Welcome to your life – no more isolation

Watchtower Magazine labels people mentally diseased

Higher education and the Internet are just two factors that are breaking the hold of religion on Americans, notes the article, ” Losing our religion” in the UK’s Daily Mail, April 5th 2014.

The article references a MIT Technology Review that shows, “that in 1990, eight percent of Americans had no religious affiliation. In 2010, that figure stands at 18 percent, or 25 million people.”

This line is echoed in an article by Alisa Harris called “”Survivor” Bloggers join forces to reveal Christian Fundamentalist Abuses”, in the Daily Beast. She observes that the hold of religious thinking is being loosened as people wake up to the abuses of some religious organisations. She also discusses the rise and power of “survivor blogs” and online recovery groups.

In the past fundamentalist/millennialist religious groups have tried and been very successful at controlling information and isolating and regulating behavior. The leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses display expertise in these particular arts. Jehovah’s Witnesses use a number of tactics including shunning to control what their followers are allowed to do.

In the Watchtower of July 2011, people who leave and who share their experiences of being a Jehovah’s Witnesses were labeled “mentally diseased.” This “term” was not ignored by the mainstream press. Jerome Taylor reporting in an article entitled “War of words breaks out among Jehovah’s Witnesses.” in the UK’s Independent newspaper.  The article provided examples of the fear associated with shunning and loss many people experience when they first consider leaving. The article notes:

“A copy of the magazine, distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, was given to The Independent by a current member of the church who has become unhappy with official teaching but is afraid to leave for fear of losing his family.

“Many like me remain associated with the Witnesses out of fear of being uncovered as an ‘apostate’ and ousted, not just from the organisation, but from their own friends and families,” said the man, who would only give the name John. “I find I am now branded as ‘mentally diseased’ – giving any who discover my true beliefs free licence to treat me with disdain.””

The Independent Tuesday 27 September 2011 Link

As people begin to choose their own thoughts and decide how they want to live their lives, Jehovah’s Witness leaders, have their own interpretation about what is happening.

In December 2013, the Watchtower (simplified version) made another another fear inducing statement while discussing the imminent “end.”

“So we can expect that those influenced by the Devil will become more and more dishonest. They will especially try to deceive those who serve Jehovah.”

There is no mention of analyzing and unpacking doctrine or being free to test and confirm or disprove what they call the “truth.” This type of language is a tactic used to create even more fear among those beginning to question years of indoctrination.

Recognising that they cannot stop people using the Internet, the warnings about Internet use, take a particular slant.  If you believe the official JW website, you would think that the Internet was just about pornography and cybersex.

It is not just Internet use that is questioned, in November 2011, the Awake warned “Similar to movies and books, much music today is morally degrading.”

In January 2013, the Watchtower went further and said in talking about things “that Satan uses to tempt us” the first on the list is “electronic devices.”

With these kinds of onerous, loaded statements, Jehovah’s Witness leaders continue to try to hold onto the minds of a decreasing number of followers.

As people leave religious groups that have undue influence over their lives, survivor support groups are being flooded with new members.
One ex-Jehovah’s Witness Facebook group felt it necessary to post the following admin message in April 2014.

Admin Notification “In seven days, we have added 210 people. If you are trying to join, please bear with us, the requests are flooding in. We review profiles for potential spam pages. If we do not get to you right away, this is why.”

The Daily Beast article quotes Clinton Verley of BJU News, astutely exposing the scare tactics of these types of religious organisation:

Their power comes from being able to keep people isolated and ignorant of the fact that there are other people who are just like them, feeling the same way,” Verley said of “cult-like” institutions. “Without the power of the internet, without being able to reach out to other people, it’s very hard to break free from those messages.

These comments are supported by Julie Ingersoll, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Florida North University where she teaches and writes about evangelicalism, fundamentalism and the religious right.

When asked about the tactics used by such groups as Jehovah’s Witnesses she shared her knowledge with Jehovah’s Witness Report and revealed a common pattern.

She was asked about: Shunning – Disfellowshipping – Disassociation

“It, of course, makes it very difficult to leave. This is true not only in practical terms but also in terms of the ability to imagine a world outside the religious tradition. If you cannot even imagine another way to live then, it is pretty hard to make the leap.

She was asked about: Isolation and in particular mental isolation and whether survivor websites and support groups are breaking the isolation

I think those websites are doing exactly this. Abusers prefer their victims isolated and the more isolation the victim feels, the more power the abuser has.”

She was asked: Are you familiar with the term “mentally diseased” as used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to describe people who leave the organisation? Why do you think they would use such a term?

“I am familiar with the concept but not that specific term. They use this term (and others use similar terms) to undermine the validity of criticisms. This applies not just to abuse cases but think about how the labels “feminist” or “liberal” and so on are used. They signal the hearer/reader “you don’t need to take seriously what this person says.”

And finally she was asked: Why do you think there are so many sexual abuse scandals in groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses?

“It’s not that I think JWs (or home schoolers…or other fundamentalists) are inherently abusive or anything. I just think that many of the structures that they have in place appeal to abusers: strong submission values, isolation from outside influences, tight knit groups that promote suspicion of all outsiders, shunning, dualistic thinking makes plausible the idea that inside the group is salvation and outside it is damnation….”

As people recover from a range of abuses the effectiveness of isolation and coercion are being lessened.

So, if you are beginning to wonder, have I been misled, you are not alone; your experience, while undoubtably difficult, is not unique. If you are further along and are beginning to see some of the many contradictions in what you thought was true, then you do not have to go it alone.

It may feel overwhelming as you begin to ask questions and try to decide for yourself what feels right for you. It is a process that many have taken before you. They are now feeling the benefits of freedom of thought.

There is a lot of help available to aid your recovery. AAWA has a new Facebook support Forum. There are also many other support and discussion groups, blogs and websites that are helping people to regain their lives, to find shunned family members and to discover long lost friends.

More information can be found here

Daily Mail – Losing our religion Link

Independent – War of words breaks out among Jehovah’s Witnesses Link

Daily Beast – “Survivor” Bloggers join forces to reveal Christian Fundamentalist Abuses Link

Professor Julie Ingersoll also writes for the Huffington Post. Link



About Susannah

"Susannah," JWReport's News and Opinion Editor, is very familiar with the Watchtower Society and its leaders past and present. An experienced editor and writer, she was born and raised in the UK where she was an active Jehovah's Witness until she was 28. She now lives and works in southern Europe.

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