Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement

By Andrew Holden | Go to book overview

this research means anything, people who reject religious orthodoxy are doing little other than expressing their dissatisfaction with tradition. It does not mean that they are of a different species. For what it is worth, I too find millenarian evangelists unconvincing, but it is only by listening to what they have to say that we can achieve a better understanding of their way of life and of how others come to view them with suspicion. For this, we need an appropriate methodology.

And so to the objectives of this book. I write for an academic community, or indeed for anyone with a sociological interest in religious movements. For many years, I have been inspired by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz, and particularly by his brilliant work on symbolism. There is little I would not give to be able to write as well as he. Next to Geertz's work, my ineptitude stands revealed. Alas for that! In the pages that follow, I offer a glimpse of the modern world through the eyes of a group of religious devotees-the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Witnesses are a well-known community of people whose doctrines defy convention. I write for those who know little or nothing about their beliefs; hence, in Chapter 2, I offer a brief account of the movement's early history and an overview of its teachings. The book is ethnographic and, as such, it is concerned with the Witnesses' version of reality. There are times, however, when I step back from my ethnographic descriptions in an endeavour to bring some theoretical considerations to bear. I use modernity theory to inform my empirical data and to establish the Witnesses' general status in the new millennium. Needless to say, the book is not about comparative religion but about the lives of a group of people who claim to be in but not of the world. Some students may, therefore, prefer to treat it as a case study. My hope is that those who are relatively new to the sociology of religion enjoy the book sufficiently to pursue some further secondary research and to recognise the value of an ethnographic approach.

-xi-

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Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • 1 - The End is Nigh 1
  • 2 - The Jehovah's Witnesses in the Modern World 17
  • 3 - Finding a Home 42
  • 4 - Rational Means to Rational Ends 58
  • 5 - Returning to Eden 82
  • 6 - Inside, Outside 103
  • 7 - Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother 125
  • 8 - The Fear of Freedom 150
  • 9 - Conclusion 171
  • Notes 176
  • Glossary 185
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 202
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