What the Watchtower needs to do to survive.

by jwfacts 76 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • jwfacts

    Drop its teaching on Paradise Earth.

    The primary issue facing the Watchtower results from it's teaching that members will never die, but live forever on this earth in paradise. This teaching is cause of most of the doctrinal failures, and will be its eventual demise.

    The promise of never dying is one of the foremost motivations for people that join the religion, and the message of living forever in paradise is compelling. However, it is also the Watchtower's Achilles heel, as it forces false predictions of the nearness of the end. These failed predictions show the religion teaches falsehoods. For over 100 years, the Watchtower has predicted the end will be "soon", even incorrectly identifying specific years for the end; such as, 1914, 1925, 1975, within the 20th century or within one generation. This proves (to most sane people) that it is based on false teachings.

    The Watchtower must provide such short term promises, as otherwise they remove the most obvious incentive to join the religion. If the Watchtower were to position paradise in the far distant future, few would subject themselves to the burden of being a Witness, when they know all will enjoy a future resurrection. Hence, pushing Armageddon as just around the corner is key to recruiting new members and motivating followers.

    More importantly, who wants to be in a religion that says the soul is not immortal, unless they also promise death will never come? It is hardly a joyful prospect to be told you will die and rot in the ground for who-knows-how-long, when most of the competition are saying your life never ends. Traditional religion promise that your loved ones are in heaven looking after you, and you will join them as soon as this mortal coil passes away, a far more comforting hope for anyone not believing this system will end any day now.

    A Witness soul is not immortal, but dies, and the resurrection promise for a Jehovah's Witness that has died is not pleasant to think about deeply. An impersonal spirit goes back to God, and the substance of your physical body disintegrates back to earth. What is resurrected is a replica, a photocopy, not the same person. If God can replicate you by combining different atoms and with a different spirit, then he could equally resurrect you whilst you are still alive, or resurrect multiple clones of you in the new system; a horror version of Multiplicity.

    The urgency of Armageddon exacerbates the religion's high control, due to the consequences of that teaching. It leads on to the following:

    • Anti-education policy, since Armageddon is about to occur
    • No career focus, but devote yourself to growing the religion in these final minutes of the last day
    • Shunning, since you need to remain pure to get through Armageddon,
    • Shunning, as discipline is required to help the evil man amend their ways
    • Keep away from the world, so you don't miss out on salvation
    • Don't question the leaders, as you are dependant on them for survival

    Not to overlook is the increasing number of those claiming to be Anointed since the mid 2000's. The doctrine of there only being 144,000 in heaven defies logic and Scripture. This too is becoming a weak point for the Watchtower, as they need to justify how there is still room for people to be added to such a small and finite number. Yet they will continue to need new ones joining the ranks of the Anointed, since the basis of the religion rests around a two class system, where only the Anointed can speak for God and lead.

    If nothing changes, then the religion will disappear, gracing only the pages of history books and their discussion of failed doomsday cults. We are on the cusp of the 100 year anniversary of 1914, which strains the credibility of that year being the start of the Last Days. How much more irrelevant will that year sound after 200 years, or 300 years?

    The main message of the Watchtower is that of the kingdom, which encompasses paradise earth and surviving Armageddon. It may seem a religious death wish to change that core message. However, if nothing changes, there will continue to be ongoing failed pronouncements regarding the imminence of Armageddon, and endless doctrinal changes, such as who the generation are, the literalness of the number 144,000, and when the Last Days start.

    For Jehovah's Witnesses to be more than just a flash in the pan, they need to shed their apocalyptic label. Such a change will no doubt affect growth, particularly initially, but in the long term it will be the better, even only, option.

    Jehovah's Witnesses would adamantly disagree with this as ever being an option, but it is necessary and the wheels are already in motion. In 2007, it was stated that the heavenly calling did not close in 1935, paving the way for change regarding the heavenly resurrection. There is little Biblical support for people living forever on earth, or an earthly resurrection, and the doctrines of the Great Crowd, and other Sheep are plainly wrong, which is easy for a Jehovah's Witness to stumble across on the internet. It is better to admit these doctrine are wrong than to have followers find out for themselves.

    The Governing Body are priming members for change, with an ever increasing shrill about how vital it is to accept their authority, doctrinal interpretations and change. Further, new members of the Governing Body have proven insubordinate to the old doctrine. When Geoffrey Jackson chose to be Anointed in his late thirties, he went against well established culture that only older ones replace fallen Anointed that relinquish their positions. He also severed a strong emotional tie of an everlasting future with his dear wife, who continued to maintain an earthly hope.

    Changing its core doctrine of soul sleep, taken from its Second Adventist origins, may seem to relegate them to dissolving back into mainstream Protestantism. However, they still have one Ace up their sleeves. The Watchtower could retain its sense of individuality after dropping Armageddon and paradise earth, by focusing on Jehovah as God, rather than a Trinitarian God. The Arian based view of God is a simple concept that is easy for people to understand and relate to. Focus on Jehovah would allow Jehovah's Witnesses to retain a unique selling point to promote as reason to join the religion.


  • cedars

    "The end is just around the corner" mantra is part of JW DNA, going right back to Russell. It's impossible to describe it as a mere ingredient of Witness teaching - it IS Witness teaching. Therefore, I'm not sure that describing it as an achilles heel is doing it justice. Even if the Society were to tone down the "apocalyptic" nature of their message, IMO the damage is already done. The internet is now strewn with material (on fine websites such as yours) that magnifies the falsehood of their message down through the decades.

    The Society's current false doctrine is no longer the cause of its demise - it is far more complicated than that. It is trying to make progress in engaging with the information age with one foot chained to an iron ball, which is its lurid and deceitful past. Whatever it changes from a doctrinal viewpoint moving forward, it will never shake off its legacy while the internet is there as a constant reminder. The only thing they could conceivably do to halt their decline would be to 'switch off' the internet. Good luck with that!

    In my opinion, the Society's claim that it enjoys a privileged position as God's sole channel with mankind despite the lunacy of what has been printed in its publications down through the years (especially in the years surrounding 1919) is far more damaging than its over-reliance on constantly making promises to its members that it cannot keep. In short, the Watch Tower Society's legacy and scandalous past will continue to haunt and undermine the organization irrespective of what tweaks and adjustments it makes doctrinally in the years ahead.


  • jwfacts

    Thanks for your comments Cedars. I was hoping this thread will incite debate.

    Although your points are valid, I don't think it is easy for a sizable religion to disappear. Faith allows all manner of justifications. There are plenty of religions with shameful history and falsifisable doctrine that continue to thrive, or survive.

    With 7 million members, the Watchtower is the culture for a large number of families, whose children will continue to accept what they are told. My intelligent, university educated, family members are fully aware of Watchtower history, but almost beyond comprehension continue to believe it is the truth.

    The Catholics are an example of a religion with a terrible history of murder and corruption that still manages to survive in this enlighted era, where many followers are fully aware of their past. However, they have reformed to some extent. That is the hope I hold out for the Watchtower. If it cannot done away with, at least it can be reformed, for the sake of those that do not have what it takes to leave.

  • designs

    Many Protestant Churches have split into Liberal and Conservative branches or survived a major leadership change like the WWCofG. I use to think and hope this could happen to my former religion but they have been successful so far in silencing any voice of dissent from within.


    All valid points although I think their future survival has less to do with teachings and more about control of their members.

    Who are the new members? Most new baptisms are children or family members. So to survive they need for their members to continue to have children and for these to be coerced into committing their lives to the cause.

    The WBTS and JW's in general have always been very negative about having children. Quite a foolish strategy. This is where they need to change - get the average number of kids in the KH to increase and they have potential new members.

    Those indoctrinated don't care about the intricacies of what the beliefs are and we know the WTBS can try and justify any belief...evidently.

    They have more recently been promoting family life (family study night) so possibly going down that route? Might we soon see positive articles on the joys of parenthood?

    Generation Y and generation X testing their faith and researching on the internet is a time bomb and huge threat to the WBTS. It needs to bring many more members in to offset the large numbers fading. It's all about getting them while they're young and ensuring a large enough supply of these children.


  • cedars

    Thanks jwfacts. I agree with your comments, although I should probably explain my perspective more clearly. I also believe the JW culture is too strong to simply disappear, and there will always be families who perpetuate it from one generation to the next. However, (as I've articulated previously) I believe the Society is in decline, and as the decline worsens this will start to take its toll on the publisher growth rates. Although the religious element is here to stay, it is highly dependent on the role of the Society to prosper and grow. As the Society shrinks organizationally, so too will the religion's ability to indoctrinate new members. What you will eventually have is a few hardcore families clinging on to their beliefs for dear life even though the organization is limited to a handful of branches around the world that is led from the main compound in upstate NY.

    The religious element is here to stay, which I think you summed up well in your OP:

    If nothing changes, then the religion will disappear, gracing only the pages of history books and their discussion of failed doomsday cults.

    The Society is already in decline, and the religious side (i.e. publisher figures) will soon also start to shrink if something doesn't change drastically. Even though I see the religion shrinking, I don't think it will ever disappear entirely in the same way as the Bible Students (who believe in pyramidology) are still around. I see the "Watchtower faithful" going the same way as their Bible Student forebears.

    In short, I see the JW faith and the Society as seperate but related entities. The fate of one influences the other, but they are essentially different things.


  • NewYork44M

    The future I see for the watchtower is a strategy of preserving and protecting assets. I don't see major changes in the foreseeable future. Once the generation that knows their past dies off - 30 years or so - the religion will reemerge as a totally different animal.

    It is too risky to make any major doctrinal changes now.

  • cofty

    Interesting thoughts thanks.

    I can see an emphasis that they could use to soften the loss of the everlasting life on earth doctirne. JWs think that christians believe the dead will be in a spirit world for eternity. Many uninformed christians do think this way but in fact evangelical theologians believe sonething more subtle. The condition of the dead is referred to as an "intermediate state" where they await the resurrection of their body in the last day. While waiting they are already in conscious bliss with god.

    After the final judgement the division between heaven and earth disappears and believers live forever in a new "spiritual body" in a "new heavens and a new earth" with no division between the two.

    I can see a way they could present a version of this as their very own "new light" and remove the need for urgency regarding the end.

  • mindseye

    Paradise earth is the carrot on the stick. I don't see that doctrine changing. One thing I do notice is that the sense of urgency is gone among many witnesses. Instead of the 'end' being "just around the corner", some that I know quote: "no one knows the day or hour when these things will occur." I think the governing body may have finally learned their lesson about setting dates, and frankly most Witnesses have no idea of the history of failed prophecies. Even the 1914 generational teaching is fading away from collective memory, most gen-Y witnesses probably don't know anything about it. I'm thinking the next step is for the 144,000 teaching to be phased out as well, and then the gov body can depend on collective short-term memory to keep the religion going (and surely they hope that everyone avoids "apostate teachings" on the internet, etc.).

  • dozy

    Interesting thread.

    I guess it is difficult for us ex-JWs to be objective. We think ( & hope ) that basically the WTBTS is just about to go out of business or in severe long term decline. We forget sometimes that for every one of us who have left , there is another who joins up. Most of the few JWs I keep in touch with are totally committed. One family member has just retired early & is pioneering like there is no tomorrow. There are millions of JWs like them. Barring a totally catastrophic black swan event , the WTBTS will be around for decades. Albeit the WTBTS of 100 years will be as unrecognizable to us as the current system would be to Russell or Rutherford.

    I actually don't see the Watchtower declining much - maybe just flatlining. Let's face it - religions with much nuttier history & legacies are prospering. With religions - any common sense analysis doesn't work because you are dealing with emotions and often irrational beliefs. Try reasoning with an Islamic guy with bombs in his underpants about to blow up a plane. Or a JW mother bleeding to death in a hospital after giving birth to twins with doctors pleading to save her life. Or a Catholic climbing a mountain barefoot. Look at the Mormons. Highly intelligent top business people signing up to a crazy religion - maybe even the next US President. http://www.economist.com/node/21554173

    Tweaking with doctrines too much would be a bad idea. It just stumbles & confuses people , and anyway , most JWs really don't care about doctrine. The wise GB member in Franz's book who said that " if we just stop talking about a doctrine , the brothers forget about it" had it worked out. I remember an old JW who was very high up in the JW medical establishment telling me that the Society would love to downgrade the blood transfusion ban to a conscience matter but that too many lives had been lost & too many JWs would be stumbled.

    The WTBTS can basically spin the "world is going to end imminently / soon / shortly " (delete as required) indefinitely. It has done it successfully for 120 years. Doubtless it will do for another 120 years. Sad - but inevitable.

Share this