A visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses

A couple of months ago, two men in bad suits knocked on my door and reminded me that I hadn’t posted much of general interest on Wordmunger.com recently. Then they handed me a cute little book and taunted me by saying “This stuff is so good that no self-respecting blogger can resist writing about it, especially an atheist like yourself.” Then they told me if I didn’t blog about it, they’d be back in a few weeks to mock me more.

It’s all true, every word of it. Okay, maybe they didn’t say it in so many words, but I could see it in the earnest expressions on their faces. If I wasn’t willing to publicly defend my atheism against the propaganda of one of the most twisted sects in all Christianity, I might as well just sign away all my worldly possessions to the estate of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, they returned.

Actually, the front man was the same, but he had a different sidekick. Perhaps he was running a training operation. He must have given the kid a pep-talk before they approached our door — both of them were smiling and earnest.

“Did you have a chance to read the booklet I gave you the last time I visited?” he asked.

Here’s what the book looked like:

Snazzy, isn’t it? The book actually has four-color illustrations throughout.

“Yeah, I took a look at it,” I said. (I was striving for a hint of “is that all you got?” in my intonation. I don’t think he picked up on it)

“Do you have any questions about it?”

“Actually, I was a little curious about Chapter 14, which says the father is be the uncontested ‘head’ of families, and that women should submit to their husbands no matter what, that divorce is permitted only in cases of fornication. That bothers me. What if a husband is abusing his wife?”

“Well, did you take a look at Chapter 3, where the book discusses God’s purpose for the earth?” Then he earnestly flipped through to a well-marked section of the book, which he said showed that God wants the earth to be a really great place. There were even pictures of how great the earth will be when God’s vision for us is realized. Check this out:

Accordions? Really? The last thing I expected in an earthly paradise was accordions. Apparently there are accordions, pan flutes, and guitars, but no booze. Great.

The thing we have to avoid is Satan. Satan, apparently, is responsible for all manner of evil, including women who divorce their wife-beating husbands — and of course, blood transfusions.

I didn’t get around to asking them about the blood transfusions. It was getting a little awkward, with me asking questions, and them avoiding them. They said a little prayer for me, then left. They haven’t been back.

But I was a little curious about the blood thing. I’m no Bible scholar, but it seemed odd to me that the Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are so opposed to blood transfusions. What Does the Bible Really Teach? cites Acts 15:28-29 as justification for it. Here’s what the passage says:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

Seems pretty straightforward — a proclamation that people should abstain from blood. But the context of the quote was the Council at Jerusalem, which was all about making the Christian Church more palatable to “Gentiles” — recent converts from Judaism. In short, it was propaganda, which came out of this earlier statement:

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

See! Christianity is Jew-friendly! Hop on board!

Just because it’s okay to abstain from blood doesn’t mean that God commands us all to abstain from blood. And clearly this was all in a context where blood transfusions hadn’t even been conceived of.

For me, this all points to how ridiculous it is to frame your life based on decontextualized quotes from a 2,000 year-old book. I’m sure some Jehovah scholar could present me with a more principled scripture-based argument for why we should refuse blood transfusions, but my larger point is that if these books take so much hand-waving to interpret, then why should we take every single word of them as the overriding dictates of how to run our lives?

Why not pick and choose? Clearly some Christian philosophy is quite worthwhile, and a good place to start building a comprehensive moral system. But I’d also submit that there are a heck of a lot of other great philosophers and moral thinkers out there, some Christian, and some not. I try to live the best life I can, not because it’s written some book, but because based on the whole span of my education I’ve found that some moral principles work and others don’t.

One thing that doesn’t is the idea that there’s some God out there who really cares about the individual lives of billions of creatures on a tiny speck of the universe. We care, because we’re here. We can learn a whole lot about our world simply by exploring and studying it. Sticking our heads in a dusty old book and ignoring the world around us isn’t going to help us live better lives. Learning and thinking about the world just might.

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18 Responses to A visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses

  1. Brian says:

    You actually read it! I think it’s fantastic that you read the pamphlet and beat them at their own game. I used to work with a evangelist of sorts (the sect isn’t important), and I found the constant barrage of propoganda, as asenine and illogical as it was, extremely tiresome. It seems that most of these religions have already formed their vision of the world, without the help of any text, and HAVE to decontextualize scriptures in order to support their views. The most profoundly religious, MLK, Ghandi, Mother Teresa (I’m talking about people who walk the walk), don’t have a need to browbeat the unbelievers into the fold. They are secure in their beliefs and realize that it requires something more than a persuasively delivered argument to affect a true conversion of the heart.

  2. Dave Munger says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say I “read” the pamphlet (more of a booklet actually — it’s 224 pages long!). I skimmed a lot of it and read the sections that perked my interest. But reading the whole thing is a good idea. Maybe I’ll do a chapter-by-chapter series on this.

  3. Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

    Up close and personal Jehovah’s Witnesses can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
    Think about this-When the devil comes knocking on your door he may not have the ‘dark goth look’.They could be smartly dressed and wielding the Christian Bible.

    The central core dogma of the Watchtower is Jesus second coming (invisibly) in 1914 and is a lie.Jehovah’s Witnesses are a spin-off of the man made Millerite movement of 1840.
    A destructive cult of false teachings, that frequently result in spiritual and psychological abuse, as well as needless deaths (bogus blood transfusion ban).

    Yes,you can ‘check out anytime you want but you can never leave’,because they can and will hold your family hostage.

    The Watchtower is a truly Orwellian world.
    Danny Haszard Jehovah’s Witness X 33 years and 3rd generation http://www.freeminds.org

  4. Samuel says:

    Why can’t you guys take a ease . to be sincere do you really like the condition of the world as it is? They (JW) bring the good news of a better one!. You better listen to Jesus word in John to Seek the truth and it will set you free “TRUTH” seek it bro. don’t always stay happy cos you are hearing what you want. Why don’t you listen to what the Bible teach you and not what You which to be taught. farewell for more reach me at adeleye_tunji@yahoo. or call +234-7085770555
    and am joining them soon

  5. Samuel says:

    and less i forget “There will always be PEOPLE to be DESTROYED, but please DONT BE ONE OF THOSE.!!!!!

  6. Charlotte says:

    They “Jehovah’s Witness’s”, are hard to get into because they have moral guidelines and easy to get out of if you don’t adhere to them.
    Think of it as a roadtrip.
    Your destination (goal) is peace and happiness.
    Your map is the Bible with obvious standards on right and wrong.
    You will get lost or wreck if you don’t follow your map.
    GOD’S WAY-“Love Thy Neighbor”
    MANKIND’S WAY-Not motivated by love-Endless crime and, including Terrorism, world wide wars killing men, women, and innocent children.
    GOD’S WAY-Do not have sex outside the marriage unit.
    MANKIND’S WAY-Lack of self-control. Children having sex before they are ready to be PARENT or have the EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE THAT THEY WILL CARRY WITH THEM THEIR ENTIRE LIFE from not having the maturity to choose the right person and will undoubtly get hurt.
    These are examples of just two principals.
    You have free will that God gave you to make your own choice.
    You have to take responsiblity for whatever choices you make and ask yourself;
    If I REALLY applied Bible principals in this dusty old book (Bible) would I have prevented mistakes that I’ve made on this roadmap of life?
    A career and money does not ensure happiness.
    Can a brain surgeon perform surgery by skimming his textbooks like you skimmed the Bible Teach Book.
    Study, meditate, and learn to love God.
    Why not be open to a FREE home bible study from a Jehovah’s Witness.

  7. Emily says:

    Hey i am a jehovah’s witness and i read your blog wondering what you thought of us. I have been baptized in for about two years now and i grew up around the truth. Think about a house it had to have a creator and it didn’t come about by chance the same way with the world and life. I wish you knew what the truth was.

  8. Sarah says:

    “Accordions? Really? The last thing I expected in an earthly paradise was accordions.”

    It’s 4 a.m. I hope I didn’t wake anyone when I started choking.

  9. sam says:

    I am just confused about the whole thing if JWs are the only chosen organization in the world then why did their prophesy on the end of the world in 1975 did not happen???

  10. @sam

    All religions have a ‘D-DAY’ jotted down in their holy scripts. All religions point to specific dates, with the nearest being 2012. To me, it is personally a bit like taking a wild guess that the LA Lakers will win a tournament in 2022, 2100 and 3456 (random numbers).

    People read a lot and misinterpret a lot, I am not fully religious and am open to all concepts in religion but it feels like stabs in the dark to me.

    Until sombody proves there is a god, and Science stops consistently pointing to evolution then I can not believe – but will also always respect other peoples beliefs :).

  11. Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy to discuss their beliefs and teachings. If you want to learn more feel free to visit my forum.

    JWitness Forum

  12. Samuel says:

    Ask urselves this questions?
    Why is it that the prophecy recorded at 2 Tim. 3:1-5 already happening.
    Why did Jesus as us to seek for THY KINGDOM
    How could Daniel 2:44 come true if a kingdom will not exist?
    How will sickness be removed if the main cause is not terminated? Rev 21:3,4
    How will human live peacefully if a new earth (Group of People “Gen 11:1″) if there are no bad ones to be removed? Psalm 37:9,10
    Think about these please and make the right decision.
    i can’t keep defending the witness, cos the prophecy already defends it.
    and the grand creator is never dead.
    Samuel +2347085770555

  13. MUST READ* says:

    Jehoavah Witnesses really just want to help.

    True Christians realize that Christ commisioned his followers to go out by twos and preach the word of his Father Luke 10:1.

    There are many points where it proves Jehovah Witnesses are not a sect or a cult such as Deuteronomy 18:10.

    Jehovah Witnesses believe the following things:

    -That Jehovah is the most high Psalms 83:18
    -Jesus Christ is His Only-Begotton Son. Micah 5:2,John 3:16,Colossians1:15
    -That 144,000 of Faithful servants of Jehovah’s will serve with Jesus in Heaven and the rest of humankind will enjoy perfect life on a paradise Earth. Revelation 14:1,4 ;
    2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17
    -Abstain from Blood(transfusions) Acts 15:19 -Explanation :

    Jehovah is a loving God He protects his children , He knows all things therefore He knows most people who gets blood transfussions often get blood mixups and theres a possibility of HIV or any other serious disease. Jehovah God is protecting us from these things and not just those who serve Him but also those who dont. Once again He is very loving He doesn’t just make the sun and moon shine just for those who serve him faithfully but also for those who deny Him and put Him down and yet he continues to feed all of his children spiritually and in reality. (Of course not maracuously but through his Angels )

    -We all must remember that this world is in the hands of Satan 1 John 5:19

    it’s up to you to decide

    Satan or Jehovah theres no in between.

    -Love you all stay safe.

  14. Carlos says:

    Look, First of all, people are free to be whatever they choose to be and decide what type of faith they choose to follow, or not to believe in any sort of religious faith at all. But to believe in themselves is ok too.As long we do not take liberties that exploit and abuse other people.Regarding the blood issue, even the American Government on the 10 of January2011, adapted the JW non blood treatment system, specially with the military.I recorded it! it was on national TV, on the news. Even government officials and high rank medical officials commended the witnesses.Acts 15: 28, 29: talks about not to worship any other sort of Gods,Idolatry, to keep away from blood and non marital sex…Cammon, we know those things are the right way to do things in life…But it is not easy to the right thing all the time…we are weak and made of flesh and bone… we are imperfect.But right is right and wrong is wrong…always!..You know what I mean.Look here is that link, wacth it if u want too…http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001400653382#!/profile.php?id=100001400653382

    .It is ok not to believe in God…But it is wrong to live in ignorance and not to contemplate and Analise ideas and facts…Even 60% of scientists believe that there is a God…How Crazy is that!…Look man.Have a good life, look after yourself…be happy…that is all I can wish for you….But contemplate matters before you write about something you are not so well informed about…It does not make you look smarter…So,again you were saying that humans are not capable of having a good time without booze?lol, we all like a good drink…but ending up vulnerable and committing violent and disordering acts in the town centre against Innocent people..makes it better and a cooler way of life?

    And do you know anyone in there perfect mind and health that wants to die or see their children and mates dying?…of course not,nobody does!….Makes you think why in a n 80 year life span we never get to use more than 5% of our brain power.Because It was engineered to live longer.Man lived longer before,now even giant sea turtles live more than Man.If there is a God, he can sort that out!

    Thanks, and sorry about my English not being too good!take care

  15. Carlos says:

    tried that link…send me your email address and I will send you the news clip about the american Goverment and no blood treatment….took it from some guy on facebook as well.

  16. Carlos says:

    PS…study that book man!…U might learn something!…The american Goverment has…it took them 4000 years to do so!lol

  17. Carlos says:

    read that book man…u might learn something!?…it took the American goverment 4000 years to do learn that…( the blood issue)God was right all the way man…alll the way!

  18. carl says:

    I can see that we are all listening to our lord in regards doing unto others as we would like other to do to us,

    I was hoping to share a decent picture about a decent earth, but violence and hatred has ruined the earth,

    one cannot even share some bible truths with their neighbor like christ jesus commanded us to do, ‘feed my sheep’ feed my little lambs’ ‘you must love your neighbor as you love your self”, the writer of psalms king david was a premeditated murderer, yet God forgave him,,, the bible is true,’ all men are liars’,’ all have fallen short of the glory of God’. yes, even Jehovah’s witnesses’ yes even the writer of this blog, and yes even me, but i will pick myself up and continue to tell the truth out of love for all my neighbors,’ because by this’ all will know that you are my disciples.’

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