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All posts by The Atheist Geek

Isaac J. Harris is The Atheist Geek. He is also a former Jehovah's Witness turned skeptical atheist, and the webmaster of Atheist Geek News. He's a Reverend of both Spiritual Humanism and The First Atheist Church. For fun. And the chicks.

AtheistTV Goes Live TODAY!

AtheistTVAmerican Atheists and the Roku – that little box that lets you watch TV through the internet – have forged an unholy alliance to bring us the AtheistTV network! The best part is that you don’t need a Roku to watch it. You can also get AtheistTV through their live stream starting at 7:00 PM tonight. I’m assuming they mean EST (I didn’t see it specified on their site either way).

Here’s what it says about programming for AtheistTV:

We have partnered with content creators in the atheist community to bring engaging and entertaining content to AtheistTV. We are working with experienced producers to develop new, original programming that will launch soon.
If you are interested in developing content or submitting existing content to AtheistTV, please contact us.
Current content partners include: the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Atheist Community of Austin, American Atheists, The Friendly Atheist, and Keith Lowell Jensen.

I would suggest that anyone with a classy YouTube channel about atheism, skepticism, science, or anything else atheists care about contact AtheistTV about starting  a show for the network. Like most fledgling Cable channels, I’m sure they are hungry for new content.

Good luck to AtheistTV. Please don’t suck. :) I hope people will check it out and give Roku a reason to keep it around.

EDIT: For those of you with a Roku, here is a direct link to add the channel.

EDIT2: A message from Dave Muscato, PR Director for American Atheists; “You don’t need a Roku to watch Atheist TV! You can watch online at http://www.atheists.tv as well!”

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe in the Theory of Evolution?

The "Creation Book"Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the theory of evolution? As a former Jehovah’s Witness who once spent an inordinate amount of time researching their Creation Book, I can tell you that the official answer is a resounding no. (The book is officially called Life-How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? But it is commonly just called the Creation Book by Jehovah’s Witnesses.) This book is the Watchtower Society’s magnum opus on evolution. Yet it remains infamous for an abundance of bad science, quote mining, and an embarrassing habit of strategically leaving off parts of quotes so as to alter their original meaning. (Yikes!) Many people have written about the book, including Austin Cline at About.com. Even Richard Dawkins devoted a chapter to it in The God Delusion. Think what you will, but it’s clear that the Society’s Creation Book has gotten around.

The Creation Book was first published back in 1985. Now, after remaining in print for more than two decades, it is no longer being produced. That hasn’t stopped the Watchtower Society from writing about the theory of evolution, but nowadays, the organization chooses to keep it all pretty simple. When you consider how many ex-Witnesses left the Society after doing extensive research on books like this one, that’s probably a good idea.

So what else has the Society said about evolution in recent years?

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How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Women And Domestic Violence?

As with most things, Jehovah’s Witnesses will take their cues on women and domestic violence from the Watchtower Society. Before we dive in, a short review about a woman’s role at the Kingdom Hall is in order.

As I mentioned in a previous article, women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are told to be in subjection to their fathers and then their husbands after marriage. Women may not teach in the presence of men or perform other duties reserved for men without wearing some sort of head covering as a sign of deference. They are not allowed to give public talks or handle microphones during meetings at a Kingdom Hall. Their only role in meetings is a public demonstration, given at just one of their five weekly meetings (fun!), where the sisters role play for a few minutes. (It’s not a fun kind of role play, so don’t even go there.) These performances were almost identical to a much dreaded part of my morning sales meetings when I worked at a local department store some years ago, except that men and women were treated equally at the store. And we got paid.

Elders are not supposed to talk to congregation sisters in private without a chaperone. This is usually another elder or, in some situations, a woman’s husband or father. I was told by at least three elders at my former Kingdom Hall that this was standard procedure and was intended to prevent sisters from crying rape or trying to “come on” to an elder. Because … you know … chicks, I guess. The elders were not required to do this when talking to a brother, however.

From Watchtower 11/15/91 page 21-22 paragraph 14

It is inadvisable for an elder to make a shepherding call on a sister alone. The elder should be accompanied by another elder or a ministerial servant.

From Watchtower 2/15/93 page 15 paragraph 12

In developed countries some have fallen into Satan’s trap by often being with a member of the opposite sex and without a third person present—such as regularly being in the confined intimacy of a car for driving lessons. Elders doing shepherding calls also need to exercise caution so as not to be alone with a sister when counseling her. Conversations can become emotionally charged and result in an embarrassing situation for both parties.—Compare Mark 6:7; Acts 15:40.

I’m sure some elders at some Kingdom Halls might be willing to bend these rules under certain circumstances, but this policy tells you a few things about the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view (and value) women. Not as much as the Watchtower article I’m about to discuss below, however.

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What You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses And Pedophiles

Candace Conti

Candace Conti.

Everyone in the United States knows that the Catholic Church has a major issue with pedophiles, but hardly anyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses have similar problems. Many cases involving Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society have been reported to the public (a search string using “Jehovah’s Witness pedophile” will yield pages of results, including video of various newscasts) but most of these stories have failed to sink into the public psyche. Even Candace Conti, who was awarded millions of the Watchtower Society’s dollars, is mostly known by former Witnesses like me and few others. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses have yet to hear the name of Candace Conti and are blissfully unaware that child abuse is a real issue within the organization on any level.

The Watchtower Society may not be as big as the Catholic church, but officially, there are nearly eight-million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Even if there are only eight-million people who believe in the Society’s “truth” (there could be as many as nineteen-million who believe the Society has “the truth” if you go by Memorial attendance) that’s still a lot of people. I’m not suggesting that there are millions of cases of pedophilia here, but I do think the public should know more about pedophilia among Jehovah’s Witnesses and how the Society’s policies have done more harm than good. Especially Bible studies (or students) of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have children. It’s a big enough issue that several organizations like Silent Lambs and JW Survivors were formed specifically to oppose pedophilia within the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Halls.

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Shunning: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Discipline Their Own

ShunWhen one of Jehovah’s Witnesses does something that his local elders deem a serious offense against God and Watchtower, he will probably be disfellowshipped and therefore shunned by other Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I say that he’ll be shunned, I don’t mean he won’t get any presents on his birthday or that he won’t be invited over for Christmas. I mean that he is dead to them. In most cases, the Witnesses will simply pretend he’s invisible (like that episode from the Twilight Zone) and many will simply wander off if he attempts to communicate with them in any way. Either that, or they’ll get angry and blast him for it.

They call it “congregation discipline.” When they speak of it, they make it sound like it’s a punishment from Jehovah God himself. In reality, the decision to disfellowship is made during a closed-door session with three local elders. It’s how they keep their followers in line.

So how does it work and how far does it go? Technically, people living in the same household aren’t required to shun one another or expel the wrongdoer. But I know of many cases where the local elders did pressure parents to kick out their adult (18 years old+) children even if those children had no where else to go. Since good Jehovah’s Witnesses are supposed to obey their elders, this can put the parents of the disfellowshipped person in a tight spot. So while the elders can make it hard for the family, at least they do have the right to say no to the elders. That’s mostly because the Society hasn’t made expelling family members from the home mandatory, even though shunning in every other respect is mandatory.

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5 Ways To Stop Jehovah’s Witnesses From Knocking On Your Door

You don’t have to look hard to find lots of stories on the web about people trying to scare Jehovah’s Witnesses away so the Witnesses won’t come knocking again. One classic example is the guy who greets them dressed as a Satanist. Another is the guy carrying a scary animal that’s supposed to freak out visiting Witnesses. Kyria Abrahams described such an experience in her book, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. Note that in Kyria’s book, the Witness who knocked on the snake owner’s door didn’t run away. She merely asked if she could pet the snake and make nice with it, much to the householder’s disappointment.

Tricks like these usually don’t work. Aside from the fact that they’re really obvious attempts to scare Jehovah’s Witnesses away, they also present Witnesses with a challenge to their faith that must be accepted and conquered. If the Witness fails to meet the challenge, then he is putting his fear ahead of his faith, which just won’t cut it in his world. Like many evangelists, most Witnesses relish the thought of proving their loyalty to God and will do so with gusto if given the chance. That’s exactly what stunts like these help them do.

Many people – including many former Jehovah’s Witnesses – think that all you have to do is tell a Witness you’re an apostate and the Witness will magically vanish in a puff of smoke and tears. I have met a few Witnesses who are paranoid enough to simply run away at the words, “I’m an apostate,” but in many cases, it won’t be that simple. Darn it all. In fact, you’re just as likely to get a visit from the elders as you are to run them away for good if you try that one.

Most congregations won’t let you get away with the old “put me on your Do Not Call List” line, either. You can try it (it’s on the list below) but many congregations won’t let you off the hook that easily.

So what can you do? Here are a few things you can try that might stop them from knocking on your door forever…or at least for a little while.

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Fun Facts about the Preaching Work of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Witnesses at the door

Suckers!

The one thing Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for is their door to door preaching work. But have you ever wondered what it’s like knocking on doors and telling some poor householder that his religion of choice is nothing more than demon inspired lies? People don’t give you as many hugs for this as you might think.

For those of you whose knuckles aren’t covered in thick calluses from knocking on doors, here’s the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes. I’ll tell you what they do, how they do it, and why.

Helpful Hint: Check that peephole before you answer that knock at your door. Especially on a Saturday or a Sunday. You’ll be glad you did.

Trust me.

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