Do People in Cults Really Want Freedom?

by Dogpatch 16 Replies latest jw friends

  • Dogpatch

    Deep down inside there is as strong primal instinct in me that says, “Survive at all costs.” When it comes down to the line, I will do whatever it takes to protect myself. I learned that at an early age.

    As a teenager I grew up with a wide variety and culture of kids, and learned that I liked to hang with those who felt the same way. We could be kind of like one mind on a matter; and since we had this close comradery, we eventually developed something called loyalty. Loyalty is when you don’t rat on your brother or trip him up behind your back. Loyalty is when you’de even give your life to protect one of your own kind.

    My first few years at Bethel in the late 70s were such a great learning experience; mostly learning what makes people “tick,” if you know what I mean. I learned a lot about religious organizations, pecking orders, hierarchies, loyalties, and cronyism.

    Primal stuff.

    Bethel turned out to be not a spiritual place at all; much less so than being at a Kingdom Hall or dressing up and going out in service. You had an overseer, you had to obey him, and get along with him whether you liked it or not. Restrictions of all kinds had to be endured, much as being in the military. You were put down and told to take your place or get demoted. But it had it’s positive points.

    Being more of what one might call an “alpha male,” I usually made it to the top of my profession, whatever that might be. Being at the top also gives you a certain amount of freedom that others don’t have; you have no one telling you what to do all the time. I liked that, being a wild kid from Oklahoma.

    But in time I learned that not all people seem to do well with freedom. Why?

    • Some did not seem to have the full range of smarts (hereditary or other reasons) to make sound decisions about their own life and health.
    • Others were too lazy and would rather have everything laid out for them. The converse of that was the person who found it very hard to make almost ANY decision, because they felt overwhelmed with options and too concerned with bad possible outcomes of wrong decisions. Many did not trust their own abilities to make decisions, but always had to defer to others that were viewed as “more intelligent.”
    • Most just wanted to sleep good at night and enjoy the collective ignorance of the others, and let life fly by without worrying about reasons and hard decisions. I was brought up in the Hippie generation, so I identified with that in spirit, but not really personally. I was more of a control freak. Like the Christian author Norman Geisler, I had to have all the options worked out and I had to make sure I chose the best one. THAT was freedom to me.

    Then I left.

    I had learned enough about collective ignorance to write books. And I did.

    Bethel/Watchtower had become a room with a low ceiling; only so much could be learned, and you had to stay in a straight line and not look to the side. Boy did I learn that lesson well when Ray Franz was being called out for teaching “apostasy.” Some people would sell their souls AND their freedom to remain in their tiny comfort zones and their cushy corporate jobs making $14 a month. Not me; I left Bethel, disgusted with the cowardly leadership, on the very day they appointed me assistant pressroom overseer over all four floors of the rotary printing presses. They could keep it.

    I left on vacation that day, and when I stepped foot on the plane, I know I did not want to go back… and I didn’t. A few months later, back out in California, I resigned as an elder and disassociated myself (which took the elders quite by surprise).

    It wasn’t until I started doing interventions with Steven Hassan years later that I began to understand the problem. We all need comfort zones that we can survive in. But we never tell people that.

    Application to the Cult Member

    If you are out looking to convert cult members to Christ (or "straighten them out" in whatever way), you will find that most are happy with their bondage. The group provides a sense of security, belonging, smallness yet with a fantastic collective ego at their fingertips. It has effectively isolated them from their family, which they can’t deal with at all, and has given them a new personality; a new pattern of thinking that works for them. They are reborn into a new world; a fantastic world of fantasy. Convert them? Would it be so easy to convert you to Islam or Buddhism?

    You are likely to be wasting your time. Unless they see something better that you have, something that they desire. Doesn’t often happen. Maybe in time, when their fantasy honeymoon wears off. Be patient and wait for that time; it will likely come.

    Others are clearly suffering under the burden of oppressive control of a power-hungry leadership. THEY are the ones you want to set free. (You can pray for the others to wake up in the meantime). Seek out the time in their lives when they are ready for some freedom, and don’t let it slip through your fingers. Be perceptive to vulnerable moments. Then reach out your hand.

  • StAnn

    Dogpatch, I know a woman who joined Club JDub as an adult. She left under her own steam, was DF'd for apostasy for reading things outside of the fold. She says that she really wants to find God but is absolutely dead set against any mainstream Christian religion. She has studied with the Mormons, studied with the Bible Students, is considering Scientology, and often talks of going back to the WTS.

    I think some people don't want to think for themselves and feel more secure in a group that micromanages their lives. No amount of reading or reasoning has any effect on this woman.

  • leavingwt

    My Christian friends would tell you that Holy Spirit can do amazing things and that prayer is the most powerful tool in helping people to escape.

    Me? I agree with you. If they're happy, they're not going to leave.

  • NeonMadman

    People rarely desire what they think they already have. JW's are convinced by their leadership that they arecompletely free; that they are not being controlled, that they are freely choosing to slavishly obey every word that comes from the organization. They think that it is their own personal, uninfluenced decision to allow their children to die for lack of blood transfusions. This is why they don't feel the least bit hypocritical when they say things like, "nobody is forced to remain in the organization if they don't want to," when they know full well the loss of family and friends that will occur should they depart. They may indeed be happy with their choice to be JW's, no matter how miserable and depressed they are overall, since they have been taught to blame their misery on everything other than its true source. It's not the excessive demands of the organization or the constantly-inflicted guilt over their own imperfection making them unhappy, it's Satan, it's the world, it's their job, etc. etc.

    I think it's important in the vast majority of cases where possible to restore them to a rational type of thinking and to break through the mind control, even if they claim to be happy that they have chosen to be JW's (the same could be said of members of most any cult). Like the denizens of Plato's cave, they are trapped in a substandard world. If they were released - after the initial culture shock inherent in the change - they would see that the real world is so much superior to the shadows on the cavern walls.

  • Terry

    I was a reclusive teenager with Asperger's Syndrome (before there was such a designation) when I met the Jehovah's Witness who was to change my life and my view of the Universe.

    He gave me a cult by a different name: brothers and sisters.

    He gave me a complete loss of individuality called by a different name: purpose in life.

    He gave me an obstacle to education by another name: theocratic ministry school....preaching work......pioneering....

    Everything bad that was collapsing my life into a tiny black hole of compressed gravity that would allow no light to escape seemed more like

    a vast open doorway of brightness and possibility!

    Just like that deadly hook dangling in the lake appears to be breakfast to the hungry fish.

    You give your dog worm medicine by wrapping it in his delicious favorite food and you give a victim cult member indoctrination by wrapping Love, Brotherhood and everlasting life around it.

    Who wants to be free from those things?

  • brotherdan

    I think that there are certain people that LOVE the lack of freedom. When I was at bethel during 2000-2002 I had a hard time with the HUNDREDS of rules and regulations that the RAF witnesses don't know about. I felt trapped and had a strong feeling almost like claustrophobia. But there were some guys there (inlcuding some of my friends) that seemed to THRIVE on the rules. I think it made them feel like their life was in order and there was little to no chaos in it. That's not real life. That's why people that spend a long amount of time at bethel have a hard time adjusting to the "real world" when they come back. My table head was in his 60's and he had been at bethel since he was 18. If you used the butter knife to put butter directly on your toast, you would get a stink eye from him and then STERN talking to when breakfast was over.

    I think that the same tendency continues back in the congregations. Some people like to be told what to do and how to do things. It gives them that sense of security. They don't have to think for themselves. They don't have to feel that they are ever wrong. All blame and accountability goes to the leadership or the organization. If they believe what is written in the WT and the end comes and it was not true, accountability for this wrong idea can be shifted to "God's organization" and they were just following the Holy Spirits direction.

    So do people in cults really want freedom? I would have to say for the most part (in my experience): No.

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff
    I think some people don't want to think for themselves and feel more secure in a group that micromanages their lives.

    On spot! In fact, I think that 90% of Jw's fall into precisely that mold. The other 10% are currently hoodwinked, but will eventually rip the blinders off and get out. But at this moment in time, they don't want freedom either.


  • ziddina

    "When I was at bethel during 2000-2002 I had a hard time with the HUNDREDS of rules and regulations that the RAF witnesses don't know about. ..."

    BrotherDan, I would love to hear about those rules.... Especially the most superficial, ridiculous, and petty rules...

    If you would care to remember as many of them as you can, and share them with us???



  • brotherdan

    Many of them were food/table manner related. I'll do my best to remember them. It's been a few years...and like I said, I didn't follow them too well!

    1. The table head decides which direction the food will be passed

    2. No licking your fingers (even when you eat bbq ribs)

    3. Only shirts with collars were allowed unless you worked construction

    4. No shirts with logos of any kind were allowed

    5. The door must be wide open if a guy and a girl are in the same room (including an office)

    6. You are expected to meet or exceed the national average (for service hours) even though you worked on saturdays and sunday was the meeting

    7. You are to pay $3.00 to the person that drives in your car group from bethel to the meeting

    8. You must go to EVERY morning worship, and never be so much as 1 second late. There is a clock displayed so that you know the SECOND it turns 7:00am.

    9. No heavy metal or rap music is allowed. It's grounds for termination

    10. No R rated movies of any sort. Again, grounds for termination

    11. Couples can not make "noise" while having sex. In fact when a brother gets married he is to meet with his overseer before the wedding to have a "sex" talk about what is appropriate (missionary only) and what is not (oral, anal, nasal...)

    12. You cannot use the elevator (if you are a male) until you have 15 years of full-time service

    13. Your bed must be made every morning military style (they have a certain way to fold the sheets and bed spread)

    14. The housekeeper is to report you if they find anything "inappropriate" in your room. But they are not allowed to look in the closets (go figure)

    15. You CAN subscribe to sports illustrated, but you had to sign a waiver that they could "destroy" the swimsuit edition and not deliver it to you

    That's all I can remember right now. But there were SOOOOOO many rules. I think you can find the bethelite handbook online somewhere. I'm not sure if the site is up or not, but I think it used to be on

  • AGuest
    Do People in Cults Really Want Freedom?

    The short answer is no, dear DP, and Jeremiah warned of it:

    " An astonishing situation, even a horrible thing, has been brought to be in the land: the prophets themselves actually prophesy in falsehood; and as for the priests, they go subduing according to their powers. And my own people have loved [it] that way; and what will YOU men do in the finale of it?” - Jeremiah 5:30, 31

    May you all have peace!

    A slave of Christ,


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