From The November AWAKE! Conclusions On The Articles About Atheism

Is Atheism On The March?I don’t usually do reviews of the Watchtower Society’s literature, but the November issue of the AWAKE! magazine was special because it dealt with atheists and atheism. This isn’t something that flies off the Society’s printing presses every month, and as an atheist with Witness in-laws, I just had to bite. Now that my reviews of each article dealing with atheists are over, I wanted to clarify some things and explain my conclusions about the AWAKE! in a single, cohesive article to tie it all together.

There’s one major point I need to mention before we can begin. That’s the huge gulf between the values of ex-Witnesses turned atheists like myself and the values of the Watchtower Society. I’m not talking about values like honesty, hard work, and all that. I’m talking about how both groups value information and how we form our opinions. These issues are much bigger than they might seem and can be applied to all sorts of peoples.

For this post, I’ll be focusing on what makes good reading to atheists versus what makes good reading for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ll also try to explain what those differences mean for both groups.

Differing Values, Or How We Know These Articles Weren’t Meant For Atheists Like You and Me

Let me hit you with something that will probably annoy any Jehovah’s Witnesses who might read this post. (Sorry, guys. I assume you came here by accident anyway.) Here’s the bomb: for the most part, the Society’s literature is less about informing its readers to help them draw their own objective conclusions about any given subject than it is about reaffirming what Jehovah’s Witnesses already think they know.

Think about that for a second. Because this is something that flies in the face of the things we skeptical atheists often value most.

theuglytruthposterThis is why atheists will never appreciate anything about the Society’s literature, unless it’s a grudging admiration for its ability to convince Witnesses to take everything it says so seriously. I think that goes double for ex-Witnesses turned atheists like myself. Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to think the literature rocks because it makes them feel good about “the truth” and themselves. Which is pretty much all it’s meant to do anyway. Well, that and give them something to talk about when they knock on our doors.

For those not so familiar with the literature or who didn’t quite get what I was talking about a few paragraphs back, let me explain it another way.

The Society’s literature is written with its core audience in mind. Remember, the Society is a publishing company as well as a religious organization, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are its core audience. The Witnesses need the literature because it’s an integral part of their worship. They already know (believe, actually) that the Society’s teachings are “the truth.” So, unlike everyone else, Witnesses don’t need anyone to convince them that the Society’s teachings are “the truth.” They’re already there, man. So the literature doesn’t really need to bother with any of that. That’s what Witness parents and mentors are for.

An atheist reading their literature would not only want proof that the Society’s teachings are true, they would want proof that the evidence supporting that truth is trustworthy. What can I say? We’re a skeptical bunch. As far as the facts are concerned, Witness readers only need to know the details of the Society’s teachings so they can explain them to prospective converts. As I said, the rest is about feeling good and confident in “the truth.”1

So, in the final analysis, atheists are not their intended audience. It should surprise no one that we would react very differently to these articles than most Witnesses would.

So What The Hell Is That About Anyway?

Here’s the odd thing about the literature. Despite our ability to see through the veil, even I–as an atheist–can admit that the Society’s publications still feel informative. Especially when they aren’t being very informative at all. The books and magazines are actually pretty formulaic if you pay attention to them, but darn it all, I gotta say that the formula works. In the AWAKE! articles I reviewed, you’ll notice several strategies were used over and over again throughout2. And still, they continue to work on millions of people decade after decade. The Society is especially adept at using authority figures to help make its points, even when the expert’s credentials are more than suspect.

How the hell does that happen?

wherethetruthliesLike it or not, tweaking the facts and exploiting our emotions is one area where the Society’s authors truly excel. Jehovah’s Witnesses value the literature immensely, even seeing it as their “spiritual food.” Well, I suppose the Society telling them that the literature is their spiritual food helps. Anyway… Only someone who has a fair grasp of concepts like critical reasoning skills or the principles of debate can detect these problems with ease.

Face it. Humans may be smarter than the average chipmunk, but we’re still driven by emotion and impulses. We like to think we’re better than that, but we’re totally wrong about it. Emotion motivates us far more than anything intellectual seems to. People still do things that feel good in the short term despite knowing that these things can kill them or make them miserable in the long term. Why would we do that if we were truly driven by our intellects?

If you can tap into our emotions, then you’ve pretty much got us by the short and curlies. If you can make us want to believe your views on gods or cars or atheists, then sooner or later, we probably will. And all because it feels good when we do.

Atheists often adopt mental processes like critical reasoning skills to help us compensate for this weakness in the brain’s reasoning centers. We’re good at recognizing these mechanisms at work within ourselves. We’ve learned not to trust our impulses, especially when it comes to big issues, like religion. But these are not innate skills. We had to learn them and practice them. Even then, we can’t honestly say we use them perfectly. So we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get too cocky.

Regarding the November AWAKE! itself, it’s clear that the magazine wasn’t written with atheists in mind despite the fact that we’re its main subject. It might have been fun reading a plea from the Watchtower Society for atheists to visit their local Kingdom Hall. But that’s not what this AWAKE! was about. These articles were about making frowny faces at sad old atheists so Jehovah’s Witnesses could throw their arm around other Christians who don’t think much of us either. They’re really just a conversation starter for Witnesses that encounter people who don’t like atheists at the door.

If your Witness parents bring this issue of the AWAKE! to your house because they want to have another intervention to save you from the world or yourself, try not to sigh too loudly before you tell them you aren’t interested. Then try to use the articles to explain why it isn’t going to work…if you dare. In the meantime, if the Society publishes something that’s truly meant for atheists and skeptics, I’d like to see it. Really, I would. Curiosity would draw me right in.

Is A Publication That’s Designed To Make Jehovah’s Witnesses Feel Good About Themselves And Their Faith A Bad Thing?

You just had to ask. Thanks for that. Now I’m really in for it.

truthnextexit

You know, it’s tempting to answer no to that question. After all, if this is what the Society’s readers want, why not give it to them? Isn’t that what other publishers do? Aren’t we just judging the Society by a double standard if we say yes?

That sounds like a good point. But the Society isn’t any old publisher, now is it? This organization claims that it is offering us the one and only truth of all truths. It claims to be on a mission to save us from the Devil, Armageddon, and even ourselves. So I say their own mission statement means they should be held to a higher standard than the average issue of the Enquirer or even The New York Times.

What if there is a god and its not very happy with those who fall for your teachings? Unless that god is talking to you personally, that’s always a possibility. So if you’re conversion tactics are dishonest–even a little bit dishonest–then you’re basically playing God and trying to make up your reader’s minds for them. You could be condemning loads of people to their doom without offering them a fair chance to figure it all out for themselves3.

How can that be moral?

truthorbullI realize that some people may scoff at this by claiming that the Society’s mission is all bunk anyway, so it can’t be as big a deal as all that. But even if you don’t buy into the Society’s teachings on Armageddon and the New System of Things, the organization still asserts the authority to shape how millions of people see the world, raise their children, and live out their lives. So no matter how we view their mission statement, the Society is still asking people to stake their very lives on the opinions of its leaders4. That’s a big big big responsibility. One I’m not sure that anyone should bear without something I call full disclosure.

Full disclosure means you tell us all the facts, which you better have before you decide your beliefs are right, BTW. It’s one thing to have an opinion and try to convince others to agree with it. It’s another thing to simply assume you’re right and just kinda wing it from there, ignoring reality as you go whenever it gets in the way.

To convert others to your point of view in a responsible and honest way, you have to offer potential converts all the facts. Even the ones that might disprove your opinions. To do otherwise is either very deceptive or, at best, cowardly. Why hide the facts if you truly believe you’re right? You can still try to explain those facts away, but at the very least, you should make some effort to present them. I just don’t think the Society bothers enough with that.

Hey, I know that no one can do this perfectly, but I think it can certainly be done better. Since the Society’s writings affect the lives of millions of people, the stakes are too high for the governing body to skim over pertinent details. They simply don’t have the right to cherry pick their facts here or to play God. Yet it seem to me that they do it all the time.

truthordare1

Everybody deserves the opportunity to make up their own minds about what is true and what isn’t true. Skewing the details to make your arguments seem stronger than they really are isn’t cool.

I believe that the Society owes it’s readers a lot more of something that’s a whole lot better. By the governing body’s own admission, it’s not as if Jesus is popping in on their board meetings and telling them what to print. Until this starts happening, then “the truth” is entirely the product of their human brains and nothing else. In other words, “the truth” is merely their opinion and not an absolute fact. To assume otherwise is…well…a lot less than humble in my eyes. And I thought the rest of us were supposed to be the prideful ones here.

:roll:

Please forward your hate mail to the comments section below. And to those I did not offend, thanks for reading.

NOTE: This is part of a series of posts about the this issue of the AWAKE!

IS ATHEISM ON THE MARCH?

HAS SCIENCE DONE AWAY WITH GOD?

A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION-AN IMPROVEMENT?

“I WAS RAISED AN ATHEIST?”

Followed by:

Conclusions On The Articles About Atheism

The Watchtower Society’s Writing Style: Their Literature’s Most Effective Techniques


  1. No soap commercial jokes please.
  2. Stay tuned. I’ll be talking about the  strategies I’ve found in the literature in more detail during another post.
  3. Sure, they could turn to other sources, but if you claim those sources are untrustworthy because the world is run by Satan, I daresay you’re playing dirty pool.
  4. Please don’t say that the Society is run by Jesus. Jesus doesn’t have a New York address, ya know.

About The Atheist Geek

The Atheist Geek is a former Jehovah's Witness turned secular humanist. He's a lifelong sci-fi geek and a writer wannabe.
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21 Responses to From The November AWAKE! Conclusions On The Articles About Atheism

  1. christianPeper says:

    By Christian Peper
    While atheists claim to be better educated and better informed than most; they are generally ignorant of what cult mind control is. In 2004 I lived with a Jehovah Witness roommate in Arizona that controlled and manipulated me. He took my basic rights away. Mind control tools are powerful but not mysterious. There is no excuse for both atheists and mainstream Christians to be ignorant of cult mind control. Here are some mind control tools cults use: love bombing, loading the language, spying on each other, use of thought stopping, control of information, the collection of blackmail material, fear, mystical manipulation, demand for purity, and considering the doctrine of the cult as more important than the damage it causes.

  2. Vinny says:

    The WT Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses are a MAN-originating, men-run, high controlling religious cult-like institution, rather than what they tell people they are (God’s appointed Channel/Organization/People nonsense).

    The facts prove without a doubt that God was never behind any of this:

    http://home.tiscali.nl/t661020/wtcitaten/part2.htm

    ALL FROM THEIR OWN LITERATURE WITH DATES AND PAGES TO SEE FOR YOURSELVES!!!

    We got False End of the World Predictions all over the place, medical disasterous policies – FORCED on JW’s at risk of extreme shunning.

    We got flip flops, blinking lights, wacky science, historical failures, arrogance, judging other religions and people of those religions and LOADS of WT Society embarrassments and humiliations throughout their entire 100+ year history!

    God had nothing to do with all that nonsense that was called, “Food from God” by all JW’s even down to this day.

    It was WRONG when it first came off the presses!

    So why are some today opposed to Jehovah’s Witness and their policies?

    DEAD PEOPLE is why.

    RUINED LIVES is why.

    FALSE PROPHECIES is why.

    An arrogant, controlling Religious Institution is why.

    They are WRONG ON BLOOD TODAY (for 68 years now).

    They are WRONG ON SHUNNING those that simply walk away from the JW religion today. (nowhere in bible)

    They are WRONG 607 BCE and 1914.

    They were WRONG ABOUT FORBIDDING Vaccinations, Organ Transplants, Alternative Service and much more.

    They were wrong on ALL OF THEIR End of World Predictions in writing. Wrong on marital infidelity rules, rape rules, beards, 1935, Beth Sarim and too many things to bother listing here.

    Did ((( GOD ))) make all of these terrible decisions to force on all the JW’s as “food at the proper time”, and then change his mind later on?

    Or was is just a bunch of MEN, that make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (sitting up in some Brooklyn office somewhere) making these poor decisions, FORCING them on all JW’s and then afterwards conveniently change their mind?

    Does God serve Bad Food like this?

    Perhaps He is not a very good cook?

    Shunning people for disagreements is NOT scriptural!

    Shunning people for walking away from the JW faith is NOT scriptural!

    This is a CONTROL mechanism. And it often works. It is a gross misapplication of scripture to keep the average JW towing the line.

    THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN UNITY AND FORCED UNIFORMITY.

    Jw’s are not allowed to even THINK differently.

    I WAS a JW, and an elder as well, until recently in 2006 when I walked away. I am very familiar with how they are actually WORSE than most other faiths today. I am shunned for walking away. People today and for the last 80 years have died, without reason, due to the WT medical policies forced on all JW’s.

    Each week is filled with a list of JW obligations that basically OWN YOU. You are told what you can read, what movies are acceptable, what association is acceptable, what facial hair is okay. What you can celebrate and cannot. What words you are allowed to use.

    What is allowed in your own bedroom with your wife. And too many other things to list here again. Before knowing all the facts and believing they were God’s True Channel, one can go a very long way to justify all of these things. Take away that one true faith belief and so falls the rest.

    I have been there and done all that.

    JW’s are told they cannot take blood transfusions in situations where they might need one (such as through accidents or complications with surgery, pregnancy or child birth).

    So, naturally, more JW’s will die.

    Just like this mother died unnecessarily!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/shropshire/7078455.stm

    And now her husband has no wife and her two new twins have no mother.

    And all for what?

    Or this teenager that also DIED: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/8690785.stm

    This is very simple. JW’s NEEDLESSLY die for this sorry blood policy today.

    From the same organization that has an entire 100 + year history of similar bad and embarrasing policies.

    This is why I suggest to anybody thinking of becoming a JW … to READ READ AND READ UP ON THIS RELIGION FIRST!

    The proof will clearly stand out that the JW faith is not what they try to tell people they are!

    The facts are Irrefutable.

    Vinny

  3. Patmos Pete says:

    The third message from heaven…

    If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

  4. Ty says:

    “While atheists claim to be better educated and better informed than most; they are generally ignorant of what cult mind control is.”

    You base this assertion on what? I’m an atheist, and fairly well versed in cult tactics. Let me guess. You pulled this ‘fact’ out of your ass, didn’t you?

    ” In 2004 I lived with a Jehovah Witness roommate in Arizona that controlled and manipulated me. He took my basic rights away. Mind control tools are powerful but not mysterious.”

    Bummer.

    “There is no excuse for both atheists and mainstream Christians to be ignorant of cult mind control.”

    Demonstrate that they actually ARE ignorant of those things first.

    “Here are some mind control tools cults use: love bombing, loading the language, spying on each other, use of thought stopping, control of information, the collection of blackmail material, fear, mystical manipulation, demand for purity, and considering the doctrine of the cult as more important than the damage it causes.”

    You had me right up to mystical manipulation. Care to define what that is?

  5. Ty says:

    Vinny, I think you might be spamming the wrong site. This is an Anti-JW site. You are sort of yelling at the wrong people.

  6. Ah, I was talking to Patmos Pete. My bad.

    Pete, I almost deleted your comment as spam. I think you might want to explain it. There’s about a 100 different interpretations of that scripture.

  7. ChristianPeper, I was a bit thrown by your comments as well. Not entirely sure where you’re coming from here.

    Many atheists were never part of any cult, so it’s not necessarily our bread and butter as a group. But many do have the tools to recognize it, such as critical reasoning skills.

    As for having no excuse for not recognizing cults, I have no idea why you think that or you’re angry about it. These aren’t exactly skills that are taught in high schools nationwide. What’s your angle here?

    I guess I’m not clear on what it is your really trying to say or what atheism has to do with that. Or were you just trying to link your comment to the post above by mentioning atheists? Maybe you could explain this more.

  8. Selena says:

    I am glad that you said the publications can “feel” imformative. I have to be really careful not to get sucked it. I know what logic and reasoning tell me but fear darn near cripples me. I hope that I can recover from the society!! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on tactics. I have been paying more than the usual attention to witness tactics. As always, thank you for what you do.

  9. Selena,

    Yeah, ain’t it weird? But the articles are surprisingly formulaic. Even the books are too. I think this has something to do with the fact that the Society has been churning out books for quite a long time and has perfected their technique. So why deviate?

    I hope to have something posted about this by next week.

    One issue that many XJWs have is a fear of Armageddon and other nagging what-if-they’re-rights. They don’t believe, yet somehow, they can’t shake all their old fears completely. I’m thinking about this subject, too, and would like to make some posts.

    Of course, I still like doing the silly posts too…

  10. Selena says:

    Ya, the what if they’re rights is a poison in my mind. What is so funny to me is that I know I don’t feel good being a part of the organization yet it continues to fester. I am fairly logical. I realize the chance encounters with witnesses are more likely due to my home and work being in such close proximity to my old congregation. But the fear that had replaced reason for so long sneaks in sometimes. I am very interested in their methods.

    The silly stuff is awesome too!

  11. Shiggity Shwaaa says:

    Hmmm, I’m not sure where to start, but I suppose saying that I’m a current “JW” is probably a good place. I’ll also throw out there that I was (oh nooooo) “df’d” and inactive for a period of time before that. (I decided I’d get knocked up without being hitched, and I’ll admit it’s one of the best mistakes I ever made, and a lot of my regret about that situation comes from bringing her into the world without her father’s support and blah blah blah not necessarily from the fact that I committed fornication, eww, it sounds so dirty.) BEFORE, the big event (df’d) I’d gone to other churches and even tossed the idea of their NOT being a God around every once in a while. One of my dearest friends (we go back to 2nd grade (20 years) and he is rightly one of the most intelligent guys I know) is an Atheist and we’ve had many conversations over a fine margarita over this very topic. For me, it’s the fact that I don’t feel that something can come from nothing (which in itself is a contradiction, I know, because then God would’ve had to come from something) BUT I truly believe that there is something bigger than us out there (for all I know, because I’m not a scientist or even a theology major nor was I present at the beginning of ‘time’, it’s like Whorton Hears a Who ;)). So I’ll add that I completely respect others opinions and choices. One of the things about labeling myself a Christian is NOT to judge others, something that I think gets thrown under the bus somewhere. The way I see it we were created with free will and choice – you wanna be gay, go for it. You wanna worship a paramecium? Do it. If you’re going to do it – own it! Right? Anyway, back to the point, I did go to other churches and for ME (this is MY personal opinion and I do NOT expect anyone to obtain or feel anything about it…just for informational purposes ONLY) other churches spent too much time talking about things that weren’t in the Bible. “OHEMGEE, errbody, we’re having a mission trip to Hawaii next week, pay your dues plus a grand to donate to the church!” Personally, I feel (and I was raised a Witness, so I’m not going to lie there is bias in my opinions, nurrr) that if you’re going to teach about the Bible then ya should spend some time READING the Bible. AND YESSSSSSSSSSS, I DO see what you’re saying about the literature (I didn’t study your article, I skimmed it briefly, so forgive me – I’m a Christian AND I may be coming at this from the wrong direction) how can we (as the intended audience) be sure that what they’re saying is being accurately portrayed and is true? We can’t. I mean we can, if I want to go investigate the quotations – they’re there, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I can. BUT I think (and granted, I’m not speaking for every single witness out there, because well we’re all different in our own ways) that a large part of the audience depends on faith. And really, even being as skeptical, critical, and realistic as I can be sometimes (being realistic and Christian, I suppose is a bit of an oxymoron to an Atheist, I KNOW :D) But as to some of the posts above, I don’t think Jehovah’s Witnesses (as a whole) are master manipulators or any worse than any other Christian Denomination – they get such a bad reputation from people that don’t actually do what they’re preaching to do. There are hypocrites across the board (atheists that celebrate Christmas, say whaaa?) and I just really felt the need to throw a few things into the mix. Even if they didn’t follow any specific order…I’ve just learned that if you’re ticking a lot of people off (including some other extremists, etc) you might be doing something right. Then again you may just be “pissing in someone’s cheerios” and asking for it. Anyway, like I said, I’m always open to what others say and feel about the religious path I’ve chosen (to an extent, somethings are just annoying of course), I suppose I welcome a healthy amount of debate, but I also respect the point where people just need to agree to disagree – for the sake of mankind and peace that’d be something I wish everyone would learn.

  12. Shiggity Shwaaa says:

    But I suppose the point I was trying to make (and got distracted with my not so awesome story telling skills) is that you may be right, but not everybody does just what the GB tells them or just because this was printed somewhere. I do it because I truly feel that they’re right on the Bible’s teachings and I respect that they might not have it “right” all the time, but who does? Maybe their literature is intended to make the people who already believe it feel better and reassured, but to each his own? And really wouldn’t you rather have people out preaching that you’re not going to burn for eternity for not believing in God and just preach what you already know and try to spread HOPE for those that need/want it. From the few Atheists I’ve talked to, living without a belief in God is living a life without hope for anything past death…at least we’re not walking around damning people to hell for it, right?

    • Hi Shiggity Shwaa. First, thanks for leaving a genuinely decent and respectful comment. I do not see this as a hate site, or an anti-JW site, but I still get cursed out and flipped off on occasion, sometimes for stuff I merely linked to and didn’t even write myself.

      Second, it sounds like you felt I may have been overgeneralizing somewhere about JWs in my post. You said you wanted to tell me that not all JWs are mindless zombies who obey the WT without question. I agree that this is true. I haven’t completely reread the article recently, but I don’t remember trying to make that point intentionally. I should probably mention that I don’t hate JWs and am married to one, in fact. I’m not a fan of the WTS, but I can’t even claim to hate the org. I dislike it, just as I dislike other religions that are–in my opinion–fundamentalist and overly authoritarian. I also dislike the way some JWs have treated me and others over the years, but they do not represent every JW in the world. Also, I have known and known of JWs who are aware of the manipulations I bring up in the post. Yet they remain loyal to the org, even if they know that “the truth” it teaches can easily be brought into question.

      In other words, as an XJW, I know that all JWs are not alike. Unfortunately, it’s hard to write an article that doesn’t sometimes sound like it’s generalizing about a group of people too much. Especially if it’s a group you, the reader, happen to be a part of. The English language just doesn’t do that one too well, I’m afraid. It would simply be too hard to read the whole thing if I tried to do that. Also, while there are certainly some JWs who are moderate and open minded compared to the more “die hard” believers, for many of us, the majority seem to be of the “obey the WT at all costs!” variety. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your values, a topic a briefly addressed in the post above. To me, it’s a bad thing. But I gladly admit some of not this way. Good for them.

      Whether the way the Society writes and researches its articles is good or bad is another judgment call based on one’s values. For mine, it’s bad. I think I explained that distinction in the post as well. But as you said, you only skimmed it and may not have seen those comments in context.

      I do it because I truly feel that they’re right on the Bible’s teachings and I respect that they might not have it “right” all the time, but who does? Maybe their literature is intended to make the people who already believe it feel better and reassured, but to each his own?

      I can only partially agree with you here. Remember that I was directing my comments primarily at the Society and its writers. The Society frequently asserts that it is right, that it has been given authority by Jesus, and that anyone disobeying it risks death at Armageddon. That’s not a very liberal, flexible, or “but who does get it right all the time?” kinda attitude. That’s an absolute one. So while it’s good for you that you’re flexible this way (depending on which atheists you talk to) I think your attitude isn’t consistent with the one the Society is trying to foment. It is the Society’s attitude toward its writing, its facts, and its authority that really came into play here. Not the ones you have expressed for yourself, which I’m fine with, BTW.

      And really wouldn’t you rather have people out preaching that you’re not going to burn for eternity for not believing in God and just preach what you already know and try to spread HOPE for those that need/want it. at least we’re not walking around damning people to hell for it, right?

      I disagree here as well. I don’t consider being killed at Armageddon because the organization doesn’t approve of me to be much of an improvement over going to Hell, though I can appreciate a final death is probably better than being tortured for all eternity. To me, both are threats: comply with our demands or you’re really gonna get it. So I rate them about the same.

      As to your comment about providing hope, please consider this from another angle. Do con artists provide hope when they pretend to let people talk to dead loved ones? Do companies running infomercials that charge you $100 bucks for miracle cures offer you hope, when in fact, those items are worthless? I don’t think they do. I think they take advantage of our need for hope. It is false hope. And they benefit from our desperation at our expense. So no, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Not that the Society is unique in offering false hope, let me say. Still, this does not impress me.

      From the few Atheists I’ve talked to, living without a belief in God is living a life without hope for anything past death

      I think you’ll find that most atheists aren’t bothered by this. It’s not as if everyone is necessarily going to go wherever they believe they will go after they die. If we atheists are right, then it doesn’t matter if we’re JWs or not. Everyone’s life will simply end when they die and that’ll be it for them. So long as we’re atheists who don’t believe in an afterlife, this is kind of a moot point for us. I think it would be great if there were some way we could be immortal and happy forever. I just don’t think any religion can deliver on this promise.

      PS–(One more for the road) Christmas is also a secular holiday, not just a pagan or Christian one. I don’t see anything hypocritical about an atheist celebrating that. :) I don’t because I find it a pain in the neck, but as you said, to each their own.

      Have a good one Shiggity.

  13. Shiggity says:

    I can imagine you get the not so cheery side of things from time to time and probably several people that want to condemn or save you, even. But just one quick note – I don’t believe that the Society says “You must be one of JW’s or you will suffer a horrible, excruciating death at Armageddon and be eaten by birds (was that your site, or someone else’s? Sorry can’t be sure.)” I know that the TMS has changed a lot just from when I was a ‘kid’ (I’m 26 now). It used to be that people would put their foot in the door and try to shove “the message” down your throat and that was typically okay. They’re trying to teach some tact now, maybe it’ll help us redeem ourselves some. I feel like the part that gets lost with some people is that we’re not trying to convert people; we’re trying to promote Bible reading and a personal relationship with God. The Bible teaches that it is NOT our place to judge others AND WE cannot read hearts. With that said, I don’t feel that it’s wise to preach otherwise. I feel like that is something that comes from…the less educated? But maybe I just see close-mindedness as less educated. As far as my personal opinion goes and from what I feel that the Society teaches as well as the Bible (granted, I can’t say for sure) Jehovah is the reader of hearts and when that time comes it’s up to him to make those choices. I don’t believe just because someone doesn’t bare the label JW that makes them any worse of a person or stand any less of a chance. I feel that there are some that have experiences with Witnesses that scar their hearts and turn them off to what the Witnesses preach. For example I was molested by a “Witness” thankfully, I haven’t had the issue that some people have seemed to have (I’ve read some pretty nasty stuff about Witnesses and molestation, etc online) and that perv was df’d and is now in jail for life, thanks to our taking the stand in court. BUT I can imagine how some people would be completely scarred by that experience had things been handled otherwise. Ok, so that was a bit longer than a quick note, but I felt that was something that was important enough to mention. And I get what you’re saying about false hope, but I suppose that is a bit of a Catch-22. You have to not believe it for it to be a false hope. Logically, I get that believing in a supreme being in a realm that we can’t even reach as humans is a bit far fetched, but it does help people have a moral compass that they might not otherwise have, sadly. And I didn’t come to the conclusion that God was real by going to meetings or being scared of what would happen if I disobeyed him, so to me I don’t feel I’m being “sold” on something, but I suppose that people that get their palms read or what have you, don’t feel they’re being sold on something either…so with that said. I’ll have to ask for forgiveness if parts of this post don’t make sense – I get distracted easily with my three year old running around.

    • Thanks for coming back and giving another reply. Still, I do think we’re on very different pages, so to speak. No offense intended, but I have to say that–to me at least–I really think you’re getting something from the literature that most aren’t. Or maybe it’s coming from somewhere else?

      At any rate, I don’t think I ever said anything about being eaten by birds, though I seem to remember this was suggested by the Society itself at one time. I don’t think this wasn’t a prediction, but rather one idea of how Jesus might deal with the billions of dead bodies after Armageddon. And I have to tell you that, yes, the Society’s position is very clear that anyone who isn’t a good, loyal JW will die at Armageddon. That has been their mantra for a very long time. It’s kind of the point, really, and all over their literature. I honestly don’t know where you’re coming from here. They have, on very rare occasions, said there might be a slim chance that some could make it if they never had the chance to learn from JWs, but their general position has always been that even being one of JWs is not a guarantee. I’m afraid you lost me there.

      I also have to disagree with you on the goal of converting people. That is the point of evangelism. It is certainly true that some Witnesses may personally see their mission in the light you describe. You are clearly such a person. But when you say that isn’t the Society’s intent, again, I wonder if you are reading the same literature we are reading. No offense intended, but I’m starting to think you are imposing your own views on the org and seeing it the way you wish it were. I really don’t think there’s much room for doubt on either of these points. It’s in black and white in the pages of their writing.

      I will give you something, Shiggity. There have been some changes in the way they deal with field service and we XJWs have noticed them. However, I would characterize these changes as minor. They are more likely to simply canvas a neighborhood and leave brochures in people’s doors without bothering them than they used to be. I haven’t noticed much else. The reality is that many Witnesses are aggressive proselytizers for the same reason that many salespeople are aggressive; it works. But only on certain people.

      Regarding personal experiences, I appreciate your sharing this information with us about your past on the site. And your acknowledging that many XJWs have been treated badly and that XJWs aren’t automatically bad people. (We get that one a lot from other JWs.) But just so there’s no misunderstanding here, our disbelief in the Society as the one, true religion usually runs deeper than that. We have plenty of facts and reasoning to go with our position. Still, I acknowledge that for many, bad experiences were the beginning of the end.

      I don’t think you get my full message about false hope. Any hope that is untrue is false. Period. In that respect, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. As I said, it’s not as if everyone gets to choose which afterlife they go to. People often say things like, “Reality is what you make it.” But that’s not really true. Reality is absolute. It is what it is. Only our perceptions of it and our opinions are open to debate. Of course, that’s all we really have. Atheists included. But if the facts don’t support the Society’s teachings, then that casts serious doubt on whether their teachings are true at all.

      As for religion and morality, you really don’t want to get an atheist started on that one. :) I will leave it at this: you don’t need gods to be moral. Maybe a psychopath does, but the rest of us shouldn’t. If we do, then I think something is wrong. Fortunately, you only suggested that it helps. I’m sure you know that gods and religions also encourage bad behavior, so this is pretty debatable. As I said, don’t get us started. :)

      Anyway, nice talking with you Shiggity. We don’t have to agree on anything, obviously. But I’m always for mutual understanding and all that hippy stuff. :) Not trying to set you straight, as it were, only telling you that I really don’t see these things the same as you do. I don’t hear this sort of interpretation from JWs often, so that’s interesting. If a bit frustrating, I suspect, for other XJWs who stumble across our conversation. Maybe some will choose to join in.

  14. Shiggity says:

    Oh – and because I’m really talented and forget everything – thanks, have a great one, too! And on behalf of the Witnesses that try to make you feel like less of a person just because you don’t share their beliefs, I apologize. It may not be my right, but judging and treating you badly is not a way to treat anyone. Unless they kick your dog…jokes, only kidding.

    And your site is interesting…I’ll leave it at that :)

  15. Georgia Witt says:

    Hmmm, I’m not sure where to start, but I suppose saying that I’m a current “JW” is probably a good place. I’ll also throw out there that I was (oh nooooo) “df’d” and inactive for a period of time before that. (I decided I’d get knocked up without being hitched, and I’ll admit it’s one of the best mistakes I ever made, and a lot of my regret about that situation comes from bringing her into the world without her father’s support and blah blah blah not necessarily from the fact that I committed fornication, eww, it sounds so dirty.) BEFORE, the big event (df’d) I’d gone to other churches and even tossed the idea of their NOT being a God around every once in a while. One of my dearest friends (we go back to 2nd grade (20 years) and he is rightly one of the most intelligent guys I know) is an Atheist and we’ve had many conversations over a fine margarita over this very topic. For me, it’s the fact that I don’t feel that something can come from nothing (which in itself is a contradiction, I know, because then God would’ve had to come from something) BUT I truly believe that there is something bigger than us out there (for all I know, because I’m not a scientist or even a theology major nor was I present at the beginning of ‘time’, it’s like Whorton Hears a Who ;)). So I’ll add that I completely respect others opinions and choices. One of the things about labeling myself a Christian is NOT to judge others, something that I think gets thrown under the bus somewhere. The way I see it we were created with free will and choice – you wanna be gay, go for it. You wanna worship a paramecium? Do it. If you’re going to do it – own it! Right? Anyway, back to the point, I did go to other churches and for ME (this is MY personal opinion and I do NOT expect anyone to obtain or feel anything about it…just for informational purposes ONLY) other churches spent too much time talking about things that weren’t in the Bible. “OHEMGEE, errbody, we’re having a mission trip to Hawaii next week, pay your dues plus a grand to donate to the church!” Personally, I feel (and I was raised a Witness, so I’m not going to lie there is bias in my opinions, nurrr) that if you’re going to teach about the Bible then ya should spend some time READING the Bible. AND YESSSSSSSSSSS, I DO see what you’re saying about the literature (I didn’t study your article, I skimmed it briefly, so forgive me – I’m a Christian AND I may be coming at this from the wrong direction) how can we (as the intended audience) be sure that what they’re saying is being accurately portrayed and is true? We can’t. I mean we can, if I want to go investigate the quotations – they’re there, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I can. BUT I think (and granted, I’m not speaking for every single witness out there, because well we’re all different in our own ways) that a large part of the audience depends on faith. And really, even being as skeptical, critical, and realistic as I can be sometimes (being realistic and Christian, I suppose is a bit of an oxymoron to an Atheist, I KNOW :D) But as to some of the posts above, I don’t think Jehovah’s Witnesses (as a whole) are master manipulators or any worse than any other Christian Denomination – they get such a bad reputation from people that don’t actually do what they’re preaching to do. There are hypocrites across the board (atheists that celebrate Christmas, say whaaa?) and I just really felt the need to throw a few things into the mix. Even if they didn’t follow any specific order…I’ve just learned that if you’re ticking a lot of people off (including some other extremists, etc) you might be doing something right. Then again you may just be “pissing in someone’s cheerios” and asking for it. Anyway, like I said, I’m always open to what others say and feel about the religious path I’ve chosen (to an extent, somethings are just annoying of course), I suppose I welcome a healthy amount of debate, but I also respect the point where people just need to agree to disagree – for the sake of mankind and peace that’d be something I wish everyone would learn.

    • Hi Georgia. I will agree with you that the WTS isn’t so different than other religions in some ways. Many religions are prone to manipulating the facts and even unfairly casting other groups they don’t like as baddies. I write about the Society because I’m an XJW, not because I think they’re especially bad. The org is part of my experience. I’m married to a Witness and have Witness in-laws. These other groups are not part of my experience in any meaningful way.

      I also agree with you about it being a matter of faith for the Society’s followers. Some Witnesses have faith in the org because they have faith in Jehovah/Jesus. Others are truly just plain loyal to the org despite being aware of its flaws. (Though many of them will understandably only admit to those flaws amongst themselves.) I suspect some stay in it because their families are in it and they haven’t been drawn to go elsewhere. It’s simply what they know, so they stay.

      Here’s the thing. One of my big points is the difference in values this represents. I believe that faith in the org is valued more than reality here. For them, it’s acceptable to distort reality (or the facts as they are understood to exist) in service of maintaining and strengthening that faith. I believe this is hypocritical. If it’s about God, and God is a reality, then distorting reality is unfair–even dangerous–for God’s believers. If the Society is misleading people (and distorting the facts is misleading people) then they could be condemning them as well by robbing those believers of the chance to pick the right religion.

      Of course, I don’t believe in any gods. But in my case, I would say they are condemning their followers to a delusion: the delusion that the Society’s teachings are well supported and perfectly reasonable. When, in reality, the facts usually contradict the Society. As an atheist, I value full disclosure and see this sort of deception as unfair and self serving. Maybe even power hungry. It keeps the believers believing and donating. It keeps the followers following instead of allowing them to discover other ways of life.

      Still, as you say, there are plenty of other religions doing some or all of these things. For me, that isn’t an excuse. It doesn’t make it OK. It just means the Society isn’t all that unique (despite its claims). My values tell me this is a bad thing.

      Thanks for your comment.

  16. G.O.I. says:

    This is the first time that I have commented on this site. Just so you know where I am coming from…I was raised as a Jehovah’s witness from the age of 6. I was baptized at the age of 16, and disassociated myself at the age of 22. I am now an atheist, though this was clearly not always the case. I have some family that are still witnesses, and even some friends. I hold no animosity toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Watchtower Society. Regardless of the GB’s motive, their teaching and tactics have caused harm in several lives.

    I wanted to specifically address Shiggity. I appreciate you liberal view, however, from years of experience, I can say that the Organization and their teachings, are not inline with such liberality. I would even venture to caution you, because such a view could get you into trouble with the Organization, and even cause you to be Df’d again.

    I am not trying to change your beliefs, I would never (accept when I was a witness, believing that it was the only means of salvation of people) attempt to do such a thing. I would, however, encourage you to do your own research and become extremely familiar with the organizations that you represent. Even when it comes to the Organizations publications, do some external research into the subjects that they are speaking on, and the sources that they site (they have been known to misrepresent certain people and works that they quote).
    As far as what you said:
    “But just one quick note – I don’t believe that the Society says ‘You must be one of JW’s or you will suffer a horrible, excruciating death at Armageddon and be eaten by birds (was that your site, or someone else’s? Sorry can’t be sure.)'”
    The Watchtower 2006 May 15 p.22 “Are You Prepared for Survival?” Paragraph 8 says:
    “During the final period of the “ancient world” that perished in the Flood, Noah was a faithful “preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) In these last days of the present system of things, Jehovah’s people are making known God’s righteous standards and are declaring good news about the possibility of surviving into the new world. (2 Peter 3:9-13) Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah’s universal organization.”

    From a purely atheist vs. Christian standpoint, I have to say that our views differ drastically, but I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I agree that you really shouldn’t get an atheist started on the morality issue, since that seems to be overused as a fallible argument for Christianity. It was good to read your post since you were coming from a place of honest discussion, and not what is typically seen.

    A.G., I, too, only skimmed this article, but have read others on your site. You are completely right, the Watchtower and Awake are not meant to be read by us. I don’t know that the reason for this is because of atheism though. The publications are meant to be studied and compared with a skewed view of they hold the truth, and outside resources are either wrong, or misguided. When we stop looking at the publications as holding the ultimate authority (whether we are atheist or not) then we can see through the propaganda and conversion tactics.

    Thanks for the information.

  17. GOI, I like to thank people for good comments left on the site. Yours is one of them. Thanks for that.

    I did want to clarify something. When I spoke about the article being for JWs and potential converts, not for atheists, it was for a slightly different reason than the one you picked up on. I understand that you only skimmed the article, so I wanted to explain that.

    You would think the WTS would write atheist articles in an attempt to convert atheists. But I haven’t been able to find such an article no matter how far back I’ve gone. That’s interesting to me.

    Instead, these articles always seem to be about how wrong they think atheists are. The writers will try to establish this in ways that will only raise the eyes of many atheists. Especially “book atheists” who read a lot about philosophy and logic. Because, by our standards, their arguments against atheism are very bad. Many JWs and other Christians will probably assume their points are correct, however. As an atheist, that only makes it more annoying for someone like me.

    Clearly, from start to finish, we’re not their intended audience. Yet I was also reviewing the article by the standards an atheist would use. So I was acknowledging the contradiction.

    Thanks again for the commnet, GOI.

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