Jehovah’s Witnesses form a relatively cohesive group, with little diversity within the tradition. As stated above, Jehovah’s Witnesses place great emphasis on being a united community through their shared beliefs, with any racial, ethnic or geographical differences eradicated. Neither is there diversity in worship, with all congregations around the world studying the same Bible passages in their midweek and weekend services. All members are expected to attend the annual Memorial, which takes place on the same day and has the same format worldwide. Members who cannot attend are now encouraged to participate via live links. It is worth quoting Chryssides at some length on this:
There is less scope for creativity than one finds in mainstream denominations, where individuals can express their spirituality in writing and in music, and where congregations decide how to organise their worship and how to introduce variations. The Watch Tower Society, by contrast, seeks a high degree of uniformity by ensuring that talks given at Kingdom Hall meetings conform to outlines transmitted by the organisation, and the Kingdom Hall Bible Study meetings elicit answers that demonstrate comprehension of the relevant Watchtower article under study, and which reinforces its ideas. There is certainly no scope for presenting alternative views or for questioning or critiquing a Watch Tower publication. (2016: 248).
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have personal choice around beliefs and practices in line with their own ‘Bible-trained conscience’. Individuals’ views might diverge on more personal matters such as whether children can participate in sports clubs or whether teenagers should attend university.
In terms of relations with other religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they should have no part in interfaith movements. They claim that they respect people’s right to choose other religions and enjoy debating religious issues with those of other faiths, but have no part in worshipping together with those of other faiths. They claim that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul discouraged interfaith, claiming that it could harm the believer’s faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses, like many other religions, teach that they are the one true Church. However they do not teach that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will enjoy everlasting life on earth. During Judgment Day (a period of 1000 years), God will resurrect both the righteous and the unrighteous – both will have the opportunity to be saved through accepting Jehovah. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves already “in the truth” (Chryssides 2016: 6) and all other religions, including “nominal Christianity” (the term for all other denominations), are part of “Babylon the Great”. Some Witnesses reject the term ‘religion’ altogether as a way to describe their own faith, reserving the term for other faith groups which are seen as human inventions. Jehovah’s Witnesses hence separate themselves from other religious groups, and from apostates (see Rules and Ethical Guidelines), in order to maintain a sense of religious purity.