Jehovah's Witnesses are a people known widely throughout the world. They are well-dressed people who come knocking at your door on different occasions offering religious literature for sale or trying to introduce their beliefs through carefully prepared conversation. People young, old, rich, poor, well educated and non-educated have embraced them. Their enthusiasm as proclaimers of God's Kingdom has impressed even their harshest critics. Their love toward one another makes some non-witnesses hope and pray that more people would act in that manner. Yet, some may still wonder, who really are the Jehovah's Witnesses? What is their history, their practices and their beliefs? Why are they the most attacked new religious group today? Even many former group members have written books or created web sites that project a negative perspective on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the fact that this group has such a large following, it is not surprising that they would be attacked or their faith be denounced. It has been proven that the bigger in numbers of a group, the more controversial the group, and the larger the tension between them and society. Also, the more individuals who belong to a group, the more individuals there are who will denounce that faith and become active apostates. These apostates publish books and establish web sites proclaiming the wickness of the group to whose teachings they once adhered. When looking at it with this point of view, it seems natural that the Jehovah's Witnesses would be heavily criticized. However, the fierceness of attack is still frightening. My thesis is that based on the questionable characteristics and backgrounds of the Jehovah's Witnesses leaders and teachings, this criticism are not unfounded. Information on the teaching of the religion and the leaders themselves can be found in the following books: Jehovah's Witnesses, Teachings of Jehovah Witnesses, Crisis of Conscience, What You Need to Know About Jehovah's Witnesses, Counting the Days to Armageddon, and Jehovah's Witnesses: Answered Verse by Verse.
In order to examine the controversies we must examine their history, organization, practices and their beliefs. We must first start at the beginning at the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses with its founder Charles Taze Russell. The Allegheny, Pennsylvania boy had been reared in the Reformed faith of the Covenanters. At first he took their doctrines seriously, especially the doctrine of hell. "However, when Russell found himself unable to answer certain questions of a sceptic, he, himself, passed over into a frigid unbelief. It was then that he met the Seventh-day Adventists, and his faith in Christianity, and especially in the Second Advent, was restored."1
Russell had no formal Bible training, but borrowed and built upon various teachings that were popular at the time. In 1879 Russell started his own magazine (now known as the Watchtower) to promote his doctrines. Russell's sensational end of time predictions drew many people and the organization grew. An example of this would be Russell's prediction that in 1874 the second coming of Christ would come. This prediction he borrowed from N. H. Barbour who believed that Christ would return invisibly to the work in 1874 and that 1914 was the year the world would be destroyed and the Millennium would begin. The Millennium is a 1,000-year period, beginning after Armageddon, when Christ will rule over the earth. During this time, the dead will be resurrected, humankind will attain perfection and paradise will be restored. Russell wrote a new Bible for the followers of his day, which he claimed came to him directly from God. Russell claimed that to read and understand the Bible you needed an interpreter. He claimed to be the only one with the truth and outwardly condemned all other Christian religions. This caused other ministers to work at exposing Russell's false teaching and his...
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