Suicide is the Other Pandemic

Suicide is the Other Pandemic

We hear all the talk about “flattening the curve” concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. There is another pandemic without a direct viral cause, and the curve of that pandemic keeps getting steeper. Suicide is the other pandemic.

Since 1999 the suicide rate in the United States has risen over 33%. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in the U. S. among people ages 10 to 34. Males have a higher suicide rate than females, and both show a rate increase of over 2% a year. The Center for Disease Control tells us that among young people between the ages of 10 and 19, suicide attempts increased 8% every year between 2006 and 2015.

The experts are giving all kinds of explanations for why this is happening. Some blame the use of digital devices, with cyberbullying being a significant factor. Research shows that there is a one-to-one connection between unemployment and suicide rates, and the collapse of the economy in the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive unemployment.

We would suggest that the growth of atheism and the rejection of God is a major factor of why suicide is the other pandemic. Christianity teaches that the body is the dwelling place of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the description of the judgment in Matthew 25:34-39 make it clear that Jesus expects his followers to use our lives in a productive way. In Philippians 1:21-26, Paul made it clear that he wanted to leave this life and go and be with Christ, but he knew God wanted him to help address the problems of the Church and humanity.

If I base my life’s decisions on being the most fit and realize that I have no hope of ever being the fittest, ending this life seems like the logical thing to do. Atheism and agnosticism offer no motivation to continue living. If I know I cannot find pleasure as I once did and the future looks bleak, why would I want to continue to live? Life has no ultimate purpose without God, and suicide is a way out.

Job’s wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). If you do not have a purpose in life, that option can look very attractive. When you read Job 42:1-6, you see Job coming to a full understanding. He realized that he is part of something so grand and powerful that he can only vaguely understand it. We, too, may not fully understand what God is doing through our lives, but destroying ourselves so that God can’t use us is a huge mistake with catastrophic results. (See 1 Corinthians 3:11-23.)

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Scientific American, August 2020, page 23.

Designed for a Purpose

Designed for a Purpose

On this website, we often talk about design in living things. Everyone sees design in the world around us. It’s impossible not to see design. Even the leading atheist biologist Richard Dawkins said that biology is the study of things that appear to be designed for a purpose. However, he believes they only appear to be designed because he knows that design requires a designer. The trick is to pretend that it is not design but merely a pattern produced by natural selection acting on random chance mutations.

Our study of design is not the ancient god-of-the-gaps concept where we say, “I don’t know how this happened, so there must be a god who did it.” Instead, we consider the evidence for the possibility of these “designs” happening by pure chance. Is chance or intelligence a better explanation for what we see in living things? Can the features we observe be explained more effectively by natural selection acting on random mutations; or by intelligent design? Which alternative has greater explanatory power and is, therefore, more plausible? Can you say with confidence that living things were not designed for a purpose?

Every day, we see machines and devices created by human intelligence. We marvel at the complexity of such things as computers, automobiles, or vehicles for space travel. The intricate design of living things, including humans, is far greater than any of those human-designed devices. Do we ever question whether the human inventions came together by accident? But some would say, “Those things are not alive, and therefore they can’t design themselves. Living things can change on their own through natural selection.”

That brings up the question of where did the first living thing come from? It came from non-living matter. How did that lifeless material assemble itself into something as complex as a living cell that could take in nourishment and reproduce? Where did the information in the DNA come from? Random text can’t assemble itself into intelligent language, and the DNA contains a language so complex that it took modern computers to decipher it. What intelligence wrote the code within the DNA of each plant and animal, giving them the ability to change and adapt to stay alive?

We see random patterns in clouds, or sand, or waves blown by the wind. We see patterns of sunlight on the forest floor as it shines through the tree leaves. Those things are random. Though they may be beautiful, they are not examples of design. When we see the biological systems working within a living animal or plant or study biomes and ecosystems working in harmony to make life possible, we observe more than a chance pattern. We are beholding something that was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer.

Bringing it closer to home—that means an intelligent Designer designed YOU for a purpose.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Literalism and a Literal Understanding of the Bible

Literalism and a Literal Understanding of the Bible

There is a common mistake made by atheists and by many preachers who say they take the Bible literally. The problem involves knowing the difference between literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible. Literalism is interpreting a passage while ignoring who wrote it, why they wrote it, what kind of literature or teaching technique it is, and to whom it was written.

When atheists try to say that a biblical passage cannot be true, they are almost always using literalism. An example is skeptics who claim that the Bible says the Earth is flat and has corners like a sheet of paper. They use Revelation 7:1 to support this, “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth…” If you don’t read the passage’s context, you might conclude that it says the Earth is flat and has corners. There is a “Flat Earth Society” that believes that today, but that is not what the Bible is saying. In the past, literalist church leaders insisted that the Bible says the Sun orbits the Earth instead of the other way around. They based that on passages that talk about the motion of the Sun (such as Joshua 19) or a passage they believed said that the Earth cannot be moved (Psalms 93:1 KJV).

A more complex example is seen in Luke 16:19-31. It’s the familiar story of Lazarus, the rich man, and Abraham. Atheists have used this account to ridicule the concept of heaven and hell and preachers have used it to justify fire and damnation sermons. Is this passage a literal description of the judgment scene? This is an excellent example of the principles of literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible.

This passage is one of a series of parables. It begins as the other parables with, “There was a …” Abraham is the only proper name used in the passage. “A certain rich man…” is never identified. The word translated “Lazarus” means “without help” in the original language. It is a description of the beggar, not his formal name. Abraham is never given the role of a judge in the scripture. He is the father of Israel, but he certainly is not God. Jesus told the story to “the Pharisees who were covetous” (verse 14) and considered themselves sons of Abraham. Jesus did not address the parable to theologians wanting to know the nature of hell. The picture of people in hell seeing people in heaven may be useful for artists, but it violates all descriptions of heaven and hell. The parable’s message is condemning the hypocrisy of people who claimed a relationship with God but did nothing to help others.

We must apply these principles to any passage we read. Were the nephilim of Genesis 6 literal giants? No, we have discussed that before. Did the animal in Job 41:14 have doors on its face? Does light shine when it sneezes (verse 18)? Do sparks, smoke, and flame come out of its mouth (verse 19, 20)? Is its heart as hard as a millstone (verse 24)?

There are many other passages where people confuse literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible. The entire book of Revelation is misrepresented by folks who use literalism instead of taking it literally. As we have said before, taking a Bible passage literally means looking at who wrote it, to whom and why, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. The Bible is easy to understand, and its message is 100% true, but, like any written message, it can be distorted and misrepresented. Sometimes skeptics do that purposely. Many times believers do it innocently because they don’t read it carefully and apply common sense to understand it literally.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Is God’s Design of Our Bodies Faulty?

Is God's Design of Our Bodies Faulty?

One question repeatedly arises from skeptics, atheists, and people struggling with health issues. They want to know why we have all of the diseases, syndromes, and disabilities that afflict people. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? Is the bad stuff that comes into our lives punishment for some transgression of God’s laws?

It seems that we have more things that can go wrong with us today than ever before, and a large percentage of our modern afflictions are genetic or congenital. It isn’t just that we have more names for current problems, but the problems themselves seem to be more abundant.

The Bible tells us that God is never the author of our problems. James 1:13 makes it clear that God never brings bad things upon us. The passage goes on to say, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.”

A part of the answer to the source of these afflictions is our development of plastics. In 1922, the first synthetic plastic was sold by the Bakelite Corporation. In 2018, 400 million tons of new plastics were created. We all cringe when we see pictures of whales or sea turtles or albatrosses dying because of ingesting plastic, but we don’t realize that we too are consuming plastic. The average American consumes more than 74,000 microplastic particles every year. These particles contain bisphenol A and phthalates, which in turn attract polychlorinated biphenyls. These chemicals have been shown to affect brain and organ development in children, and they are linked to infertility, hormonal problems, and cardiovascular problems in adults.

There are efforts to control plastics production, and science is researching ways to remove dangerous chemicals from the plastics we use. Our point is that this is another case where blaming God for a problem that humans have created is not logical or reasonable. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? As David wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Much of what goes wrong with our bodies is due to our ignorant use of things that damage them.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Consumer Reports, June 2020.

Wife Sharing Proposed in China

Wife Sharing Proposed in China

From 1980 until 2016, the Communist Chinese government mandated a one-child policy, which led many couples to abort female fetuses because having a male child offered many advantages. As a result, China now has 34 million more males than females. Fudan University professor Yew-Kwang Ng has proposed wife sharing as an academic solution to “men’s physical and psychological needs not being met.”

Ng argues that Chinese prostitutes already serve more than ten clients in a day. He added that making meals for three husbands won’t take much more time than making a meal for one husband. Ng says these facts prove that allowing women to have many husbands is a solution to the imbalance created by the one-child policy. You can imagine the response the wife sharing proposal received on social media. The backlash may prevent the Chinese government from implementing this proposal.

The point here is that when humans throw out one of God’s laws, there are always problems with collateral damage. As America throws out one standard of behavior after another, we wonder what the consequences will be. God’s plan for men and women works. The problem is that humans always want to find an alternative to God’s plan, and the result is catastrophic.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Week, June 26, 2020, page 14.

Make Sure Your Data Supports Your Conclusions

Make Sure Your Data Supports Your Conclusions

“THE UNIVERSAL RULE OF GRADUATE WORK–MAKE SURE YOUR DATA SUPPORTS YOUR CONCLUSIONS!”

When I was doing research for my master’s degree, that statement was posted on the graduate studies bulletin board at Indiana University. I have no idea who put it there, but I can tell you it got a pretty strong response from the school’s dean. Unfortunately, there is more truth to it than most of us would like to admit, and it is not just graduate students to whom it applies.

One of the problems any scientific researcher has is getting funding for the work, and you don’t get funding unless you produce results. There have been several cases in National Geographic where the magazine reported some incredible find by a researcher they were funding and later discovered that the claimed discovery was a hoax. We have reported on these in the past. (For example HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

One of the disciplines where this problem has been very apparent is in the finds of fossil humans. In 1974 Donald Johanson found pieces of a skeleton in Ethiopia. While they were excavating the fossil, the radio was playing the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Johanson decided to name the specimen “Lucy.” The find was announced at the Nobel Symposium in 1978 and was hailed as the first ape to walk upright, and thus it was a proven link between apes and humans.

The primary evidence that Lucy walked upright was a knee joint, which was clearly from an individual that walked in an upright position. Evidence that the rest of the skeleton was clearly from an ape included a V-shaped mandible, a very small brain, and a humerus and femur that were the same size. Lucy has made the covers of numerous magazines and even toured the United States.

It has now been announced that the researchers found the knee joint, which they used to prove Lucy was walking in an erect position, more than two miles from the rest of the skeleton. It also came from a stratum 200 feet lower than the one where the rest of the skeleton was found. Richard Leakey, the Director of Kenya’s National Museum, said that “the evidence for the alleged transformation from ape to man is extremely unconvincing. It is overwhelmingly likely that Lucy was no more than a variety of pygmy chimpanzee.” Johanson has agreed that Lucy was not related to humans at all.

Why does this kind of thing happen? Researchers tend to accept a theory and then look for evidence to support that theory. They adopt the philosophy “make sure your data supports your conclusions.” The media wants instant gratification, and the result is that front-page stories are frequently not factual. Several books have addressed this problem. The Fossil Chronicles by Dean Falk is a useful resource. See The Wall Street Journal for October 8, 2011, section C6 for a review by Brian Switek.

The researchers are victims of the system, but atheistic attacks on the Bible that depend on the media stories are obviously vulnerable to this issue. We need to have our brains engaged when we read anything, and that is true of the Bible as well as scientific reports in the media.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Atheism and Defective Fathers

Atheism and Defective Fathers

There seems to be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If you were to make a list of the most famous atheists of all time, what would they have in common? Such a list would include Freud, Nietzsche, Hume, Russell, Sartre, Camus, Schopenhauer, Hobbes, Meissner, Voltaire, Butler, Wells, Feuerbach, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Stalin, Hitler, Diderot, and Marx. They all had in common that they had either no relationship to their fathers or a defective one.

A book that explores this is Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz. Vitz quotes Freud as saying: “Psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal God is logically nothing but an exalted father, and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of their father breaks down.”

It is essential to understand that just because you had a bad father doesn’t automatically mean you will be an atheist. But I have personally seen people who were mistreated or abandoned by their biological fathers and had a difficult time accepting the concept of a heavenly Father. It’s easy to see how there could be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If all you know of “father” is someone who abused you, then any notion of a loving heavenly Father may be hard to accept fully.

In this day of single parents, fatherless children, and dysfunctional father figures, we can expect further growth in faith problems. The New Testament writers were aware of this and frequently addressed the need for fathers to have the strength to be the men God called them to be. “You fathers, don’t rouse your children to resentment, but raise them by letting the Lord train and correct them” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers do not fret and harass your children, lest they become discouraged and quit trying” (Colossians 3:21).

The biblical concept of a father is not that of an abusive tyrant, but a loving provider. Children can understand the spiritual father is one of love and care and compassion even if they have not had the best of experiences with their biological father. Thank God for Christian fathers.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

NOTE: Biblical quotes are from The New Testament from 26 Translations by Zondervan Publishing.

Menopause and Women’s Roles

Menopause and Women's Roles

“IT’S NOT FAIR!!” my atheist, feminist opponent declared. “Why would your God allow men to father children well into their old age while the average woman ceases having menstrual cycles by the age of 51.” Her challenge sent me digging into the whole business of menopause and women’s roles, and how they are designed and why.

The facts in a woman’s reproductive life are clear. Pregnancy becomes more hazardous with age, and younger women are more likely to survive childbirth than older women. It is a fact that we see more chromosomal abnormalities in the ova of women over 40, so there are genetic issues as well.

Aside from the survival rate physically and genetically of children born to older mothers, there is the issue of different roles that women have at different times in their lives. If a woman reaches menopause by the age of 50 and she lives to be 80, she has time for a new phase of life–that of being a grandmother. Studies on a variety of societies have shown that the survival rate of children in primitive societies is directly related to the presence of grandmothers. Assuming that human children need their mothers until they are around ten years old, the support of a grandmother can obviously be a positive feature.

We are all familiar with the poem “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” As a public school teacher in an inner-city high school, I saw a huge number of grandmothers who came to PTA meetings or conferences about the needs of a child. In our day of working mothers and single parents, the need for the role of grandmother is undeniable.

The apostle Paul described the foundation of the faith of the young man, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 1:5: “When I call to remembrance that unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice…”

One of the things that defines us as humans is the exceptional care that we receive from our mothers. The difficult business of raising children today is compounded by the unwillingness of many to accept our biological design. The facts of menopause and women’s roles clearly show evidence of design.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Natural History magazine, July/August 1998, pages 24-26.

Moral Dilemma of Atheism

Moral Dilemma of Atheism

One of the difficulties of atheism is that when you deny God’s existence, you leave yourself with no real basis for making moral decisions. Norman Geisler, in the book The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, tells a wonderful story about a philosophy student and his professor that illustrates the moral dilemma of atheism.

“The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God; consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper’s research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily an A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.

The student stormed into the professor’s office, waving his paper, protesting, ‘This is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the color of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its color!’

Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, ‘Was this the paper which argued that on the basis of the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one’s subjective likes and dislikes?’

‘Yes … yes …’ the student replied hesitantly. ‘Well then,’ said the professor, ‘I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.’ Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.”


The moral dilemma of atheism is only one of the issues discussed in the book, which is a collection of essays by leading philosophers and scientists. It was published by Gateway in 1984 but is still available on Amazon.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Makes Us Human?

What Makes Us Human? Are crows human?

One of the significant points of contention between those who believe in God and those who don’t is the concept of what makes us human. The biblical position is that humans are that form of life created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup allows us to create art and music, worship a supreme being, feel guilt, be sympathetic, and have a form of love that is self-sacrificing and has nothing to do with survival. The atheist response to this is that our intelligence and brain structure accounts for these characteristics. The atheist insists that they are totally a product of our evolution.

What does the evidence show? That is a complicated question, and one we frequently address as science makes new discoveries. National Wildlife magazine (June/July 2020) published an interesting article about crows and research by John Marzluff at the University of Washington. For the past ten years, researchers at the university have been putting on caveman masks and catching and tagging crows. The crows have learned that the caveman face means trouble, and they mob and dive-bomb the researchers. When baby crows learn to fly, they immediately do the same, even though they do not have personal experience with being caught and tagged.

Crows are incredible creatures. Crows will fashion twigs into hooks to reach food in a hollow tree or limb. Other crows will drop nuts on a hard pavement to crack them open. Crows have learned to pay attention to what a farmer has in his hands. They will fly away from a farmer with a gun, but not when the same farmer holds a rake. Crows will help raise younger siblings, and that cooperation causes them to flock together and seemingly communicate with each other.

The point is that intelligence is not a measure of human-ness. The things that make humans different than crows is not our brain. Mentally challenged humans do the things that make us human. Many animals with high intelligence do not engage in those things. What makes us human is being created in the image of God. Having that image makes humans unique and special, and gives us value and purpose in our existence. Human life is sacred, and that hasn’t changed despite our abuse of one another.

— John N. Clayton © 2020