Many of us who are old timers in "Truth", will clearly remember how we and the Organization gloated when Christendom began selling off their churches, as we saw many ending up becoming cafe's and art galleries. I personally remember being told (both in general conversation and in print) that the fall of their congregant numbers meant that most churches were ultimately attended by the elderly and it was clearly linked to the "drying up of her waters" in reference to the fall of Babylon and Babylon the Great.
How ironic, that this very situation has now befallen the Society and our local Kingdom Halls.
Yet I while firmly believe the Jehovah's Witness faith will ultimately collapse inwardly into obscurity, I also feel that contrary to what we see at the moment, the Catholic Church (and the other major Protestant religions) will likely make a resurgence in popularity just after the next World War.
Well for two reasons.
Firstly, people's religious faith and the practicing of it (from the larger perspective) is generally influenced by its perceived "need" by the individual. That is to simply say, when people feel at comfort, at ease, when things are looking up, then the psychological imperative to devote time to God is low. But throw them into a world where their surroundings, their livelihoods and their hope to exist for one more day are threatened, then even the most outrageous hedonists, will starts wishing for heaven to exist.
But to take one step back, it’s not hard grasp that the declining popularity of the traditional churches began from the 18th century, as the opportunity to live happy "now" became a possibility for the many, rather than waiting until later, when people got it from some kind of heavenly reward. Thus from the time of the Industrial Revolution (which technically starting a bit before the 18th century), global standards of living rapidly increased from the times of indentured servitude. Resulting of course in the increasing rates of disposable income and public health, which flowed on to lengthening of people's life expectancy.
However, as the traditional churches began to decline, the world saw the rise of non-conforming faiths, the International Bible Students being just one of them. Which poses an interesting question. Did all these minor religions really grow because they were actually better in some theological context, or did people just move congregations because they were tired of what was now viewed irreverent? Interestingly, a few social commentators have suggested that these new faiths grew more from as a form of social protest, than as a genuine issue of spiritually. Which could be true in the case of the Witnesses. For if we are honest, most who have come into the congregation, have done so not primarily due to doctrinal issues but rather they were motive by the supposed Christian "brotherhood" and the “love” displayed to them.
However in times of real hardship (and have in your mind the images of the blitzed out London and Coventry) people do begin to crave stability and the vestiges of it. Thus it is during those times, seeing people attending mass even in roofless and burnout churches was not and will not be unusual again.
This leads to my second point, in that the Catholic Church (and co) have something that the Organization can never have, which is ... history.
Yes the Catholic Church has been around for over sixteen hundred years and the Protestant faiths, for at least five hundred. This fact alone, even now still has an amazing drawing ability. Remember, people might consciously accept that these religions may be nothing more than a mere collection of traditions, yet people still keep going back to it because of the comforting nature of it always being around, in a unstable world. Proof of this was seen in the recent fire at the Notre Dame cathedral, which emotionally effected tens of thousands of lapped Catholics to come out in solidarity to contribute for its repair.
So when the world really falls apart, with millions dead or dying, where will people turn? To the E-religions of today (which in reality will go off line) or the one of few vestiges of normalcy left in people’s collective memory? For the Western world, my money is on the Catholic Church. Because while the remaining Witnesses will be left in some kind of limbo, totally lost without JW Broadcasting, streamed meeting parts and regular magazines, the millions of inactive Catholics and Anglicans will begin reconnecting to church communities to find continuity, as they have done in times past. Thus reinvigorating those faiths.
What do you guys think?
Will the Catholic Church actively out live Jehovah’s Witnesses?