Things JW's and Atheists have in common

by juandefiero 54 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Mainstream Christians normally don't appeal to evidence in the same way that JWs and atheists do. They are more likely to point to personal experience of the divine, to tradition, to experience of religious ritual, to beliefs they have found that "work" for them in their lives, and so on. Unlike atheists and JWs they are unlikely to say: "let's sit down with some books, isolate some collection of facts, and decide we have unlocked the mystery of existence on that basis".

    Have you ever read The Case for God by Karen Armstrong? It's one of the best responses to the New Atheists, because instead of engaging them on their own terms she calls their assumptions about reality into question.

  • cofty
    Mainstream Christians normally don't appeal to evidence in the same way that JWs and atheists do.

    Yes they do. Most of them are clueless but their first response is always to so-called evidence that supports their superstitions.

    They are more likely to point to personal experience of the divine, to tradition, to experience of religious ritual, to beliefs they have found that "work" for them in their lives, and so on.

    Just like JWs they got to that after they have lost the argument.

    JWs always fall back on these exact same excuses.

    Look at my post with the bullet points earlier. Christians and JWs are almost identical.

  • slimboyfat

    Well I don't know who mean by mainstream. I've listened a lot to Rowan Williams for example. He's pretty much the epitome of mainstream on this island. I've heard him talk a lot about tradition, about personal sense of the divine, the power of scripture, Christian community and so on. I can't recall ever hearing him appeal to facts in the way JWs or atheists do. Both JWs and atheists would agree that's he's missing the point or dodging the issue. "Making excuses", as you put it. That's because JWs and atheists agree with each other about how to get at "truth", and neither really undersands what spirituality involves for most believers.

  • bobingersoll
    JWs believe that what you need to do in relation to these issues is gather all the relevant evidence, sit down and consider it, and come to the rational conclusion.

    No - they SAY they believe that but they do not actually put it into practice....but they believe they are practicing it. If they actually practiced what you say they believe, the JW religion would soon join the dead religions. But as it is, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias trips them up most of the time.

  • looter
    Each has very strong beliefs in what they believe to be right. And they each feel that what they believe in must be right and is what everyone should adhere to. They live their life through what they believe no matter if it hurts others around.
  • cofty
    They live their life through what they believe no matter if it hurts others around.


  • the girl next door
    the girl next door
    That's enough internet for me today. Good grief.
  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic
    JWs are materialists

    Not remotely. JWs believe in:

    1.) Spectral Evidence. They believe that information can be relayed through divine interpretation and personal revelation (e.g. Moses, Daniel, Paul, and the Governing Body).

    2.) Supernatural Causation. They believe that the universe was created by a supreme being and they also believe that being uses supernatural powers to influence events within the universe (i.e. the holy spirit).

    3.) Supernatural Realm. They believe that both Heaven and Tartarus are places that exist outside of the universe and are not bound to the physical laws of our universe.

    4.) Supernatural Beings. They believe in the existence of Angels, Archangels, Demons, the Devil, and an all powerful God.

    JWs are the complete opposite of materialists. Where physical evidence conflicts with their beliefs (e.g. evolution) they choose their beliefs over the evidence. And people who are materialists do not believe in spectral evidence, supernatural causation, a supernatural realm, or in supernatural beings.

    Slimboyfat is a troll. He will say anything he thinks will get atheists/agnostics/non-believers riled up. He's not remotely interested if his claims are true or not.

  • slimboyfat

    JWs believe in God and a spiritual realm. In that sense they are not materialists for sure. We won't disagree about that. However compared with other religions they are very naturalistic and rationalistic in outlook. This expresses itself in many of their beliefs and practices. For example:

    1. Their basic denial of the concept of a soul as most religious people envisage it. Body and soul are practically synonymous except in a metaphorical sense of "future life prospect". They are effectively monists.

    2. Their belief that physical resurrection involves the reassembly of atoms in a particular configuration to recreate the person or soul. You don't get more reductionist or materialist than that.

    3. Their rejection of an omnipresent God. Although JWs talk about God as "spirit" they also talk about him as in some sense having a "location" in the heavens betraying a basic materialist bedrock. At one time they even located God in a particular star system.

    4. Their rejection of modern day miracles and divine revelation. They claim that the GB is in some sense guided by God, but through reading texts and discussion, not by receiving actual revelation. They also discourage the idea that God would communicate directly with ordinary believers in any mystical sense. Instead they focus on the study of texts and rational belief and practice.

    5. Their rejection of mysticism in their religious practice. Their meetings have been likened to business meetings more than religious gatherings. It's a religion with most of the "religion" sucked out of it, so what you're left with is an attempt at belief in the supernatural expressed and practiced in as rationalistic and materialistic terms as possible.

    Anthropologist Andrew Holden has written about how JW beliefs and practices are in many ways an expression of modern rationalistic thought rather than in opposition to it.

    If there is one feature of the Kingdom Hall that occupied my thoughts in the initial stages of my fieldwork, it would have to have been the absence of mysticism... Their failure to spend much time in meditation, prayer, healing, and other such rituals demonstrates their unwillingness to recognise that God will intervene in human affairs. I could not help being struck by the stark contrast between the awesome symbols of a church with which I was familiar and the rationalism of the Watch Tower movement.
    Rationalism is an essential characteristic of the modern world that stems from the Enlightenment tradition. It involves a qualitatively new way of thinking concerned with innate ideas independent of experience.[viii] Weber (1970) regarded the rise of science and technology in industrial capitalist societies as evidence of a whole process of rationalisation. He argued that this would manifest itself in the economic distribution of goods and services, in the ordering of work and in social life in general. Weber also suggested that rationalism would lead to tension with traditional cultures in which ordinary people for whom religion had been an important influence would not easily adapt to laws and procedures that were devoid of human emotion. Communities that operate on rational precepts cannot easily accommodate charisma or individual creativity. Rational systems are generally purposeful and pragmatic, eschewing all arbitrary performances and events. Religious beliefs are, however, based on faith; and since this is something that cannot be quantified, a certain amount of tension between these two phenomena is inevitable.
    The Witnesses pose a challenge to traditional religion, not least because they undermine the beliefs and rituals of established churches.[ix] Their rational system of beliefs equips them with strategies for recruitment and enables them to prove beyond all doubt that their theology is the word of God. The contrast between this and mystical religion manifests itself in visual imagery and styles of worship. Biblical texts are consulted not only for the substantiation of doctrines but as a blueprint for everyday conduct. Scriptural literalism is a rational means by which the world and its problems can be explained. The Witnesses believe that Jehovah created the world in seven days and intended Adam and Eve to live in a state of eternal happiness. However, it is as though they believe that since the fall, he has gone into semi- retirement until such time that humankind reaches the point of its own destruction. This is perhaps one of the reasons they spend little time in prayer. Glossolalia, creed recitation, even periods of silent meditation are so far removed from the Witnesses’ activities that someone claiming to have had an experience of a transcendental nature are unlikely to find solace in a Kingdom Hall. At no point in meetings is time devoted to individual prayer. Spontaneous prayer and prayer by invitation are also absent. Unlike the Roman Catholic tradition in which relics, crucifixes, statues, pictures, holy water and tabernacles are an indispensable part of the spiritual ethos, these places of worship are sparse and disenchanted. Although they are always clean, tastefully decorated and well maintained, Kingdom Halls are essentially functional places.[x] The spatial layout of formally arranged chairs and an elevated platform on which devotees delivered their well-rehearsed sermons exemplify the Witnesses’ rational style of worship. Elders in the background who quietly confirm the order and content of the meeting from their official itineraries enhance the atmosphere of order and precision.
    The Watch Tower movement does not only eschew mysticism, it openly condemns it. Its magazines repeatedly warn devotees of the dangers of apostasy by showing pictures of Catholics praying before images of saints (particularly the Virgin Mary) for intercession. Elders propound the view that venerating anything or anybody other than Jehovah constitutes false worship and is forbidden in scripture.[xi] This idea is nothing new (it was, after all, one of the arguments that came out of the Protestant Reformation), but what is significant is that the Witnesses’ style of worship resonates with the idea that religious superstition is contrary to modernity. In his work on the Enlightenment in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Isaiah Berlin writes:
    The rational reorganisation of society would put an end to spiritual and intellectual confusion, the reign of prejudice and superstition, blind obedience to unexamined dogmas, and the stupidities and cruelties of the oppressive regimes which such intellectual darkness bred and promoted. All that was wanted was the identification of the principal human needs and discovery of the means of satisfying them. (Berlin 1990:5)
    Berlin is suggesting here that rationalisation would bring about the death of superstition and the rise of human emancipation. Few people would regard the Watch Tower movement as liberating in any sense of the word, yet the Witnesses’ unabated attack on saint-cults and their refusal to accept the “unexamined dogmas” to which Berlin refers could be seen as freedom from what many regard as the oppressive forces of traditional religion. Though they are religious in the sense that they believe in the supernatural and offer their allegiance to a deity, the Witnesses’ one true interpretation of scripture eradicates superstition, drawing instead on the principles of modern reason. This suggests that the ‘knowledge’ required for membership of the Watch Tower community is fundamentally different from the emotional intensity often associated with, for example, evangelical Christianity.[xii] Reading textual material is more intellectually demanding and time-consuming than making a sudden decision to offer one’s life to God at a charismatic revival meeting. This is not to suggest that the Witnesses do not believe what they ‘know’, or that evangelical Christian ministers are always sure that those who step forward to be saved have genuine conviction, but rather that preparation for Watch Tower ministry is devoid of supernatural invocation.[xiii] One indicator of this is the fact that the familiar stories in which born-again Christians declare how lost they were before they saw the light are absent in the testimonies of Witness converts. The Witnesses’ failure to acknowledge grace or even their own unworthiness reflects their belief that salvation can be earned by taking the time to read about God and adhere to the way of life prescribed by the Governing Body of his earthly Society...
    Until recently, sociological literature has tended to propound the view that world-renouncing sectarian religion cannot survive the onslaught of modernity which is, among other things, rational, secular and materialistic. But these theories offer scant empirical analysis of millenarian movements. The rise of the modern state, modern capitalism and modern science have no doubt been the cause of great tension between faith and reason, but they can in no way be shown to have brought about the death of God. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is an example of a movement that has managed to maintain a piety that is as ascetic and puritanical as any version of orthodox Christianity. At the same time, it is a religion of disenchantment that involves the systematic study of textual material. This requires skills of literacy, reason and learning by rote. The Witnesses’ style of worship, their meticulous collation of statistical data and their ministerial methodology reveal an indubitable dependency on modern rational principles. In an age in which social movements articulate expressive and aesthetic identities, the Watch Tower Society stands out as rational, calculating and conservative. Its style of worship and ministerial procedures reflect a community that operates on the basis of what Weber called ‘technical reason’. Weber argued that in the post-industrial period, Western societies had become governed by rules and regulations deriving from legal-rational authority (Weber 1922).[xx] While some devotees find the movement’s demand for loyalty difficult to satisfy, however, it would be a mistake to suggest that they find its appeal for service oppressive. Its rational-authoritarian nature produces both the conformity and the strong feeling of unity that enable it to function.
    Watch Tower evangelism succeeds because of the technological and cultural resources that are available in the twenty-first century. The Witnesses’ recruitment methodology requires the use of modern communication techniques as well as sophisticated technology such as multi- media software. The movement operates an international business enterprise for the production and dissemination of tracts and magazines and the expansion of its membership. Photographs of gigantic office blocks representing its headquarters and printing works appear in glossy reading materials. These photographs do not, in any sense, depict an organisation that is anti-modern or anti-materialistic, but rather one that prides itself on its modern rational image. This is, to all intents and purposes, a global, multicultural corporation. The modern world the Witnesses ostensibly oppose is the world they also mimic. Notwithstanding the tension between faith on the one hand and reason on the other, the Witnesses are remarkably successful in utilising rational means for their equally rational ends.
  • Phizzy

    Dear Juan,

    Having thought about your O.P I have realized that you have given us a wonderful way to move conversations with JW's along. Quite often when "proving" they have the "truth" they will mention the things they don't believe in, immortal soul, hellfire etc etc, well what a great reply !

    " Atheists don't believe those things either "....................." now, let's look at the problems with what you do believe......"

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