Friday, December 22, 2017

Who invented Santa?

Everybody, Christian or not, whether they admit it or not, realizes that a red-suited, white-bearded fat man saying “Ho! ho! ho!” has absolutely nothing to do with celebrating the birth of Christ.

It is so brain-dead obvious, in fact, that you seem like a Scrooge for even pointing it out. Why spoil everyone’s fun?

Should you care? Does Christ care? Even the ‘Let’s put Christ back into Christmas’ folks aren’t calling for a ban on Santa, are they? Their message seems to be more about performing charitable works at Christmastime instead of simply perpetuating materialism.

Should Santa be avoided by Christians?

One meme that floats around the internet claims that ‘Santa’ is simply an anagram for ‘Satan.’ I used to think that was a stretch... just because 'santa' and 'satan' have the same letters, that's a coincidence, isn’t it? That’s as weird as twisting ‘St. Nick’ into 'Old Nick' – British slang for Satan. (There was that movie Little Nicky about Satan having a son, after all.) There can’t be a connection, can there?
Now, I'm not so sure. 
"Santa" is an American word. It seems to have been made up by Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote the poem we know as 'The night before Christmas' in the early 1800s. He made up 'Santa Claus' out of the Dutch 'sinterklaas’ – Saint Nicholas. New York, aka New Amsterdam, still had a significant Dutch population during his life.
But how did Moore arrive at 'Santa'? Moore was an American professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City. “Oriental" literature, in this context refers to study of the Hebrew Scriptures. Hebrew doesn’t have a word that sounds anything like ‘santa.’ The closest it comes is sha`atah, which Strong’s dictionary defines as “feminine, from an unused root meaning to stamp; a clatter (of hoofs); stamping. (Only at Jeremiah 47:3)” If you’re curious, Jeremiah 47:3 reads,At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions, at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels, the fathers look not back to their children.” If you know the poem, you know Moore was familiar with that verse. So maybe it isn’t a stretch at all that he could have been thinking of the Hebrew word ‘sha’atah’ when he invented Santa.
And it is not a stretch at all that he may have mushed that Hebrew word with one of the Latin words related to holy, “Sancta,” as in “sancta sanctorum,” the Holy of Holies.  
While Satanists do enjoy tweaking people’s noses with anagrams such as Santa/Satan, there is no evidence that Moore was a Satanist. He simply made up a word, drawing from the Dutch idea and the sound of “Sinterklaas.”
But what was the Dutch doctrine of Sinterklaas?
If you or someone you know is struggling to support a pioneer lifestyle, maybe this will help: "99 Ways to Fire Your Boss" is a huge collection of income ideas, plus powerful suggestions for living a simpler life! Look for it on
The Church celebrated Saint Nicholas’ day on December 6. That celebration had nothing to do with Christmas. Nicholas had a sidekick, a horned, hairy goat-shaped character called Krampus. In other parts of Europe he is called ‘Black Pete.’ Children were told they would be judged by these two. If they were good, Nicholas would give them coins or candy. If they were judged as naughty, Krampus or Black Pete would beat them with a bundle of birch switches. If they were really bad, Krampus would throw them in the bag he carries over his shoulder and take them back to hell. That’s right: Krampus was a demon. ('Black' Pete was simply a moor – an African Muslim. His threat was to take kids to Africa.)
What was Moore thinking, calling Santa a ‘jolly old elf’?
Martin Luther condemned the celebration of St. Nicholas’ day. After all, the belief was based on a legend, with little proof, of a charitable bishop of Myra of the 4th century, who was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. (As Martin Luther knew, a lot of the Church’s “saints” were never real or, if based on a real person, were grossly embellished.)
According to Greek legend, at the Council of Nicaea in 325, when Arius got up to try explain to the assembled bishops what the Bible says about Jesus – that he was created, that he had a beginning, that he was “the son of God” not ‘God the son,’ bishop Nicholas slugged him in the face. 
Great idea: let’s set him up as the arbiter of who’s naughty and who’s nice. 
According to the official Catholic creed, however, Nicholas wasn’t there. Martin Luther realized that removing a pagan celebration and asking people to change their thinking to (gasp!) the truth, was a bridge too far. So as churches everywhere have always done, he instead transmogrified St. Nicholas’ day into a celebration revolving around Kris Kringle. 
Kris Kringle is simply a mangled form of the old German "Krist kindle" – Christ child. People wouldn’t sit still for it, and in no time, Kris Kringle and Santa Claus became one and the same. It took only a couple hundred years for the Christ child to become a red-suited jolly elf. The goat-shaped demon sidekick was kicked to the curb in America, although he’s still popular in Europe.
But even the Sinterklaas legend isn’t really based on the perhaps-true stories of the perhaps-real Nicholas of Myra. Long before Christianity began to be preached in Northern Europe the people there worshiped Odin or Woden. (If you think you’ve never heard of him, Wednesday started out as Woden’s Day.) Guess how Odin was depicted? Long white beard, red cape, flying horse, delivering gifts to nice children in December.
If someone asked you to worship Baal, Molech, Dagon or one of the other pagan gods listed in the Bible, no doubt you would refuse, right? And you would never worship Satan, would you?
But what if Satan took Baal or Molech or Dagon, the false gods we've all rejected, dressed one of them up in a red suit, white beard, big smile, twinkly eyes – are you still going to reject him?
Who could have arranged a celebration that encourages your kids to direct their petitions to Santa instead of to God? Call the Santa hotline? Write Santa a letter? Put out food and drink offerings for him? To thank Santa - or no one - for gifts rather than thanking their hard-working parents?
Could it be, possibly, in the words of the Church Lady, “SATAN?”
 Bill K. Underwood is a columnist and author of several books. You can help support this channel by purchasing a book at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Should "Innocent until Proven Guilty" be a thing of the past?

Imagine you’ve been wrongly accused of sexual misconduct. A 13-year-old lies to their parents about engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct and they point the finger at you – unjustly. The parents go to the minister of your congregation. You are called on the carpet. You, of course, vehemently deny any such wrongdoing. The minister questions the child regarding the details. He establishes a time and place of the supposed incident. You have no alibi for that time.

What should happen next? You tell me. Pick the response below that you feel is, not only proper, but scriptural. Remember that it is YOU who has been unjustly accused:

  1. The minister tells you that, in the absence of any evidence, the accusation will be disregarded. Perhaps he further tells you to be especially careful to never be alone with a child so as to prevent any allegations in the future.
  2. The minister calls the police.
  3. The minister tells the parents to call the police.
  4. The minister tells the parents that they may call the police, but they need to be aware that the Bible warns against false accusations the same way that it warns against sexual misconduct.
Here's a second scenario: This one is, I know, even less likely, but it isn't impossible. Suppose the child gets together with friends and they conspire to make several false accusations against you. They still have no evidence since you did not do what you are being accused of.

  1. Should the minister now take disciplinary action against you because there are multiple accusations?
  2. Should the minister now call the police?
  3. Should the minister now urge the parents to call the police?
  4. Should the minister maintain that there is still no evidence and remind the parents about the gravity of making false accusations?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that all, or even a majority, of accusations of sexual misconduct are false. The stories that have come out about Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and others bear that out. According to some studies, false accusations of rape are rare - possibly fewer than 10%, though I suspect that number may be skewed when deep pockets are involved. 
-Continues below-
False accusations do happen. If they didn't, there wouldn't be guidelines about them in the Bible. In Bible times, if someone accused someone falsely, the accuser became liable to the same penalty that would have been inflicted on the innocent party. (Deuteronomy 19:18) However, many cases required that accusations be backed up by two eye-witnesses. (Numbers 35:30) 
You can see where this is going. “Innocent until proven guilty” has long been a fundamental principle under the law, because most legal systems are consciously or unconsciously based on Bible principles. When we are unjustly accused we want that principle to be followed in our case.

Unfortunately, when we hear that someone else had an accusation made against them but no disciplinary action was taken, we tend to believe the case was mishandled. 'Where there's smoke there's fire' has become a truism for exactly that reason. Especially if the accused later turns out to be guilty. Especially if there were children involved.

It’s called “20-20 hindsight,” or being a "Facebook expert", or a “Monday-morning-quarterback,” named for water-cooler discussions on Monday about the previous day’s football games.

In a case in California involving a former Jehovah’s Witness, a man is suing to obtain Jehovah’s Witnesses confidential records – not just those pertaining to his case, but ALL confidential records of ALL accusations.

If you think that’s a good idea, you need to re-read the example at the top of this column. If you were falsely accused, and ministers in your church or elders in your congregation heard the accusation, took notes, and then determined the accusation was false... do you want your name and the notes with that false accusation to become public knowledge? If you are a Catholic and the false accusation was made to your priest, how would you feel about your priest being forced to tell the authorities about the false accusation?  
Do you really want 'innocent until proven guilty' to become 'innocent until accused'?

Please leave a polite comment. Comments are moderated, so if you have your own agenda, don’t waste your time. 

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How We Know the Signs of the Times are Being Fulfilled

200 years ago, when war between England and France spread across half the globe, many believed they were seeing "the Sign of the Times." However, Bible scholars of that generation said, ‘This is not the end. The good news of the kingdom has not been preached worldwide.’ (Matthew 24:14)

150 years ago, Babylon the Great – all the world’s false religions taken as a conglomerate – was so strong she crowned and removed kings, made laws, punished wrongdoers, and collected taxes. (Revelation 18:1-4) Even in pre-Constitution America, churches were given parishes by the state. They too made laws, collected taxes and punished wrongdoers. Today, there are only ten countries remaining in Europe where the state gives money to the church, and every one of those countries gives taxpayers the right to opt out of supporting the churches. In most countries today churches have no power over politicians and little over the people. In the United States there is a law - rarely enforced - against churches influencing elections. There is more and more talk about removing the churches' tax-exempt status. The Bible foretells that the governments will soon turn on organized religion. 150 years ago such a thing was unthinkable. But if religions were outlawed tomorrow there would be very little protest from the general population.
120 years ago, people had to be scratching their heads when they read in the Bible that there would be "from heaven great signs." (Luke 21:11) But within 10 years from the Wright Brothers first powered flight in an airplane, it was being used 'from heaven' to send terrifying weapons to the earth.

110 years ago, no one would have found it noteworthy for someone or some group to say “Peace and Security!” Peace was the norm right up until World War broke out. When world events in the near future prompt a cry of ‘Peace and Security!’ it will be a significant departure from what we've become used to. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

100 years ago, if anyone had said, “Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation,” (2 Peter 3:3, 4) it would have been a reasonable question. Anyone who has said it since World War One, however, can be viewed as exactly what the prophecy calls them: ridiculous.

75 years ago, anyone who suggested that man had the potential to ruin the earth would have been locked up in an asylum. (Revelation 11:18) The planet was seen as a huge, self-regulating entity that puny man certainly couldn't harm. That view changed with the detonation of atomic bombs in the 1940s. 
When the world calmed down after WWII, people tried to go back to normal lives. But they were shocked out of their complacency in 1962 when Rachel Carson revealed in her book “Silent Spring” that, rather than “Better living through chemistry,” as the ads were saying, mankind’s chemicals were threatening to destroy the earth. 
Today no one questions the very real possibility of man ruining the earth.
65 years ago, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom reached a milestone 100 languages, giving it the ability to serve 85% of the world’s population. The other 15% represent languages spoken by fewer than 10,000 people each, and in most cases those individuals are fluent in other, more common languages. In the years since, however, the number of languages of The Watchtower has continued to grow. 
Whether you agree or disagree with the teachings of The Watchtower, it cannot be denied that its message has consistently preached the "good news of the kingdom", as Jesus foretold would be declared. (Matthew 24:14) Today it is the most widely read magazine on Earth., is the most widely translated website on earth, currently in over 1000 languages, available to more than 98.8% of the earth’s population. There is virtually no person on earth whose only language is so obscure that he cannot hear the good news of the kingdom. To put that number in perspective, the official website of the Catholic Church is in 10 languages (if you count Latin). The next largest 'Christian' religion's official website, for the world's Baptists, is in 7 languages. The Mormon website claims 100 languages, though many of them are machine-generated. Few other religions even have an official, worldwide website.
That may seem like religious propaganda, but as we pointed out above, when people in Napoleon's day believed they were seeing the sign, Bible scholars pointed to Matthew 24:14 as a roadblock: The Good News of the Kingdom needed to be preached in ALL the earth before the end came, and that hadn't happened. Even as Bible societies proliferated over the next century their message was consistently, 'Join our church' or 'Buy a Bible', not 'Let me explain the Good News.'

50 years ago began what has been called ‘The Golden Age of Terrorism.’ Jesus foretold that the last days would be marked by “fearful sights.” (Luke 21:11) According to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, the word fearful sights means: 
Terrors. This rare word phob├¬thra is used only here in the N.T. It is from phobe├┤, to frighten, and occurs only in the plural as here.” 
While it’s true that people could have understood “terrors” in many ways over the centuries, what we now think of as “terrorism” began in the 1960s. The first mass shooting of random people on a campus happened in Texas in 1966; plane hijackings proliferated from the 1960s on; Muslims killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, and held 56 Americans hostage for a year in 1979 and 80 in Iran. Combined with the ‘terrors’ of airliners flown into buildings, nuclear weapons mounted on missiles, satellite surveillance, stealth drones firing rockets, air-borne radiation from broken reactors and other pollution coming down “from the heavens,” we have seen unprecedented ‘fearful sights and great signs’ in our lifetime.

This generation: Jesus said quite explicitly “when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors…Truly I say to you that this generation will BY NO MEANS pass away until all these things happen.”  (Matthew 24:33, 34) Since the things discussed here have stretched over the past 110 years or so, there could be no one person who saw them all. But the word "you" here is plural. Jesus was speaking to a group - those 'brothers' of his who did see - and understood that they were seeing - the Sign of the Times beginning in World War One. As they aged they also actively shared their observations, and discussed the significance of them, with other younger 'brothers' of their generation. The last possible associates of that generation are now in their fifties or older. BY NO MEANS will they all die before the end comes. 

If you struggle with that concept, here's a perhaps not-very-good illustration: The Star Trek show called "The Next Generation" was set about a century after the original series. The title and the story lines had little to do with the children or grandchildren of the original characters. Rather, the term 'Next Generation' described how this new crew was drastically different - in the thinking, the technology, and the problems they faced - from the original crew. In the same vein, the world we live in today, despite computers, the internet, cell phones, walking on the moon,etc., is the same mess that began in the 20th century. A new 'generation', with a completely different world experience from what we are living through now, would be what? Flying cars? No. How about World peace, clean air, free energy, food for all? That would certainly be a new generation. But it will BY NO MEANS begin until this generation sees the end of the current drama.

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stuff I wish I had known in Junior high science class.

1. Fermi’s Paradox: Scientists estimate that there are 100 billion planets in the Milky Way. Not the universe – just our ‘neighborhood,’ our galaxy. Many of them are older than earth. In 2013, it was determined mathematically that 40 billion of those should have the conditions needed to support life.
If life can come into existence spontaneously it potentially could have done so 40 billion times, creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of intelligent systems long before Earth even sent out its first man-made radio wave. By now, those other intelligent systems should have invented long range space travel. Wouldn’t their explorations have focused on all the signals coming from Earth? So the question propounded by rocket scientist Fermi was, Where is everybody? Space around earth should be a celestial traffic jam of UFOs every night.
2. Science claims the “Miller-Urey” experiments created life in a test tube in 1952. The Miller-Urey ‘primordial soup’ consisted of hydrogen, methane, and ammonia. Methane and ammonia are both waste products of LIVING things. Did my science teachers know that and forget to tell me? Very little of it is found in non-biologic formations, and none is found in the sediment layers that predate life. That's kind of like starting with some eggs and saying, "Watch me make a chicken."
3. Amino acids have a ‘twist,’ referred to as being “right-handed” or “left-handed.” The fewer than 20 amino acids created by Miller-Urey were equally divided between “right-handed” and “left-handed.” But the amino acids that make up living things are all left-handed.
4. Amino acids also come in alpha and beta. Miller-Urey’s amino acids were equally divided between both. But living things use only alphas.
5. Amino acids are not life. They are the building blocks of polypeptides. The total number of polypeptide combinations from 20 amino acids is 20 to the 146th power, (a 20 followed by 146 zeroes) yet only 50 of those combinations are the correct ones for life.
6. Polypeptides are not life, either. They are the building blocks of proteins. The possible number of protein combinations from 50 polypeptides is a number a thousand times larger than the previous one! Yet out of that immense number, only 250 of those proteins are the right ones for creating a living organism.
7. The right 250 proteins are not life, either. They are simply the building blocks used by the intelligent instructions within a living cell to create the DNA and structure to create a new cell. 
8. While amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, amino acids do not ‘join’ to form proteins. That would be like suggesting that if you put bricks into an acid bath they will 'join' to form a brick wall. They won't - they would simply dissolve. In the same way, unprotected proteins – such as a conglomeration of amino acids floating in a primordial soup – quickly break down into individual chemicals.
9. The simplest protein known is ribonuclease. Its ingredients are 17 different amino acids, used in various combinations to form a chain. But it is a chain 124 amino acids long, in exact order. The first two amino acids in the chain are lysine and glutamic acid, in that order. Of the 17 amino acids relevant to this protein, what are the odds of a lysine amino acid linking to a glutamic acid in a primordial soup containing billions of amino acids? If the soup was made entirely of those 17 amino acids and nothing else, the odds are still 1 in 289.
10. What are the odds of those two amino acids, linked in the correct order, linking to threonine, the 3rd amino acid in this protein? Now the odds are 1 in 4,913. With each additional amino acid in order, the odds grow exponentially. To get all 17 linked in the right order, the odds have been calculated at one chance in a number that would be written as a 1 followed by 552 zeroes. If you're thinking that this is more than the number of characters in this paragraph and the one above it, think bigger. That is a larger number than the total number of seconds the universe has been in existence. In fact, it is a larger number than the total number of atoms in the entire universe!
11. And even if they did somehow manage to link up, they are still unprotected, floating around in that supposed primordial soup, with no way to replicate. And self-replication is one part of the definition of life.
12. Scientists believe that the simplest organism that could be called living would consist of no fewer than 250 different proteins. It's a theory - no organism that simple has been found in nature. So they’ve taken the simplest known form, a bacterium with 901 base pairs in its DNA, and they are working at stripping away parts of that DNA to make it simpler. They have managed to get it down to 473. But at 472, it is no longer living. And for an organism with 473 base pairs to evolve would require 531,000 instructions, each happening in the right order, at the right time.
13. Now, go back to the amino acid question at the top. Remember, right handed versus left handed, and alpha versus beta? Imagine a bag full of billions of mixed Legos – red, green, white, and blue. Suppose you want to build a white spiral staircase of Legos. Imagine drawing Legos out of the bag, one at a time, 531,000 times, and only getting white ones.
Oh, and just to be fair, you can’t use your eyes, your hands, or your intelligence…

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Worldwide Letter-writing Campaign Protests Proposed Religious Ban

A huge news story is being almost completely ignored by the media.

Post offices across the country are running out of international stamps. Facebook is blowing up with pictures of people writing letters. The Guinness people are watching to see if this letter-writing campaign will make it into their Book of World Records. (The current record-holder for a letter-writing campaign is 900,000 letters written for Amnesty International.) What’s the story?

While the news is busy arguing about to what extent Russia may have interfered in the recent American election, Russia has been quietly, dramatically restricting the freedoms of one specific group of their citizens.

Maybe you read that and say, ‘Well, it is Russia, after all; aren’t they always restricting their citizens?’ No, actually. After the Soviet Union ended, Russia became a democratic society, with a constitution and everything. Section One Chapter 2 of that document reads:
“Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of conscience, to freedom of religious worship, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion, or to profess no religion, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious or other beliefs, and to act in conformity with them.”
That’s even clearer than the freedom of religion guaranteed by the United States constitution.

In spite of that guarantee, the government of Russia has petitioned their Supreme Court to brand Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, in the same league as ISIS. If that move succeeds it will become illegal for the 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country to meet for worship, to discuss the bible with others, or even to read the bible in their own homes. The case is scheduled to be heard on April 5, 2017. 

In response, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses has asked all 8,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to write to six key officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin himself. 
From the United States, mailing those six letters to Moscow costs about $7. In some other countries, it could cost a family a significant portion of their monthly income. Yet, based on reports on Facebook, Jehovah’s Witnesses, their friends and business associates are pitching in with a will. Total cost of postage, according to one Facebooker, will be over $55 million, based just on the U.S. rate. 

If 8,000,000 people each send six letters, another Facebook mathematician calculated, the Moscow post office can expect a stack of mail nearly 19 miles high! 

A handful of other websites have circulated the news about the impending court decision and the letter-writing campaign against it:

Rochester, NY: Jehovah’s Witnesses plead for freedom, mercy, in Russia crackdown 

The University of Missouri’s Religion News Service: Jehovah’s Witnesses Fear Russian Government may Ban Them 

Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Zambia websites also reposted the news release from

Headlines from pro-Russian news sources have a somewhat different outlook. Russia’s English-language Sputnik reads:
Enough is enough! Jehovah’s Witnesses face Ban
On Tuesday, the Helsinki Commission, which includes U.S. Senators and congressmen, condemned the planned Russian legal move. 

While their sentiments are appreciated, the millions of letters pouring in from around the world are far more likely to sway Moscow than a handful of American politicians. 

If your local news outlet hasn't covered this story, please send them the link to this column.

Feel free to leave a polite comment. To read another of my columns on a similar subject, click here. To return to the home page, click here

Bill K. Underwood is a free-lance columnist and the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Medical Marijuana for Christians?

Marijuana is now legal to use for medical purposes in the majority of states. Some states have also legalized its recreational use. But it is still illegal federally. That means:

  • If you work for the federal government, you can’t use marijuana for any reason.
  • If you work at a job regulated by the Federal Transportation and Safety board, such as truck driver, you can’t use marijuana. The same is true of many jobs in the healthcare field.
  • Your prescription doesn’t exempt you from employer drug tests… they can legally fire you if you test positive for marijuana.
  • You can’t use it if you live on federal property or in federally-assisted housing, such as Section 8.
  • If you are in a legal marijuana business, accepting credit card payments via most banks runs you afoul of federal banking laws. And, of course, you can’t take any business deductions on your federal taxes, since the IRS considers your business illegal.
In 2013, the Justice department released what came to be called the Cole memo that significantly altered the cannabis landscape. It made clear that the federal government was going to lay off cannabis in states where marijuana was legal, with the exception of 8 specific criteria. These are:

  • Distribution to minors;
  • Marijuana revenue going to criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels;
  • Diverting marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;
  • Running a marijuana business as a cover for an illegal business, such as illegal drugs;
  • Violence or the use of firearms in connection with a marijuana business;
  • Contributing to drugged driving or other adverse public health risks;
  • Growing cannabis on public (federal) lands;
  • Using marijuana products on federal property.
 Of course, this could all change with the political landscape.

Up until the late 1800s, cannabis farming was common, even encouraged. The fibrous cannabis plant, called hemp by most growers, was a terrific source for paper, rope and fabric. The word “canvas,” in fact, stems from the word “cannabis.”
According to some sources, the war against marijuana was spurred in the 1920s and 1930s by William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire, abetted by DuPont Chemical. Hearst had significant timber holdings and feared they would be devalued by a growing hemp-based paper industry; DuPont wanted people to use their newly created oil-based nylon products instead of hemp products.

“William Randolph Hearst hated minorities,” says one of his biographies, “and he used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity. Hearst especially hated Mexicans. Hearst papers portrayed Mexicans as lazy, degenerate, and violent, and as marijuana smokers and job stealers. The real motive behind this prejudice may well have been that Hearst had lost 800,000 acres of prime timberland in Mexico to the rebel Pancho Villa.” In fact, it is said that he ordered his newspapers to use the word “marijuana” rather than hemp or cannabis, because of the word’s Mexican connotation.

According to the DEA:

·       “The Institute of Medicine conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available.”
·       Marijuana contributes to crime. “Nationwide, 40 percent of adult males tested positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest.”
·       “According to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.”

Given all this, then, why the Cole memo? Because, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are using marijuana for medical reasons, despite the DEA’s claims that it has no medicinal value.

That shouldn’t be surprising: my brother and sister-in-law take the cooking spice turmeric for muscle and stomach pain. The AMA may not acknowledge any medicinal value to it, but don’t try to take it away from my brother. He has told me of his wife waking up crying with leg cramps that go away within minutes of taking turmeric.

And there are, of course, literally hundreds of other ‘alternative’ health cures that users swear by, from laser light to okra, despite there being no scientific studies proving their efficacy.

On a trip to Oregon in 2010 I had occasion to visit with a medical marijuana user I’ll call John.
John suffered for years with arthritis and neuropathy in his feet. “Sometimes, when I get up in the morning and put my feet on the floor, I fall flat on my face,” he said. Before using marijuana, he took Vicodin nearly every day, but he got tired of living in a fog. “Plus, it’s expensive.” He was spending $60 to $70 a month on Vicodin before he got approved to grow and use marijuana.

He was affiliated with an organization called Oregon Green Freedom, who helped him get started growing a marijuana strain called “Agent Orange.” Under Oregon law he was allowed to possess 18 juvenile plants and 6 mature plants. He grew it organically. “I’ve tasted some that was grown in containers indoors, and you can taste the Miracle-Gro,” he said. (I didn’t ask whether he could taste the horse manure he fertilizes his plants with.)

John puts about two ounces of marijuana buds in a quart of glycerin, and lets it steep in the sun on the window sill for a couple months. Only the buds are used. “The rest of the plant just becomes compost.”

 I asked about getting high. He said, “Buds harvested early are better for pain relief; a later harvest produces more of a high. So I harvest early.”

He used about a tablespoon a day of the tincture to control the pain of the arthritis and neuropathy. It had also helped him with the nausea of chemotherapy the previous year when he had cancer. The tincture takes about 30 minutes to work. Would smoking it work faster? “It might, but smoked marijuana tends to go to your head. I need it to go to my feet.”

Furthermore, “as a Christian,” he said, “there are certain Bible principles I need to comply with for the sake of my conscience.” What principles? He listed them: “‘Cleanse yourselves of every defilement of the flesh.’ (2 Corinthians 7:1) Smoking pot would ‘defile’ my hair, my clothes, and my home.” He is also aware of 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Bad company corrupts good character." So he has to be careful marijuana use doesn’t bring him into company with those who link marijuana-smoking with unchristian conduct, especially the illicit drug community.

The principle of 2 Timothy 4:5, “You should keep a clear mind in every situation,” certainly rules out recreational drug use, but can’t really be applied to medical usage, or else Christians would have to avoid all pain remediation. But what about addiction? Romans 6:16 does say, after all, “You become the slave of whatever you choose to obey.” John said that was not a problem; for him, at least, his marijuana tincture was not addictive. “Vicodin, that was really addictive.”

Still, John acknowledges, it is a controversial matter. There is a significant stigma attached to marijuana use, and he doesn’t want to be seen as a “stoner.” When he recently requested approval for additional privileges in his congregation, a lengthy discussion ensued. Even though he had the approval of the state of Oregon, he was technically breaking federal law, making the principle at Romans 13:1 about obeying the governmental authorities a matter for his conscience to deal with. He also stopped supplying marijuana to other legal users who lack their own growing space – a practice allowed under the Oregon program –  because he didn’t want to feel responsible if they misused it.

A few months before our interview he took a road trip across the U.S. and had to leave the tincture at home. His user I.D. card is only valid in Oregon. So he had to pull out the Vicodin. “Which is ironic,” he said. Why? Because, he said, he knows how soon he’s safe to drive after taking the tincture, but he feels less sure of his abilities after taking Vicodin.

Speaking of driving: Since he has to carry the I.D. card at all times, if he were involved in an accident, he would be pretty much automatically at fault. A police officer seeing the card would likely send him for a urine test, which he would fail even if he hadn’t used the tincture in several days.

Update, 5 years later. I asked about John on my recent trip to Oregon. His neuropathy is now gone, and he’s stopped using his tincture. I doubt if anyone has ever cured neuropathy with Vicodin.

One of my preconceptions before talking to John was that people are making up symptoms to legally get stoned. John said there is probably some of that, but, in Oregon at least, in 2010 it required a two-year medical history, as well as a lot of other hoops to jump through, to get on the program. “I doubt if too many people would go to the trouble.”

There has been relatively little research into the efficacy of marijuana. However, that is in part due to the fact that it is illegal. If you are a scientist wanting to research the medical benefits of marijuana, for decades there was only one legal source: A government-managed plot of about 500 plants at the University of Mississippi. Only recently has the government recognized the silliness of this, and begun to make it easier for scientists to study marijuana. It is widely believed that ‘street marijuana’ is considerably more potent than the strain grown at the university. Common knowledge, not yet scientifically backed, says that different strains have different medicinal uses.

With the growth of alternative health products, and the growing movement to legalize marijuana, if you don’t currently know someone who has considered using marijuana medicinally, you likely will in the near future.

Feel free to leave a polite comment. 

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several books, all available at You can help support this page by purchasing a book.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spread the Word: Transfusion is NOT a "Lifesaving Procedure."

It’s happened again: Still another study, this time out of Canada, proving beyond all doubt that blood transfusion is bad medicine. 

The February, 2017, World Journal of Urology contains the results of a nine-year study of bladder cancer patients who underwent a surgical procedure called radical cystectomy.

Of the 2,593 patients, 62% overall received blood transfusions. (In 2000, at the beginning of the study, it was 68%. By 2008 the number had dropped to 54%. So surgeons are slowly getting the message, but not fast enough.)

Transfused:                                                    Not transfused:

Average hospital stay:            11 days                                 9 days
Readmitted within 90 days:   38%                                      29%    
Mortality:                               11%                                      4%

And here’s the big one: Overall 5-year survival rate was 33% higher among those patients not transfused. And the cancer-specific survival rate was a whopping 39% higher among those who had bloodless surgery!

This is like the umpteenth study proving that blood transfusion is a terrible idea. Here are just a few recent examples:

“Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused blood transfusions while undergoing cardiac surgery were significantly less likely to need another operation for bleeding compared with non-Witnesses who were transfused. They were also less likely to suffer a post-op heart attack or kidney failure.”
 Can’t we, by now, safely assume that, what has been found to be true in these fields of surgery, is true in every field? 
Yet the same day this bladder cancer study came out, another  story was published about the new guidelines for surgeons when a patient refuses a transfusion. It was introduced with the line, 
“Blood transfusions are a common and often lifesaving procedure.”
 That article noted that doctors are frequently accused of having a God complex. Many of them cultivate an attitude of all-knowing, don’t-question-me superiority. It even has a name: it's called "paternalistic medicine." In some cases it’s ego. However, another reason they do this is simply time management: A time-and-motion study showed that, contrary to the picture of them painted by TV shows like Chicago Med, doctors spend less than one third of their time at work actually seeing patients. They spend more than two thirds of their time writing notes and filling out forms to satisfy the requirements of their institution and the insurance companies. That would make for terrible TV, wouldn't it? But if they encouraged questions from their patients they’d never get any work done.

Because of the intimidation factor, and considering the years they spent in medical school, plus what we assume must be hours of ongoing study, you may feel the doctor surely already knows anything you might be inclined to tell him. Not so.
Surgeons spend on average 4.4 hours a week reading medical journals. Less than 5 hours a week! I spend more time than that on Facebook. If you are a heart surgeon, how likely is it that you’re going to spend part of your precious reading time perusing the “World Journal of Urology”?

Of course, as the list above shows, there have been articles in heart surgery journals, too, about the advantages of bloodless surgery, just as there have been in nearly every other field, from journals about joint replacement to journals about emergency medicine.

But changing the thinking of doctors is a slow process. As cardiothoracic specialist Bruce Spiess even went so far as to say:

"Blood transfusions are a religion. They have never been safety- or efficacy-tested," he said. "Drug options are carefully tested and regulated through prospective, randomised double-blind testing, but blood transfusion stands apart in that it has predominantly been believed to be helpful and evolved as a pillar of modern medicine."

Blood transfusions are not life-saving. They are simply bad medicine. Click on the links, do your research. Share this column with everyone you know, particularly if they are in the medical field or the media. 

Unlike those drug commercials, I'm not suggesting you "ask your doctor." I'm suggesting you "TELL your doctor." If he disagrees, find a doctor who has read something other than Facebook this week. 

To read another of my columns about blood medicine, click here.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, all available in ebook or paperback at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.