Jehovah's Witnesses and The Chosen Path of Ignorance
"Ignorance is not innocence ... but sin." - Robert Browning
I am often asked to share what shocks me the most about Jehovah's Witnesses. After 40+ years within the 'organization,' my answer is always the same: the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses know nothing about their 'religion,' the Bible, their own literature, nor their own 'organization.'
For many outside Jehovah's Witnesses, they may seem like a small thing. After all, people join organizations all the time without any knowledge of it's history or inner workings. However, it's important to note that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society claims to be home to God's one and only 'faithful slave' here on earth. They alone have 'the truth' and they alone dispense it to the entire planet. They openly claim that being associated with the Watchtower Society is a matter of life and death!
With life and death in the balance, one would expect each and every Jehovah's Witness to take the matter of being educated on their faith, the history of their religion, as well as the Bible itself, to be the paramount responsibility in their lives. The lives of every person on the planet, including their families, DEPENDS on them sharing this 'life giving' knowledge to every person they meet. Surely, a Jehovah's Witness would know all the facts before they shared this information with others, right?
The Bible itself states:
"... do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?" - Romans 2:21
To emphasize the importance, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses make the following bold claim:
"In the New World society of Jehovah's witnesses you find people from all walks of life, many of whom lack diplomas from mans centers of learning; yet these people know the Bible, they are teachers. They accept with eagerness the obligation of teaching others Gods Word." - Watchtower 1962 Sep 1 p.530 par. 22
Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth.
After reading the above comment or one of the thousands of bold claims to be God's only 'true' organization, a person would expect that they could approach any one of the 7,965,954 members in 239 lands around the world requesting information that may save their life! Certainly someone that had been a Witness for several decades could supply life saving answers to any question someone may have, right?
You would expect that every person that was baptized and made a dedication to the religion (or ANYTHING for that matter), would have taken painstaking measures to know everything possible before committing their lives to the organization. They would have studied the Bible, the history of the organization.
You would be wrong again.
To illustrate: Imagine telling people you were a doctor and able to save lives. The problem: you've never even read the manual. You have never been to medical school, nor have you ever had any hands on training. Would you trust your child to such a 'doctor?' It's absurd. Nonetheless, Jehovah's Witness publishers claim to have life giving knowledge to share. This all depends on them taking in knowledge themselves! Most are entirely too lazy to research anything for themselves.
To say it's ironic is an understatement. Many wouldn't dream of missing their favorite TV show or spending time in a hobby.... but will go their entire lives serving this organization or claiming to serve it.... without ever putting in the effort to know the organization's history, basic doctrines or changes in leadership. They will give up some of life's greatest joys such as children, college, holidays... without any understanding as to why; instead leaning on the same canned response over and over again: 'the Society says so.'
But more importantly, people seem to think ignorance is 'okay.' As noted above, chosen ignorance is not innocence.....it is sin.
Choosing a Path of Ignorance
"Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
― Thomas Edison
While I was shocked at the lack of knowledge among my fellow worshipers, I was even more shocked by the gross lack of effort to obtain knowledge and truth. This became especially true once I left Jehovah's Witnesses.
Despite being told they hold the key to saving humanity...to saving children, to the promise of eternal life, to the end of misery....
..... they embrace a path of chosen ignorance.
Despite all the proof being at their fingertips, on their personal bookshelves, on their CD Rom libraries... Jehovah's Witnesses, considered both 'strong' and 'weak' won't seek the truth. They choose to bury their heads in sand.... despite claiming their very lives depend on knowing the truth.
It would be reasonable to expect that once you have brought some of these painful facts regarding the religions history or gross disobedience of Bible principles to their attention...that they would react like Josiah, tearing their clothes apart. Well....that may be a little dramatic. However, you would expect that a person so 'dedicated to God' would run home and make every effort to unearth the truth. To study... to do whatever it takes to find out the truth of the matter.
Shockingly, most do not. It is much easier on their current life to ignore the facts and continue blindly following something that is obviously wrong.
For decades of my life I too had just accepted what I heard at a Kingdom Hall or was passed down to me by a fellow worshiper. It wasn't until I was a congregation elder that I began to wonder why 'we' so blatantly disobeyed the basics of Christ's example. There were many times that I wished I could be like my peers, sticking my head in the sand and just moving on. But I couldn't do it.
For many years, I dismissed the fact that so many I shared 'worship' with truly had zero knowledge of what they believed in. I even learned to dismiss it in my fellow congregation elders....telling myself that these men just weren't 'student' types, but offered other gifts. Keep in mind, that men that serve as elders literally deal with life and death matters at times. Everything from blood transfusions, to molestation. Nonetheless, few I ever knew could quote basic Bible scriptures, much less counsel someone with such life altering problems.
To this day, many of those I love dearly continue to put no effort into fully understanding a religion they dedicated their lives to. Unknowingly, (this in itself is so ironic) Jehovah's Witnesses stand up at a circuit or district assembly and pledge allegiance to an organization. They are required to answer 'yes' to the following question before they are immersed in baptism:
"Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism." Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
You will note that this is not found anywhere in the Scriptures. But even more damning is that nearly every person answering 'yes' to this questions...often in front of thousands... knows almost nothing about Jehovah's Witnesses.
People who have been baptized Witnesses for decades are literally stumped if you ask them basic questions about their organization. The same is true of the Bible, doctrines of the Governing Body or Watchtower history. They will sing songs from their Kingdom Melodies songbook at meetings...songs with lyrics that talk about living or dying for their faith....without even knowing what their faith includes.
Why? How do good people with an honest desire to know and please God fall into a path of chosen ignorance?
Laziness and Fear - The Perfect Formula for Ignorance
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato
Ignorance feels a lot better than fear.
The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society feeds it's members a very steady dose of fear. To question the 'faithful and discreet slave (recently changed after decades to be the Governing Body alone) is a one way ticket out of the organization...and a lifetime of shunning from friends and family.
Any person who actually makes an effort to think and question something from the organization, is at the least labeled weak, at the worst, labeled an "apostate." To give the reader an idea of how an apostate is viewed, look no further than the Watchtower magazine:
"True Christians share Jehovah's feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they "feel a loathing" toward those who have made themselves God's enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance." - Watchtower, November 1st, 1993, page 19
"Satan was the first creature to turn apostate. Modern-day apostates display characteristics similar to those of the Devil. Their mind may be poisoned by a critical attitude toward individuals in the congregations, Christian elders, or the Governing Body. Some apostates oppose the use of the divine name, Jehovah. They are not interested in learning about Jehovah or in serving him. Like their father, Satan, apostates target people of integrity." - Examining the Scriptures Daily, August 18, 2011
To even question the writers of the Watchtower magazine makes you a Son of Satan. The effect of such non-stop fear mongering is millions of people who wouldn't dare allow themselves to think or do research into whether a matter or new doctrine is true. Of course, this alone shows that choosing a path of ignorance on ANY comment regarding God, His Word or any organization he claims to support... is an act of disobedience! Choosing ignorance based on fear isn't acceptable according to the Bible:
"Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired statement, but test the inspired statements* to see whether they originate with God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" - 1 John 4:1
Fear of shunning; of a life absent of love from family and friends, causes many to languish in a life of ignorance.
"Nothing sways the stupid more than arguments they can't understand." - Cardinal de Retz
While many outsiders would understand how fear could affect a person, it's much more difficult to understand how a person could fall victim to it's partner: Laziness.
While laziness is a part of human nature, it has no place in matters of 'life and death.' Thousands of Witnesses have refused blood transfusions or cling to matters of 'neutrality' in politics...leading to their deaths. Every Witness would tell you that their faith is the most important part of their life. NOTHING is more important than being a loyal Jehovah's Witness.
However, they will spend more time setting their DVR for a TV show then studying their faith. They simply wrap themselves in the 'security blanket' of weekly meetings in order to feel educated. These meetings include Watchtower literature with predetermined questions that each person in the audience underlines and parrot's the answer back to the person on stage. Very few put out anymore effort than that.
Nowhere is this more evident then in their recent change to their foundation doctrine on 'generations.' For decades, Jehovah's Witnesses have gone to millions of people's doors to tell them that the generation that saw 1914 would not pass away before the world came to an end. Their message was "become a Jehovah's Witness or risk death!" You may have noted that it is now 2014 and that 'generation' is in fact 100 years old....or....likely very dead. Shockingly, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses now accept the Governing Body's explanation that Jesus meant 'overlapping generations.' Aside from that absurdity of that message, as well as millions just accepting it, very few Witnesses will put any effort into studying it!! Even more ironic is the fact that many within the religion couldn't explain the basics of the original doctrine they themselves were preaching to people!
While this recent change caused some to raise their eyebrows, those same people make no effort to look into the long history of failure this organization has been preaching. Even if mentioned to them, you're likely to get a "yeah, I need to look that up" response... about something they claim to mean life or death for them and everyone they know. They then walk away and forget the entire conversation.
What are the implications of caving to fear and laziness? What is the result of choosing to be ignorant?
No Effort is Still Sin
"Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance." - W. Clement Stone
Despite caving into fear and laziness, a Jehovah's Witness cannot change the truth.
You will often here a loyal Witness saying 'the light gets brighter' or 'we are making adjustments' as if truth somehow changes and morphs into something new. Truth doesn't change because you want it to or need it to.... it continues on as truth.
The Watchtower Society and the Governing Body have consistently failed in their predictions since the late 1800's. Coupled with their ever changing doctrines on everything from blood to college to who the 'faithful slave' is (it's a parable people)... you have a long line of proof that they are no different from any other religion or cult. Clearly, they continue to use the tools of confusion and a heavy hand of authority, to keep Jehovah's Witnesses in line.
The fact that millions would rather be associated with them, despite understanding, disbelief or ignoring the facts.... isn't going to change the truth: They are men abusing power in the name of God.
For those that continue to hold the Bible dear, you will find that choosing ignorance is not choosing innocence. It's like looking the other way when you hear a woman scream 'rape'... we each have a responsibility. To ignore the facts is in itself an attitude... and a sin.
However, the most significant sign that should drive a Jehovah's Witness to reevaluate is the their lack of personal happiness. The Watchtower Society has long put to print that her people are the 'happiest people on earth.'
"In fact, as a group, they are the most privileged, the most successful, and by far the happiest group on earth today, as you will see in the next article." - Watchtower, March 1st, 1989 page 3
Aside from the absurdity and arrogance of such a statement, it isn't true. If ignorance is truly bliss, it isn't evident among Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, there are just as many problems, challenges and pain among Jehovah's Witnesses as any other organization.
There is simply no better way to say it then the words of Robert Browning:
"Ignorance is not innocence ... but sin."
It is my sincere hope that the many honest hearted, kind people among Jehovah's Witnesses will some day crash through the barriers of fear and laziness to discover the truth about their organization. In the meantime, be assured that there are many who were once very dedicated to the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society that have freed themselves from such painful 'shackles' to find happy, fulfilling lives. Choosing ignorance is still just that... a choice.
About the Author
Darrin Hart was a Jehovah's Witness for over 40 years, 16 of them as an appointed elder and ministerial servant. He is the author of Leaving Jehovah's Witnesses - Practical Thoughts To Help You Survive and Thrive. For more information, visit: