My friend Andrew Nolan recently wrote a couple of blogs on the Mormon religion. He's jumping on board with Blog a Day Month, and you really have to admire his perseverance even though he's clearly losing to me. (He's probably still beating Scott by a slim margin.) Anyway, I'm glad that he wrote those because he basically saved me the trouble. I've been wanting take on those pesky Mormons for some time, and just like Andrew, I have a bizarre love/hate relationship with them. (I love the people, hate the institution.)
Still, I just could never really get around to it. After all, I'm still stuck on the story in the Bible where a guy loses his superhuman strength by getting a haircut. I'll need to work my way around that one before I take on The Bible's thrilling American sequel/prequel/retcon. Anyway, Andrew pretty thoroughly dissected the absurdities, so I imagine that if I ever got around to it, it would pretty much be an echo of what he wrote.
I guess that leaves me with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I've already written a bit about them, as I've had some experiences with their religion while I was growing up. To not beat a dead horse, let me just sum up by saying that my parents spent a lot of time with them while never officially joining their organization (thank Thor for that!) They did have a heavy influence on my early theology, and I grew up thinking that darned near everything was "demonized". To me, a movie like The Excorcist was something that could actually happen. (And the movie still freaks me out to this day even though I know better - that bit of rewiring hasn't been 100% repaired, apparently.) I believed that Led Zeppelin was hiding tributes to Satan on their records. (We even played one of their albums that my sister owned backwards and heard the word "Satan!" Never mind the fact that if you tried really hard, you could probably also hear them say "Rutabega". You kind of hear what you're listening for.) I also believed ('cause the Witnesses done said) that KISS stood for "Knights in Satan's Service". Yes indeed, ol' Beelzebub was a constant threat.
The funny thing is, the one thing that people criticize the most about the Witnesses is the fact that they don't celebrate Christmas. (We kind of half-assed it - we got rid of the tree and stuff, but we continued to get presents.) I remember a lady asking, "Don't you believe in Da Jeebus?" when I told her that we didn't celebrate Christmas. (Okay, maybe she didn't call him "Da Jeebus". I just keep writing that because my mom asked me to stop.) I tried to explain to her the situation, but she didn't get it.
The thing is, there is a certain amount of logic to the Witnesses and their rejection of holidays. The fact of the matter is that Christmas, Easter, birthday parties, etcetera all have pagan origins. They are not Biblical whatsoever. At least they're being consistent. However, we can file this under the cliche of broken clocks and their ability to be right twice a day.
The fact of the matter? The Jehovah's Witnesses are an evil, twisted, foul little cult. I suppose that I started to suspect this long before I ever became an atheist, and I recall telling my parents that I believed that when I was in my mid-teens. (And honestly, by that point, they didn't really disagree. My mom was being a bit more measured with her response, but she didn't really try to convince me otherwise.) When I got a bit older, and I really got into skepticism and the works of James Randi, I purchased an "encyclopedia" of the paranormal by him, and there was an entry on the Witnesses, where I learned that they were even more bat-crap crazy than I ever realized.
Why are they nuts? Oh, let me count the ways:
1. They are obsessed with the end of the world. These people are practically looking forward to it, and they're relishing the fact that they're going to be the ones who are spared all of the awful things that will happen to all the evil, non-JW's in the world. They predicted the end of the world in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1932, 1941, and 1975. After that, they got smart and finally started being more vague, talking about how we're in the "end times". When I'd point out their failed prophecies (and this was when I only knew about the 1975 debacle) I got the response from somebody that they "admitted their mistake". Oh, gee...how wonderful of them. I'd be more impressed if they all admitted that they were full of crap and disbanded the congregation.
2. They refuse to take blood transfusions. Oh, they can make a compelling-sounding argument if you're inclined to agree with them in the first place. They point out to some passage in the Bible about how you're not supposed to "consume" blood. They also point out how some people have gotten AIDS through blood transfusions. Good point - if you overlook the fact that blood transfusions save lives (like mine) and that Biblical science consists of showing a lamb in heat sticks with spots on them to influence what her babies will look like. I once had a JW student write in an essay the argument for refusing transfusions. I don't remember now if I did or not, but I was tempted to write that I wouldn't be alive to grade her paper if they didn't exist.
3. Excommunication. Nolan took this on in his post on Mormons, and it's basically the same idea with the Witnesses. Talk about the most un-Jesusy (See, Mom, I didn't write un-Da Jeebusy!) practice.
4. Their founder and his beliefs. Charles Taze Russell's wacky beliefs would give L. Ron Hubbard a run for his money in the Department of Kooks and Nutbars. It's been a while since I read it in detail, but it has something to do with the pyramids and how you can tell the future through them. Umm...okay. (And just like Xenu is to the Scientologists, you don't find a lot of Witnesses talking too much about this particular aspect of their nutbaggery.)
5. Frikken' EVERYTHING'S "Satanic" or "demonized". I already covered this in this blog and on other posts. Everything's demonized from Santa Claus to my sister's Michael Jackson's poster to some pinatas that my parents brought back from Cancun. That's right - pinatas are trying to turn you away from God. I always knew that was true of "Precious Moments" statuettes...but pinatas? They have candy in them (usually). Candy is good. Praise Odin.
6. They actively discourage one from being educated. When my dad told the Witnesses that my sister was going off to college, they expressed dismay, hoping that my sister was going to "find the truth". (You'd have to ask my dad, but I think that this was the moment when they pretty much lost any credibility with him.) PZ Myers also recently posted some JW propaganda that listed a college education as something that's evil in their sight. Geez, at least the Mormons have BYU.
I realize that this is all really negative. Do I have anything good to say? Well, I remember the My Book of Bible Stories very fondly from when I was a kid. I liked it so much, that I took a free copy from them when they had a table at the mall. I had a nice conversation with the fella there, as I told him about that, and I said that I hope to give it to my kid some day. (And it'll be right next to the books of Greek and Norse myths - where it belongs.)
Some time ago, I came across the YouTube channel of a lady who goes by the handle of VanCoffeeChick. She's a former JW, and here are some of her videos dealing with that. It's pretty compelling stuff, and I recommend them wholeheartedly:
This "Stan Lee Challenge" is a tribute to Daredevil #5: "Daredevil Battles 'The Mysterious Masked Matador!'"