Does It Matter What People Believe?

Does It Matter What People Believe about Coronavirus?

For some of us, the tragedy of COVID-19 has really hit home. As I write this, my son is in the local hospital, fighting what may be a losing battle with the disease. As we have struggled to get Tim the help he needs, we have run into people who deny there is a pandemic. Many Americans believe that scams, lies, and conspiracies are behind claims that we are in a pandemic. Does it matter what people believe?

The University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center published the results of studies of what Americans believe about the pandemic in the journal Social Science and Medicine. According to their research, over 17% of all Americans believe that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales. Also, 24% believe that the government exaggerated the virus’s danger to damage Donald Trump politically.

There is no evidence to support those beliefs, and those of us who have family members dying from the virus certainly don’t endorse those claims. The Bible describes what happens when people change “the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” The result is a culture in which people “do not retain God in their knowledge.” Instead, they are filled with “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, …” (Romans 1:24-32)

Does it matter what people believe? Read those verses and then read the newspaper or watch the evening news. As faith in God and belief in the Bible have decreased, the use of lying and deceit has grown. We live in a society where lies and deception are a way of life. This ministry exists to change that by convincing people there is a God and that the Bible is a reliable guide to how we should live. Does it matter what people believe? Yes, it does matter.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Pandemic Pods and Education

Pandemic Pods and Education

Home Schooling has expanded dramatically as public schools struggle with how to open in the face of the pandemic and the difficulties of online classes. Now parents are organizing into “pandemic pods” where they form groups of five to ten children and hire a teacher for that group.

For working parents, this may seem to be an answer to the school situation.
The problem is that only families with enough money to hire a good teacher will be able to form these pandemic pods. This sends us back to a segregation issue. Families who join together are likely to be families with similar social backgrounds. This arrangement excludes families living in poverty.

As a public school science teacher in South Bend, Indiana, I saw firsthand another issue that should be considered. I would see students transferred during the school year from a nearby large Catholic high school to Riley High School, where I taught. These were always kids who were discipline problems. One of my friends who taught at the Catholic school told me that their ultimate threat was, “If you don’t behave, we’ll send you to Riley.”

We must remember that these are kids who need an education. Virtual learning and online classes work for highly-motivated students who want to cooperate. What about the kid who is not motivated, has a bad family situation, doesn’t want to be in school at all, and is poor? The coronavirus has given people another excuse to separate their kids from those who are different, racially, socially, and/or morally.

Those making decisions about schools must recognize the importance of educating our children. Parents must make their child’s education a priority. Education isn’t just facts, but it’s also how to get along with people who are different from you. The pandemic pods idea might work if they contain heterogeneous student populations supported by tax money and available equally to all. Allowing parents to segregate children to free themselves from the responsibility of educating them is not an answer.

For those who choose homeschooling, the Does God Exist? ministry has materials that can be helpful in areas of faith and science. Through the years, many homeschoolers have used our video series, which is available to watch free on DoesGodExist.tv or to purchase at THIS LINK. Also, our website DoesGodExist.org has various links and mail-in courses. For science, our Facebook page has daily postings telling about various animals and plants.

— John N. Claton © 2020

Reference: The Week magazine for August 7, 2020

Animal Viruses and Human Illness

Animal Viruses and Human Illness

The COVID-19 virus has been too lethal to ignore. This pandemic makes us realize that there are many viruses out there, and the current one is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. As early as AD 165 to 180, pandemics killed massive numbers of people. Smallpox killed 5 million, and bubonic plague killed 25 million on four different occasions starting in 541. Researchers today are attempting to catalog links between animal viruses and human illness. They estimate that there are probably 1.6 million animal viruses yet to be discovered in mammal and bird populations and that 827,000 of them could cause disease in humans.

Viruses are part of the natural world in which we live. They serve useful purposes in aiding animal digestion, reproduction, and elimination of wastes. The problem is that each animal has its own set of viruses suited for that animal’s diet and living conditions. If an animal’s virus jumps into another species with a different diet and living conditions, the results can be destructive. That is the connection between animal viruses and human illness. Most of the viruses we know about came into the human population from rodents, including rats, bats, birds, chimps, and mosquitos. Some have jumped through several animals such as bats giving the virus to cattle and camels, which gave it to humans.

The Old Testament laws had health restrictions, which made virus transmission less of a problem. People were also not in such proximity to one another or to animals that had destructive viruses. Living in very arid conditions reduced disease transmission, and the dietary laws worked against most virus transmission. When you read through Deuteronomy and Leviticus, you see elaborate precautions that we now understand had hygienic benefits to minimize viral transmission.

In the New Testament, many of these rules were continued. There was a prohibition against drinking blood, and the increased use of baking and boiling foods contributed to a low virus transmission rate. Moral rules that reduced the spread of disease included the elimination of polygamy and polyandry and the strong condemnation of prostitution. In time, the keeping of exotic pets and the acceptance of foods previously forbidden to Israel tended to thwart human attempts to fight disease.

God has given us the capacity to understand viruses and the connection between animal viruses and human illness. God has also given us the tools to control these virus issues. He has also given us hope for something better. Will we use the tools and techniques God gave us to stop the pandemics, or will we open our culture to more viral events in the future? Time will tell.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from “The Virus Hunters,” Smithsonian magazine, July/August 2020, and THIS STORY on virus hunters from 2018.

Religious Hucksters and COVID-19

Religious Hucksters and COVID-19

One of the funniest stories in the Bible is about religious hucksters (Acts 19:13-16). A group of “vagabond Jews” tried to conduct a religious healing of a man. These seven religious “healers” were the sons of a priest named Sceva. They performed their chanting, which included mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. Then the evil spirit in the man they were trying to heal spoke up and said, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?” The patient jumped on the seven “healers,” ripped their clothes off, and ran them out of the house “naked and wounded.”

Today we see religious hucksters promoting all kinds of things that are supposed to heal people of the coronavirus or prevent its infection. Atheists use these charlatans to attack belief in God. In the June 2020 issue of the Center For Inquiry, there is a full-page article on Jim Bakker, the former TV evangelist. Bakker has a “silver solution” containing colloidal silver which he claims can cure COVID-19.

Silver is dangerous when it is in solution with other chemicals. Silver nitrate is an important tool in chemistry for use in qualitative analysis. One thing students learn early in chemistry is that silver nitrate will turn their skin to a blue/black color. The National Institutes of Health has issued a warning saying, “Colloidal silver can be dangerous to your health.” The Center for Inquiry article says “..Bakker and those like him don’t care whether their drugs work – as long as they sell.”

The story in Acts 19 is a warning to us that religious deception is as old as humanity, and we need to trust God and not modern “snake oil” hucksters like Bakker. Atheists will continue to use religious hucksters to destroy people’s faith in God. Educating ourselves and others about the false claims of people who pretend to speak for God is one way we can defend our faith and avoid adding tragedy to people already in pain.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

The Barna Research Group is a research agency that has been doing statistical analysis of religion since 1984. Their studies are widely recognized as academically valid. One useful part of Barna’s work is that they repeat studies to identify trends. Research this year indicates a decline in practicing Christians in America.

Barna defines a practicing Christian as: “Someone who identifies as a Christian, agrees strongly that faith is very important in their life, and has attended church within the past month.” In the year 2000, 45% of Americans surveyed identified themselves as Christians using that criterion. In February of 2020, that percentage had dropped to 25%. This research was based on interviews with 96,171 adults.

When you think about the numbers associated with the Barna definition, it is evident that the word “practicing” is the weasel word. Many people who claim to be Christians have not made a practice of attending Church services. At the same time, they would probably be upset to be called “non-practicing Christians.” However, the truth is that Barna used the same set of questions in 2000 and 2020. There can be no doubt that there has been a sharp decline in practicing Christians in America.

It may be that the coronavirus pandemic will pull some of us away from making a god out of our material possessions. But unless we replace our zeal for things with enthusiasm for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we will continue to be poorly equipped either for this life or for eternity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can find previous posts about Barna Group research HERE and HERE.

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

We are all aware of the destructive nature of the pandemic we are enduring. There is no question about how the virus is impacting families and the economy of the country. At the same time, some positive things are happening because of Christian witness during the pandemic.

There is a story circulated by SAT-7, an interdenominational Christian television center in the Middle East, which demonstrates how the coronavirus is being beneficial. A man in Iran called the television station and said that the people talking on the station were not like the ones that dominated his country. He said he couldn’t believe that they weren’t violent but had a joy and peace about them which he found attractive. He didn’t have a clue as to who Jesus is. However, he knew that what Jesus was saying was better than the violence, terror, and killing that were a part of the religion that dominates his part of the world. He wanted to know where Jesus lived so he could visit Him.

A week later, this man called again, but this time he had 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, and all of them wanted to hear about Jesus. Secret house churches are blossoming all over the Middle East. The coronavirus allows Christians to show compassion and bring help and necessary medications to people who are suffering. Similar stories are coming from Afghanistan.

In America, the coronavirus is showing the huge contrast between atheist beliefs and what Christianity offers. Survival of the fittest as a guide to life doesn’t work well with a pandemic. Isolation and competing for medicine and medical care are not attractive lifestyles for most people. Christians who are first responders talk about the dominance of believers in their efforts. The idea of serving others and saving lives even at personal risk to themselves is the exact opposite of atheistic belief systems.

The coronavirus is not God’s retribution for human sin, but, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). Christian witness during the pandemic brings a shining light in a culture that suddenly finds itself unable to manage. In this crisis, atheism offers no hope except perhaps personally, selfishly surviving the plague in whatever way possible. True atheism has no thought of helping others or being confident about the future, even if this life comes to an end. The contrast is a great apologetic for Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Pandemic Refugees in 2020

Pandemic Refugees because of the Virus

What are you doing during this time of being forced to stay in your dwelling alone, maintaining social distancing? Do you feel like we are pandemic refugees?

Thanks to technology, there are many options available. We all have time to talk on the phone to family and friends. There are books to read, puzzles to do, clean up projects to take care of, and time to check on people we can help. Checking on folks by phone is easy and available to all of us. We can even send needed items using our credit card and the shipping that most suppliers provide. As the weather gets warmer, we can do outside projects that we have long neglected.

The volume of emails we receive has gone up, and our various websites such as doesgodexist.today, doesgodexist.tv, and facebook.com/evidence4god have seen an increase in usage. Our children’s website grandpajohn.club, has been used by some to provide some teaching to their children.

It is disturbing that a large percentage of our population has used this time to immerse themselves in various kinds of drugs. According to The Week (April 17, 2020, page 16) alcohol sales are up 55% with online sales up 243%. Cannabis stores report their sales are up 130%. Our culture has moved away from faith and belief in God and turned to “Survival of the fittest.” From that perspective, this whole experience is a disaster and the only answer is to use drugs to numb your mind to what you can’t control. For those with faith in God and a belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ, this is a time full of unique opportunities to serve others. It is an opportunity to become part of a solution to a global problem.

For Christians, instead of feeling like pandemic refugees, we have the assurance of God’s word. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea … the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalms 46:1-2, 7).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God’s Seasons of Hope

God's Seasons of Hope

We have mentioned before that God did not create the coronavirus that is causing so much pain to people worldwide. In this devastating epidemic, many of us have lost someone close to us. No one is minimizing the damage of COVID-19, but human greed and mismanagement have been the primary cause of it, not God. However, God’s seasons of hope can bring us through times like this.

One blessing that we should all be thankful for is the time of year when this pandemic has struck. It is now April. Geese are flying overhead. My daffodils are ready to bloom. A baby deer crossed my driveway this morning. The yard is greening up, and I will be outside rotor-tilling the garden and spreading fertilizer later this week. Experts say that viruses don’t like the ultraviolet light and high temperatures of the Sun, and the forecast is for clear skies and rising temperatures.

When Paul was teaching in Iconium (Acts 14), he encouraged his listeners: “Turn from these vanities to the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea and all the things that are in them. In the past God allowed all nations to walk in their town ways, but he did not leave himself without a witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Verses 15-18).

The rain has come and melted the last of the snow. There is plenty of food, and congregations who operate food banks are meeting the needs of people in their areas. Before long, there will be strawberries, asparagus, greens, and mushrooms available outside our doors. We can once again fill our hearts with food and gladness.

Let us find encouragement in Paul’s words as we enjoy God’s seasons of hope and look forward to a future free from this virus threat.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Stop Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Atheists and the atheistic media are using the coronavirus to attack those who believe in God. They have taken the refusal of several extremist religious figures to practice social distancing and used it as a club against Christians. There is no justification for blaming Christians for COVID-19.

The New York Times and Salon.com cite Jerry Falwell Jr.’s reopening of Liberty University and the actions of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne as “crippling our coronavirus response.” Numerous atheist journals and websites have repeated those claims. This smear technique is an old tool of those who wish to attack others. Blaming Christians for COVID-19 is like saying that because Hitler hates Jews, all Germans hate Jews.

What Falwell and Brown are doing is in contradiction to the Bible. Romans 13 finds Paul telling Christians, “Submit yourselves to the governing authorities…He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted …” Paul goes on to say that God uses these rulers to help us. That is indeed happening in this pandemic. The fact is that Christians can worship anywhere, and Jesus made it clear that “where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). It seems that Howard-Browne is either ignorant of Romans 13 or has his eye on something other than spiritual matters. We suggest that finances are involved in both cases.

Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney said, “It was entirely predictable that the Left would blame Christians for spreading the virus. Nothing is more satisfying to secular liberals than to look down on believers as self-deluded anti-science rubes.” The fact is that the virus started in China, where Christians make up less than 3% of the population. It has gone wild in places like New Orleans and New York City, which are hardly places where Falwell and Howard-Browne’s followers dominate the population.

Those blaming Christians for COVID-19 need to stop bashing God and Christianity and do what many Christians are doing. The followers of Jesus are serving those who can’t get out by delivering food and medicine, making face masks, and providing transportation for those who need it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Are Viruses and What Is their Purpose?

What Are Viruses and What Is their Purpose?

It is self-evident that we are all impacted by something called a “virus.” What are viruses, and what is their purpose?

The first clue about viruses was in 1898 when scientists discovered that the cause of foot and mouth disease in livestock was something smaller than any bacteria. Because viruses are about 100 times smaller than bacteria, they could not be detected until electron microscopes were developed in 1931. Since viruses were too small to be filtered out, scientists initially thought they were liquids. They were given the name “virus” which comes from the Latin word for poison.

Later, scientists discovered that a virus is a protein (DNA or RNA) molecule enclosed in a capsid covered by a protective layer of fat, or lipids. The virus in and of itself is inert and unable to reproduce. So what is their purpose? When they come in contact with living cells, they insert their genetic material into the host, so the cell now produces viral protein. This may produce harmful and life-threatening results. Among the illnesses generated by viruses are the common cold, influenza, smallpox, chickenpox, herpes, shingles, AIDS, polio, rabies, Ebola, and others.

If the protein is beneficial, the virus can produce a useful evolutionary change. In that way, viruses are tools to create new genetic products. In today’s world of genetic engineering, the process is called transduction. We have pointed out before that many times good things come from evolutionary change. God designed living things with the ability to change and adapt. Scientists use viruses as tools to affect desired genetic changes in agricultural products to produce high protein corn, for example. Some viruses attack bacteria, and they are called bacteriophages. As bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics, scientists are interested in using bacteriophages as a defense against harmful bacteria.

If they are not living things, then what are viruses? They are sometimes called “organisms on the edge of life.” They are not fully living on their own, but they possess some characteristics of living things. Viruses are very fragile because the only thing protecting them is a thin layer of fat, known as lipids. If the fat is dissolved, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own. That is why any soap or detergent will destroy a virus, and why washing your hands with soap and warm water is essential. Heat melts fat, so water above 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F) for washing clothes, dishes, or hands will destroy viruses. Any solution which is more than 60% alcohol will dissolve fat and destroy the virus, as will bleach in a 1 to 5 ratio to water. Antibiotics or bactericides do not affect a virus because they only work on living tissue. Antibiotics cannot kill what is not alive.

The problem with viruses is that when they are transferred from animals into humans, or even different animals, they can be destructive. Scientists believe that the current coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is active in bats where it causes no problems. When the virus jumped into humans, the result was destructive.

Then, what is their purpose? Viruses can be useful tools in their proper place. They are part of the way life continues to exist on a changing Earth. Mismanagement of animals and food can cause a virus to become an enemy of humans. We have a repeat of the Frankenstein phenomenon when a potentially useful concept turns into a monster because of misuse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from: Berkeley.edu and wikipedia.org