What Makes Someone Become a JW?

by minimus 46 Replies latest jw friends

  • steve2

    Even people "born into" a religion are responsible for their own decisions once they become legal adults. So anyone that gets baptized after reaching the legal age of adulthood has chosen this religion.

    Although exposure to the message from infancy kind of normalizes and legitimizes the mesage and the subsequent "choice" which is in sharp contrast to those who were not exposed to the JW life in childhood.

    Also, this is a religion with lots of strings attached, including especially parents and family and all the emotional blackmail that creeps up on the child as he grows older and doesn't even realize it's emotional blackmail.

    Still. you're right it's definitely a choice - but a different from that of the choice to convert when you're an adult with no JW background to normalize the choice.

  • ThinkerBelle
    Even people "born into" a religion are responsible for their own decisions once they become legal adults. So anyone that gets baptized after reaching the legal age of adulthood has chosen this religion.
    Still. you're right it's definitely a choice - but a different from that of the choice to convert when you're an adult with no JW background to normalize the choice.

    While the born-in does make a choice, it is completely different from someone that comes in later so I have to agree with Steve here. Also, most born-ins end up baptized before they are legal adults because the religion pushes child baptism to hook 'em in, that fact can't be glazed over either. Personal experience, I got baptized as a teen because I was tired of everyone asking me when I was going to do it (most of my friends had been dunked already). I honestly didn't want to do it, but felt like I didn't have a choice.

    For the OP, people love to be part of a community and that is exactly what the JWs offer; everything looks great in the beginning.

  • Old Navy
    Old Navy

    I became aware of the witnesses while in high school. One of my classmates was a witness and was a pretty cool guy; he had a worldly girlfriend (a classmate), he had a car, he seemed really knowledgeable about the Bible and he was popular. He seemed very much like all of my other classmates who were Christian except that he was much more familiar with the Bible.

    I expressed an interest in the religion and he sorta took me under his wing and introduced me to his family, invited me to visit the Kingdom Hall and provided transportation since I had no car and lived in a rural area. I was very positively impressed by the people in the congregation, the heavy use of the Bible in all discussions, talks and studies and also was comfortable with the young people in the congregation many of whom were my age and there were some really attractive young ladies there too.

    I was "love-bombed" and fell under their "spell." Their very cleverly executed program of deception created the impression in my mind that they were exceptional Christians who took the Bible seriously.

    At the same time, once my family discovered that I had joined them, they began to "oppose" what I had done and at every opportunity tried valiantly to "wake me up" to the possibility that the witnesses were a cult and weren't what they seemed. The pastor at the church I had previously attended met with me on several occasions to try to warn me, several of my schoolteachers also spoke with me numerous times to try to warn me, but I guess everyone here knows how that goes... It just stiffened my resolve to stay with the witnesses. At least for that time being.

    Then I gradually began to notice things and slowly got the feeling that "something" was just not right. I began to have doubts and after about a year and a half just dropped out. The congregation by that time was well aware of the "opposition" I was experiencing so apparently they decided to let me be. I wasn't taking any chances though so joined the Navy to get away for a time to clear my head and decide what to do next.

    My first impressions were very strong and very positive which set the "hook." After several months of association and meetings I began to realize that I didn't go along with many of their teachings. I was already baptized and considered to be a "witness" even though at that time (1957-1958) baptisms were much different than now and it was spontaneous at the assembly: no "candidacy" and no waiting - instant baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    My escape was much easier by several orders of magnitude that what most here have suffered. Even then, it took many years to unravel the level of indoctrination from my quite brief association. It was only after I retired from the Navy and associated with the witnesses once again to more thoroughly explore their teachings and procedures that I acquired an in depth comprehension of their fear based control tactics and finally saw what their game was.

    Freedom is very, very nice. I have the utmost respect for all who've managed to escape from The Cult in far more difficult circumstances than my own very painless experience. Looking back, I am very grateful for all who "opposed" my joining the witnesses by taking the time to warn me and to plant those wonderful seeds of doubt while encouraging me to find out who they really are. It took many years but I never forgot their concerns.

  • Wasanelder Once
    Wasanelder Once
    The appeal is the pseudo-intellectual nature of the religion and the demystification of the doctrine. There is no magic or hocuspocus and it is a faux spirituality based on seemingly logic based doctrine. In a word, it appeals to ego.
  • stuckinarut2

    Generally, people who are social misfits, or craving something in life, are the ones who accept a "utopian" message of hope.

    Rarely if ever does a well educated, "normal" person accept "The Truth"!

  • punkofnice

    I was born in. My dear old Dad got the 'Truth™' after he was demobbed from the Marines and broken up with his girl. He was in a very vulnerable state and had a nervous breakdown. Then the Jobos got him! Made him feel wanted and privileged to know the so called real truth of the Bible. I have to say they were a weird bunch but I think they weren't as bloomin' weird as they are today.

  • pale.emperor

    This question appeared on Quora once. I answered it like so:


    Imagine my scenario:

    You’re born into a family of a Jehovah’s Witness mum and dad.

    Before you can even talk you’re trained to point at the sky when they playfully ask “who made the trees?”, “who made the grass?” etc and everyone goes “awwweeee!! That’s right!”

    When you’re old enough to talk you’re encouraged to use the name Jehovah when talking about a magic man in the sky that watches us all and loves all of us Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    At the age where you’re told that stealing is wrong, fire is hot, strange dogs are dangerous - you’re also told that there is a god called Jehovah and he has a son called Jesus. And that one day Jesus will kill everybody who isn't a Jehovah’s Witness and bring about a paradise on earth. You’re shown pictures in Watchtower literature of non Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re evil. They all take drugs, sleep around, catch diseases. They gamble, smoke, drink to excess, get involved in politics, are corrupt, they live for pleasure and cannot be trusted. You’re also shown pictures of the world, the world is bad, evil, dangerous and is made to look enticing because Satan wants you to leave Jehovah. Then you’re shown more pictures (many pictures) of Jesus killing all of these people in a thing called Armageddon. But you’ll survive it if you become a Jehovah’s Witness. Again, you’re told this when you’re a little child. Before your critical thinking even has had a chance to develop.

    From the age of about 3 years old you’re encouraged to put your hand up in the Kingdom Hall and give a one word answer in the book study or Watchtower study. Everybody goes “awwweeee!!” and you feel validated.

    You, your friends and your family all refer to your religion as “the truth”. Cult experts recognize this as loaded language. It’s a well documented fact that if you repeat something to yourself enough you eventually believe it. So the idea that the religion you’re involved in ever being wrong simply does not compute.

    You’re not allowed non JW friends. No birthday, no Christmas, no Easter, no learning about other religions in schools, you never learned the national anthem and you’re not allowed to study any other religious book unless it’s published by the Watchtower Society.

    By the time you’re 12 you’ve already given many bible readings on the platform in front of an audience of about 70 people. More than likely you’re giving 5 min talks on various bible topics too. You’re given validation and praise. All this time you’ve also been out every Saturday morning and - if your family were very good Jehovah’s Witnesses, every Sunday afternoon too - knocking on peoples doors trying to talk to them about Jehovah and place magazines with them. This reinforces in your mind that you have the truth because why would 8 million people do this if it wasn't true?

    By age 19 if you’re not baptized people will be wondering why, because surely you should know this is the truth by now? If you’re not baptized no girl will want to date you, you cant get married, your family will keep asking you why you’re not baptized.

    So you believe it. And you believe it because you know of no other life, everyone around you believes it too so it must be right. And all the negatives about the world and people in it are blown out of proportion and their positives diminished. So you see the world as bad and cant wait for Jesus to destroy it and slaughter all those evil non JWs. When somebody online or on TV criticizes or poses questions you cant answer with Watchtower literature, or when the flaws in the religion are exposed you become very angry and defensive. You can feel the anger inside you like a burning blaze. This is cognitive dissonance at work.

    So simply put, in my case is was slow, gradual, consistent indoctrination and effective mind control from a publishing cult in New York posing as a religion.

  • stuckinarut2

    Brilliantly written PE!

    Spot on!

  • scratchme1010
    My excuse is that I was born in the religion. But if someone wasn’t, why would they become one?

    I am born-in too. What I know from the experts is that it's a combination of factors, including timing and circumstances of the person who joins, some of which apply to some people. Here's what some experts say:

    Decision point - The cult arrives at a time when people are facing a turning point in their lives, and need support.

    Dissatisfaction with state of something (the world, their lives, their community, etc.) - Certain events affect people and they want answers or an explanation for their suffering, and the cult appears to give them comfort and/or answers. The WT offers paradise forever on Earth.

    Loneliness - Some people just want to belong to something. The WT offers a "spiritual paradise" and a congregation that is forced to tell that they are a cohesive unit where people love each other.

    Loss - The cult offers hope and comfort from loss. In the case of the WT they offer people being able to see the loved ones who passed away.

    Play on ego - Some people never get the opportunity to lead. The WT offers "privileges" of being a pioneer, a MO, an elder, etc. This one seems to speak to people who never had educational or career opportunities.

    Promise of certainty; relieve doubt - They make promises that "all your problems will be solved". The WT talks about living in paradise where one will not even fear wild animals.

    Spiritual search - Some people are actually looking to nurture their spirituality. The WT offers gazillions of publications providing gazillions of explanations about why the Bible is so clear.

    The “buzz” / emotional arousal - The born-again effect is a feeling that some people like. It's called the "religious high". It took me some time to understand this one. I found a book with the title "When God Becomes a Drug" that explains well the effect of emotional and religious arousal in people.

    Vicarious celebrity - People relate to the experiences that they hear others telling. The WT notoriously does that in their assemblies, always having people sharing their testimonies and experiences, always being some kind of horrible person who now isn't thanks to their Jehovah.

    Attractiveness of leader - Some people are charmed by the leadership. In the WT this is typical of when people attend a talk from a very skillful speaker.

    Escape from freedom - Some people have a sense of inadequacy about their own lives, and they feel that they need some kind of structure.

    Health reasons - The cult promise comfort and and answer to their suffering, or hope about their conditions getting healed. The WT promises all that in their paradise.

    Stop using drugs - Some people feel that being part of a religion or some kind of group that doesn't allow drugs will keep them safe, abstinent and sober. The WT promotes a "healthy lifestyle" in that respect.

    Escape abusive families - Some people are in bad domestic situations (caused by them or others; remember that there are many current JWs who were/are violent abusers). People look for religion as a way of changing family dynamic, or as a way of sheltering themselves from abusive situations.

    Relationships - Aside from a sense of community, some people believe that only good people join and stay in those groups, hence, they think that the groups are good places to find suitable partners to form families. The WT promotes marriage among them.

    I see some of those things in my family. My mother joined because she was completely alone in Puerto Rico after moving from the Dominican Republic, and only had my violent wife-beater drunk father with her. In the JWs she found an explanation for her suffering, a congregation, something to do, hope for a better life, a ways to improve her level of literacy, and a promise of happiness and life forever.

    My father joined in an attempt at stopping his violence, and to stop hanging out with his drinking buddies (to stop drinking). He also saw an opportunity to teach and lead others, something he likes doing but never had the chance to do again. Never mind that he stopped beating my mom and using beer as an excuse, but started beating us his children and using the Jehovah crap as an excuse.

  • tor1500

    @Stuckinarut2 & Onceanelder

    Generally, people who are social misfits, or craving something in life, are the ones who accept a "utopian" message of hope.

    Rarely if ever does a well educated, "normal" person accept "The Truth"!

    & In a word, it appeals to ego.

    Also Scratchmea1010 you got that right...all your points..

    There are so many reasons. A sense of belonging. If you notice some of JW's are strange & if they were in any other religion, folks might not bother with them...again, birds of a feather flock together...

    There is a certain personality that is attracted to a religion that punishes folks for just being human...Many JW's may just have an ego problem and this religion fills the void...

    I've said it all over this site...for most JW's, JW is a badge of honor...they think suffering is holy...& like the Jews they are chosen.


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