The Risk You Take
Be aware that you are not trying to win a religious doctrinal debate, you are attempting to assist a person that is constantly being subjected to standard mind control techniques. Appealing to logic is not going to be effective to a person that fears any criticism of the Organisation is an affront from Satan, and that to leave the religion would be to enter the evils of the world and certain death at Armageddon.
A Jehovah’s Witness is inoculated against criticism of their religion. They are constantly warned against apostates, (members that leave the religion and attempt to subvert them), and are always on guard. As soon as you make known your doubts, or mention anything negative about the Watchtower, their defences will immediately spring to action.
Before choosing to confront loved ones that are part of the religion, it is vitally important to be aware that you run the risk being labeled as an apostate and destroying any relationship that you have left with them. Be very subtle in your initial approach in order to test the waters. If the discussions become very heated and unreasonable you are unlikely to be successful and it may be more important in the long term to try and retain some form of relationship instead of proving the religion to be wrong.
I have read a number of experiences where a spouse has been able to speak to their partner and both end up leaving. Sadly, experiences like the following are equally common.
“I was considering how long I can live the lie, but unfortunately I am not very good at acting, nor at lying. This weekend my wife confronted me about my changed attitude about ‘the truth’ and then it happened. I became a talking jwfacts. I did this in a calm manner and tried reasoning and use of questions, as taught in the school. It is here that I appreciated Steve Hassan’s work the most, as her responses such as, “to where will we go”, “but this is God’s organization”, and the usual dribble about apostates all made sense to me.
It took my wife about 24 hours to report me to the elders. It took her another 6 hours to decide to leave me.
So here I sit. All that truly matters to a man, my family, has been ripped away from me. My sin? To seek the truth and to “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 – NIV)” Wezz 12 Mar 2012
A few Saturdays ago, the elders knocked on my brother’s home … the wife said; “They were invited—by me”
What had happened the past several weeks, is that my brother had been showing his wife some points on JWfacts regarding the date 1914. She listened to him and wrote lots of notes but said nothing. Well my brother was very happy that she was listening and not accusing him of being an apostate. He was sure that he was getting through.
My brother went along and sat down with the elders in the kitchen table, (There were three elders, not two) His wife brought in the laptop and put it on the table and turned it on. The elders took out all the notes that the wife had written and put them on the table and spread them out. One of the elders asked my brother; “Is this your writing?”
On the top of a couple of pages of his wife’s notes was the name of the website—Jwfacts.com. His wife had asked him to write the address on the top of the pages so she could do research later. (I guess she had planned this)
So my brother said; “Yes, that’s my writing.”
They typed in the address (JWfacts.com) on the laptop and JWfacts appears. They type in 1914 on the search box, and that page appears. …
The elders told my brother that this was actually an investigation and a judicial hearing would be held that evening. They said he was welcome to attend or not but the evidence for apostasy was very definite and clear.
Even if you are able to help a Witness accept that the Watchtower is not the true religion, you will still encounter the roadblock of Where Else Would I Go?. It is important to understand the fear that a person has at losing, not only their belief, but also their entire group of friends and family. Whether or not the person ends up needing some religion to tell them what to believe, they will need friends and activities to replace the void left by a religion that is good at providing a close knit social circle and is very demanding on time. For the highest likelihood of success, you will need to be prepared to offer alternatives. These alternatives need not be other religions, but rather sources of interest and friendships. Forums for former Jehovah’s Witnesses, such as jehovahs-witness.net and reddit.com/r/exjw, are useful at this point to assist the person through the stage of learning their real identity and interests.
As leaving is extremely traumatic, it is also important to be there to support to person at this time. Ex-Witnesses can feel like aliens for quite a lengthy period, looking in but unable to fit in with normal society. Meeting with some former Witnesses can make a great difference in understanding that what they are experiencing is normal. Professional help may also need to be recommended. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, covered by Medicare in countries like Australia, can make a great difference in as few as 8 weeks.
I do not think that it is always recommended to confront a Witness with the truth about the Organisation. Age and circumstances need to be considered. Despite its short-comings, some people benefit from the support group it offers, and leaving the religion and losing family can result in terrible consequences. Recognise that there is no rush. Plant the seeds and be there to offer support, so that when the time is right, you will be the one they turn to.
- Do not be critical of Jehovah’s Witnesses as people. It is Watchtower teachings and practices that are the issue.
- Do not present “apostate” information. Discuss topics for research and consideration, using neutral sources such as Watchtower publications and encyclopaedias. This will require preparation and knowledge on the subject matter.
- Be respectful of the other person and their beliefs. Heated emotional discussions prevent logical thinking. Leave the conversation for another time if either party becomes angry and aggressive.
- Use questions in preference to statements. People are convinced by conclusions they have reached themselves.
- Be patient, as it can take weeks, months or even years for a person to change.
For more reading on the subject of the Watchtower, both dramatic and scholarly, please visit jwfacts.com