<< This is rarther frightening and the more cynical types will see it as evidence that Watchtower leaders know exactly what they are doing. >>
I have no doubt that many of them do know exactly how they're deceiving their followers. But many are largely taken in by their own lies. It's a great example of Orwellian society.
<< For those who believe in direct creation of each type of animal according to its kind, it is very difficult to argue that a god of love created animals of predation with the means and nature of causing pain and suffering to others. The same goes for parasites of various kinds. >>
Exactly. Alan told me about a recent Scientific American article on the bite force of crocodilians. If you take a Design point of view, it's obvious that these animals -- predators all -- were DESIGNED to be effective predators. The biggest of today's crocodiles can bite with a force equivalent to some 1500 kilograms. The author extrapolated back to the biggest fossil form, some 15 meters long, with about 10,000 kilograms of bite force. Their other characteristics are finely tuned to sneak up on animals at the water's edge and grab them. Is this *really* the product of a Loving Supreme Designer? I think not. If it's Design, it's a Deistic Designer. If not, it's evolution by natural selection producing the illusion of design.
<< To argue that a god of love is responsible for the pain and suffering from natural causes is less clear. If you believe in the OT view that God causes drought as punishment, he brings the rain, he causes the sun to stay in the sky ... he has a direct hand in natural events then the argument is good. Not everyone who believes in a god of love holds to that view. >>
That view is from religion's infancy, and is rooted in the strong tendency of children to give agency to inanimate objects. A child might think that the waving of trees makes the wind blow. A JW might think that God worked events such that a bolt of cloth in a fabric store was left with exactly the right amount of cloth to provide curtains for a Kingdom Hall. It's not far removed from animism.
Most Christians, and the JWs especially, believe that the universe is basically a nice, warm, fuzzy home for humans. But it is far from it. The universe is really an extremely violent place, full of massive explosions that outshine our entire galaxy. Many authors have pointed out how many ways our earth might be wiped out by the impersonal forces loose in the universe. The only way such events could be deflected from the earth is by a hugely powerful god-like entity that had humans' welfare in mind. But if such an entity exists, then judging by his lack of interest in human affairs today, one would not expect him to intervene in a bigger disaster.
Here are a couple of videos I stumbled upon that deal with what we're talking about:
It sounds like your own belief, Earnest, is more or less deistic, but not in the classic sense. The semi-famous author of high-school books on evolution, Kenneth Miller, is a practicing Catholic but pretty much a Deist. His God takes no part in any of the universe's affairs, having set things in motion a very long time ago. That view avoids the obvious contradictions with reality of believing in a Loving God, but is anathema to the majority of Christians, who believe in a God who is very active in the universe's affairs.
Rogerson's book is one of the best ever written on the JWs. Another is "A People For His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and An Evaluation" (Timothy White, 1967), now available only in facsimile. I just love Rogerson's dry, understated British humor.
TD mentioned a few examples of the sort of popular misconceptions and outright nonsense once taught, or still taught, by the JWs. Many of those things are nothing more than the misconceptions popular in Fred Franz's youth. Franz was obviously the driving force behind many of them, and he was extremely good at finding sources equivalent to The Weekly World News and other tabloid material to support his crazy ideas.
I particularly remember the nonsense back around 1971 where the Society portrayed the physical heart as the seat of emotions, the brain as the seat of intellect, and that these two actually carried on conversations that determined a person's conduct. They actually put on a District Convention skit where there was a giant green brain on one side of the stage, and a giant red heart on the other side. They "conversed" and lit up when "speaking". That made me embarrassed to be a JW.