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on 7 December 2013
If you are a Jehovah's Witness with doubts or questions about the organisation - read this book! If you're aquatinted with a Jehovah's Witness or you've had a pamphlet through the door and felt any curiosity about the religion - read this book!

I thought I knew a little bit about Jehovah's witnesses, this book proved me wrong. I had no idea of the fundamental beliefs of the religion, the organisations structure, history or habit of changing policy. Neither did I understand how completely it's members are controlled or the, to me startling, nature of that control.

I think that ordinary Jehovah's Witnesses themselves may be unaware of much of the information this book highlights. There are parallels with other organisations and movements that are surprising - i.e. the communist party. The author brings to attention the organisations changes in policy over healthcare issues and how those policies have impacted on the lives of the members. This book certainly has swept aside my preconceptions and highlighted a reality that is uncomfortable to consider.

Rachel Walsh has a wonderful way of writing that helps you to come to your own thoughts, opinions, feelings and conclusions on matters of the religions faith and organizational structure without preaching or shoving facts down your throat. She guides you through the facts, highlights issues and asks moral questions. From start to finish the book is a delight to read, easily digestable. There's is nothing of the dusty tome plagued with footnotes for the footnotes here although all the sources are well documented. The author brings to life well researched data and relates it to the reader in a clear manner.

The fiction stories at the start of most chapters are brilliant. Not only well written and captivating they also highlight the points that follow in that chapter. An absolutely inspired idea to encapsulate the chapters theme in a manner that any reader, whatever their religious understanding, can relate to and understand. I would love to read a fictional story by the author.
There is no personal agenda here, no "Jehovah's witnesses are wrong (insert other Christian faith here) is right", no diatribe or bitterness towards the religion based on mistreatment. This is an academic, secular look at the Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and organisation, the author states facts, asks questions and leaves you to digest it all.

The data speaks for itself. What I learnt of the organisation has shocked me. It explains the, to me, seemingly odd behavior of Jehovah's Witnesses I have met. I sincerely hope that this book helps those who are questioning the organisation or who would like to leave but feel trapped. If it helps just one person to find personal and religious freedom the author can consider her work a roaring success.

I'll say it again... If you are a Jehovah's Witness with doubts or questions about the organisation - read this book! There is a kindle version available for download which will provide you with the opportunity to read about the religion from an unbiased point of view without anyone knowing. I hope you read it and I hope it helps you find freedom.
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on 19 December 2013
i am an ex jehovahs witness . i have read other books about jws . but many seem to have a hidden aggenda . ie putting jws down.
this book is just very well written with the real truth ! it must have been years in the writing and carefully written, as it is so truthfull and accurate. the writer of this book must be an athiest , as athiests are able to just give their findings on what is fact rather than what is emotions ....I look forward to the next book
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on 29 November 2013
This book surprised me.

What would it mean if the Bible text came into law right now, here and today? What would it be like if the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses governing body was introduced across the whole world tomorrow?

This book helped me to think about some of the answers. Refreshingly, Walsh respects your space as a reader, and I never felt she was trying to force anyone to follow an agenda.

What you've got here is basically a series of chapters that explore the Bible, with lots of quotes that do match up exactly to the original text. Where this book comes in, is to ask the question "What does that mean?"

It's an approach that gives space to you, and that I think is what the author intended. Often, the results of asking even simple questions throw up a few surprises. The more I read, the more I started to see that people trying to follow an ideal, may not always reach it.

For example, I didn't realise how much the elite leaders at the very top of the organisation have changed policy and even changed important points of belief, in a way that seems dishonest towards ordinary Jehovah's Witnesses.

The other thing that jumped out at me was the way it's written. Having read quite a bit about Christianity, I am used to books that are a bit academic and follow the formula. This one is very different, in a good way. Each chapter opens with sections that are bursting with life, refreshing and full of implications. I particularly liked the short stories that touched with real people's experiences. These bring the whole thing down to earth and connect it with real people's lives, not just abstract ideas.

I do disagree (mildly) with the other review here by Ray Rational - I didn't think all other books were unreadable, and I think we shouldn't judge others too harshly, just because they have a different point of view. But I do agree that this one stands out from the others, in terms of writing style. I don't think I've seen such narrative passion, such beautiful use of the English language, in virtually any other serious text. Ever.

One mild criticism - I couldn't find much about the author Rachel Walsh. I don't know if she has written any other books, but it would have been nice to know a bit more about the author. She seems a slightly illusive figure, although I did find a series of blog posts, which carry some of the ideas in the book. Still, it's only a minor detail and the text itself was very helpful.

Personally I'd treasure this book, it's not often that you actually want to hold onto a book after you've read it so that you can go back for inspiration, but this is one of those. Recommended.
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on 20 September 2015
Her criticisms of the OT & NT are undeniable (except that in a long life I have never before heard the Sermon on the Mount quoted as incitement to kill or damn!) but in reality almost all Christians, claiming biblical infallibility or not, have influenced western civilisation for better by emphasising the positive passages: e.g. the golden rule, forgive 70x7, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son... People were indeed violent, brutal and cruel when they were dominated by priests who kept them in ignorance of the NT. When finally they could read it themselves then gradually those aspects of true progress which this book mentions took effect. Take the Quakers (the old-time Christian ones, not the modern secular version), a tiny sect whose inventions, discoveries and improvements in medicine, surgery, engineering, agriculture and science we are still benefiting from. As pioneers they took their Bibles to the colonies but tried to treat native peoples there with respect and friendship.
Animal rights: My experience indicates that with few exceptions they react to the promptings of instinct and have little that's humane in their behaviour.
Ethnicity: It does not have to be bad for people to see themselves as a folk sharing common traditions, values, tastes and manners. I remember when it was to some extent so in the UK and believe me, because it was Christian-influenced there was little aggressive feeling towards outsiders. Now we have multiculturalism washing it away and however much goodwill we may have, we can no longer think or 'our own kind' or 'our ain folk.' UN research warns that that can cause friction when there is crowding in limited space.
Overall, this seems to me a good, thought-provoking book. It challenges me to reaffirm my own Christian beliefs.
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on 3 December 2013
I bought this book because of the unique perspective. There are many books written about Jehovah's Witnesses by those who attack their version of Christianity and then attempt to dismantle their dogma and supplant it with their own. I have no interest in any such version of Christianity. My particular interest was to understand what motivated JWs to live the way that they do. Many of us will have known JWs at school, at work, had them knock on your door etc. Yet what do we really know other than they don't do birthdays or Christmas and would rather die than have a blood transfusion, their children included! I have known some people who were JWs and they reached a point in their lives where they had doubts about their position within this religion. They were afraid to openly ask questions. I was disturbed to read a newspaper article in the Independent newspaper in 2011 I think, where the JWs main journal, The Watchtower, described those who left the religion because of such doubts as 'mentally diseased'!!! The book describes the very high level of control exerted on the membership where any questioning is greeted with suspicion. Indeed, any who leave the religion or who are excommunicated face the prospect of being shunned by friends and family as per the JWs policy. I read a newspaper article last year about a man who was in this exact position and faced the prospect of having to be shunned by his mother. The official spokesman for the JWs was quoted in the report as saying that such action was purely a personal decision and not endorsed or expected by the JWs as a whole. The book clearly shows that this is NOT the reality. The private face shown by the JW authorities to its own members is very different to its public face. Further investigation revealed that it is also a registered charity!!

So who is this book for? If you know anyone who has been contacted by the JWs in an attempt to convert them then this is for them. Also, if you have friends or family who are JWs then they will learn a great deal about the religion they belong to, especially that it is based on Bronze Age values which include intolerance of women's rights, gay rights etc. and will exert great pressure on its rank and file to maintain its membership numbers. The biggest challenge will be getting them to overcome their conditioning and start reading this book.
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on 9 April 2014
This book gives you a good feel for what Jehovah's Witnesses are all about and I feel enables a non confrontational and productive conversation the next time you get an unexpected knock at the door.
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on 25 November 2013
Most books about Jehovah's Witnesses are more or less unreadable, at least for this reader. So I was really pleased to find this new book.

Rachel Walsh has produced a well informed, well researched and balanced work. She has quite an original outlook which compares the religion to other twentieth century communities and organisations. She draws on many informed sources and contexts, and is herself very well read. There is a very extensive bibliography at the end.

I like the way each chapter is introduced by a short story. These have literary merit in their own right. They are carefully constructed to illustrate the main points in the chapter that follows. In fact the whole book is carefully put together, with many linked themes recurring.

The author is refreshingly free from the angry venom often found in books about this religion.

At last, a book about Jehovah's Witnesses for the educated person.
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on 26 December 2013
As a life long atheist I have always had a bit of a fascination for why people choose to believe in god in general and specific religions in particular. I find it hard to comprehend. This book makes a truly interesting read as it takes just one religious sect and explains really clearly where the bizarre beliefs come from. It also describes quite chillingly how children are brought up to believe the same nonsense. These beliefs include that it is better to die, or to let your children die than receive blood in an operation! But apparently this is OK because it means that you live forever in a paradise on Earth, but not before everybody else ( not in the cult) on Earth dies a horrible death. Ir does make you wonder how these people can live with themselves. Still, no more bonkers than any other religion I suppose. As I said it is all very fascinating and this insight is written from a knowledgable position and with great skills. Definitely a recommended read for atheist or for someone who just wants to understand where these beliefs come from.
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on 3 February 2016
Hard to understand what this book was really about, I brought it to help me understand more about Jehovah Witnesses. I did not understand it at all, a waste of money for me.
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