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Myths and Realitites

Controversies and misunderstandings affect common perceptions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are the following statements fact or fiction? Read on to learn more about the myths and realities regarding Witnesses, their practices and beliefs.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect and not a valid religion.

Myth or Reality?

MYTH

Jehovah's Witnesses have a 130-year history, are in 230 lands and have seven million members. The dictionary definition of sect is “a small group that has broken away from an established Church.” Jehovah's Witnesses are not small, nor have they broken away from another religion. “Sect” is often used as code to negatively imply the Witnesses are a cult. But Jehovah's Witnesses do not fit the definition of a cult, either.

Jehovah's Witnesses shun members who leave the faith.

Myth or Reality?

REALITY

Jehovah's Witnesses shun (or "disfellowship") as many as 30,000 members each year who refuse to live by the religion's moral tenets. A baptized Witness who insistently promotes dissenting theological views can also be ousted from the congregation, as can anyone habitually fraternizing with the dissenter. Members who leave or "disassociate" from the faith by formally renouncing it are also subject to shunning. Witnesses say they shun with the intent to motivate erring members to restore their relationship with God and to preserve the moral environment of the congregation. Witnesses communicate with shunned family members who live in the same home and can choose to communicate important family matters with those outside the home. Shunned members are invited to attend meetings but are not to interact with congregation members. They are welcomed back in to the fold upon "repentance." Many shunned members eventually return to the faith. Many other baptized members decide to leave the congregation and Witness life by quietly ceasing their activities and becoming "inactive." The congregation does not shun inactive individuals for the life they lead if they no longer identify themselves publicly as Witnesses or participate in the door-to-door ministry.

Jehovah's Witnesses forbid blood transfusions.

Myth or Reality?

REALITY

Witnesses believe that blood is sacred and should only be used as God designates, based on an interpretation of Biblical texts that prohibit the taking of blood into the body for the purpose of sustaining the body’s functions. This prohibition against whole blood still stands, although new technology that utilizes fractions of blood is now considered a matter of personal conscience among individual Witnesses, as are organ transplants which contain residual blood.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in drinking and dancing.

Myth or Reality?

MYTH

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not against parties, music, dancing and drinking of alcohol, as long as they are done in moderation. Witnesses are cautious about their entertainment choices, avoiding R-rated movies and music with immoral lyrics. They dance, but discourage sexually suggestive moves. Witnesses are expected to avoid recreational drug use, citing the scripture that says “let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.” There is no restriction on caffeine and Witnesses can drink alcohol in moderation.

Jehovah's Witnesses made many erroneous predictions that the world was ending by a certain time, which financially ruined the lives of members who never sought college education or careers.

Myth or Reality?

REALITY

Over the course of the Witnesses' 130-year history, there have been periods of Armageddon predictions. Witnesses felt their belief in the imminent end of this world and the start of God's Kingdom was not compatible with the need for a higher education leading to a lucrative career in a doomed, manmade system.

Also, the preaching work of Witnesses did not require a college degree, therefore the pursuit of higher education was discouraged. But in 1995, the Witnesses officially ended their belief that tied the coming of Armageddon to the lifespan of anyone alive today, saying instead it is coming "soon." Since then, more young Witnesses began to attend college classes and many still do. Recently, Witnesses have been strongly encouraged to replace higher education goals with ministry work. Witnesses whose circumstances allow are encouraged to do full-time ministry; about ten percent do so.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not permit divorce.

Myth or Reality?

MYTH

Monogamy between one man and one woman and sex only within marriage are requirements in the Witness religion. But Witnesses do permit divorce in certain cases, believing that the only valid ground for divorce and remarriage is adultery.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to celebrate birthdays and Christmas.

Myth or Reality?

REALITY

Witnesses refrain from religious holiday celebrations, including Christmas and Easter. Their main objection toward holiday celebrations is the non-biblical origin of traditions and rituals associated with them. Many holidays were incorporated into Christian practice by the Roman emperor Constantine as a political gesture. Witnesses also refuse to celebrate birthdays and other popular holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in organ transplants.

Myth or Reality?

MYTH

Jehovah’s Witnesses considered organ transplants to be unscriptural until 1980, when the decision to accept an organ was re-defined as an individual’s choice. The organ unquestionably contains blood, which is why some Witnesses will refuse it. But other Witnesses rationalize that the intent is to receive the organ, not the residual blood that remains in it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in heaven.

Myth or Reality?

MYTH

Witnesses do not aspire to receive a heavenly calling, preferring to live forever on Earth. They believe that God will reward the righteous with eternal life on Earth as perfect humans. Witnesses do believe that heaven exists as the invisible dwelling place of God, Jesus, the angels and a chosen group of 144,000 “anointed” humans.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are politically neutral.

Myth or Reality?

REALITY

As subjects of God’s government, Jehovah’s Witnesses give God’s laws priority. For this reason, they do not take sides in political issues or military conflicts, nor can they give total allegiance to Earthly governments. Witnesses do not vote or run for political office because they believe it is futile to put faith in humans to fix the world’s problems.

Learn more about the beliefs, practices and history of Jehovah's Witnesses >>

Read the Filmmaker Statement >>

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modified 8/27/07

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