Alton -- A film being screened in Alton Nov. 15 claims to show the truth behind the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
The film, titled Truth Be Told, features candid interviews with former Jehovah’s Witnesses who recount tales of door-to-door proselytizing, shunning those who do not share in the faith, the suspension of critical thinking and the discouragement of the pursuit for higher education. It will be shown at the Riverbender Community Center at 6 p.m. A cocktail hour will begin at 4 p.m. until the film starts. The event is free and open to the public.
“I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my fellow classmates or consider them my friends outside of school,” former Jehovah’s Witness, John Curtright said.
Curtright is part of the social media group that brought the screening to Alton, Life After Watchtower: Ex JWs of the Greater St. Louis Area. The group claims 18 members, among them are Curtright and his friend, Brad Jarrett.
Curtright was born into the faith and remained a part of it until his mid-20s.
“I wanted to make friends, but then I said to myself ‘hey, wait, I don’t even know how to make friends,’” Curtright said.
Jarrett joined the faith with his mother when he was two years old. He remained in it for 42 years. He has been gone from it for seven years. He said he still has a son and daughter in the group and fears that he will not speak to them anymore.
Jarrett is very outspoken about the flaws in the faith. He told the Telegraph in a phone interview that, after leaving the faith, he began to see lies in their doctrines.
“They’ve done everything they can to discard their old publications,” he said.
According to Jarrett and Curtright, the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God will soon bring Armageddon to the Earth. According to the belief structure, which Jarrett said was stolen from the Seven-Day Adventists in 1914, only 144,000 souls will reach heaven. Curtright said that those left on Earth will be purged in the final days, only leaving those who are a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Earth.
“Your whole mindset is centered around this whole Armageddon happening soon,” Curtright said. “You don’t live for the long-term, you live for the short term.”
Curtright said that sort of short-term mentality is part of the reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses do not encourage students to continue to higher education. He said the other reason was because they do not want their followers gaining critical thinking skills.
“You were taught that college was not a goal and that college was a waste of time,” Curtright said.
Curtright said that getting good grades was not a high priority for him when he attended public school. He was banned from any extracurricular activities and spent most of his time outside of school doing chores, studying for Kingdom Hall meetings and going door-to-door as a missionary.
Former Jehovah’s Witness and local author, Anthony Mathenia, said he was unaware of the film, but was willing to discuss aspects of the faith with the Telegraph via email correspondence.
“JW’s have weekly training at the Kingdom Hall and at home on how to present their literature at the doors,” he said. “We were trained to overcome common ‘conversation stoppers’ like ‘I have my own religion’ or ‘I’m busy.’ Each month we would receive pitches for the current magazines or books we were distributing. Detailed records are kept of people showing interest, placements, residents who aren’t home and more. It’s very systematic.”
Mathenia has been estranged from the faith for seven years and has written a novel called Paradise Earth: Day Zero, a fictional account about a Jehovah’s Witness questioning his faith during the apocalypse.
Jarrett said that anyone who leaves or goes against the faith is to be shunned by those still in it. Jarrett and Curtwright agreed that the friends and families they left behind in the faith may never speak to them again. Mathenia echoed the same sentiment.
“It’s pretty insidious,” Mathenia said. “Your only social ties are within the JW community. So if you are disfellowshipped, or leave the faith, you lose everyone. It’s pretty traumatic to lose family, friends and loved one in one fell swoop just because you disagree with something the JW leadership teaches.”
Jarrett said the current Jehovah’s Witness leadership is preparing for something big in the near future.
“They’ve made a major swing in just the last couple months,” he said. “It’s imploding. It’s absolutely imploding at a rate I’d never thought I’d see happen.”
The Telegraph reached out to both the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Alton as well as their Office of Public Information in New York. One member in their education department forwarded any questions to the FAQ section of their website, www.jw.org.
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