My name is Hans-Peter, I was born in 1960 on the edge of the Ruhr area. I was a latecomer and grew up as an only child, my father was 52 years old when I was born.
How my parents got to Jehovah's Witnesses, I don't know myself. My earliest memory is that once a week an old couple came to the Bible study. I must have been about five years old, because I could already read (my mother taught me quite early). That was actually also quite nice, the people also responded to me and an hour in the own living room always went around fast. I also remember this old couple as good and upright people; he had been in a concentration camp for his conviction, and when my parents had arguments, which happened more often, they tried again and again to mediate and give advice.
Next thing I remember, the meetings. They took place first in our town, later in the neighbouring town. That meant getting up early on Sundays, having to put on rather uncomfortable scratchy clothes and then pilgrimaging a good hour on foot and by bus to the neighbouring town. That wasn't so bad, the two hours meeting was more like it. I mainly remember boredom, bad air and sweating people. Over time I developed different strategies to survive the time: For example, I had a string with me, which I could carefully (otherwise it was taken away from me) down to the ground and let up again. After half the time I went to the toilet. Or counting seconds: another three quarters of an hour, that's 45 x 60 seconds, that's 2700, until I've calculated that, 40 seconds are already around again, that's 2660, and so on. I didn't get any blows, I was a pretty calm child, but with other children it was common practice if they got too restless.
School wasn't really a problem for me, I was a good student and never got any pressure from home to do missionary work in school. It was even quite good to have a free lesson when the others had religious education.
But when one grows up in an environment, one accepts it as right and natural, and so with increasing age I also felt the desire to find recognition in the assembly. On Wednesdays I went to the Bible study and finally on Fridays I went to the sermon service meeting.
My mother didn't go to the meetings any more at that time, she thought it was all quite good and right, but in the end she was more interested in her work. My father went to the meeting on Sundays, but never really got involved.
Of course, I also went into ministry with other brothers. On the one hand I was convinced that I had to do this, on the other hand I always hated it. I always found it infinitely embarrassing to ring the doorbell of strangers and preach a religion to them that I myself always found strange and strange. On the other hand, somewhere I was deeply convinced that I had to go preaching.
That had quite strange effects: We always offered the people at the door the "truth" book. Now you should at least know something you're selling. But I always found it so boring that I never managed to read it myself. I then copied an introduction from other brothers, knew two or three pages to which I could refer, and that was usually enough. It was the same with "Watchtower" and "Awake".
In our meeting I was quite alone in terms of age, the next group of young people was at least 4 to 5 years older than me. Of course, as a child/young person you want to have friends and belong to a group, and so one of the outstanding experiences was when we went to the outdoor pool one afternoon with a bigger group in the afternoon, I must have been about 13 years old at that time. But it wasn't that alone, afterwards we went to a pub and I got the first beer of my life and already I had learned that alcohol is something pleasant. In retrospect, this event was the cornerstone for the fact that I lived many years hard on the verge of becoming an alcoholic, if I look at it honestly.
At the latest in the age of 13 to 14 years one is interested as a healthy boy naturally also for girls, only one has as a born witness of Jehovah in this regard actually a chance of approximately 0.0%, one does not know it only not. One has not learned to approach girls, let alone to deal with them, and all that has to do with love and sex is sin, defilement and somehow pooh anyway.
Because my isolation from the "world" but not as hermetic as with other tight witnesses, I also had some friendships at school. Among them were very nice girls, who unfortunately didn't take me seriously as a partner, but as a kind of brother and friend, and with whom I had many good conversations. During this time I was always in love with girls who were unfortunately unreachable for me. The result was constant unhappiness and thoughts of suicide. At that time I could not classify it correctly.
But now an interesting thought process began with me. It was around the year 1974 and among the witnesses it was considered as agreed that the world would end in 1975, we had not the slightest doubt about that. All people who did not belong to "God's organization" would be destroyed by him. But if the girlfriends I knew, from whom I had experienced so much love and kindness in their own way, were to be destroyed because they wore the wrong label, would that still be a world I would like to live in? The answer was no longer difficult for me.
During that time, something happened that greatly accelerated my decision to leave the Jehovah's Witnesses. In our congregation there was a girl who worked in the neighboring city, and she finally took a room or an apartment there. As it happens then, she probably had a boyfriend and became pregnant. Of course, I didn't know anything about this with my 13, 14 years, until it was announced from the stage one Sunday that Sister L. would be excluded from the fellowship.
From that day no one spoke to her anymore, although she returned to the assembly after a few weeks. No one greeted her as if she were air! Imagine that: A young girl already has problems because she's pregnant, and the only people she knows, because she's not allowed to have friendships in the "evil world", suddenly treat her like air! What a mess, what a perfidy! From then on, at the latest, the God who demanded something like this had died for me.
I then began to abseil slowly, i.e. I went less often to the meeting. At first friendly brothers and sisters asked me why I didn't come any more, then the elders appeared bit by bit, actually always very friendly in tone. At some point there came a letter, a summons to do nothing more. Of course I didn't go there and at some point the letter came with the exclusion because of "unchristian way of life".
However, the problems were far from over. I was 15, half alcoholic and basically incapable of relationships. But time went on, I did my Abi, went to Southern Germany, studied and slowly found my way back to me after many bitter experiences, but that's another story.
Years later, I had actually finished with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I had come to the conclusion that although it was a somewhat strange belief, it was up to everyone to decide for themselves what they believed.
And then came the Internet.
I found testimonials from other ex-witnesses. One told of the "spiritual food" that had always been so "edifying", but had somehow never really edified him. It was the same for others, but no one wanted to admit it! All the pointless gossip that came off the stage was completely meaningless!
Others talked about the psychic damages one experiences with Jehovah's Witnesses, and that as a rule of thumb it takes about 1 year per 2 years JW to recover halfway. And then it slowly became clear to me that I had basically had serious psychological problems with Jehovah's Witnesses during that time and afterwards, and what this sect does with people.
But what was the interest behind it? For me, the Jehovah's Witnesses were believers who believed in their cause, because it couldn't be about money, at 25 Pfennig per issue and one Mark per book, could it? Hmmm . then I came across reports from Selters, people who work without pay, without education and without any social security, and those who are thrown out of the door in the event of accidents at work, so that the evil world can take care of them. Kingdom Halls . Real estate in prime locations, built almost for free by pious brothers and sisters. If you calculate that, the financial interest is quite different!
I also came across pages reporting hidden images in the witnesses' publications, so-called subliminal images. Some things seemed a bit far-fetched, but on the whole these hidden images cannot be denied. I don't know whether these images are consciously "woven in" or not, but what is it called? "By their fruits you shall know them!" And then I realized that the WTS is practicing exactly what it always "warns" about: It conjures up demons and most evil spirits by drawing the attention of its flocks to it again and again! If you talk about something long enough, it will eventually come true: My wife had a witness as a work colleague, the poor woman told her about her nightmares about Armageddon, in which she wades through blood and body parts!
But that doesn't go far enough yet. Are there any old people sitting in Brooklyn who have deliberately conspired to shit their 6.5 million sheep? I don't think so. I think these people are puppets of the image they created as well. And this ill-tempered, vengeful, blood-soaked, choleric guy has become nothing but the "devil" to me, even the one they supposedly hate so much. If enough people share the same sick fantasy, that fantasy will eventually have a life of its own and its own reality.
Today I have been a Buddist for 30 years now and have found real peace in it for me. For others it may be different, they may find in Jesus and in the Bible what they are looking for, I have no problem with that. It is important that in everything we do, we keep our healthy judgement and our humanity and do not let ourselves be dictated by any society what we have to believe.