What is an Apostate according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

The term apostate is used in many religions. The widely accepted term for apostate is “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.”1Oxford Dictionary Definition “Apostate” According to this widely accepted definition, even the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russel, was an apostate when he left his Presbyterian religion. In fact, any person who leaves their religion to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses can be considered an apostate.

But what do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about apostates, and what exactly is an apostate, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses?

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an apostate is someone who rejects or abandons the service of the organization. Apostate behavior includes rejecting Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings or policies and supporting or joining another religious or political group.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that even those who still believe in God yet disagree with any of the principles taught or any of the rules imposed on them by the organization must be considered an apostate.2Page 35, Reasoning From the Scriptures, “Apostasy”. In other words, any person who remains a Christian, but rejects the teachings of the Watchtower Society, is guilty of apostasy.

“They [Apostates] may claim to serve God but reject his representatives [The Governing Body], his visible organization [Watchtower Society ].”

Apostasy, Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 34

Any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuses to recognize the Governing Body3Also known as the “faithful and discreet slave”. The Governing Body is a group of men who claim to be God’s Only Channel of communication on Earth as their ultimate authority is at risk of being found guilty of apostasy.4“It is vital that we … respond to the directions of the “slave” [Governing Body] as we would to the voice of God” – “Overseers of Jehovah’s People” w57 6/15 pp. 370 According to their Elders Book,5The elder’s manual (Shepherd the Flock of God), that is confidential and not accessible by rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses. This copy was made public when it was presented as evidence during a public hearing (Case 29: Royal Commission – Child Sex Abuse). will be subjected to a Judicial Hearing and subsequently be disfellowshipped and shunned by all friends and family.6Page 65, “SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD”, Apostasy

Activities that are considered apostasy in the Jehovah’s Witnesses


Jehovahs Witnesses are trained to sniff out doubters and report them to the elders.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to look for tell-tale signs of potential doubters or apostates in their midst. A Jehovah’s Witness publication entitled ” Reasoning from the Scriptures” points out some “identifying marks” of apostates that members should look out for, which include:

  • Sharing personal views about the Bible that deviate from Jehovah’s Witness doctrine.
  • Sharing or discussing critical information about the Jehovah’s Witness organization, the Governing Body, or any of its leadership, including elders. Even if the information proves to be true.
  • Refusing to participate in Jehovah’s Witnesses door to door preaching or other “spiritual” activities.
“Among the various causes of apostasy, one of the foremost is unquestionably a lack of faith through doubt.”

“Remain “Solid in the Faith” ” w80 8/1 pp. 17-22

In the Jehovah’s Witnesses, members can be guilty of sin by simply believing something else or having doubts about what they are taught.

In one Watchtower study article, elders are instructed to seek out individuals showing signs of doubt and to “show doubters that they are in danger…”7JW Study Article “Remain Solid in the Faith” w80 8/1 page 22. If the “doubter” admits to apostate activity or refuses to comply with any of the organizational policies, such as door-to-door preaching, attending meetings, etc., they can be subjected to a judicial hearing and risk being disfellowshipped. In reality, the only danger that doubters are in is the organization’s dangerous policies.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to confess any doubts about the organization to the elders. There they will be assisted to “come back to their proper senses.”8w86 3/15 pp. 10-15 ‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’ Essentially, doubters are “reformed” and required to forget what they have seen, heard, or read, and blindly accept what the leadership tells them to believe. Failure to comply can land the individual in a heap of trouble.


Like many other cults and high control groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to “stamp out doubt” and censor critical information about their organization or its leaders.

If a member of the group becomes aware of any knowledge that causes them to doubt the Jehovah’s Witness organization, the elders quickly swoop in with “loving counsel.” The purpose of the counsel is not to address the concern but to bring the doubters thinking back in line with the doctrine.9“Any with sincere doubts should be helped. Firm, loving counsel should be given.” Page 65, “Shepherd the Flock of God”, Apostasy

Ignoring the correction of the elders, regardless of how legitimate the doubts are, constitutes apostasy. If the doubter ignores the elder’s warnings to keep quiet and shares any of their knowledge with fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses, they put themselves at risk of being disfellowshipped.10“If one obstinately is speaking about or deliberately spreading false teachings, this may be or may lead to apostasy. If there is no response after a first and a second admonition, a judicial committee should be formed.” Deliberately spreading teachings contrary to Bible truth as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses

Through these threats, the Jehovah’s Witnesses members are deprived of their basic human right to free speech.

Apostate Material

According to the organization’s publications, reading material or watching videos critical of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is likened to consuming pornography.11“if we would act so decisively to protect our children from exposure to pornography, should we not expect that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from spiritual fornication, including apostasy?” – w86 3/15 pp. 10-15 ‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’ Members are warned not to read any material produced by so-called opposers, even with the intention of trying to refute them.12“We need not conclude that we have to read a book or a pamphlet that is filled with slander and half-truths in order to refute the false claims and teachings of opposers.” – w86 3/15 pp. 10-15 ‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’

In the same way, a parent would destroy pornography they might find their children have access to; members are instructed to destroy any apostate material.13“Do you wisely destroy apostate material?” – ‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’ w86 3/15 pp. 10-15

What exactly constitutes apostate material?

Any media that is critical of the organization or anything that exposes the inconsistencies in the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is considered apostate material. These usually come in the form of websites, books, or videos.

Shockingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider some of their very own historical publications that expose inconsistencies and false predictions as “apostate material.”

One example is a book published in 1911 entitled “Studies in the Scriptures – The Time is at Hand”, where Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders predicted the end of the world to conclude in 1914.14“we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished near the end of A.D.1914.” – Studies in the Scriptures – The Time is at Hand (1889) 1911 ed. p.99 The book was rewritten after the prediction failed, covering up the “false prophesy.” To point this out to fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses is punishable as an act of apostasy.

Even history and science books can be deemed apostate material if they expose inaccuracies in the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the date of Jerusalem’s destruction occurred in 60715“When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?” w11 10/1 pp. 26-31, while all secular sources indicate the date to 586/7. Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Nebuchadnezzar II started to rule in 624BC16“Nebuchadnezzar ruled as king for 43 years (624-582 B.C.E.)” – Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, Nebuchadrezzar, while all secular sources point to the date 605BC17“Nebuchadrezzar… second and greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia (reigned c. 605–c. 561 BCE)” – Britannica.com. Any material that points out these discrepancies is considered apostate.


Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from taking part in any celebration relating to Easter, Christmas, Birthdays, Halloween, Valentine’s day, or even Mother’s day. 18Page 65, Shepherd the Flock of God, Apostasy, Celebrating false religious holidays

Activities such as singing “happy birthday”, blowing out candles, participating in an “easter egg hunt”, erecting a Christmas tree or decorations, or dressing up for Halloween constitute serious offenses subject to judicial action.


With the exception of some extremely rare circumstances, Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from taking part in any interfaith activities such as attending another church service, singing non-JW religious songs, or sharing in prayers of other religions. Participation in interfaith activities is extremely serious, and according to the Elders Book, the offender can be subjected to a judicial hearing and possible disfellowshipping. 19“Apostate acts include bowing before altars and images and sharing in false religious songs and prayers.” – Page 65, Shepherd the Flock of God, Apostasy, Participation in interfaith activities.

How Jehovah’s Witnesses punish Apostates


In order to prevent more members from being exposed to critical information, apostates are subjected to smear campaigns that make members fearful of listening to what apostates have to say.

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, apostates are mentally ill, angry, and jealous.

“Remain Solid in the Faith”. The Watchtower. Watch Tower Society. August 1, 1980. pp. 17–21. describes so-called apostates as proud, independent, ungrateful, and presumptuous

Apostates are further accused of being mentally diseased. “Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?”. The Watchtower. July 15, 2011. p. 16.

In another study article,20“Remain Solid in the Faith”. The Watchtower. Watch Tower Society. August 1, 1980. pp. 17–21., members are taught that apostates display jealousy and fits of anger, and are prone to drunken bouts and fornication.

Jehovah’s Witnesses view apostates as criminals.

“Apostates “quietly bring in” corruptive ideas. Like smugglers, they operate in a clandestine manner, subtly introducing apostate views. And just as a clever forger tries to pass phony documents, so apostates use “counterfeit words,” or false arguments, trying to pass their fabricated views as if they were true. They spread “deceptive teachings,” “twisting . . . the Scriptures” to fit their own ideas.”

“keep away from them,” and “stay away from them!” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel. Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease. You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings.”

“We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch TV programs that feature them, examine their Web sites, or add our comments to their blogs.”

Watchtower Study Article: “Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?” w11 7/15 p. 15

Apostates, according to a 2011, July 15th study article, “quietly bring their ideas into the congregation, like criminals who secretly bring things into a country.” The article further accuses apostates of being like “criminals who make false documents look real“.

In another study article members are taught that apostate literature (this article included), must be treated as “falsehoods”, “smooth-talk”, and “counterfeit words”,21“apostate literature presents falsehoods by means of “smooth talk” and “counterfeit words”” – Watchtower Study Article: “At Which Table Are You Feeding?” w94 7/1 pp. 8-13 even when the material in question refers to legitimate sources and even the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own publications.

Jehovah’s Witnesses consider apostates as part of the antichrist

“Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the antichrist.”

Apostasy – Insight, Volume 1

Apostasy is considered one of the most serious offenses in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, in Insight Vol. 1, under “Apostasy”, apostates are considered part of the “antichrist”.

Their twisted, poisonous reasoning can cause spiritual harm and can contaminate your faith like rapidly spreading gangrene. Watchtower 2004 Feb 15 p.28

The Watchtower Study article instructs members to avoid apostates and refers to their newfound knowledge against the organization as “twisted, poisonous reasoning” and rapidly spreading gangrene.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to hate apostates.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization even engages in hate speech, encouraging members to hate apostates in several study articles.

“Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: “Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you “”

Watchtower Study Article: “Three Kinds of Hatred” w92 7/15 pp. 8-13
“in order to hate what is bad a Christian must hate the person with whom the badness is inseparably linked

Watchtower Study Article: “A Time and Place for Everything” w61 7/15 pp. 419-420


Loss of employment

Many so-called apostates are discriminated against when they are dismissed from their employment if they work for another Jehovah’s Witness.

“After having yielded to such works of the flesh as “enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects,” apostates often fall victim to other fleshly works such as “drunken bouts,” “loose conduct” and “fornication.””

Watchtower Study Article: “Remain Solid in the Faith” w80 8/1 pp. 17-22
“As to the effects of a course of apostasy, one immediate result is a loss of joy. The apostate becomes hardened in his rebellious ways.”

Remain “Solid in the Faith”
The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom—1980


“If the one spreading apostate teachings cannot be restored to spiritual health by loving but firm application of the balm of God’s Word, amputation of this member (disfellowshipping) may be the only alternative for the protection of other members of the body.”

‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’

Apostates are deprived of the basic human right of free association with friends and family, based on direct instruction from leaders in the Jehovah’s Witnesses when the individual is found guilty of apostasy and announced as “disfellowshipped.”

Once that announcement is made, all members are forbidden from associating with anyone who is marked as an apostate and must avoid them as they would avoid a “poisonous snake.”22[Watchtower 1980 June 15 p.8 What It Takes to Keep Separate from the World] Family members are not excluded from this punishment. Yes, even mothers and fathers are forced to cut off their children – or risk getting disfellowshipped themselves.

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that co-called apostates must be shunned and should not even be greeted. It is taught that greeting an apostate means sharing in his so-called “wicked works”.23“Questions From Readers”. w85 7/15 pp. 31


Apostates are deserving of Death?

An article “Questions from Readers” in a JW study article implies that apostates are deserving of death but goes on to say that “The law of the land” forbids the killing of an apostate 24 “we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God’s law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship.” The Watchtower: Questions From Readers

Soon to be killed at Armageddon.

It’s suggested that members feel loathing for apostates, consider those who leave the organization to be enemies of God, and wait patiently for their God to execute vengeance against them. The vengeance they refer to is execution.

“With apostates earth wide being destroyed, what reason can one have for confidence of life in paradise to follow?”

Kingdom Ministry September 1973 p.6








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