Fake News

Fake News
In the last two years, the word “fake” has shown up so many times in the media and political arena that people are now well aware of the fact that not everything is as it appears. Fake news is nothing new, and the early Christians had to deal with fake apostles, fake witnesses, and scams of all kinds. (See Acts 6:13 and Acts 8 for examples.)

In the scientific area, there have been so many fakes in every field that there are some people who make a living just exposing fakes. This is a constant problem in the field of paleontology where fake fossils have confused the theories of evolution and earth history. In The Week magazine for August 10, 2018, carried an interesting story about “The Great Chinese Dinosaur Boom.” Scientists have found rich fossil beds in northeastern China. Local farmers have discovered that they can make good money by selling fossils to collectors who are not scientists. The result is that they have glued pieces together to make it look like a new form of life. This reminds us of the fake human tracks that were promoted in Glen Rose, Texas, in past years by people trying to sell the religious position that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

There are several lessons for all of us here. One is not to trust any human without checking out their claim. That is true of every endeavor in our lives. Few of us would buy a used car without investigating the claim of the salesman about what an excellent deal we are getting. Why would we accept religious or secular claims without giving the same spirit of investigation to the story?

In a world of fake news, the one thing we can trust and that is absolutely true is God’s word. Don’t trust what people claim that it says. Study it for yourself. That may mean looking up the meaning of the words of the original language and taking the time to look at the context. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for teaching, for refuting error and for giving guidance as well as for moral discipline, that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work ” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

American Marijuana Attitude

American Marijuana Attitude
A recent study showed that most Americans view marijuana favorably thinking that it has significant benefits and few risks. Science does not support the new American marijuana attitude.

The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the new study on July 23. The researchers conducted an online survey of more than 9,000 people from all over the United States. They found that 81 percent of U.S. adults believe that marijuana has at least one benefit. The most common benefit mentioned was pain management. Other supposed benefits in people’s minds were the treatment of diseases and relief from anxiety, stress, and depression. At the same time, 91 percent of the respondents believe that marijuana has at least one risk. The most common risk mentioned was not medical problems, but legal. They also mentioned addiction and impaired memory. The bottom line is that the American public sees marijuana as having few health risks and significant health benefits.

The prevailing favorable American marijuana attitude is most likely due to the influence of the media. Some individuals and businesses stand to make a massive amount of money on marijuana, and governments see it as a source of tax revenue. In the meantime, the public is ignoring costs in healthcare, addiction treatment, traffic enforcement, and traffic deaths. In a previous post, we reported on a study of the effects of marijuana on the brain. The American Medical Association published information in the JAMA Internal Medicine on the increase in fatal car accidents in the United States on April 20 each year. That’s the cannabis celebration day on which thousands of marijuana enthusiasts light up at 4:20 PM in celebration of pot. The 4/20 celebration has grown as marijuana has become more widely available and legal. According to the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, there was a 12 percent increase in fatal crashes on April 20 and a 38 percent increase among drivers younger than 21.

Since Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had traces of marijuana in their blood has doubled. One of the problems involves trying to set a legal limit for marijuana because its effect on the body is very different from alcohol. Blood alcohol level reliably predicts impairment. The level of THC (the chemical in pot) in the blood is not the critical factor until it enters the tissue of the brain where it has its effect. The THC blood level may be lower when the brain is most affected.

Getting high on marijuana makes changes in the human brain and smoking the weed has many of the same health dangers as smoking tobacco. It seems clear that the American marijuana attitude is changing, but it is also clear that we need to step back and think more clearly before our thinking becomes blurred by pot.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Know the Meaning of Life

Know the Meaning of Life
It was a study using scientific methods to determine what category of people are the most content with life. The research involved compiling the results of five different psychological studies of more than 50,000 individuals completed between 1981 and 2017. The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published a report of the final result in June 2018. The happiest group are those who know the meaning of life.

A team of psychologists from the University of Southern California conducted the study. They concentrated on the political views of the test subjects, looking to see whether they were liberal or conservative. The conservatives consistently were the happiest, and they more often claimed to know the meaning of life. The media reported this as a “happiness gap” between liberals and conservative.

This study concentrated on political viewpoints, but when the researchers adjusted their model to remove “religious attendance” from the equation, the conservatives were still happier and found more purpose in life than liberals did. However, they found that the people who were pro-life and did not support same-sex marriage (which would include most conservative Christians) were more likely to believe that life has meaning and purpose. (After all, why would someone who believes there is a purpose in life not be pro-life?)

The author of the new study, David Newman, said, “Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be and that there is a sense of order. If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful.”

Christians believe that there is order because God created an orderly universe. We believe that chaos is the result of sin. We also believe that God created us for a purpose and no matter what happens in this life, God loves us and has something better waiting for us. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing in this life can take away the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The scientists attempted to remove the God factor by taking “religious attendance” out of the equation. Perhaps they didn’t realize that attendance at some kind of religious gathering is not what makes a person a true Christian. The accurate measure of a Christian life is allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord. When Christ is at the center of our being, and we live by faith, we will have contentment, and we will know the meaning of life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Legalizing Sin Industries

Legalizing Sin Industries - Gambling
We now have casinos in virtually every state in the United States. The government will soon approve online gambling. The push for state-sanctioned prostitution is gaining momentum. Legalized marijuana is now a major industry. The trend is certainly toward legalizing sin industries.

Here in Michigan, local governments are being swamped with applications for permits to open marijuana shops and dispensaries. From a biblical and logical viewpoint, we seem to be on a collision course with total collapse. Students of history tell us that the fall of Rome did not come from without but from within. The moral temper of the people became so bad that the entire structure collapsed.

The usual justification for legalizing sin industries is that the government can control (and tax) the industry when it has a legally sanctioned framework. Following that argument, prohibition was a failure because those promoting alcohol just went underground and the use of alcohol continued. The comparison is made to marijuana by those promoting the legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug. As is our usual approach to any issue, we ask the question, “What is the evidence?”

1. Does legalization result in control and produce fewer problems? We rarely hear any comment from the “little people” about what prohibition was like. By “little people” I mean folks who work a regular job, raise kids and try to be active in local affairs. What we read about in the media are the rich and famous who had the money and the time to go to the “speakeasy,” those and who were involved in organized crime, and the “high rollers.” The men and women who worked on the assembly line or as clerks would testify that prohibition did reduce drunkenness in all age levels. The alcohol-related crime was high among the high rollers but not among the everyday people.

2. Already we see the failure of the recreational marijuana craze in Los Angeles. Marijuana at the government approved stores is selling for $25.00 per gram, and on the street, the same thing can be purchased for $5.00. On the street, you are not paying state excise tax.

3. The problems of lung damage continue to exist, and smoking marijuana is illegal in smoke-free areas or any other place where tobacco is banned. Legalizing marijuana does to eliminate the health hazards.

4. Legalization of marijuana increases usage which in turn produces sharp increases in cases of car accidents, abuse of other people, the neglect of children, and crime. Statistics from police agencies show sharp increases in these areas when marijuana is legalized. We also see cases where children ingest marijuana that is left unsecured around the house.

5. The use of any drug puts the person at risk of being led to another more effective drug. Gateway cases with marijuana are increasing, and the cost is already creating a burden. States adjacent to states where marijuana is legal have been threatening lawsuits because of the increased burden produced by people carrying drugs across state lines. This also creates problems for families and businesses where recreational drugs have created financial hardship and psychological problems.

Legalizing sin industries has never worked, and for Christians it is especially important to “avoid all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers?
Time magazine and Time.com published a picture of a shrine to Jesus Malverde considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Culiacan, Sinaloa, northwest Mexico. In attempting to contact the managers of the shrine we were told that it was under the auspices of the local bishop and that he would answer any questions we had. We have not been able to get a response from anyone connected with that area of Mexico.

I inquired about this from a good friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic priest (and wishes to stay anonymous for obvious reasons). He told me that clergy in the Catholic church throughout the ages have chosen to serve the spiritual needs of people they were ministering to even if that person was engaged in behavior the priest didn’t accept or sanction.

It is interesting that in some wars there have been clergy on opposing sides of the conflict, both ministering to the people in their area. The difference in this case is that there is no political ideology involved in the question of drugs. I know of no religious person who would maintain that drugs are a good thing or that the Church should be supporting people who traffic drugs.

Those who wish to charge believers in God with being ineffective in stopping evil in all cultures have a good point. That is why this program we call “Does God Exist?” is not a part of any denomination or cult. The fact that religious people make mistakes, and may even stand up for something that is wrong and sinful does not make it right. When believers try to defend immoral behavior, it is a human making a human mistake.

We cannot defend what humans have done in the past, or what they continue to do today. God’s existence is not related to human inadequacy. The credibility of the Bible is not dependent on any theologian or scholar. The New Testament makes it clear that the human body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), and that it must be cared for and not abused (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is no defense for anyone who would protect or promote drug trafficking be they atheists or religious leaders. The idea of a patron saint of drug traffickers is indefensible because Christians have a special reason for opposing the use of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Boy Scout Dilemma

Boy Scout Dilemma
When I was a young man, some 70 years ago, I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. My parents, who were atheists, were not enthusiastic about the idea because the Boy Scouts met in the facilities of churches. Also, there was an emphasis, in my parents’ minds at least, on religion. To them, that was the Boy Scout dilemma.

The truth is that many of the merit badges were on morality, faith, worship, and leadership in spiritual matters. I avoided those so not to irritate my parents. In retreats and camping, there were talks and classes on issues of concern to a young teenage boy. Those included sexual matters and the concept of keeping “purity” as a virtue. Our leaders were men who demonstrated how to live as good citizens, fathers, and husbands.

In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have eroded most of that. Openly gay and transgender boys can become Boy Scouts. The ban on openly gay adult leaders has been thrown out. Now the word “Boy” is being dropped, and the organization will admit girls.

Recently, one out of every five Boy Scouts was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Mormon Church has announced they are ending their partnership with the Boy Scouts and they are forming their own youth program. I have friends who are active in the Boy Scouts who say they are refusing to continue camping trips or summer camps because they cannot control the dynamics of a sexually mixed group in a wilderness setting. The Boy Scout dilemma today is much different from what it was in the past.

It is likely that lawsuits will ultimately come from this debacle. The question arises of whether any group has the right to exclude anyone from any activity on the basis of gender or morality. That could have implications for the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Christian Vision of Sexuality

Christian Vision of Sexuality
Now and then we find a statement by an author that we think is so good that we need to promote it. Todd Wilson in a new book titled Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality has such a statement:

“We’ve turned sex into something far less powerful and profound than what it really is. As a culture, we’re quickly growing bored with sex, even as we’re gorging ourselves on it. Something has gone ludicrously wrong. We believe sex is only for marriage, not because Christians are killjoys, but because we have a realistic and exalted view of the power of sex. Sex isn’t a toy or a plaything; it’s a sacred and sovereign power. When something is powerful–think of a downed power line or a loaded gun–you aren’t careless when you handle it. You understand that it can kill or harm you if you aren’t careful. Sex is a powerful creative gift, something God gives us for good purposes. But if we misuse it and are careless, it can profoundly harm us.”

One of the problems is that our culture has zoomed in on the physical, mechanical aspects of sex, and not the love and oneness that God created sexual expression to be. The lessons of how humans have contaminated one of God’s most beautiful creations fill the pages of the Bible. In the Christian vision of sexuality, we have no excuse for pornography or sex outside of a committed marriage relationship. We have no tolerance for unwanted sexual advances and actions by anyone, including political figures. The fact that there is no excuse doesn’t change the fact that there will always be those who will place their lust above God’s plans for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Prison Suicide Rates Skyrocket

Prison Suicide Rates Skyrocket
Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.

NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.

The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”

The biblical perspective is that all humans have value because they are created in the image of God. That is radically different from the secular view that we are just animals with no more value than any other animal. Suicide is directly connected to what we understand a human to be. The Christian view is that there is no such thing as “worthless human trash” or “unfit people.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Sexual Child Predators

Sexual Child Predators
The lead article in the March 2018 issue of The Christian Chronicle is titled “Sexual Abuse Victims ‘Fed Up’ with Silence,” written by Bobby Ross. It tells the story of Jimmy Hinton whose father was a gospel preacher who was a sexual child predator at the same time that he was working for congregations of the Church of Christ.

When Jimmy discovered his father’s behavior, he reported it to authorities and his father is now in prison. Jimmy has taken his tragic experience and formed a ministry to help churches protect themselves from sexual child predators, and help victims recover from the abuse they have suffered.

Several years ago the “Does God Exist?” ministry became acquainted with Jimmy’s work because we encountered people who had been sexually abused by a person claiming to be religious. We saw how vital Jimmy’s work was, and we worked with him to make a DVD series for churches to use. The DVD series is titled “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” There are five sessions, and we included a teacher’s guide with the series.

This series can be borrowed free of charge from our ministry or purchased from us for $60.00 postpaid. It is not available on our video website. To borrow or purchase the series, please contact us. For questions Phone 269-687-9426 or email jncdge@aol.com. To order call 574-514-1400 or email marcusen@michiana.org. You can also write us at 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles, MI 49120. You can also obtain the series from jimmyhinton.org. Help us stop sexual child predators in the churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Down Syndrome Abortions

Down Syndrome Abortions
In February, Ohio governor John Kasich signed into law a measure relating to Down Syndrome abortions. Under the law, unborn children cannot be aborted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Ethics professor Peter Singer of Princeton University and other leading atheists have tried to make abortion mandatory for babies who are known to have congenital birth defects. The usual reasons for such actions are the cost factor, refusal of insurance coverage, and refusing admission to state-funded schools and care centers. All if this, in the view of some, makes financial sense for aborting.

As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects including blindness, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation I can understand the emotional and financial stresses involved. More to the point is the fact that a Down Syndrome child is a human being with a spiritual makeup. In a time of great emphasis on the value of diversity, it seems odd that a state would need to enact such a law. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “In a time of growing acceptance of human diversity and rejection of outdated biases against people with different abilities, such extreme intolerance stands out as a great injustice.”

Recently an abortion proponent suggested to me that autism should be eliminated by abortion, using the same argument as the proposal to have mandatory Down Syndrome abortions. The obvious implication of this is the “slippery slope” issue. Where do you stop? Racial and ethnic cleansing proponents can make the same argument.

The Christian view is that all humans are of equal value because we are created in the image of God. That means we treasure every life. We applaud the leadership in Ohio for their actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Citizen magazine, March 2018 page 9.