Jehovah's Witnesses make up less than one percent of the population of the United States, and interestingly, they are one of the most (if not the most) ethnically diverse religions. But this doesn't mean that it was always smooth sailing between the races within the Jehovah's Witness community; in fact, racial issues are just one of the many things the JWs would prefer to keep on the down-low. There are so many dark facts about this group of people that it places them next to Mormons, the Amish, and Scientologists on the spectrum of strange. This article won't even go into the weird and hypocritical beliefs that people question them for because they're too wacky to even take seriously.
Jehovah's Witnesses are a form of Christianity, and they even have their own version of the Bible (more on that fiasco later). They're directed by a Governing Body called "elders," who establish all doctrines based on their interpretation of the Bible. They believe that Armageddon is imminent and that only 144,000 people will go to Heaven. They don't believe in hell. They're known for walking neighborhoods in pairs, young men dressed in slacks and a tie, going door-to-door to hand out the religious magazine The Watchtower and its companion magazine Awake! I, for one, am curious to know how many converts they actually acquire that way (or why they try to if only 144,000 people will get into Heaven anyway).
I could go on and on about the craziness, and I could support said craziness with the most offensive and confusing quotes taken from The Watchtower (skin color, divorce, homosexuality, rape, that women should be submissive -- you name it). Just for fun, here's an example: "While it is true that the white race exhibits some qualities of superiority over any other, we are to remember that there are wide differences in the same Caucasian (Semitic and Aryan) family; and also we should remember that some of the qualities which have given this branch of the human family its preeminence in the world are not such as can be pointed to as in all respects admirable.... The secret of the greater intelligence and aptitude of the Caucasian undoubtedly in great measure is to be attributed to the commingling of blood amongst its various branches, and this was evidently forced in large measure by circumstances under divine control.”
Nice, huh? The following are 20 more dark teachings, practices, beliefs, and lifestyle choices that will make you love the Jehovah's Witnesses even more.
20 The Bizarre List of 141 Things They Cannot Do
141 things that are prohibited to Jehovah's Witnesses sounds like an awful lot of things. Most people are aware of some of those things, like not celebrating holidays such as Christmas or Easter and not receiving blood transfusions. But there are so much more, and a lot of these things are very bizarre. You can find the complete list online. But to highlight a few, JWs are not allowed to discuss politics, become a police officer if a gun is required (which it is), practice yoga, smoke, support AA, buy things at church garage sales, work for or shop at the Salvation Army, play competitive sports (professionally or on a school team), attend class reunions, join the YMCA, throw rice at a wedding, buy a raffle ticket, play bingo, sing the National Anthem, pray incorrectly, take another JW to court, believe in ghosts, read their horoscope, and the list goes on (trust me).
19 The Appalling Practice of Disfellowship
Disfellowship occurs when a person is essentially kicked out of the Jehovah's Witness religion. JWs will tell you that disfellowship is a "loving provision," but you can make up your own mind after reading this. For those deemed unrepentant wrongdoers (for things like smoking or fornication), they'll be shunned by all family and friends for the rest of their lives, which is done to prevent those family and friends from associating with them. Seems a bit harsh, doesn't it? But over 80,000 people are disfellowshipped each year, and two out of three of those people are never reinstated. This results in serious emotional suffering, for obvious reasons, especially since some of the exiled still believe in what they were taught their whole lives. JWs are expected to not even say hello to this person anymore, and he or she is completely cut off from their old lives, left to fend for themselves.
18 The Dress Code - No Tight Pants Because They Were Designed By Homosexuals!
Jehovah's Witnesses may not be as overtly obvious in public as the Amish are, but they do adhere to a strict dress code that greatly limits what they can and cannot wear. Inappropriate clothing for Kingdom Halls, conventions, and preaching activities include tee shirts, casual shirts, shorts, pants (if you're a woman), tight pants for either gender, sweats, tennis shoes, and blue jeans. When not at any of the above places or events, their clothing must be modest and in harmony with the teachings of The Watchtower. Things they cannot wear are as follows: anything with holiday images, anything depicting political ideals, military apparel, tight pants (because they were designed by homosexuals), short skirts, low necklines, and anything with a cross on it, including jewelry. Typically, men wear suits, dress shirts, and ties, and women stick to dresses and skirts of appropriate length. Luckily, it seems as though there are some fashions targeted directly at JW women!
17 They Changed the Bible
That is a pretty serious offense. The Jehovah's Witnesses produced their own version of the Holy Bible called "New World Translation." But in doing so, they changed around a lot of the "original" version. For example, take Hebrews 1:8, in which it says, "But about the Son, he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever'." This means that God is calling Jesus the Son "God". But in the New World Translation, Hebrews 1:8 reads, "But with reference to the Son: 'God is your throne forever and ever...'" So, they've changed the order of the words around to hide the fact that Jesus (the Son) is called God. This is because JWs do not believe in the Holy Trinity. There are more examples of this as well, and they're far too many to list here.
16 Birthdays Displease God
Many people are aware that Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter, but did you know that they also don't celebrate birthdays? It seems strange to most people to think of that special day coming around each year and just treating it like any other old day. But in fact, that's what Jehovah's Witnesses do, and the reason is that birthday celebrations have pagan roots, and the early Christians didn't celebrate birthdays. Also, the Bible never mentions a servant of God celebrating a birthday. In the minds of most modern-day Westerners, this sounds silly, and we automatically find ourselves pitying the poor kids who grow up without birthday parties. But these kids are used to it, and they receive gifts and various celebrations throughout the year, as their parents follow the example of God, who spontaneously gives good things to His children. This photo on the right is from the sitcom Community, in which the character Troy is a Jehovah's Witness and is thus not allowed to celebrate his birthday. He seems to be ignoring that fact a bit, although his cake is definitely not a birthday cake. It says: "Hello During a Random Dessert. The month and day of which coincide numerically with your expulsion from a uterus."
15 They Don't Associate With "Worldly" People (A.K.A. Anyone Else) Because We Are "Slaves of Corruption"
The Jehovah's Witnesses have a name for us heathens of other religions and belief systems, and that's "worldly people." While I would at first be inclined to take that label as a compliment, it's not meant to be. According to the Jehovah's Witness magazine The Watchtower, any person who's not a Jehovah's Witness is called a "worldly person" or a "slave of corruption," and this person is someone who's alienated from God and thus controlled by the devil. Mostly, higher-control groups of Jehovah's Witnesses hold their members to this standard of not associating with anyone outside of other Jehovah's Witnesses. The Watchtower published this quote about worldly people: "Just as a small amount of pollution can contaminate clean water, friendship with those who do not practice godly devotion can contaminate our spirituality and lead us into adopting worldly viewpoints, dress, speech, and conduct." And among a lot of other ridiculous quotes describing the relationship with worldly people is this one: "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. ... Let the world go along in its way, reaping its bad fruitage in the form of broken homes, illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and countless other emotional and physical woes."
14 Exactly 144,000 People Will Go to Heaven, and The Rest Will Live on Earth Forever
The number 144,000 may seem random, but it plays a very important part in the lives and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe that 144,000 people will be sent to Heaven, where they will rule as kings. This is a misinterpretation of Revelation 7 and 14, and most JWs accept that they won't be one of the 144,000 and will instead live forever on earth. It's hard to imagine how anyone could think this when people die every day (including JWs). Their whole theory and all of the reasoning (and their own proof to the contrary) is all quite confusing, but the gist of it is that there are two ways to be resurrected and that they're split into two groups. One group will go to Heaven (a very tiny portion of people numbering 144,000), and the other group called the "Great Crowd" will never die and live on earth forever.
13 Jail Time Over Serving Their Country
I think these men and women need to take a closer look at where they're living and realize they're allowed religious freedom precisely because they live in America. A prime example of this is the recent Russian ban on Jehovah's Witnesses (see number 14 on this list). But JWs are known for refusing to go to war, and their reasons are as follows: their obedience to God, obedience to Jesus, love for others, and the example of early Christians. And of course, they have scripture backing up each one of these "reasons." They also pride themselves on being the "only" religion not to engage in warfare. But actually, there's evidence opposing this all. Fact states that plenty of other religions don't participate in war, and obviously, there were Christian warriors early on in history. In one particularly self-righteous Watchtower reading from 1990, it stated, "In our century, which religion has obeyed this law of love? Surely not the religions of Christendom, for they have slaughtered one another by the tens of millions in two world wars and other conflicts. Jehovah's servants are unique in obeying the rule spoken by Peter and other apostles to a high court: 'We must obey God as ruler rather than men.'"
12 Forms of Control: The Watchtower is Like a Real-Life 1984
The similarities are unarguable. For those of you who haven't read the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell, it's a book about an all-knowing being named "Big-Brother," who watches the people all of the time. Fear-inducing propaganda is everywhere, and there's even something called the "thought police." Well, some people believe George Orwell was trying to connect his fictional society with the real one called the Jehovah's Witnesses. It's not lost on people that there are eerie similarities. One JW member, who believes the teachings of the religion but acknowledges the errors of The Watchtower (a publication that's almost Biblical to JWs), wrote on his blog, comparing the two. He wrote about all the common themes of The Watchtower (which is so aptly titled, don't you think?) and 1984's Big Brother, and the overriding theme of both is control.
11 Higher Education is Discouraged, and Only 63% of JWs Have No More Than a High School Diploma!
Well, maybe this isn't actually so shocking when you think about it. With a cult-like upbringing and little hope at a higher education, it's no wonder that Jehovah's Witnesses think the way they do. To explain what I mean, consider the statistic that only 63% of adult JWs have a high school education, and many of those people didn't finish high school. That's a very low number. In fact, JWs have among the lowest average education levels of any religion in the United States. The Watchtower compares higher education to a "temptation" akin to smoking or using drugs. While in most of the country, education is promoted, it's the opposite if you're a JW. They believe that going to college wastes time during earth's "last days" and that it promotes materialism and shows a lack of faith. The Watchtower has too many examples of this kind of "lesson," but here's one: "Rather than being content with 'sustenance and covering', those who devote themselves to getting a 'higher education' usually want to be able to enjoy 'the rest of the things' that money can buy."
10 The Curious Cases of Skin Changing Colors
Back in 1900, there was a man by the name of Reverend William H. Draper, and allegedly, he turned from black to white. Although Jehovah's Witnesses are, in modern times, open to all races, and their religion is practiced all around the world, a long time ago, that wasn't the case. In an issue of The Watchtower dated 01/10/1990, it's stated, "Though once as black as charcoal, the Rev. Mr. Draper is now white. His people say that his color was changed in answer to prayer. Many years ago Draper was employed by a fair-skinned man, and he was often heard to remark that if he could only be white like his employer, he would be happy. While in the white man's service Draper experienced religion. From that day forward he prayed constantly and fervently that he might become white... after the change has been in progress for over 30 years, Draper has not a single dark spot on his body." And then, in an issue from 02/15/1904, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin color? No. But what the Ethiopian cannot do for himself God could readily do for him... How could all men be brought to perfection and which color of skin was the original? The answer is now provided. God can change the Ethiopian's skin in his own due time. Julius Jackson, of New Frankfort, Montana, a Negro boy of nine years, began to grow white in September 1901 and is now fully nine-tenths white. He assures us that this is no whitish skin disease; but that the new white skin is as healthy as that of any white boy, and that the changed boy has never been sick and never has taken medicines."
9 Black People Are a "Race of Servants" and Their Race Was Born From Two White People
Of course, this was nearly one hundred years ago in 1929, but still. That's terrible! In these words of Joseph Rutherford (the man who gave JWs their name): "Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the negro? They have been and are a race of servants. There is no servant in the world as good as a good colored servant, and the joy that he gets from rendering faithful service is one of the purest joys there is in the world." Wow, that's pretty insulting. Back during this time, JWs were taught that black skin was a curse and that blacks were divinely ordained to be slaves and servants. Of course, that's not taught now. What is taught now is that two Caucasians produced the first black person and thus the entire black race. The man who founded the Jehovah's Witnesses taught that white people were superior to blacks, and he used The Watchtower to spread his racist views.
8 Child Abuse is Systematically Hidden
Apparently, it's not only Catholic priests who have a thing for kids. In the world of religion, there are some pretty messed up minds, and unfortunately, the children being raised in Jehovah's Witness families are at a risk of being sexually abused. Internal documents that were obtained by various news outlets showed that JW members have systematically instructed elders and other leaders to keep child sexual abuse confidential. There have been several stories of this happening, but the defense is always that such cases violate their protection under the First Amendment. Basically, they claim (and get away with claiming) that judicial questioning of their beliefs and practices would stomp on the organization's religious freedoms. A 2012 Watchtower memo stated, "Not every individual who has sexually abused a child is considered a 'predator'. The Watchtower, not the local body of elders, determines whether an individual who has sexually abused children in the past will be considered a 'predator.'" Nice.
7 JWs Are Labeled "Extremists" in Russia and Banned From the Country, According to an April 2017 Ruling
The ban on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is pretty recent news, as it's only been enforced this summer after the Supreme Court there upheld the Justice Ministry's claim that the religious group was "extremist." On one hand, this is Russia, so this news isn't exactly surprising. On the other hand, they may be onto something, at least judging by the facts presented in this article. But since Jehovah's Witnesses are now classified as an "extremist organization," who "pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order, and public security," the JW Headquarters there was closed. This characterization of JWs was found unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010, and they may be called upon again if this case is taken there. For now, the British and American governments have raised human rights concerns over the ban.
6 The Practice of Wife-Swapping
Depending on whom you ask, maybe being a Jehovah's Witness is not so bad after all. It's not like certain religions that allow for multiple wives, but it does allow for the next best thing: wife-swapping! And there are even clubs for it. Of course, in this patriarchal society in which the male is wholly dominant, the women must be submissive, and thus, naturally, they don't benefit from this swap; it's not like swinging where both husband and wife partake. Nope, this one is just for the guys. Many guys online recount their own experiences and know others who've done the wife swap, so it's not that uncommon, although it's more uncommon now than in the carefree sex days of the 1970s before AIDS came along. However popular wife-swapping may be, though, it seems like it's something that is, for the most part, kept on the down-low.
5 The "License to Lie" and Homosexuality
Basically, what this means is that it's considered acceptable to lie to "worldly people" if the end results benefit The Watchtower. This was more often practiced just when it came to legal proceedings and lying under oath but has become rather prevalent in the day-to-day lives of JW members. In fact, it's come to light that recently, a speech for the 2017 Circuit Assembly directly encourages members to lie to the public about their teachings on homosexuality. They are at once steadfast in their beliefs but also want to make themselves look better to the public (although I don't know why, since we're all immoral heathens), and so they reference 1st Corinthians 6:9-10: "Or do you not know that those unrighteous people will not inherit God's Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners will not inherit God's Kingdom."
4 If You Commit This Crime, You're Worse Than a Pedophile or a Murderer
If you're a Jehovah's Witness, committing the "crime" of Apostasy is the worst thing you can do. An apostate is a Jehovah's Witness who abandons or deserts his or her worship and religion. Apostates are considered to be and are treated worse than adulterers, pedophiles, and even murderers. The Watchtower considers all apostates part of the antichrist, and one needs no more proof than their own words to understand that. Consider the following statement: "Satan was the first creature to turn apostate. Modern-day apostates display characteristics similar to those of the devil. Their mind may be poisoned by a critical attitude toward individuals in the congregations, Christian elders, or the Governing Body. Some apostates oppose the use of the divine name, Jehovah. They are not interested in learning about Jehovah or in serving him. Like their father, Satan, apostates target people of integrity." There's even a published list online of all of the apostates! Sounds like public shaming to me. The photo on the left is a YouTube video of happy apostates who DGAF about what their ex-elders think of their choices, and on the right is a joke magazine highlighting exactly why they made the right choice.
3 They Give Up This Right That People Died to Have (and They Do Not Pledge Allegiance to the Flag)
This may not seem like such a big deal, but Jehovah's Witnesses ignore the fact that people died for the right to vote. They willingly give up that right because they "don't feel the need" to vote. This brings to mind that quote about how standing by and doing nothing if you see something that's wrong is worse than the people actually doing wrong. Jehovah's Witnesses call on their members to maintain "political neutrality" and stay out of public affairs at all costs. Why? Because they've interpreted different parts of the Bible, including John 17:14, to mean that they're obliged to stay out of political matters. Only 13% of Jehovah's Witnesses are even registered to vote, and according to some people, their political neutrality is even to blame for the violent persecution of JWs in Malawi during the '60s and '70s when they refused to register with the ruling Congress Party. Additionally, JW's don't pledge allegiance to the flag.
2 The Other Ways Not Ingesting Blood Affects JWs (Besides Dying)
It's common knowledge that Jehovah's Witnesses don't accept blood transfusions, but this affects them in ways that people don't usually think about. Most often, people scoff at the idea of rejecting a simple blood transfusion (which is lifesaving). And indeed, it does seem crazy (JWs do this because they believe that the Bible prohibits ingesting blood, based on a scripture that differs from other Christian denominations). But there are other tolls that this takes. One of the best examples I can think of is this story I heard about a little boy who lost his tooth and then was terrified because he had swallowed blood. Swallowing small amounts of blood is practically unavoidable in life, whether because of losing a tooth, biting your tongue, having dental work done, or even flossing too hard. To think of a young child actually worried about this is heartbreaking. The JWs say that things such as losing a tooth are different than willfully disobeying the rule of not ingesting blood, but I'll bet the kid didn't know that.
1 A Mind-Control Cult
Elaborating on the comparison of The Watchtower to Big Brother of 1984, there's the aspect of mind control within the Jehovah's Witness community. Especially in recent years, they've been accused of practicing mind control over their members, and have even been labeled a "mind control cult" by some. Of course, the leaders like to blame such theories on lies told by apostates (see number 16 on this list). But people aren't so quick to believe them -- and for good reason. One example from The Watchtower (and there are many) comes from an article published on June 1, 1953. It states, "Minds must be cleansed and made over, mental circuits formed by old-world thinking and acting faded out and new ones put in according to new world specifications. By privately studying regularly, by attending all meetings regularly, and by engaging in all features of the preaching work regularly, mental circuits are deepened and such good activities become habitual." Enough said.
Sources: realnews.org, slate.com, thejehovahswitnesses.org, jwsurvey.org