Can a child's religious devotion be truly genuine when it has been drummed into them from an early age?
Can a child’s religious devotion be truly genuine when it has been drummed into them from an early age?

Imagine a father who is intensely involved with a certain sports team. He’s been following the team since he was a child under his own father’s guidance.

After having a son of his own he makes it his personal mission to inculcate love for the team into him. Growing up, the son watches the team year after year, and under his father’s guidance he follows every game.

Throughout the son’s life he is surrounded by others who are crazy about the same team. No other teams, no matter how superior at the same sport they may be, get a look in.

In such a case, is it any coincidence that when this child grows up he harbors a special affinity for this particular team? Of course not! He has been conditioned to love the team by an environment that was imposed on him. His love for the sports team has been carefully manufactured by his father and peers since infancy.

Love indoctrination

Its a similar principle for parents who indoctrinate their children into the Jehovah’s Witness religion. The love Witness children have for their religion is manufactured by their environment. This phenomenon is aptly demonstrated in a September 15th 2014 Watchtower article entitled “Parents Shepherd Your Children.

The article is mainly directed to the heads of Witness households. Just as Christ acts as the shepherd for the Christian congregation, the head of a Witness household is to act as a shepherd for his immediate family. The responsibility for guiding children into “the truth” is mostly placed on the father’s shoulders.

The analogy that a father is a shepherd and his children the sheep is a curious one. While it’s true that parents must direct their children out of harm’s way, do they really need to direct what religion they believe or don’t believe?

That is the aim of this article, namely to instruct fathers (and parents in general) on how to manipulate their children into feeling love for one religion over the countless others that have been invented throughout man’s history.

The lead picture for the article on page 17
The lead picture for the article on page 17


A disingenuous approach

The article encourages parents to “guide” their children to develop a “genuine desire” to serve Jehovah, and make a “personal decision” to dedicate their lives to him. The question is, how can their desire be genuine and their decision personal when their entire childhood is fine-tuned for a certain outcome? Only one side of the story is ever given to them, and all critical information is regarded as dangerous and strictly prohibited.

Notice what the article has to say regarding parents whose children have doubts about their faith:

“…what if your children begin to express doubts? How can you shepherd them and help them to see that serving Jehovah really is the best way of life and will contribute to their lasting happiness? Try to determine the underlying cause of their doubts. For example, does your son really disagree with Bible teachings, or does he just lack the confidence needed to defend them in front of his peers? Does your daughter really have an issue with the wisdom of God’s standards, or does she just feel lonely or excluded by others? Regardless of the cause, you can help your child to come to grips with the root of any spiritual doubts.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, pages 20-21.

Can a child be sincere in its convictions if it has been molded to accept them from birth?
Can a child be sincere in its convictions if it has been molded to accept them from birth?

The writer portrays the religious doubts of children as merely emotional responses rather than genuine disagreement.

According to the above quote there is nothing on this planet that can top the lifestyle of a Jehovah’s Witness. They claim their level of happiness is unmatched and any idea contrary to that assertion is merely an obstacle to be overcome. Never does the article even hint that other systems of belief or non-belief have any comparable value.

This sounds very similar to someone asserting the dominance of one sports team over all others in a certain sport. It’s as though Witness parents all hold foam fingers with the words “we’re #1” printed on them. Never does it even cross their minds that they may not be the only team in town. Only total confidence is acceptable, anything else is seen as an error in need of correction.

When a child who has been conditioned to love a sports team grows up, he or she might sometimes grow to realize that they don’t truly love the team they were raised to support. Likewise, a child indoctrinated into a religion sometimes breaks through the conditioning and sees his or her situation for what it truly is. Tragically, a child who wakes up from Watchtower indoctrination faces dire circumstances due to the brutal shunning arrangement.

Baptism comes at a high cost

Baptism is the ultimate goal of the article, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasingly encouraged to ensure small children undergo the religious ritual. Sadly, those who go through with it are forever attached to a corporation that seeks to micromanage their lives and use them as a human resource. This particular article overtly urges parents to gain access to the minds of their children in order to influence their life decisions…

“Frequently talking with your children gives you greater access to their thoughts and feelings. That, in turn, will help you to have a greater influence on the decisions they make in life.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, page 19.

Naturally, parents want to help their children to make good life decisions, but the Watchtower is specifically talking about baptism, and devotion to their deity and organization…

“Young ones who develop such appreciation will dedicate their life to Jehovah and get baptized. Understandably, they should take such a step when they are mature enough to make that decision and have a genuine desire to serve Jehovah.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, page 20.

Child baptism is increasingly encouraged by Watchtower, but it has inherent dangers due to the shunning policy
Child baptism is increasingly encouraged by Watchtower, but it has inherent dangers due to the shunning policy

While the above quote may sound reasonable, what the Watchtower considers a mature age has been known to be as low as 8. As mentioned earlier, the “genuine desire” to serve Jehovah has been carefully nurtured by the parents from the moment the child could communicate. How, then, can it possibly be considered genuine?

Clearly, the organization has an ulterior motivation in herding children into their baptismal pools.

Once they are baptized, members are held accountable to the Watchtower’s standards, enforced by a strict disciplinary system. This creates the highest likelihood of locking people into a life-long career, including countless hours of volunteer labor, as well as considerable amounts of money donated over many years.

And of course, then you have the prospect of the child eventually having children of its own and starting the cycle all over again. A healthy increase in membership is thus guaranteed, even if the success of the preaching work is increasingly negligible.

Happiness is freedom

It is my hope that more Jehovah’s Witness parents will see through this coercive Watchtower article and offer their children true freedom of choice. As Richard Dawkins so eloquently put it, “There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents.”

Fortunately, the Watchtower has a very low youth retention rate, which I can tell you from experience is largely thanks to the overtly pushy tactics articulated in articles such as this.

As a father I have observed that the more you push a child to do something, the more they want to run away. Offering children the mental freedom they deserve is the only true way of providing them the best chance of a happy life.







Further reading…

52 thoughts on “Guidance or coercion? – New Watchtower article directs parents to “shepherd” their children

  • June 21, 2014 at 7:49 am

    @Hakizimana Jean de Dieu – Your comment is so true. I never thought about it that way. But when you read part of the origins of the comment it really rings true
    Hakizimana Jean de Dieu the comment you quoted was modified in a later article derived from these talks:”Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham.” Isn’t that how religious leaders are as well, because the believe they have divine authority they are justified in judging and placing heavy loads on people and trying to speak in God’s behalf even when it is not in scripture. Fortunately for me I was told by my mother to read the bible and understand it for myself from a young age, no I am not talking about understanding the book of Revelations-LOL, because in the end everyone Christian seems to forget the bible states each and everyone of US will be accountable before God. So listening to the directives of an organization will not bring salvation it is understanding God’s world and doing what is right. Even the Israelite were told to read the bible not just follow the anointed ones. :-)

  • June 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Hi Scrubmaster,

    You said regarding religious leaders: “because they believe they have divine authority”.

    If it was only the elders or their superior in the WT hierarchy who would believe they have divine authority, then the collateral damages would be limited.

    But the problem is that the GB is brainwahsing more and more the JW rank and files to make them swallow the big lie that their appointed WT religious leaders have divine authority.

    More and more the rank and files are conditioned to do anything their princes want them to do.

    This situation is very sad and dangerous. Especially when family ties are involved.

  • June 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I was an anomaly. Although I grew up in the faith, I waited to 16 to get baptized. My pressure was perhaps a social one. I began to discover that some of my buddies in the congregation had been advised to limit association with me because I was so ‘old’ and not yet baptized. It was suggested to me by an older witness that I respected that I would die in Armageddon if I failed to get baptized, and of course for any witness Armageddon is always considered imminent. Lacking maturity, and not wanting to lose well established friendships, I decided to take the plunge.

    The perspective here is that no matter how personal the decision is, there is tremendous pressure on young witnesses to get baptized. It is systemic and runs through the organizational and social structures. This social engineering only lasts for so long, as MANY that baptized young later move away from the faith in full maturity and adulthood.

  • June 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

    “Once they are baptized, members are held accountable to the Watchtower’s standards, enforced by a strict disciplinary system. This creates the highest likelihood of locking people into a life-long career, including countless hours of volunteer labor, as well as considerable amounts of money donated over many years.”

    There is another, darker possibility that was suggested on the JWN boards.

    If they’re already baptized, but discover some of the more unsavory aspects of the WTS as they mature, the fear of being disfellowshipped for discussing them would be far more effective in compelling their silence than if they were UNbaptized whilst learning said aspects.

  • June 26, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Vidiot, a chilling point, yet a valid one, I fear.

    Power through fear – the very antithesis of Christianity.

    I agree with parents teaching their children basic morality, but the industrial indoctrination that the WTBTS use is morally wrong.

    Peace be with you


  • June 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Great comment! The use of negative verbal images when added to innocuous phrases is a Tower art form. You have the conniving worldly outsiders who seek to take the truth away from you, or making Jehovah sad by thinking, or happy by toeing the mark set down by the Tower. All incredibly manipulative. So you learn to keep a distance from others and to judge them as terrible sinners doing all manner of abomination. While in high school, I was sitting in a mall food court, at the next table was a father telling his 12-14-ish daughters about non-spirit filled boys at pointing them out as other kids walked by. He went on to claim that every non-born again boy has had sex with both boys and girls numerous times by age 16. The girls had terror in their eyes and I shutter to think how they looked at other kids afterwards. I had never even kissed a girl at that point in life yet I felt judged, condemned and labeled. To cults, you need fear, you need we and them, we good, them bad, and you must offer up security to those who do not question but blindly follow. This helps you stay separated, stay ignorant, from the worldly ideas and other people. Evangelicals work it just as much as JW’s.

  • July 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Child indoctrination is very powerful, I brought my daughter
    up in the organization starting when she was two years old,
    She was baptised at fifteen then drifted away aged nineteen, But returned again in her fifties and is now more
    Zealous and committed than she ever was as a child,
    I’ve tried discussing with her the preposterous interpretation
    of the bible that I formerly believed, And taught her,
    Also the lies, hypocrisy, and awful practices, of the
    watchtower org, but without any effect.

    So now I think the best thing is to leave it to her , Hoping
    she will realise these things her self, But what this does
    show is , That things learnt as a child can lay dormant for
    years then take control again in adulthood.

  • July 26, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Baptizing children was one of the very first issues I had with this organization. They would go on and on about how wrong it was for catholics to baptize babies, and yet baptize very young children that I considered to still be babies. They claim to follow the bible and follow Christ as an exempler, but even though Jesus was perfect, he waited until he was 30 years old before he was baptized. He or the bible never mentioned using it as a protection as the organization often does. If a person is getting baptized for that reason, they obviously have the wrong motives.

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