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Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society

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Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society, by Diane Wilson

Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society, by Diane Wilson

Most people have had the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to the door and offering to share their religious beliefs, but just who are these Jehovah’s Witnesses, really? Are they simply another Protestant denomination of Christianity? Are they a dangerous cult? What is the truth about their organization and doctrines? One way to learn more about groups as insular as this is through reports and experiences of former members.

Summary

Title: Awakening of a Jehovah’s Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society
Author: Diane Wilson
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 1573929425

Pro:
• Perspective of a former active member of 25 years
• Describes personal struggle with manipulative religious organization
• Extensive citations and quotes from original sources

Con:
• Author is certainly biased, but that doesn’t mean she is wrong

Description:
• Describes beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from a former member
• Argues that the Watchtower Society is psychologically harmful to members
• Makes a case for idea that the Watchtower Society qualifies as a ‘cult’

Book Review

Quite a few former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have written about their time in this religious organization, with Diane Wilson’s being one of the most interesting. For twenty-five years she was an active member of the Watchtower Society, only able to finally leave after a great deal of difficulty and heartache.

Although Wilson certainly offers quite a lot in the way of critiques of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology and practices, that is not really the primary point of her book Awakening of a Jehovah’s Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society.

Rather, those critiques form the backdrop of her own personal struggles as she gets involved with the organization, slowly grows disenchanted with it, and then tries to break free. Many of her problems, often manifesting through physical ailments, develop due to her fruitless attempts to reconcile two things: first, her desire to maintain the only community of friends she has, and second, the fact that this community is emotionally, intellectually and psychologically destructive:

    Constantly repressing my true feelings, submitting to the organization, and putting up mental roadblocks to avoid death-dealing independent thinking was a lot of hard work which resulted in my feeling stripped of my own personality and little more than an automaton.

To what degree can we trust Wilson’s assessment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? She admits, after all, that the abuse she experienced as a child left her emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. She admits that she developed a compulsive desire to try to please others which was based upon a sense of her own worthlessness. Current Witnesses can also justly argue that she never “really” accepted the organization’s doctrines and hence cannot speak for those who have adapted happily. Is she, then, just another angry ex-member whose criticisms are irrevocably tainted by her own negative attitudes?

It is true that many people who have abandoned cults become the harshest critics, and that their perspectives on their former religions are not exactly without bias. However, it is also true that those who leave voluntarily tend to have positive feelings; it is those who are forced out and “de-programmed” who become the most bitter. Wilson left voluntarily — it took a long time, but she did it herself and was not “de-programmed.”

Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society, by Diane Wilson

Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society, by Diane Wilson

Wilson also supports her arguments with copious citations and extensive quotes from original sources — if an apologist for the Watchtower Society wants to rebut her book, it would not be very effective to do so by simply attacking her personally. Even though she is not an unbiased person, if even a fraction of what she reports happened just as she says, the credibility of the Watchtower Society is sorely compromised.

Moreover, if the attitudes she describes are at all common, then it is reasonable to believe that the Watchtower Society is not just another Protestant denomination. Claims about “mind control” may be overblown, but her story reveals the manner in which an organization can exert undue influence over the thinking and lives of members. It’s not a product of supernatural powers, but rather the conscious manipulation of human psychology in known and predetermined ways. It is this, then, that makes such groups a danger.

» Next: Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Former Witness, Member kawika1113

Her book is very inspiring, I too a former witness I know and feel her pain, I just brough back so much memories and very painful memories of that word that's used over and over again FEAR of being destroyed at Armageddon. I always wondered how far can I show love and compassion to friends of the outside that's not a Witness, this book is so true with so much more that happen ebing in this organization, now that I can be who I am not worrying if someone is watching me from a corner or behind a tree to tell the elders is the greatest feeling. Diane thanks for telling your experiance it gave me a relief of comfort.

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