The Jehovah’s witnesses are in my opinion the masters of a subtle form of control. This is quite a statement, but recall how the Catholic Church controlled peasants in the middle ages and even as far as recent history. They did this by means of fear. If you are a religious person then there is naturally a fear of upsetting God, in the same way none of us want to upset our family or friends! This should not be an all-consuming fear or dread but more of a desire to avoid upsetting them. This however is not the fear I am referring to, allow me to elaborate…
The clergy, especially in the pre-reformation ages knew how to control the masses, preaching hell fire and damnation as an eternal punishment from not following what the bible says. You were in essence forced to believe what they told you, lest you be a heathen and earn yourself a guaranteed excommunication from the church, along with social isolation and ostracism from those who were part of the local congregation. The Middle Ages was filled with the thought that heathens were the direct product of the devil, perhaps even demons themselves. You were in most cases one accusation away from being executed as a witch or a warlock. We are all aware from the history books the consequences and often brutal results of these accusations. If you were an non believer or had a doubt concerning what the church told you in the middle ages you had better keep your mouth shut or you would have made enemies with all those you knew. Absolute obedience was a given amongst the people due to this imposed fear factor. During this time period the lesser ones of society i.e. the plebs would have had no access to a bible, even if they could get to one they would be left un-able to read it as it was usually in Latin. They were in effect at the mercy of the Church. To be fair to the church, in many cases they were a force for good, however, as in most of human society some chose to take advantage of position and exploit the weak.
Those in power had carte blanche to say anything regarding the commandments of God to the uneducated working class, as they could not be verified by anyone but members of the clergy, thus giving them absolute power over the people. It wasn’t until translations started to become available in printed English and distributed to the masses that the church lost some of its control, hence the reason that people such as Wycliffe were persecuted to the extent that they were. The Pope was so enraged with what Wycliffe had done that he was said to be: “So infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!”
The mis-teachings of the Roman Catholic Church were eventually exposed primarily by Martin Luthur’s 95 theses, and soon after a reformation took place. They ultimately lost the control over many of the masses as the fear of rejection by others was gradually lost, however they still retained the fear element over things like hellfire and eternal damnation!