The "What Ifs" of Watchtower History

by slimboyfat 2 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Counterfactual histories (where historians or journalists imagine how it would have turned out if history had taken a different path at a crucial moment) have become really popular in recent years. They have also gained greater academic credibility, having previously been dismissed as frivolous or analytically irrelevant by serious minded historians. Now even senior academic historians, such as Richard Evans, extol the virtues of counterfactual history as a way of exploring cause and effect, and distinguishing long term trends from serendipitous contingencies.

    Among the most popular topics for counterfactual treatments, fiction and non-fiction, include:

    What if the South had won the US civil war?

    What if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated?

    What if Hitler had been assassinated in 1939?

    What if Al Gore had won the 2000 election instead of Bush?

    What if Jesus hadn't been crucified?

    I recently bought a book about counterfactuals relating to Jewish history that includes chapters on:

    What if the Exodus never happened? (Irony of question acknowledged and explored)

    What if the temple in Jerusalem had not been destroyed by the Romans?

    What if Spinoza had repented?

    What if Russian Jewry had never been confined to the Pale of Jewish Settlement?

    What if the Jewish state had been established in east Africa?

    What if Franz Kafka had emigrated to Palestine?

    What if the final Solution had been completed?

    What if the Holocaust had been averted?

    Some counterfactuals seem so obvious as to naturally present themselves, whereas others hint at details, contingencies, and personalities that require a lot of background knowledge and analytical consideration.

    So I wonder what a good set of counterfactuals in Watchtower history would look like. I'm trying to compile a list, so any suggestions or criticisms of my suggestions are welcome. A few ideas for interesting Wachtower counterfactuals:

    What if Russell never met Nelson Barbour?

    What if World War 1 didn't begin in 1914?

    What if Fred Franz completed his college degree before joining the Watchtower?

    What if A H MacMilllan took control in 1917 instead of Rutheford?

    What if Rutherford didn't change their name to Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931?

    What if Hitler wanted to reach agreement with JWs in 1933?

    What if Raymond Franz had stayed in a Governing Body open to reform?

    What if the Watchtower had never predicted the end in 1975?

    What if New Testament manuscripts containing the divine name were discovered?

    What if Armageddon had really come in 1975?

    What if the Governing Body promoted higher education instead of denouncing it?

    What if the Governing Body listened to Barbara Anderson instead of having her disfellowshipped?

    What if church shunning practices were banned in the United States?

  • never a jw
    never a jw
    Entertainment value, otherwise an utter waste of time.
  • slimboyfat

    Well that's certainly the view of some historians, like Richard Evans. But Niall Ferguson and an increasing number of serious historians see merit in exploring counterfactuals.

    Many of the arguments against counterfactuals are really arguments against bad counterfactuals. That is counterfactuals that are badly informed about real history, or counterfactuals that allow for too many simultaneous divergences from real history to the point where anything can happen. Focused and well informed counterfactuals can illuminate the causes and mechanisms in real history.

    I came across this interesting example from a prominent historian of Christianity - what if Arianism had won? (Maybe, one thing, there would have been no JWs)

Share this