Cult Fear Tactics and Their Young Victims

December 2, 2011 marked the one year anniversary of my last visit to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was my father’s funeral and I knew when I crossed its threshold it would be the last time–unless someone else died. Over the last year I have had a lot of firsts: first cigar, first gamble, first birthday, first Halloween, and now I have my first Christmas tree up.

There is one first I didn’t count on however: first time fear has not ruled my life. I didn’t expect this collateral benefit. As a JW I was always told the world outside the Watchtower organization felt fear but those within the organization were free from fear. Supposedly, the world feared death, disease, Armageddon, God’s wrath, etc. Jehovah’s Witnesses knew what happens at death and that as long as they did what God–and the Watchtower–require they had no need to fear Armageddon or God’s wrath.

Yet, I remember having a dream when I was 5 years old that I was standing in a valley of skeletons–much like Ezekial’s vision of the Valley of Bones–and the names of each person was written on each skull’s forehead. I sorted through the piles looking for my best friends at the time: Jason and Eric. They lived next door and we would play Star Wars and Wizard of Oz. I finally found them, in my dream, two small skeletons with their names written on their skulls.

I remember having a dream when I was a teenager that I was standing at the threshold of Armageddon and an invisible entity was calling the names of those who would not cross-over, but die eternally. I remember the dread that I hadn’t been faithful enough and would die as a result, never to see my family and friends again. That dream spurred me on to be a more faithful Witness through all of my 20’s–until my soul withered away within myself.

I now find I do not fear flying. I don’t fear death, disease, or accident. I don’t fear violent crime or disaster. Life has become an adventure to take one day at a time without worrying about the future. I feel a measure of contentment I haven’t felt…well, ever. According to JW doctrine I should be living in morbid fear of my eventual destruction at Armageddon, but instead I feel happiness. The kind of happiness that comes with the knowledge that every choice is mine to make.

The children of JW’s have a lot to fear. They hear, from birth, how evil the world is. They hear how Satan and his demons are just waiting to devour them like a hungry lion. They see terrifying images of Armageddon, with people running screaming or dying in terror. Children are not protected from these images, but all the more exposed to them to scare them into submission. And it works, most of time, until the person realizes obedience is a worse kind of death than total obliteration at the hands of God.

In a recent book released by the Watchtower Society, “Learn from the Great Teacher”, is perhaps the scariest picture of Armageddon I have ever seen the Watchtower publish. This is a book for children. Why would they publish something like that unless they are trying to instill fear. The picture is the one you see above this article.

Am I an isolated case? No, many people have reported growing up with nightmares of Armageddon. Some deal with it differently, though. Please watch the video below to see the tragic effects of cult fear tactics.


Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 10:11 p12  Comments (28)  
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  1. God is the only thing stopping the demons from just tearing you to pieces, but once you aren’t a Witness any more, the reason you don’t get attacked by demons is that they don’t want to scare you into going back to your faith.

    Convenient, that.

    • Sir, would you like to cite which scriptures you use for such addle-brained comments. Get into the 21st century! Talk of demons and angels is medieval.

      • Or am I missing something and you’re just trying to be funny?

      • Now I’m wondering if you are being funny, sir. Open the bible to any page and you will find reference to angels and/or demons. Set foot in any church and you will hear talk of angels and/or demons. I don’t know if you bother to budge from your computer screen but belief in angels and demons is very much alive, even in this 21st century. And yes, Ty was being funny in ironically pointing out the way people we personally know do in fact reason.

      • Thanks for your response.

        By offering the Bible you are offering a tautological argument, not a scientific one. The trouble is that there ARE people who believe such specific nonsense. I am not having a go at Ty, merely the reasoning. Whether meant in jest or not, it can scare people simply because they believe such nonsense. (James 3:5)

      • Then I agree with you, and Ty would too I am sure. We both come from a very controlled religious environment where the Bible and their interpretation of it were considered absolute truth. The world would be a better place without cult fear tactics but, sadly, they are still a fact of life. I personally am dabbling in the occult to verify if anything out there exists. I believe Ty is an atheist. His comment regarding demonic attacks was the way we were brought up to think.

      • Thanks for the clarification. Let’s be specific – are you or have you been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are you a Mormon? Are you Mennonite?

        I myself teeter on the edge of agnosticism, but I enjoy the atheist arguments. I notice that, despite there being a huge defence of theism today, more books on atheism seem to sell. The Origin of Species sold its first printing in one day to the ‘God-fearing’ Victorians!

        I personally find occult things distasteful and am not curious, though I doubt there is anything to worry about beyond the human placebo effect and pop-psychology.

        Ty has a healthy sense of humour, though, at least for my sake, maybe being a bit more transparent would be good. Too many people take too many things literally.

        Thanks again.

      • Jehovah’s Witnesses.

        I have Dawkins “God Delusion” but have yet to read it. After a lifetime in religion I am finding it a slow process to move into total disbelief.

        I have always been curious about the occult and am enjoying what I have been learning. I am finding the process of meditation and positive visualization very cathartic. It is filling a need for now. I hardly know what the future holds.

        Thank you for your comments!

      • I encourage you to read Dawkins’ book. I myself have read it at least 17 times! His beauty of language, ‘fierce intellect,’ and clear objective are refreshing amongst a crop of wishy-washy attempts at truth. Theists have little intellectually to go on other than their ‘faith.’

        I am surprised that you take meditation and visualisation as occult. Occult means ‘hidden,’ yet the power of learned and deliberate meditation are well-known to science. In fact, meditation (though a slightly different definition) is practised by Christians! Visualisation is an open non-Occult practise of mind-training. We all do this anyway in everyday lives.

        I’ve watched a number of ghost-hunting episodes so popular on TV now and just laugh at how people just scare themselves. By this I mean that if presenters and TV audiences are talked into believing that a house is haunted, their minds are primed for fear at the slightest naturally-caused ‘phenomenon.’ Sad really.

        It seems unlikely that there is a supernatural, but I’m open-minded.

      • Alas you were a Jehovah’s Witness. What changed your mind?

        For me it is that I don’t think a profession of faith and Christianity basically changes a person’s personality except on a superficial level and as a social tool for ‘success.’

      • I began to notice inconsistencies with their teachings.
        I didn’t want to end my life never having lived it.
        Living the life they wanted me to was killing my soul and even the concept of fiery torment was less reprehensible than another minute under the control of the WTS.
        ‘Worldly people’ weren’t as bad as I had been led to believe, but JW’s were often worse.
        I was tired of living in fear.
        I could go on and on…
        Were you a jw, FV?

      • I’m hanging on by my fingernails. My problem is that I’m a sceptic, but was drawn into developing my relationship with the WTBTS when a few genuine Christian individuals (harder to find nowadays) who took an interest in me as a person. Recently I outgrew my need for the superficiality of the ‘kingdom smile’ by acts of hypocrisy and evident blind loyalty to a human group rather than to genuine Christian principles.

        Christ taught us to love our enemies. This organisation openly practices the precepts of Senator McCarthy and sees shadows in every corner.

      • Sounds like you are on your way out. Let me just say, I have found happiness I didn’t think was possible on the outside. We were always told that the only happiness is within the WTBTS, but from I have noticed only unhappiness results from constant strain and micro-managing. Look over the rest of this blog. I did a blog on cults awhile back. That’s what finally did it for me. I had always insisted they weren’t a cult, but after doing research I realize they are. really helped me once I started searching. Cheers! Let me know if there is anything I can help with, or if you just want to talk. That was the other thing that surprised me, apostates aren’t evil-incarnate–sometimes they are just hurt and disillusioned.

      • Thanks. At the moment, I must admit that all WTBTS doctrine that CLEARLY aligns with the Bible I will defend gladly, but Child Abuse policy, the claim of being a modern-day prophet, and the damage these wild claims visited on unsuspecting adherents I believe need to be outed.

        This would also apply to shunning those who resign from the Organisation. What Bible crime have they committed? If they are treated like apostates, adulterers, fornicators, etc – why so?

        What I wish (probably in vain) is that some of the genuine Christian spirit the Society had prior to the 1980 corporate take-over at Brooklyn will return and the damage done since properly and appropriately acknowledged.

        For now I’ll carry a flickering candle in the darkness in the hope that they’ll come home.

      • A very interesting book you might like is Crisis of Conscience by Ray Franz. It is written in a very humble, almost sad, way. He covers the era of the 70’s. You will see, if you choose to read it, that there were problems even then. Keep an open mind. I have noticed everybody’s reasons for leaving are different. Eventually, the stumbling block you just cannot ignore will rear its ugly head. May you find contentment in whatever path you choose:)

      • I appreciate your sentiments, thanks.

        I’ve owned as copy of Crisis of Conscience for quite a while and many many accounts I’ve read of the corporate take-over. The really sad thing is that if one gets a chance (secretively as the WTBTS seems to view this book as ‘apostate’ and questions the loyalty of all who possess a copy) Witnesses are unaware of its contents! The only thing they were told was that Ray was disfellowshipped (on the technicality that he ate with Peter McGregor after the latter had law mischievously framed against him – he resigned). One mature JW didn’t even know about the UN scandal!

        1975 seems to be the catalyst for the takeover. Prior to 1980 much of what is disdained now did not exist. The human pride of failing to admit error brought the spirit of the organisation down and the wrong people were ejected.

        Survival of the fittest, not the most humble, I’m afraid.

        Check out:


        and tell me what you think.

      • I have read some of the articles on the harmful chemicals found on Wallkill property. I think the apostates are going a bit overboard about it, however. The article I read said when they were discovered during a recent excavation they were immediately reported to the proper authorities. It sounds like they have been there since the 70’s–an era when people thought Armageddon would be here so soon they made some bad decisions. I don’t think it is worth the publicity WT haters are giving it. But they have the tendency to jump on anything to prove WT guilt.

        As for Marvin Shilmer (I’m hoping that’s not you) I find his blog packed with sensationalism and exaggeration. There are different varieties of apostate out there: Those who leave and move on with their lives without any backward glance, those who can’t move on and frequent the exjw forums for years, and those who are so set on the destruction of the WT they live and breath its damnation. Six Screens is a prime example of the latter. Marvin Shilmer would also fall into that catagory, in my opinion. They fit the prime example of the rapid apostate the Society always warned us about. I find they probably send more people fleeing back into the clutches of the WT than the reverse. JW’s with doubts and fears need tenderness and compassion, not raging exaggerations and name-calling.

        Just my opinion…

      • I’m not a WT-hater, as you put it. I still believe that where there is a solid basis for doctrine I will defend that doctrine. The Watchtower Society has made so many good decisions. Sadly, these have been over-shadowed by some VERY poor ones.

        I have studied some of the high-profile American child abuse cases that are well-documented. It was a surprise to me that the WTBTS has paid out big money to settle these. Clearly they do not take responsibility for their decision to mandate the ‘two witness’ ‘principle’ above the clear admonition at Romans 13 to allow Caesar (secular governments) to sort out the guilt of a suspect. Sadly, much harm to young ones has evidently been done because of this short-sightedness.

        I can provide clear-well-evidenced articles if you want to read what can be verified out there.

        Of course, there is so much rubbish being said, but Shilmer has written 3 articles showing documentation for his claims and Watchtower scans to show the ‘double-standard’ in the teachings. I can’t see much wrong with the pursuit of this argument, and even if the WT have learned their lessons, nothing is ever confessed to their readership about these serious errors of judgement.

        Prophecy, too, has done so much damage to the life-courses of many. So much good could be done if there was genuine regret and apologies published instead of re-inventing themselves and minimising their ‘reasons’ for their poor choices.

        You’re right, people need to move on, but psychologically many can’t. There ARE ‘WT-haters’ out there, but there are many who have been genuinely mistreated (shunned by loved ones for resigning for conscientious reasons, for example) and they are attempting to express this anger and frustration through the Internet. This is common amongst people with emotional problems – let them do what they need as long as it is well-thought out argument.

        The trouble is, if no one speaks out so much more damage may be done.

      • Hi again, Cheri.

        I wonder, could I build our comments into an article to put on the Governing Body site. I think the way it has developed is interesting.

        I’m Frank (as you have probably picked up).


      • Not sure…I guess it would okay. But only yours and my comments. Any comments by other parties would need to personally give their permission.

    • I feel like I may be suffering from whiplash. Your earlier comments seemed to infer you were still a JW, ‘hanging on by your fingernails’ in hopes they’ll ‘come home.’ Now you’re criticizing me for being too harsh about ‘WT-haters.’ I didn’t call you a WT-hater because I believed your earlier comments that you were still one of them.

      ‘The trouble is, if no one speaks out so much more damage may be done.’

      What are you doing to speak out? Speaking from personal experience, more bees are attracted by honey than vinegar. Rabid apostates only force jw’s back into the fold. I remember being at conventions where apostates held up their signs and spoke through bull-horns. I remember hearing people say that such opposition only proved they had the ‘truth.’

      I stand by my earlier opinion that exjw’s fall into three categories. I understand why there is anger toward the WT, I felt it too not so long ago. You say the ones who have resentment may have emotional problems then you criticize me for not doing more. You read Crisis of Conscience, did Ray Franz speak belligerently or did he speak with sad humility at being the victim of what occurred? I can guarantee you that Franz has helped more people leave the WTBTS than Six Screens or anyone else who uses similar tactics.

      I agree the WT would be better served to acknowledge and apologize for their bad choices. They have piled up lie upon lie and cover-up upon cover-up and are now so deep in the mire they have to continue the facade or lose it all–in their opinion, no doubt.

      Their track record of prophecy sucks! No one knows that better than I. I have seen a lot of people die waiting for the prospect of eternal life. I took care of my father in the last year he was alive and watched as he came to the knowledge for the first time that he would die. I saw him hold onto his faith by his fingernails because it was all he had left.

      I understand the harm they inflict. I simply refuse to allow it to disturb my life any more. I gave them the first 38 years of my life–they aren’t getting any more. People who continue to wallow in the mire that is the WTS are only preventing themselves from healing.

      • You are an extremely effective writer and I am please to meet you. I love your sentence-construction, imagery, and passion with which you write.

        As to getting the measure of the paradox I face I can do no better than refer you to a few of my articles.

        I don’t have problems with people who have genuine grievances. Matthew Barrie was one of these and I wrote extensively at about an apalling excuse for a religious judicial case (simply click on FV on any article and it will bring up my articles, transcripts and essays) where I found at least 21 ethical violations. Matthew has recorded files of his encounter and, if you listen to them, you’ll find that, like Ray Franz, he too was a genuine victim.

        Conversely I ‘hooked up’ with someone I can only wonder at his ‘Christianity’ who self-styles himself ‘aservantofjehovah,’ a fascinatingly empty-headed chap. In his last comment he calls me a loudmouth and has referred constantly to me as a ‘lying propagandist.’

        This is a person who has consistently presents bluster and blind loyalty to concepts he appears to know little about. He irks me to the point of distraction and has provided me with many fond hours of arguing against his foolhardy rhetoric. In fact he and his buddy Standfirm have ganged up to tell me what a stupid person I am. Yet, neither has provided convincing arguments and Servant (as I call him) has so far provided no evidence whatsoever.

        To start with try: I come in a bit down the track and we thrust and parry for quite a while. Notice Servant comes later and hits the pejoratives like an inebriate.

        Similarly I took him up on prophecy at: Here I go by ‘anonymous.’ You might recognise me. Eventually Standfirm stopped communicating so I found Servant’s site and had a tangle on a completely unrelated site subject. He wrote and wrote and wrote and I replied.

        If you want to save some time read my own articles about the experiences at:


        What I have learned about the fundamentalist mind is that it lacks intuitiveness, creativity (you are very creative), and most certainly lacks emotion.

        I play along for two main reasons:

        1 I like to.

        2 I like to expose such specious attitudes. It’s not so difficult.

        I would love to hear more of what you have to say. Please read the articles and feel free to criticise anything you like.


      • First of all let me say, flattery will get you everywhere. So you aren’t a hanger-on? You just like to ‘poke the bear?’ I can see how that would be fun but I have a tendency to get so frustrated I can’t think clearly. Hopefully time and distance will alleviate that tendency.

        I looked at most of your articles on the governing body site. You have some interesting transcripts there. I scanned over most of them, but really enjoyed the recording of the judicial case. I have come across the Stand Firm guy before and find him irritating. When I hear of people who still believe ‘the truth’ in the face of glaring inaccuracies, I always assume I am in the presence of someone who either hasn’t done their homework or is just too dumb to get it.

        I will check out some of the other posts you listed. Thanks for introducing me to the site!

  2. That exact philosophy has gone through my head, Ty, as the explanation they would offer. There’s always an explanation to justify why someone should stay with what is safe and never question. Pascals wager all over again.
    The annual numbers have been released. The number of partakers has risen to almost 12,000–up 3300 from 2005. It just keeps climbing…

    • That’s really interesting. I wonder why those numbers are going up, and how the org explains it.

      • A WT article came out a couple years ago that explained that since the ‘end is delaying’ younger anointed would be the natural result as ‘the chosen ones’ are supposed to be around at least until the great tribulation. After that article the number started to balloon.

      • Nice dodge, that.

  3. “…more books on atheism seem to sell..”

    Just to clarify again. I meant to say that atheism books seem to sell far better than predictable books on theism that contain mainly tautological arguments and little more (we’ve heard the arguments all before).

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