So.....Are Jehovah's Witnesses A "Cult"?

by minimus 40 Replies latest jw friends


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  • VoidEater

    The word has too wide a meaning to be addressed in a simplistic way. Whenever someone brings the word "cult" into a conversation, I need to ask them their definition first.

  • minimus

    The dictionary's definition will do.

  • flipper

    JW cult, JW cult, JW cult, JW cult. If that's them with the " mind controlled " stare of emptiness in their eyes when you tell them something different than they are taught ; then yep, they're a cult

  • seagrl

    Just did broad cast on it here: feel free to leave a comment:

    They meet all the criteria

  • VoidEater

    "a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies. [Origin: 1610–20; <L cultus habitation, tilling, refinement, worship, equiv. to cul-, var. s. of colere to inhabit, till, worship + -tus suffix of v. action]"

    If "dictionary definition" will do, here's a primary. By this definition, every "organized" religion in all of history is a cult. Therefore, yes, the WTS is a cult.

  • minimus

    JWs don't think they practice rites and ceremonies. but they have more rules than not.,

  • undercover

    VoidEater's got a point:

    The word has too wide a meaning to be addressed in a simplistic way. Whenever someone brings the word "cult" into a conversation, I need to ask them their definition first.

    If the word cult is mentioned in my JW family, they think of David Koresh, Jim Jones, etc. They don't think of the definition as in a dictionary or in the books from counselers, therapists and survivor's first hand accounts. Since the WT came out years ago trying to define cults in WTspeak in a WT magazine, most JWs will staunchly defend the notion that they are not a cult. Their definition is what the Society told them the definition is. But that same magazine had me wondering; if you have to publish a magazine defending why you're not a cult, then maybe you really are one. As far as I'm concerned, they're a cult. But not in the People's Temple, Branch Davidian way. They're not a destructive cult. They're a benign cult for the most part. They don't make you turn over your personal wealth, they don't make you turn over property, they don't force you to things you don't want to. They do use guilt and fear to try to convince that you should do things that a normal person would immediately dismiss as unnecessary or controlling which is just as cultish, just not as evil. The biggest aspect of JWism that can be argued for them being a dangerous cult would be the blood doctrine. People have chosen death to prove their loyalty on this matter. Children have been martyred. This part of the religion is the most damning. Who cares if you believe Jesus came in 1914 or not...who cares if feel the need to knock on doors...but to allow people to die over what two or three sentances in an ancient mythological book has to say is dangerous and deadly.

  • VoidEater

    Undercover: Hmm, perhaps the religion doth protesteth too much, eh? ;-)

    Minimus: "JWs don't think they practice rites and ceremonies. but they have more rules than not."

    I would guess that the more you say a thing is the truth, or the more you say there are no rites, it does tend to get believed! Off the top of my head, here are some important rites and ceremonies:

    Announcement of disassociation
    Funeral service
    Wedding service
    Meeting/convention attendance, hymn singing
    Field service

    It may be arguable that the avoidance of certain behaviors - just as Levitical law provided - is also religious observance, or ritual:

    Saluting the flag
    Military service
    Blood transfusions
    Oral sex

    I think of them as highly bound in ritual - perhaps more in what they avoid through ritual than in what they participate in through ritual. The avoidance is ritual.

  • Awakened07

    It's not important for me to call them a 'cult', and an all encompassing definition is hard to find, but they are close to being a religious 'cult' the way the word is most widely used about religious fringe groups in society today, I think.

    Like for instance this Wikipedia page on 'cult'. It mentions most of the various definitions used in various contexts.

    One such context is what it mentions under "Psychological definition":

    Psychological definition

    Studies of the psychological aspects of cults focus on the individual person, and factors relating to the choice to become involved as well as the subsequent effects on individuals. Under one view, an important factor is coercive persuasion which suppresses the ability of people to reason, think critically, and make choices in their own best interest.

    Studies of religious, political, and other cults have identified a number of key steps in this type of coercive persuasion: [25]

    1. People are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations;
    2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
    3. They receive unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader;
    4. They get a new identity based on the group;
    5. They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives, and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled. [26]

    Looking at those 5 bullet points:

    1. This applies to active JWs, "newly recruited" JWs, and those who study with JWs to some extent; They have to ultimately give up friends and family who don't convert. This is emotionally distressing. All the things they know they should do all the time is also emotionally distressing: attend all meetings, prepare for meetings, prepare for field service, go out in field service a 'fitting' amount, etc. etc. It may also be physically distressing in an already hectic daily schedule. Having to decide against a needed blood transfusion for oneself or a family member is clearly emotionally distressing as well, although it happens rarely, but it's real and bad enough for those who do go through it.

    2. The simple explanation is: "Everything will be fixed in the new system, and any unanswered questions will be answered then as well". Not unique to JWs, but it's there as a point.

    3. Not so much from one charismatic leader, and 'unconditional love' is definitely out the window, but they have their "loving" leaders and other members in the congregation and they have the "loving" FDS. Love bombing etc. is not unique to JWs though. But still, another partial point.

    4. This fits as well; you have to change many aspects of your life if you are "recruited" from "the world". Some of it may have positive consequences, though, like quitting smoking. Still, they get an identity as a Jehovah's Witness, and from then on they have to pay close attention to the way they behave, speak, dress etc. in public because they represent the entire organization. Not unique to the Witnesses though. Partial point.

    5. This is semi-true of people becoming Witnesses. They are not thrown in the back of a van and driven out to a house in the desert somewhere, but they are isolated from former friends and family, and the information they have access to will be filtered through the doctrine in the WBTS literature, to such an extent that "access to information" is, in effect, "severely controlled". Certain books are not to be read, and certain information is only to be sought out in the WBTS literature. Other types of information will be filtered by the Witness him/herself, and dismissed if they have been told by the WBTS literature to dismiss it. So this is a valid point.

    So - overall, they do fully or partially fulfill these 'criteria', but I'm not sure it conclusively shows that they are a cult. If so, many other more or less mainstream churches are cults as well. Oh... they are... Well, OK then.

    Steve Hassan's model is closer to how the JWs world works, IMO:


    Steven Alan Hassan, former member of the Unification Church, and now an exit counselor and mental health counselor, has developed his own model, the BITE Model, to determine how 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 Control
    4. Emotional Control

    It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently. [27]

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