Impact of a Judge on People’s Lives

Impact of a Judge
It is easy to see that both political parties in the United States, are very concerned about who is going to be appointed as judges, especially on the Supreme Court. A president serves a four-year term, but the impact of a judge can be felt for generations. Many people voted for President Trump purely to keep liberal judges off the court. The legacy of Democratic presidents has always included their choices for judges.

As an example of the concern, a major battle revolves around U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb who has consistently ruled against issues of faith. Crabb ruled that “The National Day of Prayer” was unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her decision.

Judge Crabb has twice sided with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on questions of taxes. Three years ago Crabb declared that the clergy housing allowance violated the First Amendment. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had filed the suit. The Justice Department argued that the FFRF wasn’t harmed because they could claim the benefit for themselves. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed judge Crabb’s decision and restored the housing allowance.

The leaders of the FFRF applied for the benefit and were denied by the Internal Revenue Service. This fall the FFRF sued again saying that religious leaders had a preference over secular employees. Crabb has again ruled in favor of their complaint. The case will probably be appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The important point here is the intent of the benefit. Ministers provide needed services to the community. Because their pay is rather poor, the government was trying to help them with a basic expense. Secular workers are generally better paid and in most cases are not providing low cost or free services to the community. Also, the housing allowance is justified by the fact that ministers are required to live in the communities they serve.

A judge who seems to have a bias against religion can cause a hardship on many people who need the services that ministers provide. The impact of a judge, even a single judge, can affect the lives of many people with one decision.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Bias Against Atheists in New Study

Bias Against Atheists
A new study reported in Nature: Human Behaviour shows that even atheists have a bias against atheists in judging how a person will act. The study examined how people around the world, even in atheistic cultures, judge the actions of atheists as opposed to religious people.

The study was conducted by an international team of researchers led by an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. The study using people in 13 countries gave a hypothetical situation and asked people what they would conclude about the person in the story.

Participants in the study filled out a questionnaire to identify if they had any religious affiliation as well as asking their age and ethnicity. The questionnaire had a description of a sociopath who tortured animals as a child, and later killed five homeless people he abducted from poor neighborhoods in his home city and buried their remains in his basement. The participants were divided into two groups that were each given two choices of what they concluded about the man in the story. For the first group, the choice was either: 1) the man is a teacher or 2) the man is a teacher and does not believe in any gods. The two choices for the second group were: 1) the man is a teacher or 2) the man is a teacher and a religious believer. There were other questions and brain teasers to distract from the purpose of the study.

The result was that sixty percent of all responders said the man was a teacher and does not believe in any gods. Only thirty percent said that he was a teacher and a religious believer. It is interesting that a large percentage of the participants were atheists themselves. The study concluded that even atheists show bias against atheists in that they expect better behavior from a religious believer than from an atheist. You can argue about why this bias exists, but it seems that most people of all persuasions around the globe seem to think that belief in God has a positive effect on behavior.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy
The Los Angeles Times in a story printed on September 27, 2017, quotes the late Hugh Hefner as saying, “If you don’t commit, you don’t get hurt.” Hefner was the poster boy of the new morality of the late twentieth-century giving an outward appearance of lavish and luxurious fun and frivolity. Playboy magazine with its centerfold and in recent years the website showing nude women have held out the idea that marriage is a relic of religion that has outlived its usefulness. The message is that for real happiness people need to forget all the taboos and express their sexuality with as many partners as they can in as many relationships as they desire.

When Hefner died earlier in 2017, the media presented his empire as a goal that everyone should aspire to. Now that the dust has settled, more information is coming out showing that Hefner’s personal life was one of brokenness. The Times article indicated that Hefner made the above quote when he found out that his first wife had cheated on him during their engagement. Many of the people who worked for Hefner are now coming out and talking about his frustrations and the bad relationships he had with many of the women who were part of his periodicals and short films.

Your child can go to the Playboy website and see complete nudity unless you block the site. The number of women now expressing that they felt exploited shows some of the damage Playboy has done. They are telling how they feel about seeing themselves publicly displayed in nude pictures. Many men have also been swept away in a fantasy world that makes big promises, but only delivers disappointment.

We live in an age of abusive pornography. Hugh Hefner will be remembered for his role in promoting the porn of today not for any meaningful contribution he made to society.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Understanding the Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon
I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do know where to get the information I don’t have personally. Someone recently asked about why the book Song of Solomon is in the Bible. I have quoted Song of Solomon 1:5-6 where a lover tells her lover in a poem to love her not because she is black, but because of who she is. This passage shows the stupidity of racial prejudice, but that is clearly not the purpose of the book. To understand this book I researched the work of Yakov Rosenberg who is at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. Here is his response:

The Most Peculiar Book of the Bible- The Song of Solomon is an unusual biblical book. At first glance, it seems to be nothing more than a sensual love poem describing the passion between two young lovers. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this is a carefully crafted religious allegory. For Jews, the male and female lovers symbolize God and his people, Israel. For Christians, they symbolize Christ and his bride, the Church. How can we access this veiled meaning?

The Authentic Love in Hebrew- The best way to unlock the Song of Solomon’s concealed allegory is to appreciate the beautiful poetry in its original language. Take for example the verse “your lips distill nectar, my bride” (4:11). In English, this does not make much sense. But in the original Hebrew, the words נֹפֶת תִּטֹּפְנָה שִׂפְתוֹתַיִךְ nofet titofnah siftotayih are a wonderful example of onomatopoeia. Listen to the repeated letters P and T. Can you hear the sound of dripping honey? It embodies the sweet Torah, which God gave Israel.”

Students of literature will understand Rosenberg’s explanation of Song of Solomon better than I, but even this physical scientist can understand that many biblical passages need honest study and broad educational experience to understand them completely.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Girls Harming Themselves

Girls Harming Themselves
On November 21, The Washington Post reported on a 15-year study showing that there has been a dramatic increase in American girls harming themselves. Cutting, swallowing poisons and pills, and other forms of self-harm have increased 8.4% annually among middle-school girls between 2009 and 2015. Hospitals across the country provided the data for the study. The lead author suggests that suicide is linked to the same causes.

Our culture’s obsession with sex and the discarding of the purpose God has for sex and replacing it with struggles for power, popularity and social status has to be a major part of the problem. The authors blame cyberbullying, and smartphones, but also include social isolation in their list of causes. Society makes girls feel like they are objects and not special creations of God. The media tells them that their bodies are the focus and not the biblical concept of being created in God’s image. When nobody tells them that they have a purpose far beyond competing for physical beauty, their feeling of self-worth suffers.

Girls harming themselves is a product of our sex-saturated culture. We will continue to see social isolation and people struggling with feelings of poor self-worth as long as our society rejects God’s plan for family and the roles for men and women.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Sophia the Robot Speaks at DePauw University

Sophia the Robot
Sophia the robot carries the title of the world’s “first artificial intelligence-fueled android.” She became a citizen of Saudi Arabia in October, has a face that can show expression, metal hands, and a clear skull that shows the working wires of the artificially intelligent brain. An AP news report said that “in past interviews, Sophia has expressed a desire to be immortal, a mother, and smarter than humans.”

Dr. David Hanson is the creator of this interesting computer, and he owns a company called Hanson Robotics. This robot functions through a Wi-Fi connection and has a large memory for storage of information and a large vocabulary. At DePauw University Dr. Hanson was showing what robots can do. He predicts that robots can be designed to look and function in very human-like ways making them a part of the lives of humans in the future.

The definition of “human” is the real issue here. If you define humans in terms of what they can do, then in the future robots might be considered human. The fact that this robot has been made a citizen of Saudi Arabia shows that the government there has a mechanical definition of what a citizen is, and Sophia can do everything their test requires. What is interesting is that this robot did not happen by chance. It is the product of an intelligence, David Hanson, who worked as a designer with the Walt Disney Imagineering team.

The biblical definition of a human is a living being created in the image of God. That image allows spontaneous expression of guilt, sympathy, self-sacrificing love, and the capacity for creativity in art and music. In this case, being human allows the creation of an interesting computer that copies much of what humans possess. However, neither Sophia the robot nor any other android will ever possess those things that make humans special.
(Watch an interview with Sophia in Saudi Arabia.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mothers Are Important

Mothers Are Important
Mothers are important and an organization called MOPS encourages motherhood. On their website they say that there are two billion mothers in the world and that four million babies are born in the United States every year with six out of ten born to single mothers.

Christians should be concerned that five in ten mothers say they don’t feel they receive emotional support from their churches. Outreach ministries of most congregations have ignored the needs of mothers. Mothers are important and we cannot overemphasize the importance of helping young mothers realize that the first seven years of a baby’s life shapes their entire development.

Church programs that don’t start with helping train the child from birth on are missing the most effective ministry they can have. For ideas and inspiration for an outreach to mothers, visit www.mops.org/church.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult
Actress Leah Remini was a member of the Church of Scientology since the age of nine. She left the cult in 2013 and has actively campaigned against it since then.

Remini wrote an article in the November 27, 2017, issue of Us Weekly (page 48). She told of her many years as a follower of Scientology and how mind control and extreme coercion were a part of her experience. She has gone on a mission to make people aware of the dangers of this organization through books and documentaries and a TV series on the A&E network.

The Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has some big Hollywood names associated with it. Scientology claims to be scientifically supported and that a human is an immortal, spiritual being called a thetan. Before coming to Earth and taking up residence in human physical bodies, thetans lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Thetans supposedly have had innumerable past lives that can be sighted by a process called auditing. The human spirit according to Scientology is the creator of all things. Scientology teaches that people have innate, suppressed power and ability which they can reclaim if cleared of enforced and unwanted behavior patterns and discomforts.

The Church of Scientology requires that all members sign a legal document waiver before engaging in Scientology services. Remini’s article gives some personal insights into the control and deception that she discovered in her many years in the organization.

The difference between a cult like Scientology and biblical Christianity can be seen in what people are required to do. In Christianity, people can read the teachings of Christ for themselves and decide either to accept it and live by it or to reject it. They can change their minds at any time. In a cult like Scientology, one person tells you what to do, and the cost of trying to leave the cult is huge.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Yeti or Yogi Bear?

Yeti or Yogi Bear
The Yeti is a legendary creature of the snow-covered Himalayas. He has been described as an ape-like creature taller than a man and covered with white fur. In the 1920s a reporter for a newspaper in India gave the creature the nickname of “the abominable snowman.”

The general public continues to be fascinated with stories about Yeti or his temperate-weather cousin Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Some of the fascination is that there are folks who suggest that this creature offers a proof or disproof about the evolution of humans. The fact that Bigfoot continues to be a show on the Animal Planet network indicates that the value of these mythical creatures is more for entertainment than education.

The first point that we would like to make is that if a human-like creature existed, that science had not discovered yet, it would not have evolutionary implications. Neo-Darwinists would say it was just another dead-end in hominid evolution. Creationists would say that God had created another creature that was previously unknown. Quite often previously unknown species of various creatures are discovered somewhere in the world.

On November 28, 2017, the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, released a report of genetic studies of the remains of bones, teeth, skin, and hair that people claimed were from Yetis. All of them turned out to be from bears. The genome of a bear is distinctive enough that scientists can know with great certainty what creature left the sample. While the report probably won’t cancel any TV series on Bigfoot or interest in Yeti, it does give a rational answer to some of the claims.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Alzheimer’s Disease and God

Alzheimer's Disease and God
The theme of the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is “Understanding and Helping Those with Alzheimer’s.” The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization made up of scientists holding advanced science degrees who are believers in Jesus. This issue brings up questions regarding Alzheimer’s disease and God.

The World Health Organization reports that there are 47.5 million people with dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 70% of those. The WHO also tells us that 7.7 million new cases are added each year. The National Institute of Aging ranks Alzheimer’s as the third leading cause of death for older people–behind heart disease and cancer. There is still much that science does not understand about Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga writes that “dementia including Alzheimer’s may simply be the result of our brains living beyond what they were designed for.”

The question concerning Alzheimer’s disease and God becomes whether God’s design is flawed or whether Alzheimer’s is something humans have brought on themselves. First, we need to understand that there are two forms of Alzheimer’s. One occurs early in life and is called familial Alzheimer’s. It is a rare disease accounting for less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The more common late-onset Alzheimer’s is associated with a gene called apolipoprotein E which is involved in metabolizing fats in the body. Studies have linked diet and environmental contaminants to Alzheimer’s. It now appears that Alzheimer’s is not a single disorder, but that there are many forms with many different causes. Obviously, that makes identifying the specific cause and treating patients very difficult.

The bigger question is how we handle people with Alzheimer’s. One solution is euthanasia at early stages of the disease. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who developed a lethal injection system as a means for assisted suicide, promoted this view. The first patient he euthanized by his system was a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Peter Singer, who is the head of the ethics department at Princeton University, has promoted this view on an academic level.

Because the American Scientific Affiliation is a Christian organization, the euthanasia alternative is dismissed by the magazine. Instead, it suggests ways that faith can help patients and caregivers deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

If your view of life is that it is all about “survival of the fittest,” then Alzheimer’s is simply a demonstration that the patient is not fit. That would suggest a treatment that concerns itself more with those who are fit and doesn’t address the quality of life objective that Christ would teach for the patient. For more about ASA go to their website. To see the issue on Alzheimer’s Disease and God click here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017