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".


  1. Very interesting information and well thought out! I hope you don't mind but I created a link on my blog to this post. Here is my blog:

  2. I found this post thought provoking. Although I have often reflected on the extraordinary amount of control The Society has over its members, I've never equated it to Stockholm Syndrome. It's an interesting comparison to be sure.

    Although they seem very similar, the Society is much more subtle, and thus, much more dangerous.

    I think that a key part of what they do is to lead the person to believe that the proof that everyone else is wrong is simply that the Witnesses are different. Being different is a cornerstone to how they retain people.

    For example:

    - Does X other group vote? Then they are not the true religion.
    - Does X other group celebrate a birthday? Aha! They are not the true religion.

    And so on. So, would you say that fits in to Stockholm Syndrome?

    (Note: there is no sarcasm in this post, I really wonder if you feel it does and if so how)

  3. Charisian thank you for reading and posting. I don't mind you linking at all and I checked out your blog, big *thumbs up* good work my friend!

  4. @Javelin Thanks for reading and posting.
    The watchtower don't use physical coercion (other than threat of expulsion) to achieve their aims so therefore it must be a mental process at work on the mind of a JW.
    The comparison with SS is quite striking in my view. Yes being different is one of their features and isn't unique among similar groups.
    Fostering a feeling of being special is one of the hallmarks of a cult.
    Now the point you ask about is more related to the fallacious reasoning the society employs rather than the mental process which SS describes.
    For instance they use Circular reasoning:
    We have the truth so because we believe we have the "truth" what we say must be taught as truth.
    An example of an unsupported illogical fallacious argument.
    Sometimes they use a whole list of some of the things you gave examples of to prove by verbosity i.e.: a rhetorical technique that tries to persuade by overwhelming those considering an argument with such a volume of material that the argument sounds plausible, superficially appears to be well-researched, and it is so laborious to untangle and check supporting facts that the argument might be allowed to slide by unchallenged.

    Getting people to believe and become dependant on such beliefs and fallacies however is the key. Once this is attained then a person may develop the mentality which could be similar to Stockholm Syndrome.

    The ability of the organistion to retain members is based on dependence on "mother" in the form of the org. And not wanting to lose the "life" a witness has built within, friends, family ,social life etc.
    Hope that helps answer your points.

  5. The psychology behind the desire to control the lives of others is not difficult to understand. The willingness to be bullied into submission in a free society is harder to work out. Stockholm Syndrome goes a long way in explaining the human phenomenon. The fact of the growing number of people who go online to find free expression while simultaneously hiding their identity is testament to the fear of the paranoid ‘judicial’ system they may have to face if discovered. You of all people, Matthew, should understand this.

    I find it fascinating that I too drew exactly the same conclusion as you have about the relationship between Stockholm Syndrome and this form of ‘discipleship’ a matter of months ago. This is heartening, because collectively there may be an awakening to the need for major change in the way we, not those who seek to control, must reshape our thinking.
    At the moment I’m concentrating on what part religious rhetoric plays in this situation.


  6. Thanks for your comment FV and I wholeheartedly agree with what you have to say here. It's almost as if they are aware of the issues at stake and yet feel powerless to change. The Internet empowers people and is a vangaurd for free speech.High control groups , such as the Wtbs can do little other than demonise where they can certain "apostate" websites, without naming them of course. I hope that people do indeed have change in thinking you propose.
    I read the article about breaking the "spell" and in fact it's hyper-linked in the article I wrote under the word spell. I believe rhetoric is one of the tools of control which modulates the thinking of those within the Watchtower. But if one becomes aware of such tactics then hopefully it can be nullified.Articles such as the ones under discussion can only help this to occur.

    25 May 2011 04:54

  7. Thanks for posting this info.At present I am still in the organisation and attend meetings however my belief that there is a "faithful and discreet slave" class died some time ago.Logic and history nullify the societys claims regarding this. The date 1914 for the end of the Gentile times is also false based on fake chronology. The only reason I am still in is that to leave would lead to disfellowshipping and shunning.I have been a JW for 20+ yrs so all my associates are in the "truth". Theres no easy way out.

    1. Hi Steve,
      They're just another religion folks. I sent them a letter last November (2011) dis-associating myself from them because in 1991 they broke their own law against joining the united nations. I told them that I was dis-fellowshipping THEM, and that they were no different from the churches.
      They became very warm and friendly to me after that, smiling me on the streets, Eeek! All the while looking for something to condemn me for. So I put up christmas decor just to get them off my back. Nothing worse than having them LIKE you, THEY COMMITTED ADULTERY TO JEHOVAH!
      Now they're back to their self-righteous, pompous, worldly, harrassing, persecuting selves. Thank God!
      They are not witnesses of Jehovah, but of The UNITED NATIONS; and good luck to them!
      Each one to his own.
      Remember, we're were not to give credibility to the worldly ones because their minds are blinded.
      They only shun because they're afraid of rejection. Forgive them! Aww!

  8. Hi Steve. The only immediate way out is to 'drift.' It would be unwise if you have family who are baptised JWs to speak openly of your doubts. Matthew's judicial case also warns us also not to be lulled into speaking to 'well-meaning' elders who are all-too-willing to break a confidence to 'do their duty' about matters that are best kept private. Matthew's case is fully transcribed and available at It is worth studying and learning from.


  9. @Steve
    Leaving will not lead to disfellowshipping. Shunning, probably, but not disfellowshipping. Being an ex-JW, I've personally been through this and I will say like FV said.. drifting is your best way out. Miss a few meetings now and then, and eventually miss them all and just make the memorial. I'm at the point where I'm completely out. I will say though that it will be very difficult at first to be shunned by people you love, but think of it this way. The people who don't shun you are the ones that love you for who you are, no matter what. Isn't it safe to say that those are the people you want as friends in the end anyway?


  10. When an Organization has it's members at a point where they can not question errors without expecting some sort of sanction. \\\\\\\\\ Freedom of speech has flown out the window. If the Organization believes in free speech and has uncompromisingly stood up for free speech. Then why take umbrage when it's members ask questions about the Organizations own errors?

    To have members at a point where they can not openly speak about such matters betrays what Jesus said,"you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

    The spirit of the truth searches into and through all knowledge, if it can not stand alongside the knowledge of GOD then it is in error. And should be openly admitted.

    When an Organization will not openly admit it's errors, takes umbrage at those who question them oppression has begun.

  11. This stockholm syndrome reminds me of the life of black people in general, today not just JW's!

  12. Excellent post. I'm an ex JW. I "drifted away" as you say. In fact I did so many many times in the past so for me it wasn't anything abnormal. Of course a lot of well meaning "friends" tried to encourage me, etc..... for me in short: I was young and very vulnerable and I had always had a deep desire to please God. So when they came knocking (making a return visit on my dad, who was not home at the time) my heart and mind were very ripe for a Bible study. Through my own conscience (I really bought into it all) I decided this MUST be the truth and I became a witness. Through the years though I was always very depressed and always felt extremely guilty. I'm a perfectionist my nature and when I couldn't live up to God's standards I was very very hard on myself. Eventually to the point of suicidal thoughts. In the long run it came down to two choices for me: Kill myself and be done with it, or leave and never go back. You see, every time I had "drifted" away in the past (one time even dissociating myself for about 7 years and getting married, another long and boring story) I was always instantly relieved of my guilt and any thoughts of suicide. So the point came when I had the gun to my head (not in an actual attempt at killing myself but just to see what it felt like, and I found it utterly repugnant btw....) and at that moment it all became clear to me. In fact to this day (more than 5 years later) I can actually remember hearing almost an audible "click" or "snap" inside my head and the overwhelming feeling of "This is insanity!" and that was it. I have never been to another meeting since save for one Memorial and one or two meetings in an futile attempt to "save" my son (he'd gotten into some wrongdoing and I felt it was my fault since I had stopped attending meetings even though he still was).

    Sorry for the scatter brained post thus far......

    For the past 4 years or so I was really torn emotionally about the whole thing. I still felt for a long while that the JW's really had the truth. Such is the power of their mind control over members..... But recently I've really begun to think things through myself with my own mind, and I've just recently read Crisis of Conscience by Franz (well the first 100 pages just tonight) and it's been a real eye opener.

    At this point I really don't believe there is a God. At least not in the sense that any of the major religions of Earth make him out to be. I think if there really were an almighty god that had a definite plan for making us and for our future he would make it inescapably apparent to us all, and I mean ALL. Picture this: When every human being reaches his/her 13th year of age, he/she has a dream. In that dream he/she is introduced to God. God says "Hello, I'm God and this is my plan for humans and what I expect of you......" etc.... And EVERY human being who has ever lived has the same EXACT dream, in the same exact way on the very date of their 13th year of life. Of course I am not God, but this would completely solve all the issues out there with religion and God..... Why didn't God think of this? Why doesn't this happen? If I, a lowly human, can think of this simple solution then why hasn't God? Why must it all be so ridiculously complicated and violent? So many religions, so many different approaches. The only logical answer is that there is no God, at least not as defined by any religion. too long.


  13. Anyway, I've been babbling along now for long enough. I wish there was a way to relieve all JW's from their self imposed prison of the mind but alas there is no easy way to reach them. The consequences are too great. Loss of friends and family, loss of one's belief system, loss of eternal life on Paradise. The dream is just too enticing to give up, as well as all the other things you loose just by THINKING about opposing the Governing Body ie. Faithful and Discrete Slave...whatever.

    I will say this, even though I no longer have my friends (my family are not JW and are very happy that I'm out) and I no longer have the hope of the Paradise, I'm happy. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life in fact. I've found love, I've started a business, I've been working on some major issues in my life that I never would have if I'd still been "in" the outcome for me has been very good and freeing. I still wish I knew the "truth" the real truth not the JW version. I would love to know the absolute truth about life, God, our purpose if there is one, etc..... But those are up until now and for the foreseeable future unknowable facts.... So we just soldier on.

    Be a good person, don't hurt anyone intentionally and when your end comes, maybe then all the questions will be answered, or maybe you just die and that's that? No way to know, but logic tells me this is it. Although I still hope there's more.