Crazy Christianity: Jehovah’s Witnesses

What it’s all about:

Jehovah’s Witnesses are arguably the most strict practicing Christians in today’s society. They believe themselves to be the “true” Christians and reject many popular ideas in other versions of Christianity. They do not believe in hellfire, or the inherent immortality of the soul. They believe that when you die, you are in a state of nonexistence — both physical and spiritual.

armageddonThey believe an Armageddon will occur when satan attacks Jehovah’s Witnesses and god is forced to step in and destroy all governments and those people that do not follow him. Witnesses believe that Armageddon will be triggered by the United Nations (you can’t make this stuff up…) which is represented by the scarlet-colored wild beast of the book of Revelation chapter 17 in the scriptures (source). After Armageddon, god will choose 144,000 of his most loyal, trusting Witnesses to help him lead the Earth which he will transform into a paradise similar to the Garden of Eden and they will serve on his council of government. Those that have died before the Armageddon took place will gradually be resurrected and judged based on their current actions (rather than their past deeds) for a thousand years. After that thousand years has passed, Satan will be sent to Earth one last time to test those left and “the end result will be a fully tested, glorified human race. Christ will then hand all authority back to God.” (source)

Which leads me to the next big difference between Witnesses and most other forms of Christianity: Witnesses do not believe in the trinity. They believe that God (or “Jehovah” derived from the biblical name given to God in the Tetragrammaton JHVH or YHWH) is the creator of all things, the “one true God”, and is therefore the only thing worthy of worship. Jesus, or Christ, is God’s only direct creation and the holy spirit is God’s power in the world. They also believe Satan to be a fallen angel, once perfect in the kingdom of God who now comes to Earth to mislead people and create evil and human suffering.

h2E92B97DWitnesses do not celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Easter or any other “typical” holiday as they believe them to be derived from Pagan rituals and, therefore, not properly representative of their Christian faith. They also refuse to pledge allegiance to any country, take part in any nationalistic celebration or song and vehemently refuse to serve in the military. They do this because they feel that Christianity has no nationality and one’s allegiance should only ever be to God and nothing or no one else. “They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses.” (source) This places them in a state of segregation from everyone else (including fellow Christians who are not Witnesses) by choice, until they are called upon to evangelize. All members are required to evangelize and each must submit a monthly log of their activity. If you do not, you can be considered inactive and eventually be “disfellowshipped” and shunned by the community — an act highly dreaded by those that faithfully follow.

Worship involves frequent church meetings on the local level as well as national/international meetings that are more like conventions . They prefer their own translation of the Bible called, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, and are taught how to read the scriptures by a governing body composed of all men (surprise, surprise) called, The Watch Tower Society. These men create publications that are to be given as much weight as the Bible itself and are not, under any circumstances, to be re-interpreted or challenged in any way (to do so would result in their being immediately disfellowshipped). If one publication comes out as being in disagreement with a previous publication, it is said that God is gradually revealing his will to the Watch Tower Society and they can, therefore, only publish what they know, when they know it.

Why it’s harmful to society:

Jehovah’s witnesses are incredibly strict and un-wavering in their approach to a faithful life and can sometimes take it too far. I was watching a television show in which young, talented musicians were given the opportunity to be the opening act for some of the biggest artists in the music industry. One young man was selected to open for Nikki Minaj, giving him the opportunity to live out his life-long dream and potentially make a name for himself. As a part of the show, they would fly out the family members so that they could be there to share in their child’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with pride and support. However, this poor young man had to experience the happiest moment of his life without the approval of his mother (who happened to be a Jehovah’s Witness) as she refused to take any part in the demonic, worldly concert. She chose a distorted worldview over the happiness of her own son and as a result, he felt abandoned by her and ashamed of his dream. No parent should ever make their child feel this way.

Another thing Witnesses vehemently oppose are blood transfusions. Receiving a blood transfusion is grounds for expulsion from the religion and should always be rejected — even in life and death situations (?!?!?!). They base this belief on their interpretation of Acts 15:28-29 which states,

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

There is zero tolerance for sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, drunkenness, gambling, illegal drugs and tobacco. Witnesses must dress modestly and follow a strict patriarchal home-life in which divorce in only permitted in the case of adultery (per the Bible). Any divorce not a result of adultery (a scriptural divorce) or a legal separation due to excessive abuse or disdain for the union (“absolute endangerment of spirituality”) is considered illegal and any re-marriage considered adultery. “Marrying a non-believer, or endorsing such a union, is strongly discouraged and carries religious sanctions.” (source)

This leads me to the reason I believe the Jehovah’s Witness style of Christianity is most harmful to society: segregation. They segregate themselves and their children from the outside world and all others that are different from them. Their children are never given the opportunity to learn about the world and make decisions about it on their own which causes a great deal of intolerance and un-acceptance. I believe we become better, more fulfilled people when we are surrounded by people who are different from ourselves. I believe that is the only way we can truly learn and grow. Strip that away and we are nothing but the product of our parents and a slave to their ideals.

Believing you are living the “one and only” truth and being completely un-accepting of other beliefs is never a good thing. It’s arrogant and ignorant and when both of those traits come together it almost always spells disaster.

Why it’s not as bad as the others:

(for Violetwisp 🙂 ) Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the only Christian religions that I know of to take the Bible and the teachings of Christ almost completely literally. They jumped in head-first and committed to the entire sha-bang. There is no scripture plucking, no hermeneutics, no personal ideologies, just one way — God’s. As much as I disagree with their worldviews and their decisions to take literally a book filled with awful, harmful things, I have to admire their commitment to a less than wonderful lifestyle all for the sake of what they believe. You will never come across a Jehovah’s Witness apologist, and I like that.

JehovahsWitnesses

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36 comments

  1. As someone who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, I think this is a pretty good summary of their views. I’d add two things.

    Their ex-communication practice (similar to Mormons and the Amish but known as being disfellowshipping) has been extremely harmful to many families and individuals, especially the mentally ill among them.

    One thing I think they do right is not automatically baptizing babies. You have to go through a process of studying the beliefs and being approved by the (all male) Elders before you can be baptized. Granted I saw children as young as 7 successfully accomplish the process and plenty of people go through the whole process without knowing everything but it is still better than committing babies to their parents’ religion.

    1. Thanks for the insight! I could tell through my research that the act of disfellowshipping someone was pretty awful for the person being kicked out. A question I did have about the process though, that I couldn’t seem to find the answer to was, are the family members of the one being disfellowshipped shamed in any way? I mean, I am sure they feel shame, but does the church impose any kind of sanctions on them as well?

      Also, great point about the baptisms. When I started writing about this religion I found SO much that I wanted to write about that I felt like I couldn’t fit it all in to one concise blog post without it being too long and overbearing. Perhaps I should have done a part one and a part two!

      1. Members of the family are not officially shamed, no. Though if they go against the rules and have “unnecessary” interaction with the disfellowshipped individual, they risk being reproved or disfellowshipped their self.

        I, of course, could go on for days but I think you did a great synopsis. 🙂

  2. Fascinating stuff! And the ‘not as bad’ section is genius! 🙂 There were loads of door-knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina – if I’d read this earlier I would have been able to give a more sensible response than “I’m an atheist, go away”.

  3. That was incredibly interesting! As embarrassing as it is to admit–because I debate with theists regularly–I knew very little about Jehovah’s Witnesses until now. I can foresee myself revisiting this blog for any future refreshers. I hope to see an article on Mormons eventually; there is nothing that praises Jesus quite like magic underwear and golden tablets read from a hat! Here is a great quote from Christopher Hitchens on religious indoctrination; I think it fits well.

    “Indoctrination of the young often has the reverse effect, as we also know from the fate of many secular ideologies, but it seems that the religious will run this risk in order to imprint the average boy or girl with enough propaganda. What else can they hope for? If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.” [God is Not Great (New York: Twelve, 2007), 219-220]

    1. Thanks again for reading and I am glad that I am able to be of assistance in your debates with theists! 🙂 I do have a post on Mormonism planned and, with all of the ex-Mormons I see blogging here, I am hoping that they will be able to provide me with some unique insight into the religion.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the quote!

  4. That verse from Acts is so vague, it’s terrifying to think people adhere to it.

    A JW woman once approached me at the bus stop and she was very nice, yet she behaved in strange way such that, when we were finished, she left as though she’d been apart from her group too long. I could tell that the principles I was speaking about didn’t align with her doctrine…I guess I scared her away.

    Love the series you are doing here, the one yesterday I never even knew about.

    1. Isn’t it? It is unbelievable that anything so vague could be taken so literally like that.

      Did this woman approach you to evangelize? I have yet to experience this seemingly common occurrence (my husband is always the one that is home at the time they tend to come knocking on the door) and I am very curious as to how they attempt to persuade people.

      Thanks for the interest in the series! Hopefully they remain interesting!

      1. Yes, she did. Firstly, it was kind of pointed that she wasn’t there for the bus. Afterwards, she walked over to her car and drove off. So, she purposely targeted me for the chance to propagate her religion. Her method of persuasion began with questions, “Do you go to church? Have you God in your life?” The tactic is debasing for its suggestion that the people she approaches are somehow lost in their ability to conduct their lives.

        If you haven’t been approached or confronted, that is good. It’s happened to me a few times, Mormons included. It’s always kind of a strange, tense situation. Ultimately, I don’t appreciate it. In fact, if I were to become part of an Atheist organization, I would advertise, but I wouldn’t approach strangers on the street nor would I go around knocking on doors in disciple-like fashion. Atheists know who they are and seeing advertisements gives them all the time in the world to decide whether or not they want to meet up.

  5. Thanks! This is a great introduction to this particular group.

    In terms of their actual practices, JWs have most in common with Mormonism, but in terms of their origin they fit more closely with Seventh Day Adventists and Christian Science. One could also draw parallels to the fundamentalist Church of Christ movement (a sort of pseudocult that’s more or less cultish depending on what area of the country you’re in) due to the similar restorationist heritage, but the apocalyptic parallels with SDA and CS are much clearer.

    That’s one of the things I wish you would have mentioned: apocalyptic prophecies. The JWs have predicted Armageddon’s date something like a dozen times since they were founded.

    I did take exception to the last paragraph — the claim that JWs “are one of the only Christian religions that I know of to take the Bible and the teachings of Christ almost completely literally….no scripture plucking, no hermeneutics, no personal ideologies. You will never come across a Jehovah’s Witness apologist.” I’d have to disagree. As you yourself pointed out, the JWs use the Watch Tower Society and their personal retranslation as the final interpretive authority; that’s the prime ideology.

    1. I did make small mention of the apocalyptic ideas, but I did not go in to depth much about the failed prophecies. As I was researching and writing this post, I found that there was SO much interesting information that it was really hard to pick out what I thought were the best/most informational/most shocking/etc. But, nevertheless, thanks for making mention of it, as it is a huge reason why people should be skeptical of this religion.

      In regards to your exception of my last paragraph, I can see how you would come to that conclusion. But, through my research on the Watch Tower Society, their interpretation of the scriptures is almost always completely literal — which is why I made that last statement. So, is it an interpretation of some sort? Absolutely. But, it is also one of the most literal interpretations/translations I have come across, which includes their version of the Bible I mentioned as well.

      1. I’m not sure how we could conclude that the JW translation is “more literal”; it’s a fairly basic translation with a bunch of verses indiscriminately altered whenever Jesus’s divinity is implied. In fact, they’re fairly notorious for that; each new edition of the NWT “corrects” verses implying Jesus’s divinity that they missed in the prior version.

        Whether their interpretation is “more literal” is an easier question, I suppose. They certainly prooftext more often than most groups, so I guess that could be considered “more literal”. But I would definitely question the idea that a interpretation with more peculiarities and prooftexting is somehow “more true to the original” or anything like that.

        One of fundamentalism’s key elements is the denouncement of literary criticism, and the elevation of “literal words and phrases” as having an esoteric meaning that’s deeper and more valuable than their place in the surrounding context. In this sense, yes, JW fundamentalism is quite good at rejecting literary criticism and scholarly analysis. But that’s hardly something to applaud them for.

  6. Great post! It’s enlightening to hear en evangelical fundamentalist criticize a JW in regards to how crazy their doctrine or beliefs are. Yeah, as if any religion makes a bit of damn sense.

    1. The persons who are the most critical and judgemental of the bible are usually those who have never studied it. Abraham Lincoln read the bible from cover to cover and made the statement that it (bible) is the greatest book ever written. You should read it before you pass judgement.

  7. Yet they (the Jehovah’as Witnessed) follow Paul. instead of following teachings and acts of Jesus.
    Jesus did not die on the Cross; he did not get resurrected from the dead and get seated on the right hand of God after forty days. Jesus was neither a literal God nor a son of god; he was a human being and son of Mary.
    After the event of Crucifixion Jesus went to India and died there a natural and peaceful death at the age of 120/125 years; and is buried in a tomb at Srinagar, Kashmir, India.

  8. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Yet they (the Jehovah’as Witnessed) follow Paul. instead of following teachings and acts of Jesus.
    Jesus did not die on the Cross; he did not get resurrected from the dead and get seated on the right hand of God after forty days. Jesus was neither a literal God nor a son of god; he was a human being and son of Mary.
    After the event of Crucifixion Jesus went to India and died there a natural and peaceful death at the age of 120/125 years; and is buried in a tomb at Srinagar, Kashmir, India.

  9. Actually, the JWs teach that the man, Jesus, was the human embodiment of the archangel Michael, who was basically god’s right hand man.
    As someone who was raised in this particular faith, I found this post pretty spot on. Of course, there is much, much more that could be added, but the basics are there. If you decide to write more on this subject I would love to read it.

      1. Aahhh, being a kid and growing up in that religion was the worst! My dad was an elder so
        my brothers and I were held to very high standards. We weren’t allowed to make friends outside of the truth, and school was horrible. Having to endure the awkward stares during the pledge of allegiance, having to sit out in the hallway while classmates passed out birthday treats, doing alternate research assignments during holiday times or when evolution was being discussed in science class, and there was no internet back in those days……I remember not being able to talk to my own brother when he got disfellowshipped, for smoking a cigarette…..there was so much rampant bs and hypocrisy in our particular congregation. My dad was a severe alcoholic who basically drank himself to death eight years ago. He was approached by his fellow elders about his drinking and refused counsel, after several years of counselling others on their various issues. He quit going to meetings, and I used that as my out. My mom continued going for about a year after that, because she had no friends outside of the kingdom hall. She had to cease all contact with her own family, mother and siblings, about 20 years prior, when she and my father were baptized. It’s been 19 years since I’ve been to a meeting, and I’ve never looked back. I still keep in contact with some of the kids I grew up with, and none of them are still in it. Most consider themselves atheists now. I always felt sorry for some of the older ones. As soon as they graduated from high school, it’s like they were all pushed into marriages with others in the congregation the same age. Every single one culminated in divorce. As for the training videos, I’ve seen bits and pieces. Comparable to the old Nazi propaganda films. But that’s to be expected with cult indoctrination. Since I moved back to my hometown three years ago, some of the old congregation has tried to suck me back in. I told them I was an apostate, and they left me alone. They really hate the ones who question. Based on some of the responses, if you decide to research further, you’ll have plenty of input.

  10. This post was so well researched and written! I’m a disfellowshipped JW whose family cut off contact and almost 20 years later this religion still haunts me. The shaming is horrible and oh so damaging. It took years to shake off the feeling that I was ‘bad’ and to be honest it still rears its ugly head sometimes. I really look forward to reading your other posts!

    1. Not all congragations are perfectly balanced because it is made up of imperfect people. But Christian ethics should have helped you to be more tolerant of the various members instead of being negative and critical of those who are doing their best to live the life of a Christian. Shame on you. You do not have to fear a Christian. They will not rob you or kill you or hurt you purposely. Can you say that about all in this world? You need to look into your heart and figure out why you have allowed the imperfections of others too negatively impact you.

  11. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. It was a horrible way to grow up. When I was little, I was afraid to make friends at school because I knew they would all die horribly at Armageddon. I was the only Witness in my school so it could be pretty lonely. Whenever something too worldly was going on at school I would have to leave the class room and go sit in the office. I also was the only kid who sat quietly during the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Your post is great and very accurate. I did want to point out one thing though. You mentioned “church meetings”, Witnesses have meetings, (not worship or service – just “meetings”) but they object to the word “church”. They meet in their building which is called a Kingdom Hall.

    1. Thank you for that clarification, I didn’t know there was an objection to the word “church”. I couldn’t imagine growing up in such a strict religion. I went to elementary school with a JH and I just remember being in complete disbelief that she had never had a birthday party and had to sit out when we were eating cupcakes in class.

  12. Please tell me how a book that took 1500 years to write and which was written by 40 different people can be believed in any way. Also, explain how the millions of animals (which include reptiles, insects, amphibians, mammals, birds, etc.) all fit on that boat and got along. How do you pick two mosquitos to make the trip? The lizards would dispatch them in no time. This defies logic.

    Religions were created by man. God wrote no book. Even I could start a religion and, before long, get some gullible people to follow me. I think I’ll call it the following.

    TheRealTrueandOnlyThingToBelieveandGetYoutoHeavenThing

    Thank you for letting me express this.

  13. Dear writer of this article,
    I have to admit that most of what you have said in this article is undoubtedly derived from your objective reasoning of what the JW are all about,both their leadership and average members.
    However it is sad to know that despite your admirable “common sense” about JW,you are still at the atheist level.
    A person or group of people or whatever you are,having so much knowledge about the JW,should put you in a position to grasp the fact that God exists.
    In other terms you certainly have the brain,and it shows in the article,and I am just asking you to consider using that brain/potential of yours to dig more into what life is all about.
    I won’t add more for the time being,but I am willing to interact more for your sake and mine.
    Thanks

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