Former Brother, It appears you are venturing down a new path in critical thinking. That is a good thing. We were taught (warned/threatened) not to question anything or to even have any independent or critical thinking as JWs. I have been venturing down that same path for a couple years now. I still have not found that concise, one sentence summary reply for many of your questions (except perhaps one).
where have JWs gone wrong?Is it possible that they are nearest to the truth than any other religions?
This is where I started -- examining the WTS/JW doctrine. For decades I had made excuses for many of the unreasonable doctrines/beliefs/policies of JWs. It was while I was conducting a BS with a zealous "student" that I was forced to examine many of these things in greater depth. I now believe he was already examining all the info available online (tho he claimed otherwise). I think he was sincerely looking for a religion to teach his children. Frankly, many of the JW doctrines fell apart when I examined them in greater depth.
The Blood Policy is unscriptural, especially the way they themselves have diluted it with "fractions". Isn't it obvious they would toss it out if not afraid of the repercussions? Transfusing blood is NOT equal with eating/consuming it. Transfusing fractions of blood is certainly not "abstaining" from blood. It is a great example of where the WTS/GB are wandering around lost, clearly without any kind of Divine Direction.
NO Divine Direction. See example #1 above. It is but a small example. Appointing of Elders/MS/Pioneers/GB who are proven to be adulterers; pedophiles; apostates; etc etc. Where was the Holy Spirit?
Eight changes on the opinion of if those destroyed at Sodom & Gomorrah will be resurrected. Count them: EIGHT. The Holy Spirit must have been really confused.
How many changes have you personally seen in the definition of "the Generation"? I'm old enough to know of at least 6 different definitions. SIX changes in about 40 years. And this is one of JWs keystone doctrines that defines them from all the rest of Christianity.
Just recently the change was made that the GB alone are the F&DS. It is no longer composed of all of Christ's anointed brothers on Earth. Well, that really puts them in charge, doesn't it? Kind of convenient. Everyone else tossed out in one swoop of the pen. Pray tell me why if Christ appointed the F&DS slave in 1918 or 1919 (that date has also changed back and forth), why did he wait another 90+ years to get them the accurate understanding? Is Jesus that poor of a communicator? Was there a power shortage with the Holy Spirit? Let's also mention that Christ examined the Bible Students in 1914, cleansed them until appointing them in 1919, but did not cleanse them from celebrating Christmas or birthdays or use of the Cross or smoking -- all of which are considered so wicked today they require disfellowshipping. Obvious that Christ's attitude on these things has changed, isn't it?
I pacified myself for a long time by thinking that they were the "closest thing to Truth". Who else had it right about the Trinity, Hell Fire, Immortality of the Soul after death, Creation vs. Evolution, etc. Yes, those doctrines were solid! Then I was shown the outright lies and misquotes in the Trinity Brochure (which I had used as the main basis for a Public Talk I regularly delivered). NOT simple errors (OOPS!). Blatant misquotes. The same for the Creator Book. I always wondered why we only studied it one time in the CBS. Same thing in the Reasoning Book about the Cross. Should "The Truth" have to use blatant lies and misquotes and deceptions to be substantiated? And thus, what do you call something that you have discovered is NOT "The Truth"?
So, I have come to my own conclusion about WTS/JWs. They are NOT "The Truth". Are they the closest thing to The Truth? How much poison or manure is acceptable in your glass of drinking water? (Do you recall that illustration?) That matter is resolved in my mind. I can shut the door on that issue. After being a JW, I think it would be hard for a person to adopt the beliefs of another denomination of Christendom. It's been hammered into us that they are "all wrong". If I had to look at their history and choose the Church that has done the most for Christianity, I think it would be the Catholic Church. Who was it that God entrusted to keep the oldest Bible manuscript for centuries? (Vatican 1209) Do they have any more "poison" than the JWs? Are they any more closer to "The Truth"? IDK.
I am still walking that new path searching for answers to other questions. I would like to believe that the idea/concept that I have always held dearly about God is correct. I would like to believe that there is something better after this (short) life is over. I do not like the idea that the world we live in (as great as life is for most of us) will always be "wicked" and "unjust" and/or unfair. I was taught to believe that God would soon swoop in and rectify all injustice. Sick would be cured. Hungry would be fed. Dead resurrected. Etc Etc. Of course, I ignored the "fact" that he would destroy 99.9% of mankind to do so (according to WT doctrine). I guess that as long as I was part of the 1/10th of 1% who would be saved and walk right into Panda Paradise that was OK then. Frankly, I have not discovered any "evidence" to those things I have always held so dearly. It was a matter of "faith". But not so really, as there is no "assured evidence" to any of it. I'm reading a couple books about evolution currently that have been recommended above. You may not want to do that if you don't want to face facts that contradict your current understanding yet.
I've discovered the trek down this new path is a marathon and not a sprint. I doubt I have sufficient time left in my remaining years to examine it all and come to a definitive conclusion on all of it. I have not just stopped everything else in life to jump into examining all of this, because I have concluded it is at least as important to enjoy living some of the life I have remaining. I think that I can perhaps do the greatest good by helping my children and their children to get a good basis or start in their lives so they can more fully enjoy their future. Hopefully they will think of me (in good ways) occasionally when they reflect on where they are in life down the road. Which brings up the subject of higher education. WTS ban on higher education is downright EVIL. It condemns any with potential to a life of menial labor and likely lifelong struggle. It destroys their likelihood of being financially successful today. It is clearly a tool to control their thinking and to keep them captive within the religion.
Sorry this got so long and probably laborious to read, but I very much related to the questions you too are pondering. I hope this helps. Of course, YMMV. (Your Mileage May Vary)