Watchtower claims divorce rate is “skyrocketing” – but is it?
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Watchtower makes a strange claim in its latest issue

Watchtower makes a strange claim in its latest issue

When glancing through the latest March 15th Watchtower Study Edition, I was struck by an arresting statement that would previously have escaped my attention.

The final magazine article, entitled “Your Speech – ‘Yes’ and yet ‘No’?” discusses instances in which breaking promises may or may not be acceptable for Witnesses. On the final page, the bold claim is made that the divorce rate is “skyrocketing,” and 2 Timothy 3:1,2 is immediately cited to suggest that this is further evidence that we are living in the “last days.”

The paragraph as it appears on page 32 of the March 15 2013 Watchtower

The paragraph as it appears on page 32 of the March 15 2013 Watchtower

 

Only a few years ago I would have swallowed this statement as truthful without a second thought. Now, however, I have learned to be a little more skeptical when it comes to Watchtower publications.

I decided to do some research on what is actually happening with the divorce rate in certain countries. What I found was that, if anything, the divorce rate is decreasing in the countries of a considerable number of Watchtower readers.

Take, for example, the United States of America – home to 1.15 million Witnesses, and the place where this magazine is written. According to the website PublicNewsService.org, “The divorce rate in America peaked at around 50 percent in the 1980s and slowly has been trending downward. It is now slightly more than 40 percent.”

A similar state of affairs is observable in my home country of Great Britain. A 2012 Guardian article begins thus: “Divorce rates have fallen – as shown by the latest figures out today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that the number of couples getting divorced has decreased.”

Already, the use of the word “skyrocketing” was looking more applicable to Watchtower’s propensity for exaggeration than anything to do with divorce.

Intrigued, I decided to do a more detailed study to see whether Watchtower’s “skyrocketing” claims had any substance in other lands. I decided to look at the UN divorce rate figures for the 20 countries with the most Jehovah’s Witnesses (according to 2013 yearbook figures), which account for 5.4 million publishers combined – a decent majority.

Here is what I found…

 

Country 2012 Av. Pubs 2002 C.D.R. Latest C.D.R. Latest avail. stats Notes
USA 1,156,150 3.9 3.6 2011
Mexico 749,585 0.6 0.8 2009
Nigeria 312,251 *
Italy 245,326 1.0 0.9 2010
Japan 216,692 2.3 2.0 2010
Philippines 178,467 Divorce illegal.
Congo, Dem. Rep. of 163,349 *
Russia 162,748 5.9 4.8 2011
Germany 162,705 2.5 2.3 2010
Zambia 156,898 *
Colombia 152,280 *
Ukraine 149,199 3.8 2.8 2010
Argentina 142,435 *
Britain 131,629 2.7 2.0 2009
Venezuela 124,670 *
Poland 124,292 1.2 1.6 2010
France 121,331 2.1 2.1 2010
Canada 112,710 2.3 2.1 2008
Peru 110,651 *

* = no complete data available | C.D.R. = Crude Divorce Rate (no. divorces per 1,000 population) | Source = United Nations

Though it was frustratingly difficult to get UN divorce figures for certain African and South American countries, the above table shows that only Mexico and Poland were exceptions among 11 countries reporting divorce rate decreases or inertia over the past decade. And increases in divorce rates in these two lands could hardly be described as “skyrocketing” in nature by any but the most alarmist.

Splitting hairs?

Likely many Witnesses will think I am nitpicking in pointing out this discrepancy, but I do so for two reasons.

Firstly, as already mentioned, Watchtower here uses its “skyrocketing” claim as evidence that 2 Timothy 3:1,2 is finding fulfilment where it says, “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” In other words, what happens to the divorce rate supposedly has some bearing on how imminent Armageddon is. That Watchtower would stoop so low as to invent a piece of ‘evidence’ to scare its readers into believing the end is nigh is extremely telling.

Secondly, such fabrication of evidence stands in direct contradiction to the claims Watchtower makes about its honesty and commitment to being factual. Page 13 of the 2011 Yearbook assures Witnesses that “the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details.”

Then there is Watchtower’s recent December 2013 Awake! magazine, which launched an extraordinary attack on the media. It bemoaned the “false assumptions” in modern reporting before warning: “Facts may not be carefully checked. Numbers too can easily trip up a journalist who, in the scramble to meet a deadline, might easily type 10,000 instead of 100,000.”

After this blatant false assumption about divorce, it seems as though the authors of the December Awake! were writing from experience.

 

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59 Responses to Watchtower claims divorce rate is “skyrocketing” – but is it?

  1. Badshah says:

    The story about Nancy the waitress raises several questions. For instance, how did she get herself into such a predicament? It doesn’t seem very responsible, and yet, in my own experience, there always seemed to be JWs with their hands out. Secondly, if this story is meant to provide evidence of Jehovah’s love and generosity, what does it tell us, when thousands of similar prayers, offered my zealous JWs, go unanswered? Is that evidence of Jehovah’s like of love and stinginess?

  2. Badshah says:

    I meant to say, “Is that evidence of Jehovah’s lack of love and stinginess?”

  3. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    This is even more interesting…
    Cin Khan Dal lost 19 chickens the WATCHTOWER describes serious economic blow… and then…
    Read that from http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/l/r1/lp-e?q=yb13+p.+138+par.+3

  4. Mandelay says:

    Cedars,

    I’m so glad your wife stuck with you and supports your work here.

  5. Rob says:

    I’m going to call balderdash on this one. Everyone knows statistics are a lying science.

    So first, there are fewer marriages today (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/22/marriage-rate_n_3625222.html), so of course the divorce rate is lower – per population! And same sex marriages aren’t registered. Yet divorce does continue to rise according to US census (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0131.pdf).

    Second, skyrocketing is just a colloquial term and used by other authors, look at https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/skyrocket

    In an era of skyrocketing federal debt, budget deficits, legislative impasse and sequestration, all signs point to fiscal constraints in 2014.
    Washington Post Dec 22, 2013
    There seems to be a growing shortage of buildable land, and what’s available has skyrocketed in price.
    New York Times Dec 17, 2013
    So instead of the tech boom leading to broadly based prosperity, it leads to private buses and skyrocketing house prices.
    Slate Dec 17, 2013
    Released into the atmosphere, it caused temperatures to skyrocket further.
    Salon

    • alanv says:

      Rob, firstly I would say your figures seem to be based on what is happening in the USA. The USA population is under 5% of the world population. If you took the stats from a Muslim country I suspect you would get a different result.
      The Watchtower writer wrote skyrocketing in the present tense. He did not say divorce has skyrocketed during the 20th century, he said divorce is skyrocketing which is a totally untrue statement.
      If someone says wages are skyrocketing, they are not talking about something that happened 50 years ago. They would be talking about what is happening at the present time.
      It is no surprise the writer wrote this, as any spike in anything negative in the last 100 years, to them proves the end is imminent. Most JWs will always parrot what they read in the societies literature, and never check the facts for themselves.

  6. ATS says:

    Funny the first bit of good news in this vlogbros video :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhA6fjgnLY

  7. Excelsior, formerly known as George says:

    Rob,

    “Everyone knows that statistics are a lying science”

    Statistics do not lie, Rob. Now, you can interpret statistics in a lying way, or you can only use statistics that support your argument, but statistics do not lie.

    Statistics are a collection of data. Data does not lie.

    The writer of the article used the term skyrocketing in the present tense. The statistics for the world do not back this statement.

    Your tiny sample of the USA is invalid as a defence of the writer’s statement.

    Really, Rob! When are you going to accept that you have been wrong on everything you have posted on this site?

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  8. JBob says:

    Some Witness couples were not sharing the same bed–his room, her room, or, in extreme, his house, her house. Footnote, only a naive pacifist would advice to remain in domestic abuse situation as secular journals and statistics show, it generally ends very badly with one domestic partner injured physically, psychologically or deceased. However, as some one posted on another article, there had been a history of domestic abuse–generally husbands physically abusive to their “cherished” wives.

    This “air” still permeates the Watchtower as witnessed in the video comments regarding a “sister-proof bible”; a general disrespect at such a high-level in such a “moral” enterprise should have zero-tolerance as it sets a bad role model; it sets the tone for young men to assume women are “less-than” not in spiritual rank but in general. And, yet the leadership concerns itself with policing “pants” rather than tackling the heavy-duty issues of the day.

    Footnote: the plans for Warwick (photo-op on Google Earth) does show a female arm at the design table presumably participating in design, if not serving as a scribe.

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