Books for Recovering Jehovah’s Witnesses
A Good Place to Start: Do Some Reading
The Watchtower Society is very careful to make you fearful of outside sources. You are not “inviting demons” if you read other sources of information. Some of the issues covered in the list below are specific to the “organization,” and some have wider application. The books that are specifically written to criticize the Watchtower Society vary in quality, but all of them that I have selected here offer some information that I have found to be valuable for self-understanding and constructing a new perspective while continuing a spiritual quest. These are listed alphabetically by author.
There are many other more specific books. If you need some recommendations on specific topics, feel free to contact me. You can help support the VirusHead by clicking on the title and purchasing the book from Amazon.com. The small quarterly commissions I get sometimes allow me to get a book, and I thank you.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Eleanor Atwood
Are you sure theocracy is a good idea? Birth control and the effects of nuclear fallout have caused fewer births, so the new theocracy invokes the Biblical story of Rachel to handle the declining birth rate. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, only supported insofar as she produces children for someone else’s husband. “The Bible is kept locked up, the way people once kept tea locked up, so the servants wouldn’t steal it. It is an incendiary device: who knows what we’d make of it, if we ever got our hands on it? We can be read to from it, by him, but we cannot read. Our heads turn towards him, we are expectant, here comes our bedtime story….He has something we don’t have, he has the word. How we sqandered it, once” (p. 112-113).
Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Comprehensive and Selectively Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibiography of material by and about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society from the 1800s through 1999. The “schisms” or offshoots of the WBTS are the subject of the last two chapters. For those researching the origins of the Watchtower and C. T. Russell’s beliefs, there is a valuable chapter listing the individuals and material that influenced Russell in the Millerite/Adventist movements.
The Orwellian World of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Heather Botting, Gary Norman Arthur Botting
The authors explore parallels between the contemporary J.W. cult and the world described by George Orwell in his book 1984 (see below).
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Zondervan Guide
Robert M. Bowman
An Introduction to JWs.
Sixty Questions JWs might have trouble answering (or not).
Six Million Jehovah’s Witnesses Held Captive
A former JW elder explains how the Watchtower interpretation of the “faithful and discreet slave” as the Governing Body holds millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses captive and obedient. Not only is this book a great resource for understanding why and how JWs behave and think, but it may help those who are still involved but instinctively realize that something is wrong. It’s not so much what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about biblical teachings, but what they believe about their own leadership that keeps them loyal subjects despite all evidence. Focusing on this teaching at the heart of all JW obedience and comparing the disjunction between this doctrine and the organization’s own words, actions and history is an original and very constructive approach. Pdf download only $5 – also available in print.
The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses
I never even noticed that “district overseer” and a “circuit overseer” are positions from the language of slavery, not humble Christianity. Castro illustrates numerous misplaced priorities, such as those that punish a smoker but allow a man to abuse his children. Surprisingly, there are even bits of humor, such as an aside on the phrase “Satan the devil.” It’s never just “Satan” or the “devil”, but always “Satan-the-devil.” As opposed to what, “Satan-the-gerbil”? Her opening description of the faculty interview process had me in stitches and set the stage perfectly. She honors the goodhearted people in the congregation and gives them credit with specific and sympathetic character sketches, but she also shows the destructiveness and hardheartedness of many of the policies that tell good people to do the wrong thing. The book rings with authenticity; she is trying very hard to be as fair as anyone could. There is no purple prose. She isn’t pushing any agenda. She reports, and in the process tries to assimilate, understand, get and give insight. As harrowing as this story is, it also focuses on details of her redemptive experience. It narrows in on the little things that enabled her to navigate her environment, the things she valued and cherished that helped her to continue, to confront certain kinds of situations and, later, to thrive. It offers guidance and hope, and I think that it will be a source of understanding and strength for many.
Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion
Carol P. Christ, Judith Plaskow (Editors)
The classic anthology on feminist spirituality.
A Qualitative Analysis of the Jehovah’s Witnesses: The Rhetoric Reality and Religion in the Watchtower Society
An academic study of the social reality JWs construct in their rhetorical practices (how the use of words shapes reality). It describes how the use of language (in words and texts and conversations) influences the lives, actions, and self-understandings of JWs.
The Catholic Answer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Challenge Accepted
A Catholic response to the JW attack. “The difference here is between a submission that is extracted by men who claim a superior position and who insist on submission to their authority, as contrasted with a submission and service that springs freely and spontaneously from one’s own heart. It is a submission and service that results, not from yielding to others’ claim and their demands, but from seeing other persons’ needs and the good that can result (p. 10).”
Religion and Literature: A Reader
Robert Detweiler, David Jasper, VirusHead, S. Brent Plate (editors)
A collaboration between two leading scholars and two Ph.D. candidates (one of whom is myself) to introduce the interdisciplinary study of religion and literature. Includes study questions and further readings. Study Question: “How would you define the nature of ‘sin’ as it is addressed in Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain? What is the ‘truth’ that Elisha and Ella Mae are accused of straying from? Assess the tone of the Baldwin’s narrator in this passage” (p. 182).
The River Why
One of my very favorite novels, The River Why chronicles one person’s quest for religious meaning in terms of fly-fishing. Witty, hilarious, insightful. “You can make analogies; love is like lots of things. One thing it’s like is a trout stream: try to capture a trout stream with a dam and you get a lake; try to catch it in a bucket and get a bucket of water; try to stick it under a microscope and you get a close-up look at some writhing amorphous microcooties. A trout stream is only a trout stream when it’s flowing between its own two banks, at its own pace, in its own sweet way” (p. 287). (If you like this one, try The Brothers K, too.)
The Evolving Self
Human development through the lense of “meaning making.” Describes the dynamic of forming and dissolving the negotiated “truces” between the need for inclusion and the need for differentiation in ego development. Intended for therapists to help those whose ability to make meaning of his/her life is temporarily in crisis. This crisis, itself an instance of an attempt to make meaning, is not seen as pathological, but as a dynamic process of development. Uses the image of the double helix as a symbol and is interested in female development as well as male. Obvious applications for ex-JWs.
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power Creativity Brilliance and Dreams
When impulses arise that are coded as bad, we deny rather than confront them, give them a healthy voice, and let them go. If unable to reconcile these within ourselves, we waste energy judging rather than empathizing with others. We also deny ourselves power, creativity, and authentic freedom. Ford shows how to recognize our hidden emotions, and also how to accept the gifts they offer (yes, gifts). A readable neo-Jungian. “As long as we keep hiding, masquerading and projecting what is inside us, we have no freedom to be and no freedom to choose” (p. 2).
Jehovah Lives in Brooklyn
Richard S. T. Francis
An extremely helpful book for ex-JWs (and for those who love them) that succeeds in capturing the thought patterns, assumptions, mindset, destructive consequences, spiritual distortions, and psychosocial dynamics of the “organization.” A very readable narrative of such issues as personality dismantling, satanic projection, sense of uniqueness, persecution, conformity and masks, and censorship. “Thus, in cases I have witnessed personally, parents have totally rejected and turned their backs on wayward children, brothers have become the fiercest of enemies, and lovers are separated with a ferocity and mutual hatred. Every form of sentimentality is despised as a weakness when it comes to the question of loyalty to Jehovah’s organization. Every human being is disposable. …This is an underlying flaw in much of fundamentalism, including JWs: ideas and concepts are more sacred even than human life. It is due to this distortion that JWs refuse blood transfusions even to save the lives of their children–a teaching for which they have become monsterously notorious.” (p.73).
Jehovah Good-Bye: The New Theism of Love
Richard S. T. Francis
Ex-JW Francis moves from criticism to a constructive analysis of what he calls the “New Theist,” who is reconnecting to the agapic god of love and forgiveness. “The New Theist has arisen is specific response to the intellectual and spiritual starvation so often promoted by traditional religion. Far too often, religion, whose job it is to feed the masses, wrenches from their hands the tiniest morsels of substantial spiritual food, and tries to replace them with the non-nutritive ‘straw’ of organizationalism and dogma, doctrine and administration. Worse, some groups are monomaniacally obsessed with only money, and religion is only a front” (p.11). ” “The God of revealed by Jesus was no primitive anthropomorphism, no historical product of evolution from the proto-Jehovac images of the old god. This God did not dribble out forgiveness in parsimonious, unwilling, reticent microparticles; this God deluged and immersed his children in purest Love, and was eager and delighted to forgive. And according to grace, he did not forgive becuase of his children’s attitudes or behaviors; he forgave because of the quality of his love” (p. xix).
Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy
Viktor E. Frankl, Victor E. Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a deeply moving personal essay about Frankl’s imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. The second part of the book, called “Logotherapy in a Nutshell,” describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Frankl believes that humanity’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’” (p.127).
Crisis of Conscience
A classic. Former JW Governing Body member and nephew of the late Watchtower Bible and Tract Society President Fred Franz reveals the sect’s inner workings. Historial anecdotes and documents. “It is men in authority who can apply a policy that calls on ordinary people, men, women, and children, to face loss of home and lands, beatings, torture, rape and death because of a refusal to pay a legal fee for the card of the organization that is, to all intents and purposes, the ruling power of their country (Malawi), while at the same time telling men in another country (Mexico) that it is acceptable for them to bribe military officers for a card that falsely says they fulfilled their military service and are in the first reserves of the army….I could not personally comprehend how grown men could fail to see inconsistency in all of this, could fail to be repelled by it, could not be deeply moved by its effect on people’s lives. In the end it simply convinced me that “organizational policy” can lead people to incredible conclusions, allow them to rationalize away the grossest of inequities, relieve them from being particularly affected by any suffering their policies might cause” (p.135).
In Search of Christian Freedom
In this 750-page sequel to Crisis of Conscience the former JW Governing Body member reveals his revised religious thinking. Helpful for those who are questioning submission to religious authorities and systems. A bit tedious at times.
The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation: With a special look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Furuli looks at how translators try to recreate the message intended by the author. Explains forces influencing the translator, principles of translation, sociosemiotics, syntax, rhetoric, communication theory, psychology, anthropology, theology, and history – forces which may produce very different translations. Our own “horizon of understanding” (the totality of our attitudes and concepts) exerts an influence as well. Advocates literal translations based on modern linguistics. Special attention is paid to the New World Translation because it does not really translate so much as literally render the Greek. JWs are very proud of this book, but a “literal” translation has problems that anyone with knowledge of more than one language will know.
Cults: Faith Healing and Coercion
Using material gleaned from twenty-five years of research and direct encounters with cults and their detractors, Galanter offers an extensive psychological analysis of these organizations. The book explores not only how members feel and think at all stages of their involvement, but also how larger social and psychological forces reinforce individual commitment within the cults.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?
Edmond C. Gruss
Gruss, an ex-JW, has spent 40 years putting thousands of quotations together from offical Watchtower documents that show their many false predictions, reversals of position, and general hypocrisy. Great reference work.
Visions of Glory: A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Barbara G Harrison
Available free online, but also published by Simon & Shuster 1978. A former Jehovah’s Witness writes one of the very best works on the topic – a must-read. “It delivers people who have no tolerance for ambiguity from having to make moral choices. It allows self-loathers to project their hatred onto the world. It translates the allure of the world into Satanic temptation, so that those who fear its enticements are armed against seduction. It provides ego balm for the lowly, an identification with the The Chosen. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe as little in psychology as they do in philosophy, it tames or numbs the wilderness of the heart by closing valves of inquiry.”
Combatting Cult Mind Control
Hassan exposes troubling facts about recruitment, use of psychological manipulation, and often subtle influence on government, the legal system, and society as a whole.
Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves
A former disciple of Sun Myung Moon, Hassan created this book as a tool for ordinary people to take back what has been taken from them.
The first and best book of the series, Dune is a science-fiction novel that explores religion, politics, anthropology, and psychology on another planet. The self-aware “Messiah” changes one thing from his visions – the word Mahdi (messiah) to Maudib (desert mouse) – will it make the difference? In a prose that is a true pleasure to read. Full of great nuggets for the Ex-JW. Pay special attention to mentats and Reverend Mothers.
I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness
“The preacher who led me to Christ was not using me as a ladder for himself, trying to claw his way over heaven’s wall, but witnessed to me because he wanted me to have the gift of God. But when a Witness knocks on your door, he is trying to build up ‘points’ in heaven, hoping that if he puts in enough time, files enough reports, has enough book studies, and back calls, suffers persecution, and endures faithfully to the end, he might get to live on earth eternally. He does not have the gospel of peace, nor can he offer it” (p. 188).
The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling
James Hillman, a former director of the Jung Institute who has written more than 20 books on behavior and psychology, delves into human development in The Soul’s Code. Hillman encourages you to “grow down” into the earth, as an acorn does when it becomes a mighty oak tree. He argues that character and calling are the result of “the particularity you feel to be you” and knocks those who blame childhood difficulties for all their problems as adults. Hillman’s theories seem disarmingly simple, but he backs them them up. Faults: tends to downplay the role of community, choice, conflict, ambivalence, chance.
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
A classic penetrating study of the mentality that leads to destructive mass movements.
The Varieties of Religious Experience
William James, Reinhold Niebuhr (Introduction)
Weaves penetrating observations with anecdotes to argue that individual religious experiences, rather than the tenets of organized religion, are what form the backbone of religious life. Written with James’ characteristic humor and skill, the books is particularly good on mystical experience. James’s discussion of conversion, repentance, mysticism, and hopes/fears about the afterlife – as well as his observations on the religious experiences of such diverse thinkers as Voltaire, Whitman, Emerson, Luther, Tolstoy, and others – all support his thesis. “Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation. There is the living act of perception always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late. …In the religious sphere, in particular, belief that formulas are true can never wholly take the place of personal experience” (p.356).
Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History
Historical account of cults and anti-cult scares in America that analyzes why cults provoke fierce antagonism both in the secular world and in mainstream churches (many of whom were themselves once considered cults). Jenkins argues that an accurate historical perspective is urgently needed if we are to avoid the kind of catastrophic confrontation that occurred in Waco or the ruinous prosecution of imagined Satanic cults in the 1980s.
Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination
With the aid of propaganda posters, cartoons, and print images, Keen analyzes the mechanisms of enmity. “What psychology has recently called neurosis, and acknowledged to be near universal, theologians once called sin, estrangement, or alienation. The word paranoia is only the most recent name for this perennial human temptation to yield to a pervasive need of radical mistrust, defensiveness, and cynicism. As a mode of perception that often becomes a style of life, paranoia weaves around the vulnerable self or group and air-tight metaphysic and world view. Paranoia is an anti-religious mysticism based on the feeling or perception that the world in general, and others in particular, are against me or us. Reality is perceived as hostile. By contrast, the religious mystic experiences the ground of being as basically friendly to the deepest needs of the self…As the religious mystic turns to and trusts in God or the ground of being, the paranoid mystic organizes life around combat against the enemy” (p.100).
Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse
Michael D. Langone (Editor)
Contains non-sensational, in-depth information. Among the 20 contributions are personal accounts, discussion of mind control and of the historical background to helping cult victims, and case studies. Guidelines for facilitating recovery are given in separate chapters for therapists, clergy, support groups, families, and psychiatric hospital personnel. Critical of Hassan’s [see above] exit counselling method.
Facing The Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe
Simone Arnold Liebster
Autobiography of the courage a recently converted JW has in the face of the “lion” (bad metaphor for the Nazi party) that has taken over her school in Alsace-Lorraine. While her parents have been taken to concentration camps, Simone spends the rest of her teenaged years in reform school. This is an interesting story of a faith that helped her rebuild her life. It is also a story of warring ideologies. After the war, Simone becomes a fabric designer, a graduate of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, a public speaker, and now an author. This story is unique for its portrayal of the effects of Nazism on childen, as well as for a story that is rarely told in JW circles – that of a courageous young female.
Approaching Jehovah’s Witnesses in Love: How to Witness Effectively Without Arguing
The organization behind Jehovah’s Witnesses is serious about information control. For the few Witnesses who take seriously the scripture “test all things, hold fast to what is fine” (1 Thess. 5:21), the questions in this book may provoke independent thought. Don’t be too disappointed if these messages can’t get through to the trained Witness. The best use of this material may be in self-protection. Lingle lays out some groundrules for discussion with a loving (rather than combative) agenda. Based on years of experience, video version available. “It is important to get Jehovah’s Witnesses to think for themselves. You can do this by asking them all-new questions, found in this book–ones which they are not familiar with and for which there are no standard answers or Watchtower articles available to help them” (p. 16).
Exploring Religious Meaning
Richard C. Monk (Editor), Kenneth T. Lawrence (Contributor), Walter Hofheinz (Contributor)
Great basic introduction to the study of religion. “Providing the tools and resources for exploring the many dimensions of religion, this basic introduction to religious studies suggests an inductive and integrative approach to critical inquiry. Materials are drawn from classic and contemporary sources that seek to interpret religion in its various dimensions.” (back).
Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
Thomas Moore, an internationally renowned theologian, Jungian psychologist, and former Catholic monk, offers a philosophy for living that involves accepting our humanity rather than struggling to transcend it. By nurturing the soul in everyday life, Moore shows how to cultivate dignity, peace, and depth of character. One helpful point: he believes that destructive behaviors are the surfacing of some need of the soul, and the appropriate reaction is to inquire, observe, and then try to find some less distressing way to meet the need, rather than to simply try to stop the behavior. Note that insight is not enough here – you have to find a less destructive way to meet the need, and you have to understand the need to find that way. A very reflective book – could have used more research for the references to mythology.
Bible Stories for Adults
Morrow’s prize-winning religious satires, comparable at times to Vonnegut and Swift, are not to be missed. This collection of stories gives us God’s amendment to the Tower of Babel story, and a computer’s reconstruction of Moses’ tablets, among other things.
Murray Katz, the celibate keeper of an abandoned lighthouse near Atlantic City, has been blessed with a daughter conceived of his own seed and a holy ovum. Like her half brother Jesus, Julie Katz can walk on water, heal the blind, and raise the dead. But being the Messiah isn’t easy, and Julie, bewildered by her role in the divine scheme of things, is tempted by the Devil and challenged by neo-Christian zealots in this lively odyssey through Hell and New Jersey. Winner of the World Fantasy Award.
A dytopian vision. In a grim “future,” where Big Brother is always Watching You and the Thought Police can practically read your mind, Winston’s memory still functions. He knows the Party’s (read WBTS’s) official image of the world is a fluid fiction, and that the Party controls the people by feeding them lies and narrowing their imaginations through a process of bewilderment and brutalization that alienates each individual from his fellows and deprives him of every liberating human pursuit, from reasoned inquiry to sexual passion. Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime–in 1984, George Orwell created a whole vocabulary of words concerning totalitarian control that have since passed into our common vocabulary…and experience.
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent
Academic theologian Elaine Pagels examines the effects of the narrative of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (Genesis) on the history of ideas about sexuality, freedom, will, and sin. “The attitudes and values we associate with Christian tradition, particularly attitudes toward sexual matters, evolved in Western culture at a specific time–during the first four centuries of the common era, when the Christian movement, which had begun as a defiant sect, transformed itself into the religion of the Roman Empire. These attitudes had not previously existed in the Christian form they eventually took, and they represented a departure from both pagan practices and Jewish tradition….For many of the leaders of the early church, freedom was the practical message of the gospel: freedom in its many forms, including freedom from tyrannical government, freedom from prevailing social and sexual customs, freedom from sexual desire, and freedom of the will–that is, self-mastery as a means to spiritual renewal. For almost three hundred years, Christianity prospered and grew as an illegal sect whose members increasingly reflected the diverse interests of an ever more complex population. By the fourth century, as the Christian movement became more powerful, the emperor Constantine reversed the long-standing policy of persecution and himself became a Christian. In the century following these momentous conversions–of Constantine to Christianity and the church to a respected imperial institution–Christian teaching itself underwent a revolutionary change from a doctrine that celebrated human freedom to one that emphasized the universal bondage of original sin” (from the jacket).
The Origin of Satan
Helpful for an understanding of how and why JWs demonize others, especially those who were once “insiders.” She traces the development of Satan in the Jewish community from a sort of roving agent acting on God’s behalf – always obstructing but not always evil – to an increasingly evil force identified more and more with intimate enemies, members of one’s own community with whom one is in conflict. “Just as in the beginning of time Satan led human beings astray by means of the serpent, ‘so now,’ Irenaeus declares, ‘do these people, filled with a Satanic spirit, seduce the people of God.’ Against ‘all heretics,’ Irenaeus helps construct for the Christian churches the structure that has sustained orthodox Christianity ever since, by claiming sole access to the doctrine of the apostles, and the system of the church throughout the whole world, and the distinct manifestation of the body of Christ (that is, the church) according to the succession of bishops,’ together with ‘a very complete system of doctrine.’” (p.178)
Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses
James M. Penton
Excellent book combines personal insight with professional historical research. As a “disfellowshipped” JW, Penton offers a comprehensive overview of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in three different contexts: historical, doctrinal, and sociological. Explains four major changes in leadership, management and belief and explicates organizational structures that are normally hidden from the average JW. Balanced in outlook, the book is critical of both Witnesses and some of their opponents.
Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution
Shawn Francis Peters
Let’s not forget some real JW heroes, who on the basis of their belief, refused to salute the flag or serve in the military and remembered the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Finally, this book is an account of the personalities, events, and institutions that formed a landmark turning point in the nation’s commitment to individual rights despite the apolitical stance of JWs. These courageous rank and file Witnesses “helped to inaugurate an era in which individual and minority rights emerged as matters of concern for the Supreme Court.” The book doesn’t mention, however, the ironic fact that for all their influence on American history, the language of individual rights has no place within the organization itself or for JW membership, but only in relation to a defense of their doctrines to the public and to systems of worldly government and law.
Pilgrimage Through the Watchtower
Free Ebook! In this book, Kevin explains how he got involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses, what life was like as a Witness, why he left the Organization in 1984, and what life has been like for him since then. “These men’s interpretations of the Scriptures were always presented in the literature as irrefutable fact. This was so even though their viewpoints changed from time to time on various issues, such as on their understanding of the ‘superior authorities’ of Romans 12, the acceptability of vaccinations, and the Witnesses’ proper conduct toward those who had disassociated themselves from the Organization. We were not allowed to question the Society on these or any other points of doctrine, but were taught only to ‘not run ahead of God’s organization’” (from Chapter 5).
Reasoning with Jehovah’s Witnesses
Free Ebook! A compilation of 800 Bible verses that refute the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses on every major point of doctrine, in favor of historical, Biblical Christianity.
Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Subject by Subject
David A. Reed
These brief articles, organized according to subject, show basics of the history, changing doctrinal stances, and distinctive ideas of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How to Rescue your Loved One from the Watchtower
David A. Reed
Intended to help the loved ones of those involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower.
Index of Watchtower Errors: 1879 to 1989
David A. Reed
The first part of this book is a chronological listing of errors and contradictions in the Watchtower and Awake! The second half of the book is a listing of quotations (all JW publications) by subjects.
Jehovah-Talk: The Mind-Control Language of Jehovah’s Witnesses
David A. Reed
A dictionary of terms used in a unique way by the Watchtower Society and thus by Jehovah’s Witnesses, showing how language is used to control and manipulate. The changing terminology of the JWs distinguishes between insiders and outsiders. The way the words are used also reveals quite a bit about the intended world-view for the average witness, creating (often not consciously understood) realities for adherents. An understanding of these concrete examples has wider significance – the war of rhetoric common to politics, advertising, and corporate life.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Answered Verse by Verse
David A. Reed
Index of verses lists the ones JWs point to for biblical support of doctrines and how, in his view, they are misusing the verse. Also gives examples of verses that counter the doctrine.
Jehovah’s Witness Literature : A Critical Guide to Watchtower Publications
David A. Reed
This is a critical guide to Watchtower publications arranged chronologically. He discusses books, booklets, pamphlets, and tracts of more than 100 years.
Reasoning from the Scriptures With the Jehovah’s Witnesses
One take on scriptural interpretations of the witnesses. What is helpful about this book is the list of programmed responses a JW is likely to give you if you ask a certain type of question, and his suggestions for tackling the response. Remember though, that the “programming” changes faster now than ever before. “It is argued that Christ’s ‘annointed’ followers–viewed as a group or an organization–are the fulfillment of Jesus’ words about the “faithful and discreet slave” in Matthew 24:45-47″ (p. 25).
Angels and Women
Jim Rizoli, J. G. Smith
According to Rizoli, this book was once recommended reading, but was pulled off the shelves at Bethel after a controversy. Angels and Women represents an insider’s view of what life might have been like during the time when the struggle between Good and Evil began. Those most vulnerable were the women on earth who would be the main targets of this rebellion.
Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology
“The uniqueness of feminist theology lies not in its use of the criterion of experience but rather in its use of women’s experience, which has been almost entirely shut out of theological reflection in the past. The use of women’s experience in feminist theology, therefore, explodes as a critical force, exposing classical theology, including its codified traditions, as based on male experience rather than on universal human experience. Feminist theology makes the sociology of theoloical knowledge visible, no longer hidden behind mystifications of objectified divine and universal authority. (p.13)”
Freeing the Soul from Fear
A leading philosopher on the soul, he argues that we should recognize the soul as a vulnerable entity and commit to strengthening its core. Fear weakens the soul and contracts the soul’s ability to love. Examines how perennial fears (such as money, relationships, and death) as well as contemporary fears (terrorism) affect the soul. Offers concrete suggestions for overcoming soul-debilitating fears through love and imagination.
Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave
William J. Schnell
“We had as our goal to capture, brain wash and establish thousands of Kingdom Publishers, making them all think alike, like robots. When in 1938 the Theocracy was decreed, all these fell down in abject submission before this newly erected ‘Image of the Beast’ of the Watchtower religion of ‘buying and selling’ (Rev. 13). All the companies of Jehovah’s Witnesses at that time voted in a resolution declaring that henceforth and always that would accept all instructions and appointments handed down by the Watchtower Society. All shreds of congregational independence was thus given up, together with every semblence of a personal Christian religion. A new world organization based on the concept of robot-like obedience and performance had now been realized and would now expand to become a New World Society. It is described by Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s Organization or Kingdom. It is in actuality nothing more than a dictatorship of the Faithful and Wise Servant Class in Brooklyn” (p.130).
The Gospel According to Peanuts
Robert L. Short, Martin E. Marty
Short and Marty explicate Charles Schultz’s theology of love and grace from the cartoon Peanuts. If you’ve never read any non-witness theology, start here. You’ll encounter such greats as Tillich, Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, Luther, Kafka, T. S. Eliot, and Karl Barth. And if you don’t want to read the theology, just read the comics.
The Parables of Peanuts
Robert L. Short, Charles M. Schultz
Snoopy as a Christ-symbol? Many of Schulz’s cartoon strips, like Jesus’ parables, combine “the proclamation of God’s love for the world, and [the depiction of] the world as it really is.” Again, an introduction to theology, a conservative reformed protestant version that might appeal to some ex-JWs. Peanuts had more going than the theology, though… and that’s probably what saved the theology.
Dynamics of Faith
Theologian Paul Tillich’s most accessible book examines the intellectual, emotional and volitional interpretations of the dynamics of faith as “ultimate concern.” Sections on what faith is and what faith is not, symbols of faith, types of faith, the truth of faith, and the life of faith. “The criterion of every faith is the ultimacy of the ultimate which it tried to express. The self-criticism of every faith is the insight into the relative validity of the concrete symbols in which it appears” (p. 123). “If faith is understood as belief that something is true, doubt is incompatible with the act of faith. If faith is understood as being ultimately concerned, doubt is a necessary element in it. It is a consequence of the risk of faith” (p. 18).
The Courage to Be
“Courage always includes a risk, it is always threatened by nonbeing, whether the risk of losing oneself and becoming a thing within the whole of things or of losing one’s world in an empty self-relatedness. Courage needs the power of being, a power transcending the non-being which is present in the anxiety of fate and death, which is present in the anxiety of emptiness and meaninglessness, which is effective in the anxiety of guilt and condemnation. The courage which takes this three-fold anxiety onto itself must be rooted in a power of being that is greater than the power of oneself and the power of one’s world. Neither self-affirmation as a part nor self-affirmation as oneself is beyond the manifold threat of nonbeing. There are no exceptions to this rule; and this means that every courage to be has an open or hidden religious root. For religion is the state of being grasped by the power of being-itself” (pp. 155-6).
Shadows of the Sacred: Seeing Through Spiritual Illusions
Vaughan explicates one spiritual path to wholeness. Compassionate tone, good on spiritual freedoms, spiritual practices. Draws on transpersonal psychology, myths, mysticism, world religions, and other psychologists. Aims at resolving inner conflicts with spiritual awareness.
Many Things Have Happened Since He Died…and Here Are The Highlights
Elizabeth Dewberry Vaughn
One of the best coming-of-age novels about sexuality, death and fundamentalist religion in the South. Many Things Have Happened Since He Died explores the intersection of fundamentalist biblicism with late twentieth-century consumerism, offering a chaotic vision of the world in which all productive relations between sex and religion have disintegrated and whatever hope remains can come only at the price of apocalypse. Wickedly funny, well-written, it will appeal to ex-JW women in a variety of ways.
Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages
This book narrates the numerous apocalyptic movements worldwide over the last two millennia (and before Christ). Particularly helpful to put fears of Armaggedon into some perspective. Amazon review: “Plagues, fires from heaven, worldwide computer failure–apocalyptic visions are nothing new. Indeed, they may well be a necessary part of life. As historian Eugen Weber points out, “apocalyptic prophesies are attempts to interpret the times, console and guide, and suggest the future.” In Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages, Weber presents a history of end-of-the-worldisms, such as the panics during the sack of Rome in A.D. 410, multiple medieval Second Comings, Yeats’s prediction of a “Celtic Armageddon” in 1899, and late-20th-century fears. This is no mere laundry list, however; Weber analyzes each of these beliefs and uses their historical contexts to make them more understandable. Weber’s witty prose is tempered by an obvious respect for those with “alternative rationalities.” Most readers, however, will enjoy watching these millennial beliefs recur throughout history–and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief. As Weber argues, St. Augustine’s advice continues to ring true today: rather than trying to reckon the years before the end of the world, “relax your fingers and give them a little rest.”
Awakening of a Jehovah’s Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society
From the author: “This work is not a doctrinal treatise about Jehovah’s Witnesses; instead, it is an issues-oriented human interest story that reveals inside information about 25 years of my adult life in this Christian sect. It deals with many women’s issues as seen through the colored lens of the Watchtower Society. It spells out my vulnerability to the enticements that the Witnesses use, the many abuses I suffered while I was in the group, the horrendous psychological struggles I experienced while trying to escape their mind-control methods and induced phobias, and how a psychologist finally helped me to succeed in breaking free from their grasp.”