Are Jehovah's Witnesses truly a Christian denomination or are they a Cult?
Before discussing whether or not Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult, we should see if their teachings are truly Scriptural or not. The following are just some of their beliefs along with the source where they can be found and the Scriptures refuting it.
There is one God in one person, Make Sure of All Things, p 188. 1 John 5:7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God is not a single entity. He lets that be known right at the beginning in Genesis.
There is no Trinity, Let God be True, 2nd Ed., pp. 100-101; 1 John 5:7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Again, God is not a single entity. These verses tell us how many there are in the Godhead, three.
The Holy Spirit is God's impersonal force, not alive, Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, pp. 406-407. The Watchtower, June 1, 1952, p. 24. A force is not able to act as a person, but the Holy Spirit does many things that only a person can do. He bears witness. Romans 8:16 “The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” He teaches. John 14:26 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” 1 Corinthians 2:13 “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” He can be lied to. Acts 5:3 “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost.” He can be grieved. Ephesians 4:30 “And grieve not the Holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” He can be blasphemed. Mark 3:29 “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” He guides. John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” He speaks. Acts 10:19 “While Peter thought on the vision , the spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.” Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work thereunto I have called them.” He makes decisions for us. Acts 16:6 “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” He comforts. John 15:26 “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” These things cannot be done by a force, they can only be done by a person. Jesus referred to the Spirit as a person, and He should know.
Jehovah's first creation was his “only begotten Son”. Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 390-391. Micah 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Christ is from everlasting, in other words, from eternity, not created. As already shown, the Trinity exists as one, so Christ would exist as long as God has, which is from eternity.
Jesus was Michael the archangel who became a man, The Watchtower, May 15, 1963, p. 307. Jesus was not created; Michael was. Michael is still Michael. Revelation 12:7 “ And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.” This passage in Revelation is speaking of the time of the end, when Satan will be thrown out of heaven down to earth to wreak havoc through the antichrist. There is a passage in the Old Testament that refers to the same event. It is well known to be the time of Jacob's trouble, the 70th week of Daniel yet to come. Jesus can't be both Jesus the Lamb in Revelation as well as Michael. Daniel 12:1-2 “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Jesus was only a perfect man, not God in flesh, Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985. p. 306. 1 Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Acts 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Psalms 110:1 “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The Lord Jehovah calls Yeshua “my Lord”. Hebrews 1:6,8 “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him....But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” All of these verses indicate that Yeshua is indeed God. In fact Jehovah, the Father, tells the angels to worship Him, yet what has God commanded about having any other God but Him? Exodus 20:3,5 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” Why would God tell the angels to worship Yeshua when He has commanded that nobody but Himself be worshiped? It is because the Son and the Father are one entity, while being two different manifestations of that entity, the third manifestation being the Holy Spirit.
Jesus did not rise from the dead in his physical body and not as a human but as a spirit. Awake! July 22, 19973, p.4. Let God Be True p. 276. 1 Corinthians 15:13-17, 35-44 “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins..... But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” These verses tell us that without a resurrection, then all our faith is in vain. Yeshua was resurrected, there were many witnesses to that fact. But as can be seen, the body with which we are resurrected is not the same exact type of body which we now have. That does not mean that it is not a physical body. Clearly it is a physical body as Thomas had to be convinced of that fact. He had the evidence of his own eyes and the actual touching of that body, while we have to take it on faith, but Yeshua said that we would be blessed for doing so. John 20:25-29 “The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” So the resurrected body is physical but has different properties and abilities. Yeshua Himself affirms that it is a flesh and blood body. Luke 21:39 “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.” Yeshua could still eat. Matthew 26:29 “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” Luke 21:41-43 “And while they yet believed not for you, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” The new body will have unusual abilities. Luke 21:34,36-37 “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.... And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” The new body can appear and disappear from places at will. It is not restricted by the same laws of physics that we are, but it is still flesh and blood.
Jesus began his invisible rule over the earth in 1914, The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 300. There is nothing in Scripture to defend this position. This was a theory dreamed up by their founder when Yeshua did not return as prophesied by that leader. Yeshua's return will be visible and His reign will be very visible, after God's wrath is poured out on this world. Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” So Yeshua's return is not invisible, regardless of who teaches this doctrine, and when they say it will occur. His reign will be from Jerusalem. Ezekiel 43:7-11 “And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever. Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.” The last quarter of the book of Ezkiel is all about the millennial temple from where Yeshua will reign. His reign does not begin until that time. He must be crowned King of Kings first. Right now He is the priest interceding on our behalf. Zechariah 14:9 “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” There is absolutely no Scriptural justification for this belief that there is an invisible reign starting in of all years, 1914.
The Jehovah's Witnesses are the self-proclaimed prophet of God. The Watchtowner, April 1, 1972, p. 197. The operative word here is self-proclaimed. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that God will choose a particular group of people that will be His prophets. And yet they do not really believe they are all prophets, as they only look to the “prophecies” of their leaders. The rest only follow the instructions of these “prophets”. The gift of prophecy is given to individuals for the edification of the church they are in. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14,28 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.....And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” No organization is to act as a “prophet” of God. Prophecy is an individual gift to be used by an individual for the edification of the church, and then it must be held up to scrutiny to see if it is in line with Scripture and comes true. The problem with the JW's prophecies and prophets are that the prophecies have all proven to be false. Therefore their prophet is false. If one wants to see all their false prophecies, one only need google, “False prophecies of the Jehovah's Witnesses.” One is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would return in 1925 and live in California. Obviously that has not happened. There are a multitude of such bizarre and erroneous prophecies. One has to wonder why anyone would think these three patriarchs would rather live in CA than in Jerusalem near the temple. Really? JW's have no claim at all to being God's prophets, and the fact that their theology is so erroneous would prevent them from being chosen, should God want to choose a people to do this.
They claim to be the only conduit of God's truth. The Watchtower, April 1, 1981, p. 19. Considering that almost every belief they teach is easily refuted by the Scriptures, it is easy to see they are not a channel of God's truth at all. In fact they are the exact opposite. They lead people away from the truth of God.
Only their church members will be saved, The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1979, p. 30. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” teaches us that anyone who wants to can come to God. When they do they become the body of Christ. This is not restricted to a church or denomination. All who will may come. Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This claim is made by Catholics, and some Baptists churches too. God does not seem to agree if His Word is to be believed. Also there is nothing in Scripture that teaches membership is a prerequisite to being saved. All three of these churches teach this with absolutely no Scriptural foundation at all. Romans 10:9-13 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Clearly it is not taught that you should confess, believe, and join a particular church.
The soul ceases to exist after death. “Let God be True. p.59-60,67. 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Being absent from the body means to be present with the Lord for a believer. We find that verified in Revelation 6:9-11 “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” This is before the resurrection, and these souls, are seen under the altar being very much aware of their surroundings and circumstances. They have not ceased to exist. In Hebrews 12:1 we are told, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” In Chapter 11 we have just been told all about the faith of the great people of the Bible. Then we are told that these people are witnesses who watch us. How can a person who has ceased to exist watch us? They can't. Therefore they are very much alive. What about the evil dead? Are they aware too? We have Yeshua's testimony to that when He tells us the parable of Lazarus. Yeshua would not have indicated something was a true possibility even in a parable if it were not so. That would have made Him a liar. Therefore we know from His own mouth that there is life after death in hell. We also have other passages that tell us this. Isaiah 14:9-11 “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.” Non-existent people do not speak to mock someone as they arrive in hell. Hell is a real place with real people in it who are very aware of their predicament.
This leads to the next belief, that there is no hell. Let God Be True, p.79-80. As already seen, both Yeshua and the Old Testament tell us differently. But so does the New Testament. Mark 9:43-48 “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Clearly there is a hell where people are punished.
The 144,000 are the only ones who are born again and the only Jehovah's Witnesses who go to heaven. Reasoning from the Scriptures,1985, pp. 86, 166-167, 361; Let God be True, p. 121. The listing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7 list 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. My question is for them, how many of them are Israelites, for this list clearly says that these people are from Israel. Now, while it is true that from the ten tribes of the north, these people would not necessarily be identified by what we know as a Jew today, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are definitely Jews, so how many JW's are Jews? There would have to be at least 24,000 Jews amongst the JW's alone for this to work. Then the rest would have to be able to trace their ancestry back to Israel. If you were to ask, I think it is safe to say that there are no Jews among the JW's. Then there is the whole idea the only the 144,000 go to heaven. As seen above, everyone who dies in belief is absent from the body and present with the Lord. Therefore they are now in heaven as part of that great cloud of witnesses that watch us. As to being the only ones who are born again, or saved, 1 Peter 1:18-23 “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord and confesses, repents, and believes is born again. People were being born again a couple millennia before JW's came on the scene. To say it is restricted to 144,000 people, who are Israelites not JW's, and who have not yet been sealed is simply ridiculous.
The universe is billions of years old, Your will Be Done on Earth p. 43. Many Christians falsely and unnecessarily believe evolution as they think they have to believe secular science. Secular science has rejected God's truth and the real evidence as they philosophically cannot accept the truth. Creation science explains all of the evidence far more rationally (check out Answersingenesis.org). The problem becomes, if we accept evolution, then we must disregard and discard the first few chapters of Genesis where Adam and Eve fall from perfection and bring sin upon the world. If we do not accept that as truth, then there is no point to the rest of the Bible, as Yeshua came to earth for the express purpose of undoing that sin. He testified to the reality of these people by speaking of their son Abel as the first prophet and His lineage was traced back to Adam. We are also told by Paul that Adam was a real man and that as a result of his transgressions sin reigns in all of us to death, and that through Christ we can be made alive again. Romans 5:14 “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive....And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14 “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Jude, the Lord's brother also tells us that Adam was a real person. Jude 1:14 “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” Adam was a real person created on the sixth twenty-four hour day of creation. The Flood of Noah accounts for all of the fossil records that exist. We are told by Peter that in the last days, people would choose to believe evolution over the truth of a seven day creation and the Flood. 2 Peter 3:3-6 “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.(uniformitarianism – an evolutionary teaching) For this they willingly are ignorant (choose to believe) of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: (Genesis 1:6, not the Big Bang) Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: (Noah's Flood)”
This last one I will mention is simply blasphemy. Satan was entrusted with the obligation and charged with the duty of overseeing the creation of the earth. Children,p. 55. John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Ephesians 3:9 “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:16 “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Now the question becomes are they a cult? To determine whether or not the Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult, first we need to see what the characteristics of a cult are. According to the International Cultic Studies Association the following are a list of characteristics. (taken directly from their website http://www.icsahome.com. ) I will follow that characteristic with a comment as to whether or not they fit the criteria.
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. JW's have unquestioning commitment to their original and present leaders believing that they are the only people on earth with the Truth. This “truth” even though having been proven wrong according to Scripture and having been altered over the years to accommodate the fact that it did not come true (all the prophecies), is still considered the law by its followers. Even questioning the validity of the teachings is considered a heinous sin and brings a person under serious consequences by their leaders (who are a sort of board of directors following the now deceased leader's theology and changing it as necessary to keep the group from falling apart.) So on this first count, they qualify as a cult.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. This is very true. They are not even to voice any questions, doubts, or dissenting. It is punished to keep others in line. So again, they qualify.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).I do not know that any of these techniques are used. However, the peer pressure as well as the authorities pressure to not express any doubts, questions, or dissensions proves a strong motivation to go along with the dictates of the group's rules.
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). There are many rules that JW's must follow as to how they live, how they spend their time for the group, requirements they must meet, etc. that is dictated by their leaders. In this they qualify as a cult.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). JW's claim to be the only group on earth that has a pipeline to God and that nobody can come to God except through them. They are the chosen ones to bring the message of a paradise on earth and the only ones who have a smaller group within the group that merit salvation in heaven. On this they qualify as a cult.
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. JW's must work in the world in order to live, but they do not socialize with any but themselves. They keep separate from the world, except to witness to them. While they see themselves as the saviors of the world in bring the “truth”, it is them against the world. So again, they qualify as a cult.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations). Their leaders reject the government's authority when it comes to military service, as they refuse to serve in the military. Their leaders have no accountability to the group itself when it comes to decisions or the punishments they impose on people, sometimes destroying families in the process. In this they fit this criteria also.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities). I do not know that they teach any ends justifies the means for their followers, but their original leaders certainly were doing things that were highly questionable.
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. Peer pressure and controlling members is the modus operandi for the group. This criteria is most certainly one of their characteristics.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. JW's are totally preoccupied with bringing in new members. They must be out witnessing all the time door-to-door. When a person joins the group, they are basically cutting ties with their family, as JW's do not socialize outside their own. Likewise if they leave the group, they are then ostracized and not allowed contact with their family. As to whether they can still pursue goals of occupations I am not sure of this, but as they are required to attend a certain number of meetings a week, and must witness a certain amount of time, they are unable to pursue anything that would take them from this. In this respect they fit the definition of cult.
The group is preoccupied with making money. In spite of the fact that their goal is to evangelize the world, they make you pay for their literature. Their salvation is anything but a free gift.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. This is absolutely true about JW's. They must attend a certain number of meetings a week and put in a certain number of hours witnessing. Even those disabled must witness via phone. This certainly describes JW's as anybody knows.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. Again, this is true of JW's. They do not encourage socialization outside of the group, and in fact too much interaction outside the group brings chastisement.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. This is not only true for “true believers” in the group, but those who doubt the group. You dare not question or especially leave, as there are serious reprisals for doing so. Losing one's family is a certainty if one does these things. And the group will no longer even talk to a person who leaves.
According to all of these characteristics, the JW's most certainly fit the criteria to be called a cult. I know from experience in dealing with them, that they are not even allowed to look at literature that does not come from within their own ranks, so they cannot even pursue research on their own to see if there is anything about their beliefs that may be wrong. They are not allowed to study the Bible without the required teaching manuals, as it is feared that they may find that their beliefs do not line up with the Bible. They are taught to memorize the answers to all sorts of questions or responses that they get when witnessing to make sure that they only parrot and do not think. I have seen and read this “little black book” that was accidentally let out of a JW's possession, so I know that what I just wrote is the absolute truth. I also know that a JW with whom I was having some regular contact was forbidden any further contact with me, because I was asking him some very hard questions and making him question his faith. This not the hallmark of a free person whose faith is between him and God. This is the behavior of someone who belongs to a cult. They are very hard to witness to, as the consequences of even questioning can be extreme and land them out in the world without a friend or family. It is a scarey thing to stand against these consequences and pursue the truth, so JW's should be pitied as many of them are not in the group because of choice, but because they were born into it. Those who leave have a rough time of it and need our help. So if you know a JW who is questioning and considering that there might be truth beyond what they have been taught, it is really important that we as Christians let them know that we will be there for them to turn to when they find themselves all alone in the world, separated from friends and family. Let a JW know this if they come to your house and end up questioning their faith. They need to know there will be a place to turn should they decide to pursue the truth.