Unit 731 and the Angel of Death

That Sam Harris keeps coming around, either he or his buddies, preaching that all would be ecstasy if only we could ban religion and devote the world to atheists and science. I'm not buying it and neither should you. The vilest deeds in human history have been carried out by atheists and scientists.

Admittedly, it's a challenge to rank vile deeds. There are many excellent contenders, for example Iraq, Darfor, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Malawi,  and northern  Ireland. But in our task or ranking bloodbaths we must keep in mind several contributing factors, and how their presence or absence can aid us in our ranking task. It is just as homicides can be ranked for vileness....premeditated at the top and manslaughter at the bottom.... the latter partly determined by permanent or temporary insanity, depression, post traumatic stress, medication side effects, etc, etc. And so with most slaughters worldwide we may allow for mob action hot tempers, civil war, desperation from poverty, miscommunication, ignorance, reaction to oppression, and so forth. Doesn't excuse the mayhem, of course, but it does help explain it.

There have been genocidal campaigns in which none of these softening factors are present, thus taking evil to a higher level. You might argue that the Pol Pot Cambodian [atheists] slaughter is in that camp. Certainly the German Holocaust of World War II, and its even more hideous escalation, the "medical" experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele (the Angel of Death) and associates. These are sickening to read of. Google the topic if you must.

A parallel WWII Japanese program existed, experiments with the added aim of  develping biological weapons, under the depraved oversight of Dr. Shiro Ishii. Known as Unit 731, the program was based in Mongolia. Ethnic Chinese were the primary victims, but also Koreans, Russians, ethnic Japanese and even some American POWs. In the quest for weapons, bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax and cholera was cultivated and released on the populace, and it is thought that hundreds of thousands perished from such exposure. Hundreds more suffered unspeakably from dehydration, starvation, frostbite, air pressure, animal blood transfusion, and amputation experiments, similar to Mengele's medical experiments. Enthusiasts billed it as "science untethered to morality."

Such campaigns take barbarity to a new level. Poverty plays no part, nor miscommunication, nor emotions boiling over from civil war. There is no mob action. To be sure, World War plays a part, yet these crimes take place far from the front. Quiet moments abound, during which one might stop, reflect, and turn back. Instead, with calm deliberation, perpetrators pushed ahead to commit the most ghastly deeds of all time.

Everyone knows about Nazi atrocities, but few know of the parallel Japanese deeds.  There is a reason. At the end of the war, Japanese scientists offered their knowledge and data to American victors in return for complete immunity. Americans thought it a good deal, lest such data fall into the hands of the Russians, supposedly eager to compensate for not yet having the bomb. Remember, the cold war was just beginning. While many of the German doctors were brought to justice, (excluding Mengele himself) Japanese counterparts were not. Many went on to prosperous and prestigious careers.

Daniel Barenblatt may be the world's foremost expert on Unit 731. His 2003 work A plague Upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program, published by HarperCollins, offers an unflinching account of that evil time, exhaustive yet never sensational. Reading the book requires a strong stomach. Imagine researching and writing it. Mr. Barenblatt devoted himself to doing so when he realized that, some 70 years after the war, the sordid history was still largely unknown, a result of the immunity deal. He describes himself as an extremely sensitive person who thinks something is fundamentally wrong with the world. He says ferreting out the truth put him in non-stop emotional pain.

He comes from an interesting family... one with a conscience. His father, Lloyd Barenblatt, is known to legal historians from the McCarthy era. Barenblatt v United States, (1959) argued before the Supreme Court, tested the powers of Congressional investigation in the light of the First Amendment.  By standing his ground and upholding his conscience, he substantially derailed his academic career.

Others of the family are Jehovah's Witnesses. It is through them that I first learned of the Barenblatt book, and of Unit 731.

Should these inhuman deeds be used as an indictment of science? Obviously, they should not. Science was merely the venue in this history, just as politics and religion are in others. Still, I will keep these examples up my sleeve for the next time that smug Sam Harris comes around. The most vicious offences in history have been in the name of science.


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Religion is a Snare and a Racket

Atheist Sam Harris came to town and City! newspaper welcomed him as a born-again would welcome the rapture. His visit was cover story and he apparently did not fail to promote his book. At any rate, a coworker rushed out to buy it and told me all about it the next morning, very impressed.   

Yeah, Tom, you should read what he says about religion! This guy doesn’t pull any punches! He just lays out the facts! All the wars and the hatred and the prejudice….there’s always religion behind it. Terrorists and Crusades and kamikazes….it can’t happen except for religion. You think someone would strap himself to a bomb if they didn’t tell him he would go straight to paradise? He just lays out the facts, Tom. I’m telling, you, religion is dangerous! It’s the biggest force for bloodshed that’s ever been!

Of course, this nettles me, because Jehovah’s Witnesses have said all this for years, only to elicit yawns from this same character so enamored over Sam the atheist. There’s nothing Mr. Harris says about religion that JWs weren’t saying before he was born.

Starting in 1938, the slogan Religion is a Snare and a Racket become synonymous with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words first appeared on sandwich board signs, paraded by 1000 Witnesses through London streets as part of a campaign to advertise a public address at the Royal Albert Hall. The words captured attention, much of it hostile. It’s almost trendy to badmouth religion today, and many do it, but it required real courage back then.

Yet the words were timely, and proof would come just one year later with the outbreak of World War II. The greatest slaughter in history, it was fought predominantly between nations claiming to be Christian. Religious claims proved no match for national interests. The German population, overwhelmingly Lutheran or Catholic, readily embraced Hitler’s Gestapo and Holocaust. Belt buckles of German soldiers bore the standard inscription “God is With Us.” Religion was indeed, a snare and a racket.

Since some who saw that 1938 procession took Witness marchers for atheists or communists, subsequent processions featured alternating signs bearing the words Serve Christ the King and Live. For many years, it was routine for Jehovah’s Witnesses to advertise conventions in this way.

This message against religion precedes Mr Harris by 70 years, and has the added advantage of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Is it God’s fault that religions do not represent Him faithfully? Especially when He foretold that development?

Religion that is faithful to God can be likened to a faithful wife. Religion unfaithful is likened to an adulterous wife. Religion really unfaithful, religion which ignores God’s Kingdom interests so as to curry favor with human governments, is likened to a harlot, a whore. The book of Revelation (chapter 17 and 18) describes such a woman, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have long identified it with the world empire of false religion….religion that claims faithfulness to God, yet belies that claim through it‘s conduct. Instead, that “woman” embraces every political, social, and apostate fad to come along, at the expense of the Bible’s unchanging message.

Those two chapters of Revelation also foretell that political elements, in time, will turn upon religious elements, bringing them to ruin. So the tract that JWs are right now [Oct, Nov 2006]  giving worldwide distribution, The End of False Religion is Near, is timely.

[Edit: 10/22/11 see also Enemies]


As war fever gripped WWII Germany, not everyone joined in.

“I've always admired [ninth comment] the conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses. They, virtually alone, chose to be persecuted under Hitler when simply pledging allegiance to the Third Reich offered an escape from persecution.”

If more people practiced versions of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach and practice, the Holocoust could have been prevented and genocide would scourge the world no more.            Holocaust Politics     John K Roth   (a Jewish survivor of the holocaust)


Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Wheatandweeds Defends Jehovah's Witnesses

Last year that alternative newspaper City! published a cute article (they thought) poking fun at Jehovah’s Witnesses. We weren’t mentioned by name, but the description fit us exactly. Within hours, Tom Wheatandweeds zinged back a knee-jerk response. But it wasn’t enough! He pondered the matter for a day or so and responded again, this time on a more fundamental level. City! did not publish his first letter. They did his second. They’re not bad folks over there, but they get some goofy ideas about God.

Dear City!

Normally City! displays journalistic inquisitiveness, a penchant for accuracy, and a sensitivity toward minorities. When it comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, you blithely repeat every slur and derogatory stereotype you hear. To ridicule a subject you understand is one thing. To ridicule one you don’t is beneath City! With respect, the article makes clear that your reporter doesn’t have a clue as to what we’re about. And yet, there is much about Jehovah’s Witnesses that he (she?) would admire, were he aware.

Rights of free speech and assembly that benefit groups of all stripes, including many admired by City! have been largely influenced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. To that end, 46 Supreme Court appearances over the years have resulted in 37 Constitutional precedents clarifying these rights. No other group has appeared more often before the Court. Now that we are in the Patriot Act era, City and others are nervous that basic civil rights are being redefined.  In this charged environment, Watchtower Bible v Stratton, a 2002 victory, continues a tradition of upholding our fundamental right of free speech. One would expect a journalist to celebrate, not ridicule, a group to whom he owes such a debt.

It is not difficult for bland people to get along, but such is not the case for those with strong views. Alas, the all-to-frequent pattern today is for religions to, at best, manipulate governments in an effort to impose their morality on others, and, at worst, engage in terrorist acts. Jehovah’s Witnesses do neither, and are thus an example in peaceful co-existence, even while standing for values many do not embrace. We declare, to the best of our ability, a message we believe to be true. Some people find it so attractive that they join us and adopt our style of living. But we have no desire to force others to live according to our ways. Our arena is that of ideas. We fancy ourselves neither judges nor enforcers. God can sort it all out. We don’t feel the need to.

Normally, a group representing non-violence would enjoy City!’s profoundest respect. Why is this not the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses? The premiere example of our peaceful stand under trial remains Germany during the Hitler years, during which thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the very first concentration camp prisoners, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews, and other groups. They are the only inmates who can properly be termed martyrs (as opposed to victims) in that they had power to secure their own release by signing a document renouncing their faith and pledging cooperation with the Nazi regime. Only a handful  took advantage of the opportunity. To this day, many of our people are imprisoned for the same neutral stand towards government saber-rattling. How many groups do you cover who would go so far so as not to violate conscience?

Please take these facts into account the next time your articles touch on us. We are not deserving of the ill-treatment you have dished out.


Tom Weedsandwheat


Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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The Holocaust and God's Permission of Evil

The answer the Bible provides as to why God permits suffering: does that really wash? Does it really account for God standing aside while atrocities such as the Holocaust ravage us all? Isn’t that the time for God to intervene if He’s ever going to? And wouldn’t it have been better to educate Adam regarding the consequences of rebellion, rather than see him plunge himself and all his offspring into misery?

One must remember that the stakes are high. God’s rulership is to produce everlasting life in perfect health on a paradise earth. Human rulership is producing exactly what we see today. Anyone delighted over it?

If you are the teacher and you are faced with a wiseacre student who insists he knows a better answer, who will not follow your course, who accuses you of wrong motives, and who is gathering an audience, how do you handle it? You know his answer will not work, yet the student insists. Don’t you just hand him the chalk and let him work out his dumb answer? And when his approach creates the chaos that you knew it would, do you help him out? Won’t that just prolong the misery?

(2nd listing. Chapter 11, which features the above illustration)

Imagine that you have had parents who have provided for your needs in every conceivable way and have done so from infancy. Physical, spiritual, emotional...every need and proper desire was provided for to the fullest degree. They've done nothing but show love. And along comes a stranger and tells you that your folks are lying to you, have always lied to you, and that they are trying to deprive you of what is best. And you immediately side with the stranger! What does that say about your heart? And isn't this the situation with Adam and Eve?

One must remember that Adam, the first of God’s human creation, was created perfect. While you and I may do dumb things, acknowledge them, correct and recover on the basis that we are imperfect, subject to mistakes, a perfect creature doesn’t do that. Any wrong course he chooses is deliberate. He doesn’t afterwards turn around. You don’t educate him.

And so God is extending time, soon to run out, for humans to act on their boast of self-rule.

Also, the Bible’s provision for resurrection ensures that no lasting harm is done anyone through God’s present permission of evil.

...and I have hope toward God…. that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.    Acts 24:15


Whenever one recalls rotten things that God has permitted, the Holocaust tops the list.

Thousands of German Jehovah's Witnesses were among the very first concentration camp prisoners, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews, and other groups. This because they absolutely refused allegiance to the Nazi regime, which the latter demanded. JWs are the only inmates who can properly be termed martyrs (as opposed to victims) in that they had power to secure their own release by signing a document renouncing their faith and pledging cooperation with the Nazis. Only a handful  took advantage of the opportunity.

You (and I) can lament how unjust God must be to permit such a thing. But we didn’t live through it. They did. They experienced the vilest that mankind has to offer. And the above explanation of why God permits suffering is what sustained them.


“All those who suffered persecution because of their religious or political beliefs and who were willing to accept death rather than submit deserve our great respect, such respect as is hard to express in words. Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only religion that completely refused to accede to the demands of the Hitler regime: They did not raise their hand to give the Hitler salute. They refused to swear allegiance to ‘Führer and State,’ just as they refused to perform military and labor service. And their children did not join the Hitler Youth Movement.”        Peter Straub, president of the State Parliament of Baden-Württemberg - from a speech made on the 58th aniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.


Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)