Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement

By Andrew Holden | Go to book overview

3

Finding a home

My argument so far is that the Witnesses construct their identity in a world that is characterised by a plurality of life options, and that their fundamentalist theology is a modern phenomenon which can be seen as a response to certain conditions of modernity-particularly that of uncertainty. In this chapter, I address a number of key questions; namely: To what kind of people do the Witnesses appeal? At what point in an individual's life does conversion become a serious prospect? And why are these individuals drawn to this particular movement? The first two questions relate to the converts themselves, including their family backgrounds, their previous religious affiliation and their state of mind at the time of their conversion. The third question relates to the Watch Tower community and the ways in which its doctrines, internal organisation and social relations appeal to the prospective recruit. Throughout the chapter, I will show how both sets of factors work simultaneously in attracting a certain type of individual. More importantly, I will argue that the Witnesses are able to offer a way of life that is of particular significance at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Who is the convert?

In general, the reasons for joining any kind of religious movement can be understood only by asking what prospective recruits might be looking for and what the community itself appears to be offering. Motives could include the yearning to feel part of a group of like-minded people, or the need to find answers to questions of a philosophical nature. Some converts claim that the movement they choose to follow helps them to escape from criminal activity, offers them direction at a time when their lives have become aimless, gives them self-respect when they are feeling worthless or frees them from psychological constraints (Beckford 1985). 1 The experiences of the individual and the nature of the organisation cannot be separated if the conversion process itself is to be understood. In the case of the Watch Tower Society, Beckford argues that conversion nearly always takes place in the context of mental anguish manifested in the form of moral indignation

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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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