In which I provide a haven for JWs fleeing Christmas

We just had a visit from a much-loved cousin. Since we last saw her 2 or 3 years ago, as well as getting divorced, she has become a Jehovah’s Witness. The timing of her visit had a lot to do with the school holidays, but I suspect she chose to accept our long-standing invitation at this particular time precisely because she knew our home would be a mainly Christmas-free zone.

Having known a handful of JWs in the past we braced ourselves for being preached at, but as it happens we had some interesting conversations. She admitted to being enlightened about some of the stuff we tried to point out - especially that you can live a fulfilling and ethical life without belief in a supreme being or at least without belonging to a religious institution.

Of course, this could have been tactical - she made a good show of listening and hearing what we were saying, but always responding with “but it says in the bible…”.

She and her fellow JWs are more used to arguing with other Christians than with atheists or agnostics and they are coached or trained to deal with the former. Like her own mother who tells her that the JWs are a man-made religion, as opposed to her (mother’s) religion -evangelical Christianity- which was made by God. My stance was that all religions were made by humans as a way of explaining the inexplicable, blah blah blah, but she said that all the explanations she needed were in the Bible. It always came back to that, which doesn’t work when you are trying to persuade someone who doesn’t consider the bible the word of God, or who doesn’t believe in any god in the first place.

Some of my ignorance and prejudice about JWs was also fought. I learned that they believe that death is the end of life and therefore JWs strive to be good mainly for the sake of being good, as opposed to fear of eternal damnation or the hope of a reward in the afterlife. They do believe in end times, a second coming (of sorts) and mass resurrection of the dead. She denied knowledge of the 161,000 anointed going to heaven though. I think she may have been bluffing in order to avoid going down that road. She also gave the impression that they didn’t believe in everyday divine intervention in the same way as other believers do.

Interesting also to learn why they don’t celebrate birthdays - because according to them the blowing out of candles is an ancient pagan custom symbolising the extinguishing of the evil spirits of the last year. Christmas too is considered pagan in origin and as I understand it they place less emphasis on Jesus Christ compared to other Christian sects.

All in all, and bearing in mind that she is intelligent enough to spin things in such a way that did not repel us, most of their beliefs as such do not sound as whacky as those of some more mainstream religions.

Then, inevitably, we discussed blood transfusions and she went into robot mode giving what must have been stock answers. My husband said that at one point she did look upset when we asked how a parent could let their child die when there was a way of saving their life - she has a daughter the same age as our son.

She also seemed almost entirely her old self - clothing a little more modest, but then again she had put on some weight - but again, I wondered if she was consciously choosing not to be all pious and righteous so as to give us a positive image. She laughed at the same silly jokes and didn’t appear embarrassed by risqué comments, but did make a couple of robotic out-of-character statements on moral issues when they came up in conversation. e.g. prostitution - “how can they sleep with all those men without being in love with them”. Well - duh. Or a similar comment about a woman having sex on the first date in a movie we were watching.

She left us a pile of pamphlets and books and Watchtowers. I’m glad to be of service in that it is one less potential convert on the receiving end, if that makes any sense, but I feel bad about throwing them away. I don’t know how I’ll deal with any follow-up questions from her on her next visit or when we next speak on the phone.

This is mainly MPSIMS because I just wanted to share my mundane observations about what was for me an unusual experience, but I’m going to stray into IMHO territory on the last point - the literature: I have no intention of giving it more than a cursory look - what would Dopers do?:wink:

I had to give the boot to a JW lady and her Watch-tower pamphlets the other day when she showed up at my office. Is this a new thing now, have they started soliciting businesses?

We have JWs who stop in all the time and chat with Pepper Mill. They must realize by now that they haven’t a chance in Heaven of converting her (and if they knew her real personal beliefs, it might freak them out), but I think they like the conversation, the fact that we don’t throw them out, and that their vuisoit to us counts on their quota sheet, or whatever.

I know very few JWs personally, my cousin married one (and converted as a result), but my cousin and his wife are both extremely smart people (I know he recently got his PhD (which I’m extremely jealous of), and I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife had the same).

I used to have a joke in my standup comedy act about JWs (nothing really offensive, mainly about people hiding whenever they ring the bell) and, when they came to see my act once, I figured I’d run the joke past her first. She genuinely found it funny, but said it does disparage her beliefs - she said it in a very reasonable way, so I didn’t mind changing the joke - funny thing is, the new version of the joke has consistently recieved more laughs than the JW version, so I didn’t change it back once they saw my act (as was the original plan).

I need to add that all religious discussions were initiated by us. She would mention being a JW en passant, but appeared to make a point of not being the one who introduced the theme. She also claimed that they are not supposed to be pushy when going door to door, which hasn’t always been my experience.

Whenever I find Watchtowers lying around, usually on the bus, I always find them to be interesting reading. Much, much less disturbing than a lot of the other religious material people leave around.

One thing I find funny is that they always refer to God as “Jehovah God”. Like Jehovah is his first name, and God is his last name. “Hello, I’m Jehovah God.” And he hands you a business card. “Jehovah B. God, Universe Inc., Creation, Miracles and Consulting.” Does he have a middle name? Is there a Mrs. God? Does he always get Jeff God’s mail by mistake?

So why is it they are so mocked and reviled if their beliefs are mostly harmless?

Is it their sect/borderline cult mentality? I always heard that they were encouraged to detach themselves from non-JWs including members of their own family, which our cousin said was not the case.

Is the door-to-door proselytising, the Christmas/Birthday thing, or the prohibition of blood transfusion?

Yes, it is a cult and that’s why they are ridiculed. My wife is a JW. They exhibit more cult like behavior than just the proselytising, christmans/bday and blood stuff. You are to avoid socialising with non-JWs, you are not to pursue a higher education, and more. If you are kicked out for violating one of these mandates, other JWs are to avoid you. Even your own family.

There’s other really dumb things too. They are to say grace before each meal but I couldn’t take my son with me to Thanksgiving dinner with my parents because the holiday is pagan.

They’ve been doing that for awhile. My first job was in a supermarket; this one lady would always try to hand those stupid pamphlets out to cashiers. Most didn’t say anthing, and would through the pamplets away as soon as she left (we did have signs clearly posted at each entrance saying solicitation and/or passing out literature was forbidden, managment actually did enforce that). I wasn’t one of them. Everytime I refused the pamphlet and told her she wasn’t allowed to do that. She’d just smile and often tried to leave one in the bagging area when I wasn’t looking. When I did notice before she left I called out to her, she’d turn, and I tear up the pamphlet as she watched.

I did try every polite thing (short of lying and saying I’ve already accepted Jesus) I could think off to get her to stop. The one thing that worked was when I told her I was Jewish (well great-grandma was). That worked one time. The next time she brought me special pamphlets for Jews :rolleyes:and talked about how the were Jews in her congregation. It was like I was some sort of special project for her. Finally onetime she had her kid with her. He was about 6/7, maybe younger (or older, I suck at judging kids’ ages). He tried to hand me a pamphlet while Mommy smiled on. I said “No, thank you. I don’t want one.” He said “Why mister? Don’t you want Jesus to love you?” I said “No”. He was confused and asked why. “Because he’s not real, he’s make believe like God or Santa or the Tooth Fairy!” I responded. :cool: He started bawling his eyes out and Mom had this shocked and horrified look on her face. She turned pale, very pale, and hurried out of the store. I never saw her set foot in there again.

Wow. In that light, I’m beginning to wonder whether her main motivation in visiting us was to proselytise after all. When I picked up the pile of books she gave us there was a rather manic note from her between the pages full of advice on what sort of questions the materials would answer for us.

El Nene, if what you say is true she was presenting us with a toned down, palatable image of the religion. I asked her about higher education as well as the part about not socialising with non-JWs and she flatly denied it. She claimed not to know about the 161,000 anointed, as I mentioned early.
BTW did your wife convert after you were married? Because it must be rare for a JW to marry “out”, isn’t it?

The Resurrection IS a form of Afterlife & JW’s believe that our beliefs & behavior does affect whether we’ll be in the Resurrection or be extinquished in the Gehenna Fire (no Eternal Hell in JW belief. The 144,000 “anointed” class reign in Heaven with Christ while all the rest enjoy Eternity on Paradise Earth (& perhaps travelling through space?). It’s not a secret doctrine. It’s in their basic doctrinal books that are available to anyone.

Jesus is less emphasized in the sense that He is not worshipped as the equal of Jehovah God. He is honored as Lord & Savior & Jehovah’s Only Son.

Why not give it a thorough reading?

This Doper actually enjoys reading their materials. IANAJW, I’m a Trinitarian Christian, and they make some good challenging arguments for different perspectives. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t dismiss them as unworthy of consideration.

Other Dopers MMV, of course.

As with everyone else, YMMV applies to JWs also. There are hardcore ones & easy going one, intelligent ones & ignorant ones, amiable ones & stand-offish ones.

The only reasons to avoid non-JWs or higher education is if they would be likely to draw one away from the faith. There’s no ban on non-JWs or higher ed as such.

Actually, JW is starting to seem more like a normal religion–there are people that are really into it, and people that are just fairly nominal. My aunt used to be the former before 9/11. Heck, she married my uncle, who was as far out of the faith as you could probably get. She used to attend our Christmas gatherings, and actually went to my grandmother’s funeral, despite the prohibition about going to a church service.

Now that 9/11 has come around, she’s become the stereotypical JW, with going out every Thursday, and no longer attending Christmas anything. She can’t even eat over on “the day,” because it might be a Christmas dinner. She’s also getting welfare, as all the places hiring that she’s qualified for* are doing something that’s against her religion, and she’s “not allowed” to work there.

Still, I’m sure there are others who didn’t change so much. I know a guy who willingly dated a girl who was planning to become a (non-JW, obviously) minister. She actually had to break up with him.

*I don’t believe she has her high school diploma.

Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses operate any higher ed institutions of their own? Alot of denominations do.

Well, there is to the Mormons.


I had friends who were officially JW (being minors, they didn’t have much of an option to be anything else or leave home); they had to say they were going to the library in order to meet with friends. Other people would have curfews, have been told not to get shitfaced or “please don’t start smoking”; they had the curfew, the clothes that looked like they were a transplant from the 1940s and the prohibition to make friends with any classmates who weren’t JW. Whether this one came from “up on high”, local leadership or their parents didn’t matter to us. It certainly didn’t help the JW’s chances of converting anybody who knew the brothers, that’s for sure.
I think that, as it often happens with both religious groups and migrants, those who are newly arrived are more likely to be gung-ho than those who were “born there,” so to speak. Since the JW are relatively new (and in some places, very new), they’re more likely to be “gung-ho JW” than “culturally JW.” Evangelists are a pain whether they’re peddling God or MaryJane’s charms.

Either she hasn’t received those memos yet or she was being evasive and toning it down for our benefit. She said there was no hell, but didn’t mention the sinners’ bonfire that awaits me. She denied knowledge of the anointed, although admittedly I did get the number wrong.:rolleyes:

Maybe I should - it’s not exactly as if there’s any danger of it converting me, but it does feel like an insult to the intelligence. At the same time it’s good to have the information for future discussions.

Well, the sinners bonfire isn’t necessarily THAT bad. I get the impression that JWs believe that for most who go into Gehenna Fire, it’ll be a quick flash & over with. Although some truly wicked may linger a bit longer as punishment.

BUT in what I think it the JW’s best kept secret, their idea of the Resurrection/Final Judgment includes a grace period in which most of humanity gets a do-over to finally learn & follow the ways of Jehovah God & Jesus without the hindrances of hypocritical believers, Satanic temptation, worldly lures, etc.
If then, a person chooses to rebel against Jehovah’s commands, they’re toast & have no further hope of resurrection.

I’m sure they’ve got more than 144,000 people enlisted by now. Why keep recruiting?

The rest of them get the eternal earthly paradise, which is a reasonable enough consolation prize.

A random observation.

Take 161,000. Divide by 25,000. The result is dangerously close to the value of 2 PI. They may be onto something here.