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.
They 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.
Witnesses 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.