Fascism: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses may not seem to fit this definition of fascism, and may not readily resemble known fascist governments, such as Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany.
However, while researching the subject of fascism for another matter, I came across an article on Live Science, titled “What is Fascism?” This article quoted Robert Paxton, “a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York who is widely considered the father of fascism studies.”
According to this article, in 1998, Paxton published an essay, “The Five Stages of Fascism,” in the Journal of Modern Medicine, and noted seven feelings that work as “mobilizing passions” for fascism:
“1. The primacy of the group. Supporting the group feels more important than maintaining either individual or universal rights.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly told to be cautious of behavior that would “bring reproach on the congregation,” even if it means giving up their own individual rights. For example, the November, 2016, Watchtower simplified edition, pp. 12-13, paragraph 9, says, “At times, peace among spiritual brothers has been disrupted because a failed business venture led to loss of money and perhaps to accusations of fraud. Some have taken their brothers to court, but God’s own Book helps us to see that it is better to suffer loss than to bring reproach on God’s name or disturb the peace of the congregation.”
Also, as I bring out in this post, women who are victims of domestic violence are encouraged to put up with this violence, in the hopes of recruiting their abusive husbands to the religion.
Additionally, children are strongly encouraged to forego higher education in exchange for time spent in the religion’s activities. The October 15, 2013, Watchtower simplified edition, p. 12, says, “…much of today’s higher education does not leave much time for a servant of God to meditate on God’s Word and to serve Jehovah.”
“2. Believing that one’s group is a victim. This justifies any behavior against the group’s enemies.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are consistently told that they are under attack by Satan himself, and that Satan uses many methods or outlets for his attacks; the May 15, 2015, Watchtower simplified edition, pp. 3-8, claims that Satan “controls the whole world,” and that he uses “false religion” to attack Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In this post, I bring out how Jehovah’s Witnesses have also likened those outside their religion to “pests” who need exterminating, justifying their belief that god will soon step in and destroy everyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“3. The belief that individualism and liberalism enable dangerous decadence and have a negative effect on the group.”
Independent thinking or behavior are seen as a hazards in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses; the July 15, 2006, Watchtower, p. 22, says, “In modern times, a very small number among God’s people have become disgruntled with some aspect of Christian teaching and have murmured against the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization. … Pride may play a role, and some fall into the trap of independent thinking.”
The January 1, 2006, Watchtower, pp. 28-29, says, “When it comes to pure worship, it is vital that we look to Jehovah for direction and cooperate with ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ and the congregation elders. That is a way to seek righteousness, and it protects us from developing an independent spirit.”
“4. A strong sense of community or brotherhood. This brotherhood’s ‘unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.'”
Jehovah’s Witnesses outright refer to their religion as a brotherhood; from the April, 2018, Watchtower, p. 19, “Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gives encouragement to Bethel family members, to special full-time field workers, and indeed, to the entire international brotherhood of true Christians.” The January, 2018, Watchtower simplified edition, p. 19, says, “…as soon as we watch the various programs on JW Broadcasting, we remember that we are part of an international brotherhood.”
The unity of this brotherhood is also often emphasized; the August, 2017, Watchtower study edition says, “You get to experience our worldwide brotherhood and see its miraculous unity firsthand.” The April, 2016, Watchtower, p. 20, says, “When we attend a meeting, we contribute to the unity of our brotherhood.”
The “common conviction” that is shared among Jehovah’s Witnesses is to further the interests of the religion; this is even described as their purpose in life. The October 1, 2007, Watchtower, pp. 18-19, says, “Only God’s Kingdom will have complete success in solving mankind’s problems. Working to advance the interests of God’s Kingdom is thus the most purposeful endeavor anyone can pursue. (John 4:34) While we engage in that work, we enjoy a blessed relationship with our heavenly Father. We also have the joy of serving alongside millions of spiritual brothers and sisters, who pursue the same purpose in life.”
“5. Individual self-esteem is tied up in the grandeur of the group. Paxton called this an ‘enhanced sense of identity and belonging.'”
The February 15, 2015, Watchtower, pp. 12-13, says, “To fight spiritual apathy, Christians need to have a clear view of who they are, and they must take reasonable pride in their distinct identity. As servants of Jehovah and disciples of Christ, we can find in the Bible descriptions of who we are. We are “witnesses” of Jehovah, “God’s fellow workers,” as we actively share the “good news” with others.”
The February 15, 2005, Watchtower contains an entire article titled, “Safeguarding Our Christian Identity.” The article noted that the Christian identity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was made up of their activities and their “Christian heritage,” and that they “have the privilege of being personally recognized by Jehovah.”
“6. Extreme support of a ‘natural’ leader, who is always male. This results in one man taking on the role of national savior.”
The religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses is actually led by a small group, called a governing body, the members of which are always men. This group refers to themselves as the “faithful and discreet slave,” and demands strict obedience to their instructions and interpretations of the bible, even associating that obedience with a person’s salvation.
“Anointed Christians and those of the great crowd show that they are ready by obeying what Jehovah teaches through the faithful and discreet slave.”
September 15, 2012, Watchtower simplified edition, pp. 25-26
The February, 2017, Watchtower simplified edition contains an entire article regarding this group, titled “Who Is Leading God’s People Today?” The article states that angels assist the governing body, that they are directed by holy spirit, and that Christians need to obey this governing body today.
“7. ‘The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle,’ Paxton wrote. The idea of a naturally superior group or, especially in Hitler’s case, biological racism, fits into a fascist interpretation of Darwinism.”
Biological racism is the belief that science somehow proves that some races are superior to others in intelligence, moral characteristics, and so on. This thinking was promoted by Hitler’s teachings that whites, and especially Germans, were a “master race.”
A fascist government might apply both these areas of thinking; they believe they are superior to others in intelligence or morality, and this supposed superiority then allows, or even obligates, them to conquer other races. They then feel justified in exterminating or somehow subjugating another race; this thinking is what allowed the Nazi regime to imprison or exterminate Jews, gypsies, and others, and was applied in the United States in order to justify the genocide of Native Americans and the owning of blacks as slaves.
It’s vitally important to note that Jehovah’s Witnesses today do not endorse racism of any sort, although early writings from the religion did include significant prejudice against black persons and those of mixed races (see this site for information and quotes from Watchtower literature). They also do not believe that they will be involved in some type of “holy war,” where they as individuals will need to personally kill anyone else.
That being said, Jehovah’s Witnesses do firmly believe that god is going to step in, any day now, and literally slaughter every single person on the planet who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so that they alone can then reside on the planet and enjoy a paradise earth. The religion teaches that this extermination will be violent and horrific for non-Jehovah’s Witnesses, such as in the illustrations used in their literature.
Jehovah’s Witness governing body member Anthony Morris even described this upcoming doomsday as being “numbing” for the Witnesses who would see it, and graphically likened what would happen to the atrocities he saw during the Vietnam War:
As mentioned above, Jehovah’s Witnesses think of people on the earth as pests, as lowly cockroaches that need exterminating, in order to justify this thinking that they are morally superior, and that those outside their religion deserve death.
While this is obviously very different than a fascist state that outright declares war on a certain race or group of people, the thinking that Jehovah’s Witnesses are morally superior to other people, and that everyone outside their group deserve a horrific, violent death, is the same. While Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that god will do this killing, they actually welcome this horrific act, and wait to build their paradise on the bones and dead bodies of everyone who isn’t in their religion.
While Paxton hits on these seven “mobilizing passions” for fascism, it’s worth noting the fascist control that the governing body has over its members. As I bring out in this post, the governing body forcibly suppresses the information their members can take in, they have complete power over other people’s lives by dictating a long list of reasons for which someone might be ousted from the religion and then shunned by their entire family, and even demand that elders in congregations make decisions based on what they’ve written in Watchtower publications:
Fascism is, in of itself, a type of cult, and cults can often be described as fascist in their thinking and in control of their adherents. While the two are often thought of as being very different, however you dissect their lines of thinking, it seems that Jehovah’s Witnesses easily fit both these descriptions!
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