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Panorama Friday, 12 July, 2002, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Jehovah's Witnesses: beliefs

The Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians who believe the teachings of the Bible, using their own translation.

Their beliefs differ from mainstream Christian religions in various areas.

They do not celebrate Christmas or Easter, but do remember Christ's death.

They believe Jesus Christ was not crucified on a cross but rather on a stake. For this reason, as well as the fact that they do not believe in using symbols in their worship, the symbol of the cross is not significant.

The end of the world

Jehovah's Witnesses believe they will survive Armageddon, the end of the world, and go on to live on a paradise on earth.

The imminent end of the world has always been a crucial part of their beliefs.

As early as 1876 Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the religion, wrote an article in which he gave the date for the end of the world as 1914.

The end of the world was proclaimed again by Judge Rutherford, the next president of Watchtower, in a talk given years earlier, "Millions Now Living Will Never Die", on the belief that God would bring the end to the world at that time.

The organisation no longer gives a specific date for the end for the end of the world but strongly emphasises that it is due soon.

They believe there are only 144,000 who will go to heaven as rulers.

Blood

Jehovah's Witnesses believe taking blood into the body through the mouth or veins violates God's law. Those who do so can be expelled.

In Genesis 9, humans are told they can eat any flesh except that which still has its soul, or its blood, in it. Also in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, First Samuel and Acts 15 are texts which the Jehovah's Witnesses claim point to the Bible's disapproval of the consumption of blood.

This policy extends to disallowing blood transfusions, even those which involve a person's own blood.

Over the years the organisation has softened its attitude somewhat and no longer condemns organ transplants or the infusion of blood products.

Despite still banning transfusions of a person's own blood which has been earlier removed and stored, they do allow blood which is lost during an operation to be collected, cleaned and returned to the body in a process called blood salvaging.

This policy of refusing blood transfusions has been very controversial and sometimes brought the Jehovah's Witnesses into conflict with medical and legal authorities.

Government or military service

Jehovah's Witnesses do not swear allegiance to any organisation or nation.

Because of this they are not allowed to join any armed forces, nor can they participate by voting in any election, run for any political office, sing a national anthem or participate in any activity associated with proclaiming allegiance to any earthly government.

This has caused problems for Jehovah's Witnesses in countries where there is national service or the swearing of allegiance to the flag .

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