Duane Magnani, 2014
I have extensive personal experience with the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses as I lived the lifestyle of a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents from age 5 to 16 and briefly as an adult in the year of 1974. For many years, I testified in court regarding the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, much of what I have personally experienced. I also experienced these practices with hundreds of other Jehovah’s Witness children and adults.
While growing up as a JW child, I was being constantly trained to believe that personal friendships with non-JW children were totally undesirable and unnecessary because these kids were actually termed “bad associations”. Therefore, when I won a county track meet, my JW parents and their friends were greatly upset about that and instructed me not to engage in extracurricular sports with those I considered to be nice kids. In fact, I was told to actually “hate” those non-JW kids by avoiding them.
This constant training to modify my desire to engage in my favorite sports and to replace it with serving Jehovah by knocking on doors, made me very depressed. Even though my parents were heavily engaged in the JW lifestyle, I really didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness. The lifestyle requirements and the meeting attendance was extremely boring and even though I wasn’t willing to announce that to anyone, I put off being baptized until age 16. Shortly after this, I emotionally crumbled and informed my family that I couldn’t live the lifestyle anymore.
My voluntary disassociation from the JW organization was very alarming to my parents and they responded harshly. I was told that I must rethink my decision and serve Jehovah or I would not be allowed to sleep in my bedroom anymore, but rather, only in the basement of the house. I chose the second option. And during this time I constantly heard that even though my long-time Jehovah’s Witnesses friends were concerned about me, they must shun me until I changed my mind and came back into the “truth”. And if I didn’t, not only would I be cut off from Jehovah, but shortly from life itself—since Armageddon was coming soon! At that time, I decided that I’d rather die (hopefully not too soon) than go back into a lifestyle that greatly depressed me.
In the 1960’s, during the time of the Vietnam war, there was compulsory military service. I had to make a decision to stand with the law of our country or follow the instruction of the Watchtower Society and therefore refuse to defend our country. It was an easy decision. I joined the U. S. Air Force. Over the next few years, I made my first true friends and greatly enjoyed the new lifestyle. One of my best friends was going to pursue law school and the more we chatted about it, the more I personally got interested in a potential career as an attorney. Frankly, all I wanted to do was to have an interesting lifestyle and make some good money!
After leaving the Air Force, I developed a plan to accomplish my career goal. Again, I made many new friends and was making good progress in my business plan. At the same time, I was greatly enjoying the process by also attending college and doing very well. Of course, my parents were not supportive of a college education, even for active Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower Society instructs against a university education due to their concern about bad people (“bad associations”)—non-JWs. Furthermore, those who receive post-high school education might well miss some the JW meetings and especially spend less time in Jehovah’s service.
During my life as a child of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had constantly been instructed that there definitely would be no real good future in “worldly careers”, due to the nearness of the end of the world (Armageddon). Therefore, it was essential for me to make ministry the key priority in my life. Sadly, even though I didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness and had left the religion, this teaching had not left my mind. I still believed it. In fact, I was still fully brainwashed in the belief that Jehovah didn’t want me to pursue higher education that could lead to a successful in this evil world.
A couple of years after I had disassociated myself, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were very excited about a book entitled: Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God. The major reason for their excitement was that the book presented the claim that Armageddon was so very close. A chart in the book declared that 6,000 years of man’s existence would end in the year 1975. Therefore, the organization made the claim that most people alive in the late 1960’s would be alive at Armageddon. The BIG question for Jehovah’s Witnesses became: “Why are YOU looking forward to 1975?”
Sadly, even though I didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness, I hadn’t rejected any of their teachings as false teachings. And that is why I still accepted their teaching on Armageddon. I certainly believed that only those who are truly living the lifestyle of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses may survive Armageddon. And because of that brainwashing, something the Watchtower organization proclaimed changed my life. Armageddon was coming TOO SOON! In 1973 my parents contacted me and told me that I had about 18 months before Jehovah was going to kill me. Yes, I was warned that Jehovah was going to end this world in 1975. I reacted in a way I never would have expected. Even though I was close to completing my higher education and then going on to law school, I made the choice to quit my university and go back to being a Jehovah’s Witness.
I decided to marry my girl friend who was also being brainwashed into the Watchtower cult. We then decided to talk to my brother who had been even more resistant to the JW lifestyle. He had essentially left the cult at age 12! Naturally, we were concerned for him and his wife. We didn’t want them destroyed in a just few months. My brother’s wife was totally upset. She believed that we were truly in a dangerous cult and didn’t want her family affected. So, she took some strong action to protect them. She contacted Bill Cetnar, a former Jehovah’s Witness who had been very active in working at the Watchtower Society’s world headquarters in New York. Now this man was very active in helping JWs to see that they were being lied to by the very organization that they believed was the “truth”.
I was given an interesting proposition: If I was willing to listen to what Bill Cetnar says about the teachings of the Watchtower Society, I then could talk to my brother about coming back into Jehovah’s Witnesses. I thought that was a good deal. I was interested in talking to him because I was absolutely certain that he was wrong and that would be evident in our conversation. Then, I could talk my brother into coming back into the “truth”!
As someone who was presently totally ignorant of the historic teachings in the JW literature, I had a lot to learn. One of the key issues was that the organization was fully responsible for encouraging Jehovah’s Witnesses to think about a SPECIFIC date for the End of the world—leading them to neglect things that they otherwise would have cared for. Until my wake up call, I had certainly continued to be a believer in the Watchtower organization’s instruction that Jesus was invisibly present since the year 1914. The organization declared that this was the very year of the birth of God’s heavenly kingdom and the beginning of the last days of this wicked system of things. What didn’t I know? I didn’t know the very history of the Society’s teaching on this key prophecy. Interestingly, I was totally ignorant that this date was certainly the most important historic FALSE prophecy.
Among the many shocking issues that Bill mentioned about 1914, and that I later learned from my own research into the JW literature, is that the “Kingdom of God” would be fully established in that year. During the time of the Watchtower Society’s founder Charles Taze Russell and even after his death, JWs were being instructed that not only would Armageddon be accomplished by 1914 but that it was presently in progress! In fact, according to the JW leadership, in 1916 they claimed that “our eyes of understanding” should clearly see that this was happening. Shortly after finally leaving the cult, I wrote a book entitled: “Eyes of Understanding”. In the first three pages I documented that the JW leadership claims to be God’s “prophet” and that they stated that the only way to prove that is to review their record! I certainly did a lot of that. Regarding 1914, for me the key point was their claim that their Jehovah published his own prediction about 1914 in the Watchtower magazine. Bill used this fact to lead me out of the cult on the very first day that he talked to me.
I wanted to ask this Jehovah: “What did you know and when did you know it?” One of the key issues that encouraged my research into the Watchtower cult is the obvious fact that the God of Jehovah’s Witnesses is extremely ignorant of the future! Not only that but the organization claims he is precluded from beholding what is actually happening on earth. The only way he learns about earthly events is by being periodically informed by his angels. Following my research on this subject, I wrote a book about the dumb god of the JWs called “The Heavenly Weatherman”.
After leaving the JW cult, my interest in their teachings intensified. I wanted to help those truth-loving JWs who were following the Watchtower to truly AWAKE! Therefore, from 1975 until 2014, I was Director of Witness Inc., a comparative religion research organization, specializing in the sociological, historical and doctrinal teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Witness Inc. became the largest organization of its type in the field of anti-cult activity.
By way of research, I authored thirty published books and manuals and produced three popular videos and numerous shorter studies on the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses, from the sociological, historical and doctrinal perspectives. Included in my writing are three books specifically on the topic of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ children, two of which involve their lifestyle and involvement in custody cases. One of these books is entitled Refutation of Preparing for Child Custody Cases. This book was in response to the strategy manual, Preparing for Child Custody Cases, written by attorneys for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the headquarters for the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That manual (along with others) was written, in part, in an attempt to undermine my court testimony.
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