“Do you believe all religions are equally good?”
This is the question I was asked yesterday by a pleasant young Jehovah’s Witness. I must give it to her though; going door-to-door is a daunting task. One never really knows who (or what) may be on the other side. In her case, the who (and what) was someone who actually enjoys the back-and-forth with religionists.
Her question, though, was a good one. Honestly, I was a little taken back by her choosing to begin with that. Do I believe all religions are equally good? Heavens, no! So far as I’m concerned, religions ought to be analyzed and evaluated, and they ought to be judged respectively. Most (or even all) religions have something salvageable somewhere. It would, after all, be rather silly to throw out little baby Yeshua with the Christian bathwater.
Let’s take the woman outside my front door as an example, and let’s limit our comparison to other Christian denominations. Is her religion no better or no worse than any other religion? I mean, sure, the kookery of the Russellites (or should we call them Rutherfordites?) is hardly lacking. Their adventism, their millennialism, their opposition to birthdays (or even holidays) and their beliefs regarding blood transfusions certainly make them an oddity, even within religionist circles. But what may we say of their particular brand of religion?
Well, their beliefs concerning hell (i.e. annihilationism) are certainly preferable to the so-called classical view of hell that has immortal souls enduring the most painful of sadistic nightmares… for ever and ever and ever and ever… ad infinitum. Their view of a holistic soul and, consequently, “soul sleep” is definitely preferable to the more traditional view of the soul as a spiritual entity residing within each and every human – something that also impacts the prevailing view of dispensationalism in America, wherein we will one day enjoy Christ’s 1,000-year reign with spirit bodies of the dead and departed. And even their view of holidays is not entirely without merit. Additionally, Jehovah’s Witnesses, unlike most Protestants and Catholics, are more than willing to grant the pagan origins and symbolism of great Christian feasts including but not limited to Easter and Christmas. Lastly, at least for now, there’s their view concerning the separation of church and state. Contrary to prevailing forms of Christianity in the United States, the Jehovah’s Witnesses wish to occupy themselves only with God’s kingdom, refraining from electoral politics and religious activism. Not all of their reasons for this are noteworthy, but you can bet the farm I’d prefer that to the kind of dominionism fueling abstinence-only education, marriage amendments, the push for creationism in public schools, the constant free-pass given the the state of Israel… and the never-ending stream of GOP candidates insisting that God told them to run for office.
As with most religions, the Jehovah’s Witness religion is a mixed bag. There’s good, there’s bad and there’s ugly. As much can (and ought to) be said about most anyone’s beliefs. Does that make everyone’s belief equal? Hardly. It does, though, give us more than a baker’s dozen of excellent reasons to understand religionists, their worldviews and how, where, when and why their worldview may or may not impact the general welfare of a community. Such at least seems reasonable.