Friday, February 24, 2017

can I get a witness

I had those Jehovah's Witnesses round the house again a couple of days ago, a scant six years after their last visit. This particular pair (and it seems to be pairs, usually) were middle-aged blokes, the one who did the talking being a bit Scottish, I think.

As before I was in the middle of working, so I kept it brisk and polite and didn't get lured into any sort of theological exchange of views, as tempting as it might be. I accepted the bit of literature they were offering, as I find these things quite interesting, in a "know your enemy" kind of way.

The interesting thing about this particular tract, and the way it was presented, is that the focus groups have obviously concluded (scarcely surprisingly) that getting all in-your-face with the God stuff straight away isn't really a goer, and that it's better to sneak up on all that via some other topic. So while I can't remember exactly how the current script goes, it's something like: I wonder whether you'd be interested in a leaflet on the subject of teen depression. Do you suffer from teen depression yourself? Or maybe know someone who does? Or just any teens in general? They might not appear to be depressed, but who knows, they might just be putting a brave face on it. Here's the front cover of the leaflet:


Now I'm evidently hopelessly ill-informed about religious publications, because while the title sounded a bit suss for a serious bit of medical/therapeutic literature, I didn't specifically know that Awake! is the name of one of the main Jehovah's Witnesses publications (the more famous one being The Watchtower). Nevertheless it took me about five seconds to smell a bit fat Goddy rat here, at which point I trousered the leaflet and bid them a cordial good day.

Flipping the leaflet over exposes the subterfuge, though, as there's lots of contact and website details on the back, below a random and slightly barking article about the Saharan silver ant which seems to be doing a bit of Just Asking Questions while obviously trying to make some sort of point regarding Intelligent Design. The feature article starts off innocuously enough by making some fairly obvious points about depression - you know, some people get it, some don't, it's a bit of a bore, it can be quite serious, it makes you feel a bit rotten, some people find going out for a nice walk helps - and waits till a couple of pages in before it starts making reference to Bible verses. It pointedly omits any mention of antidepressant drugs as a possible treatment, but aside from that (well, and the Bible verses) it's all pretty anodyne. It's not until a bit later in the leaflet that we get into the serious stuff with a prominent article on abortion. It's not actually as fire-and-brimstone as you might imagine, but does sneakily ramp up the evil quotient by making the un-evidenced claim of a link between abortion and depression. It doesn't, as far as I can see anyway, repeat the often-made and entirely bogus claim that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, but I wouldn't want to rule out the possibility of them having made that argument at some point. The print version does also attempt to reassure those who have had either a miscarriage or an elective abortion with the prospect of meeting their "unborn child" in heaven later, which sounds fucking delightful.


Preying on those in a state of mental vulnerability is of course standard practice for proselytising religions, as is a firm opposition to any treatment regime that doesn't involve embracing their particular belief system, in a very real and financially binding sense. Take a look at the Scientologists' bullshit "personality tests" and visceral hatred of psychiatry for another example - to be fair to the Jehovah's Witnesses they can't really compete with the Scientologists in the arena of overtly cartoonish evil and absurdity; whether this makes them more or less dangerous is an interesting subject for debate.

If you're wondering where the bonkers blood transfusion stuff is on the JWs' shiny new website, rest assured it's still there, and they're still bothering, for reasons I can't really fathom, to try to make the case that this is a stand based on solid scientific evidence, while later in the same article conceding that it's "a religious issue rather than a medical one". I would say "well, at least it keeps them off the streets", but clearly it specifically doesn't do that, or they wouldn't be ringing my bleedin' doorbell of a Wednesday afternoon.

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