Reasoning with the Witnesses - for newbies.

by FreeWilly 19 Replies latest jw friends

  • FreeWilly

    After reading experiences and correspondence that some have posted on this site I think it might be a good idea to share what has been somewhat effective in conversations with entrenched JW family and friends.

    When I was just "waking up" my mind was so occupied with the things I learned that I paid little attention to how I presented my point of view to JW's. I often employed the "shot-gun" approach using the research I unveiled along with a healthy dose of outrage. Since then I've learned to tone down a bit and concentrate on getting through to the people I speak with rather than defending my choice.

    W hen I faded, my experience went a little like this: I finally decided to explore those little nagging voices that told me something just wasn't right about the Society's teachings. I couldn't believe what I was learning - really. In the beginning I had this incredible distrust of anything that didn't complement my belief set. For example, I saw quotes in older watchtowers that showed the society making outlandish predictions on all sorts of dates. I read excerpts from Russell's old books that sounded like it came from a comic book. Over time though I realized that everything I read was actually true. The Society had so many whacky teachings that nobody would have to fabricate stories. The Society's own writings are such an awful embarrassment that I could hardly bite my tongue. Doomsday in 1914, 1925, 1941 and 1975, the Electronic Biola Machine, calculating dates from pyramid measurements, demonic vaccinations and on and on. The one thing that had the most impact on me though was reading the book Crisis of Conscience by former Governing Body member Raymond Franze. Without a doubt it showed the human origin of this religious system. There's no way I would continue to piss away my life in this controlling religion.

    S o as I began to step away I faced a barrage from JW's especially those of my family. The entire system of fear, guilt, and pressure was being applied in full force. It makes a person very defensive. However in light of what I learned there's no way I could succumb to this pressure. Instead I unloaded all my research and sometimes added a healthy dose of sarcasm when berated. When the light is shined on the Society's teachings they are ridiculous....and when challenged I gave it right back with ample ridicule. Who in their right mind could continue to cling to this crack-pot belief system after having heard everything I learned?

    What I noticed, to my utter surprise, was that my friends and family were not impressed by what I discovered. Instead they reverted to the standard defense mechanisms I recognized from when I was "in". Nothing seemed to penetrate. I found this very perplexing especially since I was someone they considered close to them. Since then I've tried to understand what makes JW's cling to their illogical belief system even when faced with compelling evidence.

    The Watchtower Society has a tough job to do. The New Testament gives no credence to a large intermediary organization that Christians must funnel their worship and activities through in order to be acceptable to God. Yet this is exactly what the Watchtower Society has become. Their entire existence depends on JW's relinquishing their individuality to the Society's cause in order to save themselves and others from impending doom.

    How do they do it? Stay tuned for part 2....

  • Finally-Free

    Hmmm, blank post. Does that mean witnesses can't be reasoned with?


  • Honesty

    Here's a few more topics of interest to reason with JW's:

  • FreeWilly

    And then there's always this:

  • FreeWilly

    How do they do it?


    In order to buttress their position the Society must completely erode confidence in any information that does not stem from them. Scientists, Psychologists, Historians, and Archeologists are heavily discounted when they carry messages contrary to the Society's teachings. Religious information from theologians, or former JW's is especially scandalized as having malicious agenda's or being influenced by Satan. The sheer repetition of counsel and advice regarding this paranoia over outside information builds a formidable defense mechanism in the minds of believers. Almost subconsciously the JW looks upon contradictory material with suspicion. When material poses a direct threat to the organization, the average JW's becomes immediately and many times unreasonably skeptical of it's content. Even reading from a Watchtower article can trigger this paranoia.

    You may even remember this yourself when you were still "in". How did you feel when you read about some researcher saying they recently found human fossil evidence dating thousands or millions of years before the Society say humans were alive? Do you remember thinking an old watchtower magazine quote was probably a forgery? Or when you spoke with a 'worldly' person who was convince Jesus answered their prayers; do you remember thinking they were fooling themselves? Or how about the physiological response your body had when you first decided to actually investigate an "Apostate" website. Do you remember looking over your shoulder or jumping when you thought anyone might be coming?


    It has been said that fear is the greatest motivator. The Watchtower Society uses fear so much that it changes the way a normal person thinks. There is perhaps no greater fear to a living being than death. When a human or animal believes they may die, instincts kick in to override all competing behavior. This happens to me when I fly in an airplane. I could be sound asleep, comfortable knowing that flying is the safest form of transportation. However many times I've awoke with a surge of adrenaline bracing for impact after a little turbulence. All that mental reassurance about the safety of flying went right out the window! In just one year, try to imagine how many times a JW is taught to equate leaving their religion with death.

    The Society has also learned to reinforce the fear of death with other social pressures such as shame and guilt. People who have left the 'Truth' are always depicted as foolish, irresponsible, selfish or evil. Disfellowshipping is an effective tool to enforce this social shame tactic. When advice is given as to how best use our time, the congregation is nearly always made to feel guilty for indulging in any activity other than "kingdom interests". It’s amazing how many posters here have reported feeling they could “never do enough” while a JW.

    I think it's important to understand the mindset that JW's are conditioned to adopt because they will inevitably play out upon you, the exiting JW. As a friend or family member you expect to have a more compelling voice when reasoning with them. In many respects you do, however it's very easy to lose that voice if you're not careful.

    When you speak with JW friends or family adversely about "the Truth" they become very alert. All of their fears have been trained to be sensitized to threats to their religion, and now you are presenting a threat. To them, there must be something wrong with you to cause these things to come out of your mouth. What could it be? Have you been slacking at meetings? Have you been hanging around with an apostate or worldly person? Have you *gasp* been reading on the internet! Have you given in to a life of debauchery that you are now trying to justify? Are you just an obnoxious self-centered asshole? All of these things are likely to be reeling through their minds when you speak. They are looking for something to placate their fears. They need something to attach this behavior to. It is inconceivable that you may be correct, so they seek to dismiss what you say - not based on your message - but based on something totally irrelevant.


    In my experience I have found a calm demeanor coupled with just a few compelling questions seems to go much further than a back and forth debate. I have tried to come across as the voice of reason rather than produce fact after fact damning their belief. In the Society's literature, they come across as reasonable whereas all non-witnesses are unreasonable. This fortifies the notion that non-JW's deserve to die. When speaking to JW's it important to be reasonable in your tone and manner. If you do not, it will be easy for your audience to focus on your unreasonableness.


    Questions are also effective. Instead of saying:

    "The Society has falsely predicted doomsday many times, yet they claim to be getting their insight from God!"

    I would now say: "Why would God allow so many false dates to be printed?" - and leave it at that. No matter what their reply, you can just acknowledge it and drop it or change the subject.

    You want to leave them thinking about your question, not thinking they won a debate, because in their minds they never lose debates over religion. It can be very difficult to do this, especially with family. However, I believe questions leave the greatest impact.


    When you speak to your friends and family about what you've learned they will take it as a personal attack. In your mind you might just be sharing what you've learned and how it impacts you. Even though you may not be on a campaign to destroy their faith, they nonetheless will perceive it that way. Even if you have not expectation that they should concede to your viewpoint, they will still view it as an attack on them, and resist. How can you avoid this?

    I have been able to somewhat diffuse the tendency for it to be taken personally by qualifying such phrases with:

    "To me this looks like their doing....."

    "The impression it leaves me with is...."

    "It leaves me feeling like..."

    "I feel..."

    "I believe..."

    "That's what I get from it..."

    I try not to use blanket statements or present something as a universal fact or truth. I apply my conclusions only to me. By putting the emphasis on myself, I take pressure off of them to defend their beliefs.

    This seems to get JW's to at least consider the message.

    Well this post is much longer than I was anticipating so I will leave it to the other O-POZ-TATES here to offer their own advice when talking with JW’s. No matter what you do though, you are more likely than not to be unsuccessful in immediately changing anyone's mind. Chances are that if you have any effect at all, it will be some time later. Afterall look how long it took you, you knucklehead!

    That will finish our study. We can all now turn to page 27 in our songbooks and begin singing “Joyful Apostates”.


  • Honesty

    You are so right about the WTBT$ discounting any secular source other than those that 'support' their wacked out doctrines as being from 'Satan.'

    Chapter 2 of the 'Live Forever' book is a classic example of WATCHTOWER indoctrination of this concept at it's finest. A new convert was almost immediately overwhelmed with the sense that if it is not from the WATCHTOWER it has to be from 'Satan.'

  • freedomlover

    Free willy -

    *I try not to use blanket statements or present something as a universal fact or truth. I apply my conclusions only to me. By putting the emphasis on myself, I take pressure off of them to defend their beliefs.

    This seems to get JW's to at least consider the message.*

  • Scully

    One question that I have asked several JWs which seems to stop them dead in their tracks has to do with the concept of Conscience. My question to them is usually along the line of: Are you asking me to disregard my Bible Trained Conscience™?

    JWs tend to regard their own and others' conscience with an almost sacred awe. I have JW family members who watched the TV program about JW child sexual abuse. They know it happens - it happened in our own congregation when I was growing up - so when I realized (and they did too) what a widespread problem this was (rather than just an isolated incident as we once thought), I started talking about it in terms of how it was affecting my conscience.

    For example:

    • My conscience will not permit me to support an organization that allows child molesters to have free reign in a congregation, at a circuit assembly, at a district convention, or in the door-to-door work, without giving potential victims a means to protect themselves from harm.
    • My conscience will not permit me to invite people - particularly families with children - to join an organization where this is happening.
    • My conscience will not permit me to financially support an organization that allows this to happen.
    • My conscience will not permit me to endorse or financially support an organization that allies itself with the United Nations as a DPI affiliate, when that same organization expels and shuns members who join any such organization whose principles and mandates are in conflict with God's Purposes™, even if it is only to use the facilities to go swimming.

    When you discuss these issues with JWs in terms of how it affects your Bible Trained Conscience™, they honestly don't know what to do with that information. You are not asking them to change their position or beliefs about the WTS or modify how their own Conscience™ operates, and they realize that it would be wrong for them to attempt to modify your conscience; they have been trained that a person's conscience is between that person and God; they feel compelled to respect your conscience, just as they would expect you to respect theirs. So the information just sits there, and festers.

    I recommend this approach quite highly!

  • willyloman

    You conduct a very good study, willy, and thanks for outlining an approach I heartily endorse (but haven't always used!).

    Scully: that is an excellent "presentation." I am practicing it in my head and plan to use it at every door from here on out! I recently played the "consicence" card in talking to a dub and it had the desired effect (he just didn't know what to say and, in fact, said, "I don't even know what to say to that").

  • Carmel

    Good post Master Willy! Asking well phrased questions always works best for me too! I haven't had a chance though to cross examine a JW for over five year! Awh well!



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