“Do Not be afraid… I am Your God!”

Governing Body as Wizards of Oz
The Wizards of Warwick (Click to enlarge)

The Watchtower’s year-text for 2019 is: “Do not be afraid… I am your God.”

In the January, 2019 Watchtower (study ed.), the first study article expounds upon this text. It tells the story of a Witness woman named Yoshiko whose doctor told her she only had a few months to live.

The article goes on to state that “Jehovah was with” this woman, and that while God won’t stop or prevent harm from coming to us, he won’t allow us to be permanently damaged:

Jehovah does not promise to remove the challenges that make life difficult, but he will not allow “the rivers” of  problems to drown us or “the flame” of trials to do us any permanent damage.

Yoshiko died, as her doctors had predicted. Most of us would consider death the most permanent of all damages. Of course the Watchtower would disagree, positing its idea of a “resurrection” — in which a surrogate will be programmed with Yoshiko’s memories and personality in the “new world.” But for those of us who can think about it, that’s no consolation, and does nothing for the individual who died, and who remains dead forever.

If God doesn’t do anything to help us, how is that supposed to assuage our fears?

In addition to the above flawed reasoning, there are several mistakes in the article, such as:

  • The statement that Isaiah wrote Isaiah chapter 41 (he didn’t)
  • That Abraham’s faith in God removed his fear (it didn’t; Abraham still feared King Abimelech: disowning his wife Sarah to save his own hide rather than trusting in Jehovah’s protection, even after Jehovah had intervened and protected them in a similar incident with Pharaoh. (Ge 12:10-20, 20:1-7) )
  • And that the Jewish exile in Babylon lasted 70 years (it only lasted 48 years).

But these things are all side issues. What really gets me is the following.

The Watchtower publishes the year-text “Do not be afraid… I am your God.” I think that’s apropos; the Watchtower (aka the Governing Body) is, in fact, the God of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have scriptural evidence to backup this astonishing statement.

According to the Bible, Moses told Aaron what God supposedly had said to him, and then Aaron told Pharaoh  what Moses said that God said. The Bible tells us that by doing this Moses was acting as God to Pharaoh:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.
Ex 7:1 (NASB)

The Watchtower makes a similar claim to being God’s spokesman or “mouthpiece”:

The Nations Shall Know… (WTBS, 1971) pp. 58-59 ,66 (Click to enlarge)

“Who.. were commissioned to serve as the mouthpiece and active agent of Jehovah? …anointed… Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
–The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah” – How? pp.58-59, 66

[It’s no longer all of the “anointed”; the Governing Body has since taken over this role exclusively.]

Just like Moses, by their assuming the responsibility of serving as “God’s mouthpiece and Jehovah’s active agent,” the Governing Body has taken on the role of God (with Witnesses as their “prophet” to spread the word.)

We never hear God’s voice; we only hear what the Governing Body tells us about God. And we know (and they even admit) that what they tell us is often wrong!

The Watchtower paints a picture of a world living in fear of Armageddon, in which only Witnesses can find comfort in having Jehovah for their god. But I see a very different picture: one in which the Governing Body, acting as their God, has taught them to fear both Armageddon and themselves [“the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom” says their Bible translation of Pr 9:10, and for all intents and purposes, the Governing Body is Jehovah to a Witness.]

Witnesses have been commanded to “Listen [to] and Obey” whatever cockamamie ideas these men may pass off as “orders from Jehovah.” In this there is a very real fear of the consequences [both real and imagined: social ostracism, and loss of “everlasting life”] should they ever dare question this arrangement.

In contrast, as someone “in the world” (i.e. free from the dictates of these men) I do not fear either them or their Armageddon. I am not afraid precisely because they are not my God!

In the land of Oz the phony wizard had no real power to take away anyone’s fears. Rather, just like the wacky “Wizards of Warwick,” he projected a frightful image in order to induce fear in his dupes.

As in Oz, so too in in real life: the power to overcome our fears has always resided within ourselves, and starts by taking back control of our own lives.

Faith, Trust, and Gullibility

Faith, trust, and gullibility: three sides of the same triangle; or different degrees of the same thing?

Faith is extolled as a virtue by most religions. In our Western culture the Bible encourages both faith and trust:

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 — NIV)

For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 — NIV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Pr 3:5-6 — NIV)

What about gullibility? You know: when you believe everything someone tells you, unquestioningly. Surely religions don’t espouse such unreasonable levels of surrendering our good sense — or do they?

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Cor. 13:7 –ESV)

That’s right: the Bible claims that love demands our believing all things!  Now, I love my wife, but I certainly don’t believe everything she says. And while some religious leaders may be well-meaning, I don’t think that everything they say is exactly what we could honestly call “the truth.”

I contend that believing everything someone says is an irresponsible and foolish way to live, and is certainly not a requirement for loving that person.

But there are religous leaders who insist that I’m wrong, and that such gullibility is, in fact, required of us! I recently came across an article expounding on the above verse from 1 Corinthians:

It means to successfully erase our doubts and reservations. It means that in making spiritual commitments, we are prepared to hold nothing back. It means we are ready to consecrate our lives to the work of the kingdom.

This sounds as if the Governing Body is about to call upon our unquestioning loyalty and obedience after claiming to be their god’s spokesmen (or “prophets”) on earth. And, true to form, the article continues a little further on:

Obedience is a fundamental law of the gospel. It is not only the demonstration of our faith but also the foundation of our faith. But the philosophical standard of the world holds that unquestioning obedience equals blind obedience, and blind obedience is mindless obedience. This is simply not true. Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction—whether it be recorded scripture, [or] the words of modern prophets… to be worthy of obedience.

And so, by a bit of self-serving rhetoric, the Bible’s demand on our faith is turned into a duty to obey the whims of a certain group of men! Thereby violating the scriptural principle of Christian freedom:

You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men. (1 Cor. 7:23 –NWT)

My dear Witness readers will balk at the above analogy. Surely comparing their obeying the Governing Body to slavery is far-fetched, and surely the article I’ve quoted is spot-on in explaining how the virtue of faith leads inexorably to unquestioning obedience to these “modern-day prophets” of their god.

But here’s the point: the article was not written by a Jehovah’s Witness. It was written by a Mormon. His idea of faith includes unquestioning belief in the book of Mormon and the leaders of the LDS. To quote the part I purposely skipped in the above excerpts:

For us, to “believe all things” means to believe the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the words of the Latter-day prophets. (Believe All Things By Elder Robert C. Oaks Of the Presidency of the Seventy)

That’s right: the article was using the Scriptures to convince Mormons of the need to believe in those golden plates of Joseph Smith which were presented to him by the angel Moroni, and then conveniently whisked away after Joe’s supposed translating of them. And even though the substance of Joe’s new “revelation” had previously been published in Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, and even though Joe’s “Book of Mormon”further plagiarized whole chapters verbatim from the King James Bible, this present-day Mormon elder expects us to believe in a supernatural origin of the book, and to therefore believe in everything he and his co-elders may dream up in the future, though it be just as transparently absurd.

Okay, so my dear Witness readers will now be shaking their heads at the obvious gullibility of those Mormons. Yet, when the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Bible to make the very same arguments about their need to “believe everything,” the Witness will regard this as a reasonable duty of their “faith” rather than recognizing the egregious gullibility that everyone else can plainly see.

(Naturally, a Mormon would see a Witness as gullible for the same reason a Witness sees a Mormon as gullible, while both remain blind to the “beam in their own eye.”)

But what is faith, anyway? Is it even a good thing? The Bible defines faith as follows:

Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 — CEV)

Being “sure of what you hope for” is called wishful thinking: something it can be fun to engage in, but not something to build one’s life around.

Hope can be a good thing, but reality teaches us that just because you hope for something it doesn’t mean that it will come true.

And I have to disagree with the second part of the sentence in that quote from Hebrews. Faith, in the absence of evidence, is not “proof” of anything. Proof requires evidence.

Let’s go back to our example of the Mormon’s faith in Joe’s plates. Does the Mormon’s faith prove that those plates existed and were delivered by an angel? Only a Mormon could argue in the affirmative.

But then, if faith doesn’t work to prove Mormonism, it doesn’t work to prove anything else either, and this of course includes a failure to prove that the Governing Body are the Faithful and Discreet Slave whom we must listen to and obey.

It’s clear that neither a Mormon nor a Witness “believes all things,” otherwise a Witness would believe in Joe’s golden plates, and a Mormon would be hanging on every word of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as if they had a pipeline to God.

What they really do is “believe all things” that their respective religions tell them to believe.  So, that’s selective. That requires personal decision-making at some point. It isn’t faith; it is based on something else: a decision to trust a particular group of men over other groups of men. Faith in a god really has nothing to do with it. Evidence has been weighed (however inaccurately) and a personal decision has been made based on the evidence in favor of one group of men over another.

In Conclusion

First: Don’t rely on faith; rely on evidence. This is what you’ve really been doing all along, possibly while fooling yourself that your religious choices were faith based. Now that you know better you can do a better job of examining the evidence for what you believe.

Second: Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by wishful thinking.

And, finally: it’s rational to extend a cautious bit of trust to others until they prove untrustworthy. But if someone starts making supernatural claims about themselves in an effort to extract blind trust from you, know that it’s a scam: one that has been perpetrated on the innocent and gullible for millennia, and one which shows no sign of letting up. Don’t fall for it.

If you already have fallen for it, it’s time to stand up and reclaim your intellectual independence and get your life back.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Gentle Parody

sombreroOur scene opens on a bright sunny day in a dusty Mexican street. A lone man is seated next to a trashcan, with his back up against a whitewashed wall. His large sombrero is pulled down over his face. Two men in business suits, carrying briefcases and sweating profusely, slowly approach him.

Estaban: You take this one, I took the last one.

Juan: Okay, but then I think we need to take a break; I’m starting to sweat pretty bad.
to seated figure: Good afternoon, sir!

Pedro (the seated figure) slowly raises the brim of his sombrero and stares fixedly at the two men before him.

Juan: We’re in your neighborhood today talking to people about current conditions in the world and how the Bible has pointed out the solution to all the problems in the world today.
Pausing, but seeing that there is no response forthcoming from the man, he continues: Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer?

Pedro: Are you two gringos? What are you doing dressed like that during siesta?

Juan: We’re out here spreading the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom… Wouldn’t you like to live in a new world of peace and plenty?

Pedro: You’re both going to get heat stroke!

Estaban: We have to follow God’s Word, and so we cannot take siestas.
He takes a handkerchief from his back pocket and mops his forehead: We have to witness no matter what the conditions.

Pedro: What does God’s Word have to do with siesta? Didn’t God create the sun… and the shade?

Juan: The Bible says that siestas are pagan, and so God’s people cannot participate in them… Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where–

Pedro: I wouldn’t want to live in a world without siestas! You two must be loco.

Estaban Obviously offended: Look, the only place in the Bible where a siesta is mentioned — it is only pagans who take them, and then someone was killed during it–

Juan Who has been furiously turning pages in his Bible while Estaban was speaking: Here it is right here in Second Samuel, chapter four, starting with verse five:
‘And the sons of Rimmon… proceeded to go and come to the house of Ishbosheth about when the day had heated up, as he was taking his noonday siesta… And here they came into the middle of the house as men fetching wheat, and they struck him in the abdomen. When they went into the house, he was lying upon his couch in his inner bedroom, and they struck him so that they put him to death, after which they removed his head’
Juan claps his Bible closed and exchanges a triumphant smile with Estaban. Then they both turn towards Pedro in eager anticipation of his response to The Truth.

Pedro: I’m not an educated man, but I know bull when I hear it — and that’s bull. What if the Bible only had one story about somebody taking a bath, and they were pagan and they got killed: would you say the Bible forbids baths? Or how about this: the only person in the Bible that ever prayed in a garden (Jesus) was killed, so the Bible forbids praying in gardens!

Juan Reopening his Bible he starts to look for something, but then gives up, and feeling the effects of the heat uses the Bible to fan himself): Well, giving up siesta is a very small sacrifice to make. God’s Name People are willing to give up our very lives if necessary to obey God’s Word — such as refusing blood transfusions.

Estaban: Proudly: We don’t celebrate birthdays for the same reason.

Juan: Or Christmas!

Estaban: And we can’t take part in politics.

Juan: Or go to R-rated movies.

Estaban: Or have certain kinds of sex with our own wives — which others tell us is very pleasurable… Looking down at his feet with a mixture of shame and confusion.

Juan Somewhat dejectedly: Or read anything but Watchtower publications. (His sweaty palms cause the Bible to slip from his grip and land at Pedro’s feet).

Estaban: Or associate with worldly or disfellowshipped people… (He looks at Juan in confusion).

Pedro: And you call this GOOD news? (He absently picks up the Bible and leafs through it).

Suddenly, Juan collapses to the ground from the heat. Estaban kneels over him asking if he’s all right.

Pedro: He’ll be okay, you just need to get him into the shade.

Estaban: No, no! I can’t do that! That would be like forcing him to take a siesta! It would mean his eternal life! He would sooner die loyal to Jehovah!

Pedro calmly stands up, takes two steps forward, uncaps his canteen, and pours its contents over the prone Juan. After a few seconds Juan gasps for air and struggles to stand, but falls back into a sitting position.

Pedro: Before you two die right in front of me, I found some advice for you from your Bible.

Estaban: What is it?

Pedro: Here, I’ll ease your burden and make your yoke kindly and light… He chuckles and rips a page out of the Bible as both of the other men gasp in shock. Then he carefully tears a single verse from the page and hands it to Estaban. Walking away from them, he crumples up the loose page and tosses it into the trashcan, followed by the rest of the book. Chuckling, and shaking his head, he walks off stage.

Juan Weakly: What’s it say?

Estaban: It’s a quote from Jesus in Luke 12:57:
‘Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?’

The Jehovah’s Witness Blood Issue: Resolved!

This is a big one, folks: the gloves are coming off and we’re going to dismantle the Jehovah’s Witness blood doctrine, hold it up to the light, and bury it once and for all. When we are done, there will be no excuse left for a Witness to claim that they are following God’s law by allowing their children (or themselves) to die for want of a transfusion.

So, settle in and get comfy; there’s a lot to go over. We’re going to peel this onion, and hopefully not make you cry too much. We’re going to start with the basic broad assumptions, and work our way down to the nitty-gritty. In order to remain a believer in the Watchtower’s claim that blood transfusions are sinful you will need to accept all of the assumptions we examine in each and every step along the way. This is an important point; you may indeed accept some of the assumptions in one or more steps — but that’s not good enough; you have to accept them all, or else you’ll need to toss the Watchtower doctrine out the window and head off to your nearest Red Cross and donate some blood.

But first, a little history from the Watchtower’s Point of View

The life-saving medical procedure of transfusing blood has been in use for centuries, but was perfected around the turn of the last century. Yet, it was not until 1945 that Jehovah saw fit to enlighten the world (through his “prophet” the Watchtower) that this procedure was against his law, and not until 1961 that he made it known that it was serious enough to be a disfellowshipping offense.

Later on, though, Jehovah said that blood could be accepted if it was taken in its constituent parts rather than as whole blood — except for some parts such as platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma (though fractionated parts of these were acceptable.) He also told them that fractionated cows’ blood (marketed as Hemopure) was acceptable.

Although Jehovah first told the Watchtower that a blood transfusion was the same as eating blood, he later corrected himself and said that a blood transfusion was a transplant. Finally, Jehovah helped the Watchtower writers to see that blood-transfusion is not a life-saving procedure at all, but rather endangers the recipient’s physical life as well as their spiritual one!

Confused? You’re not alone. Even attempting to state the Watchtower’s official view of things (as we have above) leaves me saying: “That makes no sense.”

The First Three Layers of Assumptions

The first layer of assumptions, of course, is that gods exist, and that this particular god called Jehovah exists.

The second layer of assumptions is that Jehovah objects to blood transfusions to such an extent that he will extinguish a person’s hope of eternal life should they ever accept a transfusion. This assumption rests entirely on the third assumption: that the Bible is Jehovah’s word: accurately reflecting his expectations of us.

These are huge assumptions in themselves, and we have devoted a lot of words to them elsewhere, so we won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that belief in the god of the Bible and the Bible’s accuracy are highly dubious assumptions, and unless you have complete faith in these first layers you should have no reason to believe that there is anything sinful regarding blood transfusions.

The Critical Fourth Layer that makes Witnesses Unique

A lot of people besides the Witnesses accept the above assumptions, yet they do not accept the next critical assumption: that the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible in regards to blood transfusion is correct.

We’re going to examine why that is in a moment. But first, it’s time to introduce the Watchtower’s argument that blood transfusions are sinful. We are going to strive to do it full justice, so don’t get mad at us if we state it as persuasively as we can:

The Reason that the Watchtower Gives for Banning Blood Transfusions

After Jehovah killed off all of his “good” creation except for Noah’s family and their menagerie, he decided to change the dietary rules. You see, up until then everyone (including non-human animals) actually ate their vegetables!

But now (that is, immediately after the flood), with only two to seven individuals remaining of each species, Jehovah said: “Oh, go ahead and eat each other!” And he changed lots of animals into carnivores so that they could no longer survive on a plant-based diet; they had to eat “meat” (i.e. each other.)

So, the lions and tigers, et al., began snacking on the other animals, but evidently picking off only the male of the species (and then only after making sure the female of the species was pregnant — and patiently waiting to devour her only after she had given birth.)

But — and here’s the all-important point — along with this new fleshly diet, Jehovah said not to eat the blood of the animals.

Well, the lions, tigers, et al., evidently weren’t listening. But Noah was listening (at least according to one of the anonymous writers of Genesis who wrote Noah’s story centuries later.)

Then, thousands of years after the writers of Genesis had spun their tale, one of Noah’s descendants, who became connected with the Watchtower organization, decided that this rule about pouring out an animal’s blood meant that blood transfusions were sinful.

Early in man’s history, our Creator ruled that humans should not eat blood. (Genesis 9:3, 4) He stated that blood represents life, which is a gift from him. Blood removed from a creature could be used only in sacrifice, such as on the altar. Otherwise, blood from a creature was to be poured on the ground, in a sense giving it back to God …It would be right, of course, to avoid products that listed things such as blood, blood plasma, plasma, globin (or globulin) protein, or hemoglobin (or globin) iron.”
The Watchtower, 10/15/92 p. 30.

But, that’s not the end of the story. The Watchtower reminds us that the Mosaic Law also reiterated the prohibition against consuming an animal’s blood.

Finally, and most important of all: in the Bible book of Acts it is stated that Jesus’ apostles got together at some point after his death and decided that Christians should “abstain from blood.”

All that was left for the modern-day Witnesses to do was to show that blood transfusions were a violation of the Bible’s prohibition against blood. They put it succinctly: “Injecting blood into your veins is not abstaining from blood.”

Then, to justify this seeming death-sentence of a commandment from a supposedly loving and caring god, the Watchtower writers began to denigrate the medical procedure: claiming that it was not really beneficial, but caused all manner of disease (even leprosy!) With that, their case was complete. Once again they had shown the world how righteous they were in strictly carrying out God’s law as stated in the Bible as they watched their children bleed to death; and how hypocritical everyone else was who claimed to follow the Bible and yet accepted this life-saving medical procedure.

In the next article in this series we will see just how reliable the Watchtower has proven itself to be when it comes to not only interpreting “God’s law,” but also in understanding medical issues and issuing medical prohibitions.

Part 2: How Good is their Word?