Jehovah's Witnesses' secret weapon: The best reward package in the industry
A trip back to my JW past: For all the negative things I could say about the Jehovah's Witnesses, I can think of a few good things as well. First, like Mormons, they tend to be "good neighbor" types. And on matters Biblical, I think there are actually areas in which they come to saner, back-to-the-original-intent readings of scripture than do sects hanging on to fossilized readings set in stone by long-ago pontificators.
That said, those things make for really weak praise. A Witness may be a friendly neighbor who'll return your garden shears on time, but he's still a gullible goof who returns the shears along with an unasked-for copy of The Watchtower and the question, "So, do you ever wonder Who made shrubbery so beautiful?" And having a more "accurate" reading of scripture is like having a more "accurate" insight into the truth of The Three Little Pigs – it remains a wacky acceptance of utterly unbelievable fiction as reality. (On top of that, there are indeed areas where JW interpretation of scripture is more loony than the average: blood and birthdays are good starting points.)
But regardless of whether or not it stands as "correct" interpretation, there's one bit of proprietary Biblical dogma that scores the JWs more marketing points than I think many realize. Simply put, Jehovah's Witnesses offer the best eternal reward package in the religion industry.
The JWs will tell you up front: both you and they (except for their elite cadre of 144,000) are not going to heaven. Huh? Christianity without the heavenly reward? That's like Las Vegas without the jackpot or the pasties – what's the point?
Don't worry, the Watchtower boys have you covered with something better than the mainstream's vague, rather unsettling vision of pointlessly floating about the clouds for eternity singing Kumbaya. As the JWs loudly proclaim in their infinite publications, you're going to live right here on an Earth restored to its original, pre-"oops" Garden of Eden condition. Forever.
If that strikes you initially as a letdown, just let it sink in for a few seconds. An eternity on a perfect garden world - the one we all know and viciously resist leaving (even those mainstream believers who insist there's a better place a-waitin'). Think of climbing the world's peaks, swimming its every sea, studying and playing with its every creature. (It's okay, they're all plant-eaters now, even the spiders and sharks. Shh, don't think about that too hard, it spoils the dream.)
Think of an eternity smelling every flower, learning every skill, cooking every dish imaginable (well, except meat, of course, but I hear you can do a lot with bean tempeh). Imagine painting and making music and sculpting all you want (fig leaves over the naughty bits, thank you!).
Sunrises and sunsets and all of nature's beauty, with no pain or tears, all day, every day. With your loved ones at your side, even those once dead, never to leave you again. Instead of fluffy angel stuff, you'll spend forever enjoying every human pleasure (some within the proper confines of marriage only, of course), on this planet, made explicitly for us.
Whew! Okay, the disclaimers in there – no meat, no illicit excitement, no risk – are cause for concern; more than a few will wonder whether that'll really satisfy everyone. (Or anyone.) But I'd be willing to give it all a try – it just may beat the current world where lots of us die (sometimes horribly) before even getting to sample life's pleasures, and where those blessed with long life often see it end in pain and senility just as they're starting to get things figured out.
Yes, the JWs' "New System" sounds like the best reward package going (discounting really nutcase offerings like the Muslim male's woman-hating "72 virgins in heaven" fantasy. What did those 72 do to deserve that fate?) Added to the JW promise is a nice, simple logic that even makes its likelihood seem higher than the typical heavenly promise. Think about it: God's original plan was for Adam, Eve, and their interbreeding (ewww) offspring to live forever on a paradise Earth. Things got derailed with all that sin business, but if God is going to set things right again, why wouldn't he set them back on the original track? Why would he in effect let puny Adam and Eve (and Satan) force an eternal derailing of his Paradise Earth plan, making him cobble together a Plan B of finding work for everyone in his home Upstairs? (Unneeded example: If you built Rover a fine custom dog house to live in for all his days, and whoops, he made a boo-boo in there, would you sensibly clean the house and put him back in it, or would you decide from that one mistake to ditch the dog house and bring him permanently into your living room?)
It's a great promise, far more appealing than the heaven stuff, and I'll say it's even more sensible too. Alas, there's just one Leviathan-sized fly in the Witness ointment: It ain't true. There's not a lick of evidence supporting the claim of this scriptural interpretation over some other interpretation, or the claim of ancient goat herders that their scriptures came from a God, or even the existence itself of that God. Oh well.
At least you can understand the appeal that the New System holds for the JWs. If I had reason to believe that any of this stuff were true, theirs is the paradise I would go after. Well, assuming I could stand the righteous JWs and their blood-soaked Old Testament persecutor until delivery of the promised reward, of course.
(Unrelated, but going back to the hypothetical JW who thanks the Creator for the beauty of shrubbery: At a JW convention – "Assembly" in the lingo – in line for overpriced stadium food, I overheard one Witness comment to another on the fruit selection: "Jehovah sure knew what he was doing when He made cantaloupe". Exact words. And here I thought God was all about making bananas the perfect fruit.)