Category Archives: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses 

It is bad enough Jehovah’s Witnesses brand us apostates. The state branding us as criminals will not help either. 

As I feared would happen the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in Russia. A religion that would always put its God before the secular ruler, was anti-imperialism, anti-nationalism, and originated in US would fall foul of Putin’s agenda for a new Russia. That they wanted to have nothing to do with this world would not have been enough. With Putin you are either with him or against him. 

I have read some blog posts by those that though living in the west would welcome such a ban happening here. To be spared the heartache of an indoctrination that left them friendless, isolated and at the mercy of the machinations of elders and ministerial servants. That if no one else other than their abuser saw their abuse, it could be dismissed by those in charge of their spiritual welfare because it needed two witnesses to be valid according to scripture. That when they left the faith other family members never speaking to them again. Denied an education as the end of the world was coming. To spare any child going through that again, this is seen as a protection from religion as child abuse. 

On sexual abuse I would agree if Jehovah’s Witnesses are not prepared to report allegations to the appropriate authorities, nor do adequate background checks on those with access to children nor ensure those abused or raped do not meet with the abuser for a congregational inquiry, then sanctions which could ultimately lead to banning would be warranted. As it should be any organisation whether religious or secular. 

When dealing with cults it might be easy to say just ban. The problem, as I mentioned in a previous post, is it makes it that much harder for people inside the organisation to leave. Most of us kids do leave. According to Pew a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents is most likely to end up an atheist compared to other faith groups – even beating the odds of that for atheist parents. 

If you genuinely want to help, then ensure there is life long learning for those that for whatever reason miss out on a full education. Make sure there is a strong tolerant and pluralistic society that can embrace multiple ideas, discussing them freely and openly. An active civil society that welcomes everyone no matter what their background is. 

Such a thing is an anathema in Putin’s Russia. Where criticism of Putin makes you a marked man. Where being gay could lead to being tortured and killed

First they killed political opponets and journalists. And I said nothing. Then they came for the gays and I said nothing. Then they came for the JWs and I said nothing. 



Do not wait till that list gets any bigger before you do say something. Putin is not an ally against fundementalism whether Islamic or Christian. He is against the very freedoms that those of us that grew up in fundamentalist faiths yearn for. 

Rather than helping such kids you will force the faith underground. The dangers are even worse compared with ensuring that good practice and safeguards are in place to protect children’s welfare, education and health. 

Freedom of religion and freedom from religion – being against this ban is to stand up for both. The state has no business saying what you should believe. 

That is up to you. 

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Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses Panel Discussion Monday 24 April, King’s College London


This coming Monday 24 April I will take part in a panel discussion at King’s College, on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tickets and more information available via this link

If you are less familiar with my childhood, when as a family we started to study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and as a teenager I was ready to be baptised before deciding to leave, you can read that story printed in The New Humanist here. Naturally there is plenty more on here to read. 

Thanks to all of you that have supported the blog by reading and sharing posts. That encouragement meant everything. 

Grateful to Faith to Faithless for creating the platform and space for those considered apostates to come together and share experiences. 

Also, I will be attending the TEDx conference in Exeter tomorrow. So if you see me feel free to say hi! 

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Banning Jehovah’s Witnesses In Russia

Refusing a blood transfusion to the point of death is, by any definition, an extreme response. In Russia they are using this to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation

I had a piece of paper in my pocket, cut out from a booklet, saying I would rather die than have a blood transfusion administered because under any circumstance God’s command came first. Death did not terrify me. Being alive when the apocalypse came did. Seeing those I loved dying because, unlike me, they did not call on the name of Jehovah to be saved. 

Dying via obedience to God would be like picking up a monopoly card that read: go directly to Paradise Earth, collect eternal life. Persecution would be in a perverse sense a welcoming sign of the end of days and vindication your faith was true. The cost of which would be beyond anyone to endure, save for faith in Jehovah. 

This all made sense to me as a ten year old, with what would become an increasingly dog eared piece of paper in his pocket. It would make sense to any student of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publications, given the tales of those in the bible who put their obedience to God before their own lives, let alone any court or leader of the land. 

For me the proposed ban is more than the Russian legal system fed up with Jehovah’s Witnesses rejecting a doctor’s treatment. This is about proscribing an American organisation, whose theology is contrary to Russian Christian orthodoxy. Their evangelising is seen as propaganda undermining traditional Russian culture and values. 

This ban is a small part in helping Putin to create a nationalistic united Russia. The 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2,000 congregation cannot be tolerated. They are against his vision of what Paradise on earth looks like. The JWs are in the way of unity under one man. 

Whilst on this blog I do warn of the blighted  lives caused by the fundamentalism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ban would make it even worse. It would make leaving the organisation that much harder – you were a criminal and you may have family and friends who still are in the eyes of the state. It would make ensuring people had the medical care they needed that much harder if they may need a blood transfusion. 

Human rights are universal or they are nothing. Do not ever think you can use the past experience of those of us that grew up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to justify denying basic human rights. It is bad enough being shunned by family, without thinking we would want them locked up for it. 

I would rather be woken up from a lie in at the weekend by them proselytising on my welcome mat, then a Jehovah’s Witness arrested in the dead of night as they slept for what they thought. Because they may have strange dreams, ones I still remember, but there are worse nightmares that we must never wake up to. 

Thank you Putin for reminding me that I had the freedom to believe and then not to believe, without the state passing any judgment. It is one all Russians should enjoy too.  

Update: follow up blog post to Supreme Court decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.  

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Serena Williams and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serena is a joy to watch. Her passion and determination together with her execution on court make her one of the greatest atheletes sport has ever seen. 22 Grand slams, and decades of competitive tennis. Remarkable, and the achievement should be belittled by no one. 

When Serena Williams thanks Jehovah for winning a grand slam, I cannot help but be reminded how as a child elders banned us from competitive sports. Chess was banned as too violent by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tennis took away time preparing for the end of the world. The spiritual must come first. 

Above Serena mentions the “many, many hours on the court working for my one moment.” This is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach children regarding taking up a sport.

How much you play. The Bible says: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.

You need to set your priorities; spiritual things should come first. Most games can last several hours, whether you are playing or just watching. “I used to have conflicts with my mom over how much time I spent watching games on TV when that time could have been better spent,” says a young woman named Daria.

To emphasise that several hours playing, let alone watching, a sport is spirtually unhealthy, they use this analogy:

Putting too much emphasis on sports is like putting too much salt on your food

I remember we had one social outing as a congregation (at my mother’s urging). One kid had brought an American football. An elder insisted we could play throw but we should not form teams. Competition was not to be tolerated.  

This was the only social outing we had as a congregation in the about six years we studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our social company was to be enjoyed in a new paradise earth – till then it was study the bible together and save as many people as possible before the end of this world. The apocalypse was coming, maybe tomorrow, so prepare for it. Pick up the bible, put down that racket. You could not waste several hours.

The homeschooling experience and isolation caused by Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence that children outside the faith are “bad associations that spoil useful habits” robs a childhood. Being told Satan uses other people to tempt you to leave the faith means you never switch off, Jehovah must be with you at all times. 

Even now what I write would be dismissed as that of an apostate trying to stop people seeing the light which Jehovah’s Witnesses want to share. One that should be dimmed by their failed prophesising that the people who saw the events of 1914 would be alive to see the end of the world. Apparently this does not make them false prophets that the bible warns about; it’s just more light they have now to share! They say it with a straight face while they ban children from reading books and playing games. 

Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses two things helped me find a social group, giving a sense of personal fulfilment having binged on spiritual food for so long. Becoming chess captain having gone back to school and playing LTA tennis club tournaments as a junior. 

Serena Williams is not just exceptional. Her experience studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is an exception. Children need to be encouraged to play sports, not told that they risk undermining their salvation and perishing forever in the coming apocalypse if they do anything but read and learn about the bible.

This is child abuse – and it needs to be called out as such without the collusion of society that tolerates the social isolation of children because of religion. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Child Abuse and The Jehovah’s Witnesses

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How child abuse happens within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as the Royal Commission in Australia goes public with what too many growing up in the Society experienced. They will continue to, until the public outcry causes Government to change the law.

From the age of nine to 14, once a week I had an hour bible study with an Elder, or a ministerial servant (one down from an Elder) from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. We discussed bible stories, and as I neared my teens masturbation, sex before marriage, homosexuality, abortion, wet dreams, morning glories. These discussions happened on a one to one basis.

What should shock you, is that no background checks of the sexual offenders register were carried out by the organisation on people giving such bible studies to children. Nor are they required by law in the UK (I am happy to be proven wrong if it has changed), because they have been “invited” into the family home. As to training, this amounts to theological ministry – that is the art of recruiting, retaining and indoctrinating people in the faith.

The bit that should be making you shout far and wide. Child abuse is only recognised at the congregation level if there are at least two people to witness when the crime takes place. This is based on Deuteronomy 19:15

15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.

Further, they might be prepared to hold their own investigation as a spiritual matter, and feel no obligation to report concerns or allegations to the appropriate authorities. For the supreme authority is God, and the number one concern is the spiritual welfare of everyone while maintaining the word of God in this world.

The Royal Commission in Australia into sex abuse highlighted these particular concerns about the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

  • The two-witness rule. A rule within the religion that states officials cannot accept an accusation of child abuse unless there was a second person who also witnessed the abuse – something that rarely happens.

  • Women’s role (or lack of) in the congregation and judicial committee process. As a patriarchal religion, women are to view men as their head. They cannot be part of a judicial committee. In practise this means a young female victim must go into graphic details of her abuse alone in front of three older men.

  • The expectation that the victim confront the perpetrator as part of the process.

  • Not making it mandatory for elders to report accusation of abuse. While not being obliged to report accusations may be legally acceptable in some states, the Royal Commission identified that the judicial committee process meant that often elders would uncover actual proof of a crime, even a confession, but still not report it. At this stage, where it had moved from an allegation to proof of a crime, there was a legal obligation to report.

  • Not reporting allegations to the police. This practise was to protect Jehovah’s name, and was due to a general mistrust of people in “the world”. According to Watchtower: “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.”

  • Fear of psychologists, based on the belief that they may give advice that is not in line with Watchtower principles.

I have written a number of times about my childhood in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mercifully, that does not include being abused. But it so easily could have done. Too many have written about their abuse, and the trauma they went through within the organisation.

They are a cult, one that destroys childhoods and families through abuse of all kinds. My hope, is when reading about our experiences, the cycle can be broken and no one else has to go through what we have.

Cartoon from this tweet.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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When An Apostate Eats Blood

  

Blood is a life force that belongs to Jehovah. You might be under the impression as it whizzes through your veins it belongs to you. That giving some of the red stuff to save another’s life was a good thing. 

Not if you are a Jehovah’s Witness. Obeying God’s command not to eat blood, would mean better dead than have a blood transfusion. The loop hole is the courts ordering it; Caesar has spoken and must be followed. The important thing is to relent before the law rather than consent willingly – and to do so hopefully in time. It is that farcical. 

I have broken plenty of taboos of the old faith from my childhood. I’ve thrilled to holding chess pieces, or other exciting things in my hand which were frowned upon. Mating, in every sense, is not approved of. 

Unless your destiny is to be a serial wanker or fornicator. Then marriage is the lesser of two evils. Ideally nothing should distract you from saving others. As ever, Paul’s letter to a congregation suggesting to eschew marrying has become the gospel. Regrettably. 

Anyway back to blood …

Attending the Hay Festival this year I spied a pizza called Magna Carta. Among the various ham toppings (read Alom Shaha’s excellant Young Atheist Handbook for eating bacon) there was black pudding. Why I waited so long to try, I will explain later.

Now though was my chance to eat blood. Blood no less commemorating the idol that Magna Carta has come to be revered as. Man’s law is nothing compared to the divine. Handy, if you do not want to stop sex offenders knocking on doors and giving bible studies. Nor reporting such to the authorities. 

I looked at the pizza, like Christopher Lee at a white virginal neck. I sunked my teeth into it. The similarities ended with a vampire. It was agreeable, but overwhelmed by the sensory taste of other things. 

My quest for blood not sated, the morning after I went to town.  I had breakfast where black pudding was served, round the corner from an ISIS coffee shop. A fundamentalism of a different kind; if only they just tried to flog a magazine sending people door to door, not shore to shore killing people.

This time eating the black pudding was wonderful – this should have been my first time moment. What fans of this dark food had told me on twitter made sense now. I licked my fangs clean with relish. 

This ended a journey of a chess captain, a lover, a blood donor, a Darwinist, an onanist, tree decorating gift wrapper. The Birthday cake, Christmas pudding muncher had now feasted on the black pudding. Ingesting blood – the last of the taboos that made no sense.

I had enjoyed it. Not because I was now dammed, or because it was two fingers up at a past childhood.

Rather because the act felt normal. Unlike all those other times, when there had been an illicit thrill at the breaking of a taboo, the act was enjoyed as part of dining. A culinary experience.

I had waited this long to see if I had got over how I felt about my childhood in a cult. To not feel anger or sadistic joy at doing things once proscribed. 

What I had hoped for with this taboo was an experience never experienced before. Feeling normal.

That is what I longed for as a child apostate. 

Kid, I only wish I could have whispered in your ear: one day you will feel normal doing these things.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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(Unpdate: thanks to Robert McLiam Wilson have ironed out a few grammar issues in original piece) 

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Book “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” Celebrates 35 Years

It was actually a few days ago, but the real inspiration for the story began, as it usually does, with a drunk teenager.

Backpacking around Europe in 1971, and finding himself pissed in a field gazing up at the night sky, a tall 6 foot ape descendant had an idea. If only someone would create a “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” he would be ‘off like a shot’ among those stars.

More on how Douglas went on to create the radio series (my favourite incarnation) then book etc can be read here. The book however, served more than just entertainment for me as a teenager. It had a huge impact on my faith.

My mother one day was looking at a list from school of books to read and came across Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. We had a lodger who was a big Adams fan – my mother decided such books were unacceptable as they did not teach the world was created by God. However, the more the lodger told me memorable quotes from the book the more I wanted to read it.

Secretly, like someone reading the Tyndale bible, I read the book while pretending to be asleep. I laughed silently. Not only was the book funny, but there was an illicit thrill that this was naughty but nice. Maybe I was dishonoring my mother reading this book – but it was a fun story!

And then something hit me between the eyes. If I wanted to prove that it was not the Magrathians but God that built the earth what evidence would I need? So at 13 I reread the Creation Evolution book. It did not give me anything except – well how else? Well I could say the same thing about an alien race making the earth. [From Jehovah to Dawkins]

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The Elders of our local Jehovah’s Witness congregation went on to confirm the ban, and double checked other books on the list. I pick up the story in another post:

Not even one per cent of the population identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of all faith groups it has the biggest exodus of children once they are adults. My time came early having read subversively Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It had been banned by the elders because it suggested an alien race built the earth, not Jehovah, and for mice not us. The humorous quotes a lodger mentioned made me want to read.

Hitchhikers made me think how would I prove God not aliens made the earth? Researching Society [Jehovah’s Witnesses’] publications for this ultimate answer unearthed instead prophecies made that did not happen during the 1920s. My head swooned. The bible warns against false prophets and to reject them. Plus new editions of books I had read changed dogma while quoting different scriptures. Once, those destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah would be given a second chance after Judgement day in an old edition. Now, the new edition said they had already been judged for eternal destruction. There was no acknowledgement of the change – it just happened. [Apostasy Post]

Never underestimate fiction. It has the power to change the way you think. No wonder people want to suppress it.

A thinking child is a well read child. Do not take that away from them.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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