By Richard E. Kelly
I am currently writing a sequel, The Ghosts from Mama’s Club. It’s an autobiography of my forty-seven years of life after leaving the Club. The “ghosts” in the book are dysfunctional behavior patterns, toxic residue acquired from the time my family and I spent as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The most haunting “ghost” for me and my wife, and most people, is the prodigious amounts of misinformation acquired wittingly and unwittingly while we were in the cult. Therefore, the biggest challenge to leading a full, happy life after departing will be confronting misinformation.
Shedding “things a person knows that ain’t so” can be very daunting. Some “ain’t so’s” manifest themselves as phobias. So before nagging untruths induce debilitating behavior, it’s important to clearly identify what they are. When a person is consciously aware of their “ain’t so’s,” they can easily quarantine them. Were I to leave the Club today, my recovery plan would include reading the following six books, in the following order, and why:
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. The author gives a moving account of his life in Nazi death camps and his discovery of logotherapy—a positive approach to the mentally/spiritually disturbed person. His treatment focuses on the freedom to transcend suffering and find a meaning to one’s life regardless of circumstances.
- The Source by James A. Michener. A great bit of storytelling based on factual data about early civilization in Israel, debunking JW myths.
- The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Okay, he’s an atheist, but a person coming out of a group like JWs will appreciate and relate to his hard-hitting, factual observations about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and the dangerous rise of superstition in today’s world. (This is a good book to test your ability to hold two opposed ideas in your mind and still retain the ability to function.)
- Jesus, Interrupted – Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible by Bart D. Ehrman. Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely in the dark as to what scholars have been saying for 200 years about Bible history, forgeries, and contradictions. Whichever side a person sits on biblical inerrancy, this is an eye-opening read.
- The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong. This book exposes the evil done by people who use the Bible like weapons in the name of God. It points out texts that have been used to discriminate, oppress and distort the truth of Christianity, casting doubt on God’s love.
- Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne. I hate the title, but after years of hearing non-scholarly JW evolution rebuttal, this well-written explanation by a knowledgeable scientist gives the reader a fresh, nonthreatening perspective of how old our earth is and how new species evolved from previous ones. And, it makes a good case for the fact that God is not a micromanager, as JWs claim.
If people who’ve left the Club will read these books, they will be amazed how refreshing and energizing basic science and honest history can be. Not only will they have confronted the “ghost of misinformation,” it will be like getting a good, Liberal-Arts-101 college education at a bargain price. For it to coalesce, they’ll need to get outside of themselves and cogitate about the new things they’ve learned. It will also help to take walks, meet new people, do random acts of kindness, volunteer for charitable work, enjoy a hobby and be a friend if they want to lead a full, meaningful life.
For the rest of their lives, these former JWs will be rewarded with knowing they have acquired real truths—liberating, factual information—which has heretofore been censored for them. In the end, they must never forget that they now have the freedom to decide what they want to believe, and they can decide based on facts, not superstitious nonsense.
P.S. Another “ghost,” facetiously identified in my new book, is the propensity to underline key points in books and magazines. It’s a rather harmless practice, unless the book belongs to a friend or the library. But that learned behavior can be put to good use. I’d recommend while reading the six aforementioned books that the reader underline information they don’t want to forget. They can thereby benefit in some small way from their JW experience.