July 14th, 2009
I clearly remember my days as a bible-thumping Jehovah’s Witness, looking forward to the End of the World with ill-concealed glee. Of course there was always underlying trepidation which came from hoping that I’d done enough to be found worthy of God’s salvation.
But in spite of that, the end of the world was something that was vividly imaginable. Illustrations in the Watchtower literature depicted violent scenes of God’s wrath dealt upon on wicked mankind, usually with a small group of happy, smiling people (Jehovah’s Witnesses) simply walking away from it all.
As a young, impressionable woman I could picture myself as one of those people. Someone who had been delivered from all of the world’s suffering and pain, and about to embark on an historic journey to a paradise earth, just like God originally intended.
I have come across many others of different faiths who similarly look forward to God’s “day of divine vengeance.” Instead of believing that they will continue to reside on the Earth, these people more commonly look forward to deliverance into heaven after God literally destroys the planet. Regardless of the religion, images of the destruction at Armageddon are common and grotesque.
But what about all those poor souls who are destined to meet an untimely end? Did I really think about them? Was I joyful at the prospect of their horrific destruction as the Watchtower told me I should be? It was hard not to notice the artist’s depiction, which was often so detailed that it revealed tears streaming down the faces of the condemned, or bleeding gashes and cuts, people holding and weeping over the lifeless bodies of their loved ones.
Really, Jehovah’s Witnesses along with many others who believe in some form of God-delivered Armageddon, actually look forward to the brutal murder of billions of people. Do they really consider that, or are they only selfishly looking forward to their own blissful deliverance?
As clear as most of my memory is, it’s difficult finding a way to describe how I felt about those images. I believe I suffered a form of cognitive dissonance. On one hand, you have the wonderful prospect of a peaceful deliverance, of receiving the greatest reward; whereas on the other hand you are condoning the mass murder of most of the earth’s populace, including innocent children and babies. When it came down to it I think I blocked out the aspects I found distasteful, focusing on my own personal rewards.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses we had been so convinced that the end was just “‘right around the corner.” Everything about our lives and worship reflected a kind of great urgency. There was no need to go to college or university, it was better to find menial work and “just get by” so that you could spend all your time in the ministry before the end came. Some even decided not to have children because they didn’t want to be caught with small babies at Armageddon.
This kind of thinking is prevalent among the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I recently read a news article where a Jehovah’s Witness named Charles Kris is quoted as saying, “I’d like to see it happen [in my lifetime],” and I began to think, does he really? I mean what kind of person looks forward to a global genocide. It would be like a Nazi in the second world war saying that he looks forward to when Hitler has wiped out every last Jew and finally rules the world. Without a doubt there were many twisted individuals who wished for just such a thing, but is that not the kind of hateful intolerance that the Allies fought to abolish? What would we think of such a person by today’s standards? At the least they would be labeled an anti-Semitic and (pardon my language) an asshole, but more than likely, this person would be condemned or tried for hate-speech.
So now imagine someone openly expressing their giddy anticipation of the obliteration of billions of non-believers. This time they’re not just limiting their hate to Jews but directing it to all races, nations, and creeds. Their hatred is pointed at anyone that does not share their own personal system of beliefs. They are looking to the same blood-lusting and murderous (loving heavenly father) who has been the mastermind of this global genocide, and rejoicing that he will thereafter rule the world for all eternity. Is this not a dangerous and psychotic fantasy? Is this not hate-speech against humanity?
After leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I became a humanist long before I became an Atheist, but I must admit that my humanist sensibilities have been heightened as a result of my Atheism. The knowledge that there are millions of people in the world who eagerly look forward to our planet’s destruction, and the murder of anyone who doesn’t believe what they do, sends chills up my spine. Even more than that though, it makes me sad. Sad that these people look forward to the end of their lives, based on the ideal that they will go to a better place; call it what you will, paradise or heaven.
Obviously, being an Atheist, I hold no belief in an afterlife and so I see all this as such a tragic waste. We know that life on our planet has evolved slowly and gradually over the course of billions of years and has beat almost unbelievable odds to find us as we are today. Yet now we find that there is a kind of religious psychosis which is permeating our culture and is threatening to challenge our species’ survival instincts. One doesn’t have to find some crack-pot fundamentalist to see this in action, rather, even within many of today’s moderate religions, this deluded, end-of-days, death-wish mentality imposes upon self and societal instincts of preservation. Perhaps religion is evolution’s kryptonite in that it’s not only slowing our cognitive development, but actually retarding it.
Just like the Nazi we spoke of earlier, who looked forward to the destruction of the Jews and the reign of a tyrant, so to do these modern-moderate believers embrace the destruction of our species and look forward to a murderous God delivering them into heaven (or paradise). What makes me so sad is that their blind faith leads them to view their own life with contempt, wasting it foolishly on dreams of a non-existent hereafter. It reminds me of the old cliche, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” but considering there most certainly is no “other side,” what a tragic waste.
Consider the tremendous odds we all face to come into existence. There are millions and millions of sperm that all fight to fertilize a single egg. The odds that you came to into being are greater than any lottery ever played. If any other sperm had penetrated that egg before yours did, you would not be you, you would not be reading this, you would never have existed. Consider too the number of miscarried pregnancies. An average of 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, most of which occur within the first 12 weeks. So even if you were a growing fetus in the womb, you have a 1 in 5 chance of being miscarried. Now look at it on a much larger scale, your mother had to meet your father to give birth to “you.” Consider the immense family tree that was required to make “you” even possible. Any slight variation and “you” would never have existed. I hesitate to use the word miracle because it is instantly associated with religion, but by definition it means “something wonderful.” When you really think about it, your individual life is a miracle of mathematics and chaos, not to mention complex and mind-blowing evolution.
With all this in mind, I can’t help to be saddened when someone so casually dismisses the value and wonder of their own existence. I’m pained to see people who are eager for their own destruction or the mass destruction of their species. I am frustrated that these people cannot or choose to not consider the beautiful complexity of our world and our wondrous place in it. Most of all I am angry. Angry at religion for causing these people to feel so much self-loathing and for inventing faith along side heaven and hell to control and manipulate people, ultimately wasting the only life they’ll ever have – a life they won fair-and-square in the face of ridiculous odds.
Editor’s Note: Moxie is a very busy young woman. Not only is she a prolific writer and active blogger, she is also the moderator of the Jehovah’s Witness Recovery forum, and is frequently seen in many YouTube.com and other online videos about the lifestyles and teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I plan on reprinting many of her excellent previously published – but timeless – articles here. I also sincerely hope that she will agree to contribute a few articles specifically written for Ex-JW.com in the near future.