Researching Jehovah’s Witnesses
Misunderstandings abound and are frequently held with rm conviction. Most people, if asked, will say that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the world will end soon with the battle of Armageddon. Many believe that that they keep setting arbitrary dates for this end, and constantly have to revise them when Armageddon does not arrive as expected. Another popular misconception is that Witnesses expect only 144,000 to be saved, and cannot reconcile this with their membership numbers, which run into millions. One acquaintance insisted that the number was once 400, and that this rm information came from a leaet which he received some years ago. (Unsurprisingly, he could not produce the leaet.) Numerous people have told me that they are only familiar with a very few passages of the Bible, and can be easily ummoxed if one engages them in a discussion that goes beyond these. Another of my friends was convinced that in order to become a Jehovah’s Witnesses the baptismal candidate must rst win two further converts for the organisation. Others are convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in vaccination, or any kind of orthodox medical treatment. At a recent academic conference one participant refused to reappraise his conviction that their organisation canvassed aggressively in the streets, and that not all the canvassers were Witnesses, but belonged to independent agencies who paid them according to their results. Not so long ago I heard a preacher attributing to the Jehovah’s Witnesses the view that the ‘mark of the beast’ in the Book of Revelation refers to our current use of barcodes, since John the Revelator associates it with buying and selling.1 And, of course, numerous acquaintances have assured me that they have a failsafe method of ensuring that they never call at their home again. If one does not know these things, the perpetrators of such myths hint that, of course, the Watch Tower organisation is secretive, and does not want the public – or even its own members – to know its true nature.