My goal for the paper was to look at member or two of the Islam community and Jehovah’s Witnesses community, and how their life was influenced by their corresponding religion. I feel that I have a lot of sources that give thorough context, but I feel as though I didn’t analyze the quotes to the best of my ability. I plan to get better at this skill in the near future.
The unwavering faith a person has in a divine being or energy that they cannot see can be astounding to some. A person becomes people that over centuries have formed groups based on their beliefs, resulting in religions. From these original religions, subcategories called denominations have come forth due to different interpretations. These groups have been judged at times based on misconceptions built out of scandals and radicalism, but when forming opinions about something, it is best to look at the facts, or in cases, the religious texts or beliefs of the actual people. How does religion really influence a person’s behavior or actions and what lengths will they go to to prove their faith? Well, let’s start by breaking down a religion not too many of people know about. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the many denominations of the monotheistic religion, Christianity. Its members believe that the creator of the universe is named Jehovah, and its core beliefs come from both the New and the Old Testaments. They acknowledge Jesus as a son of God, technically making them Christians, but they do not recognize the Trinity doctrine or Jesus as the “Almighty God” (“What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?”). After gathering this general idea of what the religion was based on, one may become curious about personal stories to get a first hand account of members’ upbringings and/or conversions. My father was brought up as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he spoke rarely of the door-to-door ministry, but I felt like there was more he was not saying. Then, I stumbled upon Walter Hudson’s story. He reveals, “[Jehovah’s] Witnesses are religious in the same sense that radical Islamists are. Their theology defines every aspect of their lives and dictates the most trivial nuances of their behavior,” (Hudson, Walter). After some digging, some intriguing rules were “You shall not celebrate birthdays,”, “You shall not lie, but you may refrain from telling the truth to those Jehovah’s Witnesses deem do not deserve it,”, “You shall not vote in political elections,”, “You shall not abort your child, even if it is medically confirmed that the child will be born dead,” and “You shall shun disassociated persons,” (“What is wrong with being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”). With these rules and pages more, one might run into some obstacles. Some of these rules could absolutely result in a small social circle at the very least and if you don’t get along with anyone in your religious community, a lack of friends. Steph Le Gardener speaks of being bullied when not saluting the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, sitting alone during sports and holiday activities while others pitied her, and a loss of innocence during meetings at the Kingdom Hall (their place of worship) where no filter was applied for the young members when speaking of the gruesome deaths non-members would suffer during Armageddon. “My story as a Jehovah’s Witness child is not at all uncommon. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s probably quite typical… It was demanded that I trade in my childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina or a gymnast for the dream of serving Jehovah 90 hours a month in the door-to-door ministry. I would have to knock on doors and peddle magazines for the prize of some day, being able to ‘play with a panda in paradise.’ I can tell you that the price was far too high, and the trade-off was not fair,” argues Gardener. Through her experiences it appears that this religion causes one to grow up too fast while simultaneously not being allowed to really be a kid. As those kids grow up they either stick with what they know or leave because of that nature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this results in the shunning of that person to the point where their own family is highly discouraged from speaking to them. Members also believe that the end is near, and go about preaching to save as many as they can, but with this mindset they are encouraged to sell their property and await Armageddon, resulting in homelessness. Society would look at this religion as quite extreme while devoted members believe that they are dedicating their lives to doing right by Jehovah and helping people to them who would seem educated, find their way through this religion and recognize that the end of the world is coming. A religion that is more well known is Islam. It comes from the word “salam” meaning peace, and the word itself means “surrender” to the word of God. The belief is that many prophets were sent to convey that Allah, the Arabic word for the one true God, is the only deity worth worshipping, also making it a monotheistic religion (“What is Islam?”). This religion speaks of improving oneself before trying to impact others’ lives, which is a profound lesson that seems to looks down upon arrogance. Some steps to self-purification are included in the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad: “Strive to increase your knowledge whether it be religious or academic knowledge. Endeavor to be an informed and active citizen,”, and “Improve your moral standards by cultivating integrity, conscientiousness, and right action,” (“Importance of Self-Improvement in Islam”). These statements are suggesting that by bettering yourself, you are bettering your community. One 31-year-old Chicano man talks about how he had used various drugs in the past as a means of escape from depression and was not even seeking to be part of a religion when he read the Qur’an for the first time. However, reading that religious text was a turning point in his life where through this religion, he reflected on the way he’d been living and how he could improve himself. “I have been a Muslim since 1997. I’m at peace with myself and clear in Religion….I think that Islam is the answer for the problems of the youth and society in general,” (“A Muslim’s personal testimony”). When people join religions, they don’t just join a group of people who believe in the same God, Gods, or energy as themselves, but they also agree to uphold a certain way of life based upon the divine beings’, prophets, or philosophers’ teachings. The Jehovah’s Witnesses rules are more like a handbook for life, giving strict directions that if followed will save you from Armageddon, while the Islam’s texts seemed to be more like advice on how to be a better person. Based on these texts people make sacrifices that they may not even be aware of or that they may painfully be aware of to do right by their God, God’s or energy. At the end of the day, these beings or energies that eludes our physical senses brings people together from all walks of life to form a sense of community.
“What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?” JW.ORG, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/.
Walter Hudson. “My Childhood in the Cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Faith, PJ Media, pjmedia.com/faith/2016/05/31/my-childhood-in-the-cult-of-jehovahs-witnesses/.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Rules - avoid jw.Org.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, 9 June 2016, avoidjw.org/en/changes/jehovahs-witnesses-rules/.
“My Life as a Jehovah’s Witness Child.” Watchtower Watch, 16 May 2013, watchtowerwatch.com/blog/my-life-as-a-jehovahs-witness-child.
“What is Islam?” Facts about the Muslims & the Religion of Islam - Toll-Free hotline 1-877-WHY-ISLAM, www.whyislam.org/islam/what-is-submission/.
“Home.” The People of the Book, www.thepeopleofthebook.org/why-bother-to-share-with-muslims/a-muslims-personal-testimony/.
PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/teach/muslims/beliefs.html.