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Jehovah's Witnesses are a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs. The denomination developed from the Bible Student movement founded by Charles Taze Russell in the late 1800s. Its main legal entity is the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (often called the "Watch Tower Society" or just "the Society"), which holds the copyrights of most literature published by Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in heaven, hell, or immortal souls. Instead, they believe in immortal life on Earth. Since its inception in 1881, the Watch Tower Society has claimed that the world as we know it is about to be destroyed, resulting in the deaths of everyone on Earth except for whichever Jehovah's Witnesses God chooses to save (or to resurrect) and allow to live forever. In the past, the Watch Tower Society has predicted that the world would end in 1914, 1925, and 1975. More recently, it has suggested that the world will end in 2034.1

Jehovah's Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching and distribution of literature such as The Watchtower and Awake!. They do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, or birthdays, which they believe have pagan origins that are not compatible with Christianity. They consider use of the name Jehovah—or other common-language pronunciations of the Tetragrammaton—vital for proper worship.

Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to serve in the military, work in industries associated with the military, salute or pledge allegiance to any national flag, sing national anthems or patriotic songs, or seek public office. They remain politically neutral and are discouraged from voting, although some Jehovah's Witnesses may participate in uncontroversial community improvement issues. Legal challenges to military draft laws by Jehovah's Witnesses have strongly influenced "conscientious objector" laws in the United States.

Watch Tower Society literature instructs Jehovah's Witnesses to refuse to accept or provide blood transfusions, even if death may result. Since 1961, the acceptance of a blood transfusion has been grounds for disfellowshipping.

The Watch Tower Society instructs members that husbands should be considered the final authority on all family decisions. Abortion is considered murder. All sexual relations outside of opposite-sex monogamous marriage are considered grounds for disfellowshipping, if the person who commits them is not considered repentant. Divorce is not allowed except if a spouse has committed adultery. If a divorce is obtained for any other reason, remarriage is considered adultery unless the previous spouse has begun another sexual relationship or died. Extreme physical abuse, willful non-support of one's family, and what the religion calls "absolute endangerment of spirituality" are considered grounds for legal separation, but not grounds for divorce. Alcoholic beverages are permitted in moderation, but drunkenness is forbidden. Gambling, illegal drugs, and tobacco use are forbidden.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted in 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 76% of Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S. believe homosexuality should be discouraged—the highest percentage of any major religious group. The same survey also found that 90% of Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S. do not believe in evolution—again, the highest percentage of any major religious group.2

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible condemns the mixing of religions, on the basis that there can only be one truth from God, and therefore reject interfaith and ecumenical movements. Watch Tower Society publications advise Jehovah's Witnesses to minimize social contact with non-Witnesses to better maintain their own standards of morality. Baptized members who violate the religion's principles or dispute doctrinal matters may be subject to disciplinary action. Members who are considered unrepentant may be disfellowshipped, after which they are considered to be no longer Jehovah's Witnesses, and their friends and family members who are Jehovah's Witnesses are urged to avoid all contact with them. Members who formally announce that they are leaving the religion are also shunned. Disfellowshipped members may eventually be reinstated to the congregation if considered repentant.


Jehovah's Witnesses Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania The Watchtower Awake! Charles Taze Russell Bible Student movement Criticism of Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower: Official Web Site of Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Documents LLC JWFacts JWRecovery Magazine Jehovah's Witness Recovery Ex-Jehovah's Witness Forum and Recovery Site United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Jehovah's Witnesses: Victims of the Nazi Era The Rick A. Ross Institute: Jehovah's Witnesses Religion Facts: Jehovah's Witnesses Religious Tolerance: About Jehovah's Witnesses (WTS)


1. ''The Watchtower,'' December 15, 2003, Pages 14-19
2. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, Chapter 2