UPDATE: I'm calling it a day and wrapping it up now. Thank you so much for all your questions and the great discussions. This was really interesting for me! I appreciate the chance /r/IAmA gave me and appreciate everyone joining in. If you have any further questions I will still be checking for questions now and again, but feel free to visit "us" at /r/exjw and pose any question there. We're a welcoming community :)

Hi all, I'm Misha Verollet and during my AMA on /r/CasualIAMA I got a number of requests to do one here as well. So if you're interested, feel free to AMA!

I was born into the Jehovah's Witness organization. My parents were missionaries in several countries. My uncle and aunt work at the German HQ ("Bethel"). My father was an elder and celebrity speaker in the english-speaking circuit in Germany. My career path was set out and I was on track to becoming a Ministerial Servant and Elder someday myself – but after growing doubts, depression and the nagging feeling that I didn't fit in and wasn't able to uphold the requirements, I committed a sin and was disfellowshipped. That was sixteen years ago. I am 36 now and live in Vienna.

I've created a short, four minute walking simulator in 8bit about being a teenage Jehovah's Witness which has resonated well among the EXJW community here on reddit (/r/exjw).

You can play it here: JEHOVAH'S WITNESS SIMULATOR 2018 -> https://m3g1dd0.itch.io/jwsim2018

I published a non-fiction book / memoir about Jehovah's Witnesses and my experiences in the cult three years ago. A few weeks back, Jehovah's Witnesses decided to finally sue my publisher – you can find all the information on the lawsuit here: http://jwsurvey.org/news/goodbye-jehovah-hello-courtroom-watchtower-brings-lawsuit-publishing-company

I am part of a network of EXJW activists and I am happy to answer any of your questions on Jehovah's Witnesses. Please also visit /r/exjw!

My Proof: My username /u/JWAlumni is based on my former EXJW website JW Alumni, which now is called https://cult101com.wordpress.com/about/ and I've also put up a page on my official homepage to verify: http://misha.wtf/IamA

Also, I published the walking simulator as m3g1dd0, which is also my Twitter-Handle http://twitter.com/m3g1dd0

EDIT: I've tried to catch up with as many questions as possible that came in over night. I will be looking into this IAmA the whole day, so if you didn't have the chance to get your question in yet, give it another try :)

Comments: 2109 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

JediLibrarian1193 karma

I don't mind JWs knocking on my door, but I'm always bothered that they have younger children in tow (boys in their early teens). I know the JW position on post-secondary education, that it's pointless given the incoming end of the world, but I want to do something to instill the idea that education matters. How would you suggest I do this?

The last time they knocked, the witness asked me about my interpretation of a scripture from Isaiah (I think it was 11:9). I answered honestly, then asked him about his interpretation of Isaiah 14:12. I asked him if he thought it referred to Sargon II, some other ancient king, or Lucifer. I asked him if he's ever studied Ancient History, like the tribes and gods discussed in The Bible. He got uncomfortable and left.

I hope the boys listening got something out of it, but wonder if there's something more effective I could do.

JWAlumni844 karma

That is actually a tough question. I love your intentions, and the way you handled it is quite good and subtle. I would advise to continue down that path, because a direct confrontation would probably set them off completely.

And yes, I agree, they are destroying a whole generation of young men and women. Over at /r/exjw there are so many tragic accounts of young people who gave up every possibility of higher education or another kind of career to serve. It's heartbreaking.

sa-to-ri815 karma

My brother has JW friends coming round once a week and recently he told me that he doesn't celebrate birthdays and other holidays anymore. I found this alarming but couldn't figure out why because his JW friends from the little interactions I have had would them appear to be normal. My brother is 21, unemployed and has little direction to his life so I guess I fear indoctrination, but I don't know what this indoctrination would consist of. Do I have any grounds to be worried?

JWAlumni814 karma

Yeah, please take care. That's the kind of profile they like to prowl upon. Watch out for lovebombing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_bombing#Margaret_Singer and him being invited to casual gatherings, later meetings.

throughmyiiiiis339 karma

My team leader had this happen to him and he fell for it hook line and sinker. His wife is jw and he wasn't until he was pressured into joining and went to the casual gatherings and started going heavily to meetings.. the indoctrination of his children was the sadest thing to witness besides him falling for the jw trap.

JWAlumni144 karma

That is sad. Sorry to hear that.

Pbart5195720 karma

What was it like growing up and not celebrating holidays? Birthdays etc.

JWAlumni1597 karma

I can only speak for myself (but I've heard other EXJW echoing this sentiment): I hated it, for two reasons.

1) I felt like an outcast at school. I was lucky to have classmates that didn't bully me at school for being a JW, so there was mainly pity. But of course you felt stupid when you were the only one not congratulating someone on their birthday. You stood with the rest of the class silent while they sang the song. And when I had birthdays I politely thanked them for their well-wishing, but I wasn't really allowed to accept it. It also meant that I was neither allowed to attend a birthday party nor host one myself.

2) Especially Christmas was tough because I knew I would be returning to school and everybody would be talking about the presents they got. Although I had loving parents I always felt like a dick on Christmas eve knowing what was going on in other families. I loved Christmas as a kid because of all the lights and the glitter and stuff. Now, I love celebrating Christmas with my girlfriend. We always get a tree and make a big deal of Christmas :)

ericZZZZ56 karma

Glad to hear you’re making the best of things now!

JWAlumni72 karma

Thank you. it's been a long road, but I'm glad I took it.

Jim105558 karma

Any advice for getting JW to stop approaching me or ringing my door bell?

JWAlumni1137 karma

This really depends on the country, I guess. If you're in the US you have much more freedom to restrict people entering your property. But here's something you could do: The next time JWs call at your door, open and tell them to make a note that you do not wish to be called again, and they should make sure you are not called at again, otherwise you will call the police. Make a note yourself of time and date, ask for their names (they won't give it to you but it will illustrate the gravity of your request). This should normally help because we were advised not to call at people who had firmly asked not be called anymore.

TheGravespawn690 karma

You might enjoy how my friend made them stop.

He came to the door in his bathrobe. In his arms was a frozen chicken he pulled out of the freezer, and he held it like a child, stroking the chicken breast.

He listened intently to what they had to say, never breaking eye contact while he rubbed the chicken until they got uncomfortable and asked if this was a bad time.

He spanked the chicken and asked if they wanted to know it's name. They declined and walked off, to which he yelled at them "HIS NAME IS BOB!"

They never returned.

JWAlumni307 karma

This is hilarious. Love it. They will have been talking about this for ages following the episode.

Kodiak01173 karma

The last time I encountered JW at my door was ~1996. Instead of telling them to shove off, decided to go all Charlton Heston-meets-Tony Robbins. Invited them in enthusiastically, sat them down on my couch, then proceeded to give a several-minute over-energetic spiel about the dangers of firearm confiscation that politicians were pushing that would have made Billy Mays sound like Eeyore.

It wasn't long before they realized the level of crazy they walked into as they kept looking sideways at the door while trying to stay polite and get a word in edgewise about their own purpose for the visit. By the end, I actually got them to sign postcards protesting the proposed laws to mail to the Legislature followed by a beeline to the door.

They don't visit me anymore... Such a pity, as for the longest time I had a full Pastafarian routine prepared, to the point of leaving a colander on a hook by the door.

JWAlumni62 karma

Amazing story. You can be sure they will be telling their brothers and sisters about this experience till today.

SemolaHero547 karma

What was the sin you were excommunicated for?

JWAlumni1543 karma

I could have just told the Elders that I didn't want to be a Jehovah's Witness anymore, but that would've meant openly saying that I am not a Jehovah's Witness anymore, and I didn't have the courage. I knew that me being disfellowshipped would break the hearts of my parents no matter what, but I knew also that having a son being an unbeliever, not only a sinner, would've killed them. So I committed the sin of "fornication", ie. sleeping with a woman I wasn't married to. I had to stand in front of judicial committee (a tribunal of local Elders), confess to my sin and then refused to repent – therefore I was disfellowshipped and have been shunned ever since by family and friends. Committing a sin is something that can happen, and at that point I wasn't even sure I wouldn't return some day.

Disclosure: I edited the comment after other EXJW rightfully pointed out that my comments on apostasy were misleading. I have edited the comment to clarify this. Thank you!

stevenisslick1446 karma

At least you got laid.

JWAlumni1752 karma

Yeah, it wasn't all bad.

slipperylips309 karma

The part that disgusts me the most about organized religion in general and cults in particular is the idea that you can be permanently cut off from family and friends by rules set out by the leaders who really don't love you and care about you. Are they God? Did they create the Universe? Who the fuck do they think they are? Really man.

JWAlumni369 karma

I agree. Apart from their fucked up child abuse policy and the no blood stance, this is my major issue with the org. I am an atheist now but my standpoint is: Believe in what you want as long as you don't hurt anyone. But shunning hurts. It leads to depression, anxiety, broken families, sometimes even murder and suicide. If this topic interests you, I recommend this interesting paper on the subject: https://www.academia.edu/34654607/A_LOVING_PROVISION_HOW_FORMER_JEHOVAHS_WITNESSES_EXPERIENCE_SHUNNING_PRACTICES

Loves2watch203 karma

My best friend was a practicing witness for many years. He told that they have playbooks on how to talk to people of other religions to point out mistakes in their doctrine to get them to convert. Is that true?

JWAlumni274 karma

Yes, this is true. One book is "Reasoning from the Scriptures". They also have or had brochures for talking to Muslims. They are quite fit in that field.

BountyBob129 karma

Isn't refusing to repent effectively the same as you saying that you didn't want to be a witness any more? By not repenting the only outcome is not being a witness any more, or am I missing something?

JWAlumni277 karma

Yes, it was my desired outcome. The difference is that I did not commit the unforgivable sin of rebelling against the teachings of the Governing Body. So while the outcome was the same, for them I was just a sheep led astray with hope remaining I may come back like the prodigal son.

kayisneato49 karma

Kind of seems like with your publication and how outspoken you are now they’d consider you an apostate regardless at this point.

JWAlumni106 karma

Yes. I know I am considered an enemy of the state.

GunnieGraves88 karma

I guess you could say you went out....with a bang.

JWAlumni35 karma

Hahaha love it.

hydenzeke67 karma

Was it free or did you hire "professional" service?

JWAlumni197 karma

Good question, and quite a valid one. As a young JW you have a totally distorted viewpoint when it comes to dating (or "courting", as they call it). So you really have no fucking clue how to deal with stuff like that. But in my case I got lucky with a work mate who somehow liked me. We were together for a month or two.

eyeAmWaves127 karma

Former JW here. This is so relatable. How has your experience with sex and dating been since you left the organization? I've found that I carry around a lot more baggage than I thought I would when I left. I found it hard to jump into the dating scene in my early 20s when I felt like I lacked the proper socialization with members of the opposite sex during my formative years, which has led me to have a complicated relationship with my own sexuality. Thoughts?

JWAlumni122 karma

Same with me. It's still a challenge. Sexuality will never be easy for me.

hydenzeke5 karma

If the work mate didn't happen, how long do you think you would play the field before going to a professional - or would you have chosen a different path/sin?

JWAlumni17 karma

Not really sure, hard to say in retrospect. I can imagine myself going to a professional. But as I had tried to kill myself once before, I might have also committed suicide.

NachoLawbre49 karma

That's really shitty. I'd like to think that I wouldn't want to have anything to do with my family or friends if they'd want to cut ties with me over something like this, but I know it's not that simple.

JWAlumni123 karma

Yes, that's it. I often consider cutting ties myself, but my girlfriend rightly reminds me that they're the only parents I've got and they're victims of the cult as much as I am.

shakeitallaboutput19 karma

I've left and had absolutely no problems with being viewed as Apostate. In fact, neither has anyone else I know that's left. Seems like quite the exaggeration, I can't lie. Glad you're making a new life for yourself and all.

JWAlumni49 karma

Yes, I am a happy apostate now as well, but back then I was scared enough telling my parents I am being disfellowshipped. But they know I am an apostate now.

klousGT15 karma


JWAlumni22 karma

I am not exactly sure what this means?


How tf do I politely tell JW's that I am in the middle of fortnite and really cannot stay to talk? I'm acc being serious btw.

xammy0171 karma

Be polite, tell them you are in a rush but would be happy to take one of their pamphlets to look over. They will be satisfied and leave.

JWAlumni341 karma

Or, if they're youth, they might even want to sit in and watch or even join. You'd be doing them a favor, probably, as they could count the time.

alohahoja294 karma

How do Jehova's deal with actual bad apples? If there was an accusation of sexual assault/innapropriate behavior against an elder, or a member, do they have processes?

JWAlumni387 karma

When it comes to child abuse, they are only told to report it to the authorities if the state they are in makes it mandatory. Visit https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/religious-institutions and scroll down to "Jehovah's Witnesses", and you'll discover what the Australian Royal Commission found out about the way JW handle child abuse.

jasonswifey09277 karma

I had a boyfriend in high school who was a JW (oh yes, he was in trouble for that...). His parents were nice enough to overlook our relationship for the time we were together, but towards the end he was "strongly discouraged" from dating me any further. I think one thing going for him was that his mother had stopped going to meetings but had not formally denounced the religion. What repercussions would you have faced if you had simply started ignoring them? I am often curious how she got away with it.

That said, I am very sorry that you can no longer speak to your parents, but happy for you for finding a way out ;-) he and I retained communication until he mysteriously got married very quickly and suddenly disappeared from every avenue of communication we had. I do miss him (not romantically) since he was one of my best friends post-breakup.

JWAlumni279 karma

Interesting story. I can relate, because I was the other guy when I was 17, 18. I had a "worldly girlfriend" in secret. We dated for about a year. My mother, who is quite fanatic, found out, but chose not to say anything. She asked me whether we slept together, which I truthfully could deny (we only did petting haha), but didn't say more, I guess out of fear of alienating me and losing me altogether. She probably hoped it would phase out and phase out it did when my girlfriend thought I would be nice if we could have Sex, and I agreed, but didn't have enough courage to do so. We talked about marrying, but she said she would never become a Witness and I knew it wouldn't work then (funny in retrospect because two years later I was out anyway).

In your case, his mother is what they call "inactive". That wasn't such a big deal a while ago but now they're encouraging members to shun those who are inactive as well...

ionab10245 karma

What was your breaking point?

JWAlumni530 karma

It was a set of breaking points, but it basically came down to realizing I couldn't do the whole grind anymore and a life in short-term freedom plus death at armageddon would be better than being caged in until armageddon and then dying anyway because God could read my thoughts.

My doubts regarding belief came much later.

inyou329220 karma

I live across the street from a JW.org Church. Why do they never shovel snow off their damn sidewalks?

JWAlumni287 karma

That is quite interesting, actually, because in my congregation we were encouraged to keep everything tidy to show we're exemplary.

inyou32998 karma

It is actually quite annoying. I have the luxury of walking to work everyday, and theirs is the largest lot on the sidewalk, but it is never shovelled.

JWAlumni178 karma

Sounds like shit, man. sorry to hear about that. How about faking an accident and suing their arse off?

StandWithHillary2016168 karma

What makes you define Jehovah Witnesses as a "cult"? I am not disagreeing but Im interested in finding out how you reached this conclusion. Could you elaborate?

JWAlumni399 karma

Jehovah’s Witnesses and their organization JW.org (formerly known as Watchtower Society) would contest this claim – and they do so in their FAQ. But their line of argument – basically leaning on a Strawman Fallacy – is pretty thin and willfully omits signs everyone should consider when trying to answer the question whether one is a member of a cult.

A common definition – “an ideological organization held together by charismatic relations and demanding total commitment” – obviously applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it also could apply to Apple Inc., if you are trying to be funny. That’s why we have to dig deeper.

Mike Bickle created a list of seven ways to recognize the difference between a religious community and a cult:

  • Opposing critical thinking
  • Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving
  • Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture
  • Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders
  • Dishonoring the family unit
  • Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership)
  • Separation from the Church

In an article, I applied these seven signs one-by-one to JW.org with the aid of their own literature to find out whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult – so it's basically straight from the horses' mouth https://cult101com.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/are-jehovahs-witnesses-a-cult/

I hope this sufficiently answers your question!

xammy0149 karma

I have encountered many JWs in the past while traveling. They have all been extremely friendly and always try to start a conversation, but within minutes they bring up jw.org and start talking about how JWs have more and better translations of the Bible and how I should really check it out etc. I just smile and agree. Are all JWs like this? Why do you think this is so common in my experience? What drives them to want to spread their beliefs so much?

JWAlumni159 karma

They are driven by fear of not living up to God's expectations (or rather the expectations of the leadership). There may be a percentage that genuinely wants to help as many people as possible know about their message but my guess would be that may do it out of a sense of duty and guilt. Personally, I tried to avoid "informal witnessing" (that's what they call what you experienced) but my dad did it a lot, and I know of others. But I knew many who just did their rounds on the weekends to get the hours in and never talked about the message in their spare time.

shouldiworryx128 karma

Do you have any faith at all? My German friends told me they thought any kind of church even the Evangelische were all cults. Do people around you or do you feel that way personally?

JWAlumni207 karma

No, I am atheist now. As far as I know not many people consider protestants to be a cult (aside from radical catholics maybe). Many EXJW convert to a different christian denomination when they leave, others become non-religious, some agnostic, some atheist.

thegeekybaker103 karma

Have you tried to convince your parents to leave as well?

JWAlumni198 karma

No. I know I wouldn't stand a chance – they're fanatic. Plus they're over seventy. We now have an on-and-off email relationship. The moment I'd start trying to convince them to leave they'd never speak to me at all again.

BreadPudding12485 karma

What are your feelings toward the bible now?

JWAlumni154 karma

Well, it's an interesting book, but I do not believe it's an inspired book or something like that (I am an atheist).

BlockWhisperer54 karma

Do you have any faith?

I ask as a lifelong atheist who found faith in Jesus some months ago. I know JW is far from Christianity, and am curious.

JWAlumni59 karma

The other way around with me: I am now an atheist. May I ask how it came that you became a Christian? BTW: Jehovah's Witnesses would disagree – they believe they are the only true Christians.

mrbubblesisalie51 karma

Hi, thank you for doing this AMA. I'm awfully late to this so I don't really expect to be answered, but my grandma and grandpa are both Jehovah's Witnesses but they are also one of the happiest, most loving people I've ever known.

They're very active in the community, know that I am an atheist and have never judged me in any way, and used to buy me presents for my birthday and Christmas with a card saying "These are because I love you and no other reason".

A part of the reason why I'm not so judgemental against them is because my grandma has lost 3 sons and het ex husband shot himself in front of her. One uncle died in a car accident, the other choked on his tongue when he was little, and my uncle shot himself in the head two years ago. My dad is her only remaining son. Her sister was also brutally murdered several years ago. I honestly believe that if it weren't for her religion, she would have given up on life by now. But all these tragedies have pushed her deeper into the community and she still smiled and helps others as much as she is able to.

So my question is this: are there others like her? Is she technically sinning against her religion or have they become more lenient as we grow into a modern age. I know she's a part of one of the world's most hated cults/religion, but I can't help but not blame her.

JWAlumni46 karma

First up: WOW! What an incredible story! That sounds like John Irving material! Have you thought about penning a book on that?

Regarding your question: Yes, I know many like her. It's basically their community now, their circle of friends, a family. Even if they're not completely convinced or aren't really into everything, they feel loved and needed. I understand her. At this point there is no reason she should leave. She sounds like an incredible person.

OhShitSonSon44 karma

How does not celebrating Christmas or typical Holidays effect these teens?

JWAlumni91 karma

I think many, like me, are embarrassed and miss being able to do it. One feels like an outcast.

Anonymous_Redditor6633 karma

Growing up as as Jehovah’s Witness I assume you would not have celebrated birthdays, Christmas, etc. As a child how did it make you feel?

JWAlumni49 karma

I hated it. For one, I had the feeling of missing out. And it was embarrassing, to say the least.

snarkacity17 karma

Do you find yourself struggling to get over certain things that had been engrained in you at a young age, or did you for a while?

(Example: I’m ex-Mormon, and I struggled with guilt about sex for years after I left the church, even though I no longer believed it was a sin.)

JWAlumni16 karma

Yes, same here. Sexual guilt was something. Fear of demons and the occult. Fear of the dark. Fear of armageddon. I used to be pretty homophobic and sexist, that was something I had to overcome as well.

sw1ff22 karma

so.. what did you think of the calamity that fell from the sky?? jenova right?

JWAlumni1 karma

It's always Jehovah, mate.