Insight on the News
Can You Read This?
● If you can read this you are doing something that nearly one out of every four persons on earth cannot—even if this material were in their native language. In some lands a startling 99 percent of the population is illiterate.
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report shows that—although educators seem to be winning the battle against illiteracy percentagewise—the total number of illiterates keeps getting bigger, due to the population explosion. From 1960 to 1970, illiterates increased from 735 million to 783 million, and now the figure nears 800 million.
Not only this, but in many nations enjoying a high literacy rate large numbers read very poorly, ineffectively. A Perth, Australia, newspaper reports an inquiry as showing that “312,000 Sydney adults are functionally illiterate.” A 1970 poll revealed this was also true of 18.5 million Americans 16 years of age or older.
Some blame television for part of the problem. But this cannot be a big factor in poorer lands. One factor often overlooked is religion. It is a historical fact that religions have often been guilty of suppressing education among the “common people” in order to keep them submissive and in awe of their priesthood. In complete contrast, the Bible clearly calls for all true worshipers to become literate, for in many Scriptural exhortations all those addressed are called on both to read and to write. (Deut. 6:6, 9; Hab. 2:2; Matt. 24:15) Historically, where respect for the Bible has been high, literacy has also been high.
Chagas’ Disease and Transfusions
● Chagas’ disease is a South American illness produced by a protozoan related to that which causes African sleeping sickness. The South American variety can produce convulsive seizures, at times ending in death or permanent mental or physical defects.
At the Third Congress of the Panamerican Federation for Voluntary Blood Donations held recently in Montevideo, Uruguay, Chagas’ disease came up for serious discussion. Why?
Because, like hepatitis, syphilis, malaria and other ailments, Chagas’ disease may be transmitted by blood transfusions. Studies carried out in Uruguay showed that in some sections of the country as many as 15 percent of the blood donors had positive reactions when tested for this disease. Estimates are that, in the Americas, some seven million persons are affected by it. The worst problem is that a person infected with the disease by a blood transfusion may not discover it until it is too late. Symptoms may appear several years later and may be followed by sudden death.
Clearly, those holding to God’s standards regarding the use of blood and who abstain from blood transfusions are protected from many dangers.—See Acts 15:28, 29.
Shifting Moral Standards
● Should Christian moral standards shift with the times, be molded by prevailing political attitudes or material prosperity? In the “National Catholic Reporter” (August 16, 1974), Catholic monsignor Paul Furfey sharply contrasts first-century Christians with those of later centuries.
Early Christians endured the world’s enmity and persecution. But, “all this changed with the Peace of Constantine [Roman emperor of the fourth century],” says the monsignor. “Christianity suddenly became respectable. The bishops crawled out of the underground and built themselves palaces. Christians began to become public officials, important military officers, wealthy merchants.”
Moving down to modern times, the author first refers to Jesus’ words about the rich man’s difficulty in entering God’s kingdom, and then says: “Yet . . . Catholic millionaires are not very worried. They know their bishops live in residences not inappropriately called palaces.”—Matt. 19:23, 24.
Why this dramatic change from the standards of early Christianity? The writer points to the cause in saying: “If it is really the case that moral theologians tend to follow the mores of the middle class instead of the unworldly doctrines of the New Testament, then that fact is unspeakably tragic.”
The shift is simply a repetition of the past. Jesus told money-loving, power-loving religious leaders of his day that they had ‘substituted men’s teachings and traditions for God’s Word.’—Matt. 15:1-9.