By Gordon Smith
As ill-luck would have it, I was born in 1964 to an unyielding Witness father who, as I was to discover, was intent on proving himself to be more holy than Swiss cheese. If that weren’t enough to be getting on with, my two older siblings and I regularly suffered the effects of his violent nature as well as his compulsive behaviour. So obsessed was he with his religion, that his life revolved around straining every last self-righteous drop of meaning from the society’s non-stop outpourings.
My earliest memories as a Jehovah’s Witness were that of being dragged mercilessly backwards and forwards to the Kingdom Hall and from door to door, preaching the Grim News of the Kingdom. Even then, the regimen and strict organisation of our lives seemed to me to be bordering on the criminally insane.
In his attempt to knock us into Christian shape, Dad doled out gratuitous discipline as though it was about to go out of fashion. Against today’s liberal standards, all that brute physicality would be totally unacceptable. Against my own personal standards of reasonableness and caring, even back then in 1960’s, my father fell awfully short of the mark.
Once at school, I had no choice than to begin to make comparisons between my own, rather bizarre life, and that of the other children I saw around me, and that was when the real horror of the situation struck me as hard as a black pudding to the nape of the neck. I was a weirdo!
The one shaft of light, however, amongst the impenetrable darkness of life as a Witness was knowing that soon, this system of things, as they frequently called it, was coming to an end. “Just five more years.”, were Dad’s watchwords and he would regularly talk us through the cataclysmic events that were to bring about the end of the world.
I would listen intently to his words and imagine a life without non-Witnesses. In my book, that truly would be bliss. No more jeering faces and uncomfortable questions at school, no more suffering the embarrassment of a non-existent Christmas or birthdays, and more importantly, no more bloody preaching work! In fact, the end seemed to be the perfect solution to all my problems and, somewhat unashamedly, I ached for the arrival of Armageddon and for what amounted to the annihilation of every poor unsuspecting soul except for us.
Talk of ‘the end’ had been the dinner-table subject ever since I could remember. Just like some families fantasised about winning the lottery, we talked animatedly about the death and destruction of all mankind. No matter what time of our lives we were in, Dad always made reference to his ephemeral ‘five-year window of opportunity’ in which the wicked nations had a chance to realise their folly and repent and then, after that, how it was going to be curtains for the lot of them.
Waiting for the end became supremely boring and so, because of that, my life as a Witness became blotted with misdemeanours. I found myself getting into one scrape after another with the elders as I tried my best to cope with the harsh demands of the faith along with the extreme boredom of a life without any tangible fun. Dad was the top banana in our congregation and that only served to make things even worse. It wasn’t long, then, before I became an embarrassment not only to him but to the entire congregation and so, finally, and very much to dad’s relief, I was thrown out of the doors of the Kingdom Hall, never to return again.
As I left the sect and ventured out into the world at the age of twenty I took with me a deeply fatalistic outlook on the future of mankind as well as the absolute certainty that I had only five years left to live. Thus, much like a terminally ill person who knows they have only a limited time in which to get stuff done, I lived only for the pleasure of experience and took up activities that many people, including myself, would label as life threatening.
Throughout my twenties, I lost myself to a world of drugs, alcohol and extreme (as well as extremely dangerous) sexual activity. By the age of twenty-nine I was desperately tired and careworn from so much partying and yet, curiously, still alive. It was only then that I began to smell a rat.
Thinking about things logically, and with the help of the voluminous information I found on the Internet, I arrived at the stark realisation that the Jehovah’s Witness faith had been absolutely wrong about the end. In fact, if what I was reading was to be believed, they’d been wrong about everything! Feeling more than a little cheesed off,
I was forced to pick up the pieces of my life and to begin to make some definite plans for the future. One of them was to have a very strong word with my father.
Little by little, I managed to turn my life around and integrate myself into society as a normal person (whatever that might be) and I’m pleased to say that life has been very kind to me since then. Perhaps it felt a little sorry for me and thought I deserved a break.
Now, after nearly 20 years as an ex Jehovah’s Witness, I work as a therapist and take great joy in helping people overcome previous conditioning that is no longer serving them. Wherever I can, I aim to assist people in leaving behind their restrictive faiths and open themselves up to life. After all, this is a wonderful world filled with beautiful people. You only have to look into their eyes to see it. I truly believe that we are beings of love and when we aren’t loving one another, we aren’t following our true destiny. Some say that fate is the hand we are dealt in life, yet destiny is how we choose to play that hand. Being brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness isn’t something that I would have consciously chosen. However, now that I do have choice in my life, I have chosen happiness, love, light and a nice piece of fried black pudding every Saturday morning!
Gordon introduces his new book…
Editor’s Notes: Gordon Smith, writing under the pseudonym of “Douglas Lee,” lives in the northeast of England. He was, as he describes it in his new book “The End is Nigh…Again! ( But this time we really mean it!)” – a member of the Jehovah’s Witness cult for “twenty-one long and miserable years.” “The End is Nigh…” is his first published book, released in November 2010. Mr. Smith works as a clinical hypno-therapist when he’s not writing. Click on this link to view or buy his book at Lulu.com.