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April 29, 2013
Fifty-two years ago—can it be?—I published The Infidel: Freethought and American Religion, and have been tracking “the infidel” ever since. Whether he or she was dubbed “free-thinker,” “agnostic,’ “atheist,” “secularist” or many things more, the infidel thrived on the reaction of the “religious” majority.
April 25, 2013
In an article that appeared in The Guardian a few days after the March 13, 2013, election of Francis, the first Pope from South America, the British environmental activist, George Monbiot, railed against depictions of the new Pope as a defender of the poor. Monbiot testified to his personal experience of working with Catholic priests in Brazil in the 1980s.
April 22, 2013
Three “War College” scholars, in the Spring 2013 issue of Daedalus (see reference), discuss some of the reasons why the military wins more confidence than other American institutions. The military is not our subject; those authors may be biased because of their vocation and location, and we may lack full confidence in Harris and Gallup and Pew and other measurers of opinion.
April 18, 2013
In late February 2013, University of Chicago professor emeritus Marshall Sahlins formally resigned from the National Academy of Science (NAS) in protest over that body’s election of Napolean Chagnon as a member and its sponsoring of research to improve combat performance for the US military.
April 15, 2013
The familiar “Protestant-Catholic-Jew” mantra no longer defines American religion. Politicians, bloggers, statisticians, and demographers now conventionally add “Evangelical” to the classifying. When Will Herberg wrote the canonical book Protestant-Catholic-Jew in the mid-fifties, Evangelicals appeared to be marginal at best.
April 11, 2013
According to a lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union, the commissioners of North Carolina’s Rowan County have, over the past five years, opened 97 percent of County Board meetings with explicitly Christian prayers.
April 8, 2013
News of theological seminaries does not usually appear in public media unless someone who is part of one of them creates scandal—sexual or financial, since even heresy rarely gets covered in contemporary America—and cannot go unnoticed and not-covered.
April 4, 2013
The epic poem, Shahnameh, a 1010 CE compendium of pre-Islamic national myths and legends, has been the center of attention in Iran—and not merely as the source of the nation’s foundation myths. Successive Iranian kings commissioned new, lavishly illustrated copies (for instance, the sumptuous 16th Century, Shah Tahmasp copy) in the hopes of glorifying their own office.
April 1, 2013
Look up April Fool’s Day or April Fools’ day in Wikipedia, no less! and no fooling! and you will relearn that this unofficial holiday is a time when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. (It’s also called “All Fools’ Day,” so let me play the role of one of them.) Suppose I’d been unconscious since March 13 and just learned that there’d been a papal election.
March 28, 2013
Across the pages of a fifteenth-century manuscript track the paw prints of a cat who has first stepped into the ink, then sought to plant itself in the middle of its owner's attention. Snapped by the medievalist Emir Filipović, the image went viral, an instantly recognized  example of "a long and glorious historical movement" of cats walking across work.