Friday, July 28, 2006

See What You're Missing!

Apparently, I'm not beyond self-promotion. Here's a quick round-up of the posts so far at my new place:

An Introduction

On Religion

On Connection

Book Review: Infinite Jest

Stephen Colbert is a Comedic Genius

This interview with D.C.'s Democratic (and only) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is breathtaking. We knew Colbert had big, brass balls from his send-up of the President -- to his face -- and we knew he's funny from his show, but he just nailed this interview.

(For those unfamiliar with The Colbert Report, it's basically a daily parody of Bill O'Reilly.)

Holmes Norton reminds me a little of my grandmother, and I'm not sure she's in on the joke, so I feel kind of bad for her. But I had to post this.

(Via Andrew Sullivan, again.)

55th Arabic Linguist Dismissed for Being Gay

Our country is completely insane. We're more afraid of the gays than the terrorists.

The U.S. Army recently discharged a highly regarded Arabic linguist who was the target of an anonymous email "outing" campaign. Former Sergeant Bleu Copas was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. A decorated Sergeant who received impressive performance reviews, Copas also performed in the 82nd Airborne Chorus. His dismissal, under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, brings the total number of Arabic language specialists dismissed under the ban to at least 55. Neither Copas nor his command know who was the source of the email campaign.


Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the gay ban, according to the Department of Defense. A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who "had ... skills in a foreign language that DoD had considered to be especially important." The report also found that nearly 800 specialists, including intelligence analysts, divers and combat controllers, were fired despite having "some training in an occupation identified ... as 'critical.'" The House of Representatives is currently considering legislation to repeal the law, with 118 bi-partisan members supporting the measure.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rove, Stem Cell Opponents Make Inaccurate Claim about Stem Cells

When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president's moral qualms with research on human embryos.

In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post's editorial board that researchers have found "far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells."


But Rove's negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research--echoed by many opponents of funding for such research [JA: Including our very own Asher!]--is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story.

The field of stem cell medicine is too young and unproven to make such judgments, experts say. Many of those researchers either specialize in adult stem cells or share Bush's moral reservations about embryonic stem cells.

"[Rove's] statement is just not true," said Dr. Michael Clarke, associate director of the stem cell institute at Stanford University, who in 2003 published the first study showing how adult stem cells replenish themselves.

If opponents of embryonic stem cell research object on moral grounds, "I'm willing to live with that," Clarke said, though he disagrees. But, he said, "I'm not willing to live with statements that are misleading."

Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the stem cell center at the Oregon Health and Science University, is a Catholic who objects to research involving the destruction of embryos and is seeking alternative ways of making stem cells. But Grompe said there is "no factual basis to compare the promise" of adult stem cells and cells taken from embryos.

Grompe said, "I think it's a problem when [opponents of embryonic research] make a scientific argument as opposed to stating the real reason they are opposed--which is [that] it's a moral, ethical problem."

Last week, the journal Science published a letter from three researchers criticizing the claim that adult stem cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. The authors included Dr. Steven Teitelbaum of Washington University in St. Louis, who has used adult stem cells to treat bone diseases in children. The authors wrote that the exaggerated claims for adult stem cells "mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients."

(Chicago Tribune, via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What Do I Think of the Latest Mideast Conflict?

I haven't posted about this because I haven't been able to synthesize the different thoughts going through my head. But the situation doesn't lend itself to pat answers, so I can't wait for that to happen. In lieu of a careful analysis with themes and a conclusion, I'll present various thoughts I have:

1) Hezbollah sucks. There was zero legitimacy in their beef with Israel going into this mess, since Israel had already pulled out of southern Lebanon.

2) Hezbollah (and other terrorist organizations) suck. Because they purposely use civilian shields and deliberately attempt to a) kill the other side's civilians and b) get their own civilians killed by the other side. They care much more about PR than about civilians.

3) It sucks that using civilians as PR works.

4) It sucks that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people who just want to go about their lives are living with death, fear, and displacement because of events completely outside their control.

5) It sucks that Israel's actions (not to mention the Iraq war) are the best recruitment tools Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda could have hoped for.

6) It sucks that Israel has killed so many civilians.

7) It sucks that so many Israeli partisans don't care about Lebanese civilians.

8) It sucks that anti-Israel bigots assume that all people who support Israel don't care about Lebanese civilians.

9) It sucks that Israel is between a rock and a hard place, in more ways than one. It sucks that they pretty much always will be, at least for the foreseeable future.

10) It sucks that rational debate on this subject is impossible because pretty much everybody on both sides now has had friends and family members killed.

11) It sucks that the crazies on both sides ruin everything for all the regular people. In effect, hardline Arab terrorists are allied with super-right-wing Americans and Israelis in the War on Peace.

12) It sucks that people can't question the wisdom of Israel's actions without being shouted at as if they had criticized Israel's right to use military action.

13) It sucks that people can't question Israel's actions without being branded anti-semites. Even if they're Jewish.

14) It sucks that people can't question Israel's actions without being labeled "vermin," or worse, by people who should really know better.

15) It sucks that even those who explicitly state that Israel has the right to do what they're doing but that it isn't necessarily in their best interest are still yelled at by the aforementioned yellers.

16) It sucks that there is a large segment of the power elite in Washington who are using this suckiness to agitate for war with Iran, which will spread the suckiness immensely.

17) It sucks that the right, as always, is co-opting patriotism (or in this case Zionism) to mean "believing in whatever the right-wing faction currently thinks." Anyone who doesn't agree with these actions is branded "anti-Israel," just as war protesters in the U.S. were called "anti-American."

18) It sucks that Iran is working towards nukes.

19) It sucks that we don't have any good options regarding #18.

20) It sucks that nukes exist.

21) It sucks that nukes will almost inevitably fall into terrorists' hands, sooner or later.

22) It sucks that it's only going to get easier to design biological weapons much more deadly than HIV or malaria. In a couple generations, an average scientist with a chip on his shoulder might be able to kill a billion people.

23) It sucks that so much of humanity's brainpower and resources are devoted to waging war.

24) It sucks that George Freaking Bush is in charge of the sole superpower of the world for another two years. When we most need a wise leader, we have an incompetent boob with the hubris to repeat disastrous mistakes forever.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bush Vows to Veto Stem Cell Bill

The Senate voted to lift restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research yesterday, setting the table for President Bush's first veto and producing an emotional campaign issue that Democrats believe will help them this fall.

Senators voted 63 to 37 to approve a House-passed bill that would pour millions of dollars into a field of medical research that is promising -- but also controversial because it requires destroying human embryos to extract the cells. Bush announced in his first nationally televised address, on Aug. 9, 2001, that he would ban government funding for research using embryonic stem cell colonies created after that date, and he has vowed to cast his first presidential veto to block the legislation rescinding his executive order.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's veto "will be pretty swift" once he receives the bill, possibly as soon as today.

(Washington Post)

Bush decides to use his veto power for the first time to do what? To destroy perfectly good embryos rather than allowing them to be used to fight disease:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who has had two types of cancer, said he thinks "it is a clear-cut question to use embryos to save lives, because otherwise they will be destroyed." Fertility clinics hold about 400,000 unneeded embryos, he said, and only 128 have been "adopted" by couples who played no role in creating them. "A century from now, people will look back in amazement that we could even have this debate when the issues are so clearly cut," he said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Focus on the Family "Scared" by Buffett's Philanthropy

So remember when I wrote about how the two largest philanthropists in history will soon be atheists? (Note: I was wrong; they are more likely agnostics.) I'd hoped (not really) that this fact would help rectify the misguided opinion among theists that atheists are... well, evil.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Tara C. Smith over at Aetiology:

It was difficult for me to imagine that anyone could possibly be upset about the announcement that billionaire Warren Buffet had decided to team up with Bill Gates and donate billions of dollars to improve global health. Silly, naive little me; nothing should surprise me anymore, but this is really beyond the pale.

Via Moment of Science, I found someone who does, indeed, gripe about the donation: none other than (cue menacing music) Focus on the Family:

She goes on to quote from the original article. I'll expand her quote a bit:

Billionaire financier Warren Buffett announced this week he is going to leave 80 percent of his estate — more than $35 billion — to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It's a donation that is troubling to the pro-life community, according to Joseph D'Agostino of the Population Research Institute.

"It's very scary," D'Agostino told CitizenLink. "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has very close ties and gives a lot of money to pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood, and for population control around the world."

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, said the Gates Foundation is heavily involved in bankrolling "women's health" initiatives in Third World nations.

"Most of those reflect or are directly a result of the efforts of the International Planned Parenthood Federation," Brown said. "We are extremely concerned that millions and millions of dollars are going to go to the ultimate goal of ending the lives of millions of preborn babies — and jeopardizing the health of millions of women and men."

The Gates Foundation has to date given more than $20 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation — largely to promote abortion and condom education in Third World countries. It also has given more than $12 million to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of the nation's largest abortion providers.

Buffett, the world's second-richest man behind Gates, has already spent millions of his own money on population-control efforts.

"It's especially scary from a population-control perspective, because birth rates have been dropping dramatically in the Third World over the last few decades and continue to go down," D'Agostino said. "The last thing the Third World needs is more population control, because their populations are already facing dramatic aging, but they don't have anything like the financial resources we do to take care of all these older people."

Right. Because what the Third World needs most are more babies and fewer condoms. (Condoms are what Focus on the Family apparently call "population control," as opposed to, for example, "HIV/AIDS control.") Why didn't someone convert Gates and Buffett before they they wrought this horrible tragedy?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On Being Separate

Over at Beyond BT, David Kirschner writes about the experience of wearing a kippah at work:

...Last week, my office held its annual picnic (which we must pay for and is mandatory). There I was with my kippah and tzitzis, along with my boys, amidst an entire office of people, most of whom were dressed immodestly, drinking booze and eating treif. Oh, there was plenty of good kosher food. And I must say, to their credit, that their behavior was appropriate at all times. And that is precisely the point. Something just didn’t seem to be right, but not because it was like Sodom and Gemorrah. It wasn’t. What was strange was that despite not identifying with them, I had little difficulty being among them. Yet, clearly, there was a pronounced barrier. But why? Was it the kippah, the tzitzis, the kosher food or none of the above?

All this was clear to me. What was not clear is that when I am in the office, I don’t seem to have any difficulty “fitting” in. You might say that’s because I’m there to work and accomplish specific work-related objectives and that’s true. But that doesn’t explain why I am perfectly comfortable socializing and shmoozing with my colleagues while at the office, but much less so when outside. The fact is, thankfully, the people that I work with are absolutely wonderful and I believe they feel the same about me. However, they are well aware that I am different. They know and accept that I do not eat their food at office events. Nor do they appear to be offended that I do not go out drinking or socializing with them (except for official office events).

Within the office, it is necessary for people to establish strong professional relationships with each other. Certainly, it promotes shalom, which is always a good thing, but it also facilitates a cohesive team and is probably a kiddush Hashem. But that usually means developing social relationships as well. Interestingly, maintaining a proverbial fence doesn’t seem to have impeded my ability to do that. In fact, they will often alter their dress, speech and conduct in my presence. Women know I will neither hug nor kiss them before a holiday or upon the conclusion of a successful case. A few days ago, as I walked into a female colleague’s office, who was wearing a sleeveless blouse, she put on her suit jacket. And a few weeks ago, another female colleague told me she had wanted to call me on Father’s Day to wish me a Happy Father’s Day, but didn’t because she didn’t think that I would find it appropriate. Yet, these same women don’t think twice about such issues with other male colleagues. It appears to me that intuitively, they respect me precisely because of who I am. And that doesn’t seem strange at all.

I was moved by this post, but I had some trouble putting my finger on why.

At first, I was wistful. I once (briefly) had been that kippah-wearing Jew at the office, friendly with my coworkers, but maintaining a distance. People do treat you differently when you wear a kippah. Women perhaps become a little more reserved and people may tone down their language or humor. Now that I'm on the other side of the divide, I recognize a similar reaction in myself when I encounter an obviously religious Muslim at work, for example. (My feelings towards religious Jews are of course more complicated -- I still feel a kinship and my behavior around them is strongly colored by my inside knowledge of their world. Sometimes I try to figure out a funny time to bust out some Hebrew or a Yeshivish expression in order to surprise them.)

There's a certain dignity and honor in the religious figure who holds himself to certain pre-defined standards of appearance and behavior, whether it's a kippah-wearing Jew, a habit-wearing nun, or a Tibetan monk. But it's not just a religious thing -- secular or "normally" religious people may communicate many of the same signals through their speech, dress, and manner. Think, for example, of Laurence Fishburne's character in Boyz in the Hood. Living in an LA ghetto, he separates himself by dressing conservatively and speaking with a professorial manner. Interestingly, when Fishburne's character is speaking to a crowd, one of his son's friends turns to his son and says, "Is he a preacher?"

So much of Jewish law and behavior stems from the desire to build fences around oneself in order to prevent perceived misconduct. In practice, most of it seems to be intended to prevent assimilation and pre- or extra-marital sex. There's no doubt that it's relatively successful. Setting aside for now the difference in what they consider misconduct and I would, it's still easy to see how looser behavior can lead to some problematic situations. Perhaps an analogy can be made to racist jokes. The jokes themselves aren't necessarily directly harmful, but in an environment where such jokes are common, real racism is more likely to emerge.

As I've become accustomed to my new life out here in "the real world" (as we Orthodox half-jokingly called it) I've come to respect a different kind of figure as well -- the man who lives "with" others rather than "among" them. Although he holds himself to a code of ethics, he would rather err closer to possible transgression than accept the high cost of building fences between himself and others. There are of course archetypal religious models for this lifestyle as well -- Abraham, who welcomed "idolators" to his tent, and Jesus, who walked among the prostitutes and "sinners."

I don't necessarily spend time with criminals or people who are just plain mean, but I've come to see the upsides of not limiting the people I let into my life to those from a single background. I still miss my community, but the lack of barrier between me and any person has gone a long way towards making up for it. I've written before about the sense of family and belonging I've felt as a Jew whenever I visit Israel. As I've expanded my horizons, I'm happy to say I've started to feel similar feelings towards all people rather than towards only my tribe.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why Conservatives Can't Govern

Check out my new post at JAJC:

Why Conservatives Can't Govern

A Single Tear Graced Her Cheek

Lady Liberty Trades In Some Trappings

MEMPHIS, July 4 — On Independence Day, Lady Liberty was born again.

At a megachurch in Memphis, the Statue of Liberation Through Christ was consecrated Tuesday. The statue, says the church's pastor, is a way of "letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation."

As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.

And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.

It was not clear if she was crying because of her new home, her new identity as a symbol of religion or, as the pastor said, America's increasing godlessness. But although big cheers went up from the few hundred onlookers at the unveiling, and some people even wore foam Lady Liberty crowns bearing Christian slogans, she was not universally welcomed.

(Via MeFi.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Power of Hillary

"Hillary Clinton really is one of the weakest . . . nominees with whom the Democrats could be saddled."

"Democrats are worried sick about her chances."

"Just give someone else a chance, so we in the Democratic Party can elect a Democrat."

"She cannot possibly, possibly win."

Yada, yada, yada.

We've heard all this "Hillary can't win stuff" before. In fact, the quotes above aren't from recent weeks but from six years ago, when many pundits -- and Democrats -- said there was no way that Hillary could get elected to the Senate. She won by 12 percentage points.

We don't know if Hillary is going to run for president, but as advisers who have worked on the only two successful Democratic presidential campaigns in the past couple of decades, we know that if she does run, she can win that race, too.

Why? First, because strength matters. Our problems as a party are less ideological than anatomical: Our candidates have been made to look like they have no backbone. But the latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 68 percent of Americans describe Hillary Clinton as a strong leader. That comes after years of her being in the national crossfire. People know that Hillary has strong convictions, even if they don't always agree with her. They also know that she's tough enough to handle the viciousness of a national campaign and the challenges of the presidency itself.

One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated.

The woman who gave the War Room its name knows how tough politics at the presidential level can be. Adversaries spent $60 million against her in 2000, and she endured press scrutiny that would have wilted most candidates. She gave as good as she got, and she triumphed.

For those who think that the politics of personal destruction might be rekindled against Hillary or her husband, we can only remind people how consistently that approach has backfired in the past. Bill Clinton would certainly be a huge asset if Hillary decided to run.

In fact, Hillary is the only nationally known Democrat (other than her husband) who has weathered the Republican assaults and emerged with a favorable rating above 50 percent (54 percent positive in the latest Post-ABC poll).

Yes, she has a 42 percent negative rating, as do other nationally known Democrats. All the nationally un known Democrats would likely wind up with high negative ratings, too, once they'd been through the Republican attack machine.
The Power of Hillary, James Carville and Mark J. Penn.

Carville and Penn then go into some specifics about how Hillary could win.

Obviously, one couldn't find two more biased people to appraise Hillary's chances of winning. However, one would also be hard-pressed to find two more qualified people, at least on the Democratic side. And what they have to say makes a lot of sense.

The knock on Hillary is that people hate her so much, they'll turn out in droves to vote against her. I believed this myself until recently. But can you really imagine a big group of people who hate her who didn't hate Kerry? He was everything she is, but worse. She triangulates, he was pegged as the "I voted for it before I voted against it" guy. He waffles because he's indecisive; nobody doubts her decisiveness. She's called a liberal (which she isn't!) and he really is one. Kerry epitomized every negative Democratic stereotype: he's effete, aloof, and without charisma. Hillary doesn't have a lot of charisma, but at least she's tough and real.

She has what other Democratic candidates lack -- balls. I think the best line in the piece is: "One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated."

So true. There were MUCH more credible accusations about Bill Clinton's extra-marital affairs before he was elected, including some allegations of sexual harassment and worse, than anything the dirty Swift Boat Veterans dreamt up. Hell, he got a blowjob from an intern in the oval office, lied about it on national television, was successfully impeached, and his approval ratings remained well above 50%!

Hillary doesn't have his charisma or likeability. But she does have that toughness, and man, wouldn't it be nice to have a tough Democrat leading the country?

Maybe she can win.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dissecting my Opposite Day Entry

Well, I thought I'd finally get around to responding to my Opposite Day entry, in which I argued Why Christianity is True. I received positive feedback for it and I myself find it more convincing an argument than any I've read by actual Christians. (That doesn't mean it's superior, only that it plays to my biases, which makes perfect sense as I was the author.)

I suggest reading the original in its entirety first to get the full impact. I want to emphasize that when I was writing this, I wasn't deviously planning logical fallacies or calculating how to be deceitful, I was just starting with what I believe to be true and trying to work towards proving Christianity.

Anyway, here goes:

First, there seems to be no plausible explanation for true free will without the supernatural.

I begin by finding a troubling implication of science, which is religion's main competitor. Nobody wants to believe we don't have free will, yet it's difficult to see how we could have it without invoking supernatural explanations.

Although it's therefore tempting to argue that there is no free will, it's obvious from everyday experience that there is.

I then appeal to "common sense," a technique often used by the unsophisticated to argue against counter-intuitive realities. To be precise, when we say "it's obvious that there is free will," what we're really saying is that it "feels" like we have free will. Science has repeatedly demonstrated that what feels true isn't always so.

If there is a supernatural being behind every human, it stands to reason that there is an even greater supernatural being of which the smaller beings are a part, or are split off of somehow.

A little sleight-of-hand. I say "it stands to reason," but I merely make an unexplained logical jump.

This is exactly what Christianity teaches. What is Christ if not part of the Greater Spirit (God) combined with a human one?

In fact, it's not "exactly what Christianity teaches." I'm also using the phrase "Greater Spirit" dishonestly, to make it sound like God is the same thing as a soul, only bigger.

In fact, the very notion of the Trinity reflects the metaphysics which makes most sense based on simple observation.

Another appeal to "common sense."

God, or the Spirit, is united but at the same time has different manifestations. God is God the Father, the Creator, while at the same time the Son, the human. There is also the pervasive Holy Spirit which fills all of Creation.

Here I'm shoehorning complicated Christian theology into the metaphysics I argued for based simply on the apparent existence of free will. This has strong emotional impact because it takes one of the most difficult aspects of Christian theology -- Trinity-based monotheism -- and turns it on its head. This will really hit the pleasure centers of a believer's brain. ("Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones." The Political Brain.)

It's clear that the Old Testament began with a people who were prepared only for a tribal Deity, not the real Monotheism of later Christianity. In the Old testament, God acts like a polytheistic God - angry, jealous, loving, vengeful... in other words, human, but bigger. He is a nation's God, rather than the only God. He says, "worship no other Gods before me," not "I am the only God who exists."

Throwing a bone to the skeptics, saying, "See, I'm reasonable. You can trust me." "Arguing against interest" is a time-tested way to build credibility.

Judaism paved the way for Christ's message. Jesus was himself both God and Jew, and so formed a new covenant, this time not with one nation, but with anyone willing to accept Him. At this point, the people had been weaned off of primitive, pagan-like sacrifices and ritual laws of kashrut and the like were no longer necessary. Christ showed people how to interact directly with God without needing such primitive intermediaries.

Neatly doing away with the most foreign bits of the Old Testament as well as sucking in those who are disaffected with their Judaism and those uncomfortable with the idea of "the chosen people."

Some claim that Jesus did not exist. This is almost certainly untrue. He is a recent enough figure and he shows up not just in the four gospels, but in extra-Biblical documents like Josephus and the Talmud.

Straw man. I find a weak claim made by some non-believers and trounce it. Even so, I make it sound like the issue's more settled than it is. The Talmud refers to the Jesus who is worshipped, not the actual man, and Josephus may have been hearsay.

Some point out that the gospels contradict each other in places, for example with the details in the story of His resurrection. I agree that there are contradictions, but that this is to be expected when hearing a story from four different sources. I don't believe that the NT (or the OT) were dictated from God...

Another bone for the skeptics. "See, I'm reasonable!" A non-literal understanding of the Bible also allows me the freedom to interpret it as necessary to fit with my pre-existing beliefs in the present as well as the confidence that I'll be able to continue to "update my understanding" of it as science finds more results in the future which contradict a literal understanding.

...but it's clear they were inspired from the comfort they give to millions.

Non-sequitor. Medicine, movies, and Harry Potter novels give comfort to millions, but nobody claims they were "inspired."

The OT paved the way for Jesus Christ. There are many prophets before Jesus, but the OT also speaks of the Messiah.

Disingenuously implying that the OT's predictions lend credibility to Christianity. Simply because the OT prophesizes a Messiah doesn't mean that any particular person claimed to be the Messiah is.

If the Old Testament has any truth to it, there's no way the Second Temple could have been destroyed with no Messiah coming for over two thousand years. Even when the nation of Israel was being punished, it was only for four hundred years! It's clear from the OT that the Messiah would be coming sooner rather than later.

Taking an argument against Judaism and turning it on it's head. Also disingenuously confusing the issue of the original Resurrection with the Second Coming.

Arguments against the Old Testament from science are irrelevant. The Old Testament was never supposed to be a literal history of the Universe. It was an introduction to God for a people who did not yet know Him. He spoke in their language, according to what they could accept at that time. Later, in Jesus's time, he updated the teachings to include the rest of humanity.

Big, tasty bone for the skeptics as well as those uncomfortable with the concept of "the chosen people." Also plays on the fact that the New Testament was indeed written for a more recent audience than the OT.

Did evolution happen? Of course it did. Is the universe billions of years old and unimaginably vast? Of course.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Skeptic bones.

These things only prove God's existence all the more so! Evolution is far too intricate to lead to a being as astounding as the human without being guided somehow.

Deliberately vague and misleading. Even atheists agree that evolution was "guided somehow" -- by natural selection!

A 4-billion year old Earth with a long, winding path towards the human reveals an incomprehensibly powerful God.

Assuming facts not in evidence. There's no evidence that the human is the goal of evolution, let alone the purpose of the Earth. If we manage to kill ourselves in the next few hundred thousand years, we may even be one of the shorter-lived species to have arisen. Note that I'm also turning a knock on religion -- that the history of the world is much more complex than imagined by the author(s) of the Creation story -- into a plus.

And what of Christ's teachings? Can anyone deny that his words carry immense wisdom?

And I quote the verses that liberals love. Moreover, that Jesus (the person or the character) had some wisdom is not under debate. The overwhelming majority of wise men are not God.

Were not these teachings shown to be wise by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Who among modern figures are more revered than those two who so closely followed Jesus's teachings.

Continue appealing to the liberals. Ignoring the 99.9% of other people who interpreted Jesus's teachings a little... differently. Moreover, Gandhi wasn't even a Christian.

Oh, you will say, so much harm has been done in Jesus's name. This is true, I agree, but those so-called followers of Christ aren't doing any following.

No True Scotsman fallacy. Moreover, some of them are very much following the New Testament, which isn't exactly modern in its opinions on homosexuality, women, or non-believers.

Christ predicted such hypocrisy and gave us the only test we need for discovering who the real Christians are. He said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

A line I've always admired.

In other words, if one praises Jesus but steals from the poor, he's not a Christian. If one praises Jesus but agitates for war, he's not a Christian. If one praises Jesus but bilks the faithful out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, he's not a Christian.

Bones for the liberals. Note that according to this statement, the majority of Americans who call themselves Christian are not in fact Christian.

Mankind is flawed, and Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves.

Who can argue that we're flawed? Who doesn't sometimes wish someone would rescue us?

His sacrifice mirrors the primitive use of the (literal) scapegoat in the old testament, but reinvents it for a more enlightened humanity.

Implying that the parallelism is evidence.

Even to the gravest suffering, stand up for what's right, is his message. In the OT, the faithful kill the scapegoat. In the NT, the most faithful one IS the scapegoat. Don't strike, but turn the other cheek.

More liberal bones. Is that really the message of the crucifixion?

When we all follow Jesus, there will be no war.

Or when we all follow Buddha or Gandhi or Ralph Nader.

And what of our sins? What does it mean to say Jesus died to save us?

Very good question. This really doesn't make much sense.

By his death he teaches that living isn't the most important thing, how you live is. He modeled for us even as he was dying the perfect behavior.

Very simplistic interpretation. If this were really the moral to the story, Jesus should have died by saving drowning children or something.

"Forgive them Father," he says, referring to his murderers, "they know not what they do." Christ died teaches us the alternative to hatred.

Of course, I left out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"


To sum up:

1) I found an emotionally unsatisfying implication of scientific materialism, which I argue that Christianity solves.
2) I disarmed the skeptics by admitting evolution and a non-literal interpretation of both the OT and the NT.
3) I created a satisfying metaphysics, based loosely on Buddhism, which I shoehorned into Christianity.
4) I disarmed the liberals by focusing on Jesus's liberal teachings.
5) I dismissed a straw man argument to make skeptics look weaker.
6) I used the No True Scotsman fallacy to get around the horrible things done in Christianity's name.
7) I reinterpreted the meaning of the crucifixion as if it were the moral of an after-school special.
8) I made it sound like Christianity is the solution to war.
9) I ignored all parts of Christianity which actually contradict science or contemporary morality.