Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Last Book Study Group This Week

Many groups are preparing a party afterwards.

Many Witnesses fear this change and do not understand it, especially the elderly. I think it is the nostalgia factor.

Many of the elderly attend a morning book study because they fear driving at night. There is so much sadness. For decades the Watchtower taught that this meeting was necessary in order to save their lives. All of a sudden, it is not necessary at all.

I really love some of Jehovah's Witnesses. Those who truly believe all the drivel and who feel that they are really serving God.

I deeply loathe the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society who deceives people with its constant changing rules and obligations.

Those who say that they are just imperfect men and that Jehovah used imperfect men in the past are just not getting it. Jehovah is not using the Governing Body and there is no evidence to prove the contrary. Just because they say that Jehovah is using them, does not make it so.

In fact, the evidence points to the fact that he is not using them for anything at all and the Bible condemns their actions!


damnation2002 said...

A good point.

W. Lockhart said...

I'm just as incensed with their flipflopping. But the way you talk it's almost as though you still believe in this "Jehovah" character. I read this blog often so I couldn't help but notice.

I don't mean to come across as preachy, but if you have the brains and the courage to notice the contradictions, etc. in Watchtower doctrine, then why can't you notice the same between your beliefs and the natural world?

We can go on for literally years discussing the bible and doctrine, but a three second observation of nature is enough to cause you to doubt more than just Watchtower beliefs (think nasty parasites and obligate predators - if you wish to believe creation you must postulate "evolution on steroids" - a self defeating argument).

People exercise admirable strength of character and skepticism when leaving the Watchtower organisation, but then their skepticism suddenly comes to a halt, and they often dive into another Christian religion.

damnation2002 said...

@ W. Lockhart - You make an interesting point there. Were you ever a Witness, or involved in any religion at some point in your life? Was it solely the natural world and its seeming contradictions that led you to believe the way you do currently?

I look at the natural world and see way too much order to ignore the possibility that there is an intelligence behind it all. Right now I am just struggling with what I should do about these feelings.

W. Lockhart said...

I was a witness, but I've pored over other ideas for so long that the issues I had with religion seem a trivial footnote really. There are much more fundamental reasons to doubt God.

The universe contains both order and chaos, beauty and horror. None of this is an argument for God. If poisonous frogs and natural disasters still don't raise an eyebrow, consider human beings.

You may think you see "design" but our brains are easily misled (as any optical illusion illustrates). No engineer would have designed an animal with the choking risk that is the dual purpose swallowing-breathing tube. We also have vestigial features left over from evolution (lots of info online).

I'm sure you'll now research these matters yourself. TalkOrigins is excellent and has a vast FAQ. Suffice it to say that observing the natural world is all that's needed. No honest person could observe liver flukes, screwworms etc. and the predator/prey balance and conclude that "God did it", or that there was a fall from Eden (read = super fast evolution!).

If it helps, consider that seeking to validate a belief in God is irrational, reverse thinking (form idea, search for proof). Rational thought proceeds by making observations, and only then forming conclusions. Also see the book by Peter Atkins about the increasingly lazy God.

Also bear in mind that if we were to extract the "good stuff" from the bible, it would be a small booklet, consisting of proverbs with bits of psalms and the gospels. The rest of the bible is either irrelevant, absurd or violent (horrifically so in places). In reality it was reading the bible in detail which kick-started my atheism. I was a "christian" for less than a month after leaving the witnesses.

Sorry for the long post but this is the shortest summary I can give! :)

Free in Christ said...

Dear Mr. Lockhart
If indeed you are right and Christ has not risen, then as Paul put it, we of all people are the most to be pitied.

W. Lockhart said...

This, in fact we can agree on!

Actually there's much to be positive about in life even as an atheist, while at the same time I don't have to be threatened with punishment to help others.

Life was darker when I worried desperately if I or my family were pleasing God. I also no longer feel guilty if I have natural feelings for the opposite sex, although I still live a moral life by choice. We certainly don't get our morals from the bible. Read it and you'll see why.

I think everyone should read the bible :P

Anonymous said...

W. Lockhart:

If you were really a Witness at one point, did you never feel that the truth set you free? Didn't you feel the happiness and love that comes from God's holy spirit?

Jesus said Matt 11: 28-30 "Come to me, all YOU who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh YOU. Take my yoke upon YOU and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and YOU will find refreshment for YOUR souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”

That is how active Jehovah's Witnesses feel.

W. Lockhart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Lockhart said...

God doesn't exist, and neither does that ethereal concept of the holy spirit. Perhaps you should read my previous posts.

As for this joyful feeling of happiness, yes that's a nice sounding scripture, and I've felt this false feeling before, but I'm not interested in emotion, I'm interested in truth. The fact that someone can swell with joy after reading it is no more of a mystery to me than that a drunk person seems happier than a sober one.

To be honest, if you did read my posts and are still engaging in emotional, sentimental apologetics, then I doubt you'll listen to reason.

Anonymous said...

W. Lockhart, I've read your posts. You seem to be unhappy. I would like to share my experience with you.

I'm a teacher and have a doctorate. The way I see things, even a single cell organism is way to complex to have evolved.

If evolution were true, how did sex evolve? How did creature after creature somehow split into males and females and be able to reproduce?

I have come to the conclusion that there is a creator.

W. Lockhart said...

Evolutionists are not quiet on the matter of the evolution of sex (although like a typical creationist, you think that they are). They've written many papers on the matter if you were willing to read them. Rather than reproduce the many papers here, why not type some search words into Scopus or Web of Knowledge?

Not only that but not understanding how something got here is a poor reason to postulate God. There have always been, and will always be, things we do not understand. The standard model of particle physics has been verified to astounding accuracy, but exploration continues. You do not (or should not) slap the "god" label onto anything you don't understand. This is just what our ancestors did in primitive times.

If you already have a doctorate then either it is not science, or you are a poor scientist. I've only just started a theoretical physics PhD and even I can see that the argument from irreducible complexity is a poor one. It is self defeating and infinitely regressive.

What do I mean by that? I mean that by postulating a God to explain complexity, all you do is push the problem back in time. You also massively increase the problem of complexity by postulating an infinitely intelligent God. It has no explanatory power whatsoever. I can't recommend a better book than Dawkins' climbing mount improbable to drive this simple message home.

Yes, a cell is mightily complex, but if you want to "solve the problem of complexity" you do not do it by bringing in greater complexity. Do you understand what I mean? And of course, a good evolutionist knows that "chance" is not an explanation either, since natural selection is not a random process (think of what the word selection means), it's just a pity that the Witnesses cause themselves embarrassment by peddling this very argument (the key theme of the "creation" book).

By the way, try not to guess at my state of mind. I'm tired of religious people setting themselves up as some form of pseudo-counsellor for others when they have neither the training nor the authority. Certainly the bible is a poor moral guide.

If you must know, I'm quite happy thankyou, although I do occasionally get very frustrated with the poor thinking ability of others, especially from those who have a doctorate.

Ringwielder said...

W Lockhart.. although not a complete atheist, I agree with you about nature. As human beings we are in a fight to the death with nearly everything around us in the natural world. The weather can kill us. Bugs can kill us. Animals can kill us. Bacteria can kill us. Gravity can kill us. Water can kill us. Old age does kill us.

Unless God put all these potential killers in place at the time of mans fall, which would have required evolution on steroids, (if I read you correctly) then why are they there at all if God is an all loving Creator who just loves us to bits? If He is there, he is one sadistic piece of work IMHO.

And why didnt Noah swat those 2 mosquitoes??

Ringwielder said...

Sheeplike, I well know that 'active' Jehovah's Witnesses certainly do NOT, as a whole, feel that the load is kindly and light. Believe me, I was Field Service Overseer and I know how most felt about going out on a freezing cold Saturday morning to talk to people who didnt want to know and didnt want them at their doors.

For most, once they had done their 'hour', they would scoot off, not happy, because they had done God's work, but relieved, because they could now get on with the day, having got their time in.

In all my 40 years as a JW, I can count on one hand the number of persons who were genuinely happy to be going out in service. The vast majority would stop in an instant if the Society told them to, because it IS a burden to them.

W. Lockhart said...

I agree with Ringwielder about the true mature of Jehovah's Witnesses - when I was a Witness there was nobody with genuine joy like that described. In fact they were a miserable bunch.

There were, though, one or two younger families who seemed to have a measure of happiness, but they achieved this by having one foot in the world and one foot out. Holidays abroad, parties, fancy jobs etc. Not that these things in themselves make you happy, but a taste of freedom certainly does.

Ringwielder, note that technically nobody should be a 100% atheist. In principle, I am a garden fairy agnostic, but this does not make the probability of their existence 50%. In practice, garden fairy atheist.

Anonymous said...

I just can't understand how a atheist or agnostic can truly be happy. I wasn't.

I have a doctorate in history, and from my studies I have realized that a God must exist. Even one of the greatest intellects ever, Einstein, believed in some sort of God.

By studying with Jehovah's Witnesses, all that I had read in the Bible on my own fell into place. Having my spiritual need filled gives has made me genuinely happy.

W. Lockhart said...

Delete "genuinely" from you last sentence and then you'll come to an early realisation instead of having to wait twenty years. I'm curious, are you a very new Jehovah's witness? Because accessing information about your religion online is strictly forbidden. Remember that the Witnesses need to tightly control information in order to keep things in order.

As for Einstein, I suggest you do some real historical research (i don't mean to sound unkind but this is your training, right?). Einstein expressed great frustration that people thought he believed in a personal god. He called the idea "childish". Do you know the difference between theism, deism and pantheism? A good historian should. Einstein was (emphatically) a pantheist. "Spinoza's god". It's shocking how often religious people try to claim Einstein as their own, even after this argument has been long since discredited.

Agnosticism/atheism is not a recipe for happiness, it is a blank slate, which is a much better foundation to build on than the mental manipulation that you'll receive at the hands of the witnesses. I was baptized for five years before the really creepy behaviour started.

I really, really think you should read more widely. If Einstein, complexity and holy spirit are the best things you can come up with, then you have along journey ahead of you. Use the opportunity to learn as much about the science, nature and history before you engage with people who've already done years of investigation.

A doctorate is only worth peddling if it's backed up by words, otherwise it's just a piece of paper. I see no evidence that you've really thought things through, I'm sorry to be blunt. I sometimes mention my PhD studies, but that's because I know that my words will add weight to the qualification, not the other way around.

damnation2002 said...

Lockhart, I agree with many of the points you've made, and you've made them well.

On the other hand, you sure do come off as an arrogant jerk. You need to try and show a little empathy. People have different intellectual abilities, and these come to bear at different stages of understanding in a high control situation like this. Berating people and insulting their abilities does nothing but close the minds of your listeners.

Try a little humility.

W. Lockhart said...

If someone has done a PhD and is trying to use that fact to add weight to a non-existent argument, then they're fair game to be criticised. Do you agree?

Since you've never met me I'd hold back from calling me an arrogant jerk. It's very difficult to tell that about someone online. I try to focus on criticising ideas not people.

I wonder if you have something to add damnation, or were you just blowing out some hot air? Or were you maybe relishing setting yourself up as some guardian for a downtrodden and beaten person, creating a caracature of the other person which likely doesn't exist at all?

damnation2002 said...

@ Lockhart - While earning your PhD, you might want to work on your reading comprehension. If you'll notice, I said "you COME OFF as an arrogant jerk." This implyies that, through the words you have written here, you come off badly. It has nothing to do with who you actually are in real life, just what you have written here.

As far as your comment regarding me being the defender of the downtrodden, no ... I do not fancy myself as such. It's just that, having escaped the superiority complex of the Watchtower, I do not want to come to a site like this and listen to you spout of like a heaven-sent know-it-all. If I wanted that, I'd just go back to the meetings.

chocolatepuddingeyes said...

Sheeplike is just here to show the other sheepies that it's okay to disobey the Governing Body.

It's the first step in breaking free from the yoke of the WTS, and helps to prepare a person to accept and appreciate Jesus' yoke.

W. Lockhart said...

Come on damnation, give it a rest. I don't regard myself as a "heaven sent know it all" or anything close. You don't know me and you've never met me, so leave it. The best description of my state of mind is that I feel a powerful need to neutralise crap when I see it. This does not mean I feel superior to any other human being. Get it? Good.

As the next commenter seemed to indicate, "Sheeplike's" presence here speaks volumes in itself. Think about it. If you were a fresh, enthusiastic new bible student who obeys the society, would you be posting on "Letters form the Governing Body". Not likely.

In all honesty, this humble person you seek to protect is nothing of the sort. Naming yourself "sheeplike" is not a sign of humilty. So, faced with two people showing (apparent) signs of arrogance, you chose to stamp down on the atheist, fulfilling a pattern in history where religion is given a "respect" it doesn't deserve. Nice going.

So here we have it. This is great now. You made a fine point when you pointed out that my tone could possibily put the listener off my points. Good I accept that, it's suprisingly common on the internet (although you seem to thing it's an unprecendented occurence). The problem now, though it this: thanks to you, the other person will definitely not listen to any point I made. Group mentality.

You fall into that category of agnostics who have a weak personality and spend their time defending religion even though they might not believe it themself. It's self declared defenders of "moderate" religion such as yourself that provide fertile ground for fundamentalism to develop.

Note how strongly I feel about this. I don't think more of myself than is appropriate, but I'll surely pin you to the wall if you say something soft. If you want to debate me for days, weeks on this little post, feel free.

Anonymous said...

In response to W. Lockhart comment: "As for Einstein, I suggest you do some real historical research (i don't mean to sound unkind but this is your training, right?). Einstein expressed great frustration that people thought he believed in a personal god. He called the idea "childish"."

What I wrote was "Even one of the greatest intellects ever, Einstein, believed in some sort of God."

Note: 'some sort of God.'

I believe that you are critical without fully reading others comments.

Here is another example, this time to damnation2002 "Since you've never met me I'd hold back from calling me an arrogant jerk."

However, notice the response "Lockhart - While earning your PhD, you might want to work on your reading comprehension. If you'll notice, I said "you COME OFF as an arrogant jerk." This implyies that, through the words you have written here, you come off badly."

It appears that you have issues even with people who agree with you!

By the way, the tag 'Sheeplike' is not to be taken literally. it is just a little joke.

W. Lockhart said...

I understand that you didn't say that Einstein believed in a personal God, but then why say it at all? You clearly (at first) thought it supported your position. Since it does not, in fact, support your position, why raise it?

I have a similar issue with people who say "you come across as arrogant", but then explain that their statement was basically meaningless because "you may not be that way in person". Again, why say it then?

I do read people's comments carefully, it's just that it's easy to see the person's real intent. They accuse me of firing off insults but then do it themself. If you don't know whether or not I'm a "jerk" or some other insult, don't even hint at it.

There's a big difference when I point out the contradiction between your own education and you words. This is something I can determine even if I've never met you, since you're posting your views right here. Surely it's not surprising that I should criticise your history expertise when you seemed to not be aware of things Einstein said, yet you were somehow basing your whole life and God belief around this concept? Are you still surprised at this?

As for your joke username, it's not very funny. I doubt any other ex-JW's find it funny either that you view yourself as holier than the rest of humanity. I have a sense of humour, but some things are not funny.

J said...

You state that you "have a doctorate in history" "I have realized that a God must exist"

This is admirable getting such an education is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I greatly respect this. But it’s important to remember that those on this board/site are going to doubt your judgment as a result of your decision to join a cult.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you are not intelligent, nothing could be further from the truth. Many intelligent people join cults. But with such knowledge of history you really need to research the history of the church you have joined.

As far as God goes, there are very intelligent people that believe in God and plenty of intelligent people that don’t. I care not what a person thinks but how they got there. No one becomes a JW based off deep research. Many join and leave based on emotion. Most here have left based on reason, logic and proof.

W. Lockhart said...

I can agree here, no doubt in a history doctorate a person will acquire great skills in using different types of sources to find out what people really said and what really happened. Use the opportunity to investigate, something the Watchtower society expressly forbids.

I do find it odd that you'd join an organisation that scowls at the very openness of your own profession, but still, we all did it or we wouldn't be posting here.

Anonymous said...

J said "No one becomes a JW based off deep research."

But is not studying the Bible research? All Witnesses are strongly encouraged to read the Bible itself every day.

It amazes me that many beliefs of the Puritans are also beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Of course people are always imperfect. But I do not dwell on imperfect humans; I'm looking at the Biblical teachings and principals.

W. Lockhart said...

No, reading the bible is not research. Forgive me for dragging it up again, but you did in fact do a PhD in history, so you know what research is. Neither does getting the "Insight" books out count, since they come from the same source (and, ironically enough, one of the anonymous Insight "researchers" is now disfellowshipped for apostasy).

Even so, reading the bible alone should be enough to raise an eyebrow. I don't enjoy reading Moses commands to spare nobody with the sword, including small babies and animals, except for young females (and we can only guess why they were left alone). Neither do I think God's desire to spread dung in the face of his "enemies" is particularly charming.

You may be thinking, "I've never read this stuff". The simple fact is that the most bible-knowledgeable people I know are atheists. Relgious people say they read the bible but they do not, or they read selected chunks (selected, mind, not by them but by their church elders).

And yes, the old testament is dreadful, but the new is not much better (although it is better). Jesus said some wise things, but he also said some awful things. He was a narccicist who told people they were worthless unless they "had love for him". He also said that families should break in order to follow him. Jesus is in reality the "heaven-sent know it all" that I was accused of being earlier (sorry - of "coming across like"!).

And remember, Jesus said that not a single word of the old testament could be invalidated. So that must include stuff about not eating shellfish and being stoned for giving cheek to your parents. So yes, we should read the bible, in fact I think you need to. But this does not qualify as research. It is the bare minimum needed BEFORE you can dig deeper. Proceed from an informed starting position.

Just out of curiosity, what was the subject of you PhD thesis, and how did you go about researching it? I ask this genuinely, I am not assaulting your education. I am, though, simply stunned that you would view readed the NWT as "research" considering your background.

Anonymous said...

Reading the Bible is researching it if done correctly.

I have a collection of Bible translations, some including the original languages. As I read, I look up the references to the scripture I'm on, and let the Bible speak for itself. I enjoy the Insight book, but also use other encyclopedias.

For instance, there is a lot of violence and bloodshed in the OT. Remember that it is the history of the Hebrew nation. Most of the time, 'they did what was bad in Jehovah's eyes'.

When you mentioned the command to kill certain Canaanite tribes, recall that they were devil worshipers who sacrificed their own children by fire and engaged in temple prostitution, amongst other things. They were not innocent people!

Being Americans, we can believe what we want. Even though atheists are about 5% of the population, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Personally, I see divine inspiration in the order of creation confirmed by the fossil record, the sanitary laws given to the Jews, and the Bible prophecies that have been fulfilled.

We can agree to disagree.

My thesis involved military history.

W. Lockhart said...

I see you're trying to terminate the discussion if it gets uncomfortable. That's fine, I don't blame you, but it's been quite cordial recently. To continue:

1/ There has never been a group of people in which all the people were so bad that they needed to be exterminated. What you are doing is making excuses for a (fictional) campaign of genocide/ethnic cleansing. I guess the saying is true that there is nothing too gruesome in the bible for a believer. By the way, you're not the first person to promote this disgusting excuse for mass murder, nor will you be the last unfortunately.

Did you also consider (as many good scholars and historians in fact do) that the Iraelites exaggerated the badness of the foreign peoples in their own version of their history (caution - even if I am wrong here it does not negate my above argument)? In fact there are tell tale signs in the old testament of it being stitched together from many very similar folk tales. Lots of info online.

2/ There is no such thing as researching the bible if you only use one source. Do you see how it is a circular argument to try to determine the truth-value of a book which self-declares itself to be true? As a skilled historian I should not need to explain this.

The bottom line: you should be consulting other sources (regardless of the WT society's attempts to keep you away from them). If you want another example of circular reasoning, think of the "faithfula nd discrete slave" telling you that they are the "faithful and discrete slave". And why do we believe this? Because they are the "faithful and discrete slave".

If you can't see the fatal flaws in the reasoning a Witness follows here, then there's nothing I can do since you don't have the ability to reason, something you should have gained during your education. Spotting circular arguments is not a complex business, but there are two right under your nose in the very belief system you're trying to apologise for.

Neither should you have any difficulty understanding what research is if you are a trained researcher, yet I am exasperated repeatedly explaining that reading the bible is not research. Suffice it to say, if you've absorbed the Society's superficial definition of "research" then they may have confused you somewhat.

There seem to be three increasingly strong definitions of researching something, only two of which a professional person recognises. 1/ Watchtower research (read our books!!!), which is nonesense. 2/ Humanities research (consult multiple, different literary sources including the published literature). 3/ Scientific research, the one I am very familiar with (consult sources, published literature, observe the natural world to test hypotheses, fashion theories etc.)

In fact the humanities increasingly follow number 3/ these days, since a scientific approach is increasingly needed these days. I cannot believe I'm having to point this stuff out to a trained researcher!!! Even an undergraduate historian receives training in the methods of research. I reality, I do think you understand what research it, I just think you have a fondness for this religion which it has not earned and does not deserve, causing you to accept their feeble pseudo-intellectual approach.

W. Lockhart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Lockhart said...

By the way, almost missed a point. The bible contains no prophecies of any sort except those worded so vaguely they could mean anything. I challenge you to indicate a verse that has been fulfilled. Only an undemanding reader will see prophecy where none exists.

The fossil record contains a record of evolution, and a a famous evolutionist wittily said, he would believe creation if they found "rabbits in the precambrian". And yes, there are gaps, creationists love the gaps. In fact if were to put a new fossil in the middle of a gap, the creationist would now say there are two gaps!!

As for the "hygeine practices", well the bible contains both good and bad. I think it's obvious the writers didn't have a clue what they were talking about really. The fact that they sometimes did sensible things is no more enlightening than the fact that a poisened drink contains water, or that a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

my-reflections said...

I was really enjoying the discussion untill i noticed that Lockhart was not content in just stating his own opinion, but is bent on insulting and questioning the intelligence of those who disagree with him...

That has become really upsetting and I was about to say almost the EXACT thing damnation wrote before i read his/her comment. (Yes i was really going to call you a JERK and ARROGANT).

It seems that though you have left the JW religion in person, you refused to let go of one of unpleasant part of JW life- the insistence that others view the world like you do, and ridiculing those who do not.

There is a common trait i've noticed in most exJWs i've discussed with or read about - TOLERANCE and HUMILITY, in knowing that they do not have all the answers in life. That is very refreshing.

Now don't get me wrong Lockhart. I do not hate your ideas. In fact, I find them very reasonable. But please don't try to shove it down other people's throats. Allow them the dignity to view things differently.

But if you still think differently then i humbly suggest you have no business here insulting fools like me who believe (with reason) the existence of a CREATOR. You may go compete with your fellow PhD's for the nobel price...

sunshine said...

can someone plese tell me the reason there are no current post? I am only pulling up 2008, 2009 what about 2010 & present?

sunshine said...

I am breathing, living, talking and walking proof of the way the corporations emotionally, mentall, and any other way abuse. In addition to tell people what to do, unfortunately, they the ones in charge don't do as they teach. Yes, there is a God and his name is Jehovah and he knows all, see's all. We are not to put our trust in men or nobles. Please, read your bible translation: Kings James, New American etc. Jehovah God is the author and there are no lies in the bible, only what men(nobles and men) say Jehovah dosen't need 100 or even 1 united states or any country corporation to run or speak for him and Jesus. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are in charge and they know the heart. these corporations no matter how many or few are dishonest when they say they are Jehovah God's and Jesus Christ channell.