Jehovah’s Witnesses are conditioned to fear and distrust any information on the internet that scrutinizes the Watch Tower Society in a critical or objective manner. For years I was gripped by such paranoia, and the very thought of venturing onto a so-called “apostate” website put a knot in my stomach.
It was only when, some time in 2011, I summoned the audacity to sit down and write a list of nine “grievances” against the Society and its teachings that something clicked inside me. Once I saw all my doubts and uncertainties unravelling before me on a sheet of paper I began to conclude that, most likely, the Society wasn’t giving me the full story. If it was just one or two questionable doctrines or practices, that would be one thing. But nine? In a religion I had dedicated my life to serving alongside as God’s spirit-directed organization? Something wasn’t right.
It was then that something unthinkable happened. I consciously “gave myself permission” to violate the Society’s rules on apostate websites. Tentatively, and with overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety, I started searching on websites such as JWfacts.com to see what critics of the Watchtower had to say. Sure enough, my worst fears were confirmed. It soon became apparent that my grievances weren’t only justified – they were just the tip of the iceberg. The more it became clear that I had been lied to for decades, the more my feelings of trepidation and anxiety morphed into a strong sense of anger and betrayal.
Surprising Openness and Transparency
One of the things that immediately impressed me about the information presented on JWfacts.com was the way the writer (Paul Grundy) had researched everything and clearly bent over backwards to supply quotes from the Society’s own literature to support his conclusions.
This went against the grain of what I had been trained to expect from an “apostate” website. After all, aren’t apostates supposed to be liars who seek to draw off followers after themselves? So why would one go to the trouble of quoting from the Society in making his argument if everything the Society writes is true and incontrovertible? Surely, as an evil conniving apostate slanderer, Grundy should be directing me away from the Society’s publications, rather than urging me to read them?
Still quite skeptical from my indoctrination, I thought I should check the quotes being used by Grundy in his articles to see whether they had been twisted in any way. If I found so much as a comma out of place, I would reject the whole thing as an elaborate hoax. However, sure enough, when I cross-checked the quotes on JWfacts.com, I found that each and every one was word-for-word accurate. Paul Grundy wasn’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes. He was proving his arguments and supporting his reasoning using the Society’s own publications.
A difference in tactics
This is where something immediately becomes noticeable, and highlights the sharp contrast between the strategies of two warring factions – the Watch Tower Society at one end of the battlefield, and their “apostate” foes at the other.
On the one hand, you have the Society who will ONLY let you look at information that they have approved. On the other, you have websites such as JWfacts.com (not to mention this one) that will happily show you BOTH sides of the argument. My illustration below highlights this disparity…
The above should immediately raise a red flag for any thinking Witnesses who wonder whether the Society is truly being honest and transparent with them. So-called “apostate” websites want you to read both sides of the argument, but the Society only wants you to hear their side – and pretend their opponents don’t exist. But why should it be that way? If the truth is so cut-and-dried, should it not stand up to the closest possible scrutiny? Just what are they so desperately trying to hide?
Vilification and mud-slinging
The following quotes underscore the voracity with which the Society has poured scorn on those it classes as “apostate” over the last few decades, not to mention its clever insistence that Witnesses should not even check to see whether the writings of former believers (whether in books or online) are based on truth…
“Noticeably, there have been a number of individuals who have created Web sites ostensibly to preach the good news. Many of these sites are sponsored by indiscreet brothers. Other sites may be sponsored by apostates who wish to lure unsuspecting ones. (2 John 9-11) Commenting on whether there is a need for our brothers to create such Web sites, Our Kingdom Ministry, November 1997, page 3, stated: ‘There is no need for any individual to prepare Internet pages about Jehovah’s Witnesses, our activities, or our beliefs. Our official site [www.watchtower.org] presents accurate information for any who want it.‘” – km 11/99 pp.4-5 par. 18
“Interestingly, a circuit overseer in France observes: ‘Some brothers are deceived because they lack accurate knowledge.’ That is why Proverbs 11:9 states: ‘By knowledge are the righteous rescued.’ This does not mean giving apostates a hearing ear or delving into their writings. Rather, it means coming to ‘an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God’ through diligent personal study of the Bible and the Society’s Bible-based publications. Having this accurate knowledge, who would become so curious as to pay any attention to apostate mouthings? May no man ‘delude you with persuasive arguments’! (Colossians 2:2-4) False religious propaganda from any source should be avoided like poison! Really, since our Lord has used ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ to convey to us ‘sayings of everlasting life,’ why should we ever want to look anywhere else?—John 6:68.” – w87 11/1 p.20 par. 16
“The obligation to hate lawlessness also applies to all activity by apostates. Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: ‘Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies.’ (Psalm 139:21, 22) Modern-day apostates have made common cause with ‘the man of lawlessness,’ the clergy of Christendom. (2 Thessalonians 2:3) As loyal Witnesses of Jehovah, we therefore have absolutely nothing in common with them. Being imperfect, our hearts could easily have a tendency toward being critical of our brothers. As individuals, those of ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ are imperfect humans. (Matthew 24:45-47) But this class is faithful and discreet. Apostates capitalize on errors or seeming mistakes made by brothers who take the lead. Our safety lies in avoiding apostate propaganda as though it were poison, which in fact it is.—Romans 16:17, 18.” – w92 7/15 pp.12-13 par. 19
“Wise King Solomon wrote: ‘Take a warning: To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:12) One might add that the reading of many books published today is not only wearisome to the flesh but, frankly, dangerous to the mind.” – w00 10/1 p. 10 par. 9
“Apostates too speak valueless words, claiming to have greater wisdom than the appointed ‘faithful and discreet slave.’ (Matt. 24:45-47) However, apostates speak their own wisdom, and their words are valueless, a stumbling block to any who might listen.” – w08 4/15 p.6 par.17
“Yes, to all who are faithfully and loyally enduring in the Christian way, we are sure that Jehovah’s truth is still beautiful, satisfying—even more so than when they first heard it. Therefore, resolve in your heart that you will never even touch the poison that apostates want you to sip. Heed the wise but firm commands of Jehovah to avoid completely those who would deceive you, mislead you, turn you aside into the ways of death. If we love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, and mind, while loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, we will leave no room for penetration by apostate thinking. (Matthew 22:37-39) We will not ‘allow place for the Devil’ and will have no desire to look elsewhere. We will not ‘be quickly shaken from our reason’ by some counterfeit teaching.—2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2.” – w86 3/15 p. 20 par. 18
“The talk ‘Guard Against Deception’ showed that we wisely treat as poison the distortions, half-truths, and outright falsehoods propagated by apostates.” – w03 1/15 p.23
It’s difficult for even the most hardened Witness to read the above quotes without feeling at least a tinge of embarrassment at the abject hatred and venom directed by the Society toward those who dare to contradict its teachings. In falsely misrepresenting apostates as those who must automatically “hate Jehovah,” the Society deliberately neglects to acknowledge that, in order to be an apostate, all you need to do is think differently to the organization. As discussed in a previous article, it doesn’t matter whether you love Jehovah and Jesus. If you disagree with even ONE of the Society’s teachings, you are, by their thinking, an apostate.
In stark contrast to such mud-slinging, sites such as JWfacts.com demonstrate nothing but love and respect for those who choose to believe the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The following quote from the homepage of JWfacts is typical of the tolerance displayed on that website…
“Being a Jehovah’s Witness has benefited many lives, as following Christian standards on morality and love can be beneficial. There is no attempt here to point the finger at any individual, as in general Jehovah’s Witnesses sincerely believe they are doing what is right and are genuinely nice people.”
The following email from a visitor to that website highlights that the information is based on Watchtower publications rather than being written in a way that attempts to hide or misrepresent the Society’s words…
“Your writing is the first JW material I have read, pro or con, since returning from Bethel. Your amazing collection of work is truly inspired. The true validating point for me is your use of the Watchtower publications own information as your predominating resource.” (Emails from readers)
There is even an offer on the part of the writer, Paul Grundy, for readers to email him if they spot anything incorrect so that he can fix it…
“The reason for this site is to make it as simple as possible to determine if Jehovah’s Witnesses have “the truth”. I have tried to be accurate in everything contained here. Please email me if there is anything you feel may not be correct.”
Again, it’s difficult to conceive of a more marked contrast with the Society’s publications, which ban you from reading anything contradictory, and do not allow you to point out anything that is false. Of course, no one is stopping you from writing the headquarters to draw attention to some inaccuracy, but when was the last time you saw a full retraction or apology printed in the literature over some doctrinal point?
True, the following “apology” was printed on page 8 of the January 1st 2013 Watchtower (public edition), but take a careful look at the wording…
“HAVE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES GIVEN INCORRECT DATES FOR THE END?
“Jehovah’s Witnesses have had wrong expectations about when the end would come. Like Jesus’ ﬁrst-century disciples, we have sometimes looked forward to the fulﬁllment of prophecy ahead of God’s timetable. (Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) We agree with the sentiment of longtime Witness A. H. Macmillan, who said: ‘I learned that we should admit our mistakes and continue searching God’s Word for more enlightenment.’
“Why, then, do we continue to highlight the nearness of the end? Because we take seriously Jesus’ words: ‘Keep looking, keep awake.’ The alternative, to be found ‘sleeping’ by Jesus, would prevent us from gaining his favor. (Mark 13:33, 36) Why?
“Consider this example: A lookout in a ﬁre tower might see what he thinks is a wisp of smoke on the horizon and sound what proves to be a false alarm. Later, though, his alertness could save lives.
“Likewise, we have had some wrong expectations about the end. But we are more concerned with obeying Jesus and saving lives than with avoiding criticism. Jesus’ command to ‘give a thorough witness’ compels us to warn others about the end.—Acts 10:42. We believe that even more important than focusing on when the end will come, we must be conﬁdent that it will come, and we must act accordingly.
“We take seriously the words of Habakkuk 2:3, which says: ‘Even if [the end] should delay [compared to what you thought], keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.'”
You will note that…
- Nowhere in the above does the Society actually apologise, they merely acknowledge “wrong expectations.”
- No attempt is made to atone for the consequences of incorrect doctrinal interpretation, i.e. brothers selling their homes and quitting their jobs pre-1975, or those who may be disfellowshipped and shunned for disagreeing with the Society’s narrow interpretations of prophecy.
- No guarantee is given that they will stop making the same mistakes by printing further wrong interpretations. Rather, they excuse themselves saying they are “more concerned with obeying Jesus and saving lives than with avoiding criticism.” Surely this could be the mantra of ANY Christian denomination. Accuracy and truth are seemingly dispensable so long as, in the view of your church, you are “obeying Jesus.”
“Let him that is without sin cast the first stone”
The above words, attributed to Jesus (but not found in all bibles), perfectly summarize the vain hypocrisy of criticizing others when you are imperfect yourself. The saying is particularly apt when one considers the unrelenting criticism levelled at the internet by the Society regarding how factual it is. Here are three examples…
“There are no limits or checks on the kind of information that is maintained by and accessible to Internet users.” – km 11/99, p. 4 par. 16.
“Do not become an “Internet Eve.” Be critical and suspicious of the information. Before trusting it, ask: (1) Who published this material? What are the author’s credentials? (2) Why was this published? What motivated the writer? Is there any bias? (3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?” – w11 8/15 p.4
“The Writing Department follows the pattern of ‘tracing all things with accuracy.’ But where can reliable information be found? While the Internet is a convenient and quick source of vast amounts of information, our researchers do not rely on blogs or poorly documented Web entries written by unidentified or unqualified persons. For example, Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, warns that some articles on its own site ‘contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism,’ adding that ‘users need to be aware of this.’ Thus, the Writing Department looks to standard reference works, articles written by recognized experts, and books produced by respected publishers.” – 2011 Yearbook, pages 9 and 10.
It is curious that the Society should criticize internet articles for being biased and having “no limits or checks” to ensure accuracy when Watchtower writers themselves are hugely biased towards elevating the organization, and allow nobody to question their assertions – even if these subsequently turn out to be false.
Also, the above Yearbook quote scorns Wikipedia for using references from web entries by “unidentified or unqualified persons.” Obviously, anyone who is familiar with Watchtower publications will know that the writers of doctrinal material are never identified by name, nor are we ever given any assurances of their academic credentials or qualifications. We must simply “trust” that they know what they are talking about. Apparently it is one rule for the internet, another rule for the Watchtower.
Indeed, on reading the above quotes, you would be forgiven for assuming that everything written by the Society is truthful and accurate. However, as already discussed in a previous article, there are numerous examples of deliberate falsehood and deception on the Society’s very own website in the FAQs section of JW.org…
- In response to the question “Do you feel that you are the only people who will be saved?” the writer begins his answer with “No.” and then proceeds to identify Armageddon survivors as being (apart from JWs): (1) those who lived in the past before JWs existed, and (2) those who will become JWs in the future. Finally the explanation rounds off with a vague “it’s not our job to judge” line of reasoning – but the overall message is clear. If you want to survive annihilation at Armageddon, you’d better become a JW.
- In response to the question “Are you tolerant of other religions?” the writer responds “We follow the Bible’s advice to ‘respect everyone’ —regardless of their religious beliefs,” adding, “we extend to others the same tolerance that we appreciate receiving from them.” This answer ignores the Society’s labelling of former believers as “mentally diseased” (w11 7/15 p.16) and of their beliefs as “gangrenous” (w13 4/15 p.11). It also conveniently forgets the vilification of the Catholic Church as a part of the “gross fornicatrix” Babylon The Great, or the suggestion that the policy of celibacy in that religion resulted in “not a few” Catholic priests “today contracting AIDS.” If you were a Catholic and read the Revelation Climax book from cover to cover, would you conclude that JWs are tolerant of your beliefs?
- In response to the question “Do you shun former members of your religion?” the writer deliberately avoids giving a direct answer and goes straight into a description of the precious few instances in which a former believer would not be shunned by his family. The answer is a perfect example of deception by omission, because it fails to acknowledge that those who leave the organization are routinely shunned by family members, irrespective of whether or not they have broken the “Bible’s moral code.” A recent Watchtower article even admonished: “Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.” (w13 1/15 p.16) The answer to the FAQ should therefore be an honest and straightforward “yes” – but it isn’t. The reason? The writers are biased, and don’t want to make their religion look bad.
You might be surprised to learn that JW.org is not the only source of misinformation published by the Society. On his website, Paul Grundy has put together an article cataloguing a number of occasions throughout its history where the Society has been caught red-handed misquoting sources, lying about its former teachings, and even plagiarizing material from other publications. If you are a Jehovah’s Witness and you are still under the impression that the Society is above such dirty tricks, I would encourage you to visit the article and verify the information for yourself. Prepare to be astonished!
Concealing its own writings
Amazingly, it isn’t just non-Watchtower books and websites that the Society dissuades ordinary Witnesses from reading, or limits access to. For varying reasons, ordinary publishers are essentially blocked from reading some of the very publications that have rolled off the Society’s own printing presses over the decades – at least one of which is even credited with a role in the fulfilment of prophecy. I can provide three examples.
In a previous article I featured the Finished Mystery book, first published in 1917. You would expect a book containing “spiritual food” that was personally inspected and approved by Christ in 1919 to be made widely available to Witnesses today, so that they can see for themselves what made the Bible Students so unique during that crucial period of inspection. However, though it is admittedly still possible to track down a copy (either by downloading it here, or spending between $50 to $200 on Amazon for a hardcopy), the book is no longer in print by the Society. The reason? They are deeply ashamed of the frankly outrageous notions that are contained in its pages, including the following…
- Charles Taze Russell was the “seventh angel” mentioned in Revelation
- Jehovah separated Russell from his wife, Maria, and made her dead in his eyes
- Russell spoke from beyond the grave through the pages of the Finished Mystery
- The precise distance between the place where the Finished Mystery was written and where it was printed held prophetic significance
The more you delve into the pages of this bizarre book, which is so clearly a product of the over-active imaginations of two of Russell’s followers, the more you realise why the Society would never dream of making it available for publishers to read today. If they were to print and distribute it, thinking Witnesses would soon connect the dots and reach the glaringly obvious conclusion that Christ didn’t actually choose this organization in 1919 after all.
Therefore, the Society has done something very cunning. It has repeatedly given its own glowing endorsement of the Finished Mystery, even attributing it with a role in fulfilling bible prophecy. That way, publishers who have never read the book are able to respect it as being “a powerful commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel” (Revelation Climax, p. 165), the distribution of which was approved by Christ himself – and even foretold in the scriptures! (Revelation Climax, p. 208 box)
Ironically, even the Revelation Climax book, which sings the praises of its predecessor the Finished Mystery, has been the subject of some degree of censure by the Society. Many of you will remember that in 2006 it underwent extensive “adjustments” (a list of which was published in the September Kingdom Ministry of that year). Many found it curious that a book published in 1988, designed to be the final word on the coming Great Tribulation, needed to be revised because certain apocalyptic events had not proved as “imminent” as its writers anticipated.
In any case, many publishers will be oblivious to the fact that the Society went so far as to issue a document directing elders to arrange for older versions of that book kept in stock on the literature desk to be “discarded.” This raises the question, how can a book hailed as “food at the proper time” when it was written fall from grace so quickly that it needs to be destroyed (if certain revisions have not been made to it) only 18 years later?
Again, we have a book once endorsed by the Society and produced on its printing presses that is now out of print in its original form, and that ordinary publishers should ideally discard. It seems “new light” from the Watchtower has a shelf life. Indoctrinated Witnesses would argue that this is just evidence of the “light getting brighter,” but a more objective analysis would conclude that the Society is making things up as they go along, and only producing new interpretations of prophecy once it becomes obvious that the previous ones have failed.
Finally, there is the most secretive Society book of all – the elder’s guidebook, Shepherd The Flock of God. This book is so secretive that, when it was published in 2010, an accompanying letter to all elders read (in part)…
“We would like to emphasise the importance of keeping these new textbooks secured and confidential, both before and after they are distributed. The textbooks should not be left on tops of desks or in other places where they are easily accessible by family members or other individuals. The information is designed for use by the elders only, and other individuals should not have any opportunity to read the information.” – Letter to all bodies of elders, dated August 23rd 2010
Most ordinary Witnesses are conditioned over time to think that it is perfectly normal and proper for their spiritual shepherds to carry around a rulebook that they are expressly forbidden from reading. Nobody stops to consider for a moment that in Ancient Israel the hundreds of laws governing the minutiae of everyday life were not hidden or concealed from ordinary Israelites – but read aloud for all to hear. (Joshua 8:34; Nehemiah 9:3) Even in Christian times, there is no record of elders or apostles having secret guidelines that were to be kept hidden from others. Any information on presiding over judicial matters was made available to all.
In short, there is really no scriptural justification for there to be ANY secret elder’s manual, and yet that is precisely what we have grown accustomed to having in our organization. The reason? As with the Finished Mystery, there are things in that book that are simply far too embarrassing (perhaps even incriminating) for ordinary Witnesses or members of the public to see. One increasingly notorious example is as follows…
Many Witness parents who are unfamiliar with organizational policy would be horrified to think that, if a fellow brother molests their child and denies it, elders should simply “leave matters in Jehovah’s hands.” It is therefore understandable, if wholly despicable, that the Society should cover up and conceal this information from ordinary publishers. It is simply too damaging.
And elder’s books aren’t the only sources of information from the Society that are subject to strict secrecy. Those who follow this website will be aware of the Society’s recent successful attempt to shut down JWsurvey for 24 hours. The reason? Because we published a Body of Elders letter (dated October 1st 2012) detailing some of the more shocking elements of Society policy in relation to the handling of cases of child abuse.
This incident furnished a striking example of how so-called “apostate” websites are trying desperately hard to get credible information into the hands of thinking Witnesses, while the Society is bending over backwards to snatch it back out of their hands. Again, you have to ask yourself, does that not sound suspicious? If this is the truth, what are they so keen on hiding from you?
When you start to look at other religious organizations that many class as “cults” you notice exactly the same tendency towards secrecy and deception. For example, just as with the madness contained in the pages of the Finished Mystery, the Church of Scientology has its own embarrassing writings from its early history that it seeks to brush under the rug, safely hidden from the public’s gaze.
Those who progress in that particular religion to “O.T. level 3” have certain writings of the founder, L. Ron. Hubbard, disclosed to them in which the true origin of humans is supposedly revealed. The shocking revelation given to Scientologists at this level is that 75 million years ago the bodies of frozen space aliens were dumped into volcanoes in Hawaii, whereupon the souls escaped to be trapped, brainwashed, and finally left to roam the planet and attach themselves to early humans.
This teaching is clearly preposterous, and for many years it was kept a closely guarded secret until being exposed in a court case in the 1980s, instantly meeting with public ridicule that has continued ever since (most notably on a 2005 episode of South Park). Since this secret was leaked, Scientology has done its best to keep it out of the spotlight. One prominent church representative even publicly denied it on camera when questioned in a TV interview.
My point in relating the above is to show that deception is really nothing unusual among high control religious organizations, or “cults.” They have a habit of dispensing sensitive information only on a “need to know basis,” and covering over embarrassing or potentially incriminating details with the aim of keeping the majority of their followers in total ignorance.
This was NOT how the early Christian congregation conducted themselves according to the Bible. The apostles made “ALL scripture” available to the congregations, so that their writings could make Christians “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17) There was no such thing as so-called “old light,” or out-dated teachings that had to be disposed of. There certainly weren’t any secret documents or rulebooks to be circulated only among elders.
Again, in total contrast, most websites that are critical of the organization want you to see ALL of the available information so that you can reach an informed decision on what to believe. This can never be truly said of the Society.
An organization that fights dirty
In summary, one should never assume that those who dare to stand up to the Watch Tower Society are fighting them on a level playing field. Here we have an organization that will happily resort to hate speech if necessary against its “poisonous” “mentally diseased” opponents and their “gangrenous” accusations, urging loyal Witnesses to “feel a loathing” against such ones. (w93 10/1 p. 19 par. 15)
The Society will also stop at nothing to prevent sensitive information from getting into the hands of its adherents, even resorting to threatening legal action against this website or issuing copyright takedown notices on YouTube if sufficiently agitated. Thinking Witnesses are right to question why, if the organization is truly following the First Century model, it needs to have any confidential information at all?
Then there is the stigmatization of the internet, and the abject fear instilled into the hearts of Witnesses when it comes to viewing information that is remotely critical of the organization. Having awakened recently, I can remember only too well how frightening it was to venture onto an unapproved website for the first time. It is shocking to consider that the Society wields so much control over people’s minds, but we know why this is so. If you control the source of information, then you control the person.
Considering all of the above, I am reminded of a scene towards the end of the film Gladiator. Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, is captured by his enemy, the evil Emperor Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). The two characters are due to share a final duel in the arena – a fight to the death. Ordinarily Maximus would have no problem winning this fight, but Commodus has other plans.
Maximus is chained up when, away from the public gaze, Commodus approaches him and stabs him in the side. He then orders the wound covered up, so that nobody can see that he is fighting an injured opponent.
In my mind, this perfectly encapsulates the struggle between so-called “apostates” and the Watch Tower Society. We are fighting opponents who have no basic decency, and who will stop at nothing to gain victory – even if it means resorting to lies, vicious insults, and the concealing of information from their own people.
Regardless of this, I personally view it as almost inevitable that the real “truth” will triumph in the end. It is always easier to fight a war of information when the facts are on your side. It may take years, it may take decades, with those like me and Paul Grundy fighting with a “wounded side” so-to-speak. However, eventually the lies and half-truths will catch up with the Society and it will be forced to admit defeat. In the meantime, they can throw as many insults at us as they want. It makes no difference – it only strengthens our case against them. To coin the words of another fictional movie hero, “they will never take our freedom!”