Sorry, this is a long post:
I had a conversation with my JW friend the other night. I thought I'd recap some of the arguments presented even though I didn't get to touch on all of the different counter arguments I would have liked to present.
On "worldly" people: I tried to explain what it felt like when I first realized that derogatory comments were being said about non-witnesses. Being a "worldly" one, I was shocked by the endless diatribes towards people of other faiths. I started by reading comments I took from witness websites and even by relaying that awful poem written about marrying non-believers that was posted here a few days ago.
The response: SOME witnesses misunderstand what it means to be a witness. SOME witnesses go too far in their thoughts about "worldly" people. These types of people are not representative of what witnesses are really supposed to feel about outsiders.
Counter argument: I read excerpts from the magazines that thoroughly derided people of other faiths. I knew this would be risky as it might put him in full blown witness mode. And it did. He defended each statement. So I told him I was going to substitute a few words and re-read the statements. I substituted ethnic groups ("black people", "korean people") and he nearly fell over himself grabbing the paper from my hand. I pointed out how upset he became when I did that and tried to explain that that is excatly how I felt when I read those statements for the first time. His response was that they weren't racists and it was okay to classify other people in generalizations if they weren't part of his group but that they would never do that with race issues. So I guess my point was somewhat lost- well, it was worth a try.
On blood: I explained that I was uncomfortable with people reducing statements in the bible to "what they really mean when they say that". I explained that there were no blood fractions in the bible. I asked him to show me his blood card, which he did. He explained that the governing body used a panel of blood experts to determine which parts of blood were okay to use. I asked him teh following: why the governing body would go to such lengths to dissect "what the bible meant", were they using science to figure out what god meant, how did they know what would be an acceptable fraction to god (how does god speak to them)...etc.
The response: essentially it boiled down to whatever they governing body said, he'd do. So I brought up organ transplants again and explained that they had already made decisions that had cost people their lives, how does he know that they won't change their minds again? Bottom line to him was that he would do whatever they told him to do, even if it meant that he could lose his life and they might change the teaching later. (he attributed this to his faith in resurrection) He agreed that they probably would change their teaching on the blood issue at some point in the future.
Counter argument: He knows I'm a fair-minded person so I told him "Well, if I was on the governing body and I believed that the bible meant "no blood" and I believed that the "forbidden blood fractions" were among those listed on his card, then I would have to issue a statement disallowing meat-eating and breast milk. Either that, or I'd have to revisit my policies. He knows I don't support the blood ban but he could see why I would say that. In the end it was still "whatever they say goes" but it was worth a shot.
On growth as indicator of god's blessings:
He cited the society's growth rate as a reason he believed they were god's chosen people. I cited examples of other religions that had higher growth rates.
the response: The growth rates of other groups must be inflated by percentages or something. They probably aren't true.Besides, the growth rate is only one of the reasons he knows they have god's blessings.
(I probably should have mentioned the decline in publishers in Japan but I didn't want to clue my friend in to the depth of information I've been gleaning over time)
For the most part, this conversation - which was NOT supposed to be about his organization once again turned into a Yay Watchtower! situation. We were supposed to talk about something else but inevitably when we have heart to heart talks, it always comes down to his group.
A few points that forced me to bite my lip: He said he felt he couldn't learn anything about the bible from me. I cited an example where I told him something he didn't know. He said he actually knew it, but had forgotten. Ugh! Just for good measure, I asked a few questions about the bible that he didn't know the answer to and made passing reference to how we know relatively little about the person(s) who put the bible together in the form it's in today.
I wasn't particularly happy with how the conversation went- particularly since it wasn't personal and we were supposed to be having a personal conversation. However, it does provide me with some insight into how he thinks. Usually he isn't particularly forthcoming about his feelings on his religion. Our friendship developed primarily because we didn't talk about religion (part of the reason i didn't realize the extent of the issue until well after knowing him). If anyone can provide any further ideas about the type of thinker he appears to be, I'll be happy to hear them. Sometimes another viewpoint might prove beneficial which is why I'm putting this out there. Thanks.