I’ve been very overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal, hurt and anger the last few days as I’ve been processing the knowledge that I had been lied to my entire childhood and young adulthood. Today I’m taking a step back from my personal story to examine one of the reasons why, no matter how sincere their belief is, the Watchtower organisation cannot be said to have “the truth”.
The Watchtower study, Family Study, Personal Study, etc. The Watchtower organisation is almost pathological in emphasising the need for study, every waking hour. You’re supposed to wake up and read the daily text, but then you have to meditate on it. You have to study to prepare for all of the meetings, you have to study to prepare for field service, you must do personal study, family study and then there is obviously the study done at the Kingdom Hall, Circuit and District Assemblies, etc. I haven’t even touched on the additional study that is required for those who take up positions of responsibility as pioneers, ministerial servants, elders, bethelites, circuit overseers, district overseers, missionaries. You would think that Jehovah’s Witnesses were scholars and very well read individuals will large repositories of knowledge at their disposal. In one way this is true, in another way it is very far from true.
There was an interesting article in the Watchtower in 2002 which was entitled “Should Faith Be Based on Reason?” It talks about the myriad of religions that only require their adherents to learn prayers and beliefs by rote rather than coming to an understanding of them through reason.
“THE implication is that most people who profess religious faith give little thought to why they believe what they do or to whether there is a reasonable basis for their faith. It is no wonder that religion has become a topic that many are reluctant to talk about.” Watchtower April 1, 2002
So we are led to believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are different because their faith is arrived at by way of study and “reasoning on the scriptures”.
“If we are truly interested in pleasing God, should we not consider seriously the accuracy of what we believe about him? The apostle Paul spoke of certain religious people of his day who had “a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.’ (Romans 10:2)” Watchtower April 1, 2002
So we should “consider seriously the accuracy” of what we believe in order to “come to an accurate knowledge of the truth”. This seems to be a reasonable stance. No matter the subject matter, religious or not, it is very important to study various sources in detail and examine and contrast information in order to arrive at the correct conclusion. Anyone would at this point be in agreement with what the Watchtower organisation is saying, especially if they had an interest in religion or were spiritually inclined.
However, things are not all as they seem. If you look at any of the Watchtower literature you will see that they recommend various books as study aids but all are published by the Watchtower organisation. For example when discussing suggestions for family worship:
“Depending on the ages of their children, parents can choose practical topics to discuss, perhaps using features from The Watchtower and Awake! or from our website, jw.org.” – Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today? 2013
There is no emphasis on studying the Bible by doing research from independent sources so that members of the organisation are certain in their faith. Much emphasis is put on relying on the publications only provided by the Watchtower organisation which, obviously, only provide one perspective and one line of reasoning.
In fact if you are a Jehovah’s Witness you are specifically taught not to question anything that the Governing Body teaches via the Watchtower publications or via instruction given at meetings and assemblies. If you are a young person being brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness you will be told not to go into higher education because any education you need can be provided by “Jehovah’s organisation”. So basically the Watchtower organisation doesn’t allow any sort of critical thinking within the membership. Even thinking anything that questions the interpretation of the Bible by the Governing Body/Watchtower organisation is considered “apostasy”. It puts me in mind of a couple of quotes:
“Ignorance is strength” – 1984 – George Orwell
“He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote:
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.” – 1984 – George Orwell
This quote refers to Winston Smith realising that his thoughts questioning the regulations of the ruling party, Ingsoc were actually thoughtcrime, a term coined by George Orwell in 1984. As explained in Wikipedia, “A thoughtcrime is an Orwellian neologism used to describe an illegal thought. The term was popularized in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, first published in 1949, wherein thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling party.”
I’m sure that many of you reading this are thinking that this is a ridiculous bit of hyperbole on my behalf and that the Watchtower organisation doesn’t attempt to control the Witnesses thoughts, they only teach them to follow rules set out in the Bible. I wish it was untrue, I really do.
“When we treasure our friendship with Jehovah, we strive to please him in every aspect of our life, including our thoughts.” – The Watchtower 2015, June pp 14
The problem comes when the only way to please God, according to the Watchtower organisation is to obey what the Governing Body teaches as they are directly being “used by God”.
The hypocrisy of the Watchtower organisation not allowing anyone to question their interpretation of the bible and doctrine but preaching that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are better than other religions because their faith is based on “reasoning on the scriptures” is outrageous. If you search on the JW.org website for “Bible Study Tools” you will see that everything, all of the links and recommendations circle back to Watchtower articles and books, nothing encourages independent thinking and research. This is because members of the Watchtower organisation’s Governing Body believe most sincerely that they are being “used by God to do his will”. However, even the Watchtower organisation acknowledge that sincerity doesn’t make someone right.
“Certain first-century Jews might sincerely have believed in their way of worshiping God, but their zeal was ‘not according to accurate knowledge.’ (Romans 10:2) For us to be acceptable to God, our sincere beliefs must be based on accurate information.” – The Watchtower 2003, Feb 1 p 32.
However, they believe that they are truly being “used by God”. Although, the reasoning behind why this is the case is long, convoluted, based on incorrect historical dates and must never, ever be questioned. In the publication “Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today?” from 2013 they write:
“’Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?’ (Matthew 24:3, 45; Mark 13:3, 4)… It is a small group of anointed followers of Jesus. The ‘slave’ is closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” – Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today? 2013 – Lesson 19, page 22
The publication goes on to explain:
“It is being used by God to do his will. The anointed brothers who serve on the Governing Body have an intense interest in God’s Word and much experience in handling practical and spiritual matters.” – Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today? – Lesson 20, page 23
Anyone that has asked questions to clarify and understand better is told not to do so. Usually independent research, critical thinking and questioning in order to ensure proper understanding ends in a person being disfellowshipped from the organisation. They are then shunned by all friends and family as they are seen as an “apostate” and “mentally diseased” (Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.11).
Ironically, although the word “apostate” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “A person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle”. Therefore, anyone who leaves their religion is an apostate. Ironically however, the Watchtower organisation defines an “apostate” as anyone that teaches things contrary to Watchtower teachings.
“Apostasy is abandoning or deserting the worship and service of God, actually a rebellion against Jehovah God. Some apostates profess to know and serve God but reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible but reject Jehovah’s organization.” Reasoning From the Scriptures p.34
Yes, it doesn’t matter whether you are still a Christian, whether you still believe in Jehovah and in the Watchtower organisation, if you question the teachings of the Watchtower organisation, even if it is to clarify things, you are an apostate and guess what, you’re also part of the “antichrist”. I kid you not.
“They may also claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization. (Jude 8, 11; Nu 16:19-21) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.” (1Jo 2:18, 19).” Insight, Volume 1, p. 127 – Apostasy
I need to apologise to anyone who has been kind enough to read this far in my blog. This ended up being a far longer blog post than I intended. I’m not any sort of scholar. I never learnt critical thinking, I never went to university. I am very uneducated. However, I am so sick of being uneducated and ignorant. I have a thirst for knowledge. I was told what to believe and restricted to certain books for my entire childhood and young adulthood. What I should believe and know was dictated to me. I never acquired this knowledge through reasoning and study that was objective and independent. So now the journey begins. I may be nearly 50 years of age with many physical and mental ailments, but I shall ensure that I never accept anything as fact on face value again. I shall henceforth be a critical thinker.
If you’d like to read more about the Watchtower organisation’s attitude toward’s those who question their teachings, I highly recommend the story of Steve McRoberts ex-Bethelite – http://www.freeminds.org/bethel/smcroberts.htm. He had questions that he put to the Governing Body in a letter, they refused to even discuss them with him.
If you’d like to read more about the Watchtower’s teachings on disfellowshipping, shunning or apostasy, or if you’re curious about the way the Watchtower practices mind control on their members, I highly recommend the following:
Also there is an excellent vlog by Lloyd Evans entitled, “The Governing Body: Neither Inspired Nor Infallible” which discusses how the Governing Body believe they are guided by God.
Thank you very much for reading my blog.