Friday, July 06, 2007

Jehovah's Witness

My doorbell rang this morning, as I was watching Inside Iraq on Al Jazeera English. I answered the intercom, and my visitor asked me if I would like to talk about an event that is coming up at the Cow Palace. That's about all she said — no mention of God, Jehovah, or witnessing. I knew her true purpose, though, from an article in the newspaper — she was coming to bamboozle me with religious nonsense: she was a Jehovah's Witness.

It happens by coincidence that I am currently reading Christopher Hitchens' fabulous book, God is not Great, in which he forcefully debunks the claims of religion. Although Hitchens doesn't single out the Jehovah's Witness, as he does with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons), although there's plenty of fodder for criticism in the Jehovah's Witness theology. For example, Jehovah's Witness are prohibited from holding elected office of any kind, and discouraged from even voting.

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible forbids the storing and transfusion of blood. Better yet, they believe that Jesus ascended to his heavenly throne in the year 1914, thereby causing Satan and his minions to come to earth and start World War I. (I'm not exaggerating — look it up.) Five years later, Jesus himself proclaimed that the Jehovah's Witnesses are the one and only true religion. All other religions will be destroyed by the black helicopters of the United Nations; when the U.N. turns its attention to the Witnesses, Armageddon begins, leaving behind an earthly paradise for all the faithful who don't make the cut-off of 144,000 souls allowed in Heaven. That 144,001st-most faithful disciple is just shit out of luck, and not even god can change that. Given that there are over 6 million full-on members of the Jehovah's Witness church today, there are going to be a lot of the faithful who aren't among the 144,000 "anointed" ones, also known as the Faithful and Discreet Slave. The Faithful and Discreet Slaves who were already dead in 1918, were personally resurrected by Jesus into Heaven; the rest get individually resurrected as they die.

If you call your god anything other than יהוה, you're doing it wrong and He will smite thee. ("Smite makes right.") You definitely aren't "anointed" if you call him "God," not to mention "Allah." The name יהוה is usually rendered as "Jehovah" in English, but is also "Yahweh." The Bible is the perfect literal word of יהוה, even though it clearly cannot be. First of all, even if the original Bible had at some point been the perfect word of god, we know as a matter of incontrovertible historical fact that the Bible was altered as it passed from scribe to scribe. Passages were added, deleted, or thoroughly altered, and the result was taken apart and reassembled by committee. In some cases, the changes were innocent errors, but in others they were deliberate changes to the doctrine expressed in a particular passage. Add to that the absurdity of claiming that the perfect word of a perfect, all-powerful being could possibly ever be contained within any limited and imperfect human language — not to mention then translated perfectly into other languages — and it is impossible to claim coherently that the Bible is perfect in any way, much less in all ways. Oh, by the way: according to the Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus did not die on the cross, he died on a stake. (The term "crucify" has historically been used for various violent means of execution, not necessarily involving a cross, per se.)

One surprisingly rational point of JW theology is that the Witnesses do not believe in Hell or eternal torment. Of course, it's in direct contradiction to the Bible (see John 5:29), but on the other hand it's the truth: after death there is nothing. The souls of the wicked perish along with their bodies. Naturally, the souls of the faithful also perish along with their bodies, but the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the non-anointed faithful will live for a thousand years in an earthly paradise, at the end of which Satan will be destroyed and there will be no more evil. That has to rank up there with the holy interstellar 737's that the galactic emperor used to send the evil thetans to the volcano in Hawaii. In short, it's not even very good sci-fi.

Happily, the Jehovah's Witness on my doorstep this morning understood that I was not a good prospect for conversion, although sadly she did not seem to take to heart my exhortation that she abandon her false god. Oh well; maybe next time.

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