Recent Discussion with Jehovah's Witness

Rook_Hawkins's picture

As many of you know I work part time at a bookstore because (a) I don't make enough with RRS to support all my bills and (b) I love books and enjoy selling them to people.  Well, yesterday morning as I was helping somebody in the religion section, a customer asked me for books on illnesses.  I walked her over to the section and pointed out some books of interest to her, and as I was walking away she stated affirmatively that she had managed to get her son to read, and that her job was accomplished for the day even if she didn't find the book she was looking for.  After suggesting that I probably read a lot of fiction because I work in a bookstore, I told her that I spent most of my time reading ancient fiction, being that my full time job was that I was a historian. 

Her interest perked up and she started asking me all these questions about my focus, and what years I studied in history, etc...and eventually she inquired if I studied a lot of religious history.  I stated that the subject inevitably comes up in historical records and plays a big part in my own research.  Somehow we got on the subject of ancient pagan religions and I brought up how the Orphics influenced Pauline thought.  She brought up Acts' account of Paul, where I strongly cautioned her that it was not good to confuse Paul's epistles and Acts of the Apostles.  She then stated, ignorantly (but after all she is a Christian who probably does not concern herself with reading outside the Bible) that she was under the impression Paul had written Acts.  This is where I informed her that Acts was written probably by the same author as Luke, and is largely attested to by scholars for the past 800 years.  I pulled out a copy of the Oxford Annotated Bible and pointed out how it said right at the opening introduction to Acts that the author was undoubtedly Luke. 

She resigned that I was probably right, but then inquired if I thought the Bible was the inspired word of God. (How she took it there, I do not know)  I told her that I did not.  Once this was stated a long discussion ensued that lasted about a half an hour (of my break time) where I confronted her with a lot of arguments concerning human suffering, and Gods malice intent in the Hebrew Bible.  (As a Jehovah's Witness she does not believe in Hell and rightly concludes that Hell is a Hellenistic influence on Judaism at the time)  She was largely stumped from these questions, but because of time she suggested an e-mail conversation.  I gave her my e-mail and she sent me a quick response today asking me for some of my questions in writing.  Here is what I wrote to her, and I eagerly await her reply.


(Name with held to ensure anonymity),

Thanks for your prompt e-mail.  Yes, it was a productive conversation.  If I listed my concerns, in their entirety, I'm afraid your inbox would be so full it would not allow for other e-mails to be sent to you.  With that jocularity in mind, we should perhaps focus on one issue at a time.  How about we start once more with the problem of suffering.  Allow me to hash out my problem for you.

You stated that it all comes down to God's sovereignty as, per the Bible, God is literally king and this planet represents a part of his kingdom, and as one of the 613 statutes (of which a part contains the ten commandments) states that there shall be no worshiping of other Gods before him (I would note that it does not say that there are no other Gods, as the authors knew of plenty of others that even they felt existed, just that the author only wanted his to come first - although you probably didn't know that so we'll assume for the sake of argument that the author intended it to be read as you read it - that God is the only God) thus he is our sovereign ruler.  The Bible claims that God knows everything (omniscient) in 1 John 3:20, and that God is perfectly good (omnibenevolent) according to Deuteronomy 32:3-4.  Yet, this world does not reflect a perfect being with perfect morals.  (Remember that perfect is an absolute cannot be a "little perfect" - that is like being "partially pregnant" and as you know, you can't be "a little pregnant" just as you cannot be "a little perfect" )

If we look at our species, the human species, it is only recently that the human race has managed to come up with the technology to support our lives for a long period of time.  If we go back a few thousand years, the mortality rate among infants was 50% - and an average person could not expect to live past 30(!).  If we factor out infant mortality rates, the average person could expect to live past 40, however only 24% of the population would ever reach 40 to begin with.  And, if we consider that we have civilizations preceding Judaism by 20,000 years, and many of these civilizations also experienced high mortality rates we should ask ourselves why is this system in place. (Not to mention, the question, why did it take God so long to pop his head out and say "I am the one true God"?)  In our modern world, it is only rich nations that only make up 6% of the world which can afford the type of equipment that can keep mortality rates so low.  Starving africans with aids would not share your sentiments about a sovereign God - and many would find it hard to swallow.  Perhaps that is why Islam, with its harsh ruling God, is so popular in the region? 

Now let us look at other species.  The Encyclopedia Americana suggests that as of 1992, in most species of birds, the mortality rate is 50%, and that is only relative to certain species.  Some species the mortality rate is as high as 90%.  What about other types of animals?  Well, all one has to do is look at the extinction rate on this planet.  Did you know that 99% of all species that ever lived on this planet are extinct?  99%!  Now, why does a perfect, all knowing being create a system by which humans and other innocent animals die so easily and at such a high rate?  And why does he permit them to suffer so much before they die, like that 5 yearold starving child in remote regions of Africa?  Now, you said at the store this is to instill Gods sovereignty.  But again, I must ask...why does an all knowing, perfectly moral being need to instill his sovereignty with an iron fist?  It seems a bit megalomaniacal to me.  And, as an imperfect, moral being, I could think of lots of ways, just using modern science, to solve a lot of the worlds problems without the need to kill off so many people - and I don't require anybody to worship me in order to present these solutions.  And I'm sure you could think of just as many, without needing to kill off 99% of the animal and human life on this planet to show you are the sovereign ruler. 

We'll start with this and we can move on once you send me your reasons for this.

The best to you,




Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

HeyZeusCreaseToe's picture


I see you are taking the path of least offense to get her to try and reason a new understanding of God(the idea of the Christian God) and the inherent contradictions of his 4 great qualities(omni-present, potent, scient, benevolent). It sounds like you have a person who sincerely would like to find out answers to perplexing questions. It would be great if she did not fall into the classical trap of receiving too much contradictory information to that of her religious worldview that she shuts herself down, stops being skeptical, and instead reaffirms her faith. I had a friend do this when I was discussing such things. We had a great discussion on the nature of Yahweh and for a minute he really shook his head as if he was about to have an epiphany. The very next moment it was like his programming kicked in, and he gave me the "I don't think we'll ever know God's plan, but although he works in ways we humans might not comprehend, it is ultimately all for our benefit in the long run." This seems to be the most compelling rationalization I have heard from people who believe in God, but sometimes are skeptical/curious about the nature of God.

I hope you can lead her up mount improbable to a rational understanding through the baby step reasoning you have laid out here. This sounds like an homage to God's Problem(the existence of suffering), I haven't read it yet, but have heard about the premise. Let us know what happens and Good Luck!

P.S. Not to be a dick, but seriously? "Jocularity?" Are we getting a bit overzealous in our vernacular? JK, man. Peace.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

todangst's picture

Hey Rook, Thanks for

Hey Rook,


Thanks for posting this, I look forward to her response.


- Chris


The following website summarizes over 525 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 370 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:
The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases:

DJ's picture


I find the little stat. about extinction interesting, seeing as how we don't even know how many species there are, or how many there may have been.

"Life Is Far Too Important A Thing Ever To Talk Seriously About" Oscar Wilde

Rook_Hawkins's picture

I should have perhaps

I should have perhaps clarified that of all the species that we know of 99% of them are extinct.

Another fun post ROOKI just

Another fun post ROOK

I just wish some caring LOUD aliens would show up, as I AM running out of this life time, damn it ....  ummm, maybe rook and tod are from another world ?    .... of course !    The aliens are here ! .....  ummm,  I will have to tell the world of this god revelation, for all to worship, to distort my words.

..... a hopeless earthling I AM, but always an optimist .... as I am one with the cosmos teaming with life .... and we are ONE ....  

I get asked , "Is that all you have to say, All is ONE ?" Yes, I answer, that's is all .....      

Nordmann's picture

You're not going to have a

You're not going to have a "one on one" conversation with this lady if she's a JW. As such she is obliged to bring your points to the attention of her mentors and her duty to respond with what they say (or not at all if that is their advice). It may look like a one-to-one e-mail correspondence, but that will be a deception on her part if she pretends it is.


Also, by trying to concentrate your objections and queries into easy-to-digest and manageably themed chunks you are simply making it even more likely to get gibberish in response. These people tend to appreciate when someone else does the intellectual slog for them in that respect (they themselves are really shit-scared of approaching their own favourite subject intellectually in case it reveals its all too obvious weaknesses). It means that they can take the points in isolation and answer them without being obliged to relate their answer to any greater logical thesis. The result is a lot of "the bible says" kind of justification which - in terms of intellectual argument - is a complete waste of everyone's time.


If you're serious about debunking JW claptrap and rescuing individuals from its maw I have always found the more oblique approach works best - namely don't talk about that crap at all and instead engage the individual in as many non-JW topics as possible. That's where you learn most about the person and get away from the brainwashing stuff, and in doing so can begin to reconstruct the reasons why they ended up susceptible to all that codology in the first place. It's a slow process and in no way guaranteed of success, but it sure beats the frustration of trying to conduct conversations on a plain that is the intellectual equivalent in height as the Qatar Depression and with as many blind gullies in its depths. Life is too short for that - and anyway the person, if spoken to as a rather silly but nice human rather than a rather devoted if misguided JW, might prove to be really worth knowing and fun to talk with about other more important things.


Of course what I've found works REALLY best is to get them out of their skulls on drink. That always does the trick! (And very cheaply done if they're from one of those "total asbtinence" cults - just not used to the stuff at all!).

I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy


Good questions Rook. I've heard a very interesting statement by a christian recently that god is not "sovereign" in the sense that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to.

It was intersting cause he didn't take the usual party line I've heard before. I'd always argue: "Well if you say that God is love" why does he allow death and tragedy etc.?". To which he answered: "He doesn't - God is not in control of the world..." and carried on with why he believes that from the bible...

Though able, he says god has "sovereignly" chosen to subject himself to certain boundaries or laws much like a sovereign nation places laws that govern behaviour of traffic, social, etc.




greek goddess's picture

Good email! I'm curious to

Good email! I'm curious to see what her response will be. I also think it was a good idea to conduct the debate over email. I know I tend to get very emotional during conversation, and it's often hard to say what I want to say while simultaneously trying not to offend the other person. Typing allows to to think before words start bursting out of you, haha.

There must be something about spring that gets the JW's to come out of their caves. I was home for the weekend 2 weeks ago, and one morning two women came to the door when only my sister and I were home. My sister answered the door, and it turns out that the women were JW's. Not only that, the one woman has been coming to our house trying to convert us since I was in kindergarten. She's talked to my mom on a number of occasions, and even though my mom has said that we'll never be converting, they come back anyways. They left us some Watchtower pamphlets about Armageddon and about becoming a JW/raising your kids in the faith, and I don't think we stopped laughing for a good 15 minutes.


JWs' beliefs

I'm very interested in seeing her response.  I'm an atheist and a former JW.  I actually believe that some JWs are fairly open to an intellectual debate on theism, because of the emphasis placed on personal study and realization w/i the organization (depends on the congregation to some extent).  One of the things you should understand about a JW's belief in Jehovah is that he is definitely an Old Testament God.  JWs embrace the entire Bible, but, and in fact, I think they prefer the Old Testament to the New, being as how they reject the Trinity and Jesus is God thing.  Jehovah is a wrathful God of war.  It's definitely not a typical American Christian denomination in which Jesus is baby Jesus who loves all of the little children.  (Don't be deceived -- JWs aren't pacifists -- they just don't support earthly govts.)  Also, JWs (and all of this is based upon my understanding of the tenets of the faith during my childhood and upbringing -- they've made a few changes since then) believe that Satan the Devil is the ruler of this world and that Jehovah takes a fairly hands off approach until Armageddon.  Thus, all the suffering.  And, most are terrified of demons.  They believe that demons roam the earth right now and may physically and psychologically harm you at any moment.  Thus, the need to remain in God's good graces, in order to call upon him when a demon attacks you .  Some JWs are more or less amenable to evolution.  It depends.  They don't take the Bible literally -- they recognize and actually revel in all of the symbolism.  They LOVE gleaning the alternate meanings and hidden messages.  So, they're not strict 6 day creationists.  Interested to see how she responds.  There is some tension between certain principles of the org, but, actually, they do leave a lot up to personal conscience and choice. 

kanajlo's picture

The JW's _New World Translation_


     I don't know if you've read the JW's version of the Bible, but if you have, you may want to point out that the NWT, just like the more traditional versions, have modified their translations of words to fit theological agendas.  The CARM website uses this as a club against the JWs, not bothering to mention that the KJV itself is derived from manuscripts which are altered from earlier manuscripts, sometimes in self-conscious conformity with theological thought at the time. Just a thought.




Reg Reid

Jehovah Witnesses cult

HELLO!OTHER Religions reject the Trinity doctrine Just because the JW do also does NOT make you the truth anymore than these others.The Trinity is held by all orthodox Christians, but it is denied by Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews and Muslims.
Endless trinity debates by the Jehovah Witness apologist is a red herring distraction to complicate reader discovery of the Watchtower's real purpose of having come into existence.Jehovah's Witnesses apologist use the trinity 'quandary' to divert and distract from the core issuesThe central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1842) failed they said that he came "invisibly". 
 HELLO! same with persecution NOBODY gets as much persecution as the Jews are they the "Truth".
There are more pages against Scientology than JW are they the "Truth"?WAKE UP the Watchtower is just a late bloomer man made rip off cult. 


 This world is fallen. That

 This world is fallen. That is why it is imperfect. But where did Hawkins get the concept of perfection from if nature is the sum total of all existence? According to Hawkins, nature is all that exists. But nature is imperfect, as he has demonstrated. So where did this guy get the idea that something perfect exists? How can an imperfect brain conceive of something it doesn't have? Namely, perfection? The answer is that he knows God exists because if God did not exist, there would be no concept or reality of perfection.



 Hawkins' email assumes


Hawkins' email assumes there is such a thing as good. But in doing this, he is assuming there is such a thing as evil.

But aren't you assuming there is such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil?

But if you posit such a thing as a moral law, you must posit a moral law giver. But that is who you are trying to disprove.

No moral lawgiver = no moral law

No moral law = no good

No good =  no evil.

Therefore, Hawkins has no basis for even assuming there are evil things in the world.

God is everything ..... what

God is everything ..... what is not god? Are you not god? How not so?  Oh yeah, religion bull shit.

JW organization

The JW organization has lots of information that is hidden or just not known.

It is a cult however imo and poses some real dangers.

There are worse things than being involved with them, but it never hurts to be informed either.


Here is a good site-