How to peddle Doomsday for Fun and Profit

by TerryWalstrom 17 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • TerryWalstrom

    James Ussher (1581-1656)

    Your name is Ussher – James Ussher – and you are the Archbishop of all of Ireland.

    You are living in the 1600s and are obsessive-compulsive when it comes to speculative ideas. You are convinced that you alone have the intellect to figure exact dates of all the major events in the Bible actually.
    Your critics whisper to each other that your ego is bigger than your credentials for declaring
    you alone know the exact day and time of Adam’s creation!

    ( Nightfall preceding Sunday, 22 October 4004 B.C.)

    Is that specific enough for all of you non-geniuses?

    You – James Ussher – become Professor of Theological Controversies at Trinity College and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1607.
    A whole string of degrees follows your name.
    You speak so many languages it is difficult for even you to keep count.
    You live in very turbulent times – both politically and religiously – and yet your crowning achievement and eventual fame will be the result of your years spent studying
    CHRONOLOGY as it relates to the Old Testament and the writings of Early Church Fathers.


    As a “Young Earth Creationist” living 200 years before Charles Darwin, you encounter little in the way of intellectual opposition to your premises. After all, no less a scientist and genius than Sir Isaac Newton (1648-1727) would himself attempt a similar effort.

    Your computations for fixed dates in secular history during the eras of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar would serve as your references toward other events to be dated in scripture.

    (As we shall see, 300 years later Frederick Franz – a far less distinguished “scholar” than Bishop Ussher – would use the same methodology for his own eccentric chronology).

    What was the biggest problem you faced, Bishop Ussher?
    Perhaps it was the fact that available ancient texts were in complete disagreement about the length of time between events in the Bible!

    So, eeny, meany, miny, moe!
    You, Professor Ussher, chose to depend exclusively on the Masoretic texts and ignored everything else.
    How did you balance all that you knew about ancient history, including the rise of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as your expertise in the Bible, biblical languages, astronomy, ancient calendars, and chronology?

    ( How indeed?)

    You simply claimed success--you declared yourself to be right!

    And that was that.
    With your reputation for such brilliance–who could criticize you or nay-say your pronouncements?

    The most important thing to a genius (with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who thinks he has the intellect to pin down the impossible, is to not leave anything out.

    At age 75, as you lay on your deathbed suffering from internal bleeding, what would become your last words?

    “O Lord forgive me, especially my sins of omission.”

    Most men want forgiveness for the errors they have made. Most, but no – not you!

    Who was to become intellectual heir to Ussher and his delusions of grandeur?

    I present to you:

    Frederick William Franz (1893-1992)

    Born in Covington, Ky., he developed an interest in the Bible at an early age and entered the University of Cincinnati intending to become a Presbyterian preacher. There he studied biblical and classical Greek and Latin.

    Introduced by a brother to the teachings of the International Bible Students, as the Witnesses were then called, Mr. Franz was ordained as a minister of the faith in Chicago in 1913. Franz possessed a photographic memory and a passion for Bible Chronology, adapting himself to various methods and styles of those who had unsuccessfully blazed a trail before him. William Miller and subsequent Adventist, Age to Come Millennialists as well as Pastor C.T. Russell laid the groundwork for the stunt Fred Franz will pull later in life. Let it be known, Fred Franz was conscious of the failure of Pastor Russell’s 1914 predictions of Armageddon and later himself participated in successor J.F. Rutherford’s asinine prediction for 1925. But, Franz was not a man to be discouraged by absolute disproof. He felt he was closing in on the combination to God’s safety deposit box where the sacred secret of The End was kept! Perhaps 1925 was one Jubilee short of the magic date. . .

    During a speech in Australia in 1975 the Watchtower Society’s vice-president, Frederick Franz, went so far as to name a precise date—September 5, 1975—as the date of the “end of the present wicked system.” [George D. Chryssides, Historical Dictionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scarecrow Press, 2008, pg lx.] (Mind you, Fred Franz had the hubris to declare Archbishop Ussher’s chronology to be in error and publicly corrected him!)

    Fred Franz simply declared that Adam was created sometime in the fall of 4026 B.C.E.

    Nothing of any major significance happened in the early fall of 1975.
    The following year (1976),
    The Watchtower advised those Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been “disappointed” by the failure of the predictions for 1975 to adjust their viewpoint – because their understanding had been “based on wrong premises.”

    [“A Solid Basis for Confidence,”
    Watchtower, July 15, 1976, page 441.] In other words, Franz had published spurious data, but it was the faithful members who had erred. How? By believing the lying bastard!

    What exactly were those “WRONG PREMISES”?

    Precisely like Archbishop James Ussher, Fred Franz slavishly followed his own unique line of reasoning and methodology. The operative word to describe Franz is HUBRIS!

    “Hubris= pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”

    It is difficult, if not impossible, to get present-day active Jehovah’s Witnesses to consider disproof pointed at their leaders.
    This is because they have “mental tripwires” programmed in their brains.
    For Witnesses, the Watchtower’s Governing Body is sacrosanct like a sacred cow to a Hindu!
    To even suggest the Governing Body’s pronouncements are awry will trigger a psychological chain-reaction in Jehovah’s Witnesses that starts with them identifying YOU as their enemy.

    Frederick Franz got away with so much nonsense because nobody in the organization was allowed to think a critical thought about him. “Free thought” is possible only if you are aware and assured that you will not be condemned.


    One day I met a member of what was once called the “International Bible Students Association.” He and his son lived in a trailer park. He used his own funds to pay for cable access so that he could tell about the “Divine Plan of the Ages” on TV.

    I sat at his kitchen table as he stood before a giant “Dispensation Chart” – the very same one once used by Charles Taze Russell. He used it to explain “Jehovah’s plan” for me and all mankind. I remember thinking it seemed odd that all the dates on that chart had been figured out with such precision and confidence without anybody ever going to college, passing a seminary examination, or earning a degree!

    Now I realize they had been using the very same chronology conceived by Bishop James Ussher. I’m sure that the Anglican scholar would have considered their use of his handiwork as being quite devilish and diabolical!

    Ussher and Franz: The Fallacies Behind Their Calculations

    We now know that Frederick Franz recreated that same chart and simply changed whatever details that didn’t match his own ideas.
    All to little effect, that is, other than to turn the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ world upside down in the 1970s with his false predictions and embarrassing nonsense!

    We know that stories found in the Bible were handed down from one generation to another verbally, making the aspect of accuracy for any ancient date an impossibility to calculate with any hope of reliability. My understanding is that there are significant disagreements between manuscript families.

    They all have inconsistencies involving the reigns of kings, critical intervals, and the order of events.

    ATTENTION CHRONOLOGERS: The Bible actually contains no dates at all.

    So-called biblical chronology (regarding events taken for granted by the good Bishop) actually vary from text to text among the many variants available to scholars.

    Since not a single original autograph text exists--it is impossible to look to an exemplar to correct errors which have crept in.

    Overriding all of those issues are the practical considerations of THE VARIOUS CALENDAR SYSTEMS used in each geographic and cultural region. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different systems of counting dates, are found through over long spans of time covered by the “Old Testament.”

    Fred Franz tried to gimmick up his guesswork by announcing that he had determined absolute dates for the “Old” and “New Testaments.” We now know that it was all just “stuff and nonsense.”

    Bishop Ussher & Brother Franz (twin crackpots from different mothers)

    Read the opening chapters of Matthew and look at its time intervals for its generation count.
    If you look closely, you will find it doesn’t match the history of those generations given in the Old Testament.
    If a chronology is not scientific, historical – or even feasible to use for determining the exact time when something happened – then how can anyone use the Old Testament to calculate when something else (like “Armageddon”) is going to happen thousands of years later?

    (Hint: you can't)

    Yes, James Ussher and Fred Franz were very smart crackpots who somehow managed to fool generations of sincere Christians who looked to them for answers about the Bible.

    Ussher did less harm than his intellectual heir, Fred Franz.
    Franz convinced millions of people around the world they should fear destruction from Almighty God for the simple reason--only by becoming a member of Franz’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, would his avenging deity spare them.

    Are Jehovah’s Witnesses today aware of any of this?
    Few, but their mouth is tightly sealed lest they are charged with
    thought crimes leading to shunning and banishment!

    What is the lesson to be learned from Bible Chronologists such as Isaac Newton, Archbishop Ussher, William Miller, Fred Franz, Judge Rutherford, Pastor Russell?

    Allowing delusional authoritarians to persuade you is a sure way to waste your time, your resources, and your life.

    Speaking as one who succumbed to such a fate--I must own the consequences, but I will also ring the alarm bell and mark this organization for what it is and always has been: A FALSE PROPHET.

    Be warned!


    (September 12, 1893 – December 22, 1992)

    Terry wrote:

    Yes, James Ussher and Fred Franz were very smart crackpots who somehow managed to fool generations of sincere Christians who looked to them for answers about the Bible.

    Allowing delusional authoritarians to persuade you is a sure way to waste your time, your resources, and your life.

    If Fred Franz was so smart, how come he spent 77 years toiling as a Jehovah's Witness? Didn't he waste 77 years of his life just like I spent 45 years wasting mine? At least I knew when to get out and stop wasting my time.

    Do you suppose that at the end of his life that... maybe....just maybe... everything he believed, practiced, and wrote about was just a delusion and never coming to fruition?

  • TerryWalstrom

    I think Fred Franz had a fertile intellect and fell into a "true believer" spell which captivated his talents and ego. By the time he took over as President, he'd wrecked the reputation of JW's as peddler's of Truth--but--his pre-eminant status made him a shoo-in and he probably was someplace high on the nutjob scale.

    I think little Charlie Russell having been born after many miscarriages by his mother, was doted on and coddled beyond normal. His mother died of a fever epidemic when he was about 9 and he may have associated burning with fever with burning in hell.
    He seemed to be obsessed about hell for awhile even to the point of graffiti on sidewalks marking scriptures as warnings.

    He was privately tutored and brought into the men's clothing business and given an adult's responsibilities. Although the family was Presbyterian, there appears to be a streak of insubordination in the genes because they switched to a Congregational church with autonomy of leadership and no organizational oversight.
    Why was this a big deal, do you think?
    You might suspect Charlie had a feeling of being too special to follow other people's orders. Maybe he was reared like a little Prince destined for greatness.

    Charlie must have been spoiling for a debate because an atheist got ahold of him and apparently left him dazed and confused for a while.
    It is here where young Charlie probably had to choose whether he was a retail merchant by trade or man of higher principles destined by God to educate the whole earth about God's soon-to-arrive Prince of Peace.

    The fact that a young man would seek such an apotheosis is astonishing unless he was a preening Narcissist. I'm no psychiatrist, but I suspect he had delusions and perhaps burgeoning megalomania.

    Russell was living at a time of great unrest. After the War of 1812, a Baptist lay preacher named William Miller had gotten a big reputation from juggling scriptures and dates resulting in a mad dash to escape the downside of Armageddon. The prediction of `1843/1844 must have caused a thrilling sensation in all Christian folks who took such things seriously.
    I speculate that young Charlie Russell saw the effect of Miller's predictions on simple church folk to the extent they began leaving their own churches and preparing themselves for Christ's coming. This was truly a Big Moment!

    Despite the 'Great Disappointment,' the true believers would not admit defeat or own up to being dead wrong. A great many clever and imaginative Christians had their own unique ideas. Some printed and published those schemes along with charts and dates and all sorts of crackpot speculations.
    Keep your eye on these people!
    They were stubborn and impervious to reason. If you got them in your corner with just the right kind of razzle-dazzle you would have a strong core of solid gold as a foundation for whatever kind of ego monument you'd care to build.
    Civil War had damaged Christian's Puritan ideals of a shining city on a hill. People were eager for answers and a quick solution to their very human woes. If somebody could convince them of a way out of their problems--that man stood to make a fortune!

    This is where Charles Taze Russell emerged as a very wily and ambitious "Seeker" as well as an investor in such ideas.

    Two things launched C.T. Russell's career as a future pastor, columnist, author, lecturer and entrepreneur of a worldwide movement. He was able to AFFORD his weird hobby, dabbling, cherry-picking, and eventual invention of a theology.
    What if you ran your religious ideology like a business? Not like his competitors in the marketplace of ideas who were on a shoestring--but really put some money behind the marketing and distribution?

    He partnered up with men who were high-profile and got in with the crowd of movers and shakers and began competing--not as a businessman selling clothing--but as a purveyor of religious crackpot ideas exemplified with dazzling bullshit.

    He hired book salesmen (colporteurs) and publicized his work in a way nobody else could afford to do. He put his money where his mouth was and got in at the right time.

    Russell had just the right personality, manners, courtesy and genteel style to win over women (who were the bulk of Christianity as far as becoming followers.)

    His weird arrangement with Maria Frances Eckley to have a sexless marriage formed a beneficial partnership (she was a helluva editor and writer) and a terrific "photo op" when the two of them began working for the crowds both in print and in many visits to homestyle Bible Student gatherings. This was a power couple like Jim and Tammy Faye Baker in later years. The glow of success and divine light was irresistible.
    The self-styled Pastor Russell believed his own bullshit up to a certain point when his personal actions and treatment of others (partners and wife) triggered an awakening.
    He became shrewd, cowardly, stealthy, litigious, self-aggrandizing, and cruel.
    Throwing himself into a whirlwind of predictions, prognostications, pyramid schemings and, above all, churning out a revolutionary method of Bible Study (Studies in the Scriptures) he broke down the barrier for common folk by making study Topical and lending his slant to a pseudo-revelatory tutorial about End Times.

    Being half-charlatan and half-assed spellbinder, Russell spent the last years of his life juggling lawsuits, marital scandals, newspaper exposes, and the disintegration of his slapdash prophetic fulfillments which were crashing and burning right and left.

    The fact that he edited out all his Wrong predictions and changed the wording in reprints, indicates a guilty state of mind and awareness of his errors.

    As he aged and grew frail, he had on staff both a firebrand lawyer with gigantic ego ambitious to outgrow his humble agrarian background and an autodidact with a photographic memory who had had plans to be a theologian.

    Rutherford was the lawyer and Franz was the whiz kid with the photographic memory who had an invaluable talent. He could dip into the Bible and pull out anything you wanted him to produce and make it sound like it was prophecy.

    When Russell died on a train in Texas on Halloween, Rutherford and his carefully placed minions knew exactly what moves to make both legally and strategically to produce an insurgency with the goal of commandeering Russell's shell of an empire and branding it as his own.

    Rutherford was the polar opposite of Russell and he damned near wrecked everything by making enemies out of allies right and left. But, with Franz by his side, a wicked legal mind, and a bellicose temperament, he blazed a scorched earth policy across the entire Bible Student movement.

    Rutherford was ruthless, diabolical and hellbent on being a Big Man who could make everybody bow to his unbridled power. He published a book (The Finished Mystery) under false pretenses (Russell's 7th volume) and got himself and the other Directors of the Society prosecuted by the Federal Government for being traitors to their country in a time of war (WWI).
    Luckily for Rutherford and the others, the war ended soon after and the unnecessary expense of prosecuting a religious organization's lunatic administrators who had appealed on a "Writ of Error" turned on a whim and the case was dropped. None of these men were exonerated, simply released.

    Rutherford went on a holy crusade to punish everybody everywhere and he became a tyrannical monster throwing people of faith into the fire to create martyrs and publicity for his new-fangled religion with the awkward new name: Jehovah's Witnesses. What else would a Lawyer and part-time judge think of but "Witnesses"?

    These first two men were larger-than-life and totally driven by inner demons. They surrounded themselves with ardent supporters and cronies who would march into the furnace for them. They built an empire off the volunteer army of true believers by keeping the carrot of heaven or paradise in front and the stick of Armageddon to create fear of ferocious destructions at the hands of an angry, vengeful God.

    Every wrong step made, and each faulty explanation given--each silly prognostication and preposterous prediction, drove the weak members out and solidified the cognitive dissonance of the staunch loyalists who remained on.

    We all know the rest of the story. One day we joined them and one day we left it all behind with a hole in the center of our life like a festering holocaust in our spirit.

    Russell, Rutherford and each who followed, became contaminated with the same cancerous ideology of doom and fealty--an absolute belief based on nothing more than the psychotic ravings of self-centered mandarins full of themselves with ambitions to rule as kings and priests over the earth. This elite band of brothers is a festering pimple on Jehovah's ass admired by one and all.

  • Finkelstein

    Bravo Terry well done

    A deep analytical perspective of how the JWS religion/publishing house came to be by the men who actually started it.

    I'm going to print this out and save it for my still in brother.

    This really is a keeper folks

  • TheWonderofYou

    THIS is insight, lambs don't know of.


    Taken from Barbara Anderson's website: Here is someone who would know Fred Franz.


    Welcome to Watchtower Documents

    By the way, a reporter, who worked for Time magazine, interviewed Franz when he became president of the WTB&TS in 1977 (he had been Vice-President of the Watch Tower Society). That interview actually resulted in a story appearing in the July 11, 1977 issue of Time.
    Privately, the reporter said that in all his years as a reporter interviewing “important” people, after spending one hour with Fred Franz, he came away with the impression that Freddie was so deranged as to be “certifiably insane.”
  • Finkelstein

    R & R asks about Franz ........

    If Fred Franz was so smart, how come he spent 77 years toiling as a Jehovah's Witness?

    The equivalency of power and stature which he built within the WTS.

    The power these men acquired is not a state of delusion, its real.

    It's pretty much the same reason as the men who sit as GB members today, power, stature and money or living lifestyle offered, which they knowingly wouldn't have without the WTS.

  • TerryWalstrom

    Indeed! well said!

  • tiki

    Terry thanks for posting all this. Fascinating stuff....narcissists and histrionic personalities seem to have an uncanny drive and ability to gain power over people....

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    Love you article Terry. How many JWs today know the history of their cult and how arch-fantasist Freddie Franz led the whole Watchtower cavalcade through the twentieth century? The JW cult has indeed always been led by fixated believers (perhaps with the exception of the more pragmatic business man Knorr). Religious fixations used to be its strength and remains so at present but they have had their time in the sun, only now the twilight gloom beckons.

    I think we should give Ussher a bit of credit! Early in the seventeenth century it was an original idea to use available information and arrive at a date for the start of the world as we know it. Albeit hopelessly wrong it was the first stab at understanding the time scale of life and the planet. Geologists and Victorian antiquaries paved the way nearly two hundred years later. From the evidence of their findings they recognised that the Bible was simply wrong on the matter of dating. It is only now, a further two centuries on, that we have a good handle on the dating of our planet and the timing of origins of the things on it. You have to start somewhere and Ussher for all his faults was that beginning.

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