When my husband and I stopped attending meetings, we joined a softball league. This presented us with the opportunity to get to know people and replace the friends we had lost. The first thing we noticed was how nice, family-oriented and honest they were. I had no fear of leaving my belongings unattended. In fact, many even left their phones and wallets on the bench. At that moment, it dawned on me that unbelievers were decent people.
This came as a bit of a shock because I was taught, from childhood onwards, to fear those outside the organization. If I stayed within the four walls of Jehovah’s organization, I would be protected from harm. Fear was one way to prevent me from leaving.
Experience after experience is given, from the platform or printed in the magazines, promoting the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses, alone, are moral, trustworthy and honest. And, if you associate with non-believers, you might be mistreated.
One such article is the 2009 Watchtower on Personal Preferences.
In Choosing Associates
Is socializing with those who do not share our faith simply a question of personal preference, or are Bible principles involved? One sister wanted to go to a party with a young man who was not a true Christian. Although warned of the dangers, she felt that it was her right to do so and therefore went to the party. Not long after she arrived, she was given a drink laced with a powerful sedative. She woke up several hours later and found that she had been raped by her so-called friend. (w09 2/15, pp. 20)
Generalizations and accusations are often made about non-Witnesses. Notice how the following Watchtower describes corruption:
Our world is characterized by greed and selfishness [emphasis given]. In such an environment, some people find it difficult to be different. Driven by selfish ambition, they become power hungry [emphasis given]. They also develop a strong desire for more money and possessions [emphasis given]—more than they really need. Sadly, they are willing to behave in a dishonest way [emphasis given] to achieve those goals. Rather than resisting unwholesome influences, such people “follow after the crowd for evil ends.”—Exodus 23:2. (w12 10/1 pp. 4-5)
The book Keep Yourselves in God’s Love makes the point that dishonesty is commonplace in today’s society.
16 Because Satan is the ruler of this world, we are not surprised to find that dishonesty is all around us [emphasis is mine]. Daily we may face temptations to be dishonest. When people write up a résumé to apply for work, it is a common practice to lie and exaggerate, inventing credentials and falsifying experience. When people fill out forms for immigration, taxation, insurance, and the like, they commonly give false answers in order to get what they want. Many students cheat on tests, or when they write papers and reports for school, they may go to the Internet and plagiarize what they find there, falsely presenting someone else’s work as their own. And when people deal with corrupt officials, they often offer bribes to get what they want. We expect as much in a world where so many are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . without love of goodness.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
17 True Christians are resolved not to engage in any of those practices [emphasis given]. What makes honesty a challenge at times is that those who do engage in such dishonest ways seem to succeed and even get ahead in today’s world. (Psalm 73:1-8) Meanwhile, Christians may suffer financially because they wish to remain honest “in all things.” Is it worth the sacrifices involved? Absolutely! But why? What blessings result from honest conduct? (lv chap. 14 pp. 160-170)
Believers and unbelievers are contrasted throughout Jehovah’s Witness literature, accusing the latter of being greedy, selfish, and dishonest. Then, when a witness “does the right thing” and returns something of value that was found, the story is used as PR for the religion.
One such case involves a New Hampshire woman. Early in 2015, Janelle Jones received a bundle of cash ($2,631) as she exited the drive-through of a fast food restaurant.
Ultimately, within an hour, she returned the money. Then, she and her husband, both Jehovah’s Witnesses, explained that they did so because “Jehovah sees everything [emphasis given]” (New York Daily News, Jan 2015).
This story was covered my multiple media outlets and shared by many Witnesses. Experiences, such as this one, drive home to current members the taught truth that they are “the most honest people on earth.”
Watchtower reiterates the idea that most of the world, human society that exists outside the true Christian congregation, would not act the same way.
How do you feel when you find something valuable that someone has lost? To many, this arouses immediate feelings of possession, causing them to wave aside any thought of returning it [emphasis added]. They have a “finders keepers” philosophy. Some may feel that there is no harm done. After all, they reason, the owner has undoubtedly written it off as a loss. Others say that it is not their responsibility to seek out the owner—a chore that might entail a lot of effort. …
How many people do you know who sincerely strive to be honest all the time [emphasis added]? Just imagine being with 50, 100, or 200 persons who are. That is the happy experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Kingdom Halls. (w10 3/1, pp. 13)
However, there are many examples of unbelievers returning found money/belongings.
They are not motivated by fear of judgment, disappointment or guilt of sanctions. Instead, the moral compass of most people is inherently good.
Misha Anouk, in his article entitled “After The Burger King Money Find: 7 People Who Returned Loads Of Money Without Being Jehovah’s Witnesses,” states: “honesty simply is not unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Taze.co, 2015). He illustrates this point with seven examples.
This brings me to two, personal experiences that demonstrate the opposite of what is taught by the Governing Body.
On a Saturday afternoon, myself and five others were driving around looking for people with whom to preach. In one shopping center, near the front of a major store, the Witness driver parked and walked over to the bus stop. Upon returning to her vehicle, she looked down and found a diamond ring. As no other cars or people were nearby, she excitedly took the ring. She was thrilled at her find. That very morning, she prayed to Jehovah for help, as she and her husband were having a tough time paying their bills. My friend sincerely thought it was not wrong to sell the ring. This way, she could continue spending her days in the ministry.
She is not alone; many of Jehovah’s Witnesses are struggling to make ends meet. They place more importance on spiritual matters than earning a living. Constantly, they are told to put Jehovah first and pray for help in matters of food, clothing and shelter.
Now, I knew keeping the ring was wrong. It appeared to be valuable; surely, someone would return looking for it. I asked to see it, and took it inside the store. I gave it to the manager where he locked it in the safe.
At first, this sister was upset at me. She said, “How do we know someone from that store lost it? I bet the employee will just keep it for himself!”
Guess what? Wordly people can “do the right thing.”
Later that day, the manager informed me that it was reclaimed. The lady who lost it, retraced her steps. The ring had fallen off her hand while she reached in her purse. She was devastated, upset, and scared that it was gone for good. She was grateful we turned it in.
I can remember telling ones, “If one of Jehovah’s Witnesses had not found that ring, she would never have gotten it back.” I gave no further thought to how the sister planned on selling it.
That is, until last Sunday.
You see, my aunt lost her ring while attending a local garden show with me and my husband. She was sickened by the loss. While I canvassed the area, looking for this heirloom piece of jewelry, I was calm. I knew that people were good and someone would turn it in.
I was right! The very next day, the show office called her; someone found it while cleaning up and returned it.
My point is not to accuse all of Jehovah’s Witnesses of being dishonest. Rather, I want to debunk the idea that one needs to be a religious follower of Bible standards in order to be moral and good.
Elizabeth Palermo, in her article “Religion Doesn’t Make People More Moral, Study Finds,” writes:
The moral high ground seems to be a crowded place. A  study suggests that religious people aren’t more likely to do good than their nonreligious counterparts. …
Researchers asked 1,252 adults of different religious and political backgrounds … to record the good and bad deeds they committed, witnessed, learned about or were the target of throughout the day.
The goal of the study was to access how morality plays out in everyday life for different people, said Dan Wisneski … .
The study’s findings may come as a shock to those who think religious or political affiliation helps dictate a person’s understanding of right and wrong.
[They] found that religious and nonreligious people commit similar numbers of moral acts. …
It is a misconception that only Jehovah’s Witnesses can keep to high moral standards.
Reflecting on the two experiences mentioned above, I cannot help but realize that my mind is clearing from the fog of indoctrination; I can clearly see that “wordly” people are moral, honest and good. I no longer worry that I will be harmed or mistreated. I am happily finding a place for myself in this world.