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Plato and the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses

In general, Jehovah's Witnesses don't know a whole lot when it comes to ancient Greek society. We are happy when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not "So crates." Oh, the Greeks are back there in our school days somewhere. After all, they lived in a window of time in which civilization got its act together long enough for some privileged persons to think deep thoughts and record them for our benefit. But we don't consider knowledge of them indispensable for enriched life. The rapidly ascending Chinese and Indian populations most likely are completely ignorant of Greece....the root of Western civilization, but not theirs....and don't bemoan the loss.

Nonetheless, there is this atheist fellow I've been conversing with lately who throws Greeks at me right and left. He's even assumed a Greek moniker....Moristotle....and he's prompted me to consider changing my own name to Tom Sheepandgoaticus so as to win some respect. So it behooves me to read up on those Greeks. What do we find, for example, when we do some research on Plato?

Plato put into writing his concepts of ideal government. He advocated rule by "philosopher-kings." Several times in Moristotle's blog I've read the term. (If his blog has a search feature, I'd provide links. C'mon, Moristotle, get with it!) Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.....so lengthy that it seems nobody under age 50 would be eligible for consideration.

Consider this excerpt from The 100, an intriguing book by Michael Hart, which undertakes to rate the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40)

Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher -kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will realize at once that this description almost exactly describes their "governing body," the agency that governs members of the faith. Only the "mates in common" does not apply.

Compare Plato's dream government with this depiction of the Watchtower organization, submitted by a reader to the Gary Halbert letter(which appears to be a Kiplinger-style newsletter, and which may include some sort of a sales pitch....I'm not familiar with it):

They are the most non-profit of non-profit organizations I've ever seen. All of their workers are voluntary. *All* of them. From the top down, the way the entity is structured, even the executives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, NY (headquarters of their worldwide organization) donate their time in exchange for very modest room and board. I've toured a few of their facilities in the Brooklyn, Wallkill and Patterson, NJ areas. I've seen it with my own eyes.

Everyone who works at their printing facilities (where they print bibles and bible literature for their worldwide bible education work) works for room and board and they get a very small allowance (somewhere around $120/mo.) for personal items. This entire organization is supported by means of voluntary donations. And it's amazing......I mean, these people are not driving around in fancy cars and getting rich pocketing donations by any means.

They spend their money on maintaining their printing facilities, printing bible literature, housing & feeding their voluntary workers (who all live in an apartment-like community maintained by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), supporting voluntary missionaries around the world, language and reading programs (where they teach illiterate people to read), DISASTER RELIEF....I could go on.

But the bottom line is that NONE of their money is used to line pockets of greedy execs. *

This organization is duplicated in the one hundred or so branch organizations that exist around the world.

Of course, one may object: Plato's recommendation is for the government of nations. Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion. But the similarities are more striking than the differences. Worldwide, Jehovah's Witnesses number between seven and seventeen million, depending on the criteria you use in counting. That's more than the population of a great many nations. Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are correctly viewed as a moral, decent, and law-abiding people. This is no mere accident, nor is it explained solely by their belief in the Bible as the source of divine instruction. It is also the result of effective administration, governing if you will, since there are ever so many groups who claim to follow the Bible but whose lifestyles beliethat claim. Jehovah's Witnesses are unified in a common goal and purpose, as the above letter points out. They would appear to be Plato's dream come true.

Author Hart actually allows for a religious setting when discussing the application of Plato's ideal. He suggests "there is a striking similarity between the position of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe and that of Plato's guardian class." I assume he is referring to the Church before the Inquisition. Otherwise, Hart acknowledges, Plato's ideals have never been adopted by any human government.

Oh, this is too rich! Here is Plato, poster boy of the modern atheist rationalists, devising a system of government which none of them have come close to reproducing, but which is adopted, without fanfare, by a group they can't stand, Jehovah's Witnesses! The reason, of course, is that Plato's system depends on persons who are neither ambitious nor materialistic nor overly proud. It's not that such persons can't be found among the general population. It's that the values of this world are such that these persons can't rise to the top. Indeed, they are often dismissed as impractical nuts (as with Jehovah‘s Witnesses).

By the way, what happens when atheists themselves try to adopt Plato's ways? Hart continues: "The role of the Communist party in the Soviet Union has also been compared with that of the guardian class in Plato's ideal republic. Here, too, we see a self-perpetuating elite whose members have all been trained in an official philosophy."

Aren't communist systems atheist, indeed the only governments officially atheist? Yes....and when the atheists try to implement Plato, their creations are hijacked by bullies and mass-murderers: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il, and so forth. Look at these guys crossways and you do ten years hard labor.

No, those atheists are unable to implement the ideals of their hero. Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, have done so. Okay, I guess it is too much of a stretch to suggest that if Plato were somehow to appear today on the world stage he would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I don’t suggest it. But I can picture the highly educated “wise-in-their-own-eyes” elite rushing to embrace him as one of their own, and he, upon accessing how they have failed to implement any of his ideals, wanting nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, he could not help but be appreciative toward the one sizable organization on earth that has managed to transform his dream into reality.

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Tom Wheatandweeds of the Whitepebble Institute submitted the above item. I told him not to gloat, it's not becoming.....I strictly warned him....but he could not resist. His communication included the following, which I have deleted from my published edition:

"Ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho haw haw ho ho ho ho ho yiiiiii....THUD!

ow...........(he he)"

He never had an ounce of dignity, that Wheatandweeds. That's why I'm the blogmaster, not him.

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*It should be noted that the writer to the Halbert letter incorrectly recommends that one may donate to the Watchtower as an efficient way of providing disaster relief to post-Katrina New Orleans. In fact, JW disaster relief is a sideline, aimed mostly at getting their own people on their feet again so that they may resume normal Christian activity. The disaster relief teams are almost entirely individual JWs using vacation time or taking unpaid leaves of absence. They are not in position to do a general rebuild of the city and have never represented themselves that way.

 

More on Governing Body here.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Nixon-Mao Talks

In the summer of 1970, student demonstrators camped outside the White House night after night, demanding an end to the Vietnam War and hurling insults at President Nixon. This had not happened before. Prior wars had enjoyed popular support, or at least acquiescence, and the young had always fallen into line. Not this generation. Why weren’t they in class?

Richard Nixon, inside, was deeply conscious of it all. Moreover, it seemed like miscommunication. After all, Vietnam was not his war. He had inherited in from the previous President and the one before him. Nixon was trying hard to end it, though doing so in the manner of all politicians before or since: peace with honor, no appeasement for aggressors, these colors don’t run, etc, etc, and so forth. Perhaps more than most politicians, Nixon wanted to be loved, yet here he was hated, and hated unjustly, he felt. So late one night, he strolled out and spoke to the demonstrators, to the dismay of security and staff.

He rambled, vacillating between explaining his policy,  his ideals, and how the world worked, reminiscing, and dispensing fatherly advise. Those students should widen out, he suggested, travel some, even outside the country. For his administration, he hoped “that the great mainland of China be opened up so that we could know the seven hundred million people who live in China and who are one of the most remarkable people on earth.” But if Nixon had hoped for understanding, he got none. From my admittedly sketchy recollection of news accounts back then, students were steamed that they had come with serious adult concerns, and he had engaged them with memories of college football! They didn’t want to hear about football, and they certainly didn’t want any fatherly councel. They wanted what they wanted, and they wanted it now.

Later Nixon expanded his China theme. Weeks later he said to Time magazine “if there is anything I want to do before I die, it is to go to China. If I don’t, I want my children to.”

That might seem strange coming from Richard Nixon. He’d built his political career on anti-communist rhetoric. But by the late 1960’s he was reassessing. “Red” China had no diplomatic relations with any non-communist country, yet it was the largest nation on earth. Did it not make sense to try to assist them into the community of nations? Wasn’t China suffering from it’s isolation? At odds with its two huge neighbors, the Soviet Union and India, and reeling from its latest Great Leap Forward, a venture which starved millions, might it not respond to a helping hand? Nixon, from the beginning of his Presidency, purposed to visit China, meet with Mao Tse-tung, and end decades of Chinese isolation.

Diplomats laid the groundwork, doing so with utmost secrecy. For example, Henry Kissinger flew to Pakistan on some backslapping mission, but feigned illness so he could retire and escape media limelight, Then, unobserved, he flew to China to meet with Mao’s number two, Chou En-lai. Of course, the secrecy was decreed so that Nixon’s political enemies wouldn’t prematurely discover his “heresy,” chumming with communists, and pound him into the ground with it. Not to mention the American allies that would surely be unsettled. The Chinese played along, but never quite understood American secrecy. “If they want to come,” said Mao, “they should come in the open light. Why should they hide their head and pull in their tail?”

But it was young people, acting in innocence and sheer good will, who also moved plans ahead. Conscious of American attitudes thawing and looking for an appropriate response, neither too cool nor too cloying, in April 1971 China invited over the American table tennis team. They were right next door in Japan at the time. Mao made the decision himself. As he termed it, the small ping pong ball could be used to move the ball of the earth. Chou ordered the Chinese team to let the Americans win some games, which were televised live.

One of the American youngsters, Glenn Cowan, was thought of as a hippy. Toward the end of the tournament one the Chinese players unexpectedly presented him a silk brocade scarf. The Chinese team leader panicked at this unauthorized contact, but the player brushed him aside. “Take it easy. As head of delegation you have many concerns, but I am just a player.” Mao heard of the incident and said with approval: “Zhuang Zedong not only plays good Ping-Pong but knows how to conduct diplomacyas well.

During a reception at tournament’s end, Chou En-lai entertained questions from the foreigners. “What do you think about the hippy movement?” the unselfconscious Cowan asked. Chou didn’t know much about it, but suggested it was restless youth looking for change and not sure how to bring it about, much as things had been in his day. The hippy movement runs very deep, the American youngster countered. “It’s a whole new way of thinking.” But Chou suggested that “spirit must be transformed into material force before the world can move ahead.” The boy’s mother apparently sent Chou flowers for educating her son.

One year later, following the groundwork of the diplomats and the kids, Richard Nixon set foot in China, the first American President ever to do so. Days of talks and banquets ensued. Thorny issues were hashed out: Taiwan and Vietnam, for example, and each country tried to get a feel for the others' relations with the bellicose Soviet Union. Everybody toasted everybody. Mao approved of Nixon: “He speaks forthrightly….no beating around the bush, not like the leftists, who say one thing and mean another.“ At the Great Wall of China, the President declared: “A people who could build a wall like this certainly have a great past to be proud of and a people who have this kind of a past must also have a great future.” To this day, the Chinese value those words.

Late evening, the final night of his visit, Nixon reviewed goings-on with aides Kissinger and Haldeman. He had seriously stirred up the pot of international relations. He had taken great personal risk to his legacy and reputation. Would it all turn out well in the end? Kissinger felt Nixon was asking for reassurance and he gave it, moved by “an odd tenderness for this lonely, tortured, and insecure man.”

Hard to believe that all this happened not yet forty years ago. China was then a populous, but backward country. Today it is the world’s rising power. Scores of gleaming skyscraper-packed cities stand where, just a few years ago, there were only barren field. Business Week recently opined that the remaining good jobs in America are to be found in health care and education….can you really base an economy on that? Manufacturing and technology jobs are moving abroad, much of it to China. Now that China’s star is so dramatically rising, will they get cocky? one commentator wondered. No, for China has always thought of itself as a great power, and only now is it finally reemerging after shaking off a century of Western exploitation.

Richard Nixon revisited China in 1993, as a private citizen. “The growth of this place is really unbelievable,” he told chums. “And you know, I like to think that I had something to do with it.” Nixon died in 1994.

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All specifics taken from the excellent new book Nixon and Mao, by Margaret MacMillan, c 2007. The book includes a 16 page photo section chronicling the Nixon visit.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Why Do Bad Things Happen? updated for atheists (sort of)

When Moristotle, a newly minted atheist whose perspectives I nonetheless value, read my post Why Bad Things Happen, he almost threw up. He declared it a "fantasy," aspects of which were "utterly repulsive," and the rest "not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile." Now if we could only get this fellow to say what he really thinks and stop pussyfooting so as to spare someone's feelings, he might amount to something!

Still, I take his concerns to heart. It's not pleasant throwing up because.....well, it just isn't. We all know it. Is there a way to write essentially the same thing in a way that those he represents will find more palatable? After all, he declared a related post of mine "profound." True, he was just being nice, he later pointed out, but at least there was no gag reflex, or at least he overcame it. Bear in mind that I'm under no illusions of "changing" him, nor he I. We trade remarks regularly and use each other's work to refine our respective viewpoints and reasoning skills. You can't do that with most internet atheists (in contrast to the more civil non-evangelist kind). They are such snarling pit bulls and do nothing but hurl insults. You just can't converse with them.

It may not be possible to make this stuff more palatable for a certain type of person. Any discussion of why God tolerates evil must necessarily  link to Adam and Eve, and link to them rather substantially. They simply are that key of a building block. And so you have to overcome the "we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. Who's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?" syndrome. This is not gonna be easy.

Let's start with some common ground, just like Paul did at the Areopagus.  Moristotle recently trotted out a Greek named Diagoras, who is apparently the world's first recorded atheist. A little quibbling over that in our preceding posts, but I'll concede the point.

Okay. Here goes. Wish me luck.

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Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He‘s credited that way. Read up on him and you’ll see he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips?   …….   if Hercules didn’t like it….well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an athiest? Wikipedia tells us (2-4-08) "He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods"

Why wasn't it punished? Why didn't God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?

It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.

After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery, for instance, often working slaves to death. They treated women abominably. And weren't they the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Lets face it, few situations of this system today are win-win. Generally someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don't even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so they don't see the link and declare any such talk mere bleeding heart liberal crying. Don't think, however, that any political party has a handle on the problem. It's inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that human’s weren’t created to be independent of God.

Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief as it is, demonstrates God’s original intent.

Further, God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.          Gen 1:28

The very name Eden means pleasure; garden of Eden becomes (when translated into Greek, as in the Septuagint) paradise of pleasure, and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the get-go, they balked.

Consider Genesis chapter 3:

Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?

2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.

3 But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.’”

4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “you positively will not die.

5 For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”

6 Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the "knowing good and bad" of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. "You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as if trying to stifle the first couple….a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have only cascaded down to our day.

After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what Daniel refers to at Dan 2:44

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite...

 
Or Jesus in “the Lord’s Prayer:”

...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth...     Matt 6:10

Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Yet, says the prayer, the time for God’s will to be done is when his Kingdom comes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses well understand that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and now they're incensed that Republicans aren't delivering on their promises! God’s Kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think humans will end injustice?

What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?" God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source.

 

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More here and here

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Elijah Crashes the Athiest Hall of Fame!

There is this atheist I correspond with (quite a bit, lately) who maintains there have always been atheists, even way back there in ancient times. He gave some examples. [19th comment]

His first was a character who was whining over some personal injustice, as if no godly person ever had to work his way through that. Of Diagoras, the "first atheist," Wikipedia says [2-4-2008] this: “He became an atheist after an incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods." And that’s all on what formulated his point of view! Apparently he imagined God should be like Santa Claus, making sure nothing bad happens to anyone, and got bummed when life didn’t turn out that way.

This strikes me as thinking neither original nor profound for the man history records as the "first atheist." I swear, at times I am this close to changing my name to Tom Sheepandgoaticus. I'd be taken more seriously in the educated quarters, which, of course, is what I want.

The second atheist on his list fares even worse. On Critias, Wikipedia informs that he was “a leading member of the Thirty Tyrants, and one of the most violent…..Critias was a very dark person in Athenian history. After the fall of Athens to the Spartans, he blacklisted many of its citizens as a leading member of the Thirty Tyrants. Most of his prisoners were executed and their wealth was confiscated. He proved to be a tormented personality, displaying many complexes and much hatred”

Not really the type of guy you want to put in the Atheist Hall of Fame. Who’s next, Hannibal Lector?

The Lector reference, which Moristotle reckoned an "ominous thrust" and which I subsequently withdrew.....after all, was it really very sporting?....should not make one feel sorry for my sparring partner. Believe me, he can give as good as he gets. I'll score a point or two, which he'll graciously acknowledge, and then, while I'm strutting around like Hercule Poirot, he whacks me in the back of the head with a two-by-four!

Besides, it's not easy pulling in ancients to buttress your case. They're unpredictable. You try to make them behave and they just won't do it. Those Hebrews from the OT go through extensive screening before I allow them to set foot on my blog. They invariably have a skeleton or two in their closet.

A little more on Diagoras. He, says Wikipedia, "once threw a wooden image of a god into a fire, remarking that the deity should perform another miracle and save itself." Another source identifies the image as a wooden statue of Hercules, which the hungry atheist used as fuel to boil his turnips!

Of course, this type of occurrence (I realize this is only one of his arrows, not the whole quiver) in no way disparages God, but only a god represented by images. The Bible itself frequently uses the same reasoning.

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of the hands of earthling man.
  A mouth they have, but they cannot speak;
Eyes they have, but they cannot see;
Ears they have, but they cannot hear.
A nose they have, but they cannot smell.
Hands are theirs, but they cannot feel.
Feet are theirs, but they cannot walk;
They utter no sound with their throat.
Those making them will become just like them,
All those who are trusting in them.
       Ps 115:4-8

But my all-time favorite is a contest set up between Baal (always thought to dwell in statues) and Jehovah (never thought to dwell in statues) and their respective adherents. Elijah dresses a bull for sacrifice, and it is for those priests of Baal to persuade their god to consume the offering! For hours they plead and carry on and slash themselves, but to no avail. At length, Elijah begins to mock:

Call at the top of your voice, for he is a god; for he must be concerned with a matter, and he has excrement and has to go to the privy. Or maybe he is asleep and ought to wake up!    1 Kings 18:27

Elijah, we all know, was not an atheist. He was just a good 'ol boy having some fun at the statue's expense.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)