Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

Kingdom Hall or Prison Chapel? You Be the Judge!

In the post, Conventions, Kingdom Halls, Relief Funds, and Other Financial Scams and Schemes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I note how Jehovah’s Witnesses brag that they don’t pass a collection plate during their meetings, but this doesn’t stop the religion’s leaders from raking in the cash! The conventions, literature, and videos offered by Jehovah’s Witnesses all contain consistent pleas for donations, which their followers readily supply.

Another way the religion earns money is through property flipping; volunteers build their Kingdom Halls, convention centers, and other structures, which are then often sold for a hefty profit that goes back to the religion’s headquarters. Don’t underestimate the value of the Watchtower’s portfolio of properties; a recent court case in California revealed that the religion has $1.3 billion in real property alone, and that was probably just for the United States, not for overseas holdings. (See this post for a copy of that court document.)

As I bring out in that post above, Watchtower has actually been working very hard to make their property flipping easier, designing new Kingdom Halls to resemble a bank or small office than any type of church. This is a mock-up from the video they posted on their site:

New Kingdom Halls with this design are already being constructed; this one was spotted in New Jersey, USA:

I was also just recently sent a picture of a Kingdom Hall from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, USA, which is also very businesslike:

You can see how easily the religion might flip these properties, as these buildings could quickly be converted into any number of generic businesses; this Kingdom Hall above doesn’t even have an elevated stage, which is commonly found in other Halls.

While the amount of profit that the religion earns from such property sales is important to consider, I also noticed something else in these photos, and that’s just how cold and impersonal these buildings are, both inside and out. Keeping buildings this generic might be part of flipping the properties for a quick sale; the less personalized a building, the easier it is for a potential buyer to imagine their own business in the space, with fewer needed changes and fit-outs.

The greed of the Watchtower Corporation in building these so-called places of worship with the idea of how much profit they can get from them is bad enough, but this also betrays a horrific attitude the religion has toward its members. How so?

When you’re planning on staying at a home or apartment for any length of time, you make it your own. You put artwork on the walls, add plants, hang curtains, and soften the exterior with landscaping and flowers. This is done so that you feel relaxed, welcomed, and comfortable in your own space.

Businesses even do the same; they’ll paint a building the colors of their logo, add signs with their slogan everywhere, bring in plants and landscaping, and customize the interior, so the staff feels comfortable while working.

Churches will also enrich their buildings, inside and out, with stained glass artwork, thick columns and heavy wood doors, artwork painted on the walls, and stunning light fixtures. These features and details all create a hospitable environment that makes attendees feel welcomed, comfortable, and appreciated.

Yet, you see none of that, inside or outside of these Kingdom Halls. There is little to no landscaping or color outside the buildings, and nothing personable, attractive, or welcoming about their interiors.

The more I stared at these pictures, the more I realized that these new Kingdom Halls actually look more like prison chapels than real churches:

Local prison chapel.

A chapel in a prison is usually very basic and cheap, but not just because of the prison’s limited budget. This space is impersonal because the people sitting in those chapels are criminals, not respected members of society. Prisoners are, quite literally, just numbers to their caretakers, so their individual comfort, emotional health, and feelings in general are not important to the wardens. Prison administrators feel no obligation to make a chapel any more cozy and personal than the prison itself, because they think so little of the people sitting inside.

Lacking care for the feelings of their congregants was always a trademark of the religion when I was in; a woman was expected to stay with an abusive husband, even being blamed for her abuse, no matter her feelings or the feelings of the children in the home. My own mother was outright suicidal, in and out of mental treatment centers, and I obviously had issues dealing with my stepfather’s temper and my mother’s own treatment of me, but elders were still angrily insistent that she stay, and even yelled and bellowed at her and I when the subject was ever brought up. Our feelings were nonexistent throughout my entire childhood.

The religion also makes incessant demands on its congregants, for them to preach and recruit, with little regard for their physical health or mental and emotional makeup, which often makes this work very difficult for them. Doing more of this difficult preaching is even recommended for those who are feeling depressed or anxious, as if it would help them, when it often makes their feelings even worse!

As I bring out in this post, a video to be shown at the 2018 regional conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses included a skit of a congregation being split into two, and of families being sent to different congregations, including an elderly woman being separated from her children and grandchildren. As I mentioned in that post, splitting up families this way is cruel and negligent, but the elders made this decision, and so many decisions like it, without ever consulting with congregants about their feelings, and expecting those congregants to just blindly obey, no matter what.

This lack of personal warmth or concern for their congregants is demonstrated right down to the decor of their Kingdom Halls. There is nothing to make their members or visitors feel invited, welcomed, relaxed, and cared for in these buildings. Everything is stripped bare and utilitarian, merely functional, ready to serve the religion and not the congregants, much like how everyday rank-and-file members are meant to serve and recruit for the religion, and not the other way around. A prison chapel is not such a poor description of their buildings after all.

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