Sunday, March 28, 2021

Did Russell "Dabble" in Heathen Religions?

The claim is spreading that Brother Russell at one time "dabbled in Eastern religions." 

Below we present some links to some online who made this claim (often among many other misrepresentations of Brother Russell):

Douglas Beaumont * Tim Challies * Bob Faulkner

Despite claims otherwise, technically Eastern religions includes Christianity and the Hebrew religion, since both originate from the Middle East. The exclusion of these from being thought of as Eastern religions is based on traditional concept that would separate Christianity as coming from the what is often called the "Middle East." We assume, however, that what is meant by "Eastern religions" are heathen Eastern religions, not including Christianity or the Hebrew religion.

Nevertheless, Did Russell 'dabble in many heathen religions?' The word "dabble" means:

Definition of dabble

transitive verb
: to wet by splashing or by little dips or strokes : SPATTER

intransitive verb
1  a : to paddle, splash, or play in or as if in water
   b : to reach with the bill to the bottom of shallow water in order to obtain food
2 : to work or involve oneself superficially or intermittently especially in a secondary activity or interest
        dabbles in art -- Merriam Webster


If you dabble in something, you take part in it but not very seriously. -- Collins

The latter definition suggests some kind of active participation in. We don't believe that "dabbled" would be the correct word to use regarding Russell. As best as we can determine, Russell himself never stated that he "dabbled" or that he participated in eastern religions. What he did say was:

Thinking that we had already examined the Bible sufficiently, we turned our attention to heathen religions, only to find them less rational in some respects, though less fiendish, than our own creeds. Evidently the most intelligent peoples have been the most thoroughly seduced by Satan and his doctrines of demons, into believing the most horrible things respecting the Creator and His purposes toward His human creatures. -- Watch Tower, December 15, 1914, page 377.

And he said:

So that even when I had thrown away my Bible, when I did not know its value, I got to looking for a Bible somewhere and I searched amongst all the heathen religions to see if I could find one any better than the one I had thrown away, and I found nothing nearly as rational, nearly as reasonable, as the Bible when I understood it. -- What Pastor Russell Said, Q197:1.


Brought up a Presbyterian, and indoctrinated from the Catechism, and being naturally of an inquiring mind, I fell a ready prey to the logic of infidelity as soon as I began to think for myself. But that which at first threatened to be the utter shipwreck of faith in God and the Bible, was, under God's providence, overruled for good, and merely wrecked my confidence in human creeds and systems of misinterpretation of the Bible. -- Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 229.

In other words, since -- at that time -- Russell believed what the creeds taught was actually what the Bible taught, he temporarily lost confidence in the Bible, and examined other religions, but found them unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, Brother Russell did evidently for a brief time examine various heathen religions, but found them wanting. However, we believe that to use the word "dabble" is very misleading, as it leaves the impression that he did more than just examine and reject those religions. Indeed, we suspect that this word was chosen for the purpose to make it appear that Russell had adopted heathen doctrines and/or practices.

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