Skeptical or Religious Bigotry?

Skeptical or Religious?
Atheists have frequently written about the bigotry of people who believe in God and refuse to accept a fact that contradicts their religious belief. In the January 2018 issue of Scientific American, atheist Michael Shermer devotes his monthly column to this skeptical or religious bigotry.

In the article, Shermer quotes Asheley R. Landrum, a psychologist at Texas Tech and an expert on the factors influencing public understanding and perception of science, health, and emerging technologies. Studies conducted by Landrum showed how people look at data concerning climate change. The study showed that Republicans and Democrats reacted in very different ways to the content. A study that was skeptical of climate change data was not read by many of the Democrats while it was much more readily accepted by the Republicans.

Landrum concluded that, “We are good at being skeptical when information conflicts with our preexisting beliefs and values. We are bad at being skeptical when information is compatible with our preexisting beliefs and values.”

It has been my experience that the same thing happens when atheists and agnostics are confronted with data that supports the existence of God and the validity of Christianity. Trying to get some of my atheist friends to read scientific material by Dr. Francis Collins or Dr. Alister McGrath or even our own material has been almost impossible. It doesn’t matter if the authors are highly trained scientific researchers because they also believe in God, the material is off limits to many atheistic skeptics. In the same way, many of my religious associates have not read any of the scientific material produced by Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer.

Frequently atheists have told me that they have no answer to a presentation that I have given. However, they don’t want to believe in God, and so they won’t believe no matter what the evidence is. Atheists with that kind of bias are not being skeptical, but rather they have built their own religion and don’t want to look at any fact that might conflict with it. Christians frequently do the same thing.

Maybe the starting place for discussions with a relative or friend who has rejected the existence of God is to ask whether there is anything that would change their mind. The question is whether they are being merely skeptical or religious. Has their unbelief become a religion? At the same time, we should be open to their skeptical questions, but we need to be sure that we are “ready to give an answer to anyone who asks of the reason for the hope that is within us, but do it with gentleness and kindness” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Dawkins Admits Anti-Christian Discrimination

Dawkins Admits Anti-Christian Discrimination
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is an outspoken atheist. He has made harsh statements against all religions. In his book The God Delusion, he uses the vilest terms to describe “the God of the Old Testament.” Then he goes on to say that God is not only a delusion but a “pernicious delusion.” However, in a backhanded way, Dawkins admits anti-Christian discrimination. He has admitted that Christianity is treated differently from Islam, and coincidentally that Christians are more gracious and forgiving than Muslims.

Dawkins was scheduled to speak in August at an event in Berkeley, California, sponsored by a public radio station. Dawkins was supposed to be speaking concerning his newest book coming out this month–Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist. Residents in the San Francisco Bay area reported to the radio station some comments concerning Islam in The God Delusion. They also pointed out a tweet from Dawkins in which he said, “”Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today.” When the powers at KPFA radio heard that, they promptly canceled Dawkins’ speech. They sent a letter to those who had purchased tickets telling them, “We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt–in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.”

A response letter from the Dawkins Foundation referred to him as “one of the greatest intellects of our time” and called the accusation that he had used “abusive speech” toward Muslims “baseless.” Dawkins himself stated, “The idea that I have engaged in abusive speech against Islam is preposterous…I have indeed strongly condemned the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism.”

In a letter written to the radio station by Dawkins, he stated, “I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that. Why do you give Islam a free pass?” In other words, Dawkins can feel free to criticize and mock Christianity, but not Islam. Could that be because Christians are more gracious and forgiving? Could it be that he can insult Jesus and his followers and not fear for his life? Would he be able to do the same against Mohammad and his followers? I don’t think so. His words are a backhanded compliment to the faith he has frequently criticized.

There is another aspect of the decision by the radio station. The public radio station canceled the speech stating “KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech” and “we do not support abusive speech.” Would they have canceled because of Dawkins’ “hurtful speech” or “abusive speech” toward Christians? His vile words about the God of the Bible in his book The God Delusion would certainly qualify as “hurtful” and “abusive” toward the faith of Christians and Jews. I am confident that the radio station would not have canceled because of those words. Even Richard Dawkins admits anti-Christian discrimination exists in the media and academia.

Thanks to Thayer Salisbury for bringing this news item to our attention. You can find the full text of KPFA’s and Richard Dawkins’ letters here. Click here for the BBC report.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach (Part 2)

South America Apologetic Outreach
Yesterday I started to describe what we found on our South America apologetic outreach during our recent lectureships in Colombia. As we spoke with people on the street, both men and women told me that they know the “Church” is a fake. They cite the failure of the Catholic Church to improve the standard of living of “common people” in countries like Colombia in spite of the enormous wealth the church holds. Several of them had suffered abuse at the hands of a church leader, and their expressions of pain were suppressed only by the church’s control.

The Colombian young people had seen the conflict between what they learned from television and on their computers and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was warned that if my lessons contained material in opposition to Catholic teaching, I would experience chastisement. At one point while our group was singing in the plaza, a Catholic priest came out of the church building and took one of our handouts. It seemed obvious that he was taking notes, and I gave him a business card for “Does God Exist?’ We have not heard from him as yet.

Atheists have taken note of all of this. Richard Dawkins has challenged the Catholic Church to a series of debates In December of 2017 at three universities in Colombia. Father Gerardo Remolina, a Vatican-trained scholar, has accepted Dawkin’s challenge. We hope to monitor these debates. Also, Dawkins has offered a competition to the young people of Colombia. He challenged them to watch the BBC program “Beautiful Minds” and write a five-page paper on why the life of an atheist is the best way to live. Dawkins will choose ten winners, and he will give them a personal tour of the British Museum.

In our lectureships in Ecuador and Colombia, we found intense interest in our approach. Young South Americans are rejecting Roman Catholicism. They are resenting the abuse, hypocrisy, and lack of constructive use of the Roman Catholic Church’s great wealth. They no longer are willing to live by an irrational faith based on tradition. Being told to THINK, to study the evidence for themselves and to believe that science and faith are friends and not enemies is a message they are eager to hear and accept.

We were blessed in our presentations in Ecuador and Colombia with two men who have lived in those countries for much of their lives and could translate our material accurately. We now have our videos subtitled in Spanish, and we hope to expand the outreach of our booklets and children’s material by translating them into Spanish. Unfortunately, we are a very small voice in a very large mission area. Dawkins and his associates are making their main thrust to reach university students, and those are the people who will control the moral and financial future of these countries. Already the Health Minister of Colombia, who is an atheist, has vowed to make abortion legal in his term. He states his atheist belief as the reason for that goal.

People in Ecuador and Colombia are eager to establish a meaningful relationship with God. They have seen the violence and murderous actions of drug warlords and the cartels who deny the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. They have also experienced the apathy, abuse, and politics of organized religion through the Catholic Church. The need is great for a South America apologetic outreach. The people are anxious to learn a new way of living guided by God. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach

South America Apologetic Outreach
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.

Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.

One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.

As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.

One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.

In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Bogota, Colombia–Faith Challenges

Bogota, Colombia
Bolivar Plaza, Bogota, Colombia

As you read this, your author is in Bogota, Colombia, South America, presenting lectures at a university and in town meetings.

What has happened in Colombia is going on in many areas of South America. For years the Roman Catholic Church has dominated the country, and recent moral problems with some priests and Catholic leaders have disillusioned many Colombians. The result is that belief in God has dropped considerably and Colombia’s health minister has announced he is an atheist and is vowing to implement legal abortion.

Atheists are bringing in atheistic professor Richard Dawkins to challenge the Catholic Church to debate in Bogota in December of this year. The Catholic Church has accepted the challenge and an ordained priest of 50 years experience named Gerardo Remolina will oppose Dawkins. Remolina has written a book titled God and Religion, Illusion or Reality. He is the vice-chancellor of Bogota’s Catholic Javeriana Pontifical University and is the academic dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Tickets for the debate have already gone on sale.

The atheists are also sponsoring a national essay contest in which students are being asked to watch the BBC documentary entitled Beautiful Minds and then write a five-page essay on Dawkins’ godless belief system. The top ten students will then be invited to travel to London to visit the Natural History Museum, with a tour guided by Dawkins himself. You can read more about the Dawkins challenge on ColombiaReports.com.

During our trip we are presenting programs on the existence of God in Chia, a northern suburb of Bogota, Colombia, on June 30 and July 1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is the Cause of Bad Things?

What is the Cause of Child Disability?
We receive some interesting comments about statements we make in our discussions of the creation of the universe. We have said that there was a beginning and that the beginning had a cause. So the question we pose is, “What is a reasonable cause?” The atheist will say that the cause was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance. We have quoted well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins who say that. (See Dawkin’s River Out of Eden, page 133.) We have said that the Christian view is that the cause was an Intelligence with a purpose. We have also said that the purpose and the design needed to accomplish the purpose can be seen all around us. (See Psalms 19:1 and Romans 1:18-22.)

Some of my skeptic friends have responded by saying that I have created a contradiction. As an example, consider what happens when the sperm meets the egg of a human in the process of conception. A large number of sperm cells are released, but only one cell fertilizes the egg. That sperm cell’s genetic makeup is involved in the child’s genes. If we say that this is not a chance process, we are saying that God has predestined the child to whatever deformity or genetic disease was present in the cell passed on by the father. Does God micromanage the situation so that the child would be deformed? We have stated many times that God does not bring bad things into our lives. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not direct a sperm cell to the egg so that a genetic disease happens resulting in tragedy for the child and his family. That would be in violation of the notion that the bad things in our lives don’t come from God.

Here is an important point! God chooses to withhold what He CAN do to allow us to have free moral choice. We have an eternal purpose in the war between good and evil, and love is the key. Without the capacity to choose, love is impossible. God allows us to choose so that we can love others and also love God. There has to be choice.

We should ask, “What has happened in the past to produce a sperm cell that has in its genetic code a defect that will affect the child?” When God created humans, the human genome was perfect. Brother could marry sister, and there would be no genetic problem. The Bible does not even mention incest until well after the time of Adam and Eve. Humans have continued to contaminate themselves with chemicals of all kinds, with viruses and diseases by sexual relations with animals, and by a failure to follow God’s hygienic rules. The human genome became contaminated, and that affects us all today. We all carry genetic changes that can negatively affect our offspring. We make things worse when we don’t follow God’s rules for marriage and the expression of our sexual desires. God has told us that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Does God micromanage the distribution of sperm during sexual intercourse? No, that would violate the warning God made that there are consequences when we disobey God’s laws. God designed the system, but the process of fertilization is a product of chance.

Likewise, God doesn’t cause war, but because He created humans with free will, there is war. God gave us the guidelines and ability to have peace. Whether or not peace will happen is up to us. Chance occurrences such as weather and natural calamities can control the outcome of war–and peace. God does not micromanage those things, but they follow the laws that God established. God can choose to intervene, but when He does it is the exception, and we call it a miracle. God will not violate the purpose for which He created humans.

I am the father of a child born with severe disabilities. It doesn’t help my anger, frustration, heartbreak, or disillusionment to know this is the reality of my life. On the other hand, my former atheist convictions didn’t give me any answers at all. God does allow things to happen that we don’t like, but there is comfort in knowing that things will get better. My mentally challenged, blind son will say to me sometimes, “Dad I will really enjoy being able to see when I get to heaven. I can’t imagine how good that will be.” I can look at my personality and attitude and see that I am a different man than I would have been had I not gone through this ordeal. I know that “All things work for the good of them that love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). At the same time, we must realize that things happen that are not God’s will–or ours.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Einstein TV Series

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
One of the major weaknesses of our culture is the obsession we seem to have with celebrities. People who are gifted in one area of life seem to be looked on as experts in all areas of life. Often the celebrity is happy to use their notoriety to promote a cause or to oppose something. A classic example is Richard Dawkins, who is a famous biologist and is gifted in his scientific expertise. Unfortunately, he is incredibly ignorant about the Bible and spiritual matters, but he is regarded as an authority by many people, especially those looking for a way to deny the existence of God.

National Geographic is now running a ten-episode series on Albert Einstein titled “Genius.” There is no question that Einstein was a gifted scientist in areas related to physics and cosmology. Science has been changed in many ways by the work of Einstein, and no one should denigrate his scientific contributions. However, Einstein’s education, morals, and early life were not exemplary. His views on sex and marriage are similar to much of what is being taught in our secular world today and are a recipe for disaster. His political and ethical activities were not what contribute to a world order that is positive. The series will undoubtedly get a lot of attention and probably win some awards, but not much of Einstein’s life is a good model for young people to follow.

If you watch the series, we encourage you to be aware of the real Einstein as a person, while appreciating his gift as a scientific mind. There are two books that are worth reading if you are interested in Einstein. One is Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson. The other is Ideas and Opinions, published by Crown Publishing and written by Einstein himself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheist Foundations Merge

Skeptical Inquirer Magazine
Skeptical Inquirer Magazine
This journal has generally taken a skeptical point of view. What we mean is that we do not accept something unless there is evidence to support it. All of our presentations deal with evidence, and we have had numerous articles dealing with and debunking all kinds of claims in various areas of life that do not have evidential support. That has included scientific claims, claims in the paranormal, and claims of a religious nature.

In the early 90’s an organization was founded called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Its stated objective was “to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.” In 1995 they began a bimonthly with articles from skeptics about all kinds of issues. In the beginning, their articles were fairly even-handed, and they did a great job of looking into all kinds of bogus claims including some religious claims. In recent years their treatment of religious issues has drifted into constant attacks on any claim for evidence of the existence of God with a heavy bias against Christianity.

Many people regard Richard Dawkins as the leading atheist in the world. His books such as The God Delusion have been touted as the best atheism has to offer. We have reviewed many of Dawkins’ arguments in this journal as have writers like Alister McGrath (The Dawkins Delusion) and others. Several years ago Dawkins began his own organization called The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to promote his radical atheism.

As of January 1, 2017, these two organizations have merged with Dawkins being on the Board of CFI and RDFRS becoming a division of CFI. One stated objective is to “continue the struggle for the full equality of atheists and other religious dissenters.” Secularism is the religious viewpoint of this merger, and the number of attacks on churches and individuals who argue for God’s existence will certainly escalate. There is a need for an unbiased investigation of all claims, secular and religious. However, personal comments against belief in God and ridicule of religion which has been typical of both organizations makes this merger an affront to those who want even-handed and fair investigations of all claims. Data from Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2017, pages 4 and 5.