Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement

By Andrew Holden | Go to book overview

8

The fear of freedom

No story of the Watch Tower Society would be complete without an examination of why some of its fully baptised members choose to withdraw their support. Any religious organisation with an optional membership the size of this one will inevitably have a percentage of people who decide, for one reason or another, to exit at some point in their lives. From the movement's own perspective, there is never any valid reason for leaving. Its monopoly over truth does not allow members to make the claim that their search for salvation is causing them to seek new pastures or that their spiritual hunger has not been satisfied. Abandoning the Society is thus the ultimate betrayal since the individual voluntarily enters the world of Satan. In this chapter, I discuss the major sources of dissent and describe how the Governing Body of the movement responds to those who question its authority. I offer a detailed examination of the process of defection from the time of initial dissatisfaction to the point of departure. Personal testimonies are presented in order to establish what happens to those who leave the movement of their own accord. I also consider the implications of defection in the longer term, and explain how lapsed members adjust to a new way of life. There is, as one might expect, a wide range of biographical and autobiographical literature on defection. 1 Close examination of this literature reveals that defection comes in various forms. For example, there are those who undertake Bible studies with the Witnesses and attend their meetings for several months, but never reach the point of baptism. Others are baptised members who, for one reason or another, stop attending meetings and lapse for while, only to return at a later stage. Some of these may even have been disfellowshipped several years earlier. Then there is a third group comprising fully baptised Witnesses who have been active in the Society for a considerable period of time and leave never to return. It is to these defectors that most of this chapter applies.


Suppressing ambivalence

There is little doubt that the Witnesses have many defectors. This can be inferred from the Society's own annual statistics which indicate year on year

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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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