Joshua and Religion

Osmel Almaguer


HAVANA  TIMES, March 23 — Joshua is my friend.  He’s 22, but his face appears like that of someone who has lived a little faster than most people.  His manners reveal a constant kind of anxiety that someone who didn’t know him would confuse with dementia.

Like everybody, the causes of his present behavior are in his childhood.  At the moment he’s serving a light court sentence that obligates him to stay in the province for five years without leaving and to work in a place where, coincidentally, I also work.

No one treats him as a pariah there, because among his virtues he knows how to make himself liked.  He can be seen reading a book in any corner, which turns him into somebody with more culture than many of the specialists at the institute, something that speaks poorly of the upgrading of the latter.  At the same time, that fact teaches us that life has twisted roads that don’t always lead us to where we think we deserve.

Joshua, tell us a little about your experience with religion?

I’m the son of a man who spent more than half of his life in jail, and not exactly for political or altruistic reasons.  My mother ended up divorcing him.  Then she married my stepfather, who to me is like a true father.

During that time, some Jehovah’s Witnesses used to come to the house to preach to my mother.  Both she and my stepfather were learning from the lectures they received from the visitors.  A while later they got baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Neither I nor my brother was baptized, but we grew up under that education.  As a boy I was a little strange, because in addition to being restless, I was able to spend long periods on the roof, reading the Bible or thinking, while the rest of the family carried out normal daily life in the front room of the house.

In school I behaved poorly.  I was the leader of those who misbehaved, but I was also one of the students that got the best grades.  The teachers complained to my mother, but she didn’t know what to do to get me to act better.  I received lots of spankings and was repeatedly grounded, but nothing changed me.

Now, having grown up, I realize that my rebelliousness was in response to so much tension in my life.  I believe that’s why, when I had the opportunity to go live for a while with relatives in the town of Batabano (south of Havana) my ties with that religion broke permanently.

But weren’t there Jehovah’s Witnesses among your relatives in Batabano?

No, in fact it was just the opposite.  If they welcomed me there, it was —apart from their affection toward me— because they were against what my mother professed.  They were afraid that such an upbringing was harming me.

Did your parents let you leave easily?

Absolutely not.  I remember I’d spent vacations in Batabano before.  I’d got along fine there and I even had a girlfriend.  Whenever I had to return to Havana I was reluctant; the house was already in crisis.  I even wrote a letter to my aunt asking her to get me out of that “hell,” referring to the situation I was living in.

Things became serious.  My aunt pressured my mother, but she didn’t give in.  Then I told her that if she didn’t allow me to leave, I’d throw myself off the balcony.

Now that I think about it, I think that I really would have been capable of doing it.  My mother —afraid— requested help from the old people in her congregation.  After giving her some advice, they suggested she consult God concerning the matter and that she prays a lot.  It seems Jehovah answered her quickly, because in three days I was packing to leave.

The years I spent in Batabano changed my life.  I’d never run through an open field or known what it was to go swimming in a river; in short, it was freedom.  Nevertheless that life wound up getting boring.  The moment had come for me to return to Havana, but I wouldn’t go to my house, instead I went to my grandmother’s.  It was obvious that I didn’t want to relive the past times, but nor did I want to get into conflicts with my family.

Is that where your religious experience ended?

When returning from Batabano, I didn’t have another belief other than what I had learned since I was a little boy, though I didn’t profess it.  Nevertheless, on one occasion I entered a Christian church and they welcomed me with open arms.  There they offered me the chance to learn how to play the guitar, plus there were many pretty girls there.

I liked to get into the conversations and stir debate.  I had read the Bible often, that’s why I could question what it said.  Most of the believers had only learned how to repeat what their pastor had told them, which is why when I asked certain questions, they stood there looking like “fish in a freezer,” with their eyes wide open but seeing nothing.

Concerning the girls there, I can add you that most were far from being saints.  In fact, there was a moment when they were the sole reason I continued going to that place.

Due to the rejection of many people, I gradually started making friends from among others who —like me— were excluded.  That’s why today I known “the worst” of Old Havana.  Sometimes I would find myself in a church with people who had spent their lives pick pocketing and snatching gold chains in the streets, hiding their tattoos and scars with nice clothes.

“Brother, now I’ve found the light,” they told me, trying to talk religion with me, but I don’t like those who accept dogmas submissively.

Why do you think there are so many people, even criminals, getting into religion?

It’s a mixed bag.  It’s that one needs to believe in something.  Life is hard, and the church helps out – spiritual and materially.  But there are also others who hide their worldly sins behind a Bible.  There are still others who join because their parents are believers.  Then too there are those who use religion like a deal or a passport to leave the country.

How do you see the relationship between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest of society?

I can respond to this question through my own experience.  When I was little, some very influential things happened to me in that sense.  There are principles of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that put you at a disadvantage; for example, giving or taking blood transfusions, be it raw or plasma.

It’s supposed that a person’s soul (or an animal’s) is in its blood, which is why we shouldn’t consume the blood of another being; it would be like eating their soul.  A transfusion would be the same thing.

One of the moments that most affected me was the day I stood in the school tribune one morning wearing the pionero neckerchief.  My parents had forbidden me to do that.  I was reciting a poem and doing fine when suddenly my mother appeared.  I fell silent.  I immediately passed the microphone to the kid beside me.  That day I didn’t receive a beating or a grounding, though neither of the two would have had an effect on me.  I was already accustomed to beatings; in addition they had a limit, because after all, to increase them they would have had to have killed me.  And as for being grounded, I can tell you that it pretty much resembled my daily life anyway: locked in with no TV reading the Bible, etc.

Is that why you distanced yourself from Jehovah?

Yes, there were many things that didn’t work for me.  I believe I was left traumatized a little. There were many contradictions with the rest of society, and that created enormous tension in me that I wasn’t prepared for, given my age.

What can you tell me in terms of relationships between couple’s within the religious context?

While I was in my house I never had a girlfriend.  I remember that many classmates made fun of me in school because Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot have girlfriends.  And that was when girls were the most interested in me.  They sent me letters or told me directly, but I tried to avoid them.  Once my mother had to go to the school to ask the teachers to help me out with that matter.

When I left into the “real world,” it was more difficult for me to get a girlfriend than my friends.  By then I had become shy, and it was like starting from scratch.

Are you still a believer?

I believe that everyone has to believe in something.  It can be in God, in Yemaya, or in the sun, like the Egyptians did in antiquity.

I’ve built my own system of beliefs, which work me, because it would also be impossible for me to totally undo a doctrine instilled in me over such a long time.  Education during one’s childhood is something that leaves its marks.

Tell us about your dreams.

I want to be a successful musician.  I like the bass a lot, but when I’ve had money to buy one, I haven’t done that.  I’m sure that as soon as it’s possible I’ll buy one.  I want to gain experience in many senses…to travel, to learn about other cultures, to have lots of good friends, and a woman who wants to fulfill her dreams —or at least attempt to— together with me.

15 thoughts on “Joshua and Religion

    To Joshua, read the following scriptures and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
    James 1: 5-6
    2 Peter 3: 15-16 This is what JW’s do.
    1 John 4: 14-18
    Revelations 19: 10
    Ephesians 4:11-16

    Joshua, keep in touch and write to me.

  • NOTICE: Jehovah’s Witnesses Shills practice willful deception (LYING for GOD) it’s a protocol the Watchtower calls *theocratic warfare*.

    How so? Read back at some of these offensive post by posters who imply that they are not active JW members but “neutral” observers.

    They are lying as they are real JW who are shilling ….scientology pulls this same stunt.YES JW lie and lie and lie they just can’t seem to stop it as all they can do now is bash critics as their daffy doctrines cannot stand up to scrutiny.

    Shame same shame….

  • My grandmother became a Jehovah’s Witness and I used to beg my parents not to let her preach to me. When I became a teenager my mother explained to me why my grandmother became one and it made sense. One thing that I did learn was their definition of using the rod was not a literal rod or beating but verbal guidance as a shepherd uses to guide his sheep. If he beat them they would have run away faster than you did. I am sorry that your parents never learned to appy the bible in their lives. We all are products of our upbringing. A friend that helped me back from the bad side of the street told me that I couldn’t go on blaming everyone else for the way I turned out as I had the choice to decide what I wanted to do. That was the best advice I received, and that is what I enourage you to do is to make good choices for today and learn from their mistakes plus learn from any good decisions they made. That way you can wisely move forward instead of it dragging you down.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses do not try to cut you off from people who do think as they do. They just choose associates that feel the same way as they do about life and God. I was not raised one. I became one later in life. What attracted my attention was how vilified they are. But it is interesting that people use the word cult a lot to describe them. It’s an extremely subjective term. If you consider an organization that recommends to it’s adherents that they should encourage each other, and form close bonds with each other, and not to do so with people who do not feel like they do, I guess that’s a cult….but man that there is an awful lot of cults out there. BTW, Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily Bible Students; if you have a problem with them, just be honest and say you have a problem with the Bible, the most widely acclaimed book of all time. They can prove everything they believe from the Bible. To a lot of people, that simply won’t matter anyway.

  • Osmel: Thank you for sharing your journey and the insights gained. As some have already commented, Jehovah’s Witnesses are seen here in the U.S. as a cult! An aquaintence of mine wrote a book titled, “When Religion Becomes Evil”! Points made – 1. Claims of absolute truth 2. Blind obedience by its followers 3. When the end justifies the means 4. Declaring holy war. Authentic religion points – 1. Critical thinking and honest inquiry encouraged 2. Ongoing learning, dynamic and rational truth 3. Both means and end are important and linked 4. Declares holy peace

    Good look in following your heart and becoming a successful muscian!

  • The Watchtower has been a source of Hate Literature for over 100 years.
    Watchtower and other Jehovah’s Witness publications have been full of slanderous, half-truth, deceiving, misleading hatefilled articles and lies

  • Uh . . . In case no one has noticed, a political ideology that idolizes a man to the extent of making him infallible is a cult. A cult makes those who are its victims unable to reason and examine reality, even though that reality is so obvious that anyone ought to see it. A cult holds its victims in a kind of trace of faith, and many or most cannot break out of it.

    The attributes of a cult fit the Marxist ideology perfectly. Even though its nonsense has destroyed every revolution that has tried to implement its core economic hypothesis, the Marxists still cling to their blind faith in Marx and Marxism. The Cuban revolutionaries, right before our very eyes, are beating the dead horse of Marxism and are racing to the destruction of the Cuban Revolution. It this is not the blindness and wooden-headedness of a cult, I don’t know what is.

    We don’t have to point a finger at the JWs to illustrate a cult. We only have to take a look at the PCC and world Marxism.

  • The Watchtower Society over Jehovah’s Witnesses misteaches them; for example 1 Samuel 14:31-35 shows Saul’s men ate unBLED meat to live and God forgave them. Watchtower says many people will never die but Paul says all people sin so we all die; the Good News therefore is the resurrection hope. Joshua’s experience doesn’t sound that unusual given the false, deadly relgion his parents were misled into.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses an evolved religion invented in the late 1800s by a man who was into occultism pyramidology, numerology, and who stood on the top of a building with a white sheet waiting to be raptured. 130 years later, they are still awaiting a false hope.

  • The *CULT* of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower corporation is run by LAWYERS who have theses as show men:
    Governing Body. 12 “senile” old men……
    When my Jehovah’s Witness mother died in 1992 I did not know she had passed away until it came up in the social security database in 1993.I was completely cut off and treated as DEAD all because I was disfellowshipped for leaving JW and becoming a born again Christian.
    I was not allowed to comfort my own mother in her last days,even though I was the family anchor,with the most money,most energy who always took care of my clan.

    There is NO other group on earth not the the Taliban,not the USA prison system,not even the other notorious cults… nobody is as cruel as the JW cult!

    Think about it…

  • It seems to me that Joshua needs psychiatric assistance. His symptoms sound like ADD. Don’t blame religion. Being 22 it’s time Joshua take responsibility for his own actions. Get help Joshua.

  • Hi.
    I thought this post was very interesting!
    Do you mind my asking: What do you mean when you say that there are those “who hide their worldly sins behind a Bible”?

  • All the best to Joshua
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they try to cut you off from others who do not have the same beliefs, including family.
    The Watchtower is an oppressive cult if there ever was one!

    It’s amazing they are still around after 100 years of 100% failed prophecies. Truly amazing,that they can prompt their followers to actually go door to door with a 100% bogus message.
    Their Message is a Watchtower Gospel that,Jesus had his second coming in 1914 and they were the only ones who saw it and consequently the only hope for mankind.
    The Watchtower is a wacky Orwellian world.

  • I hope you find your dream, Joshua! Already you have travelled far. I hope that, like Rumplestiltskin of the folk-tale, you too will be able to spin the straw of everyday misery into the gold of art. I once had a friend whose parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he broke with their faith they disowned, shunned and never spoke to him again. What sort of hideous and distorted theology would break the natural bond between parent and child?! In the end, he was forever locked into the role of a professional apostate; he never really went on with his life. It sounds like Joshua will have a more positive outcome.

Comments are closed.