Rhetorical Fallacy in the Watchtower
Rhetorical Fallacies are techniques of false reasoning (intentional or unintentional) that lead people to wrong conclusions. The following discussion identifies common rhetorical fallacies, and identifies how they are used by Watchtower.
Upon realisation that Watchtower teachings that are not truth, you will wonder how you came to believe such tenuous concepts. The section on mind control discusses indoctrination techniques. Equally valuable is to learn to identify Rhetorical Fallacies.
The Awake! 1990 May 22 p.12 contained an article entitled "Five Common Fallacies - Don't Be Fooled by Them!", identifying the following methods:
- Attacking the Person
- Appealing to Authority
- Join the Crowd
- Either/Or Reasoning
The Awake! 2000 June 22 p.4 article "The Manipulation of Information" carried a similar message, with a slightly adjusted list:
- Name calling
- Playing on emotions
- Slogans and symbols
These articles show Watchtower is aware of how to manipulate through presenting fallacious forms of reasoning, showing that when Watchtower articles employ these very techniques, it is with intent to deceive. This article compares these rhetorical fallacies with Watchtower quotes, to identify how Watchtower makes constant use of these false lines of reasoning to support their doctrine.
Argument from authority
To purport a statement is correct because of who said it, such as; "You must trust this because the priest said it", or "This is true because it comes from the President". Information is not necessarily correct due to the credentials of the deliverer; it should withstand scrutiny and be tested for reliability.
The Watchtower argues from authority when it calls for unquestioning acceptance of information from the Organization, claiming as the basis that it comes from Jehovah.
"Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and "the faithful and discreet slave."" Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
"The point is that Christians have implicit trust in their heavenly Father; they do not question what he tells them through his written Word and organization." Watchtower 1974 Jul 15 p.441
Excluded middle, or false dichotomy
"Considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities Either you love your country or you hate it." 1
False Dichotomy is better known as black-and-white thinking. This is common within high control religions, and a constant feature in Watchtower publications. It is displayed by the concept that if you do not follow the Watchtower Organization, you do not worship Jehovah.
"If we stop actively supporting Jehovah’s work, then we start following Satan. There is no middle ground." Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.18
"Either you are serving Jehovah God or Satan the Devil. Regardless of your answer, if you follow the unrighteous ways of the world you cannot be serving the true God, Jehovah." You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p.208
"Are you so different from the majority of mankind that you can say that they are serving the Devil but that you are serving the true God? There is a people who are that different, and everyone knows they are different and no part of the world. They are Jehovah's witnesses." Watchtower 1968 Mar 1 p.136
Special pleading is used to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble. It consists of statements such as, "it is not for us to know the way of God"
The Watchtower appeals to special pleading when a person questions its doctrine with terms like "wait on Jehovah", don't "question Jehovah" or to describe disagreement as a sign of "immaturity".
"Do I patiently wait on Jehovah when answers to lingering questions seem slow in coming?" Watchtower 2003 Mar 15 p.25
"At the same time, we recognize that our knowledge of God's purpose is not perfect; our understanding has undergone adjustments over the years. Loyal Christians are content to wait on Jehovah for all such refinements." Watchtower 2004 Feb 15 p.17
"God's faithful modern-day Witnesses would never dare to question Jehovah" Watchtower 1995 Oct 1 p.27
"Mature Christians also realize that being at the Kingdom Hall for the Bible-based talk is more important and beneficial than being at a wedding feast or a gathering that might follow." Watchtower 2006 Oct 15 p.30
The expression "wait on Jehovah" is a special plead that is used when the Watchtower Society has not provided a logical answer to a question. Such an expression blames the person raising the questions of being unfaithful, when in reality it is not Jehovah being questioned but the logic of a human organization.
For example, a common question Witnesses struggle with is "Why would a loving God destroy billions of people at Armageddon for not being Jehovah's Witnesses?" Typically a Witness may use the special plea; "It is not for us to question Jehovah's justice." In reality, this is a valid question that highlights a major flaw in Watchtower Doctrine. It is not the justice of Jehovah being questioned but an unrealistic doctrine.
Another doctrine that requires a special plea is that the "earth together with the sun and the moon, will remain forever". (ws pp.98-99) It is impossible for the earth to remain forever, as the sun only has a finite period of time before the matter fueling it is consumed. The Watchtower makes the plea that God will refuel the sun.
"The great Creator of the universe, the Supplier of the energy that keeps it running, the Provider of the nuclear fuel that has kept our sun burning for billions of yearsyes, the Maker of man himself has promised that He will provide the fuel to perpetuate human lives forever on this earth. It is His divine will to do so!" Watchtower 1961 Feb 15 p.109
There is no Bible promise that God will "fuel" the sun. This imaginative solution is a special plea, as the writer finds no better solution to support the unfeasible Watchtower doctrine that this planet earth will remain forever. If an all powerful God had intended this planet to remain forever, he could have created nature in a sustainable way, rather than be forced to interfere with his own universal rules sometime in the future.
Ad hominem - Attacking the Person
Ad hominem is Latin for "to the man" and refers to attacking the arguer and not the argument.
Ad hominem attack is to use a person's reputation is to invalidate his argument, for example, saying that a person's statement is not
worth considering because they are homosexual. Related to this is the phrase to "shoot the messenger".
When a claim is made, such as that gravity exists, it is no more or less correct a statement depending on whether the claim is made by scientist or a student, a Muslim or a Christian.
"Some people insult those who disagree with them by questioning character or motives instead of focusing on the facts. Name-calling slaps a negative, easy-to-remember label onto a person, a group, or an idea. The name-caller hopes that the label will stick. If people reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative label instead of weighing the evidence for themselves, the name-callers strategy has worked." Awake 2000 Jun 22 p.6
An outstanding example of just such an ad hominem attack is a five page Watchtower article from 1986, which lists a number of claims apostates make. Without any address to the claims, the article devotes itself to a barrage of attacks on the motives of apostates.
"What is often the motive of those who criticize the Society or those taking the lead? Is it not often that some application of Scripture affects them personally? Rather than conform to sound doctrine and direction, they want the organization to change. Let us illustrate this with a few examples: …
But what is behind such reasoning [regarding grooming]? Is it not usually pride, an independent attitude, or a rather childish desire to have one's own way? …
But what is behind that reasoning [regarding blood]? Is it fear - fear of possibly losing one's present life or the life of a loved one? Is hope in the resurrection fading? …
But why do such critics feel that way [regarding disfellowshipping]? Do they have a close family tie or mistaken loyalty to a friend that they are putting ahead of loyalty to Jehovah and his standards and requirements? …
What is the motive of these critics [of failed Watchtower predictions]? Are they encouraging wakefulness on the part of God's people, or are they, rather, trying to justify themselves for falling back into sleepy inactivity?" Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.18
The Watchtower stance on each of the above issues is cause for concern and should be questioned. An ad hominem attack of the motives of the questioner does nothing to address these points.
A pioneer sister was in hospital with her baby son who was born with a condition requiring a lifetime of dangerous operations. In the next bed an equally sick baby lay with a cross on a chain around her neck. The Witness scoffed that the cross would not assist in having God answer the mother's prayers. Somehow, this Witness inconsistently ignored that her prayers for a healthy child had gone similarly unanswered.
One of the most common logical fallacies with Watchtower publications is the use of inconsistency, most particularly when comparing events affecting Witnesses with similar events affecting others.
Prayer and Protection
The Watchtower claims that only baptised Witnesses have an "unrestricted privilege of prayer".
"So, then, once we have learned that we should pray to God in Jesus name, our prayers would not be answered unless we prayed only to Jehovah through his Son. ... He could approach his heavenly Father through Christ Jesus with the expectation of being heard. That is what happens to all who dedicate themselves to God through Christ and get baptized. They too have the unrestricted privilege of prayer. Surely, you desire to have your prayers answered. Therefore, if you are not now serving Jehovah as one of his dedicated worshipers, how wise to seek him earnestly! Pursue a course like that of Cornelius, and God will answer your prayers." Watchtower 1990 Jan 15 pp.4-6
""Naturally, God does not answer the prayers of wicked, unfaithful, and self-righteous people. (Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15; Luke 18:9-14) But those who fear Jehovah are heard because they have conformed to his righteous standards. Yet, they have done more. Fearers of Jehovah have made a dedication to God in prayer and symbolized this by undergoing water baptism . ... only baptized believers have an unrestricted privilege of approaching the King Eternal in prayer." Watchtower 1990 May 15 pp.11-12
It is claimed that Jehovah provides protection to his followers.
"Jehovah still uses his angels to protect and strengthen his people." Watchtower 2017 Oct Study ed p.28 caption
"Heavenly angels guide and protect us so that we can preach the good news." Watchtower 2010 Jan 15 p.10
"Deliverance has often come through being identified as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because of the house-to-house preaching, people get to know who the Witnesses are and what their position is on issues of the day. In a small village in Peru, terrorists accused the villagers of having betrayed them. They rounded up the men of the town and put them in a line to be shot. (In similar situations entire villages had been wiped out.) But at this point, one of the terrorists recognized a brother and said to the executioners: “That man is not one of them. I know him to be a Jehovah’s Witness, and they don’t meddle in politics.” The brother was released. Certainly, Jehovah protects his own!" Watchtower 1987 Jan 1 p.14
Image: Watchtower 2013 Mar 15 p.22
When Jehovah's Witnesses feel they have experienced protection through the power of prayer it is a sign of Jehovah's blessing.
"The anointed prayed for a way out of their inactive state, and in 1919, God answered their prayers, delivered them, and reactivated them in his service. Watchtower 1992 Sep 15 p.15
“They beat me on my heels with thick sticks. As I lay on the floor bleeding, feeling that I could not bear it anymore, I cried, “Jehovah, help me!” My persecutors were surprised and stopped beating me. Within a few minutes, they fell asleep. I felt relieved and regained my strength. This convinced me that Jehovah lovingly responds to his dedicated servants when they cry out to him. It strengthened my faith and taught me to place my full confidence in God.” Watchtower 2005 Aug 1 p.17
"One of Jehovahs Witnesses was reading The Watchtower in his car when someone suddenly grabbed him around the neck. He prayed fervently to Jehovah God. The attacker became motionless, and his grip slackened. The Witness started up the car, bade the man farewell, and left him standing like a statue in the middle of the road. In a world of increasing skepticism and doubt, lovers of God and truth can take heart from the positive assurance that prayers offered to Jehovah God through the right channel, in the right manner, and with the right attitude of mind and heart are heard." Watchtower 1988 Mar 15 p.7
This reasoning is inconsistent and fails at two levels.
- Billions of people feel their prayers are answered and Christian bookstores are filled with literature outlining the power of prayer. What does it indicate for a "worldly" person to have their prayers answered?
- If Jehovah protects some Witnesses, why have other faithful Witnesses been killed driving to meetings, at meetings, or in the preaching work?
Jehovah's Witnesses do not have divine protection, proven by the catastrophes that befall them. The Watchtower contains experiences of those that have died in the preaching work, driving to meetings or in special assignments? Therefore, experiences claiming divine protection are either exaggerated, or coincidence.
"When I arrived in Cape Town, I was shown 200 cartons of literature destined for East Africa. The literature was printed in four European and four Asian languages, but none of it was in any of the African languages. When I inquired why all this literature was there before I even arrived, I was told that this had been intended for Frank and Gray Smith, two pioneers who had recently gone to Kenya to preach. Almost as soon as they arrived in Kenya, both contracted malaria, and sadly, Frank died." Watchtower 2003 Apr 1 p.27
"Police identified the two men killed as Serafin Castillo, 86, and Francisco Urana, 56, both of Miami, police said. The bus was bringing the group of Jehovah’s Witnesses to a gathering in West Palm Beach." (usecmagazine.usecnetwork.com 2012/12/03)
"Super Typhoon Haiyan Pummels Central Philippines ... As of November 13, 2013, the Philippines branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Manila reported that 27 Witnesses have been confirmed dead. Well over 100 homes of the Witnesses and five places of worship were destroyed." (jw.org as of 2 Jan 2016)
In order to have it both ways, claiming miracles but ignoring tragedies, the official line is Jehovah protects the group as a whole, not allowing Satan to totally annihilate all followers; not a particularly comforting concept.
"How, though, does Jehovah guard his people? His promise of protection does not guarantee us a problem-free life in this system; nor does it mean that he is obligated to work miracles in our behalf. Nevertheless, Jehovah does provide physical protection for his people as a group. After all, he would never allow the Devil to efface true worshipers from the earth!" Watchtower 2002 Dec 15 p.15
This is underwhelming reassurance, quite different to the preceding quotes promising protection from angels.
The reason people do not believe Watchtower teachings is attributed to Satan blinding the minds of unbelievers.
"If anyone does not want to hear and get the sense of the truth and turn back and get healing for himself, Satan the Devil will take advantage of that fact. Satan blinds "the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through."-2 Corinthians 4:4" Watchtower 1984 Jun 1 pp.5-6
The inconsistency of this reasoning creates an interesting catch-22. If Satan is able to prevent billions of people from understanding Watchtower truth, how does a Witness know that they are not similarly blinded by Satan?
"The Light Gets Brighter" is justification for Watchtower errors. Inconsistently, the errors of other religious groups are not dismissed so casually by Watchtower articles, such as when the Catholic Church was criticised from changing its doctrine.
"Yes, millions of persons have been shocked to learn that things they were taught as being vital for salvation are now considered by their church to be wrong. "Just ten years ago we Catholics had the absolute truth, we put all our faith in this. Now the pope and our priests are telling us this is not the way to believe any more, but we are to believe 'new things.' How do I know the 'new things' will be the truth in five years?" Awake! 1970 Apr 22 p.8
Begging the Question - Circular reasoning
Proof for a claim is assumed in the premise. For example, claiming the Bible is inspired because it tells us it is inspired.
"One of the most ancient books claiming inspiration by God is the Bible. It is also the most widely circulated and translated book in all history. Nearly two thousand years ago, one of its writers stated: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) What would be the source of such proof? The same writer stated: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” Therefore, the inspired Bible should serve as a reliable measuring rod for true and acceptable worship. — 2 Timothy 3:16, 17." Mankind's Search for God pp.16-17
Watchtower uses circular reasoning when attempting to prove they are God's chosen organization.
Sweeping Generalisation - Dicto Simpliciter
A sweeping generalisation applies a general statement too broadly, such as, "children should be seen and not heard" or "all atheists support adultery".
The Watchtower makes sweeping generalisations, particularly related to supporting its black-and-white thinking that Witnesses alone are worthy of salvation. This is evident when promoting Witnesses as the happiest, most loving and moral group on earth, as well as claims that only Witnesses preach.
Only Witnesses demonstrate Christian love
""Who else would welcome strangers into their home just because they worship the same God? Only Jehovah’s Witnesses!"" Watchtower 2017 May p.7
"Who in our time demonstrate such obedience to Gods commandments on love? ... only Jehovah's Witnesses." Watchtower 1989 May 1 p.28
"Only in the spiritual paradise, among Jehovah's Witnesses, can we find the self-sacrificing love Jesus said would identify his true disciples." Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.20
"What religious group bases all its teachings on the Bible and makes known Jehovahs name? What group practices godly love, exercises faith in Jesus, is no part of the world, and proclaims that Gods Kingdom is the only real hope for mankind? Of all the religious groups on earth, which one meets all these requirements? The facts clearly show that it is Jehovah's Witnesses" What Does the Bible Really Teach (2005) p.151
Such is the outstanding kind of love that the new commandment calls for, the love that Jesus true followers would have for one another. (1 John 3:16) Who today give clear proof of obeying the new commandment? The evidence presented earlier in this publication unequivocally points to one worldwide association of Christians. ... The love that they demonstrate is unique in a world of increasing selfishness. They are Jehovah's Witnesses." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom pp.711-712
This is an inaccurate generalisation. It is a normal for sects to say that they are the most loving group and the smaller the group the more convinced they are that they are part of an irreplaceable family. Jesus said love would identify his followers and all Christian groups claim to follow this command and to be motivated by love. Aspects that bring into question the Watchtower claim of love is their lack of charitable works, their view of worldly people and shunning.
Only Witnesses are no part of the world.
"Who are no part of the world and learn war no more? Again, the historical record of the 20th century testifies: only Jehovah's Witnesses." Watchtower 1992 Apr 1 p.12
Witnesses are not the only religion that can claim to be no part of the world nor the only one that does not participate in war. Groups similar to Jehovah's Witnesses that make this same claim include Exclusive Brethren, Mormons, The Church of God, Christadelphians and Anabaptist faiths like Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites. Generally these refuse to serve in the world's armies, avoid political entanglements and have suffered persecution as a result. Groups most worthy of claiming to be no part of the world are those that live in isolated communes and are generally considered cults.
The Watchtower bases its claim on being no part of the world because of forbidding voting, going to war and restricting association with non-witnesses. However, the Watchtower Society is deeply embroiled in the world, using the school, hospital, commercial and legal systems to the full. As shown at Politics, the Watchtower is an NGO that regularly sends delegates to international political conferences. It has fought hundreds of battles through the world's legal system, often up to the Supreme Court.
In a similar vein, the Watchtower makes the claim that they uniquely are the closest copy of early Christianity.
"Jehovah’s Witnesses emulate the first Christians like no other religious people." Awake 2011 Jan p.8
Only Jehovah's Witnesses follow the Bible
"In fact, those who truly make the Bible their guide are a minority—only about 0.1 percent of the earth’s population." Examining the Scriptures Daily 2012 foreword.
Only Jehovah's Witnesses preach
"An important way in which we show love for our fellowmen is by witnessing to them about God's Kingdom. Only one group of people is doing this work that Jesus foretold. (Mark 13:10) These are Jehovah's Witnesses." Watchtower 1994 Jun 1 p.18
"Do you know of anyone else who preaches about God's Kingdom from house to house throughout the world?" Does God Care? (2001) p.30
This absurd concept fails at many levels, and few people should have difficulty identifying this as an incorrect generalisation. Not only are there groups such as Seventh Day Adventists that door knock and spread a very similar message, the reason that there are billions of Christians is that all religions preach in one form or other, out of necessity to grow. This is discussed in detail at Preach.
This concept appears subtly as well, such as in an image appearing on jw.org, claiming to present "facts" about Cuba. It provides statistics for the Cuban population, congregations and ratio of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, rather than refer to the number of "Jehovah's Witnesses" it uses the term "Ministers who teach the Bible," egotistically indicating only Jehovah's Witnesses teach the Bible; that is, the Ministers of all other Christian religions do not.
Only Jehovah's Witnesses are moral
"This greedy world, with its showy, materialistic, me-first life-style and degraded morals, is about to pass away. But he that does the will of God remains forever." Watchtower 1995 Dec 15 p.19
"Some even leave negotiations to worldly relatives, who then demand an exorbitant price. While this bargaining goes on, the situation could push the young people into fornication. This is what takes place among worldly people." Watchtower 1989 Jan 15 p.22
By their own definition of what constitutes moral behaviour, Jehovah's Witnesses are generally a moral group. This is enforced through disfellowshipping rule breakers, if discovered. Even so, there are a number of religions that enforce stricter standards that Jehovah's Witnesses and so can be considered more moral.
Others have no hope when a loved one dies
The Watchtower states that they do not grieve as much as others due to having the only true hope.
"While all of Jehovah's witnesses desire to live and preach as long as Jehovah wills, they do not fear death. At the death of their loved ones Christians are not like others. They do not sorrow overmuch. While recognizing death as an enemy, they do not go beyond natural love and affection and permit sadness to affect their integrity-keeping course in Jehovah's service. Rather, they continue more firmly, knowing that faithful service will assure them of a place in the new world, so they will be able to see their loved ones again in the resurrection." Watchtower 1954 May 1 p.285
"While Christians certainly do grieve because of death, there is a difference. They have accurate knowledge about the condition of the dead and about the hope of the resurrection." Watchtower 1994 Oct 15 p.32
It is wrong to think Witnesses grieve less due to their "accurate" understanding of the resurrection. In fact quite the opposite may be true, as hope of an immediate heavenly resurrection is more comforting than one that describes a dead loved one as non-existent, just a corpse awaiting some unknown future resurrection. Most religious people have the far more comforting belief that on death their loved one enters heaven and guards over them.
The Clergy are Bad
"In crisp contrast with the clergy of Christendom, however, Jehovahs witnesses have consistently put their trust, not in evolution, but in the Bible." Awake 1973 Oct 22 p.28
"However, Christendoms prophets and priests have refused to take heed. They do not like to have their flocks disturbed. So they give them false assurances that belie Gods prophecies." Watchtower 1979 Aug 1 p.10
"Their rejection of Gods Messianic kingdom in the hands of his Son is also a matter of record. Like the Pharisees, Christendoms clergy have put their trust in the governments of men." Watchtower 1974 Jan 15 p.52
"Religious history proves that the clergy neglected Scriptural warnings and became victims of the love of money" Watchtower 1987 Sep 15 p. 27
No doubt, there are some clergy that act inappropriately. It is an unfair generalisation to apply this across the board.
Misuse of Statistics
Statistics are easily misunderstood or misused to prove a point. Several areas in which this happens are presented.
"Counting the hits and forgetting the misses."
The Watchtower presents publisher growth rates as positive evidence of Jehovah's blessing. Delving into Watchtower statistics show a dramatic decline in growth over the last 20 years. By 2003, growth had fallen to 2.2% (little more than population growth rates), and 1 in every 3 people baptized stopped publishing. See Watchtower Statistics The Watchtower diverts attention from declining growth by counting the hits and neglecting the misses.
"As the chart on pages 34-41 shows, the ingathering of sheeplike ones continues to progress. While the growth in some lands was less than in former years, in other places there were outstanding increases. Rwanda reported 61 percent; Albania, 52 percent. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, and Russia showed increases of more than 20 percent." Yearbook 1997 p.4
"Isaiah aptly prophesied about the increase in true worship at this time. Through the prophet God foretold: "I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time." (Isa. 60:22) Certainly, the last decade has proved to be Jehovah's time for increase in Eastern Europe." Kingdom Ministry 2003 May p.6
If Jehovah is speeding it up in this time period, what is indicated regarding Jehovah's blessing in countries where numbers are falling.
Alternatively, statements are commonly made with no statistical backing at all.
""Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!" (Ps. 144:15) Those words describe Jehovah's Witnesses as the happiest people on earth." Kingdom Ministry 2002 p.1
"Jehovahs witnesses, despite their conviction of the worlds end soon, have more zeal for Christian activity than the clergy and their religious flocks have. They are the biggest optimists on earth today." Watchtower 1951 Sep 15 p.548
What is the evidence that supports such a claim; Watchtower publications never provide information to support such claims.
Statistics of small numbers
"They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese."
Statistics of small numbers are common in general conversation, and occurs when a person feels their personal observations are statistically relevant. Common comments that result are;
- "Worldly people think drugs are acceptable, everyone in my workplace does them"
- "No one in my congregation has ever been divorced, so witnesses have a lower divorce rate than worldly people"
Misunderstanding of the nature of statistics
"President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence."
An example of misused statistics is an Awake! article that claims only 4.9% of Witnesses are divorced, compared with 50% of worldly people divorcing.
"In some countries one marriage out of every two or three ends in divorce. But the above-mentioned survey indicated that presently only 4.9 percent of the Witnesses are divorced or separated from their mates." Awake! 1997 Sep 8 p.11
As explained at divorce, this article is grossly deceptive by making comparison of unrelated statistics. The divorce rate amongst Jehovah's Witnesses coincides with that of the general population, as only about 5% of the population are divorced.
Claiming that there has been a significant increase in earthquakes since 1914 is one of the areas that span several methods of rhetorical fallacy. To support this statement, statistics are sometimes presented in a misleading manner, at other times the figures are nothing short of lies.
Confusion of correlation and causation
"A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore education makes people gay."
When attempting to prevent Jehovah's Witness children from attending university, Watchtower uses this same line of confused reasoning.
“University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior—drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on.” Watchtower 2005 Oct 1 p.28
Whilst such behaviour may occur, youth is the cause, not university.
The Watchtower contains a similar confusion of causation when claiming masturbation frequently leads to homosexuality.
"... at least ninety-five per cent of boys and young men between thirteen and twenty-five years of age pass through periods of habitual masturbation of varying lengths. ... it can, and frequently does, lead into homosexuality, in which the person, not satisfied with his lonely sexual activity, seeks a partner for mutual sex play." Watchtower 1973 Sep 15 pp.564-566
"Helpful in this regard, then, is appreciating the fact that autoeroticism or masturbation is no mere innocent pastime but rather a practice that can lead to homosexual acts. How so? In that self-induced masturbation may make it easier and more tempting for one to engage in mutual masturbation, which is a form of homosexuality. Sincerely striving against this practice will go far to protect a youth." Watchtower 1970 May 15 pp.315-316
This reasoning is obviously flawed since 95% of males masturbate, yet only 10% are said to be gay.
Latin for "It doesn't follow" e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was "Gott mit uns".
Watchtower Growth indicates Jehovah's blessing
"[Jehovah] is dealing with people as a group in an organizational way ... The growth of the organization and its spiritual prosperity today is visible proof of the truthfulness of this. Watchtower 1964 May 1 p.285
"The growth of our printing facilities since 1920 is another indication of Jehovah's blessing on his organization." Watchtower 1964 Jul 15 p.447
"While Satan's organization crumbles, the organization of Jehovah prospers marvelously under his protection and guidance. Those who symbolize their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism are increasing rapidly year by year" Watchtower 1971 Sep 15 p.562
It does not follow that growth indicates God's blessing. There are literally millions of growing corporations that have nothing to do with God. There are also thousands of religious groups that are increasing in numbers. If growth indicates blessing, then what does the greater growth rate of Pentecostals over the last 100 years indicate? What is indicated by the declining number of Witness baptisms over the last decade?
"Holy spirit empowers us to declare the good news. What else could explain how the good news has been preached earth wide?" Examining the Scriptures Daily 2012 May 6
The preaching certainly is not earth wide, as billions have never seen Jehovah's Witnesses, and if it can only be explained by holy spirit, what accounts for other religions with even more impressive growth, such as Catholics.
The Watchtower dismisses numerous Christian teachings as being of pagan influence.
"Thus the willingness to compromise that allowed the entry of pagan doctrines also allowed unchristian immorality, cruelty, oppression, and so forth. ... They also avoid the syncretism that occurred hundreds of years ago, which brought hellfire, the immortal soul, the Trinity, images, the cross and other pagan beliefs into Christendoms system of worship." Awake 1983 Aug 22 p.19
Regarding doctrine, the Watchtower invokes the argument of paganism when discussing Hellfire, the Soul, Trinity and Cross. Though pagan similarities may be found, it does not follow that these teachings were adopted in order to emulate the pagans. In fact, all of these doctrines find support in the Bible and the Scriptures are the ongoing basis of these doctrine, not any ancient pagan links.
From the 1920's, Rutherford (and then Knorr) started to forbid Witnesses from engaging in many common practices and holidays on the basis of pagan origins. This included flag salutes, use of the cross, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, throwing confetti and clinking glasses.
Customs - "Interestingly, most of the popular customs that have survived till today are of a religious nature. Since we have already seen that worldly religion has turned aside from the Bibles standard of pure worship, it should not surprise us to find that many of their customs are based on pagan religious practices." The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life tr p.140
Church Garb and teachings - "In spite of this clear admonition, apostate Christians of the second century took on the trappings of the pagan Roman religion. They moved away from their pure Biblical origins and instead clothed themselves with pagan Roman garb and titles and became imbued with Greek philosophy. Mankind's Search for God p.263
Birthdays - "However, there is no indication in the Scriptures that faithful worshipers of Jehovah ever indulged in the pagan practice of annually celebrating birthdays." it-1 p.319
Birthday Cake - "What about the birthday cake? It appears to be related to the Greek goddess Artemis, whose birthday was celebrated with moon-shaped honey cakes topped with candles." sh p.70
Toasting - "But is that all there is to toasting? Why do the toasters raise their glasses, or lift their mugs and clink them together? Is it in imitation of some custom? ... If a Christian is going to make a request for divine blessing on another, then an appropriate way to do that is through heartfelt prayer to God, not by following traditions based on pagan worship that Jehovah abhors." Watchtower 1968 Jan 1 p.31
Wedding Practices - "Since there are so many traditional practices, should a Christian try to avoid all the wedding customs of his area? Not necessarily. ... In many lands it is common to throw rice at the bride and groom. What is the point of the custom? Some peoples believe the rice is food to keep evil influences away from the bride and groom. Some say it assures the couple fertility." Watchtower 1969 Jan 15 p.58
This is an illogical argument because almost every object, practice and philosophy can be traced back to pagan origins or usage. Even the Watchtower logo links back to Pagan origins. Hence, the Watchtower has no choice but to be inconsistent in choosing when to forbid a practice on grounds of paganism. For instance, the pagan practice of wearing a wedding ring is allowed.
"Christians do not attach any symbolic meaning to a wedding ring ..." Watchtower 1969 Jan 15 p.59
The Watchtower has given the following wise but contradictory advice when allowing the pagan pinata.
"When considering whether to include a piñata at a social gathering, Christians should be sensitive to the consciences of others. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area. Understandably, opinions may vary from one place to another. Hence, it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues." Awake! 2003 Sep 22 pp.23-24
Words from the Apostle Paul indentyfies that the Watchtower condemnation of festivals and observances is an unnecessary form of judgementalism.
Colossians 2:16-17 "Therefore let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ."
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
"Latin for "It happened after, so it was caused by" Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons."
"Working under angelic direction, we have found many who are hungering and thirsting for the truth. (Rev. 14:6) Householders have said that they had been praying for help when a Witness came to their door." Kingdom Ministry Nov 2001 p.8
"Alone and destitute, he considered suicide. Daniel prayed to God: “If you really exist, please help me!” The very next day, Jehovah’s Witnesses called on him and were able to answer many of his questions." Watchtower 2001 Jan 1 p.6
To meet a Witness after prayer is not proof of God's blessing for two key reasons.
- Witnesses engage in one billion hours of preaching each year, so statistical probability dictates some householders will be met within a short time of praying for help - or as commonly stated by sales teams, "it is a numbers game".
- It is common amongst other religious groups to present experiences of people praying shortly before conversion as indications of divine providence.
Appeal to ignorance
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." For instance, Betrand Russell's famous teapot; just because we can not prove there is not a teapot orbiting the earth does not prove there is one.
Many doubting Witnesses continue going to meetings for fear that Armageddon may be true, needing proof that it will not come. The onus of proof needs to be that it will come, not the other way around.
A slippery slope argument takes to the extreme the concept that one course of action will result in a worse course of action. For example, "If we legalise abortion, next we will have to legalise killing infants."
The Watchtower 1983 April 15 p.28 presents a similar argument about abortion.
"Because, the doctor explained, "a generation which has readily accepted the idea of abortion as an efficient and morally neutral mechanism . . . will readily embrace . . . 'therapeutic' euthanasia as a mechanism for disposing of a surplus population at the death end." How ironic it would be if those now advocating the killing of the unborn by abortion would themselves be the ones killed by "'therapeutic' euthanasia," should such a measure be adopted in the future!"
The hysteria surrounding disfellowshipping is another case in point.
"And we all know from our experience over the years that a simple "Hello" to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshiped person?" Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.25
A courteous salutation should not be prevented on the basis of the slippery slope argument that a friendship may develop.
A straw man argument occurs when another's position is misrepresented for the purpose of more easily attacking it. After knocking down the misrepresented position it is concluded that the original position has been demolished, even though the actual argument is not dealt with.
A straw man argument may be used intentionally as a debating tactic, or may result because the presenter does not properly understand another persons point of view.
The Watchtower presents the following description of heaven in order to discredit living forever in heaven, though nowhere in the Bible is heavenly life described as such.
"It is the life for man that Jehovah God originally purposed. And what is that? Bliss in heaven sprawled out on a billowy cloud, twanging a harp as you float along in space and eternity? No! It is not that vain and useless existence that idle dreamers have conjured up as heavenly life." Watchtower 1981 Jun 1 p.6
Likewise when discussing the Trinity, the Watchtower at times presents it as being "three gods in one".
"Their worship is not distributed to three gods in one, the so-called godhead of some mysterious Trinity, but they are united as the one people who worship the one God, Jehovah." Watchtower 1984 Mar 1 p.23
This is not the Trinity, which states there are three persons, but only one God. It is important to recognise this strawman description, as it invalidates the Watchtower argument against the Trinity from Deuteronomy 6:4 that "Jehovah our God is One Jehovah", since that is what Trinitarians teach.
Another straw man argument regarding the Trinity is from Let God Be True, p.102, which claims 1 John 5:7 is one of "the main scriptures used to support the Trinity doctrine." It then proceeds to attack this strawman by proving this Scripture is falsely translated in some Bibles. However, no serious scholar uses the false rendering of 1 John 5:7 as support for the Trinity and it is presented correctly in modern translations.
A red herring is the introduction of irrelevant material into a discussion to divert attention away from the points being made.
A common Witness retort to a difficult question is "Where else would we go?" This is a red herring as it diverts attention from answering the issue at hand.
Likewise to say "The Watchtower does not present false information, the magazines are filled with valuable and informative articles" is a red herring, as the issue is not that there is much that is correct, but that there is key information that is wrong.
When discussing why Witnesses do not have blood transfusions, the blood brochure makes the comment;
"Up to this point we have established that the Bible requires the following: A human is not to sustain his life with the blood of another creature." Jehovah's Witnesses and the Question of Blood p.17
Aside from the dubious quality of the points made, this is a red herring because that is not the point established. The point established was that blood was not to be eaten, not that it could not sustain life. In fact, blood sustains life when meat is eaten. The subtle introduction of the red herring phrase "not to sustain his life with the blood" is then the basis for introducing the concept that the Bible forbids blood transfusions. As shown at Blood, this is dangerous and incorrect misapplication of Scripture.
Suppressed evidence is manifest when relevant evidence is hidden and ignored.
The Watchtower argument for Jesus death on a stake instead of a cross is a prime example as it places emphasis on a small number of sources (such as inaccurate information from Vines Dictionary), ignoring the large weight of evidence that a cross was the foremost form of impalement in Jesus day and the method of his death. In the linked article, it can also be seen that information is suppressed when the Watchtower partially quotes sources, hiding the true meaning of the source.
Discussions of its history in Watchtower publications is another area of suppressed information. This includes statements that they accurately foretold the events of 1914 and that they only correctly came to understand the "superior authorities" in 1962.
It is expected that debaters and lawyers will suppress evidence so as not to undermine their own position, but a religion claiming to be the only purveyors of truth should not require the suppression of evidence.
A lie is the most obvious form of rhetorical fallacy.
An example is when the Watchtower claims not to have ever changed its doctrine back to a previous viewpoint - a flip flop.
"At times explanations given by Jehovahs visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case." Watchtower 1981 Dec 1 p.27
This is untrue, as there have been such doctrines regressing back to previous viewpoints, often many times. For instance, some of these regressions are discussed in the following articles:
Knight Jump Exegesis
To arrive at October 1914 as the date for the start of Jesus invisible heavenly reign, the Watchtower cross references passages from Daniel, Ezekiel, Luke and Revelation. It does similarly for explaining other prophecy from Daniel and Revelation. This method of interpretation allows Scriptural parallels to be found to support any doctrine the imagination can derive. As shown at Watchtower Prophecy, the result has been ever changing interpretations of these prophetic books that vary unrecognisably depending on the decade of release.
Common Fallacious Concepts
Watchtower doctrine contains numerous erroneous concepts that are supported by logical fallacies. In addition to the preceeding quotes, false beliefs discussed in detail throughout this site include:
- True Christians must use the word Jehovah
- Belonging to an earthly organization is a requirement of salvation
- Jerusalem fell in 607
1 The quotes that appear in the shaded boxes are taken from The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark by Carl Sagan, which contains a detailed discussion of rhetorical fallacy.
For further information about logical fallacies see List of Fallacies
yourlogicalfallacyis.com has great posters on fallacies and biases. (as of 20 Feb 2018)
Written 2010, latest update Feb 2018.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2018