Opposition to the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Much criticism has been directed at the group because of its unique beliefs, its severe criticism of other faith groups, its refusal to accept blood transfusions, its withdrawal from civic responsibilities, and its continued unsuccessful efforts to predict the date of Armageddon.
Some examples of the opposition
- In 1913, Russell was criticized for selling miracle wheat seed at an inflated price. When he and the seed was ridiculed in a local paper, he sued the newspaper and lost. Government witnesses testified that the wheat was of an inferior grade. He never profited personally from the sales; the proceeds only amounted to $1800. Contrary to the statements of Witness detractors, there is no evidence that Russell intended fraud. He apparently believed that the wheat was more miraculous than it really was.
- Rev. J.J. Ross of Hamilton ON wrote a pamphlet called “Some Facts About the Self-styled ‘pastor’ Charles T. Russell.” It denounced Russell’s morals and qualifications for the ministry. Russell subsequently sued Ross for libel. During the trial, Russell claimed to know the Greek alphabet, but was unable to identify Greek letters at the top of the page of a Greek New Testament that was handed to him. Russell also admitted in court that he had never been ordained, even though he had earlier claimed to have been ordained by a recognized religious group.
- The WTS translation of the Bible has been criticized severely for changing the meanings of many key passages by insertion of words, such as other and a in places in a way that reverses the meaning of the verses. Some have claimed that the Witness’ Translation Committee was almost devoid of credentials; only one member is alleged to have been trained in Biblical Greek and Hebrew.
- They have predicted that the start of Armageddon would occur in 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, and 1941. None of the prophecies have come true. Each failed estimate caused some disillusioned members to leave the organization.
- The Witnesses reported that 1975 was the 6000th anniversary of the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden in 4026 BCE. This prompted much of their membership to assume that 1975 was a likely date for Armageddon. The group seems to have done little to suppress that expectation. That year also passed uneventfully.
- Some of the membership, without official sanction, interpreted Psalms 90:10 as defining the length of a generation to be 80 years. Since 1914 plus 80 equals 1994, they predicted Armageddon would occur around that year. That prophecy, like so many by other faith groups, also failed.
- Some Jehovah’s Witnesses now believe that the end will happen exactly 6000 years after the creation of Eve. They believe that Eve may have been created many years after Adam, at an unknown date. This belief contradicts an article in a 1968 issue of Awake magazine, which stated that: “According to reliable Bible chronology, Adam and Eve were created in 4026 B.C.E.” That would have placed the end back in 1975 — an event that didn’t happen.
- Until recently, the Witnesses taught that Armageddon will start soon, before the last of generation of Jehovah’s Witnesses born around the time of Christ’s enthronement in 1914 died off. This concept of the generation of 1914 has recently been abandoned, as described in the 1995-NOV-1 issue of Watchtower. This change effectively removes precise dates from their prophetic predictions. They still anticipate an end in the near future. But as a matter of policy, they are not estimating when it will happen.
The Watchtower Society in Norway, on behalf of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, filed a filed police charges against ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Kent Steinhaug and Jan Haugland of Norway. The defendants are alleged to have posted copies on the Internet of a confidential “Elder’s Manual” called Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock. The document was originally written in 1977, and most recently updated and copyrighted in 1991. It is normally loaned only to elders in good standing. If an elder loses his position in the organization, he is required to return the book. As of 1997-JUN-30, the text of the manual was available at: [Links no longer exist]
The police later dropped the charges.
In 1998-JUL, the Witnesses took action against A Common Bond, an international support group for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. They have a website, provided by GeoCities. A Witness attorney complained to GeoCities that the website violated its copyright by showing a photograph taken from the Watch Tower Society (WTS) publication, The Watchtower. The picture showed a number of same-sex couples embracing. The most logical response would have been for GeoCities to have simply deleted the picture file from the WTS directory. Instead, they shut down the website almost immediately. It was restored 4 days later without the photograph. Webmaster Jim Moon commented: “Gays and lesbians who have been kicked out of the JWs are in a special need for all the emotional and spiritual support they can get. If JWs don’t conform completely to the sect’s doctrines and practices, including a strict prohibition against merely being gay, they are disfellowshipped,’ which is a severe punishment. It amounts to total ostracism.”
The Witnesses’ official policy towards gays and lesbians is to allow them to continue as members, if they remain sexually inactive. This means that they remain celibate. Further, because of Jesus’ statement that to lust after another person is to commit adultery with them in your heart, then a gay or lesbian must attempt to suppress their desire, longing, feelings of attractiveness, love, sexual fantasies etc. towards others. Homosexual Witnesses are expected to refrain from both sexual activity and sexual thoughts. Although celibacy can be chosen, it is quite impossible to totally control and eliminate one’s feelings. The Witness’ policy places an immense emotional load on its gay and lesbian membership who try to live up to the group’s expectations.
As in all large organizations, official policies must be administered by junior officials. Some consider even celibate gays and lesbians as unsuitable for membership.
Government oppression in Europe
Jehovah’s Witness are under economic attack by the government of France. They had been denied corporation status Germany, because of alleged insufficient loyalty to the state. However, a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany should reverse this.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and their NGO status at the United Nations
Many religious organizations, including the Baptist World Alliance, Bah’ai International Community, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Unitarian Universalist Association, etc. have obtained NGO (Non-governmental organization) status with various sections of the United Nations. NGOs cannot become members of the UN itself. They can, however, associate with one of the sections of the UN. The Jehovah’s Witnesses allegedly applied for NGO status as an ssociate member of the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN/DPI) in 1991. This was approved in 1992. Some criticized this move, because of the organization’s frequently stated position in opposition to the United Nations.
According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, “The Watchtower Society has been denouncing the UN and its predecessor the League of Nations for 80 years, believing them to be a world empire of false religion, predicted in the Book of Revelation. A recent publication…describes the UN as ‘a disgusting thing in the sight of God and his people’.” The WTS has described the UN as the “scarlet beast” mentioned in the book of Revelation.
Many people, including officials at the UN itself, were surprised in early 2001-OCT to learn of the NGO connection. A former Witness said:
“There is a glaring inconsistency which has emerged between the WTBTS’s frequent portrayal of the UN as an evil organisation and its behind-the-scenes attempts to curry favor with that organization. Were individual members to be aware of any formal link they would be devastated…By no stretch of the imagination could the WTBTS be considered to share the ideals of the UN charter unless you suppose that destruction of the UN by God is consistent with that charter.”
In an internal document, the WTBTS describes its policy as a “theocratic war strategy,” claiming: “In time of spiritual warfare it is proper to misdirect the enemy by hiding the truth. It is done unselfishly; it does not harm anyone; on the contrary it does much good.”
Spokespersons at the Witness’ headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, have since explained that:
“Our purpose for registering with the [United Nations] Department of Public Information as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 1991 was to have access to research material available on health, ecological, and social problems at the United Nations library facilities. We had been using the library for many-years prior to 1991, but in that year it became necessary to register as an NGO to have continued access. Registration papers filed with the United Nations that we have on file contain no statements that conflict with our Christian beliefs. Moreover, NGOs are informed by the United Nations that ‘association of NGOs with the DPI does not constitute their incorporation into the United Nations system, nor does it entitle associated organizations or their staff to any kind of privileges, immunities or special status.” Still, the Criteria for Association of NGOs-at least in their latest version-contain language that we cannot subscribe to. When we realized this, we immediately withdrew our registration. We are grateful that this matter was brought to our attention.”
Sources of information on the UN/NGO conflict:
These sources vary greatly in objectivity:
- “The Watchtower Society as a United Nations NGO: a critical look at the conspiracy theory,” at: http://www.jehovahsjudgment.co.uk/
- “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the United Nations,” Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- “More Bluffs and Lies from the Watchtower about their UN Connections,” Watchtower Observer, at: http://watchtower.observer.org/apps/
- “Jehovah’s Witnesses Quit UN Affiliation after 10 year Relationship with UN Made Public,” Global Policy Forum, 2001-OCT-30, at: http://www.globalpolicy.org/
- “Many Disillusioned Jehovah’s Witnesses Question the Watch Tower Society’s
- Affiliation With the United Nations’ Associated NGOs and DPIs,” at: http://www.xjw.com/
- “Why is “Jehovah’s organisation” so friendly with the ‘disgusting thing causing desolation’ that is ‘full of blasphemous names’?,” Towerwatcher, at: http://www.towerwatcher.orcon.net.nz/