Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Actually Fit the Psychological Definition of Bullies?

What is bullying? Note a few technical definitions of this form of behavior, first from Psychology Today:

“Bullying is a distinctive pattern of deliberately harming and humiliating others. It’s a very durable behavioral style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first. Bullies are made, not born … Grown-up bullies wreak havoc in their relationships … It is in playing with peers, without adult monitoring, that children develop the skills that make them well-liked by agemates and learn how to solve social problems.”

From the American Psychological Association:

“Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions. The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.”


“Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

While reading the above information for another matter, I couldn’t help but to think of how Jehovah’s Witnesses fit these descriptions to a tee. I won’t rehash too much of the same information that I’ve covered repeatedly on this site, but note a few tidbits:

Making Threats

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t outright threaten their neighbors or congregants, but they do have a consistent “threat” of a fiery death at Armageddon which they believe awaits anyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This threat is consistently repeated in their literature, through words and illustrations. This includes literature that is used with children, who grow up with this constant threat of death looming over their heads.


September 15, 2012, Watchtower

The leaders of the religion have also encouraged parents to take a hard-line stance with their children when it comes to getting baptized, saying that they “don’t force it” but that it’s not necessarily wise to let children balk at this step. This is very important, and being baptized into the religion opens you up to being shunned completely if you should ever later decide to leave. How is this not bullying your own children into your chosen religion?

Spreading Rumors

Jehovah’s Witnesses do more than just spread rumors; many people are aware of the fact that they referred to those who leave the religion as “mentally diseased” (July 15, 2011, Watchtower). The April 15, 2013, Watchtower said that apostates have “gangrenous, empty” speeches, and the December 1, 2005, Watchtower justified the destruction of everyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses by likening them to “pests” who need exterminating (see this post).

Beyond rumors, this type of talk is outright slander. It bullies people who are considering leaving the religion by making them think that they must be “mentally diseased” to question its leaders, and bullies those who have already left by trying to embarrass and humiliate them into returning. It’s also tied into the next part of bullying, excluding people from a group.


“Excluding someone from a group on purpose” is a classic example of bullying, and I’m sure many people remember children who were “picked on” in school by being excluded from teams, clubs, and even lunch tables. In the same way, adult and even younger former Jehovah’s Witnesses are excluded from their own families and circle of friends when they leave the religion, no matter their reasons for leaving. These ones are excluded simply for choosing another religion or set of beliefs than their families, and bullied into coming back into someone else’s chosen religion by way of this exclusion.

You can browse the Shunning category of this site for more information, and for examples of families literally being publicly applauded for shunning children, siblings, and parents.

shutterstock_71241184Physical Intimidation

While Jehovah’s Witnesses may not come right out in their literature and tell parents to physically beat their children, you can read this post to see the many personal examples of how often this occurred. Disciplining a child is one thing, but this type of physical violence is often practiced at their meetings as a way of keeping children quiet, punishing them for even nodding off or daring to squirm in their chair. Discipline that crosses the line into physical abuse is a form of bullying, and as you can see from that linked post above, it’s far too common in homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Not only is physical violence all too common when it comes to Jehovah’s Witness parents, but I saw it often in marriages when I was in the religion (this post). As I bring out in this post, women are told to be “submissive” and “silent” before their husbands; the husbands, like parents, are given free rein to behave as they wish in the home.

I don’t remember one man or parent ever facing any type of disciplinary action for being abusive in his home, and stories abound of such violence from JWs. This, too, is a bullying tactic, and the teaching of “submission” itself easily creates bullies, as I bring out in the above post. When a husband or a parent knows that there are few, if any, consequences to their behavior, they quickly turn to physical aggression and other such tactics, if they feel so inclined.

Bullies Are Failures

A religion, or any group, that uses bullying to force people to do what they want, or to simply feel powerful and strong over others, is not a good group, no matter their other actions. I can see putting a criminal in prison if they’re a danger to others, but that’s not what we’re talking about. As the definitions above show, bullies do what they do because it’s how they get what they want, much like how Jehovah’s Witnesses want everyone to fall in line and join their religion.

bullies 2A bully shouldn’t need to bully others in order to interact with them. A person should be able to make friends and socialize and form relationships based on their own merits. In other words, if you need to bully someone to feel good about yourself, or to have interaction with others, you’re a failure. You’re a failure as a person and, what’s worse, no one wants to be around you because of your bullying tactics. Bullying is an ugly thing to do, and it makes people ugly inside and out.

The same might be said for a religion. If you need to bully your members with threats of a fiery death and exclusion from their own families, if you need to spread rumors and outright lies about people to get others to avoid them, then you’re a failure as a religion. Your religion should be able to attract people on its own merits.

If you need to bully members and ex-members, ask yourself why that is. Take a look in the mirror and see how ugly you are, or at the very least, look at how easily your religion and your members fit the actual, technical definition of bullying, and consider this this is not a compliment, and not a good way to be.

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6 replies »

  1. I want to jump on the wagon here and say that it is not only parents. As a child, I was subjected to abuse of all sorts by JW family members like some aunts and uncles. My uncle was of wide girth (fat) but thought he was a muscle man and had an ego the worst narcissist would be proud of. He believed he was god’s gift to the human race. He bullied me physically and verbally. I was a very tiny child when he bruised up my wrists by squeezing them very tight in his beefy hands. He would slap me in the face for no reason, or shove me around and I’d scrape up my limbs on the gravel and he would chuckle. He was a great deal older than me, and the earliest memory I have is the one where he squeezed my wrist and I was only five years old at that time and he was 20. He always had this odd contempt for me, for no reason. He favored certain nieces and nephews but abused others. When he would be abusing me, he had this creepy look I can only imagine is the same look a sadist gives their victims as they are hurting them. He enjoyed it. It is sick. Others, like one of my aunts, would use verbal abuse and other bullying/intimidating tactics to harm me as a child. She too was way older than me, older than my uncle, and so she would know better too, and really, when it comes to bullying, sorry but there is no excuse. When you belong to a religion that claims to be the truth and ‘the one true religion” there is NO EXCUSE. I truly believe this religion attracts and builds up abusers and narcissists’. I really, really do. In all the years I was subjected to this religion I’ve never seen any one genuine, nice, positive thing about it. I can honestly say I missed out on a normal, good childhood. I missed out on friends. I missed out on life. I was forced to be around people like this all my life. I mourn for the children who are currently growing up around this. It is all kept hush hush and the victims are always told not to do anything or say anything to anyone, it is ignored and they pretend like it does not happen, even though it absolutely does. I was never taught to stand up for myself and I never really saw anyone stand up for me, because this type of behavior is so normal in that religion that when a victim speaks up the JWs are shocked you have an issue with it. I’m not joking. My mother forced me to be around these bullies 24/7, in spite of the fact that she knew of the abuse and how it was affecting me. I was just forced to endure it, without any support or coping skills.

    • I experienced constant judgement and criticism.
      I feel now that either I didn’t develop the proper social skills because of being born in the cult and not many young people in the hall I was always around older people. Or maybe I have a mild case of Aspergers. I’m dying to know and to understand myself better.
      I’m very sorry for what you went through. I had one girl that used to push me for fun as we would walk/talk, when I was about 11 she was 13. She’d also love to dig her nails into my wrists and twist my skin. I never knew when she’d be my friend or turn on me. But the most heart wrenching experiences were that I’d have a couple different groups of witness girl friends over the years, say age 13-17 and then they’d decide I wasn’t good enough and ditch me and not hang around me anymore. I clearly wasn’t fitting their standard but I never really got an explanation. I always wondered what I did wrong. Believe it or not the pain is still there from the loss of these bonds I began to form that ripped away in a years time or less. (These were kids from neighboring halls or circuits)

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