What keeps a JW in the religion? A new angle.

by Hobo Ken 33 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    It is an interesting case well argued. But it raises a few questions. Does it mean that anyone who has been a Jehovah's Witness and raises a point in defense of the Watchtower Society is not to be taken seriously because they are suffering from Stockholm syndrome? Just because you can apply a name to their "condition" and utilize medical/pyschological discourse to categorise their behaviour, is that in itself a good reason for rejecting the validity of their views?

  • Hobo Ken
    Hobo Ken

    @darthfrosty nice spot and I think it typifies the regression one must make mentally to go back to the place where they once were. They would have to believe that without the organisation they are lost and also not leading a good life.

    As a consequence they must accept the life they lived previously almost like a comfort blanket. And also I note the belief there are no viable alternatives.

    @band on the run Thankyou for your comments. I do think the Bible has a place but really in this setting the Bible is just one of the "tools" the Watchtower borrows to bolster it's authority along with their publications, the threat of excommunication and peer conformity. Really the mind of a Jehovah's Witness is split into several shcisms which include all of the above factors all helping to moderate their actions.

    And you're correct the religion isn't all bad but again quantifyably what are they? It could be strongly argued they are a mind-control cult. The original hostages in the syndrome discussed rationalised that there was some good in their captors, even defending them but did that make the situation ok?

    @camelot you are correct fear is a component when one wishes to control another. Fear of rejection, the unknown, isolation, death.

    @thelove doctor thankyou for your comments also.

    @mindseye Very well observed. Of course the psychology behind the people is a huge subject and we're only touching on it here. But I couldn't agree more with your comment about intelligence not being the single deciding factor. My brother is intellectually no different to me and yet I've had the chance to present many of my thoughts to him and used the Bible as I want to help him break free but still he remains a JW. Part of that I believe is due to the personality of which I would class him as ESFJ down to a tee. Whereas the people I have personally met in a local setting who have left are very much Ns and Ps types myself included. This does not of course mean better, just different types.

    @ausieoz Thanks and I totally agree with what you say. Hassan's book probably delves into the cult psyche a lot more but a survey would be great to analyse JW's specifically. Unlikely though.

    @cantleave thanks for your comment and liked the ringtone recollection!

    @loubelle That's very honest of you to say you saw those traits in yourself and most JWs if they were equally so would recognise them within their own thinking too at some point.I have too. The problem of course is that many don't ever have a clear enough head or the space to evaluate or discuss their feelings without atttracting undue negative attention. Very sad.

    @slimboyfat Thanks. To address your points:

    First off anyone is welcome without doubt to defend or accuse the Watchtower as they see fit. It is for others to asses the validity of such and decide where they stand. I respect people's right to believe in whatever they wish within the confines of the law and accepted things like basic human rights and moral and ethical values.

    As for a JW/former JW not being taken seriously because they could be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? I don't believe that's really the issue. But to address the question. Firstly I'm only drawing a striking comparison with apparent behavioural similarities of Jehovah's Witnesses and Stockholm Syndrome. And even if it could be established that SS is a factor remember that only some 27% of people developed these thinking patterns. So therefore would not apply uniformally.

    A factor to consider is after a person has left an organisation such as the Watchtower Society they still have to evaluate what they have left behind. Some have a kind of epiphany and it suddenly dawns on them what the Watchtower Society was. For others, as has been shown they never really get over leaving and go as far as defending the organisation or even returning. That of course is their right and choice however frustrating that may be for others to understand.

    To address your other point:

    I don't believe it would be good to "reject the validity" of someone's views based on the presupposition they were "suffering" from some condition.

    First what are these hypothetical "valid views"? Surley they should be accepted/rejected based on their relative merit rather than on the basis of possible condition of the person who's presenting them?

    For instance John Forbes Nash was diagnosed as a paranoid Schitzophrenic as yet devised some the greatest mathematical work ever seen on differential geometry and game theory and his work is used today in evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, market economics. A film was made about his life called A beautiful mind.


  • lifelong humanist
    lifelong humanist

    hobo ken

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your well-reasoned post and the readers responses.

    As I'm still experiencing the painful 'shock' of my wife remaining fixed in the JW cult after I DAd myself in 2003, I've come to the conclusion that for many, if not most JWs it is just too much of an uphill struggle for them to even sit down and analyze just one of their core beliefs, far less critically analyze them using a logic-only approach.

    This education-repressed cult doesn't encourage any free thought, or even minor criticism, so your average 'good' JW refuses to even take a first step down the road to potential enlightenment, far less do any proper, methodical research.

    Quite frankly, I find the whole thing pathetically sad. Despite starting out keen to make a change, I no longer even want to try and create opportunities to stimulate thought-provoking discussion on how utterly illogical the whole JW religion is. Come to think of it, that would include all religion, not just the more extreme, mind-control varieties!

    lifelong humanist

  • Jomavrick

    Fear is the main mechanism used to keep people in the Religion. And from my own experience being raised as a Witness, it was fear of man and not fear of God. I never feared God deep in my soul. But I was conditioned to fear the "organization", the "Elders", the PO, the Circuit Overseer, The FDS, the Service Department. They were all representation of a humanly power structure that were assigned the absolute power over the subjects (the publishers). They even had the power to execute people (Disfellowshipping = Spiritual Death), the ultimate weapon which is always on display like a sword someone carry's on thier side.

    Thank fully I was able to break free from the repression. However it was with a price as my entire family has outcast me and my family and thinks that blind alegiance to the Religion means we must be shunned.

    But i no longer live with fear and am fully enjoying and finding meaning in this life.

  • Hobo Ken
    Hobo Ken

    @lifelonghumanist I thank you very much for your kind words.

    Regarding your wife's decision to remain in the group it can be hard to understand why others do not see things the way we do. For some it is black and white and although the descision and process of leaving is a trauma it is has to be done whatever the cost. Others evaluate things differently and choose a value system which may leave us perplexed but that is due to the funamental differences in human nature and the way we see life.

    I hope that one day she may "click" so to speak or perhaps her reasons for remaining will diminish and she will join you on the outside.

    I concur with the other points you make ,but don't give up. Things could change quickly. Something could trigger a shift in thought or values.

    Yes religion has a lot to answer for.

    @jomavrick I couldn't agree more. Fear is a key component of control.And you rightly state that the high visibility of the various levels and threats on show within the Watchtower organisation deliver this very well.

    However difficult it may be you have in my view taken the correct path. I empathise completely.


  • Giordano

    Hobo great job!!!

    Might this be part of what keeps the other percentage of JW's in place? A review of an interesting point of view from the True Believer by Eric Hoffer

    "Perhaps the most important insight in the book--and it is very hard to settle on just one--is that the members of mass movements, who ostensibly seek to better the lot of all mankind, are motivated not by altruism but by selfishness. They join such movements not because they believe in any particular ideals or goals but because they do not believe in themselves :

    Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join
    a mass movement to escape from individual responsibility, or, in the words of an ardent young
    Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared
    themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves
    cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not
    joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?


    The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all
    excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.


    A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his
    mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.

    With these startling thoughts, Eric Hoffer.............. stood conventional wisdom on it's collective head and threw down a challenge which has never been adequately answered.

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    Before going into the Stockholm Syndrome theory and after outlining some of the "apostate" information that is out there, you say:

    "Could there be a mechanism at work whereby the mind of a Witness will accept all of the above and still be an "active" Witness?"

    Are you including knowledge of the apostate information in "all of the above?" The reason I ask is because I would say that there are very few JWs who can even break the Information Control taboo to look at the stuff and even fewer who "will accept all of the above and still be an "active" Witness?" Is the rest of your article really addressing this tiny minority of an already small group? Or am I misreading it?

  • cofty

    Very useful article thank you. I have long thought that the Stockholm Syndrome explains religion in general.

    Hostages who develop Stockholm syndrome often view the perpetrator as giving life by simply not taking it. In this sense, the captor becomes the person in control of the captive’s basic needs for survival and the victim’s life itself.

    Does this not sound exactly like the feelings of an average christian? When they pray or sing to god "Thank you for saving me" who are they saved from? From god of course, who becomes their saviour on the basis that he condescends not to cast them into hell.

  • Hobo Ken
    Hobo Ken

    @giordano Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts.

    I think the sense of collective will and unity is played upon very strongly within the jw camp. In fact they even cite this as proof of their identity as "God's people" so it would follow that fostering such notions in the mind would indeed be a compelling reason to remain part of the movement. Having convinced one's self that it is true and that you stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow brothers and sisters united in thought, why would you suddenly discard it all? It could very well be an additional factor.

    @mad sweeny Thanks for reading the article and posting too.

    To address your points:

    The above that you refer to in the article were not specific "apostate" ideas, rather they were things which all Witnesses are likely to have heard about and thus given some degree of thought to.

    Child protection policy.

    Medical issues such as blood transfusions , organ transplants etc.(which jw parent hasn't thought of the possibility of losing their child in this scenario?)

    The United Nations involvement(which made the newspapers).

    Almost all Witnesses will have struggled with at least some of the doctrines at some point, perhaps harbouring doubts.

    So with these in mind many decide that there's not clear and present danger and remain in the Watchtower organisation.

    Of course you rightly state that many Witnesses will not look at "apostate" material and do something about it by leaving. But information is much easier to come by than in previous decades and the amount of material from ex Witnesses on the Internet grows every week. People are leaving in however small numbers.

    The point in the article is not to highlight a particular demographic within the Witnesses who will or will not be affected psychologically. But rather the overall similarities that seem to exist with this Syndrome and a jw's possible reason for remaining in.

    Of course I point out that SS affects 27% in certain situations but in a religious environment , which has not been case studied, could be very different. And in fact neither is the article claiming to prove that Stockholm Syndrome is occuring only pointing out the possibility by behavioural comparison.

    @cofty Thanks for reading and posting your comments.

    Perhaps there is a case for it applying on a larger scale to religion in general which is probably a whole new thread!

    However not all religions are run in the same way. And therfore any possible effect would be evident to a greater or lesser degree depending on say , how much of a high-control group they are. Would Stockholm Syndrome have a greater hold in Bhuddism or the branch Davidians led by David koresh?

    I do agree that to some extent religion is interwoven with emtional dependency especially on the divine.


  • flipper

    What keeps a JW in the religion ? Fear and guilt. The two legs that all mind control cults walk on

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