Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jehova[h]'s Witnesses and a Bumper Sticker Get Me Thinking

I was just wearing my running shorts when the doorbell rang. It's warm in Anchorage now. An attractive blond Jehovah Witness with another woman and a young girl were at the door. She read me a passage from her bible and asked if I'd ever worried all the terrible problems on earth? I said no. She said something about the truth of God's word and I should read the bible. I asked if she'd ever read the Koran. She said she has the Truth in the bible. I said that Muslims said the same thing about the Koran. She said she understood that people could get to God through different paths and she was tolerant of that. But, I responded, you claim your bible to be the the only true bible, so you are actually saying the Koran is wrong. She continued smiling nicely - she had really good teeth - and asked if she could leave something with me. So now I have this booklet. She may come back to see if I have further questions.

So here's the cover of the booklet I got.

(I found the Black version of the picture when I went online for the booklet.)


Then, when I went for my run, I passed this bumper sticker. Apparently God gives directions, but doesn't wash cars.



The booklet has a simple progression through an explanation of the future perfect world that is coming and why, if God can give us this perfect world, he didn't do that from the beginning.

In answer to question 1, yes God does care. (You can get all the details yourself online, but it doesn't have all the same pictures. I'll get to that.) After mentioning war and ethnic strife including the Holocaust, it tells us:

Thus, many people cannot understand why a good God would allow bad things to happen. They question whether he really cares about us or whether he exists at all. And many of them feel that suffering will always be a part of human existence. [source] [Note: after putting links to each of the separate webpages for each quote, I realized they were all going back to page 1 of the booklet. You have to click the arrows yourself to move along.]

HOWEVER,

millions of people worldwide have a totally different view. They foresee a marvelous future for mankind. They say that right here on earth there will soon be a world completely free from wickedness and suffering. They are confident that what is bad will soon be cleared away and an entirely new world established. They even say that the foundation of this new world is being laid right now!

These people believe that the new world will be free from war, cruelty, crime, injustice, and poverty. It will be a world without sickness, sorrow, tears, and even death. At that time people will grow to perfection and live forever in happiness in an earthly paradise. Why, those who have died will even be resurrected and have the opportunity to live forever! [source]

Cool, right? But why should I believe it?

Is this view of the future just a dream, just wishful thinking? No, not at all. It is founded on a solidly based faith that this incoming Paradise is inevitable. (Hebrews 11:1) Why are they so sure? Because the almighty Creator of the universe has promised it.

They anticipated my next question:

However, if God's purpose was to establish an earthly paradise free from suffering, why did he permit bad things to happen in the first place? Why did he wait six thousand years until now to correct what is wrong? [source]
But is that six thousand years from the beginning of the earth? Oh dear. I guess that's when they think Adam and Eve were created. And since everything was created in a week, I guess that's what that means.

How can we know there's a God? is the longest section. It asks us to:

apply this well-established principle: What is made requires a maker. The more complicated the thing made, the more capable the maker must be.

For example, look around your home. Tables, chairs, desks, beds, pots, pans, plates, and other eating utensils all require a maker, as do walls, floors, and ceilings. Yet, those things are comparatively simple to make. Since simple things require a maker, is it not logical that complex things require an even more intelligent maker? [source]

It then goes on to point out the complexity of a cell and the even greater complexity of the solar system and the earth and, of course, they couldn't simply happen.
It has an atmosphere with just the right mixture of gases so we can breathe and be protected from damaging radiation from space. It also has the vital water and soil needed to grow food.

Without all those factors, and others, working together, life would be impossible. Was all of that an accident? Science News says: "It seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random." No, they could not. They involved purposeful design by a superb Designer. [source]

Fortunately, today we have Google to look up quotes out of context. Since the booklet didn't cite the exact source, I took the quote and googled. One of the hits said it was August 1974, p. 124. Their online editions don't go back that far, but I have access to the UAA library system. So you probably have to give a password for this last link. Actually all Anchorage residents with a library card - and maybe everyone else - through the interlibrary link has such access through Loussac.

Here's what that article says in context:

It rejects handing the question over to theodicy which "justifies the ways of God in the minds of humans." Great phrase there. "But most cosmologists are not willing to take the cop-out route." Ouch! The best quote they could get was one that says their method is a cop-out. But, hey, how many people are going to look this up?

I'll just give you the synopsis from here on. You can read it yourself if you want the details.

So after all this maker stuff - I did have a really good class as an undergraduate student where we covered in excruciating detail what you need to have life, and just before the final it all fell into place for me and I understood how life could have happened without a maker, so I'm not impressed. Some things do happen randomly - like a cloud shaped like a dragon, or a rock that is perfectly round. And evolution, over many, many years, can work to select those qualities that gain an edge on survival. Makers aren't needed for everything.

Anyway, they then ask "So why did God let people suffer all this time?" This answer gets good. See, God gave humans free will because God made humans in his own image and God has free will. But not completely. There are rules. And Adam and Eve (it didn't take long), exercising their free will, violated the rules and lost the perfect life than God had created for them. And God, in his wisdom, realized that with free will, people had to see for themselves. So he waited all this time to make sure they got the message that humans trying to rule themselves really screw it up.

In this 20th century alone, we have seen the systematic murder of millions during the Holocaust and the slaughter of over 100 million in wars. In our time countless numbers of people have been tortured, murdered, and imprisoned because of intolerance and political differences. [source]
And he waited this long to be sure that there would be no doubt. Of course all this was prophesied. 1914 - the beginning of WW I was when the new era began. All predicted. The flu pandemic of the 1920's, AIDS, etc.

It also mentions that humans were not the only rebels. Satan led a band of angels in rebellion too.

So we're already at Part 8 about God's Purpose Moving to Fulfillment.

With all rulership independent of God taken out of the way, God's Kingdom rule over the earth will be complete. And because the Kingdom rules from heaven, it can never be corrupted by humans. Governing power will be where it was in the first place, in heaven, with God. And since God's rule will control all the earth, no longer will anybody be misled by false religions or unsatisfactory human philosophies and political theories. None of those things will be allowed to exist. [source] [I just realized that all these links go to the first page of this booklet and you have to click arrows to move through it on your own.]
Part 10 describes the wondrous new world coming up.

Thus, there will be no more murder, violence, rape, robbery, or any other crime. No one will have to suffer because of the wicked deeds of others.

Will it not be thrilling to wake up each morning and realize that you now enjoy vibrant health? Will it not be gratifying for elderly persons to know that they have been restored to the full vigor of youth and will achieve the perfection that Adam and Eve originally enjoyed? The Bible's promise is: "Let his flesh become fresher than in youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor." (Job 33:25) What a delight it will be to throw away those eyeglasses, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and medicines! Hospitals, doctors, and dentists will never again be needed.

Persons who enjoy such vibrant health will not want to die. And they will not have to, for mankind will no longer be in the grip of inherited imperfection and death.

Whoa. In the reform Jewish High Holy Day services there comes a point when we are asked: "If you were offered the chance of living forever, on the condition that no new babies would be born, who would take it?" I always understood that to mean that there is a cycle to life, and that earth would run out of room if everyone was immortal. So new life would have to end. Maybe I misinterpreted that.

Not only will people not die,
Great will be the joy earth wide when group after group of dead persons come back to life to join their loved ones! No longer will there be obituary columns to bring sadness to the survivors.
You think there's a housing shortage now, wait until that happens. But I'm lacking proper faith in God's ability to provide for us all. Maybe I missed something in Physics when they talked about the expanding universe.

But forget hamburgers and steaks. Everyone will be a vegetarian:

"The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them." Never again will the animals be a threat to man or to themselves. Even "the lion will eat straw just like the bull."
And gourmet straw for people too?

But free will won't be part of this paradise.

Then the destructive ideas of human rule will be replaced by the upbuilding teaching that comes from God. "All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah." (Isaiah 54:13) With this wholesome instruction year after year, "the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea." (Isaiah 11:9) People will no more learn what is bad, but "righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn." (Isaiah 26:9) Upbuilding thoughts and actions will be the order of the day.—Acts 17:31; Philippians 4:8.

Thus, there will be no more murder, violence, rape, robbery, or any other crime. No one will have to suffer because of the wicked deeds of others. Proverbs 10:30 says: "As for the righteous one, to time indefinite he will not be caused to stagger; but as for the wicked ones, they will not keep residing on the earth."

I'm sorry, I'm missing something in the logic. If God is going to rule from Heaven and people will no longer be able to freely choose the wrong path, why didn't he do this in the first place? I know we covered that question above. It was to prove to people that they can't rule as well as God. But why did that have to be proven? If everyone had been living in a blissful paradise from the beginning, everyone would have been happy. OK, there was Satan and the evil angels, but God didn't need to create them and let them loose on earth. They are working hard to answer these questions in this booklet, but it doesn't quite follow right for me. But, if you buy into it the next section tells you how to join up. Go visit your nearest Jehovah's Witness Hall.


So with all this in my head while I was running, I began to think about the kind of religion that starts off by punishing people who choose knowledge. (It was the fruit of the tree of knowledge that got Adam and Eve kicked out of paradise.) Throughout history, those in power have restricted access to information and power. The Chinese created a writing system that required that you have a teacher. Not just to learn phonetics, but to learn every individual character, each of which represent words. While phonetic alphabets were easier, for a long time, only the anointed had access to books. And even today, governments conceal information from the people. We aren't worthy, we can't understand.

But I'm beginning to see at least one source of resentment toward those with knowledge. It's biblical. It was the reason we were cast out of the Garden of Eden in the first place. And questioning, rebelling, are all evil for we should be obedient to the word of God. The Jehovah's Witness booklet tells us that again when it talks about who will be allowed into this paradise:

By choosing God's rule, they qualify to be put on the "right hand" of Christ as he separates "the sheep" from "the goats." In his prophecy about the last days, Jesus foretold: "All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left." The sheep are humble people who associate with and support Christ's brothers, submitting to God's rule. The goats are stubborn people who reject Christ's brothers and do nothing to support God's rule.
My head is spinning. People believe this? Why not? It simply tells those who are unhappy that all they have to do is believe in God's will and they will experience heaven on earth forever. It's like buying a lottery ticket. It's hope. And in this lottery, if the story is true, everyone with a ticket wins. You don't have to think. You just have to follow. And man's thinking, as has been pointed out in the booklet, has led to all our suffering. Man's bad choices have done it all. So just let someone else tell you what to do.

And if you grow up with everyone around you believing this, this is your given. I hope my Witness comes back to check up on me. I've got lots of questions for her now.

22 comments:

  1. I hate when people are disturbed by these religious groups at their homes.

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  2. I think I read that at one time the Roman Catholic Church had the Bible itself put on their "forbidden" books list. They didn't want ordinary people reading it and coming to their own conclusion as to what scripture meant.

    Yes, a "new" world is coming, thanks to the internet. Once people can look at the information themselves, it is more difficult to hand down rules and say "Because I / God said so!"

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  3. P.S. While I very much hope the human community will be able to solve their disagreements without resorting to wars, I very much doubt we will see lions who can survive by eating hay. Well, OK maybe tofu. : )

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  4. The following SUMMARIES OF OVER 1400 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CRIMINAL and CIVIL COURT CASES will provide the BEST and MOST ACCURATE info about Jehovah's Witnesses, their beliefs, and how they ACTUALLY practice such day to day.

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  5. I am always amazed at how people talk about god(s) as if they know him/her inside out. Who are we? We are a species that doesn't even understand the cause of feline oral resorptive lesions. Then how can we know so much about the omnipotent high being(s)? Arrogance.

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  6. Hey, Steve. Seriously, is this what retirement will do to a person? Writing a huge blog on JW visitations? I mean, it's good and all that, it's just... so much said for tract peddlers.

    Gene and I would just tell them we were Satanists (when we were living in a trailer in Spenard) and they always left us alone -- even spread the word with the Mormons and SDA. Their are some good memories...

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  7. Jay, I'm all for diversity, but in a democracy willful ignorance leads to . . . Prevos, Palins, etc. If these people vote, then they aren't just harmless exotic fauna. And if the commenter with the links to the JW court cases is accurate, they're letting their kids die because of their weird interpretation of God's will. I'm just calling people's attention to what these people are selling. I think people should challenge them - by asking questions - when they come to the door. Here are a couple to ask:

    1. Have you read the Koran or works on Buddhism, and other religions? If not, how do you know you're right?

    2. If you have read these other works, can you explain where they are wrong and you are right?

    3. Can you tell me about your schooling? Did you study any science? Biology? Geology?

    4. Why do JW parents let their kids die rather than give them blood transfusions?

    5. Explain to me why scientists' fossil evidence of early humans over 2 million years ago is wrong.

    That's just for starters. I guess, Jay, I want people who meet JW's to realize they are not as sweet and benign as they look. Then I want them to start asking questions of them.

    I understand your question, but I don't see this is as less relevant than a post on Palin. The existence of voters who think as deeply as the JW folks is why we have politicians like Palin.

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  8. This time, I can't resist a reply. Forgive me.

    Steve, I grew up with these tracts. One of the requisites of faith is community. There must be an active recitation of the message to the faithful, the doubters and the the faithless in order to ensure belief's sustenance and growth.

    I think we might agree that America has more fully realized this goal not only through its tradition of god in the marketplace, but by adding late-night cable buys, satellite networks, websites, chat rooms, twitter feeds, private colleges, newsletters, coffee house bible study, phone prayer chains... the list goes on and on. I haven't even got to door-to-door, the method used in your discussion.

    As for me, humorist Jane Walmsley, expresses my contemporary relationship to such public religion: "Britain is probably the most irreligious nation on earth, which many feel is its great attraction."

    I appreciate your insights, but haven't you heard that we can't understand god's ways? (smile) I maintain civility towards chosen ignorance now. The Pew Forum continues to do great research on religion in America and the world.

    While I believe that we will someday live in a more just and compassionate world, just as the JWs do, I know the difference is that while they believe god will provide, I believe we must.

    Good luck on future discussions. Stay well.

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  9. "Apparently God gives directions, but doesn't wash cars" Too funny Steve. The car belongs to my father-in-law. The bumper sticker came with the car. We can't get it off. You should see the strange faces people make when they read that as they pass by in parking lots. DZ

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  10. ...and only 144,000 are going to heaven. How does that work?

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  11. Steve-- they come up to me with their tracts in parking lots in Mat-Su-- no kidding. I must look like I'm lost or need saving. They are not supposed to do that.

    They also go to people's homes and say they want to talk about the environment. (WTH?!!) Very annoying.

    You should see how they treat people who leave their organization. It's pretty universal with everyone. Parents don't talk to their own adult children who leave. They have the art of shunning down pat; I watched it happen with a friend in college when she went Evangelical. (You might ask this girl about what would happen if she left the group. . . )

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  12. the bible says abstain from blood, the bible also says the true believers are persecuted. if the koran is so right, why are they busy killing eachother in the middle east? suicide bombers? which book of the bible requires me to kill? true religion is not to be taken lightly. and if you read the bible it will tell you to keep away from people with no or wrong beliefs. all of you who ask all these questions would know that they practice true religion if you just read the bible. its so easy to say im religious, its another to practice that kind of faith. and no man, woman, or child is perfect. btw, jesus went from one place to another preaching to the masses. do any of you have the courage to talk of god or religion? its easy to get filthy drunk every saturday night and ask for forgiveness on sunday morning. you rircule the witnesses because they won't let you get away with it. im not goin to put chapters and versus in here, if you read the bible, you will know. many of you choose not to believe. god has a name and few know it!

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  13. Anonymous- I share what you believe in the witnesses...I would just like to point out about shunning someone who leaves the organization is a disciplinary action given to the one who did wrong outside God's moral view.It is a way of letting that person repent and to make him/her realize that what he/she did was an attitude unacceptable to God's eyes.But if you show your are repentant then the organization welcomes you back...it's like when you love someone but you know that he's been doing bad and does not listen to you, sometimes we need to teach people a lesson by staying away from them, just to let that person know/realize that if he will continue to do bad, he lose everything from his/her love one.

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  14. Anon July 26 #1:

    I'm not sure who you are addressing.

    "if the koran is so right, why are they busy killing eachother in the middle east?"

    I never said I supported the Koran, I only said that followers of the Koran are as certain that it hold the one truth as JW are. Faith results in different people being certain about different truths. And it was a 'born again Christian" who sent Americans into killing people in the middle east.

    "do any of you have the courage to talk of god or religion?"

    I thought the original post did talk of God and religion.

    "its easy to get filthy drunk every saturday night and ask for forgiveness on sunday morning. you rircule the witnesses because they won't let you get away with it."

    To whom is this addressed? I certainly don't even get mildly drunk on any Saturday night or any other night. So that has nothing to do with my comments. I didn't intend to ridicule witnesses, though I acknowledge that some beliefs - like the world being 6000 years old - are difficult to take seriously given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    I'm sorry if I gave the impression I was ridiculing. That was not my intent, which was to raise questions about beliefs that do not make sense to me.

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  15. well i have yet to meet a scientist who has been around millions of years to verify the age of any scientific claim. and why havent we evolved into anything else? im just saying that machines made by humans will date whatever scientists want dated and for whatever age they want it. when you meet a scientist that can show proof of how old this earth really is that wasnt created by some machine that was created by another scientist-then i want to meet him too.

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  16. i didnt mean to come across so strongly. i opologize for that. most religions(im not saying all)practice one form or another of pagan worship. this may be by simply celebrating a holiday or by taking part in a celebration to honor themselves or another. (cor.6:14-18) some religions or churches say its ok to be gay/lesbian and the bible says otherwise(who do we believe?) if you ask that question, then you need some guidance, (cor.6:9-11). as for them goin house to house, (mathew 10:7, 11-13). as for why people hate the witnesses or ridicule them,(john 15:18,19) (1st peter4:3,4) and (mark 13:13). you will even find that some bibles omit gods name almost entirely from its contents. in any religion, gods name is jehovah! he is the creator of all things. satan is sometimes looked upon as a god, so ask yourself this; when you pray to god, which god are you praying to? dnt be afraid to say jehovah, jesus went thru far more pain and mistreatment then you ever will. now thats talking religion. so go and talk to a stranger about jehovah, can you? jeseu went everywhere, and everywhere he went the people were strangers. and he went from town to village to homes and to strangers to talk about jehovah. most people think of the president as a powerful man, or other political leaders as powerful men, some may think of local business men or rich people as powerful. well, jesus had none of that and he is the most powerful man to ever walk the earth, and he gave his life for you and me and all of mankind. lets see some politician do that. lets see obama do that. everyone thinks they know religion but to practice that kind of faith takes complete devotion to jehovah.

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  17. Well, if scientists are flawed because they use machines made by men, then I guess the same holds true for people who believe in a book written by men. They can make it say what they want.

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  18. every one has the right to believe what they want. I felt your sarcasm since I started reading, you just don't believe in the bible, everything is so clear in there, the bible is for people with faith which you don't have. we are humans we get angry and mad. I think deep down you want to find him and believe him but with that attitud you wont, you wouldn't have read it if you didn't. you put to much though in it. you even look for info. just read it again.

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  19. The bible never claims that the earth is only 6000 years old, neither do the JW'S.
    However some individuals in the JW'S group may assert so.
    This is not the principle belief of the JW'S as a group.
    The bible explains a series of events that took place during the creative days.
    The days are symbolic and represent a different time concept from our own.
    However, according to the bibles chronology, Mankind as such, has only been onearth for a period of a about 6000 years.(being created in the later part of God's creative time,give or take)
    On the other hand, animals were created sometime before that, which could be an indefinite period of time as the bible does not specify what the creative days actually mean for us as humans.
    I personally don't agree with anyone who can put a number to the age of the planet itself, however human history and evidence of existance is more concrete.
    There is no evidence that man has lived on earth for more than 6000 years or so.

    I also read someone commented about Lions eating straw.
    I understand your initial feelings, however it is not necessary for Lions or wild animals to have a diet consisting of meat.
    Evidence of this is in history books, in relation to how wild animals survived during the 2 World War in Zoos throughout Europe.
    It is interesting to note that they survived well eating grains and non-meat products.
    So it is not scientifically improbable that wild animals should be given a vegetarian diet.
    In addition, the creator himself knows what is best for us and for his creations, so I think he can make things happen that we may not understand at first.

    Thank you

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