Nobody likes to be wrong. So after being taught that they have "the truth" for so long, is it that JWs just don't want to admit that they are wrong so they'll keep going in the same direction rather than reversing course? This is different from indoctrination when you truly believe what you're saying. Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, but what really keeps JWs holding on--indoctrination or a desire to be right/not be wrong?
Indoctrination or insistence on being right?
I think its a combination of both .
Older people who have been in it for many years have invested so much time and effort in it find it very hard to admit they have been wrong all those years.
In this case it is the investment of time and energy ,monetary value they have put in all those years that they cant back down and admit even to themselves that it is not the truth. So they keep deluding themselves.
And they keep defending it.
The other case I think is a different kettle of fish ,these people have gone out of their way to promote JW`s to all and sundry that Jehovahs Witnesses are the only true religion on the planet .
So their ego now gets in the way they have been so vocal promoting the JW religion and now they cannot go against what they have been so vocal for it would be humilliating for them to admit they have been so wrong..
So they keep deluding themselves.
And they keep on defending it
And as I said I believe it is a combination of the two indoctrination and insistence on being right that both parties can have a mixture of the two .
Indeed most often a complex mixture of both.
The JWs are not alone in being affected by cognitive dissonance. I think the persistence of the Israelite religion itself as well as the birth of Christianity can be greatly explained by it.
When Jerusalem was destroyed the Israelites didn't admit they were wrong about YHWH, but believed in him more devotedly, coming up with explanations for why he had them destroyed. Monotheism was born.
The disciples who believed Jesus as their messiah, couldn't face up to the prospect that they were wrong when he was suddenly executed as a criminal. They created an entirely new religion in order to maintain their sense of correctness, rather than admit they had made a colossal mistake. Christianity was born.
When Jesus didn't come in 1844, many Millerites didn't abandon their belief but created a scenario where they were correct after all. Jesus had come, but invisibly, and those that believed that, believed all the harder. The Seventh Day Adventist's were born.
Then you have Russell. People on bridges in white outfits ready to be taken up into heaven. Did Russell or those that came later admit they were wrong about Jesus coming in 1914? No,those that stayed, used the very same explanation as the Seventh Day Adventists.
The ones who stay despite all contrary evidence are the most psychologically invested. They would be the most damaged by having to acknowledge they were wrong. They will have been in the longest, given up the most, their sense of identity and self worth fundamentally linked to their belief system. When that belief system is threatened, their brain will distort reality in order that they remain right. Because admitting you are wrong about something fundamental is psychologically painful - traumatic even, and the brain will protect itself.
In this way, I think, Judaism, Christianity and the JW's can all thank cognitive dissonance for their continuing survival.
Yes the JWS are deeply indoctrinated to remain faithful but there's an assumption that the Org is not perfect but still the the purest form of true godly worship in comparison to all other Christian based faiths.
Sure there's a lot of JWS who are starting to wonder quietly within themselves why all things proclaimed have not happened but there is such string regulating control in being a JWS from a social perspective, many dont dare to openly speak their mind.
That's also why the WTS has been stressing Loyalty Loyalty Loyalty
I think it begins as indoctrination, pure indoctrination. Over the years people are given chances to see that it's wrong and then they're so invested that cognitive dissonance kicks in and all of the thought stopping techniques taught by the cult kick in. They are blind to it. Over a longer period those chances to see that they're wrong combine to form a moment of awakening. It is in that moment where people now see it as wrong, and only then is it a matter of wanting to be right, and whether they'll come down on the side of real truth or "the truth".
This logical fallacy describes the situation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of JWs:
Many JWs have already spent decades of their lives believing fervently that the end is coming "very soon now". If they stop being a JW, then it will seem all those decades were wasted.
In fact, of course, they were wasted, but that seems too awful to contemplate. The mind, in an act of self-preservation, refuses to accept that.
I think there are psychological forces involved, beyond the indoctrination.
Like Stockholm Syndrome, for one, where people in abusive relationships make excuses for their abusers, show them loyalty and devotion. The longer a person stays in this type of relationship (especially if the abuse is not physical) the more likely they're in for the long haul.
Sometimes, people just can't tolerate leaving a bad relationship, and make excuses for staying in a bad situation. "It's good enough for me to stay/not bad enough to leave"; "I don't know how to be on my own without ____"; "I've invested too much of my life/money to pull out now"; or the infamous "Jehovah will fix things when it's time".
People involved in the stock market also make these kinds of excuses when their stocks start doing poorly "It'll bounce back"; "I have to stick with it to earn back the money I lost"; "It performed so well before, it will again." The brokers encourage this kind of thinking to keep stockholders from bailing en masse in a state of panic.
Elderly JWs often have no alternate social structure other than the people they've known from the KH and Circuit Assemblies™. They've Loyally™ distanced themselves from family members who aren't JWs or who have left the JWs. There really isn't anywhere else for them to go considering they'd have to start over from scratch. Many are disappointed that they aren't yet in the Paradise™ they were promised, but to cut bait now would mean admitting that their entire lives were wasted on lies. That thought is just too overwhelming for them.
One really has to bad up far enough away from it all to look at things objectively. When you are right there in the middle of things and your being reprogrammed daily/weekly/continuously by the Cult, it is impossible to consider the fact that it could all be "wrong".
I do think there are many who are still "in" that are quietly wondering "what is wrong"? There are many (like me) that thought they would never bury their grandparents, let alone their parents, and now are attending funerals for peers. I recall an elderly friend saying, "I think those guys in New York have something wrong!" I don't think he realized just how serious of a "doubt" that was. I think there are a lot more thinking those thoughts, but just not verbalizing it.
It bares well also to keep in mind that the JWS indoctrination process is deeply seated in a engaging psychosis of fear.
That compelling semblance of fear toward being judged and a loss of life (Armageddon) or to lose family relationships and friend relationships, provokes a huge conscious appeal to remain faithful to the Org. as well to remain both obedient and subservient to the in place established power and authority.