Cul-de-sacs of casuistry, or, arguing with the Christian right
Michelle Goldberg printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 04:16:40 PM EST
Since my book came out, I've been doing lots of talk radio interviews, including several with right-wing Christian stations. Debating the hosts of these shows, I'm plunged back into the parallel reality of the Christian nationalist movement -- and reminded how hard it is to argue with people when there's no shared first principles or agreement about facts or sources of authority. It's embarrassing to admit it, but I suspect people listening to these programs will imagine that I'm being decisively refuted.

Here's an example. I was just on the Bob Dutko show, a Christian right program out of Detroit. We spent the first part of our nearly hour-long interview talking about church state separation, which he, of course, believes to be something the founders never intended. I asked him whether he thought it was an accident that neither "God" nor "Jesus Christ" appears anywhere in the Constitution. I should have realized I was setting a trap for myself, because I half-knew how he was going to reply, and sure enough, he responded (not a little triumphantly) that the Constitution is signed "in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven." Clearly, he said, by "Lord," the founders meant "Jesus Christ" meaning that the Constitution itself declares Jesus Christ Lord! I tried to argue that this was simply a linguistic convention and that a number of signatories, while admirers of Jesus's moral example, did not consider him God. To which he responded that what matters is what the document says, not what the individual founders intended -- and since the Constitution itself acknowledges the lordship of Jesus, why couldn't other government documents? Is the Constitution unconstitutional? It was like being on a Christian nationalist version of the Colbert Report.

Then the conversation shifted to my chapter on intelligent design, "Lord of the Laboratory: Intelligent Design and the War on the Enlightenment."  Dutko, a young-earth creationist, mentioned a recently discovered dinosaur bone that had soft tissue inside. Why, if it was tens of millions of years old, had the tissue not fossilized? Could I explain that? Sadly, I could not, though doubtlessly others could. I could only argue that the evidence against a young earth is overwhelming, and that to disbelieve it, one would have to accept that all the mainstream scientists in the world are part of a giant conspiracy to suppress the truth about creation.  It went on in this vein, with Dutko offering pieces of "evidence" for creation and me appealing to the authority of science in response, which opened the door for one of the creationists' favorite claims, that belief in evolution is in itself a form of faith. (I brought up viruses and vaccines, of course, but that doesn't convince, because creationists often accept evolution within species while rejecting macroevolution.)

This kind of epistemological divide is operating throughout our culture, I think, and making any kind of real discussion or rational exchange impossible. I'm curious to know how other people deal with it...




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It is helpful to bear in mind thatwhile Christian nationalist talk show hosts have their minds made up, many of their listeners are actually listening with open minds. In the past, I've debated politics on Christian radio call-in shows, and been able to hold up progressive viewpoints from a Christian perspective. Some callers have been impressed by the ideas that (1) there are articulate people who can go on Christian radio shows and speak about progressive politics at all; (2) progressive voices can actually be calm and reasonable; and (3) we can present new viewpoints with intellectual integrity and in a respectful manner. Talk show hosts set such a low bar for their progressive guests, whom they love to demonize, that whenever we show up and sound knowledgeable, calm, reasonable, fair-minded, and respectful, we gain a huge measure of respect among listeners. Although Christian radio talk show hosts do not show their progressive guests much credit or respect, we earn respect with their listeners every time we uphold our values and principles on Christian radio.

by jhutson on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 05:55:13 PM EST
Great comment--not just for Michelle but all of us. It's good to be reminded from time to time that not all minds are closed.

by IseFire on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 12:38:22 PM EST
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Of an internet talk-radio show put out by, it seems, several ambitious home-schooled Christian right teenagers. "The Creation Debate: Never Compromise" was quite interesting to listen to. The commentators are low key and well spoken - but science, as it has been understood in the centuries since discipline first arose - does not intrude. The discussion is bubble wrapped, hermetically sealed and triple packed in received fundamentalist doctrine and ideology, and citizens in other nations who still hold the view that reason trumps received religious doctrine ( or those in which few perceive an inherent conflict between science and faith ) would do well to listen.

Two years ago or so I wrote an essay called "The Reverse Marshall Plan" which held that - even as the United States funded the reconstruction of a devastated Europe following the Second World War - Europe and other nations might do well to be concerned by the prospect that the throw weight and heft of American military might could fall into the hands of a theocratic, Christian supremacist political movement : in fact they might be wise to fund a "reconstruction" of American belief in science and the worth of secular government or - for that matter - the understanding that certain basic facts cannot be banished by faith, prayer, or sufficient saturation bombings of advertising and indoctrination.

My argument held that this cultural effort ( analogous in many ways to the three or more decade effort waged by the Christian and America right, the "Long March Through the Institutions" ) would - however galling considering the preeminence of American pop culture - be very cheap insurance compared to the consequences of failing to do so.

Perhaps the time to dust off that piece has come.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 04:53:03 PM EST

The teen hosts did say it was taped on April 1st, but it isn't a joke, is it?

Incidentally, these "Regenerate Our Culture" youth are enthusiastically promoted by another group of homeschoolers who, among other things, worked for Roy Moore's good Dominionist friend Tom Parker in his ill-fated run for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice...

http://www.therebelution.com/2006/04/rebelution-moving-forward.ht ml

...but I digress.

by zentrumspartei on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 07:20:38 PM EST
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The idea of the reverse Marshall plan is fantastic. It might be worth exploring the creation of a non-profit for that: foreign-based donations to an umbrella of organizations (e.g., DefCon, PFAW, National Cent. for Science Education). We could begin with a website that articulates the genuine admiration for the American experiment on the part of so many foreigners rightly concerned about the direction the US is heading==sort of a SAVE AMERICA theme. Detractors would complain about the effort being "foreign interference," but the Religious Right is ever-expanding its own efforts to interfere in other nations and policies set by NGOs.

by IseFire on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 12:37:17 PM EST
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Your radio host that talked about the Constitution was a little more devious than most.  I suggest that you ask him if authorial intentions have nothing to do with his interpretation of the Bible.  If that were the case, many fundamentalist preachers would have to develop a new form of hermeneutics.  The only ones who wouldn't admit the need to change would be those who have never studied hermeneutics and, therefore, don't know what it is.  

You could also ask him what he would say when Paul Stookey denounces those who want to interpret the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon" as codeword for pot smoking.

Behind that radio hosts response is the assumption that the constitution is a sacred document that was divinely inspired.  Are all the amendments inspired as well?  Including the amendment to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol?  If the Constitution was divinely inspired and can be amended, what about the Bible?  Is he prepared to concede that all sacred documents can be amended?  If only parts of the Constitution are inspired by God, how do you identify which parts are inspired and which parts aren't?

As for the creationist/intelligent design/evolution debate, I don't bother to try to talk to them about the details of evolutionary theory.  Their minds are made up about it.  I just talk about how small their conception of God is.  They can't believe in a God who doesn't conform to their conception of how God created life.  It's a lot like the response that Galileo faced when he tried to get church leaders to look through his telescope and look at the planets for themselves.  They could not believe in a God who didn't conform to their conception of how God created the universe (a geo-centric solar system instead of heliocentric one).

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 04:55:47 PM EST

I'd love to talk to you about your book as a guest on my radio program.

I'm on the air on Sundays from 11:00-11:30 AM CST.  My schedule is open for any Sunday after July 30th and on a few Sundays before that date.

Send me an e-mail with a possible date if you are available and interested.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 05:09:39 PM EST
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Suspect this is the only approach that's likely to work with people who are so walled off. The battle has to be fought on their turf with language that has resonance for them. Was thinking that last night as I watched Larry King. He had a panel of clergy including Mohler, Gene Robinson, and others both liberal and conservative, who were discussing the conflicts in the Episcopal church. On programs with secular panelists such as MTP, Mohler usually manages to roll right over anyone with an opposing view. Not last night. Of course it also helped that the panel was much more evenly balanced than is usually the case on MSM.

by Psyche on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 11:59:23 PM EST
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Larry King transcript


by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 03:10:49 AM EST
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by Psyche on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 01:15:44 PM EST
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One of things about denying science in the US is that the rest of the world is not following this trend. Those that want religion to run society are like Iran. The results of theocracy are never good for society. In Iran an emerging industrial society has been thrown back 100 years and now has an unemployment rate estimated at 30%.

While the US is interfering with stem cell research and genetic engineering the rest of the developed world is moving ahead. Most of the recent developments in these areas have been elsewhere.

What happens when, say, China discovers a vaccine for cancer and then refuses to share the discovery with us? Their costs of doing business will be less and they will be able to out compete us.

The theocrats don't realize what the consequences of their lust for power will be: rulers of a ruin.

-- Policies not Politics
by rdf on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 06:16:54 PM EST


I would think that all your research would have revealed that these folks don't hold science or reason in very high regard. Why then do you imagine you could debate with them from the standpoint of science or reason? The only people who might make a difference are Christian progressives who can debate them from their own point of reference, the Bible. What strikes me about the Constitution question is that this is the best they can come up with. If religion is so important, why is the date the only reference to God in our founding document? I propose a compromise. Every government document from now on will be modeled after the Constitution. That is, it will be dated "in the year of Our Lord", but will not refer to God anywhere else. The radio host was technically correct when he said that evolution is faith-based, but that's true of everything we don't know for certain. Following that logic, if I go to bed tonight without tying myself down, it's because I have faith that gravity will operate tomorrow the same as it does today. I can not actually know this to be true, therefore, I'm acting on faith. However, that faith is based on a huge mountain of evidence and historical confirmation. I'm willing to concede that evolution is a faith, but it's a faith with far greater supporting evidence than his faith in the 6-day creation.

by Dave on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 07:54:07 PM EST
I like your explanatory approach there.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 09:48:52 AM EST
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I'm a practicing scientist in between the point of having completed my PhD and looking for my first faculty job. It's not easy. I have to work very hard to distinguish myself.

In my musings about what would constitute a "distinguishing" advance in my field, my mind frequently wanders to Creationism. If there were truly a smoking gun out there that showed the evidentiary basis of modern evolutionary theory to be bunk, then surely someone is working hard to find it. If they did find it, of course, they would be set for life. Sure, they'd run into huge skepticism at first, as all major discovery's do, but if it were legitimate, it wouldn't be ignored.

The bar that such a discovery would have to top is very high. I'm thinking a fossilized rabbit skeleton in Paleozoic strata. But, if it's out there, and it overthrew much of what we understood to be true about macroevolutionary change, then someone will find it, and someone will be famous.

But it hasn't been found. Nothing like that ever has. Soft tissue around dinosaur bones isn't enough, because it's possible that a very unlikely set of taphonomic circumstances were present during its fossilization.

The fact of the matter is that there are thousands of biologists like myself who are desparate for a job. If there were the possibility of making a name for oneself out there doing Creation Science, we'd be doing it, and it would gain acceptance.

A scientist's need for a job does not cause conformance, as a Creationist would argue, but rather the need to deviate to gain recognition. The drive to employment is science's Invisible Hand.

by matt on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 01:44:47 AM EST

But surely you must realize that all those fossils were put there either

[1] by God to test our faith, or

[2] by Satan to confound us..........

On more than one occasion over the years I've heard one or the other answer from some very sincere creationists.

In addition to being a lifelong Christian, I'm also a scientist by training, and I've always been amazed that the story of creation as told in Genesis is such a close parallel to the story of evolution as told by the universe itself. The only difference is in how long it took to get where we are now.

Yes, God created everything that exists, but IMHO a God who would set up the initial conditions of the universe such that things would "crank up" in an orderly fashion instead of "winding down" is far more awesome than one who would go along creating one thing at a time before moving on to the next "one thing at a time."

Faith and science are two different ways of looking at the same universe, and even during my brief time as a semi-fundamentalist I never saw any conflict between the two. They're meant to answer two different but complementary questions, and until someone comes up with hard evidence to prove otherwise, I'll keep looking to science to tell me how I got here and faith to tell me why I'm here.


by anomalous4 on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 11:13:30 AM EST
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is not a linguistic convention.  It's the English translation of the Latin anno domini, better known as A.D.  So what it actually is is a dating system, the system used throughout the world today.  You should have asked Dutko if he thought that every document that includes A.D. with a date is therefore a Christian document.  You might have reminded him that Nazis and Communists used the AD/BC dating; does that mean that Nazis and Communists were Christians?

Dutko's argument is the most lame-brained and idiotic of all Christianist claims about the Constitution.  NO progressive should ever allow it to go by without heaping the scorn on it that it so richly deservs.

by dricey on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 05:53:56 PM EST
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In fact, you don't even have to say AD. Simply saying that this is 2006 is implicitly acknowledging 2006 in the year of our Lord because it is only 2006 in the Christian calendar, which we all use whether we're Christian or not. But if one is masochistically inclined enough to debate with these guys, let me give you an example of how you might be effective. You're much more likely to convince people like that with scriptural rather than scientific arguments. There's nothing in the Bible that requires a belief in a young Earth. And many biblical scholars contend that a proper reading of Genesis makes such a possibility highly unlikely. Here's an article illustrating the point.
It's at:
http://www.gnmagazine.org/booklets/EV/earthsage.htm
Earth's Age: Does Genesis 1 Indicate a Time Interval?

We are introduced to the account of the creation of the earth in Genesis 1:1-2: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without
form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep."

The original Hebrew wording, compared with other passages of Scripture, has led some to conclude that a considerable time interval is indicated between
these two verses. If such an interval is indeed intended, there is no discrepancy between the Bible record and scientific discoveries that indicate that
the earth could be much older than a few thousand years. If, on the other hand, there is no such gap, then the earth itself must be only around 6,000 years
old-which most scientists consider an impossibility.

Do other passages, as well as history, shed any light on this question?

Some scholars propose that Genesis 1:2 can or should be translated "Now the earth became without form, and void . . ." as opposed to the common rendering
"The earth was without form, and void . . ." Others dismiss this idea entirely. They assume the original Hebrew word hayah must be translated "was" and
then assume the earth was originally created in this disorderly way.

However, as can be seen from many Bible helps, both translations of the term are possible. Only the context of the chapter and book can determine which
one is correct. Gleason Archer, professor of biblical languages, comments: "It should be noted in this connection that the verb was in Genesis 1:2 may
quite possibly be rendered 'became' and be construed to mean: 'And the earth became formless and void.' Only a cosmic catastrophe could account for the
introduction of chaotic confusion into the original perfection of God's creation. This interpretation certainly seems to be exegetically tenable . . ."
(A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Moody Press, Chicago, 1974, p. 184).

In a footnote Archer adds: "Properly speaking, this verb hayah never has the meaning of static being like the copular verb 'to be.' Its basic notion is
that of becoming or emerging as such and such, or of coming into being . . . Sometimes a distinction is attempted along the following lines: hayah means
'become' only when it is followed by the preposition le; otherwise there is no explicit idea of becoming. But this distinction will not stand up under
analysis. In Gen[esis] 3:20 the proper rendering is: 'And Adam called the name of his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all living.' No le follows
the verb in this case. So also in Gen[esis] 4:20: 'Jabal became the father of tent dwellers.' Therefore there can be no grammatical objection raised to
translating Gen[esis] 1:2: 'And the earth became a wasteness and desolation.'"

Some scholars also argue against translating hayah "became" instead of "was" in Genesis 1:2 because they assume this interpretation came about only recently,
after geology revealed the strata of the earth to be very old. Thus they consider this explanation a desperate attempt to reconcile the Genesis account
with modern geology. The explanation that there existed an indefinite period between the initial beautiful creation described in Genesis 1:1 and the earth
becoming waste and void in verse 2 has been called, sometimes disparagingly, "the gap theory." The idea was attributed to Thomas Chalmers in the 19th century
and to Cyrus Scofield in the 20th.

Yet the interpretation that the earth "became" waste and void has been discussed for close to 2,000 years. The earliest known recorded controversy on this
point can be attributed to Jewish sages at the beginning of the second century. The Hebrew scholars who wrote the Targum of Onkelos, the earliest of the
Aramaic versions of the Old Testament, translated Genesis 1:2 as "and the earth was laid waste." The original language led them to understand that something
had occurred that had "laid waste" the earth, and they interpreted this as a destruction.

The early Catholic theologian Origen (186-254), in his commentary De Principiis, explains regarding Genesis 1:2 that the original earth had been "cast downwards"
(Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1917, p. 342).

In the Middle Ages the Flemish scholar Hugo St. Victor (1097-1141) wrote about Genesis 1:2: "Perhaps enough has already been debated about these matters
thus far, if we add only this, 'how long did the world remain in this disorder before the regular re-ordering . . . of it was taken in hand?'" (De Sacramentis
Christianae Fidei, Book 1, Part I, Chapter VI). Other medieval scholars,such as Dionysius Peavius and Pererius, also considered that there was an interval
between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

According to The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, the Dutch scholar Simon Epíscopius (1583-1643) taught that the earth had originally
been created before the six days of creation described in Genesis (1952, Vol. 3, p. 302). This was roughly 200 years before geology discovered evidence
for the ancient origin of earth.

These numerous examples show us that the idea of an interval between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 has a long history. Any claim that it is of only recent origin-that
it was invented simply as a desperate attempt to reconcile the Genesis account with geology-is groundless.

Perhaps the best treatment on both sides of this question is given by the late Arthur Custance in his book Without Form and Void: A Study of the Meaning
of Genesis 1:2. Dr. Custance states, "To me, this issue is important, and after studying the problem for some thirty years and after reading everything
I could lay my hands on pro and con and after accumulating in my own library some 300 commentaries on Genesis, the earliest being dated 1670, I am persuaded
that there is, on the basis of the evidence, far more reason to translate Gen. 1:2 as 'But the earth had become a ruin and a desolation, etc.' than there
is for any of the conventional translations in our modern versions" (1970, p. 7).


by Dave on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 06:26:26 PM EST

The scholarly yet long-winded post above is a perfect example of why we should not engage in this debate. IT'S NOT RELEVANT! I believe we must object loudly and strenuously, and hammer home the idea that THE BIBLE and SCIENCE are NOT compatible, because the very concept of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD as devised in the the 15th-17th centuries (yes, A.D.) did not exist at the time the Bible stories were formed, handed down and ultimately written.

Don't get caught up in the inerrant word-of-god argument, to then use to try to disprove some of their interpretations,  tenents and beliefs. There is NO WAY the Bible was written by anyone other than flawed, imperfect people, based on thousands of years of handed-down oral tradition (especially but not limited to the old testament), and this should be NON-NEGOTIABLE. This book was written by a bunch of men who had NO concept of science, testing, proof, peer-reviewing, ETC. They would have no way of even dreaming of these concepts.

I just heard a preacher on TV over the weekend who insisted that it WAS all about the bible, and that the bible was perfect because it was historically accurate. PERIOD. This is what we are fighting against.

I would prefer to reject the arguments, then pose altogether different questions, including challenging their faith in the bible. Many wonderful scholars on the history of the bible (as we know it today) show that the HISTORY of the bible tells wonderful things about human history without resorting to superstion and mythology-as-history. There are SO many examples of perfectly hideous rules and laws commanded by characters in the bible, and many progressives and skeptics can have a field day pointing them out, but what's the point? You can't win over the true kool aide-drinkers with minor points and contraditions.

At some point, despite Fred's preferences to never challenge a person's faith on tis forum, I believe this challenge will become essential. Perhaps not now, perhaps not here, but it is inevitable if the human race is to survive as fellow living things on this planet (as opposed to just souls).

by joelp on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 02:52:34 PM EST
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While some detailed discussions of Biblical scholarship may seem boring to some people, they aren't necessarily irrelevant.

The above post falls into the category of opposing Christian faith, rather than the misuse of this faith. It simply fuels the 'culture wars'. In essence he is saying that 'these Christians are idiots.'

Are we to address the problem of 'evolutionists' promoting evolution as a theology? Most scientists don't do this, but many of the popular writers do.

What has happened is that the religious communities have put themselves in conflict with science. This has happened off and on over the centuries. There is no reason that this conflict will not subside as it has in the past. It may be more profitable to explore the reasons for the re-emergence of this conflict and address those issues. Simply scolding people is generally unhelpful.

Left on the Right

by chipmunk on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 04:38:11 PM EST
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Although I undersatnd and agree that there are ways to discuss things that will not deliberately antagonize, it seems one of the  Amercian political and religious right's tactics over the last 2 decades is to DELIBERATELY antogonize and belittle anyone who disagrees with them, so perhaps it's just time to dish it back.

At least perhaps it is for me.

I am not accusing Christians of being idiots, just anyone superstitious enough to believe that their holy book (whatever that book is) was not actually written by real human beings. Those people are idiots.

by joelp on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 05:57:46 PM EST
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It's great you're debating these topics, even if it seems that it doesn't bear fruit immediately. I know from my own personal experience coming from a dominionist conservative religious right background, that many things that people said to me at first did not change my view, but took time to take root. You won't know whether you're planting the seed or doing the watering when you discuss these important life-changing topics.
But, I don't like the word 'argue.' When real dialog or communication breaks down but the conversation continues, then you have an argument, in my humble opinion.
How do I deal with it? I only have recently in my life come around to a proper, educated view on dominionism, so up to this point I've only really been discussing this with my dominionist family and close friends. But I'm not going to ever shy away from the truth. I may not get a soapbox and a cardboard sign just now, but when people around me start spreading falsehoods about our founding fathers and the beginnings of these United States, or the falsehood that God wants us to create earthly political nations, I have to speak the truth to them. Here is what I wrote to my sister recently. http://tinsoul.blogspot.com/2006/06/on-not-being-silent.html

Who knows what the future will bring, but for now I'm talking to people I know and maintaining a blog at http://tinsoul.blogspot.com

Everyone remember my story, that I was converted, and know that the only thing that keeps the religious right from the truth about our country and about their own God is education. And just as many of them do not care to research American documents and history, they also do not crack the Bible, only relying on what they hear from their pastor or friends. For example, if they would just read Romans (and lots of other books as well in the Bible) they would see how tolerant and impartial God is.
Take care, keep up the good fight, and I'm not talking about fisticuffs either.

by Tin Soul on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 07:56:00 PM EST


I came across this post after having blogged several times last week about the Southern Baptist Convention's national meeting of "messengers".  Your question made me think about my own assumptions in attempting to hold a dialogue with fundamentalists in general, and Christian Right/Christian Nationalist sorts in particular.  As you've said, when we're starting with separate worldviews, separate "epistemologies", you have to wonder if any actual communication is taking place.

In the case you described, it's unlikely a Christian-nationalist radio host is going to make concessions on-air to a reality-based worldview.  But communicating with the audience is another matter.

One of the distinctive features of fundamentalism is fear.  Freud thought fear was a major part of all religious beliefs.  But it's especially prominent with fundis: fears of gays, feminists, public schools, whatever the bogeyman of the week is.  And probably the single most important message you're delivering to an audience like that is that you can discuss issues of importance to the Christian Right in a knowledgeable way but without fear.  That in itself is a very important message that some of the audience must get across the epistemological divide:  "Not everyone is scared of going to Hell if they don't agree with this stuff".

I find that one of the most frustrating things about the fundis is that they are quick to resort to duplicity to duck criticism.  This is partly due to their emphasis on proselytizing, which is a form of salesmanship.  And often their pitches resemble those of the proverbial used-car salesmen.

I relate that tendency to the phenomenon you describes so well in your book, the deceptive practices used by fundis in "stealth" candidacies for school boards and other local offices, in sex-education programs anti-abortion "counseling" centers that knowingtly that promote medical misinformation, and in the entire "creationist" enterprise.  The latter is a pseudoscience whose only purpose is to discredit science and promote a conservative Protestant view of creation; a scam, in other words.

Emphasizing those kinds of deceptive practices seems a useful approach to me.  First, because they are real problems.  Second, they challenge the fundis on their own ethical grounds, because to most people, deliberately scamming others that way just sounds wrong.

One story in your book that I found particularly impressive in that regard was your description of how anti-abortion protesters will sometimes present a friendly pitch to women coming to a center for an abortion and offer them a cup of juice, knowing that having the liquid will prevent them from having the procedure then.  That's not only deceptive.  There's an element of just plain meanness about it.  Surely some people will understand that across the Great Divide.

I also find that a little theology goes a long way in those interchanges.  St. Augustine, the first great Latin/Western Christian theologian and a key influence on Martin Luther, said (I believe it is in The City of God) that the Scriptures are meant to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.  That is still the basis of the Catholic Church's approach to reading the Bible; John Paul II even quoted that in response to a question on creationism.  This is a way to frame the fundis' position as a departure from the mainstream Christian tradition.  That is also a challenge on their own grounds and one likely to resonate with at least some of the audience.

In addition, I try to remember that for all their high-minded religious dogmas they like to display for outsiders, the Christian Right is heavily influenced by historical traditions like white Southern segregationist thinking and, as you also describe in your book, the John Birch Society.  And yet they are hyper-sensitive about being labeled as racist or anti-Semitic.  So focusing on topics that point out how neo-segregationist their thinking is also strikes me as a good approach.

And, finally, the fundis are caught in a contradiction.  They believe their way is the best for everyone, and yet their religious outlook tells them they are the godly minority in a sinful world.   They are constantly complaining that they are persecuted, like with the whole bizarre "war on Christmas" hype.  Anything that debunks their claims of persecution also has a good chance of communicating with people on the other side of the reality-based vs. fundamentalism-based split.

I've also found a couple of books particularly useful, both written from the point of view of explaining Christian fundamentalism to other Christians who have occasion to come into conflict with them:  Catholicism and Fundamentalism (1988) by Karl Keating and Fundamentalism (2004) by Fisher Humphreys and Philip Wise.  Jimmy Carter's book Our Endangered Values (2005) is a better-known work in something of the same vein, though not addressed so exclusively to Christian churchgoers.

Even if arguing from a secular position, it's helpful to be able to challenge the fundis' exclusive claims to owning the Christian faith.  It reframes the discussion from religion vs. secularism (aka, atheism, heathenism in the fundis' way of thinking) to a reality-based view vs. a particular, narrow version of Christianity that most Christians do not practice.


by Bruce Miller on Sun Jun 18, 2006 at 01:38:57 AM EST

Another book that I find useful in arguing with Christian nationalists is "The Search for Christian America" by the evangelical historians Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch and George Marsden. They wrote it in the 1980s to try to disabuse other evangelicals of the notion that America is or was meant to be a Christian nation. "Christians, to our very day, have continued to express the fundamentally misplaced hope that a nation founded upon nature could come back to its Christian home. But since there had never been a genuinely Christian home, the desire for return promotes only nostalgic myth-making and contemporary confusion," they write.

Several people have suggested that it's best to argue with fundamentalists on their own turf, meaning on a scriptural basis. I can see how this would be very effective for progressive Christians, but it doesn't really make sense for me, as a secular Jew -- I don't feel I have the expertise or legitimacy to have biblical debates, and the whole thing would be in bad faith anyway, since I don't see the bible as authoritative...


by Michelle Goldberg on Sun Jun 18, 2006 at 12:16:31 PM EST
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The Christian Right bases their authoritarian and repressive program on a superficial reading of the Jewish scriptures. They take the laws of Moses given in the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and distort them into a theocractic vision for society.

You don't need to argue authoritatively with someone, but simply to ask provocative questions. Get them to think and question their own (mis)interpretations of the Jewish scriptures.

We often expect to see 'conversions' in front of our eyes at the very time that we utter our amazing arguments. Real life doesn't work that way. Raising questions in people's mind will give many people cause to reflect.

It is different for leaders. Imagine what would happen if James Dobson converted. He would lose an awful lot. But the millions who support him don't have so much invested. Most are generally decent people, who have no desire to hate and denigrate others.

Ask questions. Plant seeds for thinking.

by chipmunk on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 10:57:34 AM EST
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Michelle, thanks for your additional comment.  I'll have to check out The Search for Christian America.  That is also my strong impression of the Founders' intention, to the extent that we can generalize about such a thing.  They did not view the Constitution as being founded on the Christian religion.  And they did intend to have separation of church and state, viewing it as an important principle of democracy.

On making use of mainstream Christian arguements:  Actually, I don't think your personal religious beliefs mean that it would be in bad faith to makehistorical points about Christianity.

In fact, it may be even more effective.  As a non-Christian, you're a potential target for being "saved".  (I'm guessing you were given quite a few such pitches in the course of researching your book.)  But we non-fundamentalist Christians are apostates advocating "liberal theology", the greatest bogeyman of the fundis.  Worse even than atheists.

I suppose if you tried to pose it in terms of, "I'm offended that you're misrepresenting the Christian faith...", that could sound phony and in bad faith.  I don't even try the "I'm offended ..." bit myself, although I am willing to argue that some fundamentalist beliefs are just bad Christianity.

In terms of separation of church and state in its Christian religious context, it's always worthwhile to remind fundamentalist audiences that the Baptists have been since colonial times one of the main groups in American society advocating separation.  That was even true of the Southern Baptist Convention, conservative as they were on politics and religion even before the 1979 hardline takeover, until sometime around 1970.

Once the public schools in the South were desegregated and religious schools started popping up as alternatives to the public schools, aka, alternatives to sending their kids to school with African-American children, the Southern Baptists became much more friendly to the idea of state aid to religious schools.  Now their position pretty much reflects that of the Christian Right generally.

by Bruce Miller on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 02:08:40 PM EST
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Michelle - Scripture is the only thing that might work with these guys.  Most of them have the Bible memorized.

They blow Bible verses at each other the way virtuoso guitar players rip off incredible riffs and scales while they warm up...  to impress all the other guitar players, and to establish their credibility.

Even if you only knew the Torah, they would be impressed.  Especially, they would be impressed if you knew some of the Hebrew.

Most of them pretend that they know the Hebrew and the Greek, but they do not know much, and they will crumble if you really seem to know.


by Tom Neely on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 07:40:46 PM EST
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As someone who actually teaches Bible classes in churches, I can assure you that most Conservative Christians do not know the Bible well. If they are activists in some conservative cause, they may know a few 'proof texts' that support their position. However, they know very little of the Bible as a whole. They seldom read the Bible, despite the wide variety of types of Bible available and modern translations. They may read passages from the Bible that are found in devotional literature, but most don't actually read much from the book, itself.

Reading evangelical Bible scholars - and I mean the real scholars - might surprise many on the list. They provide very little in the way of ammunition for right-wing politics. This is, of course, to be expected as Jesus was far from being a status quo-promoting sycophant. He was a prophet questioning the established institutions for their lack of concern for those on the margins.

The Christian Right actually lives on general Biblical illiteracy. That is the only way that they can continue to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of average, normal, decent people.

by chipmunk on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 10:39:09 AM EST
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After six years as a devout missionary in the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon (1962-68), I understand what it means to be a fundamentalist.  And after years of debating with Christian fundamentalists, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, I learned that devoted fundamentalists do not have "ears to hear."  They are impervious to a reasonable argument, just as I was when I was a "Moonie."  And often the end result is uncomfortable or even angry feelings for one or both of us involved in the discussion.

Debates are a competitive activity, a win/lose situation.  Winners feel happy to have won the debate; losers feel unhappy to have lost.  I know that I generally felt annoyed and somewhat unhappy, even exasperated, when the people I was debating refused to listen to the carefully arranged logical steps of my argument.

I believe that feelings are far more important than intellect.  Feeling respect and compassion for ourselves and for others is the key to a peaceful world.  Gandhi and Mother Teresa are preeminent examples of this attitude.  Cooperation is much more effective than competition in creating spiritually healthy relationships.

Thus I believe that discussing with fundamentalists what we have in common as human beings is a far more effective, beneficial, and benevolent approach than debating belief systems.

As a result, I don't argue with or debate fundamentalists of any religion anymore.  Instead, I see them as people just like me trying to do our best to live in a very complex social world, and I try to relate to them on this basis.  We both need food, clothing, housing, meaningful jobs, good health, friends and family, and adequate wealth to support our needs.  These are the things to emphasize, and these are the things that most of the people in the world desperately need and are seeking.

If we can focus our efforts in these areas and relate primarily from our hearts, not primarly from our heads, to those who are different from us , emphasizing not competition, not debate, not win/lose, but cooperation and sharing of simarilities and of how much we are alike, then I think we will help heal the current polarity that is so divisive and harmful.

by gfross on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 07:48:26 AM EST

Myself, being a walkaway from a coercive group  (though one more directly connected with dominionism, specifically, a spiritually abusive Assemblies of God church that has been heavily involved in dominionism since its beginnings)...I find your commentary interesting, partly because it meshes with several thoughts I've had.

One of the problems that people have in debating hard dominionists is that, well, they don't realise it's about as effective to debate them on things like evolution or anything that clashes with the dominionist worldview as it would be to, say, debate psychotherapy with Scientologists.  And it's much for the same reason--when you start getting into deep dominionism (we're talking like stuff in the Assemblies or in the "fundamentalist Baptist" groups pushing Christian Reconstructionism, not the SBC--the Southern Baptists aren't quite there yet) you start getting into groups that are spiritually abusive in their own right.

by dogemperor on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 11:29:03 AM EST
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I live in Hollywood, and regularly drive by the Scientology "Psychotherapy is Murder" Center, a large building on Sunset Blvd with huge banners and old torture photos (which remind one of Abu Gharib, but I digress..). DISAGREEMENT is not PERSECUTION. Don't let that one slip by - last week Jenna Elfman and her husband were reportedly screaming at a man on Los Feliz Blvd because he wore a Tshirt which had a photo of Tom Cruise with the wrods "Scientology is Gay" (and on the back was a photo of John Travolta with the words "Really Gay"). They were yelling at the guy saying that he was making fun of their religion, and that was religious persecution.

No, it's not - it's ridicule. Let's remind everyone of the difference, and our right in America to do just that when warranted. I have been trying to get a few people together to tour the "Psychology is Torture" museum, but refuse to get into discussion with any of the many Scientology recruiters there. As with the Christian fundamentalists, they are not interested in dialouge, only in winning a debate. I prefer to just laugh - loudly.  It's what they deserve.

by joelp on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 03:14:20 PM EST
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Great post, and I agree that many do not have 'ears to hear.' I have written about this also, that many times when we Christians start asking questions we are then considered to be Doubting Thomases or worse. People actively searching to live in the truth are many times denegrated to the status of non-Christian. So we are not encouraged to have an open mind, in fact we are encouraged to have a closed mind. You won't actually hear these words spoken, but believe me many want you to "Sit down, shut up, and listen to the preacher!"
I was flipping through the JPS volume of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible, for Christians this would be the Old Testament) and saw a note in the commentary on the side of a page, something to the effect of, "If you truly seek God, you must do it in unusual places, not places of worship." I wish I could tell you the exact page, but I was at a book store and don't own the volume. (I think the passage was in Amos, but I'm unsure)
Anyways, I liked your 'heart centered' approach, because it reminded me of a book I'm reading now called Speak Truth in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1892005174/103-3145500-3501441?v =glance&n=283155
This book is amazing, very good. It says that if we can try to find common ground that we can then open up the lines of communication, and that WE ALL HAVE COMMON GROUND! Check it out!
Anyways, it is possible to be a Christian and have an open mind. I'm an example. We need to constantly examine ourselves, whatever we believe, that we are living according to the best facts and truth that is at our disposal. Whether that puts us at odds with political or religious governments should not matter, in fact we must expect that to happen, unfortunately.

by Tin Soul on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 07:22:34 PM EST
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Thanks for your reply and the information about the Marshall Rosenburg book!  I've just ordered it, along with two others of his: Practical Spirituality and Nonviolent Communication, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh's book Peace Is Every Step.

My introduction to the heart-centered approach to life came through the booklet Benevolent Magic and Living Prayer http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/189182449X/sr=8-1/qid=1150768345 /ref=sr_1_1/103-0325037-7385473?%5Fencoding=UTF8  and the Shining the Light series of books by Robert Shapiro (www.lighttechnology.com).  The essence is that all we have to do is to open our heart center (chest, solar plexus area), and we do this by focusing our attention on that area and generating/feeling the warmth that is there, which is Divine Love as expressed in our physical bodies.  Sometimes it helps to generate this love/warmth to place our hands there, palms in.  Then we stay with it for awhile.  And then if we want to communicate with any being (person, animal) or object (tree, bed, home, sock, computer, whatever), we just stand or sit in front of them and love them (not sending out the love, but just feeling our own love/warmth, which radiates automatically).  No intellect is involved.  No words are involved.  Just a physical/emotional/spiritual relationship.  And, WOW!  I tell you, it opens up an entirely new world, lemme tell ya!  I have learned that EVERYTHING is conscious, living, and loving, even the most seemingly inert and mundane object (a sock you wear, a Kleenex).  We are so LOVED -- by everything, all the time!  We are surrounded by this love, embraced, nurtured, uplifted.  It is "in" the very air that we breathe.  I became aware of this only recently, and I have to say that it is a mind-boggling awakening!  

As a result, I have no desire to argue or debate with anyone.  I wish only to love them, with the desire that, if they are not yet "awake," they become so in a way that is the most benevolent for them and everybody else.  

by gfross on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 10:12:07 PM EST
Parent

The word 'magic' really turns me off, because most people are referring to tricks that amaze and wonder. I don't believe that God is all about sideshow magic tricks. But I think I do understand the intent and meaning of the use of 'magic' in the booklet you refer to. More than just an awareness, this is actually a feeling and an act of connection, communication, breath.
It is only very recently that I have begun to see things so differently, similar to what you talk about. I was on the freeway recently, frustrated by the traffic and the heat, and I had a revelation. The freeway is like a river, with different currents within it. Some currents move slowly, while others move quickly over rocks. But all of us on that freeway made up the essence of the river, and I saw that all was as it should be. That revelation comforted me, and I could've spent hours stuck on the freeway after that, without going nuts.
Now I'm seeing that my path in my everyday existence is just like that river. We are all a part of, not apart from.
I had never thought of being 'loved' by everything around me, but it's a great concept. Perhaps we are in the womb of God?

by Tin Soul on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 02:49:14 AM EST
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Just a bold and hearty AMEN! to this post.

by chipmunk on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 10:59:09 AM EST
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In regards to the soft tissue found on the T. Rex (or more properly the soft tissue found after dissolving the mineral matrix)--in the May 2006 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine  there is a very good article that in part interviews Mary Schweitzer, the researcher who found the evidence of soft tissue fossilisation.

Interestingly, Schweitzer herself is a devout Christian (to the point she keeps Bible verses at her desk), and in the article she expresses shock and alarm that her research is being deliberately misused by young-earth creationists (who have also apparently demonised her rather viciously when she has pointed their errors out).

On debate with dominionists, I'm not sure this will ever be entirely productive, in part because (as you noted) they do live in a parallel universe of sorts; their media, their educational systems, their very theology, etc. do a very good job of isolating them both physically and psychologically from opposing views that may challenge them.  (The most radical extension of this is probably in "spiritual warfare" and "deliverance ministry" theologies within dominion theology, where opposing views are literally condemned as Satanic.)

Not so much with the Southern Baptists (yet, anyways), but with the really hardcore Christian Reconstructionists and with the Assemblies and other neopente groups heavily into "dominion theology", you have groups that are stepping over the line or have stepped over the line to being bona fide coercive religious groups--debating, say, evolution or the concept that people have inborn tendencies towards sexual orientation with someone in the Assemblies is about as productive as debating the merits of psychotherapy with an active Scientologist--and for identical reasons.

I've written quite a bit on the subject of at least hard dominionism as a coercive religious group (and several groups within the hard-dominionist movement--notably, several Assemblies fronts like Youth With A Mission, as well as Amway, Maranatha, "third wave" pentecostalism in general, "shepherding" movements, etc.--are already widely considered coercive).  Realising that these groups have "thought stopping" techniques that are designed to squelch any testing of one's faith, are designed to break BS meters, etc. gives one some insight as to why it is so frustrating to try to debate them.

A few articles of particular note:
Dominionist groups as coercive religious groups? (focus is on "hard" dominionism)
Dominionism and coercive tactics, part 1 (listing of various spiritually abusive tactics common in dominionist groups, using multiple accepted checklists)
Dominionism and coercive tactics, part 2 (direct comparison of spiritually abusive tactics in "deliverance ministry" groups within the spiritual-warfare movement and the Church of Scientology)
Dominionism and the coercive mindset (discussion of "thought-stopping" techniques and isolation in hardline dominionist groups in specific relation to why it's almost impossible to debate them)
Kingdom Now/Dominion/Restoration Theology (discussion of the particular flavour of dominionism most common in neopente communities, and also the flavour most commonly associated with frank spiritual abuse)
Rick Warren's Dirty Dominionist Secret (discussion of Paul Yonggi Cho, major promoter of spiritually abusive tactics in the Assemblies of God, with discussion of relationship of Cho with Rick Warren--which could have grave implications for the spread of spiritually abusive tactics, due to Warren's popularity)
Death by "chastening rod" (and the other posts in that series) (discussion on how spiritually abusive dominionist churches often promote physical abuse of children as a direct extension of spiritual abuse in those congregations)
Senate "annointer" curses WV mine tragedy families (discussion of spiritually abusive tactics within the Assemblies and other neopente churches)
Bush as "God's appointed president"? (discussion of how "code words" are used in hardline dominionist communities--a common practice in spiritually abusive groups in general)
Divide and Conquer: Cell Churches and Hijacks (article on "shepherding" in spiritually abusive dominionist churches; this is increasingly used not only as a church hijack tool but as a method of exercising iron control over members of spiritually abusive churches)
"Faith Based Coercion" in recovery programs (description of spiritually abusive tactics in a dominionist-run program promoted as a "Christian alternative" to 12-step recovery programs)
Court rules against "faith based coercion" programs (in part describes spiritual abuse within Prison Fellowship Ministries' programs)
An informative expose of a Battlecry Event (describes several attendees' reports of the BattleCry rally held in Philadelphia, PA; this gives good info on how people are recruited and kept within these movements)
The following anthology of articles related to Ron Luce's Teen Mania Ministries will also be helpful, as they do use similar tactics to most spiritually abusive dominionist groups.

by dogemperor on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 11:25:11 AM EST

Young-earth creationists also see Schweitzer's work as revolutionary, but in an entirely different way. They first seized upon Schweitzer's work after she wrote an article for the popular science magazine Earth in 1997 about possible red blood cells in her dinosaur specimens. Creation magazine claimed that Schweitzer's research was "powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible's account of a recent creation."

This drives Schweitzer crazy. Geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. rex was found, is 68 million years old, and so are the bones buried in it. She's horrified that some Christians accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. "They treat you really bad," she says. "They twist your words and they manipulate your data." For her, science and religion represent two different ways of looking at the world; invoking the hand of God to explain natural phenomena breaks the rules of science. After all, she says, what God asks is faith, not evidence. "If you have all this evidence and proof positive that God exists, you don't need faith. I think he kind of designed it so that we'd never be able to prove his existence. And I think that's really cool." (bold emphasis added)



by joelp on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 06:37:55 PM EST
Parent
it's cool that god designed the world in a way that we could never prove his existence but must accept it on faith, and if we don't because of scientific evidence that points to him being an unnecessary factor in the equation then we go to hell? yeah, rad. great guy.

by brad on Fri Jul 21, 2006 at 07:59:28 PM EST
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Michelle - I heard you on Bob Dutko's show.  You sounded great, and you "triumphed" much more than most of his non-Christianist guests.

My experience is that we never can get through to Bob Dutko, or to his tribe.  The best we can do is to let them talk, and reveal their own preposterousness.

The most mysterious thing about these people is their rock-solid certainty.  They want to be sure about everything always.  So they never will accept information or an idea from anybody outside their Christianist frontier.

But just let them talk.  They reveal themselves.  Most of us will not follow them, if we hear what they actually say.  They have peaked.  I hope they are headed back to the hinterlands.

by Tom Neely on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 04:09:28 PM EST


I usually rely on dissecting their arguments based on logic, since most of the time Dominionists will trip themselves up...

For example, your talk show host said:
"We spent the first part of our nearly hour-long interview talking about church state separation, which he, of course, believes to be something the founders never intended."

So, he is saying that it doesn't matter what the document actually says, it is what the writers intended that is important in the interpretation...

Then, later on, he says:
"To which he responded that what matters is what the document says, not what the individual founders intended..."

He's just contradicted himself!  So, which is it?  Intention or how it is actually written?
You can't argue that it is both ways at the same time...

Granted, folks here have made valid points - that the person you are debating might never believe you, or consider your viewpoint at all, no matter how good your evidence... but, the seed has been planted, if not for the person you are debating, then perhaps for others who are listening.

If nothing else, you might be able to get your opponent a bit flustered... that's always fun... ;>

-Emily
emilywynn.blogspot.com


by EmilyWynn8 on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 04:13:14 PM EST


Several people have spoken of the futility of debating those on the Christian Right. I wish to disagree.

First, many on the Christian Right are dismissive of others. Think of the way Hilary Clinton is spoken of. Do we wish to imitate this dismissive behavior?

Second, replying with kindness and love will make a difference. The Right often uses so much hate language, that reciprocating in love communicates.

Third, dismissing people is a way to de-humanize them. We should simply never do this.

Left on the Right


by chipmunk on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 04:51:29 PM EST


Matching wits with a mental midget will only promote Scheuermann's Disease.

by inlikeflint on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 06:32:04 PM EST
One of the arguments of the Right is that the Left is made up of the elites. While this is untrue in most ways, many on the Left certainly seem to consider themselves superior to others. Among the responses on this thread, Christians and conservatives are called idiots, mental midgets and so forth. The difference between this and Ann Coulter is simply in degree not in kind.

It's sad. The Left does have a worthwhile message, but it gets drowned out in the arrogance of its promoters.

by chipmunk on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 11:09:56 AM EST
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Left is made up of the elites. While this is untrue in most ways, many on the Left certainly seem to consider themselves superior to others.

You're totally RIGHT Chipmunk, maybe things are that binary.

by inlikeflint on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 09:56:47 PM EST
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Inlikeflint misquotes what I said and then accuses me of being right-wing. I suppose when you have no facts and insults are your stock in trade, then not much more can be expected.

Inlikeflint actually knows nothing about me, yet she/he feels free to come to startling conclusions based upon his/her own prejudices and misquotes. Sad for discussion.

by chipmunk on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 08:28:36 AM EST
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Thank-you for your voluntary participation!








by inlikeflint on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 09:55:14 PM EST
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Though facts as such may mean little or nothing to the truly committed hyperchristians out there, not everyone in the audience is likely to be so rigid.

Creationist propaganda is wide but actually quite limited, with the same claims being echoed from one "pundit" to another. Just about every point they make has been collected and rebutted in the Index to Creationist Claims at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html.

For example:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC371_1.html
Claim CC371.1:
Soft, flexible tissue, complete blood vessels, and apparently intact cells were found when a Tyrannosaurus bone was broken open (Schweitzer et al. 2005). Such preservation indicates that the bones are only a few thousand years old, not millions of years.
Source:
Wieland, Carl. 2005. Still soft and stretchy. http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/0325Dino_tissue.asp
Response:

   1. The reports of the soft tissue, though remarkable, have been sensationalized further. The tissues were not soft and pliable originally. The tissues were rehydrated in the process of removing the surrounding mineral components of the bone (Schweitzer et al. 2005). Moreover, it is unknown whether the soft tissues are original tissues. Fossil flexible tissues and nucleated cells have been found before in which the original material was not preserved (Stokstad 2005).

   2. The age of fossils is not determined by how well they are preserved, because preservation depends far more on factors other than age. The age of this particular bone was determined from the age of the rocks it was found in, namely, the Hell Creek Formation. This formation has been reliably dated by several independent methods (Dalrymple 2000).

   3. DNA has never been recovered from any dinosaurs nor from anything as old as them, and researchers do not expect to find DNA from these soft tissues (though they can still hope). DNA has been recovered, however, from samples much more than 10,000 years old (Poinar et al. 1998), even more than 300,000 years old (Stokstad 2003; Willerslev et al. 2003). If dinosaur fossils were as young as creationists claim, finding soft tissues in them would not be news, and recovering DNA from them should be easy enough that it would have been done by now.

Links:
Hurd, Gary S. 2005. Dino-blood redux. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/DinoBlood.cfm
References: ...



by Pierce R Butler on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:08:19 PM EST

As for the Constitution, the date above Washington's signature is "the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth" [text & capitalization as given in the Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2004).

  • Note that traditional and national time-frames get equal standing.

  • "September" is a name from the ancient Roman calendar - by Dutko's logic, that's an endorsement of the old pagan pantheon of Jupiter, Juno, Mars & the gang.

  • By my calculations, 9/17/1787 was a Monday: had the founders bothered to mention this, should we take that as allegiance to Wiccan moon-worship?


by Pierce R Butler on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:30:09 PM EST

I have tried to speak and e-mail directly with Christianist radio people.  I try to have one-on-one discussions, but they believe I am just slinging cliches or "agenda points" at them...

Because, apparently, that is what they are doing.  I am just realizing that they take all their ideas from Christianist and conservative gurus.

They seem not to think for themselves much, and they seem to get confused if we speak of our own personal experiences.  They are like the people at the office water cooler who always talk about what they saw on TV last night, and never laugh if you tell a joke from somewhere else.

These Christianist leaders believe they have The Scheme of Things all figured out.  They hate the idea that mystery is more holy than certainty.

SO!  I believe what Chipmunk said in this thread about addressing the followers rather than the leaders is wonderful.

And there are some interesting replies in another thread, "Your Assumptions Will Not Save Your Skin", that expand on that approach.

by Tom Neely on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 10:11:19 AM EST



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Fear
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ArchaeoBob (83 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (160 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (140 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (137 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (129 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (139 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (121 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (172 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (134 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (71 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (185 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (73 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (103 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (100 comments)

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