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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brainwashing and Conditioning

How does someone become "brainwashed"?

Years ago, I heard from the platform at a kingdom hall of Jehovah's Witnesses a man bragging. While going door-to-door he was asked, "How can you let yourself get so brainwashed so as to believe this stuff that you are saying?"

His reply? "My brain needed a good wash!" His comment emoted a chuckle from the audience. Apparently, the congregation believed brainwashing was a good thing.

How do religious patriarchies become radical so as to promote practices such as female sexual mutilation (like some Muslims), or Polygamy (like some Mormons), or shunning of family members (like some Jehovah's Witnesses)?

When one is taught some theology from birth, one believes what one's parents taught to be the truth, no matter how outrageous the statement may sound. After all, why would one's parents lie? Don't parents have their child's best interests at heart? Well, if the parents have been conditioned to believe the statement is "truth," how can a baby or young child know that it is being fed propaganda or religious dogma? Clearly, a young one could not differentiate between truth and falsehood, since they inherently trust their parents.

Why does each religion think it is the only "true" religion? That belief implies that all other religions are false. I know from being an ex-member that the Jehovah's Witnesses believe theirs is the only true faith. They believe they are the only ones who have "special" knowledge. They are God's "favored" people. They and only them. Everyone else is going to be killed by God at Armageddon.

Muslims believe theirs is the only true religion. That belief means that all other religions are false. They have "special" knowledge. They are Allah's "favored" people. They and only them. Everyone else is going to burn in hell as an infidel.

Mormons believe theirs is the only true religion. That belief means that all other religions are false. They have special knowledge. They are God's favored people. They and only them. Everyone else is going to burn in hell.

Need I go on about the Catholics, Scientologists, and Fundamentalist Christians?

Judgmental? Divisive? Where does it end? Perhaps another Holy War, another Jihad, another Inquisition, another Crusades or another World War...?

One may wish to examine how much "conditioning" goes on in a religion before rushing into becoming a member. Personally, as a Westerner, I see over and over again how dangerously divisive so-called "moderate" religion can be.

On a happy note, most bibles admit that a time will come when people would not adhere to religion. Rather, each person would be a law to themselves. By that, I mean their conscience would be their guide; not some priest, pastor, elder, imam, bishop, etc. No more religion running the show, asking for money, lobbying for more power, and demanding more freedom to frighten and enslave their adherents. Sounds healthy to me. I embrace this idealist concept.

...these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.~~Romans 2:14-15 (New World Translation)

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2010.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


One of the gifts I received this Christmas was a book called Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is a book I have been wanting after reading her earlier book called Infidel. The author is — or shall I say — was a Muslim who managed to leave the culture as an adult — at risk of life and limb. She claims that many young Muslim girls are still being circumcised, even after immigrating to western society. In countries like Canada, the United States and even Britain and Holland, where female circumcision is against the law, the practice still continues. So I wonder to myself: how can such a barbaric rite be a practice that anyone might want to retain from their culture?

Ayaan's response in the book suggests that it is the men who desire circumcised women. Yet, she further states that often the women who are conditioned to choose "cutting" for their daughters. In Ayaan's case, her grandmother determined the rite appropriate for Ayaan and her younger sister. The grandmother believed that girls who still have a vulva, clitoris and labia are considered "unclean" and that no self-respecting, honorable Muslim man would want to marry such a woman. In fact, the girls and women who have been circumcised are taught to be proud of their doll-like smoothness "down there." Shocking?

How can a culture move so far away from what is normal and natural? Even by their own "creationist" belief, the belief in female circumcision flies in the face of what was naturally created.

Most westernized cultures might likely be repulsed, feeling that an unnatural practice like female circumcision couldn't possibly happen here. It is a foreign culture and surely Muslims would desire to stop such a barbaric practice once they came to Canada where they could learn healthier ways to live.

According to the author, such a transformation is most often not the case.

It seems like the Muslim culture brings its traditions to its new land.

A type of enslavement...?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests three institutions that could ease the transition into Western citizenship:
  • The first is public education
  • The second is the feminist movement
  • The third is the community of Christian churches

I agree on the first two suggestions; nevertheless, having been a member of a "community of Christian churches," I question her third suggestion. Ali is herself an atheist, but she has encountered many Muslims who say they need a spiritual anchor in their lives. She has met Christians whose concept of God is a far cry from Allah. Valid points, of course.

A group that immediately comes to mind is the Jehovah's Witnesses. I was a member of their so-called Christian church that considers itself to have moderate and conservative views. They claim to be loving. They go door-to-door looking for people who desire to live like Jesus. But, their outward posturing is deceptive.

Jehovah's Witnesses, who declare themselves to be conservative are really not conservative at all, if you were to look a little deeper. This religion has a "pretense" of being loving. They have one set of rules for outsiders and quite another set of rules for their members. While their members might not attach bombs to themselves, they have other extreme reactions to suppress dissension. Their way of dealing with "apostates" like me (because I left their "most loving" religion) is to condition their members to such an extreme degree as to cause the children and friends of "apostates" to shun and treat us as dead.

So, now I ask: Is cutting off your family members much different from cutting away body parts? Cutting away your children is just as painful and scarring (emotionally) as is female circumcision (physically). Is shunning a "loving" or "Christ-like" behavior? If one were to look a little deeper into moderate Christianity one might discover that much of so-called moderate Christianity is a far cry from the definition of "Christ-like."

How can a religion move so far away from what is normal and natural? Even by their own "creationist" belief, the belief in familial shunning flies in the face of what was naturally created.

While I agree with much of Ayaan’s philosophy, I suggest that if she herself cannot adopt a western Christianity, it may be for good reason. However, I would not recommend the community of Christian churches as a solution to her sisters’ spiritual longings.

One may wish to examine how much "conditioning" goes on in a religion before rushing into becoming a member. Personally, even as a westerner where everyone believes Christians are "moderates," I see over and over again how dangerously divisive religion can be.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2010.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Pagan" Events — Then and Now


My beloved teacher in Grade Two said if any of us had a younger brother or sister, we could bring them to school one special day. It was Halloween and I proudly invited Andy, my brother next in line. The teacher handed out a picture of a cow to for all her students and younger brothers and sisters to color. I looked over to see that Andy was coloring his cow in polka dots. I thought his picture was so great that I asked the teacher for another picture so that I could color my cow with polka-dots too. The other kids thought that was just awful because real cows didn't look like that — they were brown with white, or black and white, or beige — but never pink, blue and green.

Personally, I was tired of seeing brown cows and thought it was much more fun to color a cow with polka dots. The kids teased Andy and me about it, but my teacher said it was okay. She put our polka-dotted cows up on the wall with all the other plain brown or black cows.

The afternoon came and I looked around at all the students. They were wearing costumes. Where did all these costumes come from?

"Where is my costume?" I asked the teacher.

My kind and understanding teacher chuckled when she realized I did not know the kids brought their own costumes from home. She gently asked me if I would like to wear a skirt left over from the Christmas concert. I proudly modeled the paper skirt to my brother, Ritchie, who quickly informed me that Halloween was "wrong" and I wasn't supposed to be dressed up in a costume. Ashamed, I returned to my seat. I loved wearing the bright red skirt with gold trim at the bottom and wasn't about to take it off until it was time to go home. Thankfully, Ritchie and Andy did not report my violation to our dad at our next Family Bible Study session.


On special days the teacher turned on the radio at school and we listened to a program on the CBC that explained how to draw or paint or play music or sing. I looked forward to those days. I sang my little heart out and my teacher smiled. She seldom yelled, so I knew it was just fine to draw and paint and express myself. One time we were taking music and she had a whole box of different musical instruments such as cymbals, sticks and bells — and one coveted triangle. She explained that we were going to use these instruments for the upcoming Christmas concert. When she showed us all what to do with them and how each one sounded, I immediately put up my hand and asked in my sweetest voice and best manners, "May I play the triangle, please?"

"Yes, Esther," she said, and I beamed with happiness.

Our classroom practiced every week until the Christmas concert and I proudly chimed the triangle at just the right moments and listened — fully satisfied as it rang throughout the community hall for all to hear.

That year I got a Barbie doll for a Christmas present in the class gift draw. I adored it, and was crushed when my classmate Vicky, who drew my name for the present, disclosed to me that she really had bought the gift for her friend Judy. I was getting it only because her parents forced her give it to me instead. I was disappointed because I had merely accidentally received a wonderful present — yet at the same time was secretly pleased because I so loved my new Barbie. What I especially liked about the doll was that it came in a kit with some Barbie clothes and I had the pleasure of dressing her up in beautiful grown-up dresses. I never dared take that doll outside. I only played with it in the house. I had a special place in my cupboard where I kept the doll when I wasn't playing with it.

Right after the Christmas concert that year, my dad announced that we weren't going to go to any more Christmas concerts or get presents, because the Bible said it was wrong. "We never had Christmas at home before this, and we won't be starting now!" My dad exclaimed in his angry tone of voice. The only Christmases I ever knew were the school concerts that we attended. I liked them because I got to play the triangle and sing pretty songs about Jesus when he was a baby.


"Birthdays are "wrong" too," my dad declared.

Later, when I was alone with my mom, I asked her when my birthday was and she told me. Well, I kept track of the days and when my special day came I made a pot of tea and Mom had some of her home-made date squares on hand, so I put some out for everyone in my family and said it was my birthday, and I wanted to have a birthday party. I thought it was safe, since my dad had gone to visit one of the neighbors.

Mom sat down at the table and said she would have some tea with me, but it wasn't a birthday party because we weren't allowed to celebrate birthdays. "God would see and he would not be pleased," she shook her head, disapprovingly.
I sat at the table, utterly ashamed. I hoped God didn't see me celebrating my birthday. I felt guilty for my selfishness.

Obedience: Frighteningly Crucial

From then on, I tried harder to be a good girl so I could live in that happy paradise where all the good people would live someday. Even though, at school, Vicky said our family was going to hell because we didn't go to her church on Sunday. She also informed me that her religion was the truth and ours was false.

"Are we Catholic?" I asked my dad at our next bible study session. "Could we go to Vicky's church?"

"No, we are not Catholic! Vicky has a false religion!" my dad bellowed. "See the churches in the Paradise book? See what is happening to them?"

"What religion are we?" I asked.

"We are Jehovah's Witnesses," my dad announced.

I didn't answer. I was too scared to tell him I wanted to be a Catholic. He would have beaten it out of me. I looked again at the pictures of the steeples getting struck with lightning. That surely meant that God was going to destroy all the churches, including Vicky's church. I was taught that we alone were the only "true Christians." Everyone else who does not belong to our religion was wicked, under Satan's control and would soon be destroyed by God. The Paradise book graphically depicted God destroying all those "unbelievers" at Armageddon.

Every kind of terror would be used to destroy this sinful world — lashing rains, floods, earthquakes, giant hailstorms and a rain of fire. There will be a terror on the land, terror on the sea and terror in the air. With shocking surprise Armageddon will catch all those persons outside the New World society — namely Jehovah's Witnesses.

Soul-chilling terror will spread through the masses of people so that they would lose control of themselves; they would begin killing one another — but their selfish fight to live would be all in vain. Those who escape being killed by their neighbors would be destroyed by God's heavenly armies. God's angels would smite all the opposers of God's kingdom and his kingdom witnesses with a terrible destruction.

A flesh-eating plague would destroy many. Eaten up would be the tongues of those who scoffed and laughed at the warning of Armageddon! Eaten up would be the eyes of those who refused to see the sign of the time of the end! Eaten up would be the flesh of those who refused to learn that the living and true God is named Jehovah! Eaten up while they stand on their feet! Dead bodies would be strewn everywhere — from end to end — of the earth. Ungathered, unburied, and unwept for — the bodies will be like so much fertilizer on the ground.

Worms will not stop swarming over the millions of bodies until the last body is eaten up. Birds and beasts also will eat their fill of human flesh until nothing is left but bones.—From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. (1958) Watchtower, Bible and Tract Society of New York. pp. 208-9.

The book goes into great detail describing how Jehovah would murder every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the earth except good Jehovah's Witnesses. The god of the Watchtower would only spare those who attend the Kingdom Hall regularly, go from door to door, and study Watchtower books.

This new-found knowledge about our different religions became a bone of contention with Vicky and me. I couldn't imagine my dad and mom being tricked about such an important matter.

Vicky told me she was going to grow up and be a nun. I did not know what a nun was, so I asked her. She gave me a book to read. I tried to read it, and realized that the nuns seemed to have a very hard life and I didn't think it was for me. I wanted to be Vicky's friend, though, so one day I announced to her, "I'm a Catholic now."

"No you aren't!" Vicky retorted.

I wished I were a Catholic. On the weekends I played with my Barbie and thought about Vicky. She got to celebrate her birthday and Christmas. She got presents and ate Japanese oranges wrapped in pretty green tissue paper.

Our religion was no fun. We couldn't celebrate birthdays, we couldn't dress up at Halloween, and now we could not celebrate Christmas anymore, either.

While deep in thought, I forgot and left the Barbie doll on the table where my dad sat down to read his Bible or write a letter or pay bills. He was very angry about something that day, and he flung my precious Barbie across the room. My heart broke and I watched in horror as my Barbie's head and body flew in two different directions." ~~ excerpt from Phoenix of Faith.

Well, that was then...

Now, my partner and I look forward to all the events such as Christmas, Halloween, Birthdays, etc. We love decorating the house with a tree, pretty lights and presents under the tree. We even hang up Christmas stockings and fill them with all kinds of little surprises. I relish the anticipation of Christmas morning like a little child.

Answering the door on Halloween night is a joy; seeing the cute — or terrible — masks, the eager smiles and the cries of "trick or treat!" We love dressing up in a costume and handing out pre-wrapped candy and small bags of chips into the open bags that each eager child presents to us. We usually wave to the parents or caretakers, so lovingly waiting in the wings.

Yes, and birthdays, too, get my full attention. Celebrating birthdays now — mine, my partner's, and our friends — have taught me that it is okay to spend time and money on myself. I am a person and deserve attention — and such attention is not selfish.

The Jehovah's Witness religion teaches a hierarchy, where the self is the least important (especially women and girls). Our job was to serve our father, husband, or God — first and foremost. No one else mattered as much as the patriarchs. Not even Mother, after all she was "just a woman" who was put on earth to serve man. My father loved the patriarchal teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, as it kept my mom "in subjection."

It is sad that these laws get handed down generationally.

Yes, I love celebrating these "pagan" customs, perhaps as a way to reclaim the lost years of childhood, so filled with abuse and terror. Try telling a little child in Grade Two that your best friend has the "wrong" religion and will die at Armageddon because god is going to kill her. Seems to me my parents were conditioned to speak in a way that terrorized, rather than nurtured. I realize now that they did not know any better. I know I've said it before: some religions are just plain sick.

In my opinion, people choose a religion that supports their already strongly-held personal beliefs. They have no way of knowing how "out-of-balance" their beliefs may be, unless they are willing to ask questions and examine their beliefs — without feeling afraid of reprisals.

Sadly, as a religion, the Jehovah's Witnesses still hold fast to fear-based beliefs.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2010.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Polygamy: Symptom of Religious Conditioning

I am a 56-year-old woman who has recently enrolled in several university courses with the intention of receiving a couple of certificates and a degree. Why now at this stage of life? It has everything to do with the way I was raised. I grew up under the thumb of a religious patriarch who believed education for women was not necessary because “Armageddon is coming any day and you don’t need it.” Because of my conditioning it took me decades to leave the religious patriarchy. As a result of my background, I read with great interest the articles about polygamy in Bountiful, BC.

Religious groups downplay the patriarchy and call it “spiritual beliefs,” conditioning the public in general think everybody is allowed freedom of religion, yet there is no freedom for women or children in these religious patriarchies. It is patriarchal law: rule by men who dis-empower women and children in the name of god. (How the men are affected is another sad story.) Religious patriarchs use the 1982 Constitution to lobby for more freedoms under the umbrella of religious freedom. Unfortunately, any freedom gained for the patriarchs is used to further brainwash, condition and abuse women and children. They throw around the words “free will” — but there is no free will in a religious patriarchy. Any actions of members are usually “conditioned response.”

One article stated “what Robert Wickett [defense lawyer] said his clients…are not prepared to do is debate their belief in patriarchal control.” Yet, “belief in patriarchal control” is where the real issue lies! FLDS lawyers are trying to divert attention away from the issue of religious patriarchy entirely, and focus on a “symptom” rather than the cause, which is “religious patriarchal control” or conditioning of its members. Much of the general population and readership would not catch this, but having been a member of a religious patriarchy, I understand the deeper meaning. Here is how a religious patriarchy operates:
  • It is a pyramidal arrangement with all the power being at the top.
  • Members are isolated from wider social contact, especially for women and children. A rural or communal way of life more easily enables the isolation of its vulnerable members.
  • Girls are conditioned from birth to accept patriarchal domination as a desired way of life: first by their father, then by their husband. A healthy belief system will produce self-directed members, whereas indoctrination will produce co-dependence in its members.
  • Fear is deeply instilled, females depend on men for survival. Dissension is punished. Self-confidence and self-expression are suppressed.
  • Religious patriarchies are usually headed by a charismatic leader who claims special knowledge and mystical communication.
The Vancouver Sun November 25, 2010 article states, “ ‘Decriminalization,’ Macintosh argued, ‘would erase any
stigma…’ ”…? I believe decriminalization of polygamy would enable even more sexual exploitation, abuse and incest. Religiously conditioned women and children do not normally report sexual exploitation, abuse and incest crimes. Even within the community, members won't discuss abuse, as the victims learn early that the abuse would not be validated, even by the mothers — or women in general. Abuse is just a way of life in patriarchal society. Women and children are property which can be bought and sold.

Further, the same article states, “[Most] Canadians have never had anything to do with polygamy.” It is not something most people would choose for themselves, let’s face it. But again, remember that women in religious patriarchies have little choice. Children even less. And that is where constitutional protection needs to kick in. There is no need to protect the majority of people because they are healthy and can make healthy choices for themselves. People in general have that option of free will. Members in religious patriarchies do not.

To compare patriarchal men with multiple spouses (dis-empowered women and girls) with homosexuals (independent adults with free-will) is twisted reasoning:
  • Women and children in religious patriarchies do not have free will to choose. They are conditioned from birth to accept, rather than choose, polygamy. On the other hand, homosexuals are free-will adults who choose privately what fits their lifestyle, personally.
  • A religious patriarch’s power is derived from abusing women and children who have no choice but to consent. On the other hand, the majority of homosexuals are adults self-empowered to make their own choices.
Daphne Bramham's article at asked some pertinent questions, “Is polygamy by any name really what Canadians have in mind when they think about diversity?” I say no, it is an abusive exploitation of conditioned women and children in religious patriarchies.

“Is there a good kind of polygamy and a bad one?” The light must shine on the issue of religious patriarchy. An examination of the one “symptom” of polygamy entirely skirts the issue of religious patriarchy.

“Is polygamy in any form something that Canadians believe ought to be constitutionally protected?” The law may very well be badly written. However, polygamy is a symptom of a larger societal ill: conditioning within a religious patriarchy. It would be a dangerous mistake to give patriarchs still more power to control. With patriarchal religion, where more freedom is the cry, enslavement of women and children is the end result.

I believe it is important for the public to know how religious patriarchy affects women and children. People raised in religious patriarchies have a difficult time understanding reality or fitting in anywhere in the real world.

There is a great need for action in society to affirm all adults’ rights to choose a healthy belief system. Even if the belief system is non-religious, it is still valid. Patriarchs would have us believe religion is the only valid system of belief — because religion provides the patriarch with a power source. Unfortunately, patriarchs — more often than not — will abuse their power.

There exists a great need to protect innocent women and children in religious patriarchies. Help must be available for those members who see the need to escape. Ex-members must re-learn everything about life in the real world. Members need a safe place to go upon leaving.

There is the need for supports for those who are trapped inside religious patriarchies.

People in general need to be educated about what actually goes on in religious patriarchies and not so easily jump on the bandwagon of the supposed need for more “freedom of religion” — because some religions are just plain sick.

I trust that journalists and people who know through life experiences about patriarchal religious issues will keep writing about this very important subject. It is imperative that people know the bigger picture about conditioning within patriarchal religions. Articles and essays will educate the public about things of which they may appear to have little knowledge.

Follow on Twitter @_phoenixoffaith
Copyright ©2012. 
Permission is granted to copy 
this blog only if it is distributed freely.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pick Up Your Cot and Walk

"Pick up your cot and walk." Those were Jesus' words, weren't they? Just after he healed a paralyzed man? (Mark 2:9)

Whenever I think about the Bible, I flash back to some point of time when I used to belong to a patriarchal religious organization. Listening to the elders speak from the platform was a challenge, as I had to wrap my head around the most bizarre ways of thinking. For example, an elder used an illustration about when someone fell down and could not get up. He applied it to "Apostates" — ones who willfully left the organization. He said the "apostates" upon leaving — or being pushed out — lay on the ground and forever complained about how badly they were mistreated. His idea about what ex-members "should" do was "repent and get back in the good graces of the elders and God." I couldn't believe he said elders/God in the same breath. As if the elders and God are equal.

Another way of looking at his comment could be: Am I hearing an admission of abuse by elders in the congregations...?

When Pastor Russell received his channeled information to create a successful cult of followers, abuse was part of the setup. Russell was provided with tools by the channeling entity who called itself "Jehovah." Curiously, their religious doctrines condemn the practice of channeling entities. So, logically my next question is...What made channeling okay for Pastor Russell, but "wrong" for everybody else in the congregation...?

As a result of the channelings, the religion Pastor Russell created consisted of writing books, publishing them, then using all his followers to market them — distribute them door-to-door — for free! That is quite a business plan! Who else but a religion could get away with that type of exploitation! "Service to God," is what the religion calls book-marketing. The "Jehovah" entity promised Russell the plan would work — and it did! The Watchtower is purported by their society to be the most widely distributed magazine in the world! And the Watchtower corporations are all completely tax-exempt, too! Unfortunately, in the wake of this business-religion exist many broken families. One reason? When members get fed up with making money for the organization, and they wish to leave, they get "disfellowshipped" for their insubordination — their "disobedience to God." Once disfellowshipped, they are shunned. Being shunned means they are not allowed to see their family members who may still be obedient to the cult — errrr, God. Many family members don't even know why they are shunning their loved one. The rules clearly state not to have association with such a "sinner" — as they have been judged adversely by elder tribunals. A sinner by the religion's definition is anyone who does not follow the organizational rules, that is, God's rules.

So, when people leave in an attempt to reclaim themselves, set themselves free of the cult activity, be true to themselves, the entire congregation is conditioned to turn against them in a type of mob action. Either the members "shape up" or they get treated as dead — a kind of "spiritual murder."

When the congregation pressures its members in such a repressive fashion, it is true that sometimes members will fall on their face. Because the religion is the crutch and the elders, in effect, knock the crutch out from under "erring" members. Because the "disobedient ones" are co-dependent with the religion, how can they stand? They can't — they easily fall. Upon leaving, members are at their most vulnerable. Members are set up to fail upon leaving, having the fear of disfellowshipping instilled in them from their inception into the cult. Members have been indoctrinated — conditioned — to fear in this way.

So, when the elders and the cooperative ones in the congregation shun such "disobedient" ones, the isolation often became intolerable, and some would crawl back into the "safe" confines of the congregations. For some members born and raised into the cult, this fear was all they ever knew. It is how they were raised. It is how they were conditioned to think.

Thankfully, with the invention of the internet, such a controlling religion can't keep "apostates," — "defectors" — separated and isolated any more. Such ones have banded together in forums in the effort to heal from the religious dogma that was inflicted upon them — in my case, from birth. It is true that my "crutch" was kicked out from under me, and my children are not allowed to speak to me or "help me up."

By "up," the religion means "shape up and get back into the congregation, before Armageddon comes and God destroys you forever."

I write about this matter because I want the world to know what this religion known as Jehovah's Witnesses does to their members in the name of their "loving" God. They call themselves Christians. They call themselves followers of Jesus. They claim "transparency" yet, through my eyes, clearly they have one set of rules for the public and another set of rules for their members. Is this how Jesus behaved when he walked the earth?

The Jehovah's Witness elders' heavy-handed treatment reinforces my desire to stay away from them, even if it means "losing" my children. Using my gift of free will is too valuable to desecrate. My gift of freedom is too precious to waste. And I see lots of great healing going on in those forums! As a result of what I observe, I know healing from religious dogma is fully possible!

"Fear God and give him glory." This scripture from their bible tells me their god gets his power from generating fear within the ranks of their members. Their members are trained to fear god, fear the devil, fear displeasing the elders, fear breaking the rules, fear talking to ex-members — and on it goes.

But, to quote another scripture from their holy book: "...[P]erfect love throws fear outside." — 1 John 4:18 (NWT). If their members had this kind of love, would they have need of fear? Or would they have need of their fear-inducing god? It makes their religious dogma redundant. At least for me.

I have picked up my cot and walked — away in freedom!

Follow on Twitter @_phoenixoffaith
Copyright ©2012. 
Permission is granted to copy this blog
only if it is distributed freely. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tribunal of Religious Elders

No sooner I climb into bed and turn out the lights I am flooded with memories of the tribunal of elders who disfellowshipped me. The process of disfellowshipping quite literally cut me off from my family. My kids were told they could no longer have association of any kind with me. My daughter called me long distance from Vancouver — I lived in Saskatoon at the time. She heard the news within a few days and called me to ask, a quiver in her voice, “Mom, is it true that you are disfellowshipped?”

I replied more calmly than I imagined I could, “Yes, it is true.”

My daughter began to sob, “Mom, you have to come back!”

“I won’t be coming back,” I heard myself say.

She hung up the phone and I knew the shunning had begun.

My children had been notified and I was officially cut off from any further association. Why didn’t I try to “save” myself? I knew about the elders’ meeting. I was invited via telephone. An elder left a message on my answering machine, “We have arranged a meeting at (such-and-such a date and time) to conclude this matter.”

The word “conclude” in the message indicated to me that a decision had already been reached, without even hearing my side of the issue. Based on that comment, I realized that there would be no point in attending. I was not up for that nonsense. They already knew what their judgment would be whether I was in attendance or not — and I didn’t need the drama. I didn't want to explain myself or my actions to these men who had no clue what I was going through — men without compassion or heart.

I did not reply to the message on my phone, nor did I attend their judicial meeting. They were not prepared to hear my defense, but only to judge and condemn me — my faith was found to be defective.

I was disfellowshipped without my attendance at the elder’s judicial committee meeting.

Excuse me...?

Other humans can judge my faith as defective? ...Something did not ring true.

This news came as I was still grieving over my mom’s death. She died quite suddenly without warning a month earlier. I wasn’t sure what the evidence against me was. Perhaps an elder’s wife had seen my partner and me leaving a dance—together. I had been "disobedient" in following their explicit instructions to leave the dance world and come back to their meetings. I was unrepentant. There was nothing left to do except discipline me to the fullest extent.

I did the only thing I knew how to do in a crisis — I prayed.

Now, according to the beliefs of the religion, once a person is disfellowshipped, they are completely cut off from God. To the patriarchal way of thinking, the disfellowshipping took place because there was something seriously defective about my faith. I was spiritually unclean and God would turn himself away from me, a dangerous unrepentant sinner.

My experience with prayer, however, demonstrated to me instantly that their belief in blanket condemnation was unwarranted. I felt a strong spiritual connection immediately. Something inside me knew I was safe. I felt more peaceful and calm than I could ever imagine. In that moment, I was  deeply consoled. The comfort I felt was truly amazing—and so contrary to what my belief system had been up to that point. I realized what my parents’ religion taught about an external, cruel, unforgiving God could not possibly be the truth. I was always taught that when you leave God, he will leave you—a punishing belief system.

I had not left God, though — a detail the elders did not consider during their hasty decision to extricate me from the congregation. God meant a lot to me. Maybe just a different God than the one they worshiped.

I was cut off — like a tree being cut down to its stump.

I could have lay down and died — and many members who find themselves on the “wrong” side of a tribunal of elders actually do kill themselves.

But I lived. Why did I live? — When others in my shoes have died? Fortunately for me I had an existing support system in place. I had a therapist with whom I had established a deep trust over a period of several years. I had my dance world, including my very concerned dance partner who prayed with me as I sobbed and grieved for my children.

So I was able to survive yet another trauma.

When I moved to Vancouver, I sensed I had come to work with a woman who could help me heal from the religious dogma inflicted upon me since birth. After about a year or so of visits, she told me she had discovered — she could see with her second sight — I had begun to grow a new spine. She consulted with one of her students, who confirmed what the healer saw. The spine looked to her like “a twig with some new green growth appearing along my old spine. The old spine was disintegrating.”

I was amazed. Out of my “stump,” emerged some new growth, a baby tree had come forth. The tribunal of elders who judged me could not — ever — destroy my faith. I was going to be okay. I was healing because perhaps I believed in myself enough. If a tree stump could regenerate itself, so could I.

I was jubilant!

It is true. The pain in my body is gone. I now stand straight and tall. I have a coat that tells the story. I used to wear the same coat as a member of the religion, where the belt used to tie just under my chest. The belt is now situated in a new area of my coat. The belt now sits four inches lower. My chest has opened up. I stand upright now, and the belt now sits at my waist. My waist is now separated from my chest by a bodice.

I now thank the tribunal of elders for giving me the boot. “Kicking me out” was just what I needed to get away from the family religion and become self-directed and independent — get on with my life. And the coat tells the whole story.

Is it a miracle? Some might think so. I say, "maybe, but not necessarily." No matter what I or anyone else thinks, the entire situation still leaves me with a curious question: "Why is my health improving — now that I am disfellowshipped?"

I am grateful that I can trust myself — finally. I can believe in myself. My own life experiences have demonstrated to me that I am able to heal when I let go of rules and dogma that no longer serve my best interests.

More About Shunning:

Kindness of a Stranger
Obedience or Free Will
Dichotomy of Religion

Religious Lies

Please feel free to follow along:
Do You Need Religion?
Fear-based belief of Armageddon
Did Jesus Really Die for Me?

More Related Topics of Interest:

Depression, Suicide, and Religion
Abortion: Right or Wrong?

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir.
Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith
Copyright © 2010.
Permission is granted to copy 
and re-distribute this transmission on the 
condition that it is distributed freely.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Health Challenges and Intuition

I guess we all have health issues to one degree or another. Personally, I have taken myself off wheat and other gluten products (such as rye and barley) since about 2005. My health practitioner suggested a gluten-free diet to combat the eczema outbreaks that I had been having since the 1980s. My family doctor did not seem interested in finding the cause of the outbreaks, but only wanted to prescribe eczema creams. The creams would work for awhile, then my body would get used to them and “adapt.” Then, I began having flu-like symptoms and bronchitis every winter, and was down for about two weeks each time in recovery. This was hard to take.
My body was really trying to tell me something. It finally dawned on me that if I wanted to be healthy, I personally had to take charge of my health! I decided to give in and really make myself stay on the gluten-free diet — to not eat bread. It was hard, because I sooooo enjoyed eating bread, but I just finally made up my mind to stop.
That was 2005. In a very short time, my health had measurably improved. The eczema cleared up and I have not had a “flu” since that time.
I have not eaten wheat for about five years.
But, lately I had a dream that I was eating bread. So my wellness practitioner suggested I try a little experiment. Eat a little — not even a whole slice, just half — and see how it goes. I figured the dreams might be trying to tell me something, so I listened to the advice. And I did not break out — and I did not get sick. The Reiki practitioner says the body will heal itself if we learn to listen to it. As a result of this little experiment, I am learning to trust my dreams and also learning to be more “intuitive.”
Being raised in a cult did not help me learn to be intuitive. Using one’s own intuition was greatly forbidden — even considered “demonic” — to trust what one gets in a dream. Yet, the scriptures talk about dreams, do they not?
Somehow, though, certain religions have “demonized” that natural process of intuition. Of course, every member was supposed to just consult with the elders for every detail of life, giving up all one’s own decision-making. Speaking for myself, I had been conditioned to not ask myself for answers, but always ask the so-called “expert” elder or some other “trained professional” or in the case of a wife, to ask her husband. Really, by doing that, I was dis-empowering myself. The more I learned about intuition, the more I realized that I would be — could be — much healthier if I could just trust myself and listen to what my body was trying to tell me! Especially now, since I know that the elders, doctors — and even some husbands — are not trustworthy. I know this because of what my life experiences have taught me.
“What? You can’t trust your elders? Doctors? Husband?” someone may ask incredulously. The examples mentioned speak for themselves. Is it not true that doctors are trained to use drugs as remedies? Yet, in reality, drugs just “mask” the symptoms, rather than “cure” an ailment. I have found that natural solutions work with my body. Natural solutions gave me a feeling of wellness. I realized that better health was within my grasp! I was onto something — so I kept going.
But, what happens when someone you know has health struggles? It is heartbreaking to hear unwelcome news like that. For example, I was once diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder by a “drug expert” that my previous husband found for me. (Another example of dis-empowerment — being trained to always “obey” your husband.) The drugs to combat the Bi-Polar Disorder were dangerously strong and gave me the “shakes” and a general feeling of “numbness” and dis-ease throughout my body. I was more like a zombie than a human being. But, as long as I was “manageable” by my husband, I suppose….
I accepted that treatment only for so long before I got a second opinion. The second doctor realized I was in a dangerous situation; 1) by being a member of a dysfunctional religious cult; and, 2) by living a drug-induced life in a dysfunctional marriage.
My family doctor found me a good therapist who supported what the second doctor suggested. She, too indicated I was depressed, without the manic states. Her diagnosis? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the familial abuse, and the “bad religion” that supported my parents’ fear-based belief system. The therapist worked with me from 1997 to 2003, helping me to examine and put into perspective my fears and traumas. Glad to say, the drug doctor, the religion, and the husband are now all ancient history.
I’m no expert, but I figure that since drugs are chemicals, the body builds up a resistance to them. The patient starts out by using a little, and it works for awhile — covering up the “symptom.” For example, the eczema seemed to heal for a short time by using creams, but then it came back on another part of my body. Is this a “real” cure? No, not at all. Pretty soon, I realized I was heading nowhere fast by using the creams prescribed by the doctor. There had to be better way. It was not until years later that I learned about gluten intolerance.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t globally believe that all husbands are bad and should not be listened to. But, do trust what you get intuitively. Your body will tell you who is trustworthy, and you will just “know.” I only wish for everyone to feel good. But I’m not at all sure that a drug doctor has the answer by suggesting drugs. How I wish women (especially) would not give their power away to some “expert.” I know that instead, the answers lie within our own “knowing” and I wish everyone would give themselves a chance to be well by listening to their own body and trusting what they get.
Realistically, though, the world allows for all kinds of thinking, not just my rather idealistic way of being.
I could write a whole lot more about how dangerous religious cults impact one’s health, but that will have to be another blog!
Feel free to read my story about migraine headaches.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2010. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The other day I watched a bright flickering light near my computer at work. I was reminded how a flickering light, or the flash of a photocopier, or even a camera at one time could bring on a migraine headache. I paused for a moment and thought about the last time I had endured a migraine. It must have been 2005.

My first migraine came on quite suddenly when I was age 12. I was walking the short path that ran from the edge of our yard through some trees to the garden on my parents’ farm in the Interlake area of Manitoba. My vision went brown, but I dared not stop walking the footpath. My father had just finished yelling at me to get out to the garden and hoe those weeds. Any hesitation in my gait would certainly be read by my father as a rebellion against his god-given authority. Surely I would have received a beating for such insubordination. So, I stumbled forward as my vision faded.

Once I got to the garden, I found my way to a nearby tree and slumped to the ground, out of my father’s range of vision. I prayed that he would not come looking for me, as I wondered what was wrong with my eyes. My vision went darker, and then I began to see bright lights flashing. I was terrified that I was going blind.

“I’m feeling sick,” I informed my younger brother assigned to work with me.

He ignored what to him must have sounded like a lame excuse to get out of gardening. “Here’s a hoe.” I held out my hand to receive the hoe, but could not see where to reach. My brother noticed the “miss” and realized I wasn’t kidding — I wasn’t a kidder.

“Wow, something really is wrong with you,” he exclaimed. Clearly, I wasn’t presenting a pathetic attempt to get out of an afternoon of hoeing weeds.

My head began to pound with searing throbs of pain that began in one eye, and then shot into the side of my head. I lay down in the dirt, feeling the rhythmic throbbing. Then came the nausea. I threw up my freshly eaten lunch: my mom’s home-made bread and purple bits of beets from her borsch.

That business being done, my brother had returned to my side. “Here,” he said. “Have some water.”

In the few minutes it took him to go to the house for some water, I could see again—between the flashing lights—and I reached for a sip of water to cool my raw burning throat. We dared not tell our father about the incident. We knew he would not take me to the doctor. Even when my brother had ripped the entire length of his shin wide open on a jagged rock while running in the ditch, my mom nursed the wound daily, morning and night without ever breathing a word to our father. The silence kept my brother safe from a beating.

After that, a migraine usually announced itself upon awakening in the morning. I was visited by the flashing lights; the brown-out vision; tingling in my tongue and arm; and the searing pain periodically from that time until 1980, when I was involved in a rear-end collision. I didn’t know until then what the diagnosis might be. After the accident, the frequency of headaches increased to about once a week. As an adult, I did have a family doctor who declared I was getting migraines. He prescribed a strong painkiller. I forgot the name of it, but it was stronger than over-the-counter painkillers. I started off by taking one or two. At first, it provided some relief. But, after a few weeks, two pills no longer worked, so I upped my dosage to three pills. Soon, the pills I was taking didn’t even phase the migraine. Before long, I was taking up to eight pills and got no relief. I would go to bed with an icepack and just try to numb the pain.

My friend Joyce told me about a reflexologist and suggested I might want to try this “natural” form of treatment.

“Anything … I’ll try anything!” I moaned, dreading my next attack.

The next time I felt the onset of a migraine I called the reflexologist. Amazingly, before the treatment was over, the migraine had subsided. The reflexologist sent me home to bed to “sleep it off,” and I didn’t argue. I slept for a long time and woke up with the usual “migraine hangover” — but I knew I had found the solution — a way to cope with the pain. After that I continued my weekly reflexology treatments. I still got migraines, but less frequently, and they were less intense, pain-wise.

I was so impressed with the reflexology treatments that I decided to take the course and become a certified reflexologist — a goal I had accomplished by 1982.

Many years later I noticed another change in the patterns of the migraines. I began seeing the warning signs — the onset — of a migraine: the flashing lights, the feeling of talking into a tunnel. What I was trying to say was often disjointed from the words that actually came out of my mouth. But the pain never came. I went from “flashing lights” to “migraine hangover.”

Many changes occurred before that day arrived; however, it became obvious to me that I was healing. I attributed the progress to the care I was learning to provide for myself. Rather than serving everyone else first, I was now looking after me. As a child, I had been taught that self-care was an act of selfishness. But, as a result of finding a good therapist who was helping me get my life back on track, I was learning a new way to live. I was off painkillers and learning to eat healthy. Thanks to my therapist, I chose to divorce my husband; I left a punishing, fear-based religious cult; and I moved to a new province, away from the prying eyes of my past friends and family members who now chose to shun me.

The flickering light at my computer passed. I did not have a “migraine hangover” either. Today, I am migraine-free! I am free in other ways, also. My life has changed radically for the better. I am regaining my health naturally, and I am grateful for this path I have chosen, even if it does have some rough spots. I know the worst is over!

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2010. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.