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

America’s Music and Immorality

America's Music
Recent studies on the direction and content of America’s music have shown something that is not surprising. Billboard.com showed some data about the content of songs since 1960. While songs mentioning love in the lyrics have remained fairly constant between 1960 and 2015, the number of songs that specifically mention sex has grown from fewer than 100 to over 1000. The percentage of top ten billboard songs that are about sex today is 92%. Of the 174 songs making it to the top ten, 161 contained lyrics about sex.

The lesson of history is that when a culture loses its moral compass, and no fixed standard of moral behavior is accepted by the general population, the society collapses. Authors who have studied the collapse of the Roman Empire have shown the close correlation between morality and survival. Our ministry attempts to get people to look at evidence that there is a God, and not just scientific evidence. There is also evidence that the teachings of Jesus Christ give us a system that works and ensures the best of life for all of its followers. As America has moved from a Christian nation to a nation where Christians are a minority, the chaos and violence have grown.

What we listen to in music reflects our priorities. America’s music tells us much about where we are as a nation. What we watch on TV, in the movies, and on the stage not only influences what we believe and accept, but what we value. Jesus taught love, unity, peace, and service to one another. Do we really want to live in a society where sex dominates not only advertising and music, but also what is presented to our young people as the objective for their lives? Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 again, and think about the implications of not following the teachings of Jesus.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mike Pence and Moral Values

Vice-President Mike Pence
Vice-President Mike Pence

Mike Pence is Vice-President of the United States. Before being elected to that job, he was governor of the state of Indiana. Being from Indiana, we have followed him rather closely. President Trump’s dismal record with the press and his relationship with women are well-known. What has not gotten much attention until recently is the fact that Mike Pence has always been extremely careful in his relationships with women. He will not put himself in a compromising position with his women co-workers in politics. Pence has always refused to dine alone with a woman other than his wife. He never works late with a female aide. He never attends any party where alcohol is being served unless his wife is with him. His basis for these careful controls of his personal life with female co-workers is that he is a Christian and he takes his Christian faith seriously.

The press has been extremely hostile toward Pence’s lifestyle. The Washington Post claims Pence is helpless in the face of female temptation. Slate.com calls Pence a radical retrograde and claims that Pence sees women as sexual temptations rather than as peers whose ideas might be worth discussing. Cosmopolitan claims that Pence’s Christian values put the women who work with him and a huge disadvantage and allow men to keep running the show.

National Review calls all of this anti-Christian bigotry and accuses liberals of loathing America’s traditional culture. Understanding the Bible’s teachings about avoiding sin and destructive behaviors is far from the mainstream media’s values. They just cannot understand Pence’s morality. When alcohol and social events are the way our government works, one has to wonder how the United States has survived into the twenty-first century. Leviticus 18 might be good reading for those who challenge the moral values of our vice-president.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Church-State Problem

Religious Separation
Religious Separation
The polarization that has taken place in America in the past 25 years is appalling. That statement is true on many levels with the political situation being the one that gets the most attention in the media. The relationship between the Church and the State has strong advocates that have very different agendas.

On one side of the issue are groups who advocate freedom FROM religion. They don’t want religious people to take a public stand on moral issues. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is an example of such a group. They say: “We envision an America where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another.” That sounds good, but the problem with groups like this is that they do not want any attempt on the part of religious people to evangelize or to promote moral agendas. You can go to church if you wish, but don’t say or do anything outside of the church walls that demonstrates your faith. Any religious group opposing gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, legalizing marijuana, or any other moral issue is considered to be violating the separation of Church and State. Also when a church congregation helps families with food shortages they cannot let the families know that they are doing so because of their religious convictions or invite them to any church events if they use any government commodities, even if the church purchases those commodities. A Christian can be fined or jailed in America for publicly living out their faith in opposition to gay marriage or other moral issues.

On the other side are groups advocating freedom OF religion. An example is Alliance Defending Freedom who strongly oppose any government interference with individual expressions of religious belief. Groups like this are fighting in courts for the right of religious people to live out their faith in the public arena. The problem is that some fringe religious groups hold to something that clashes with the safety and well-being of innocent people. An example is those who oppose medical treatment for disease. We had a case in Indiana in which a child was an insulin-dependent diabetic, and the parents refused to allow the child to have insulin shots on religious grounds.

These are tough questions. The lesson of history is that when a religion gains control of the government, the result is always a disaster. It is also a lesson from history that when a government embraces atheism and enforces it, the result is anarchy and chaos. America has become more and more antagonistic to religious belief and expression, and the result is chaos and conflict tearing at the very fabric of our existence as a nation. The founding fathers had no desire to make America an atheist state. Some people today want to allow any kind of dissent as long as God is not mentioned or involved in any way. Rendering to “Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” should not be that difficult, but vested interests are making it difficult for religious freedom to exist. Romans 13:1-7 spells out the solution. Whether America will officially adopt the atheist religion or turn back to the ideal of our founding fathers remains to be seen.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Setting Standards

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
One of the more convincing evidences that the Bible is inspired and not the work of human minds is the fact that it gives a proven, workable, testable, logical standard of conduct that improves the condition of all humans and brings real meaning to life. Skeptics and atheists do not like to hear that, and they will argue vociferously against it. In modern times, we have had a parade of philosophers from Ayn Rand to the secular humanists of the American Humanist Association that have suggested alternatives, all based on the “virtuous nature of humankind.” It is easy to show from a historical standpoint that such standards are doomed to failure.

Thomas Jefferson founded The University of Virginia in 1819. Jefferson dreamed of a public college which would have no regulations nor rules. Students of “good report” would be admitted and expected to practice “good will and judgment” that would respect the rights and property of others. Jefferson called it the “Grand Experiment” in which democracy and public education were brought together. It is important to note that it had a faculty and student body composed of the “cream of the crop.” There were no religious values imposed on the students and no rules concocted by previous generations that could be construed as an attempt by elders to manipulate, control, or restrict the younger generation. The University of Virginia offered an opportunity to see where highly educated, intelligent people would go with a lack of external rules and regulations.

The University of Virginia experiment of the 1820s was a total failure. Students did not go to class, drinking became a major problem, all kinds of offensive sexual conduct was carried on, and violence escalated. One night, 14 students high on alcohol went on a rampage assaulting professors with bricks and canes. The trustees of the University held a special meeting with the 82-year-old Jefferson in attendance. In his speech, Jefferson called the grand experiment “the most painful event of his life” and sat down with tears of grief unable to finish his speech. The board of trustees then enacted a series of rules and regulations along with a code of conduct that was rigidly enforced.

One might argue that a total lack of rules and regulations is unworkable, but that the Christian system is only one of hundreds of systems which will work equally well. To see the fallacy of that argument, look at what other systems have done. Look at what communism, as practiced in Russia, China, or North Korea, has produced. See what monarchies over the millennia have done to and for their subjects. Consider how women have been treated in Muslim cultures or how science and technology have fared in animalistic ancestor-worship cultures. While it’s true that some horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, those atrocities were done in diametric contradiction to Christ and his teachings.

The Christian standard calls for serving others and putting them first. The Christian system rewards love, service, generosity, gentleness, and self-sacrifice. Other systems emphasize loving material things and using other people to get those things. The contrast between the teachings of Christ and all human systems is dramatic. We are surrounded by a culture trying every standard for successful living except real Christianity. The superiority of Christ’s example and teaching is always there for us to see.
–John N. Clayton © 2017