It is true that Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to avoid independent thinking in their publications from time to time, however, are they encouraged to "not think for themselves"? What does "independent thinking" even mean and what do our publications share on the matter?
What Our Publications Really Say
This may come as a surprise to you, especially if you have fallen prey to the lies spread about us, but the term "independent thinking" has appeared only 34 times in our publications over the past 60 years. Not frequent at all for an organization that allegedly wants to stifle your thinking. When we speak of independent thinking, it is almost always in the context of moral independence from God, or rejecting His leadership. Here are a few examples:
Awake! No. 2 2016:
"The book of Genesis reveals that mankind’s woes began when the first humans rebelled against God. Among other things, they took it upon themselves to set moral standards—a right that belonged only to our Creator. (Genesis 3:1-7) Sadly, since then, people in general have adopted the same independent thinking. The results? Human history is a chronicle, not of freedom and happiness, but of conflict, oppression, and moral and spiritual discord. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) The Bible rightly states: “It does not belong to man . . . to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The good news is that mankind’s disastrous experiment with moral independence is almost over."Watchtower, July 15 2006:
"Hence, our understanding of the Scriptures is bound to be refined from time to time. The vast majority of Jehovah’s people rejoice over such refinements. A few become “righteous overmuch” and resent the changes. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Pride may play a role, and some fall into the trap of independent thinking. Whatever the reason, such murmuring is hazardous, since it can draw us back into the world and its ways."Watchtower, Sept 15 1989:
"In the world, there is a tendency to reject leadership. As one lecturer said: “The rising education level has improved the talent pool such that followers have become so critical that .” But a spirit of independent thinking does not prevail in God’s organization, and we have sound reasons for confidence in the men taking the lead among us."Watchtower, Jan 15 1983:
From the very outset of his rebellion Satan called into question God’s way of doing things. He promoted independent thinking. ‘You can decide for yourself what is good and bad,’ Satan told Eve. ‘You don’t have to listen to God. He is not really telling you the truth.’ (Genesis 3:1-5) To this day, it has been Satan’s subtle design to infect God’s people with this type of thinking.—2 Timothy 3:1, 13"
We Encourage Thinking For OneselfJehovah's Witnesses encourage thinking for oneself, and promote personal decision-making. Here are several examples:
Do Witnesses Ban Certain Books, Movies, or Songs?
"No. Our organization doesn’t review specific movies, books, or songs so as to rule on what our members should avoid . . . Outside the family, however, no one is authorized to ban specific films, songs, or artists as being unacceptable for members of the congregation."Watchtower, March 15 2012:
"In the end, each person needs to choose for himself which counsel and advice to follow. Jehovah allows all of us the freedom to decide whether we will be governed by his principles or not."Watchtower, November 15 2013:
"The elder can stress the importance of seeking God’s guidance in prayer before making a decision. (Prov. 3:5, 6) After discussing such matters with the fellow believer, an elder will allow him to make his own decision".Watchtower Jan 15, 2014:
"Each person must make his own choice about how he will spend his life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Josh. 24:15) We cannot tell you whether to marry, whom to marry, or what employment to get."
You decide: Do any of these references encourage Jehovah's Witnesses to abdicate their individual thinking responsibilities to the organization or its leadership?