Credentials: fundamentalist Christian, former Roman Catholic, and have been exposed to considerable Jehovah's Witness (JW) proselytization.
People have a very vague definition of "cult". The reason that so many Christians consider the JWs to be a "cult" is that
a) Their beliefs differ in ways much different than most Christian sects (Cs) (particularly, they do not teach the doctrine of trinity)
b) They are true "evangelicals" in the sense that all members are expected to evangelize and, unlike most other Cs, this is done door-to-door, at people's homes.
In fact, these are in-and-of themselves not features that identify a "cult". A cult normally is a group of individuals who follow the teachings of a specific leader (who is normally considered a "prophet"), and this leader and his teachings is normally honored above scripture or anything else. There are other aspects of a cult (such as recruitment "phases") which the JWs only very marginally resemble.
2) BS about JWs
This is an accurate statement. People of other Cs have heard such negative things about JWs that they often do not bother to learn the truth about their doctrines. This is not *wholly* unreasonable. I, for example, have no interest whatsoever in learning how to become a worshiper of the Hindu goddess of death Kali. Nevertheless, a number of false concepts about JW doctrine have been circulated among Christians in the U.S.
This is one aspect of JW doctrine which I find disturbing. Note that they do not actually use brainwashing techniques. However, they *do* "strongarm" people into doctrinal agreement (as do Mormons and some other sects). For example, in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), members are permitted to "campaign" for doctrinal reform. As an example, take the doctrine of the prohibition of women priests. Members of the RCC are permitted to protest this doctrine, they are permitted to publish letters and books in support of changing this doctrine and expressing any perceived faults with the current doctrine. As long as members of the RCC *obey* the teachings of the RCC, they are permitted to *question* the teachings of the RCC to their heart's desire. This is not true of the JWs. Individuals who question the doctrines of the organization in a public manner are "disfellowshiped", or removed from the organization. Private questions to the organization headquarters are permitted, but once a ruling has been made, the matter is considered closed, and the individual is not permitted to pursue other avenues to promote or resolve their doctrinal contentions.
This establishes a atmosphere of fear within JW congregations with respect to doctrinal purity. Members are literally afraid of questioning the doctrines presented to them from "on high" for fear of being "disfellowshiped". This is *not* an atmosphere that lends itself to doctrinal improvements. This is not to say that the JW organization has never modified their teachings as the result of improved or new scholarship. The point is that this is *entirely* and *solely* in the hands of the leaders of the organization, and members are expected to believe what they are told whether or not they have been provided underlying reasons. They are persuaded to affirm these directives from the "home office" with the prospect of "disfellowship" if any public disagreement or dissatisfaction with these doctrines is displayed.
One example that I can provide from personal experience: the 1914 "prophecy" of the JWs. This is based on the use of the date of 607 B.C.E. as the date of the Babylonian Captivity and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This was, at one time, believed to be an accurate date. However, archaeologists have determined from *lunar records* kept by the Babylonians themselves, which are incontrovertibly precise, that the actual date for this event is 586 B.C.E. This date has been an established fact for several decades. When I presented this to a Jehovah's Witness, with full documentation (the tablets and their translation are available on the internet), I was given several (lame) excuses before being told that the date I had discovered *must* be inaccurate. In other words, the JWs continue to rely on a known fallacy in order to retain their prophetically significant date of 1914. When I asked if the member to whom I presented this would be willing to write, he was not willing, and furthermore he assured me that the organization would not budge on the date of 1914, even in the face of such conclusive evidence.
There are other teachings doctrines of the JWs that are questionable (for example, they allow women to speak publicly to the congregation during religious services, *specifically* for the purpose of teaching, which is specifically prohibited in scripture).
Conclusion: the JWs have some teachings that are well apart from so-called "mainstream Christianity", but they are most certainly Christians and they are most certainly not a cult.
· 1 decade ago