Feb 24, 2024

CultNEWS101 Articles: 2/22/2024 (Jehovah's Witness, Book, TB Joshua, Nigeria, Legal, Abuse, Conspiracy Theories)

Jehovah's Witness, Book, TB Joshua, Nigeria, Legal, Abuse, Conspiracy Theories

"I used to knock on people's doors and tell them the end of the world was coming. We were born imperfect, I would say, and soon will come the day of Armageddon when we will all be tested. Be good and you could win life in Paradise. Be bad, and your reward is annihilation. No wonder people would see us coming and turn off the lights.

Stories have always been in my blood. Until a few years ago, I based my life on their outcome. Raised in the UK as a Jehovah's Witness, I was told we were in "the time of the end", which meant we were in the third act of Life's story, when I would soon be rewarded with eternal life on a paradise Earth.

Every Witness child was given a copy of My Book of Bible Stories, a heavy yellow hardback. From the moment I could listen, I was taught the story of Abraham, who almost murdered his son after God commanded him as a test. The accompanying illustration of Isaac tied up on a sacrificial altar as his father looms over him with a knife was terrifying. Then there was Lot's wife, who was turned to salt for daring to look back at the fire God was raining down on her hometown. I never questioned these stories or their morals. Why would I? They were taught to me at the same time as my ABC. They were my version of "normal".

My entertainment was heavily vetted. Anything with ghosts or witches was banned. Christmas and birthday colouring pages were ripped out. Looking back, I struggle to think of books that would have been more shocking than the Bible. Babies' heads dashed against rocks, entire nations murdered by an angry God, an upcoming worldwide genocide of billions … yet it is a tree with coloured lights that was deemed offensive.

I was allowed to choose my own books, but reading was a pastime that came second to religious activities. I attended a mainstream school, leaving after A-levels, but usually Witnesses attain only the most basic education, and are instead encouraged to direct all effort towards preaching. University is frowned upon. Although I was never forced into full-time preaching, there was little encouragement to take my education seriously. Books have always been the easiest way to travel.

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four gave a label to the "doublethink" and "thoughtcrime" that I accepted as normal. When I read it in my early 20s, I had a genuine watershed moment. The way that "The Party" alters beliefs and insists followers accept these changes without dispute mirrored my community. The story of Winston, who knows the truth and yet must conform for his own survival, opened a door I had never dared to touch.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale opened my eyes to the danger of a patriarchy that positions itself as beneficial to women. I had recently become a mother and so the themes of suppression of women and loss of agency in the name of religion inspired a visceral reaction. I was already having doubts about my faith, and this book made them snowball.

Perhaps because my imagination was forged in such bloodthirsty fire, stories have always felt more alive and memorable than nonfiction. What could be a more devastating teacher on the subject of slavery and its subsequent trauma than Toni Morrison's Beloved? Parts of the story left me so angry that I had to keep putting down the book to compose myself. I read it after I had stepped away from my community, but it only confirmed my doubts. How could a powerful god stand by and watch this happen and not feel compelled to intervene?

A rule I had always struggled to accept was disfellowshipping, when wrongdoers are cut off and even their family are not to have any contact. Shunning those who simply no longer want to be a member is also normal among Jehovah's Witnesses. Classics such as Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles and John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, which feature characters cast out for allegedly going against the accepted morals of their day, helped me realise the unfairness of such a practice."

BBC Africa Eye:  DISCIPLES: The Cult of TB Joshua
"Man of God? Or a predatory cult leader? A ground-breaking investigation into the world famous televangelical preacher, TB Joshua, told by the people closest to him: his Disciples.

Two young women in Britain watch a VHS tape that will change the course of their lives forever: a Nigerian preacher can apparently heal the sick, cure cancer and AIDS. They decide to visit his church in Lagos to meet him. Joshua invites the teenagers to become his disciples, joining dozens of other young people who live on the church premises and do his every bidding. But life as a disciple isn't what they imagined."

PsyPost: The surprising dynamics of conspiracy theory beliefs
"Many people believe at least one conspiracy theory. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing – conspiracies do happen.

To take just one example, the CIA really did engage in illegal experiments in the 1950s to identify drugs and procedures that might produce confessions from captured spies.

However, many conspiracy theories are not supported by evidence, yet still attract believers.

For example, in a previous study, we found about 7% of New Zealanders and Australians agreed with the theory that visible trails behind aircraft are "chemtrails" of chemical agents sprayed as part of a secret government program. That's despite the theory being roundly rejected by the scientific community.

The fact that conspiracy theories attract believers despite a lack of credible evidence remains a puzzle for researchers in psychology and other academic disciplines.

Indeed, there has been a great deal of research on conspiracy theories published in the past few years. We now know more about how many people believe them, as well as the psychological and political factors that correlate with that belief.

But we know much less about how often people change their minds. Do they do so frequently, or do they stick tenaciously to their beliefs, regardless of what evidence they come across?"

" ... we found that beliefs (or non-beliefs) in conspiracy theories were stable – but not completely fixed. For any given theory, the vast majority of participants were "consistent sceptics" – not agreeing with the theory at any point.

There were also some "consistent believers" who agreed at every point in the survey they responded to. For most theories, this was the second-largest group.

Yet for every conspiracy theory, there was also a small proportion of converts. They disagreed with the theory at the start of the study, but agreed with it by the end. There was also a small proportion of "apostates" who agreed with the theory at the start, but disagreed by the end."

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