Many years ago I wrote an article entitled “Questions to Ask If You’re Thinking of Joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” This consisted of several embarrassing questions, which merely to ask, would show the fallacy of the Watchtower religion.
However, to my surprise, the article backfired in at least one case. A person “studying” with the Witnesses took my advice and asked these questions of their indoctrinators. They then wrote back to me and stated: “They had answers to all of your questions.” Huh?!
That experience taught me that there are answers, and then there are good answers: and that some people can’t tell the difference.
People almost always have answers for their beliefs. These answers are satisfactory to them and fellow believers, but may not strike the more objective amongst us as good answers.
So, how do we recognize good, truthful answers from the other kind? The most reasonable method for approaching truth is the scientific method. One bit of evidence for that statement is right before your eyes if you are reading this on any type of electronic device. The World Wide Web that connects you to my thoughts was not the result of faith, but rather of the scientific method.
The scientific method relies on evidence and the testing of hypothesis to see whether they hold up. Its theories are tentative explanations of reality: held until a better explanation (one that more accurately accounts for all the evidence) is found.
In contrast, what we will call the “faith method” proceeds in the opposite manner: it formulates a hypothesis (better known in its jargon as a “doctrine” or a “truth”) and then selectively seeks or twists evidence to back it up (studiously ignoring or “explaining away” any evidence that would disprove the doctrine.) If you want to see this method at work, Christian apologetic provides a rich source of such rationalizations.
Of course, bad answers or replies can often stem from sheer stupidity as well. Here are some real-life examples:
Giving Bad Replies
A young lady asked me if I could give her money for the bus because she didn’t have enough for the fare (which was $2.25.) I told her all I had was a twenty. “I can break that,” she offered.
Failing to recognize good replies
A lady at a bus-stop asked me if I had a cigarette. I replied, “No; those things will kill you.” I thought — and still think — that was a good reply. However, she replied in turn: “I know they’ll kill us, but do you have one?” Huh?! Evidently not everyone can grasp the simple logic of: “Activity X will kill you, therefore don’t do X.”
Falling for not-so-good answers
In my book The Cure for Fundamentalism, I considered the plight of the dinosaurs in connection with the story of Noah’s flood, and concluded:
According to Genesis, the flood took place only 1,656 years after creation. To give you an idea of how recent that was, the Bible tells us that Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, was 113 years old when Adam finally died, and Methuselah died the year of the flood (possibly due to the flood and a very unconcerned grandson). So someone who was personally acquainted with the first created man was still alive when the flood began!
Given that, I wonder what happened to the dinosaurs? Had they already become extinct before the flood? If so, how could they have been a perfectly “good” creation of God’s to have lasted such a short time? If they all were drowned in the flood, then Noah failed to carry out God’s command to gather “of every living thing of all flesh,” and the Bible errs when it says, “every beast after his kind went into the ark” (Gen. 7:14).
Nor can we say that the dinosaurs became extinct after the flood; the Bible tells us that the flood occurred less than 4,500 years ago. Archaeologists tell us that dinosaurs roamed the Earth no more recently than 65 million years ago.
So, the dinosaurs could not have become extinct before, during, or after the flood. Yet we know they became extinct, therefore the flood could not have happened.
A reader replied to this by telling me that dinosaurs have not become extinct! According to her they are still around, as evinced by “numerous sightings” of so-called “river monsters” such as the infamous “Loch Ness monster” and Canada’s Ogopogo.
Hardly what I would classify as evidence.
But the grand booby-prize, as usual, must go to our old friends: the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Recently, at their international conventions, governing body members read out the statement that there is more evidence for their god’s kingdom having started ruling in the year 1914 than there is evidence for gravity, electricity, and wind.
I will give you a moment to let that statement sink in…
Okay; given the jaw-dropping absurdity of that statement, you may need a few more minutes. Take whatever time you need…
Okay; we’re back.
In the old days, when we would quote such absurd statements made by the Governing Body we would have to quote from Watchtower publications — typically long out of print (since they change their minds so frequently and keep publishing newer material.) Since the average Witness does not have access to what they deem “old light,” and the governing body discourages them from reading same, we were constantly accused of making such things up. But now, thanks to technology we have video evidence to present: behold governing body member Stephen Lett in action:
I trust that our readers are all familiar with the evidence for gravity, electricity, and wind. These things have undergone scientific scrutiny. Falsifiable hypotheses have been developed, repeatable experiments have been devised to test those hypotheses, and their results have been peer-reviewed. So, the natural question that arises is: What evidence is there for the governing body’s claim regarding the year 1914 that puts it on the same level as these scientific findings and even renders it “more certain”?
When asked for evidence, the Watchtower answer has always been to point to an increase in earthquakes, wars, and crime. But does such evidence actually exist, and if it does, does it really point to the ancient Hebrew’s god of war setting up an invisible kingdom in the year 1914?
There is no evidence that earthquakes have increased since 1914. An increase in wars and crime is also debatable. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that there really was evidence that all of these things have increased since that year. Would that provide evidence that their god’s kingdom has been ruling since then? Well, no, it wouldn’t. Earthquakes are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates. Wars are caused by conflicts between men. Crime is caused by people breaking the law. None of these things require or even suggest a supernatural cause, much less one involving the god Jehovah’s kingdom starting its rule in 1914.
Under a powerful, benevolent ruler (such as the god Jehovah is purported to be) one would expect war and crime to decrease, not increase. And, since it is claimed that this god has control over the Earth itself, one would expect zero earthquakes.
But, of course, the Watchtower has an answer for this as well: They say that the first act of their god’s kingdom (which began its rule in October of 1914) was to throw Satan out of heaven and down to Earth. [What he was doing in heaven is anyone’s guess.] Once restricted to the Earth Satan began to run amuck. Knowing what little time he had left, he began to really stir things up on Earth: causing WWI [which, however had started back in July of that year], becoming more successful in luring people into committing crimes, and somehow causing more earthquakes (to what purpose, no one can say.) Not to mention his getting television station managers to schedule reruns of The Brady Bunch.
So it would seem that Satan is more in charge than Jehovah in this god’s “kingdom”! This is quite ironic when Witnesses remind us that we are praying for their god’s kingdom to come in the “Lord’s prayer” which stipulates that this event would be marked by “thy will be[ing] done on Earth as it is in heaven.”
Now, if the god Jehovah’s will is that people live in peace, and don’t rob each other or kill each other, and if he cares about human lives more than he does for sparrows, one would think that evidence of his kingdom (i.e. his “will being done on Earth”) would be just such conditions: not their polar opposite! Yet the Watchtower proclaims that this contrary evidence proves that “God’s Kingdom Rules!”
Here’s the thing: If something bad happens (such as an earthquake or an increase in war or crime) the governing body will use that as evidence for Satanic influence due to his ouster from heaven in 1914. But if something good happens then that is evidence that their “benevolent” god’s kingdom is active. Either way, no matter what happens good or bad, they will claim it as evidence for their doctrine.
The scientific method requires that a theory be “falsifiable.” This means that we must be able to state what evidence would render the hypothesis false. For instance, if a feather and a cannon-ball were to fall at different speeds in a vacuum or if astronauts weighed more on Earth’s moon than on Earth itself, it would falsify our theory of gravity.
But what could possibly falsify the 1914 doctrine? The answer is nothing; whatever happens, good or bad, the governing body will hold it up as evidence for their dogma. Therefore it is not and cannot be on a par with gravity, electricity, and wind: much less could we honestly and “discreetly” proclaim it to have “more evidence.”
A scientific theory must be able to make accurate predictions. For instance, we were able to accurately predict how much astronauts and their equipment would weigh on the moon based on its mass. Weather forecasters can predict the direction and speed of wind several days ahead of time. We can predict what will happen if we hook up a battery to a light-bulb, etc.
So, what predictions have the governing body made in regard to 1914?
Well, first they said it would mark the end of Armageddon and the start of paradise on Earth. This was before 1914, obviously.
After 1914 they had to change their tune, of course, so they began to say that the year marked the start of the last days, and that the generation that witnessed the events of 1914 [though who could witness an invisible kingdom I don’t know] would live to see Armageddon and paradise restored to Earth.
After the 1914 generation were all just about dead, they changed the prediction to be “overlapping generations” starting with the 1914 generation.
So far, everything predicted about 1914 has failed. Their last “prediction” does not really predict anything at all, and must be discounted (really all it says is that some overlapping generation in the future will witness these things — which is too vague to have any testable value as a prediction.)
I guess we could say that the past 100 years has been a vast experiment: testing the truthfulness of the governing body’s hypothesis about 1914. An objective view of the results of this experiment is that it was a complete failure. Everything that was predicted about 1914 proved to be false: it did not usher in Armageddon or a paradise Earth. The generation alive in 1914 did not live to see these events.
When an experiment fails the experimenter does not have the luxury of changing the hypothesis to fit the failure in an attempt to save appearances. That’s not how science works. A failed experiment means a failed hypothesis which must be scrapped. The governing body, however, have not played by the rules. They are playing their own game: redefining words such as “generation” in order to somehow save face and preserve the idea that 1914 has significance.
What peer review has the 1914 hypothesis undergone? A Jehovah’s Witness would have to answer that question “None.” This is because they believe that the governing body are without peer. There are. however, other religious leaders who — like the governing body — declare themselves to be their god’s representative on Earth. So, I wonder what the Pope thinks about 1914. [Probably the only religious significance of that year to the Pope, would be that it was the year of a papal conclave to elect a new Pope after the death of Pius X.] Those of us without a religious bent might accept peer review by Bible scholars and/or archaeologists and historians. The consensus amongst this group is that the religious significance of the year 1914 has no basis whatsoever.
The governing body derives the year 1914 itself on the basis of two faulty assumptions which lack evidence and credibility:
1. That the interpretation of a dream in the book of Daniel chapter 4 was incomplete. In the Bible’s account, Daniel interpreted the “seven times” in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as a period of time in which that gentile king would be off his throne due to madness.The chapter then records the fulfillment of that interpretation as Nebuchadnezzar goes mad for “seven times” and then is restored to his throne.
According to the governing body, the “seven times” refer in addition to a period of 2,050 years. They arrive at this by assuming that a “time” equals 360 days (which they call a “prophetic year.”) seven times 360 = 2,050 days. Then they pull in a line written centuries before about Jehovah punishing the Israelites “a day for a year.” in a completely unrelated context.
Their “peers” would maintain that there is no indication in the Bible that there was to be an additional interpretation and fulfillment of the dream, and there is no reason to apply the “day for a year” formula here.
2. The second faulty assumption is that the 2,050 years represented the time that gentile powers would rule the Earth (despite the fact that Daniel’s interpretation was that the seven times were when the gentile ruler would be off his throne grazing in a field.)
As part of this assumption, they attempt to date the start of the 2,050 years as 607 BCE, claiming that this is when Jerusalem was destroyed (making way for gentile powers to rule — as if Israel had been ruling the world up till then!) This is where our archaelogist and historian “peers” step in to give their review of the governing body’s theory. It turns out they are in agreement as a body that the date of Jerusalem’s destruction is one of the surest dates in history, with a vast array of evidence to support it. The year? 587 BCE (not 607 BCE as is required by the governing body’s theory.) If everything else was true about their theory this would move the date from 1914 to 1934.
So, what can we say about the governing body’s answer to the question: What evidence is there that your god’s kingdom started ruling in 1914?” Do you think their answer is a good answer, on par with the evidence for gravity, electricity, and wind?
Here’s one last thing to consider before you give your answer (to help ensure that your answer is a good one). Did you know that God’s organization on Earth has told us that there is something they are even more certain of than the 1914 date? “No way!” you say? “How could there be something more certain than 1914 when it has more evidence than gravity, electricity, and wind?” you ask? Well, hang on; here it is:
The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914
– Watchtower 1924 Jul 15 p.211
1925 was the year Abraham was to be resurrected and would set up housekeeping at Rutherford’s “Beth-Sarim” mansion in San Diego, California along with other resurrected “ancient worthies.” Now that you know that 1925 was “definitely and clearly marked in Scriptures” — even “more clearly than 1914,” how does that affect your faith in their assurances about 1914?