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

Human Immune System

Human Immune System

We are continually looking for examples of intelligence and design in the world around us. One of the most incredible examples is the human immune system.

During the 2020 pandemic, we have all heard discussions among the experts about antibodies and how they can protect us from COVID-19. Scientists have also talked about who is vulnerable to the virus and herd immunity. We may not have thought about how our bodies were designed to fight diseases, virtually all of which come to us from animals.

Built into the human body is the ability to produce antibody proteins whenever a harmful antigen enters the body. This protein is a Y-shaped molecule that destroys the antigen. The antigen can be bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. Once the antibody enters the bloodstream, it can last for a very long time.

More recent studies of people who survived the 1918 flu virus (which killed 50 million people worldwide) showed that survivors still had the antibodies in their blood years later. Dr. Eric Altschuler at the University of Medicine in New Jersey said, “Our immune system has a steel-trap memory. It’s incredible that the Lord has blessed us with antibodies our whole lifetime. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The question arises as to whether this means we should let people get the COVID-19 virus until we all have antibodies to prevent getting it again. The problem with that view is that this virus can do great harm to our bodies, even if we survive it. The virus can perhaps also mutate and be re-introduced to our bodies.

We should never underestimate new challenges to our health, but the incredibly complex human immune system is designed to enable us to live in a world of challenges. Design requires a Designer.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The data on the study of the 1918 flu antibodies was originally in an Associated Press release on August 17, 2008.

Eating Dogs for Dinner

Eating Dogs for Dinner

One of the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised is the use of animals for food. People in many Asian countries eat animals that Americans would not think of using for food. An example is eating dogs for dinner.

Many years ago, while lecturing in London, a Chinese friend took me to an oriental restaurant for dinner. Since the menu was in Chinese, my host suggested that I let him order the meal. He said that he would get a variety of food so I could experience the diet of people who live in the area where he was born. I agreed but wrote down each item that was brought to me to sample.

When I got back to Indiana, I asked one of my students who spoke Chinese what I had eaten. He didn’t want to tell me. The first item was horse, the second was dog, and the third was cat. It was actually very good, but if he had told me that I was eating dog before it came to me on a plate, I am sure I would have balked at eating it.

The Week magazine (August 28, 2020, page 11) reported on eating dogs for dinner. The report says that the North Korean government is confiscating all pet dogs for use as food. Hungry North Koreans regard feeding a pet as wasteful, and the Communist government labels keeping a pet as a “bourgeois extravagance.” Authorities in North Korea are forcing households with pet dogs to surrender the animals for dog-meat distribution to restaurants and meat markets.

The COVID-19 issue originating in Chinese wet markets reminds us that what we eat can be an essential factor in human diseases. Knowing what dogs eat, where they go, and what their hygiene is like raises some serious concerns about what diseases they might carry. The Bible tells us to take care of our bodies as they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Being careful about what we eat and how our food is handled and prepared should be part of caring for our bodies.

— 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

Deforestation and Disease Pandemics

Deforestation and Disease Pandemics
Burning a Rainforest to Plant a Palm Oil Plantation

One of the interesting aspects of the story of Adam and Eve is the environment in which God placed them. Genesis 2:8 tells us that God planted a garden, and verse 9 tells us that He planted every tree that was pleasant and good for food. The Bible doesn’t say how long God took to plant the garden and what was involved in the garden’s growth. Verse 15 tells us that “God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” After establishing the man’s environment, the Genesis account turns to man’s spiritual nature. But the planted garden with every tree is our focus here as we think about deforestation and disease.

The Bible describes the first humans as what anthropologists call gatherers. Agriculture was a long way off. The eating of animals isn’t even suggested until chapter 4 when Abel brings “the firstlings of his flock” as an offering to God. An article in Scientific American (June 2020, page 8) points out how modern agricultural methods have led to the three major highly infectious viruses since 2002 – SARS, EBOLA, and COVID-19.

Slashing and burning to create land for crops, such as palm oil, reduces biodiversity and puts humans in contact with wildlife that carry microbes able to kill us. Species that survive the clearing are more likely to host illnesses that can be transferred to humans. In addition to the three main viruses of our time, the Scientific American article mentions some other diseases have come from rain forest inhabitants – Zika, Nipah, malaria, cholera, and HIV.

Humans have brought on most of our major disease issues by allowing greed and “survival of the fittest” mentality to govern our decisions about how we use the environment. We waste between 30 and 40% of the food we produce. Poor agricultural techniques and mismanagement of water prevent efficient use of what God has given us. Deforestation and disease go together. Now we are contaminating our atmosphere and filling our lakes, rivers, and oceans with waste.

The title of the Scientific American article is “To Stop Pandemics, Stop Deforestation.” God gave us the “garden” and the tools to manage it. We can’t continue to mismanage it and not see more consequences such as pandemics, global warming, and diseases produced by our failure to do what God called us to do in the beginning.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God’s Hygienic Food Laws, Wet Markets and COVID-19

Chinese Wet Market and God's Hygienic Food Laws
Chinese Wet Market

One of the enduring questions with the COVID-19 virus is its origin. We know that it came from the wet markets in Wuhan, China, but it is essential to look at what practices led to this pandemic. No one in the scientific community denies that epidemics and pandemics begin when a pathogen moves from one species to another. We need to consider how God’s hygienic food laws which He gave to the Israelites prevented epidemics and pandemics.

When you read the Old Testament, you see all kinds of restrictions on food. Those include not only what the Israelites could eat, but also how it was procured and prepared. From the earliest times, eating blood was forbidden (Genesis 9:4). Any preparation that allowed blood to remain in the meat was prohibited, so an animal that was strangled could not be eaten. Eating anything that had died on its own was forbidden (Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 17:15). Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 give a long and tedious list of what could be eaten and what could not. There were even instructions on how to prepare the meat (Exodus 12:8-9).

The practice in the Old Testament was that eating meat of any kind (other than fish) was a rare situation and usually only for the wealthy. The main diet was grains and fruits. When humans began to build cities, this dietary practice changed, but the early Christians retained much of the Old Testament diet and restrictions. (See Acts 15:29; 21:25.)

As humans moved away from the biblical instructions of God’s hygienic food laws and the handling of animals, they instituted some very dubious practices. The July/August 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (pages 20-24) carries a discussion titled “Did Superstition Cause the COVID-19 Outbreak?” The article describes traditional Chinese beliefs about meat and other byproducts of wild animals.

In China, much of the food is distributed in wet markets. In these markets, fish and a variety of other animals such as bats are slaughtered and gutted on-site to guarantee freshness. In places like Wuhan, the ground is wet with melted ice and the blood of various species. The animals to be slaughtered are kept alive in closely packed open cages where the blood and feces intermingle.

When we read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we may feel burdened with what appears to be an endless list of restrictions and rules. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the wet markets’ environment is conducive to the spread of disease. Epidemics of the past can be related directly and indirectly to cultural practices that would not have happened in the Israelite culture in the day of Moses. We have new problems today because of the size of the human population and the closeness of animals of all kinds and humans. The COVID-19 tragedy is a reminder of the wisdom we see in God’s hygienic food laws in the Old Testament.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Perspective on Life and COVID-19

Perspective on Life and COVID-19

Our friend Owen Olbricht sent us the following article titled “Perspective.” We want to share it with you during this time when we are facing the pandemic of COVID-19.

Imagine you were born in 1900.

*On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

*Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years.

*On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%.

*That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

*When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath.

*On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII.

*Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

*At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

*At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

*On your 62nd birthday, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could have ended.

*When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? When you were a kid in 1985, you didn’t think your 85-year-old grandparents understood how hard school was or how mean that kid in your class was. Yet, they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try to keep things in perspective.

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

Pandemic Fear and Faith

Pandemic Fear and Faith

We are all going through changes as the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, and many people seem to have pandemic fear.

In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.

Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?

In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.

The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.

I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.

One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life. If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”

We want the life God gave us to be fruitful and meaningful. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Let our love of God cause us to relax and avoid pandemic fear. This can be our living message to a lost, dying, and fearful world.

— John N. Clayton © 2020