If you ask an ordinary person what he knows about Jehovah's Witnesses, then most likely you will hear in response that this is such a sect. For many, it may be a revelation that Jehovah's Witnesses exist quite legally in almost all countries, and in some for more than a hundred years. The Watchtower and Awake! of this religious organization generally got into the Guinness Book of Records as the most massive with a circulation of 46 and 36 million copies per month!
In a number of European countries, Jehovah's Witnesses are generally one of the main religions - in Italy it is the second largest Christian denomination after the Catholic Church, in Germany - the third after the Catholic and Lutheran. In Russia, the situation is more tense, although the number of supporters of this faith exceeds 100,000 people.
Back in 1991, Jehovah's Witnesses were officially recognized in Russia as victims of political Stalinist repressions, after which the Ministry of Justice even registered this religious organization. However, in the 90s, "soft" repressions were resumed in relation to these people - the terms "totalitarian sect" and simply "sect" are flashed in the press every now and then.
A huge number of propagandists, sectologists and simply accusers immediately appeared, who began fanning the flame of religious intransigence. But the number of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is estimated at tens of thousands! Do critics know that the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is international and the largest of all Protestants in Russia? It is not surprising that the issue of flow perception is quite acute, which is why the main myths about Jehovah's Witnesses should be debunked.
Jehovah's Witnesses are such a sect. The very term "sect" is not so much a religious concept as an insulting label that is often hung on religious minorities. Today this word is happily hung by both clergy and journalists on Jehovah's Witnesses, although few people understand the true meaning of the term. Translated from Latin, secta means "flow" or "direction". The Greek analogue of the word is the term "heresy", which also initially did not have the negative meaning that it has acquired today. Initially, political, religious groups were called sects, even the early Christians were called that! And in the English language the word "sect" does not bear a negative connotation even now. But in Russian, exclusively negative associations are associated with this word. Under Soviet rule, religious groups hostile to the state system were called so contemptuously. Naturally, sects were considered enemies of the people, collaborating with foreign intelligence services. As a result, the neutral term was compromised, and today Russian religious scholars are trying not to operate on it. All over the world it is customary to use the word "sect" as a designation for one of the types of religious organizations. The Religious Encyclopedic Dictionary says that the main difference between a sect and a church is its rejection of the world, the absence of a bureaucratic organization, and less formalized worship. But Jehovah's Witnesses have no rejection of the world - they lead an ordinary life without leaving for a monastery, there is no vow of celibacy and no rejection of worldly entertainment. Worship is also quite formalized, and there is also a bureaucracy. There is theological opposition to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but this feature is inherent in all Protestant churches, which no one calls sects. And Jehovah's Witnesses do not have a charismatic leader, their activities are open and in accordance with the laws. In some countries, this is not even a religious minority. That is why the majority of independent religious scholars do not classify this religion as a sect. It is noteworthy that in the official resolution of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church "On pseudo-Christian sects" from 1994, Jehovah's Witnesses are not mentioned in this list.
Jehovah's Witnesses are a destructive organization with a totalitarian bias. It would be a mistake to call this organization a totalitarian sect, since such a concept does not exist at all. And the term was invented by very specific people who, on this basis, organized a movement to combat this invisible enemy. The facts about hundreds of thousands of destroyed families remain fiction. Nowhere in the world are Jehovah's Witnesses identified with dangerous cults and sects. In 1999, an official examination was carried out by the Ministry of Justice of Russia, which explicitly stated that the actions and documents of the organization did not contain any calls for violence and incitement to racial, ethnic and religious hatred. A sociological examination carried out within the framework of the court in 1998 revealed that the doctrine does not have any negative impact on intra-family attitudes, moreover, it has a beneficial effect on those who are in a state of mental crisis. Psychological examination showed that being in the community has a positive effect on intrapersonal attitudes. And the linguistic text of religious literature did not reveal any calls to evade the obligations established by law; on the contrary, there are calls for obedience to the law. Based on the above, the court did not find anything illegal in the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses, and there were no signs of extremist activity. Regarding the accusations of totalitarianism by other churches, one can recall the wars of conquest by the Muslim armies, civil strife in the Orthodox clergy, persecution and the Inquisition. Often the concept of a totalitarian organization is understood as a certain style of managing it, which provides for strict control over the lives of members of the organization, the presence of a group of prohibitions and restrictions, and the existence of a system of punishments. Also, the term includes the term "zombie", finally intimidating unprepared listeners. In fact, Jehovah's Witnesses call on people to harmonize their lives with the Word of God. Naturally, the agreement also carries a number of limitations. However, the absence of restrictions in principle is a kind of nihilism. In all world religions there are hundreds of restrictions, sometimes very tough, but nobody is in a hurry to declare them totalitarian. Below we will consider a group of myths that finally debunk the idea of totalitarianism of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses are against the state. Speaking about the opposition of totalitarian sects to the state, it is forgotten that no church puts the value of peace above its faith, even in Orthodoxy it is said that the Church can refuse to obey if it is forced to abandon its faith. Jehovah's Witnesses do not call for the overthrow of the system, on the contrary, their faith implies obedience to the state, as long as it does not require betrayal in relation to their faith.
Jehovah's Witnesses exert excessive control over the identity of people. Typically, the argument is that Witnesses are prohibited from associating with expelled former members of the organization. However, similar norms exist in other religions, even in Orthodoxy: "If someone who is excommunicated from the communion of the Church prays, at least it was in the house: such one will be excommunicated (Apostolic canons, 10)." Islam says: "Do not take Jews and Christians as friends: they are friends to one another" (Sura 5:51). In a number of Islamic countries, converting to another faith can be punishable by death.
Jehovah's Witnesses have a centralized management style, which is evidence of their totalitarianism. Today this style is commonly referred to as the vertical of power. In general, the more traditional a religion is, the better organized it is. This centralized structure is characteristic of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. In them, the patriarch is practically a king, and his word carries the function of law. An ordinary parishioner cannot take a step without the blessing of his spiritual father. Today, the bishop can single-handedly dissolve the Parish Assembly and assemble it again at his discretion. And the reason can be very formal - non-observance of canonical rules. So, while scolding the Witnesses for their vertical structure, other religions should be scolded in the same way. Whether such a control system is good or not is another question.
Jehovah's Witnesses provoke their followers to commit suicide. Largely because people are afraid of sects, because they allegedly provoke suicide in people with a weak psyche. However, people who have studied Jehovah's Witnesses for many years note that there are only a few cases of suicide among them, and even then among those who have suffered from depression for a long time. Such statistics, of course, are not enough to confirm this myth. Again, we can mention double standards - in Lutheranism there were cases of suicide as a proof of their faith, hundreds of people die every year during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, stories of self-immolation by Russian Old Believers are known. However, no one is in a hurry to declare these religions as sects.
It is impossible to voluntarily leave Jehovah's Witnesses. In the community, the victim is allegedly entangled in "tentacles" and finally loses his will. There are also rumors that everyone who leaves the community will be punished. It is not surprising that against this background, rehabilitation centers for victims of sects appear. In fact, there are quite a few people who at one point just got tired of being Witnesses and just left the community. No one forced them to return, cursed or threatened them with violence. In general, in any country, keeping a person in such an organization against his will is considered a crime. Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, have no problems with law enforcement agencies. It would be naive to believe that the Witnesses have been conducting their activities under the noses of European and American authorities for more than a hundred years, and they are blind, not noticing their criminal nature. It is very difficult to enter a community, it requires serious changes, but leaving simply by changing your views is easy. This step is no more difficult than in other churches.
Jehovah's Witnesses conduct extremist activities. Recently, more and more often, instead of the concept of "totalitarian" sounds a new one - "extremist". This specific word is understandable, because this activity is clearly defined and prohibited by law. However, such an accusation is ridiculous - after all, Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the most pacifist confessions, they do not give their children to boxing and karate clubs and are even persecuted for refusing to fight. However, in our country, an alternative service is provided for them. However, sectologists consider the very condemnation of certain human actions by the Witnesses to be extremist. But in this case, we are all extremists, since we condemn other people, forbidding children to communicate with bad children. And any religion explains which actions are right and which are not. Even Christianity directly denies salvation to Muslims, since they do not recognize the dogmas of Christ.
Jehovah's Witnesses have a commercial interest in their activities. This myth implies that the community's activities are aimed at making a profit. Non-commercial activity is not connected in any way with either the production of goods or the production of services, the purpose of making a profit is not in it, respectively. As for Jehovah's Witnesses, we can say that they consistently oppose the profit from religious activities. All their activities are fully sponsored by voluntary donations. And this is easy to verify, since the financial statements of the communities have never been hidden. Literature was always supplied either free of charge or at cost (as required by some legislation), classes are also free. Any commercial activity is prohibited in places where believers meet. This is what sets the Witnesses apart from other denominations. They do not have church shops and do not provide services for money. Any waste of personal funds of the community for personal purposes is prohibited. The leaders of the Witnesses, on the other hand, live in modest conditions and participate equally with everyone in community service. This can be seen during a tour of the New York World Community Center. Yes, and in all the charters of the organization it is spelled out, therefore, there are no facts confirming this myth.
Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians, but rather a pseudo-Christian organization. There is no single and unambiguous concept of who can be considered a Christian and who cannot. Each denomination has its own opinion on this matter, usually what is inherent in them is invariably associated with this concept. In this case, Jehovah's Witnesses are no exception. Most scholars accept the following criteria - recognition as God's scripture of the New Testament and Jesus as the son of God. But in this aspect, the Witnesses are full members of the family of Christian denominations. This community supports word for word the apostolic creed dating back to the 3rd century. Many are offended by the word of Jehovah, but this is only the biblical name of God, not invented by the Witnesses, but borrowed by them from the Orthodox lexicon. It is often mentioned that the Witnesses do not recognize Jesus and his divinity, but this is not the case. They simply reject the doctrine of the trinity of God, in particular the dogma of the unity of the Son and the Father. By the way, this belief can hardly be called primordially Christian, since it took shape only by the 4th century. In addition to Jehovah's Witnesses, there are many other independent churches and denominations that do not recognize the doctrine of the Trinity. Only in North America there are about 600 of them. However, no one denies them the right to be called Christians.
In many countries, Jehovah's Witnesses are generally banned. One way or another, their activities are really limited in 25 states in Asia and Africa. But these are either countries with totalitarian regimes or the Islamic sense (Saudi Arabia), or communist (North Korea). In such countries, either all Christian confessions are often banned altogether, or only traditional ones are allowed. But what can I say - in China, the Roman Catholic Church is banned. But in more than 200 countries and separate territories, Jehovah's Witnesses operate legally, including all of Europe and both America. As can be seen in all democratic and most developing countries, the community is not at all banned. Moreover, states strongly support this movement, as in Sweden the Witnesses are officially allowed not to carry out military service, in France about 50 associations are exempt from taxation, in Greece and Romania they are given the status of "recognized religion", and in Italy an agreement has been signed with the government. Community activities are not prohibited even in Cuba and Belarus.
Jehovah's Witnesses are recruiting people and then zombifying them. This statement is meaningless, first of all, because missionary work itself is the flesh and blood of Christianity. That is why it became a world religion - Jesus, and then the apostles publicly preached, today they would say that they were "recruiting" their flock. Jesus told his apostles to preach, what is wrong with Jehovah's Witnesses following their example? Today, in relation to them, there is simply a substitution of concepts.Did Jesus Christ preach or did he recruit? Has he zombified people or not? Today, the state begins to fight legal nihilism, therefore, one cannot publicly condemn what is not prohibited by law. No normal country is prohibited from ringing the doorbell with a religious sermon. The preaching activity of Orthodox priests is welcome, why should we prohibit the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses? Zombies have not been confirmed by any specialist, it simply does not exist! Even the NLP methods that are so prevalent in modern society are not taught by the Witnesses. Their entire activity is to read Bible quotes to people and offer relevant literature. And what kind of zombie can we talk about if joining the ranks of the community provides for the refusal of alcohol, smoking, deception, foul language, etc.? How can a person be influenced to cleanse himself of this, and why then these methods are not used by the state, at least in matters of re-education of asocial elements?
Jehovah's Witnesses take away people's property, apartments and money. Admirers of this myth, simply put, accuse the community members of stealing. Such an argument is artificially invented, it is an example of the use of dirty technologies in interfaith disputes. No court in the world has ever succeeded in proving the fact of organized crime. In fact, the crystal honesty of Jehovah's Witnesses is their business card, which is known all over the world. It can be mentioned that their management centers operate shops in which people themselves put the required amount in the cashier. And in many countries there are enterprises where only Witnesses are employed. These are all well-known facts that many people prefer not to notice.
Families are being destroyed by Jehovah's Witnesses. To refute this myth, one should look at the divorce statistics among Jehovah's Witnesses. In those countries where in ordinary families this figure exceeds 50% among members of the community, it is no more than 15%, and this includes those who have already got divorced before joining the organization. It is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of Witnesses strongly oppose divorce, while maintaining the marriage bond better than others. It is interesting that, for example, in India, traditional Christian confessions, in particular Catholicism, are accused of destroying families. Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the most family-oriented religions. Most of the publications in their press are devoted to how to correctly and in a Christian way solve the emerging family troubles. Divorce remains the most extreme case, only in case of treason or physical abuse by one of the spouses. A witness has no right to leave his family if his views are not perceived in it. Christian children and adolescents are encouraged to respect and listen to their parents, even if the behavior is far from Christian morality. In Japan, they wrote with admiration about a Witness who abandoned his career for the sake of his family; in this country, such a step looks rather unusual. All this is bearing fruit - in many countries, the publications of the Witnesses are even used in government educational programs. Agree, it is ridiculous and ridiculous against this background to hear about the destruction of families by the community.
Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to receive blood transfusions, as it is allegedly a direct attempt on their lives. This position is of a religious nature, in line with the position of early Christians who refused to accept blood in any form, which is evidenced by the thinkers of that time. It is important to understand the following - Witnesses do not refuse treatment in principle, they are simply trying to find a method that would not include blood transfusions. That is why they ask to use alternative methods, which by the way exist, moreover, they are more effective and safe. Such a conscious religious position is consistent with the patient's rights, which is enshrined in the legislation of all democratic countries. How can one criticize the Witnesses for preferring some methods to others, even accepting that some kind of propaganda is being carried out. In this case, it is necessary, by analogy, to ban everyone who preaches alternative methods of treatment. This topic is deliberately inflated, there are proven cases of deaths from non-transfusion of a unit, but the number of introduced infections and complications is enormous. Thus, it is obvious that the problem is predominantly of a church propaganda nature, rather than a medical and legal one. But in other religions there are similar trends. So, the same transfusion is rejected in some Jewish circles, Judaism and Islam are ambiguous about organ transplantation, in Islam there is a ban on autopsy and alcohol is even prohibited there! But nowhere is there such resentment towards this problem as in Russia. Meanwhile, voluntary refusal of blood transfusion is not a violation of the law. Moreover, the Witnesses do not urge others to do the same, they simply refuse themselves, making a personal choice. And blood transfusion itself is not always a panacea, for example, in the United States in the 70s, 3,500 people per year died only from hepatitis caused by blood transfusions, but today the problem has worsened due to the spread of AIDS. The feasibility of the blood transfusion itself is today questioned, with the exception of the case with large blood loss. So you shouldn't look at Jehovah's Witnesses as fanatical suicides who refuse the benefits of modern medicine. Today more and more people refuse blood transfusions; in the United States, only 15% of them are Witnesses.