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Amber Scorah s memoir about leaving one of the most controlling and restrictive of religious organizations, the Jehovah s Witnesses a movement that Canadian academic M James Penton characterizes as alienated from the world and hostile to society in general appears to have grown out of an article published in the American bimonthly magazine The Believer Ironically, it was Scorah s travelling with her Jehovah s Witness husband as a missionary pioneer to China, the largest totalitarian country in the world, that allowed her to escape the extreme, end of days religious sect and her moribund marriage Jehovah s Witnesses are banned in China In order for members to operate there, the organization s normally rigid structures and dictates e.g., thrice weekly meetings have to be relaxed Witnesses must function under the radar of the government They must first form worldly friendships with Chinese citizens, slyly sussing out early on whether or not potential converts are connected to the communist party If no government connections are detected, JW preachers can then proceed to a toned down version of proselytization than is typically conducted in North America.Apparently linguistically gifted, Scorah seems to have caught on to Mandarin easily than most Prior to moving to Shanghai, she and her husband spent three years in Taiwan, attending language classes there Witnesses are firmly opposed to higher education Armageddon is on the horizon, so what s the point of going to school Learning only makes a person worldly it bloats one s sense of self More importantly, attending college or university exposes young people to dangerous views contrary to the faith, and equips them with the intellectual tools to begin asking questions In this regard, Scorah is initially a typical Witness With no post secondary experience or specialized training, she is poorly equipped for employment of any sort As many Witnesses in foreign countries do, she sets herself up as a teacher of English Subsequently and somewhat surprisingly, she manages to get a job delivering a weekly podcast for foreigners who want to better understand Chinese ways A listener in California, Jonathan, begins messaging her as a result of her work, and an online friendship and flirtation develops Jonathan eventually learns of Scorah s religion and challenges her about it on a daily basis, gradually eroding her faith and a lifetime of programming As she begins the process of leaving the Witness , Scorah holds on tightly to Jonathan, seemingly her only friend in the larger world She believes her relationship with him will provide a route out of the Witness life Not surprisingly, he makes himself increasingly unavailable.Scorah describes the attempts of Witness elders stationed in Shanghai to intervene and set her straight She tells about their exhortations to her to pray and repent, and about the threat of being disfellowshipped excluded from the fold Her experience of being shunned is mentioned, though not in much detail, as is her fear of being deemed an apostate one who has rebelled against Jehovah God Apostasy, she writes, is the worst of all sins, the only one for which there is no forgiveness possible In spite of this and her lack of an exit plan, she feels an unrelenting low electrical current buzzing behind her panic the persistent, unsettling hum of the thought that we were all wrong It wasn t the truth Alarming as this inner sense is, it keeps her going As the title of the memoir suggests, this is a story about leaving and finding another way of living The book gives only a sketchy, impressionistic sense of what it was like for Scorah to grow up within the religion Lloyd Evans s memoir, The Reluctant Apostate provides a informative and comprehensive treatment of that experience Although Scorah was a third generation Jehovah s Witness, in many ways, her upbringing within the sect was not typical Her parents were, for the most part, inactive in the movement, mainly because of her father s alcoholism and reluctance to engage socially He died from alcohol abuse related organ failure at the age of 47 Scorah s practising JW grandmother had stepped in to save Amber and her siblings from succumbing to the temptations of the world These interventions are mentioned in passing by the author However, the details of childhood and youth are not the author s focus I ll admit to being somewhat disappointed by this Scorah spends some time documenting the hard psychological work involved in redefining oneself after rejecting a rigid religious ideology upon which one s identity has been based Her treatment of the practical aspects of making her own way in the world moving to New York, finding a place to live, gaining employment and a formal education, making friends, having a relationship and a child is rather rushed and superficial.Scorah chooses to end her memoir by describing a tragedy that befalls her out of the blue randomly as tragedies so often do All her challenges to this point the loss of a religion, a marriage, family, friends have been met with a kind of fierce determination, a drive to survive But now, she must grapple with an experience that knocks the stuffing out of her What she learns about the cost of being raised on myths is that it makes it impossible to deceive oneself any She writes I begin to understand why people concocted ideas about life and death I now know what dread we were all trying to avoid, with our cults and religions Even those with no religion we were all hiding, indoctrinated, embedded with ideas about how we must be and must live to impose order on the disorder only the upheavals, the blindsides, the tragedies discompose us enough to investigate just how much the environment in which we find ourselves has created the way we see the world It is a struggle to see the truth through our indoctrination, to verify the stories told to us by the culture we have been born into, or have chosen. With its unusual Shanghainese setting and observations about Chinese culture and customs, Leaving the Witness makes for an interesting reading experience It is an important testimony about what it means to break away from an oppressive and controlling religious cult.Rating 3.5 (((FREE PDF))) ↚ Leaving the Witness ✖ A Riveting Memoir Of Losing Faith And Finding Freedom While A Covert Missionary In One Of The World S Most Restrictive CountriesA Third Generation Jehovah S Witness, Amber Scorah Had Devoted Her Life To Sounding God S Warning Of Impending Armageddon She Volunteered To Take The Message To China, Where The Preaching She Did Was Illegal And Could Result In Her Expulsion Or Worse Here, She Had Some Distance From Her Community For The First Time Immersion In A Foreign Language And Culture And A Whole New Way Of Thinking Turned Her World Upside Down, And Eventually Led Her To Lose All That She Had Been Sure Was TrueAs A Proselytizer In Shanghai, Using Fake Names And Secret Codes To Evade The Authorities Notice, Scorah Discreetly Looked For Targets In Public Parks And Stores To Support Herself, She Found Work At A Chinese Language Learning Podcast, Hiding Her Real Purpose From Her Coworkers Now With A Creative Outlet, Getting To Know Worldly People For The First Time, She Began To Understand That There Were Other Ways Of Seeing The World And Living A Fulfilling Life When One Of These Relationships Became An Escape Hatch, Scorah S Loss Of Faith Culminated In Her Own Personal Apocalypse, The Only Kind Of Ending Possible For A Jehovah S WitnessShunned By Family And Friends As An Apostate, Scorah Was Alone In Shanghai And Thrown Into A World She Had Only Known From The Periphery With No Education Or Support System A Coming Of Age Story Of A Woman Already In Her Thirties, This Unforgettable Memoir Examines What It S Like To Start One S Life Over Again With An Entirely New Identity It Follows Scorah To New York City, Where A Personal Tragedy Forces Her To Look For New Ways To Find Meaning In The Absence Of Religion With Compelling, Spare Prose, Leaving The Witness Traces The Bittersweet Process Of Starting Over, When Everything One S Life Was Built Around Is Gone Never would have guessed that in a book about Jehovah s Witnesses that I would also find a mini historical look back at the beginning of the podcast era AND Alanis Morissette s breakout album Jagged Little Pill This book really checks so many boxes it s a spy novel, an insider s look at a religious cult, in parts it s even a coming of age story And all along, it s the memoir of one very strong woman The journey Scorah has been on in life is truly incredible, and she courageously takes you with her through all the peaks and valleys It s as entertaining as it is inspiring, as educational as it is personal, and as thrilling as it is tragic It is also incredibly well written, containing bits of insight and humor that can only exist when one is baring one s soul so generously.I read a review copy of the book, and I imagine by the time it s released in June it will have already been picked up to be made into a feature film Kinda hope it s called You Oughta Know. If not for all that had happened here, I would not have left my religion I would certainly still be a Jehovah s Witness had I not come to this country and learned its ways Perhaps I would have been happier But no matter what it took to get here, to this breezy corner, or how alone I was among these 1.3 billion people, I felt ecstatic to be free, to have this life I didn t know who to thank any, so I thanked the sky, the trees, the smiles, the sounds the things I knew to be true There was a group of Jehovah s Witnesses that came around to call on me when I was a young mother smiling sweetly at my girls as they tried to convince me to let them into my home for deeper talks, month after month and because I believed that they were honestly interested in the state of my soul and salvation, because I believed that they honestly feared for the everlasting future of my children, I couldn t bring myself to be rude to them beyond saying no thank you to information, I had my own beliefs, thanks they persisted until they didn t, but I was never mad at them for trying Amber Scoran kind of sours that memory for me with Leaving the Witness describing the JWs as a cult whose members would have thought of me as a worldly mouthpiece for Satan people who were mostly interested in logging their obligatory monthly proselytising hours, knowing we apostates were actually beyond saving Scoran herself seems to have given up on converting hopeless Westerners, and because she had been taught that Armageddon couldn t come until Jehovah s word had spread all around the world, she decided to learn Mandarin and take the message to untapped China a move that involved a three year stay for her and her husband in Taiwan for language lessons, and then a covert move to establish themselves in Shanghai, where the Chinese government had outlawed the organisation Because the JWs in China had to operate in secret with fewer meetings and virtually no community oversight , Scoran found herself no longer under the direct mind control of the Governing Body, and after making an online connection with a man who forced her to confront the fact that she was, indeed, in a cult, she was compelled to take the frightening move of leaving her church, her husband, friends and family being disfellowshipped for apostacy meant that everyone she ever knew all of whom were JWs were no longer allowed to acknowledge her existence Not only was she now utterly alone, in Shanghai, but Scoran had the niggling fear that she had actually made a mistake and shut herself out of paradise I can t imagine the bravery that it took Scoran to leave everyone and everything behind.As a narrative, Leaving the Witness gives some biographical information about Scoran s upbringing in Vancouver, a bit of the history of the Jehovah s Witness organisation and a look at life inside its culture, quite a bit about how hard it is for Westerners to learn Mandarin and adapt to Chinese life, and because Scoran found a job on an early podcast and eventually launched her own popular podcast on adapting to life in China called Dear Amber , there s some interesting info about that industry Eventually Scoran does leave everything behind, and the end of the book jumps ahead months and years at a time to share how her life has worked out if I had a complaint it would be that she glazed over so much at the end that had obvious dramatic impact and I don t know if I was interested in everything she had to say about China , but it s Scoran s story to tell and she told it well Introspective, candid, written with refined prose, it s hard to believe that Scoran left her church with no higher education what s the point in pursuing a profession or saving for retirement if the world could end any day , and the obvious improvement in her intellectual engagement with life is enough to argue that she s better off out of the JWs With the insight Scoran gives here into how life operates as a Jehovah s Witness the control, the sexism, the clamping down on curiosity and participation in society makes me think that when those seemingly sweet women used to come to my door, I should have shouted at them, You re in a cult and you re not taking us with you But, of course, that would only prove that I was speaking for Satan Overall, a fascinating and well told life story I m just going to preserve here some of Scoran s most startling passagesI knew that my explanations of the world made sense than anything else I had come across, if only I could find someone who had the right heart and would listen I was as confident in my mission as a suicide bomber is of his God would help me, and one day I would be in paradise for having done it On the fact that there s an organisation through which JW s can buy a fake university degree for 3000 in order to work in foreign countriesIn fact, it was encouraged by some of those in higher up positions, who reminded us of a Bible principle I have since seen the Governing Body use to lie in child abuse court cases theocratic warfare Meaning, if being dishonest will do something to advance Jehovah s will, then it s okay to make an exception and keep one s clean conscience One night, when I had a particularly long lasting case of insomnia accompanied by my usual terrors of the Armageddon I heard so much about during my visits to the Kingdom Hall, I went out to my dad in front of the TV and asked him if he might be able to spank me, since crying myself to sleep had generally worked well in the past This was the only kind of help I knew to seek from my parents Witnesses were the only ones who would be allowed out of Hitler s concentration camps if they would renounce their faith And they didn t In China, a Jehovah s Witness missionary had been imprisoned in solitary confinement for years in the 1950s, for preaching after Mao came to power Kids with cancer chose death rather than take a blood transfusion My culture was one of biblical proportions men sacrificing their own child at God s request, fathers that allowed angry crowds to rape their daughters to protect God s angels On the affair that sealed her break from her husband and churchMy apocalypse hadn t looked like I thought it would no oceans turning to blood with every piece of clothing taken off and pushed onto the ground, no skies turning darker with each penetration of my body, no giant hailstones raining down through the roof, no vultures picking clean the bones of our violating carcasses It had been a fevered drive on a dark highway, fast, muddled bodies, a shower smelling of unfamiliar soap, an earring left behind on a black sheet The closest thing to the Four Horsemen was a Trojan condom wrapper on the floor Recommended for fans of Tara Westover s Educated, Jenna Miscavige Hill s Beyond Belief, or Miriam Toewe s Women Talking, Leaving the Witness was a fascinating and enlightening read. I was not raised as one of Jehovah s Witnesses, but at the age of 18 I became convinced that they had the Truth But, college, my friends especially THAT girl , and my mother s hopes for my future delayed my decision to give it all up for Jehovah But a terrible experience with drugs convinced me that the only way to find happiness was to commit fully to being a Jehovah s Witnesses at age 20 Commitment meant dropping out of college even though my education was fully paid for by means of a grant I d received The hardest part was saying good bye to my friends, though after my clumsy attempts at proselytizing, they were probably glad to be rid of me After baptism, I became what was called a Pioneer, one who committed to spending one hundred hours a month in the preaching activity 30 hours per month than you, Amber Of course, who s counting After 20 years I finally left Like Amber, it was a relationship that was the lifesaver that gave me my life I had no degree and no savings After all, the End was coming in my lifetime, back there in 1991 I also experienced a kind of spiritual vertigo, drawn to religion and spirituality but still distrustful of false religion, i.e anything other than Jehovah s Witnesses Eventually, I went back to school at age 40 and was the Outstanding Religious Studies student the year I graduated Then, I went to Seminary and received a Master s degree in Divinity, becoming one of the most despised people in the Witness universe, a member of the clergy Since leaving Jehovah s Witnesses, I have become a proponent of interfaith and ecumenical understanding Rather than seeing the differences between the truth and what everyone else believes, I understand religion as humanly designed systems, influenced by the culture into which they are born, that seek to answer the BIG questions Much too big a topic for this already too long review Amber Scorah s book reminded me of the good, the bad, and the ugly of those days spent under the penetrating gaze of the Watchtower I am so glad that she has written this book of her experiences And while I don t use this appellation any longer, I d like to say, Thank you, Sister Scorah. Fantastic A MUST READ for any former member of a cult or high demand religion Honestly, so deeply mirrored my experience of leaving that it was a bit triggering, and also incredibly meaningful to me This book accurately describes the feeling of emerging from naivete, emerging from a false world into the real world It s traumatizing and confusing and embarrassing It is liberating What you see can t be unseen. This was a really interesting memoir, but there were a lot of threads that did not come together for me She s introspective about leaving her faith, but she is not as introspective about her loveless marriage and her dependence on men in every realm of her experience The end was just thrown on and I won t spoil it, but I just did not at all see it coming and it felt like the entire book could have been written about that because she has her biggest insights about religion then The book lacked a cohesive thread perhaps because she depicts herself as a non agent in a lot of the book. I was raised a Jehovah s Witness and left the religion when I was 19 Reading this book felt like someone plucked all the thoughts that I had back then but never had the courage to articulate One example When she describes the mind numbing ritual of district conventions, she says that she wished she had a baby so she had an excuse to get up and wander around I ALWAYS thought that I could not stop laughing about that shared commiseration This was a triggering but important book for me I cannot speak to how someone with no exposure with this religion might experience this book but I can say this it took incredible bravery for her to write this She is also funny, articulate, a great story teller, and incredibly erudite for someone who was denied upper education For that reason alone, I recommend the book. I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher All Amber Scorah knew was life as a Jehovah s Witness Brought into the church at a young age by her grandmother, Amber conceived of the world as completely black and white, with JWs being the only people inside the truth and the only people who would live eternally After a youthful indiscretion that almost got her kicked out of the church, she married a fellow JW and they embarked on a life in China as covert missionaries Amber s faith unravels over the course of a few years, as she learns about Chinese culture and alternative ways of looking at life, death, and spirituality This happens with the patient prodding of a man she meets online through her work as a podcaster With her marriage failing as well, Amber travels to the US to meet this man and sees how a life without Witnessing could be possible and even good Life post Witness isn t easy though, and Amber s struggles are really heartbreaking The book ends almost abruptly, with her having come to no real solid conclusion about how to live life without religion and how to deal with death That isn t really a criticism, because who among us has Amber is very relatable despite her highly unusual life I really enjoyed this book and her voice. Leaving the Witness Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life is the solidly written memoir of writer, podcaster, and former Jehovah s Witness missionary Amber Scorah Raised as a third generation Witness and in a loveless marriage, she convinces her husband and the elders of the church to let her move to Asia a lifelong dream with her and her husband as missionaries, of course After a stay in Taiwan, she and her husband land in Shanghai, where Amber an inherent introvert finds she has only a fair to middling aptitude for proselytizing, very illegal in China, but that she has a great talent for podcasting Eventually, her exposure to the world outside her religion, with which she had so little previous experience, opens her eyes to the fact that not everyone who s not a Jehovah s Witness is ill intentioned and evil yes, she was really taught that Combined with her dismal and claustrophobic marriage and an online affair of the heart, she finally realizes she s in a cult, and manages to extricate herself from both it and her marriage My big complaint is that the book ends right after that, as Amber eventually leaves China and, with her family and friends forbidden from interacting with her because of her disfellowshipped status, she lands herself in New York City This would be fine except for the fact that just pages before the end of the book, Amber suffered a huge personal tragedy, about which she has written in a number of magazine articles totally separate from her life in Jehovah s Witnesses but I m putting behind spoiler tags anyway view spoiler her infant son inexplicably died in daycare the very first day took him there, as she was returning to work after her maternity leave hide spoiler