Growing up with the Organization
One of my first words when I started to talk was “Jehovah.” My parents exerted much effort to teach me as much as they could, to make me a “model child” according to the measures of the organization. In fact, they succeeded, at least as far as theoretical knowledge is concerned, but they failed miserably as far as conduct goes. Naturally, they had no clue about this last detail since I always tried to show my best colors to all those outside, always striving to put my best foot forward, just like some other fellows of my faith whom I knew “well.”
In reality, I whole heartedly believed in my faith, and I always had in mind to become a “very good child” and a “good Christian.” But despite my very young age, I had already developed many passions and all my attempts to live up to the outward picture I had painted were quite fruitless. Despite these personal failures, however, in the area of academics I was making great strides. Even at a preschool age, I knew to analyze in great detail the book “Paradise,” a very basic supplement of the organization with many pictures. I knew almost all the stories of the Holy Scripture better than the average Orthodox and even some of the people of my own faith.
My daily concern was how I was going to guide others to my faith, believing that if they did not become “witnesses,” God would annihilate them during Armageddon since (according to my faith) God would lead to destruction everyone who failed to become a “witness.” On one occasion, a short time before 1975 (when the organization had prophesied the end of the world), having a burdened conscious, I had nightmares about the commencement of Armageddon, and I dreamed I was dying in the midst of flames and quakes.
I considered all of the doctrines which I was taught to be indisputable realities, especially since my parents had supplied me with dozens of scripture verses, which I had committed to memory in order to support these dogmas and to teardown any rebuttals of the opposition. Often my mother would take me to the “work of faith,” which were expeditions she carried out for the propagation of her faith. At the same time, she always took me to all the “gatherings,” which were a sort of catechism--a poor substitute of Christian churching. She also used to take me to the “assemblies,” congregations of a large number of followers.
While I was still an infant, Greece was governed by a dictatorship, so the assemblies were held in the forests in secret where we pretended to go on a field trip by bus. At different times, meetings were limited to two or three people because gatherings were prohibited. All these were instrumental in teaching me to take risks or to ignore the government, thus choosing to do what I considered to be the will of God. A basic sector of my proselytizing activities was aimed at my age group. I remember a mother who would not permit her son to be in my company so that I would not influence him. Not only the very young, but even adults were in danger from my activities. My mother used this ability of mine to let me speak instead of her, fully surprising those in our audience and drawing their attention.
When I entered school, my teachers quickly realized that in religion class I knew more than they did, and I could easily put them in a difficult situation if they dared to disagree with my faith. On one occasion, I happened to converse with some unfortunate adult women catechists, and the poor things did not know how to justify their faith in front of a mere child. One of them resorted to disgraceful and anti-Christian threats, telling me that my father, who had just died, is boiling in the caldrons of hell, and how I would also end up there. Of course I responded that God is not a sadist and does not torture people! After this she left.
Growing up, I had conversations with more and more people, but I did not find anyone who could defend his faith satisfactorily. Thus, my confidence in my faith was soaring along with my arrogance! I used to challenge people saying, “Bring on anyone you want! Your best theologian! I will show him the truth.” I also made sure to add, “If he can show me based on the Holy Scripture that I am in the wrong, I will change my faith, because I am very much interested in the truth.” I was serious about this, as the future would prove.
When I entered junior high school, the theologian of my religion class treated the topic of faith with much fanaticism, and he faced me with much obstinacy and ignorance. His manner of conduct, however, did not go unnoticed by my classmates. Every time we would disagree and bring forth arguments in class, at recess my classmates would come to my aid saying, “Bravo, you told him well!” Although I was not convincing him, I was victorious in the eyes of the class. Thus, my classmates, who were all impressed by my actions, were being well prepared to start up conversation with any “witness” who might happen to knock at their door. I also had a field day with the students who did not believe in God. When they listened to my arguments with the theologian, they would ask me questions about my religion, saying that all religions are fraudulent. Then I would prove to them logically the existence of one creator, and I proceeded to develop the case of my faith as the only one capable of offering true answers.
I remember at some point in high school having a very long discussion with two friends about the existence of God and questioning whether the content of the Holy Scripture is truthful. Although at the time they could not respond to my arguments, plus, they did not wish to be convinced, so the discussion was forgotten. A number of months went by, and one day they came to tell me that they believed, that they had found the “Truth,” and that they were eager to also help me to come to know God!
As it turned out, they had joined a Pentecostal group, convinced from the “miracles” they witnessed there. I tried to persuade them that the miracles were the work of demonic powers and not of the Holy Spirit. Of course I had no doubt about this since I was taught from a young age that during judgment, some will say that they did many miracles in the name of the Lord, and the Lord will answer them, “I never knew you, go away from me you evil doers.” (Matthew 7:22,23)
Since I myself did not have some miracle to display from God, I was not convinced by any miracle. This did not present any problem to me, especially since the organization had provided me with another verse against miracles: “whether there be prophecies they shall be non-functional, whether there be tongues, they shall cease.” (1st Corinthians 13:8) Above all, however, what convinced me against them was that those who performed these miracles believed in doctrines I was taught to consider demonic, such as the dogma of the Trinity and the immortality of the soul. Our discussions were not centered around the miracles but around doctrine.
Although these boys were coming up with very good arguments, their limited experience with the Holy Scripture and their having only studied for a few months made them weak opponents in a religious debate. I had the ability to throw difficult questions at them, causing them to fight against each other about some topics. At the same time, I could only see what I wanted to see. Consequently, I was “admiring” the unity and solid foundation prevalent to us the “witnesses” compared to these totally confused “heretics.”
Notwithstanding all of this, I was left with some troublesome questions after hearing about their faith. Would God kill all these faithful children in “Armeggedon”? While pondering this, I found some relief remembering the answer of the organization: “If they are worthy of salvation, God will provide for them to come to the truth before Armeggedon.” Unfortunately, a year later these boys became atheists again, in spite of all the miracles they saw there, saying that the miracles were caused by “unknown spiritual beings” or “human powers of the soul.” From that point on, they began living as carelessly as they possibly could, enjoying “the day” or “the now” because as they claimed, “Who can really know the truth?” Fifteen years later I met one of them who became a faithful child of the Orthodox faith. Back then, however, their backsliding reinforced my belief in the righteousness of my faith.
At that time, I also met George, a person who would play an important role in my life. But let’s allow him to relate to us the way we met.
 There is no separation of church and state in Greece; thus, religion is taught in public schools.