I was cutting this down for an article in my Jehovah's Witness News, January 2012 when I realised there were so many points to answer, that I decided to respond in a separate post. The article is bold to distinguish it from my comments.
Jehovah's Witnesses call God's kingdom the true government, Jenna Mink, Bowling Green Daily News, January 20, 2012.
[Right: Forest Walters of Bowling Green speaks Sunday at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses at 1035 Mt. Olivet Rd. Walters is an elder of the hall, and spoke on the topic "Keep close in mind the fear inspiring day." Pete Rodman/Daily News]
It is significant that Jehovah's Witnesses "fear" the Day of Judgment. That alone shows they are not Christians (see also below) because for Christians, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside," as the JW's own NWT says:
1Jn 4:19 NWT "There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint [Gk. "has to do with punishment" cf. ESV]. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love."
Also the Watchtower Society does not really believe the text, "Your word [the Bible] is truth" - John 17:17 NWT, because it has effectively admitted that if JWs "read the Bible exclusively" they would come to believe the doctrines of Christianity:
"From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those who ... say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such `Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago ..." ("Serving Jehovah `Shoulder to Shoulder'," The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, pp.28-29, p.29).
not those of the Watchtower!
At the age of 18, Rachel Walters already is a traveling minister. She's had the door slammed in her face. She's heard her share of slurs. A few people have answered their doors wearing nothing but a towel. But it doesn't deter the young Jehovah's Witness from Bowling Green. Her belief is everything, she said. "I like ... the preaching work," Walters said. "It gives us a chance to go out and bring our hope to other people."
This Watchtower teaching that "anyone who participates in their door-to-door literature distribution program [is] a minister" is one of the Society's "back- and-forth doctrinal flip-flop[s]". Because from at least 1956 "the Society taught that all JWs were ministers." Then "In 1976 this teaching was reversed, so that only those appointed as elders, servants, and so on, were called ministers." "Then in 1982 ... the teaching was reversed again-back to the earlier point of view-and the term ministers was again applied to all active Witnesses":
"Minister(s) .... Though Jehovah's Witnesses call anyone who participates in their door-to-door literature distribution program a minister ... In this matter of `ministers,' however, the organization cannot claim that the changes in teaching have been progressive with advancing light, for the simple reason that JWs ended up believing the same way they had originally. In essence, the changes took place along these lines: first, the official view was that all JWs were ministers; then the Society declared that only its appointed congregational leaders (elders and servants) were ministers, offering biblical support for this position; finally, it returned to teaching the original view. These back-and-forth changes can be traced in the name changes of the Society's internal publication for those going door to door. The monthly was named Kingdom Ministry in 1956, because the Society taught that all JWs were ministers. In 1976 this teaching was reversed, so that only those appointed as elders, servants, and so on, were called ministers, and the members in general were not ministers. So, in 1976 the publication's name was changed to Our Kingdom Service. Then in 1982 after a shakeup on the Governing Body involving expulsion of Raymond Franz from the organization, the teaching was reversed again-back to the earlier point of view-and the term ministers was again applied to all active Witnesses. Accordingly, the publication's name was changed again, this time to the present form, Our Kingdom Ministry. Illustrations and text on page 247 of the JW book Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom purportedly covering the history of this internal publication show earlier and current versions of the monthly but omit the 1956-76 Kingdom Ministry and the 1976-82 Our Kingdom Service-evidently to hide the facts about this embarrassing back- and-forth doctrinal flip-flop." (Reed, D.A., 1996, "Answering Jehovah's Witnesses: Subject by Subject," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Second printing, 1998, pp.164-166. Emphasis original).
This "embarrassing back- and-forth doctrinal flip-flop" shows that the Watchtower Society, like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, "teach[es] as doctrines commands of men" making them in effect to be "commandment of God" (Mk 7:7-8 NWT), and so comes under Jesus' condemnation.
It's that hope that drives Jehovah's Witnesses. They are a unique group, especially this year. During a time when conversations are buzzing about the upcoming presidential election - and religion is a big part of that discussion - Jehovah's Witnesses stay away from anything political. They don't believe in government. They don't vote, join the military or wave the American flag. They don't celebrate holidays. They believe that trinities are evil. It all goes back to their belief that the true government is God's kingdom, which will soon take over. Their beliefs stem from a strict interpretation of the Bible and the histories of certain events, such as holidays.
Again, like the Pharisees, the Watchtower has a long list of "don'ts", to give JWs the illusion of negative righteousness. As for "They don't celebrate holidays" because of "the histories of certain events, such as holidays," see below.
On, "They believe that trinities are evil," that would mean that JWs believe the Christian Trinity, which is Biblical (Mt 3:16-17; 28:19; Lk 1:35; 3:22; Jn 14:16-17; Ac 2:33; Rom 1:4; 8:11; 15:16; 1Cor 12:4-6; 2Cor 13:14; Eph 1:13-14; 2:18; 4:4-6; 2Th 2:13; Heb 9:14; 1Pet 1:2; Jude 1:20-21), is "evil," which must the ultimate blasphemy, calling God "evil." See below on the Society's claim to be "Christian."
And on "their belief that the true government is God's kingdom, which will soon take over" the Society's original prediction, as propounded by its founder Charles Taze Russell (1852 -1916), was that "in A. D. 1914... the Kingdom of God ... will obtain full, universal control, and that it will then be `set up,' or firmly established, in the earth:"
"In this chapter we present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e. the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A. D. 1914; and that that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men. And be it observed, that if this is shown to be a fact firmly established by the Scriptures, it will prove: Firstly, That at that date the Kingdom of God, for which our Lord taught us to pray, saying, `Thy Kingdom come,' will obtain full, universal control, and that it will then be `set up,' or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions." (Russell, C.T., "Studies in the Scriptures, Series II: The Time is at Hand," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, 1889, pp.77-78. Emphasis original).
This was proved to be a false prophecy in Russell's own lifetime. After Russell's death in 1916, in new printings of his writings, the Society dishonestly altered Russell's words to make it seem that he predicted that 1914 would not be the "end" of the world, but the "beginning" of its end. Anyway, the Society continued to make false prophecies of the end of this present system, including in 1925, 1975, and 1994. The Society has (amazingly) admitted that "those ... who predicted an `end of the world,' even announcing a specific date .... Yet ... The `end' did not come ... were guilty of false prophesying":
"True, there have been those in times past who predicted an `end of the world,' even announcing a specific date. Some have gathered groups of people with them and fled to the hills or withdrawn into their houses waiting for the end. Yet, nothing happened. The `end' did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing was the full measure of evidence required in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them." ("A Time to `Lift Up Your Head' in Confident Hope," Awake, October 8, 1968, p.23).
and that "Missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them"!
While it's a newer belief, about 500 Jehovah's Witnesses reside in Bowling Green, which is home to two meeting halls. About 30 years ago, one meeting hall in Park City served the entire area with an estimated 30 Jehovah's Witnesses, said Glen Pennington, an elder. Now, about 150 people pack the smaller of the two Kingdom Halls. In the brick building on Mount Olivet Road, people are singing upbeat songs, discussing the Bible, reading their study guides and mapping out their door-to-door ministries. In a tiny room, color-coded and numbered maps hang from the walls. It's where witnesses are assigned territories to cover. When they're baptized, Jehovah's Witnesses become ordained ministers and are expected to travel to homes, briefly speaking to residents. There's no clergy, but appointed elders organize events at each meeting hall, Pennington said.
The Watchtower's does have a "clergy." The "appointed elders" carry out all the roles that a clergyman fills in a Christian church. But if the claim is that Jehovah's Witnesses don't have a paid clergy then that just shows again that JWs don't believe that, "Your word [the Bible] is truth" ( Jn 17:17 NWT), but that the Watchtower overrides the Bible. Because the Bible, including the Watchtower's New World Translation, clearly teaches that it is right to have a paid clergy, i.e. "the Lord ordained for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news":
1Cor 9:7,13-14 NWT. 7 Who is it that ever serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not eat some of the milk of the flock? ... 13 Do YOU not know that the men performing sacred duties eat the things of the temple, and those constantly attending at the altar have a portion for themselves with the altar? 14 In this way, too, the Lord ordained for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news.
Pennington, of Bowling Green, has preached for decades. He's convinced many people to give Jehovah's Witnesses a try. And there are those who don't want to hear it. He's encountered angry dogs and surly people. When he witnessed in New York, a group of ministers would travel to some of the most dangerous neighborhoods. They never shied away from an area, he said. "Some people ... either they don't like people in general coming to their door or they may feel something about Jehovah's Witnesses that either they don't understand or want to deal with," he said. "So, we respect them."
There is no excuse for Christians not to be polite to JWs at their door. Indeed I want them to come to my door, but I am on their blacklist because I know too much about them. The reason why most people, including most Christians, in my experience, don't like JWs coming to their door is because nothing the average person (including the average Christian) says seems to make any difference to JWs.
In fact, there's one misconception about Jehovah's Witnesses that many agree is the biggest misunderstanding - the idea that they're not Christians. That's not true, they say. While they don't believe in the Christian trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, they have a firm belief in Jesus Christ.
The Society has admitted that "the Trinity [is] 'the fundamental doctrine of Christianity'":
"How Is the Trinity Explained? THE Roman Catholic Church states: `The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion ... Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: `the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.' In this Trinity ... the Persons are co- eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.' - The Catholic Encyclopedia. Nearly all other churches in Christendom agree. For example, the Greek Orthodox Church also calls the Trinity `the fundamental doctrine of Christianity,' even saying: `Christians are those who accept Christ as God.' In the book Our Orthodox Christian Faith, the same church declares: `God is triune ... The Father is totally God. The Son is totally God. The Holy Spirit is totally God.' Thus, the Trinity is considered to be `one God in three Persons.' Each is said to be without beginning, having existed for eternity." ("Should You Believe in the Trinity?," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, 1989, Reprinted, 2006, pp.3-4. Emphasis original).
Therefore for the Watchtower to claim that "they don't believe in the Christian trinity" but they are "Christians" is like someone claiming, "I don't believe in Allah but I am a Muslim"!
And as for "they have a firm belief in Jesus Christ," Pennington significantly omits to tell the journalist what that "firm belief in Jesus Christ" is. Because the Watchtower's "firm belief in Jesus Christ" is that he is Michael the archangel, not God as the Bible teaches (Mt 1:23; Jn 1:1; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; Php 2:5-6; Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2Pet 1:1; 1Jn 5:20).
Also, if JWs were Christians then they would call themselves Jesus' witnesses, which is what Jesus commanded His followers to be, even in the JW's own Bible:
"You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NWT).
And then the Society would not have stated that JWs are "a people, not for the name of Jesus":
"By means of his written Word upon which the light of fulfilled prophecy was shining Jehovah led the remnant to appreciate more the importance and preciousness of his name. They came to appreciate that they were a people, not for the name of Jesus, but for the name of Jehovah ..." ("Of Which God Are You a Witness?" The Watchtower, February 15, 1964, pp.104-111, p.109).
Nor would the Society have reduced in its songbook the number of songs praising Jesus from "twice as many songs praising Jesus as ... songs praising Jehovah" down to where "Jehovah is honored by four times as many songs as is Jesus":
"In the songbook produced by Jehovah's people in 1905, there were twice as many songs praising Jesus as there were songs praising Jehovah God. In their 1928 songbook, the number of songs extolling Jesus was about the same as the number extolling Jehovah. But in the latest songbook of 1984 [Sing Praises to Jehovah], Jehovah is honored by four times as many songs as is Jesus." (WB&TS, 1988, "Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, p.36).
And I own a copy of the Society's 1984 songbook, "Sing Praises to Jehovah" and as the name implies, there are no songs in it praising Jesus!
"We talk about Jehovah God, because that's God the father's name," said Tammy Walters, a Jehovah's Witness from Bowling Green. "But Jesus is his son. We believe his sacrifice is the key to our salvation." They believe that Jesus is the head of God's heavenly government, which will soon rule the earth.
The Bible (including the NWT) says that Jesus being God's Son, means that He is "equal to God" the Father in nature:
Jn 5:18 NWT. On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.
When that happens, God's people will be resurrected from the grave and live again on earth, they claim. "Many religions are heaven-oriented. That we're just here for a while, then we die and go to a better place," Pennington said. "We don't believe the Bible teaches that at all. The earth originally was man's home." That doesn't mean they don't believe in a type of heaven. Heaven is where God is, where he rules from. Only a select few will go there. The rest will simply be resurrected to live again on earth, Pennington said.
Actually JWs will not "be resurrected from the grave and live again on earth." Watchtower teaching is that everyone, including JWs, "cease to exist" (see next) when they die. And that dead JWs "do not exist except in God's memory":
"What beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses set them apart as different from other religions? ... (7) Death: They believe that the dead are conscious of absolutely nothing; that they are experiencing neither pain nor pleasure in some spirit realm; that they do not exist except in God's memory, so hope for their future life lies in a resurrection from the dead." ("Reasoning from the Scriptures," , Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, Second edition, 1989, pp.199-201. Emphasis original).
Therefore what the Watchtower calls "resurrection from the dead" is actually a re-creation from God's memory:
"On the other hand, the Bible does contain accounts of dead people being restored to life. In the case of Lazarus, this happened after he had been dead for four days. (John 11:39, 43, 44) What, though, will happen to people who died hundreds or thousands of years ago? Does their prospect for future life require that God resurrect the selfsame body they had when they died? No. Such a thought is inconsistent with what happens to the atoms that make up a dead body. In time, some of these same atoms are absorbed by vegetation that, in turn, is consumed by other creatures and becomes part of their bodies. Does this mean that there is no hope for people long dead? No. The Creator of our vast universe has an awesome, unlimited memory. Within his perfect memory, he has the capacity to store the personality and genetic traits of any dead human he chooses to remember. Moreover, Jehovah God has the power to recreate a human body with the exact genetic code of a person who has lived before. He can also place within it the memory and personality of the one whom he remembers, such as Abraham." ("Your Dead Loved Ones-Where Are They?," The Watchtower, June 15, 1994, pp.3-4, p.4).
But that means that it won't be the Jehovah's Witnesses who will be "resurrected to live again on earth" but copies of them! So each JW is slaving away for the benefit of someone else: his/her copy who has done nothing to earn life on the JW Paradise Earth. An identical copy of an original is not that original.
They also don't believe in the traditional idea of hell - a place of fire and brimstone. The grave itself is the equivalent of hell, and the Bible compares death to sleep, not torment, they say. Those who remain dead in their graves after the resurrection period will stay in hell, according to their beliefs. "Everybody goes to hell when they die, even Jesus," said George Perry, an elder. "The Bible uses hell as a place to go when life ends, as we know it ... they're not tortured in hell fire. They just cease to exist."
See below on "fire and brimstone." The Watchtower's denial of conscious punishment in an afterlife, i.e. "hell," is another example of how it sets aside the Bible's clear teachings in favour of its own. The Watchtower's own NWT correctly translates Jesus' warning that we should "not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more" but rather we should "Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Ge•hen'na":
Lk 12:4-5 NWT 4 Moreover, I say to YOU, my friends, Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. 5 But I will indicate to YOU whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Ge•hen'na. Yes, I tell YOU, fear this One
But , "If the Witnesses were correct, someone whose body had been killed would no longer exist, hence would have nothing to fear from men or from God. Once you pass out of existence, there is no longer anything that anyone can do to you" (my emphasis):
"Hell There can be no punishment after death in the Jehovah's Witness scheme of things because the dead cease to exist. They are gone, vanished without a trace. There is no soul or spirit remaining to experience punishment. If that were true, however, what sense would there be to this warning spoken by Jesus Christ? `And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.' (Luke 12:4-5) If the Witnesses were correct, someone whose body had been killed would no longer exist, hence would have nothing to fear from men or from God. Once you pass out of existence, there is no longer anything that anyone can do to you. You simply do not exist. However, Jesus warned that there is indeed more that God can do to a person after the person has been killed. What? God can cast the person into hell (Gehenna in Greek), Jesus said. The Watchtower Society has assured its followers that this does not involve anything unpleasant happening to a person after death; instead, it represents `complete and everlasting destruction' or `death from which there is no resurrection.' (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, page 87) If this were so, however, what reason would there be for someone to fear being thrown there after being killed-after already ceasing to exist, in the JW interpretation?" (Reed, 1998, p.133. Emphasis original).
They believe that people should continually work to stay in God's favor, so they try to be as unworldly as possible. Still, they partake in normal activities just like everyone else, they say. They get married, have families, go to school, play sports. They even believe it's OK to drink alcohol, but in moderation. In fact, some Jehovah's Witnesses are alcoholics, Pennington said.
It is interesting that Pennington admits that "some Jehovah's Witnesses are alcoholics." In fact, according an online audio testimony of a former JW elder, alcoholism is a major problem among JWs, including (if not especially) among JW elders.
Also, this "people should continually work to stay in God's favor" is revealing. The Watchtower officially denies it teaches salvation by works, but if JWs do not continually work on the Watchtower treadmill, they will be threatened with not surviving Armageddon and so not making it to the Paradise Earth. But JW can never feel that he or she has done enough to earn God's favor. And even if they did, they can never be sure that they will be in God's favor on the Day of Armageddon. But Christian (like me) believe the Bible that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works:
Eph 2:8-9 ESV. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast
But they're different in other ways, most notably their refusal to celebrate holidays and birthdays. They believe many holidays are actually rooted in evil and are not biblical - not even Easter or Christmas. "Christmas is simply not Christian," Pennington said. "There's nothing biblical (saying) to celebrate Christ's birth. Plus, Jesus was not born on Dec. 25." Furthermore, some claim Christmas originally was a pagan holiday. It was first observed during a celebration to a sun god, said Banks Crandell, a Jehovah's Witness.
It is true that "There's nothing biblical (saying) to celebrate Christ's birth." But it is also true that there is nothing Biblical saying not to celebrate Christ's birth. And the Bible does say that it is OK if "One [man] judges one day as above another":
Rom 14:5 NWT. One [man] judges one day as above another; another [man] judges one day as all others; let each [man] be fully convinced in his own mind.
which would include the day of Christ's birth, his own birthday, etc. And it is simply not true that there's nothing biblical about celebrating Christ's birth. The angels and shepherds celebrated Christ's birth (Lk 2:8-14) - see also below.
It is also false the claim that "Jesus was not born on Dec. 25." He may have been. See my series: "Was Jesus born on December 25?" Also it is false the claim that "Christmas originally was a pagan holiday" (see that same series). And even if December 25 was not the day of Jesus' birth and even if was originally a pagan holiday, the key word is "was." Christianity conquered Roman paganism and today millions celebrate December 25 as Christ's birth and comparatively few (if any) celebrate December 25 as "a celebration to a sun god".
There are other misconceptions, Crandell claims, such as the idea that Jesus died on a cross. He was crucified, but not on a cross - the cross is actually a traditional pagan symbol, Crandell said. "Jesus was never put on a cross," he said. "He was on a pole."
Again, it is false the Watchtower claim that "Jesus died ... not on a cross" but "on a pole." The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus died on a two-beamed wooden cross. See my (incomplete) series, "Jesus was executed on a cross, not a stake!" Especially #2: Biblical:
- A. According to Mt 27:37 NWT, the charge against Jesus was posted "above his HEAD" (not "above his HANDS");
- B. According to Jn 20:25 NWT, Jesus had the "print of the NAILS" (plural) in His hands;
- C. Jesus predicted the "sort of death" that Peter would die would be by him having to "stretch out" (Gk. ekteino) his hands (Jn 21:17-19 NWT); and
- D. Jesus could not have walked to Golgotha "bearing the torture stake for himself" (Jn 19:17 NWT).
As for birthdays, there's nothing Christian about celebrating one's birth. Birthdays are mentioned in a few biblical scriptures, and each one happens during a terrible event, Jehovah's Witnesses claim. For example, Herod was celebrating his birthday when he ordered the beheading of John the Baptist. Another scripture tells the story of Pharaoh, who celebrated his birthday by executing his chief baker, they say.
Even if this were true (which it isn't - see below), it is a fallacious argument that: 1) Birthdays are mentioned in a few biblical scriptures; 2) a terrible event happened during each one; and 3) therefore celebrating birthdays is wrong. It is not the birthday that was wrong, it is the terrible event that happened during some (not all - see below) of the few recorded birthdays in the Bible.
The Bible does not draw the conclusion that celebrating birthdays is wrong. As we saw in Rom 14:5 NWT, if "One [man] judges one day as above another," which could be his own, or Jesus', birthday, "let each [man] be fully convinced in his own mind." So this is another Watchtower "tradition of men" by which it has set aside a "commandment of God" (Mk 7:7-8 NWT).
Besides, it is false that "a terrible event happens during each" birthday in the Bible. Job's son's regularly celebrated "each one on his own day" (Job 1:4 NWT), which in the case of Job "his day" was "the day ... on which I came to be born" (Job 3:1-3 NWT):
"Although the actual word `birthday' appears only in connection with Pharaoh and Herod in most translations, the Bible does contain reference to such celebrations in godly families. At Job 1:4, the JW New World Translation says of the patriarch Job, `And his sons went and held a banquet at the house of each one on his own day; and they sent and invited their three sisters to eat and drink with them.' That his own day refers to each one's birthday becomes clear when we read further, `It was after this that Job opened his mouth and began to call down evil upon his day. Job now answered and said: 'Let the day perish on which I came to be born.' (Job 3:1-3) Thus, the Living Bible renders Job 1:4-5 this way: `Every year when each of Job's sons had a birthday, he invited his brothers and sisters to his home for a celebration. On these occasions they would eat and drink with great merriment. When these birthday parties ended-and sometimes they lasted several days-Job would summon his children...' Furthermore, the Watchtower Society's own New World Translation reveals that the birth of John the Baptist was an occasion to be celebrated, when it records this angelic announcement: "And you will have joy and great gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth." (Luke 1:14)" (Reed, 1998, pp.47-48. Emphasis original).
And also there is "the birth of Christ, celebrated by the angels in song and much glory ... It was convenient to the WT to leave this very positive and important birthday out of their consideration, for it destroys their point in saying that all birthdays in the Bible were negative":
"Though the WT only admits to two birthdays being mentioned in the Bible, there are actually three [in fact four since `each one on his own day' (Job 1:4 NWT) means `on their birthdays' (NIV)] that were celebrated. There was the birthday of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20), Herod (Matt. 14:6), and also the birth of Christ, celebrated by the angels in song and much glory: And the angel said to them, `Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord ... And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, `Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.' (Luke 2:10,11,13,14) It was convenient to the WT to leave this very positive and important birthday out of their consideration, for it destroys their point in saying that all birthdays in the Bible were negative." (Watters, R., 1996, "Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses," , Bethel Ministries: Manhattan Beach CA, Third edition, pp.77-78. Emphasis original).
Some Jehovah's Witnesses say it was difficult to give up those celebrations after converting. Peggy Ashley, for example, researched the idea after studying to become a Jehovah's Witness, she said. "Nothing was bad except Christmas," said Ashley, of Bowling Green. "We were brought up to believe in Christmas. When I started studying, I questioned that." But for firm believers, such as Ashley, it's the only way to live. Many spend any spare time witnessing to others or studying, and some dedicate their lives to the ministry.
Peggy, if you read this, please consider that the real reason the Watchtower won't let JWs celebrate birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays, is to cut them off from their non-JW family and friends, so that they become socially isolated, leaving the JWs increasingly under the control of the Watchtower:
"As the student begins to accept Watchtower teachings that Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, and birthday celebrations are of pagan origin and therefore offensive to God, fellowship with non-JW family and friends on those occasions comes to an abrupt halt, and social interaction with non-Witnesses on other occasions becomes more difficult. Eventually outside friendships cease altogether for the fully committed Jehovah's Witness, and family ties outside the sect cool to the point that relatives feel the JW has become a stranger. This, too, is by design and is a key part of the mind-control process. The same sort of social isolation from outsiders that David Koresh's Branch Davidians (and certain other mind-control cults) imposed by physically removing members to a communal compound, the Watchtower organization imposes by erecting numerous invisible barriers:
This social isolation is a key element, of mind control because it cuts off the sect member from the free flow of ideas that normally occur among friends or relatives. Once it is in place, only Watchtower ideas are heard and taken into the mind. If other opinions are encountered from outsiders at school or at a JW's place of employment, these are viewed with suspicion and contempt as coming from ungodly, `worldly' people who are no longer regarded as peers." (Reed, D.A., 1996, "Blood on the Altar: Confessions of a Jehovah's Witness Minister," Prometheus: Amherst NY, pp.188-189).
- objections to holidays and other occasions when families traditionally get together
- rejection of tobacco smoking as extremely sinful, not just a health hazard
- complete rejection of the political process so that even casting a ballot for the local dog catcher or high school class president can result in expulsion from the sect
- classification of the flag salute, the pledge of allegiance, and rising for the national anthem as acts of religious idolatry, so that even attendance at sporting events becomes stressful and embarrassing
- rejection of all non-JW religious services as satanic worship, so that Witnesses avoid church weddings and clergy-conducted funerals, even of close friends and relatives.
When 14-year-old Keagan Zachary graduates high school, getting a job is not the priority. Instead, she wants to attend pioneer school, where she will become a full-time Jehovah's Witness minister, she said. Keagan, who is home-schooled, has already started her ministry. She travels door-to-door in an attempt to share her beliefs with others. It's always rewarding, but not always easy, she said."Sometimes it gets pretty ugly. Last month, a brother told me I was going to hell," Keagan said. "I tried to stay calm and not take it personally because they have their own beliefs."
Keagan, if you read this, that Christian who told you that you were "going to hell" was only telling you what the Bible says. Here are all the occurrences of "hell" (Gk. Gehenna) in the Bible, quoting from your own New World Translation:
Mt 5:22 However, I say to YOU that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, `You despicable fool!' will be liable to the fiery Ge•hen'na.
Why would it matter whether Gehenna was "fiery" if when you die you "cease to exist" as the Watchtower teaches? If "The grave itself is the equivalent of hell" how can the grave be "fiery"?
Mt 5:29 If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Ge•hen'na.
Mk 9:47-48 47 And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into Ge•hen'na, 48 where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.
Why, if when you die you "cease to exist," would it be "more beneficial to you for one of your members" (such as "your right eye") to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Ge•hen'na"? Wouldn't it be far worse to live with only one eye, than to cease to exist and "your whole body to be pitched into Ge•hen'na," which is the equivalent of the grave? Why would one care what happened to one's body after one died and ceased to exist?
If "the grave itself is the equivalent of hell" (Gehenna), and it is a state of non-existence, how can Ge•hen'na be "where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out"? Is that not a picture of ongoing conscious "torment" rather than "sleep"?
Mt 5:30 Also, if your right hand is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost than for your whole body to land in Ge•hen'na.
Mk 9:43 "And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into Ge•hen'na, into the fire that cannot be put out.
Why, if when you die you "cease to exist," would it be "more beneficial to you for one of your members" (such as "your right hand") to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Ge•hen'na"? Wouldn't it be far worse to live with only one hand than to cease to exist and "your whole body to be pitched into Ge•hen'na"? Why would one care what happened to one's body after one died and ceased to exist?
Mt 10:28 And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge•hen'na.
Lk 12:5 But I will indicate to YOU whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Ge•hen'na. Yes, I tell YOU, fear this One.
Why, if when you die you "cease to exist," should one "not become fearful of those who kill the body ... but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge•hen'na"? Why would one care of what happened after one died and ceased to exist? How could God "destroy both soul and body in Ge•hen'na" after one had died and ceased to exist?
Mt 18:9 Also, if your eye is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into life than to be thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge•hen'na.
Again, why, if when you die you "cease to exist," would it be "finer for you to enter one-eyed into life than to be thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge•hen'na"? Wouldn't it be far worse to live with only one eye than to cease to exist and be "thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge•hen'na"? How could one be non-existent and be "thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge•hen'na"?
Mt 23:15 "Woe to YOU, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one YOU make him a subject for Ge•hen'na twice as much so as yourselves.
Again, why would it matter to a Pharisee if he or his convert was "subject for Ge•hen'na" if Gehenna is only the equivalent of the grave, where one ceased to exist, as the Watchtower teaches?
Mt 23:33 "Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are YOU to flee from the judgment of Ge•hen'na?
Why would the Pharisees "flee from the judgment of Ge•hen'na" if Gehenna is only the equivalent of the grave, where one ceased to exist, as the Watchtower teaches?
Jas 3:6 Well, the tongue is a fire. The tongue is constituted a world of unrighteousness among our members, for it spots up all the body and sets the wheel of natural life aflame and it is set aflame by Ge•hen'na.
Again, if "the grave itself is the equivalent of hell" (Gehenna), comparable to sleep, not torment, why the mention of it being "aflame"?
Keagan, while it is usually good to not "take it personally," Jesus wants you to "take it personally." Also, as the above Bible verses show, "Hell" (Gk. Gehenna) is not merely the Christian's "own beliefs." And it is not the equivalent of the grave. The Bible's linking of Gehenna with fire shows that it is a place or state of conscious "torment," not "sleep".
The words "fire and brimstone" are not a Christian invention, but a Christian translation of the Greek words puri kai theio, "fire and sulfur," as found around the brim of active volcanoes, hence the term "brimstone" in the KJV (e.g. Lk 17:29; Rev 9:17,18; 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8). And your own NWT confirms that unbelievers after they die, "shall be tormented with fire and sulphur":
Rev 14:9-10 NWT. 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, 10 he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb.
Rev 21:8 NWT. But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death."
So Keagan, which will you believe? The Watchtower Society or the Bible? The decision is yours but so are the consequences.