One of the most striking things about this and similar message boards concerning Jehovah's Witnesses is the strength of feeling JW-related discussions evoke. As I dabble in sociology, I was wondering what you all thought about the following questions. My objective is not to criticize persons belonging to other group but rather to attempt to grasp the dynamics of the conflicts at work here.
(1) Why are many on both sides so fanatical? Presumably there must be humanly intelligent, morally decent, rational beings in both JW and ex-JW camps. And surely, objectively speaking, the Watchtower organization is neither 100% evil nor 100% perfect. Why is it apparently just as difficult for ex-witnesses to see anything positive in the organization as it is for current Witnesses to admit that there might be weaknesses?
(2) Is the participation of ex-JW's on this and similar web-sites typical of all who leave the JW religion? What percentage do you think become vocal opponents of the Watchtower, and what percentage just move on and get on with their lives? Why are so many now atheists or agnostics? Do many ex-JW's now belong to traditional Christian groups? (They appear to be a silent minority here.)
(3) The opposing camp emphasize what they perceive to be the weaknesses of Witnesses (arrogance in claiming only they are right, fanaticism, deceitfulness [at the very least "spin"] with regard to their beliefs, self-righteousness, excessive concern with appearances, manipulation, etc.). Obviously these qualities are not unique to JW's. Could it not be said that they are common, even typical of organized religion in general? Or to take it a step further, might it be said that they are basic to human nature? Is it reasonable for some JW's to paint all ex-witnesses as "evil apostates"?
(4) A lot of what is written on this board is reminiscent of what you might hear from a disgruntled divorcee describing their former spouse's behavior. There would appear to be a lot of bitterness, sarcasm/irony, "demonizing" in general. Some comments I have read are frankly vulgar, others more sophisticated, but in all cases, the question arises: How objective is the picture they portray? After all, even ex-witnesses (who may have spent years in the organization) must surely have enjoyed SOME positive benefits from their adherence to the organization that justified their staying as long as they did. Aside from raising questions of the objectivity of those who write about their experiences with the organization, one wonders whether such an approach is conducive to good mental and emotional health. Clearly such an all-embracing shift in worldview would cause great emotional upheaval, but are there more mature ways of dealing with it?
(5) Without questioning the sincerity of many current or former JW's, what is gained by constant efforts to criticize or condemn the other side? If ex-JW's have found something they like better, what is to be gained by attempting to induce them to stay, even if you think they are making a colossal mistake by leaving? On the other hand, if current witnesses are satisfied with their religion, then why try to disillusion them, even if you believe they are hopelessly mistaken? (Ex-JW's who are now atheists would presumably agree that in 100 years from now, everyone, JW or not, will be in the same situation [i.e. dead], so what difference could it possibly make?)
(6) To what extent are both sides willing to accept responsibility for their own decisions? It is easy to cry mental manipulation, brainwashing, etc, but in reality such a paradigm could hardly account for millions of people subscribing to this or that belief system. It would seem that people who believe the Watchtower (or any other religious or non-religious tenets) do so because they have CHOSEN to believe it; people who don't believe it have CHOSEN not to believe it. That is not to say that such choices are always made consciously; many are made by default. But would you agree that there is a strong tendency in both camps to say that the problem is all "out there," with the other side? How realistic is such a position?
I am not naive enough to think that there is a way to bring all factions together to a common conclusion, but I am curious to know, define and describe what exactly is going on here. Is it a group of victims gathering together for solidarity and support, or - returning to the divorce analogy - a group of persons willing to engage in mutual complaining and "confessing the sins" of their former spouses? And why would any JW who is satisfied with his religious affiliation wish to post here?
If anyone has any views on these questions I'd be interested to hear them.