JWs Outlawed in Russia

by minimus 55 Replies latest jw friends

  • mentalclarity

    I'm with Morpheus on this.

    No one puts a gun to their heads to get baptized or shun or not take blood. All of these are their choices. This is why I have such an issue with the "cult" label. It seems like a way to free oneself of personal accountability.

    @Td I don't know a whole lot about Mormons, but when I read ex mormon stories- sounds alot like ex jws.

  • minimus

    Even if you consider Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult, they pose no danger to the Russian government.

  • _Morpheus
    To borrow a scenario from The Godfather, if someone were to hand you a blank check and tell you, "In ten seconds either your signature will be on that check or your brains will be on the check" have they taken away your freedom of choice?
    I would argue that freedom of choice in the absolute sense is an abstract that's virtually impossible to take away from anyone. What actually gets taken away is the ability to freely exercise it.
    So when you say that JW's don't forbid anything; that they don't have the authority to forbid and that it ultimately comes down to freedom of choice, I don't disagree, but I don't think that's quite the issue.

    I certainly want to acknowledge your good and reasonable point, and i always love a godfather reference.

    I also dont disagree that absolute freedom of choice is never taken away but can be impinged upon. We generally refer to that as coercion, as was the case in the godfather reference above. Nobody would argue that the band leader REALLY had a choice beyond signing johnnys release or losing his life, which is only a choice in the absolute sense you and both agree on.

    the wt, however, dosent have that sort of real power or control. The worst they can even claim is to df you. Having been a witness for many many years i understand the severe ramifications that implies and the implied consequences (dying at armageddon and so forth), but in the end its a mild form of coercion at most. Ive been pressured more by car salesman. Its part of being an adult that we have to own decisions and live (or die) with them.

    The simple and unpleasant truth of jw’s blood refusal is that most of them believe god doesn't want them to have blood. They are on board with the belief. That we disagree and see it differently, that we dont agree with their scriptural interpretation isnt relevant to their choice.

    I think its convenient for us, after the fact, to view their beliefs as coercion, to view it as having no choice, because it makes us not responsible in hindsight for our choices. That was then and is now false. We always had a choice. We made it. Thats why we are here today. They refuse blood and shun because they want to

  • TD

    I suspect that as with all things, mileage will probably vary. For some people, expulsion and the loss of their family, their friends and their good name might be inconsequential and for others, not so much.

    Even the JW faith itself seems to recognize social pressure as coercion, at least when it's convenient for them to do so.

    For example, they published the following letter and response in a 1999 Awake!

    "For some years I have been a reader of your magazines. I have to protest your one-sided reporting about the doctrines of the Catholic Church in the article "The Bible's Viewpoint: Is Celibacy a Requirement for Christian Ministers?" There is no "enforced celibacy" in the Catholic Church! There is only a voluntarily chosen celibacy that is a prerequisite for a certain profession. Whoever claims that he was forced into celibacy is lying."

    This person has invoked basically the same argument of free choice vis-à-vis celibacy and the JW's rejected it out of hand:

    "We believe that there is an important distinction between the phrase enforced celibacy and the notion that people are forced into celibacy. If, for example, a corporation establishes a dress code and hires only those who agree to adhere to it but fires those who violate it, then it could be said that the corporation has an "enforced" dress code. In a similar sense, it is fair to say that there is an "enforced celibacy" in the Catholic priesthood."

    It's easy to go through their reply, substituting "celibacy" with "refusal of blood" to demonstrate that by their own argument, there is an "enforced refusal of blood" in the JW faith.

    I'm not pointing any of this out because I think banning the JW's was necessarily a good thing.

    Here in the U.S. we're willing to recognize almost anything as a religion, but that's not the case in countries like Russia. If the JW's want to be recognized as a religion on human rights grounds, then I think they're going to have to start behaving more like a religion (as in being fundamentally benevolent and charitable) and less like a group that abuses the whole concept of human rights.

  • _Morpheus
    I suspect that as with all things, mileage will probably vary. For some people, expulsion and the loss of their family, their friends and their good name might be inconsequential and for others, not so much.

    I agree whole heartedly especially for those that were born in and know nothing else, the price could be high. Again, though, i want to make a distinction, one that your example allows for...

    Even the JW faith itself seems to recognize social pressure as coercion, at least when it's convenient for them to do so.

    You then cited a relevant quote regarding the catholic priesthood/celibacy as well as a dress code at work. Im a HUGE fan of hanging the org from their own petard. I often say we need not ever exagerate the facts since the facts alone hang the org everyday....

    but thats a bit of a fallacy here. I dont agree with the orgs reasoning and therefore wont apply it back to them.

    One has a choice to be a catholic priest or not and one knows the relevant details in advance. You may not fully realize the difficulty in staying celibate forever. You may feel pressured to stay celibate once you’ve taken your vows. It dosent negate your choice. You can still have sex, you can leave the priesthood (tens of thousands have through the centuries).

    The same for a dress code at work. The choice isnt negated. There is a dress code at my job, both company mandated and federal safety. Everyday when i get up i have a choice. I can either dress as required or not. Over my long career i have, many many times, not followed part or even all of the dress code. On rare occasions i have been sanctioned as a result. And yet every day when i get up i have the choice to follow all, part or even none of it. Its always my choice.

    But let me digress back to the underlying uncomfortable truth: most days when i get up and get dressed for work i choose to follow the dress code. I like my job (more or less) and so i play by the rules. The uncomfortable aspect for us at times, is that most jw’s LIKE their religion, more or less. The WANT to play by the rules. We may not agree, we may understand that they are deluded and lied to and that most of their religious policies are based on garbage... but that dosent negate their choice to believe it and accept it.

    When we talk about children dying the courts should be involved, be it russian or otherwise. Let the kids grow up and then decide. But when we are talking about adults we can and should educate but i will always be against enforcing a view.

    And lets not put russia on the high ground here. This is simply putin playing nice with the orthadox church. He isnt some paragon of virtue trying to ‘do the right thing’.

  • TD


    Even if you don't agree with the analogy, the argument of choice still strikes me as a double-edged sword

    The leaders and policy makers of the JW faith went before the ECHR and agreed to make changes to accommodate the human rights concerns of the Bulgarian government.

    They then chose not to honor that agreement

    If individuals are expected to live with the consequences of their choices, shouldn't organizations as well?

    Shouldn't they have to live with the fact that their legitimacy as a Christian religion suffered as a direct consequence of that choice? What kind of a Christian religion lies in court and on a human rights issue, no less?

    I don't mean to imply that the Russian government cares a whole lot about human rights. They don't.

    The Russian government doesn't like religion in general and especially distrusts U.S. religions which they have tended to view as subversive groups.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but if the JW's' choose not to act like a Christian religion, then who do they have to blame when a government that they already knew to be oppressive chooses not to view them as such?

  • Drearyweather
    This kind of deception is bad religion.... kudos to Russia.

    It's utterly disgusting to see people salivating at the prospect of seeing the individual rank and file JW's in Russia getting arrested and criminalized as extremists.

  • Drearyweather
    JW can have bibles in Russia. Just not their bibles. JW can have magazines in Russia. Just not their magazines. - Mr Roboto

    Nonsense. It is like telling a gay in Russia:

    You can love - but only someone of the opposite sex., You can marry - Just not of your gender, You can have sex - just not with someone of your gender

  • Vanderhoven7


    Do you have the complete reference the 1999 Awake quotation.

  • alecholmesthedetective
    Td, thats where i have to break with you. Jw’s dont “forbid” anything, nor do they have the authority to forbid. They have no power their membership dosent willingly grant. Your free to leave anytime. Your family and friends dont have shun you, its a choice they make. I realize this is an unpopular opinion but we all have choices even if those choices are influenced by a high control religious group.

    Morpheus I believe I disagree with you about the circumstances some of us find ourselves in when it comes to high control religious groups but I do not disagree with you when it comes to personal responsibility and choice.

    I was a born-in, the indoctrination was imposed on me. It took me more than two decades growing up in the religion to see it was a load of bollocks. Then, I had to decide upon leaving how to survive when my entire social network was made up of JWs. Surviving hasn't been easy.

    My point is I didn't stand a chance. Years and years of my life and a lot of energy were simply just wasted. I also failed to invest in my education at an earlier time thanks in part to those godawful belief systems. Had I been born in a mainstream religion in a family that was not made up of zealots I would have had better odds to be freer. The Catholic Church today is less detrimental to freedom in the West than Islam is, even though it can hardly be argued that it does more good than harm.

    Having said that I believe Thomas Jefferson had it right when he famously wrote that the government "should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

    Though some of us didn't have a choice banning a cult is not a long-term solution. More freedom is necessary, not less. A free press that would report the truth about any religion without any bias, an uncensored Internet that would allow for dissent from all sides on any issues, and a government not meddling with individual freedoms.

    At the end of the day, people need financial freedom to survive. They also need to take full responsibility for themselves if they are going to survive in the real world after leaving a cult if they were born in it. Governments should spend more time fixing their education systems and their economies than banning religions, so their citizens can be truly educated, have access to jobs, and are then able to make a positive contribution to society. If a JW leaving the cult can get the access to education that they need and can support themselves financially even after losing all his family and his entire social network, leaving becomes easier. I am not even mentioning the psychological support needed to leave as well.

    Those are my feelings, yet I can't help feeling a tingle of schadenfreude hearing that the Watchtower was banned by the Russian government.

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