Most Hated Woman in America

Madalyn Murray OHair - Most Hated Woman in AmericaWhen I was active in organized atheism, the most visible atheist in America was a lady named Madalyn Murray. She started battling organized religion in the 1930s and was best known for her successful challenge to prayer in public schools. She married a U.S. Marine in 1965 and took the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Because of her work, she became known as the most hated woman in America.

As a young atheist, I was inspired by her debating skills, and I used her posters and many of her arguments in my atheist activities. Her business manager eventually murdered her. After she died, all kinds of stories surfaced about her activities. Robert Liston had several interviews with her, and some of her comments as he reveals them are interesting. Here are a few:

“I am more interested in having a good fight than I am in the separation of church and state.”

“I don’t really care that much about atheism. I’m not well-read in philosophy and theology. I’ve always been more interested in politics and social reform.”

“I love a good fight. I’ve always been like this all my life – and I’ve always won. I guess fighting God and God’s spokesmen is sort of the ultimate, isn’t it?”

The more you listen to her comments, the more you realize her primary motivation was not to destroy the abuses of religion and preserve the constitution of the United States. She seemed to enjoy being the most hated woman in America. Liston mentions that she once stated her intention of “carving out a job for myself.” The man who murdered Madalyn had embezzled quite a bit of money from her, so she must have done well at her job.

One of the reasons that all of our materials are free is that we don’t want to allow anyone to impugn our motives in doing this ministry. Contrary to what Madalyn and other atheists have said, there are a few of us who believe in God for reasons other than fleecing a lot of believers out of their savings.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Saturday Evening Post, July/August 2019, page 96.

Cross on Public Land Bladensburg, Maryland

Bladensburg Cross on Public LandIn 1925 a group of people erected a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland to honor 49 local men who died in World War 1. In 1961 the state bought the land and since that time it has maintained it, including the Bladensburg cross. Recently there have been court challenges to allowing a cross on public land.

During the first week of July 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the cross could stay even though it was on public land. This decision is not really a victory for those who want Christian symbols on public land. The justification for the Court allowing the Bladensburg cross to remain is that it had taken on a secular meaning as a memorial, and was no longer a Christian symbol.

It should be evident that this ruling by the Supreme Court would not apply to most situations since most crosses are not part of a secular memorial. Religious people tend to twist the descriptions of their symbols to get around the law. When the Catholic Church objected to using the King James Bible in public schools, people who were pushing for the study of the Bible changed its classification to literature rather than religion.

Jesus Christ never told His followers to worship a cross or any other physical thing. It seems to many of us that a cross on public land or otherwise can easily become an idol. Perhaps it can become a twenty-first-century golden calf rather than an intelligent response to the needs of our modern culture.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more details on this, click HERE.

What Is Hell?

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

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

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

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

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

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

-May/June 2006

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laws Threaten Christian Ministries

Laws Threaten Christian MinistriesSometimes governments pass laws with good motives, but when the law is applied, it has terrible consequences. In recent times we have seen laws threaten Christian ministries. Those who are trying to help people in the name of Jesus Christ should not be punished for doing so.

A classic example is the Downtown Hope Center’s Women’s Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska. The Center serves both men and women in the daytime, but at night it only houses abused women. The women sleep in military type rooms with beds a few feet apart. Because virtually all of the women in the shelter have psychological issues from being, it is essential that no males be sleeping among them. The Center denied access to a man who claims to be a woman. The Anchorage city government told the shelter to get on board with the laws demanding equality or close its doors.

We are getting notice after notice of other Christian facilities who have similar threats. In some cases, they have been shut down by government officials. Washington State Senate Bill 6219 forces employers who offer employee insurance with maternity care to include abortion. The Cedar Park Church has filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington because the church is involved in a maternity care program that provides for foster care and adoption. By its very definition, it would seem that “maternity care” would not include abortion. Laws threaten Christian ministries by requiring them to fund abortion when that goes against their core beliefs.

The number of cases is growing at an alarming rate, much of it initiated by atheist groups. In most cases, churches are merely closing down ministries and shelters where this type of thing becomes an issue.

For more on this, go to ADFlegal.org.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Commencement Speech Freedom

Commencement Speech Freedom We are into what should be a joyous time of year as graduating students enjoy a celebration of years of hard work. Whether it’s a commencement, a pinning ceremony, or some other ceremony to acknowledge the completion of their training, students should be free to express their gratitude. Unfortunately, commencement speech freedom is becoming a thing of the past.

The constant attack of skeptics and atheists has threatened administrative officials. They are afraid that a student will make some statement in a speech that will get the school in trouble. The result is not only the censoring of speeches but the insistence that all references to Christianity must be excluded.

A situation like that happened to a young lady named Karissa Langner. She was chosen to speak at her nursing program’s pinning ceremony at Colorado Mesa University. In her speech, Ms. Langner acknowledged the role that faith plays in her life. She closed her talk with: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

The college officials discovered that this is a quote of John 16:33. They threatened Ms. Langner with “repercussions” if she refused to change her speech. They insisted that their “nursing program will not tolerate any one religious slant.” Ultimately Mesa was threatened with a lawsuit, and commencement speech freedom was granted to Ms. Langner when she gave her speech as she wished.

We hear about these attacks often, and in most cases the young person backs down. They fear that continuing to battle the school will result in serious consequences for their future.

Here is an excellent question to ask candidates for political office:
Are our institutions of higher learning becoming so atheistic that a person who believes in God cannot get an education? What will you do about it?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from ADFlegal.org/StudentFreedom.

Are Most Scientists Atheists?

 Are Most Scientists Atheists?

Are most scientists atheists? Many times atheists and the atheistic media have suggested that most scientists reject belief in God and the best scientists have been atheists. That is simply not true. For many years we have published a column in our printed journal titled “Scientists and God.” In that column, we have included statements by leading scientists, many of them Nobel Prize winners, expressing their belief in a Creator.

Baruch Aba Shalev wrote a book titled 100 Years of Nobel Prizes. That book contains a report on the Nobel prizes awarded between 1901 and 2000. It shows that during that period when 423 prizes were awarded, 65.4% of Nobel Prize Laureates identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. Scientists who identified themselves as Christians won 78.3% of all Nobel prizes in Peace, 72.5% in Chemistry, 65.3 % in physics, 62% in medicine, 54% in economics, and 49.5% in literature.

So, are most scientists atheists? Certainly not. You don’t have to put your brain in park to be a Christian. Believing there is intelligence and purpose in the creation gives searching people a leg up in any attempt to understand the world in which we live.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Third Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.

REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”

RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.

The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.

The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.

ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Another Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Another Reason Why Atheism Makes Sense

Yesterday, we looked at one reason why some people choose atheism. Today we want to examine another reason why atheism makes sense. As I said yesterday, some people seem to think that there are no real atheists. Since I was an atheist for many years, I know that isn’t true. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God and they have various reasons. Here is a second reason:

REASON 2. Some argue that religion causes nothing but trouble, hostility, suffering, and discord. History is full of religious wars. We could point out the Crusades, more recent conflicts in Northern Ireland, and in much of the Middle East spilling over into terrorism in the United States and western countries. Examine the internal problems of religious groups including hypocrisy, bickering, hostility, and abuse. Look at the prominent religious leaders who are guilty of immoral actions. Look at the money raked in by glib, fast-talking con-artists who build religious empires for their own pocket. They exploit the very people they pretend to help. In simple terms, religion does not seem to work.

RESPONSE. Who among those of us who wear the name “Christian” would want to deny all of those charges? We can cry out that these are human errors and not God’s. However, if faith in God does not work for us, how can atheists rationally believe it is going to work for them? Today the body of Christ is afflicted with people who claim to be Christians while they single out other Christians to attack as they display anything but a Christian attitude.

What the atheist is missing in this argument is that hypocrisy is not solely a function of religion. You find hypocrisy at work and on the golf course. There has only been one person who ever lived who was entirely free of hypocrisy, and He was the Son of God. Because one atheist was a murderer, can we legitimately say that all atheists are murderers? Every human falls short of what he should be. The most fundamental difference between atheism and Christianity is that Christianity recognizes that fact and functions in spite of it. Atheism relies on humanism which tries to deny the existence of sin while pointing out the sins of religion.

ADVICE. Those of us who wear the name “Christian” need to do a better job of pointing people to Christ and the Bible rather than to preachers and buildings. As long as we are “preacher-oriented” and “building bound” we will continue to reinforce the arguments of the atheists. When we convince people about Christ and the truth of the Bible, the errors of humans will not be relevant. We must live out the faith we claim to have so that others see Christ in us. Only then can we can show them following Christ brings real peace.

Tomorrow we will look at another reason why atheism makes sense.

–John N. Clayton © 2019