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Jehovah's Witnesses Overview

Discussion in 'Jehovah's Witnesses DIR' started by Rex, Jan 26, 2005.

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  1. Rex

    Rex Founder
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    Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) are members of a worldwide Christian religion who actively share with others their beliefs about God. Some of their core beliefs and practices include:
    • Use of the Hebrew name of God, commonly rendered Jehovah in English
    • Neutral stand in all political affairs and military conflicts
    • Visible proselytizing, including personal visits to neighbors, and conducting free home Bible study courses
    Jehovah's Witnesses conduct their ministry in obedience to their understanding of Jesus' command to teach and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Jehovah's Witnesses identify themselves as Christians, but do not accept the Trinity doctrine taught by most other Christian religions.



    Origins

    Jehovah's Witnesses believe that some time after the death of the last apostle the Church generally departed in a "Great Apostasy" from the original faith in major points. They believe that a few true Christians have always been on earth since the first century, but full understanding of the scriptures did not begin to be rediscovered until Charles Taze Russell and his friends started a bible study in the 1870's in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Born a Presbyterian, Russell had gained an appreciation for the importance of Bible study from his earlier involvement with the Millerites and related groups. They formed the Watch Tower Society in 1881, and in 1884 it was incorporated with Russell as president.

    In 1914 they founded the International Bible Students Association in the United Kingdom. Russell died in 1916, and in 1931, with Joseph Franklin Rutherford as president of the society, they adopted the name "Jehovah's Witnesses," based on Isaiah 43:10 which reads, "'You are my witnesses,' is the utterance of Jehovah..." (New World Translation) ("Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD..." - Authorized Version). Their name is one of the more obvious aspects differentiating them from other Christian denominations.



    Membership

    Main article: Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses

    The group's members are noted for their diverse but close-knit brotherhood, and their markedly different teachings and practice. As of August 2004, Jehovah's Witnesses have a practicing membership worldwide of more than 6.5 million individuals. According to data reported in the Annual Worldwide Statistics at the Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses (http://www.jw-media.org/people/statistics.htm):

    "While other religious groups count their membership by occasional or annual attendance, this figure reflects only those who are actively involved in the public Bible educational work." This statistic is based on the service report completed by each publisher every month indicating the amount of time they have personally spent in the ministry and other relevant information. (Publishers are both baptized and non-baptized persons who engage in any and all aspects of the evangelizing work.) These reports are compiled and forwarded to the appropriate Branch Office.

    Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate the Memorial of Christ's death, (also known as the Lord's Evening Meal or Lord's Supper), annually. Worldwide attendance at the 2004 celebration of the Memorial was 16,760,607. This is obviously in excess of the more than 6.5 million individuals regularly associated with the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses around the world, but includes many visitors and interested persons.

    They are 6th in the Top 10 Largest Highly International Religious Bodies (http://adherents.com/adh_rb.html#International) list from adherents.com (http://www.adherents.com), a site which collects data on religious group size.

    Jehovah's Witnesses generally exhibit a high degree of commitment to their religion, attending meetings three times a week (totaling approximately five hours) in their local Kingdom Halls and in private homes. Larger gatherings (called assemblies or conventions) are held usually three times a year in assembly halls that are owned or maintained by the Watchtower Society or in rented public facilities, such as sports stadiums or auditoriums. The offices of the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses are located in Brooklyn, New York. There are over 100 Branch Offices (http://www.watchtower.org/how_to_contact_us.htm) in various countries and lands around the world. -

    See also Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses.
     
  2. Rex

    Rex Founder
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    Beliefs and Doctrines

    See the related article Doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses for additional details.

    The teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from most Christian groups in many ways. For example, they reject the doctrines of the Trinity, immortality of the soul and eternal punishment of the wicked in hell (http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2002/7/15/article_01.htm). They believe in the eventual restoration of the earth to a global paradise (http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2003/11/15/article_01.htm), to take place following Armageddon, and in the eventual annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal punishment.

    Their use in English of the common pronunciation "Jehovah" for the name of God is based on its familiarity in that language. (For more information see the Tetragrammaton article)

    Jehovah's Witnesses believe that life on Earth, and indeed all things, were directly created by God. They do not accept the modern theory of evolution of species based upon Darwin's theory of natural selection.

    Jehovah's Witnesses also do not salute the flag of any country for two reasons. First, to do so would be a compromise of their belief of being politically neutral. Secondly, they believe that such an act would be tantamount to worshiping an idol. (Daniel 3:1-30) Correspondingly, they do not use any images or icons in their worship, including the symbol of the cross.(Exodus 20:4,5)



    Publications

    Jehovah's Witnesses make vigorous efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. The Bible is their prime source of teaching.
    • New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is a modern-language translation of the Bible published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. This is the Bible translation primarily used by Jehovah's Witnesses. It is noteworthy that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society also publishes other translations and references many others in their publications.
    Their teachings are presented through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications. Their publications make extensive use of references and quotations from the Bible. They are perhaps best known for their use of a particular pair of journals:
    • Awake! - published in over 87 languages, is a general-interest semimonthly magazine covering many topics from a religious perspective. It has an average circulation of 22.8 million copies per issue. It is available on CD and audiocassettes.
    • The Watchtower - published in more than 150 languages, focuses mainly on doctrine. With an average circulation of 26.4 million copies semimonthly, The Watchtower is the most widely distributed religious magazine in the world, and is available in a large-print edition, in Braille, on audiocassettes, in American Sign Language and Brazilian Sign Language (on DVD) and on CD, in MP3 format.
    (Some of the articles from these magazines are available online (http://www.watchtower.org).)

    Both The Watchtower and Awake! are published simultaneously in dozens of languages. Most language editions, including English, are published semimonthly; the remaining are monthly.

    New books, brochures, and other items pertaining to their current understanding of biblical teachings are released from time to time, major releases being announced at their annual conventions. Additionally, a number of audio- and videocassettes have been produced featuring various aspects of the group's beliefs and practices. Recent years have seen a proliferation of material available on their website (http://www.watchtower.org/current_topics.htm).



    Jehovah's Witnesses and the Legal System

    In the United States, many Supreme Court cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses have shaped First Amendment law. Significant cases affirmed rights such as these:
    By 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court had reviewed 71 cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses as an organization, two-thirds of which were decided in their favor. Most recently, in 2002, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society disputed an ordinance in Stratton, Ohio that required a permit in order to preach from door-to-door. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Witnesses.

    Also, the European Court of Human Rights (http://www.echr.coe.int) have defended the rights of the Witnesses in many cases. For example:
     
  3. Rex

    Rex Founder
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    Opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses

    Throughout their history, their beliefs, doctrines and practices have met controversy and opposition among other religions, including Christian groups. Many groups consider the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses to be a false teaching, and the group is often mentioned on lists of "cults" because their religious beliefs are different than those held by the majority of society, or because of issues with their organizational structure. They have often been the subject of religious and political controversy. Political and religious animosity against them has at times led to mob action and government oppression, including the targeting of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Holocaust and widespread criticism from those of other faiths.

    Many criticize the organization's practice of excommunicating termed "disfellowshipping" members, a practice based on scriptural precedent, such as that found at 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

    Many also view door-to-door evangelizing as an invasion of privacy; some people even pretend to not be at home when the Witnesses stop by. Although uncommon, hate crimes have occurred against Jehovah's Witnesses because of their beliefs and practices. On the other hand, many people are cordial to the Witnesses.

    Hostility from traditional, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians has been common, allegedly because of this group's rejection of many of the doctrines of mainstream Christian groups. For example, they teach that Jesus Christ is God's first creation and that the Holy Spirit is not a person but God's active force. Many have been critical of their opinion that our current time period is "the last days."

    Depending on geographic location, Jehovah's Witnesses have been accused of misleading youth, engaging in satanic worship or supporting zionism, communism, fascism or pacifism. Because of their neutral political stand, Jehovah's Witnesses have often been accused of being disloyal to the state in both totalitarian and "free" nations. They have been sent to prisons, concentration camps, and even been executed. At times non-witness family members and acquaintences have presented stiff, even violent opposition to their faith.


    Whole overview taken from wikipedia.org
     
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