Is the WTS/JWs a cult? evaluated on different scales

by Lady Lee 12 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Is the WTS/JWs a cult?

    Since we had no JWD today I was busy


    denoted where the WTS meets the criteria red text are my comments

    Cults in our Midst

    by Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalach p 58-59

    Thought Reform

    • Focus of body of knowledge
    Body of knowledge centers on changing people without their knowledge. Ö
  • Direction & degree of exchange No exchange occurs, communication is one-sided. Ö Their website is a perfect example of this one-way communication
  • Ability to change [change the group as a whole] Change occurs rarely; organization remains fairly rigid; change occurs primarily to improve thought reform effectiveness. Ö
  • Structure of persuasion Takes authoritarian & hierarchical stance; no full awareness on part of learner. Ö
  • Type of relationship Group attempts to retain people forever. Ö There is no honourable way out
  • Deceptiveness Is deceptive.ÖSince people are not given all the information they need the practice is definitely deceptive
  • Breadth of learning Individualized target; hidden agenda (you will be changed one step at a time to become deployable to serve leaders). Ö When asked recruiters will even deny they are trying to convert a person
  • Tolerance No respect for differences. ÖOur way or get out dishonourably and possibly lose all family and friends
  • Methods

    • Improper and unethical techniques. Ö Recruiters are instructed to lie if asked direct questions about the purpose of the "study"
    • The tactics of a thought-reform program are organized to:
      • Destabilize a person's sense of self, Ö
      • Get the person to drastically reinterpret his or her life's history and radically alter his or her worldview and accept a new version of reality and causality, Ö
      • Develop in the person a dependence on the organization, and thereby turn the person into a deployable agent of the organization. Ö

    Criteria for Thought Reform. Margaret Thaylor Singer


    1. Keep the person unaware of what is going on and the changes taking place. Ö The recruits is unaware that they are being manipulated. Even long-term group members are unaware of the hidden agenda
    2. Control the person's time and, if possible, physical environment Ö While the ability to move potential recruits physically from their environment they are mentally alerted to expect a negative response from other people
    3. Create a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, and dependency. Ö Presented with a fatalistic perspective of world affairs they are presented with one positive solution – theirs. Survival and dependency require belief in and participation with the group
    4. Suppress much of the person's old behavior and attitudes. Ö Undesirable personality traits are discouraged. Emphasis is always placed on being "acceptable" in the narrow vision presented by the group
    5. 5. Instill new behavior and attitudes. Ö Reminders of proper grooming and behavior are frequently given to move the new recruit to conform to what is acceptable Long time members are repeatedly told to "do more"
    6. Put forth a closed system of logic; allow no real input or criticism. Ö Information from outside the group is forbidden. Suspicion regarding anything or anyone from outside the group is viewed as suspicion and even Satanic. Teachings can only be understood through the group’s leadership.

    Thought Reform and the Psychology or Totalism (Lifton)

    1. Milieu control.
    Ö The ability to control a person’s external life (their behavior) is important. But the group also seeks to control the person’s inner life, (their thoughts and feelings)
  • Loading the language. Ö Most groups develop a short-hand of words and phrases designed to stop people from critically thinking about what they are saying or believing. People outside the group will not understand the loaded language and this helps to keep the group member inside the group
  • Demand for purity. Ö the experiential world is sharply divided into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely evil. The good and the pure are of course those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure.
  • Confession Ö is an obsession with personal confession. Confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal, and therapeutic expressions . . . confession becomes a means of exploiting, rather than offering solace
  • Mystical manipulation.Ö is a special kind of mystique which not only justifies manipulations, but makes them mandatory. Included in this mystique is a sense of "higher purpose," of having "directly perceived some imminent law of social development," and of being themselves the vanguard of this development.
  • Doctrine over personÖ It doesn’t matter that people get hurt or even die for the greater good. Our rules are more important then your well-being
  • Sacred science. Ö Only we have Divine Approval. God has accepted us as his sole spokesperson .
  • Dispensing of existence. Ö The world is divided into "them vs us" "black vs white", "good vs evil" Those on the wrong side can be treated as unfitting

  • Stages (Schein)

    1. Unfreezing.
    The goals of unfreezing are to destabilize a person's sense of identity (i.e., to precipitate an identity crisis), to diminish confidence in prior social judgments, and to foster a sense of powerlessness, if not hopelessness. Ö Information is fed to the new recruit to foster fear concerning world affairs. The recruit’s behavior and beliefs are challenged and they are manipulated into believing the group holds the only answers. Without the group’s intervention the person is doomed.
  • Changing. In addition to study and/or formal instruction, the techniques used to facilitate learning and the skill basis that can lead to opinion change include scheduling events that have predictable influencing consequences, rewarding certain conduct, and manipulating emotions to create punishing experiences. [or the threat of punishing experiences]Ö
  • Refreezing. Satisfactory performance is rewarded with social approval, status gains, and small privileges. Part of the social structure of the environment is the norm of interpreting the target's display of the desired conduct as demonstrating the person's progress in understanding the errors of his or her former life. Ö

  • (Schein 1961; Ofshe and Singer 1986). The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:

    1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance
    Ö This might include inducing fear of some immenent destruction and the only "salvation" is to remain close to the group
  • The use of an organized peer group Ö The group members live in a pyramid structure with all the power at the top and none at the bottom. All information flows top down. Information coming from lower down the change is considered suspect even ifthe information turns out to be correct
  • Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity Ö Members are encouraged to report any unacceptable behavior or discussions. Style of clothing, personal grooming, behavior, expression of feeling are all modeled by long-time members.
  • The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified Ö Where a person works, who they associate with, especially if the associates are ex-members is severely curtailed "for their own good"

  • When God Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball

    5 Warning Signs of Corruption in Religion (written to apply to Middle-Eastern political cults)

    1. Absolute Truth Claims Ö The group is the sole owner of truth as defined by the group.
    2. Blind Obedience Ö Discussion about the groups beliefs are strictly forbidden. Doubting the groups ideology is the equivalent of doubt God/Allah or the whatever
    3. Establishing the "Ideal" Time Ö The group sets its own timetable for events whether that is a time for God to intervene or for them to take some particular action
    4. The End Justifies Any Means Ö Little care is given to the individual members well-being. They are martyrs for the cause. Even if that means the death of group members
    5. Declaring Holy War Ö The group has the right to determine the war and who is the opposition. "us versus Them" thinking allows them to kill anyone who is not on their side. (While the JWs don’t actually kill opposers they do treat those who leave as if they are dead. And while their holy war is not conducted by them they do declare God’s holy war is "soon"

    Mind Control - The BITE Model

    From chapter two of Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves*

    © 2000 by Steven Hassan

    Destructive mind control can be understood in terms of four basic components, which form the acronym BITE:

    1. Behavior Control
    2. Information Control
    3. Thought Reform
    4. Emotional Control

    I. Behavior Control

    1. Regulation of individual's physical reality

    • Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
  • What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears Ö
  • What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects Ö
  • How much sleep the person is able to have Ö
  • Financial dependence Ö
  • Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations Ö
  • 2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals Ö

    3. Need to ask permission for major decisions Ö

    4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors Ö

    5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative). Ö

    6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails Ö

    7. Rigid rules and regulations Ö

    8. Need for obedience and dependency Ö

    II. Information Control

    1. Use of deception

    • Deliberately holding back information
  • Distorting information to make it acceptable Ö
  • Outright lying Ö
  • 2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged

    • Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
  • Critical information Ö
  • Former members Ö
  • Keep members so busy they don't have time to think Ö
  • 3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines

    • Information is not freely accessible
  • Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid Ö
  • Leadership decides who "needs to know" what Ö
  • 4. Spying on other members is encouraged

    • Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control Ö
    • Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership

    5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda

    • Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
  • Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources Ö
  • 6. Unethical use of confession

    • Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries
  • Past "sins" used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution Ö
  • III. Thought Control

    1. Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth"

    • Map = Reality
  • Black and White thinking Ö
  • Good vs. evil Ö
  • Us vs. them (inside vs. outside) Ö
  • 2. Adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words". Ö

    3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged. Ö

    4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.

    • Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
  • Chanting Ösinging WT songs at every meeting
  • Meditating Ö
  • Praying Ö
  • Speaking in "tongues"
  • Singing or humming Ö
  • 5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate Ö

    6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful Ö

    IV. Emotional Control

    1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings. Ö

    2. Make the person feel like if there are never any problems it is always their fault, never the leader's or the group's. Ö

    3. Excessive use of guilt

    • Identity guilt
    • Who you are (not living up to your potential)
  • Your family Ö
  • Your past Ö
  • Your affiliations Ö
  • 5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions Ö

    • Social guilt Ö
    • Historical guilt Ö

    4. Excessive use of fear

    • Fear of thinking independently
  • Fear of the "outside" world Ö
  • Fear of enemies Ö
  • Fear of losing one's "salvation" Ö
  • Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group Ö
  • Fear of disapproval Ö
  • 5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows. Ö

    6. Ritual and often public confession of "sins". Ö indirectly

    7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

    • No happiness or fulfillment "outside" of the group
  • Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: "hell"; "demon possession"; "incurable diseases"; "accidents"; "suicide"; "insanity"; "10,000 reincarnations"; etc. Ö
  • Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family. Ö
  • Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are: "weak;" "undisciplined;" "unspiritual;" "worldly;" "brainwashed by family, counselors;" seduced by money, sex, rock and roll. Ö
  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    sorry about the formating Fixing it seems to make it worse

  • Alwayshere
    Is the WTS a cult?

    You know it is.

  • GoingGoingGone

    Wow Lady Lee, you were busy!

    This is great information - Thanks!


  • 5go

    I concur doctor lee

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    What I find amazing is that they hit all categories regardless of which scale you use

  • Abandoned

    Lady Lee, you are a true JWD treasure.

  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    Hey, LL, great research, and thanks for sharing. I think we should all save this information to our computers for future reference.

    Cheers, Treasure,


  • Doubting Bro
    Doubting Bro

    Lady Lee,

    Thanks so much for putting this together. I've been struggling over whether the WTS is really a cult or just another religion. It seems that many religions fit into these definitions. I work with someone whom I would describe as a evangelical fundamentalist and many times, its like talking to another JW. Not necessarily the doctrine, which is different, but the attitude is exactly the same. As an experiment, I described my conversation with him with some JW "friends", leaving out the fact that the person I was referring to was not a JW. They agreed with his pretty narrow minded stance and when they asked me what congregation he went to, I told them he was a Baptist. The shock on their face was great. Of course, they immediately critized him as being unreasonable and Pharisaical even though a few minutes earlier they were agreeing.

    So, I while this research is VERY helpful, I don't think that JWs have the market cornered on being cult-like. Of course, the big difference is the blood doctrine and how many people have gotten hurt over it, which I do think pushes them from being a somewhat harmless cult to a dangerous one.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee
    So, I while this research is VERY helpful, I don't think that JWs have the market cornered on being cult-like. Of course, the big difference is the blood doctrine and how many people have gotten hurt over it, which I do think pushes them from being a somewhat harmless cult to a dangerous one.

    No It won't persuade any JW. But it might help some who are having doubts.

    Each scale was NOT designed to pick out JW flaws. One of them had a focus on Middle Eastern religions that like to bomb people with airplanes.

    You could take this to evaluate many orthodox oe fundamentalist group - not necessarily a religious group. And the group you are evaluating should hit most if not all of the characteristics.

    The fact that none of the scales were meant to evaluate the WTS/JWs makes each scale more powerful

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