People chose to associate with a religious organization for its ability to:
- Focus attention on God and his everlasting purposes
- Outline moral guidelines
- Provide community
The Watchtower Society has benefited the lives of many people by achieving the above goals in their lives. Jehovah’s Witnesses are generally sincere, clean living people that wish to serve God. Many are well meaning and devote their lives to serving Jehovah in the manner prescribed by the Watchtower Society, attending several meetings and preaching every week. Being a Jehovah’s Witness does not create the same level of problems for individuals or society that certain extremist organizations and cults have done.
One of the enjoyable aspects of being a Jehovah’s Witness is the friends that can be made through the congregation and the broad variety of people that can be met through District Conventions. However, this is not unique to being a Jehovah’s Witness. I have friends of different religious denominations that have developed extended global friendships through the activities of their Church.
The concern with being a Jehovah’s Witness is the many lives that have been greatly damaged. The fault lies not with the followers but with the system, particularly the manner in which the Watchtower Society forces followers to think and behave.
The focus of what is wrong revolves around a single point, the high control that the Watchtower Society has over its members, affecting both spirituality and day-to-day living. This predominates the following areas;
- Day-to-day lives
- Strict shunning of former members, including family
- Banning of certain medical treatment
- Short term planning for the future regarding education, finances, marriage and children
- Demeaning view of ‘worldly’ people
- Fear and negative view of life in the Last Days
- Control over information and questioning
- Stunted emotional development of members born into the religion
- Spirituality – Two class system
- Bible was written principally for the leaders
- Salvation only comes through close alignment with the leaders
- Jesus is mediator solely for the 144,000
(Please note that on first glance most Witnesses would disagree with the above list, and most likely may not even be aware that Watchtower theology excludes them from Jesus mediatorship. Each point is discussed here in detail with the support of Watchtower quotes.)
Being in control of ones life is a fundamental keys to happiness; particularly control of relationships, health and finances. Freedom is of primary importance and regarded as the highest aspiration of mankind. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights preamble states;
“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,”
Likewise, in one of the great speeches of the 20th century Martin Luther King concluded;
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!””
High control religious groups greatly limit the freedom of their members, based on the belief system of the leaders. The high control the Watchtower Society demands over the lives of members goes beyond the bounds of Christianity, the law and healthy development. This section looks at how this control is manifest.
“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, if such a thing were physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met ‘cut us dead’ and acted as if we were nonexistent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruellest bodily torture would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.” (The Principles of Psychology Volume 1 pp.293-4 William James Dover Publications)
Common amongst high control groups is the demand to shun former members, taking away the freedom of members to choose who should or should not be associated with. In Combating Cult Mind Control page 109 Steven Hassan advises that the first question a person should ask before joining any controversial group is;
“Does your group impose restrictions on communicating with former members? This is one of the most revealing sets of questions you can ask any cult member. Any legitimate organization would never discourage contact with former members.”
As discussed at disfellowshipping, the Watchtower practice of shunning goes well beyond scriptural guidelines and exists as a method of control. A Jehovah’s Witness can be disfellowshipped for numerous reasons, including doctrinal disagreement, smoking, gambling, drunkenness and fornication. Once disfellowshipped they are not to be spoken to or even greeted by their friends, including in the street, socially or at the kingdom hall.
A person who openly questions Watchtower doctrine is referred to as an apostate and described in the Watchtower 1993 Oct 1 p.19 as a rebel against Jehovah; Jehovah’s Witnesses are to “”feel a loathing” toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.” The Watchtower 1994 Jul 1 p.12 claims those who stop following the Watchtower Society are feeding “at Satan’s spiritual table, the table of demons, [and] will be forced to attend a literal meal, no, not as partakers, but as the main course-to their destruction!”
Most if not all major cultures recognise that family if of utmost importance in life. Healthy family relationships are a key contributor to happiness and emotional stability. Family is the core of society and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 states;
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”
The Watchtower Society contravenes this right by forbidding members from having general association with their own disfellowshipped family members (unless they are too young to leave home).
“It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum.” Watchtower 1988 Apr 15 p.27
Pay Attention to Yourselves and all the Flock p.103 shows that a person can be disfellowshipped for talking to their disfellowshipped family members.
It is quite regularly during personal crisis that a person is disfellowshipped. A teenager may become a drug addict, or fall pregnant and be in desperate need of family support. Yet at these very times they are expected to be shunned by family. Consistently I have seen normal parents supporting their wayward children when all others have turned their backs on them and find it devastating to know or read experiences of Witnesses that have been abandoned by their parents in similar times of need.
Many of my disfellowshipped friends have been advised by in-laws that they are never to visit, call, email or send an SMS unless they are reinstated as Jehovah’s Witnesses. What mother wants to face the future knowing she may never again speak freely to her children, or child want to face a lifetime of exclusion from family gatherings? The Watchtower Society insists upon this and many Witnesses have had virtually no contact with their parents and children for decades because of this rule.
On being disfellowshipped a person that joined the Watchtower Society later in life will suffer for a period of time. Yet this is only mild in comparison to the effect on the life of a person that has be raised a Witness. A person that is born into the religion will have almost their entire circle of family and friends within the Organization. Their goals, thinking and speech will all be strongly influenced by the Watchtower. On being disfellowshipped they generally have no one to turn to; combined with a feeling of alienation from the world around them. On being disfellowshipped at the age of 18 one friend of mine described feeling as if she was one of the “walking dead”. It took over two years to recover from the resultant depression and learn to integrate into general society.
Unnecessary Death & Suffering
Jehovah’s Witnesses are to put “Jehovah” first, even if this will result in death. Thus no compromise is to be made in order to save ones own life. Unfortunately later changes in rules mean often it was not Jehovah but the Watchtower that was put first.
“Jehovah’s servants have built up an outstanding record as integrity keepers. When put under pressure, they have proved that ‘they do not love their own souls’ more than they love Jehovah. (Revelation 12:11) Wisely, they do not abandon Christian principles trying to save their present life. (Luke 9:24, 25) They know that even if they lose their life now because of loyally upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, he will reward them by means of the resurrection.” Worship the Only True God p.89
Theoretically commendable, this fails to recognise that Jehovah’s Witnesses put Watchtower interpretation of Jehovah’s requirements first. The interpretation in life threatening areas continue to change (unlike Jehovah’s standards), resulting in Witnesses unnecessarily suffering and dying for principles that later apparently were not what Jehovah required.
Jesus commanded that we “pay back Caesars things to Caesar”, Cornelius converted whilst a military officer and at Romans chapter 13 Paul advised that we obey political rulers, so it is with little justification that the Watchtower Society insists Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from voting and politics. This has been a cause of unnecessary persecution for many followers. Most reprehensible has been the plight of Witnesses in Malawi. In the 1960’s the Watchtower decreed that Malawian Witnesses were not to hold a political card in a one party state. This resulted in many thousands of deaths, rapes and displacements of innocent Witnesses between 1963 and 1992. (Yearbook 1999 pp.149-223) For a full account of this situation see Malawi vs Mexico.
The Watchtower has a history of providing unusual and wrong medical advice. The Golden Age contained warnings against everything from using aluminium saucepans to eating before lunch. In the 1970’s organ transplants were banned as being cannibalism. Currently blood transfusions are not allowed. The Awake! 1994 May 22 p.2 admits that this advice has led to lose of life claiming that “thousands of youths died for putting God first.”
Though presented as from God the advice continues to change, indicating otherwise. The prohibition of what components of blood must be avoided has constantly changed, resulting in Jehovah’s Witnesses continuing to die based on the opinions and whims of men.
When eighty Branch Davidians died in 1993 under the leadership of David Koresh and when hundreds died in mass suicide in Jonestown 1978 the world reeled in shock and horror at the destructive power of damaging religious groups. Yet the death toll at the hands of these two leaders is minor in comparison to the accumulated death toll of Witnesses that have been manipulated by false Watchtower medical doctrine.
Jail instead of military service
“An examination of the historical facts shows that not only have Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to put on military uniforms and take up arms but, during the past half century and more, they have also declined to do noncombatant service or to accept other work assignments as a substitute for military service. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned because they would not violate their Christian neutrality.” United in Worship of the Only True God p.167
After tens of thousands of young Witness men in the prime of their lives have spent years in jails for refusing civilian service in 1996 the Watchtower decided such a choice was not unchristian and a matter of choice.
“What, though, if the State requires a Christian for a period of time to perform civilian service that is a part of national service under a civilian administration? That is his decision before Jehovah.” Watchtower 1996 May 1 p.20
How does the Watchtower justify such needless suffering? Rather than apologise they claim it was Jehovah that allowed it!
“Feelings of Having Suffered Needlessly
In the past, some Witnesses have suffered for refusing to share in an activity that their conscience now might permit. For example, this might have been their choice years ago as to certain types of civilian service. A brother might now feel that he could conscientiously perform such without overstepping his Christian neutrality regarding the present system of things. Was it unrighteous on Jehovah’s part to allow him to suffer for rejecting what he now might do without consequences? Most who have had that experience would not think so. Rather, they rejoice that they had the opportunity of demonstrating publicly and clearly that they were determined to be firm on the issue of universal sovereignty.” Watchtower 1998 Aug 15 p.17
Planning for the Future
Since inception, the Watchtower Society has claimed the end is about to come. Over 130 years of failed expectations have passed. Throughout this period dates and terms like “within the next few years” have gone unfulfilled. Yet this has not prevented the Watchtower society continuing to build urgency by saying that the end will shortly take place. Because the end is ‘so near’ the Watchtower recommends members postpone plans for the future and devote themselves to distributing the Watchtower and its message, praising those that do.
“Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.” Kingdom Ministry May 1974 p.3 How Are You Using Your Life?
By building up these expectation followers’ lives and the decisions they make are affected in regards to education, children and planning for the future. The following are specific areas in which the Watchtower continues to influence member’s decisions.
The Watchtower does not specifically forbid advanced education, but has regularly warned against it. As early as 1910 Russell advised against advanced education.
“My advice is, then, give your children an education up to public school limit, not even attempting to take them through high school, for they get plenty of Higher Criticism [sic] in the high schools, and it will not be long before they have it in the common schools also.” What Pastor Russell Said (Leslie W. Jones Chicago 1917) pp.57,58
This negative attitude to further education has been expressed ever since.
“Rather than being content with “sustenance and covering,” those who devote themselves to getting a “higher education” usually want to be able to enjoy “the rest of the things” that money can buy.” Watchtower 1967 Feb 1 p.76
“A university degree may or may not improve your employment prospects. But one fact is indisputable: “The time left is reduced”! (1 Corinthians 7:29) For all its presumed benefits, would four years or more in a university be the best use of that remaining time?-Ephesians 5:16.” Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13 What Career Should I Choose?
During the 1990’s the difficulty some Jehovah’s Witnesses were having in obtaining sufficient employment led to a softening of the anti-education sentiment, though still with warnings and provisos.
“If Christian parents responsibly decide to provide their children with further education after high school, that is their prerogative. The period of these studies would vary according to the type of trade or occupation selected. For financial reasons and in order to enable their children to get into the full-time service as quickly as possible, many Christian parents have chosen for them short-term study programs in vocational or technical schools. In some cases youths have needed to be apprenticed to some trade but always with a full life of service to Jehovah as the goal. If additional courses are taken, certainly the motive should not be to shine scholastically or to carve out a prestigious worldly career. Courses should be chosen with care. This magazine has placed emphasis on the dangers of higher learning, and justifiably so, for much higher education opposes the “healthful teaching” of the Bible. (Titus 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:20, 21) Further, since the 1960’s, many schools of advanced learning have become hotbeds of lawlessness and immorality. “The faithful and discreet slave” has strongly discouraged entering that kind of environment. (Matthew 24:12, 45) It must be admitted, however, that nowadays youngsters meet up with these same dangers in high schools and technical colleges and even in the workplace.-1 John 5:19.” Watchtower 1992 Nov 1 p.20 Education With a Purpose
“Remember, too, that “the time left is reduced.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) How much time will you devote to such education? Will it consume the bulk of your youthful years? If so, how will you apply the Bible’s encouragement to “remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood”?” Watchtower 1999 Sep 1 p.17 Youths-Train Your Perceptive Powers!
This relaxed stance did not last long, with articles reverting back to a focus on the dangers of education and an attitude close to contempt for those that hold out plans for education and riches.
“Do you not agree that to continue enjoying divine blessings, we must resist seeking things for ourselves at the expense of Jehovah’s worship? That is so whether the activity or interest diverting our attention is the pursuit of wealth, get-rich-quick schemes, ambitious plans for advanced education to have a desirable career in this system, or programs of personal fulfilment.” Watchtower 2006 Apr 15 p.27
Such things may not be sins in themselves. However, do you not see that from the standpoint of everlasting life, those really are dead works? In what sense? They are spiritually dead, vain and fruitless. If one persists in them, such works could lead to spiritual death. It happened to some anointed Christians in the apostles’ day. It has happened to some in out time. You may know of some who were gradually distracted from Christian activities and from the congregation; now they show no inclination to return to Jehovah’s Service.”
The result can be seen from a 1993 survey of 113,000 people by Kosmin and Lachman. Of the thirty religious groups listed Jehovah’s Witnesses had the lowest level of college graduates and the lowest aggregate social status, with aggregate social status based on home ownership, annual household income, college graduation and percent working full-time. Whereas 49.5% of Unitarian Universalists and 20% of Catholics had a degree, only 4.7% of Jehovah’s Witnesses did.
Advice Against Children and Marriage
Particularly during times of heightened expectation of Armageddon has the Watchtower Society encouraged children and marriage to be postponed; reasoning it detracts from the work of spreading their message in these “last days.”
“Although Noah’s three sons were all married, none fathered children until after the Deluge. While this does not imply that it is wrong to have children today, many Christian couples decline to have children so as to become more fully involved in the urgent work that Jehovah has given his people to do. Some couples have waited for a time before having children; others have decided to remain childless and consider the possibility of bearing children in Jehovah’s righteous new world.” Watchtower 2000 Aug 1 p.21 Why Do They Have No Children?
This occurred in the build up prior to the end of the millennium.
“If the expansion of Christianity was to come about mainly by childbearing, Jesus would not have encouraged his disciples to “make room” for singleness “on account of the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 19:10-12) How should Christians view marriage and childbearing today, in this “time of the end”? (Daniel 12:4) It is truer than ever that “the scene of this world is changing,” or, as another translation puts it, “the present scheme of things is rapidly passing away.”-1 Corinthians 7:31, Phillips. Now, as never before, “the time left is reduced.” Yes, only a limited time remains for Jehovah’s people to finish the work he has given them to do, namely: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) That work must be accomplished before the end comes. It is, therefore, appropriate for Christians to ask themselves how getting married or, if married, having children will affect their share in that vital work. During all this pre-Flood period, Noah’s sons and their wives had no children.” Watchtower 1988 Mar 1 p. 19 Childbearing Among God’s People
In the lead up to 1975 this same reasoning was expounded.
“Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus’ prophecy will shortly have a major fulfilment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time. They have chosen to remain childless so that they would be less encumbered to carry out the instructions of Jesus Christ to preach the good news of God’s kingdom earth wide before the end of this system comes. -Matt.24:14.” Awake! 1974 Nov 8 p.11
In 1941 the Watchtower said that the followers were in the “remaining months before Armageddon.” (w41 9/15 p.288) The lead up to this period specifically warned it would be inappropriate to marry and have children.
“Would it be Scripturally proper for them to now marry and to begin to rear children? No, is the answer, which is supported by the Scripture . Those Jonadabs who now contemplate marriage, it would seem, would do better if they wait a few years, until the fiery storm of Armageddon is gone…” Face the Facts (1938) pp.46-50
“…mark the words of Jesus, which definitely seem to discourage the bearing of children immediately before or during Armageddon.” Watchtower 1938 Nov 1 p.324
“Should men and women, both of whom are Jonadabs or “other sheep” of the Lord, now marry before Armageddon and bring forth children? They may chose to do so, but the admonition or advice of the scriptures appears to be against it.” Children (1941) 3,000,000 ed. pp.312-313
Rutherford had a particularly negative view of marriage, as reflected in magazines during his time. The Golden Age 1937 Jan 27 edition contained an article “That Delusion Called Love” that contained bizarre statements and recommendations, such as promoting arranged marriage. It concluded:
“God’s consecrated people do well to refrain from marriage unless they find themselves continually tormented with desire for sexual intercourse, in which case they should marry. For those of the younger or older who have need to marry on this score, let them dispose of the matter in candor and honesty shunning the blight, the delusions and illusions of “love” so called and courtship, which bring reproach on the holy name of Jehovah.”
Many that adhered to the advice in the 1930’s have since passed away without experiencing the joy of matrimonial love, children and grandchildren.
Jesus message was that his followers were to be freed from the burdens of the Mosaic Law, condemning the Pharisees for their petty rule making. He promised “my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Individuals were to base their behaviour on principles of love. Paul repeatedly showed that the Law was superseded (Romans 7:6) and at Acts 15:28 the older men stated that “the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things.”
The Watchtower Society however has built a preponderance rules. The Branch Organization Procedure book has over 1,100 rules and regulations. There are over 30 reasons to be disfellowshipped. In addition to the rules already discussed, there is a plethora of regulation written and unwritten, compulsory or recommended, stated directly or implied regarding dress codes, beards, entertainment, the size of gatherings, uncleanness and so forth.
For instance the following recommendation on dress codes when attending conventions shows how paltry Watchtower guidelines can become.
“Should we manifest a dignified appearance only when attending the program? Remember that many will observe us wearing our convention badges while in the convention city. Our appearance should make us stand out from the general public. Therefore, even during leisure time, such as when going out to eat after the program, we should dress as befits ministers who are in the city for the purpose of attending a Christian convention and should not wear such -clothing as jeans, shorts, or t-shirts. What a witness this will give to the community! Jehovah is pleased when our appearance bespeaks our role as ministers.” Kingdom Ministry 2007 Apr (US Edition)
Fear is a powerful way of control, successfully used by religions for centuries. Use of fear by the Watchtower is discussed in detail in the chapter on Fear and Mind Control.
Prior to the 1978 release of My Book of Bible Stories, as a child my Bible stories book was the 1958 From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained page 209. As a child I had recurrent nightmares of falling off a cliff and I have little doubt that the following picture had negative affects on impressionable children.
Negative view of life
From its inception the Watchtower Society consistently has been preaching doom and how unliveable life is.
“Our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can hold out so long under the strain.” Watchtower 1894 Jul 15 p.227
“These last days are difficult to deal with. It is not easy to balance out family matters, secular activity, congregation activity, and preaching. In addition, many of you have to deal with sickness, depression, old age, and even opposition. Most of you are “loaded down.” We want to express our fellow feeling to you, in line with what Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.”” Yearbook 2006 p.5
To be a Witness requires a special thinking process, one that motivates a person to urgency in these unprecedented wicked ‘last days’. Negative imagery is constantly presented to keep members in a constant downcast state about the people around and the times we live in. Global catastrophies are welcomed as ‘proof’ that few years are left before Armageddon.
There is constant reference to scriptures saying “that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here”, that “men and impostors will advance from bad to worse” and there will be “woe for the earth and for the sea” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; Revelation 12:12) For instance over the last 53 years, the Scripture “critical times hard to deal with” is referred to 897 times whilst the well known verse from Psalm 23:1 “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing” is only mentioned 111 times in the Watchtower. The following are typical Watchtower statements.
“Two world wars, hundreds of smaller armed conflicts, famines, great earthquakes, pestilences, wave after wave of crime and violence, and a worldwide preaching campaign all together constitute a dramatic warning that human society is rapidly approaching a cataclysmic crisis.” Watchtower 1993 Mar 1 p.4
“Critical times are here. Civil strife, ethnic wars, natural disasters, and other horrific events are common place. Now more then ever, the human family needs good news.” Kingdom Ministry Apr 2005 p.1
The reality of the times we live in is quite different. A study of history shows that now is a time of comparable peace. Human rights, particularly for women and children are far greater than ever. Medical advances mean that the life expectancy in many countries has doubled in the last 100 years and can be enjoyed with far less pain. The average person living in developed countries enjoy luxuries few Kings had access to in centuries gone by. It was stated in the March 24-28th 2005 Australian Financial Review that we are living in the healthiest, most peaceful, best period of time in all history.
The Watchtower needs to prove conditions are far worse than they really are to prove it to be the Last Days and create urgency in followers to devote themselves to growing the organisation. Healthy religions do not need to create negative urgency as they are based around serving God rather than serving for salvation. Positive religions focus on improvement in life by establishment of schools, hospitals and charities, whilst a Witness waits and waits for a future time when things will get better.
Ability to reason
In an effort to create unwavering unity Jehovah’s Witnesses are forced to suppress questioning and reasoning abilities. This creates unity based, not on truth, but on the mindless following of everything within the pages of Watchtower publications. On leaving it is disconcerting to become aware of how much you once wholeheartedly believed that was quite senseless. It takes time to trust your own thinking ability and to learn how to evaluate information on its merits. Following are some of the direct statements in the Watchtower that discourage healthy questioning of Watchtower information.
“False religious propaganda from any source should be avoided like poison! Really, since our Lord has used “the faithful and discreet slave” to convey to us “sayings of everlasting life,” why should we ever want to look anywhere else?” Watchtower 1987 Nov 1 p.20
“[Avoid] questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization” Watchtower 1983 Jan 15 p.22 Avoid Independent Thinking
“‘Believe all things,’ all the things that the Watchtower brings out” Qualified to be Ministers (1955) p.156
“In Jehovah’s organisation it is not necessary to spend a lot of time and energy in research, for there are brothers in the organisation who are assigned to that very thing.” Watchtower 1967 Jun 1 p.338
The Watchtower Study is a prime example of the difference between education and indoctrination. In a Letter to Elders April 3 2007 “RE: Guidelines for Watchtower Study Conductors” to following guideline is given:
“But this does not mean that he should introduce additional material from his own personal research and thus possibly overshadow what has been published in the magazine. Extensive research has already been involved in producing the study article, and the points to be emphasized are those included in the paragraphs under consideration. When outside material is introduced, it often detracts from what “the faithful and discreet slave” has prepared for the congregation. (Matt 24:45-47) The impression may be given that the additional information from the conductor’s research is of equal or greater value.”
Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are raised to feel like the odd-ones-out at school, prevented from engaging in many normal childhood activities such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter and a range of public holidays. Engaging in ‘competitive’ sport is frowned upon, as is associating with worldly friends.
The Watchtower Society provides little activity for children. Sunday school is criticised as parents shirking their responsibilities to train their own children.
“Many parents feel that Sunday school is an easy and popular shortcut to religious education for the young, relieving themselves of the responsibility.”Awake! 1970 Sep 22 p.19
In contrast, mainstream Christianity provides numerous activities for children ranging from Sunday school to clubs, music nights and camping trips.
As discussed in the section on paedophilia, the Watchtower policies on child molestation has been to protect the reputation of the Watchtower Society ahead of the wellbeing of the children.
No doubt the most destructive attribute is coming to the realisation that Jehovah’s Witness parents only have ‘conditional love’ for their children. Witness children know their parents will look down on them as being part of the world or even shun them if they choose not to remain Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Children raised in high control religions are not allowed to develop their true identities. Children are forced to conform to acceptable psychological types, such are the extroversion required for preaching. Strict adherence to rules and punishment for deviation hinders the development of personal boundaries. On leaving the high control group as adults, former members find all personal boundaries require re-evaluation, and can embark on self destructive behaviour during this phase.
Assistance to society
It is normal for religion to assist the community through the provision of charities, schools and universities. Unfortunately the Watchtower interprets being separate from the world to mean that the Organization and members should do little to assist anyone that is not a Jehovah’s Witness.
References to charities in the Watchtower negatively describe them as corrupt and ineffectual. Information about charities is generally confined to reports about misuse of funds and the creation of “rice Christians”.
“If there is any material giving, to charities for instance, it is because there is need to salve a conscience, or because one’s reputation is at stake.” Watchtower 1969 May 1 p.280
The Watchtower justifies its stance by claiming preaching is the only strategy with any long term effects.
“When it comes to organized charity, though, we need to be cautious as we evaluate the many appeals we receive. There is a kind of giving that is even more important than charity. Jesus alluded to this when a rich young ruler asked what he had to do to get everlasting life. Jesus told him: “Go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matthew 19:16-22) Notice that Jesus did not just say, ‘Give to the poor and you will get life.’ Instead, he added, “Come be my follower.” In other words, as commendable and beneficial as charitable acts are, Christian discipleship involves more. Jesus’ chief interest was in helping others spiritually.” Watchtower 2003 Jun 1 p.7 Giving That Pleases God
Jesus said that there will always be the poor and to be no part of the world but neither of these statements indicate that poor people should not be cared for. It also overlooks Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan and his command at Matthew 19:19 to love your neighbour as yourself. In both cases there is no limitation on restricting love to those of a single organization, in fact Jews considered Samaritans to be apostates.
The Watchtower says that time is best spent preaching and converting, as this leads to everlasting life, rather than a temporal prolonging of this life. This is counter intuitive reasoning as charities are an effective way to preach whilst positively alleviating immediate suffering. For instance, the Salvation Army and many Church groups spend considerable time assisting others, and in the process are also able to assist people spiritually. Equally practical is the Sydney Adventist Hospital, Australia’s largest non profit hospital. A website entitled www.guidestar.org lists over 60,000 Christian Charities. An article entitled “Religious Charities Do It Better” by Robert A. Sirico in Investor’s Business Daily, 2 February, 2001 stated;
“… the Bush administration is highlighting the essential role of private charity, including that provided by faith-based institutions. This represents an attempt to shift away from failed administrative, approaches and toward humane initiatives undertaken by those who actually know and love those who need help”
Never Growing Old or Dying
“If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things.” Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15
As incomprehensible as it would seem to most people, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not expect to grow old or to die. They expect to live forever on this earth. As the older generations are being farewelled in funeral speeches the next generation of newborn Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that they will not grow old or die. As a child I did not expect to reach high school, let alone enter the workforce.
From inception the Watchtower has preached that its members would not grow old. Russell believed that in 1878, just 2 years after forming the Watchtower Society that he was to be raptured to heaven. From 1918 Rutherford promoted “millions now living will never die”, on the understanding that the earthly resurrection would start in 1925.
This leads to many Witnesses planning little for their future, old age or retirement. It leads to great emotional turmoil as those that leave the Watchtower Society come to the realisation that old age will be a normal part of their life.
For 2000 years Christians have hoped that Jesus second coming would occur in their lifetime. However, healthy groups do not put their lives on hold for such an eventuality. Though such an occurrence is greatly welcomed, it does not prevent them from looking forward to and planning for long and healthy lives if need be.
View of “Worldly People”
“If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken and the fear, hatred and self righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.” (1984 George Orwell p.204)
In order to force members to stay close to the Watchtower Society everyone not a Jehovah’s Witnesses is described as a “worldly person”. As standard with high control groups, members are discouraged from associating with people not part of the group; to be “no part of the world”. The Watchtower view of “worldly people” is insidiously pervasive. In Watchtower publications and at meetings the evilness of all aspects of the world and its people is presented so consistently that it becomes mentally invasive to the point that in my opinion it damages a followers grip on reality.
A worldly person includes every non-Witness, even those that may appear to exhibit nice Christian qualities.
“We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a school friend, a workmate, or a business associate. We may reason, ‘He respects the Witnesses, he leads a clean life, and we do talk about the truth occasionally.’ Yet, the experience of others proves that in time we may even find ourselves preferring such worldly company to that of a spiritual brother or sister. What are some of the dangers of such a friendship?” Watchtower 1994 Feb 15 p.24
This is ‘loaded language’ as the term worldly person does not appear in the Bible. John 15:19 advises “Now because YOU are no part of the world, but I have chosen YOU out of the world, on this account the world hates YOU.” By world John refers to separation from ungodly practices and forms of worship, not from all people not associated with the Watchtower Society.
The effect of this us-and-them mentality is significant as it creates physical and mental isolation from the general population. Leaving the group becomes more difficult as time goes on. An unrealistic dread of being in the world can develop, with members fearing it as a dangerous and ungodly place.
Leaving the Watchtower Society resulted in my experiencing the great joy of finding just how wonderful most people are. When I was going through the trauma of leaving the ongoing offers of help from many people of every sort of background helped me through what would otherwise have been an unendurable time. I have found that people in general are loving and constantly come in contact with people that are helping others in ways both small and magnanimous; people that work for low wages because of their desire to help the sick, others working as missionaries or running micro charities with little recognition.
The following quotes show the extreme, unreasonable view the Watchtower consistently portrays of all non Witnesses.
“The spirit of companionship that unites those who work together in God’s service is far stronger than the spirit that unites others in the world who merely socialize together.” Watchtower 2010 Sep 15 p.14
“The majority of people alive are alienated by God and controlled by the Devil. While some contact with worldly people is unavoidable-at work, at school, and otherwise-we must be vigilant so as to keep from being sucked back into the death-dealing atmosphere of this world. Let the world go along in its way, reaping its bad fruitage in the form of broken homes, illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and countless other emotional and physical woes.” Watchtower 1987 Sep 15 p.12 Breathing This World’s “Air” Is Death-Dealing!
“Only a minority has ever stayed free from the control of this invisible ruler and his forces. Thus the “world,” that is, the mass of mankind alienated from God, “is lying in the power of the wicked one. This may sound hard to believe. Yet, do not most people of this world clearly manifest the attitude and works of God’s Adversary? … Worldly people, for example, heap honor and glory on those whose ambitious drive leads them to great wealth, power, or fame””True Peace and Security – How Can You Find It? pp.122,126 Survivors Must Be “No Part of the World”
“We must avoid the speech, conduct and attitudes that are so common among worldly individuals, but that are out of harmony with God’s Word. For instance, hatred, greediness, shameful conduct and obscene jesting have no proper place in our life. We must ‘put up with one another and be forgiving, even as Jehovah has freely forgiven us.’ (Colossians 3:13) That is not the common worldly way of dealing with others, but it is the godly way.” Watchtower 1984 Oct 1 pp.15, 19 Remain “Without Spot From the World”
The Watchtower is particularly harsh in its descriptions of members of other religions, including Christians. So strong were Rutherfords denunciations on other religions that one newspaper described the early Bible Students as a religion of hate. The venomous terminology used has continued down to this day.
“Brother Rutherford released the tan-colored book Enemies. It denounced false religion as “a great enemy, always working injury to mankind.” False religionists were identified as “agents of the Devil, whether they are aware of that fact or not.” When presenting the book to the audience, Brother Rutherford said: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it.” To this the audience gave loud and enthusiastic approval.” Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom p.84
“… the clergy of Christendom have been the most prominent members of Satan’s seed.” Revelation Its Grand Climax At Hand! p.30
“All her hundreds of millions of church members, if they continue to support Christendom’s religion, become like scorched blades of grass, spiritually wilted in God’s eyes.” Ibid p.134
“No one looking at the fruits of the third of the world occupied by Christendom can deny that she is groping in gross spiritual darkness. She is most blameworthy, for she claims to be Christian. Hence, it is only proper that the fourth angel should trumpet the fact that Christendom’s “light” is, in fact, darkness, and her sources of “light” are Babylonish-non-Christian.” Ibid p.140
“In other places, the Kingdom literature continues to expose Christendom’s Babylonish doctrines and ways, bringing her deserved harm in a figurative way.” Ibid p.154
The Following resolution is remarkable in its sweeping generalisations.
As JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, we testify that:
(1) WE ABHOR the reproach that Babylon the Great, and Christendom in particular, has cast upon the name of the one true and living God, Jehovah. For our part, WE AFFIRM wholeheartedly, in the words of Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power.”
(2) WE ABHOR Christendom’s adherence to Babylonish teachings, notably those of a triune god, the human soul’s immortality, eternal torment in hell, a fiery purgatory, and worship of images-such as the Madonna and the cross. In line with Revelation 22:18, 19, WE FIRMLY ABIDE by God’s written Word and all that it contains.
(3) WE ABHOR anti-God philosophies and practices, so common in Christendom, such as evolution, blood transfusions, abortions, lying, greed, and dishonesty. In our worship and way of life, WE WILL HONOR our Creator, Jehovah God, the Almighty, whose ways are described at Revelation 15:3 as “righteous and true.”
(4) WE ABHOR Christendom’s failure to heed Jesus’ messages to the seven congregations at Revelation chapters 2 and 3 in such matters as sectarianism, idolatry, fornication, the Jezebel influence, lukewarmness, and lack of watchfulness. For our part, WE WILL HEAR AND OBEY what “the spirit says to the congregations.”
(5) WE ABHOR the immorality and permissiveness in Christendom and among its clergy, and we welcome Jehovah’s clear judgment stated at Revelation 21:8 that those who continue in their filth-fornicators, liars, and suchlike-will be utterly destroyed. WE WHOLEHEARTEDLY SUPPORT Bible standards on sex, marriage, and family life.
(6) WE ABHOR the centuries-long spiritual prostitution of the clergy of Babylon the Great in conniving with worldly rulers to gain power, wealth, and oppressive dominance over the common people. WE ARE RESOLVED to help honesthearted ones to obey the angel’s call at Revelation 18:4: “Get out of her, my people.”
(7) WE ABHOR the massive bloodguilt resulting from over 100 million lives sacrificed in war in this century alone, largely attributable to the great harlot’s fornication with the political powers. WE REJOICE that the appointed time is near for God to execute judicial punishment on Babylon the Great, as clearly stated at Revelation 18:21-24.” Watchtower 1989 Apr 15 pp.18-19 A Resolution
Destruction of all Non Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses long for the time when they are unencumbered by worldly people. As previously discussed in detail, the Watchtower teaches that shortly the “billions of people who do not know Jehovah [will] perish during the great tribulation.” (w93 10/1 p.19) The billions of rotting cadavers will be left as “Birds and beasts gorge themselves on the unburied bodies of Gog’s crowd.” (w88 9/15 p.26) This inhumane picture invalidates the existence of virtually every one of a Witnesses neighbors, school friends and workmates.
In the following picture Jehovah’s Witnesses are shown smiling as the world and its billions of inhabitants are destroyed at Armageddon.
Does God Really Care About Us? (1992) p.22
As a teenager I remember often discussing – even longing for – this time, after which I could move in to a beautiful house on the beach and claim a Lamborghini Countach for my own.
Being no part of the world has a significant effect on people. One Psychologist stated: “When classmates salute the flag, celebrate a birthday, exchange Valentine cards, or sign up for extracurricular activities after school, Jehovah’s Witness kids face conflict between personal inclination and their sect’s rigid prohibitions. Some obey to the letter, while others live double lives, but all experience inner conflict trying to sort these things out.”
By describing worldly people in the vilest of terms forms a negative and unrealistic opinion of anyone that is not a Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not know any better and often believe that all worldly people are bad and not be trusted, holding deep seated fear of leaving the Watchtower Society. Even when I no longer believed Watchtower doctrine I held tremendous fear of leaving, believing I would never find true friends or happiness and quite probably become suicidal. The opposite has occurred.
Other high control religions also use this technique to great effect. Exclusive Brethren forbid their children to eat with other children at school or watch TV. Being isolated from society keeps members uneducated to reality, holding an unrealistic view of ‘worldly people’ and feeling like they have a special position with God, key methods of control.
No one comes in for more degrading references than “apostates”, those that stop believing the Watchtower Society represents the only true religion.
“Persons who deliberately spread (stubbornly hold to and speak about) teachings contrary to Bible truth as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses are apostates.” Pay Attention to Yourself and to All the Flock p.94
Apostates are considered and treated worse than adulterers, paedophiles and murderers. Apostates must not be spoken to and their books must not be read. They must be ‘loathed’ and ‘hated’, are said to eat from the ‘table of demons’, and are ‘reserved for destruction’; strong words indeed. So dominant is this fear that the Watchtower labels all apostates as part of the antichrist, which is unfair as many apostates remain as Christians. Consider the following statements:
“Apostasy is, in reality, a rebellion against Jehovah.” Watchtower 1993 Oct 1 p.19
“True Christians share Jehovah’s feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they “feel a loathing” toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.” Watchtower 1993 Nov 1 p.19
“With apostates earth wide being destroyed, what reason can one have for confidence of life in paradise to follow?” Kingdom Ministry Sep 1973 p.6
“Some apostates are increasingly using various forms of mass communication, including the Internet, to spread false information about Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 2000 May 1 p.10
“For one thing, some of the apostate literature presents falsehoods by means of “smooth talk” and “counterfeit words.” (Romans 16:17, 18; 2 Peter 2:3) What would you expect from the table of demons? … Those who have continued to feed at Satan’s spiritual table, the table of demons, will be forced to attend a literal meal, no, not as partakers, but as the main course-to their destruction!” Watchtower 1994 Jul 1 p.12
“The obligation to hate lawlessness also applies to all activity by apostates. Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: “Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you.” Watchtower 1992 Jul 15 pp.12-13 Christ Hated Lawlessness-Do You?
Tim. 4:1-3) . . . Such ones [apostates] willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.’ (1 John 2:18, 19)” Watchtower 1985 Jul 15 p.31
“But remember, in this case Jehovah is the One who tells us in his Word what to do. And what does he say about apostates? “Avoid them” (Romans 16:17, 18); “quit mixing in company with” them (1 Corinthians 5:11); and “never receive [them] into your homes or say a greeting to [them]” (2 John 9, 10).” Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.13
The Watchtower attempts to paint the world as unhappy, in contrast to “the happiest group of people on earth”; Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“They are actually the happiest group of people on earth. There is abundant evidence to show that this description fits Jehovah’s Witnesses, collectively, better than it does any other religious organization.” Watchtower 1999 Oct 1 p. 8
Claiming that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the happiest people on earth is an isolationist technique. This sentiment is often repeated without ever presenting the “abundant evidence”. Studies consistently show that the majority of people consider themselves to be happy, and personal observation does not indicate Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group are any more or less happy than other people.
“Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” (Ps. 144:15) Those words describe Jehovah’s Witnesses as the happiest people on earth. Help Others Find Happiness: The world is filled with unhappiness, and people generally have a gloomy outlook on the future. However, we have a bright outlook, knowing that one day all sadness will be a thing of the past.” Kingdom Ministry 2002 p.1 The Happiest People on Earth
“So while God’s servants cannot expect supreme happiness at this present time, they can obtain happiness that is not enjoyed by those who do not serve God.” Watchtower 1994 Oct 1 pp.10-15
“It is therefore not strange that so many people in the world take note of the happiness of Jehovah’s people. Indeed, it is a factor that draws many persons to associate with us.” Watchtower 1961 May 15 p.297
Research confirms that over half the general population consider themselves happy. How does the Watchtower address studies that show worldly people are happy? The following article uses some unusual reasoning.
“Thirty percent of the people who responded said they were very happy. It merely shows that perhaps the majority of the people have either failed to recognize the meaning of what is happening, or they have deliberately chosen to ignore it.” Awake! 1982 Apr 22 p.15 So Much “Happiness”-A Sign of What?
Relationship with God
Spirituality and a relationship with God are strictly regulated by the Watchtower Society, which places itself as spokesman, intermediary and mediator between God and Man. The Bible plainly states that it is Jesus alone that fills these roles. Every time the Watchtower Society speaks of following the Organization it diverts attention away from who we should be fixed on; Jesus. It is interesting to compare what the Bible states with the Watchtower spin.
Whom do we go to – the Organization?
Peter said whom could we go to apart from Jesus. The Watchtower states that whom means where.
John 6:68 “Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”
2 Corinthians 1:21 “But he who guarantees that YOU and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God.”
“Where could we turn if we would leave God’s organization today? There is nowhere else! (John 6:66-69)” Watchtower 1975 Sep 1 p.531
Who are we baptized to – The Organization?
When a Jehovah’s Witness gets baptized the second baptism vow confirms the wish to be identified as part of an organization. This is in conflict with biblical guidance on baptism; no mention was made of joining an organization consisting of earthly intermediaries.
Matthew 28:19 “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit”
Acts 2:38 “let each one of YOU be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”
“[Baptised] as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
Who is our Mediator – the Faithful Slave?
Jesus said that he alone is the mediator for mankind and it is only through him that a person can have a relationship with God. The Watchtower applies this just to the leaders; all others need to align themselves with the leaders to receive these benefits.
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus,” John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the “mediator” only for anointed Christians.” Watchtower 1979 Apr 1 p.31
“They recognize that they are not spiritual Israelites in the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, nor part of the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. To keep in relationship with “our Savior, God,” the “great crowd” needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites.” Watchtower 1979 Nov 15 p.27
“the invitation to come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” Watchtower 1981 Nov 15 p.21
Who is the Bible for – the Leaders!
“Special attention was being given to making up the government that would rule mankind for 1,000 years, and nearly all the inspired letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily directed to this group of Kingdom heirs-“the holy ones,” “partakers of the heavenly calling.” United in Worship p.111
“Also, it is to the spirit-anointed Christians who will rule in that kingdom that most of the Christian Greek Scriptures is directed, including the promises of everlasting life.” Watchtower 1974 Jun 15 p.376
“All of this should impress upon the minds of the other sheep why the Christian Greek Scriptures focus so much attention on Christ and his anointed brothers and their central role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes. The other sheep therefore consider it a privilege to support in every way possible the anointed slave class while awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” at Armageddon and during the Millennium.” Watchtower 2002 Feb 1 p.23
The Watchtower Society claims there are two groups, the 144,000 leaders and the Other Sheep. As shown above, the claim is made that the Bible was written principally for the leaders, Jesus is mediator only for them, and only they receive the Holy Spirit. The other sheep are a secondary class that need to follow the leaders for everlasting life and are judged on how they treat the anointed.
“In that parable, Christ clearly showed that the salvation of the other sheep is closely linked to their conduct toward the anointed, whom he called “my brothers.” Watchtower 2002 Feb 1 p.22
The Bible, on the other hand, shows that Jesus came to create a single united class of his people, joining Jews (little flock) and Gentiles (other sheep) under the New Covenant when he said at John 10:16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”
There are groups that are more manipulative than the Watchtower Society. Like many Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had a good upbringing with nice family and friends. I cannot complain about what I consider to have been a charmed life. Many that join the religion have come from unfavourable backgrounds and joining the Watchtower Society has been a great improvement. However there are many religions that provide equally well for their followers without the adverse affects of a manipulative belief structure.
For those raised as Witnesses believing they would never have to graduate, never get a wrinkle or grow old, never have to work or think about retirement it is devastating to learn it was all a lie. For those who never set boundaries because it was all set for you (down to whether you can have a beard, smoke a cigarette or buy a lotto ticket), leaving in mid life is traumatic having no idea of who you are or how you really should behave. It appears around two thirds of all Jehovah’s Witness children leave. Worst of all, the majority are baptised in their teens, so leaving results in being disfellowshipped and spending their lives with virtually no contact from childhood friends and family.
High control groups create rules that go beyond accepted laws of the land and principles of the Bible. Paul aptly asks at 1 Corinthians 10:29;
“For why should it be that my freedom is judged by another person’s conscience?”