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  Wikipedia: Jehovah's Witnesses

Wikipedia: Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jehovah's Witnesses are a Restorationist Christian denomination founded in the 1870s in Pennsylvania by Charles Taze Russell as a small Bible study group. It grew into an organization which came to be known as the International Bible Students. Jehovah's Witnesses consider their religion to be a restoration of original first-century Christianity.

The group's members are known for their racially diverse, close-knit brotherhood, door-to-door evangelizing, and non-participation in government, including politics and military service. They generally exhibit a high degree of commitment to their religion, attending meetings three times a week in their local Kingdom Hall or in private homes. Larger gatherings are held, usually three times a year, in assembly halls or public facilities, such as sports stadiums.

Some trinitarian Christian groups do not consider the Witnesses to be Christian, because of the Witnesses' rejection of the Trinity, as expressed in their belief that Jesus Christ is a created being. Critics have considered them to be a totalitarian religious group, accusing them for holding most of the characteristics of such religious groups.

Drawing much of their early membership and some of their theology from the Millerite movement, the Jehovah's Witnesses adopted their current name in 1931 under the direction of the Watchtower Society's second president, Joseph Franklin Rutherford.

Membership

As of 2003 August, Jehovah's Witnesses claim a world-wide membership of more than 6.4 million active individuals. Witness membership figures refer to the number of active 'publishers' or door-to-door evangelists and are therefore not directly comparable with statistics produced by other religious groups, which may include all associates regardless of their degree of commitment. Well over 16 million people attend at least some of the group's meetings.[1].

Publications

Jehovah's Witnesses make vigourous efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. Their teachings are mainly presented through two monthly journals. Awake, published in 87 languages, is a general-interest magazine covering many topics from a religious perspective. The Watchtower, published in 148 languages, focuses mainly on doctrine. With an average circulation of 25 million copies semimonthly, The Watchtower is the most widely distributed religious magazine in the world. At their yearly conventions, new books, brochures, and other items pertaining to the religion's current doctrine are usually released. Additionally, a number of audio- and videocassettes have been produced featuring various aspects of the group's beliefs and practices.

Their web site presents information in 234 languages (as of February 2004) and is the most multilingual website on the Internet.

Opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses

Currently, the church of Jehovah's Witnesses is being criticized for excercising unreasonable control over its members. To be an official member of the church, one must meet weekly door-to-door preaching requirements and obey strict rules, such as not accepting blood transfusions. Opponents claim that members of the church are told to avoid speaking to ex-members, even if they are family or relatives. Thus, resigning from the church is not easy.

Throughout their history, their doctrines and practices have met controversy. Animosity against them has at times led to the point of mob action, government oppression — including being targeted in the Holocaust — and widespread criticism from members of other faiths. In the United States, the well known anti-Semitic priest, Father Coughlin, was especially persistent in leading mobs to attack Witness gatherings.

In the United States, many Supreme Court cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses have shaped First Amendment law. Significant cases affirmed rights such as these:

By 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court had reviewed 71 cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses, two thirds of which were decided in their favor. Most recently, in 2002, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society disputed an ordinance in Stratton, Ohio that required a permit in order to preach from door to door. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Witnesses.

In addition to government opposition, many Christian denominations have accused the Jehovah's Witnesses of being a non-Christian sect and of being a cult, and include them among lists of religious organizations to avoid in instructional material given to their members. This effort to counteract the proselytizing efforts of the Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as other groups, is perceived by some as being incompatible with religious liberty.

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