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.
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?”
I’ve been looking for articles on atheists and atheism from the Watchtower Society for a while now, and I was always disappointed that they didn’t have much to say. They continue to pick on evolution, of course, which many people associate with atheism. But why not atheists? Aren’t we the cool and happening boogiemen of the day? Plus, more ex-Witnesses turn into atheists than with any other group studied so far. With this and the so called rise of new atheism (not my phrase) in the media, you would think the Society would have something in at least one Watchtower or one AWAKE! every year. But you’d be wrong. I was pretty bummed about it … until Cofty at JWD was kind enough to post a link to PZ Myers web site, which addressed an upcoming article in the AWAKE! magazine, called, “IS ATHEISM ON THE MARCH?”
For other ex-Witnesses turned atheists, this might be a bitter pill to swallow. Me? All I feel is hunger … a hunger for more. Waitress, can we have another, please?
Here’s a quote from the article’s first paragraph. NOTE: If your doctor doesn’t recommend you engage in strenuous laughter, turn away now!
Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who really dug into the Society’s old Creation Book (like myself) will appreciate Blatant misquotes in the Origin of Life booklet. The rest of the web site looks like it might be interesting for ex-Witnesses, too … if they speak it’s language, that is. But this article is in English.
Thanks to Copernic (as he’s known on JWD) for the article. He is looking for proofreaders to make sure his English is good. Maybe we can give him a hand by posting comments here.
Note that those curious about the honesty behind creationist literature can often contact any scientists, or other sources, being quoted by doing a simple internet search. I did this with the Creation Book to see if the critics were telling the truth when they said the quotes were misleading. They were right, of course. What you typically find is that the source’s words were taken out of context, or the source wasn’t qualified as an authority on the subject.
Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.