Give me a Child Until He is Seven And I will Show you the Man”

Though the source of this quote is unsure (either Aristotle or the Jesuits!) it is regarded as a universal truth. Catch a child early enough and for long enough and you can mould their thinking for life. Because children’s minds are still developing, their thoughts and attitudes are easily manipulated in High Control Organisations; for better or for worse.

Children are influenced in many ways, as a matter of course, in order to make them better citizens and more useful members of society, for example, but this susceptibility to manipulation also makes them ripe for control. A child who is born into a High Control Organisation will struggle to break free in later life if suitably indoctrinated early on.

This does not mean that children will automatically become good members of their parent’s High Control Organisation. A 2015 report by the Pew Research Center (1) showed that up to 66% of children born into JW families do not continue in the religion, which contrasts with 36% for LDS and 35% for Evangelical Protestants.

This may be due to the unpleasant environment that a JW child is brought up in – no birthdays, no Christmases, competitive sports discouraged along with mixing with other children, etc., and being required to sit through adult meetings without children oriented programs. A study published in 2022 found that children brought up as JWs in Germany reported significantly higher levels of child maltreatment than seen in the general population (2), so there is still hope for them after all.

A fear instilled into a child if they misbehave or reject a certain teaching can remain with them for decades even if they should leave the organisation which first instilled it. Though there are few fully peer accepted studies into the mental health of persons who have left High Control Organisations (but see “Characteristics of health and well-being in former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland” (3))

Anecdotally I have come across a number of instances of adults who have left the JWs and who still suffer PTSD like symptoms from having been brought up with the fear of being destroyed at Armageddon if they should leave (4). Such doomsday organisations can exert a strong pressure even on adults who come under their influence, particularly if they teach, as the Watchtower does, that only its members will survive the impending destruction of the world as we know it.

JW children are also warned about some of the things they will come up against in their secular education, such as evolution. They are taught to put the Society’s view of science vs Bible forefront in their minds. For an in-depth article on secular education and JWs see “The Educational Identity Formation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” by C S Ingersoll-Wood (5).

Telling People What They Want to Hear

The trick to a good deception is to tell people something they want to hear and believe. No doubt many of us have received emails offering us vast sums of money from Nigerian Princes, or random officials of foreign governments; who wouldn’t want to receive $135,000,000 for very little outlay? One assumes the deceivers do receive some payback for their efforts, but there are many more less obvious deceptions out there.

It is estimated that some £2.3bn was lost to deceptions in the UK alone in 2023. (6) This was achieved by offering people something they really wanted, or really wanted to be true. If you want it enough you are more likely to overlook the perhaps obvious warning signs. For JWs the use of Proverbs 4:18 (7) to excuse any changes made by the Governing Body by allowing ‘brighter light’ is a good example of this ‘overlooking’.

High Control Organisations always offer something that appeals to their adherents, that breaks down their natural scepticism because what is offered is so desirable. This can be seen as bait to catch the unwary and snag them into the system. For JWs the offer of living on a paradise earth forever, free from sickness, pain and death, while meeting up with lost loved ones, is tremendously enticing and appears worthy of further investigation (8). Almost every Watchtower magazine includes wonderful pictures of life on this paradise earth, with abundant food and children playing with wild animals.

The Watch Tower Society teaches that if Armageddon should come today only JWs would survive and enter this paradise, the rest will end up as ‘bird food’ (Rev 19 v 17-18) (9). With this imagery in mind the draw is great to fall for this deception. People will be subconsciously willing to overlook many of the faults in the system for the possibility of living forever in paradise and avoiding becoming ‘bird food’!

Metaphor Effect (10)

The use of metaphors and stories to convey a message is as old as mankind itself, with evidence of story telling in cave paintings as long ago as 30,000 years (11). So, it is no surprise that it is a common method used by High Control Organisations. Metaphors engage the right hemisphere of our brains, the half concerned with mental imagery, making them more easily accepted. Metaphors link a simple, visual idea to a more complicated one, making the latter more readily understood or accepted. Of course, in itself, there’s nothing untoward in the use of metaphors and stories, but often High Control Organisations use metaphors that, while sounding applicable, are not and give off a false idea.

One example of this ‘false idea’ is in the Watch Tower Society’s video “Why Did Jesus Die?- Part 2(12). The Society teaches that Jesus’ death simply paid off Adam’s sin, allowing us only the ‘opportunity’ to enter paradise earth (13). In the video Jesus is likened to a philanthropist who pays off the debts of a bad employer (Adam) who ruined a company by embezzling money (sinning), putting many (the human race) out of a job (unable to enter paradise).

What the video misses out is that, using the metaphor of the video, each and every employee also embezzled money (sinned) and so their debts needed to be paid for as well. Christians would recognise the latter scenario as Jesus paid the price for all men’s sins, not just Adam’s (1 John 2 v 2). If a JW were to fully comprehend this truth they would begin to realise that they had been tricked. The video is very slick and the imagery very powerful yet it does not give the full picture.

Focusing Effect (14)

This effect can be seen when people put too much importance on a very limited amount of evidence, much of which is of low importance (15). This evidence is often of a sensational, generalised, or cliched nature rather than fact based. Because it is presented in a readily acceptable form people are not inclined to actually bother researching for themselves. Mixed in with the Authority Principle, discussed in the first article, this makes for another powerful tool in the High Control Organisation’s arsenal.

The Watch Tower Society often uses the term ‘Christendom’ to mean all other Christian religions but themselves, and it is meant as a derogatory term. They say that ‘Christendom’s clergy’ (16) did this or that, or the ‘members of Christendom’ (17) do this or that. People forget that ‘Christendom’ is made up of over 2 billion people from thousands of different churches and it is impossible to lump them altogether under such statements.

No real evidence is provided for these generalisations, but because newspapers sometimes publish similar stories, or because so many such stories appear in Watch Tower literature (repetition…) the idea is readily accepted. By splitting the world in to JWs and everybody else (Christendom) the High Control Organisation encourages its members to see themselves as special.

Them and Us

High Control Organisations have always tried to separate themselves from the ‘evil’ world around them to make their members feel important and better than everybody else. Gnostic (knowledge)(18) religions promise the adherents special knowledge that no-on else knows or understands the importance of. Much effort is exerted in creating a them-and-us situation which encourages ‘us’ to respond favourably to what we’re being taught and to reject what ‘they’ teach.

The vast quantity of literature that the Watch Tower produces is lapped up by JWs as ‘accurate knowledge.’ It is the door to eternal life (19) the more they ‘know’ the better off they are. This encourages people to simply believe everything they are taught as quantity seems to trump quality. Because they are discouraged from researching outside the organisation JWs only have a very limited source of education and so it is hard for them to resist the teachings presented to them.

The Bible, Eisegesis

The Bible is not written in an encyclopaedic format (Chapter 1: God, Chapter 2: Jesus, Chapter 3: salvation etc.) so it is necessary to search through it to dig out the nuggets of truth. This searching should not be too difficult as the Bible was written to people who had limited education. However, by using a limited amount of scripture and always in a systematic format the Bible can be made to say almost anything people want it to.

This is called Bible eisegesis (20), putting in to scripture what you want it to say. In contrast, exegesis is taking from the Bible what it says and making your doctrines from there. Taking verses out of context or simply only quoting parts of a verse is a basic technique for misrepresenting what the Bible says.

It is anecdotal, but I have never seen a Watchtower article on a passage of scripture, instead they concentrate on a subject and scan through the Bible to find scriptures that may (or may not) support it. My studies have also shown that often the scriptures do not support the point being made, or at best only support one part of the idea (See ‘Truth by Association’ above).

If you ever do a study with a JW always actually read the verses cited to make a point to check that they actually do support what is being said. A regular example is when the article is talking of the 144,000 and what the Bible says about them. The verses they quote never mention the 144,000 (partly because the term only appears twice in the whole Bible) and the context would apply the verse to all Christians. Many of Paul’s letters state in their introduction to whom they are written, often to “God’s Holy People in…” so it ought to be assumed that he is writing to all Christians. (JWs consider themselves all to be “God’s Holy People(21)).

Particularly where the Authority Principal is involved, adherents are likely to believe what is being said without thinking too hard about it. Religious High Control Organisations often claim their doctrines are ‘based on the Bible’ (22) but, in reality that doesn’t mean they are pure Bible doctrines. Movies are often ‘based’ on real life events but actually have little of the truth in them.

Guided Learning

If you have ever looked through a Watchtower magazine you will see almost every paragraph is preceded with questions that the reader can answer by reading through the associated paragraph. This technique discourages any other thoughts about what is being proposed and leads the reader down a very specific path.

Any teacher worth their salt will tell you that this is a terrible way to learn as it discourages thinking and research – which is the idea in this case. These are similar to ‘closed questions’ whereas good teaching practice encourages ‘open-ended questions’ (23). It allows the Watch Tower Society to put across a very one-sided argument, convincing the reader of the truth of what they say.

This is also an example of ‘priming’ (24) which does as the name suggests; it primes you to find something at the expense of something else. By asking a question before the passage it means that you sub-consciously look for the answer to that question and no other. You will also more likely accept the answer given without thinking too hard about it.

Any other points that could have been raised by the scriptures cited, or the discussion, will generally be ignored in favour of the primed subject. If the questions had been raised after the paragraph rather than before, there is the risk the reader might come to different conclusions other than those intended by the writer!

The Dreaded Ellipsis …

An ellipsis (usually simply three dots … sometimes in brackets (…)) is a way of showing that part of a quote is missing. It is usually missing because it is not relevant to the subject under discussion. However, it can be misused by avoiding parts of the quote that do not support the statement, leaving only the parts that do. If you trust the user of the ellipsis you are most likely not going to check out the quote to see what is in the missing bit (Authority Principal)

Often, too, the complete reference for the quote is not given, making it very hard to find it in the first place to check its accuracy. The proliferation of information on the internet has made this fact checking a lot easier than it used to be, but it still takes a lot of effort to track down the exact quote. It is a lot easier simply to trust the writer!

The Watch Tower Society has even had to resort to the use of this technique when referring to older Watch Tower literature. A classic example is in 1969 Watch Tower yearbook (25) where it quotes the 1945 Articles of Amendment (26) for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Note the circled use of the ellipsis; what is missing?

By 1969 the worship of Jesus was banned, but in 1945 Jesus was worshipped in the same way as Jehovah! Admitting this breaking of the First Commandment would not be a prudent move by the leadership! Not every omission is so blatant, but there are enough of them to warrant the need to check!


Understanding all the techniques used to convince the High Control Organisation adherent of the truth of what the organisation teaches makes it easier to understand why they believe what they do. We can see them as victims of a deception and worthy of our sympathy. We can also devise techniques to counter the mind control they have suffered, giving our evangelising a greater chance of success.

Knowing how these tricks work can also arm us against their effects when we come across them in our own daily lives. However, we must never forget that it is the forces of evil against whom we battle and we should never simply rely on our skills and knowledge alone but rely on the Spirit, because He knows all the answers.

We can see why these people believe what they do, but why is it so hard to get them to see where they have gone wrong, where they have been tricked? Next time we will look at some other techniques used to prevent them changing what they believe even in the face of good evidence.


  2. Myriam V. Thoma, Andreas Goreis, Shauna L. Rohner, Urs M. Nater, Eva Heim & Jan Höltge (2023)  Characteristics of health and well-being in former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 26:7, 644-662, DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2023.2255144
  3. Ibid
  4. More accurately they are C-PTSD symptoms
  5. Carrie S. Ingersoll-Wood (2022) The Educational Identity Formation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Religion & Education, 49:3, 310-338, DOI: 10.1080/15507394.2022.2102875
  7. But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light. That grows brighter and brighter until the full daylight” (NWT) For a discussion on this idea see the Reachout Trust article “Watch Tower New Light”
  8. Strangely enough they teach you don’t need to be a JW to receive this offer as all the ‘unrighteous’ will also be resurrected to this paradise earth WT SE Sep 2022 Article 39
  9. Watchtower 1958 Book “From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained” p207-210
  13. Watchtower “Enjoy Life Forever” online Course Lesson 27 “How Can Jesus’ Death Save us?” para 2
  15. This is why I always try and put in as many references as practical to give you the reader the opportunity to check out the evidence and to encourage you to research more and not simply believe what is written here.
  16. WT 1 Mar 1994 p9 para 7-9, WT 1 Nov 1976 p 665 para 14-15
  17. WT 1 Mar 1996 p 17 para 16, WT 1971 Book “”The Nations Shall Know That I am Jehovah” – How?” p 153 para 29-30
  19. WT 15 May 1958 p 311 ”Increased Knowledge Brings Lasting Benefits” where this phrase is used 56 times; see ‘Repetition, Repetition, Repetition’, WT Public Edition 2021 No2 p 10 “Survive the End by “Coming to Know” God
  21. WT 15 Nov 2014 p14, para 15
  22., “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses an American Sect
  25. 1969 Watchtower yearbook page 50
  26. State of Pennsylvania County of Allegheny Charter of Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society dated 27 Feb 1945. The Watchtower Society is a legal entity in the USA and has to provide Articles defining its actions. The 1945 Amendment to these articles can be seen here

Further Reading;

  1. “Thinking Fast and Slow” Daniel Kahneman ISBN 0141033576
  2. Combatting Mind Control” Steven Hassan ISBN 0892813113
  3. “Freedom of Mind” Steven Hassan ISBN 0967068819
  4. “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” Steven Hassan ISBN 0967068800
  5. “The Influential Mind – What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others” Talis Sharot ISBN 1408706067