Finally, an Answer!

My husband works from home occasionally, which puts him in range when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come calling. I don’t think I hear about it most of the time, but this week, they brought a tract he had to have. This was sitting on the coffee table when I got home.

Tract cover, showing a white man in an armchair reading the bible while stroking his chin.

Why can you trust the bible? Because a man in a suit is looking at it very thoughtfully, of course.

All right, maybe they didn’t stop there. There are actual words inside, words intended to refute the “some people” who have claimed the bible is unreliable. Who may those people be? Hush, children, there’s only so much space in a tract to argue with…whomever. We have three sections to get through.

Interior of the tract, broken into three sections.

Does It Contradict Itself?

Did you know that “some people” claim the bible contradicts itself because Cain and Abel were able to find wives? Me neither. I thought Cain and Abel having wives was just one more indication–among many–that early Jews didn’t have the same thinking we did on incest. Not too surprising, since the Jews of the time seemed to prize survival of their culture and their people above all else.

It is a little funny, though, to see that incest is still so clearly to be preferred over an untrustworthy bible. Do the missionaries say, “No, man. It’s all good. There was incest!”

Can’t take an example from the Old Testament without taking one from the New Testament, I guess, so they go with the famous example of the army officer who both comes to Jesus to ask a question and sends his representatives to ask for him. That one has puzzled scholars for ages.

It has, right? Hasn’t it? That’s why they use that one instead of, say, the wildly contradictory stories of Jesus’s birth? No? Oh.

History and Science

Hey, the bible mentions historical figures, so it must right in all its details!

I wish that were not a fairly direct paraphrase of the first paragraph of this section, but it is. By this reasoning, Harry Turtledove is a prophet.

Then we get to science. Ah, science.

Apparently scientists used to be absolutely certain that the universe had no beginning. I think we need to know who all these scientists are, so they can be roundly mocked. Sadly, the tract doesn’t tell us. I guess we’ll just have to thank the scientists who told us what a steady-state universe would look like versus a universe created by a “big bang” type event. They allowed us to determine that the steady-state model was wrong.

Now where are those scientists who will make some predictions about what a Genesis-model universe would look like so we can compare that to the Big Bang and see which one wins?

The rest of this section is some hand-waving about how the “circle of the earth” bit in Isaiah totally meant a globe and not a disk as was the prevailing theory of the time.

Back of the tract.

Foretelling the Future

This would be like me predicting that all those mean, narrow-minded kids in high school were going to grow up to have miserable, narrow lives, which, in fact, I did. That’s just what happens to the vast majority of those kids, just like oblivion is what has happened to the vast majority of cities.

Either that, or y’all need to start worshipping me. I went to a high school reunion. I saw. I totally foretold that.

I even foretold it in detail. I saw that some of them would never leave the suburb in which they grew up. I foretold that they wouldn’t make art, that some of them would burn out, that other would marry young and have kids young and age terribly soon. I foretold that they’d come to these reunions and get too drunk, too loud, too desperate to have a good time again.

I foretold it all, and I can prove it. I wrote it down. If you ask nicely, I’ll even show it to you.

There’s a funny thing about the tract using the fall of Babylon to show that the bible has predictive powers. Babylon fell when Cyrus the Great of Persia invaded. One direct outcome of this invasion was that the Second Temple was built. Would anyone care to guess when the books of the Torah were being written down and codified?

I’ll give you a hint: It didn’t happen before the Second Temple was built.

The tract ends with a prophesy for the future. You know the one. It says stuff about a time of troubles and has been cheerily adopted by every apocalyptic sect since it was written down. We’re all living in the end times, always.

Or maybe it just feels like it when the Witnesses come to call.

Finally, an Answer!
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15 thoughts on “Finally, an Answer!

  1. 1

    Oh! And I always thought that for most of its history (at least the bits where its followers had any power) the main reason to trust the Bible was the same as the main reason to trust the Q’ran: you’ll get stoned, burnt or beheaded if you don’t.

  2. 3

    The rest of this section is some hand-waving about how the “circle of the earth” bit in Isaiah totally meant a globe and not a disk as was the prevailing theory of the time.


    There’s a perfectly good Hebrew word meaning “ball”. The bible doesn’t ever use it to refer to the earth. The Hebrew word used really does mean “circle”.

    We have pictures from Babylon, Egypt, and so on showing what they thought the world looked like (flat or flattish with a dome over it). We have examples from both places of virtually the exact phrase “circle(s) of the earth”. If the bible meant to imply a sphere, why doesn’t the same argument apply to them?

    Oh, and the part of Isaiah that mentions the circle of the earth was written in Babylon, maybe 150 years after the death of the original prophet Isaiah. Probably not surprising that it uses a similar phrase to one the Babylonians used.

    When Isaiah was translated into Greek for the Septuagint, they didn’t use any Greek term for a sphere, so the translators obviously didn’t take it to mean that.

    When Hebrew had largely fallen out of common use and accordingly supplemented or replaced by Aramaic translations or interpretations (the targumim), the Aramaic texts of Isaiah don’t mention spheres or balls (or indeed even circles; they interpret the phrase as referring to something like the dome of the sky, implying looking down on the earth from a great height).

    So no, Isaiah didn’t know about the earth being a sphere.

  3. 5

    We get some around my way, usually my wife tells them she is not interested and that is it. But I was working at home a couple of weeks ago and they came in my lunch hour so I got to debate with them a bit. They were woefully misinformed coming up with daft apologetics such as, the eye, it is so complex how can half an eye be any good! After a few minutes of me reeling off all the different types of eyes, and how a lot of which are very basic, they didn’t really have an answer. I even gave them a tip as the eye one was debunked ages ago, at least something like the bacterial flagellum is a bit more recent. Although also pretty well explained.

    After 20-25 minutes they made their excuses and left. I doubt I’ll see them again but I was happy I bored them into leaving with not one of their arguments left unchallenged. I’m no great debater but I think the info I’ve gained on this and other blogs out there was really rather useful. They were plainly not used to people challenging their bullshit which was a bit disappointing, especially given how basic their arguments were.

  4. 6

    I would have never come up myself with the incest explanation for Cain and Abel having wives, because I’d assumed that any other sibling would have been mentioned by name, like they had.

    I guess that makes me too little of a misogynist to trust the bible.

  5. 7

    When was the picture of Thoughtful Suit-Man taken? 1959, while they were doing ads for refrigerators in Harvest Gold on the other side of the room?

    Though most JW art, like the stuff in Awake!, is pretty cool in sort of a Stalinist-Russia-poster sort of way.

  6. 8

    Tony #2

    I want some door to door theists trying to convert me.

    The local Mormon chapel is listed in the phone book. Call them and ask for a couple of missionaries to visit you. Within a day or two, a couple of men in their early 20s (called “Elders”) will drop by. I guarantee that within a hour any desire to be proselytized will be completely satisfied. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to discover that Mark Twain’s description of The Book of Mormon as “chloroform in print” was quite apt.

  7. 9

    I attended a JW wedding some years ago, in a Kingdom Hall, as a guest of the groom. The only time we’d ever discussed religion at all (n.b. at the time I would have labeled myself as “agnostic” even though my lack of belief was no greater than it is now, where I’d classify myself as PZ-like but quieter, and I was also pretty much in the closet too) was when he went off on how crazy was … … … Mormonism.

    Don’t get a lot of JWs around where I live now, at least when I’m awake (I’ve been pretty much house-bound for close to a decade), the only time I can think of was when I just didn’t want to talk to anyone and brushed them off (meaning they might not have even been JWs) rather than when I’m feeling confrontational.

  8. 11

    The local Mormon chapel is listed in the phone book.

    Heh… Is Rmoney still doing outreach?

    Standing atop a wooded granite hillside in the northwest suburb of Belmont, the Boston Massachusetts Temple is a striking landmark along the busy Concord Turnpike.

    I don’t think “striking” conveys the nuances expressed when it was planned and constructed. I’m pretty sure some compromises were reached so it did not reach the originally intended strikingness, but my recollection seems to contradict their documentation so I could well be wrong.

  9. 12

    Gads, that’s old. I haven’t been a practicing Witness in something like 10 years and I don’t remember a time when that tract wasn’t around. With the constant deluge of “new light” always appearing at the district conventions, I’m kind of surprised they haven’t come up with that many new tricks. I guess that’s probably because there just aren’t that many tricks to begin with…

  10. 13

    The best answer I ever heard for the “Who was Mrs. Cain?” question was that, to the people who originally told the story, the god it talked about was only their god—the deity of their tribe or their patch of land. Yahweh created his own people, genie-style, in a pre-existing world. So, naturally there’d be other people around: the people of other gods. Those people are the ones Adam’s family took wives from; they’re the ones against whom Cain had to get a mark of protection.

  11. 14

    “Thus Cain married one of his sisters or possibly a niece.” Which is totally cool as far as God is concerned as long as one of his sisters or possibly a niece wasn’t male.

    What amused me the most about this tract was it’s wealth of assertions coupled with it’s dearth of supporting facts. That and the fact that, while I did mention the whole flat Earth thing to them, I also mentioned the whole God seems kind of like a jerk thing to them as well. I’m waiting for the “Is God Kind Of A Jerk?” tract for next time. Unless they actually respect my answer of “I’d prefer you didn’t” when they asked if they could come back after I’d read the tract and done my research.

  12. 15

    I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, but now their literature cracks me up. Occasionally, it gets really annoying. But this is pretty typical stuff. They don’t do so well with certain things…like facts.

    For anyone bothered by the criticism seen here, please remember that JWs criticize all other religions and even all other groups of people other themselves. Their literature is pretty merciless about we “worldly” folks, too.

    If you are interested in seeing more about the personal side of things, especially the strain between JWs and former Witnesses, you might want to check out some ex-Witness blogs. Or the Truth Be Told documentary ( They’re actually showing it right down the street from JW headquarters right now!

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