Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

The Confusing, Confounding, and Conflicting Core Teachings of the Watchtower, As Explained By a Former Elder

I have written about various aspects of life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, drawing on over 30 years of experience.  I spent close to ten years serving as an elder, including time serving as the secretary of the body, and the coordinator of the body.

I was young when I held these positions, but they afforded me a chance to see the organization in a way that most Jehovah’s Witnesses never will.  I also spent a week at Patterson Bethel (one of the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses) in their elder school.  That school was basically a one-time session to train, or perhaps retrain, the elders to better tow the organizational line in their congregation.

My overall experience certainly contributes to my ability to distill the teachings of the Watchtower down to their bare minimum, which is what I will here attempt to do.  Fortunately, this is a very simple task.

The Real Teaching of the Watchtower

The true core teachings of the Watchtower are extremely simple.  At the heart of Watchtower theology is as follows:

The Watchtower organization was selected by God to represent him on earth, and to restore true Christianity. In the days of Charles T. Russell, it was literally Russell himself who was God’s spokesman, or mouthpiece as he put it.

Charles Taze Russell

After Russell’s death, the individual that usurped his empire needed a way to have legitimacy in the eyes of the followers.  To accomplish this, he gradually replaced Russell’s leadership with that of the organization, using a foundation already laid by Russell himself.  In reality, at the time it was none other than that usurper, Joseph Rutherford, who called all the shots in the organization.

After Rutherford successfully made the organization “God’s organization,” he also successfully paved the way for the organization to basically become God to Jehovah’s Witnesses.  You will, of course, never find this in print.  However, you will find repeated calls for loyalty to God’s organization, and the faithful and discreet slave – a title used by the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Disloyalty to God’s organization, that is, the Watchtower, or to the governing body, is the same as being disloyal to God, according to Watchtower literature.

“He [Jesus] told them that during that climactic time, his “faithful and discreet slave” would represent him on earth, giving his servants the timely spiritual nourishment they needed.” (March 15, 2015, Watchtower)

Thus, the true central doctrine of the Watchtower is that they are God’s organization, and are to be treated as if God himself is using them and speaking through them.  Processing Watchtower literature with this information helps to understand the rest of the teachings.

It Doesn’t Stop There

Other core teaching that support the central doctrine are also equally simple.  At the heart of all Watchtower teachings is the following message:  You must engage in endless Watchtower activities if you are to have salvation.  Further, everyone that is not following the Watchtower by becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is doomed to destruction at Armageddon.  People that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses are inherently evil due to the fact that the whole world is under the power of Satan.

All Watchtower teaching basically stem from this premise.  If you were to read Watchtower literature, or attend meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the counsel you would hear repeated endlessly is as follows:  To be close to Jehovah God, you MUST study the Bible under the direction of Watchtower literature, you MUST attend all the meetings, you MUST preach Watchtower doctrine door to door regularly every month, you MUST meditate on how Watchtower literature teaches you to be close to God, you MUST pray to Jehovah, and you MUST use the name Jehovah if your worship is to be acceptable.  You MUST keep yourself separate from people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses since their only goal in life is to make sure you don’t serve God.  This includes family members.  Also, Armageddon is coming soon, so if you don’t do what the Watchtower says, you will then be destroyed.

Distilled down to its most basic form, the teachings of the Watchtower may actually seem unrecognizable as the message preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  However, all the flowery speech, all the logical fallacies/propaganda, all the fear and guilt tactics used basically convey this message.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you have any sort of problem in your life and want advice, you either do research in the Watchtower literature or you ask the elders.  I was “the elders”, and I did the research.  Every time I helped someone, I began to realize that the answer to their problems was always to do more study, engage in more field service, attend more meetings and participate in them, study more Watchtower literature, and pray more.

Is your problem a bad marriage?  Follow the advice I just mentioned.  Rebellious child in the family?  Same thing.  Are you depressed?  Same thing.  Just lost your job and you are worried about supporting your family?  Same advice.  Did someone you loved just die?  Same advice.  Did you just commit a sin?  Same advice.  Did you just see Elvis?  Same advice.  You get the picture.

Everything Else Falls in Line

Outside of these core teachings, everything else is almost irrelevant.  The Watchtower utilizes whatever devices they see fit to give legitimacy to their central claim to being God’s organization.  After that claim is accepted, the above mentioned core teachings will dictate the life of the indoctrinated Jehovah’s Witness.

An example of these ancillary teachings is the doctrine that Christ returned in 1914.¹  When taken at face value, the explanation of why Christ returned in 1914 is a giant leap of faith at the very best, and useless drivel at the worst.

To arrive at 1914 as the date of Christ’s return, you first need to assume that when Jesus himself said that “nobody but the father knows the day or the hour,” (Mark 13:32) that he was basically lying or was ill-informed, since the formula to figure it out is right there in the Bible.  Once you’ve accepted that Christ is a liar or a fool, you then need to come up with a hidden calculation that would not be revealed until the time was ready.  God loves that cloak and dagger secrecy, after all.  Of course the Watchtower technically teaches that nobody knows the day or hour of “Armageddon” but the Father, but they have said multiple times that it would be reasonable to assume Jesus knows since it is so close.

The next step to figure the puzzle that God put into the Bible is to realize that the story of the “seven times” in Daniel 4 was not an account about Nebuchadnezzar, and verse 33 is wrong when it says “At this moment the word was fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar.”  Those “seven times” were actually prophetic.  So again, God was just joking when he said “the word was fulfilled.”  God really has a great sense of humor, doesn’t he?  But, what are “seven times,” and how does that get us to 1914?

To make this work, you need to continue to jump wildly around the Bible, completely disregarding context.  This is a hidden puzzle, right?  Simply go to Ezekiel 4:6, 7 where, in a totally unrelated account, the formula is used that the prophet will do something “a day for a year.”  So, despite the fact that the Bible itself does not tell us what a “time” is, it obviously must be a version of a lunar year, which the Watchtower randomly calls 360 days.  Using the formula from Ezekiel and assuming that a day equals a year, you multiply 360 days by 7, and that becomes years – 2,520 to be exact.²

So when did this seven times start?  Well, obviously from the time that Jerusalem was destroyed, since that event represented God’s rulership on earth.  But, here is the problem.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 586/587 CE.  This information comes from the dating of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar using tens of thousands of clay tablets from the actual time of the Neo-Babylonian kings.  Some of the tablets contained astronomical observations, along with the month and year of the reigning king.  Using the astronomical observations, we can pinpoint the year, month and day, plus or minus a few days that those events actually happened, relative to our time.  All evidence says Jerusalem fell in 586/587 B.C.E.

However, the Watchtower needs it to be 607 B.C.E.  Thus, to them, Satan is blinding the minds of the entire world to the truth of the matter.  If you doubt my explanation, please research Neo-Babylonian history, and read the Watchtower’s “Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy” book, specifically pages 94-97 paragraphs 24-29 in chapter 6.

capture-mathThe whole 1914 dogma is another embarrassing central-though-ancillary doctrine taught by the Watchtower.  If Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to think, seeing through the foolishness used to support that teaching would be simple.  However, they are repeatedly admonished that independent thinking basically leads to following Satan.  Why would you think for yourself if it led to devil worship?

This stripped down version of Watchtower teaching is the true heart of the group’s dogma.  The brief discussion of the 1914 dogma demonstrates how foolish it is.  The Watchtower repeatedly admonishes Jehovah’s Witnesses to be loyal to the governing body.  They are scared to death that the rank and file will see the man behind the curtain and will just leave.

If being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses were as benign as believing in the tooth fairy, I would hardly waste my time exposing them.  The reality is that belief in the teaching of the Watchtower leads to people throwing away their life by doing things they really don’t want to do.  It leads to families being torn apart.  It leads to people dying from refusal of some forms of medical treatment.  It leads to abuse, unhappiness, and misery.  The Watchtower also teaches Jehovah’s Witnesses to view non-Jehovah’s Witnesses as inferior, similar to the impact of a racist view point.   This is what the Watchtower really teaches, coming from a former elder and coordinator of the body of elders, and more importantly, coming from their own literature.

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¹March 1, 2004, Watchtower, pages 13-18, “In 1914, Jesus was enthroned as King, and soon it was time to inspect that “slave.””

²September 1, 2007, Watchtower, page 20, “How long were the “seven times”? All the changes that took place in the appearance of King Nebuchadnezzar required that the “seven times” be of a far longer duration than seven literal days. In his case, these times meant seven years of360 days each, or 2,520 days. In the greater fulfillment, the “seven times” are 2,520 years. (Ezekiel 4:6, 7) They began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and ended with the enthronement of Jesus as heavenly King in 1914 C.E.—Luke 21:24.”

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