrocities of all sorts have been committed in the name of Christ. Today, over 1 million abortions are performed every year, in the U.S. alone. The Roman Catholic Church’s pro life policy is rendered meaningless when you consider that in Italy, 20 out of 1000 pregnancies end in induced abortion, or as I see it, murder. …sickening indeed because I could go on.
It appears to me that you take issue with the concept of a organized religion. You see no need for corporations, lawyers, PR departments and the like in one’s spirituality. If I were to take a guess, I would also say that you find the patriarchal, male dominated religion of the OT a classic mind numbing cult. Maybe, maybe not.

And what in our interaction has led you to think that you’ve “seen enough”? I have treated you respectfully. I have presented scientific evidence to support my claims. I have not engaged in personal attacks. I hold no ill will toward you in any way. And that brings me to another point. I do not seek a fairer treatment from you to change your mind, as you put it, but I think you owe it to your readers to offer a factual listing our beliefs and practices.

I wish you the best.

Fred January 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm

“My point was even if you are a victim of brainwashing, that does not eliminate your personal responsibility for your actions.”

Hassan and Lifton testified that brainwashed individuals are not responsible for their actions. They were defense witnesses for Lee Malvo, claiming that he should not be held responsible for the DC Sniper shootings because he was brainwashed cultist.

Russ, it appears that either you don’t understand Hassan’s view of brainwashing, or you understand it but don’t agree with it. I’m not sure which.

Fred January 27, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Hello Mellisa:

I had written a fairly long response which never made it to moderation or was somehow deleted.

I will just summarize by saying that I vigorously disagree with your subjective approach to this topic, especially the advancing of the unproven hypothesis of cult brainwashing as a generally accepted sociological and psychological phenomenon, and your caricature like depiction of the JW religion overall.
I do thank you for the opportunity to post here.

Best wishes Melissa.

Melissa Karnaze January 28, 2010 at 12:25 am


I approve comments manually, so sometimes there’s a time delay before I can get to it. You were fine; a comment will be unapproved if it’s spam or contains a personal attack or something else that crosses the line. (If you want me to delete your last comment, let me know.)

“I will admit though that it’s puzzling that someone with training in the cognitive sciences would lean exclusively on subjective testimony of former members to form an opinion, then use an unproven hypothesis to confirm, not test, the validity of your opinion.”

This is great bait Fred, which I won’t be biting at. :)

This article provides some backstory on why.

I will say however that this site is a blog, not a CogSci dissertation. If you hang around blogs long enough, you’ll see that they’re a different breed from academic publications. :)

“But, it’s your world here Melissa.”

You are correct. I publish material here that I choose to, and what I decide may be of value to my readers is a decision that’s made between me and my readers who do understand the intent of Mindful Construct.

And what in our interaction has led you to think that you’ve “seen enough”?

I have seen you deflect and drop a new link, rather than consider my words. And rigidly deflect Russ’ comment as well.

You talk about “scientific evidence” as if it’s the end-all to any debate. You know what one of the most valuable lessons my undergraduate study of Cognitive Science taught me? That science isn’t as objective as we make it out to be. It’s a cultural practice, nearly always governed by politics of some sort. So a study for the sake of a study doesn’t impress me. There’s a lot of unscientific science that goes on in the world, and university really impressed that upon me.

This is why I linked to the CIA interest in mind control, to show that just because one institution’s politics (APA) block formal recognition of such a practice, doesn’t mean that the US government isn’t immensely invested in that very same topic. The fact that you didn’t even comment on that link demonstrates to me that you would rather refer to your hand picked studies than glance at and comment on-topic to what I linked to.

And, you artfully evaded actually responding to the content of the Silent Lambs link, and so “missed” it’s point — documentation of the JW system itself condoning child abuse. To be noted, your defense of having not ever personally witnessed such atrocity is a great use of anecdotal evidence.

So anything I say, it’s like it won’t get through the wall.

What are you trying to accomplish here? It must be clear to you by now that I’m an opinionated blogger who refers to your belief system as a cult. You won’t be converting me or convincing me to write a “factual listing” which again, “factual” means one thing for you, and another for me… so are you trying to convince the readers of something perhaps?

Of course, I can’t speak for them, but it’s highly likely that the former commenters (besides Virginia) in this comment thread would likely view your comments as confirmation for the article.

Russ Painter January 28, 2010 at 1:07 am

“Russ, it appears that either you don’t understand Hassan’s view of brainwashing, or you understand it but don’t agree with it. I’m not sure which.”

I do understand his view of brainwashing, but I don’t agree with the conclusion that this totally removes personal responsibility. I think those are completely separate issues though, and I’d love to have a chance to discuss this with Mr. Hassan. Like I said before, this isn’t black and white. Perhaps someone who’s been brainwashed and commits a crime should get a somewhat lighter punishment along with therapy? But they should’t just go free.

I do hope you’re just misinformed rather than deceitful about the Jehovah’s Witnesses child protection policies. If an elder does inform other families about a pedophile in their midst – he’s doing this on his own accord and going against official policy. He can actually be punished himself for this. But I am happy to admit that there are many good hearted elders who will bend the rules in these instances. Unfortunately there are also many hard-line guys who will disfellowship anyone who would give this sort of warning to others (on the grounds of slander). I know a few people personally who this has happened to in recent years, first being threatened with “causing divisions” if they go to the police, and disfellowshipped to keep others from hearing what this person has to say about the pedophiles actions.

The public article you site and the private instructions to the elders do differ in very important ways. Are you an elder or higher-up in the organization Fred? Would you happen to be in NY?

Fred January 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

Hi there Melissa:

Perhaps my inexperience “blogging” is showing here. I did not address the CIA link because their research parallels Robert Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, which I do address but again assumed you were familiar with.

It is the application of this theory to religious entities that is considered, indeed, an unproven hypothesis. Not trying to bait you here at all, but that’s why I presented the links for your information.

Why I am here? To present new information to you. This is for your benefit to accept or reject. I also shared with you my opinion.

And Russ appears to be confused. Pretty hard to respond to that. His wording appears to disavow Hassans theory and sworn testimony, so he actually agrees with me, it would seem.

All organizations have systematic flaws in handling child abuse, including religions and not excluding the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as silentlambs points out and as I did mention it in my previous response. It appears that no sector of society has done everything it could. Clearly, legislation is not adequate, CPS agencies are monstrous red taped, understaffed entities, many parents remain uneducated regarding child abuse, schools do not have adequate screening processes…. yet you do not attritbute the condoning of child abuse to congress, CPS,schools etc even though each one has systematic flaws in handling these cases.

This is a problem that permeates all sectors of society, and all organizations have not moved fast enough.

I did not mean to imply that one should draw conclusions based exclusively on empirical data. What I meant was in regards to this so called disassociative disorder that you believe in, subjective analysis alone is not adequate. I would think that you would agree with that.

Of course, you have educated me as to the real purpose of this blog, so I understand your responses a bit better now.

best of luck. I love San Diego. Coronado Beach, La Jolla. Beautiful area.


Heidi January 28, 2010 at 8:05 am

Indeed, yes I do think it confirms quite a bit. I would say only one thing to Fred about a thing I agree with him about – that brainwashing does not in itself absolve someone of responsibility for their actions. However, it does make it so much harder to attain any degree of self-awareness or ability to question or to make sound judgments. When resources to help someone do so are demonized, it’s even more difficult for a person to even be able to see the options among which they could navigate. JWs are blind – to varying degrees of course – to the control mechanisms that surround them and have myriad methods of dismissing an accurate description of how they function. Still – ultimately – isn’t one’s psychological/spiritual/intellectual path their own choice and responsibility? That choice may be hidden or dampened, and one must criticize those who intentionally mislead others, but I would agree that each person has to use what they have to search themselves for authenticity. It’s an ethical imperative. The Watchtower Society makes it very very difficult for their followers to do so, but their turnover numbers reveal that they have not perfected it yet. I see so many parallels to other aspects of life – interpersonal interactions, politics, advertising… it’s why a good education is so very important.

Melissa – I have to admit that I have sometimes risen to the bait, or become personally angry or frustrated by the comments on my blog from current JWs. You picked up the regular themes very well. For some, it is just mimicry, for others it is more consciously chosen. Simply naming the method being used is such a powerful response to those who have chosen the less civil and less authentic forms of dialogue. Your responses made me smile.

Melissa Karnaze January 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

“If an elder does inform other families about a pedophile in their midst – he’s doing this on his own accord and going against official policy. He can actually be punished himself for this.”

Russ, is the official policy explicitly stated that you can’t alert members of pedophiles in the area, or is it subtly masked over with the “causing divisions” abstraction?

Heidi, funnily enough, responding to comments on this blog makes it much easier to spot out bait! I used to be very angry about this issue, much more so than now. Working through that anger cleared up my mind so to speak, so it’s easier to respond rather than react. I’m glad to see that the exchange made you smile. :)

“Of course, you have educated me as to the real purpose of this blog, so I understand your responses a bit better now.”

Glad to hear it Fred. Yes, San Diego is beautiful country. :)

Fred January 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm


I think we all take the bait from time to time against our better judgement.

So I’m guilty as charged, and I agree.that one’s conditioning is a closely associated variable in the trigerring of defensive communication.

In my humble opninion, the fact even after decades of extensive research we can’t even agree on defining the language of this field is also a significant variable that hinders communication between the various “camps.”

@Melissa: You’re a good sport and you have a great chance to be a heck of a therapist and/ or counselor should you decide continue to advance in this field. Your passion for helping those in need is truly visible, and that’s the main ingredient.
Thank you again for allowing me to post here and thank you for educating me on blogging. ;)

Best regards

Melissa Karnaze January 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm

In my humble opninion, the fact even after decades of extensive research we can’t even agree on defining the language of this field is also a significant variable that hinders communication between the various “camps.”

Like I said Fred, you brought up a great point about the language of mind control/brainwashing and the need for more clarity. It is a construct I hope to explore in depth later on. For now, I appreciate your sharing your viewpoint and it will definitely help me be more critical in my own research. So thank you.

I also respect your courage for posting here and sticking it out for so long. :P

Thank you for the kind words, it means a lot coming from you.

Thank you again for allowing me to post here and thank you for educating me on blogging. ;)

Of course, anytime! ;)

Take care.

Fred January 29, 2010 at 1:27 am


I’ve overstayed my welcome here but if Melissa will allow me one last response to you, here it goes:

I’ve interviewed several representatives of the WT Society and have come to understand that if there is a known pedophile, elders can advise individual families with children that brother x is not the best association for children at this time, especially if they see he is befriending a certain family or a child. That’s not the same as disclosing the reason for the caution. The elders will also not permit him to be out in the ministry with children. The elders will also watch his assocations closely. There is the formal policy I referred to as well which is indeed in effect. In addition to the elder’s instructions…..

Here is a tiny sampling of instruction for parents regardless of what the elders may or may not do, as well as material that could be presented as “local needs”.

*** g93 10/8 p. 9 If Your Child Is Abused ***
“If your child discloses sexual abuse, you will no doubt feel shattered. But remember: Your reaction will play a major role in the child’s recovery. Your child has been carrying an unbearable burden and needs you, with all your adult strength, to lift it from her or his shoulders. Praise the child for being so brave as to tell you what happened. Repeatedly reassure the child that you will do your best to provide protection; that the abuse was the abuser’s fault, not the child’s; that the child is not “bad”; that you love the child.
Some legal experts advise reporting the abuse to the authorities as soon as possible. In some lands the legal system may require this.

“Parents must therefore make every reasonable effort to protect their children! Many responsible parents choose to seek out professional help for an abused child.”

Is it against policy to notify the congregation of pedophile registries?
Here is quote from an article that could be reviewed in a local needs talk

*** g99 4/8 p. 8 Who Will Protect Our Children? ***
“Some are even setting up a register of known pedophiles, restricting their easy access to children…”

Parents are advised that they can call the authorities, and might even be required to. They can opt to seek professional help, which also serves as an indirect reporting mechanism.
It would appear to me that this is an imperfect policy, but not an organizational sustained effort to cover up pedophilia.

There are probably a dozen or so educational articles on child abuse that have been distributed to every JW household as well as millions of others.

Russ Painter January 29, 2010 at 4:12 am

Fred: I’m not confused. Just because I don’t agree with all of Mr. Hassan’s conclusions about accountability does not mean I have to disagree with him on the core aspects of brainwashing.

Are you free to post your full name, or are you in fear of what would be the outcome of having an open conversation with an “apostate” like me if your local elders were to find out? What I’m getting at is – are you really free to be engaging in this conversation, or do you have to hide it? How do you feel about this?

Melissa asked: “is the official policy explicitly stated that you can’t alert members of pedophiles in the area, or is it subtly masked over with the “causing divisions” abstraction?”.

The organization is very legally savvy. They are careful about putting these things into writing. When elders go to their training they are given an instruction book, BUT they are then instructed to write in the margins the nitty-gritty details that are given out verbally in their own handwriting (as if it was their own idea, not something officially given to them). This is to protect the organization from legal problems. These verbal instructions are also passed down at semi-yearly visits by “circuit overseers” (hierarchical command structure). There are no “official policies” that are available for anyone below the rank of elder to see. They are forbidden from showing anyone their manual.

In 2001 there was a letter to all bodies of elders that said that if an elder is exposed as a molester, but this happened more than 3 years in the past (and he managed to keep it hidden for that long), then he can continue to serve unless the congregation finds out about it (or if he is convicted by a secular court). BTW – this rule applies only to elders, members lower down can be punished for crimes over 3 years ago. This is an example of the specific policies which go against their public message. These are things that anyone below the rank of elder is not to be told about.

They will either attribute your punishment to “causing divisions” or “slander” if you warn others about a pedophile if there weren’t at least 2 witnesses to his actions, or “bringing reproach on Jehovah’s organization” if you go to the authorities. This silencing of people is done under the guise of “maintaining unity” in the congregation. In most cases I don’t believe the elders are acting maliciously, or trying to protect these sex offenders, they’re just stuck enforcing the rules that have been given to them. Thinking for yourself is a big no-no.

SilentLambs and Freeminds are good sources of info on this topic.

Misrepresenting the organizations’s policies is encouraged if “outsiders” would use these to put the organization is a bad light. They call this type of lying “Theocratic Warfare Strategy”. http://www.silentlambs.org/Warfarequotes.htm

Fred January 29, 2010 at 7:35 am


Over the years, I have been invited to assist the Society in various capacities, including offering instruction to elders.

My last post to you reflects my sincere and best understanding of current policy. I l realize that there are procedural details, a few which vary from country to country, and in the U.S., from state to state, but in general, the Society has informed parents that legally they can report abuse and elders should not tell them otherwise. We could talk all day about this topic, and I would love to, but at this point, suffice to say that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ child abuse policy will likely continue to be refined and strengthened.

I basically signed off here with Melissa already, so I am signing off with you.


Fred January 30, 2010 at 11:48 am

“I’m not confused. Just because I don’t agree with all of Mr. Hassan’s conclusions about accountability does not mean I have to disagree with him on the core aspects of brainwashing.”

I misunderstood you then, since you had recommended his book without qualification, so I apologize.

If you’d like, leave your email here if you want to continue a discussion. It’s up to you.

sherrod March 17, 2010 at 10:33 pm

While we are on the subject of witnesses i would like to add the fact that i myself have witnessed something, the rape and mutilation of my mothers common sense and free will.
Yes, thanks to this Jw mob i was never able to get to know my mother, or her me.
Lets call it what it is, intellectual genocide.
Melissa, thank you for giving me another opportunity to express my contempt for this mind erasing dysfunctional un-organization.
I have plenty more to harp on with this subject but i think ill spend the rest of my time looking for my family. Thanx JWs

Burjess May 26, 2010 at 10:28 am

Melissa has made a very good list of dysfunctional beliefs of a JW/ex-JW.

As a JW for 20 years, I can vouch the accuracy of every single one of them. Very well done, Melissa!

I have a list from an insider’s point of view on my blog ‘Always on a Saturday”. It lists at least two dozen “Things No Jehovah’s Witness Will Ever Tell You.”

Ziddina May 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I just had to comment on this quote (originally from the Watchtower Society’s publications; quoted by “Fred” – are you using “Fred Franz” as a pseudonym, perhaps??)…:
“Some legal experts advise reporting the abuse to the authorities as soon as possible. In some lands the legal system may require this….”
This is, in my experience, very typical of the way the Watchtower Society uses “weasel” words or “weasel” phrases… “Legal experts ADVISE… Legal system MAY REQUIRE this…”
This is the same sort of duplicity that the Watchtower Society uses when referring to college educations, among other “worldly” behaviors that may profit – and ultimately draw away – the individual Jehovah’s Witness from their control.
Any sane person who is not [since “Fred” has protested the accuracy of use of the terms “brainwashed” and “mind-controlled”] “unduly influenced” by micro-managing sect or cult leaders and their minions, would IMMEDIATELY turn to the legal authorities in the case of victimization of a minor…
Yet “Fred” has pulled quotes from the Watchtower Society’s OWN literature that clearly demonstrates their techniques for subtly discouraging alternatives to, or more accurately, rebellion against the underlying demands for near-absolute obedience to the Watchtower Society… Their techniques for discouraging “disobedience” among the masses of active Jehovah’s Witnesses are painfully clear, once one learns to recognize them. These techniques are also innately dishonest.
Thank you in advance if this comment is posted… Zid

Fred May 26, 2010 at 10:57 pm


Fred is my real name. Feel free to contact me and I may share more information about me.

In regards to the aforementioned articles, they do accurately report the legal reality of child abuse reporting. From a global perspective, with hundreds of distinct jurisdictions, not all legal experts recommend “immediate” reporting. Likewise, not all governments mandate reporting. This does not speak to the moral obligation of parents to protect his children from abuse, so, what is so dishonest about that?

The article also reports that “many” parents seek professional help for victimized children, despite the cultural taboo to do so in some countries. Do you believe that is a subtle technique, (“weasel word”) to get JW parents to report child abuse?

Indeed, I previously called into question the premise that the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are dysfunctional by virtue of the fact that they purportedly brainwash, or psychologically manipulate their adherents. I do not subscribe to such theories , at least as advanced by some, and I likewise presented some of my reasons for doing so.

There are several schools of thought and perspectives in regards to constructing a healthy mind. This blog represents only one such perspective, incidently, one in which I find some agreement.

best regards,

agonus May 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The irony of the Watchtower labeling ex-JWs “apostate” is that, according to their own definition of “apostasy”, the leadership is just as guilty of apostasy as anyone on the outside! Do a thorough search on the VAST body of doctrine and requirements the Witnesses are expected to adhere to and compare that to Watchtower teachings from 50, 40, even 10 years ago and tell me they haven’t apostasized – frequently – from their own teachings!

Steve2 May 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Hi Melissa,

I was a JW many years ago but left because I no longer believed its message. In my opinion, they are no better or worse than any of the many Christian fundamentalist groups that dot the landscape. According to your overly-inclusive criteria, many other religions would also qualify as cults. Why I focus on JWs is obvious: I used to be one. I’m puzzled though why you do, since you’ve never been one.

Melissa Karnaze May 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Burjess, thanks for mentioning your list, “Things No Jehovah’s Witness Will Ever Tell You.”

Steve2, I would argue that their programming is more severe and deeply-ingrained than many of the other Christian fundamentalist groups.

According to your overly-inclusive criteria, many other religions would also qualify as cults.

Sure, it’s inclusive because this article is only about JWs. That you say “overly” inclusive suggests you’d rather me not single them out? Is there anything you’d like to defend them on?

Why I focus on JWs is obvious: I used to be one. I’m puzzled though why you do, since you’ve never been one.

As I stated in the article, I used to know one.

Joseph Jin June 4, 2010 at 2:18 am

Even though I know very little about JWs, I was surprised to notice how much this discussion struck a nerve in helping me to remember a very evangelical Baptist church I was active with back in the early 90’s during college.

It’s funny and disturbing how so many beliefs, once buried, can remain unexamined for so many years. Even though I’ve thought I was beyond all that, I look at your list of beliefs and notice how uncomfortable it feels to realize how I still sympathize with so many of them to some degree.

I’ve studied a lot of spiritual subjects since leaving the Baptist church. But now I’m just wondering whether new beliefs don’t necessarily replace old beliefs unless the old beliefs are first brought to light and examined in detail.

What bugged me the most was reading some of the comments by JWs. The layers of dishonesty, the deliberate and enforced self-ignorance, and the dueling semantics desperately crafted to defend an “unquestionable” dogma – these are all too familiar to me, because I was once guilty of them myself. For all I know, maybe I still am.

Melissa Karnaze June 4, 2010 at 7:05 am

Joseph, thanks for sharing your experience. It is scary how things can remain buried for so long. That’s one reason why I promote working with emotions so heavily. It’s through those reactions that we can trace back to deeply buried beliefs about the world.

I’ve studied a lot of spiritual subjects since leaving the Baptist church. But now I’m just wondering whether new beliefs don’t necessarily replace old beliefs unless the old beliefs are first brought to light and examined in detail.

This is my thinking, but of course this is a topic that has been little explored scientifically and there’s a lot of room for study. Today the trend is to bypass this thorough introspection and conscious choice, but I a lot of people are also waking up to the fact that that’s superficial and actually counter-productive.

What bugged me the most was reading some of the comments by JWs. The layers of dishonesty, the deliberate and enforced self-ignorance, and the dueling semantics desperately crafted to defend an “unquestionable” dogma – these are all too familiar to me, because I was once guilty of them myself. For all I know, maybe I still am.

Yes, those particular comments serve as real-life examples of how destructive to critical thought such a belief system is.

That you are open to still having dysfunctional religious beliefs is a sign that you will you be better able to spot them when they manifest and trigger you in an obvious way (such as through your reading of this discussion). We all have dysfunctional beliefs, just different ones.

Jan June 12, 2010 at 6:03 am

Thank you for this article. It is so interesting and true in my experience. My Mom became a JW when I was a teenager.

I often imagine how much fun it would be to follow (right behind) the Witnesses block by block and knock on the same doors and give out books written by ex-members or information for online sites such as ex-jw forum or this site. Just a fun thought but one that keeps my sense of humor alive.

renewer June 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

i read this through, i chuckled a few times at the stuff that you guys blow out of proportion and sometimes simply make up. sometimes i wonder why the society suggests not reading your material. i find it refreshingly laughable since i can shrug most of the arguments off in about 3 seconds with things that i know about the society. the society doesn’t MAKE you do anything and you’re only kicked out if you sin unrepentantly.

Melissa Karnaze June 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Enjoy your refreshingly laughable experience renewer.

Meanwhile, countless others (perhaps once in your position) will still be searching for answers and reading and discussing articles such as this one all over the wide web. And while you’re laughing they’ll continue waking up.

Jan June 14, 2010 at 5:28 am

With your permission Melissa, I would like to post this link for those who would like to read the true stories of (ex) Jehovah’s Witnesses and those trying to break free.


renewer June 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

ok if you like i can clear up all of those points for you. maybe you should not spread false rumors about us. if i was a brainwashed person that accepted everything the society says then i wouldn’t be here.

Jan June 17, 2010 at 8:50 am

Here is another story of an un-questioned and un-challenged belief system and what can happen: Jon Krakauer’s well researched “Under the Banner of Heaven” for an interesting read:

lIZ June 28, 2010 at 2:07 am


Jehovah's witnesses is the safest religion July 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Jehovah’s witnesses is the best denomination. they are directed by God’s word all the way.The watchtower is just a guiding light to further explanation of the scriptures…i am surprise by what you are doing because Jesus Christ warned that in the last days these things would happen………..

Burjess July 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm


You point that you wouldn’t be continuing in the organization if you were brainwashed is flawed. The converse is true – one only remains in the WAtchtower as long as they remain brainwashed.

What does contribute toward you remaining brainwashed is the continous drip of “spiritual food” they keep providing you, warning you that any such reistance to the receiving of this drip is the first step towards rebellion.

Unknown to you, you are already beginning in the direction of questioning the Watchtower drip-feed. By visiting websites such as this one, a second drip of an opposing thought process is already working inside your system. It’s gestating in your mental depths, and will surface in a way you did not expect some day!

Of course, your dominant state of the mind, as architected by the wAtchtower, may at some stage even cause you to abandon reading such “apostate” material, but ultimately you innate human desire to get to the bottom of things shall prevail.

How do I know? I’ve been there and done that.

Dale Mowday August 6, 2010 at 2:39 am

Hi i found the information you presented very intresting. I am almost finished writing a book about my life. It is called BORN AND RAISED IN A RELIGIUS COLT AND BRAINWASHED FROM BIRTH Growing Up Jehovah Witness. My mother sister eldest sun and half of my relitivies are in the colt. It has caused me untold problems most relating to substance abuse. I feel like i have had a guiding hand whilst writing this book. Like you i feel the average JW is a very good and decent person. Only brainwashed. Peace & love to all

Evita November 2, 2010 at 2:34 am

Wow! what a mind blowing eye opener but so true to what I have observed in my best friend of 40 yrs, she being a JW and myself being a non JW. I read the list in hopes of trying to understand why my best pal of so many yrs had become about since becoming a baptized JW about 10 yrs ago. I thought once she reentered the work force, that she would start returning to the real world. Instead, she seems only more judgemental of anyone who is not a JW and seems to have distanced our relationship to just occasional phone calls. Since her baptismal into the JW cult, she no longer comes to visit me in my town which is known as Sin City. I’m sure now that she fears being shunned by her cult at the Kingdom Hall should she come to visit me in Sin city. I have become somewhat resentful of the JW cult and the misinterpreted rot that they stand for as I feel that I have been robbed of my one best bud of so many yrs. As much as it pains me, I am parting from this friendship so that my best pal won’t be shunned and df’d because of her worldly best friend who chose not to be a part of the JW cult. There’s no making her see the light how her association with the JW cult has affected her relationships with family, deteriorated her marriage and now a long time friendship. I just couldn’t tolerate her judgemental and negative outlook anymore on a world of worldly people. I shall mourn the loss of this once great friendship that I had, but in time, hopefully my heartache will heal.

Sebasvard November 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Hehe well I should have known after reading your perceptive article on monogamy and polyamory that you would have touched on the Witnesses at some point!

The usual mix in the comments of reasoned observations in support for the article, and frantic retorts in defence of the JWs. It’s always the same on this subject, and frankly it will always be so. I managed (or should I say am managING) to get out of the JWs having been heavily involved for around 30 years, and all I can say is that if you’re happy in the faith, nothing will change your mind, but if you one day become unhappy in some way, even just slightly, articles like this are crucial in allowing the doors of the mind to creak open slightly to let in some air. A good job well done, again :)

(of course the JWs would say opening the doors of the mind will LET THE DEMONS IN, OOoooOOooooOOoooo…)

Chris BairdPeper November 19, 2010 at 12:46 am

I lived with a cult member who took control of me. Not enough is said about the danger of these one on one relationships that can become mini-cults in themselves. I have seen what cults can do personally. It is sad that most of the media will not touch this topic for fear of being anti-religious or prejudice. I have no problem with all beliefs but I dislike controlling and manipulative cults.

Fred November 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm


Indeed, many like myself live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives living out our faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses for life.

I think this is a useful blog but I do not believe that the author took an objective look at the root cause of the problems presented by former members, so I questioned the approach. Offering this type of support is a serious matter.

If you are struggling with emotional or mental health issues, I suggest you do what the disclaimer on this site suggests: seek professional help. They may or may not suggest you seek online support systems.

If you are in need spiritual guidance, beg Jehovah for help and relief. Find the courage to express your struggles to a mature brother. Accept responsibility for your well being.

your brother,

dean hayward November 29, 2010 at 10:34 pm

to help build our relationship, my partner has requested i learn more about her priorities and values which has led me to weekly visits from JWs. although baptised as a catholic, she has been seeking further religous guidance and education outside her church in order to help answer her own questions in life. my influence to religion has been relatively small, and so my understanding of the bible is limited, yet it is evident to me that there are many flaws in the teachings of JWs… so will expect our spiritual journey to continue without the help of JWs.

i thank everyone who have contributed to this blog, especially melissa.

arohanui, dean

Sebasvard November 30, 2010 at 4:24 am

Well Fred, looking at your favourites on your YouTube channel linked from your name, your interests include hard rock/metal, rap, WWF wrestling, other aggressive sports, and songs of a suggestive nature. No wonder you have a fulfilled life, you appear to be ignoring much of the counsel from the Society! Keep it up, you’ll soon be free of them at this rate ;-)

You can’t have your cake AND eat it Fred – you really ought to take your beliefs more seriously. Even if the brothers can’t see you, ‘Jehovah’ can…

Fred November 30, 2010 at 10:21 am


Well, appearances can be deceiving. So instead of taking shots at me by questioning the source of my happiness and the strength of my convictions, you need to look inside you and take care of yourself. Keep managing your exit and keep reading this blog.

I am perfectly happy having my friends and I enjoying select songs from certain hard rock bands from my youth and old school hip hop with clean lyrics and watching funny videos. I have in no interest nor do I care for heavy metal/ hip hop as a genre. As UT alum, I also enjoy taking friendly college football jabs at several friends who are official representatives of the WT society, who went to USC and others. And while I do not have to explain this to you, it may help you to know. If there is something there that offends you, shoot me a message, because I wont clutter Melissa’s blog with this personal stuff.

Andy Mc February 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I spent 20 yrs as a converted jw before exiting. To each their own as far as belief but the only tragedy for exjws is the shunning from family. My children did suffer from not seeing their cousins etc. Thankfully, more and more of the young family members are exiting and getting back in touch. They are also getting an education, which, despites Fred’s attempts at conveying normalcy, is clearly frowned upon. Only those serving say, in the jw legal dept. are encouraged (and supported) to attend Uni. Great blog by the way!

jonadab antonio April 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm

All your accusations about Jehovah’s Witnesses are baseless and false. Repent. Armageddon is near.

Michael Kutsenkow April 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I ,too, was disfellowshipped from the JWs after having spent ten years with them. People who I had considered to be my friends immediately turned their backs on me which really hurt me deeply. The reason for my being disfellowshipped was because I had become intimately involved with a young single woman. I did not conceal my relationship, but openly confessed it to the elders, as confession is described in James. However, the bottom line was, that my needs for companionship had been ignored during my ten years with the JWs, and I yielded to my inner feelings. This made no difference to the Governing body, and they decided to disfellowship me. I was very bitter over their total lack of compassion and their betrayal of me. Later, I realized the real truth about the JWs, and found the real truth that the Bible teaches from the heart. This unveiled greater understanding of what the Bible teaches. The JWs are living a fantasy of head knowledge, but until they get God’s Word in their hearts, they will never truly realize God and His love. Also, I might add that many of the beliefs are totally wrong. One doesn’t get to God’s Kingdom by works. It is a gift of God to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And the Lord Jesus Christ invites all people to come to Him, not a select few. And Jesus is not without compassion or understanding of who we are and what our needs are. It is through Him that we are saved and not through any man made organization. The JWs are a good example of a group of blind leading the blind. They are limited in their knowledge of God who He is, and guilty of what I call “impoverished reasoning.” The JWs do not see or understand the greater picture, and they stomp all over people with their callous, and relentless, idealistic fantasies, and narrow mindedness. So, my disfellowshipping was in fact a blessing from God. I have married since that time, and God has brought my wife and I together. She and I are very happy together. She has helped me to understand Gods Word in its true meaning, and taught me all about cults. I praise the Lord Jesus Christ for her and for everything that He is doing in my life.

standswithagist September 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

I found it interesting that in the Borderline Personality Disorder recovery online community that there were a lot of refugees from JW. There were some horrific stories of abuse, justified by dogma.

Jacob September 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Im coming out! As an apostate! Whooo hoo!!
I was born and raised a JW, baptized at 13, and pioneered right after.
Now here at 27 being away from the religion for nearly 10 years, I was talking to a friend yesterday who made it very clear to me that by me pursuing personal development trainings and doing volunteer work in the community and finding my own ways to make this world a better place I am clearly going against the religion and therefore am an apostate. For these things I “cannot do on my own, and according to the religion should be doing these things only under Jehovah”. The funny thing is, well not so funny, is he is a 30something gay man who still lives in fear of Jehovah, and believes that being gay will be forgiven, but my apostasy will not…well if him drinking himself silly every night, doing drugs, slaving to a corporate world, and having a tumultuous relationship with his now ex boyfriend, is forgivable but me living the best life I can, doing community service, developing myself, helping others, but not doing it based on the religion is unforgivable then I dont want to be forgiven! For the first time ever, I revel in this word, apostate! I have shifted my beliefs and negative connotations on the word apostate and now am so happy to be one. I am informed, I am free, I love and am loved without fear or judgment! I no longer love based on fear, now I just love because I choose to love! I love myself, I love my life, I love myself and this wicked wicked world, and will continue as long as I breathe to stand for transformation in this world as it is now, so that it can be a place of love without “God” having to wipe out the “wicked”.

James October 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I was born into the JW’s. It is a serious mind and environmental control group. It has left a poison in me that I knew was still there when I left 15 years ago. It has been slowly killing me ever since, and now I am starting to get rid of the poison. But the cost so far in my life? Incalculable. The damage and psychological suffering so far? Unbearable.

They built a prison for me which I did not escape when I escaped the organization: the prison was my own mind, as programmed by them.

It should be illegal.

Kelly December 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Just a couple thoughts. I am not a JW, by the way, since that seems to be an important part of this conversation.

If you’re talking about beliefs here, what is a cult? By definition it is basically a group whose views are abnormal or bizarre…religious groups would be people following ideas outside the norm (mainstream Christianity in this instant).

So in essence, they are people who believe what most don’t. Sounds a little like what you’re trying to get people to do…think outside what they’ve been told.

Looking at your list, of course some of the items seem extreme, but I felt that many of the items if you were to switch the word “witness” with Christian (or most other religions or philosophies) many would still be applicable. And many such as not having sex before marriage, would apply to lots of religious groups.

I find it interesting that one group is targeted here, when many groups, even mainstream groups do much of the same. And to use the word cult, is to play into the belief system of the Christian church who defines cults. A cult is categorized based on the fact that they don’t follow the basic tenets of Christianity (many of which were begun long before Jesus was around, by the way).

I think an interesting article, might be the looking into why people who believe something different are viewed so negatively. If we’re talking dysfunctional beliefs, how about believing that a list would define individuals, that a strong belief that is different from others is too extreme, that what is “normal” is right, and that for some reason, no matter what the topic (JW, abortion, gay marriage, Islam), someone who has a strong belief system (even if it’s wrong in our eyes) is to be judged and found wanting. Who are we to judge? And if you do believe we have the right to judge, what gives us the right to condemn them?

I think we all have to be very careful how we view others and be aware of the blinders we have that affect our view of them. You come from a non-religious background, so much of this sounds extreme. I on the other hand am what one would call very religious (although I hate the term religion because of what it has come to mean), and I find much of it to be common with those who are very religious.

I often tell my students (I’m a middle school U.S. history teacher by the way), to be very careful who you condemn and expect laws to be made against groups of people. Because you never know who in the future will be targeted. Yes you may believe they are a cult and that they should be banished, but what happens if mainstream Christianity takes over? Sure they’d banish them, but they’d banish this blog too, much too subversive. And the idea that “self-love” is the basis of relationships…goes totally against what the Bible teaches. So you would definitely be on the “trying to brainwash people into wrong thoughts” list. But you’re not, right? Neither do the Witnesses think that’s what they are doing. But, obviously, your way is the right way…they think theirs is too.

It’s a very tricky thing balancing beliefs and the world around us. I applaud your mindfulness and hope that it brings you much balance in your life.

Andy December 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm

“Just a couple thoughts. I am not a JW, by the way, since that seems to be an important part of this conversation”
It is Kelly, which negates the rest of your post.

Kelly December 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Andy- please elaborate! Why does the fact that Kelly is not a JW negate the rest of her post? (I am a different Kelly to the one who posted the previous message)

Andy December 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Please take this in a positive way but the answer is obvious, so why do you ask?

Mike December 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I totally agree with what kelly 1 said. I also agree with kelly 2, why does her not being jw negate her comments. Melissa is not jw or religious in anyway but she wrote the article. People’s views are subjective. The main thing is if you make a point being able to explain why you came to that conclussion, which Andy you seem to struggling to do! What may be obvious to you is not nessarily obvious to other people.

Russ Painter December 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Not being a j.w. does not necessarily invalidate Kelly’s comment. But her lack of understanding the real meaning of the word cult does invalidate her comments. A cult is not just a minority religion. It’s about control. You can’t just walk away. It destroys peoples lives and drives them to suicide because they’re trapped.

Mike December 31, 2011 at 9:31 am

Not all cults are to that extreme! but yes totally agree some can be very dangerous. The main point for me is that everyone has an opinion and its wrong to invalidate someones because you disagree. Read 7 reasons why your wrong no matter what.

Kelly (the first one) December 31, 2011 at 11:30 am

@Andy … I put that in because it seemed that earlier people’s comments were negated because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

@Russ…I get what you’re saying, Russ. And I agree that there are such groups, Mansons and Heaven’s Gate people come to mind, but the definition of a cult is varied and not everyone agrees. In fact there are people who say all religions are cults because they say they are the one true way and followers must adhere to the beliefs of that religion or something bad will happen to them.

I thought this was a good reference for the different ways cult can be defined. http://www.religio.de/cudef.html

annie June 14, 2012 at 12:37 am

People just like to complain and everyone thinks what they believe is the truth that is the same with any religion!! Stop putting people down and saying what they believe is wrong everyone has an opinion! Don’t say cult either

Cory June 14, 2012 at 9:52 am


Making someone take an oath created by another man is the most evil indoctrination a human being can do to another human being. We were created to find our own pathways to God. Not swear by another person’s fabricated dogma.

mid June 20, 2012 at 7:00 am

After reading this what ever it is and reading your post all I can say is wow. I am not a witness but my mother is and is the happiest she has ever been my aunt is dissfellowship but will defend witness to the very end. Ohh yeah and they have a great relationship and my grandmother is an inactive witness due to health problems but the brothers and sist ters make it a weekly routine to come visit hr they are amo ng. the nicest people I’ve ever met and the most respectful people I don’t no where this idea that they are not aloud to go to college came from but I no many that have gone and many that are in college they do not celebrate holidays due to there hagen history. They do not join the military because its against the Bible. Jesus said to love urn neighbora as urn brother and if a man slaps urn right cheek turn your left cheek so he may slap that one as well they do not serve in jury because Jesus said let he who is without sin cast the first stone and they don’t make u do anything u ddont want to do

Lauren September 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness from birth to about age 10 when my mother left it. I can’t speak for everyone as far as the experience goes, but after reading a lot of the comments I thought it might be best to put my two cents in. I’ll start by saying this, if I hadn’t been a JW, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. In my experience with it, I was brought up in a setting much like a big family where I could trust everyone and felt safe. I definitely can say I gained a lot of good morals and views on things that helped me grow up pretty straight and narrow without any troubles. With that being said, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized just how cult-like the organization was. I remember having the phrase, “bad associations spoils useful habits” drilled into my head and always thinking everyone else but me were wicked people. I’ve been to some assemblies here and there since then (not because I WANTED to go, but to see some of my JW friends be baptized) and actually listening to them give talks gave me chills down my spine. They basically were saying that your life cannot be happy without Jehovah and the brothers and sisters. And if you leave, your life will be horrible. They literally used this ridiculous scenario about some girl who tried to leave and got raped, had an abortion, did drugs, etc. It was so horrifying to think that I was being taught those kinds of things when I was younger. I remember how much fear I felt when I thought about things like if god really exists and how life would be if I wasn’t a witness. I honestly do believe that they have a kind of power over you and that it is very hard and confusing to find your own way. It is unfortunate because some of the nicest and smartest people I know are JWs. I can’t help but feel sorry for the wasted potential as most of them are not going to college or want to do anything with their lives. To each his own.

nomandla mbanjwa November 11, 2012 at 10:35 am

I am appalled by such defamation of so called intelligent people who are opposed to the beliefs of others. I see nothing wrong with JWs beliefs and for that matter they do not believe in hell fire at all.I am one of them and I have a college education and a lawyer and the JW beliefs did not hinder me in getting educated. each person has a personal choice in their life but they do emphasise what is most important in this world is beilef in God and this world is not all that is waiting for humans.Plus the earth in its physical self will not be destroyed rather the systems of government will be. noone is forced to be a JW.I have lots of friends outside the organization and I relate to them very well although we differ in beliefs and lifestyles and do not necessarily hang out in the same areas because of the questionable conduct that these places get up to. as for holidays,if you care to do secular research on these you will see that most are rooted in pagan beilefs.why should you limit family togetherness to a certain time of year anyway.I am 100% college graduate and JW and I can assure you I have not been brainwashed.

Amy December 11, 2012 at 6:09 am

I am wondering if there are any recovering alcoholics that I might be able to speak to who were raised a Jehovah’s Witnesses, and have left the religion. I have a friend who is struggling with alcoholism and feels very different from the other alcoholics in AA because he was raised with this faulty belief system. I have to say he is not wrong. He is looking for someone who can share their experience with him as a person in recovery as well as an ex Jehovah’s Witnesses. I only know of one other person with the same situation and he is now drinking again. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

Caleb December 11, 2012 at 7:45 am

Melissa: I’m a 32 year-old, quite handsome gay man who realised he was gay since the age of 4. I was born into the JWs and endured physical and emotional abuse from my JW parents, and sexual abuse from an Elder. I wish I had such an insightful article such as this one 18 years ago, when I came out to my mother (my father was dead) and my brother gave me the beating of my life. The beating was so severe that my nose bridge was never reset right, and he cracked three of my ribs.

It took me 9 years of college (I decided to learn as much as I could and take as many courses as money would allow me) and 4 years of therapy to finally get to where i am today. Reading your article, however, has let me know that I’m not nearly “there” yet. I’ve still got me light years to get where I need to be emotionally.

I’ve reconciled myself to my atheism, not out of rebellion, but out of insight. However, I’m still dragging extremely low self-esteem problems that have been affecting me at work and in my relationships. The latest approach I’ve decided to give to it is embracing my low self-worth. Just live through it. After all, I really doubt I’ll ever overcome my childhood. I don’t fancy committing suicide, as I am quite hungry for the life I should have been given. I just know I’ll survive this somehow.

Caleb December 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

And yes, I am an APOSTATE and very proud of it. It feels as if I’ve finally been torn from a matrix. It feels like my eyes have finally been opened.

Rose December 18, 2012 at 9:42 am

I have a friend who is a JW …she is 20 single mom..no job.. no family to support her…had a disfunctional family and disfunctional life. Anyway so now she is trying to be better for her daughter and trying to succeed and be good but she is always mentioning “my new faith ” ..” my new faith” she is always bringing up her JW crap…and it’s just bugging me. I always thought these are lunatics who want to brainwash you and control you and I guess I have been right all along now that I am reading all of this. I never had to deal with JW ppl but now with my friend it’s getting so annoying. She is just in the begining stage she is going to meetings and I guess this is the phase one of initial brainwashing?? … it’s working pretty well. She says she’d let her daughter die if that’s God’s will, she would not fight it..I’d never let my child die. If I was tostart doing “bad stuff” like drugs or whatnot..instead of supporting me and trying to help me out of it she would need to get away from me because I am so evil. ( I don’t do that it’s jut an example ) … I don’t argue much to her stupid statements, whenever i ask one question that might raise one inch of doubt to her stupid believes she’d go on and on and on on …….I want to say shut up.
I don’t belong to any religion…I do believe in God..Jesus ..The saints.. and I do believe in doing good and spreading love to the world. I think these cults just separate us humans and cause fights and wars.

Sarah March 19, 2013 at 7:04 am

It is with a great mixture of emotion that I have read all the things written on this blog, which after my post will have been running for almost 4 years now :)

I can relate to so much here, and it seems like my story is one that many others will relate to in parallel.

For things related to Ex Witnesses (of which I am one and have been for more than 15 years now) I must state first and foremost that having lived in a few different countries that the JWs do seem to be a little more open minded and relaxed in more developed countries in Europe and some parts of the States, particularly in big cities. They have to be I guess because they are exposed to so much more of the real world, than say people in Africa or New Zealand. This was my experience anyway, and as I grew up in a narrow minded part of the world, the JWs there were even more particular about keeping to the rules and showing a good face to the rest of their congregation. A small community means everyone knows what you are doing anyway, so there’s no fooling anyone. Whereas you can get away with much more in a big city (just saying).

The JWs often say that “Jehovah reads hearts”, and yet all I have ever experienced as a JW is that what matters most is how you portray yourself and your family to your community. As long as you are seen to be doing your field service hours and attending meetings and giving the odd ‘talk’, you’ll be okay. For me being a JW seemed to always be about setting a good example so that the Elders could determine your worth within their system and hence give you more privileges of service. And as an adolescent I was admonished that the best way to find a good husband was to be a shining example of a virtuous and righteous ‘sister’, with no ambition to study further in University (what for?? I had a pretty face, I would easily find a nice ‘brother’ to marry me – why go to University????). And so I can honestly say that I grew up never really knowing what unconditional love is, not from my community and certainly not from my family.

I remember one day out of desperation for her wayward teenager my mother called the Elders over to the house. Unbeknown to her I was outside listening to their conversation, and after a long writhing and vitriolic recanting of all my evil deeds and sad experiences of molestation as a child to these (as far as I was concerned) literal strangers one of them finally came into my bedroom and sat on my bed with me and started to read scriptures to me. I was absolutely floored at this breach of privacy, managed to get through it but was in absolute distress. And apparently after that the Elder said to my mother “there’s still a lot of good in Sarah” and for the first time I think she could allow herself to believe it because it came from an Elder. Hence I learnt that love and acceptance had to be earned through good spiritual conduct – even from my parents. And most certainly love and acceptance was not a given.

And of course there’s the point that any JW that questions the beliefs and scriptural interpretations of the Bible by the Governing Body is to be treated as a pariah (and cut off), because they are a serious threat to the congregation’s very existence!!! This to me shows just how lacking in Christ-like compassion and tolerance the JWs really are. And sadly it is their fear which makes them so. And as someone who has been there, I know that fear. I have lived it, and so I do not have ill feeling towards them because of it, no matter how hurtful it has been to experience this treatment. I still have a friend (from the old days) who left and has gone back to the JWs recently and I guess some sort of nostalgic bond still keeps us in touch, but only barely and who knows for how long, until the next copy of the Watchtower that comes out speaking about how “bad associations spoil useful habits” and to “keep tightly within the flock of righteous ones for fear that the day of reckoning will come like a thief in the night.”….etc etc.

So, like many of the others who have posted here, I have a very sad story to tell of how I was treated by my family who are Jehovah’s Witnesses both while I was a JW (and especially after I was a JW). It could go on for pages that I did not have a happy childhood by any means and by the time I was a teenager I felt like a hideous evil doer because everything I wanted to do was a sin and not permitted. I was an outsider from their perspective and an outsider from the perspective of everyone else!

And of course 15 years on, my career now and my life choices would be considered demonic by the JWs and what I freely choose to do with my life would make me more than an inappropriate associate. As a Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Ayahuascero …lets just say that it is just as well that my family have blocked me on Facebook. For if they knew what I really get up to, it may just be too much for them to bear!

The point of my post is to let each and every person on this blog know that no one can ever really know what someone else has experienced unless they have been there and walked in those shoes. And even so, there will always be MY version of the Truth and YOUR version of the Truth. Because TRUTH is SUBJECTIVE. And as long as human beings continue to make their infantile attempts to understand and define who or what God and divinity is, then there will always be suffering.

Because no one will ever really know, not until God Himself (if he is in fact as the Judeo-Christian paradigm claims to be sitting on a throne in heaven) leans over from high up in the clouds, sticks his face into our atmosphere and says “this is how it really is kids…….”.

All I do need to know (I don’t believe it, I know it) is that the world is full of good people with good hearts, and that the more fear a person lives with, the more fear they bring into their world, the more they will project their own fears onto others and create that reality around them. So I chose not to make it my reality.

If any Ex Witness is reading this, I highly recommend finding a reputable facility for it and drinking Ayahuasca. It really helped me to work through my sadness and anger and to give me back the connection to God I thought I had lost many years ago.

Peter April 7, 2013 at 3:04 am

Sarah, I don’t mean to be picky here, but your comment,

‘JWs do seem to be a little more open minded and relaxed in more developed countries in Europe and some parts of the States, particularly in big cities. They have to be I guess because they are exposed to so much more of the real world, than say people in Africa or New Zealand’

gives one the impression that you think that New Zealand is an underdeveloped, Third-World country. It is not. It is just as sophisticated and developed as any nation in Europe, and far ahead of the United States (ex. free health care, no death penalty, no private gun ownership, Creationism openly ridiculed and rejected as a ‘science’ etc.).

Tracy April 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm

This cult has affected my life since I was 11 yrs old. My mother became a JWand my life changed. No more holidays and life changed. My mother made me go to bible meetings twice a week and field service on saturday and Sunday meetings. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. Back then JW taught going to college was a no no. I graduated and worked at a restaurant it wasn’t enough money to move out. Meanwhile I turned 20 and my mother was still telling me my house my rules. I managed get an college app. Apply and got in. Got financial aid and was ready to get in. I was so scared to tell my mother for fear she would be upset. She began preaching how wrong it was for me to go to college. I stopped listening to the belief when I was working at that restaurant trying to get out on my own. I’m glad I listened to myself and stopped listening to JW beliefs. My family is so important to me including extended. My mom and other family members who are JW are distant. I’m so glad I started listening to myself. I was scared at first and it was a whole new world.

Sarah May 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hi Peter, I certainly did not intend any offense towards the beautiful country of New Zealand!

When I said ‘JWs do seem to be a little more open minded and relaxed in more developed countries in Europe and some parts of the States, particularly in big cities. They have to be I guess because they are exposed to so much more of the real world, than say people in Africa or New Zealand’ allow me to clarify what I meant;

I agree that a differentiation needs to be made between Africa (which is 3rd world) and New Zealand which is definitely 1st world…however still an old British colony and fairly conservative. And in the context of what I was saying, I was meaning more perhaps the conservativeness of the old British colonies. I am fully aware of how advanced New Zealand is in all the contexts you described above. However I know for sure that NZ (like Australia) is not as exposed to a lot of the social “openness” that is apparent in a place like Germany or Sweden for instance. Hence I was just trying to illustrate that as a South Africa who has lived all over Europe (and also in New Zealand), that there is a definite shift in the attitude of JW’s from one place to another. And in my experience and through my own analysis this seems to be the only reason I can come up with.

I hope that clarifies things for you.


Jessica May 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Hello Melissa~
Thank you for creating a web page that articulates the dysfunctional factors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. It reinforces that I’ve not forgotten the doctrine.
One of my current theories is that being born into and raised as a JW debilitates decision-making. For example a former witness trying to leave a controlling relationship is unable to decipher what’s in her best interest. I believe many layers of conditioned thought processes contribute to this, and an individual has to work through many layers, breaking down many engrained defenses to get to a place of “knowing what’s best for the individual”. Some of what has been written here validates what I believe is the process for losing ones “inner voice”.

I am a third generation witness, on both my mother and fathers sides of the family. My cousins and siblings children are 4th generation. My father left the truth and family when I was 8. (He’d been molesting an older sibling ~ though this was not grounds in Jehovah’s eyes for my mother to divorce him, he was not dis-fellowshipped for the molestation either ~ the 13 years of physical abuse my mother endured under his punishment was also not grounds for divorce; she was not biblical(y) free to leave him ~ the elders discouraged my mother from bring the sexual abuse of my sibling to the attention of the authorities~ one small statement was made to a local police department, nothing to elicit action from child welfare, this was the late 70’s, I’m not sure how well developed laws protecting the sexual abuse of children were then.) My mother was allowed to divorce my father when she committed adultery and my father did not forgive her, thereby freeing her of something~I forget what the term is/was. My mother is still a witness~ the effected sibling is also a witness.

Jeff January 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

This was a great piece for helping to understand this cult. I am personally not involved, but my mother has been targeted by JW during a weakened state. She has always been Christian…and increasingly so as she has aged and seen close ones pass on.

Can anyone direct me to material that can coach me on preventing a loved one from being recruited into this thought control?

She is trying to evangelise my family…to all of our disgust. I don’t want to confront it too strongly, as I’m afraid they will take everything she has, once she is isolated.


20Years January 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Hi Jeff. I’m sorry to hear that the Watchtower has roped in your mum. In my decades in this organization (I left it eight years ago) I observed that older people, especially older women, were soft targets for them. This is most unfortunate. From the very start, they drum it into the heads of new converts that they must expect Satan to use their relatives to pressurize them to forsake their new-found love in Jehovah. Therefore, your efforts to make your mum see the facts must be very carefully thought out and executed, indeed. What may catch her attention is the early history of the Watchtower, or perhaps the failed predictions they have glossed over. All this you can find on the worldwide web. Acquaint yourself with such history and carefully think how you are going to approach her with it.

Also factor in another point: From now on, your mom may also be receiving instruction designed to convince her that she must ‘honour Jehovah with her valuable things’. I have known some older JWs who not only give away much of their savings to the Watchtower, but also will away their wealth and property to them.

shantelle July 9, 2014 at 4:21 am

As a former JW and I guess “an apostate” it sounds like your guy is still in the beginning stages of healing.. I went thru all those thoughts but threw them out in my journey of removing myself because that was part of it.. not just removing myself physically but also rejecting these false beliefs.. sounds like he still is entrenched.. and that is SAD. I’m currently trying to figure out how to have a healthy relationship otherwise just because I never learned to express my own needs or emotions and now fight daily to not be a passive aggressive codependent ass. At least I recognize my faults.. first step to healing.. right?

tj October 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Good article…I was a witness for 22 yrs…broken free for 5…though not brainwashing…it is a heavy form of mindcontrol…and they DO NOT condone child abuse…so I wouldnt go around stating that as fact

StayHere November 24, 2020 at 5:38 am

I was always sceptical about this cult. Thanks for breaking into points why it is dysfunctional.

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