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Hidden in plain sight: Is the Jehovah’s Witness “religion” a cult?

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It seems like the word “cult” is passed around a lot these days. Former President Donald Trump is often called a cult leader. Democratic California congresswoman Jackie Speier recently compared the former commander in chief to the iconic cult to Jim Jones, the iconic leader of The Peoples Temple. It was an American religious group of which almost 1000 members died by mass murder-suicide in Guyana in 1978. 

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Working as a congressional staffer at the time, Speier was heavily wounded by temple members amid an ambush that killed Congressman Leo Ryan of San Francisco. Let’s not forget about NXIVM, a “sex cult” based in Albany, New York. 

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According to media reports supported by evidence, NXIVM’s female members recruited “slaves” who were branded like cows with the initials of the group’s leader known as Keith Raniere. Raniere (who also went by Vanguard), was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking. Frankly, there are just too many cults throughout human history to list in this article. Today, we’ll focus on just one: the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

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We’re not declaring the Jehovah’s Witness religion a cult but the public is curious. Atrocities aren’t always hidden away, sometimes they can be in plain sight like the buildings and skyscrapers of a prominent city. Is the Jehovah’s Witness religion a cult? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Cult

Before talking about the Jehovah’s Witness religion, let’s discuss what exactly defines a cult. According to Study.com when discussing its characteristics and behavior, a cult is defined as “a system or a group of people who practice excessive devotion to a figure, object, or belief system, typically following a charismatic leader.”

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The term is usually implemented with highly unorthodox religious sectors that conduct sinister practices and demonstrations. Cults, however, have also been known to not be religious. In 1967, Charles Manson founded the cult known today as The Family. It’s merely one of a few examples of a dangerous yet non-religious cult. 

Manson believed the United States was about to fall into an apocalyptic war between races. After recruiting members, he brainwashed them into believing that after the race war concluded, they would be asked to lead the country into the dawning of a new age.  Manson grew impatient because the supposed war wasn’t happening quickly enough so to speed up the process, he successfully convinced his followers to commit brutal murders. 

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Ex-Jehovah’s Witness

An ex-Jehovah’s Witness has revealed secrets of the religious group. They described it as a “cult” that “tries to control emotions, thought, information and behavior of a person.” The man refused to be formally identified but shared his experience of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in Poland via an Ask Me Anything post on Reddit. 

Utilizing the username “Ohmyiw”, the former Jehovah’s Witness elder openly talked about the group’s rules, which included prohibiting blood transfusion “even if that costs them their life” or believing the world “will end in Armageddon ‘very soon’”. 

Ohmyiw, however, said he tried to “never give an impression that Jehovah’s Witnesses are dumb or intelligent”, added that “many of them are actually quite intelligent, albeit deluded people.” His family refused to acknowledge him and his wife after they left the group. 

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According to Ohmyiw, those who leave the faith are deemed “apostates” and are “disfellowshipped”, a term for former expulsion and shunning, where members are “prohibited from talking, and even from saying ‘hello’ to them.” He talked about a time when an elder started to lose his faith and challenged the group. 

He said the Jehovah’s Witnesses allegedly denounced him and spread gossip about the man, pressuring him “so much he jumped into a river and killed himself.”

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Do you think the Jehovah’s Witness religion is a cult? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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