As I write this article, 2017 is drawing to a close, having witnessed its own fair share of major changes within the Watchtower organization – so much so that the team here at JWsurvey are struggling to keep pace!
Over the past few months, we have set aside time to digest the survey results of the 2016 Global Survey of Jehovah’s Witnesses – and the time has now come to share these results with you, our readers!
First, though, it would be worthwhile to look back on events of 2016 by way of understanding the context. 2016 was, for example, a year in which we heard the ever-growing collective voice of those who join in raising awareness of unsatisfactory policies that leave children vulnerable to sexual abuse.
The year before, 2015, we watched the Australian Royal Commission hearings (into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) and it has since become increasingly clear that Watchtower has no intention of remedying the failings that were brought to light – at least not in the near future.
As noted by JWsurvey’s Assistant Editor, John Redwood, in November 2016 the Commission’s findings were released, highlighting desperate flaws. “The Royal Commission found children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organization and does not believe the organization responds adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse.”
A further in-depth examination took place in March 2017 and a report was subsequently released. Unfortunately, Watchtower has still failed to address flaws in their policies with regard to child sex abuse and reporting to authorities, meaning that children within their congregations and the wider community are not being protected as they should be. All in all, their policies continue to be woefully inadequate.
Across the globe, especially in the US and UK, there were many documented cases of abuse in 2016. You can read John Redwood’s detailed “Part One” summary of 2016 here.
Other legal action and court cases are ongoing, and we are doing our best to keep track of developments. Watchtower has repeatedly shown their disregard for the law of the land using unethical legal manoeuvrings to avoid subpoenas and prosecution for their actions. This systematic obstruction of justice surely cannot be explained away or swept under the rug forever.
As information on the internet and in the media becomes increasingly accessible, both sides to these stories are being exposed along with the darker side of the Watchtower organization. The real “truth” can no longer be silenced with assertions that those working to reveal what is happening are “spreading apostate-driven lies.”
Further to the extensive child abuse scandal gaining media attention, Watchtower’s deadly blood policy also came to the fore. It has resulted in many deaths among Jehovah’s Witnesses over the decades, including some high profile cases of preventable and premature deaths of children and birthing mothers. Such a senseless loss of precious life proves that this is not simply the case of a benign religion, but potentially an extremely dangerous and life-threatening cult.
Furthermore, the summer convention attended by millions of witnesses globally in 2016 was dubbed the “Worst Convention Ever” by Lloyd Evans in a series of YouTube videos reviewing the convention material. The convention, titled “Remain Loyal to Jehovah,” equated loyalty to God with loyalty to Watchtower in all its teachings and requirements no matter how inhumane.
As if enough families and friendships have not already been torn apart, there was a video series effectively calling for more of the same. It featured a couple completely shunning a young family member simply because she had a relationship with someone outside of the organization. The video even went so far as as to depict her mother completely ignoring calls from her, and the family not sitting with her at congregation meetings.
As a former member who has not been formally disfellowshipped, I still feel the pain of losing friends due to my non-attendance at meetings and no longer believing the same doctrine as those with whom I grew up. The captive nature of the organization is truly one of the marks of a destructive cult, and there is a daily struggle to come to terms with the pain of people you care about cutting you out of their lives.
Highly emotive videos such as those shown at recent conventions (including this year’s “Don’t Give Up!” convention) seek to get to the core of a person, ensuring they “remain loyal” to the Governing Body’s ever-changing policies. One of the 2016 videos showed a group of witnesses hiding in a bunker as the “Great Tribulation” begins, proving that – for the Watchtower organization – fear is still one of the most effective ways to keep followers obedient and under their control.
From the end of 2015 and through 2016 we have also seen the systematic reduction of the number of bethelites and special pioneers working for Watchtower. After years of commitment to the organization, many have lost their way of life as part of the organization’s downsizing initiative. To cut costs and maximise assets, the Governing Body has sold the last of Watchtower’s lucrative Brooklyn property portfolio, worth well over a billion dollars, and relocated to their new luxurious lakeside compound at Warwick seemingly with little thought to those kicked to the curb after years of service.
While keeping an eye on the constant changes at Watchtower, the JWsurvey team is also mindful of honoring the very reason why this website was founded back in 2011 – to give a voice to the “silent majority” of current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been denied a voice by an indifferent Watchtower leadership.
Mindful of the need to reflect new developments, we are hoping to introduce subtle changes to the survey in the years ahead, asking the questions that our readers would like us to ask, as well as gauging the reaction to current news and changes within the Jehovah’s Witness movement. We will soon be setting up a survey to gather such suggestions for next year’s Global Survey, concerning which I will keep you all updated. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter (at @jwsurveyorg) and tweet your suggestions to us.
So, without further ado, please see below a downloadable infographic with some stand-out statistics, plus some of the key findings and the full downloadable PDF survey results…
4,773 total respondents
- The fact that young people are not to pursue higher education was the least popular Watchtower teaching
- 58% say they are agnostic/atheist/have no belief, 40% religious
- 89% believe that JWs have a problem with child abuse
- 266 claim to be victims of child sex abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses
- 35% claim to be aware of child sex abuse where they knew the victim personally
- 53% suffered some bullying at school due to being a Witness
- 52% believe they have experienced financial disadvantages due to not pursuing higher education, as per Watchtower’s teachings
- 76% have heard of a Jehovah’s Witness committing or attempting suicide
- 46% suffer from depression
- 31% say they have contemplated or attempted suicide as a result of being a part of the Jehovah’s Witness organization (1,113 individuals)
- 19% have self-harmed as a Jehovah’s Witness
- 73% have never helped someone to baptism
- 78% are against tax-exempt/charitable status for the Watchtower organization
- 456 individuals say they donate to Watchtower (almost half of which said “every now and then”)
- 54% believe the organization is in financial difficulty
- 52% consider themselves apostates
- 22% personally knew of someone who has died as a result of refusing a blood transfusion
- 165 individuals would let their child die refusing blood
- 74% of those who have attended a Judicial Committee meeting feel that they were not dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner
- 90% of ex-JWs are happier for leaving the organization
- 72% of those who are no longer a part of the Watchtower organization have been successful in rebuilding their circle of friends/family
- 93% of disfellowshipped ex-JWs would not seek reinstatement
- 77% are being shunned
- 95% of respondents would not recommend anyone to become a Jehovah’s Witness
- 63% believe that the Governing Body know what they are doing and should be held accountable for their actions
- 55% would like to see the Watchtower society drastically change its damaging policies
826 active Jehovah’s Witness respondents
- 76% of active respondents were male
- Only 20% became JWs after being preached to
- 23% of active respondents are regular pioneers
- 3 special pioneers and 2 missionaries participated
- 40% (118) claimed to be ministerial servants
- 10 individuals claimed to be bethelites
- 7% claimed to have been reinstated just to have contact with family
- 47% said they would secretly accept blood, with a further 7% saying they would openly accept blood
- 11% would let their children die for want of a blood transfusion (21% not sure)
- 20% knew of a death due to refusing blood
- 65% said they would remove the prohibition on blood
- 24 individuals who took part claimed to be of the anointed
- 16% believe JWs are God’s spirit-directed organization (a further 27% were not sure)
- Only 9% believe that elders are appointed by holy spirit
- 62% said that they have never brought someone to baptism
- Only 8% believe you are free to express a difference of opinion
- 53% voted for Governing Body member Anthony Morris III as the most controversial
- Only 24% believe JWs should be a tax exempt and considered a charity
- 54% say that they don’t donate to the Watchtower organization
- 81% of those who do donate say they are not comfortable with donations being used to pay for sex abuse cases
- 55% believe the organization is in financial difficulty
- 67% are not comfortable with all non-JWs being murdered at Armageddon (3.51% were comfortable with this idea and 12% don’t think this is what JWs teach)
- 65% object to all forms of shunning
- 30% consider themselves apostate
- 24% would remain JWs even if their beliefs were disproven
- 17 individuals would take a pill if instructed to do so by Watchtower
- 39% claim to suffer from depression
- 27% have attempted or contemplated suicide
- 13% have self-harmed
- 42% have been bullied at school for their beliefs
- 55% have attended college or university
- 80% believe JWs have a problem with child abuse
- 22 claimed to be victims of child abuse within JWs
- 48% consider themselves to be ‘believing’ JWs
- 9% agree with ALL Watchtower teachings and practices
If you would like to download the results in PDF form, you can do so here.
And I hope you will enjoy the following video in which I join Lloyd Evans in discussing these results on his John Cedars channel…
Finally, I would like to thank all of you who voted in 2016 for your support. And please don’t forget to share in taking the 2017 Global Survey so that as many voices as possible can be heard!