Sunday, 22 May 2011

What holds a Jehovah's Witness in the religion?

During the process of leaving the Witnesses I read quite a few books by former members. Some of these books set a very aggressive tone which can serve to fuel the anger, even hatred of the Watchtower organisation.Some may find these latter books pander to the Watchtower's portrayal of rabid "apostates" ( a pejorative term used by JWs in reference to ex-members) . And thus if glanced through could be counter-productive.

However some of the books I read were of a more enlightening nature. Books such as "Crisis of conscience" by Raymond Franz, a former member of their elite Governing Body.  This book helped me to see "behind the curtain" as it were. It helped me to dispel the idea that this entity (the GB) was being directed in some mystical, spirit guided fashion by God's hand as they claim.

Another book I read, put together in a very simple format was "Captives of a Concept" by Don Cameron. This book was written with the sole purpose of exploding the concept that God has "chosen" the Witnesses, more specifically the Governing Body as his "channel of communication" on earth today.

However most books of this kind provide information and facts about JWs or take the form of an expose. The Watchtower organisation is very well aware of not only the existence of these titles ,but the material therein. Which is why they vociferously warn against the reading of them to their rank and file members.

Why is the subject matter never disclosed  in their journal "The Watchtower" (monthly circular for all  members)  when warning Witnesses against "apostate" material ?
It is because to inform the Witness in detail presents  a threat and undermines the Governing Body's overall strategy. And that is to prescribe a feeling  of danger that the "apostates" and their "books" represent. This same rhetoric has been applied to the Internet and "apostate" websites.

Imagine a warning sign on the road which was blank. Would you be able to asses the relevant danger ahead better or worse if you knew exactly what was around the bend?

And the reason why the Governing Body  do not wish to even hint at what the "danger" is because quite simply they would be taking a risk that the "spell" the individual is under will be broken.
Granted this is not always the case since many Witnesses have read so-called "apostate" material and remain within the confines of the Organisation.

For every individual Witness the "tipping point" which could trigger a paradigm shift in their thoughts varies hugely.
For some it could be the way the Book study( a weekly bible meeting in private homes) was unceremoniously dropped.
Others were troubled by the huge error in judgement by the Watchtower Society having anything to do with the United Nations, an entity which has been condemned in the strongest possible terms within their publications for many years.
Many people have voiced their objections about the child protection and medical policies of the organisation.
Some have serious doubts about the  doctrines and beliefs of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

There are of course many reasons why a person may choose to remain a Jehovah's Witness whether they've been exposed to ex-members or not. Some of these include a wish to maintain their "normal" life. Others don't want to lose friends and family. Many want to believe with all their heart that it's true and pride prevents them from facing the possibility of being wrong, perhaps believing that there's nowhere else to go.

Could there be a mechanism at work whereby the mind of a Witness will accept almost anything and still be an "active" Witness?

Stockholm Syndrome is a term in psychology used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon where hostages  have positive feelings towards their captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness.
It's estimated that approximately 27% of victims will have this response. To cite the seminal case;
"The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28, 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal".

It's my contention that there could be a common thought pattern  similar in nature to Stockholm Syndrome which could cause some people  to stay or become attached emotionally to something which they may otherwise rationally have left.

I don't think it was a mistake that Don Cameron had the word "captive" in his book title.There are no literal bars and no physical location in which a Witness is held. So the prison is therefore a mental one constructed and maintained by the person , but the architect is of course the Governing Body  via literature published by the Watchtower Society.

I will cite some examples of things that under normal circumstances no rational person would ever subscribe to. I recognise that the Witnesses use the Bible to substantiate their ideas and probably believe it has God's approval, but putting the Bible aside are these things morally and ethically right?
Here are some things that routinely occur within the organisation:

  • Allowing a child to die for ANY reason.

  • Shunning former friends and FAMILY MEMBERS on the sole grounds they're no longer part of your group.

  • If an allegation of child sex abuse is denied by the accused then unless there are TWO OR MORE witnesses to the event it will be dropped.

There are of course many ways in which it could be argued the members of this religion are harmed psychologically or otherwise. Some feel that the methods employed by the Watchtower have all the hallmarks of a mind-control cult.

The following are viewed as the conditions necessary for Stockholm syndrome to occur.

  • Hostages who develop Stockholm syndrome often view the perpetrator as giving life by simply not taking it. In this sense, the captor becomes the person in control of the captive’s basic needs for survival and the victim’s life itself.
  • The hostage endures isolation from other people and has only the captor’s perspective available. Perpetrators routinely keep information about the outside world’s response to their actions from captives to keep them totally dependent.
  • The hostage taker threatens to kill the victim and gives the perception of having the capability to do so. The captive judges it safer to align with the perpetrator, endure the hardship of captivity, and comply with the captor than to resist and face death.
  • The captive sees the perpetrator as showing some degree of kindness. Kindness serves as the cornerstone of Stockholm syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the captor exhibits it in some form toward the hostage. However, captives often misinterpret a lack of abuse as kindness and may develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence. If the captor is purely evil and abusive, the hostage will respond with hatred. But, if perpetrators show some kindness, victims will submerge the anger they feel in response to the terror and concentrate on the captors’ “good side” to protect themselves.
In cases where Stockholm syndrome has occurred, the captive is in a situation where the captor has stripped nearly all forms of independence and gained control of the victim’s life, as well as basic needs for survival. Some experts say that the hostage regresses to, perhaps, a state of infancy; the captive must cry for food, remain silent, and exist in an extreme state of dependence. In contrast, the perpetrator serves as a 'mother' figure protecting the 'child' from a threatening outside world
This mirrors the way a person who is a Jehovah's Witness is controlled without them realising it.
Below is by no means an exhaustive list of concepts familiar to all Witnesses.
And the "captor"  in this case the Watchtower Society, controlling the person via it's publications.

  • Remain within Jehovah's (God's)  organisation for survival.

  • Spiritual "food" delivered exclusively via meetings and publications of Jehovah's Witnesses.

  • Told to "cut off" association with those who are not Witnesses.

  • Lack of perspective and objectivity , almost hostile to the "outside world" and free thought.

  • Restrict or retard information flow from outside sources to maintain dependence.

  • Captor threatens to "kill" the captive via Disfellowshipping (expulsion from the ranks) and subsequent literal death at Armageddon(end of the world) unless they comply by remaining within or obeying the "mother" organisation.

  • Acts such as allowing a child to die or shunning are viewed as  acts of obedience , loyalty and love,when in actual fact both are morally and ethically repugnant to any rational person on any grounds. And thus the captor has convinced the person that these  are actually modes of kindness and goodness.

  • In some cases those who have left either by "drifting" away or by disfellowshipping will still defend the Watchtower Society, even claiming they believe the Witnesses have the "truth".(not usually the case with well informed ex-members).

The effect is that a Witness  may believe they have control of their life when in fact they do not. All of the above mental shackles have been placed on at some point. They are told what to believe and it is of course subject to change. This creates a disorienting effect and keeps the person in a state of dependant mental flux. Perhaps even anticipating some "new truths" at their next Assembly or book release.

The statistics show that in the case of Stockholm Syndrome roughly 1/3rd of people develop this mental state.
I wonder if it is co-incidental that 2/3rds of  the young people leave the Watchtower Society as they grow up? I do not have hard stats but that's what anecdotal evidence I've heard.
Could it be this group who have had less exposure to the organisations methods and crucially more exposure to the "outside world"  via education, the Internet, "worldly friends" etc are not falling prey to the subtle mental prison their parents live in?

It is far more difficult the longer  one has been a Witness to break free, but not impossible.
I hope that whatever a person's age or standing within the Watchtower Organisation they manage to break the mental bonds and start to think  outside "the box".

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Did Jehovah's Witnesses become the true religion in 1919?

Jehovah's Witnesses have the "truth" right?

Now any witness will tell you they believe they are the true religion on earth right now....

But is that based upon the organisation's current beliefs and standing with God?

Or have they perhaps always been God's chosen ones since C . T. Russell founded them?

Or as former Watchtower society president Fred Franz believed, attained such a lofty title at a specific time?

One of the above must be what they believe.

In my opinion the answer to these questions lies in a long term strategy by Governing Body 2.0 to re-shape or abandon doctrines and overhaul the public/religious image of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the days of men like Fred Franz and his ilk they totally believed in their own press and thus felt they were in a position of having “special insight”. Fred Franz was merely following in the footsteps of "judge" Rutherford and his predecessor Charles Russell, the religion's founder, in his mind-set.

Franz believed the Witnesses, although known as the Bible students at the time were "chosen" by Jesus himself during an "invisible" visit to earth to inspect the world's religions around the year 1919 a.d.

Now how does that above statement sound ? Would a "householder" of the  21st century be likely to buy into that during a visit from a Jehovah's Witness at their door?
Remember ultimately they are a publishing corporation with a product to "sell" whether that be books, donations to the cause or joining the religion. Products have to be saleable and attractive to prospective buyers.

So the previous "product" sold. The end is coming! The people flooded in and so did the money......1975 and all that......
Unfortunately  the product eventually passed it's sell-by date in the shape of the combined "insights" of Russell, Rutherford and Franz  when they turned out to be poorly judged guesswork and idle speculation at best.

The newest members of the GB couldn’t fail to notice these events whether they were in power at the time or not. Hence when those older men finally died off I believe that GB 2.0 would be acutely aware of their own lack of “special insight”.
Perhaps an awareness of the impact these failed doctrines had on the rank and file witnesses and in the case of the 1975 “prochecy” , the general public  they decided to scale back on the doctrinal side.

As evidence for my line of reasoning I will cite some examples.

1.The abandonment of doctrines with an associated date i.e. 1935 and the “final sealing” of the “annointed” (may 2007 wt.)

2. Dates such as 1914 slowly being degraded in the jw mindset facilitated by being mentioned less and less in their literature over a 10-15 year period to the present day. One recent 2010 Watchtower’s cover asked “what is the kingdom?” This magazine when read cover to cover did not mention 1914 once.
Surely the date  1914 on  which the entire authority and doctrinal foundations of the the Jehovah's Witnesses rests deserves to be at the forefront of their message? My objective assessment of the 1914 doctrine can be found here.

3.The “appointment” of the “slave class” in 1919 dogma slowly being replaced by already existing concepts that JW’s are the “closest thing to 1st century Christianity” and have the “mark of love” and are the only ones doing the “preaching work”. Ideas which are much easier to defend and substantiate and thoughts which are already in the minds of many Witnesses.    This  is discussed in more detail in this blog I wrote two years ago.

4. A concerted effort to APPEAR more mainstream and like other “Christian” groups. Dumbing down in doctrines and literature, legal department softening medical policies, less meetings, lower pioneer hours etc, etc.

Of course the problem every member of the current Governing Body has is what to do with all the dated , failed old doctrines which many built their whole lives on?
It seems that 1914, 1919, 1975, and the "generation" teaching are somewhat of an embarrassment to the Governing Body today.
There is unfortunately no panacea as I’m sure they realise.

An example is the recent overhaul of an old doctrine in the shape of the paradoxical two-part overlapping generation. A  hybrid doctrine of the "creators promise" that those alive in 1914 would see the end, with the new generation of “anointed” alive today   overlapping them as the ones who ultimately see the end of this system. Co-incidentally these "new members" in the generation dogma just happen to include the majority of the Governing Body who are much too young too fit in with the old teaching......

This teaching epitomises the dilemma the GB find themselves in:-

The generation of 1914 clearly almost all dead, so therefore the old doctrine or "prophecy" is demonstrably false.

No new “light” to completely replace it.

Can’t completely bin old doctrines, as older ones would react adversely.

A need to give the rank and file something to bite on, a little hope, so therefore modify the doctrine to give the impression the "end" could still be quite close.

So the only option is to fire fight with face-saving nonsense.

So just to get this straight. Jesus was asked a question in Matt 24:34. He  answered that question  with the words "this generation will by no means pass away".
 What he actually meant was a group of people would see the year 1914 and the "signs" of his "invisible presence" and their generation would overlap a SECOND group  of people who would then in turn see the end of the world? 

Really? Does it seem reasonable that's what Jesus Christ 2000 years ago was referring to?

The leaders have probably come to the conclusion that most Jehovah’s Witnesses will believe whatever they are told and will follow this organisation till they die.
So the Organisation's remit is to make it easier to believe, easier to defend to their “opposers” and easier on the eye to governments and the public.

Jehovah's Witnesses have taught for almost 100 years that they were chosen by Jesus in the year 1919 as the one true religion.

If this is correct what should you do?

If this is proved to be false what should you do?