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I outgrew my religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses is one of many religions full of oppressive rules which members are not allowed to question. If a member has doubts and questions, he/she is viewed as a “Doubting Thomas.” The member is then watched with suspicion, as he/she might be an “Apostate” — a heretic, an infidel, a Judas. After all, he/she might be the one bad apple that spoils the entire bushel basket. The only way to prevent “spiritual contamination” is to watch everyone. Even better, if the elders could get its members to tell on one another. And that is exactly what they do.
The religion was full of “shoulds” and “should nots.” Members were not empowered to use their own mind — everything was “group think—group speak.” They were proud of the fact that they had their own “pure language of truth.” As if every other religion speaks un-truths. The elders based it on a scripture:
"For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language…”
—Zephaniah 3:10 (NWT)
In therapy I learned that the “should” word is about rules—someone else’s rules. By the time I was “should-ed” on, I had heard the rule through many mouths. It felt reasonable to ask the questions:
- Where did the rule originate?
- What was the purpose of the rule?
- Does it apply to my life in a healthy way?
- Does it fit where I am today?
- How does the “should” rule feel in my body?
Regarding the practice of going door-to-door to convert my neighbors, I felt it would be disrespectful to think that I had some superior knowledge over what my neighbors believed. It would be disrespectful to have a friendship with my neighbors for the reason to convert them to my family’s religion. Was I really showing love to my neighbor if I thought they knew less than me about the power of god in their life? How could I possibly know what was best for someone else? What I thought could only be described as arrogant.
When I questioned the “shoulds” I knew that I would be betraying my own sense of values and principles for my life. I had outgrown those rules. I had outgrown the religion. It was none of my business what my neighbors chose to believe. It would not be fair and balanced to think I knew what was best for my neighbors.
The United States Election
Remember the USA election of 2012? With the workup to the election, I saw many religious people running for office and they were very popular for some reason. They had many rules — some very harsh ones. Militant newcomers that no one heard of before were gaining ground. If they got elected, rights and freedoms could have been tramped away by their “back to the Bible” rules for “family values” according to their standards. While many of us were “losing our religion” and “outgrowing religion” others were immersing themselves fanatically. They wanted to set up their own theocracy — rule by god. Was that really in our best interests?
"Until last spring, Jo Martin was a relatively nonpolitical Houston housewife. Today she's on the front lines of a religious war that has fractured the Republican Party. Martin, a 52-year-old mother of three, and her husband David, a stockbroker, are lifelong Republicans but hadn't been active in party politics for many years until they happened to attend a local GOP meeting last spring. They were appalled by what they found. The party apparatus had been taken over by religious activists intent on bringing "biblical principles" to government: outlawing abortion, ostracizing homosexuals, and teaching creationism in public schools, among other things. ...We honest-to-goodness felt like we had fallen through a time warp into a Nazi brown-shirt meeting," Martin said. 
San Jose Mercury News, by Jeanne Hubert writes,
"...the Coalition on Revival's agenda includes 'a call for the death penalty for abortion, adultery and unrepentant homosexuality.' " 
According to the Republican Right wing, putting their warped spin on what “god says” is in everyone’s best interests. Then comes the flashback to my own warped religious upbringing, thinking I was the best one to know what was in everyone else’s best interests. I shudder at my lack of respect which I so clearly see now, but so clearly didn’t — couldn’t — see back then. Looking back, it was presumptuous for me to think I had special knowledge that others didn’t have. My apologies, folks. I just simply didn't know any better, so I hung on tenaciously to what had been implanted in me from birth. I grew up thinking my parents knew it all, and I had to be just like them to belong to the tribe.
But I was wrong and so were they. None of us knew any better at the time. My apologies for my part of the religious ignorance.
The Tangerine Scarf
I read a book called, “The Tangerine Scarf” — a story about an Islamic Muslim woman named Khadra, raised to believe in Sharia Law. After moving to Indiana, she learned some pretty harsh lessons on her journey to moderation. Nevertheless, she learned. She was capable of learning. She allowed herself to see through the veil of blindness that religion implanted in her, figuratively speaking. On her journey to maturity, she measured her upbringing against all others and hers of course was the better one, always a bit more “superior” to anyone else. She was brown skinned, and felt just a little more superior over the black-skinned Muslims. The Indiana white men were low-down dirty “Hoosiers,” as she called them. She was so proud that her family washed their anuses after defecating. Like no one else except Islam likes to be clean back there. Narrow world view, similar to mine in its own way. I realize that people need to see the need to grow before they can actually undo the conditioning of their upbringing. The book is advertised as fiction, but it is very true-to-life for anyone learning lessons to moderate their patriarchal religious rules.
What does it take to open up the crack of doubt and peer through enough to glimpse another reality? In my case, I began taking dance lessons and ended up having an affair with my dance partner. Therein lay my moral downfall, according to the tribunal of religious elders who judged me. I had been “contaminated” by the world, and not fit to be a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses any longer. They disfellowshipped me in order to punish me and bring me back to my senses. Except that I kept going once I got out the Kingdom Hall (church) door. When I looked back I was mortified to look upon what I used to be. I made a vow to purge every last vestige of that old belief system which served no one except the religious patriarchs in the New York head office.
What is Your Truth?
We were all born with an inherent ability to think and feel for ourselves. It is called “intuition.” Thanks to religion, that natural ability has been “deadened” by rules. Thanks to religion, people are now told how to think and what to feel. I have personally been told, “You shouldn’t think like that” or “You shouldn’t feel like that.” Thinking and feeling for myself had become a mortal sin. Religious patriarchs insist on members giving their power of decision-making over to them.
I decided to take a brave look at myself in the mirror and find my own truth, rather than blindly accept some so-called “religious truth” which does not fit my life. I looked deeply into myself to find my own personal truth. In order to make this connection, I took a deep and honest look at my inner life. I was always afraid I might slip back because of religious conditioning. I began to recognize the times when I looked elsewhere for answers. By bringing myself back into my Inner Self I began to recall what I already knew — I wasn't superior to anyone. We are all human, after all. There is no need to be divided by religion. We are all ONE.
 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Revised 1984.  Scripps-Howard News Service quoted at theocracywatch.org  San Jose Mercury News by Jeanne Hubert quoted at theocracywatch.org
Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.