Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement

By Andrew Holden | Go to book overview

9

Conclusion

Throughout this book, I have argued that the relationship between the Witnesses and the modern world is ambivalent and contradictory. Until recently, sociological literature has tended to propound the view that worldrenouncing sectarian religion cannot survive the onslaught of modernity which is, among other things, rational, secular and materialistic. But these theories offer scant empirical analysis of millenarian movements. The rise of the modern state, modern capitalism and modern science have no doubt been the cause of great tension between faith and reason, but they can in no way be shown to have brought about the death of God. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is an example of a religious movement that has freed itself from traditional churches, and yet it has still managed to maintain a piety that is as ascetic and puritanical as any version of orthodox Christianity. Curiously enough, its tirade against the modern world is one of the factors that has contributed to its success.

Modernity theory has been useful for the analysis of the empirical data since it contains a number of themes that lend themselves to the narrative I have presented. I have drawn on these themes to examine the current status of the Witnesses at this point of time. This has not been an easy task. As I explained in Chapter 2, modernity has no real beginning or ultimate goal, and social scientists approach it from a number of perspectives. Rightly or wrongly, I am committed to the view that modernity is articulated by processes that have shaped Western societies and are amenable to sociological investigation. These processes involve social, political and economic dimensions, all of which impact on each other and out of which individuals construct their identities. The nation state, the expansionist capitalist economy, industrialism, large-scale administrative bureaucracies, individualism, the dominance of secular, cultural values and the formal separation of public and private life provide the backdrop for some of the issues on which I have focused my analysis. The issues I have discussed help to illuminate what is as yet unexplored territory in the sociology of religion-namely, a comprehensive examination of the relationship between the Watch Tower Society and the modern world. I have selected themes from the modernity literature which describe the development of Western societies from the

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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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