Refusing Vaccines is Not New

Refusing Vaccines is Not New

The current ignorance about vaccines is amazing. We see statements every day, frequently in religious publications, that are simply not true. There is nothing in a vaccine that could contain a microchip, for example. There is a fundamental distrust of the government and the scientific establishment that fuels ideas like this one. There are always hucksters who will seize upon this distrust and use it to try to make money. Refusing vaccines is not new.

In 1776 Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids frequently had cowpox, which is a virus found in cows. The milkmaids didn’t get smallpox, which was killing 30% of the population at the time. Doctors tried various attempts to stop the epidemic, but Jenner’s treatment of giving people cowpox shots was the only one that worked. But many people were refusing vaccines for a variety of religious reasons.

In America in 1809, Massachusetts passed a mandatory vaccination law. In England in 1853, the government passed a U.K. Vaccination Act. It required parents to have infants vaccinated by three months, or the parents would be arrested. This precipitated the “Anti-Vaccination League of London,” and in 1879, the “Anti-Vaccination Society of America” was formed.

In America from 1920 through the 1970s, scientists developed vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Some of those diseases, such as polio, were stopped in your author’s lifetime. I can remember iron lungs and classmates dying with polio and how we all celebrated when scientists produced the polio vaccine.

That all changed in 1982 when a documentary aired called “DPT: Vaccine Roulette.” It claimed that children had suffered brain damage from the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus shot. It turned out that the cases used in the documentary were unrelated to the vaccines, but the media never reported that. Parents formed “The National Vaccine Information Center,” which is an organization to encourage refusing vaccines.

We must point out that there can be allergies or reactions to any drug. When I was a kid, doctors used sulfa-drugs to fight infections, and I had a severe reaction to one of those drugs. The drug was never removed from the market because I was a rare exception, and the drug benefited many others. My atheist parents did not attach any religious significance to my allergy but withheld further treatments. Some people are very allergic to peanuts, but I have not heard of an anti-peanut league.

In 1998, the National Vaccine Information Center secured a report from Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist claiming that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism. Since I have a grandson who is autistic, I was very interested in that report. It turned out that Wakefield falsified data, and there was no connection. I took the time to check out the claim, but in 2000 Wakefield’s study reached the U.S. and was immediately seized upon by anti-vaccine groups as more evidence for refusing vaccines.

So why are we reporting on this in First, Christians are to serve others and do the best we can to promote well-being in all of those created in God’s image. That means we need to check out the stories and make sure the data supports what people are saying. We can not trust the news media, and TV programs promote hoaxes of all kinds, from Bigfoot to UFOs to miracle health substances.

Secondly, Christians should embrace anything that relieves suffering and avoids the pain of disease. Jesus had naysayers in His day. He would cure someone by a miracle, and His opponents would try to explain it away rather than admit He was God’s Son. Don’t blindly embrace the claims of anyone, but check out the facts. Vaccines are not made from aborted babies, and they do not contain fetal cells. Vaccines save thousands of lives, even though occasionally someone will have an adverse reaction to them.

Science and the Bible are friends, not enemies. The only reason vaccines work is because of God’s design of our bodies. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows completely” (Psalms 139:14).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Science News, May 8, 2021, pages 32-34.

No Room for Arrogance in Christianity

No Room for Arrogance

When I was an atheist, one thing that always turned me off was the seeming arrogance of religious people I knew. The “better than thou” attitude is not only unwarranted, but it is unscriptural. The Bible gives us no room for arrogance.

The classic biblical rebuttal of the attitude of arrogance is the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14. This parable was about a “religious” guy who did everything right religiously and a tax collector who was a Jew who betrayed his fellow Jews by working for the Roman government.

The Pharisee did everything right and told God about it. His opening line was, “I thank you that I am not like other men.” Then he went on to talk about all the good things he did. The tax collector looked down at the ground and “smote his breast,” which was a symbol of sorrow in that culture. Then he begged God for forgiveness. Luke tells us that Jesus “spoke this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others” (Luke 18:9).

Jesus and the apostles hit this theme over and over. In Luke 7:37-50, we see Christ contrasting the woman who was a sinner with the Pharisee, a part of the religious elite. Jesus praised her and held her actions up as exemplary while he condemned the Pharisee. In Romans 2:17-24, Paul addresses the hypocrisy of religious people who claim to be knowledgeable but don’t practice what they preach. In Matthew 5:14-16, Christ holds up His followers as people who are “the light of the world” for how they live.

It took me a long time as an atheist to realize the fact that “sitting in the chicken coup doesn’t make you a chicken.” Sitting in the Church building doesn’t make you a Christian. The assembly of Christians is not a venue to be entertained but a hospital for people seeking to be what God called them to be. If you are reading this and have been turned off by the arrogance and self-righteousness of people who claim to be Christians, please understand that those folks turned off Jesus Christ as well.

Philippians 2:5-8 reminds us that Christ “humbled himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death, even death on the cross.” How can any of us be very self-righteous or arrogant when we think about that statement. There is no room for arrogance in Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Happiness Comes from Following Christ’s Teaching

Happiness Comes from Following Christ's Teaching - Robert Ingersoll
Robert G. Ingersoll 1833-1899

Robert Ingersoll is an atheist hero because he traveled the country attacking God, Christianity, and the Bible in the nineteenth century. Ingersoll is quoted as saying, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make other people happy.” That statement is remarkably similar to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10-13 and the words of Christ in John 16:22-24. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

Every attempt by atheists to provide an alternative to the teachings of Christ has ended up in frustration and pain. When an atheist built a town in Missouri with the name “Liberal,” it collapsed in a short time, with the founder saying he never again wanted to live in a town with no churches. Governments based on atheism in the past and today have not been successful in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens.

It is easy to attack Christianity while enjoying the blessings of Christ’s teachings. Offering a useful and positive alternative to what Jesus taught is another matter. As the United States drifts away from its Christian roots and embraces humanism, secularism, and atheism, we see an increase in suicides, shootings, racism, and abuse. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

When someone is incarcerated, the prison usually asks their religious beliefs for the record. Very few prisoners say “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “none.” In our prison work, we ask prisoners taking our correspondence courses to explain how they got to the point of being jailed. Merle Haggard wrote a song in which he said: “In spite of all my Sunday learning, to the wrong I kept on turning. No one could steer me right, but mother tried.” Haggard’s mother was a member of the Church of Christ, and his prison stint took place because he rejected the teachings he learned as a child. We hear that line over and over from many of our students in prison.

My father was an atheist, but he was a very moral man. I asked him one time why he was faithful to my mother. His response was, “I guess it is because of the way I was raised.” His father was a minister, and his mother was a strong Christian woman. Jesus said, “By their fruit you shall know them (Matthew 7:16). Atheism has no positive fruit in the long run. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching. Robert Ingersoll found a receptive audience only when he repeated the teachings of the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Inspiration for this came from Faulkner University spring bulletin 2021.

Near-Death Experiences and God

Near-Death Experiences and God

The April 16, 2021, issue of The Week magazine (pages 48-49) carried an article about the research of Bruce Greyson, a professor emeritus in psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Dr. Greyson has been collecting hundreds of records of people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs). In 1975, psychiatrist Raymond Moody wrote a best-selling book titled Life After Life. Dr. Greyson has a new book similar to Moody’s simply titled After. It contains a series of case studies of people who have had NDEs.

The article discusses possible explanations of the near-death experiences people have had in terms of brain responses to stress. But the Greyson studies go beyond just trying to find a physical explanation for what people experience. One interesting fact is that people who have had NDEs are changed by the experience. Greyson says that a near-death experience “dramatically transforms people’s attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors.” People lose their fear of dying, they lose their fear of life, and they see a purpose in life they hadn’t seen before.

Greyson says, “I’ve spoken to people who were policemen or career military officers who couldn’t go back to their jobs, couldn’t stand the idea of violence. The idea of hurting someone becomes abhorrent to them. They end up going into helpful professions. They become teachers, or health care workers, or social workers.”

Dr. Greyson ends his article by saying that he grew up without any spiritual background, and he still is not sure of what “spiritual” means. He says that researching near-death experiences for 40 or 50 years convinced him that there is more to life than just our physical bodies. He says he now recognizes that there is a nonphysical part of us, but he is not sure what it is.

Our society has tried to portray humans as just animals. The research that honest seekers like Greyson are doing gives strong support to the fact that what defines us is our soul–that part of us created in the image of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

God Positioning System and What it Means

Homing Pigeon - God Positioning System and What it Means
Homing Pigeon

The Spring 2021 issue of God and Nature published an article by Angie Cornwell about the “God Positioning System.” During World War I, a homing pigeon saved the lives of almost 200 American men by carrying a message 25 miles despite being bombarded with gunfire. People have used homing pigeons for thousands of years to carry messages in all kinds of terrain, all kinds of weather, and in unfamiliar territory. Studies of how homing pigeons do this have concluded that they use at least five different systems. If one method doesn’t work, they use a different one. One technique is visual, using familiar landmarks. A second involves the use of environmental odors. A third system consists of using Earth’s magnetic field. A fourth system uses infrasonic (low frequency) signals, and a fifth system uses information stored in the pigeon’s brain.

Humans have a difficult time learning how to navigate in unfamiliar environments. For most of my life, I have relied on maps, but they are hard to use. You have to know where you are on the map, and folds in the map can cause misinformation. The invention of the global positioning system (GPS) has eliminated the weaknesses of maps. When in our human arrogance, we think we have a better way than the GPS has advised, causing us to get lost, the GPS will jump back in and guide us back to where we wanted to go.

Christians have a special GPS which Angie Cornwell has called the God positioning system. There are many similarities to the global position system. The God positioning system finds us wherever we are in life and directs us to where we need to go. When our arrogance causes us to choose a destructive path, we can turn back to the God positioning system to find our way.

God, in His mercy, has given us the ultimate navigational system to find our way back to Him. He has given us His Word to follow and His Holy Spirit to guide us. The global positioning system uses three satellites to triangulate our position. God the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit can pinpoint our spiritual condition and navigate us toward our eternal home. We never have to be desperately lost or alone. We don’t have to struggle to figure out where we are and how to get where we need to be.

Science hasn’t completely figured out all of the things that allow homing pigeons to navigate, and our human wisdom does not allow us to comprehend how the God positioning system works. The good news is that we don’t have to understand either one to take advantage of all they do for us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “God Positioning System (GPS)” from God and Nature Spring 2021.

The Right to Worship

The Right to Worship

An interesting battle is going on in the Indiana state legislature, which could affect the rest of the country. Senate Bill 263 would make it illegal to restrict the right to worship even during pandemics or natural disasters. The statement made by those promoting the bill is, “The right to worship is guaranteed by the United States and Indiana constitutions, and no one has the right to infringe on that right.”

This is a complex issue. Telling people they can’t assemble because they might get sick or make someone else ill puts the government in the position of deciding who can worship and who cannot. Which is more important, having the right to worship anywhere, anytime, and in any way you wish or having authorities decide when and where to allow worship? The potential for abuse is very high either way.

We suggest that carefully following the biblical teachings and examples would solve this issue. The first-century Church did not own buildings and worshipped in small groups in private homes. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). The need for large groups with elaborate services and many participants is a product of church entertainment, not the worship of God.

No one can take away our right to worship if our worship is doing what the Bible encourages us to do and following the example of the first century Church. There are interesting legal questions in this discussion, but the right to worship is not threatened no matter what the legislature decides.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Tribune Content Agency for 4/9/21 page A2 in the South Bend Tribune.

Good Joke with a Bad Message

Good Joke with a Bad Message

There is an old joke about a man who wanted to take his valuables to heaven with him. He bound them carefully in a package and told his wife he was placing them in the attic right above his bed. He planned to die in bed, and as his spirit soared upward, he was going to pick up the package and take it to heaven with him. The old man did die in bed as he had planned. Sometime later, his wife remembered that he had this plan to pick up his valuables, so she went upstairs into the attic to see if he had been successful. The package was still there right where he had put it. Confronted with this, his oldest son remarked, “Well what he should have done was to place it in the cellar.” Good joke with a bad message.

This is a bad message because it conveys a wrong idea about life after this life. The Bible talks about streets of gold and gates of pearls to get us to understand that being with God brings beauty and rewards beyond what any of us can imagine. It does not mean that we will be in a physical city with real gold used to build its streets. Quite frankly, that would be interesting for just a few hours at the most. Heaven is a timeless existence free of all of the pain and problems of this life. Our feeble minds can’t comprehend the beauty and the joy of heaven.

As I get older, I’m looking forward to not having any more tears, any more death of those I care about, any more sorrow, or any more pain. The promise of Revelation 21:4 means more and more as I experience bad things here on Earth. It’s a good joke with a bad message because it has a wrong understanding of heaven. We need to be reminded that not only is heaven better than anything we can imagine, but hell not a dark place with flaming sulfur (brimstone). Hell is separation from God and all the spiritual blessings of God. However, the fundamental point of the joke remains: “You can’t take it with you.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Organized Religion in 21st Century America

Organized Religion in 21st Century America

In 1999, the Gallup Poll said that 70% of all Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. In March of 2021, that number has dropped to 47%. That doesn’t mean 53% of all Americans are atheists, but it does indicate a failure of organized religion in 21st century America.

When you look at the climbing suicide rate, the increase in the use of drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, and the increasing violence in America, it is obvious that our secular culture is falling apart. Add to that the fact that the media, politicians, and academic communities have been caught in lie after lie, and the picture looks bleak.

The bright side is that people are becoming more open to change. This ministry has been in existence since 1968, with the message that science and faith are compatible and that massive evidence shows that God is real and the Bible is His word for humanity. Interest in that message has grown astronomically. Organized religion has maintained the status quo, and hypocrisy has been rampant in religious and political leaders. Meanwhile, young people have shown a growing desire to integrate belief in God with making human behavior changes.

Organized religion in 21st Century America shows the decline of mainline churches that focus on the political issues of the day. Basic Bible groups have experienced growth when they advocate breaking with tradition and listening only to what the Bible actually says. We encourage our readers to look at the evidence for God and the Bible. As young people act on the evidence, they will make positive changes in the direction of humanity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Did Jesus Use Hate Speech?

Did Jesus Use Hate Speech?

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15). Did Jesus use hate speech when He spoke those words?

In today’s world, making any negative statement about the LGBT lifestyle might put you in jail or at least under threat of a lawsuit. Sweden passed a law in 2003 and Finland in 1995 demanding discipline for anyone who says anything negative about the lifestyles of others. J.K. Rowling, the popular author of Harry Potter fame, has been “canceled” in England because she stated that males cannot become females. The question is not whether she is right or wrong, but whether in society today it is permissible to say anything critical of anyone else. George Orwell wrote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Those of us who are Christians and try to follow biblical teaching do not believe that anything in the scriptures qualifies as “hate speech.” What Jesus said in the passage above is not hate. We need to define what the phrase “hate speech” means. Webster simply says hate is “strong dislike.” We would add that the words “hate speech” describe what leads to physical action against a person. Most people would say it is okay to hate an idea. We can hate the idea of rape or prejudice without an individual being involved. When Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies, He was certainly not advocating hate speech.

Did Jesus use hate speech in Matthew 23:15 when He expressed rejection of the Pharisaical system that injured other people as well as themselves? We have the moral teachings of the Bible because alternatives to those teachings hurt others and damage the people who promote those alternatives. No one following the teachings of Jesus would do any physical harm to anyone, no matter what their lifestyle. This is in stark contrast to the alternative teachings that would enact beatings, imprisonment, and even death.

In 1906, a British writer summarized Voltaire’s philosophy with the statement, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Others have repeated that phrase many times to describe the freedom of speech principle. Did Jesus use hate speech? No, and neither should His followers.

We live in a world where freedom of speech is becoming threatened, and those in power are trying to limit what someone can say. Ultimately Christians may be faced with the same situation that Peter and John faced in Acts 4:19. Their response to those who would shut down their freedom to speak was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Sexual Promiscuity and Cancer

Sexual Promiscuity and Cancer

God’s plan for sex is pretty much ignored in our society today. That leads to all kinds of problems for those who engage in sexual relationships with multiple partners. We get strong objections from those who feel “hooking up” is normal human behavior and that the Bible is just out of date. Sex involves more than intercourse, and the detrimental effects of promiscuity are clear. In addition to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and massive psychological problems, there is strong evidence linking sexual promiscuity and cancer.

The study involved 5,700 men and women with an average age of 64. Researchers found that women who had ten or more sexual partners in their lifetimes were 91% more likely to have had cancer than those with zero or one partner. For men, the number was 69% higher.

Researchers are still studying the base causes and why the cancer rate was so much higher for women. Cancer has multiple causes, and the reproductive systems of men and women make them vulnerable to different kinds of cancer. The link between sexual promiscuity and cancer indicates that God’s plan for sex is the best.

“Why me” is a constant refrain from people when they find out they have cancer. The more we know about the disease, the more we realize that it is often human-caused.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference British Medical Journal Sexual and Reproductive Health Volume 46, Issue 2