Giorgos Eftychiou Featured
Assorted Articles,  Interview

Growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses

You see them proclaiming the end of days from their stalls in busy streets, or hurrying down garden paths, the glare almost blinding from their pristine, plain white shirts as they bruise their knuckles on door after door after door. You turn them away, or perhaps just pretend you haven’t noticed them, and they move on, bible clutched tightly between their hand and torso.  They’re often the subject of ridicule, and sometimes even persecution, but how much do you really know about the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Giorgos struck me as someone caught in the space between two wildly different realities. We’d met on a 60km trek in the Svaneti region of Northern Georgia, and had nothing else to do as we hiked but talk and get to know one another. Before long, it became clear to me that, whilst he’s embraced many aspects of the world outside the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he still seemed grounded by their values and the lessons he was taught by them growing up. Outwardly, he appeared driven to act as any other member of secular society would, but that instinct was tempered by a restraint that only a strict religious upbringing can conjure.

After a little convincing, he agreed to sit down with me and satisfy my curiosity, giving me rare and honest insight into the secretive and often very misunderstood organisation. He expressed to me his difficulty finding a balance between the logical parts of his personality and the pull of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and discussed why his family won’t accept blood transfusions, the isolation some Jehovah’s Witness children can feel at school, why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, and the messages from the religion that speak to him the most.


Giorgos Eftychiou

Giorgi Eftychiou was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in Cyprus. At 16-years-old, he made the decision to be baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness.


Please note that we do not fact-check our interviewees, and that their views do not necessarily represent our own.

Giorgos’ Background:

“I grew up in a village in Cyprus called ‘Xylofagou’. The name means ‘the worm that eats the wood’… I have been a geek for most of my life… My parents were Jehovah’s witnesses… so I was raised as a Jehovah’s witness… You hear the answers you get from the elders explaining the bible, something that the world nowadays doesn’t give any attention because they tend to be more into science and evolution… it makes you feel that this is the right path.”

See Giorgos' Full Background

I’ve studied computer science, and am currently working in hospitality as a receptionist and also in construction. I grew up in a village in Cyprus called ‘Xylofagou’. The name means ‘the worm that eats the wood’, and it’s close to a very well known touristy place called Ayia Napa. I have been a geek for most of my life and like video games and science-fiction stuff, and I have always been into metal music. I am the only male in my family, and have three sisters, two of whom are twins that are younger than me, and one older one. We are very different to each other, but when it comes to music, ethics and religion, somehow we have the same standards.

My parents were Jehovah’s witnesses, and were raised that way, so I was raised as a Jehovah’s witness. The name of the religion comes by witnessing Jehovah, which is the name of God in the bible. So it pretty much means “witnessing God”. While growing up, being a kid, a child, a teenager… you see how different the group is to the rest of the world. You hear the answers you get from the elders explaining the bible, something that the world nowadays doesn’t give any attention because they tend to be more into science and evolution; today’s world got so far away from the bible. When you see all that, it makes you feel that this is the right path

How did the Jehovah’s Witnesses start and what makes them different from other religions?

“…they are not afraid to change. They don’t have the ego of some of the main religions today. For example, if you take Catholics or Christian Orthodox, or Islam… their principles and their doctrine stays the same for centuries.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

The Jehovah’s Witnesses is a religion that pretty much came out at the start of the 19th century. So it’s a religion that is 130-140 years old.  There were many religions during that time in the city of Brooklyn in the United States; the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a few others, but they all pretty much started from same crowd: a group that saw things in the main religions like Catholicism with which they didn’t agree. In the era back then, it was like a renaissance of religions. They could express how they saw things, they were not so restricted and there was much more freedom, especially in a country like the U.S.A. So they saw things in the bible that they didn’t agree with, and they said “ok, we don’t like this, this or this”, and it became something different. 

The main characteristic that makes them different is that they are not afraid to change. They don’t have the ego of some of the main religions today. For example, if you take Catholics or Christian Orthodox, or Islam… their principles and their doctrine stays the same for centuries.  At the beginning, for example, they used to smoke. But then, in the bible God says that he gave us our body, and we should respect it. So when it comes to drugs and smoking, it’s against the bible. They worked that out in the following years, and started saying “whoever smokes, doesn’t follow the right path.” Now, for the last 50-70 years, somebody who keeps smoking and doesn’t change his path will be ‘disfellowshipped’, meaning they will no longer be allowed to be a member of the organisation.

They try to follow the principle of the Bible: don’t be a member of the secular world. By that, don’t be a part of groups of people who follow their own ethics. So they are not the same as the rest. When it comes to sex, smoking, drugs, respecting the family and the elders, and stuff like that, they are different. By nature, they will not be racist, they will not steal, and they have a reputation for being clean and not being thieves. They have very strong ethics and values. 

Is there a difference between the beliefs of younger members of the religion and older ones, as there is with the major religions?

“Regardless of age, somebody who is baptised as a Jehovah’s witness cannot be secular. He has to be different. This is a guideline of the Bible. For example, when my God says “don’t sleep with a woman before marriage”, and says its one of the seven things he hates… well, we take that literally… Jehovah’s witnesses have to push themselves a lot to be who they are.

See Giorgos' Full Answer

No. That’s not the case. Regardless of age, somebody who is baptised as a Jehovah’s witness cannot be secular. He has to be different. This is a guideline of the Bible. For example, when my God says “don’t sleep with a woman before marriage”, and says it’s one of the seven things he hates… well, we take that literally. So, when at 17-years-old and the rest of the kids at school are going to a club and trying to hook up with somebody, you don’t go. Because you know that could happen, and you could be tempted. So Jehovah’s witnesses have to push themselves a lot to be who they are. 

Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate birthdays?

“We can’t have birthdays… one of the doctrines of this religion is that – and if you ask this question to any other Jehovah’s Witness they will say the same thing – there were only two cases in the Bible mentioning birthdays, and in both cases somebody, a follower of God, died… Christ himself even said “The Day of such an one’s death, is better to him, than the Day of his Birth.

See Giorgos' Full Answer

We can’t have birthdays, and I’m not say I agree necessarily with that, but one of the doctrines of this religion is that – and if you ask this question to any other Jehovah’s Witness they will say the same thing – there were only two cases in the Bible mentioning birthdays, and in both cases somebody, a follower of God, died because of a king. One of them is with the Pharaoh, and another is Hierodes. Also that combines with the fact that there is no mention of Christ celebrating a birthday in the Bible.

So Jehovah’s Witnesses are like “ok, there are two cases mentioning birthdays in the Bible where something bad happened, and so that shows that God doesn’t approve of birthdays”. Christ himself even said better the day you die than the day you were born (Exact Quote: “The Day of such an one’s death, is better to him, than the Day of his Birth.”). So then why would you celebrate that day? So that’s the conclusion they come to.

Was it hard being one of the only children in school who wasn’t allowed to celebrate their birthday?

“…being a kid and a Jehovah’s Witness has its consequences, which are: seeing the rest of the kids in the class give and get presents, and celebrating, and you being left out of it.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

 I can support the idea of not celebrating birthdays. Being neutral and looking at it, I can think “ok, is a birthday necessary?” The truth is that as you get older, you regret every year that you age; you are one step closer to death. So I can support it, and I don’t think we need to create that one day to celebrate it. It’s kind of hypocritical to wait for that day, and then to get presents from people, some of whom you don’t even like, just because it’s that day. 

But, being a kid and a Jehovah’s Witness has its consequences, which are: seeing the rest of the kids in the class give and get presents, and celebrating, and you being left out of it. It’s not so tough for me, maybe I am stronger than some others, but I guess it could be the weak ones that might see that and think “that’s not fair”. And the fact that it makes you feel so different… I don’t like that. I don’t want to be different from the rest of the world. Because you grow up, and you still feel different. Now, I’m talking to you but I feel different from you. I feel in the back that we don’t share the same code. 


Jehovah's Witnesses Bible Binding
Jehovah's Witnesses Bible

  “The New World Translations of the Holy Scriptures” is the version of the bible used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is regarded as a more literal and conservative translation than the “King James Version” that they used in the past.


What is the structure of the religion? Is there a hierarchy?

“We try to follow the teachings of the Bible: “don’t call anybody on Earth ‘father'”… in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it comes down to responsibilities…. somebody has to be responsible for the microphones when people talk, somebody has to be responsible for giving speeches…. that person… is called an ‘Elder’. There is no hierarchy, it’s just people with responsibilities.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

We try to follow the teachings of the Bible: “don’t call anybody on Earth ‘father'”. So, we try not to have too much of a hierarchy. But to have an organisation, as with any company, you need a manager, a CEO and so on. So in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it comes down to responsibilities. When you have a church, and 100 people are attending it, somebody has to be responsible for the microphones when people talk, somebody has to be responsible for giving speeches. These people have to have the right image; they can’t be an alcoholic, for example. So that person who follows the principles of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and also has responsibilities like that is called an ‘Elder’. There is no hierarchy, it’s just people with responsibilities. Sometimes those responsibilities give you the chance to show off more. Somebody with more responsibilities has more respect. 

Do you feel being a Jehovah’s Witnesses limits your relationships with people outside of the organisation?

“…it’s so difficult to tell you that, outside of the organisation, I have a true, 100% friend. Because I know that he can’t understand me. He tries. He will show sympathy. But he can’t understand it. They are friends, but it’s not the same… the truth is that it creates division; you feel different, and that doesn’t feel good. “

See Giorgos' Full Answer

I always had, from primary school, out of 5 friends, one that was not a Jehovah’s Witness. In high school, out of 5, it became 2. Then after high-school, you go off to university, and there most of your friends aren’t part of the organisation. Maybe just 1 or 2. So, the more you grow up, the more you end up with friends who were not born as Jehovah’s Witnesses. That was my case.

But while you’re growing up you end up with friends that share the same values as you, and who think the same way. You feel always connected to these people because they know where everything in your mind sparks; they know the beginning of your thought. For example if I tell you something about how I feel right now, you wouldn’t be able to see it like that. But a Jehovah’s Witness who has shared the same experiences as me from the beginning will truly understand.

In many cases, people will isolate themselves – they won’t feel that outsiders are true, 100% friends. And until today, it’s so difficult to tell you that, outside of the organisation, I have a true, 100% friend. Because I know that he can’t understand me. He tries. He will show sympathy. But he can’t understand it. They are friends, but it’s not the same. And I don’t talk about it with them; they already have their negative preconceptions. So today, I still have more connection to friends who are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses than those who never were. So the truth is that it creates division; you feel different, and that doesn’t feel good. 

What is one message from the Jehovah’s Witnesses do you relate to the most?

“The one that speaks to me the most is the armageddon… you see today all these nations falling… The only thing that remains is hope that God will let you be on this planet… For Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no heaven. Instead, we believe that God will bring us back to life, and resurrect us on earth. There is no hell either…”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

The one that speaks to me the most is the armageddon. Most Christian denominations are expecting the second coming of Christ. He will come down to earth and judge the order that exists now, and bring in his new order. But my logic agrees with what the bible says regarding the end of days; I feel that humanity is heading towards a conflict. The prophets in the old testament, like Ezekiel and Isaiah, speak about the end of days. You have the description of monsters and beasts, which represent empires, falling one after the other. The prophet Daniel said the Persians would take down the walls of Babylon in one night, and it happened. Then he said that the Persians will fall and the Greeks will establish their empire. He predicted all these things in advance, and they happened.

At the end of the prophecy, he sees a big rock coming down from the mountains, crushing the statues of all the empires. And then you see a new era where Christ comes as king and establishes a new order. So reading about all these things, it’s really amazing how these prophecies all happened. But even if you’re not into that, and are more into logic, you see today all these nations falling. This isn’t just a message from the Jehovah’s witnesses; lots of religions are prepared for the fact that the end of days is coming.

But I don’t know if that’s good or bad. For example, I look at you and I can see you don’t have any worries. You don’t have any fear in the back of your head. Whereas for me, whatever I do I feel is vanity. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you “be balanced, don’t be a member of this world, be humble, give yourself to God” and so on because everything else is “vanity”, since the world is coming to an end. The only thing that remains is hope that God will let you be on this planet, or that if you lose your life, you’ll be resurrected.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no heaven. Instead, we believe that God will bring us back to life, and resurrect us on earth. There is no hell either. Is it if you’re good you will come back, and if you’re bad, you won’t? If you ask this question to an elder, he will answer you with versus from the bible, saying that “the just and the unjust will all be resurrected for the final judgement.” It’s a very controversial topic, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to leave who will be resurrected and who won’t in the hands of God. I think if you’re good and just, you will be resurrected or you’ll just survive the end of days.

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses go door-to-door and how does it work?

You write how many hours you go door-to-door each month, and we call it the “service”… It’s our gift to god; preaching. We just try to follow Christ’s order to “go and tell the people that I’m coming and show them that the end of days are near”. It’s Matthew 24:14… they talk to people. Most of the time they’re just acting as a therapist. “

See Giorgos' Full Answer

You write how many hours you go door-to-door each month, and we call it the “service”. People who don’t have a goal will go two hours a month, maybe four or sometimes 10. I always was into 4-6 hours. There was one time where I tried to do 50 hours, but I didn’t manage it. But then you have the ones who want to be in the “assisting service”, and they have a goal of 50 hours. Then the next level above that have a goal of 75 hours or something. None of them get money. There are others who do something called the “full service”, and they do 120 hours a month, but still they’re not getting paid. But there is another level; there aren’t many of them, but they get a very small amount of money just to survive.

It’s our gift to god; preaching. We just try to follow Christ’s order to “go and tell the people that I’m coming and show them that the end of days are near”. It’s Matthew 24:14:

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” So it’s saying that everybody has to hear about the message of the gospel. So Jehovah’s Witnesses, like many Christians actually, feel that it’s their duty to preach the message of Christ that the world is coming to an end. There’s also Matthew 28:19-20:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

So that’s what tells them to go and preach. It’s not that they get money or anything. It’s a very difficult task. But they’re happy because they feel they’re doing the right thing. And they’re not doing anything wrong; they talk to people. Most of the time they’re just acting as a therapist. Listening to someone is an amazing skill. 

What was it like to go door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witnesses?

“I know what to expect when someone opens the door; he’s annoyed that somebody woke him up, or distracted him while he was watching TV. And I know from the look on his face what he will be like. As a Jehovah’s Witness, when you go door-to-door you see two things, two faces. One is ‘why are you annoying me?’ The other is ‘tell me what you want’… it’s very rare that somebody will be interested. “

See Giorgos' Full Answer

For somebody who grew up doing it like me, it’s not a big deal. I got used to it. Being here sat next to you and talking to you, I feel I have the skills from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be friendly to everyone. So for me it was nothing. I can easily go door-to-door to promote solar panels, or whatever else! I know what to expect when someone opens the door; he’s annoyed that somebody woke him up, or distracted him while he was watching TV. And I know from the look on his face what he will be like.

As a Jehovah’s Witness, when you go door-to-door you see two things, two faces. One is “why are you annoying me?” The other is “tell me what you want.” And then there’s the subclasses: if it’s “tell me what you want”, when he hears religion, he could say “I’m not interested”, or it could be somebody who is going through some difficulties in life, and he wants someone to listen to him, or to give him hope that there are better things coming. Somebody who wants to be listened to is gonna open the door, and he might take the magazine and read something. It’s a tree of options. 

Most of the time when I went door-to-door, I was following someone. You were prepared that nobody would listen. Your task was just to say something from the bible or give them a magazine:

Hey good morning, how are you today? We’re going through your neighbourhood to say hello to people and give them this magazine.” 

If you they said “I’m not interested”, you just say “ok, thank you”, but if they took the magazine, you might go back again another time and ask what they thought of it and if they read it. But it’s very rare that somebody will be interested. In the secular world where people have their own problems, they want to go on holiday, get a promotion at work, and so on, most people don’t care. There were cases when people were aggressive, but only very rarely.

I’m sure that in places like Africa, where people go through difficulties, the Jehovah’s Witnesses probably attract a lot more people. In Asia they do, too. In Japan it’s growing like crazy. The religions of Asia aren’t monotheistic (with one God), and are closer to paganism than Christianity. So the image of God is not the same. When they listen to a different religion like the Jehovah’s Witnesses where God made you in his image, and he understands you and your problems, it has much more of an impact.


Christian Cross

 Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use the symbol of the cross because they believe that Jesus died on a simple wooden stake, and follow a teaching in the bible that discourages the use of idols.


You described it as a religion “without ego”. How have the Jehovah’s Witnesses changed to keep up with the world around them?

“The doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is changing… The message has already passed to the rest of the world; they know about us… they understand that we’re close to the end of days, the message has already gone… so having our stand in the street is enough; we don’t need to go door-to-door as much.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

The doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is changing. They don’t go from door-to-door so much now. Instead, they have a stand outside a supermarket or in a busy street. Like I said, it’s not a religion with ego. They understand that things are changing. The message has already passed to the rest of the world; they know about us and our message. If you visit JW.org, have you seen how many languages its translated into? There are so many! They are so proud of that. It’s even in the Romani language. There is no other religion in the world that tries that much to pass on the message. Now they understand that we’re close to the end of days, the message has already gone, and things are happening more digitally these days, so having our stand in the street is enough; we don’t need to go door-to-door as much. 

What happens when someone wants to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

“When somebody is disfellowshipped, they’re not a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses any more… people will no longer socialise with them; they won’t talk to them any more, even if they pass each other in the street. They do this to try and force them to return, to show them what they’ve done is wrong.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

There are two cases when somebody would leave the religion: one is that you’re baptised and you’ve done something like fornication, drugs, murder, theft or something. If you kept doing those things, and you didn’t show signs of regret and the elders found out, you would have a talk with them. They would ask if you feel regret for that stuff; they will see how you feel and they can tell if someone is ok with their actions or not.

But the other case is where someone goes to the elders and he already knows what he wants, and says “guys, I don’t want to be here anymore”, for whatever reason. In both cases, the consequences are the same; he is “disfellowshipped”. He is still allowed to go to the church if he wants, but the other Jehovah’s Witnesses will not talk to him, except the elders if they want to see if he’s changed his mind. In my experience, it’s more common to see the first one: that someone has done something that goes against the principles of the religion. Usually it’s fornication. 

When somebody is disfellowshipped, they’re not a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses any more. What that means is people will no longer socialise with them; they won’t talk to them any more, even if they pass each other in the street. They do this to try and force them to return, to show them what they’ve done is wrong. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do accept people back, but when you go to talk to the elders and say you want to come back, it’s not just “I want to come back.” You have to show them that you know what you did went against what the Bible says, and that you understand that was wrong, and that you want to move on. Then they will welcome you back, and there is a lot of happiness when somebody comes back.

What is the best thing about being a Jehovah’s Witness?

“…you are always the few among the many. You feel connected to these people, and they will do everything for each other… It’s like a family. You have family everywhere. And that’s an amazing feeling.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

If you went to China, would there be a lot of English people there? No. If you found 100 English people living there once you got there, how would you feel about them just by hearing their accent? You would feel connected somehow. This is how it is with Jehovah’s Witnesses, because you are always the few among the many. You feel connected to these people, and they will do everything for each other.

We are here in Georgia now, and I could go on JW.org and find on GPS where the nearest congregation is, go there and knock on the door, and instantly I will have brothers here. I’ve known you for 7 days, and all the effort I’ve put in to getting to know you… with them it happens in one second. Suddenly, you click. I don’t need couchsurfing with them, I can be taken straight to their houses and they will get me food and everything I need; I did that in Australia. When I arrived in Sydney, I tried to find a congregation there (we actually call it a ‘Congregation’ or a ‘Kingdom Hall’, not a ‘church’), and straight away they welcomed me. Even in small towns in Queensland I found one. It’s like a family. You have family everywhere. And that’s an amazing feeling.

When I was living in Australia and working in a hostel, I felt that the woman and her husband that were working there were different from the others, and one day she asked me where I was from and about my religion. She told me she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and I gave her a hug. I said “I am as well.” You kind of feel it… you feel connected to each other.

What is the worst thing about being a Jehovah’s Witness?

There are restrictions on trusting your own logic, which I think is very important to grow as a full, mature human… for example, do I really believe in God? Or have they forced me to? You can question yourself about those things, and maybe you’ll get an answer or maybe you won’t, but having the right to ask these questions is kind of forbidden in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

Restrictions. The restrictions of free will. There are restrictions on trusting your own logic, which I think is very important to grow as a full, mature human. So, for example, do I really believe in God? Or have they forced me to? You can question yourself about those things, and maybe you’ll get an answer or maybe you won’t, but having the right to ask these questions is kind of forbidden in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They guide you so that you don’t slide that way. If you slide in that direction, you feel so guilty.

The guilt you feel when you think differently… like with fornication; the Bible says people should only have sex after marriage. But then in the Bible you see all these kings of Israel who were protected by God, who had so many wives. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! He was the wisest man of Israel. And the Jehovah’s Witnesses say “ok, the Israelis had such a hard task, so God was patient with them. And the message of Christ wasn’t as easy to understand.”

So if you go 2,000 years back to Christ, or 1,500 years back to Israel, they had such a tough time back then that God went easy on them. But if you come to our days, there is so much porn and everything, but we don’t have such a tough time, so I’m only allowed one wife, and God will be disappointed with me if I have sex before marriage. That’s not fair!

Sex has become so important in our lives nowadays. If you decide to get married to someone without having sex with them, how do you know that that person will fulfil you? You can’t answer that. We’re living in an era where people have a lot: materialism. But if you go back 60 years to WWII, or the years when food was a priority to survive, I don’t think people worried as much about sex. But living in the West now, when we have enough food, we want jobs that we will like, we want to save money, sex becomes very important. So I’m not blaming the Bible for saying that stuff, but I think it’s very difficult in our era. 

If you keep asking questions like that which can’t be answered, it might be a problem. The elders have these questions themselves. I mean, imagine yourself as an elder who is gay, and me all the time coming to you poking you with questions about it. You know you’re different, but you cannot accept it, and I come to you asking “is it ok to for me be gay?” and stuff like that. You would get p*ssed off with that. I had a problem when it came to asking questions; I am a very open person, and so I ask questions that p*ss off some of the elders. 

NOTE: Giorgi mentioned this because, while he holds more progressive views on the matter, most Jehovah’s Witnesses are of the opinion that homosexuality goes against the bible, a fact that is reflected on the JW website. The page “Is Homosexuality Wrong?” displays a passage from the Bible that says “everyone must exercise self-restraint when it comes to urges to engage in conduct that displeases God.”


Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses

A Jehovah’s Witness church is called a “Kingdom Hall”, not a “church”.


Can your parents act as “elders”?

“My father tried to do that at first. But I was digging so much that he couldn’t keep up with me. My questions went over his head… he was not a doubter; he didn’t have it in his blood… He was disappointed, and he sent me to the elders.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

My father tried to do that at first. But I was digging so much that he couldn’t keep up with me. My questions went over his head. He was a kid who at 19-years-old went into life so quickly, having kids and even going to jail because he wouldn’t join the army. So he was not a doubter; he didn’t have it in his blood. I doubt everything. So the more doubts you have, the more difficult it is to answer your questions. So after I was 16, he couldn’t answer my questions anymore. He was disappointed, and he sent me to the elders.

NOTE: The principles of the Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid them from joining the military, meaning that many have faced prison time in countries where military service is mandatory.

Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses allow blood transfusions?

“…if I had an accident, and I had lost most of my blood, there is no blood substitute that would do the job and save me; I would need actual blood to survive. If it was life or death, and you asked me right now, ‘would I take the blood transfusion?’ I cannot answer that question.”

See Giorgos' Full Answer

This is a self-made position. You have to decide for yourself and for your kid if they are under 18-years-old. When somebody has an accident or is very sick, and has a suggestion from a doctor to have a blood transfusion… first of all, Jehovah’s Witnesses always carry a card on them that says “no blood”, and then your signature and a statement saying “if you do give me blood without my permission, there will be legal consequences”. So they are so strict about it. You have the right under international law to not have blood. It’s very important to them. There is something in the Bible that says blood shouldn’t be used for any purpose, because it is something given from God. It is holy.

Even when eating an animal, it has to be bled in a special way; it is hung upside down, and its throat is cut so all of the blood will go off of the body. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses have never hunted animals, because the blood clots in the body. It’s actually similar to the Jewish way of slaughtering animals. So if it was so important for the blood of the animal not to be used, then the same should be true for humans.

If you can skip the transfusion, the doctors might suggest having plasma or something instead. If they have an accident, that’s what the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. There is a whole council. If I was injured right now here in Georgia, there would be a phone call to my Dad, and the council will come to me and say this and that, and will advise me, but the decision is still on me. 

But my grandfather died because he had haemorrhoids. He lost a lot of blood after an infection, and wouldn’t accept a transfusion and he died. My mother also almost died when she had a problem with her pancreas, but she denied blood. She was told she needed it, and she was even high on the hospital drugs when she said no. I remember, the council was there, and the doctors went crazy, shouting at them “what are you doing?! You’re crazy, you’re killing people!”

But the question now, the logical question, is that if I had an accident, and I had lost most of my blood, there is no blood substitute that will do the job and save me; I would need actual blood to survive. if it was life or death, and you asked me right now, ‘would I take the blood transfusion?’ I cannot answer that question. 

When it comes to me, that’s the thing, some things never change. They are like drops in your heart since you were a kid, and this colour that the drops put in your heart never truly goes away. My logic tells me “George, live your life, you have one life, do it!” But I still cannot say if I would take a blood transfusion or not. 

How do you balance the two sides of you: the logical side and the boy who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness?

It takes a lot of your energyMaybe I haven’t balanced it yet… for people like me, it’s very difficult. The more you read the Bible, the more you prove to yourself that it’s right. But the more you read the Bible as well, the more doubts you have… It’s like a war between the two… Since I stopped reading the Bible as much, I have felt more calm.”

See Giorgos' Full Reccomendation

It takes a lot of your energy. It took enough energy for me to decide on my career and travelling in life, to decide my priorities. Maybe I haven’t balanced it yet. For somebody who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and he follows that path, it’s a pretty simple life. He’s gonna say “I don’t need to study in this world, I need to be humble, find a wife who follows God and try to be the best I can be”. That’s their balance. They have no doubts. But for people like me, it’s very difficult.

The more you read the Bible, the more you prove to yourself that it’s right. But the more you read the Bible as well, the more doubts you have. It’s like two things happening at the same time. It encourages you to follow the Bible, but you have doubts at the same time. It’s like a war between the two. It’s yin and yang. Since I stopped reading the Bible as much, I have felt more calm. Going to Australia was nice, because nobody cares about religion there. In the Anglo-Saxon world, nobody cares about religion in the cities. Instead I just had to worry about getting a job. 

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Attempting to cycle from Tromsø in Northern Norway to Baku, Azerbaijan while interviewing locals en route. Despite my chequered history with bikes, here’s to me returning home with an intact facial structure and at least as many body parts as I left with.

One Comment

  • Miriam Ritter

    I really enjoyed this article! I realized that despite the fact that we’ve all heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses (whether they’ve come directly to our doors or we’re just familiar with the name of the organization) we don’t really know what they’re about. Thinking about it, that actually isn’t fair to any group or organization, because ignorance just causes us to raise judgment without really knowing their intentions. I’m so glad I read this; it is such a well-written and necessary article.

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