Expecting Armageddon .... book review

by jgnat 10 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • jgnat

    I am more than midway through the book, "Expecting Armageddon, Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy" edited by Jon R. Stone. I'd started this over a year ago and just recently picked it up again. At this point in the book I feel I can give a fairly decent appraisal for the ex-Witness community.

    First of all, this is a collection of scholarly articles, which mean that they don't all agree with each other. Even long-held beliefs are challenged and tested. This is the way of critical thinkers. Most of the articles are by researchers who study various sects through a failed prophecy, testing if the landmark study by Festinger in 1956 holds true. Festinger postulated that a group will increase fervor and proselytization after failure, in order to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. There are five conditions that Festinger suggested needed to be in place in order for this to happen:

    1. A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.

    2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of the belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo...

    3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficientlly concerned with the real world that events may unequivocally refute the belief.

    4. Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.

    5. The individual must have social support...

    In summary, the studies since 1956 found this to be only partially true. After failed prophecy, a group will experience distress and will be looking for reinterpretation of events. The benefits of their community and the attraction of their cosmological world view will motivate the group to redefine itself so it can survive. It may not need to proselytize in order to redefine itself. We can see this with the Jehovah's Witnesses and the disappointment of 1975. Afterwards field service hours took a definite dip.

    There's a great article in this book that takes an in-depth look at the 1975 failure, "It Separated th Wheat from the Chaff - The '1975' Prophecy and Its Impact among Dutch Jehovah's Witnesses" by Richard Singelenberg. He references many of the quotes before 1975 that led to the big anticipation, and includes recruitment and field service statistics. He also correctly shows that claims from the stage exceeded what the Watchtower Society dared to put in print.

    What does all this mean? When an exited Witness talks to loved ones still in the society, logic won't do it. There are broader, complex reasons for a person to stay. There's comfort in the certainty that the Jehovah's Witness world view offers. And there's the community of brotherhood, a society in which to belong. Consider the broader needs of your friends if you are encouraging their exit.

  • cult classic
    cult classic

    thanx jnat - that's very interesting.

  • jgnat

    ...and thank you, Cult Classic, for responding. I feared this review would be buried on page twenty before anyone read it.

  • cult classic
    cult classic

    LOL I know what you mean.

    I really do think that some of my relatives and "friends" would die a painful death if they left the religion. When we first left I wanted everyone OUT NOW! But once I realized that many in my family know everything that I do about the org and choose to stay in, I started looking deeper into their motivations.

  • jgnat

    Hey, look at me. Seven years and hubby, still a JW, lives with an Orthodox Christian and critical thinker (me) who also can match him toe to toe in bible knowledge. Yet he stays with the society. His reasons are illogical but powerful none-the-less.

  • palmtree67


    I think I'll look for this book on Amazon.

    It sounds interesting.

  • Will Power
    Will Power

    Hello Jgnat!!

    I got a google alert for this thread earlier today.

    thanks for the review.

    Yet he stays with the society. His reasons are illogical but powerful none-the-less.

    very true


  • Will Power
    Will Power


    jgnat - you have a PM

  • Pistoff


  • jgnat

    Wow, I rated a google alert! Bonus! I have finished the book now, and my review remains the same. Be prepared for a scholarly read!

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