First Lawsuit on Women Preachers. It was bound to happen, and it has. Susan Rockwell is suing the Roman Catholic church because their doctrine will not allow her to become a priest. Ms. Rockwell claims the Catholic church has violated her right to free expression of religion and that the federal government illegally subsidizes the discrimination by exempting the Catholic church from taxes. If Ms. Rockwell wins this lawsuit, it will certainly have implications for all religious groups and any church that has not already accepted women into the preaching role but that offers tax deductions to people who make donations.
--Reference: Christianity Today, July 8, 2002, page 9.
"In God We Trust." There is not much that has not already been said about the 9th District Court decision, but we would like to suggest that whatever ends up happening here, atheists will continue to press for the removal of references to God from anything in public life. I can remember, when I was an atheist and the phrase in question was adopted, trying to object to it and being silenced by the pressure of popular opinion. Taking references to God off of coins, legal documents, and public edifices is going to happen. One of our local atheists pointed out that even religious people do not put their trust in God until they have a problem in life that they cannot handle, so he raised the question of why anyone would object to having it removed from the pledge. He has a point. How we live our lives and what we do carries a lot more weight than the slogans we recite.
ACLU Goes After Abstinence Programs. One of the interesting twists that the sex education program has taken over the years has been the way in which atheist organizations like the ACLU look at abstinence. In Louisiana the state has used federal grant money to run an educational program that is called "The Governor's Program on Abstinence" (GPA). The program starts in the seventh grade and uses volunteers and establishes clubs to promote sexual abstinence. The ACLU maintains that any abstinence program is religious in nature, and thus abstinence programs promote religion. Our point over the years has been that admitting that abstinence is religious means that atheism is the opposite and that atheism admits by this position that atheism is immoral in its makeup. This is essentially a moral proof of the existence of God. What is especially interesting is that new data on abstinence programs are showing that 3% of students enrolled in such programs are sexually active, while the national average is 50%.
--Reference: Christianity Today, July 8, 2002, page 14.
Legalized Abortion and Crime. In 1999, there was a study claiming that the U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1973 legalizing abortion had resulted in a decrease in crime in 1999. The study was by John Donohue and Steven Levitt. A new study by John Lott of Yale and John Whitley of the University of Adelaide has concluded that murder rates from 1973 to 1999 has increased 7%. What Lott and Whitley did was take the same set of numbers that Donohue and Levitt used and treat the statistical handling of the numbers differently. It is the old story of "figures don't lie, but liars figure." You can make statistics say about anything you want them to when it comes to data concerned with human activity. There is no significant beneficial criminal effect that can be linked to abortion, but this is something that continues to be quoted by atheists. We would suggest it is the old graduate student rule--make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.
--Reference: Skeptical Inquirer, January/February 2002, page 22.
Cloning Milestone Accomplished. We have pointed out several times in this column that cloning is not a problem for believers in God. Cloning offers the promise of being able to do great positive things to benefit man and does not have any biblical problems. One of the most promising things cloning could do is to provide organ replacements. Suppose you have liver cancer. What will eventually be possible is to take healthy cells from your liver and then remove the liver. From the healthy cells clone a new liver and then implant it back into your body. There would be no rejection problem and thus no regime of immune suppressant drugs because the cloned liver is made of your cells. This type of work could offer huge rewards to people with failed, cancerous, or damaged organs. In Nature Biotechnology, July 2002, there is an announcement of cloned cow kidney cells thriving for months. Other researchers are having similar success reported in Science News, June 8, 2002, page 356-357. This is a great new exciting time for work with cloning that could offer huge benefits to human beings. Cloning can be misused, like all science, but it also offers huge positive potential.
Child Abuse and Religion. Atheists are continuing to claim that the pedophile problems in the Catholic church show that religion offers no positive support for morality and that moral arguments for the validity of the Bible have been disproven. The fact that 70 child abuse allegations against American Protestant churches have occurred each week during the past 10 years does not help the data in this matter either. The problem has many dimensions. One is the fact that the selection process of leaders by religious groups may add to the probability of attracting people with sexual disorders. Celibacy automatically excludes some people from being a candidate for religious leadership and may attract a person who feels inadequate in heterosexual climates. Paul referred to his ability to stay unmarried and yet not get into sin as a gift or a talent (1 Corinthians 7:7-9). We need to continue to emphasize that Jesus gave us workable ways of handling our passions and that passages like Matthew 5-7 tell us how to maintain our morals at a level compatible with God's teaching and which benefits others.
--Reference: Christianity Today, May 21, 2002, page 15.
Scientific American Increases Pressure on Creationists. Over the years, major science research magazines have pretty much ignored creationist materials, claims, and threats. The summer issues of Scientific American have broken from that tradition and devoted whole articles to the attempt to disprove creationists. These have included 15 creationist claims with responses and a whole article on Intelligent Design. The distressing part of this is that some creationists have misused evidence which is seized upon by magazines like this and that many times the most extreme of creationist material is presented. We need to properly use evidence for design as an apologetic, not as a scientific principle. We also need to be sure that our claims have solid scientific backing. It will be interesting to see how creationists respond to these attacks. We will keep you posted.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct02.