A polite reply to a Jehovah’s Witness

Dear Mrs J. W.

Thank you for your leaflet and discussion about your view that the answers to today’s social problems can be found by reading the Bible.

I am a member of the World Socialist Movement. I respect those Christian groups such as yourselves who, like us socialists, refuse to participate in war, and the courage of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, together with that of the Hutterites and Amish, during wartime is well known to me.

You are correct in saying that the money is there for governments to choose what to spend it on. But they don’t really have a choice. All governments are bound to put profits, and the defence of profit-making (ie, military expenditure), before people and their needs. They cannot help but do so, since the nation-state is the executive arm of the minority who own and control the world’s resources with a view to the accumulation of capital – the capitalist class. They cannot act in any other way. While the planet’s resources are monopolised by a minority of the population, the demands of profit-making will always come before the needs of people. This is why military expenditure is a priority for governments. The capitalists of each country are obliged to maintain the threat of war in the face of the cut-throat commercial competition which is capitalism. Even though the profit-system is suicidal to the capitalists themselves, and to all of us (modern warfare, including nuclear weaponry, pollution, despoliation of the Earth, etc), while the Earth remains the property of a minority ruling class this will always be the case.

What you know as the Bible consists in fact of only a tiny number of Christian texts which were chosen out of hundreds (which were destroyed) by the established clergy of the Byzantine Empire. These men would hardly be considered Christians by you, yet you take their choice among the Christian canon as your book known as the Bible today and which you call the ‘Word of God’. While burning the books of the Christians which were unacceptable to the official Orthodox Church at the time of the Council of Nicaea, these same officials who established the Bible as it is known today also burnt the Christians whose scriptures were at odds with the state-church alliance of Byzantium. So what you call the Bible is but an altered and much tampered-with fragment of a much larger body of Christian scripture, most of which has disappeared.

But that is neither here nor there for me, since I accept nothing on authority, and if some morsels of wisdom are to be gleaned from the Bible, the same is true of other books too. It is my experience, and surely yours too, that people can see in the Bible whatever they choose to see and expound accordingly. It is in the realm of the natural world and of human society and history in which we must search for the truth, not in that of ancient mythology, nor of ancient mythology rehashed to suit today’s people and their own confused imaginings.

Very many people are opposed to the state of affairs (capitalism, by whatever name they call it) prevailing today. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t give a sou to charities, yet they do. We see them reaching into their pocket frequently. Thousands of people around the world work actively in charitable organisations, and also in ecological, political organisations, anti-war associations, Red Cross and so on. Others train arduously to be nurses and doctors, earning very little money for doing so and travelling to out-of-the-way places hoping to ease the suffering of others.

All this hardly fits with the picture painted by you of ‘self-loving’ people with no natural affection, etc. In fact, everyone points to others when questioned about the world’s ills, saying ‘I would be happy to help others and do this, and establish a world of justice and goodness, but others would obstruct it’. In other words, they all point to other people (never themselves) as the reason why ‘things will never change for the better.’ As everyone tends to do this, we end up with millions apparently willing and eager to bring about a better world, but each pointing to the rest who, they all say, would ‘obstruct’ it! The picture is not one of ‘evil’ or selfishness, but of blindness toward our collective strength and power – a sense of alienation from one another which seems to leave no option but that of apathy and a timid ‘waiting for the awful end to come’ etc, … Which serves capitalism very well indeed.

And religion (all religion) assists in this cultivation of apathy and helplessness. Not so much tiny groups like yourselves, who have very little influence, but the whole perverse doctrine of an omnipotent Supreme Being who governs the universe and who urges us (by means of religious books etc) to ‘resist our evil human nature’.

Christianity especially, with its doctrine of Original Sin (today rehashed by secular conservatives as ‘human nature’ – the myth of innate evil) tells us we are helpless in the face of the social evils we have ourselves brought about. It tells us to forget about changing society (above all to forget about expropriating our masters) and set our sights on a future paradise which ‘God’ has prepared for us after death (no wonder this suited so well the Byzantine hierarchy which established the Christian Bible as a ‘holy book’! It has suited all ruling classes ever since!).

In short, religion sustains class rule, and the evils arising from it (famine, warfare, poverty and so on) by divorcing humanity itself from the possibility of real solutions. It condemns humans to prayerful, penitent, charitable acceptance of the existing order of things, and to social and political inactivity and dependence on leaders, whether clerical or secular. Because, religion says, real change is not in the power of man, but of God – that mythical Supreme Being who has ordained things as they are and in the face of which we can but kneel, pray, and try to ease suffering while we await ’His coming’. It is not our job, says religion, to root out the cause of suffering, or to take the Earth into the hands of the majority of its human inhabitants. It is not our job, says religion, because we are, basically, evil, hateful and good-for-nothing; seduced by the serpent and redeemable only through God’s will.

What an ally religion is to the capitalist class!

What an enemy and obstruction to human emancipation and self-realisation!

I have no wish to be meek. We cannot afford to be meek. Our task must be, as members of the majority working class, to expropriate the minority who own the world’s wealth and resources in the rampant interest of profit. We must organise as a class and dispossess this minority, so that, with the Earth’s resources in the hands, democratically, of us all, a society of real co-operation, a society of free access, without nation-states, without frontiers, without wars, poverty and famine, can at last be established.

Meekness is the watchword of those who would have us meek. Of those whom superstition serves, as a useful tool, for keeping us on penitential knees.

Far from happiness being provided by religion, religion occurs where real happiness is absent. Paradise in the sky is and always has been a poor substitute for real heaven on Earth. Religion is ‘… the sigh of the oppressed creature. The opium of the people.’

Sincerely yours,

A. W.

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2 Replies to “A polite reply to a Jehovah’s Witness”

  1. Nailed it!

    The part about how the Bible came to be, was fascinating. Apparently, the Bible was written by hundreds of different people, that’s why it contradicts itself, so much.

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