From The AWAKE! Magazine: A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION-AN IMPROVEMENT?

A World Without Religion-An Improvement?Yep, my (non)award winning series on the November issue of the AWAKE! magazine continues. This time, the Watchtower Society has gone into grudge match mode by throwing a world without religion into the ring with one that has religion. Which side will be the victor in their article? I bet it’ll be a surprise! OK, seriously, at least they didn’t use Hitler as an example of an atheist regime in action (the Nazis weren’t atheists). So they did a better job than I was expecting right there. All the AWAKE! magazine gives us is a picture of Hitler shaking hands with a Catholic and a subtitle about how awful other religions were for supporting (cowering before, really) the Nazis. That’s pretty mild when you consider how the Watchtower Society goes after other faiths, especially Catholics. Hey, maybe this will be a step up!

In my last post, I wondered if the Society would bother reaching out to atheists, or if the whole magazine would be about atheist bashing to win over members of Christendom1 at our expense. In the past, their condemnations of atheists have been fairly mild when compared to how some groups deal with us. Maybe the Watchtower Society recognizes how many ex-Witnesses have become atheists and doesn’t want to drive us farther away? Or maybe they have something else in mind.

Whatever the case, let’s see what’s in store for us in this AWAKE! article.

HitlerAs often happens, the article starts with the Society separating itself from other religious groups in subtle ways. It says that the new atheists envision a world where there’s “no suicide bombers, no religious wars, and no televangelists fleecing their flocks.” The first two certainly have nothing to do with the Watchtower Society. The last one about televangelists … well, even the angriest ex-Witness has to admit that they don’t ask for donations on TV.2 This is their way of basically saying they’re not like those other religious groups. Then the paragraph asks if a vision of a world without suicide bombers, religious wars, and TV evangelists would appeal to the reader.3

The article asks us to consider real world atheist regimes as examples of what an atheist society might be like. Naturally, it offers us the (not the Nazis!) Kmer Rouge of Cambodia and Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Thanks for that, AWAKE! article. Still, to their credit, I think their main point was that secularism doesn’t guarantee a society which is free of evil nut jobs who want to kill anyone they see. They aren’t necessarily saying that this is how it would go if we left religion behind. (At least they aren’t saying here.) Compared with the accusations others have made about us over the years, this is a pretty mild statement. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. Heck, I’d even admit that it’s true to some extent. (Feel free to submit why you don’t think it’s true in the comments.)

Before you write that hate mail, let me tell you what I really mean when I say it’s true.

First, it seems that the human race has a tendency to favor some level of religious belief. So whenever you throw a heap of random people into a room … or ask them to form a country … most of them will probably be believers. Unless someone decides to build a secular equivalent of Israel, inviting atheists and only atheists to move there, I don’t think you’ll ever get a state that truly represents what a secular humanist nation could do. Even then, you know some evangelists will slip through the cracks so they can infiltrate it and start handing out Watchtower magazines. As it is, there just aren’t any good examples of atheist nations out there because this has never been done. Using whacked out socialists is the best we have in the way of real world examples. I don’t see godlessness as the root cause of socialist problems, but we surely can say that throwing out religion doesn’t solve everything by itself. I don’t think anyone ever said that throwing out religion would solve everything, of course. I can still acknowledge that the other part is true, though.

science examines godSecond, it seems that the creators of socialism felt that religion was being used to control and exploit the workers in other forms of government. So they got rid of it. In practice, real socialist governments seem to have replaced devotion to a god or gods with devotion to the state. Everything the people do is supposedly in service to their country, and their country provides them with the necessities of life for their services in return. (Not that it works very well in practice, but that’s how it’s supposed to work.) So they aren’t atheists because they believe in atheism as a “real” atheist might. I’m sure someone disagrees with me there. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am and why in the comments.

Third, declaring your evil socialist empire to be atheistic doesn’t mean that there are no believers in your evil socialist empire. There almost certainly are. 4 They just have to keep their beliefs hidden. So I’m not sure how truly secular such states really are. These countries certainly don’t represent secular values as I see them. Heck, Star Trek 5 provides us a better model than they do. Too bad Star Trek isn’t real, but you get my point. Star Trek geeks can feel free to tell me how wrong I am about that in the comments, too.

From here, the article might be reaching out to atheists a little. If that’s really the case, it does so in the usual, clumsy way that fundamentalist so often use. I think it’s more likely that the authors are trying to make atheist appear childish in the eyes of other fundamentalists by pointing out the obvious and implying we missed it.

Few would deny that religion has caused much suffering. But is God at fault? No! He is no more at fault than a car manufacturer would be for an accident caused by a driver using a cell phone.

See, my atheist brethren? We need to stop blaming God for all that’s bad in the world! Wait. How do you blame this on someone who doesn’t exist, again? Oh,we atheists are really just closet believers deep down inside, only we don’t want to admit it. I guess we’re shunning God by pretending he isn’t up there or something like that. Maybe that’s the only way we can get back at him for not giving us that pony for Christmas when we were in the 7th grade. Oh brother. Guys, seriously, we’re rolling our eyes at you on this one.

Next, the Society begins the hard sell by sneaking in a bit about true worship (theirs) and false religion (everybody else’s) and how false religion contributes to moral ambiguity. As you can imagine, the article totally goes down hill from there.

Might atheism contribute to the same moral ambiguity or confusion? ‘No God’ means no accountability to a divine authority, as well as “no objective values which we are obligated to respect,” says law professor Phillip Johnson. Morality thus becomes relative, with each person determining his own standards—if he chooses to have any. No doubt such thinking makes atheism an appealing philosophy for some people.—Psalm 14:1.

Note that the Society refers to Phillip Johnson as a law professor and nothing more, as if he’s just some random dude who’s smart enough to have earned himself a law degree. In fact, Phillip Johnson is one of the founders of the Intelligent Design movement. Yeah, I’m sure he just loves those pro-evolution atheists. Totally objective authority figure, there.6

Ever wonder why in the world the Society would quote someone like Johnson, especially without telling us that they’re less than objective or less than experts on the topic at hand? He’s not an expert on philosophy or anything like that. If this was an article comparing Intelligent Design to evolutionary theory, it would be appropriate to quote Johnson for the I.D. movement. But in comparing atheist society’s to religious ones? In this context, it just comes off as needlessly underhanded somehow. So why bother?

Honestly, I don’t think it matters who they quoted. It’s more about emotion than facts. Putting that name and title in there makes you feel like the article’s opinion must be true. Don’t see what I mean? Try reading it again, only without the reference to Johnson or the fact that he’s a law professor. I think you’ll find that the feeling of authority is somehow diminished.

Might atheism contribute to the same moral ambiguity or confusion? ‘No God’ means no accountability to a divine authority, as well as no objective values which we are obligated to respect. Morality thus becomes relative, with each person determining his own standards—if he chooses to have any. No doubt such thinking makes atheism an appealing philosophy for some people.—Psalm 14:1.

As I said in my last article, making you feel whatever they need you to feel is what most of the Society’s writings are truly about. If it feels true, many people will simply accept that it is true.

The Society's vision of ArmageddonAnother thing–did I mention that the Society just accused atheists of being amoral to our faces in that last paragraph I quoted? Hmm… Thanks for that, AWAKE! authors. Did it ever occur to any of them that atheists might have a moral compass too? We’re people. Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses are people. Sigh. Oh, why bother.

Finally, the AWAKE! tries to scare us into believing that Armageddon’s coming and basically tells us to look forward to the New System of Things. It doesn’t even bother to warn us about the next article, entitled “I WAS RAISED AN ATHEIST.” Big surprise, eh? Come on, you knew they were gonna role out another ex-atheist, didn’t you?

Gee, I wonder how he’s gonna compare life as an atheist with life as a believer? One can only guess!

NOTE: This is part of a series of posts about the this issue of the AWAKE!

IS ATHEISM ON THE MARCH?

HAS SCIENCE DONE AWAY WITH GOD?

A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION-AN IMPROVEMENT?

“I WAS RAISED AN ATHEIST?”

Followed by:

Conclusions On The Articles About Atheism

The Watchtower Society’s Writing Style: Their Literature’s Most Effective Techniques


  1. Christendom is the Society’s label for non-Witnesses who claim to be Christian, not mine.
  2. Whether the Society is fleecing its flocks by other means is certainly debatable. I’ll let you decide that one for yourselves.
  3. Well … hell yeah! Oh, I’m sorry. This is just the big set up for how awesome the New System of Things will be, and how we should join them if we want to be there. Sorry. Stepped right into the bear trap with that one. Duh!
  4. According to Wikipedia, a third of the USSR actually claimed they were believers. Even if we assume all the remaining 2/3rds were being honest, that’s still a lot of believers! It probably wasn’t terribly smart to admit this in communist Russia, so the real number may be higher.
  5. Among other things, Star Trek was supposed to show us a future where secular humanist values had spread throughout the peoples of Earth.
  6. That’s not all we can say about Johnson. He’s also been accused of intellectual dishonesty in pushing the I.D. movement and AIDS denialism, among other things.

About The Atheist Geek

The Atheist Geek is a former Jehovah's Witness turned secular humanist. He's a lifelong sci-fi geek and a writer wannabe.
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13 Responses to From The AWAKE! Magazine: A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION-AN IMPROVEMENT?

  1. Ty says:

    These blog entries are doing a wonderful job of making me happy I no longer have to read this badly written dreck.

    Quote mining? Check.
    Logical fallacies? Check.
    Threats? Check.

    Standard fare for a WTS publication.

  2. I aim to please, Ty. :-)

    Still one more to go!

  3. Selena says:

    To think I starved myself intellectually on this for 12 years. Well done! I love how you don’t bash…you question and educate. Thank you for what you do.

  4. I know what you mean. I’ve been wanting to write an article on how the Society constructs it’s articles (they’re actually pretty formulaic) but that’s hard to do without a specific example. Then this series came along, and it was perfect. It was already about atheists, and that’s me.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. Audia says:

    I want a fre copy of the book “the greatest man who ever lived but i don’t have the address to send it to and i want it in english

  6. Audia says:

    I want a copy of the book called THE GREATEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED in english but i don’t have the address to send it to

  7. Ty says:

    I want a pony and a plastic rocket.

  8. Yeah, most of my wants involve money and porn. ;^D Any takers?

    [crickets chirping]

    Well, you know where I’ll be.

  9. I want to be happy :)

    @Audia, if the Atheist Geek would be so kind as to let me post a link to a file sharing site, you can download the book in PDF format from this URL: http://www.sendspace.com/file/pskhat

  10. Lebo says:

    There will also be false teachers among you.—2 Pet. 2:1.

    Jehovah through the apostles Paul and Peter warns us about false teachers. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Pet. 2:1-3) Who are such teachers and from where do they come? To elders of the Ephesus congregation, Paul said: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things.” So they may arise from within the congregation. Such ones are apostates. What do they want? They are not content just to leave the organization that they perhaps once loved. Their aim, Paul explained, is “to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Note the definite article in the expression “the disciples.” Rather than going out and making their own disciples, apostates seek to take Christ’s disciples with them. Like “ravenous wolves,” false teachers are out to devour trusting members of the congregation, destroying their faith and leading them away from the truth.—Matt. 7:15; 2 Tim. 2:18

    • From Marks of a Cult

      From the theological viewpoint, any group or religious system, whether it calls itself “Christian” or not, that offers other criteria as equal to or superior to the Bible, including but not limited to erroneous and/or exclusive interpretations of Scripture, should be considered a cult. From the theological position, then, a cult can be best defined as:

      A system of religious beliefs and rituals with a body of adherents deeply devoted to an extrabiblical person, idea, or thing; it cultivates worship in a religion that, with reference to its basis for man’s salvation, is considered to be unorthodox, spurious, or false, thereby insulating its members against true salvation in Christ. And inasmuch as the central doctrine of Biblical Christianity is the sacrificial death of Christ for man’s sin (Eph. 2:8,9), all cultic deviations tend to downplay the finished work of Christ and emphasize the importance of earning moral acceptance before God through one’s own religious works.

      From the theological viewpoint, all the groups/religious systems included in the Cult section of the Notebook are obviously cults. [Note that Jehovah's Witnesses make the list, as they do with so many other organizations and cult-experts.] They are all centered in religious beliefs or practices calling for devotion to a religious view centered in false doctrine — it is nothing less than organized heresy.

    • To be classified as a cult, not all of the following characteristics have to be present, but in most cases, in one form or another, all of them will be:
      1. Extrabiblical Authority: All cults [effectively] deny what God says in His Word as true. Cults have shifted their theological point of authority away from God’s full and final written Word, the Bible, to their own unique, self-promoting opinions about the Bible; they generally will use parts of the Bible but will have their own unique scripture which is considered to be superior to the Bible. While some cult groups give token respect for the Bible and go through the motions of accepting the authority of Scripture, in reality, they honor the group’s or leader’s novel interpretation of Scripture as normative.
      2. Works Salvation/Legalism: Cults teach that eternal life depends upon something other than the Atonement; i.e., faith in the atoning, finished work of Christ on the cross is deemed not to be sufficient (usually replaced with human works and human responsibility). Rather than relying on the grace of God alone for salvation, the salvation message of the cults always boils down to required obedience to, or abstention from, certain obligations and practices (some even including obedience to the Old Testament law).[Refusal of blood transfusions, for instance.]
      3. No Assurance of Salvation: The issue of a cult member’s salvation is never settled, but is constantly affected by the changing circumstances of life; in this way, cult leaders are able to produce continued obligation and spiritual bondage, rather than spiritual freedom. [Because Armageddon could be here any second.]
      4. Guru-Type Leader/Modern Prophet: The cult leader [such as the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society] is looked to as the infallible interpreter of Scripture, specially appointed by God to be a special saint, guru, or contemporary messiah, and thereby, has divine authority that must not be violated. Cultists almost always quote their leader rather than the Bible. The cult’s adherents often expound the virtues of the founders [the Governing Body] and seek to cover the founder’s sins and wickedness. [Such as how JWs protect pedophiles. Look it up. More and more people are coming forward.]
      5. Vacillating, Ambiguous Doctrines/Spiritual Deception: In order to gain favor with the public, and thereby aid in the recruitment of new members, cult “doctrine” tends to be characterized by many false or deceptive claims concerning the cult’s true spiritual beliefs (e.g., Mormons are not quick to reveal their belief that God was a man, who has now become the God of planet Earth). [And JWs deny shunning of relatives to the public.]
      6. Exclusivity from/Denunciation of Other Groups: Each cult group, regardless of what other doctrines are taught, will all have this one common idea — “The Only True Church Syndrome.” [Because only JWs have "the truth."] The members of each specific organization have been taught that their church, organization, or community, is the only true group and that all other groups are false. [Sound familiar?] The group’s leaders will explain that it is impossible to serve God without being a member of the specific group. Moreover, when the cult leader announces himself as the true “Messiah,” all others are declared to be dishonest, deceitful, and deluded, and must be put down; [There are no reasonably dissenting POV, just apostates and opposers serving Satan!] alternative views are denounced as being satanic and corrupt. [Apostates and opposers again!] Persecution is welcomed, and even glorified in, as “evidence” that they are being persecuted for righteousness sake. Thus, if a member decides to leave the group, they have been told that they are not simply leaving an organization, but rather they are leaving God and His only true organization. Hence, for a member of a cult who has been in a group for any length of time, the action of leaving the group is much more difficult than what most Christians understand. To leave the group is, in the minds of the cult member, tantamount to leaving God. [Sound familiar? All of it should be.]
      7. Claims of Special Discoveries/Additional Revelation: Acceptance of new, contemporary, continual revelations that either deny the Bible or are allowed to explain it. The fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it is historical, not dependent upon private knowledge and secret, unconfirmable relationships, while the almost universal basis of cult religion is the claimed exclusive revelation that one person has supposedly received. [Because only the Governing Body/The Faithful and Discrete slave offer you access to Jehovah's teachings as the one true channel.] Rather than conforming to Biblical rules of evidence (2 Cor. 13:1), cult leader revelations almost always emanate from hallucinations, visions, dreams, private discoveries, etc. These new revelations often become codified as official written “scripture” of the cults (e.g., The Book of Mormon), [or the Watchtower and AWAKE! magazines and countless other texts from the Society's printing presses.] and are considered as valid as that of the apostles (and even more relevant because they are given in these end times).
      8. Defective Christology: Cults always have a false view of the nature of the Person of Jesus Christ; a cult will usually deny the true deity of Christ, His true humanity, His true origin, or the true union of the two natures in one Person.
      9. Defective “Nature of Man”: Most cults do not see man as an immortal being; instead they see him either as an animal without a soul or as a being which is being perfected to the point of becoming a god. [JWs are big on imperfection and how the new system, which never comes, will perfect all those who remain loyal to the organization.] They usually do not see man as a spirit clothed in a body of flesh awaiting the redemption of body and soul.
      10. Out-Of-Context Scripture Use as Proof-Texts/Segmented Biblical Attention: Cults tend to focus on one verse or passage of the Bible to the exclusion of others, and without regard for the context in which Scripture is given (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:29 used by Mormons to justify baptism for the dead). In addition, cults have made an art form out of using Christian terminology, all the while pouring out their own meanings into the words. [Because dictionaries have different definitions of words like "truth" and "lie" than your literature does.]

      12. Entangling Organization Structure: The less truth a movement represents, the more highly it seems to have to organize itself; the absence of truth seems to make necessary the application of the bonds of fear. Cults often demand total commitment by their converts to an organizational involvement that entangles them in a complicated set of human restrictions, giving the impression of passionate and often irrational devotion to a cause. [Like absolute obedience to local elders because disobedience = disrespect for Jehovah God's arrangements. There are other examples that any ex-Witness could give.]

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