What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Really Believe?

   Podcast Transcripts

OnionUnlimited podcast episode 049

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 49 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon and this time I’m going to chat to you about what Jehovah’s Witnesses really believe. This information is intended for non-Jehovah’s Witnesses who are perhaps wondering what the religion is all about, maybe a member of your family is showing an interest in it, or perhaps you’re currently studying with the Witnesses and wondering if what they are telling you really is “the Truth”. 

On their website, they have an article entitled What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe? It starts out by saying that they “strive to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and that his apostles practised.” Now, I find this comment interesting—the “form of Christianity”? Straight away, albeit surreptitiously, they’re differentiating themselves from other Christians. If you know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses you’ll be aware that they feel their “Christianity” is the only right one. Other Christians, non-Jehovah’s Witnesses—it doesn’t matter whether you’re Catholic or Church of England or Pentecostal or Methodist—whatever, in their opinion you are not Christian at all. In fact, worse than that, they view you as being on the side of Satan the Devil. More on that later.

For now, let’s look at the basic beliefs Jehovah’s Witnesses list on their website:

1. God. They believe in God. They believe the God they worship is the only true one—Almighty God, the Creator God—and that his name is Jehovah. This idea originates from the Old Testament, the “Yahweh” that Abraham and Moses apparently worshipped, and Jehovah’s Witnesses say this carries over into the New Testament with the teachings of Jesus. Actually, Jehovah is not mentioned directly in the New Testament, but they claim that he was worshipped by Jesus who was of the Jewish faith and that Jesus’ name, Yeshua, actually incorporates the name Yahweh or Jehovah. So yeah, you’ll hear Jehovah’s Witnesses referencing “Jehovah” a lot, way more than they ever mention Jesus which I find odd for a group claiming to be the only real Christians.

2. Jesus. They claim to believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. This is kind of true, but it’s not the whole picture. They say they honour Jesus as their Saviour and as the Son of God but this is where Jehovah’s Witnesses differ massively [to] almost all other Christian groups. They don’t believe that Jesus is God, or even that he was an incarnation of God. They view Jehovah God and Jesus Christ as two completely separate entities, not two parts of a unified godhead. In fact, they think of Jesus as a lesser god, a “god” with a small “g”. This is their interpretation of John chapter 1 verse 1 and what, they say, the Bible as a whole teaches. Now, I would challenge this insofar as if you read a Bible translation other than Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, it’s very difficult to get away from the idea that Jesus’ disciples did, actually, view him as God or at least as an incarnation of the godhead.

3. The Bible. They claim to believe and follow the Bible as God’s inspired message to humans. At this point, we might well ask “Which Bible?” since there are a number of different Bible canons. Most Protestant Bibles have 66 books. The Roman Catholic Bible has 73. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Bible has no less than 81 books. So, Jehovah’s Witnesses chose to go with the 66 books of the Protestant Church, and then released their own heavily biassed translation called The New World Translation which supports their predetermined beliefs. Now, when it comes to the Bible itself they claim they are not fundamentalists. In other words, they don’t take everything in the Bible to be understood literally—but which parts are or are not literal are decided upon by their governing body, an 8-man leadership team that titles themselves “Guardians Of Doctrine” (or G.O.D. for short). Their own publications, which are intended to interpret the Bible, are their go-to place to find out what the Bible teaches. Their Watchtower magazines and many many books have the final say as to what the Bible actually means. 

4. Death. One of the main differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christians is their belief about what happens when we die. Most Christians believe that as a Christian you go to heaven after death to be with Jesus, who they believe to be God. Jehovah’s Witnesses on the other hand believe that humans were never intended to go to heaven but to live here on the earth forever, so they teach that the earth is where most of them will end up—if they’re faithful. Of the 8 million Witnesses on earth at this time, all but about 20,000 now believe that if they die they will be resurrected back to the earth at a future time when the world has been cleansed of wickedness and turned into a paradise. 

5. Heaven. The 20,000 that don’t subscribe to an earthly hope believe they are anointed by God’s spirit. “Anointed” effectively means the same as “born again” but of course, they don’t accept that other Christians in other religions that claim to be born again actually are. In fact, they have a very negative view of born again Christians in general, as in other people outside of their religion who think they’ve been anointed by the holy spirit. They actually believe these ones to be possessed by the Devil. If a Jehovah’s Witness calls on your door and you tell them you’re born again—I don’t know, maybe you’re a Pentecostal let’s say—they will usually run a mile! To a Jehovah’s Witness, being anointed means that when they die they go to heaven to rule as kings with Jesus over the future paradise earth. This is what they refer to as the “Kingdom of God” which they liken to an actual, real government in heaven. They believe that there will only be 144,000 total anointed ones going to heaven and that once there they sit on thrones alongside Jesus ruling over the earth. Their 8-man governing body, of course, [are] all in this elite group, and they believe that this Kingdom of God, this heavenly government, will soon destroy everyone on earth who isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness. So, if you’re not a Witness you’re classed as “wicked” and not deserving of eternal life, either in heaven or on earth, and this is where things start to become somewhat extreme and a bit whacked out.

6. Prophesy. By means of some very complicated numerology, taking a mishmash of Bible verses that contain vague time periods, and interpreting them in some very strange ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses have concluded that the world has been in its “last days” since 1914. This date, 1914, is intrinsic to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ unique beliefs. They claim 1914 was the year Jesus was enthroned as God’s King in heaven. Most notably, it’s the year Jesus started looking at the earth to see who he wanted to choose as his people, who would be his “only true religion”, the only true Christians. A few years later in 1919, allegedly, he chose Jehovah’s Witnesses—at the time called the International Bible Students Association. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing to prove any of this actually happened. Everything is said to have occurred invisibly which is most convenient for them. They literally base their credentials as God’s only true religion on their own claim of having been chosen—the best circular reasoning going! 102 years later, the 8-man governing body in America is still claiming to be God’s “channel of truth”, chosen way back in 1919 as a group to dispense spiritual food to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to all intents and purposes what they say is taken as being the very word of God, which frankly I find somewhat idolatrous.

7. Salvation. They say they believe that salvation, eternal life, is only possible through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus and on the surface that sounds like they perhaps believe in “grace”, but unlike most Christian religions they place a huge emphasis on works. It’s not enough to put your faith in Jesus to save you, you have to work at it too and that, of course, involves being a Jehovah’s Witnesses and doing all the things Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to do—notably, spending a certain number of hours preaching to non-Witnesses each month. 10 hours is considered the minimum for most healthy Witnesses but if you “qualify” you can be appointed as a “pioneer” doing up to 130 hours a month.  All Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to attend two 2-hour (ish) meetings a week and missing meetings is seen as a lack of faith. Of course, meetings are essentially a brainwashing exercise—4 hours of cult indoctrination each week—but once you’re sucked into it it’s hard to see it for what it is without stepping back from the situation. Basically, your level of spirituality is determined by what you do, and especially by how much you do. If you spend many many hours preaching each month, if you never miss meetings, if you’re fully involved in the congregation, you’re viewed as a “spiritual” person. They do make allowances for the ill and the elderly that can’t do as much but they still expect you to “do your best” and preach to others at every opportunity. They claim on their website that salvation cannot be earned but that’s not how it works in real life. Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly urged to “do more” in order to “win the prize” of everlasting life on a paradise earth. 

8. Satan. As I mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in heaven. They believe it’s a spiritual dimension where Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and billions of faithful angels live—also where the anointed ones go after they die. This is in contrast to the unfaithful angels, or “demons”, that they teach were cast out of heaven in 1914 and now live on the earth, or at least in its “vicinity” (whatever that means). Chief of these, of course, is Satan the Devil. They believe Satan is a fallen angel who is responsible for all the wickedness in the world. If you’re not a Jehovah’s Witness you are deemed to be part of “Satan’s world” and you deserve to die at Armageddon! Of course, they don’t tell you this when they knock on your door. They just tell you the “good news” that wickedness will soon end. They don’t make the link between wickedness and you because if they did you might slam the door in their face. Whatever they say to the contrary, their preaching is intended for no other reason than to convert you into being a Jehovah’s Witness. They don’t really care what you believe. Any interest shown in your religion or your spiritual beliefs is feigned, basically, in order to establish what they call “common ground” and lure you into a study of the Bible—or rather their publications. They pride themselves on “loving their neighbours”, but the reality is they don’t, not really. If you don’t show an interest in converting, their “love” soon wanes. As mentioned, preaching is the way they are accepted within their group as being “spiritual” and the principal method by which their future claim to everlasting life is determined, so ultimately they do it for selfish reasons, not primarily out of “love for God and neighbour”. 

Hopefully, as I go through these beliefs you’re starting to see just how culty Jehovah’s Witnesses truly are. Yes, they claim to be Christian, to believe in God, Jesus, the Bible and so on, but their interpretations are very very niche, quite bizarre in many respects. They believe they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people on earth, that their leaders—who they claim aren’t leaders but merely one “taking the lead”—are God’s only channel of truth. They even refer to their organisation as “the Truth” despite Jesus saying he was “the way, the truth, and the life”. They have these peculiar ideas about 1914, none of which are actually verifiable in any way—it’s just “true” because they say it is—and they position themselves as the only group of people, just 0.1% of the world’s population, who aren’t controlled by the Devil. Their mentality is very “us and them” just as you would expect from a cult, but like I say you don’t immediately pick this up on their sanitised public version of What Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe.

9. Resurrection. One of the major differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religions, especially Christian denominations, is their idea of what happens after death. They teach, as a Bible doctrine, that when you’re dead you’re dead. You don’t have a soul. You don’t continue to exist. You don’t go anywhere. That’s it unless God chooses to resurrect you back to the earth in the future. Or you might be one of the special 144,000 that go to heaven when you die to rule over the earth and turn it into a JW’s paradise. Weirdly, they believe that almost everyone who has ever lived and died, apart from the odd really evil one like Adam, Judas, or Hitler is going to be brought back to life on their future paradise earth. On the other hand, they teach that everyone alive now who isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness and doesn’t listen to their message and convert will be killed at Armageddon—God’s war against the wicked—with no future hope of a resurrection, and that, supposedly, is going to happen really soon. Now they’ve been saying that for almost 150 years. As it stands, they believe 99.9% of the earth’s population—will die at Armageddon, their rotting corpses to be cleaned up by “the birds of heaven” (vultures and the like) before they, the privileged 0.1% get to turn the world into a utopian paradise. Then—here’s the twist—God, they say, will bring back billions of people from the past but not those he killed at Armageddon (they had their chance) and then, after 1000 years he will allow the Devil who will have been in a deathlike state for a millennium to come back to the earth and tempt everyone all over again! So maybe, maybe, if you’re lucky, a 1000 years or so from now you might just be good enough to live forever and this, they say, is “God’s gift of everlasting life”. 

Most of these weird beliefs come from their interpretation of the book of Revelation which, if you’ve ever read it, is way open to interpretation. Basically, you can make it say what you like, and they do in order to come up with this carrot-and-stick for motivating their members and to, hopefully, convert non-Jehovah’s Witnesses.

10. Worship. As far as actual worship is concerned, their religious services—which they call “meetings”—at their Kingdom Halls are pretty bland and not really very spiritual. They basically consist of lectures and discussions, rather like being at school or college, which serve to brainwash their followers. They pride themselves on not venerating the cross or idols in their worship so their Kingdom Halls are very simple, but their view of the governing body is completely idolatrous. When Geoffry Jackson or Samuel Herd or Stephen Lett or Anthony Morris III speaks on their glitzy television broadcasts they are accepted as speaking for God himself. What they say is unquestionably true. In fact, you could be forgiven for questioning God, but not the governing body. It really is that crazy now. 

11. Families. They claim their teachings help families to succeed, but the reality is it only works if you all remain Jehovah’s Witnesses. If one of your family decides they no longer want to be a Witness and chooses to formally disassociate from the organisation, or if they are disfellowshipped for an infraction of the very strict rules on sex, for example, they are cut off, shunned, viewed as dead. They claim that disfellowshipping is “loving discipline” from God and doesn’t sever family relationships—that “normal family relations continue”—but the caveat is that you must be living under the same roof. As a disfellowshipped, divorced, ex-Witness, my children and even my own dad haven’t spoken to me for over 2 years. When people say “Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families” they’re not lying, but of course, this is not information that is published on their website. They have one version of “reality” for the public and another version for their members, and sadly you only find this out after you’ve been sucked into the cult. 

What else? They pray to God, Jehovah. They read and study the Bible but they’re only allowed to accept as “truth” the governing body’s interpretation of the Bible so essentially what the governing body says trumps what the Bible says. 

12. Charity. They say they help those in need and they do occasionally make a token gesture of “charity” towards those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it’s usually only for publicity purposes. In reality, they help only themselves and claim this is the “identifying mark of true Christianity” based on Jesus’ words that his disciples would have “love among themselves”. Remember, they view non-Jehovah’s Witnesses as “wicked”, as deserving of death at Armageddon, as bird food! So their claims to help in disaster relief, for example, [is] limited, to say the least. In many countries around the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses have charitable status and receive huge tax breaks from the government. In reality, they do next to no actual charity work unless you count helping their own members and promoting their religion to the public. Any link to real, public, charity work is tenuous at best. They will even avoid giving a dollar to a homeless person on the street reasoning that their real job is to “preach the good news of the Kingdom”.

13. Leadership. They claim that their congregations are organised and overseen by “elders” but that these are not a “clergy class”, yet when they get taken to court, as is happening a lot recently due to numerous allegations of child sexual abuse within their midst, they are very quick to claim clergy privilege. They say those taking the lead full-time, such as their governing body members and other key workers at headquarters—known as “Bethel”—are “unsalaried” and that they have taken a “vow of poverty”. It makes them sound like monks, and indeed they refer to themselves as “The Order” which is a bit weird, but in reality, they live in simple luxury. They have beautiful accommodations, plenty of food, and basically receive everything they need while working for the organisation. They say they don’t practice tithing or pass collections at their meetings, but they’re constantly asking for money via talks at the Kingdom Hall or articles on their website, and in recent months the organisation has even been taking over ownership of individual Kingdom Halls and then selling them on. They’re effectively a real estate firm with huge numbers of properties and $$$$ in the bank, some of which they use to defend themselves in court or hush up child sexual abuse victims. Of course, none of this is ever published on their website because, well, it wouldn’t look great would it? 

14. Unity. They claim to be united in their beliefs but it’s not really unity. It’s uniformity. It’s mandated. If you don’t believe what you are told to, and especially if you voice your opinions, chances are you will be disfellowshipped and shunned on a charge of “apostasy”—the worst crime possible! You will then be viewed as dead by every Jehovah’s Witness who has ever known you, including your family. Their website states: “Our unity allows for personal choice… Each Witness makes decisions in harmony with his or her own Bible-trained conscience.​” When I read that I honestly felt sick. That’s not how it is. That is a blatant lie. Everything is about strict control, not just controlling members’ actions but even their thoughts.

15. Blood Transfusions. As a case in point, they refuse blood transfusions even if doing so results in death. Now, they say this is a personal choice made by each Witness but in truth, it isn’t. It’s mandated again. So if you do accept a blood transfusion and don’t show the necessary degree of repentance after not dying you’re classed as having disassociated and, again, you will be shunned. They say the decision to refuse blood transfusion is not made under duress, but it is. You’re even expected to sign a legal document refusing blood transfusion and have it witnessed by the congregation elders.

16. Politics and Religion. They don’t go to war and personally, I’m not a fan of war per se, or should I say I’m against starting wars. If a country starts a war against an innocent nation, defending yourself, I feel, is not only a right but the right thing to do. I’m thinking of Russia’s war against Ukraine just now and even the way that Hitler tried to take over the world back in the day. Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, say they remain neutral in politics and are non-affiliated with other religions yet they claim to respect the choices that others make in such matters.​ In truth, no, they don’t. They view every political party, government, and religion as controlled by Satan, deserving of destruction, and they only show “respect” when it serves their purpose.

On their website, they say: “If you have further questions about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can read more about us on our website, contact one of our offices, attend a meeting at a Kingdom Hall near you, or speak to one of the Witnesses in your area.” Notice how they don’t encourage you to research about them online or to ask ex-Witnesses about their personal experiences within the organisation. This, again, is typical cult behaviour—information control—because they know that if you actually do the research you will discover things they don’t want you to.

So I hope this podcast has been useful. I’m not a fan of religion as you can probably tell, and I no longer have any time for Jehovah’s Witnesses which I do honestly believe is a cult, but I’ve tried to stick to the facts as I know them. I think everyone should be allowed to make their own choices when it comes to spirituality but I also think it’s important you know what you’re getting into before you commit and having been a Jehovah’s Witness for over 50 years I feel I have an obligation to warn others what Jehovah’s Witnesses really believe.

Thanks for joining me. Bye for now.