America’s New Religion: None

America’s New Religion: None

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Why is religion losing its grip?
From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

More and more Americans, especially young Americans, have developed a deep aversion to institutionalized religion. One fifth of the U.S. public and one third of adults under 30 no longer claim a religious affiliation.

America’s traditional religious landscape has rapidly changed in the last five years. For the first time in its history, America no longer has a Protestant majority. In 2007, 53 percent of the U.S. population reported themselves as Protestant; now that number is 48 percent, according to an October 2012 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

This is a huge change. America was founded by devoted Protestants. Most American presidents have been Protestant—only one has been Catholic. Today, there are no Protestants on the Supreme Court. And for the first time, there were no Protestant nominees on the Republican presidential ticket.

Among the reasons suggested for this dramatic shift is the growth in nondenominational Christian groups that cannot be categorized as Protestant and the sharp spike—20 percent of American adults—in those who say they have no religion. This number has risen rapidly from 15 percent just five years ago. These are the highest percentages of non-affiliated respondents ever in Pew Research Center polling. These Americans are not called Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant—they call themselves Nones.

Why is religion losing its grip on Americans? How is religion failing us?

Dubious History With Religion

One of the truly great things about America has been the constitutional protection of religious freedom. The First and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee individuals the right to believe and worship as they choose without fear of persecution or threat of civil discrimination. The roots of religious freedom in the U. S. Constitution formed early in American history with the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. They came to America to escape persecution by the Church of England. Over the ensuing centuries, many from different religious traditions such as the Jews, Puritans and Quakers have done the same.

However, over the centuries, America was transformed from a mere safe haven from persecution to the world’s religious marketplace. Our land is filled with a multitude of Christian churches both denominational and home-grown nondenominational. Buddhist and Hindu temples along with other similar centers of American-improvised communal societies dot the landscape. The number of Islamic mosques is growing on American soil. Also, it is American religious freedom that has allowed the work of the Philadelphia Church of God to grow and prosper.

The American ideal of religious freedom has an incredibly positive value—but at the same time, the seeds of religious deceit, division and rebellion lie hidden within this constitutionally mandated freedom.

Americans, for various reasons, regularly exercise their right to shop around for another religion more to their liking, or some just invent a new one. Unfortunately, religious freedom does not prevent religious failure. Some bad American religion has seriously hurt people.

Although America has always been viewed as a deeply religious nation, as the decades have passed, interest and participation in religion has waxed and waned. Like a wild roller-coaster ride, American religion has reached glorious heights and shameful dips. Americans are proven to be fickle in their relationship with God.

For example, in the early 20th century, the flapper generation led by young women rebelled against traditional rules, roles and conventions established for generations. Traditional religious values topped the list. Young women drank, smoked, danced and attended sex parties. Because of the senseless slaughter of World War i trench warfare, young men developed a spirit of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” This was a time of great social change in America and the Western world. Many historians view the period around World War i as one of sharp moral decline. An American obsession with sex and pornography took root. Interest in science pushed religion off center stage. The theory of evolution rocked American religion to its core.

However, several decades later, we saw a renewed interest in religion. Robert D. Putnam in his book American Grace states, “Virtually all experts agree, however, that the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s was one of exceptional religious observance in America.” He goes on to show that this upsurge was “heavily concentrated among 20-somethings.” It was basically the young gis who had experienced the horrors of World War ii that led America back to the pews. Interestingly enough, these young gis were the children of the flapper generation. It was in the 1950s that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” was declared by Congress to be the national motto.

The Turbulent ’60s

In the 1960s, however, nearly all American institutions were brought into question and shaken to their foundations. The sons and daughters of the pious gis came of age and turned the world upside down. Exploding on the scene was the youth-inspired counterculture that embraced liberal views on premarital sex and the use of drugs. Rock ‘n’ roll music advanced the movement that soon engulfed the entire globe. The underlying theme of the ’60s counterculture movement was, “Question authority.”

While it has taken books to cover the details of this social upheaval, it is safe to say that there was a rapid decline in confidence in all institutions. Religious institutions did not escape. Religion’s roller-coaster ride was about to take its scariest plunge.

Liberal clerics—Catholic, Jewish and mainstream Protestant—joined and supported the counterculture movement. By the mid-’60s, radical theologians even declared that God was dead. Liberal views on Bible authority, God, sin, premarital sex and marriage took root in many mainstream Protestant churches and have remained firmly planted there to this day. The Catholic Church was radically changed by the innovations instituted by Vatican ii. Putnam tells us, “In pop culture, this was the Age of Aquarius and Jesus freaks, Scientology and Jesus Christ Superstar, Zen Buddhism and est [Erhard Seminars Training], Transcendental Meditation and the Unification Church (or ‘Moonies’).”

As the youth of the ’60s sought new spiritual awakenings, religious observance fell into rapid decline. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish lambs left the pews for greener pastures. It was also at this time that secularism sank its roots deeper into the American soil.

The shock of the ’60s—especially the acceptance of liberal views on premarital sex—led to a conservative backlash against the sweeping tide of liberalism. Many Americans of all ages and different religious traditions were appalled by the “new morality,” which was essentially immorality. A return to conservative religious tradition was the natural result.

In the ’70s and ’80s, America’s well-entrenched freedom to choose one’s religion helped many disenchanted Americans of different faiths to begin sitting in the pews of evangelical churches. Why? During the ’60s social turmoil, evangelical churches had held fast to their non-liberal values, which included a strong stance that marriage and family were sacred and premarital sex was sin. Those deeply wounded by liberalism’s immorality found comfort within their ranks.

Rise of the Religious Right

This led to a climbing comeback for religion in America. The late ’70s and early ’80s saw the rapid growth of evangelical megachurches, many of which still exist today. Religious observance—church attendance, daily prayer and Bible study and reading—began to rise rapidly. Christian-oriented books and magazines flooded the publishing industry. Religious programming filled radio and television airwaves. In addition, this period saw the development of a partnership between religious and political conservatives that became known as the Religious Right. The Religious Right, also called the Christian Right, has been associated with several institutions such as the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

Beginning in the late ’70s, conservative Christian clerics urged members to involve themselves in the political process in response to the rising tide of liberalism that began in the ’60s. They believed that a strong and organized voice in politics could prevent more social disintegration. Socially conservative candidates were promoted, financially supported and backed up by the voting power of conservative Christians. The Religious Right became identified with the Republican Party, and flexed it muscle during the 1980 presidential election, ensuring that Ronald Reagan became president.

Initially this partnership was seen as a good thing. However, by the 1990s many other Americans grew skeptical of the relationship between politics and religion. As Putnam states it, “The terms ‘Religious Right’ and ‘Christian Right’ were becoming pejoratives in most Americans’ view, representing a noxious mixture of religion and political ideology.” Gallup polling in the mid-’80s showed that most Americans opposed the idea of religious groups campaigning against specific candidates. However, most agreed that religious leaders should speak out on the moral implications of public issues—something that has always been an honored tradition in American history.

The view that organized religion should have less influence on government decisions and how people vote has continued to rise. A Gallup poll in 2008 showed that 45 percent of Americans strongly agree that religious leaders should not influence how people vote.

Enter the Nones

As the politicized Religious Right pointed its fingers at American social ills, young Americans began pointing back. Putnam tells us that beginning in the early 1990s, “Young Americans came to view religion, according to one survey, as judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.” Is there a correlation between these young Americans and the rise of the Nones? Surveys show that during the social and religious turmoil of the ’60s, the number of Nones increased slightly, from 5 to 7 percent, and that number remained static for years. In the 1990s, it spiked sharply at the same time young adult Americans perceived there to be glaring faults in organized religion. Today the number of Nones stands at 20 percent. However, all indications are that number will continue to rise.

Who are the Nones? They represent a typical cross-section of the American population in terms of education, social standing, race and gender. However, men, whites and non-Southerners are more likely to be Nones. These Americans are not necessarily non-believers. In fact, few Nones claim to be agnostic or atheist; most still maintain some belief in God and an afterlife. Many feel that religion is important in their lives.

A 2008 General Social Survey points out that as the numbers of Nones increased, there was also a parallel decline in the number of young evangelicals. This does not mean that the total number of Nones is made up only of former young evangelicals, but that there is a common change happening in American religion. Remember, one third of all adults under 30 claim no religion. So, a large number of the Nones must be young adults from different religious backgrounds.

Surveys show that the majority of Nones come from the center to left of the political spectrum. They tend to be liberal in their views on gender roles, homosexuality and marijuana. “For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics,” Putnam postulates. “If religion equals Republican, then they have decided that religion is not for them.”

The Nones’ defection from organized religion appears to be, in part, a backlash to the aggressive political activism of the Religious Right. Surveys show that few Nones refer to themselves as conservative, or being on the right of the political spectrum. However, this is not the entire reason for their growing numbers.

Steeped in Religious Hypocrisy

The Pew Forum asked a large sample of Nones why they rejected religious identification. The Nones said that “they became unaffiliated, at least in part, because they think of religious people as hypocritical, judgmental or insincere. Large numbers also say they became unaffiliated because they think that religious organizations focus too much on rules and not enough on spirituality.” This survey tells us that the Nones are thinking, analyzing people. Their gripe with religion is not unfounded.

Religious failure in leaders has shaken the faith of millions for decades. Shocking, well-publicized scandals have cut across all American faiths. Evangelical leaders who preached fidelity in marriage engaged in extra-marital affairs. Some who taught fervently against homosexuality were practicing homosexuals. Ministers and priests sexually abused children. Popular televangelists bilked millions of dollars from their faithful. Anyone willing to take an honest look at the scandal side of American religion would agree that the Nones have some valid points. Hypocrisy, self-righteous judgment and insincerity have plagued and continue to plague American religious leadership. It only makes sense that truly thinking people would step back and say: “What is going on here?” In fact, it is surprising that more people have not done so. Why haven’t more people questioned American religion?

There appear to be real flaws within the ranks of American believers. Wouldn’t faithful people on top of their spiritual game question why religious leaders are failing? Bad fruits in religious leaders are an indication of flaws in a religious system.

In 2010, 80 percent of Americans said they belonged to a religion, and the same percentage said they were absolutely sure there is a God. However, Gallup polling has regularly surveyed Americans about their belief on Bible inerrancy. Do people who believe in God and are affiliated with a religious tradition believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God? Analyzing Gallup data, Putnam tells us, “[B]elief in the literal truth of Scripture is on the decline in all Christian traditions in America.” In fact, he says that “biblical literalism has steadily slumped for almost half a century.”

This is the reason why religion is losing its grip on Americans—why religion is failing us.

Without the firm belief that the Holy Bible is the sole, literal Word of a living God, there can be no true religious leadership that guides people into a way of life that truly nourishes and satisfies the spirit. Any spiritual-sounding talk not taken from the Bible is mere human fable. The Bible must be the authoritative guide for all religious doctrine and practice. Without the Bible, there is simply no true religion.

No Guiding Authority

America has churches like an ice cream parlor has flavors. The reason there is so much diversity—and frankly, so much religious confusion and contradiction—is that there is so much departure from biblical religion! Having many church choices doesn’t make all of them the right choice! This is where American religious freedom has deceived people the most.

One of the most important doctrines in the Bible is that of church government. The Bible shows that the Church of God began with Moses and the nation of Israel after the Exodus (Acts 7:38). God gave His Church His government (Exodus 18). God maintained authority over His Church by working though one man—Moses. God revealed to Moses what He wanted the people taught. To assist Moses with the administration of church government, God organized a system of helpers for Moses, calling them judges. Authority flowed from God through Moses down through the judges. It is important to realize that Moses and the judges were not voted into office. God chose Moses and, with God’s inspiration, Moses appointed the judges.

Jesus Christ governed the disciples in the same manner when He walked this Earth. And the living Jesus Christ still governs His Church in the same way today (Hebrews 13:8).

Proper church government—with Jesus Christ as the Head and the Bible-sanctioned human organization underneath Him—is what is missing in American religion today. Few religious people living today see the need for it. What religion today claims Jesus Christ as its head?

Herbert W. Armstrong taught members of the Worldwide Church of God, “The Roman Catholic Church does not call Christ the present living Head of their church. That title they give to their pope. So theirs in not the government of God … it is a counterfeit human government swayed by Satan.”

Martin Luther saw many problems within the Catholic leadership of his day. He rejected their authority and started his own brand of Catholicism—today called Lutheranism—yet he didn’t truly correct the problem. In fact, Luther promoted the idea that everyone should do what is right in his own eyes. (Read Judges 17:6 to see what God thinks of that.) What was the tragic result? Mr. Armstrong continued, “John and Charles Wesley came along and disagreed with Luther on certain points of doctrine. There was no central authority in the Protestant Church as God’s instrument to define true Bible doctrines. The Wesleys were strong leaders. Hundreds, then thousands, followed them like sheep, and a new denomination appeared. … So in addition to the Lutheran Church following the human Luther, and the Methodists following the Wesleys, the world soon had the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. … [T]hey split and re-split, and today we have hundreds of Protestant denominations.” American religion has repeated this same history since our very beginning. Current trends indicate that American religion will continue to fracture with the result that even more people will become Nones.

You can be different.

Flee Deceit

Jesus Christ warned the original 12 apostles that just prior to His Second Coming, the Earth would be filled with religious deceit. He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). If you are an honest observer of American religion, isn’t that precisely what you see today? There are many voices out there saying, “I represent Jesus Christ—follow me!”

Jesus Christ also taught that His Church would be firmly united. Paul declared, “There is one body … One Lord, one faith …” (Ephesians 4:4-5). Just the opposite exists in American religion. The American Christian world is hopelessly divided over doctrine and matters of faith. Who is right? Jesus Christ promised that His Church would never die out (Matthew 16:18). Jesus Christ’s one true Church is alive and well on the Earth today.

You can find that Church. How? Get to know the Bible well. Use the Bible to measure your doctrinal beliefs and religious observances. If what you believe and do is not supported by the Bible, flee from it! Then, use the Bible as your compass to search out and guide you to Jesus Christ’s Church.

Jesus Christ prophesied that prior to His Second Coming there would be one voice shouting out the truth of God (Matthew 24:14). The Philadelphia Church of God and its publications broadcast that voice. If you would like to know more, request to become a student of the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. This 36-lesson course will help you gain a full understanding of the Bible and its vital relevance to your life. This course is provided to you free of charge.

Also, request a free copy of Mystery of the Ages. This book will guide you through the Bible, helping you to understand it. It will show you why our world is the way it is today. Most importantly, this book will also tell you about the happy, peaceful and successful world soon to replace this war-torn, tragic world we live in.

America has too much of the wrong religion and not enough of the true. You can help us make up the difference. Don’t become a None.

What No One Would Say About Sandy

What No One Would Say About Sandy

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From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Meteorologists said there were no known precedents for Hurricane Sandy. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy called it “the most catastrophic event we have faced … in any of our lifetimes.”

America is getting hit by more and more record disasters all the time. Why is that? A lot of people blame global warming. But is it possible that God has something to do with the weather? You need to prove whether or not He has a hand in these disasters.

Why are so many people hostile to that concept? A generation or two ago, people who experienced a monster storm like this would have asked themselves if they needed to get closer to God. Many would have asked, Are we sinning? But today almost nobody is asking those questions. God is not even part of their thinking.

One third of your Bible is prophecy—future news. Ninety percent of prophecy is for today. And those prophecies predict that catastrophes will come on us in this end time. That’s in the Bible for the whole world to read. It’s there for you to prove for yourself.

What does it mean to you that America was struck by an unprecedented storm?

The record-breaking weather disasters hitting America are not coincidences. They are fulfilled prophecies from the Bible. America is facing increasing disasters for a reason. God is unleashing these phenomena to get our attention! He wants to use them to turn sinning people back to Him.

Many people claim to believe in God, but they don’t believe what He says in the Bible. Christ said we need to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4).

In the aftermath of Sandy, mobs looted businesses, and people walked in and casually robbed stores. People fought over gasoline. Store owners were price-gouging and profiteering off of people with acute needs and nowhere else to go.

What other nation would turn on itself at a time like this? What is wrong with Americans? We are compounding our suffering from great natural disasters by committing crimes against ourselves. But do you know why?

Our politicians speak as though they have the answers to these problems. Leading up to the recent presidential election, we heard endless talk about what a catastrophe for the nation it would be if the other party was elected. After President Obama won the election, Republicans talked a lot about what a great catastrophe that was for the nation—as if a different outcome would have made all the difference.

The truth is, regardless of election outcomes, there already is a great catastrophe in this land, and we must see that or perish!

God promises in His Word that if we respond to Him, individually, He will protect us. But this nation’s problems will never be solved by a political party.

The book of Hosea was written primarily for the end time—the time we live in. In it, God says to His people Israel—which includes the United States, “[Y]e are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9). Those are strong words from God.

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (Hosea 2:8). This is another serious charge from our Creator.

Where did all our wealth come from? Did it come from the great capitalist system? Was it our Yankee ingenuity? Positive election outcomes? If you believe that, then you don’t believe your Bible. America’s prosperity came from God. He gave us birthright blessings because of godly men who obeyed Him.

No wonder God gets upset. He gave us all these blessings, and we turn around and worship another god!

God says that, because of that, “will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.”

Hurricane Sandy was actually another proof among many that God is not happy with how America is behaving. God is full of wrath because of our depravity and sins. We should take this very seriously—even more seriously than a monster storm!

But there is a happy ending. Verse 23 says God will call people His people, and people will finally repent and know their God. These troubles are going to get worse, but they are leading to a beautiful ending: the return of Jesus Christ to this Earth, and a time when everyone will finally know and worship the God who gave them their blessings.

Britain’s New Drug Scene

Britain’s New Drug Scene

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Where are young people buying drugs today? The truth will shock you.
From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

The drug deal. If you envision a dodgy backstreet with kids handing over cash to a shadowy stranger, you’re behind the times. Instead, picture someone walking into a shop, grabbing some packets, paying at the till, and leaving. No sneaking around the back, no brown paper bags under the counter. Or picture someone sitting in front of his computer, paying by credit card. A few days later, the postman delivers discreetly packaged drugs right to his door.

This is the new, “safe” drug trade booming in Britain.

The websites shocked me. They’re not hidden in some shady corner of the Internet. I’m hardly familiar with the drug scene, but it took me just two Google searches to find hundreds of sites offering dangerous drugs delivered right to my door. I don’t even have to find out what shop stocks the drugs, or what the drugs are called. Online, I can find it, buy it and get it without leaving my home.

It’s just like shopping on Amazon. I’ve bought office stationery from worse-looking websites. You can read descriptions of the products and even check reviews left by other users. These drug dealers certainly aren’t hiding—in fact, they encourage you to follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook. And you can use your credit card safely; many of the sites use PayPal.

With just a couple of clicks, I found a site where I could buy a drug called “Annihilation” in complete safety.

Except it’s only the shopping that’s safe. Nine people have been admitted to Glasgow’s hospital for taking Annihilation in the last three months. Others have died from taking these types of easily available drugs.

‘Legal Highs’

Welcome to the world of “legal highs”—drugs with all the harmful effects of illegal drugs but without the purchasing hassles. “Legal highs” is the name given to a whole range of different chemicals that are often very similar to illegal drugs, but are not technically covered by existing laws. Shops sell them with impunity—until they are banned. Then, they’re quickly replaced with something else that skirts the law.

Because these drugs are legal, they can be bought at much cheaper prices and in a much purer form than illegal drugs.

There’s a lot of talk in both Britain and America about legalizing cannabis; in America’s recent elections, two states took high-profile steps in that direction. But more dangerous and more powerful drugs are already easily and legally available.

Over the past few years, “legal highs” have done for drug use what the Internet had already done for pornography. There are no more shady backroom deals. The risk and shame are gone. But lives are being destroyed.

None of the websites give any indication that you are buying something dangerous. Drugs are described as “herbal incense.” One way companies get away with selling them is by adding the label “not for human consumption.” Some even find ways to avoid doing this. One website displays this disclaimer next to its drugs: “They consume you. You don’t consume them.” That sounds more like a slogan than a warning that you could end up in a hospital.

The rest of the page is full of people posting reviews about how great a high the drug gave them. No one mentions any danger. The few negative reviews complain that the drug isn’t powerful enough.

These drugs are drawing in a huge number of young people.

“We thought it was good news when demand for cocaine and heroin began to fall,” said Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, founder of the Club Drug Clinic in London. But it wasn’t good news. “What has happened is that they have been replaced by other drugs that we are trying to understand.”

Since the late ’90s, cannabis and Ecstasy use in the UK has halved. In that time, the rate of illegal drug use by people ages 16 to 24 has fallen from 30 percent to 19 percent. That looks like progress. But the Angelus Foundation, which aims to educate young people about the dangers of “legal highs,” estimates that one in three people ages 16 to 24 are likely to try legal highs. “We might be reaching a situation where legal highs are as attractive as tobacco these days for youngsters,” said Bryan Dent, the drugs coordinator for West Yorkshire Police, in the Yorkshire Post.

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

Many of those taking these drugs don’t know how dangerous they are. They’re being killed so someone else can make a killing.

Maryon Stewart set up the Angelus Foundation after her daughter Hester died from taking what was then a legal high. Stewart says she knows “parents from all over the country who have lost kids” to these drugs. Yet when children in schools learn what is really in the drugs, “They feel that they’ve been duped and they feel that they’ve been cheated,” she told Sky News.

Perhaps more worryingly, parents are also ignorant of the dangers. “New research has found most (86 percent) parents are lacking the vital knowledge needed to warn their children about the dangers of ‘legal highs,’” wrote the Angelus Foundation on its website.

Many of these drugs are chemically very similar to illegal drugs. The main active ingredient in Annihilation, for example, is a synthetic form of cannabis. Often, these highs are far stronger than the illegal form of the drug.

Detective Inspector Jim Bradley of the Glasgow City Center Police warned that those who have taken Annihilation “have experienced adverse health effects, including increased heart rate, unconsciousness, numbness in legs causing collapse, paranoia, aggression and self harming.”

Because many of these drugs are new, the long-term effects are unknown. Often, there are no studies into their side effects. “These kids are playing Russian roulette,” Vice President of Caron Treatment Centers Dr. Harris Stratyner told The Fix, a website on drugs and recovery. “It’s absolutely ludicrous that anyone would put this into your body. It’s like trying to get high off arsenic or rat poison.”

Ketamine is an early “legal high” that was outlawed in 2006. Heavy use of Ketamine is now known to cause permanent damage to the bladder. Users can be left with pain whenever they urinate. Some had to have their bladders removed. gbl (Gammabutyrolactone) is another former “legal high” that was outlawed in 2009. Several died after falling into a coma from taking it. “Users of gbl suffered high levels of dependence and harrowing withdrawal symptoms,” wrote the London Times.

“When these patients arrive we can only treat the symptoms, because we don’t know what they have taken—and neither do they,” said a specialist at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Dr. Richard Stevenson, last July. “None of the cases admitted this year have died, but no one should be under any misapprehension that legal highs are potential killers,” he warned. “If this steep rise in admissions continue, it is only a matter of time until we see deaths.”

Whack-a-Mole

If these drugs are so dangerous, why are they still legal? Mainly because the British government is stuck playing whack-a-mole with small, virtually anonymous, barely legal drug manufacturers. As soon as officials outlaw one chemical compound, several new ones arrive.

The government passed a law in 2011 so it could outlaw new drugs in a matter of weeks, not months. But 28 new “legal highs” arrived on the market in the first five months of 2012 alone. The government can’t keep up. The drugs are only banned after they’ve come to the government’s attention—which means they’ve already caused serious harm. Once they’re banned, users either continue to use the drug illegally or move on to the next big thing.

Although “legal highs” are hitting the headlines mostly in Britain, they are a problem in America and elsewhere too. America’s poison control centers received 6,138 calls about “bath salts” in 2011, up from just 304 the year before. This “legal high” is now illegal, but there will be more—if they’re not available already.

The arrival of legal highs shows the flaw in the West’s drug policies. Stopping people from getting drugs isn’t working. Man cannot solve the drug problem using law enforcement alone. Stopping people from wanting them is the only solution. But this is much harder. It would require a complete change in society.

A Real Solution

The problems associated with these drugs demonstrate a fundamental spiritual truth. The only genuine hope of eliminating the production and consumption of destructive drugs would be a worldwide revolution in family, education and legislation. It would mean having a society where there is no one willing to sell potentially lethal products for a profit. Where no one would market something labeled “not for human consumption” to people that they know will smoke or swallow it.

It would mean that children must be brought up in a world with real purpose, where their greatest goal is something more than temporary pleasure. It would mean an end to the relentless, oppressive, self-destructive messages promoted by movies and popular music. It would mean widespread strong family life, in which parents protect and nurture their children. It would mean that teens and other young people spend their free time not out clubbing, but engaged in wholesome, family pursuits. It would mean creating a whole society of people full of hope, who were focused and enthusiastic about what they could accomplish.

Does all this sound impossible? It is with man. But this drug-free world is coming! For more information about it, request a free copy of our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.

Benghazi Killers: When Will They Be Brought to Justice?

Benghazi Killers: When Will They Be Brought to Justice?

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Getting to the bottom of the Benghazi attack is proving to be a long, drawn-out string of cover-ups and investigations that may never be fully resolved.

It’s been over 11 weeks since the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of four Americans. U.S. President Barack Obama pledged that those responsible would be brought to justice. So far, that hasn’t happened.

At the end of October, the fbi was granted permission by Tunisia to question one of the few suspects in the attack, Ali Harzi. He was being detained in Tunisia after being arrested in Turkey. Tunisia granted the U.S. permission to question the suspect after Republican senators Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham pressed Tunisian authorities. “It isn’t clear what pressure the Obama administration had been applying” prior to that, Fox News reported November 2. The letter said that not allowing the U.S. access “could damage relations and might result in an aid cutoff to the North African state,” the Jerusalem Post reported. Up until this threat of removing economic aid, Tunisia had refused to allow America access to the suspect.

The involvement of Harzi is not fully known, though he is “strongly suspected” of having been involved in the attack. Harzi was arrested along with another man on October 3 in Turkey when they tried to cross the border with fake passports. On October 11, the Turkish government repatriated the two to their native country of Tunisia, where arrest warrants were issued for both on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization in a time of peace in another country.”

Also in Tunisia, the first conviction was issued in October to a leading member of Ansar al-Sharia, the group considered most responsible for the Benghazi strike. He was sentenced to one year in prison for “inciting an attack.”

Getting to the bottom of the Benghazi attack is proving to be a long, drawn-out string of cover-ups and investigations that may never be fully resolved.

On October 4, Thomas Pickering was appointed by President Obama to head up the “Accountability Review Board” that is responsible for investigating the Benghazi attack. On the surface, Pickering looks like an excellent choice for the position. A retired diplomat and State Department official, he has been America’s ambassador to Russia, Israel, El Salvador, Jordan, India, Nigeria and the United Nations. Undoubtedly he is a skilled diplomat.

But underneath his impressive résumé lies a leftist ideology that falls right in stride with the current administration. Pickering has been involved with pro-Islamist organizations for years now. He has had ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (cair), which was listed in 2008 as “an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist money laundering case in U.S. history,” accused of funneling money to Hamas. To go along with that, he is currently a co-chairman on the International Crisis Group, an organization that is funded by billionaire George Soros and strives for better relations with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

With such a pro-Islamist heading the investigation committee, it is hard to imagine that we will ever find out what really happened in Benghazi. To keep an eye on Pickering’s investigation, the State Department is planning on conducting reviews of its own review board.

It makes sense to keep tabs on a man who has referred to America as “a seething hotbed for ‘Islamophobia,’” and has ties to the two principle individuals who wanted to build a mosque at Ground Zero in New York City. What doesn’t make sense is to place him at the head of an investigation trying to uncover the truth about the day four Americans died at the hands of radical Islamists.

Your Memory: More Powerful Than You Realize!

Your Memory: More Powerful Than You Realize!

Turbinado / iStockphoto

Perhaps one day, these vast storehouses of information will be unlocked!
From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

The limitations and caprices of our memories can be frustrating. Our memories are often feeble and unreliable; it seems that even when we carefully study a subject, in time it often slips into the crevasses of our minds, fading into obscurity or disappearing completely.

In normal circumstances, we have to labor hard to keep our storehouses of knowledge from deteriorating into shanties, bringing important truths back to light over and over by repeated study. But, every so often, abnormal circumstances offer us strange glimpses of hope for what our memories can really accomplish.

Guten Morgen, Papa!

One such glimpse came in April 2010, when a Croatian girl named Sandra Ralic emerged from a one-day coma—and baffled her doctors and parents with her sudden fluency in German. The 13-year-old girl’s parents said that she had only just begun to study the German language a few months earlier, and that she had not developed anything even approaching fluency. Her coma had left her no longer able to speak Croatian, so Sandra’s bewildered doctors and parents had to hire a German translator to communicate with her.

It’s easy to understand how the trauma Sandra sustained could damage the area of her brain that stored her Croatian language skills. But how was she suddenly able to communicate in German—vastly superior to what she could speak prior to the coma?

News sources said that, before Sandra’s coma, she occasionally supplemented her middle school German class by watching German tv shows with Croatian subtitles. On a conscious level, this is the linguistic equivalent of a guitarist deciding to learn Albeniz’s fiendishly difficult “Asturias” in his first week playing the instrument. But for Sandra’s subconscious, watching tv in German was far from fruitless. Some part of her brain had absorbed, compartmentalized and stored vast quantities of German-language knowledge, though she was not aware of it until the coma unlocked all of that information.

‘Unfound Treasure’

In a separate baffling incident in 2006, a 40-year-old Colorado man named Derek Armeto struck his head on the bottom of a swimming pool. He was diagnosed with a severe concussion, and to this day he suffers from some memory loss and a 35 percent loss of hearing. After his accident, Derek and a friend were sitting at a piano, where he discovered another unexpected consequence of the accident.

“As I shut my eyes, I found these black and white structures moving from left to right, which in fact would represent in my mind, a fluid and continuous stream of musical notation,” he said. “My fingers began to scale the piano keys as if I had played all of my life. I can’t explain the feeling of awe that overcame my entire being, although I can tell you the expression on my friend’s face was enough to put us both in tears. I could not only play and compose, but I would later discover that I could recall a prior played piece of music as if it had been etched in my mind’s eye.”

Four days after his accident, he asked his mother to accompany him to a music store. “We found the nearest piano as I asked her to sit next to me,” he said. “I began to play as if I was exploring some unfound treasure that had been locked up all this time in my head.” Derek left his corporate job shortly after to pursue a career in music. He now plays eight instruments proficiently, which he had no previous experience with, and he has sharply improved his skills on the guitar, which he had lightly dabbled with before his accident.

So, how is it that Derek was able to play with such sudden fluidity and mastery? He had actively listened to music for all of his life. All the time he spent listening to music and tinkering away on his guitar, his brain was absorbing and filing musical understanding away in his subconscious. He didn’t have ready access to this understanding until the blow to his cranium unlocked the vault in his subconscious where it was stored.

The Real Rain Man

Then there was the case of Kim Peek, a “mega-savant” born in Salt Lake City in 1951. By the time of Peek’s death in 2009, he was considered a genius in 15 different subjects, from music to history, and from literature to dates. He could read two pages at a time—one with his right eye and one with his left eye. He would devour an entire book in about an hour, and comprehend and remember virtually everything recorded in its pages. Forever.

One article in the Times newspaper said Peek could accurately recall the contents of no fewer than 12,000 books, and he had 9,000 entire books completely committed to memory. When quizzed on what he read, Kim could pull a fact from his mental archives as quickly as any search engine can mine the Internet.

But there was a problem. Even though Peek knew a staggering amount, he could not function socially or take care of himself. He never learned to button his shirt, and he could only walk in a sidelong fashion. The fascinating story of Kim’s uneven brain was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film Rain Man.

What explains Kim’s astounding memory capacity? He was born without the bundle of nerves that links the two hemispheres of the brain together, and scientists believe his brain forged unusual neural pathways to compensate for the absence of this nerve-bundle.

So, the question is this: Are all of our brains capable of the astounding abilities Kim’s had? If so, how can we tap into this potential? Could we enjoy the advantages of his condition without suffering the crippling limitations that came along with it? These kinds of questions baffle scientists.

For possible answers, let’s look instead to the Being who created the human mind.

Earnest Heed

The Creator designed our minds and brains so that, in normal circumstances, we can’t easily access the information we encounter unless we have repeatedly and fastidiously studied it. Apparently, God wants to see which kinds of information we are willing to labor for diligently in order to keep it at our fingertips.

The Apostle Paul acknowledged this reality, saying that he and his fellow Hebrews needed to “give the more earnest heed” to the truths God was revealing to them. Why? “Lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1).

Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “[Y]ou are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you …” (1 Corinthians 15:2). That’s an enormous “if.” It says a Christian’s salvation depends on his laboring to “keep in memory” the truth. These admonitions would not be necessary if we could hear or read a truth only once and have it permanently etched into our memory.

God’s desire is for people to work to develop holy, righteous character. One way we can do that is through consistent and disciplined study. Some people—even fairly ordinary ones—are blessed with impressive intellectual abilities. But a willingness to labor at learning God’s Word is far more important to Him and His purpose for us. Character trumps intellect any day of the week.

Rare cases like those of Sandra, Derek and Kim suggest that the human mind is far more impressive than most understand. The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote extensively on the potential of the human mind and memory, explaining that its staggering capacity is made possible by a spirit component the Creator God built into it. A person “sees, hears and thinks through his physical brain and the five senses,” he wrote in The Incredible Human Potential. But it is “the spirit in man” that “imparts the power of physical intellect to the physical brain, thus forming human mind,” he wrote. Based on thorough study of Ecclesiastes 12:7, Job 32:8 and other biblical passages, Mr. Armstrong came to see that this “spirit in man” records every shred of information perceived by the senses throughout a person’s lifetime: “[T]his spirit records every thought—every bit of knowledge received through the five senses. … All memory is stored in this spirit computer. … [M]emory is recorded in the human spirit, whether or not it also is recorded in the gray matter of brain.”

It is because God gave people this “spirit in man” that our brains have such a staggering capacity to absorb, compartmentalize and store the information our senses perceive. The majority of what our minds store, we don’t have ready access to right now—but every word we’ve ever read or heard is warehoused there. Every syllable we’ve ever uttered, and every note we’ve ever heard is on file behind our quiet eyes.

And a time is on the horizon, potentially for each one of us, when real life will begin (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-58). At this time, it is likely that we’ll be handed the keys to unlock our memories, and be able to swim freely through the oceans of knowledge within them. When this resource is tapped, we will have the benefits that cases like Sandra, Derek and Kim give us a glimpse into, with none of the limitations they suffered.

We should educate ourselves carefully, read voraciously, and keep from succumbing to frustration about our presently feeble memories. Because one day, the vault doors may well swing wide open.

European Commission Unveils a Path to a European Superstate

European Commission Unveils a Path to a European Superstate

European Parliament/flickr

Eurozone leaders have already decided they’re heading toward a superstate. Now they’re working on the details of how to get there.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso unveiled “substantial” and “ambitious” plans to move the eurozone further down the road to become a superstate, on November 28. Calls for closer integration have become increasingly common. Barroso’s report shows how those calls can be put into action.

Barroso “breached a taboo over a ‘two-speed Europe,’” wrote Reuters. The report is one of the first times a senior EU leader has called for the eurozone to move forward, leaving the rest of Europe behind. “The euro area must be able to integrate quicker and deeper than the EU at large,” Barroso told reporters. This, he argued, was the only way to create a stable eurozone.

In the medium term (18 months to five years), the eurozone must work more closely together on areas like taxation, spending and employment, Barroso said. This “progressive pooling of sovereignty” should continue into the longer term, he said. Integration toward “a full banking, fiscal and economic union” should be complemented with a “political union.” The eurozone should have its own budget and release jointly-backed bonds.

Much of what Barroso said has become mundane—which is in itself remarkable. He called for nations to share—which means give up—power over their taxation and spending. He even said it was possible that eurozone officials could “require amendments to national budgets or … veto them.” He’s talking about sovereign democracies handing over their most important and fundamental power—how the nation’s money is collected and spent. But that has become routine. Politicians frequently make these calls now. Eurozone leaders have already accepted that their nations are on their way to merging into a superstate.

Eurozone leaders will now quibble over the details. But few with any real power disagree on the overall direction.

As Reuters points out, the new part of this proposal isn’t the calls for superstate-like powers. It’s that the eurozone could move forward with this, leaving the rest behind. World events may not give Barroso the luxury of five-years-plus to forge his superstate. But watch for Europe to continue on the path to creating a superstate out of a smaller group of EU nations.