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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From the AWAKE! Magazine: “I WAS RAISED AN ATHEIST.”

Is Atheism On The March?“I WAS RAISED AN ATHEIST” is the last article about atheism in the November issue of the AWAKE! magazine. This one gives us a personal testimonial of an atheist turned believer, named Frantisek Vyskocil.1 That could make this article the most interesting part of the whole AWAKE! for many people. When you consider how predictable the rest of these articles have been (they were almost exactly like the last AWAKE!2 on atheists) I’m really hoping this one will shine. If you’ve been following the rest of this series (which started¬†here) you know that I haven’t been too impressed so far.3 So you’re probably wondering if this article will stand out or just blend into the crowd.

It’s been a few days since my last post (darn my real job!) so now, I’ll go ahead and give you the complete set. Let’s get started.

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  1. The Wikipedia article makes no mention of his conversion. Darn it.
  2. Once I went back to check, it looks like I was actually thinking of an article in the Watchtower magazine. Oops.
  3. I plan to do another article, coming soon, where I look at the formulaic nature of the Watchtower Society’s publications and how they affect their readers. Stay tuned.

From The AWAKE! Magazine: HAS SCIENCE DONE AWAY WITH GOD?

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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