I am currently writing a sequel, The Ghosts from Mama’s Club. The book is an autobiography of my life after Bethel, and it prompts the question, “So what are these ghosts?” In my story, they are dysfunctional behavior patterns, residue from the time spent in a highly controlled religious group. These ghosts can be toxic and debilitating roadblocks to a full, happy life after leaving the Club, if they’re not identified and exorcized. They are:
- Prodigious amounts of misinformation acquired wittingly/unwittingly.
- Constant guilt due to thinking one is not pleasing God. This occurs when old religious fears are not properly cremated.
- The loss of cognitive thinking skills, an inability to think for oneself.
- An insatiable need to have other people or groups do one’s thinking.
- The inability to articulate well-thought-out religious/philosophical beliefs.
- A potentially unhealthy attraction to high-control fundamentalist groups promising God’s truth & the correct interpretation of the Bible.
- The inability to tolerate the insecurity of anything outside the sphere of physical science and a person’s conscious experiences.
- A need to control other people. (When you’re abused, you can abuse)
- A lack of self-control related to sex, alcohol or drugs.
- The inability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time.
- Black and white thinking, as answers were always found in the WT.
- Difficulty understanding that the only things a person can control are one’s beliefs about events, people, circumstances, etc.
- Difficulty assimilating into mainstream society due to JW phobias.
- Stuck on constantly blaming the organization for robbing the best years of one’s life and unable to acknowledge one’s duplicity.
- Obsessive time and energy spent on projects intended to topple the organization. (Expose them, yes. Toppling them isn’t going to happen as JWs fill a market niche for people in need of heavy-duty structure.)
- A propensity to underline in ink key points in magazines and books.
- Suffering persistent shunning by JW family and friends. (For many people, this is the most brutal ghost, and can be severely debilitating.)
I believe the most invasive of the ghosts is misinformation. Shedding “things a person knows that ain’t so” is a very challenging task. It requires cremating old religious fears. It may take years. But it can be done. If I were to leave the organization today, my recovery plan would include reading the following six books, in this order, and here’s 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 logo therapy—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 Contradiction 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 micro-manager, as JWs claim.
If you read these books, you will have lots to think about. It will help to get outside yourself and subconsciously cogitate about what you’ve read. Take walks, meet new people, do random acts of kindness, volunteer for charitable work, engage yourself in a hobby, be a friend to someone, etc. Remember, great thinkers can hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time and function quite well.
You will also be rewarded with the satisfaction that you have acquired real truths—liberating, factual information—which have heretofore been censored for you by the organization. Embrace this wonderful opportunity to learn about things from a rational perspective. In the end, do not forget that you have the freedom to decide what you want to believe.