12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2009
As an ex JW myself, it was most revealing to read how the organisation appeared to an objective observer using the methodology of a sociologist. Andrew Holden had been reared as a Roman Catholic, and prior to this study had only come across Jehovah's Witnesses in the same way as the bulk of the population. They had repeatedly, and fruitlessly, knocked on his door as part of their incessant evangelising mission.
The author attended a Kingdom Hall regularly and conducted interviews with members and elders as well as with apostates. Those who remained faithful, and felt committed, he concluded, were, in their separate and diverse ways, uniformly pessimistic in their view of the world. You would have to be pessimistic to devote your life to shunning 'The World' and looking forward to its destruction at an imminent Armageddon.
He also commented on the workaday, businesslike 'rational' trappings of the organisation; No attempt is made at beauty, mystery, or decor of any sort. Attending a Kingdom Hall he found more akin to a branch meeting of an American multinational, than to an act of religious worship. This lack of 'mumbo jumbo', he concluded, was one feature that many found appealing. The freedom from doubt and thought was another. JWs are forced into rigid adherence to Biblical texts and to obey the absolute commands, on pain of death at Armageddon, to repeat word for word the official line on the texts.
As an objective observer the author would be the first to admit that, no matter how thorough his research, and balanced his sample, he could never reach a definitive conclusion. The ex JWs, the despised 'apostates' that he interviewed, had all forsaken the righteous certainty of the JWs, only to join a similarly dogmatic sect with a different label.
My experience of association with ex JWs, however, has revealed a greater number who are now suspicious of organised religion of any sort. Andrew Holden certainly discovered how his association with 'apostates' soured his relationship with what had been, initially, an open and welcoming community.
The detailed study of one congregation is preceded by a clear and accurate potted history. As most JW lit., pro and anti, is from the United States, this could be the finest introduction to the organisation for a British reader.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2011
The author uses ethnographic methodologies to research JW. He talks to people, reads their literature, tries to work out how they "tick" while putting their world view into his scholar discipline and its literatures. This is by far the best book about JW because it is depicting them in a balanced light, giving them an opportunity to see JW as they see themselves. The author also provides details on the organisation of Watchtower, what JW do in Kingdom Halls and what their everyday religious life looks like. Readers come out of this knowing more about JW and their beliefs, good and bad. One of my top 2 reads of this academic year 2010-2011.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 July 2013
I had read rave reviews for this book and hoped it would live up to them.
On the plus side it is well written and easy to read.
However, most of his research regarding Jehovah's Witnesses can be found by anyone who has access to the internet. Just type in JWs and you will find a plethora of information, including the official site of the JWs. I was expecting an in depth look at the religion.
His 'hands on research' was conducted by attending a particular congregation where they knew exactly who he was and what he was there for and it shows.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2013
Very interesting to me personally as I have a half-sister who is a young JW. There was a substantial amount of data and anecdotes to make this a useful academic guide. I did like the fact that the neutral angle is not an evangelical polemic (or a type of tabloid exposse journalism) however, some theological comparisons with mainstream Christian theology would have been a welcome addition, and the only omission.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2011
So much literature about Jehovah's Witnesses is by other fundamentalist Christians. What is it about fundamentalist Christians that causes them to spit out such vitriolic hatred about rival groups, especially when those rival groups typically share about 99% of their own beliefs? The result is that most such books are virtually unreadable for the average person.
This book is refreshingly different. Andrew Holden takes a dispassionate look at Jehovah's Witnesses. He is never judgmental and he does not offer opinions on their theology. What you get instead is a carefully recorded series of observations on their society and on its relationships with the outside world.
Mildly written though it is, the result is enough to chill the blood. Think '1984' or 'Brave New World'. The picture which emerges is that of a totalitarian 'state within a state', existing right in the midst of our liberal western democracies.