The Hierarchy of Presses

A learned friend once made an excellent point, which sounds like a joke but is not. The good news, he said, is that we live today in the golden age of book publishing. The bad news, though, is that we live in the golden age of book publishing. What he meant was that today, more [Read More…]

The Byzantine Dark Ages

In my last post, I urged the use of the unpopular term “Dark Age” as a valid historical and archaeological concept. Specifically, I suggested that it should refer to eras of “systematic societal collapse and cultural impoverishment, reflected in collapsing population levels, and acute declines in urbanization, technology, literacy, productivity and communications.” This is in [Read More…]

Bringing Back the Dark Ages

I am about to say something really contentious and controversial: Dark Ages happen, and I believe in them. And I actually have some new evidence to support that shocking conclusion. Oddly, this seemingly abstruse topic is in the news right now. The agency English Heritage just published a timeline showing the era 410-1066 as the [Read More…]

The Enoch Seminar

One of the most exciting areas today in Biblical scholarship (broadly defined) is the Enoch Seminar. Founded in 2001, it originally focused on the literature associated with the patriarch Enoch, but has since branched out massively, almost to become a field in its own right. The changing limits of that field are fascinating, both for [Read More…]

Why THE WITCH is One of the Greatest Historical Films Ever Made

I am several months late on this topic, but bear with me. Robert Eggers’s film The Witch is now available on DVD, and I finally got the chance to see it. It is one of the truly great horror films, no argument, but it is also an astonishing piece of historical reconstruction. The Witch is [Read More…]

Which Old Testament?

I am presently writing something that draws heavily on the Old Testament sources. I am also struggling mightily with exactly how to refer to that book. Jews call it the Bible, while Christians speak of the Old Testament. Jews, naturally and reasonably, dislike the latter term because it suggests that their scriptures are outmoded or [Read More…]

New Thought

In my last column, I mentioned the New Thought movement of the early twentieth century, less for its own intrinsic significance, than for the astonishing importance that observers attached to it. Many educated people saw it as the coming world religion, most notably William James. Today, there is a more basic question: what on earth [Read More…]

Which Spiritual Unrest?

I wrote last time about the failings of prophecy in predicting religious futures. Here is a case-study. In his day, Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946) was an enormously respected writer and journalist, and a highly intelligent observer of American life. He was a mainstay of the muckraking movement and a leading Progressive, who was close to [Read More…]

Histories of the Future

Has anyone ever collected predictions of the future of religion, whether in a book or a website? The most famous are those that predict the vast growth or decline of some faith, projections that prove to be hilariously inaccurate – eg Thomas Jefferson’s view from 1822 that Unitarians would become the dominant religion in the [Read More…]

The Last Crusade?

Whatever happened to America’s crusades? Once upon a time, crusades were an integral part of American rhetoric, indicating a noble or righteous struggle inspired by higher motives. All sorts of political causes were “crusades”, not to mention the overtly military ones. You actually could write an excellent history of American religion and reform through the [Read More…]


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