Because I give priority to Comments who ask a genuine question with interest of knowing more about JWs, I have postponed the post about Why JW’s do not accept blood transfusions. I will probably make that the next post, if I don’t have any questions for a while on the subject of this post or any other questions for that matter.
This in regards to the comment by “Cristin” regarding the last post (“…it was not the birthday that caused the murder, but the poor judgement of those individuals”).
If you look at the post I wrote, I mentioned the main reasons Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. Other than because of the two accounts in the Bible concerning birthdays, I had also mentioned that “through history we have learned their origins are also pagan.” The origins of birthdays were also directly linked to astrology (horoscopes and fortune telling). The1991 edition of the Encyclopedia Americana also states: “The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope.” What does the Bible teach about God’s opinion of astrology? To give a little background on the scripture I am about to put here, Babylon was an ancient city in biblical times that was destroyed by Jehovah because it was full of pagan practices, etc etc (basically a city that went against Jehovah God and committed many horrendous things such as selling their children’s bodies for what you can imagine, murder of the God-fearing people, and worshiped false gods that they had made up themselves). The Bible sometimes illustrates Babylon as a prostitute woman, for many reasons, including the dominant practice of it, and unfaithfulness religiously speaking (what I mean by that is how some Israelites had left their “fidelity” to Jehovah God and became pagan and joined the people of Babylon in their practices). Isaiah 47 talks about Jehovah vowing to destroy the city of Babylon (a prophecy), and of course the Babylonians. Jehovah said that not only would he bring the end to them, but that Babylon would NEVER again be inhabited by man. And that was exactly what happened, Babylon even today still lies in complete ruins, and has never been inhabited by anyone since its destruction. Isaiah 47:12-14A (my explanations in blue) says, “Stand still, now, with your spells and with the abundance of your sorceries(magic, which was something that the people of Babylon practiced), in which you have toiled from your youth; that perhaps you might be able to benefit, that perhaps you might strike people with awe. 13 You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens(this does not mean worshipers of Jehovah, because if they were worshipers of him exclusively, he would have said something like “my worshipers”, and we know that the people of Babylon did not worship him anyway), the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you (reference to astrology- horoscopes & fortunetellers). 14 Look! They have become like stubble. A fire itself will certainly burn them up….”.
Please understand that the tone in Isaiah 47: 13 when Jehovah says “Let them stand up, now, and save you” is sarcastic, because of course they could not be saved, just as verse 15 clarifies where Jehovah says to Babylon, “There will be no one to save you”.
It should not surprise us then, that the Israelites who were faithful to Jehovah did not celebrate birthdays, because it was a pagan practice, and directly related to astrology, which Jehovah has always detested. So it’s not just because of the two accounts in the Bible where innocent people were murdered, that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays, but also because of their direct origins, which I have now elaborated on. The World Book Encyclopedia (Volume III, pg 416) also mentions that The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.
It may also be of interest to some that the Catholic Encyclopedia (and anyone can look up this information if they are in doubt) says: “The writings of the early third century Catholic theologian Origen of Alexandria show that, even that late, Orthodox Catholics were against the celebration of birthdays.” and “Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday”. Origen also wrote himself: ” of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners like Pharaoh and Herod who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born”. And, the writings of the late third century Catholic theologian Arnobius show that, even that late, Catholics objected to the celebration of birthdays as he wrote: “…you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest hatred.”
Cristin also asked why JWs don’t attend funerals. (To read the following scriptures that I only put in parenthesis so that you can read them, I have indicated them in blue but you may click the following image to read them through the Bible directly, online!)
I’d like to clarify for Cristin, and everyone else who may have been under a similar impression, that Jehovah’s Witnesses do attend and make funerals. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 states that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to wail and a time to skip about.” In view of all mankind’s dying condition, the heart of the wise ones is shown to be “in the house of mourning” rather than in the banquet house. (Eclesiastes 7:2, 4) Thus, the wise person makes use of his/her opportunity to express sympathy and give comfort, instead of ignoring such an occasion. This helps him to keep in mind his own mortal state and to keep his heart in a right attitude toward his Creator, and life.
Death, like birth, is considered by many people to be a transition; one who dies moves from the visible world into the invisible realm of the spirits of the dead. Many believe that unless certain funeral customs and rites are performed at a person’s death, the ancestor spirits, who are believed to have the power to punish or reward the living, will be angered. This belief greatly influences the way funerals are arranged and conducted.
Funerals that are intended to appease the dead often involve a whole range of emotions—from frantic wailing and shouting in the presence of the corpse to joyous festivities after the burial. Unrestrained feasting, drunkenness, often characterize such funeral celebrations. So much importance is attached to funerals that even the poorest of families often make great effort to gather enough funds to provide “a fitting burial,” though it might bring hardship and debt.
Throughout the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have thoroughly exposed unscriptural funeral customs. Such customs include wakes, the pouring of libations, talking to and making requests of the dead, ceremonious observances of funeral anniversaries, and other customs based on the belief that something in a person survives death. Such customs dishonor God because they are an “empty deception” based on “the tradition of men” and not on God’s Word of truth. (Colossians 2:8) Jehovah’s Witnesses do not perform funerals with the erroneous idea of sending the deceased off to another world. Rather than to benefit the deceased, the main purpose of having a memorial service is to comfort the bereaved and to give a witness (which is to teach those who are not aware of what the Bible says, with the Bible) concerning the condition of the dead to those who attend. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) Another important reason for having a funeral is to help all in attendance to reflect on the transitoriness of life. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
If the funeral was to be for someone who was not a Jehovah’s Witness: If the deceased had a good reputation in the community, a brother might give a comforting Bible talk at the funeral home or graveside. The congregation will decline to handle a funeral for one who was known for immoral, unlawful conduct or whose life-style grossly conflicted with Bible principles. A brother certainly would not share with a clergyman in conducting an interfaith service nor in any funeral conducted in a church of another faith not of Jehovah’s Witnesses (for future reference, we call our place of worship a Kingdom Hall, not “church”, just so you know when you pass by one and wonder why it says “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, or in Spanish if that is a commonly practiced language in your community, “Salon del Reino de los Testigos de Jehova”). Ordinarily, Kingdom Halls are not used for funerals of unbelievers. An exception might be made if surviving family members are actively associated as baptized publishers, the deceased was known by a fair number in the congregation to have had a favorable attitude toward the truth and a good reputation for upright conduct in the community, and no customs that go against what the Bible teaches are incorporated into the program.
After long thought about the question made in the comment concerning funerals, I have come to conclude that perhaps the reason for why Cristin believed that we do not go to funerals was that she was thinking of JWs not going to funerals in other churches/with religions that of course are not JWs. This is mainly because there may be customs incorporated into those funerals that do not go along with what God says in His Word and there are other beliefs of what happens to the dead (for instance, the belief that everyone who dies goes to heaven, babies become angels, that it was God who took the person’s life away, or that there are people who go to “hell” for being “bad” where they are to be tormented. The Bible does not support any of these ideas. If anyone wishes to know what the Bible says happens to the dead, please do comment and I will be more than happy to write a post on the subject).
However, JWs do not “condemn” other JWs if they choose to assist a funeral of another church if the deceased was a family member who was not a JW. In this case, it all depends on that JW if they will go or not. It is a question of conscience, if they feel alright about going to it, considering everything I wrote above on this subject. Most prefer to not go but instead visit the family’s of the deceased or go to the burial, but if a Jehovah’s Witness decides to attend the funeral that takes place in a church of another faith, fellow JWs respect the individual’s decision, as long as the JW does not participate in any of the customs that do not go along with what Jehovah says.
I’d like to thank Cristin very much for taking the time to make her comment so that I would be able to help clarify, and I hope I have answered the questions thoroughly enough. And as always, I welcome everyone to leave a comment if they want further clarification or have other questions.