Knock, knock. “Hello, I’m stopping by briefly to share with you some good news. Many people feel under pressure because of the stressful times in which we live. Do you think God intended that we live this way? So many people are depressed. I bet you know somebody who is. I have this excellent magazine, the Awake!, that discusses Help for “Sufferers of Depression.”
Sound familiar? In this audience are people who have done the knocking and given a similar message to the person who opened the door. Or some of you have heard such a message from Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). Certainly, the message doesn’t sound dangerous. Why be afraid of JWs? They don’t handle snakes, rip your heart out, or make you drink poisoned Kool Aid. They won’t ask you to be a suicide bomber either.
For the most part, Witnesses look and act okay. They frown on wild parties; illegal drugs and guns. They don’t steal, kill, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, and cursing is frowned upon. They have less health problems—no lung cancer from smoking, no AIDS.
The Witnesses call themselves a brotherhood and claim good association with like-minded people who obey God’s word. And they remove law-breakers or sinners from their midst.
All in all, they sound like pretty good associates. So how can associating with them be dangerous?
Do I Have the Right to Make Such an Accusation?
First of all, what right do I have to examine this religion, to call it dangerous?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 asserts the right of human beings to hold any faith or none; Ok, I held to Jehovah’s Witnesses faith for most of my life; I had that right. Now, I ascribe to no religious affiliation and I have that right.
OK, let’s look at that Declaration further: It says human beings have the right to change religions. Well, I did that too. I was born into a Catholic family and changed to Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 14.
Now, here’s my favorite: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states each of us have the right to enjoy freedom of expression, which by any open-minded definition includes my freedom to agree or disagree with the tenets of any religion.
When I was part of JWs Writing Department during the time I lived and worked at the world headquarters of JWs in New York for over ten years, I prepared an article about the U. S. Bill of Rights. It appeared in the December 8, 1991 Awake! magazine and tens of millions of copies were distributed by JWs. The article discussed what exactly the Bill of Rights was; why it was needed, and what liberties it helped to preserve in the United States. My efforts writing the article turned out to be a labor of love as I saw that JWs were definers of freedom by testing the principles of religious freedom in the U.S Supreme Court.
I was proud of JWs struggle in the highest courts of the land for the freedom to exercise the courage of their conviction. “From 1919 through 1988, petitions and appeals in a total of 138 cases involving JWs were made to the U. S. Supreme Court. The decisions were favorable to JWs in 47 of the cases that the Court considered.”
In their short history, JWs challenged any law or ordinance that interfered with their religious activities, and through their litigation, helped set in place insulation for religious organizations from lawsuits. They had the lawful right to preach in unorthodox places using unorthodox methods. They won for themselves and all other religious groups, constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and worship. This amounted to almost complete protection under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution free exercise clause. That certainly is something to be pleased about.
What I’m going to say now will sound quite harsh, but my close association with this group gives me authority to say this: After having successfully defended and legally established their right to practice their religion however they saw fit, this once oppressed group went from being the oppressed to being the oppressor. They silence freedom of speech. They silence dissent. How? By using fear as the weapon! The fear of excommunication or disfellowshipping with its severe life-altering sanction, that of shunning by the whole community of JWs including relatives such as parents and adult children.
Actually, my life as a JW was pleasant. Of course, there were ups and downs because whenever there are so many people interacting together as there are in this group and then at their world headquarters where there were 4,000 people, there’s bound to be some friction. But all in all, I was a happy Witness. The major reason for that was because “ignorance was bliss.”
JWs Became the Oppressors
Witnesses hear and read a great deal about the positives of being a Witness at their meetings and literature. The leadership makes sure they don’t forget how fortunate they are to have the “Truth” that no other religion has. Since I have been guaranteed the most important of the freedoms JWs fought so hard for, freedom of expression, I’ll acquaint you with the harmful side of this organization and why I say they are now the oppressors.
Taking advantage of a Bible Study with JWs can be tempting to those who are curious to see what’s in the Bible, information they believe might answer life’s questions. Well, what folks are not aware of is that associating with them by accepting a home Bible Study could lead to losing family and friends or maybe even their life. I should know—I was a zealous Witness for 43 years. At the end of that association, I lost most of my family and all of my friends. Sometimes when someone loses family, they take their life. Further, thousands of JWs lose their lives every year by adhering to one particular teaching of JWs.
Belief Causes Harm
If I were to stop a number of people on the street and ask each one, “What do you know about JWs?” the reply would unfailingly be —“They don’t take blood transfusions.” This has been done.
The public knows refusing a needed blood transfusion can cause death or disability and that’s why JWs makes the news, especially if refusing blood involves a child. Witnesses primarily object to receiving blood transfusions on religious grounds – they believe that blood is sacred according to some ancient Bible texts which actually were talking about eating or drinking blood. Witnesses are also quick to highlight possible medical problems associated with transfusion.
The Witness attitude is, “If I lose my life for God it’s worth it. If I die now by obeying God’s law, in the future it means I’ll be resurrected and live in a perfect new world. However, it’s not likely I would die if I don’t take blood transfusions because in the past early transfusions were whole blood, but modern medical practice primarily uses only components or ‘fractions’ of the blood. And now we can have most blood components so there shouldn’t be a problem. Fractions are safe. Blood transfusions can transmit HIV or other diseases.” Is that really so?
Literally, thousands of Witnesses die each year when there is need for whole blood or some blood components that JWs don’t approve of. Witnesses are being misled into a false sense of security. In case of massive bleeding, by not accepting blood, Witnesses can and do die, and, conversely, by accepting certain blood clotting products, Witnesses can and do die. For instance, there’s a clotting fraction that’s given to those with hemophilia which Witnesses are now allowed to receive in cases of massive bleeding. However, studies are showing that this clotting product, when given to healthy people, can and is causing heart attacks and strokes.
Witnesses also assume they can’t get HIV if they take fractions. Fractions are blood and if a transfusion can transmit HIV, so can blood components which most often are made from many donations of blood that have been pooled and more difficult to test; however, the risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is extremely low nowadays, something JWs are not informed of.
Although these so-called components or “fractions” are made from blood, Witness leaders tell followers that each fraction is a “minute” part of blood so it’s okay. The truth is that all of these “minute” fractions would equal a whole unit of blood if added together! Jehovah’s Witnesses are not told this fact. In brief, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ blood fraction policy is akin to not allowing a slice of pizza to be eaten. But it’s okay to eat the cheese, crust, tomato, salami, etc. separately.
Flip-Flops and Misrepresentation
Most Witnesses don’t know that from 1934 to 1945, the organization allowed blood transfusions. Then in 1945, the procedure was banned, and in 1961 its followers were told they would be excommunicated for taking a blood transfusion. Hemophiliac treatments went through a similar flip-flop in the 1970s. Likewise, a treatment called hemodilution was sinful in 1972, but allowed in 1983. The procedure entails the removal of blood from the patient immediately before an operation and simultaneous replacement with appropriate volume of special fluids. The removed blood is then re-infused after the procedure is completed.
Only through reading the Witnesses’ old literature, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, you can see that the only constant in the blood policy is change. Many died following a blood policy that later changed. And the blood ban is still changing. One thing I found out when I researched this subject is that taking blood in the veins is in no way comparable to eating or drinking blood and simply put, it is drinking or eating animal blood that the Old Testament prohibited. If you were starving to death and put blood in your veins, you would still starve to death. It just doesn’t make sense to die for being obedient to a law that is not applicable to receiving a blood transfusion.
Witnesses are thoroughly misinformed about their religion’s blood policy. Adults should have the right to make a decision regarding medical care, but not based on misrepresentation and coercion, but by making an informed choice.
Often JW visitors, including JW elders who represent JWs Hospital Liaison Committee, visit the patient’s room and lurk outside in the hallways in an attempt to make sure there is no blood going into the room.
Did you know that JWs are encouraged to report on other JWs who break a medical doctrine such as the ban on blood? JWs will do this to attain status with both Jehovah and with peers. They will tattle-tale even if it breaks medical or legal confidentiality laws.
If a Witness accepts a blood transfusion, the policy of JWs now is not to directly disfellowship by announcement at the Kingdom Hall. Here’s the policy statement found in Watch Tower literature.
“If a baptized member of the faith willfully and without regret accepts blood transfusions, he indicates by his own actions that he no longer wishes to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The individual revokes his own membership by his own actions, rather than the congregation initiating this step.”
This represents a procedural change instituted in April 2000 in which the congregation no longer initiates the action to revoke membership in such cases. However, the end result is the same; the individual is no longer viewed as one of JWs because he no longer accepts and follows a core tenet of the faith.
The word disfellowship is not used, but the results are the same: To not be viewed as one of JWs means you will be shunned by all those you love who are Witnesses because this group will disfellowship anyone who questions the teachings of the organization or who stops worshipping the Witness way, or joins another church. Then the label “apostate” becomes attached to the former Witnesses reputation.
As a side note, I didn’t know that vaccinations were forbidden up until 1952, when Witness leaders reversed course. I became a JW in 1954 and no one told me about a ban on vaccinations. Now, virtually all JWs will accept a vaccination, and many are unaware that it could be derived from blood.
Organ transplants were favorable in the 1930s through the early 1960s, then demonized as cannibalistic in the late 1960s, only to be re-allowed in the 1980s. I was a JW when organ transplants were considered cannibalistic only to be re-allowed later. Why did I not question this? Because becoming a JW at age 14, when it was difficult to obtain information about the group, I had no idea how to critically evaluate anything, much less this organization’s tenets.
And, as time moved on, I knew that to think outside of the Witness mindset, I would be thinking independently, something that was a negative.
JWs Can Not Change Religion
Remember that July 2009 Awake! I showed you before? Well notice these words on page 29:
“No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family.”
This statement is extraordinary because that’s not the way it is in the Witness organization. Members that no longer believe are forced to stay in the group otherwise they will lose family and friends.
JWs strictly shun the disfellowshipped and those who disassociate themselves. Also, JWs can be disfellowshipped for not following the shunning rules.
There are other reasons beside the blood ban that makes it dangerous to associate with JWs:
- The neutrality of JWs in time of war can lead to imprisonment or death
- Refusal to salute the flag can lead to ostracism and bullying.
- Non-observance of any holidays, religious or national: outcast & boredom
- Being a martyr is not psychologically healthy
- Higher education is a no, no. Young JWs clean houses, wash windows, etc. waiting for Armageddon. They suffer from poverty, disappointment, depression, and low self-esteem.
Yes, there are many reasons that it is dangerous to associate with JWs. However, if none of what I just said concerns you because you believe that JWs do what they do to please God and not themselves, keep listening.
Failure of Witness Message of Doom
Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from doing extensive personal research into their modern-day history. Such action can cause a Witness to be labeled “apostate” and then be shunned.
Right now the Witnesses are getting press coverage because their world-wide conventions are announcing that soon the “end of the world” will take place. Do you know how long they have been saying this? The founder was C. T. Russell who began to publish Zion’s Watch Tower in 1879. He was a date-setter and looked to 1914 when the end of the present world as he knew it would happen. He said that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874. Russell died in 1916 and his successor, Joseph F. Rutherford, changed the doctrine and taught that Christ returned in 1914. Instead of the end of the world happening then, he said it was the “beginning of the time of the end.” The group pointed to 1925 as the end when “millions now living will never die” after Armageddon, of course. Then the date for the end was 1975 which they now deny they ever pointed to. Here’s flip-flop examples:
- 1889: “In the coming 26 years, (1914) all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved.” Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. II, (1889)
- 1908: “The battle of the great day of God Almighty which will end in AD 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present ruler ship is already commenced.”
- 1914: “The present great war in Europe is the beginning of the Armageddon of the Scriptures.”
- 1918: “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the apostle in Hebrews chapter 11, to the condition of human perfection.”
- 1922: “The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures than 1914.
- 1923: “Our thought is, that 1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures. As to Noah, the Christian now has much more upon which to base its faith than Noah had upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge.”
- 1925: “The year 1925 is here. With great expectation Christians have looked forward to this year”
- 1925: “It is to be expected that Satan will try to inject into the minds of the consecrated the thought that 1925 should see the end to the work”
- 1926: “Some anticipated that the work would end in 1925, but the Lord did not say so.”
- 1931: “There was a measure of disappointment on the part of Jehovah’s faithful ones on earth concerning the years 1914, 1918, and 1925 which disappointment lasted for a time; and they also learned to quit fixing dates.”
- 1968: “Why are you looking forward to 1975?”
From what I just read, it’s obvious that the Witness organization is not honest in its presentation of the “truth.” BTW, JWs are told what to believe on nearly everything—music, TV, movies. JWs are discouraged from reading the Bible without their own literature explaining it. Doubt and criticism regarding any doctrine taught by the Witnesses is seen as “ploy” that Satan uses to lead them into apostasy.
JWs Are a Cult
After hearing all of this, would you consider JWs a cult? Cults are everywhere. Good religious intentions can slide easily into taking away God-given freedoms. Then a cult is born. What is the definition of a cult? Some newer and accepted religions like JWs, Mormons, Scientology are being called cults by some.
The difference between a cult and a religion is not easy to define. Who fits the accepted criteria?
I read the following on the Internet, information that I didn’t have when I was an active JW:
A cult is a group of people who share a common belief. A cult, as it is commonly understood, is a highly rigid and usually strictly enforced total belief system. Almost always, it is led by an authoritarian leader who tolerates no dissent. Any teaching which does not respect human life fully cannot be consistent with belief in a God who created human life in His image.
When I was a JW I would have categorically denied that I was part of a cult because I didn’t know what really constituted one. I thought that cults demanded that their members wear strange clothes, different hair styles; lived in communes and are stupid and gullible and don’t believe Christian beliefs; that they had one charismatic leader. I thought it was simple to leave a cult anytime you wanted to.
Those were the standard definitions of cults back then and I said, “No,” that’s not me” as I went out in the door-to-door ministry to convert people to the “truth.” My husband and I converted over 80 people. I thought people joined cults, but they don’t. Actually cults recruit people and I was participating in a recruiting work when I went door-to-door. Yikes, I was dumb-founded when I realized that after I left JWs.
Yes, I was a recruiter and didn’t realize it. I appeared self-confident and sincere, just the way the lady was who converted me. She seemed knowledgeable. She was so happy and really displayed a ‘genuine’ interest in me, a kid. She was non-threatening and invited me to have a free Bible study. Guess what? I followed in her footsteps and behaved the same way with people I met.
I was showered with love and attention by JWs; I did the same thing to those interested in the Witness message. And sincere people are impressed with the Witnesses’ devotion, sense of community, and ‘one-of-a-kind’ message of hope and change.
Some Questions to see if JWs Fit the Criteria of a Cult
Is the leadership considered the supreme authority, a self-appointed authority, an individual or body of men who claim to have a special mission in life? Yes, the Governing Body (GB) – now 9 men, call themselves “The Faithful Slave” or other special terms. These special terms were used in a lecture by one of the GB about ninety-six times in thirty-five minutes instructing the audience to have faith in them. That’s nearly three times a minute.
Does the organization have double standards? Are members encouraged to be honest and confess all to the leaders but at the same time encouraged to deceive and manipulate outsiders? Yes. It’s called Theocratic Warfare and can include lying.
Does the organization have two purposes: recruit new members without regard for bettering the lives of their members? Yes. Members are told to wait until the new world when life will get better.
Does the group make social contributions? No, only unless it fits in with some sort of agenda. It just prints and distributes literature that JWs donate money for.
Is the leadership offering the only viable system for change that will solve life’s problems, denouncing all other systems? Yes.
Do the leaders expect absolute obedience? Yes.
Does the organization expect you to jeopardize your family relationships or isolate you from society in some way? Yes.
So it appears that JWs fit the definition of a cult. So be wary, if you believe in God, are lonely, insecure, idealistic, recently divorced, widowed, elderly or new to town you are at risk. Or are young and going through identity crisis or maybe a college student having trouble finding direction or friends, you are at risk if you accept a Bible Study with a JW not knowing you are associating with a group that is dangerous to your future happiness.
JWs look just like everybody else, and probably better than everybody else because it’s important to impress and attract people. One lady consented to a Bible Study with me because she was a hair stylist and she said I looked and dressed well and didn’t look like a religious fanatic.
They might not have just one single charismatic leader but they do have a body of men acting as one that governs the group.
The Witness Viewpoint
The Witnesses are convinced that ethically and morally, their leaders are, for the most part, and the members too, exemplary, above everyone else in the world. Most JWs believe there is little abuse/crime/dishonesty in their organization, even when presented with evidence that indicates otherwise. Abuse of woman and children by many devious Witness men are a fact, yet most Witnesses refuse to believe it.
To leave the organization is to fall into darkness and that’s why Witnesses will ask, “Where will we go to if we leave the organization?” The prevailing attitude fostered by Witness literature is that the whole world is evil and must be destroyed…soon.
Witnesses appear to be happy, successful, at peace, and united. It’s all a show though. They are typically depressed, lonely, have low self-esteem, are overly dependent on the organization, frustrated and confused. The reason for that topic in the Awake! magazine I showed you in the beginning of this lecture is because so many Witnesses suffer from depression. In many congregations, it is estimated that as many as half the women are taking anti-depressive medication. Why is that?
Because they believe they have no value, except to serve God through his organization. They only feel valuable when conforming to what the role model is as portrayed in Witness literature. Witnesses feel guilty that they don’t do enough for the “work,” as it is called. Witnesses are on a perpetual treadmill, trying to run faster and faster to gain approval. That’s why I call it a “performance religion.” In reality, organizational status and reputation is the most important thing to a JW. They say announcing God’s purpose is the most important thing, but it actually is secondary.
After a lifetime of service to an organization that we foolishly thought was God-directed, my husband and I exited the religion. I left in 1998 and he in 2002. I was excommunicated (disfellowshipped) in 2002 by JWs a few weeks before I appeared on NBC’s popular Dateline U.S. news program for “causing divisions” and this was before I had actually caused any divisions. The purpose of my disfellowshipping was so JWs, who saw or heard about the program, would not believe what I said, in that they are told disfellowshipped people are unrepentant sinners and not to be trusted or believed. However, I was disfellowshipped because of exposing the religion’s defective child sexual abuse policies which protected pedophiles rather than children, and not for committing some secret sin. My husband, a long-time elder, was disfellowshipped in July 2002, for siding with me. Along with disfellowshipping comes shunning, and so we are shunned by our family, which includes our son and our nine-year old grandson who we haven’t seen in nearly seven years, and also thousands of friends.
What attracts people to this religion? There are many reasons, but for most people, it is fear of what they do not have the power to control, so they elect to escape into mystical solutions such as offered by JWs. And fear is what keeps multitudes of members in after they discover the deception.
JWs do not have freedom of speech. If any Witness asks questions about the fraudulent and harmful policies of this group, they are disfellowshipped and shunned; consequently, this breaks up families. Tens of thousands of people want out of this group, but can’t get out because they don’t want to lose their families. Accordingly, they stay in and do what they are told because of the fear of shunning.
You’re on the right track by coming here tonight to find out why it is dangerous to associate with JWs. Maybe this does not apply to you, but I like this clever remark of Will Rogers: “Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Many JWs suspect that something isn’t right with their religion, but they just stay with it waiting and waiting for something to happen.
Rather than continue to wait for the end of the world and have their hopes dashed to pieces when it doesn’t come in their lifetime, they should do what JWs are taught not to do—hitch a ride with a world that is continuing to move on to make life better for all of society in the here and now. Life is too short to waste on JWs fantasies and dreams. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will help humanity, not hope for destruction of everybody not a JW. And if you want to help JWs when one calls at your door, mention what you have heard here tonight.
Yes, it’s difficult to get out of a cult. If you do, you lose your closest relationships, your cherished beliefs, and your whole way of life goes up in flames. More often than not, you end up with nothing.
However, if you choose to associate with JWs by becoming one of them, despite the dangers that you heard here tonight, understand when you do, you will give up your freedom of speech, freedom of choice, your family and friends, the community you belong to and perhaps even your life.
That choice is yours.