Jehovah Witnesses Religion
My research into this religion showed me that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not required to knock on doors. They do it out of a motivation to spread the Gospel of Jesus, as they understand it. There are no quotas as to the amount of time a person needs to spend in this type of activity but the Jehovah’s Witnesses do make it clear that witnessing as an expected part of the religion, be it door-to-door or otherwise. I understand more fully now the doctrine and motivation that inspire Jehovah’s Witnesses to do what they do. The second coming of Jesus is central to their theology. They really believe that they need to get the word our now before it is too late. What I also learned from my research is the fact that when a special conference is planned, Jehovah’s Witnesses from surrounding areas will concentrate their efforts in order to try to convince people in the community to attend the conference (Byrd, 2011).
My prior understanding of this religion was altered through this experience in several ways. First of all, I have a greater respect for the adherents of this religion. Through a greater understanding of their doctrine and after having met with several of them, I can see that my biggest misunderstanding was their motivation for door-to-door meetings. My early assumption was that no one would ever choose to do something like that unless they were compelled to do it. I believed in all of the rumors I had heard concerning quotas and that they would lose their chosen spot in heaven if they did not go out to try and sell the Watchtower magazine. My research helped me to see past these misconceptions and to view members of the Jehovah’s Witness church in a new light. Instead of seeing aggressive people that were knocking on my door because church leaders compelled them, I now see dedicated individuals committed to living their religion as best they can. This change has been brought about by thorough independent research and meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses so I could get to know them.
What has not changed as a result of my research, however, is the difficulty I have concerning several specific points of doctrine. The preoccupation with the return of Jesus is something that I understood the Jehovah’s Witnesses had going into the research. Their peculiar beliefs concerning the 144,000 chosen to live with God and the evolution of the Earth into a place like the Garden of Eden do not endear me to their religion. Nor does the fact that predictions have been made in year’s past about the coming of Jesus that have been proven false or have been rationalized by saying that the return was “secret” in some way (What…, 2008). The best way to sum up how this experience has altered my prior understanding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be to say that I have a greater respect for them as people and adherents of a faith, but even more questions and reservations about the core doctrines of their beliefs.
Misconceptions about other religions are very common. Even if the misconception is not about doctrine, the misconception can be about what motivates individuals within a certain religion to act a certain way. Misconceptions about religion most often occur because of misplaced motivation or motivations that are projected upon adherents of a religion by the observer.
In my case with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I realized that they believed differently than I did about God, creation, salvation and the role of Jesus in all of these experiences and processes. The fact that their doctrine was different than my own beliefs caused me to put motivations upon Jehovah’s Witnesses that simply were not there. Looking back, I can see that this was a very unfair practice, especially because I would bristle if anyone did this to me. I simply assumed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were compelled by manipulative church leaders, a quota or fear of hell fire if they did not spend all of their leisure time knocking on doors. Once I met some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my city, I shared with them my view of them. They really did laugh at the depth of my misconceptions concerning their motivations relative to proselytizing. After listening to their personal witness about the benefits, challenges and motivations behind all of that door knocking, I came away with a better understanding about them and myself. I realized that most people do harbor misconceptions about other people’s religions simply because they judge their actions by using their own experiences, beliefs and doctrine as a measuring stick. This is not only unwise if you want to avoid misconceptions, but unjust as well.
There are several steps that we all need to take if we are to avoid misconceptions about other religions. The first of these steps is to learn how to be an impartial gatherer of facts (World Religions, 2011). Finding unbiased facts about a religion can be tricky. Much of what you read on the internet about a religion such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses consists of propaganda produced by the church and adherents or vitriol produced by other competing religions and disaffected ex-members. Reading the actual publications produced by a religion, their holy texts and speaking personally with knowledgeable individuals inside and outside of the religion allows you to have a better handle on what the religion actually teaches.
The second step of this information gathering is the part about being impartial. If you want facts, you must not measure another person’s personal beliefs or experiences against your own. This will cause bias. You need to first gather facts before any sort of analysis is completed.
Finally, the best way to eliminate and avoid misconceptions about other religions is to meet and make friends in that religion (Palutzian and Kirkpatrick, 1995). I think it is very difficult to really understand religious beliefs and motivation without seeing how people live their religion in daily life. By being in the homes of people of different religions, misconceptions met away or can be addressed and disposed of in a nurturing way. It is not always possible to be so intimate with people of religions that are not prominent in your own community, but the internet allows many opportunities across distances that simply were not possible before.
Byrd, Toni. “Why Jehovah’s Witness’s May Be Knocking on Your Door.” The Bay Net [Eastern Shore] 29 June 2011. Print.
Paloutzian, R. F. and Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1995), Introduction: The Scope of Religious Influences on Personal and Societal Well-Being. Journal of Social Issues, 51: 1–11. doi: 10.1111/j.1540- 4560.1995.tb01320.x
“What Is God’s Purpose for the Earth? – Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site.” Jehovah’s Witnesses: Watchtower Society Official Web Site. Watch Tower Bible and Track Society of Pennsylvania, 15 May 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.watchtower.org/e/20060515/article_01.htm>.
“World Religions.” Religions of the World: Information about 40 Organized Religions and Faith Groups. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/var_rel.htm>.