What the WTS. says about demons ....
Offer Protection to the Terrified
Responding to a readers question regarding the distressing content of these and the many similar accounts, the Watchtower society stated that the nature of the content has a very specific intent - to instill fear of these invisible being into the reader -
"We feel the need to take up serious problems facing people today and to show how these will be resolved. Further, there are many dangers in the world, such as occultism, and we believe that it is positive to warn our readers about these dangers and show how they can gain protection from them" 14
Keeping in mind that the "protection" mentioned is, of course, joining with and following the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the function of demons, and the graphic events attributed to them, starts to become clear. They are the lion at the gate, the evil awaiting the unwary, the progenitor of every imaginable horror that could be inflicted on a person. Jehovah (and the Watchtower Society as the only legitimate avenue of worship) is, as could be expected, held as the carrot to that stick. Regularly following accounts of demonic attack are reminders that "Jehovah is able to protect his servants from Satan's attacks" 18 , and that "with the help of Jehovah and his Witnesses on earth, [a victim of demons] broke free of demon influence and now lives a rich, wholesome life" 19 .
Looking further, demons also function to help create the insular, "us-against-them" mentality that adds to the social isolation imposed on followers. Notice how each of these quotes reinforces that:
- "Those wicked spirits are the prime instigators of persecution of Jehovah's servants." 15
- "Exploring spiritism, therefore, amounts to loving what Jehovah God hates. It is like rejecting Jehovah, being in Satan's camp, and siding with God's archenemy " 8
- "The demons are God's enemies and yours too" 16
- "dabbling in spiritism is gross treachery against Jehovah", "if a Christian turned to spiritism, he would willingly and knowingly desert Jehovah and place himself directly under Satan's command. Imagine what pleasure it would give Satan to parade that deserter as a trophy of war! Would any of us want to hand the Devil such a victory? Absolutely not! We are not traitors." 17
Superstition and Hypocrisy
Science and understanding continues to shed light on the mysteries of the universe, providing rational explanations for things previously attributed to "spirits". Illness, once inflicted by demons or dark magic, is now the result of bacteria. Those who may have once been "demon possessed" and subject to exorcism now receive treatment for schizophrenia and other mental illness. There is a growing trend, even within mainstream Christianity, to view demons with the same level of skepticism.
While on the one hand steeping pages with supernatural occurrences and attributing vast maladies to demons, even the WTBTS is careful to remind readers that there are secular causes to various illnesses.
"This does not mean that everyone who hears "voices" is being spoken to by demons. At times the hearing of voices can be traced to certain physical or mental illnesses." 20
"Therefore, it would be wrong to attribute all sickness or all setbacks to the workings of wicked spirits." 21
Even then, the mixed message is easily identified. A clear example of this can be found in the contract between the following quotes:
"While not all persons afflicted with madness or insanity are possessed by the demons, logically persons possessed by the demons may be expected to manifest an unbalanced mental state" 22
"Often the wild and uncontrolled conduct of mentally unbalanced persons is due to possession by these invisible minions of Satan." 23
It must be questioned, then, how much of this belief in demons is rooted in superstition and reinforced by religious fervor. Examining the accounts of reported demonic activity shows an interesting trend. If demonic activity is as prevalent and insinuated into the world as the Witnesses put forth, it could be expected that accounts would be spread around the world with relative equality. Instead, the majority of accounts originate in less-developed nations already steeped in demonic belief. Of 25 examined accounts:
- Asia (primarily Thailand) - 9
- South America (primarily Suriname and Brazil) - 9
- Africa - 5
- Europe - 2
This uneven spread goes a great distance in showing these accounts for what they are - tales born of superstition and given credence by religious fervor. The evidence for the Witnesses being mired in superstition goes beyond the origins of the stories, however.
A pair of common threads run through the Witness dogma and accounts regarding demons. First, that material items can be linked to spiritism, and used as demonic "contact points". These should be destroyed, preferably by fire. 20 The repetition of this advice raises it from a simple recommendation to a ritual action being performed to break the link to the demon world. Second is the advice for those suffering from demonic attack - "call on Jehovah aloud in prayer, using his name. He will help you" 9 . This prayer, too, serves the essential purpose of ritual - the invocation of the name of a deity in order to provide protection from the enemies of God.
It is here that the hypocrisy of the WTBTS begins to be most evident - reinforcing a superstitious fear of demons on one hand while belittling superstition on the other. One publication notes:
"There are countless superstitious practices, and all of them have something in common-the lack of a logical explanation. Superstitions can, among other things, lead people into blaming their misfortunes on bad luck rather than accepting responsibility for their deeds." 24
While another puts it quite succinctly
"WHEN you were a child, were you afraid of the dark? Perhaps you imagined a monster lurking outside your window, waiting to snatch you from your parents. Now as an adult, able to read factual information and think more rationally, your childhood fears seem absurd. " 25
This standpoint is difficult to balance against the tales of demonic harassment that occur throughout Witness literature. The WTBTS rationalizes it by claiming to show evidence only to help educate their followers. The underlying hypocrisy becomes self-evident, however, when the same group publishing lurid stories of demons molesting women and twisting the heads off children had the following to say about the exact same type of stories:
"The sheer abundance of such stories [regarding the power of witches and sorcerers], along with the widespread belief in them, may tend to influence some in the Christian congregation also to believe that they are true." "[Satan] is a master at making people believe things that are not true. Because of this, even the testimony and confessions of those who have been involved in spiritism and witchcraft are often far from reliable. Such people may sincerely believe that they have seen, heard, or experienced certain things; yet, in fact, they have not." "In view of the Devil's history of deception, the truthfulness of supernatural tales is highly suspect at best. Most are the inventions of superstitious imaginations, exaggerated by constant retelling. Circulating such fables promotes the interests of the father of the lie, Satan the Devil." "What, though, if the stories appear to be truthful? Sometimes experiences are related of spirits or spiritists acknowledging the supremacy of Jehovah and the truthfulness of his Witnesses. Should Christians repeat such stories? No, they should not" 26
This examination has covered a number of points, but put together they paint a clear portrait of how the idea of demons is used by the WTBTS. They are a method of control - frightening believers as to what awaits the unfaithful. They are superstition - supposed "true" accounts being culled from cultures already seeing demons in everyday life. Finally, they are evidence of the Witness hypocrisy, as they publish account after account of these stories while instructing their followers that they should do no such thing.