Worshiping a God-of-the-Gaps

Worshiping a God-of-the-GapsIn ancient times, people created gods to explain what they did not understand. They were worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. When the volcano blew up with power and awesomeness that exceeded their understanding, they created a volcano god to explain it. When powerful weather systems impacted their world, they invented wind gods and rain gods to explain what they experienced. We smile at their ignorance, but their attempts to appease these created deities sometimes resulted in human sacrifice and a massive waste of resources.

In modem times, we have made similar arguments when trying to explain the power of the Sun, or the majesty of everything from the cosmos to life itself by saying, “God did it.” There have even been those who have explained tragic natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, cancer, leukemia, and manic depression by attributing them to “acts of God.” The first problem that this produces is that it makes God an evil, vindictive being deliberately bringing pain and tragedy to his creation. That is not the nature of God, and it is totally inconsistent with His image.

James 1:13-14 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and desires.” If God caused the tornado that destroyed your home and killed your family, then your love for God and your trust in His care for you are going to be severely eroded. Atheists, and the media in general, tend to blame every natural disaster on God in one way or another. Then after creating a false concept of God, they reject the idea of worshiping a god-of-the-gaps based on the assumptions they made.

Humans or human stupidity cause most natural disasters. We are only beginning to understand how we bring disasters on ourselves. Cancer and leukemia are largely related to human-made carcinogens in the environment. Our injudicious use of the land surface and mismanagement of water resources are primary causes of floods. Even weather problems can be related to the way humans have used the land and what they have released into the atmosphere. Environmental extremists have caused many of us to resistant suggestions that we must address human mismanagement of resources. But there is an ever-increasing body of data that shows that many so-called “acts of God” are the products of human mismanagement. Even natural events like hurricanes and earthquakes which have beneficial effects are catastrophic because of human foolishness. Building tall structures where earthquakes are a regular event is a foolish enterprise, and constructing human habitats where hurricanes regularly strike, causes exaggerated damage.

Worshiping a god-of-the-gaps who caused all the bad things in life is going to be a worship of fear and dread. Trying to appease a god so that he will not zap people with tragedy is what caused human sacrifice and all kinds of pagan rituals in the past. In modern times, such a concept promotes fear and an exaggerated attempt to find a way to please the god for the wrong reasons. There can never be a loving father/child relationship that breeds confidence, peace, and love of life.

Atheists reading this discussion are likely to say that apologists attempting to argue for the existence of God based on design are also worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. If we point to a fantastic property of an animal that allows that animal to survive in a given environment, are we not making the same mistake? Will not someone in the future explain a natural way in which that attribute came about, thus debunking any claim that God designed it? That challenge is a good one, and in some cases, it might be valid. But the fact that we know how someone built a computer does not change the fact that it took intelligence to do it. I have frequently heard people define science as man’s attempt to figure out how God did something.

It is also important to realize that we can approach many design questions mathematically. If we can calculate the probability of an event accurately, then we can get an indication of whether chance is a valid mechanism to explain what we see. The question of design is part of a more general argument. Did the subject at hand have a beginning, or has it always been? If it had a beginning, was it caused or not caused? If it was caused, is chance a viable explanation for the cause, or is there evidence of intelligence? This logical series of choices is not worshiping a god-of-the-gaps, but following a series of logical steps leading to a reasonable conclusion.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?
How can we investigate the questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” Many go to an atheist website or read a book by an atheist to decide. A vast majority of people who attack our position on the Bible follow atheist websites. The problem here should be obvious. If a person’s religious view is that there is no God, then obviously, the Bible cannot be the word of God since God does not exist! If you tell anyone something often enough and long enough, eventually they will believe it.

The same kind of problem could come up in the opposite way if one were to read only a book on the truth of the Bible written by a Christian minister. We are not saying that you should not read books written by atheists or ministers. What we are saying is that you cannot stop there and be satisfied whether the Bible is true or false. To answer the questions like “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” by reading what people say, you need to read both viewpoints. You also have to learn how both sides answer the questions posed by people whose views conflict with theirs.

A more direct way to answer the question “Is the Bible true?” would be to explore the evidence yourself. Is the Bible accurate in its statements of a scientific nature? Are the principles of psychology used in the Bible practical and worthwhile? Is the Bible’s approach to human relations valid? Can following the principles of the Bible bring peace, harmony, unity, and positive things to human beings? The way to answer these questions is to read the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself about these issues. It can be helpful to listen to the objections of an atheist and listen to a Christian apologist respond to those objections. But, take the time to look at the evidence and ask questions yourself. Starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will show you clearly the answers to many of those questions.

Another approach worth considering is the cosmological evidence. The argument we make is very simple. We ask three questions: Was there, or was there not a beginning to the cosmos? If there was a beginning, was it caused, or was it not caused? If it was caused, what or who caused it?

The evidence for each of the steps in this logical discussion about origins comes from a variety of sources. In the first question, we can look at evidence from cosmology. The fact that the cosmos is expanding, strongly suggests that the expansion had a specific point in space and time from which it started. Any astronomy textbook will point this out. There is chemical evidence in the cosmos in terms of hydrogen, the fuel that powers the cosmos. If the universe had always existed, there would be no hydrogen left because it is the element from which all other materials are made. The power of the Sun and stars comes from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. We also see evidence from physics in the form of the laws of thermodynamics. We know that, in closed systems, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. If the cosmos had always been, it would be totally disordered because the cosmos is a closed system with no energy being added to it.

The point we are making is that evidence comes from different fields. Experts in the fields of cosmology, physics, and chemistry have written about these processes. The evidence gives predictability to the cosmos and has many practical uses in space travel and astronomy. There is a wide range of support from a variety of areas for the argument that the cosmos had a beginning, that it was caused, and that it was intelligently caused.

Being confident about your beliefs cannot be rooted in what someone else tells you or what is popular. There are always problems with any biased belief systems passed on to you by others. You should be open to new evidence even when you have formed an opinion about something. The lesson of history on matters related to faith is that new discoveries support and confirm faith in God and His word.

We do not have to be consumed by doubt and paralyzed by uncertainty. The Bible speaks confidently, and we must work to build a dynamic faith that allows us to meet the needs that we were put here to address. The questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” are probably the most important questions you will ever ask. Do the research and think!
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

This post was adapted from an article by John N. Clayton in the Does God Exist? journal. You can read the complete article HERE.

Being Timeless

Being TimelessBeing outside of time or timeless is a new concept to science. In classical physics, time is perhaps the most fundamental standard against which everything else is based. When we measure velocity, it’s basic unit is length per second or hour. Feet per second or miles per hour are familiar to most of us. When we measure acceleration, the units are meters per second squared. Newton’s Second Law defines force as mass multiplied by acceleration, so time even becomes involved in parameters that don’t directly include motion.

One of the equations that Einstein gave us which high school students like to play with is the equation for time at very high speeds. For a given frame of reference, time is defined by the equation T = T’/the square root of 1 – V^2 over C^2. In the equation, T = the time you experience. T’ is the time you would experience at rest relative to a given frame of reference. V is the speed at which you move, and C is the speed of light. Notice that as your speed reaches the speed of light, the fraction V^2/C^2 become 1, and since it is subtracted from 1, the value of the denominator becomes zero. Time ceases to exist. It becomes undefined.

If you could exceed the speed of light, the denominator would become the square root of a negative number which is said to be imaginary. Einstein gave us a similar equation for mass in which the mass is the undefined factor. Nuclear physics and quantum mechanics verify these equations.

This is an over-simplified explanation, but the point I am making is that there is physical evidence that there are dimensions beyond the three in which we exist. Being timeless is something science has begun to comprehend because these equations show that time is a variable that can be changed. The creation is far grander and far more mysterious than we can imagine.

For Christians, this is no surprise. The Bible is full of descriptions that embrace the idea that time is a created entity and that creations exist outside of time. The whole concept of there being a beginning to the cosmos in Genesis 1:1 recognizes that there was an existence before time. Proverbs 8:22-23 indicates that time was a designed and fashioned quantity. Revelation 22:13 repeats this concept. Second Timothy 1:9 refers to it, and the whole idea of eternity relies upon it.

When we reach the end of life, time ceases to exist for us. That has interesting implications. If there is no time, there is no death because death depends upon aging, and without time, nothing ages. There is no physical pain if time doesn’t exist. That’s because physical pain depends upon the time it takes for the pain signal to go from what gets hurt (like a finger) to what registers the hurt – your brain.

“No more tears, no more sorrows.” Revelation 21:4 Describes this change saying that “the former things have all passed away.” Second Peter 3:8-13 speaks of the elements dissolving at the end of time. Science has given us some reinforcement for these promises recognizing that the physical world will be done away with when time ends. Let us live in such a way that we can look forward to the timeless new order God has in store for us.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Arranging Books on a Shelf

Arranging Books on a ShelfMy wife recently did some major rearranging of the books in our library. We have a large number of books, and we needed to downsize and make it easier to find what we are looking for. She asked for my advice about arranging books on a shelf. This brought to my mind a column in Astronomy magazine in January of 2013. In Bob Berman’s “Strange Universe” column, he often presents some interesting facts, and we have referred to his articles previously. In that particular column, he wrote about what random events or “chance” can or cannot accomplish.

The connection with library books goes like this. If you have 4 books on a shelf, how many ways can you arrange them? The answer is “4 factorial,” which is 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply it out, and you find that there are 24 possible ways. However, what if you have 10 books to arrange? That would be 10 factorial, which is 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply those numbers, and you will find there are 3,628,800 different ways to arrange 10 books on a shelf. We have way more than 10 books in our library, and I am not going to compute how many possible arrangements there are. Neither my calculator nor my brain could handle it.

When my wife asked for advice on arranging books on a shelf, she didn’t realize what a difficult question she was asking me. However, I had no problem giving a suggestion because I have enough intelligence to know what books should go together by topic. But if you were to put 10 books on a shelf at random, the chance that they would all be in alphabetical order would be about one in 3.6 million. Try it blindfolded and see how long it takes for you to get it right.

Why am I talking about arranging books on a shelf? What’s the point? There are many more than 10 options when it comes to designing any part of the complex universe in which we live. What are the chances that they all came together without any intelligent direction? The possibility would be far lower than for all of the books in our library to be in alphabetical order, or even in topical order, if we just randomly put them on the shelves. The question then becomes: “Can anyone believe that this universe, our solar system, planet Earth, life, consciousness, and intelligence all happened by chance?” My library disproves that theory.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Gallup Poll on Evolution 2019

Gallup Poll on Evolution 2019The latest Gallup poll on evolution was conducted June 13-16, 2019, with 1015 adults 18 and above in all 50 states. Gallup used the same questions they used in a similar poll in 1952, and others since then. Here is a summary of what they found this time:

40% of those in the survey said they believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

33% said they believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.”

22% said they believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”

Atheists have made a point of the fact that the report of the Gallup poll on evolution stated that the 40% group were “associated with lower educational levels, Protestantism and weekly church attendance.” The message that atheists are putting out from this Gallup poll is that those who believe in God are poorly educated recluses who hide in their church buildings and refuse to look at the evidence.

There are so many mistakes in what is being popularized that it is hard to know where to start. The poll was conducted by “telephone interviews.” The sampling of what kinds of telephones the pollsters used radically alters the numbers. The results for landlines will be different from that for cell phones. “Protestantism” is a very poorly defined term. The Young Earth view that humans have been unchanged in the physical history on this planet is not held by most of the major Protestant denominations. Assuming that the 40% represented all those who attend church weekly is a very bad assumption.

The most critical problem with the report of the Gallup poll on evolution is that it only focuses on the development of the physical characteristics of humans without defining what those characteristics are. The phrase “less advanced forms of life” is so ambiguous that we don’t know whether they are talking about an amoeba or Homo erectus. The report includes a graph of the changes to the way these questions have been answered since 1952. Whether the changes are because people have more facts or because the media have indoctrinated them is open to debate.

The Does God Exist? Ministry is an effort to show that science and faith are friends and not enemies. We do not represent any denomination and try to be open to all kinds of evidence – scientific and biblical. We have materials at all educational levels, and our college-level correspondence course is available on our doesgodexist.org website. You can watch our video series covering questions of creation and God on our doesgodexist.tv website. All of these materials are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

You can see the report on the Gallup website.

Who Created God?

Who Created God?We have often heard the question, “Who created God?” One of the main arguments we make for the existence of God on our websites and in our courses and books is a logical sequence of choices. Each of those choices has scientific data to support the argument we make. It is very simple.

All evidence indicates that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy. Atheists have tried for a very long time to avoid that conclusion, but all of the new data supports it. From quantum mechanics to astronomy, science shows there was a beginning. You can read this discussion on our websites, in our books, or in our video series on doesgodexist.tv.

If there was a beginning, one has to decide whether it was caused or not caused. To maintain that the beginning was not caused throws the discussion into areas outside of science such as virtual reality. It also violates all conservation laws of science. Discussions about why there is something instead of nothing have not resolved this issue for most of us.

If there was a cause, then remaining discussions are about the nature of the cause. The evidence for design in the creation and the statistical improbability of chance as a causal agent strongly suggest that intelligence was the causal agent.

If you say that the cause was God, then the logical come-back is to ask, “Who created God?” The problem here is a failure to understand what the nature of the causer has to be. If there was a beginning, then everything associated with the beginning had to be created as well. That would include time, space, and matter/energy in some form. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around how there can be any kind of existence in which there is no space and no time. That is because we live in a three-dimensional world.

In our math classes, we learn about x, y, and z axes. In basic physics, we learn that we can plot time against each one of those. Time is referred to as the fourth dimension. Modern scientific discoveries are telling us that apparently there are dimensions beyond the four we can comprehend. String theory, for example, shows us mathematically that there could be eleven spacial dimensions. However, there are some 500 different possible solutions to the equations presented by that theory, and they seem to be un-testable.

For those of us who have some science background and believe in God, the notion of a God outside of space/time is easy to comprehend. We can also document it biblically. Old Testament passages like Jeremiah 23:23-24 describe God as filling heaven and earth. Second Chronicles 2:6 tells us that the highest heavens cannot contain God. In the New Testament Acts 17:28 tells us that “..in Him we live and move and have our being.” Passages like 2 Peter 3:8, Psalms 90:4, and Psalms 102:27 tell us that God exists outside of time.

So the bottom line is that God was not created. God is a being who exists in dimensions far outside our own. He created space, time, and matter/energy and did much of this before time began. (See Proverbs 8:22–36.) He will ultimately stop time and dissolve the cosmos. (See 2 Peter 3:10-11.) Those of us who have become obedient followers of Jesus Christ accept the statement of Revelation 21:4: ”He will wipe away every tear from their (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has (will have) passed away.” The limitations of time and the physical dimensions we experience now will be gone.

We have two booklets on the doesgodexist.org website that go into this in more detail. One is “A Help in Understanding What God Is” and the other is “Who Created God?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Is Hell?

What Is Hell?What is hell, and why does God threaten to send us there? For the past two days, we have been looking at the challenges of this email we received:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s understanding of hell is traditional, not biblical. No one can answer all the questions about hell with authority, because no one has been there and returned to tell about it. Works like Dante’s Inferno have influenced us. Preachers who have used hell as a scare tactic to control their audiences. Misconceptions abound.

So what is hell? We tend to portray hell as a place of eternal punishing rather than a place of eternal punishment. There is a difference. When Jesus talked about hell, He used clearly symbolic words. He spoke of hell as a place of flames and burning sulfur (brimstone). Another time he called it a place of darkness (see Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Sometimes we hear hell explained by the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. The description of hell is presumed to be taken as literal. However, no Christian sees it as an instruction to pray to Abraham or that Abraham is the judge. Those things are presented in the story.

What we can say about hell is that it is total separation from God. An atheist who never wanted anything to do with God in life is going to be granted that same wish in hell. God never forces himself on any person. We are always free to reject God if we so choose. The only problem is that we must also suffer the consequences of that rejection of God. God is love, light, good, compassion, justice, etc. All of those things will be a part of heaven. None of those things will exist in hell. Being lost is frequently described in the Bible as “the second death” (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Theologians argue endlessly over what this means, and whether the soul can die. I certainly have nothing to add to the discussion, but I know that being separated from God and all the blessings of God is not something I wish even to consider.

The emailer states everything in diametric opposition to the truth. God is good, not evil. God is love, not hate. Hell is simply the separation from God that the emailer claims to desire. God clearly says that He does not want anyone to be lost, but for all to inherit eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). However, God also allows us to reject Him and all He offers. This is like the parent who painfully releases a child to travel a road the parent wishes they would not travel, hoping they will learn from the wrong choices and return to the parent’s loving embrace. The Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 makes this so obvious that no one can miss it.

Our rejection is not what God desires, and He always is there to welcome us back. What is hell? Our wrong choices can bring us death and eternal separation from God. That is hell, and you do not want any part of it. Come to God, obey His love and blessings. Enjoy eternal life with love, peace, joy, compassion, forgiveness, and freedom from pain that we can only dimly imagine.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

-May/June 2006

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?Why does God tell us what to do and punish us for not doing it? Yesterday we began to consider the frustrations of the person who sent us this email:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s view of why God tells us to do things is badly misinformed. God does not tell us what to do because God is a control freak. Many people seem to feel that God’s commands are just the reflection of an ego that demands things that make Him feel better.

The first problem here is that these folks have a very poor understanding of what God is. God is not a human consumed with human passions and weaknesses. God does not have self-image problems, ego problems, moods, sexual desires, power struggles, or feelings of envy. God is not a human and is not limited to human emotions and feelings. Furthermore, God does not need us. Over and over the Bible defines God as love, light, a spirit, not flesh and blood, not a man, etc. (see John 4:24; Matthew 16:17; 1 John 1:5; 4:8,12,16; Numbers 23:19; John 1:1). Suggesting that God tells us what to do because He wants to have control over us and satisfy His own power needs is a complete misunderstanding of God’s nature.

Why does God tell us what to do? Even with our limited ability to understand, we can see that everything God tells us to do is for our own good. God’s rules for sexual expression are the right formula to give us the best and most fulfilling aspect of sex. Sexual clinicians agree that a single committed relationship is the best formula for completeness and fulfillment. Nobody questions the fact that STDs will not spread in a monogamous, committed relationship. Even the most radical proponents of alternative lifestyles cannot argue that their proposals for gay marriage, polygamy, or whatever are superior to God’s plan of one man one woman committed to serving each other for life. They argue theirs is as good, and that is an argument that the data does not support. No one questions the wisdom of the biblical instructions that oppose violence, murder, or abuse.

Even those things that God tells us to do in worship are for our own well being. God does not ask us to pray because He needs information from us, or because He needs praise. Prayer is an act which helps us to learn to look to a higher power and reach beyond ourselves. That is something recognized by every 12-step program to overcoming addictions. Interestingly, some groups opposed to the existence of God are now promoting Transcendental Meditation and other similar acts as a substitute for prayer.

Giving is not something God tells us to do because He needs our money. If we believe that God is the creator of all things, then we surely understand that. Giving is something humans need to learn to do for our own well being. The biblical injunction, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) is really a discussion of what benefits the giver, not what benefits the receiver. The person who never learns to give will be unsuccessful in his marriage, in his sexual relationships, in his family, and his friendships. Every act God instructs us to do is for our well-being, not for control purposes.

Why does God tell us what to do? Because He loves us! Tomorrow, we will deal with the emailer’s question about hell.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

I Didn’t Ask to be Born

I Didn't Ask to be BornWe received the following email: “How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

Obviously, this email was sent by a person in pain – a person who is angry, frustrated, confused, misinformed, misled, and disconnected from reality. Many of this person’s problems are due to the traditions of human creeds and theories. Much of the frustration is due to assumptions that are not valid or biblical.

There are some questions and challenges in the message that I, too, struggle with, and I make no pretense of having all the answers. What we would like to do is to dissect this email in the hope that it will help some of our readers who may have some of the same concerns and struggles. I am sure there are others with the same complaints but are not willing to be quite as honest in expressing them.

“I didn’t ask to be born.” Have you ever gotten so frustrated with life, and especially with people in your life, that you wished you had never been born? I think that most of us have gone through that. Job certainly radiated that feeling when he said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said ‘A boy is conceived’ “(Job 3:3). As an atheist, I said almost those very words in a modernized form and got so far down the road of despair that I attempted in a crude way to end my life. From an atheist perspective, there are times when we feel that life is a worthless, meaningless, painful experience that we would rather not endure.

However, at the end of every night, there is another day, and things do get better. For the Christian, the meaningfulness of life is more easily seen because of the purpose that a Christian has in living. If your only goal in living is seeking selfish desires and pleasures, it is easy to run out of reasons to live. If your life has a bigger purpose, then you have a reason to live, a purpose, and a goal.

Job finally came to understand his purpose in life. He looked at what had happened and what he had endured, and he had a new perspective. He told the Lord that before all these things had happened to him: “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). He then goes on joyously praising God because he sees a purpose in his life.

I am sure Job always had some sobering thoughts and memories of what he had lost. But he was glad to be alive, and God enabled him to see purpose and meaning in his life. Saying “I didn’t ask to be born and I wish I had never been” is a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. Before we seek a permanent solution to a temporary problem, we should allow God to remind us that we are love, and we have a purpose.

Tomorrow, we will look at a second challenge in that email – “Why does God have the right to tell me what to do?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019