What happens after leaving the JWs?

April 14th, 2010

By Joel Gunz

Editor’s Note: With his kind permission and great generosity, Joel Gunz, one of the principal organizers of Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses of Portland (OR), has agreed to let me republish some recent articles he has written for his blog. Joel presents his point of view in a manner that most former Jehovah’s Witnesses can easily understand and relate to. Please click the link at the end of the article to go to Joel’s blog. Here’s a link to the original article.


Now that I’ve left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m frequently asked about what I believe now. Do I go to another church? (Not at this time.) Do I hate The Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses? (No, I’m just very disappointed.) Do I celebrate Christmas? (Hell yes!) How do I feel about the Bible? (Inspired, at least in parts — as were the writings of the Buddha, Adyashanti and Bill W.)

Watchtower publications offer an answer for almost every question a person might have about religious doctrine, morals and conduct. For people who need that kind of direction (and there are many who do), they provide a valuable service. Yet, almost everyone I know who has left Jehovah’s Witnessism did so because they no longer needed that kind of religious micromanagement. They found that their (God-given) thinking abilities and common sense were adequate for guiding them as they went on to lead a successful post-Witness life.

They found that it was possible — actually, an improvement — to trade in the flawed certainty of religious fundamentalism for the exhilarating uncertainties that go along with creating from the ground up a life of their own choosing.

Jehovah’s Witnessism teaches that when you “turn your back on God’s organization,” it’s only a matter of time before you’ll become hooked on drugs, adopt a morally profligate lifestyle and contract H.I.V. or have some other disaster befall you. Here’s what, in most cases, actually happens:

With apologies to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, let’s call it the Four Stages of Life After Witnessing:

  1. You’ll leave of your own accord, or you might be disfellowshipped. Sometimes it’s a clean getaway and you can walk away from The Organization with your head held high. Many times, though, it’s a messy affair, accompanied by anger, resentment and confusion. Our religion can seem to have us in a choke-hold, and it’s understandable that our escape may take nothing less than manic energy.
  2. Once free, it’s quite possible that you will want to catch up on the things you’ve been missing, which might include experimenting with sex or drugs. It can be a really topsy-turvy time — and not all that pleasant to watch. I was a virtual train wreck when I made my break. You don’t have to do those things, but that’s often how it goes.
  3. Once you’ve gotten all those pent-up desires and curiosities out of your system, you’ll likely return to an equilibrium that works for you. If you were a decent, honest person when you were a Witness, you’ll probably be that way after you leave and get back on your feet again.
  4. You’ll find a path that works for you. It might involve Christianity in some way or it might look at other traditions, such as Eastern philosophy. Or, having had your fill of religion, you might decide to take a break from all that. When I asked my cousin, Sean, why he joined a Catholic monastery after being disfellowshipped, he said that he needed a place where he could enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet.

The point is, leaving the Witnesses is like having the rug pulled out from under you. When that happens you have the opportunity to get yourself up, brush yourself off and start over.

The ex-Witnesses I know were often among the most sincere members of the congregation. Now they are productive members of the community and living decent lives while they follow fascinating life-paths that are as unique as they are.

Visit and read more at Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses of Portland…

Categories: General Information, Testimonies


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  1. maggie

    I was raised by a staunch Catholic mother. Even as a small child, I was not very impressed with Catholicism. I stopped attended Mass and receiving sacraments by the time I was 15-years-old.
    I began reading the Bible in my late teens. In my early 20s, I found that many of the opinions I formed coincidentally agree with JW doctrines. I found it easy to fall into the religion and the people. I was glad to be freed of the stress of holidays, particularly Christmas.
    For ten years, I was quite happy. Then, things began to change–such as the interpretation of ‘this generation’. Actually, I never thought that the WBTS had ever gotten right in the first place. There was pressure to attend all the meetings and to be out in service more. WBTS was also pushing for JWs to cut off contact with nonJW friends and family. I really started to have nagging doubts. I reached a critical point, when the Watchtower published and article concerning sexual practices of married persons. The Bible gives a clear blue print for single people, but not married persons (excluding adultery, beastially, homosexuality, incest, etc.) I also didn’t not feel that the content was appropriate for young children as this article was to be part of the Sunday study. I found a website for exJWs and those thinking of leaving. After 13 years, I left the JWs.
    I have nothing against JWs. I really miss many of the friends I made over the years. But the longer I was in that religion, the more I felt that I was being controlled and oppressed. If others want to stay that’s their decision. However, I felt as though I was in a cult. After having been raised Catholic and being a JW for 13 years, I no longer believe in organized religions. I prefer small Bible study groups where people can rely on their own interpretations of the scripture and no one imposes their system of beliefs on another. God gave us a mind and free will inorder to make our own decisions. I don’t believe that we need someone else to tell us what the Bible says. We can read it ourselves and reach our own conclusions.

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