Where have you heard this before:
1) The World is Gonna end soon
2) You are special and will be spared when the end comes
3) Your path to salvation is sales
4) Everyone else is wrong.
No, it's not The Church of the SubGenius, but rather the utter inverse of: The Jehovah's Witnesses.
Although on the outside they seem to be kinda on the right track, their reaction and execution of beliefs leaves much to be desired.
The Jehovah's Witnesses basically began in 1931 as an offshoot of the Bible Student Society formed in the late 1880's by Charles Taze Russell. In 1916 Russell died leaving his Ministry (The Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society) in the hands of the Editorial Commitee. In 1917 the commitee elected Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who among other achievements, managed to piss off said commitee, make changes to Russell's doctrine, and rename both the society and the group. Rutherford coined the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" at a convention in Columbus, Ohio by quoting the American Standard Bible's Isaiah 43:10 "Ye are my Witnesses, saith Jehovah". He also changed the name of the society to "The Watchtower Society".
Let's look at some of the crazy beliefs these men passed off as divine doctrine:
In this corner: Charles "DON'T TAZE ME BRO" Taze Russell
1) Only 144,000 humans would be taken to heaven.. Those who have been saved will live life on Earth in a "New Eden"
2)Christ had come back, INVISIBLY, in 1874 and had been ruling heaven since then
3)The great pyramids were built by Hebrews under God's direction, and whose mystery can only be revealed in Modern Times. Basically, the pyramids prophesised the fall of man.
4)World War I marked the beginning of Armeggedon on Earth, which would eventually end in a world wide attack on a restored Israel
5)The Climate was slowly beginning to change in preparation for a return to "Eden" on Earth.
6)Jews should not convert to Christianity because God is calling them to re-establish Israel, which he predicted would occur in 1925.
And in the oposing corner: Joseph "Knock Knock It's" Franklin Rutherford
1) True believer's in God should go door to door and preach the word. Without creating Witness to God's (um.. sorry) Jehovah's Power, salvation is not assured.
2) Jewish Patriarchs (including Abraham, and Isaac) would be resurrected in 1925 thus starting the "1000 year reign" of Jesus on Earth. Earth would be Paradise with all the believers living with each other in peace surrounded by Lions, Elephants, Tigers, and Bears (oh my!).
3) All church elders would be appointed not by election, but by unanimous decision of the Watchtower Society.
4)Saluting Flags, Celebrating Birthdays, Christmas, and any other holiday was considered false idoltry which took from worshipping the "True God".
5)Satan secretly rules the world
There have been 4 other presidents of this cult since 1942 (after Rutherford's death):
Nathan Knorr: Created training schools to brainwash Youth and Adults to mold them in light of the Society's doctrine. The Theocratic Ministry School (for members) and the Gilead School (for missionaries). Knorr also commissioned the Society's translation of the bible: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Basically the King James mixed with The American Standard bible with the word God changed to Jehovah.
Knorr's time as President basically set all of the beliefs, dogma, and teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses in stone. The three remaining presidents did very little as far as changes to the cult; Fredrick William Franz (Knorr's Head Theologian), Milton Henschel,and the current president Don A. Adams.
SO THESE GUYS BELIEVED THAT THE EARTH WAS GONNA END IN 1925? WHAT HAPPENED?
Basically tons of followers left. 90,000 members in 1925 to 17,400 in 1928.
OKAY SO WAS THAT IT FOR END OF TIMES PROPHECY?
Hell No, Basically the cult changed both the time that Christ began ruling heaven and the beginning of the end to 1914. Anyone who converted after the 1925 miss-fire were the generation to see the end of days and be those who would "Live In Heaven On Earth".
THEN COMES 1975
In 1966, the Watchtower society started to write about some interpretations of biblical chronology that leads them to believe that 1975 is the year that Armageddon comes. In 1974, the Watchtower Magazine had printed articles commending followers who had sold their homes and belongings to better prepare their spiritual selves for the impending doom. Of course, 1975 wasn't the end either. After changing presidents and shifting power from the president to a new Governing Body, the Society kept going.
Currently the Jehovah's Witnesses still think that we are in the end of times ("The End of The System of Things" as they call it), but fail to give a new date for us to worry about. Church structure is more loose and the once "Elite" training facilites are open to all that wish to attend.
Salvation, according the JW's, can only be attained by Good Works. Praising God and spreading his word, and living to spread the word are the paths that every Witness follows if he is to have that pet lion lapping at his face in The New Eden. But how do they spread their word? They go door to door trying to sell you a magazine subscription and trying to convince you to attend meetings at the Local Kingdom Hall. It is by how many of these you buy that their place in the cult is determined. The Basic quota is 12 subscriptions per month per person. Congregation members must also hold "Bible Studys" either in their home, or the home's of new converts. Food and Beverages are expected. Various books and yearbook are also pushed by the JW's "Pioneers". As you can see, Its not too hard for the Watchtower Society to see "Who is with the game, and who should sit on the bench". Sales figures of members are tightly guarded by the Watchtower Society and many believe it is these sales figures alone that determine the pecking order of the cult. It also helps if you pay your way through the various training facilities, with "Bethel House" being the elite of the elite.
JESUS, THE CROSS, AND THE JEHOVAH's WITNESESSES:
Jesus in the Jehovah's Witnesses theology is distinct and seperate from God. Thus, JW's break with Xtian thought on the idea of "The Trinity". Jesus is viewed as "Perfect" but NOT COEQUAL to Jehovah (God). Jesus was put here to rid humanity of Original Sin, but is A GOD not THE GOD. In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures various key Xtian passages are changed around to push this point that Jehovah and Jesus are two seperate deities. That's right JW's basically BELIEVE IN POLYTHEISM.
The other break with Xtian lore comes with the death of Jesus. Everyone knows that Xtians believe that Christ died on the Cross, but not the Jehovah's Witnesses. No No No. According to their theology, the greek work for Cross (stauros) was misinterpretted throughout time; Jesus DIED ON A STAKE OR TREE NOT A CROSS. Most JW depictions of the Crucifixion show a single nail driven through both hands above Christ's head. Same with the feet; One nail through both. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses do not revere the Cross.
As far as Jesus' birth, that too is revised by the Jehovah's Witnesses. The JW's do not believe that Jesus was born in December, mainly based on Biblical passages stating that the Shepards in the surrounding hills were sleeping outside. How can they sleep outside in the Winter? In fact, Jehovah's Witnesses do not see the birth of Jesus as worthy of worship, therefore they do not celebrate Christmas.
As with much of the JW's beliefs, they tend to pick and choose passages from the Old and New Testament and put a spin on things. The idea of not taking Blood Transfusions or giving blood is based on their interpretation of Leviticus 11 and other passages that for the most part are Kosher Law. Blood is EVIL, DIRTY, and should not be shared or taken in by any means.
VIEWS ON PATRIOTISM
As mentioned before, the Jehovah's Witnesses deny partaking in any form of "idoltry" that takes away from praising Jehovah. This includes not reciting The Pledge of Alligence, not running for Public Offices, or joining any branch of The Military. Some instances in the 70's also showed young JW males not registering for Selective Service. Overall, Jehovah's Witnesses see all nations as running on borrowed time, with their end coming soon.
The World according to Jehovah's Witnesses is RULED BY SATAN. Therefore, anyone not worshipping the "True God Jehovah" is seen as unworthy of their company. JWs only date, socialize, and marry other JWs. This seperatist mentality is a great tool by which Congregation Leaders manipulate their flock. Threats of alienation (called "Disfellowshipping" by the JWs) keep congregation members towing the JW line. People who have been disfellowshipped have reported Kingdom Hall pressure on the remaining family members and friends to shun them outward. On top of all this, the Jehovah's Witnesses also distrust and rarely use local Law Enforcement when congregation members break the law. They see Disfellowship as the Ultimate Punishment. "NOW YOU DON'T GO TO HEAVEN, EAT IT!"
What Organized Religion hasn't deflowered a few of its younger members? But like the others, the Jehovah's Witnesses have had their share of pedophilia scandals. Many who have come out on their abuse look to the insulated and seperate world of the Witnesses as the main factor on its prevalence. One JW member, William Bowen (who ousted a Congregation Elder who on many occasions molested Kingdom Hall Children), even likened the Jehovah's Witnesses as a "Pedophile's Paradise". Throughout the 70's and 80's as many as several thousand young JWs reported some sort of sexual misconduct by Kingdom Hall Elders and Members. Add to it the distrust of Law Enforcement, and a lack of harsh punishment (especially against Elders), the problem persisted for many years. Even the victims were many times chastised as TRAITORS for outing their abuser. Eventually, the Watchtower Society convened and certain rules and guidlines were formed for the "Proper Way" to bring sexual misconduct accusations to the Elders of the congregation.
Overall, the Jehovah's Witnesses are just another of many fringe sects of American Christianity that makes our world a little kookier and wierder. Overall, like Earth, the JW's are Mostly Harmless.