Jehovah’s Witnesses to kids: Pay attention in church or you might die

From the New York News, via reader Barry, here’s a cartoon produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses that very gently tells kids (these ones named Caleb and Sophia) that they might die (or not go to heaven?) if they fail to pay attention at the church meeting:

And so we see the form of terror that religion must instill in children to make them believe. It’s no less harmful because it comes in the form of a cute cartoon.



  1. Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    That is evil.

    Pure and unadulterated essence of evil.

    Child abuse as horrific as any mental abuse can be.


    • CL Wilkerson
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Is evil possible without intent? I used to believe this way also and thought it was wholly for beneficial reasons as it was the way I was indoctrinated.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        “Is evil possible without intent?”

        My first question would be, “intent to what?” I think even if you mean simply “intent to behave evilly” that the answer is yes. Absolutely. It goes without saying that lots of people have done, do, evil things while believing that they are behaving righteously.

        • Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          ISIS sincerely and fervently believe that they’re doing the greatest possible good when they torture and maim and murder and rape. It is the will of Allah.


          • CL Wilkerson
            Posted February 17, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            So their acts are not evil in their frame of reference – just as our allowing thousands to die daily from worldwide starvation is not evil in ours? Who decides what is evil? It seems very arbitrary. My moral code was based on the bible- now I struggle to find a non-arbitrary replacement.

            • Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Permalink


              Where on Earth do you get the notion that anybody reading these words has it within their power to stop thousands of people from dying daily from starvation?


              • Helen Hollis
                Posted February 18, 2015 at 12:03 am | Permalink

                Those that are JW feel that there is no use to do anything charitable to others, as the only thing that will really matter will be their version of “truth”.

                They do not build schools or hospitals or do coat drives. They do nothing in terms of charity.

              • CL Wilkerson
                Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

                In that scenario, we were talking about groups, not individuals – my assertion was that the group, ISIS, causes the death of others actively and does not see that as evil – while we in America, due to how our representatives prioritize what we fund, passively do not intervene to stop the deaths of countless children in other regions of the world – as we could if this was prioritized as more important to us as a nation. We know the starvation deaths happened yesterday, happened today, and will happen tomorrow on a much greater scale than deaths caused by ISIS, without some intervention. While the prevailing feeling in the US appears to be that our inaction is not evil, it would seem others could present a legitimate argument that it is. My point is that evil appears to be a subjective, relative construct depending totally upon one’s frame of reference. At that point, it seems that everything or nothing can be objectively qualified as evil.

              • Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

                There’s a world of difference between massacring people and failing to render aid — and that’s especially the case considering how inept the States have been at rendering such aid in the first place.

                Just because we have more food than we can eat and other places don’t have enough doesn’t mean that helping others is as simple as sending our extra food to them. Many places facing famine have serious internal political problems that make aid distribution impossible — see Somalia for the prime example.

                ISIS, in stark contrasts, locks people in cages and sets them on fire, tosses people off buildings, saws their heads off, and so on.

                If you really want something comparable to criticize the US over, it’d be drone strikes and the like — and, again, that’s something that I and many others have been furious about.


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:16 am | Permalink

                Much though I disapprove of the US’s frequently clumsy meddling in other countries’ affairs, the US does at least have sufficient sense of decency not to publicly rejoice in the deaths of its opponents. ISIS glories in killing people, and the more deliberately and gratuitously barbaric the better.

                I can certainly see a moral difference there, by any standards anyone likes to invoke.

              • microraptor
                Posted February 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                Much though I disapprove of the US’s frequently clumsy meddling in other countries’ affairs, the US does at least have sufficient sense of decency not to publicly rejoice in the deaths of its opponents

                Most of the time, anyway.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 21, 2015 at 3:20 am | Permalink

                “Most of the time, anyway.”

                Well, I was generalising. I think a certain amount of satisfaction over getting Bin laden is permissible, for example. Whereas that helicopter pilot enjoying himself just a bit too much (footage posted on Wikileaks) was rightly condemned by almost everybody in the US. ISIS would have no clue why that should be.

      • microraptor
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Very few people wake up in the morning and say “let’s be bad guys.”

    • darrelle
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Yup. I don’t know if doing it with a cute cartoon is more harmful, but it sure as hell is more screwed up.

    • Taskin
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Evil was the first word that popped into my mind as well. There are lots of exJW’s venting in the comments to this video.

    • Delphin
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      It is not evil. When Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous they taught their kids not to eat tomatoes. This is motivated by a sincere belief that this is *good* for the children and they benefit from it.
      It is surely misguided, I think it’s silly, and it deserves ridicule. But error is not evil.

      • Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        There’s a world of difference between depriving your children of marinara sauce or a BLT…and terrorizing them into thinking they’re going to die an horrible death if they don’t hang on some noxious pedophile’s every word as he drones on about fourth-rate faery tales filled with brutal violence and astounding depravity — especially considering it’s the supposed good guys in the fantasies doing all the nastiest of the really nasty shit.

        …or do you think that Torquemada wasn’t evil because he sincerely believed a few months of terrestrial torture for his victims was preferable to them spending an eternity in Hell? That Hitler wasn’t evil because he sincerely believed he was returning purity to Germany? That ISIS isn’t evil because they sincerely believe what they’re doing is necessary to bring forth the global Caliphate?

        Fuck that noise. This shit is evil.


  2. mpatrick65
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    So the JW equates the sleep-inducing parroting of scripture in a meeting hall basement to emergency preparedness instructions coming directly out of the mouth of god? If that was the equivalence, then the kids and their parents seems awfully chipper at the next meeting.
    The whole this is so sick and twisted.

  3. alexandra
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    that is really creepy-

    • Yiam Cross
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Nope, that’s just religion.

  4. Adam Kemp
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe that the saved go to Heaven (only the anointed). They do believe in eternal life on Earth (in bodily form) after the apocalypse for those who are saved. They also don’t believe in Hell, but instead believe that those who are not saved will just die and never come back. When they talk about saving your life that is what they mean. Not being saved means being dead and never coming back to life. That is what they fear.

    • Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      As an ex-JW: Yes, correct. I would add one key bit: JWs don’t believe in the immortal soul. From Ezekiel 18:4 (“The soul that is sinning – it itself will die”) they conclude that when you’re dead, you’re flat-out dead; no soul remains. (Resurrection will apparently come about through God reconstructing people from his perfect memory. Makes me think of Star Trek transporters…)

      Lots of people misunderstand JW beliefs regarding the soul and after-life – the “end game” – and make the assumption that JWs claim to be heaven-bound (like most Christians do), or even that JWs foresee in hell for non-believers. But their actual beliefs are as you state.

      JWs’ actual “end game” beliefs aren’t hard to understand (and even contain a certain logic: God’s original plan was for humans to live on Earth; naturally, that’s *still* his plan). I think they’re often misunderstood simply because the “no heaven for (nearly all) humans” and “no immortal soul” claims are such a big departure from standard Christianity!

  5. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    They haven’t been beating the children enough. Sparing the rod and all of that.

  6. Jim Knight
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    This is very similar to what we experienced as children growing up in the First Southern Baptist Church in Frederick, Oklahoma. It scared the HELL out of me!

    Scaring little kids like that is child abuse of the First Order.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      If a parent constantly threatened their child with being thrown in a fire in the basement, it would be considered abuse, but somehow when they say a god will do it, it’s OK.

    • JimmyHaulinHogs
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Grace Baptist Church was where my Boys 10-12 Sunday School class, being rather boisterous and restless one day, was forced to listen to a story about another boy who couldn’t pay attention and while playing out on the train tracks got run over and lost some limbs. I believe the lesson was that we’d better pay attention or else. Thankfully, I normally had the rest of the week to recover from stuff like that while the other boys, unfortunately, had very religious families to live with all the time. It’s not just the stuff that goes on in church – it’s also what goes on at home.

      • Jim Knight
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Interesting! I got the same story in church in Frederick. Maybe it was a “standard” Baptist tale? Anyway, my folks weren’t really that religious, but Mom had a beautiful singing voice, so she was in the choir, and Dad grew up there so he knew everyone in the church. Church was almost the default setting for where to be on a Sunday morning in a town in southwestern Oklahoma. As a little kid I was susceptible to the fear that comes from a kid’s world view…

  7. livinginabox
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Psychological child-abuse.

  8. Blue
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    A very simple statement — five words’ length only — then burnt into my brain and which has never left it –– spoken in swift answer to my query of him then @ his book – signing session some years back now here at Iowa State University, Mr Christopher Hitchens, “Religious education IS child abuse.”


  9. Alex Shuffell
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    End it when Noah drowns, get Angelo Badalamenti to do the music and you have a David Lynch cartoon for children.

  10. Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Browbeating with the threat of extermination. I think Piaget mentioned something about this being a bad idea.

  11. Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    And I’ve seen the effects on the other side too – this is evil, all right.

  12. Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I paid attention in scripture classes in school for 6 whole years, and all I remember is that when I was seven we were told to draw a picture of Jesus’ body in the tomb. For some reason I decided to depict being run over by a combine harvester.

    The priest didn’t like it very much, or maybe not at all, really. But in retrospect I think maybe it was a turning point.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      You seven-year-old heretic, you!

    • Delphin
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      When I was young I remember the very best theology lesson possible, given by a pleasant lady in Sunday school. She was talking about the trinity, or some other “mystery”. She asked us “Do we understand? No. Do we believe? Yes.” Not me lady was my reaction, and I have always remembered that lesson.

    • Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Heh. I like. My only memory of Sunday School (Lutheran, I think, just before family went JW) is also one involving art – specifically, the teacher taking a dislike to my masterpiece of a hungry T Rex running down fleeing people. “Not very nice”, or something like that.

      (What!? No credit for depicting a proper Creationist timeline?)

  13. Posted February 17, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    When I try to play the video I get the message “this video is private” and cannot see it.
    Judging from the comments it must be rather ‘evil’ than ‘private’.

    • Les
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Same here.

      • Acolyte of Sagan
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Snap! Maybe they’re taking too much flak and have pulled it from the public domain.

        Can the microscopic people who live in the Interwebs to make it work do that?

        • Nerdly
          Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

          They left it up on their website!

          Do they think we can’t figure out how to find this? Ha!

          • Acolyte of Sagan
            Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

            Thanks, Nerdly.

            Please tell me you are one of the microscopic people.
            fingers crossed that my hypothesis is finally confirmed

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 18, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

            It’s available in 27 languages. I’ve been watching it with amusement for the last 5 minutes. It’s quite good in Swedish but, visually, the Brazilian Sign Language has got to be the best.

    • microraptor
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Well, don’t JW’s think that your privates are evil?

  14. Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Interesting find, Prof. Coyne, though I came after the video went private. From your description, I can picture what’s in it.

    I was right smack in that position as a Jehovah’s Witness kid, charged with paying attention during services. I can attest that it was a real challenge to listen up. (“And so Jehovah’s original covenant with the Israelites… and so Judaic law in the time of Jesus blah blah… and thus Jehovah’s covenantwithhismoderndaywitnesses..”…zzzzzzzzzzz….)

    How to get through a two-hour meeting every Thursday and Sunday was a true endurance test (with the Tuesday one-hour meeting a bonus challenge). It went something like this:

    * Boring milling about and chatting before the start (thankfully omitted often due to our family’s habitual lateness)
    * Song time. Lame, but better than what’s next…
    * Sit and listen time.
    * Actually try to listen for a while.
    * Something about… the proper role of Ministerial Servants? Maybe.
    * Sleepiness crashes down like a felled sequoia.
    * Start familiar regimen of pinching leg (through 70s corduroy trousers) to wake up.
    * Nudged by a parent. Time to follow along with scripture look-ups. (Got my green-cover New World Translation right here!)
    * Where the heck is Micah? Who looks up anything in Micah? Isn’t that a mineral or something, anyway?
    * Minerals. Still got that library book about fossils. Gotta remember to return that.
    * Some new people sitting in back? Who are they?
    * Peek at watch for 11th time.
    * Sigh. Leaf through Bible to look busy. Where’s that one part with the one prophet who disses the false prophets with the “your god must be on the privy” line? Sick burn, dude. [Anachronistic lingo alert]
    * Must… stay… awake…
    * Watch Mom take notes. Purple felt-tip. Always. Weird handwriting. Is that a “g” or a “q”?
    * Try taking my own notes. It’s something to do. But so… boring…
    * Doodle just a tiny bit. Can’t get away with more.
    * Blah blah preaching work in the something something early congregation talk talk
    * Where’s that one girl sitting today?
    * Look at that From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained book a bit. Right there, on the map on the inner cover, they drew a dinosaur along with the Babylonians and stuff! So the Bible says that dinosaurs did live with people? Because I don’t see any scriptures like that, and no one will really answer the question…
    * Geez, still 19 minutes to go
    * Not supposed to say “geez”. Or anything like that. And last week Sister Smith told her kids they weren’t supposed to use the words “luck” because that’s of the Devil, or call anything “perfect” because only Jehovah is perfect. But she was looking right at me, because she heard me call something perfect, but you could argue that that thing *is* perfect for what it is, and I don’t see why that’s a problem…
    * Zzzz….
    * “Dad, can I go to the bathroom?” “I don’t know, can you?” “Funny. May I go to the bathroom?”
    * Sl-o-o-o-w walk to bathroom.
    * Very lo-o-o-ng bathroom break.
    * Sl-o-o-o-w walk back to seat. (“Green Mile” slow.)
    * Hey, I think that’s that girl, sitting over there…
    * Sit. Zone out a bit. Play with clip-on tie a bit.
    * All right, four minutes left! I’m a-hangin’ on every word! Sacrificial Lamb! The Remnant! The Anointed! Yes yes yes! It all means something… somehow… Well, it’ll all make sense when I’m older, right?
    * Song time. Hey, it’s something!
    * One hour down…

    Rinse and repeat, hour after hour, week after week, long year after long year. My. What a fine use of time for curious young minds. (The preaching work – “going out in service” – is a whole other horror story.)


    Oh, Prof. Coyne, one wee point about terminology for future reference:

    For the record, the JWs don’t (and wouldn’t think to) call their services “church”, a word they reserve for the deluded/wicked false religions of Christendom. They call their meeting place a “Kingdom Hall”, and the meeting a “meeting” or (I think) “services”. NEVER “church”!

    (Between all of us here, though: Regardless of what they want it called, yeah, it’s church. A bore by any other name is still a bore.)

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha ha ha ha! So funny!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      I can imagine – but not fully comprehend – the horror of it. I went through a tiny fraction of that on Sundays for few years in a English Baptist (or was it Congregational or Methodist? – where’s Streetview? – oh it’s a United Reformed Church now, not much help) Sunday School. Felt vaguely guilty that I didn’t believe any of it and couldn’t wait to escape.

      I think Rowan Atkinson sums it up quite well (though what really amuses me about that clip is the preacher’s ability to ‘talk’ for 5 minutes without saying a single recognisable word)

    • Dominic
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      At least as a cathedral chorister we got interesting music to sing!

  15. rose
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    If you want to get out of Christmas shopping become a JW it has crossed my mind.They might have something there at least save money and not have to put up those God awful lights,decorations,tree,blown up santas etc. .

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      You would not be so willing to be a JW simply to get out of the burden of Xmas if you knew what growing up as a JW would mean for the rest of your life. I am assuming you wish this from birth and have thought this out..

  16. Kevin Bryant
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I guess one can compare this “kind of evil, mental abuse and terror” JW’s and other religious kids go through at their biology classes when evolution is taught.

    Since JW’s and many religious kids don’t believe in evolution, this is what they often hear:

    “If you don’t listen and pay attention to the evolution teaching, then you are going to be thrown out of school; you are going to flank the course, you are not going to graduate and you can forget about going to college, if you don’t learn and begin to believe in evolution.

    I guess this kind of terror is acceptable, because it is “scientific”, therefore it should be tolerable.

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      You could try to make that comparison, but only if you wanted to demonstrate your complete incompetence on the subject.


      • Kevin Bryant
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        One can also add:

        “If you don’t listen and pay attention to the evolutionary teaching, then you are NOT ONLY going to be thrown out of school, flank the course, not graduate and not going to college. BUT more so, if you don’t learn and begin to believe in evolution, you will not get a job that can pay for your bills because of the lack of education. Then you will end up living on the street, starve, catch a disease and die. Since evolution doesn’t teach life after death; there is no heaven or resurrection, you are totally screwed”

        Yeah, there is no comparison.

%d bloggers like this: