The Good News From God
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg
We all know by now, the good news from God, don’t we? All of us have seen the work-shy men and women in v-neck pullovers on the streets with their trolleys and had them knock at our doors, come to spread the word of Jehovah and his good news. Makes one wonder why everyone hasn’t converted already, if it’s so good? Salvation, community, what’s not to love? This is a non-political group, can’t fault a religious group that steers clear of the legislature. They don’t go about hacking people’s heads off in the streets or throwing acid in the faces of filthy unbelievers and those of immodest dress, that’s progress of a kind. There’s no genital mutilation. When’s the last time you heard of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the news? They are a relatively insular group, keeping largely to themselves, not interfering in the lives of others. Seems great. But is it? Recently, while on my way home from a visit to Cambridge, I came across a couple of Witnesses with their trolley, and I found myself scanning a couple of the leaflets and booklets, chuckling inside at a few of the titles. “Will Suffering End” caught my eye, and I picked it up and began to read. To my surprise, there wasn’t actually anything to be found here about suffering or pain or misery at all, merely a copious amount of scriptural references, regarding how Jehovah feels for his followers and all will be well come Armageddon, the usual rambling nonsense. After a few moments, a gentleman who
introduced himself as Doug approached, bouncing on the balls of his feet with much exuberance at the prospective victim, and began to discuss the ideas mentioned in the various pamphlets with me. Much of it made my head hurt, as the nonsensical often does, as he explained to me that the general belief was that the Bible contained all the answers to everything one may encounter in life, old and new testaments, and that it is used as a guideline for everything one does, says and feels. Then, after some brief rummaging, he produced a copy of the ‘Good News From God’ pamphlet, pictured right, and available for free (I urge all who appreciate good comedy to obtain and read it), which I perused and guffawed at more than once, later that afternoon. Yet, amusing as it was, I couldn’t help noticing how sinister it also seemed. Every single page was littered with scriptural references to explain it’s deluded teachings. Every single bullet point, in fact, on every single page, featured at least one reference to chapter and verse, often more. Now, the majority of Christians I know are of either the Catholic or Anglican denominations. I often find myself at odds with some of their ideas too, but where modern life and morality are concerned, we tend to be of one mind. In regards to freedom of thought, sexuality, dress, opinion, what books one may read and who one may associate with, all these basic freedoms that almost everyone takes for granted, be it Christians, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, whatever, all these things we all take for granted. And why not? It ought not occur to us to impose restrictions on these things, with one or two exceptions depending on faith and creed. One example of this, a particularly good example, would be the freedom of sexuality. Now most Kippers, especially, for this example, those of a Christian persuasion, are largely open to this subject. A sort of a ‘live and let live’ arrangement, regardless of personal approval. And most of these aforementioned people will criticise the Islamic faith and it’s Muhammadian followers heavily on the subject of homophobia. After all, polls show that Muslims in Britain almost unanimously consider homosexuality an unnatural for of sexual perversion, comparable to paedophilia (incidentally very common throughout Muslim lands) and who criminalise it in almost every single country with a Muslim majority, often imposing the death penalty, if not simple imprisonment and flogging. We only need to switch on the news or log into Facebook to see the treatment of the Yemeni couple, publicly caned for engaging in gay intercourse, or the internment of homosexuals in prison camps, only to be tortured and sometimes executed. And rightly so. The liberation of homosexuals from the grip of Islamic theocrats is one of the most urgent of our day. Yet what does the Bible say of homosexuality? “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” – Leviticus 18:22 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” – Leviticus 20:13 That’s a very nice one, isn’t it? Death and mutilation for those born different and those who dissent. Despite the fact the faith is alleged to be universal. But fear not, it goes on. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, men who practise homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” 1 Timothy. 1:9-10 Comparing acts of sex and love, perfectly natural and normal acts between consenting adults, are compared by this supposedly ‘holy’ text to theft, perjury, deception and even slavery.
Hardly seems like much of an improvement, does it? What is worth noting at this point, is that the vast majority of Christians here in Britain do not share this sentiment. Some certainly consider homosexuality unnatural in terms of procreation and evolution, and it would be difficult to argue with them. No matter how many times I try, I can’t seem able to get men pregnant. Nature is against me there, it seems. But very few will resort to outright bigotry and contempt for homosexuals. This is due to two factors, primarily. The first would be that most feel that the teachings of the old testament are both largely outdated and were neutralised, in a sense, by the teachings of Jesus and the gospels of the new testament. The second would be that of simple human solidarity and the understanding of universal rights of freedom and individuality. The latter is commendable, if a little obvious. The former, I feel I can’t offer much commentary on, as an unbeliever. Though I would welcome any faithful input. Witnesses, however, in their ‘soft fanaticism’ are absolutely convinced, as no mammal can be, that both the old and new testament are the unalterable, unadulterated, pure messages from God, that must be taken as, well… as gospel, and provide the answers to everything.
So why is it that the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t keep slaves? “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” – Leviticus 25:44-46 This injunction, encouraging slavery and xenophobia all in one, as a sort of ‘Brucie Bonus’ is found in exactly the same book of the Bible that so many use to justify their homophobia. Seems rather selective, does it not? But soft, we find many more such conveniently ignored injunctions.
“Whosoever … hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookback, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken … He shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries.” – Leviticus 21:17-23 So the sick, the infirm, the disabled, anyone with an unfortunate mole on their neck, anyone not ‘pure’ or ‘perfect’ is to be shunned and refused entry to places of worship. Well, it would go a step or two towards explaining why most Witnesses make little to no attempt to help the homeless, even when proselytising a matter of feet away from them.
What about the disgust of the female sexuality or birth canal? “When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean.” – Leviticus 15: 19-20 All these just from Leviticus. And there are many, many more such reprehensible injunctions to be found here, along with in Exodus, Romans, Timothy, Deuteronomy, etc, I urge you to seek them out. You will soon see why most Christians can no longer take them seriously. This is because they are usually perfectly decent people like anyone else, not fanatically indoctrinated from a young age with graphic depictions of women and children screaming in agony at Armageddon, when God is going to come down and slaughter every man woman and child who does not conform perfectly to the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There are two problems here, the first being that Biblical teachings, or rather scriptural teaching in general, are provably inaccurate. Look at Genesis 1, for example. God makes water before he makes light. This means that there were no stars to fuse hydrogen and helium into heavier elements like oxygen. Water is one part oxygen, to parts hydrogen. If one were to take the stance of a Biblical chemist, as it were, one must admit to denying the most basic scientific facts such as the molecular structure of water. Which, unlike scripture, is the result of a few hundred years of chemistry and scientific observation. And this is Genesis 1, this is the first part! Already out of the window. Hardly inspires hope in the rest, does it?
The second problem is that these preachments are not only unsound, they are evil. What is evil? Well stop and think about morality for a moment. Morality is, according to Oscar wilde, how we judge those we personally dislike. Seems very apt here, doesn’t it? But no, morality can be established by examining human and animal well being, both objectively and subjectively, in relation to human and animal well being. Imagine, for instance, that you encountered a culture that engaged in a practice whereby an elderly man could often be caught sucking on the penis of an infant male. This would be worthy of nothing less that the utmost contempt and revulsion, surely? Ah, but he has his excuse all ready for you. He is undertaking the rite of Peri’ah Metsitsah, a form of hasidic, Jewish circumcision, whereby a mohel takes a scalpel, knife, sharp stone, and cuts around the prepuce of the foreskin. He then proceeds to take the infant penis into his mouth, removing the foreskin and stemming the blood flow via suction, before he spits out the amputated flap in a mouthful of blood and saliva. This practice increases the risk of infection with potentially fatal viruses and bacterium such as genital herpes, by 300%, and is still legal in much of the world. In one particularly notorious case in 2005 in New York, a 57 year old mohel caused the deaths of no less than three young boys by this practice. Contemporary mayor Bloomberg covered up reports, censored recommendations against the practice, and said in a press statement, and I quote; “What’s important to remember is to ensure that his right to practice his religion is not infringed.” This is not the only occasion where religious preachments and traditions have resulted in a rather negative impact on well being.
Numerous behavioural psychologists and neuroscientists have published studies and journals linking an individual’s faith to a ‘reward system’ of sorts, of the imagination, and much of the envy and self-righteous gusto found by the most credulous and fanatical of believers, the inquisition for instance, can be easily linked to a chemical process in the brain known as ‘Schadenfreude’, which literally translates to the words ‘pain’ and ‘joy’. This works as follows; When observing an individual or a group of individuals you dislike, perhaps for ideological differences, perhaps because they have wronged you or someone you know in some way. When you observe them in a state of distress or anguish, be it physical or psychological, you might feel a smug sensation, you find yourself thinking that they deserve it. This is caused by the release of a hormone from the dorsal striata in the brain called dopamine, which causes us to feel pleasure. This is the same hormone that causes you to enjoy your favourite food or really good sex, and the same hormone that causes addictions to substances like alcohol or heroin. Now perhaps you will help them out of their predicament anyway. Perhaps your pleasure at their suffering is perfectly justified – they may be a child rapist or a mass murderer. But this process occurs in your brain regardless of whether you consider it right or wrong. Regardless of one’s views on the authenticity of faith or the respect you feel appropriate to afford it, this is an undeniable, medical certainty which any reasonably intelligent schoolchild should be able to grasp, without the allure of paradise and the pain of eternal torture present as encouragement either way. But that’s main feature of this religion, isn’t it? It’s allure, it’s promise, it’s purpose and it’s focus, is simply death.
What is death? Is death the end? Is there no way to avoid death? Is death the end? These are questions that play at the mind of every human being, it is in our nature to fear death. Self preservation is one of our most basic instincts. We fear death, we fear pain, we fear solitude. This is simply to be expected. But what do these charlatans really offer as an alternative? And at what cost? Let’s say you’re standing in your kitchen. It’s been a long day at work and you decide to make yourself a nice bacon sandwich. You stand in front of the oven and switch on the hob, heating it up in preparation for your frying pan. Do you touch the hot hob? Of course you don’t. Is this out of fear? Are you frightened that if you get to close your hand will suddenly burst into flames? No. You simply know that you’ll get burned, and that it will probably hurt. This is no more than a simple application of common sense. There is no fear required, it is of no immediate danger to you provided you simply show a little due diligence and don’t behave like an idiot around hot things. The exact same principle could be applied to an iron. When you’re stood in your sitting room in front of the ironing board with a pile of shirts, do you suddenly leap back in horror, afraid the hissing iron will scald you? Or perhaps when you’re driving to work one morning, do you find yourself careering off the road in a state of panic because you saw a statistic about road deaths? No person of sound mind would do this. However if someone were to hold a saucepan of boiling water and threaten to throw it over you, you might feel something similar to fear. But even then, this is not fear, this is your self-preservation impulse kicking in. You feel a rush of adrenaline and you react instinctively to the situation in the best way your knowledge and experience allow, perhaps backing away slowly, or delivering a fast and well placed kick, causing your would-be assailant to fall and spill the water on the ground, neutralising the immediate threat to you. These reactions are based on experience. If you were a practiced martial artist and were confident in your ability, you may choose the latter option. If you’re taken by surprise or unable to defend yourself, you may retreat backwards to relative safety. Or you might do something completely different. Either way, this is a product of experience. So what goes through our minds when we consider death? To a certain extent fear, genuine fear, is natural, as we have no first-hand experience of it. We are alive, so how can we be familiar with being dead? Fear of dying, the action of dying, is perfectly rational. I’m sure we would all much prefer to die peacefully in our sleep than to be crushed by a heavy object or to drown. If for no other reason than the physical pain and anguish we would experience. This is not to say there are no other reasons. For example we may wish to avoid being burned or mutilated so as to mitigate the trauma for our loved ones who must identify our bodies. But the role this religion plays in death is essentially to deny it’s existence for true believers and conformers, while appealing to Scahenfreude by guaranteeing it for outsiders. It’s part is not unlike that of the snake oil merchant from that western movie you saw as a child. “Come one, come all. Sample this product, and for just $2 a vial, you can be without the burden of those arthritic knees or your weak heart. You’ll have the stamina of an athlete and the wisdom of the elephant…” … “Come one, come all. Donate to our temple and defer to us, and for nothing more than the suspension of your critical faculties and a lifetime on your knees, and you may cheat death itself! You may live for eternity in heavenly paradise! Come on, you know you want to…”
Now in itself, this may seem quite harmless. It’s simply an idea of consolation, albeit a rather bad one. It allows us dipsticks to feel like we’re not alone in the universe and that no matter what happens in this life, how we succeed or fail, who we love and who we lose to death, we get another go after we’re done. Apart from being a subject of pure fantasy and wishful thinking, this is not in any way harmful to anyone who still invests some degree of effort in their life here in the land of the living, so to speak, and recognises its value. After all, what is there apart from the present moment? But after a point, this ‘faith‘ negates the need for this, and everything becomes about paradise on earth (or heaven, in the case of the lucky 144,000, chosen by the Heaven’s Select Committee, as far as I can tell) or death in the coming apocalypse – about what happens after death. We spend our entire lives worrying about where we go after we die, and how to influence this. And this is where dogma enters the fray. This is when Jehovah’s self-appointed intermediaries and earthly agents, the pompously named ‘elders’ and the hysterically named ‘faithful and discrete slaves’ (It’s brilliant, is it not?) come along and dictate to us how we may and may not behave, how and what we may or may not think, who and how we may or may not love, lest we be denied our spot in heaven, or be cast into an everlasting flame. This is a fear that we have not evolved to be able to deal with. Humans are designed to tackle danger in the sense of ancient tribesmen in the jungle, considering what to do if they encounter a lion. When it comes to things we can’t or couldn’t explain, such as why the rains didn’t come this year, and now we have no crops, or what could be the cause for this awful hacking cough my baby has, or most importantly, what happens to me after I die? Well we had to imagine whatever we could, much like a child. And like children, when we are threatened with physical pain if we do not behave this way or that way, or offer tribute and deference to this or that person, we experience a genuine fear and typically conform, because unlike most rational instinctive reactions to threats, we lack any experience with this situation, and very few Witnesses today, among many others, have not been educated to address this extortion racket maturely.
I quoted at the beginning of this piece, Steven Weinberg. The full quote reads “Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God’s will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” If we examine morality through the lens of human and animal well being, through basic solidarity with our fellow living creatures, as opposed to supposedly divine revelation, how can any of this possibly constitute moral teachings?
I recently quoted in a previous essay, an Islamic State recruitment magazine, entitled Dabiq. Named after the city where the Jihadists believe God will finally come down and destroy the world, granting true believers paradise, and casting everyone else into the flames. Is any of this sounding familiar? In issue fifteen of Dabiq, entitled ‘Breaking The Cross’, one particular article called ‘Why We Hate You, And Why We Fight You’ caught my eye. The article is extensive, and mid way lists six specific reasons for their opposition to western, secular democracy, also known as civilisation. The first three are as follows;
- We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you.
- We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted, a matter that doesn’t concern you because you Christian disbelief and paganism separate between religion and state, thereby granting supreme authority to your whims and desires via the legislators you vote into power. In doing so, you desire to rob Allah of His right to be obeyed and you wish to usurp that right for yourselves.
- .In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.
In my essay ‘Secular First‘, I began by quoting the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus; “Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.” – ‘Change only the name, and the story is about you.’
The Witnesses are not a violent people, but deeply intolerant. Change the word ‘hate’ to ‘disapprove, shun and hold in contempt’ and that’s you people in a nutshell. You teach that disbelievers are of poor character and not to be associated with, attempt at carnal relations with outsiders is forbidden on pain of rejection by the entire community. Homosexuality is equally forbidden. Premarital sex, also. Quite the obsession with sex, here, as a side note. In a debate regarding the usefulness and the morality of the Catholic Church, Steven Fry remarked on the Church’s very similar obsession with sex, saying “The only people obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese.” Once more, Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.
I have spoken in a previous essay about by friend in the Witnesses, a young man with whom I have had carnal relations. A victim of systematic sexual abuse by male, non-witnesses for many years. Like many others, this was enough to warrant discipline from the ‘elders’ of his congregation. Demands of contrition and repentance for the crime of being raped. Ordered to pray for ‘forgiveness.’ Intimately and inappropriately interrogated as to specific acts, positions, how much he resisted, and judged on the basis of this. Many such rape victims are subject to such inquisitions by these ‘elders’, made to feel as though they are responsible and often shunned for it. The same treatment is afforded to those abused by fellow Witnesses, and victims of domestic violence. My friend also risked being shunned and disfellowshipped for associating with me, a non-Witness, let alone engaging in sex as a male non-Witness. Where one loses all social contact and both their friends and family will refuse any and all contact and association, refusing to so much as make eye contact with their relatives and loved one’s in the streets, either out of piety or fear of suffering the same fate. This is particularly damaging for several reasons.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses are frowned upon and regarded with contempt for associating with outsiders, making friends and social contacts outside of the community. So if a Witness either dissassociates or is disfellowshipped, and thus shunned, they often have nobody in the world to turn to.
- In many cases, Witnesses must be cast also from their homes when shunned, which is especially damaging for those younger Witnesses, who are unable to support themselves independently.
- They are often unable to support themselves financially as they are equally frowned upon and regarded with contempt for having full time employment, well-paying employment or what may be called social jobs, i.e. working with the public, and those in such positions are often pressured to resign. This is because their time is regarded as being better spent with congregational activities such as proselytising and going door to door with leaflets, or in Bible study.
- Many Witnesses are essentially prevented from growing up; allowed little access to the outside world, be it socially, professionally, sexually or academically, frowned upon for attending institutions of higher education such as college or university, and are not allowed to engage in any form of intimacy prior to marriage – which is forbidden with anyone outside the organisation.
I think it can be agreed that this sinister cult does a very good job of ensuring that nobody has an easy job of leaving. With the indoctrination, the social pressure, social and sexual repression, the intimidation and blackmail, the bullying, the victim-blaming, the way they keep their members poor and ignorant, and the guarantee that if they should dare to leave, they will lose everyone and everything they have ever known.
It seems clear to me that this cult of death, funded directly by the Watchtower Corporation is evil, it’s followers sub-human. I ask why, when Islamic beliefs held by conservative, sometimes fanatical and yet non-violent Muslims and Islamists are regarded as so abhorrent and criticised as such, why is this organisation not treated with the same contempt and the amused incredulity if not outright abuse it so thoroughly deserves? As a private business, as it is, for all intents and purposes, the British Government and all other businesses and companies are within their rights to both boycott it and ban it as Russia has. Especially as a private business that regularly violates some of the most basic, fundamental rights of it’s prisoners; Freedom of expression, freedom of the mind, freedom of sexuality and the right to a family life, freedom of education and employment. Many are pressured or even shunned by their entire communities for these ‘offences’, on nothing more than a scriptural basis. And I would appreciate someone telling me why this isn’t happening. And if this is what they call good news, I’d hate to see what constitutes bad news…