I addressed this in a recent letter to an old JW friend--who no longer attends, but still defends the organization. To see how he does this--and my full reply, here's the thread...
I still remember the time when I asked a former Jehovah’s Witness, “Why so negative?” And now and then I’ll hear someone express something similar, as when you suggested that the things I spoke to you about are less legitimate and more the result of “deep-seated anger.” Some of us, for good reason, prefer to live in a less negative world, and so we look for the opportunities to minimize negativity. And when someone expresses disapproval, addressing them with calm, reasonable, counteractive words can make a person feel levelheaded and wise.
So to such ones, I say, "Good for you!"
But also I will ask, "When the Watchtower Society claims they are God's sole channel of communication, and that all other religious agencies are not merely mistaken--but under the direct control of "the wicked one," Satan the Devil...why so negative?"
Further, when a teenage Witness girl is molested and raped by a congregation servant, and when she is threatened not to report this to the authorities by congregation elders who are taking their cues directly from the Watchtower Society; when she is expected instead to sit and listen to her rapist give talks from the platform--and never to speak of her abuse again...why so negative?
When a Watchtower insider, overwhelmed by the evidence of the organization's failure to protect children from pedophiles among them, is finally moved by her conscience to come forward and tell the truth--but is summarily dismissed, condemned and shunned...why so negative?
When the Society had it's followers surround other churches with signs in hand, and had soundcars blasting the message, "Religion is a Snare and a Racket!" to peaceable churchgoers...why so negative?
When the Society joins up as an N.G.O. with the United Nations--what they claim to be the disgusting image of Revelation's Wild Beast--and they minimize the importance, but, when a young Witness man joins the YMCA and they threaten him with disfellowshipping and shunning...why so negative?
When Witness researchers discovered grave errors in foundational Watchtower chronology, and they did not immediately respond to official threats to keep their mouths shut, and were then disfellowshipped and shunned...why so negative?
When the Watchtower Society's president yelled out to more than 30,000 Witnesses, “Christendom must be cut down and thrown into the fire!”...why so negative?
When the official position is that any religion other than their own is “deserving of the fiery expression of Jehovah’s wrath” and “fit for destruction"...why so negative?
And when a baptized Witness decides they no longer recognize the Society as what it claims to be, and wish to leave peacefully, and when the Society then brands them as a wicked apostate, not even worthy of prayers; when their entire family and lifelong community of friends are now officially instructed by the Society to cut them off, vilifying them as of "The Evil Slave Class," I ask...why so negative?
John, the way in which the Watchtower Society has come to dominate the lives, speech and thinking of its followers—while viciously protecting its own authority—cannot be successfully likened to “limited paper towel options.” (Something he mentioned in his e-mail.)
Sometimes, when faced with the above questions, these evenhanded, sensible folks will remind me that other religions have been responsible for such things and worse. And they're right, aren't they? But has this ever been an acceptable excuse?
To address a misunderstanding from your e-mail, my reason for speaking out as I do is not because I “miss my friends” or family. You’ll remember that, when I met you at the airport, I’d just met with my mom and dad. I have little in common today with most of my former Jehovah’s Witness friends. Would it be nice to see them? Sure, but I’m aware that, for most of them, it would be an uncomfortable experience as they struggle between what their heart tells them is right—and what a religious authority structure threatens them not to do. I’ve been blessed with many, many new friends. My reasons for standing up actually have to do with confronting authoritarian injustice. I don’t think it’s right to use the costume of “religious freedom” to disguise an organization’s manipulative attempts to keep their followers from exercising their own freedom. And while I acknowledge the “Serenity Prayer” on your mom’s calendar, the fact is lots of people have been helped to see they were in a misguided high pressure group, so I don’t consider it one of those things I just have to “accept,” turning a blind eye.
Yes, it might be sad to see people who continue to be affected by the captivity of their families. But you know what is at least as sad? Watching someone choose to wear a helmet/mask unit that connects to their cerebral cortex and lets them live in a world of pathetically incorrect virtual reality, while their lives pass them by. Certainly, if after conducting an objective investigation into the facts, they decide to put that unit back on, it is their choice. But when they are craftily maneuvered, with the help of vicious social threats, not to look at all the information? I reserve the right to try and reach these ones, if they are open to listening.
And so, John, for those cool, rational individuals I now meet who, like I used to do, ask of ex-JWs, "Why so negative?" I ask them to remember something extremely important. It was not former Jehovah’s Witnesses who decided to start being negative here. They'd have been happy to leave peaceably, still maintaining good relationships with friends and family within. It was the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society who decided they would not have it. They would not tolerate people questioning, challenging, or deciding to leave. It is they who decided to create an adversarial relationship with any who dared not accept their authority, inventing the remarkable spin that it is these cast off ones who are beating them!
And it is with reference to them that I again ask, "Why so negative?”
“I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do.” -D. Dale Gulledge, Author