Origin of Halloween

Origin of Halloween

As our society rejects God and the Bible, people grab onto substitutes for the Christian faith. Sometimes those substitutes can be dangerous and certainly foolish. We see an increase in this activity around Halloween. Decorating with jack-o-lanterns and putting on costumes, and even trick or treating can be fun as long as it doesn’t move into witchcraft or a destructive game. However, it is important that we know something about the origin of Halloween and instruct our children about what is real and what is fantasy.

The origin of Halloween and most of its customs can be traced to an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end.” When the Roman Empire took over Celtic land, they added their traditions to Samhain and the day became known as “All Hallows Day.” Later the Catholic Church designated November 1 as All Saints Day in honor of Catholic saints. People costumed as angels and saints and paraded through the villages. Since November 1 was once called All Hallows Day, October 31 became known as All Hallows Eve, which was shortened to “Halloween”.

In the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were called witches from the Anglo-Saxon word wicce or wise one. Superstitious people believed that these women flew out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorized people with magical deeds. Jack-o-lanterns and costumes were the rage during Samhain, all designed to scare off evil spirits.

Even bobbing for apples had a religious connection. Around November 1, the Roman celebrated a festival for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards. The Romans believed that the first person to catch a bobbing apple with their teeth would be the first to marry in the new year. People believed that the shape of the peel thrown on the ground would be the first initial of the peeler’s true love.

You may think all of this is ancient, silly nonsense, but people believed it. In today’s world, people grab at almost anything looking for something better than what they have in this life. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life is serious, and Christ has given us the key to having an abundant life. Superstition and tradition may make grandiose promises, but the teachings of Christ work.

You can have fun with the fall tradition and use the origin of Halloween as a teaching opportunity.
Above all, follow Christ for the best in this life and the life to come.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Fall and Winter 2020, pages 14-15.

Ghosts Are Not Real

Ghosts Are Not Real

As we approach Halloween in America, some people ask, “Are ghosts real?” No, ghosts are not real, and there are natural explanations for the stories about ghosts.

The fall 2020 issue of Popular Science (pages 78-87) carried an article by Jake Bittle titled, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” The article explains some famous encounters with Ghosts throughout history starting in 1500 B.C. and including the Amityville haunting in the 1970s. Bittle points out that some people WANT to believe in ghosts and will interpret anything they don’t understand as the action of a ghost.

Those of us who have spent many nights sleeping on the ground have had the experience of hearing sounds in the dark that we cannot identify. When I was in the army, I spent much of my sleep time awake wondering whether the sound I heard came from a human or a natural object or animal–or my imagination. In ancient times, it could be essential to identify a sound you didn’t recognize so that you could avoid being eaten.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting of paranormal experts on the Queen Mary, a ship that some say is haunted. Our guide repeatedly saw ghosts and tried to convince us that they were real. In every case, there were natural explanations for what our guide saw or heard. Nobody in our group saw anything that could be called a ghost.

As technology has advanced, there have been many new ways to produce effects that people could interpret as ghosts. There also have been studies relating ghost sightings to drug use or mental illness. I have friends who had all kinds of ghost experiences when they were using LSD. In those cases, ghosts are not real, even though they seem real.

There is no biblical support for ghosts. Saul’s experience with the witch of Endor was a miraculous act of God that terrorized the witch ( See 1 Samuel 28:5-19). When people reject God, as Saul did, they are desperate to find spiritual guidance of some kind, and they often seek help from ghosts

There is no support for the existence of ghosts or their interaction with humans. In Mark 6:49, when Jesus came walking on the water, the disciples “SUPPOSED it had been a spirit,” but that is the only reference to ghosts in the New Testament.

God has promised us that we “will not be tempted above that which you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Bible tells us that we can find truth in God’s word and by looking at the world God has made (Romans 1:19– 20). We need to avoid wild stories and things like Ouija boards when making life decisions because they are products of human fantasy. Ghosts are not real.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Refusing to Use Vaccines is Bad Science

Refusing to Use Vaccines is Bad Science

Many years ago, the daughter of a friend of mine had a severe reaction to a vaccination that left her brain-damaged and physically incapacitated. Many of the family’s friends refused to have their children vaccinated because of this. Several of the children contracted diseases that vaccines have could have prevented. In 1998 there was great concern about whether the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine produced autism. Now with the drive to create a COVID-19 vaccine, people are saying they will refuse to use it. Refusing to use vaccines is bad science.

Many people who oppose vaccinations do so by saying that God designed the human body, and adding materials such as vaccines suggests that God’s work is not adequate. If we carry that idea to its logical conclusion, you would never use an antibiotic or any immune therapy. Parents have even refused to give insulin to a diabetic child with tragic results.

The starting point of rejecting vaccinations was a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He claimed to prove that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine had caused autism in children. Wakefield managed to get his research into a peer-reviewed medical journal. He appeared before congress and did a 60 Minutes TV show as well as several British TV shows. It turned out the Wakefield’s claimed study was a scam.

Special interests had paid Wakefield a large amount of money to find evidence they could use in a suit against vaccine manufacturers. The claimed autism evidence was faked. The problem was that the medical community did not follow scientific rules in analyzing Wakefield’s claims. Wakefield was stripped of his medical license because his research did not follow scientific methods and used none of the required safeguards for research of this kind.

Refusing to use vaccines is bad science. Vaccines stimulate the body to produce an immune response to defeat a selected virus. There is no substitute for what the body has built into it. Most of us take an aspirin or a vitamin pill to stimulate the body to solve a perceived problem. My old doctor used to say he never cured anyone of anything. He simply found ways to make the body solve a problem itself.

I have had a severe reaction to bee stings and hay fever reactions to alfalfa. I can take medications to stop those reactions, and without those medications, a bee could kill me. When I was a child, I had severe reactions to sulfa drugs, which threatened my life on one occasion. Any of us can react to a medication or a natural substance, and sometimes this reaction can kill us. My friends eventually lost their child to the reaction she had to the vaccine. It was a tragedy and brought great pain to them. Such an incident is rare, but it does happen.

We raised an adopted child whose biological mother had measles during her pregnancy. He is mentally challenged, blind from cerebral palsy, and wheelchair-bound. If his mother had taken the vaccine that killed my friend’s child, my son Tim would have had none of his problems. Refusing to use vaccines is bad science, and it can have dire consequences. I don’t know all the answers, but God has allowed us to have medical tools, and refusing to use them is not a solution.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science Deception, and the War on Vaccines by Brian Deer, Johns Hopkins Press.

How We Use Our Money

How We Use Our Money - $32-million To buy a T. rex fossil?

One of the interesting things going on in the world today is how we use our money. The sale of a T. rex fossil is one example. The skeleton of a massive dinosaur can bring huge profits to the owner. Recently a 13-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as “Stan” was sold at Christie’s Auction House for $32,000,000. Most of us would wonder why anyone would spend that kind of money on a fossil? Sarah Rose Sharp gave a possible answer in Hyperallergic.com:

“And honestly, can we find a more contemporary symbol than a tyrant king who stomps on all other living things with no regard for propriety, before witnessing the extinction of his species based on natural science beyond his control?”

Daily we see reports of leaders in politics, media, and technology raking in vast amounts of money no matter who gets hurt in the process. Jesus dealt with this mindset in His day. The parable Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 is a picture of what is happening today. We should heed His follow-up teaching in verses 22-34. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 tell us what we should hold as important. Luke 18:10-14 demonstrates the attitude we should have.

The sale of a dinosaur fossil for massive amounts of money is just one more illustration of how we use our money and where we place our priorities.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Life from Non-life by Chance

Life from Non-life by Chance - DNA Molecule

Let’s consider the possibility of life from non-life by chance. The simplest living organism is an anaerobic bacterium known as Pelagibacter ubique, which was first isolated by scientists in 2002. Anaerobic means that it does not need oxygen to survive.

Anaerobic bacteria are much simpler than aerobic bacteria, which do require oxygen. This bacterium lives in the lakes and oceans of the world. In 2005, scientists sequenced (decoded) the genome (genetic material, DNA) of P. ubique. They found it to be the smallest genome with the theoretical minimum of information needed to exist as an independent life.

P. ubique has 1,308,759 base pairs, which are pairs of the essential biological compounds that are held together by hydrogen bonds to form the DNA molecule which contains the “blueprint” for each living organism. Each of the components of the base pairs, called nucleobases, are complex biological compounds containing nitrogen and other elements.

There are four nucleobases in DNA, and they are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. They are typically abbreviated A, G, C, and T. The DNA molecule is present in every cell of every living organism, and the arrangement of those nucleobases describes the basic features of the organism.

We have vastly oversimplified this explanation, but I think you can see our point. Let’s go back to those 1.3 million base pairs in the simplest living organism. What do you think is the possibility of all the essential elements coming together to form the compounds and molecular structures to create the simplest form of life from non-life by chance with no guiding Intelligence? We have one word for it. IMPOSSIBLE!

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Abortions in the United States

Abortions in the United States

The Week Magazine (October 23, 2020, page 11) had some interesting data on abortions in the United States. Here are the abortion rates per 1000 women ages 15-44 in some of the states:

Arkansas 6.2
Oklahoma 6.2
Alabama 8.3
Mississippi 8.6
California 17.3
New York 27.4
New Jersey 28.2

Middlebury College in Vermont conducted the study of abortions in the United States. If the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, the national reduction in abortions would be 12.8%, and 90% of the American abortion industry would remain intact.

The main point of all this is that laws and court rulings cannot control people’s moral choices. If we are to stop infanticide in America, it will have to be done by changing the thinking of our population. The question remains as to whether a woman’s personal rights supersede the personal rights of a child.

This reminds me of the story of a man who came to the United States of America. He came because he heard that it was the land of the free, and you could do anything you wanted because all human rights were guaranteed. On his first day in America, he saw a man he didn’t like the looks of, so he punched him in the nose. He was arrested and brought before a judge. “I don’t understand,” the man said, “I thought America was the land of the free!” The judge said, “That it is, but your freedom ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Purple Dye and the Bible

Purple Dye and the Bible

The November/December 2020, issue of Archaeology, the journal of the Archaeological Institute of America, carried an interesting article titled “The Price of Purple.” It tells about an archaeological site known as Tel Shikmonan in northern Israel, where there is a very long history of securing purple dye for coloring textiles.

Textiles colored with purple dye were listed along with precious metals in trade and tax records indicating prestige and royal status. In Jesus’ time, Roman high officials wore distinctive purple togas. In Mark 15:17, Jesus was clothed in purple when the Romans wanted to portray Him as king of the Jews. In Luke 16:19, the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus was clothed in purple to indicate his status.

In the New Testament, we read the story of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Paul had arrived in Philippi, which was a “chief city” of that part of Macedonia. There he met Lydia, who came from Thyatira, which was a city near Philippi. Lydia was a “seller of purple” (verse 14). Verse 15 tells us that she owned a house and other people lived in the house with her. Selling purple dye was a high scale business. A woman owning a home and having a household indicated wealth and prestige in the Roman culture. Verse 40 tells us that the Church was meeting in Lydia’s house.

Skeptics have attempted to deny this account, but excavation at Tel Shikmona has strongly supported the Bible. Tel Shikmona is located on the coast at the foot of Mount Carmel near the present-day port city of Haifa, Israel. The ocean is shallow and rocky at Tel Shikmona, and there are large populations of murex snails in those waters. Liquid extracted from the hypobranchial glands of murex sea snails formed the purple dye when treated with light or oxygen. The sea snails at Tel Shikmona can produce large quantities of the purple dye that stains textiles like no other known dye. People had ground up lapis lazuli, which we rock hounds know is a blue color, but it fades and was not as unique as the murex purple.

Joseph Elgavish excavated Tel Shikmona in the 1960s and found thousands of artifacts. Later excavations convinced archaeologists that this was an industrial site focused on the purple dye industry. Roman rulers starting with Julius Caesar (46-44 BC) and continuing through Nero (AD 54 – 68) had laws to fine anyone wearing murex purple without permission. So Lydia was indeed a special woman with connections and clout with people at the top of the social structure. These facts strongly support her ability to use her status to help Paul in his work at Philippi.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fake Asteroids and Space Junk

Fake Asteroids and Space Junk
Space Junk – Exaggerated Illustration

Politicians and the media often use the word “fake” in all kinds of dubious ways. Now we can apply the word to an asteroid known as 2020 SO (Space Object). It seems that this fake asteroid is just space junk.

There has been concern among astronomers for many years about the large number of rocks in our solar system. Right now, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has almost a million identified asteroids and comets, some of which could strike the Earth and cause massive destruction. The idea is that by cataloging these objects, we can know if any are on a collision course, so we might intervene to alter the trajectory.

It turns out that at least one of the cataloged asteroids is a fake asteroid. It is actually space junk. A NASA scientist determined that it is the upper stage of a Centaur rocket that put NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander on its way to the Moon in 1966. This rocket is just under 32 feet long and 10 feet in diameter and traveling at 1500 miles per hour. Another fake asteroid has turned out to be the third stage of the Saturn five rocket, which NASA launched in 1969 during the Apollo 12 mission.

Scientists are concerned about the amount of material that humans discard. That includes plastics that clutter the oceans and provide a constant headache at landfills. Chemicals dumped into rivers and lakes have had a very destructive effect on fish and other life forms, including humans. Space is also becoming more and more cluttered with human space junk. The material left from space launches is becoming a hazard to communications satellites and even space vehicles, including the International Space Station.

The need to make full use of everything and recycle is vital to our safety and health. When a terrible disease or deadly accident occurs, many people blame God. But more and more, we see that human neglect and carelessness causes most of our problems.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

References: Associated Press report by Marcia Dunn, October 12, 2020, and space.com

Embryonic Communication and What It Means

Embryonic Communication in Yellow-Legged Gull Eggs
Yellow-legged Gull Eggs

It is well understood that unborn human babies have a great awareness of conditions outside the womb during the last several months of their development. One question that remains unanswered is how much unborn babies understand about what is going on in the outside world. Is the awareness of the outside world present in all embryos, and is there such a thing as embryonic communication?

Researchers at Spain’s University of Vigo writing in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution have an interesting report on bird embryos. While inside their eggs, they seem to perceive signals from and generate signals to the outside world. The studies involve yellow-legged gulls receiving warning signals from adult birds. Not only do the unhatched birds receive the signals, but they produce strong egg vibrations transferring the information from the adult birds to other embryos. Scientists are still studying what the unhatched birds do with this information. It may relate to when the baby birds peck their way out of the egg.

Ecologist and co-author of the study, Jose Noguera, says he is confident that this phenomenon is present in other bird species. We suggest that it is likely to be true of other forms of life. Some species have synchronous births where many young are born at the same time to reduce the efficiency of predators. Could embryonic communication control that to some extent? Are human babies aware of a pending abortion, and if so, at what stage of the pregnancy?

There are many questions involved in this field of study, and they do have relevance to today’s moral issues.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2020, page 8.

Benefits of Honey and the Bible

Benefits of Honey and the Bible

The Bible refers to the benefits of honey. In the Old Testament, the ideal place to live was “the land of milk and honey.” Proverbs 24:13 finds Solomon telling his son, “You should eat honey because it is good.” John the Baptist’s diet consisted of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). It is important to note we are talking about natural, wild honey, not the processed honey with nutrients removed that you might find in your grocery store.

Skeptics will complain that honey is just sugar. Although it does have high sugar content in its 64 calories per tablespoon, wild honey is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. The nutrients in the honey depend on where the bees gathered the nectar. The darker the color, the greater the antioxidant punch and benefits of honey. Dark honey has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for the fall and winter of 2020 has the following facts about the uses of dark, wild honey:

  1. A spoonful of honey will ease a nighttime cough and is an excellent antihistamine.
  2. A spoonful of honey at bedtime will cause a rise in insulin, which triggers a release of serotonin, which is converted to melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep.
  3. A 2001 study published by the European Journal of Medical Research revealed that a honey solution in warm water applied to itchy areas of the scalp will reduce itching and scaling. It can also reduce skin lesions and hair loss.
  4. A dressing of honey with hydrogen peroxide applied to burns, scrapes, and wounds speeds up healing.

One word of caution–the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of children under the age of 12 months not to use honey on the child. Before their first birthday, their underdeveloped immune system cannot handle impurities that can get into the honey. 

The fact that ancient biblical characters ate honey, and even locusts, as a staple in their diet, is not a foolish error. We now know that eating some insects and honey can provide a very nutritious line of food. Only recently has modern science come to understand why the Bible references to the benefits of honey make sense.

— John N. Clayton © 2020