Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 019
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 19 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. When discussing apostates, such as myself, Jehovah’s Witnesses will often say something along the lines of “Well, it’s alright you tearing us down, but what do you offer in replacement of the truth? Nothing!”, they claim, as if that somehow makes the argument against Jehovah’s Witnesses null and void.
As an apostate, I want to clarify a few things. First of all, I have no problem being identified as an apostate. Watch Tower make it sound like apostates are Satan himself, by defining us as “wicked”, “mentally diseased”, “deceitful”, “gangrenous”, “presumptuous” and so forth, but the actual definition of “apostate” is none of those things. It just means, to quote one dictionary, “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.” Renouncing the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not, by definition, make you a bad person. In fact, it could make you a very good person, a person who actually cares about the truth and is not prepared to just be told what to believe. That, I suggest, takes a great deal of courage, especially when you consider how Jehovah’s Witnesses treat apostates.
They attempt to strip the dissenting apostate of all dignity. They announce to the congregation that “so-and-so is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. Then, after the “oohs and ahhs” have settled, just so everyone knows what you were disfellowshipped for, they follow up with a local needs talk warning the congregation of the need to guard against apostates—describing them in the harshest of terms.
The apostate is presented as one to be feared, avoided, hated even. It really is the worst sin imaginable to a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s considered the “unforgivable sin”, the “sin against the holy spirit”, one from which people never return—but why would one return? The apostate is convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses is not “the truth”, so he leaves, not because he wishes harm to anyone, but because he knows he is being taught a lie. In doing so he loses all of his Witness friends, instantly, and very likely his closest family too.
Some who leave Jehovah’s Witnesses because they don’t believe it is “the truth” leave quietly. They don’t have the inclination, or perhaps the circumstances, to speak out against the Watch Tower organisation. Others, like myself, do speak out. We take to the Internet and we tell our stories—often tales of mistreatment—and we highlight the errors of the organisation. We show, often using the Watch Tower’s own publications, how the organisation has chopped and changed its doctrines over the years, how its numerous end-time predictions have failed, and in more recent decades how it’s tarnished with child abuse and human rights violations such as mandated shunning. What we say is not “apostates lies” as the governing body likes to dismiss it. It is true.
Nevertheless, what apostates say is negative—it’s negative about the organisation, negative about the governing body, negative about the beliefs and practices of its members—and that gives rise to this illogical reasoning: “You tear us down, but what do you offer in replacement?” Surely, if Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong, if they’re not “the truth” but rather a man-made religion—worse, a cult that causes harm to people—then surely that is exactly what an apostate should be doing if they’re able—highlighting the erroneous position of the organisation? Watch Tower loves to attack “false religion”, but when a former member points the finger back at them and accuses them of being a false religion, even a dangerous cult, they not only take offence but dismiss the accusations without any consideration that they could be true. It’s completely inconceivable to a Jehovah’s Witness that they may not have “the truth”.
As an apostate, and a vocal one at that, I don’t feel a responsibility to offer people “something better”. That’s for them to discover, just as I feel I have. I’m happy to share my thoughts about God, the Universe, and everything—but I don’t feel obligated to do so. My duty, I believe, is simply to highlight the error of Jehovah’s Witnesses so people don’t fall prey to joining a cult and spending the rest of their lives slaving for men.
The devout Jehovah’s Witness will argue: “But we offer people a hope for the future”, referring to the promise of a paradise on earth. True, but what if that hope is a false hope? What if it is just a religious tale cobbled together from various miscellaneous passages of the Bible? Christians of other denominations read the Bible too, and they don’t come to the conclusion that they’re going to enjoy eternal life on earth. They expect to die and to be raised in the spirit, to spend eternity with Jesus on a spiritual plane. That, if you read it without bias, is the predominant message that comes through the New Testament. A typical Jehovah’s Witness will respond “Well, I don’t want to go to heaven”, but is that just because they’ve been promised the earthly paradise? If that wasn’t a thing, if there was no Armageddon, no “new world”, what then? Would they want to go to heaven then?
The point I’m making is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been offered a version of “Christianity” which is alien to most, if not all, Christians of other denominations. Two thousand years of Christianity has not led any group of people en mass, other than Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the conclusion that there will be a paradise on earth. Why? What if it’s just not true? What if that entire narrative is not the Biblical hope offered to Christians? What if it’s just a story, told by a doomsday cult to its members, knowing that the idea of “paradise and pandas” appeals to the physical senses?
When I look at the depictions of paradise in the Watch Tower publications, I can’t help but think it’s a kind of hybrid “spiritual-materialism”. Rarely, if ever, do you hear a Jehovah’s Witness say that they’re looking forward to being in paradise for the relationship with God or Jesus. It’s always the house by the lake, or the food, or the animals. Perfect life on earth is a lovely thought, but just because it’s a nice thought, and resonates with a person, doesn’t mean it’s true. What if the Biblical promise for Christian’s is a completely different one altogether, wonderful, but different nonetheless?
Or, what if the truth is, there is no life after death. What if the Bible is not true, even about heaven? What if this life really is all there is? I don’t personally believe the latter, but I accept it could be a possibility, and I’m ok with that. Yet, I’ve heard Jehovah’s Witnesses say “Oh, that couldn’t possibly be the case. That would just be so horrible, such a waste of life.” And? So what? Why does something not being palatable make it less true? Much of Jehovah’s Witnesses conviction for their future, earthly, paradisaic, hope is not so much based on scripture, but on wishful thinking, and wishful thinking doesn’t make something true.
So, I put it to you, the argument “You tear us down, but what do you offer in replacement?” has no relevance. Whether there is an afterlife or not, whether there really is a “new heavens and new earth” coming or not, it makes no difference to the errors, past and present, of Watch Tower. Watch Tower is simply is not “the truth”.
The apostate who points out these falsehoods may not be popular with the Jehovah’s Witness who is desperate to believe—he may be viewed as negative, tearing down, not offering anything better in replacement—but that doesn’t make the apostate wrong, or the Jehovah’s Witness right. Truth is truth. Error is error, and pointing out error doesn’t obligate an apostate to provide something better.
Thank you for listening. Have a great day and join me again soon.