I Quit Church, I Quit Smoking, I Quit Business
Edward George tells why
MOST of my life I was a Presbyterian. I started attending when I was four. Became a deacon. Taught Sunday school for fifteen years. Sang in the choir. I was deeply involved. Then I quit.
It was 1943. World War II was on. I was about twenty, joined the Air Force, and started smoking. I smoked for thirty years, ending up using three and a half to four packs a day. Then I quit.
My father started in the tobacco business over fifty years ago. Thirty years later I became his partner. It was a very lucrative business, doing three to four million dollars a year. When he died I became the sole owner, and managed the business for years. Then I quit.
I quit the church and the smoking and the business, not because I’m a quitter, but because I started something else. I started studying the Bible.
Many things, however, led up to all this quitting. The smoking started when I enlisted in the Air Force. I was very patriotic. I was a scoutmaster for three and a half years. And the church was also very patriotic. It gave special recognition to those in the service. They put your name in a star up on a big board for all to see.
I was in for three years. Shipped overseas in 1944. We were required to fly fifty missions. I was on my forty-sixth when I was shot down over the Black Forest in Germany. I was flying a B-24, four-engine bomber. There were ten in the crew and I was the pilot.
We had many, many narrow escapes. On one bombing mission we had two engines knocked out and I had to crash-land in Corsica. We stayed there until our plane was repaired. Flak was our biggest danger. Very few times were we attacked by fighter planes. The Germans had plenty of them, but they didn’t have the oil to fly them—US bombers had hit their oil fields very hard. One frightening thing, however: the Germans were first to develop jet fighters. It was awesome to see these planes streaking by so fast! Fortunately, they had a flight endurance of only about fifteen minutes—only enough to shoot up once and try to hit you and then land again.
As I said, flak was the biggest problem for us. We’d fly between twenty and twenty-five thousand feet, and they’d know from radar just where we were—very disconcerting! The flak were shells—88 or 105 millimeter—with a time fuse. One of them would get to a certain altitude and explode, with shrapnel spraying out in all directions. If it exploded near you it would do heavy damage or even make you crash.
That’s what happened on our forty-sixth mission. A shell ripped into our wing, through the gas tank, but exploded above us. Had it exploded upon impact I wouldn’t be telling this story.
During the war I went to nightly services conducted by the chaplains. They were more like psychiatrists than clergymen. However, I was looking for religious comfort; I never knew whether or not I’d be back from my next mission.
And I didn’t return to the base after this forty-sixth mission. The shell had hit our gas tank and knocked out one of our engines. It happened where Czechoslovakia meets Germany, which is not too far from the Russian border. Soon after I gave the order, “OK, open the bomb-bay doors, get on the catwalk and jump!” Seven jumped. Three of us stayed with the plane.
Now we were over the Russian-German line, fighting was heavy below us and we had been hit hard. It disabled everything. We started spiraling down, fast. There were no controls, wheels were not operative, and as we came down the plane flattened out, hit the ground and skidded to a halt. As it burst into flames we jumped out the top hatch.
I was taken prisoner by the Germans. For me the war was over. I spent six months as a POW, then was liberated by the Russians. After my hitch in the Air Force ended, I returned to Jacksonville, Florida. That was in 1946.
My family and the Belloit family lived in Jacksonville. During the war the two families had become associated with each other. After the war I met Yvonne Belloit and we got married. Members of her family were Jehovah’s Witnesses, but she had not been baptized as such. I associated with her family, but I told her to keep them from talking to me about their religion.
I continued my activities with the Presbyterian Church; Yvonne continued her association with the Witnesses. There were no religious squabbles between us, but in time Yvonne began to drift away from the Witnesses. She stopped studying with them, became very worldly, started to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s and other holidays, and even became involved with politics.
During those years I heard very little about the Witnesses. Then one of them did some work for me and also for a friend of mine, Dr. Ivy. This workman told Dr. Ivy about the coming battle of Armageddon. The doctor had known Yvonne since childhood, so he called her and demanded: “Yvonne, you were raised a Witness. Why didn’t you tell me about Armageddon?” “I’ll call my brother Don,” she said, “and get him to explain it to you.” The result was that Dr. Ivy and his wife and Yvonne and I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Don Belloit conducting the study.
So this is the way it started, and by this time I was willing. I was becoming unhappy with some of the things happening in my church. I was a deacon and part of my job was to solicit pledges for money. I didn’t like it. I’d see people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, and there I was asking them for money.
We were paying our minister $12,000 a year, and at that time it was more than nearly everybody else in the congregation was making. One of the deacons was disgusted about this and said: “Why is it these preachers always get the calling to a bigger church? They never get the calling to a smaller one. It’s always to a bigger church with a bigger salary!”
Church doctrine also had started bothering me. We used to get the Presbyterian Survey, and it came out with a big article on hellfire saying that it was a place of eternal torment for the wicked. I knew that that was not right, that the soul was not something immortal, but that when people died they were completely out of existence. If they ever lived again it would have to be by resurrection.—Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Romans 6:23; John 5:28, 29.
Well, anyway, this Bible study was started and that’s how all my quitting began. First to go was my association with the Presbyterian Church.
Don Belloit had faithfully come to our house weekly for four or five years, studying with us for three hours each time. We had gone through several books, along with the Bible—he always backed up everything with the Bible. Also, Yvonne and I had started going to the Kingdom Hall to meet with the congregation of Witnesses assembling there. I was impressed by their sincerity and friendliness. One evening they disfellowshipped a Witness who had committed a gross sin, and I said to myself, “The Presbyterians where I had gone would never do that.” The Witnesses try hard to keep their congregations morally clean.
By this time I was ready to dedicate my life to Jehovah and be baptized. I was still smoking, but I managed to hold my cigarettes down to two or three during the study. I knew that the habit was frowned upon by the Witnesses, but it had not been outlawed. But now, just when I wanted to be baptized, a policy change was made that forbade it altogether!
Imagine how I felt! Sure, smoking was hazardous to my health. I knew that. I had been a heavy smoker for decades, and when I would get up in the morning I’d cough for an hour and a half. But over the years I had tried very hard to quit—eight or ten times at least, and each time I’d failed.
Anyway, I determined to try once more. The motivation was more powerful this time. Now I had come to know Jehovah. Now I had pondered Jesus’ words, ‘Love Jehovah with all your heart’ and—especially applicable relative to smoking—“love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) In all my forty-five years in orthodox religion I had never been taught to love my neighbor as myself in this area.
So this time I had to bring a spiritual strength into the fight against my addiction. I prayed for Jehovah’s help. My family also prayed for God to help me win the fight. One evening I was deeply moved when I heard my four-year-old daughter, Kelly, praying to Jehovah, “Please help Daddy stop smoking.”
I set a deadline for quitting. A large assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses was to be held in 1975. The night before the assembly would be my last cigarette! The two months prior to then I smoked more than ever, four and a half packs a day. It wasn’t wise, but I guess it was a last fling of sorts, a farewell, a kind of psychological finale. The night before that 1975 assembly I snuffed out my last cigarette. I have not lit one since.
No relapses. I’d never go back to it. But the craving comes back. Even seven years later. If anyone says smoking isn’t addictive, don’t believe him! For the first year I dreamed every night that I was smoking. Even now I do occasionally. I carry a bag of mints in the car to use when I get the urge. Strangely, when it comes it’s just as strong as the day I quit, but fortunately it only lasts a few seconds. It’s a series of continuing battles, but by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness I’ve won the war.
Now I came face to face with the third challenge: If it was wrong for me as a Christian to smoke, would it not also be wrong for me to supply tobacco for others to smoke? Should I, must I, sell my lucrative tobacco business? I had known of Witnesses who had quit jobs considered unsuitable for Christians—jobs that paid ten or fifteen thousand dollars a year. But my tobacco business grossed several million a year. My state sales tax was between $100 and $110 thousand monthly.
In my business I was the middleman. The big manufacturers bought tobacco from the farmers, cured it, made the finished product and packaged it. I bought from them and sold to the retailers. The magnitude of the tobacco business is staggering. Not just cigarettes, but also cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff. Most people don’t realize it, but snuff alone is big, big business. I sold tons of it. And in this business there’s no recession. In fact, when hard times hit, people become anxious and they smoke more than ever.
So what about my tobacco company? I decided to sell, and did sell it. My three quitting ordeals were over.
All of this just because of a Bible study with the Christian witnesses of Jehovah! The climax of that study came in 1975 when its four students, Dr. and Mrs. Ivy and Yvonne and I, were baptized at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 18]
I gave the order, “Open the bomb-bay doors, get on the catwalk and jump!”
[Blurb on page 18]
I associated with her family, but I told her to keep them from talking to me about their religion
[Blurb on page 19]
I’d see people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, and there I was asking them for money
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My third challenge: If it was wrong for me as a Christian to smoke, would it not also be wrong for me to supply tobacco for others to smoke?
[Blurb on page 20]
I was deeply moved when I heard my four-year-old daughter, Kelly, praying to Jehovah, “Please help Daddy stop smoking”