Appealing to our Fears.

by Daunt 7 Replies latest jw friends

  • Daunt

    Appealing to fear is a classic logical fallacy that has been used to justify things from killing Jews to preaching door to door. An appeal to fear (also called argumentum ad metum or argumentum in terrorem) is a logical fallacy in which a person attempts to create support for their idea by playing on existing fears and prejudices. (From Wikipedia). The latest threads discussing the hurricane Katrina and my parent’s guilt tripping into me becoming a full fledge witness has gotten me really interested in this subject. It is one of the most influential logical fallacies to ever come into my life, however only lately have I ever really thought of the impact this logical fallacy is having on me and the whole world altogether.

    From the July 1, 2005 Watchtower article. Page 16 “BRINGING GOOD NEWS OF SOMETHING BETTER”

    1. Today people the world over feel that they are drowning in bad news. They turn on the radio and hear frightening reports about deadly diseases stalking the earth. They watch the news on television and see haunting images of starving children crying for help. They pick up newspaper and read about bomb blasts that rip through buildings, killing scores of innocent people.

    2. Yes, dreadful things are happening every day. The scene of this world is definitely changing – for the worse. (1 Corinthians 7:31) A newsmagazine in Western Europe noted that at times it seems as though the entire world were “about to go up in flames.” No wonder that a growing number of people are distressed! One person who was quoted in a survey about television news in the United States no doubt echoed the feelings of millions when he said: ‘After I watch the news, I’m thoroughly depressed. It’s all bad news. It’s overwhelming.’

    This article was read at the Sunday meeting a few weeks ago, which my father conducted. In it he mentioned many other things that were happening in the world, including the wars in Iraq and the poverty in the United States. However the point of me quoting this is not to insult the Watchtower, but this reasoning can be positioned to major entities to our world. Wars today are carried out through this appeal to fear through either hate speech or tactfully construed speeches making the threat of terrorism imminent to support a certain operation in a foreign country. This Appeal to Fear has validated many terrible atrocities through out the ages, from Hitler’s massacres to Slavery in America; we have been using this to make us humans feel right for the longest.

    Since my 17th birthday, my mother has gradually stepped up her conviction and effort in trying to get me to see the truth of Jehovah’s Organization. She converses the usual assumptive, emotional, and quite insult JW banter many times however, today she said something that really torched my heart. While we were walking out of the meeting she was especially spiritually high after this one. As we were half way from the kingdom hall to the car, passing inanimate hellos to fellow witnesses, she looked back and me and said, “I just can’t believe how you aren’t jumping into the full swing of becoming a publisher and later baptized, there’s so much to do in God’s organization.” This was not bad or unusual from my mom but her later comment infuriated me. While we were driving she looked at me through her rear view mirror and said, “I really do not know why you are procrastinating in your acceptance of Jehovah and his organization. This organization is so wonderful, how can you not see that? You will be with me, your father, your sister, and your brother that is slowly trying to bring himself back into the religion. How can you not see that?” And then she proceeded to call various family members and talk about how loving the brotherhood is by providing the provisions for the New Orleans brothers to house in Houston. She was on a spiritual high longer than I’ve seen before.

    Her statement wasn’t too out of the norm for her, however it struck me at a time when I was teetering emotionally on a ledge between my parents and JW life, or the real dark world that I am not quite acquainted with. However, further observation of her statement leads me to the conclusion that she used many logical fallacies and just plain guilt trips to get my complacency and this only further points me to other instances of her use of fear to get me in line. She has kept me quiet for years because of these appeals to my emotion.

    Seeing the abundant use of this appeal to fear in our government, our political pundits, our religious leaders, and our families it kind of leaves me distraught in still holding the belief that this way of considering facts and truth will be discarded in the future within the majority of humans. Seeing as of now that most individuals (including myself at times) use this way of thinking to control the majority of facts and truth, I just have to wonder, is this the right or correct way to view things? We’ve been thinking like this for years, for centuries so what’s it to us to stop now? (end of sarcasm)

    I was also wondering about possible techniques to spread awareness of this logical fallacy or even if it’s possible for the majority of people to put this into practice. This would trash a lot of people’s ability to gain power. And lastly I would like to know of any other instances that the witnesses or any other authoritative people used appeal to fear or any other logical fallacy to justify your complacency. Thanks for reading folks.

  • ChrisVance

    Good post!

  • anewme

    Yes, good post Daunt. I am not the poster to answer your thoughts on the same articulate level but I remember being bombarded by this created sadness of the world's so-called condition and feeling cornered into gulping down this view demon by demon. Just at the point in my life when I was seeing outside myself at the needs of the world I was fed the only answer was to wait on God to solve any of its problems. Meanwhile leave it to others to mistakenly try to help. I spent 35 years "taking care of my own" as the Witness motto goes and felt like I was doing my adult part in this world...after all who can fight Satan and the demons and a world gone mad in his hands? The gal who studied with me said the song "He's got the whole world in his hands" was wrong. God does not have the whole world in his hands, Satan does! I heard more about Satan and the demons in a kingdom hall than I ever did in the catholic church. "But that's because Satan already has the world in its grip. He doesnt want them to talk about him or be aware of his presence." I remember feeling sad when I heard two witness children talking about Satan the devil. Imagine children having to deal with these immensely sad, fearful and probably man made concepts to keep people under control and in fear. Alot of witnesses are probably tired of the routine and would love to leave the organization except they have now ingrained fear of the devil and armageddon and eternal death at the hands of Jesus and Jehovah. It works!!! It works very well!!!! Many of the posters here are not D.A'd or DF'd because of deep fear of these same things and of course losing access to their loved ones still in. Since making the break myself, it is a very freeing feeling to finally be free of the constant barrage of talk about Satan. I live on a mountain surrounded by beauty and wildlife up in the Santa Cruz Mountain range. I have been here 4 years now. Satan has not been mentioned once by the many deer and turkeys and peacocks that have visited me. Nor by the blue jays and squirrels and magpies. Why wouldnt they tell me if it was all true? Lies are created by man to keep other men under their control. When the family is finally resorting to threatening you with God's wrath instead of his love, it is time to really re-assess your involvement. You are getting a taste of what it is like to question the organization. If you did get baptized and sacrifice your career and many years of volunteer work for the Watchtower Society it would all add up to nothing if you ever start to question things in the future. They will accuse you of going to Satan's side and being a traitor to Jehovah's side. You will be condemned along with all the liars and fornicators and cowards and await final destruction at Gods hand. If you never get baptized, your family will always hold out hope of your entry into their spiritual paradise. They will always treat you carefully, always pray for you. The congregation will always perk up when you come into their hall as their special guest. But if you get baptized and later changed your mind you will be treated as scum and the devil himself and they will turn their backs when seeing you. How appealing huh? Many of us, if we knew then what we know now would never have fallen into their hands. It is terribly painful to go through Dfing after believing so strongly in the whole story. But, hey its not the worst thing in the world. And it may not be true at all that God is going to destroy the world and most of the people and lock up Satan and his demons. Satan and the demons may not exist. Or maybe the understanding of the Revelation is all wrong. Maybe it is just the ramblings and dreams of a senile old man? Anyway, it sure is peaceful up here on this mountain. The birds are chirpping sweetly and the crickets sing me to sleep all night. I like their religion.

  • Daunt

    Ah thanks for the post anewme. All of what you've said sounds terribly familiar. Just hate how they use word of mouth and baseless ideas to herd people along, rather than facts and reason. And I'm responding to your pm now lol.

  • MidwichCuckoo

    Nicely written daunt. I (and I'm sure all of us) keep hearing how bad things are getting - the News is full of tragic events. Surely these are the last days. But MY reasoning is that REPORTING of events is better and quicker. We often experience News as it is happening. During both World Wars it took many days/weeks for news to travel 'home' about lost/imprisoned/killed relatives serving in the Forces. 'Natural' disasters in distant Countries would not be known for decades if at all.

  • katiekitten

    Eric Berne has written a book called "The Games People Play". One of the games he describes, he calls "Aint It Awful". It really struck a nerve with me as a game the Witlesses play all the time. My cousin does it - everything you mention she goes 'oh all these (insert terrible event of choice) its awful, I cant wait until Jehovah sorts it all out' - 'aint it awful'. The Witchtower and Asleep major in that game.

  • thinker

    Hello Daunt,

    Excellent post! I came to the same conclusion concerning the use of fear to motivate potential converts. Nearly every christian will eventually use fear to try and change your mind and convert you. The biggest fear seems to be Satan himself. Christians have made Satan into an all-powerful boogey man. In response to this belief I crafted a biblical response for those who try to use fear to convert:


  • carla

    I have a question, your mom says, "there's so much to do", I assume she means 'spreading the good news'. I have yet to figure out what the 'good news' is from jw's. What exactly do they mean? What they really spread is gloom and doom. Even when talking about the big A, the emphasis seems to be how everyone else will be destroyed. Besides for spreading bs, what really is their message?

    I know Christians who do try to witness for Jesus, they never tell people you must belong to this or that church. Rather they will say to look to Christ and find a Bible believing church. It seems they will give their message of Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Not to say if one wishes some help with the Bible they are certainly willing, they just don't make the judgement that if you don't belong to their particular church you will be destroyed. This is a generalization, of course there are the whackos out there in Christianity as well.

    Most people are pretty clear on what Christians believe in a general way, even if they don't believe themselves. On the other hand who even knows what the jw's believe? Besides the fact they don't salute flags, no blood, and no holidays. What is their main message? Join us because the end is near?


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