Last update for this page was on Sunday, 13-Jan-2013 07:52:52 EST

Advice For Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses:
Why Efforts To "Deconvert" The Watchtower Faithful Can Do More Harm Than Good

Or Why You're Only Helping The Watchtower Society More Than You're Hurting It


First things first. To ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who are die-hard promoters of Witness deconversion and "fightin' the 'tower," I offer this heartfelt request: please don't kill me! There's sure to be a trail of evidence leading right to you when the cops find my desiccated corpse buried in that old railroad yard just a block or two from your house. Probably from where I was crying and wetting myself all the way to loco-town. Note that I actually felt the need for a disclaimer like that because I know how excited ex-Jehovah's Witnesses can get about this issue. Yeah, I know that most exxers agree with me on this one, but it still hits pretty close to home even for them. For the rest, I really meant what I said in the title.

You're not just wasting your time. You are helping your enemy and they really do appreciate it. Here's what I mean.

Cognitive Dissonance

This is how cognitive dissonance works. Someone believes something. But all the evidence says they are wrong. So they rationalize their way out of embracing the evidence because they wish to keep believing anyway. It may be out of pride, or it may be because they have too much invested in their belief to give up on it. (It's also something that all humans are wired to do, BTW, so don't get cocky)

But what happens when someone comes along and tries to burst their bubble? Do they snap out of it with a laugh at their own silliness, or do they usually dig in like a bulldog and hold on to their belief even tighter? I don't know about you, but all my experience says they're sure to go with "bulldog determination" almost every time, preferring to defend their belief no matter how crazy or harmful it actually is. In fact, all the scientific research I'm familiar with on the subject suggests the same thing.

So by challenging their dissonance repeatedly, we are actually forcing them to dig in deeper because they don't want to let go of their belief. By confronting them, we are actually encouraging them to believe, not discouraging them. And the more skillful our arguments become, the more bizarre their rationalizations will become to match.

So ask yourself: is fightin' the 'tower helping my cause or hurting it? (Hint: read the title again if you aren't sure) At least it's something to think about.

"Why Won't Those Gosh Darned Apostates Just Leave Us Alone?"

Remember those articles you read in the Watchtower about those evil, crazy apostates? They were out to get you. They wanted to drag you down into Armageddon with them. Darn them! Why, a single word from one of these sly sorcerers could strip a decent Christian of all that was goodness and light. So what were you encouraged to do when one of those bad, nasty old apostates wondered over like a drug dealer on a playground? Just say no, that's what! And run! But what if you can't run off, clutching your Live Forever In Paradise book like a life preserver to your chest? Well, then you'd better make sure to draw even closer to other Witnesses, just like sheep are supposed to do in the presence of lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

So the answer to this sort of outside pressure is to draw even closer to the Watchtower Society ("The Truth") and other Witnesses ("good associations") for protection. Again, if you're campaigning against the Society, this ain't helping your cause. Is it?

But there's more to it than that. Think back to your Watchtower days and try to remember how people like that really seemed. Did they make a good impression? Or did many of them seem to confirm the Society's claim that all apostates are sneaky, bitter, or just have an axe to grind? Did you ever listen to those apostates? Or did your spiritual armor go up whenever they came around wanting to talk?

Did you even go to these people when you began to have doubts? Or did you hold off because their attitude seemed too extreme and because you didn't want to encourage them to pressure you any further? You probably avoided anyone like that. Or if you did turn to them, it was probably because you were already getting fed up with the Society's behavior. But if that was the case, did they really do a whole lot to "deconvert" you? Or did you simply go to them to give you that final nudge?

In most cases, they probably did little good and a lot more harm. They may have even made you dig in deeper with your beliefs and prolonged your agony. Say ... ever wonder if that's what you've been doing by needling your estranged sister or your cousin who lives in Iowa? It's worth thinking about if you haven't before.

The biggest point is that you are actually helping the Society by shoving its followers deeper into the Watchtower's flock. I'm sure the Governing Body appreciates it, even as they continue to characterize all their critics as bitter, delusional people who won't leave them alone ... and end up using you as examples of how right they are! (Thanks for that, BTW)

"Deconversion" Is Just Conversion By Another Name

Let's talk about the act of "deconverting" someone from their faith. There is no such thing as "deconversion." There is only conversion, which is what evangelists like Jehovah's Witnesses are trying to do to the rest of the world. They believe that Jehovah God has delegated authority to the Watchtower Society to rule over his "possessions" (faithful Jehovah's Witnesses) right here on Earth. You (as a "deconverter") believe that the Society is harmful, probably consider it to be a cult, and believe that is it using its followers to makes loads of cash. While attempting to "deconvert" them, you are actually converting them from their belief system to your belief system. "Deconversion" is just a nicer, more objectifying word for the very same thing.

Not only are you making converts, you are an evangelist for the truth. Look at all those Witnesses who've been deceived. They think they know how it is, don't they? They think they're doing what's right. But they're wrong. You're right and you just want to share that knowledge. You want to save them from the Society and show them the light. And anything that makes them see that light is justified. Maybe if you keep needling them about it ... maybe if you can just think of that magic phrase or piece of evidence that will unlock their hearts and minds to the truth ... then maybe you can set them free. You're a selfless crusader doing what's right, and you don't care what jerk-wads like me have to say. Darn me!

Yep. You've become just like them. I have, after all, described the viewpoint of most Witnesses, have I not? It's something to think about.

The Tough Question: Is It About Them Or You?

This is probably the hardest part to accept. (Remember that cognitive dissonance thing I was talking about earlier?) I talked about my views on evangelism in an earlier article. I believe it has a selfish motive, and that's why ex-Jehovah's Witnesses should give themselves permission to stand up to the faithful who get too pushy. But what about an anti-Watchtower-evangelist? Might these same motives apply to them?

I'll leave it to you to handle that question. I'm too busy digging that ditch by the railroad tracks to save us both some time when you come calling. (Remember to bring a breathing mask ... I'll be doing more than just crying and wetting myself as you drag me away! Trust me, my pants will be full the instant I open the door!) Just be careful with those torches. I got pets living here ya know, and they didn't do anything to you!


So here it is. The best revenge is to live well. You've already done a good thing by getting out of the Society. But are you still helping it? Does it still rule your life? If you're campaigning against it, I dare say that it might be. Maybe now is a good time to just move on. And please keep the torches and pitchforks to a minimum. I'm actually quite brittle.

-the Atheist Geek-

Extra: Here's an example of what I mean when I say that protestors usually just make the Witnesses dig in deeper and the Society look more sympathetic. To any outside observer, it's the protestors that are the problem here, not the Witnesses. They're doing their best to valiantly ignore the guy in the Devil costume while others look on and surely feel sorry for the Witnesses being persecuted. It might seem funny, but how does this sort of behavior really help the cause of the protestors? I daresay they're helping the Society more than hurting it with this display. Do you see how the Witnesses toward the end of the last video shake hands and lend each other emotional support? The protestors are not only giving the Society good press by making them appear sympathetic, they're actually strengthening the relationships between the Witnesses themselves. I doubt they'll be "deconverting" any one today.

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