Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult?
It seems that my blog describing my experience as a child in the Jehovah’s Witnesses has caused a reaction, and here I will reply to an e mail I received from Tiffany.
It is absolutely correct to say that reading Watchtower publications is the main reading material of a Jehovah’s Witness. More so than the bible. The claim to aid study of the bible is fine – until you realize that different editions of the same publications can have differences in theology – with no mention in the preface.
Examples – The Live Forever book mentioned that those destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah would be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. A new edition changed this to they would not be resurrected as they had already been judged. Both interpretations had scripture.
A further was the book used in Theocratic Ministry School. The new edition had less pages. The main reason was a whole section in the old that explained that Jehovah was not the accurate pronunciation of the Hebrew god was gone.
The point I am making is that what you read is the publications from the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society – and only them. One publisher to aid in the understanding of the bible. One source. Now that may not be a good idea – good to know where there are differences of opinion. Now to restrict yourself to only one source of information, to have faith in one body that changes its views without recognizing these changes openly?
As to paying for the books – well yes I paid for them from the book shop at the Kingdom Hall – at print costs. Whether that was passed on to the person being witnessed was another matter. That was in the 1980s and I mention that had changed. You inform me that is based on members giving donations (voluntary) towards costs.
The times I give include the talks and the socialising that happened afterwards. But I can assure you that Elders and Ministerial Servants do take a watch over their flock. Contributions are noticed – and with four meetings a week pretty easy for all to keep tabs on people. I never suggested that was anything sinister like note taking going on. I am sure they could see the spiritual development, and make judgements.
Now the lack of socialising at parties, Christmas, Easter, pancake day, Valentines and anything else that remotely resembles ancient pagan practice you cannot participate in. As a child that proved very isolating.
As a citizen you do not vote or participate in government. Because this system of things is part of Satan’s world. Again, this view of society is one that isolates.
Bad associations spoil useful habits – I was constantly being told would Jesus hang out with these people? Which considering the people he did hang out with seem ironic. But it led to being isolated from people that were not part of the faith.
The head covering of women while leading prayer in the presence of a brother is not one of respect. It is one of submission of one gender to another. Now not everyone embraces the idea of gender equality. For example only men can be Ministerial Servants or Elders. To defend this on bible principles is to suggest that we cannot move pass the views and prejudices of bible writers. Nor reason for ourselves. Or discuss that the Jehovah’s Witness dogma could be wrong? Yet time and revision has shown that to be the case.
Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?
This description at the end of my blog upset you. Now in simplest forms denying the divinity of christ would make the JWs a cult of christianity. But my meaning is more this:
CULT – Any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top. The group will claim to be the only way to God; Nirvana; Paradise; Ultimate Reality; Full Potential, Way to Happiness etc, and will use thought reform or mind control techniques to gain control and keep their members. This definition covers cults within all major world religions, along with those cults which have no OBVIOUS religious base such as commercial, educational and psychological cults. Others may define these a little differently, but this is the simplest to work from. THE ‘ORTHODOX BIBLE-BASED CULT’
A group is called a cult because of their behaviour – not their doctrines. Doctrine is an issue in the area of Apologetics and Heresy. Most religious cults do teach what the Christian church would declare to be heresy but some do not. Some cults teach the basics of the Christian faith but have behavioural patterns that are abusive, controlling and cultic.
This occurs in both Non-Charismatic and Charismatic churches. These groups teach the central doctrines of the Christian faith and then add the extra authority of leadership or someone’s particular writings. They centre around the interpretations of the leadership and submissive and unquestioning acceptance of these is essential to be a member of good standing. This acceptance includes what we consider non-essential doctrines e.i. not salvation issues (such as the Person and Work of Christ.) The key is that they will be using mind control or undue influence on their members.
Now for me the Jehovah’s Witnesses qualify as outlined here and in the previous blog. To be baptized is a very serious commitment. The constant mantra that Satan controls this system of things and bad associations spoil useful habits does control how you behave and interact with people. The chain of command of the whole organization, the lack of debate about doctrine within a Kingdom Hall, that interpretation flows from the top down. And is accepted, even when it changes, as being the will of Jehovah. The format of meetings, repeating what you have already read before the meeting at the meeting, than answering from what you have read - in triplicate - is a great mind enforcer.
The interpretation to die over a dietary commandment to ancient Israelites is one that especially marks out the faith for cult behaviour. The prohibition on blood transfusions makes no rational sense, there is nothing in the bible that suggests that it takes precedence over life and death situations. Prove it goes beyond the kitchen and the plate. It is also a big lie for an organisation that has predicted the end of the world from the founder Russell (in 1905 Abraham, Issac and Jacob were to be ruling on earth) to the generation that saw 1914 would see the end of this system of things when I studied. That too has changed, only that was not so easily put to one side unlike a new edition.
The definition of a false prophet is one that in the name of god predicts something which does not come to pass. To live by bible principle how do you get pass this one?
Deu 18:20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
Deu 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
Deu 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Naturally I have an unfair advantage. I do not believe that one writer or book or organisation is special or more sacred than another. Ancient superstition does not hold me in the same way because of it nor do I prefer supernatural explanations for things best left to a bygone era. The evidence speaks for itself, and I hope that one day you realise that happiness is not dependent on you having something you call truth or holding to dogma you have no part in forming or questioning. I sincerely hope that you realise that the whole system of the organisation is one that is self serving and depends on you not to be a freethinker or to question – just to believe and help others to convert.
I can respect you – we both have the right to religious freedom and none. But I cannot respect the belief that leads to such inhumane treatment and degradation – legitimising it as being of god’s word.