Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to their religion simply as “the truth.” I’ve always liked that. It is one of the things that initially attracted me to them and was instrumental in my decision to dedicate myself to their organization via baptism.
I also liked their definition of “truth” that I read in the Watchtower publication I studied prior to baptism entitled Things in which it is Impossible For God to Lie (even though that title always made me wonder what things it was possible for God to lie about):
Truth does not contradict itself or deny the facts. It does not go contrary to reality… It does not change because of location or time. The truth is provable by actual fact. The truth endures, persists, because it is genuine, actually existing, in harmony with reality.
— Things in Which it is Impossible for God to Lie p. 22
The brother who studied with me was slightly atypical. He was a collector of the older literature, and fancied himself a bit of a scholar with his bookshelves lined with Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias (some of which weren’t even Watchtower publications!) So I was exposed to some of the earlier writings of the Society as well. Some of my favorite quotes at that time were the following:
Every man should be persuaded in his own mind and no man should permit himself to be deterred from examining a question based upon the Bible because a clergy man or any one else makes the unsupported assertion that it is dangerous or unworthy of consideration. Error always seeks the dark, while truth is always enhanced by the light. Error never seeks to be investigated. Light always courts a thorough and complete investigation.
— Millions Now Living Will Never Die p. 13 (WBTS, 1920)
If we were following a man undoubtedly it would be different with us; undoubtedly one human idea would contradict another and that which was light one or two or six years ago would be regarded as darkness now; But with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, and so it is with truth; any knowledge or light coming from God must be like its author. A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. “New light” never extinguishes older “light,” but adds to it…
— Watchtower, Feb, 1881, p.3
I loved how this accorded so well with the [then] newer publications:
We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination.
—The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 13 (WBTS, 1968)
If you were on trial in a court of law, would it be fair if only your opponent was allowed to present evidence? No, you would surely want the court to hear your side of the matter …. Reasonable persons agree that the only fair method is to examine the evidence on both sides, both for and against a disputed theory. That is how one arrives at the truth.
—Awake! October 22, 1973 p. 6 (WBTS)
Then I learned that there was a Governing Body that God was communicating all of this stuff to! They were “God’s prophet on Earth” in modern times, announcing Jehovah’s kingdom, and making his name known all over the world. Millions of people had already joined this organization, dedicating their lives to the truth, and they all became my loving brothers and sisters when I was baptized.
Even though I hated field service, life was good…
…until I started asking the right questions.
When people start “studying” with the Witnesses they are encouraged to ask questions, in accord with the above quotes. However, seldom do they know the important questions to ask at that point. Later, when they may have thought of some critical questions, they are often too committed to the organization to dare ask.
When I asked the right questions the attitude expressed in the above quotes was suddenly replaced by the dark side of the organization.
Instead of answers I was told that I had done an evil thing by posing the questions; that I was no longer “in step” with Jehovah’s Organization; and that my “privilege” of serving at Bethel would be revoked.
(The questions I asked are in my letter to the GB, and I won’t recap them here. They’re not the same questions I would ask today, but they were a first step in the right direction. See also: The New 80 Questions.)
Though the above quotes seem to encourage an examination of both sides of religious beliefs, in practice this is hypocritically applied: only non-Witnesses are supposed to examine writings critical of their own religion. Witnesses are discouraged from reading anything other than Watchtower publications. They are warned against reading old WT publications, and against visiting “apostate” sites on the Internet (such as this site). They are not supposed to even talk to apostates — which, by the way is a great way to get rid of them at the door: just say “I’m an apostate” and your address will be black-listed. Though personally I prefer my own little door-bell sign:
If “the only fair method is to examine the evidence on both sides, both for and against a disputed theory. That is how one arrives at the truth.” then Jehvoah’s Witnesses have not arrived at the truth due to the policies of the Watchtower.
So, while the above quotes sound very enlightened on paper, the actual practices of the Witnesses belie them; as do the following quotes:
We resolve that we shall obey all instruction received from the Watch Tower, knowing that such proceed from the higher powers, Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. We resolve to be completely obedient to the Society as the visible part of the Great Theocracy.
—Watchtower, 2/1/1940 p.47
Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind… Jehovah poured out his spirit upon them and assigned them the responsibility of serving as his sole visible channel, through whom alone spiritual instruction was to come. Those who recognize Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization, therefore, must recognize and accept this appointment of the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ and be submissive to it. … in submitting to Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization, we must be in full and complete agreement with every feature of its apostolic procedure and requirements.
–Watchtower, 10/1/1967 pp. 587, 590, 592
Avoid independent thinking…questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization.
—Watchtower 1/15/1983 p. 22
All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.
—Watchtower, November 15, 2013, p.20
From the above quotes we can clearly see that the Witnesses are not allowed to practice “the only fair method” of arriving at the truth; they are to accept what the Watchtower says unquestioningly.
Not only are they not to question their own religion’s authority, but they are told to lie about this fact:
Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be careful about how they express themselves. Instead of saying, ‘the Society teaches,’ many Witnesses prefer to use such expressions as, “the Bible says” or, “I understand the Bible to teach.” In this way they emphasize the personal decision that each Witness has made in accepting Bible teachings and also avoid giving the false impression that Witnesses are somehow bound to the dictates of some religious sect.
—Watchtower, 3/15/1998, p. 19
So let me get this straight: In order to be “in the truth” (which, by WT definition is arrived at by fairly examining both sides of each issue and making one’s own decision) I must obediently accept as true whatever the Watchtower says without question (even if–unlike truth–it contradicts previous “truth” and known facts). Then, as a further exercise of truth, I must obediently tell people that I “came into the truth” by my own personal decision to accept Bible teachings and not by the dictates of the Watchtower.
I’m sorry if I appear dense, Governing Body, but are you sure that’s right?! Oops; that was a question — so sorry; my bad!
The record of flip-flopping on their “truths” is too well known to recap here (I scratch the surface in my article Why Not be a Jehovah’s Witness). Their “truth” has indeed “changed with time” and contradicted “old light” again and again. It does not accord with reality, but is purposely deceptive (see one revealing example of their dishonesty in quoting sources: Did Jesus Christ Die on a Cross or Stake?).
Also, the Watchtower has a policy called “Theocratic Warfare” which includes lying to those whom they deem are not entitled to know the truth. This includes deliberately lying about their own beliefs so as not to look bad (we have seen this in the media when they say blood transfusions are “a matter of personal conscience”):
No harm is practiced, however, by withholding incriminating information from one who is not entitled to know. … Various characters of the Bible have been accused of lying, such as Jacob, Rahab, the Gibeonites, David and others, but there is no record in the Bible that they came under divine disapproval for this.
— Watchtower 10/1/1954, ‘Christians Live the Truth’, p. 597, par 21, p. 598, par 25
So in time of spiritual warfare it is proper to misdirect the enemy by hiding the truth. It is done unselfishly; it does not harm anyone; on the contrary, it does much good.
Today God’s servants are engaged in a warfare, a spiritual, theocratic warfare, a warfare ordered by God against wicked spirit forces and against false teachings… At all times they must be very careful not to divulge any information to the enemy that he could use to hamper the preaching work.
— Watchtower 5/1/1957 “Use Theocratic War Strategy” p. 285-286
We must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive. … for the purpose of protecting the interests of God’s cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God’s enemies.
–Watchtower 6/1/1960, p. 351–352.
Now wait a minute! Did they forget about having said:
Error always seeks the dark, while truth is always enhanced by the light. Error never seeks to be investigated. Light always courts a thorough and complete investigation.
If they have nothing to hide: no skeletons in the closet, then what truth about the Watchtower could possibly be “incriminating” or “hamper the preaching work”? Why would those “in the truth” have a policy of “withholding the truth” and being “evasive” about what they believe? The “Theocratic Warfare” policy sounds an awful lot like their description of error seeking not to be investigated!
Could it be that when they meet up with intelligent questions they are too embarrassed to admit what they really believe?
In short, the Watchtower religion’s “truth” is at odds in every way with its own definition of truth, as are its practices which claim to be open and above board while being anything but.
The Watchtower’s “Truth”…
It doesn’t matter if it accords with reality [which it doesn’t], or whatever they may have held as true in the past [most of it doesn’t]. It doesn’t matter if it can be or has been proven false [it has]; the Watchtower’s sense of “true” is simply whatever the Watchtower is currently shoveling down the throats of the Witnesses. And, whatever that “truth” might consist of at the moment, they have no qualms in lying about it as readily as they lie about their own past.
Now, given all that, do you really think you should trust them as the source of all truth in your life? (It’s not a trick question, and it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. In fact, your initial response should be the correct one.)