Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

Watchtower Tells Congregants to “Use Discernment” In Their Thinking, Then Tells Them What to Think

One sure sign that you’re in a cult, or any type of overly controlling, abusive, unhealthy relationship, is when you’re told what to think, or what to feel. In a personal relationship, one partner might tell the other, “But you like my family!” when insisting that the couple spend all their free time with their side of the family. A person might also use subtle, critical phrases, such as, “Don’t you think you should be spending that money on the kids?” as a way to control what is done with the couple’s finances.

A cult or church might say things such as, “We know that all signs point to…” and then finish the phrase with something that supports their teachings and doctrines.

Pick apart these phrases carefully; these sayings tell someone how to think, what to believe, what to feel. A person who says, “But you like my family!” isn’t asking their partner how they really feel about the family, but is telling them what to feel. The phrase, “Don’t you think…” doesn’t really ask someone what they think, taking in new information and learning about what is going on in that person’s head, but is telling the other person what to think.

Simply telling congregants or adherents what to think is part of the mind control, brainwashing, or indoctrination that is common with cults and high-control religions. The religion will make an assertion, and then keep repeating it as being true, often with little to no backing. Church leaders might cherry-pick scripture and apply it to this doctrine, or find other supposed “proof” that may, or may not, back up their claim. In the end, the congregant or follower hasn’t really been allowed to reason on a matter, and hasn’t been taught any true critical thinking skills, but has simply been told what is true, what to think, or what to feel.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Thought Control

I noticed this technique used recently in a short discourse in the online TV channel of Jehovah’s Witnesses, tv.jw.org, titled “Following Direction Saves Lives.” The speaker starts out with the illustration of a railroad crossing warning sign, which tells drivers to “stop, look, and listen.” He then notes that followers of the bible similarly need to use their “perceptive powers,” and that Jehovah and Jesus tell followers to “discern the times that we’re living in.”

pexels-photo-258587.jpegIt’s interesting that the speaker would say that, as he then shuts down any chance at using discernment or “perceptive powers” during the rest of his presentation! He goes on to say, very boldly, “The faithful and discreet slave [referring to the governing body of Jehovah’s Witness], they’re guided by the head of the congregation, Jesus Christ.” He also says that Jesus is giving congregation members assistance in using discernment through the pages of the Watchtower, their meetings, assemblies, and conventions, and then says outright that explanations for what is found in the bible is provided through that “faithful and discreet slave.”

To which I might respond, Says who? What proof is there that the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is getting direction from god or Jesus or anyone? To use “discernment,” a person would need more proof than just someone’s else’s word and assertion.

Not only is there a distinct lack of proof for this claim, but the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have failed repeatedly in their predictions about the end of the world, have had to flip-flop or change many doctrines over the past decades, and are being exposed throughout the world for their obscene failings when it comes to protecting children from sexual abuse in the religion. “Discernment” and “perception” should tell anyone that this claim of theirs, that they’re somehow guided by god or Jesus, is negligible at best.

What’s Your Point?

This may seem like a minor, unimportant point, but it’s vital for people in any religion, church, or self-help group, who follow a self-help leader or use the services of a coach or counselor, or even for those in a relationship of any sort, to understand this type of thought-control technique. Making an assertion or outright statement is fine, if you have reliable, credible, valid proof, or some type of substantial information, to support your argument. However, even in that case, followers or adherents, or someone in a relationship, should have room to ask questions, do further research, disagree, state their own findings or feelings, and come to their own conclusions. If not, this is called thought control, or brainwashing. It’s very disrespectful, overly controlling, unhealthy, and even outright abusive. It’s also a sign of a damaging cult.

While those words sound very blunt and very scary, this technique, of controlling another person’s thinking and feelings, can be very subtle, as this example alone illustrates. Jehovah’s Witnesses are just told that their governing body is god’s mouthpiece, in the same message that tells them that Armageddon is soon to be here, so if they don’t act in a certain way, they may lose their lives. An active Witness may not realize that they’ve been given no proof of this claim, and may not consider that they should demand that proof before doing what the governing body asks of them. If they don’t, they are then blindly following a group of men who have simply indoctrinated them into obedience.

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View the entire 10-minute video of the JW presentation above at this page

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5 replies »

  1. Thank you for a very intriguing post Alexandra. I imagine you’ve heard the term groupthink. Irving Janis came up with the term in 1972, and it fits the JW organization to a T. It’s interesting to know that Janis developed this concept in 1972, when both of my parents became JW’s in 1974.

  2. I always try to think and write in an unemotional way. Sorry Joy. I’ll start by telling you all that I left the JW Org in January of this year, so I’m no longer a brother…… So let’s ask ourselves a few questions first. Do we honestly believe in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ ? (even if we use a different name for Jehovah, such a Yahweh ). Do we believe we are living in times of distress or possibly ‘the last days’ of this wicked system ? Can we see that human governments are dishonest and can we see that wars are generated deliberately so that governments can control people for many reasons ? Can we see that life here on Earth is getting less pleasant year by year ? OK. Now do we believe that God (whomever He is) will soon do something about things here on Earth ? What I’m trying to do here is form a foundation for people to ask themselves what they truly think and feel. I’m not trying to tell you what you should think or feel….. So one important question is this. Do you, you personally, not your friend or neighbour, but you. Do you think that God has a body of people / organisation / or group of people, here on this Earth right now, doing the work He wants done ? Is there anyone or any group of humans here on this Earth right now that you feel you can trust ? Now I’ll give you my feelings. I think that the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (as the Org is officially called) are the only group heading in the right direction. However I think the Governing Body need removing / disfellowshipping, all 8 of them. The JW Org would still survive without them and God would restore a new body of leaders. I can fully understand people’s feeling, especially victims of the child abuse within the Org. My child abuse happened elsewhere, so I do know a bit of what child abuse is like, though of course it is different for all of us…. The Elders are just puppets, and many are not ‘fit for purpose’. But as has been said not many brothers want that responsibility now so they have to use what they can get. No it’s not theocratic, but what can they do ? Any Org needs people to take responsibility. You know in your own family, that someone has to take the lead. Parents should be in control of the money, keeping house, warmth, food supply, clothing supply, etc.. If parents fail in these things then the family suffers. So it is in the Org / congregations. Someone or ones have to ‘run it all’. If your car was very expensive and you really love it, then one day the engine goes ‘bang’ and gives up. Do you throw the complete car away ? No probably not. Expensive as a new engine may be, if you love the car, you will get a new engine fitted and then continue using the same car… I think God loves the JW Org, and I think He will have a ‘new engine’ fitted, by replacing the GB with more suitable people… Each of us makes our own choices ,hopefully. I hope that all of you , each of you, can control your own lives as much as possible. I mean governments control us a lot, working conditions control us a lot, society controls us, family may control us, so many things in our lives actually do control our lives. Our situations are all different for different reasons. But hopefully you all have the freedom to choose who and how you worship, or even in fact whether you worship at all. Please please do think about yourselves. Be very personal about your thinking. Yes I’ve been shunned since January and it feels strange. I’m married but my wife doesn’t really want to talk about any of this stuff. She may sit and listen to me but she doesn’t pass much comment. So leaving the JW Org was my own personal decision, and I am coping with it. However i haven’t given up on the Org completely. My conscience wouldn’t let me stay in the Org because of the Child Abuse / Pedophilia problem Earthwide. However, my feelings are that God will sort it all out. With new ‘management’ the Org could be restored to God’s favour. I needed to leave the Org to be able to talk about all this openly, Otherwise the Elders would have disfellowshipped me for ‘causing division within the congregation’. It would have been their duty to do that, and as I’ve said they are only puppets doing a job. So please think deeply about what you as an individual truly believe and want for your own future. Have a good day if you can.

    • John Butler, Sorry that you are being shunned. It always amazed me how the ones who were best at shunning were almost always the ones who were the bullies and had too high opinion of themselves. I hope you know that shunning is a form of bullying. I personally believe that God (YHVH, no one really knows how it’s pronounced) is the Father and that Jesus is the Son; but I worship in my own way. I read a chapter of God’s Word everyday. All religious groups, in my opinion, are corrupt in some way, so I don’t belong to any! The jws are no exception, although they preach that they are. When I was a jw, they were good at hiding it for awhile, but I caught on and it sounds like you did, too. I personally think you did the right thing by leaving and I hope your wife “wakes up”, too, so they don’t cause division in your marriage. I believe when Christ returns, He will gather His followers (His Church). Priscilla and Aquila (New Testament) were passionate about being a husband and wife ministry team and were successful according to Paul. I believe God assigns missionaries all over the world, including our own backyard. So John, don’t allow the jws to manipulate you into thinking you need them for any reason. Follow God’s Word and your own interpretation of it. There are countless bible commentaries online you can use to help.

  3. All I heard was “Jehovah tells us through his organisation”…. follow the “directions of the Faithful & Discreet Slave” …… the “Faithful & Discreet Slave follow Jesus” so we should follow them. Yet they openly admit in the WT and in court that they are NOT directed by Holy Spirit!! And just in case you didn’t get the message, they introduce fear when the speaker says: “the end is near” and “the Great Tribulation is about to take place”. This is just another mind bending advertisement to follow the leaders of this cult.

  4. The governing body is not getting any guidance from the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. And the proof is in the men they allow to be elders; They are not from God, but very few men are interested in spending their time doing all that is required by them so they accept what they get. Some of them love power so much that they don’t care who they hurt to get it (such as child abuse). Some take the idea of submission to leaders in the church too far. Spiritual abuse happens when someone in a position of spiritual authority, misuses that authority, placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own. When they can convince someone they are in the truth, they get your friendship and trust, and then they go after your money (with the help of those financial reports they read at the meetings). I actually get sick to my stomach when I think of the people who are made to feel they need to pledge their allegiance to what I have come to know as satan’s organization.

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