One of the lines of reasoning Jehovah's Witnesses are taught respecting 1914 being the start of the end times or last days, concerns the notion that starting in 1914 world conditions continue to worsen undisputedly on an unprecedented scale like never before in human history.
Is this true? Has society and people in general as well as world conditions been increasing worse since 1914? Does 1914 and onward prove to be the worst time in human history?
For someone unfamiliar with history, it may appear to be the case. However, let's take one slice of history – The 14th Century -- to see how bad things could be today.
The Black Death (aka Black Plague) struck the world earlier in the 14th century. That one plague alone wiped out between 40-50 percent of the entire population of Europe. For something even just equivalent to strike today, the death toll in Europe would be somewhere between 300-350 million deaths from one disease.
Some years during the 14th century were worse than others. For instance, England had a population of five or six million in 1348. Within a year Black Death killed half of them. Could you imagine in a year, Europe losing half of its population to disease?
Parents would abandon their children once they were ill and showing what was called "God's Tokens" which were red rings on the skin where the blood vessels were leaking into tissue. Imagine parents by the dozen, even hundreds abandoning and leaving their children. If the equivalent was to occur today, it would mean hundreds to thousands upon thousands of parents abandoning their sick children. Again, it wouldn't make these times worse just equal to the 14th century.
Furthermore, during the 14th century if disease didn't strike you, dying on the battlefield could be a likely result for you. The most infamous of these battles was the Hundred Years War; a war which spanned decade, upon decade, upon decade, and still continued, living up to the title it earned. More people died as a proportion of the population as a result of that war than during World War I and World War II.
In other words, the numbers of deaths reported in WW I & WW II are staggering, but compared to how many people were alive on the Earth during that time, it pales in comparison to the number of deaths due to war during the 14th century relative to the amount of people alive on the Earth then.
The 14th century was a time of turmoil, loss of confidence and an overall feeling of helplessness as the everyday person felt for the most part that God had abandoned them. There was also deep economic and social unrest. Additionally, environmentally there were drastic and perceived devastating changes. For example, during this time period in 1303, 1306 and 1307, Alpine glaciers advanced and Norse settlements were cut off, while grain cultivation ceased in Iceland.
Much more can be stated about the 14th century but we will stop here. Physically, morally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, economically and socially, the majority of people were in a dire, desperate and sad state. In fact, many call that century the worst century of human history.
Such devastation and conditions either does not exist or it does somewhat, but not affecting proportionally the amount of people and land it did back then. Our 'modern era' has not experienced anything equivalent to it.
We hear things, see things and experience things due to personal circumstance and all the technology and information available today. It's not worse, but may at times seem that way in part as a result of our limited life experience as well as other factors such as there are many more people on the planet (Both "good" and "bad") and we have communication and information on a scale unlike any other in history.
Could you imagine half of your neighbors or even a third of your neighbors dying in a year? How about a war lasting a hundred years affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people? What about social unrest and bleak economic conditions where the majority of people were suffering? Even if it did happen, it would only equal the devastation experience during the 14th Century.
Some people may feel and believe times are truly worse than when they were younger; for them individually, perhaps. Then again, as one gets older the carefree and freedom of youth leaves. Nostalgia may set in longing for a time in their personal life that was simpler and easier - Perhaps even healthier and happier. Their outlook on the world or people in general may become hard, cold or even pessimistic. One needs to look at the larger picture and overall scope of society to understand.
We're constantly learning as humans - still growing and understanding.
Are there changes in lifestyle in our modern era, including areas where doors and windows need to be locked which was not needed decades ago? Yes; it is the result of there being many more "bad" people in those areas today, but proportionately there are many more good individuals as well, when seen from a global perspective. Good people trying to do the right thing. We learn and grow as individuals and as groups of people.
As for the morality of people, for those under the impression that today’s society is the worst in human history, the Bible itself shows differently. Accounts of murder, incest, rape, killing innocent children, slavery, bestiality, and other horrendous acts and lifestyles are clearly stated; especially in the Bible books which are better known as the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, which are documented as events taking place thousands of years ago.
Here is one of the many examples that can be found - Judges 19: 16-29:
“Eventually, look! an old man coming in from his work in the field at evening, and the man was from the mountainous region of E´phra·im, and he was residing for a time in Gib´e·ah; but the men of the place were Ben´ja·mites. When he raised his eyes he got to see the man, the traveler, in the public square of the city. So the old man said: “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” In turn he said to him: “We are passing along from Beth´le·hem in Judah to the remotest parts of the mountainous region of E´phra·im. That is where I am from, but I went to Beth´le·hem in Judah; and it is to my own house that I am going, and there is nobody taking me on into the house. And there are both straw and fodder for our he-asses, and there are both bread and wine for me and your slave girl and for the attendant with your servant. There is no lack of a single thing.” However, the old man said: “May you have peace! Just let any lack of yours be upon me. Only do not stay overnight in the public square.” With that he brought him into his house and threw mash to the he-asses. Then they washed their feet and began to eat and drink.
While they were making their hearts feel good, look! the men of the city, mere good-for-nothing men, surrounded the house, shoving one another against the door; and they kept saying to the old man, the owner of the house: “Bring out the man that came into your house, that we may have intercourse with him.” At that the owner of the house went on out to them and said to them: “No, my brothers, do not do anything wrong, please, since this man has come into my house. Do not commit this disgraceful folly. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out, please, and YOU rape them and do to them what is good in YOUR eyes. But to this man YOU must not do this disgraceful, foolish thing.”
And the men did not want to listen to him. Hence the man took hold of his concubine and brought her forth to them outside; and they began to have intercourse with her, and kept on abusing her all night long until the morning, after which they sent her off at the ascending of the dawn. Then the woman came as it was turning to morning, and fell down at the entrance of the man’s house where her master was,—until daylight. Later her master rose up in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to get on his way, and, look! the woman, his concubine, fallen at the entrance of the house with her hands upon the threshold! So he said to her: “Rise up, and let us go.” But there was no one answering. At that the man took her upon the ass and rose up and went to his place. Then he entered his house and took the slaughtering knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her up according to her bones into twelve pieces and sent her into every territory of Israel.”
The above highlights the morality issue as well as provides the reader a large dose of sex and violence in very graphic terms.
Other scriptures and topics to examine are inclusive of but not exclusive to: Father-daughter incest (Genesis 19: 30-38), burning sacrifice of babies (Jeremiah 7:31), murder of family members (Genesis 4: 3-16), obtaining slaves including children (Leviticus 25:44-46), sex slavery (Exodus 21: 7-11).
There are many, many examples of things the world today sees as horrendous and would be unacceptable by the majority, but was seen as fine, acceptable, and even commonplace respecting morality thousands of years ago. As well as morality issues which some perceive as relatively recent events or changes in some, perhaps even many people they encounter and know about, but actually took place as significantly or to an even greater extent hundreds to thousands of years ago.
Really examine the quality of life today. The luxuries many people share were not even fathomable years ago. Times have not become worse, but better. We are more educated and a more tolerant society than times before. Equality and human rights are put to the forefront in many cases, and while some countries may be worse than others regarding these areas, globally, society has become better not worse.
So where does this grim look on 1914 and onward begin? We won't go into the pyramids, mathematics hopscotch and doctrines the Watchtower Society promoted or promotes at this time. What we will do is encourage the taking in of information, including understanding Dispensationalism. Jehovah's Witnesses are clearly a group engrossed in Dispensationalist theology thanks to the teachings and doctrine of the Watchtower Society.
Nonetheless, perhaps your honest evaluation of human history leads you to believe we are living in the worst of times. We are all entitled to our own opinions on the matter. More importantly, knowledge is truly power; do not be ignorant or just follow the ideas, beliefs and teachings of men because they claim something is the reality or “truth” when evidence points to the contrary. Learn about history, science, and perhaps even psychology. Know people and life better and know yourself better. It could be the best of times for you right now.