Here is an analysis of the Watchtower article claiming that JWs are not a cult.
*** w94 2/15 pp. 5-7 Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult? ***
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?
JESUS CHRIST was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton, a Sabbath breaker, a false witness, a blasphemer of God, and a messenger of Satan. He was also accused of being subversive.—Matthew 9:34; 11:19; 12:24; 26:65; John 8:13; 9:16; 19:12.
Here the Watchtower writer has set up a strawman. Not many who think JWs are a cult would accuse them of being drunkards, gluttons, blasphemers or messengers of Satan. They would certainly accuse them of being false witnesses because it is easy to demonstrate that Watchtower leaders tell lies in their publications. Recent publicity has also demonstrated that JW leaders are notorious liars in the field of child molestation. This strawman argumentation technique is absolutely typical of Watchotwer writers.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples were likewise the target of serious accusations. One group of first-century Christians were dragged to the city rulers by people crying out: ‘These men have overturned the inhabited earth.’ (Acts 17:6) On another occasion the apostle Paul and his companion Silas were taken to the authorities and charged with greatly disturbing the city of Philippi.—Acts 16:20.
More strawman arguments. No one is accusing the JWs of "disturbing" cities and so forth. This false argumentation helps the JW writer deceive his reader into accepting a false definition of a cult.
Paul was later accused of being a "pestilent fellow and stirring up seditions among all the Jews throughout the inhabited earth" and of trying "to profane the temple." (Acts 24:5, 6) The principal men of the Jews in Rome accurately described the situation of Jesus’ followers when they acknowledged: "For truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against."—Acts 28:22.
More of the same, except that here the standard JW notion of "being persecuted for righteousness' sake" is invoked so as to stir the reader's emotions against such "false accusations".
Evidently, this new group established by Jesus Christ was considered by some to be a religious group with radical views and practices that clashed with what was accepted in those days as normal social behavior. Undoubtedly, many today would have considered the Christians a destructive cult.
Destructive or not, the early Christians were a cult by all definitions except the JWs'. They were a cult because they adhered strongly to a leader -- Jesus. They also displayed most of the qualities that in modern parlance define a cult.
The accusers were often prominent and respected members of the community, and this seems to have added weight to the allegations. Many believed the accusations against Jesus and his disciples. Yet, as you probably know, every one of these charges was false! The fact that people said these things did not make them true.
Here the writer is setting up to say that, just as there were false charges made against the early Christians, so today there are false charges made against the JWs. The strawman argument is going full tilt here, since the charges the writer listed above that were made against early Christians have nothing to do with the qualities that define a cult, except for the charge of lying.
What about today? Would it be accurate to refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious group with radical views and practices that clash with what is accepted as normal social behavior?
Obviously, yes! They don't partake in many norms of society, including politics, observing social occasions and holidays, they don't accept blood transfusions, they keep predicting the end of the world, and so forth.
Note that the writer does not answer his own question. Instead he relies on the reader to answer "no" in his own mind, even though nothing the writer has said actually leads to this answer. The writer is relying on emotionally deceiving the reader, which means that the writer cannot be directly accused of giving a false answer. This is because the writer really knows that the answer is Yes, but doesn't want to admit this to JW readers.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult?
Better believe it!
Note the many uses of strawman arguments in the following material. The writer only barely mentions the Watchtower definition of a cult, and even that is wrong. Instead he assumes that the reader has accepted his deceptive proddings so that he forms a wrong opinion of what a cult is. Naturally this wrong opinion is precisely what the writer had in mind all along. He knows perfectly well that to list the standard definitions of "cult" would immediately lose his case for him.
What the Evidence Shows
A government official of the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, explained: "Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented to us as some kind of underground sect sitting in the darkness and slaughtering children and killing themselves." However, the people of Russia have recently become better acquainted with the true nature of the Witnesses. After working with Jehovah’s Witnesses in connection with an international convention, the same official observed: "Now I see normal, smiling people, even better than many people I know. They are peaceful and calm, and they love one another very much." He added: "I really do not understand why people tell such lies about them."
JWs are indeed peaceful and calm, and to a certain extent love one another, and don't sit in physical darkness or kill children or each other. But this has nothing to do with the standard definition of a cult.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold ritualistic meetings, nor is their worship cloaked in secrecy.
Again we see the writer leading the reader to wrong conclusions about what constitutes a cult.
Non-Witness author Julia Mitchell Corbett notes: "When they meet, usually more than once a week, in Kingdom Halls (their meeting sites are not called churches), most of their time is spent in Bible study and discussion." Their meeting places are clearly marked with a sign. The meetings are open, and the general public is invited to attend. Unannounced guests are more than welcome.
All of which has absolutely nothing to do with what a cult is. The cult of Scientology goes out of its way to invite the public to its "informational" meetings. But just as the JWs do, it is in the meetings oriented more towards internal "customers" (like the Service Meeting) where the somewhat more cultlike behavior becomes evident. And it is only in very private circumstances, such as in the home life of JWs, or in judicial committee actions, where the overly cultish behavior becomes evident.
The "Witnesses have earned the reputation of being honest, courteous, and industrious," adds Corbett in her book Religion in America.
Cultish behavior has little to do with these things.
Many who are not Witnesses readily acknowledge that there is nothing freakish or bizarre about Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ah, that good old unspecified "many". "Many" includes JWs themselves, and certain sociologists who are so braindead that they don't even consider Scientology a cult, since they don't accept that cults exist. "Many" includes people whose only real contact with JWs is academic.
Their conduct does not clash with what is accepted as normal social behavior.
More self-serving nonsense. When a person becomes a JW and cuts off most contact with non-JW friends and relatives, that is certainly not "normal social behavior". It is bizarre by most human social standards. When JWs let their children die for lack of a blood transfusion, that is certainly bizarre behavior.
The New Encyclopædia Britannica accurately states that the Witnesses "insist upon a high moral code in personal conduct."
Again this has nothing to do with being a cult.
The director of news and special projects for a television station in the United States wrote to Jehovah’s Witnesses in response to a biased report about the Witnesses on the TV news show 60 Minutes. He said: "If more people lived the way your faith does, this nation wouldn’t be in the shape it is in. I am one newsman who knows that your organization is founded on love and a strong faith in the Creator. I want you to know that not all News people are as biased."
One can find any number of people as ignorant of JWs as this newsman. But I'm sure that a poll of newsmen generally would show that a large majority consider JWs to be way out on the fringe of normal behavior. This would be especially true today, after the various TV shows and other media coverage exposing the Watchtower's propensity to cover up child molestation.
A Well-Known Religion
Is it fair to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a small fringe religious group?
Of course. They are small in terms of the size of the biggest religions, and they're certainly on the fringe of normal human behavior.
In a sense, Jehovah’s Witnesses are few in number compared to some religions. However, recall what Jesus said: "Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it."—Matthew 7:13, 14.
Ah, so it's good to be small. But the writer minimizes this part of the question.
At any rate, the Witnesses are far from being a small fringe cult.
Note that the point is still being argued about size, even though the writer has already stated that small size is a good thing.
In the spring of 1993, more than 11 million people attended the Witnesses’ Memorial of Christ’s death. But more important than their number
The writer is clearly unable to formulate a consistent argument. Now it seems that a comparatively large size is good. But compared to what? The few dozen members of Heaven's Gate?
are their moral character and exemplary behavior, which have brought them worldwide commendation. Undoubtedly this has been a factor in countries that have given them official recognition as a known, bona fide religion.
Once gain, good moral character has nothing to do with being a cult.
Outstanding is a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. It declared that the Witnesses should enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and that they have the right to speak about their faith and teach it to others. This would hardly be the case if Jehovah’s Witnesses were known to use deceptive and unethical techniques to recruit members or if they used manipulative methods to control the minds of their followers.
Nonsense. Various people and agencies like the EHRC go out of their way to be liberal and non-judgmental about all organizations. They listen to the sociologists who deny the existence of cults altogether. This is a standard, self-serving claim by the Watchtower.
Multitudes around the world are well acquainted with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of the millions of non-Witnesses who are studying the Bible with the Witnesses or who have studied with them at one time or another, we ask, Were there any attempts to brainwash you? Did the Witnesses employ mind-control techniques on you? "No" would doubtless be your frank response.
More self-serving nonsense. Sure, some people would deny that such techniques were used, but the fact is that a person of the mind even to start a "Bible study" with the JWs is not a good judge of "mind control" techniques or of human character to begin with. And what about the many who quit these Bible studies and never become JWs? They certainly judged that something was negative about the JWs. What could it possibly be? The fact is that many people who "studied" with the JWs realized after awhile that deceptive techniques were being used on them. Such techniques include promising to answer difficult questions but not intending to do so, hoping that the person will become a JW and forget about them.
Obviously, if these methods had been used, there would be an overwhelming number of victims in contradiction to any argument in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Hardly. Most people are too smart to be deceived by a cult. That's why most people are not in cults.
"Absorbed in Humanity"
Cult members often isolate themselves from family, friends, and even society in general. Is that the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Better believe it! Anyone who grew up as a JW and had little or no contact with his non-JW relatives knows it. Anyone who understands the JW doctrine about "being no part of the world" knows it.
It's amazing that a writer can be so consciously deceptive. He knows, of course, that his JW audience will swallow this line without even thinking about it, which proves that they're a cult.
"I do not belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses," wrote a newsman in the Czech Republic. Yet he added: "It is obvious that they [Jehovah’s Witnesses] have tremendous moral strength. . . . They recognize governmental authorities but believe that only God’s Kingdom is capable of solving all human problems. But watch it—they are not fanatics. They are people who are absorbed in humanity."
Yet another ignorant newsman.
And they do not live in communes, isolating themselves from relatives and others.
So what? Most cult members don't live in communes. But JWs certainly do keep away from all non-JWs to the extent they can.
Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that it is their Scriptural responsibility to love and care for their families. They live and work with people of all races and religions. When disasters strike, they are quick to respond with relief supplies and other humanitarian assistance.
What nonsense! The Watchtower Society, in 99% of disaster cases where it offers any assistance at all, offers it only to JWs. And even then, the assistance is offered almost always out of what's left over after the JWs have been helped. Nothing wrong with this, but the deception once again proves that JWs have something to hide, and are a deceptive cult.
More important, they are engaged in an educational program that has no comparison. How many religions have an organized system to pay personal visits to every individual in their community? Jehovah’s Witnesses do this in more than 200 lands and in more than 200 languages! Clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are "absorbed in humanity."
Absolutely irrelevant to the charge of being a cult.
Strict Adherence to the Bible
Admittedly, the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are different from those provided by the churches. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the almighty God and that Jesus is his Son, not part of a triune deity. Their faith is anchored in the belief that God’s Kingdom alone can bring relief to suffering humanity. They warn people of the imminent destruction of this corrupt system of things. They preach about God’s promise of an earthly paradise for obedient mankind. They do not venerate the cross. They do not celebrate Christmas. They believe that the soul is mortal and that there is no hellfire. They will not eat blood, nor will they accept blood transfusions. They abstain from involvement in politics and participation in warfare. Have you ever asked yourself why the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are so different?
A complete list of JW doctrines, especially ones they held in the past, proves beyond doubt that they are a cult. Anyone who taught that "millions now living will never die" and that Armageddon would come in a certain year and that "ancient worthies" would be resurrected then and would live in a Watchtower mansion called "Beth Sarim" certainly had a cult mindset. Anyone who taught that vaccinations violated God's law, and that organ transplants are wrong, and that blood transfusions are wrong, is virtually by definition a cultist. Anyone who today goes around preaching "the end is real close!" is a cult member. Anyone who actively shuns family and friends by the order of an impersonal corporate religion is a blatant cultist.
A Massachusetts newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, explains that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ "strict interpretation of the Bible forbids many activities others take for granted . . . , all in an effort to follow the example of first-century Christians and the word of the Bible."
Which contradicts the writer's above claim that JWs are perfectly normal members of society.
Encyclopedia of Religion agrees that "all that they believe is based on the Bible. They ‘proof text’ (that is, supply a biblical citation to support) almost every statement of faith, taking for granted the authority of the Bible, which entirely supplants tradition."
David Koresh did the same thing. Did that indicate he didn't head up a cult?
The book Religion in America states: "The group has never wavered from its focus on Bible study, and its teachings are supported by an elaborate system of references to scripture."
Who Is Their Leader?
It is precisely because of this close adherence to Bible teachings that the veneration and idolization of human leaders so characteristic of cults today is not to be found among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Note the distinction between "leaders" and "human leaders". This is extremely important to the JW argument, because by saying "we don't follow any human; we follow Jesus" they think they're avoiding the charge of being a cult. This is wrong on two counts: (1) Even if they were following the Jesus they think they are, they would still be a cult by virtue of blindly following a leader. The definition of "cult" has nothing to do with whether that leader is human or not. (2) Since the JWs don't claim to be inspired, any information that they claim comes from God or Jesus does not -- it comes from the interpretation JW leaders make of the Bible. But because they claim that their interpretations are just as good as direct, inspired statements, they're equating their ideas with those of God and Jesus, which makes them cult leaders.
Furthermore, a great many JWs do in fact venerate and idolize the Governing Body. Watchtower publications are full of extravagant praise for these men, who have the audacity to claim that they are both "faithful" and "discreet" in obeying God. The very claim that they have been appointed as a special authority, "the faithful and discreet slave" who Jesus appointed "over all his earthly belongings" in 1919, proves that they're cult leaders.
They reject the concept of a clergy-laity distinction. The Encyclopedia of Religion aptly states about Jehovah’s Witnesses: "A clergy class and distinctive titles are prohibited."
Another extremely deceptive statement. While the JW organization claims that elders are not a clergy class, the way elders work, the way they're appointed, and the way congregation members are subject to their authority prove that in a very real sense they are clergy by any sensible definition of the term. They are not a paid clergy, but they are still a clergy class. This is proved by the fact that in court, the Watchtower claims that elders do constitute a clergy and claim all clergy privileges such as clergy-penitent privilege. The fact that JW leaders and the JW rank and file see no contradiction in this is another proof that they're a cult.
They follow Jesus Christ as their Leader and as Head of the Christian congregation. It was Jesus who said: "Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ."—Matthew 23:8-12.
Fine in principle, but the JWs don't practice it. While they claim to follow Jesus, in practice they follow what the Governing Body claims about Jesus. Anyone who knows JWs well knows that if the Governing Body were to change major doctrines, the JW rank and file would mostly go along. They could adopt the Trinity, for example, and not be bothered any more than they were when any number of major changes were made, such as the 1995 jettisoning of the claim that within one literal generation of 1914, Armageddon would come. Indeed, Jehovah's Witnesses have but one basic doctrine, one that I call The Fundamental Doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses:
Thou shalt obey the Governing Body as if God himself were speaking.
This doctrine is fundamental because it is the only one that, if jettisoned, would make the JW organization cease to exist as a viable religion.
It is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are as far from being a cult as Jesus was from being a glutton and a drunkard.
By assuming that his readers would be deceived by the above fake arguments, the writer has proved the opposite of his claim. Anyone so blinded that the can't see through such deception is certainly a cultist.
Admittedly, not everyone who was influenced by the false reports about Jesus and his disciples fell into the trap of slandering him. Some may simply have been misinformed. If you have questions about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs, why not get to know them better? The doors to their Kingdom Halls are wide open to all who seek truth.
Most people who make such an investigation come away convinced that JWs are indeed a cult.
You can also benefit from their careful search for accurate Bible knowledge and learn how to worship God in harmony with Jesus’ words: "The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him."—John 4:23.
All Christian cults deliver the same tired line.