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

literatureAll ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses know that the Watchtower Society is more than a religious organization. It’s also a publisher of books and magazines,1 which are–for all intents and purposes–a central part of worship for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Society uses its literature to hand out its spiritual food (“the truth”) to its adherents, including counsel from the governing body. Most Witnesses will probably tell you that the literature rocks, that it’s very informative, well written, and expertly researched. But the literature also has its critics. Like me. (Sorry.)

In my last post, I mentioned that the Society’s authors use techniques that make the literature feel both convincing and informative. I also told you that the literature isn’t nearly as informative or convincing as it feels. In this post, I’ll tell you how their authors keep convincing readers that they’re right, even when they’re dead wrong. I’ll even tell you why Jehovah’s Witnesses (and maybe even you) keep falling for it. For former Watchtower adherents who still have lingering fears about Jesus and Armageddon, the repetition of it all will blow your ex-Witness minds. It’s all disappointingly simple.

Now let’s see how they do it.

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  1. Ever notice that the Society provides the product–it’s literature–AND the demand all at the same time? Witnesses need the literature as part of their worship, which they’re expected to donate for. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you make your money from the publishing bizz, eh?

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.

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A World Without Religion-An Improvement?Yep, my (non)award winning series on the November issue of the AWAKE! magazine continues. This time, the Watchtower Society has gone into grudge match mode by throwing a world without religion into the ring with one that has religion. Which side will be the victor in their article? I bet it’ll be a surprise! OK, seriously, at least they didn’t use Hitler as an example of an atheist regime in action (the Nazis weren’t atheists). So they did a better job than I was expecting right there. All the AWAKE! magazine gives us is a picture of Hitler shaking hands with a Catholic and a subtitle about how awful other religions were for supporting (cowering before, really) the Nazis. That’s pretty mild when you consider how the Watchtower Society goes after other faiths, especially Catholics. Hey, maybe this will be a step up!

In my last post, I wondered if the Society would bother reaching out to atheists, or if the whole magazine would be about atheist bashing to win over members of Christendom1 at our expense. In the past, their condemnations of atheists have been fairly mild when compared to how some groups deal with us. Maybe the Watchtower Society recognizes how many ex-Witnesses have become atheists and doesn’t want to drive us farther away? Or maybe they have something else in mind.

Whatever the case, let’s see what’s in store for us in this AWAKE! article.

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  1. Christendom is the Society’s label for non-Witnesses who claim to be Christian, not mine.


Is Atheism On The March?This is the second article in the November AWAKE! that deals with atheists, following “IS ATHEISM ON THE MARCH?” Current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses may notice that atheism isn’t a topic that the Watchtower Society covers very often. I guess we aren’t their typical bread and butter when it comes to making converts, as most Witnesses are trained to convert believers rather than nonbelievers. So it’s always interesting when the Society breaks out half a magazine that talks about atheists or atheism generally, especially if you’re a Jehovah’s Witnesses turned atheist like I am. Thanks go to P.Z. Myers for jumping on this one, too. Atheists across the web are all over this issue of the AWAKE! because of him. Including me.

Still, I have to wonder, will this be another one of those condescending “aren’t atheists silly” articles? Also, will the Society resort to its old habits, like quote mining, leaving out important details, and generally skewing the facts in subtle (and not so subtle) ways to shore up its arguments? Or have they improved their style since my days at the Kingdom Hall and learned to give readers everything they need to truly make up their own darn minds about “the truth?”

Read on and find out.

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