When you see story after story about the harms caused by religion, it’s easy to forget that many people don’t know the basics. They don’t know how much religion can take over someone’s life in ways that might seem incomprehensible.
Just look at the first lines of this piece from ABC News in Australia:
Sherrie D’Souza was 46 when she was first allowed to sing the national anthem.
Naomi Mourra was 22 when she was first allowed to celebrate her own birthday.
Both were discouraged from voting in elections for many years.
The Sydney women spent decades of their life living in a bubble where they were told what to think, say and do and the consequences for disobedience were life altering.
Sherrie and Naomi were Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Those restrictions are undoubtedly familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it’s hopefully jarring to people whose only connection to JWs are the kind people knocking on their doors every so often.
The beliefs only get worse from there:
The religion preaches that Armageddon will happen any day, wiping out the entire human race except for all Witnesses who will live forever in paradise.
Some Witnesses don’t have any superannuation or savings as they are told these will be unnecessary in “paradise” where everything will be plentiful.
We haven’t even gotten into the ban on blood transfusions…
The point is: If this is your first glimpse of what JWs believe, then you should be thinking it’s batshit crazy, and you’d be right.
The story, however, only does that incidentally. It’s actually about how people like Sherrie and Naomi broke free from that faith despite being raised in it — and what they were forced to give up in the process. It’s hard to read because it’s clear they went through a kind of personal hell, but it’s also hopeful, because they got out.
What pushed them out? For Sherrie, it was coming to terms with the sexual abuse within the faith:
She read the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual abuse and realised her religion couldn’t be true.
Naomi’s journey out was radically different:
Naomi, 43, had to extricate herself from the religion after realising that living in the closet as a gay woman forever would destroy her.
The religion condemns homosexual acts and thoughts so Naomi’s sister suggested conversion therapy but instead she decided to escape to London.
She started doing stand-up comedy there as a way to build confidence and, although she felt she was sinning, she also started embracing her sexuality.
Just incredible courage from both women, knowing full well their families would disfellowship them if they refused to accept Jehovah’s authority. Here’s hoping their stories will inspire others to follow them out the door.
(Image via Shutterstock)