Posts Tagged “apostates”

The Watchtower and Awake from The Jehovah's WitnessesI’m not sure why it took a couple of months for this to become generally known, but a July 2011 edition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official magazine, The Watchtower, included an article which declared former members of the J.W.s “mentally diseased.” The (UK) Independent reports on the controversy that’s been kicked up over this (WebCite cached article):

The official magazine for Jehovah’s Witnesses has described those who leave the church as “mentally diseased”, prompting an outcry from former members and insiders concerned about the shunning of those who question official doctrine.

An article published in July’s edition of The Watchtower warns followers to stay clear of “false teachers” who are condemned as being “mentally diseased” apostates who should be avoided at all costs. “Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease,” the article reads. “You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are ‘mentally diseased’, and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings.”

So you see, according to the Jehovah’s Witness religion, apostasy is more or less the same as an infectious disease you can catch from someone who already has it, and your only defense is to stay as far away from them as possible.

What’s odd about this is that some of the so-called “New Atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, have suggested that religious belief may be a form of mental illness — but they’ve been widely vilified, by believers, for having said so. I wonder how many of their fellow believers are going to vilify the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for claiming — explicitly and overtly rather than just by implication or suggestion — that anyone who dares leave their sect is by definition mentally ill? My guess is the number of such people will be zero.

Added: In a comment below I explain a better way to understand the original Greek expression used in the Bible:

Let me use a similar example that actually is very close to the same thing, from the English language. Let’s say someone tells you that a friend is “heartsick” over something that happened. This is a common expression, which means someone is intensely upset. And it’s used all the time. But, it most assuredly is not the same thing as a diagnosis of heart disease (which is what the JW’s New World Translation does with the verse in question). They’re interpreting a “figure of speech” in the most literal way possible, because they have no fucking clue what that expression meant in koine Greek or how it was used in that language … because none of the translators is literate in koine Greek!

Photo credit: Dan Patterson.

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