Why JWs Often Have a Hard Time Thinking For Themselves

by Jeremy C 20 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Jeremy C
    Jeremy C

    Today, cedars had a really good post on a Questions from Readers article in which the Watchtower instructs JWs to consult the Watchtower library index when they have questions on personal matters. The Watchtower article explained that the branch cannot answer all personal inquiries that come into their offices.

    This post got me thinking about an area that I gave a lot of thought to prior to; and after leaving the organization. (I realize some of you don’t like lengthy posts. Since this forum is a virtual cafeteria of topics, I can only recommend you bypass this thread for another one)

    I’m certain that Watchtower headquarters is feeling overwhelmed by all of the questions (many of them rather petty, I’m sure) that pour into the service department. I think that the Watchtower leaders fail to realize that this is a monster of their own making. What do I mean?

    The source of this problem is probably the fact that Watchtower publications have become a modern day Talmud for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Ray Franz wrote about this extensively in both of his books. One of the aspects of the first century Jewish system that Jesus rebuked was its burdensome Talmud – whereby the Scribes created an elaborate and labyrinthine collection of do’s and don’ts. No matter or activity in life was too trivial for the Jewish leaders to stick their noses into in order to create some kind of rule. Watchtower publications routinely criticize rulings of the first century religious leaders such as the injunction against killing a flee on the Sabbath; as it constituted “hunting”. They have been criticized for the way they rebuked Jesus for picking some grain on the Sabbath because it constituted “harvesting” work.

    Yet, how is this much different from the Watchtower’s assertions that a teenager having a poster of a rock musician hanging in their room is idolatrous? How does this vary from their teaching that using the swimming pool at a local YMCA constitutes having dealings with Babylon the Great?

    The reason why the Watchtower service department gets bombarded with questions is that they have trained their members to distrust their own thinking capacitates and sense of judgment. Almost no aspect of a Witnesses’ life has been left untouched by the personal consciences and collective mindsets of traveling overseers and the men who write Watchtower publications.

    Should I invest in the stocks of companies whose subsidiaries deal in weapons? If I own a business, should I allow my worldly employees to smoke on the property? Should my son or daughter accept a scholarship? What kind of sexual practices are acceptable between my spouse and I? Is playing Bingo acceptable for Christians? These are the kinds of matters that the Watchtower leaders have interjected their own judgments into the lives of JWs. These judgments are not to be viewed as merely someone’s opinions. These are to be viewed as the counsel from Jehovah’s mouth. Most JWs have bought into and accepted this view.

    It’s no wonder now that the Watchtower gets bombarded with questions dealing with and endless array of matters of human life. This is a system of their own creation. They have trained their members that in order to have a “clean conscience” before Jehovah, and to be in an “approved standing” with the congregation, they must dutifully follow the conclusions and dictates made by a small group of men in New York.

    Since men are always trying to make sure that they are in this “approved standing” in order to qualify as a Ministerial Servant or Elder, it is no wonder that they would be so scrupulous about seeking the judgment of men whom they are convinced operate as Jehovah’s proxies here on earth.

    There are some parents who refuse to allow their child to learn certain lessons on their own, and attempt to mold all of their child’s thinking and opinions. What usually happens is that the child grows up physically, but remains childlike in many areas - overly dependent on their parent or other people due to never maturing mentally through the process making certain decisions on their own. These kinds of people often cannot deal with the ambiguities or “gray areas” of life, because they were often taught by their parents overbearing nature that no gray areas exist. And thus, their mental and emotional growth becomes stunted in many areas.

    The Watchtower leadership has now created a mass of people who are overly dependent upon their viewpoints as to how to live, work, and raise their families. Very little is left to one’s thinking capacities, because members have been taught that gaining a “Bible trained conscience” is only possible through studying Watchtower publications. I realize that this is rather blunt, but I believe one could argue that the Watchtower leadership has created a bumper crop of intellectual and spiritual infants.

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Zero Critical Thinking Skills = A Bunch of Stupid Questions

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Wow. I idolized the Beatles and Dylan as a young teenager and continue to idolize them. This idolization has brought me much joy. Part of it is sad. A friend told me this is happening in Protestant churches. Personal counselling is cut off from the start or after so many pastoral visits. Liability insurers looked at statistics and after x visits, the claims were steep. The Talmud is a good analogy. An extrascriptural body of rules followed slavishly.

    If JWs could think for themselves, they would likely not be JWs in the first place. I realize that if I had to be born-in, it was good that my family took the WT with a grain of salt. My Beatlemania passion was fueld primarily by their hatred of the Beatles. The music was so innocuous, esp. in the beginning. Knowing all the info I now know, I see no evil. Someone summed it up at the Bagladesh Concert. Dylan was as big a draw as George Harrison. Geo. was very public at that time. Dylan was a recluse. When he entered, fans started screaming requests. Someone from my section yelled out, "Just stand there" to much applause.

    The Witnesses strike me as living on another planet. Yet when I hear political discussions or other things, I am shocked at how few normal people think for themselves. Voters proudly proclaim that they watch no news or read newspapers, blogs, mags,etc.

    Telling people to research the lit themselves with no extra guidance is sad. Jesus found time for the masses. Quality is sacrificed. The arrogance and overreaching stuns me. If I had not been a JW, I would believe people exaggerate here. Drone city.

  • Jeremy C
    Jeremy C

    Yet when I hear political discussions or other things, I am shocked at how few normal people think for themselves. Voters proudly proclaim that they watch no news or read newspapers, blogs, mags,etc.

    Great point BOTR. I often hear some people proudly state that they completely ignore the “mainstream media” and instead get all of their information from specific radio shows (who are not governed by journalistic standards, and who’s trustworthiness is highly suspect). They consciously and deliberately cut themselves off from information about the world around them with a sense of righteousness about it.

    JWs in some respects, demonstrate the same kind of false elitism. For example, s o much scientific research is simply ignored with a simple waive of the hand, because it does not fit into the template created by the Watchtower world-view. They can even do this while feeling "spiritual" about doing it.

    If someone continuously (and voluntarily) indoctrinates themselves with publications that tell them that “God’s people” do not vote, do not celebrate any holidays, and do not stand up for the National Anthem, is it any wonder that they will see “wickedness” everywhere they look?

  • Darkside Blues
    Darkside Blues

    No wonder the majority of JWs do not have a college education - if they did, they'd have the critical thinking skills necessary to see what a load of BS the WT has been feeding them all this time.

  • Jeremy C
    Jeremy C

    No wonder the majority of JWs do not have a college education - if they did, they'd have the critical thinking skills necessary to see what a load of BS the WT has been feeding them all this time.

    It seems that most young JWs who get a college education do begin to see through the Watchtower rhetoric, but not all of them. I have known many JWs who became highly educated and earned advanced degrees while remaining just as devoted to the Watchtower as anyone. I’ve also known some people who dropped out of high school, yet were still honest-minded enough to be able to pick apart the fallacies of Watchtower doctrines.

    This is why I’ve come to believe that devotion to the Watchtower is much more emotional than it is intellectual. I was having a long conversation about this with another ex-JW yesterday. We both agreed that Watchtower teachings do provide comfort and certainty to those who emotionally cannot handle living with the ambiguities and “gray areas” of life. What exactly happens after we die? Many people cannot live peacefully with this being an open-ended question. Many people need to have black and white answers; and not only on the big life and death issues of life, but also on the minor things – such as whether God approves of them sending someone a birthday card, or whether they should watch an “R” rated movie.

    When you look at many long time prison inmates who deliberately commit crime to go back into prison because it is more comfortable than the “outside”, the emotional dynamics of Jehovah’s Witnesses begins to make much more sense.

  • bioflex

    if i was considered a sheep or taught to act like a sheep then i would by no means think for myself, i would definitely look to my sherperd. Thats exactly how JW's act, i mean aren't they suppposed to be faithful and discrete slaves (sheep) of the WT org?...

    I am pretty certain almost all JW's are spiritually dead, if not how can they ingore simple Biblical truths and yet hold fast to doctrines which run counter clockwise to the Bible.

    I have met and argued with enough JW in my lifetime( i am only 22) to know that they are freakingly programmed and dumbed down to fulfil the purpose of the WT org.

    And for a clean consciene the me talk about the rock star poster, the Bible is pretty strict about what a christian can do and cannot do, if there is one tool the devil is capable of briging the world into the church with, then its music. i have realised that people who tend to have very different beliefs are often bound by music. i mean almost 99% of Jw's i know listen to profane musice ( hip pop, soul music, heavy metal, u name it) and yet they are really not bothered about it, yet they criticize others very much forgetting where the err at.

    just know that light and darkness dont mix, God and baal dont mix, so if you are a christian then u are supposed to live like one, i am certain God would not want us singing the devils music or have his posters in our rooms. so consider all the rock and pop stars as the devils agents ( which they are) then it wouldnt be so hard to keep away from them.

  • Retrovirus

    I’m certain that Watchtower headquarters is feeling overwhelmed by all of the questions (many of them rather petty, I’m sure) that pour into the service department. I think that the Watchtower leaders fail to realize that this is a monster of their own making.

    I'd suggest that even if they did know, they realise that they are painted into a corner. Every time a QFR is answered it must be consistent with all other questions, consistent with the current "light" and preferably fairly sensible or it will get hammered here and on other boards.

    The more questions you answer, the harder it gets.

    So what they do is - tell the poor jws to use the Bible and their conscience - but reserve the right to smack them if they don't like the result. Brazen behaviour is a useful tool. The result is the wt appears to be less prescriptive - but actually binds jws with more fears of displeasing J.

    Now if as a non-jw I've got this all wrong, please let me know.

    thanks, Retro

  • exwhyzee

    When the International Bible Students first began publishing their little Journals back in the late 1800's, their readers wrote in asking them Bble questions. Some have even said that in the beginning (and now) they pose their own questions on behalf of fictitious readers. In that simpler time peroid when people were inclinded to trust what they read and assume much about those who appeared to be in the know, they were viewed as authorities on God and even came to view themselves this way as well. They were no longer just harmless well meaning Bible Students who were learning along with their readers, they were faceless learned men of God living in a big far away city. Their readers assigned them much more credibility than they perhaps deserved. After a time they were looked upon and obligated to direct and make judgement calls on matters that they weren't qualified to make. Rather than being studens or teachers, they intervened in the individuals relationship with their Creator, developing a list of rules and standards for worshiping God, down to the color of shirts that were to be worn on the platform. They even came to be enforcers of these rules. Anyone who disagreed with them was not a thinking person nor was he sheeplike. Once they convinced their followers that they knew what was best for them, silenced them into submission and enough childeren were raised this way, the whole thing snowballed into an actual religion. Rather than it's success and continued existence being because it is the true religion, it is operating by sheer momentum and has taken on a life of it's own. As long as there are people who enjoy the feeling of security that comes from having answers, right or wrong, and this need outweighs their ability to reason for themselves, there will continue to be a market for their service.

  • Ding

    Great point, Jeremy C.

    Since the GB insists on micromanaging JWs' lives as "Jehovah's representative", they shouldn't complain about being flooded with requests for specific instructions to cover every contingency.

    I seem to recall that in CoC Ray quoted a very worried sister who wrote to the organization, begging them to tell her exactly what sexual practices she could and could not engage in with her own husband so she wouldn't be plagued by guilt and uncertainty. She promised to follow the faithful and discreet slave's instructions to the letter.

    I think it was seeing this type of pathological fear and submission that caused Ray to see how unhealthy and controlling the WT religion had become.

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