Why Not be a Jehovah's Witness?
by Steve McRoberts

While millions have left the Jehovah's Witnesses, new converts still continue to trickle in. Perhaps such people could benefit from the viewpoint of someone who left. What would I like to say to someone who is contemplating becoming a Witness? Would I try to dissuade them? And if so, why?
Who I am and Why I'm Writing This

I am a former Jehovah's Witness. I left the organization 25 years ago (while serving at Bethel). I left over doctrinal issues. Primarily, I could no longer believe that God was going to kill everyone who was not a Jehovah's Witness.

Today, I do not belong to any religion. I am not attempting to convert people to a more mainstream Christian religion, or a born-again viewpoint, or to atheism. I am not writing this out of anger towards the Watchtower, nor am I even trying to keep people from joining! Some people may be able to find happiness within the organization, and though I personally feel that almost anyone could find more happiness outside of the organization, I will not argue against someone's happiness as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.
My intent is simple, and it is the same as when I was a Witness: I want people to know the truth.
I believe that most people who are studying with the Witnesses do not know the whole truth; they are only hearing one side of the issue (from those who have a vested interest in converting them). I have no vested interest. I do not personally know the people who will read this, and I will not benefit in any way whether they become Jehovah's Witnesses or not (usually I never know what they end up deciding). I simply want people to make that decision with all the facts before them. Since I know these facts, I feel a moral obligation to share them.
Asking Questions

When people begin studying with the Witnesses, they are encouraged to ask questions. This makes it appear that the organization is open-minded and prepared to answer for their beliefs and actions. What new people don't realize is that once they have become Witnesses, the questions are expected to stop, and they are expected to believe whatever the Watchtower tells them to believe:
"Avoid independent thinking...questioning the counsel that is provided by God's visible organization."(Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1983 pg. 22)
"That they [Jehovah's Witness] must adhere absolutely to the decisions and scriptural understandings of the Society because God has given it this authority over his people."(Watchtower, May 1, 1972, p. 272)
So, be aware that once you become a Witness you will no longer be thinking for yourself. This is called "mind control."

You may think that you will not fall into such a trap. You may think that the things you have studied so far with the Witnesses make sense, and that if they ever start teaching things that don't make sense you will leave.

But it's not that simple. When you become a Witness, you will leave behind all of your non-Witness friends. There will even be a very real distance created between you and non-Witness family members. Then, your entire social world will be the Witnesses. That will not be easy to leave, and so you will find ways of rationalizing the "new truths." You will end up like so many have: paying lip-service to beliefs you find ridiculous. Worse: you will be expected to preach such beliefs to others.

Make no mistake. The Watchtower is not shy about frankly admitting this: you will lose freedom of thought as a Witness.

Of course, if the men who make up the "Faithful and Discreet Slave," are really the pipeline of truth from God, then it might make sense to abandon one's own thoughts and adopt theirs. But have they proven truthful in their short history?

The Witnesses talk and write a lot about "the truth." In fact, it is common for them to refer to their religion simply as "the truth," and to refer to fellow-members as being "in the truth".

What do they mean by "truth"? Here is their own definition:
"Truth does not contradict itself or deny the facts. It does not go contrary to reality... It does not change because of location or time. The truth is provable by actual fact. The truth endures, persists, because it is genuine, actually existing, in harmony with reality."(Things in Which it is Impossible for God to Lie" p. 22)
Now, let us take the Watchtower's own definition of truth and apply it to a small sampling of the writings published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, keeping in mind the following regarding Watchtower publications:
"Such persons should remember that the Watchtower sets out the words of God's prophet."(WT 1936 p. 182 par. 18)
"God uses The Watchtower to communicate to his people; it does not consist of men's opinions."(WT 1/1/1942).
The "Watchtower" An Outstanding Bible Aid...Since 1879 it has been published regularly for the benefit of sincere students of the Bible. Since that time it has proven itself dependable.(Advertisement in the back of the 1953 edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures).

"Must I not join some organization on earth, assent to some creed, and have my name written on earth?" No. Galatians 5:1: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage."
-- Watchtower Reprints, p. 295.
The test of membership in the New Creation will not be membership in any earthly organization.
-- The New Creation, p. 78.

It is solely in brotherly association with the New World Society that we can possibly survive when this old world passes away.
-- New Heavens and a New Earth, p. 363.

The ransom price has been paid for our race.
--Watchtower, 1900, p. 183

Has the ransom price been paid yet? Answer: No!
-- Watchtower, 1909, page 379

The sin offering... was the ransom.
-- Watchtower, 1909, p. 87

The ransom sacrifice was not the sin-offering.
--Watchtower, 1909, p. 201

Pastor Russell… admitted in private to being that "Faithful and Wise Servant."
--Watchtower 1/12/1916

Russell never claimed to be the faithful and wise servant.
--God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years has Approached, 1973:346

We may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old ... 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of the reconstruction...
-- Millions Now Living May Never Die, pp. 89, 90, 97
We have no doubt whatever in regard to the chronology relating to the dates of 1874, 1914, 1918, and 1925.
-- Watchtower 1922 p. 147

The end of 1925 is about here. Some had expected to see the work of the church in the flesh completed this year. Probably this expectation has been induced somewhat by the desire to end earth's journey of toil and to sit at ease in glory. If so, then is there not a measure of selfishness in such a desire and expectation?
--Watchtower 1925, p. 259
1925 was a sad year for many brothers, some of them were stumbled; their hopes were dashed. They had hoped to see some of the ancient worthies resurrected. Instead of being a "probability" they read into it that it was a "certainty."
--1975 Yearbook, p. 146

the Great Pyramid... a Bible in stone.
Thus, exactly, does the stone "Witness" corroborate the testimony of the Bible...the very stones of this Great Pyramid of Testimony are crying out in no uncertain tones. Every inch of this massive structure is eloquently proclaiming the wisdom and power and grace of our God.
Firmly incased in this solid rocky structure, beyond the power of nature's storms or of the ruthless hand of the destroyer, the outline drawings of God's great plan have stood for four thousand years, prepared to give their testimony at the time appointed, in corroboration of the similarly revealed, but for ages hidden, testimony of the sure Word of Prophecy. The testimony of this "Witness to the Lord in the land of Egypt," like that of the written Word, points with solemn and unerring precision to the final wreck of the old order of things.
-- The Testimony of God's Stone Witness and Prophet, The Great Pyramid in Egypt: Studies in the Scriptures; vol. 3, Thy Kingdom Come, Chapter 10, pp. 341, 347, 376

If the pyramid is not mentioned in the Bible, then following its teachings is being led by vain philosophy and false science and not following after Christ... Satan put his knowledge in dead stone, which may be called Satan's Bible, and not God's stone witness.
--Watchtower, 11/15/1928 pp. 341, 344

For over thirty years JW's were not allowed, on the threat of expulsion from the organization and rejection by God, to receive vaccinations on the basis that it was "a direct violation of the everlasting covenant God made with Noah after the flood…Vaccination has never saved a human life. It does not prevent smallpox"
-- Golden Age, 2/4/1931, pp. 293-294

Vaccinations are now perfectly acceptable.
There can be little doubt that vaccinations appear to have caused a marked decrease in contagious diseases," including "smallpox" and "polio" (Awake!, 8/22/1965, p. 20)

Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then ? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man's existance coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ....It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.
-- "Why are You Looking Forward to 1975?", Watchtower, 8/15/1968, p. 499
In view of the short time left, a decision to pursue a career in this system of things is not only unwise but extremely dangerous.....Many young brother and sisters were offered scholarships or employment that promised fine pay. However, they turned them down and put spiritual interests first.
-- Kingdom Ministry, 06/1969, p 3
Yes, the end of this system is so very near! Is that no reason to increase our activity?....Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system of things in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.
--." Kingdom Ministry, 05/1974, p 3

But it is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date, neglecting everyday things we would ordinarily care for as Christians, such as things that we and our families really need . We may be forgetting that, when the "day" comes, it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises."
--Watchtower 7/15/1976:441

Until 1980 Jehovah's Witnesses considered organ transplants as "cannibalistic" and against God's law.
-- WT 11/15/1967:702

[Organ transplants are] a matter of personal decision. There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue" (Watchtower, 15 March 1980, p. 31).

Since Jude 7 shows that Sodom and Gomorrah became a `warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire,' does that not bar the inhabitants of those cities from a resurrection? For it to be `more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah' than for others, it would be necessary for former inhabitants of that land to be present on Judgement Day... So apparently individuals who used to live in that land will be resurrected.
--Watchtower, 8/1/1965, p. 479

In this light, Jude 7 would mean that the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah were judged and destroyed everlastingly. It is apparent, then, that those whom God executed in those past judgments experienced irreversible destruction.
--Watchtower, 6/1/1988, pp. 30-31

Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the 'last days' began....Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of 'this generation' nearly 70 years old today....Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death.
-- Awake! October 8, 1968, pages 13-14

Jehovah's people have at times speculated about the time when the 'great tribulation' would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914...Rather than providing a rule for measuring time, the term "generation" as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics...Therefore, in the final fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy today, "this generation" apparently refers to the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ's presence but fail to mend their ways
-- Watchtower, 11/1/1995 p. 17-19

At times explanations given by Jehovah's visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case. This might be compared to what is known in navigational circles as "tacking." By maneuvering the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making progress toward their destination...
-- Watchtower 12/1/1981, p. 27

Seeing the strenuous efforts needed to succeed in the race for life, Paul went on to say: "Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly" (1 Corinthians 9:26) ...Hence, to run "not uncertainly" means that to every observer it should be very evident where the runner is heading. The Anchor Bible renders it "not on a zigzag course." If you saw a set of footprints that meanders up and down the beach, circles around now and then, and even goes backward at times, you would hardly think the person was running at all, let alone that he had any idea where he was heading. But if you saw a set of footprints that form a long, straight line, each footprint ahead of the previous one and all evenly spaced, you would conclude that the footprints belong to one who knows exactly where he is going.
-- To Succeed In The Race For Life: not on a zigzag course, Watchtower, 8/1/1992, p. 17

According to the Watchtower's own definition of truth, the Watchtower has not been truthful. It has indeed changed with time, completely contradicting itself over and over again. There is no religion on earth that has made so many errors in its own doctrine (the above sample barely scratches the surface). Yet, we are expected to believe that this is the one and only religion which has the truth from God!

Which seems more likely to you: that God has changed his mind so many times, or that men have changed their minds so many times?
Those who are convinced that The Watchtower is publishing the opinion or expression of a man should not waste time in looking at it at all... Those who believe that God uses The Watchtower as a means of communicating to his people, or of calling attention to his prophecies, should study The Watchtower...
-- The Watchtower January 1, 1942, page 5

How has the Watchtower retained any credibility in light of its horrible record? How can anyone approaching average intelligence think that this lying organization is the source of truth from God?

Two reasons:
  1. The Watchtower teaches that "the light gets brighter" as the "time of the end" comes closer.
    If someone has a vested interest in being a Witness, they can accept this excuse as long as they don't look at the actual history of the Watchtower's writings. If they were to actually try to apply the excuse to a particular case, they would soon find that the light does not get brighter: it flickers on and off. In many cases doctrines have been changed and then readopted several times (each change being a complete reversal of what was previously held).
    It must also be noted that the "light gets brighter" excuse completely contradicts their own definition of truth given at the start of this document.
  2. The Watchtower teaches that they are the only religion with all of the true doctrines (such as God not being a trinity, no literal hell, the 144,000 and the "great crowd", and honoring Jehovah's name). Therefore, they must be trusted even though they may occasionally slip up on some secondary issues a few times until they get them right.

We will discuss reason number 2 in the next chapter. For now, let's take a look at reason number one.
Does "the light getting brighter" excuse Watchtower History?

To answer this question, let's examine just two of the items listed in the table above.

Russell's considering himself the "faithful and wise steward" ("faithful and discreet slave")

If we try to apply the "light getting brighter" excuse to this item, then I guess we would say that the light was so dim prior to 1917 that Russell mistook himself for the "faithful and wise steward." However, this application does not work, because the Watchtower has written: " Russell never claimed to be the faithful and wise servant".

If the Watchtower were to write that Russell mistakenly believed this, then the excuse might work. But the excuse simply cannot rescue this contradiction. Either Russell made the claim or he did not. Therefore, one of these statements of the Watchtower must be false, dim light or no.

1925 to mark the resurrection of Abraham, etc.

If we try to apply the "light getting brighter" excuse to this item, then I guess we would say that the light was so dim prior to 1925, that Rutherford thought the "ancient worthies" would be resurrected in that year. However, the application of this excuse fails to resolve one huge problem: the Watchtower claims that this idea was presented as a "probability" and that those who believed it were "selfish"! In fact, it had been presented with these words in the Watchtower ("God's prophet"):

"We may confidently expect…"

"We have no doubt whatever…"

To state that the ideas concerning 1925 were presented as a "probability" is to lie. They were presented as a certainty; that's what "no doubt whatever" means.

Let's pause a moment and think about this. In the two incidents just given, it has been proven (using only the Watchtower's own publications) that the Watchtower has deliberately lied. If they have not deliberately lied in these instances it means that either they do not know their own history, or that they are incapable of reading their own literature aright. If either of these is the case: if they cannot even understand the plain statements written in their own literature less than a hundred years ago, why would any sane individual trust them to explain the true meaning of the ancient documents which make up the Bible? The facts reveal two possibilities: either the Governing Body lies, or the Governing Body is incredibly stupid. In either case I don't think it would be wise for us to turn over our minds to them as they would like us to do.

In both of these instances, the "light getting brighter" excuse cannot apply. The light should have been brighter in 1974 than it was in 1916. Yet somehow it really must've been dimmer because the writers of the 1975 Yearbook were unable to make out the words in the 1916 Watchtower which plainly stated what Russell believed. It did not take any divine inspiration, or "light from above" to read the old bound volume of the Watchtower. I did it myself when I was in the Bethel library. I compared it to the 1975 Yearbook, and I asked the Governing Body to explain. Their explanation? I was an evil person.

It is interesting to note that every time one of the Watchtower's prophecies has failed, they have blamed the rank and file Witnesses for having believed what they said! Yet, as shown above, the rank and file are required to believe whatever the Watchtower publishes! The Witnesses are caught in a mind trap: they must believe whatever is currently taught, and change those beliefs the instant the Watchtower changes its mind, and they must never look back. They must dedicate their lives to the ephemeral whims of the Watchtower: studying them, preaching them to others, applying them to their lives… until one day when that "truth" is suddenly "old light" and must be completely abandoned and repudiated in favor of the "new light" which replaces it on as flimsy a basis as what had gone before.

I remember when I was a Witness I thought: what would happen if some devious person printed up a fake Watchtower and put it in my mailbox in place of the real one? Would I believe whatever that forger decided to write? I had to admit that the answer was Yes. That made me stop and wonder what had happened to my ability to reason things out for myself.

The Governing Body calls themselves "slaves", but they've got that backwards too; it is their followers who are the slaves: mind slaves.
What will guide us in choosing the right religion? The Encyclopoedia Universalis is correct when it highlights the importance of truth. A religion that teaches lies cannot be true.
-- The Watchtower December 1, 1991, p. 7).
Amen! Amen!
Part II

This site is concerned with: ethics, compassion, empathy, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Watchtower, poetry, philosophy, atheism, and animal rights.