(Investigator 114, 2007 May)
In 1987 solicitors in a
divorce and child
custody case sought information from Dr Bob Potter on the possible
effects to children if raised as Jehovah's Witnesses:
We understand that you have carried out research centred on the Jehovah's Witnesses, in particular that research being as a psychological study of the sect.
If you feel that you can
we would be grateful if we could hear from you. What we would like to
would be to see you so that we can prepare an Affidavit which we can
you to swear out and in due course you would be called as witness at
DESIRABLE FOR THE REARING OF CHILDREN?
Some points that should be considered…
(1) A Witness environment is a total environment. There is no such thing as an 'inactive' Witness. Becoming a Witness is adopting a new 'way of life'. If a person claims to be an Anglican, a Catholic, a Methodist or a Quaker, then little is being claimed beyond a sensed commitment. But if a person is a Jehovah's Witness, then it means that each week no less than five meetings are attended, in addition to private prayer, study and several hours spent hawking Watchtower and Awake magazines on the doorstep.
If all of these activities are not carried out, then the person is not counted (literally) as a Jehovah's Witness.
Children of Witnesses partake in all of these activities. The meetings held in Kingdom Hall are frequently conducted against the background noise of screaming infants.
Congregation elders are
that the younger members of the congregation, the children or Witnesses
contacts, are won over to the views of the Watchtower Society. As the
Society textbook on Organization puts it:
.... the elders are
of 'gaining' the young brother or sister and in their efforts to do so
they will seek the co-operation of the parents working through them in
all ways possible.... (p 175)
(2) The Witness congregation holds itself apart from the world. The world and its institutions are in the control of Satan; Witness children, like their older brothers and sisters, are urged not to socialize with those who are 'outside the truth'. Not only do Witness doctrines refuse participation in celebrations of birthdays, Christmas or any other public festival (all of which are seen as originating in the machinations of Satan and his Demons), but there is continual emphasis on the need not to socialize with the community at large, not to support in any way any social or political activities.
Even charities such as Oxfam are deceptions inspired by the Devil. The child of a Witness is thus alienated from the world from the inception of consciousness.
(3) Witness ideology is anti-intellectual and anti-education. The child is taught that truth is to be found only in the Bible and in publications of the Watchtower Society. At the time of writing, the Watchtower is infallible, and understanding of the Bible is only possible by means of the intervention of the Jehovah's Witness organization. Hence the insistence that all congregation members attend all five meetings each week -- at these meetings, which are very authoritatively structured, there is never any opportunity for discussion -- indeed that a person might have a critical thought vis-a-vis a point being made by an elder is evidence of the ever present presence of Satan and his millions of Demons, always attempting to disrupt the understanding of God's disciples.
Witness children are discouraged from aspiring to Higher and Further Education. In his book Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz, for nine years a member of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society, relates how a special, meeting ruled that a father who allowed his child to enter Higher Education showed he was not worthy to be a Congregation elder.
Education is a means of
future, and for this reason the Society opposes their next generation
to go to university. The 'End' is soon to be; for this reason teenagers
are encouraged to apply to be 'pioneers', to work full-time for the
selling literature on the doorstep in-return for a small commission.
This 'constant expectation' is captured by the May 1974 issue of Kingdom
Living in an environment such as that described above, one would expect that the congregation member would incline towards schizophrenia. Recent research suggests that this is indeed the case:
In a mammoth study, MacDonald and Luckett (1983) studied the relationship between religious affiliation and psychiatric diagnoses in a sample of 7,050 patients at a mid-western clinic in the USA and found that sect members (of several kinds) were significantly more likely than those of other groups to be diagnosed as psychotic. (Jnl for Sc Study of Religion 22(l) 15-37)
Spencer (1975) studied
to Mental Health Service facilities in Western Australia -- it included
fifty Jehovah's Witnesses. Spencer found that Witnesses were three
as likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic as the norm, and that they
four times more likely to be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic as
of the general population. (Br J Psychiat 126, 556-9)
A Social Psychological
Christianity for Doctor of Philosophy Sussex University S2322 is on
microfilm at British Library D 66164/86