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Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians who believe that the Bible is God's word and that Jesus is their Savior. This Christian denomination dates back to the late 19th century. Charles Taze Russel is credited with organizing the first Bible study groups that later gave origin to the Jehovah's Witness sect; these groups focused on Bible prophecy and the second coming of Christ. This second coming is said to have happened invisibly in 1914 — a date that was originally thought to mark the end of the world or Armageddon.
Their name comes from the Bible, the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43, Verses 10 and 11. The meaning behind the name is rather clear. It indicates that they bear witness to Jehovah — Jehovah being the personal name of God.
There are about 16.6 million Jehovah's Witnesses around the world, with only three countries (US, Brazil, and Mexico) holding a population of over half a million. Of that number, approximately 6.7 million are involved in active preaching and are part of the official statistic count.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe in a supreme God — a spirit which has a body, but not a human body. Jesus is the Lord and Savior but He is not a part of God. They do not believe in the Trinity — the father, son and holy spirit — as, for example, Catholics do. Rather, Jesus is separate from God and was God's servant on Earth. Jesus is also said to have been given an exalted status in heaven to a higher level than angels. Because Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus is not God, and because they believe that prayer is a form of worship and that one must not worship false gods, they pray to God, not Jesus.
People in this belief system believe that after the end of the world, which is imminent, 144,000 people will get a chance to go to heaven. The rest will have a chance to be resurrected and live on a permanent paradise on Earth, as long as they are virtuous in life. Those judged unrighteous will cease to exist. They do not believe in a remaining soul after death.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe all other religions to be false, and are deeply involved in preaching as a way to impart the hope of resurrection to humanity. Politics is not an important part of life, as they believe governments will also be destroyed imminently. As a consequence, thy rarely vote, and they do not take part in anything that has to do with national politics, including the singing of the national anthem or saluting the flag. They also do not celebrate birthdays or Christmas, and most avoid Thanksgiving, which they consider to be a Pagan holiday. Weddings and funerals are observed, and celebrating anniversaries is not forbidden.
Jehovah's Witnesses tend to be conservative. Homosexuality, premarital sex, and abortion are considered sins. For many, gambling and excessive drinking are prohibited, though some choose to drink in moderation. They do not accept blood transfusions, even if it means death. However, more and more hospitals are now using bloodless techniques in surgery, often crediting Jehovah's Witnesses as their push to research alternatives.