The Watchtower organization strongly discourages association with non-members.1 Frequently cited in support of this policy is 1 Cor 15:33, which in the Watchtower bible reads: "Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits." In reality, what this means for Watchtower members is no social contact with non-members; just the bare minimum interaction that is unavoidable in day-to-day life (at work, school, etc), and even this is tightly regulated. Non-Witness relatives are sometimes shown a bit more compassion, but in my own experience growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, I rarely saw any of my non-Witness relatives for the sole reason that they were "worldly" (Watchtower term for a non-member).
Even more rigid is the policy toward individuals who have left the Watchtower religion. Former members, including those who have left of their own accord and those who have been "disfellowshipped" (excommunicated) for breaking one of the Society's rules, are not even to be greeted on the street.2 The Watchtower shunning policy even applies to one's own relatives who leave the organization, including immediate family members.3
But even this inhumane treatment pales in comparison to the hatred that Watchtower leaders reserve for those who conscientiously leave the Watchtower organization over doctrinal or church policy issues. These ones are labelled "apostates" and are constantly vilified in Watchtower publications:
These apostates 'have gone out from us because they were not of our sort.' (1 John 2:18, 19) Hence, they no longer have fellowship with loyal anointed witnesses of Jehovah and their companions, and therefore these self-seeking heretics have no "sharing" with the Father and the Son, no matter how much they may boast of having intimacy with God and Christ. Instead, they are in spiritual darkness. (1 John 1:3, 6) Lovers of light and truth must take a firm stand against these promoters of false teaching. In no way do loyal witnesses of Jehovah want to be accomplices in the "wicked deeds" of such unfaithful persons by supporting their ungodly words and activities in any manner. –The Watchtower, April 1, 1983, page 24.
In just one short paragraph - five sentences, in fact - these former members are slandered as:
4. having no sharing with the Father and the Son
6. in spiritual darkness
7. against lovers of light and truth
8. promoters of false teaching
9. committing wicked deeds
10. unfaithful persons
11. having ungodly words and activities
Actually, this is quite tame, comparatively. Consider the following Watchtower propaganda for a more complete representation of the Jehovah's Witness view of those who conscientiously reject Watchtower doctrine:
If we analyze these warnings given by Jesus and Paul, the following identifying features of typical apostates emerge: (1) Deviation from the truth (2) Twisted, empty speech (3) Efforts to subvert the faith of some and draw away disciples after themselves (4) Hypocrisy ('wolves in sheep's covering') (5) Recognizable by their fruits; they 'advance to more and more ungodliness' –The Watchtower, August 1, 1980, page 18.
Because apostates "originate with the world" and have its wicked spirit, "they speak what proceeds from the world and the world listens to them." Since we have Jehovah's spirit, we can detect the unspiritual nature of their "inspired expressions" and therefore we reject them. –The Watchtower, July 15, 1986, page 20.
Some apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovah's organization and actively try to hinder its work. ... True Christians share Jehovah's feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they "feel a loathing" toward those who have made themselves God's enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance. –The Watchtower, October 1, 1993, page 19.
But persecutors, apostates, and other disrespectful opposers will be compelled to 'bow down'-acknowledging in chagrin that Jehovah's Witnesses do indeed represent God's organization. –The Watchtower, March 1, 1985, page 16.
Is it not true that those who have gone out from us over the years because "they were not of our sort," and who try to induce others to follow the same life-imperiling course, have cut themselves off from the source of solid spiritual food and refreshing spiritual waters? (1 John 2:19) And these senseless ones, far from being generous and openhanded toward those of mankind who hunger and thirst after righteousness, do not see any urgent need for an organized preaching work in our time. They would allow each one to be guided by his own private reading and interpretation of the Bible... But the senseless opposers are not interested in the real welfare of those seeking the truth. –The Watchtower, May 15, 1984, page 18.
Thus the one who doubts to the point of becoming an apostate sets himself up as a judge. He thinks he knows better than his fellow Christians, better also than the [Watchtower Society] through whom he has learned the best part, if not all that he knows about Jehovah God and his purposes. He develops a spirit of independence, and becomes "proud in heart . . . something detestable to Jehovah." (Prov. 16:5) Some apostates even think they know better than God... –The Watchtower, August 1, 1980, page 19-20.
After having yielded to such works of the flesh as "enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects," apostates often fall victim to other fleshly works such as "drunken bouts," "loose conduct" and "fornication." –The Watchtower, August 1, 1980, page 20.
The obligation to hate lawlessness also applies to all activity by apostates. Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: "Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies. –The Watchtower, July 15, 1992, page 12.
May we never be like those modern-day apostates who, rather than give a public witness, prefer to slander their brothers and to fall back into the ways of the world-antitypical Egypt. –The Watchtower, December 15, 1986, page 12.
Our safety lies in avoiding apostate propaganda as though it were poison, which in fact it is. –The Watchtower, July 15, 1992, page 13.
Love 'believes and hopes all things' found in God's Word and moves us to appreciate the spiritual food provided by the [Watchtower Society], instead of listening to the slanderous statements of lying apostates. –The Watchtower, October 15, 1989, page 19.
Apostates often appeal to the ego, claiming that we have been deprived of our freedoms, including the freedom to interpret the Bible for ourselves. ... True, such smooth talkers may look outwardly clean in a physical and moral way. But inside they are spiritually unclean, having given in to prideful, independent thinking. –The Watchtower, November 1, 1987, page 19-20.
Like gangrene, apostate reasoning is nothing but quick-spreading spiritual death. –The Watchtower, March 15, 1986, page 15.
Therefore, resolve in your heart that you will never even touch the poison that apostates want you to sip. –The Watchtower, March 15, 1986, page 20.
Apostates who hate former associates in Jehovah's service no longer have such fellowship with God and Christ. –The Watchtower, July 15, 1986, page 10.
As loyal servants of Jehovah, why would we even want to peek at the propaganda put out by these rejecters of Jehovah's table who now verbally beat those who are helping us take in "healthful words"? –The Watchtower, July 1, 1994, page 12.
From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude. ... They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. –The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, page 28-29.
What would you expect from the table of demons? And while the apostates may also present certain facts, these are usually taken out of context with the goal of drawing others away from the table of Jehovah. –The Watchtower, July 1, 1994, page 12.
Why are those who disagree with the teachings of the Watchtower Society treated so differently than other non-members (or ex-members)? It would seem ironic that an individual who, even by Watchtower admission, advocates reading the Bible above any other material and professes submission to God and to Jesus Christ as the head of the Christian congregation would become the chief enemy of the Watchtower Society, the supposed "true Christian congregation".
Watchtower leaders unwittingly provide the answer to this question themselves. Notice the following quotation from another Watchtower publication:
Some people insult those who disagree with them by questioning character or motives instead of focusing on the facts. Name-calling slaps a negative, easy-to-remember label onto a person, a group, or an idea. The name-caller hopes that the label will stick. If people reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative label instead of weighing the evidence for themselves, the name-caller's strategy has worked. –Awake!, June 22, 2000 page 6.
This quote comes from an Awake! magazine in an article on propaganda. In this same article, the Watchtower Society even provides a sample of such propaganda tactics. Notice:
Certainly, the handiest trick of the propagandist is the use of outright lies. Consider, for example, the lies that Martin Luther wrote in 1543 about the Jews in Europe: "They have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children ... They are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil who sting and work harm." –Awake!, June 22, 2000 page 6.
"They are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil who sting and work harm." Sound familiar?
One cannot walk with God while running in association with those of the wicked and sick society that approves of everything that God abhors. ... Some in the congregation may be inclined to invite worldly acquaintances and unbelieving relatives who have no interest in the truth to social gatherings, thinking that this will encourage them to accept the truth. However, is this wise and in harmony with the Scriptures? We have been counseled to be cautious in our dealings with men of the nations, unbelievers, and ordinary persons. ... Why should we have unnecessary social contact with people who still pursue worldly ways and who have not become worshipers of Jehovah? ... They fail to appreciate that attendance at social gatherings with worldly, unprincipled people can weaken their faith and corrupt them. –Our Kingdom Ministry, June 1989, page 1-2.
We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a school friend, a workmate, or a business associate. We may reason, 'He respects the Witnesses, he leads a clean life, and we do talk about the truth occasionally.' Yet, the experience of others proves that in time we may even find ourselves preferring such worldly company to that of a spiritual brother or sister. –The Watchtower, February 15, 1994, page 24.
2. Jehovah's Witnesses are required to shun persons who voluntarily leave the organization, as well as those who are excommunicated, even as far as not saying a greeting should they pass on the street:
...occasionally a Witness on his own initiative will decide to leave the [Watchtower organization]. ... They then will adhere to the inspired injunction 'not to receive such a one into their homes or say a greeting to him so as not to become sharers in his wicked works.' –The Watchtower, July 1, 1984, page 31.
According to the Watchtower Society, "rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses" is "appropriately" considered tantamount to sinning:
Persons who make themselves 'not of our sort' by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing. –The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, page 23.
...Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled. ... What would the children and households of Korah, Dathan and Abiram do? Would they put loyalty to family ahead of loyalty to Jehovah and his congregation? Most of those closely related to the rebels put family before God. Jehovah executed these relatives along with the rebels. ... Great care needs to be exercised that a person's situation as a disfellowshiped sinner is neither overlooked nor minimized. As the sons of Korah well demonstrated, our chief loyalty must be to Jehovah and his theocratic arrangement. –The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, page 26-30.
It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum... Anyone who is feeling the sadness and pain that the disfellowshipped relative has thus caused may find comfort and be encouraged by the example set by some of Korah's relatives. –The Watchtower, April 15, 1988, page 26.
Notice also that it's the person on the receiving end of the shunning that is blamed for the shunner's "sadness and pain". The person dealing out the inhumane treatment is taught to feel blameless.