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

COVID-19 Vaccines and Design

COVID-19 Vaccines and Design

We received the following article on COVID-19 vaccines and design from Phillip Eichman. He is one of our readers who has a doctorate in biology and writes for us from time to time.

The politics and debate surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines have obscured the intrinsic beauty of the cellular mechanism that makes these vaccines possible. Earlier vaccines that many of us received, such as smallpox and polio vaccines, contained a weakened or inactivated virus. The COVID-19 vaccines contain only a tiny piece of viral genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA).

The amount of research and development that went into these vaccines is amazing. Scientists first determined the genome of the virus, then isolated the genes and produced a functional piece of viral mRNA. When injected into your shoulder, this viral mRNA directs the production of a viral protein that your immune system recognizes as foreign, ultimately resulting in immunity to the virus. When I took a molecular biology course as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, something like these vaccines might have seemed more like science fiction than basic science.

Clearly, the fact that these mRNA vaccines have been developed and appear to function as expected shows us that living things are not merely a random bunch of parts thrown together. Rather, they are exceedingly complex, finely tuned machines that result from intelligent planning and design. COVID-19 vaccines and design provide further evidence that the universe did not just happen.

— Phillip Eichman © 2021

Fight For Clean Air

Fight For Clean Air

When I graduated from college, I was invited to a classmate’s wedding in Gary, Indiana. At the reception, I saw a silver serving dish enclosed in a plastic bag. To be helpful, I removed it from the bag when the serving line started. I was reprimanded for doing so because the silver dish began turning black in less than an hour. The problem was that a steel mill upwind from the house was putting hydrogen sulfide into the air. It was an early introduction to the fight for clean air.

With my background in chemistry, I knew that sulfur has economic value. I asked a local businessman why the factory had not installed a scrubber to remove and sell the valuable element. He told me that if the steel company was required to add the scrubber, it would move out of the area because of the cost. The company did nothing even when it was subjected to a daily fine. Local people tolerated the air pollution because of job security and the economic consequences of enforcing clean air requirements.

The April 2021 issue of National Geographic carries an article titled “The Fight for Clean Air.” The subtitle is “The Deadly Cost of Dirty Air.” It begins with these words:

Dirty air affects nearly all of the body’s essential systems. It may cause about 20% of all deaths from strokes and coronary disease, triggering heart attacks and arrhythmias, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. It’s linked to lung, bladder, colon, kidney and stomach cancers and to childhood leukemia. It harms kids’ cognitive development and raises older people’s risk of contracting dementia or dying from Parkinson’s disease. It’s been linked to diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, decreased fertility, miscarriage, mood disorders, sleep apnea…”

That is only the beginning of the article. As you read through the list, ask yourself how many of these problems have affected you or those you love? How many people have blamed God for things that are on that list? The article documents the numbers and claims that air pollution causes seven million premature deaths a year.

Greed and selfishness lead to the construction of factories that put massive amounts of waste materials into the air while avoiding the investment needed to clean the air. People with money move away from the area with polluted air leaving the poor and disadvantaged to breathe the pollutants. This creates a separation between the rich and the poor, spilling over into the racial issues of our day.

The Bible teaches us to be concerned about the well-being of everyone. The pain and suffering that air pollution brings is not the “will of God.” It violates the principles taught by Jesus Christ. We support the fight for clean air on our planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Symbols for Communication

Symbols for Communication - Ukrainian Pysanky
Ukrainian Pysanky

One thing that distinguishes humans is our extensive use of symbols for communication. The ancient Persians were amazed to see life come from an egg, a seemingly dead object. They presented each other with eggs at the spring equinox, marking the beginning of a new year. In the Western world, eggs became a symbol of spring and the start of a new year on April 1, until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar moved the New Year to January 1. People who refused to accept the new calendar were called “April Fools.”

It was a natural thing for religions to use eggs as symbols. In Judaism, eggs are an essential part of the Passover seder plate. People who celebrated Lent, when they could not eat eggs for 40 days, collected eggs and decorated them with vegetable dye. Crimson eggs honored the blood of Christ. In parts of Eastern Europe, people put intricate designs on eggs with wax resist technique before coloring. Those intricately decorated eggs are called pysanky and are still common in Ukraine today. In Germany, people pierce eggs and hollow them to hang them from trees during Easter week.

The New Testament shows the use of symbols for communication. In Matthew 26:26-30, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, which Paul refers to as a symbol in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Peter tells us that baptism is a “like figure,” or symbol, of the kind of salvation that Noah received (1 Peter 3:20-21). Symbols can change their meaning. In Acts 18:24-19:5, we see baptism changing from a symbol of John’s baptism of repentance to Jesus Christ’s baptism to wash away sins.

Problems come when a symbol used in one culture is misinterpreted in a different culture or time. A classic example of that is in Revelation. Twentieth-century Christians often misinterpret symbols in that book that first-century Christians would have understood. Only by studying the symbols’ meaning when the author wrote the book can we get an accurate picture of what they meant. Using symbols for communication only works when we all understand the meaning.

— 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

Falling Birthrates Worldwide Economic Impact

Falling Birthrates Worldwide Having Economic Impact

Falling birthrates worldwide are impacting the economy of virtually every country in the world. In the United States, Social Security and Medicare depend on having young workers paying in to cover the benefits received by retirees. In 1980, roughly five workers were providing the taxes to support each retired beneficiary. By 2019, that number had dropped to 2.8 workers per retiree.

Countries have responded by paying citizens to have more children. Hungary is spending 5% of GDP on free fertility treatments for women under 40. That country is also giving upfront loans to newlyweds that they can write off with each child born. It even offers a lifetime exclusion from income tax for mothers with three or more kids. Poland is giving $140 per child per month. Russia is providing parents with two or more children one-time payments of $8100. South Korea has spent 130 billion dollars on similar programs. In the U.S., we are now seeing payments to families based on the number of children they have. For years, Alaska has been sharing oil revenues with families based on the number of kids they have.

Children are a blessing from God, but we don’t want to see more people on the planet merely to solve economic issues. Even more important to those who deal with disturbed children is the fear that some families may not be prepared to care for more children properly. Ephesians 6:1-4 talks about fathers not exasperating their children but bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:5-9 involve a functional nuclear family. Having a baby for economic gain does not fit well with those commands.

With falling birthrates worldwide, perhaps it is time for governments to find new and more creative ways to meet the economic issues. Handing money to people who are not equipped psychologically or spiritually for the challenges of raising a child is not a good answer to the problems.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week magazine (March 26, 2021, page 11)

So You Want a New Body?

So You Want a New Body?

So you want a new body? Scientific American (April 2021 issue) published an article titled “A New You in 80 Days.” It contains news of a study by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. It includes surprising information about how rapidly the human body generates new cells.

Different parts of your body turn over new cells at different rates. Fat and muscle cells make up 72% of our bodies by mass. Those cells last an average of 12 to 50 years. By number, there are far more cells in our blood, and they last only three to 120 days. The cells lining our gut live less than a week.

Every day, your body replaces 330 billion cells, which is about 1% of the total. That means in 80 to 100 days your body will replace 30 trillion cells. That is approximately the total number of cells in your body. So you want a new body, but don’t forget the larger fat and muscle cells will last for years while the smaller cells get replaced. Some cells last a lifetime, including brain, heart, and eye cells.

The study does not include the bacteria and viruses that are in our bodies. There are about 38 trillion of them. That is more than the number of your body cells, but they are much smaller and have a total weight of only seven to eleven ounces (200 to 300 g). By mass, cells make up 68% of our bodies. Fluids outside of cells make up 25%, and solids such as minerals in our bones complete the other 7%. By number, 87% of the cells in our bodies are the microscopic red blood cells.

A report like this can help us understand how complex the human body is. I remember how simple cars were 50 years ago when compared to today. When I was in high school, I had a friend who could tear his car down and put it back together in less than a day. That was in 1950. Today’s cars are so complex that such a feat would be impossible, but that also means it is difficult to fix when something goes wrong. The complexity of our bodies makes the treatment of our bodies difficult when something goes wrong, and, like today’s cars, there is a lot that can go wrong.

So you want a new body? That won’t happen in this life. We are reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, Lord, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful. I know that full well.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Priorities, Politics, and Family

Priorities, Politics, and Family

Jesus made it very clear that we must not integrate Christianity and secular government. “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). That was not only about paying taxes but also a matter of priorities in the life of Christians. In Romans 13, Paul tells us to “submit to the governing authorities,” and he says, “there is no authority except from God.” He then says that government is a stabilizing force to protect those who do good and punish those who do wrong. Christ never advocated rebellion against the corrupt, abusive Roman government. The Bible guides us on priorities, politics, and family.

In addition to civil authority and the Church, God instituted the family. From Genesis through the New Testament letters, the family is the basic unit of society. The Week magazine (March 19, 2021) published an article titled “The Broken Families of QAnon.” It details families torn apart when family members become obsessed with political issues above family relationships. Regardless of your political views, for Christians, the family has to come first.

The New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ gave the family a new structure. When society considered women as men’s possessions and having status only when they bore children, Christianity taught that women were equal with men. Much of Paul’s teachings deal with family issues. Only Romans 13 teaches the Christian relationship to the civil law. That does not mean Christians cannot be involved in politics or serve in political ways, but that role must be less important than their responsibility to their mate, parents, and children.

In America today, the importance of family has been diluted by the moral collapse resulting from the rejection of God and the Bible. Couples “hooking up” and living together without getting married show a distorted concept of sex. Marriage has become a political tool to justify relationships that are different from the original creation of family in Genesis 2:24. As America continues to reject God and the Bible, we can expect to see more violence and further disintegration of the family.

Christians need to know why they believe what they believe and share those reasons with their families, neighbors, and communities. The real answer to the chaos, political violence, and abuse we see in today’s world is the teaching of Christ on priorities, politics, and family.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues

Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues

On March 16, 2021, the media was full of articles about Pope Francis stating that “homosexual unions are not similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The Vatican said, “God can not bless sin” further confusing the media. In a 2019 interview for the documentary Francesco, Pope Francis made a public endorsement of same-sex civil unions and said, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.” These statements have led to confusion concerning Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues.

We cannot speak for the Catholic Church or Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues, but we suggest that the problem is very complex and that the Vatican, as one priest at John Carroll University put it, “is trying to thread a needle” on this issue. The Pope stated, “What we have to have is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered.” Later the Pope said they are legally covered but not church-sanctioned.

Several facts make this issue difficult. One is that most gays did not choose to have homosexual tendencies. Why they do is related to a great extent to the acts of others. The breakdown of the family, abuse, chemical difficulties, and peer pressure are just a few of the contributors to same-sex pressures. It is becoming more and more evident that multiple causes are leading to LGBTQ behavior.

Another problem is that for many LGBTQ participants, the things necessary to maintain that lifestyle are very difficult. They may have to take hormone therapy for the rest of their lives, causing side effects and a shortened life expectancy. Some STDs are more readily transmitted in homosexual acts than in heterosexual acts.

In a free society, people can choose their sexual identity, but that creates complications. People born male who choose to be transgender females by surgery and drugs or merely by identifying as females have a huge advantage in sports. Should LGBTQ participants be allowed to adopt children or to have children conceived in a science laboratory? The Pope has said that the Catholic Church can bless people who live in “fidelity,” which apparently includes same-sex unions.

The Bible speaks strongly against same-sex unions, although some religious leaders have danced around those biblical statements. God’s plan for marriage and family remains the same. The Pope’s statement that “homosexual unions are not similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” is consistent with the biblical position.

We suggest that LGBTQ participants have the right to practice their beliefs without abuse, but the Church cannot sanction sexual relationships that the Bible strongly condemns. It seems to us that this is the point of Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues. If that is the case, we would agree with that position. We also recommend reading the book Caring Beyond the Margins by Guy Hammond, a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction. You can read our review of that book HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Collateral Damage from COVID-19

Collateral Damage from COVID-19

In the past year, we have endured the sickness that the virus caused, resulting in the deaths of loved ones, the isolation of family members, and economic losses. Recent studies by Gallup, the COVID-19 Consortium, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control have shown a substantial amount of collateral damage from COVID-19. Reports now being released by these groups show:

1) The suspension of in-person schooling has resulted in poor learning, school dropouts, and social isolation, especially in lower-income groups.

2) In a three-month period, 78% of cancers were never detected due to missed screenings. That means 750,000 to over a million new cancer cases missed over a nine-month period.

3) People being afraid to go to the hospital has resulted in a massive increase in pediatric illnesses, heart attacks, and strokes.

4) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a four-fold increase in depression, a three-fold increase in anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of suicide ideation.

5) The American Medical Association (AMA) reported an increase in drug overdoses and suicides.

6) Cases of domestic and child abuse have “skyrocketed,” while many child abuse cases have gone unreported because they are usually detected through schools.

A significant factor in these reports is that specific economic and racial groups dominate the most affected areas. Recovery from the pandemic will depend on churches and ministries addressing many of these areas, but Government rules for gathering have prevented many Christian groups from helping the needy.

We hope that we have all learned some things from this horrible experience. Christian involvement can help create a cooperative effort to heal the divisions and minister to the needs of those dramatically injured by both the virus and the collateral damage from COVID-19.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Imprimis, February 2021 – available at imprimis.hillsdale.edu.