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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Apostasy "seeing oneself as a victim denied"

Back in 1909, the then president of the Watch Tower Society, C. T. Russell, wrote about those who turned away from Jehovah’s table and then began to mistreat their former fellow slaves. The Watch Tower of October 1, 1909, said:

"All who cut loose from the Society and its work, instead of prospering themselves or upbuilding others in the faith and in the graces of the spirit, seemingly do the reverse—attempt injury to the Cause they once served, and, with more or less noise, gradually sink into oblivion, harming only themselves and others possessed of a similarly contentious spirit. . . . If some think that they can get as good or better provender at other tables, or that they can produce as good or better themselves—let these take their course. . . . But while we are willing that others should go anywhere and everywhere to find food and light to their satisfaction, strange to say, those who become our opponents take a very different course. Instead of saying in the manly fashion of the world, ‘I have found something which I prefer; goodbye!’ these manifest anger, malice, hatred, strife, ‘works of the flesh and of the devil’ such as we have never known worldly people to exhibit. They seem inoculated with madness, Satanic hydrophobia [rabies]. Some of them smite us and then claim that we did the smiting. They are ready to say and write contemptible falsities and to stoop to do meanness.”

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Apostasy - "seeing oneself as a victim denied"

Because of strict adherence to Biblical tenets, Jehovah's Witnesses operate at a moderate to high level of tension against their surrounding environment. This has caused some to push for change in areas where there is ubiquitous community opposition to certain doctrines in an effort to reduce such operational tension. The same is often true of an individual who places greater authoritative weight upon secular sources of information when this data challenges Biblical inerrancy and concord. However, where no change occurs, and the mindset of an individual remains fixated upon communal unanimity rather than the greater responsibilities inherent in obedience to the Christian faith, there often occurs a strong tendency to feel victimized by those taking the lead among us.

As a result of seeing oneself as a victim denied, there can occur a powerful drive toward disaffection and apostasy. As is almost inevitably the case, there is a great need on the part of a leave-taker to validate their oppositional stance, and the victim-victimizer scenario greatly assists a person in justifying their course of action. Blame shifting may therefore temporarily relieve a person of accountability, but it will only succeed in sanctioning a person's actions so long as their position is given greater exposure over that of their (former) religious fraternity. Thus, the importance placed upon maintaining a heightened level of awareness toward the apostate's unique view works to reinforce the reasons for their departure by maintaining the consequences of blame and continuing to scrutinize it in the object of hostility. It is not difficult to see then why an apostate so adamantly rejects information that contradicts the typecast that they have worked so hard to establish. Bryan Wilson, Oxford Professor of sociology observes the apostate mindset similarly:

"Sociologists and other investigators into minority religions have thus come to recognize a particular constellation of motives that prompt those who apostasize in the stance they adopt relative to their previous religious commitment and their more recent renunciation of it. Such a person needs to establish his credibility both with respect to his earlier allegiance to a religious body and his subsequent relinquishment of that commitment. To vindicate himself he needs to explain his volte-face." Further endorsement is seemingly found when an apostate locates a support coalition that corroborates a person's disparate or despondent view, which in turn opens new hostilities forged as a result of collective negative experiences. Consequently, apostasy is then empowered and grows exponentially as the individual continually finds reasons to authenticate the rationale of their departure. Part of this rationale is often seen in the "atrocity story" which is tweaked and recounted through various media, and carped upon by those all too willing to overextend their trust when it comes to subjective discourse. However, the "atrocity story" is almost always rejected by sociologists who study the apostate phenomena today.

Perhaps to placate their own sensibilities, but more usually to maintain the semblance of a devoted faith, the apostate must of necessity attempt to convince others that their motives for disaffection were sound and that their new credo is scriptural. Yet, in doing so they must conspicuously evade the clear Biblical injunctions against dissent and contrary expository views. (compare Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 1:3) Paradoxically, in attempting to establish themselves as providers of spiritual edification, an apostate is forced to break the very commands that a Christian is sworn to keep – commands that their former brethren still keep.

By thus breaking God's explicit commands the apostate commits an act of betrayal against Jehovah and must therefore confront the fallout of their indiscretion. And like any sin, the inevitable fallout is the separation of the sinner from God. However, such thinking is rarely entertained by the apostate due to the angst at having to confront their own error. They must therefore reconstruct their shattered experience in such a way that it favours a new ministry rather than a repentant one.

This is in keeping with the fact that much apostate information is presented under the guise of Christian love with a view to helping others appreciate a clearer truth, yet in actuality the apostate feels impelled to propagate their dissent in order to validate their new self image and fortify their religious convictions. Of course, the welcome reception that such information may receive only grants further recognition to an often aberrant viewpoint, which in turn continues the cycle of disaffection.

As a result, the apostate is able to exploit those who misunderstand the scriptural reasons for the operational tension that exists between Jehovah's Witnesses and the moral majority, and subsequently uses this ignorance to their own advantage.

- By Nathan Unger, 2003

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Excerpts: These segments are taken from a larger work. Apostates and New Religious Movements, by Bryan Ronald Wilson, Ph.D.

Informants who are mere contacts and who have no personal motives for what they tell are to be preferred to those who, for their own purposes, seek to use the investigator. The disaffected and the apostate are in particular informants whose evidence has to be used with circumspection. The apostate is generally in need of self-justification. He seeks to reconstruct his own past, to excuse his former affiliations, and to blame those who were formerly his closest associates. Not uncommonly the apostate learns to rehearse an 'atrocity story' to explain how, by manipulation, trickery, coercion, or deceit, he was induced to join or to remain within an organization that he now forswears and condemns. Apostates, sensationalized by the press, have sometimes sought to make a profit from accounts of their experiences in stories sold to newspapers or produced as books (sometimes written by 'ghost' writers). [Bryan Wilson, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, p.19.]

Sociologists and other investigators into minority religions have thus come to recognize a particular constellation of motives that prompt apostates in the stance they adopt relative to their previous religious commitment and their more recent renunciation of it. The apostate needs to establish his credibility both with respect to his earlier conversion to a religious body and his subsequent relinquishment of that commitment. To vindicate himself in regard to his volte facerequires a plausible explanation of both his (usually sudden) adherence to his erstwhile faith and his no less sudden abandonment and condemnation of it. Academics have come to recognize the "atrocity story" as a distinctive genre of the apostate, and have even come to regard it as a recognizable category of phenomena [A.D. Shupe, Jr., and D. G. Bromley, "Apostates and Atrocity Stories", in B. Wilson (ed.), The Social Impact of New Religious Movements, New York, Rose of Sharon Press, 1981, pp. 179-215.] The apostate typically represents himself having been introduced to his former allegiance at a time when he was especially vulnerable -- depressed, isolated, lacking social or financial support, alienated from his family, or some other such circumstance. His former associates are now depicted as having prevailed upon him by false claims, deceptions, promises of love, support, enhanced prospects, increased well-being, or the like. In fact, the apostate story proceeds, they were false friends, seeking only to exploit his goodwill, and extract from him long hours of work without pay, or whatever money or property he possessed. Thus, the apostate presents himself as "a brand plucked from the burning," as having been not responsible for his actions when he was inducted into his former religion, and as having "come to his senses" when he left. Essentially, his message is that "given the situation, it could have happened to anyone." They are entirely responsible and they act with malice aforethought against unsuspecting, innocent victims. By such a representation of the case, the apostate relocates responsibility for his earlier actions, and seeks to reintegrate with the wider society which he now seeks to influence, and perhaps to mobilize, against the religious group which he has lately abandoned.

New movements, which are relatively unfamiliar in their teachings and practices, and the beliefs and organization of which are designed in terms that are new or newly adapted, are most susceptible to public suspicion; If they have secret or undisclosed teachings, or appear to be exceptionally diligent in seeking converts, or have a distinctive appeal to one or another section of the community (e.g., the young; students; ethnic minorities; immigrants, etc.) or if the promises of benefit to believers exceed the every-day expectations of the public at large, then they may easily become objects of popular opprobrium or even hostility. The atrocity stories of apostates, particularly when enlarged by the sensationalist orientation of the press, feed these tendencies, and enhance the newsworthiness of further atrocity stories. Newspapers are will known to recapitulate earlier sensationalist accounts when locating new stories in similar vein about particular movements -- a practice designated by some sociologists as the use of "negative summary events." ["This refers to the journalistic description of a situation or event in such a way as to capture and express its negative essence as part of an intermittent and slow-moving story. An apparently isolated happening is thereby used as an occasion for keeping the broader, controversial phenomenon in the public mind." -- James A. Beckford, Cult Controversies: The Societal Response to New Religious Movements, London, Tavistock, 1985, p. 235.] By this means, the dramatic import of each apostate's story is reinforced in its significance, to the detriment of objective and ethically neutral enquiry into religious phenomena of the kind undertaken by academic sociologists. Contemporary religious bodies, operating in a context of rapid social change and changing perceptions of religious and spiritual belief, are likely to be particularly susceptible to the disparagement and misrepresentation which occurs through the circulation and repetition of the accounts of apostates.

Neither the objective sociological researcher nor the court of law can readily regard the apostate as a creditable or reliable source of evidence. He must always be seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to both his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim but subsequently to have become a redeemed crusader. As various instances have indicated, he is likely to be suggestible and ready to enlarge or embellish his grievances to satisfy that species of journalist whose interest is more in sensational copy than in a objective statement of the truth.

Bryan Ronald Wilson, December 3, 1994, Oxford, England

Bryan Ronald Wilson is the reader Emeritus in Sociology in the University of Oxford. From 1963 to 1993, he was also a Fellow of All Souls College, and in 1993 was elected an Emeritus Fellow. For more than forty years, he has conducted research into minority religious movements in Britain and overseas (in the United States, Ghana, Kenya, Belgium and Japan, among other places). His work has involved reading the publications of these movements and, wherever possible, associating with their members in their meetings, services and homes. It has also entailed sustained attention to, and critical appraisal of, the works of other scholars. He holds the degrees of B.Sc. (Econ) and Ph.D. of the University of London and the M.A. of the University of Oxford. In 1984, the University of Oxford recognized the value of his published work by conferring upon him the degree of D.Litt. In 1992, the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium awarded him the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa. In 1994, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

“Deconstructing the Apostate Mentality ”

Apostates generally take their course of action because they believe free thought is being suppressed, hence they feel a "crisis of conscience."

However, truth be told, their complaint is not really one of suppression, but one of inclusion. When THEIR views are rejected, they often lash out. When someone dares to question them at some point in time, accusations are hurled about. What it really comes down to is not free thought after all, but only THEIR thought. Only they can be right! They are just as exclusionary as the group they have left. They SAY they want their readers to "draw his or her own conclusions" but they do this in the same breath as accusing the other side of the argument of "deception." [Carl Olof Jonnson's Gentile Times Reconsidered] Hence, there is no room for another conclusion. The line has been drawn. The apostates has the reader thinking his is the only enlightened view, and the other conclusion we can draw is mired in deception and lies.

Their approach to their research is even more totalitarian than the group they accuse, as they cannot now budge. There is no room for new light or progressive revelation. It has indeed become the hill they chose to die on. Jonsson, for instance, thinks he has the answers, but he has culled his research using the template of accepted chronology. Furuli thinks this template is flawed, and, after reading his book, I believe so also. Just because it is accepted by the majority, does not mean it is right.

I also question the chronology used by evolutionists. It may be that us Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the few true iconoclastic faiths that are really willing to think outside the box. I believe that this is what makes the truth so fresh and exciting. I just received an email from Jonsson basically accusing me of spreading falsehood because of some articles I have on my site.

No surprise there. These are of course responses to items initially brought by him in his book, wherein he attacked several persons. Jonsson, like others of his ilk, is not allowed to be questioned.

Jonsson claims that if someone has information on hand that others need in order to get a correct understanding "It becomes his or her duty to make that information available to all who want to know the truth, however this may appear" and that "it would be morally wrong to remain silent." Well, there are some that are not remaining silent, except now, when this is done, is this move applauded. No! Jonsson is hostile. Why? Because this info runs counter to what he wants us to believe. This leads us to only one conclusion. Carl Olof Jonsson feels has the only truth, and thus becomes a mirrored caricature of the group he has rallied against for a quarter of a century. That Jonsson is still wallowing in this puerile attack on Furuli is evidence that he is at a loss for any real substantial response concerning the EVIDENCE in regards to the Chronology.

There is nothing that he can truly do, as he is ignorant in regards to knowledge of the ancient languages involved, and Rolf is not. Carl has to rely on secondary evidence, evidence of course strained through the sift of the accepted chronology. Furuli has the edge, as he can look at the evidence for himself. Find out why Carl Olof Jonnson is scared, and read Furuli's book for yourself, and NO, you will not find this book taking potshots at other people. There is no need, nor room, when there is evidence at hand.

-Webmaster Babylonian Exile - 50 Years, or 70? Read Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews by Rolf Furuli - Additional Reading:

- By Heinz Schmitz

Contrary to public opinion, the overwhelming majority of defections from new religious movements are a matter of voluntary apostasy. Moreover, the clear majority of those who leave of their own free will speak positively of certain aspects of their past experience. While readily acknowledging the ways a given religious movement failed to meet their personal expectations and spiritual needs, many voluntary defectors have found ways of salvaging some redeeming values from their previous religious associations and activities.

But there are some voluntary apostates from new religious movements who leave deeply embittered and harshly critical of their former religious associations and activities. Their dynamics of separation from a once-loved religious group is analogous to an embittered marital separation and divorce. Both marriage and religion require a significant degree of commitment. The greater the involvement, the more traumatic the break-up. The longer the commitment, the more urgent the need to blame the other for the failed relationship. Long-term and heavily involved members of new religious movements who over time become disenchanted with their religion often throw all of the blame on their former religious associations and activities. They magnify small flaws into huge evils. They turn personal disappointments into malicious betrayals. They even will tell incredible falsehoods to harm their former religion. Not surprisingly, these apostates often appeal, after the fact, to the same brainwashing scenarios usually invoked to justify forcible disengagement from new religious movements. . . . . . . . . . . .

There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem.

In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.

- Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University

Religious scholars have routinely found the testimony and public statements of apostates to be unreliable. In his book "The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement", Professor David Bromley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure. This then opens the door to being recruited and used by organizations which seek to use their testimony as a weapon against a minority religion. "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"[a]and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." - 2 Peter 2:17-22 (New International Version).