The "Bait and Switch" tactics of the Watchtower Society

by drew sagan 24 Replies latest jw friends

  • drew sagan
    drew sagan

    I haven't been around JWD much these past few months, mainly because I've been busy with many other different things. I have heard the "big news" and it's got me to come back to the site the past few days. Since I'm back for a bit I thought I might share with you some ideas that have been up in my head lately.

    The "Bait and Switch" tactics of the Watchtower Society"

    I'll begin with a simple question:

    What exactly is the process that a person undergoes that convinces them that the Watchtower Society has been chosen by God? (eg. is the "faithful slave" of Matthew 24)

    It is by knowing this process that I think we can have a better understanding of the Watchtower Society as a whole. Understanding how they interpret that scripture (or misinterpret) is of no real interest to me and I think is a distraction from the bigger issues.

    I provide this simple illustration to prove that the "faithful slave" doctrine really is the only one that matters within the JW religion. Think of a JW coming to your house to "teach" you on a Saturday morning. What does he come there to teach you, and how does he present it? No doubt the goal is to convert you on a number of minor topics such as their view of hellfire, the trinity, paradise, the name Jehovah, ect. But I have a very important question for this JW. Will you stop coming to my house once I agree with you on these topics?. The answer of course is absolutely not! This is because while the individual JW believes that the theological issues previously mentioned are the most important thing to convince people in their territory of, there is actually something even more important to their beliefs that they are not vocalizing to the householder. Something that they see as completely vital to their message, but not center stage for their discussions with the public. What is this teaching?

    It is the concept that the Watchtower has been chosen by God to restore his true church, warn mankind of impending doom if they do not follow, and to convert people along the way. (e.g. is the "faithful slave" doctrine) No other Watchtower doctrine is as important as this one.

    A very basic Bait and Switch

    The technique is simple, almost to simple. Sell people one product, but upon delivery provide a different one. The delivered product may resemble the originally offered product. It may sound like it, look like it, taste like it. But no matter how similar the delivered product appears to be to the originally offered product, they are not the same!

    This is essentially what has happened to the millions that have joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. People came to their doors and told them that things like hellfire, the trinity, paradise, immortality of the soul and the name 'Jehovah' were the most important things to know about life. They convince people that once they learned the "truth" about these things (and pretty much only these things) they should come down to the Kingdom hall and learn at their meetings. Why are people encouraged to start coming to the meetings once they begin to agree with what they are taught by Jehovah's Witnesses at their door? It is because of one fundamental rule that dominates:

    No individual Jehovah's Witness can ever fully convert a potential member

    Think about it. Why are Jehovah's Witnesses always encouraging people who begin to agree with them to come to their meetings? It may seem like an obvious question but I think there is some depth here that is often overlooked. I believe that the Watchtower pushes very hard for this because a member is only fully converted by continuously spending time with Watchtower activities. It is the Watchtower that "finishes" the potential member and gets them ready for full conversion, not any individual. No person converts without having regular participation at Watchtower sponsered activites. It is through the meetings (especially the book study and Watchtower study) that a person learns about the Watchtowers teaching that it has been chosen by God. It also just so happenes to be a place where questions are answered, but they are not permitted to be asked.

    The reason for this is simple. Looking back on my own entry into the Watchtower I cannot point out a specific time when I personally chose to believe the Watchtower was appointed by God. I remember when I agreed that Jesus wasn't part of a trinity, or that there was no immortal soul, or that paradise was real, or all of those typical things. But I have no personal recollection of when I actually said "i have looked at the evidence and i agree, the Watchtower has been chosen by God". That is because It didn't happen that way.

    When it comes to the idea that the Watchtower was chosen by God, I was slowly converted over a long peroid of time THIS IS THE SWITCH. The bait is all the teachings about eternal punishment, the trinity, the name Jehovah, paradise, ect. That is all the bait. You accept them sometimes very quickly and with much excitement. The switch is when over time you come to accept a message that was never told to you at the beginning, namely that the Watchtower has been chosen by God. One of my favorite things about the JWs new "Bible Teach" book used with their Bible studies is how there is no mention of the "faithful slave" doctrine whatsoever in it. They are baiting people!!!

    It is vitally important to realize that the individual JW never knows that they have been baited and switched. This is why the cycle works. Individual members never realize that what they joined isn't exactly what they were sold at the beginning. It is not the individual member who is truly being deceitful. It is the Watchtower Society that gives the members almost word for word their method of teaching and I believe it is the leaders themselves who are responsible for the way their message is presented in the public.

    The Watchtower society doesn't tell it's members to go door to door and proclaim that their religion has been chosen for a divine mission from God. They know most people would laugh at such a message. Putting their all important message in the background is the only way they have at potentially convincing a person down the road that it is true.

    Most people know better. Most people know that the Jehovah's Witnesses are not there "just to talk about the Bible". Remember how often we would say to people in the door to door work "we just want to talk about the Bible". It turns out that the people out there were not as dumb as we thought they were. As a matter of fact, they actually knew more about us better than we did. They knew that we were there for more than just Bible talk, and that is why they shut the door in our face.

    With the new changes announced it seems that the Watchtower Society is beginning to lessen the load it gives to its members, most likely because they want to make it easier for a people to be labeled as "spiritually strong". With less magazines to read and less meetings to go to it will be especially easier for men to meet the requirements needed to fill leadership positions.

    I think that such things are only a drop in the bucket. The Watchtowers biggest problem is that they aren't being truthful with themselves. Why not just accept their message for what it is and proclaim it to the world? The mormons have had great success doing so. They come to your door telling you of their prophet, who restored the true church and must be followed. I don't believe the mormons message, but I respect their candid approach much more so than the Watchtowers "bait and switch" trickery.

    So there it is. Some of the things I've been thinking of. It's a ton to read but hopefully it's beneficial to somebody. Your comments are much appreciated.


    Good thoughts. You are correcto-mundo Drew.

    It's the classic...put the frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat...he'll never know he's being cooked.


  • drew sagan
    drew sagan

    thx BONEZZ

  • Leolaia

    Well said. I would add that the "bait" even stays on the hook long afterward, when the person wants to leave. The person is told that these "fundamental truths" are only taught by JWs and who else has all these truths. It is on this basis that the wackier teachings, like the F&DS, are excused.

  • drew sagan
    drew sagan
    It is on this basis that the wackier teachings, like the F&DS, are excused.


    The Watchtower controls every step a person follows to becoming a member of their religion. I think it is so very important to recognize that the Watchtower has specifically set aside certain doctrines that are not taught directly to the potential convert.

    The difference between learning doctrine directly from a person during a 1 on 1 in home study as opposed to a public Watchtower study is a big one. In the 1 on 1 setting you are more likely to ask questions and be more direct in your lack of acceptance of certain things. This is why less confrontational dogmas are taught in this setting. I also believe it is no surprise that these are the doctrines the Watchtower repeatedly states are fundamental to the faith. They want potential members to believe that all the fundamentals of their faith are contained in the 'Bible Teach' book. The catch is that such 1 on 1 studies in those types of books do not complete the process of conversion.

    Only by attending the meetings does an individual learn about the wackier teachings. In such a setting people are much less likely to show reluctance in believing such things. The tendency is to "go along with the crowd". Eventually you believe these things, but never in the same way you did during the 1 on 1 study.

    Without the Book study arrangement all potential members will now only learn about the "faithful slave" dogma and other such nonsense at the kingdom hall, in a setting were they are surrounded by 50-100 other people that have already be persuaded to believe the doctrines.

    If the potential member ever does raise question to something they hear at a meeting they are typically told by many of the members at the hall simply to be patient because it takes time to learn about "the truth".

    So the new arrangement does have this possible benefit as well.

  • slimboyfat

    You make a good point that people are drawn in by talking about doctrines and not about the central claim which is that Jehovah's Witnesses have been specially chosen by God to give his message at a crucial time in history. But I would ascribe this more to the death of narrative in Watchtower literature in general and see it actually as a recent development. Jehovah's Witnesses used to tell a good story, but they have given up on the grand story now and all we have are soundbites, and doctrines, and demarcated subjects like "suffering", "the family", "the Bible" and so on.

    Have a look at some of the books from the 1950's and 1960's. My favourties are the old yellow What Has Religion Done for Mankind?Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose and the book Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. You could not accuse those books of hiding the central message - they are full of it! What Has Religion Done for Mankind traces God's dealing with men from before the flood up until the convention in Yankee stadium. As claims go you don't get much bolder than that. There is even a picture of the assembly to emphasize the point that this gathering was part of God's plan. Then in the Divine Purpose book you have all sorts of ridiculous passages where Jehovah is said to have intervened directly in the affairs of Jehovah's Witnesses. I forget the details now but there is a laugh-out-loud funny claim somewhere in there that Jehovah sent a message to the Watchtower leadership about where to base the headquaters by the amount of coal that was available - or something weird like that. They just don't make the books like that any more that's for sure.

    I think many new Witnesses simply don't know the grand story any more because it has not been explained to them properly. The new study books like the Bible Teach book don't give the big picture, just basic claims about what God will do in the future and why has evil lasted so long in the world - but without all the interesting dots in between to fill the picture.

    I think this is actually a major problem for the Witness message going forward. To get people excited you need to tell them a grand story. Just telling them a list of things like: the Trinity is wrong; Satan tested Job; we are in the last days; Jehovah makes happy families - this is not enough. People want to feel they are at the edge of cataclysm and they want to see the narrative that proves it. They want to feel special, and that takes dots and details and quirky claimed antecedents to make it a compelling notion, and a coherent narrative.

  • DaCheech

    wish I could do that in sales.

    sometimes when a customer asks me a price question--> if I'm off they hold me to my word. cannot switch lower quality products either

  • jwfacts

    Excellent article Drew.

    In recent times even the presentation of doctrine has become superficial. It is more about the wonderful rewards of being a JW. Heavy doctrine is skimmed over. I doubt few that are baptised these days are able to describe in detail why Watchtower doctrine is correct and others are wrong. Bait and Switch describes well why this has happened, the doctrine are not important, it is about how quickly a person can be convinced to accept Jehovah only uses one organization.


    Drew - so good to see you back. You are spot on. That's exactly what happens. Once I did research on holidays and a few other things I quit thinking for myself and gradually believed whatever I was told, even if I didn't understand it because I wasn't "mature" enough spiritually to do so. If they had been clear in the "Truth" book about the FDS I would have known it was a crock from the get-go. It's different once you've been sucked in with promises of a paradise and no hellfire.

  • drew sagan
    drew sagan
    But I would ascribe this more to the death of narrative in Watchtower literature in general and see it actually as a recent development. Jehovah's Witnesses used to tell a good story, but they have given up on the grand story now and all we have are soundbites, and doctrines, and demarcated subjects like "suffering", "the family", "the Bible" and so on.

    I do not believe the narrative has been taken out of all their books. The Watchtower currently is teaching its members from it's 'Revelation' book! You don't get any crazier narrative than that.

    The Watchtower has made a purposeful effort to remove the narrative from their public discussions. It is no longer part of the package that they sell potential members. The knowledge book cut it back some, the 'BIble teach' book has cut it out completely.

    But the narrative continues to be in the books typically used by committed members. Sunday watchtower studies, book studies, theocratic school and service meeting, ect. It's also heavily contained in the talks they hear at conventions and assemblies.

    In general I agree that it is not the same as it used to be. But I think this is why the 'bait and switch' actually works so well. Members are not very concerned about these things and do not seem them as core issues. It is because of this that they are able to hide these other things under the radar from potential members. The members are very weak at defending such things and so have no reason to bring them up to the public. That is exactly what the watchtower wants. It does create weaker members, but only if the public knows the weakness. Most do not.

    The lack of a coherent narrative is missing from their public message, but it still is part of their belief system. It's just that you only find out about it after you have already made commitments to the group.

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