Are Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Just “Mentally Diseased?”

The Watchtower magazine turned a lot of heads when it wrote that apostates of Jehovah’s Witnesses are “mentally diseased.” We ex-Witnesses have sure taken notice. So have authorities in the U.K. This brings up a few issues.

First, was the Society saying that all ex-Witnesses are mentally diseased? Second, is this a new level of exxer-bashing for the Society, or just a new turn of phrase? And finally, is this really worth the charge of hate speech or are people just blowing the whole thing out of proportion? I’m sure many Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that this is the case.

But not all of them, I gotta say. On a personal note, my wife–who considers herself one of Jehovah’s Witnesses–thought it was going too far. Thank you, wife. See, my fellow ex-Witnesses? Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses are extreme in their views or just mindless slaves to the organization. (I think it’s always good for exxers to be reminded of this once in a while.) Anyway, back on track…

Does This Mean That The Society Thinks All ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Mentally Diseased?

Technically, yes. Or no. Well, most of us probably are. It depends.

When you look up the word “apostasy” in the Society’s encyclopedic Insight on the Scriptures Vol I, you’ll find that lots of things could make you guilty of apostasy. Lack of faith in God or the organization are both listed as reasons you might be an apostate.

They may also claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization, and then turn to ‘beating’ their former associates to hinder their work. (Jude 8, 11; Nu 16:19-21; Mt 24:45-51) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.”

This is a bit vague, really. It does add the phrase “‘beating’ their former associates to hinder their work” to the fact that we reject the Society and its leaders. Does that mean we must do both things to be apostates? And in what sense must we be “beating” them if that is required? Hmm…

Also note that while this entry says that apostates often seek to make others their followers, it isn’t listed as an actual requirement. It’s just one of several possible symptoms of apostasy.

Here’s another line from the beginning of the Insight entry that encourages us to think that  all ex-Witnesses are basically considered apostates.

However, in the Christian Greek Scriptures [the Greek term for apostasy is] used primarily with regard to religious defection; a withdrawal or abandonment of the true cause, worship, and service of God, and hence an abandonment of what one has previously professed and a total desertion of principles or faith.

Again, it would seem that simply leaving the “true” faith is enough for the word “apostate” to apply. Hence, all ex-Witnesses can be seen as apostates here.

Still, the authors of the Insight Book do acknowledge…however generously, I’m sure…that there is a difference of degrees.

It is evident that there is a distinction between a ‘falling’ due to weakness and the ‘falling away’ that constitutes apostasy. The latter implies a definite and willful withdrawal from the path of righteousness. (1Jo 3:4-8; 5:16, 17) Whatever its apparent basis, whether intellectual, moral, or spiritual, it constitutes a rebellion against God and a rejection of his Word of truth.—2Th 2:3, 4; see MAN OF LAWLESSNESS.

So there is a little wriggle room here, but not much. The entry above doesn’t say what a falling away due to “weakness” actually means. I suspect those of us who fall away due to weakness are 1) those who still believe, but who are inactive 2) those who are totally submissive to Witness interventions and who never utter any objections to the Society’s teachings or policies.

I think many ex-Witnesses may fall into the second category when we first choose to leave our former Kingdom Halls. I know lots of exxers who are troubled by their inability to express their objections when they’re being grilled by angry Witnesses in their own homes. But few of us will remain this way forever, especially after we’ve face numerous interventions by overzealous believers. You can only beat a plowshare so many times before it becomes a sword, ya know!

For now, I think we can interpret this as applying to all ex-Witnesses who don’t believe the Society is the “true religion” anymore, though some of us are more black hearted and vile than others. It clearly applies to all ex-Witnesses who have lost faith in the Society, especially those who openly express their reasons for doing so…er, I meant it especially applies to evil, lie spewing apostates who have to file down their demon horns every morning so we can comb our hair. Yeah, that’s the one.

Is This A New Low For The Society, Or Have They Been Demonizing Us Like This All Along?

Jesus was an apostate

No, it’s not such a new thing. Yes, they’ve said other things that are just as bad.

Apostates have already been accused of everything from “being one with the antichrist” (as quoted from the Insight Book earlier) to having simply been stumbled by their own pride. But most of these comments weren’t made during the age of the internet. The “mentally diseased” remark was.

Note to governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses: name calling isn’t a good way to reach across the aisle, guys. Just sayin’. Real mature, too. I’m sure Jesus would be proud.

I’d like to note something here. It seems that there are two kinds of ex-Witnesses in the minds of the Society. Vile, evil ones who dare speak out. And then there’s the crazy, mixed up kids who just need someone to straighten them out for their own good. I’ve yet to see the Society acknowledge that a third category might exist. Like ex-Witnesses who just disagree with their teachings, behavior, and/or policies for perfectly decent and understandable reasons. Yet this represents the vast majority of us.

Thanks for that.

Let me put it another way. When has the Society every said something like the following statement of even one of its critics?

“These people have raised decent points, even valid ones, that we have to respect. So we’re going to change.”

I would find it encouraging if such a reference could be found. But I don’t know of even one.

Talk about stubbornly holding onto wrongful attitudes grumble grumble grumble…

Is The “Mentally Diseased” Comment Really Worth All The Excitement?

Well, being a party pooper, I do try to be fair to the Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if they don’t always think I am. (Can’t please everybody, man…) So I feel I should point out something which only diminishes the impact of the Society’s comment a tiny-winy little bit.

When I read the article, I didn’t get the sense that the author was a bitter old man standing on a soap box with a bull horn, shouting, “Mentally diseased!” at us while he shook his withered fist. Instead, it struck me as just another ill-conceived attempt at one of the Society’s infamous analogies. Basically, the author was trying to compare the spread of non-Watchtower approved ideas and attitudes with the spread of a disease. Since teachings are…well, mental things…the author put the obvious word with the other obvious word. And voila! Here I am writing this article about their article.

So maybe it’s not so bad. Or is it?

I have to point out that this comment actually got by the writing committee and was approved by the governing body for publication to the whole freaking world without anyone going, “Hey, isn’t this a tad mean? Even a smidge dickish? Maybe you should rephrase it so we don’t end up being investigated by the U.K. for hate speech crimes and made to look like a pack of bigots? Yeah, better change it. Glad I caught that one, huh? I’ll just go have that sandwich now…”

Okay, this is just my interpretation, but it seems as if the line “mentally diseased” was dropped in the sentence without much thought. It’s as if accusing those who happen to think you’re religion is wrong of being “mentally diseased” is no big deal and not worth much excitement within the organization. It’s as if everyone reading it pretty much already assumed that was the case anyway, so it never occurred to the writing committee or the governing body that someone “worldly” might be shocked or offended by it.

In other words, it’s as if accusing former Witnesses of being “mentally diseased” or “one with the antichrist” is just business as usual for the Society’s leaders and writing staff. Unfortunately, based on our own experiences and an ocean of literature that goes back for several decades, I think we exxers have to admit that it kinda is.

You’re mileage may vary. But never let it be said that the Society is as nice to others as it expects others to be of it. The Society is quick to attack it’s critics and relentless to bash those who leave it’s borders. It would seem that the Society’s leaders think this is the Christian way to be.

::Atheist Geek shakes head disapprovingly at governing body::

Guys of the governing body, seriously…all this paranoia and fear isn’t doing you or your followers any good. You live in a world of fear and rigid dogma. Maybe it’s time to try a new approach. Maybe it’s time to learn from your mistakes. Maybe it’s time you finally stopped chasing your own tails and started to grow.

You won’t know until you try.

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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