2014 was a big year for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and not just because it marked 100 years of the “short period of time” since the commencement of the ‘last days’ in 1914, with Armageddon nowhere in sight. (Rev 12:12)
Last year saw the organization take a further leap into the unknown by unveiling its JW Broadcasting initiative, bringing the “global brotherhood” up close and personal with its leaders for the first time.
The same year saw the announcement of a new donation arrangement whereby kingdom halls would surrender their financial autonomy and yield to a form of stealth tithing, with each congregation pledging to donate a fixed monthly amount. District overseers were also shown the door as Watchtower’s hierarchy was streamlined.
While all this was happening, an ever-growing number of current, former, and unbaptized Jehovah’s Witnesses – the silent majority – were doing something that was impossible before the age of the internet. They were quietly assembling online, and using a global survey they spoke with one voice of their dissatisfaction with Watchtower teachings and practices.
5,166 took part in the 2014 Global Survey – a huge increase compared with the more modest numbers from previous surveys (1,118 in 2011, 1,488 in 2012, and 1,751 in 2013).
Such an impressive sample has gifted us a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the burgeoning ex-Jehovah’s Witness online community, which includes many active Witness “lurkers” who seek information and resources minus the Watchtower spin.
Here are just a few stats for you to ponder…
- 229 out of 5,166 voters (4%) said they agree with all Watchtower teachings and practices (only 138 of these were active Witnesses)
- 16 voters claimed to be active bethelites
- 117 voters claimed to be serving elders
- 1,599 disfellowshipped/disassociated persons took part in the survey, of which 42% claimed to still be religious
- 94% of disfellowshipped/disassociated persons are happier since leaving
- 1,603 out of 4,242 baptized voters (38%) claim to have been baptized at 18 or older
- 1,687 inactive/faders voted, of which 63% claimed to experience preemptive shunning
- 56% of inactive ones claimed to experience marital or family problems as a result of their decision
- 771 voted who were never baptized, of which 64% had family members who are JWs and 67% consider Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a cult
- 39% of elders expressed regret over a decision reached at a judicial committee
- 78% of voters think that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a problem with child abuse
- 419 voters claimed to be former-Witness victims of child abuse
- 40% of active Witness voters said they would secretly or openly accept a blood transfusion
- 237 voters said they would let their child die for want of a blood transfusion, only 167 of which were active Witnesses
- 17% of active JWs who voted believe elders are appointed by holy spirit
- 32% of elders who voted believe elders are appointed by holy spirit
- 67% of voters do not believe Watchtower should enjoy charitable or tax exempt status
- 84% of voters do not donate anything to Watchtower
- 81% of voters have heard of a Jehovah’s Witness committing or attempting suicide
- 33% of voters believe Watchtower should undergo reform, while a further 42% believe it should be dissolved entirely
- 21% of Witness voters believe apostates are bitter and vindictive, as opposed to 69% who believe some may have legitimate concerns
- 169 active JW voters consider themselves to be apostates
- 52% of those who call themselves apostates say they love Jehovah’s Witnesses, while only 2% (58 individuals) say they hate all JWs
- 53% of active JWs object to all forms of shunning, while 11% say they are shunning someone who is either disfellowshipped or inactive
- Evolution as a false teaching was the least disliked Watchtower teaching, with only 62% voting against it
- The second least-disliked Watchtower teaching was the rejection of Christmas as a pagan teaching, with only 63% voting against it
- The most disliked Watchtower teaching was the prohibition on higher education (96%) followed closely by shunning and bedroom laws for married couples (both at 94%)
To help better digest this year’s figures, new JWsurvey team member Kyle Racki has kindly produced an infographic for some selected stats. If you would like to download a high resolution version of this infographic, you can do so here.
Obviously the above figures cannot be considered representative of ALL Jehovah’s Witnesses, since in order to make it as far as JWsurvey potential voters must first breach Watchtower’s strict rules regarding the internet and so-called apostate sites.
Even so, it is heartening to see ever-growing numbers of current, former and unbaptized Witnesses using their opportunity to declare their honest views about the organization and its practices. Forums and online communities are always helpful in this regard, but nowhere else is it currently possible to get such large quantities of data on the consensus among the exJW movement.
If you are wondering how you can play your part and help make this year’s survey a similar success, we would urge you to have your say in the 2015 Global Survey of Jehovah’s Witnesses if you haven’t already done so. At the time of writing (mid-September 2015), nearly 3,200 have already voted, but with little over three months remaining there is still a long way to go before we can beat last year’s total. This gives us plenty of time to share links to the survey as widely as possible among our friends and relatives, and urge them to take part.
Another means of promoting the survey is using the increasingly popular platform of YouTube. At the moment I am working on a special montage video along with more than 50 other ex-JWs from around the world. The video will convey a special message aimed at believing Witnesses as part of our “JWsurvey Day” celebrations on October 4th. If you are able to help us share and distribute the video on social media when the big day comes, this would be hugely appreciated.
Until then, I will leave you to chew on some remarkable survey results. And I especially want to thank you all for your overwhelming support of the JWsurvey project.