The Myth of Secularization

Secularization theory attempted to expose religion as a myth, but the tables have turned.Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud--collectively called the Masters of Suspicion--supposedly wreaked havoc on Christian belief during the early and mid-20th century. This left theologians such as Hans Kung (the man who only writes books with question marks in the title) scrambling to appropriate their supposedly secular insights about metaphysics (Nietzsche), collective life (Marx), and the individual (Freud) in … [Read More...]

Famous Atheists Who Aren’t Atheist: Facebook Creator Mark Zuckerberg and Desecularization

Exposing the secret religious lives of famous personalities such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Alfred Hitchcock, Luce Irigaray, and Martin Heidegger--frequently perceived as atheists--used to be a favorite pastime of mine. I'd like to get back into this habit a little bit. I think it's important to document these lives, because it is one of the things that undermines the secularization thesis. This post also picks up on the thread I started while discussing the difference Catholic sexuality … [Read More...]

2017: The Year Your Sperm Stopped Swimming and Started Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning.Poor chap, he always loved larking And now he’s dead It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said.Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning) I was much too far out all my life And not waving but drowning. --Stevie Smith, "Not Waving but Drowning," in Collected Poems I don't usually quote Nicholas Kristof, b … [Read More...]

Is There a Way to Get Beyond Making the Best of a Bad Liturgy?

The following is an exchange I facilitated between Villanova theologian Kevin Hughes and Notre Dame liturgist Timothy O'Malley (I'll resist the urge to say "Go Zags!").Their exchange grew out of a discussion I started with the statement, "Bad liturgy is a form of penance."Kevin Hughes: You’ve written so beautifully about the relationship between liturgy and life, and I have learned so much. You’re following in a great tradition of writers like Romano Guardini, Alexander Schmemann, Joseph … [Read More...]

What Do Sex, Lent, UFO’s, Evolution, and the Shroud of Turin Have in Common?

They're all, in one way or another, connected with Catholicism. That's how they're related. These also happen to be the topics covered in the TOP10 trending posts on this blog this week.And why shouldn't they?Dappled Things argues Flannery O'Connor apparently never said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd," but she was right anyway: The reader of today… has forgotten the cost of truth, even in fiction. I don’t believe that you can impose orthodoxy on fiction. I d … [Read More...]

Why is the Catholic Experience of Sex so Different from the Protestant Experience of Sex?

Our religious beliefs are not private, because they shape our experiences of fundamental realities such as sex and reproduction, which, in turn, influence what happens in the public square.In other words, even those things we tend to do in private with our privates have public consequences.This has implications for our understanding of secularization.I've argued in Who Knew Sex Helps You to Experience God’s Presence in the World? that what we usually call "secularization" is better la … [Read More...]

Who Knew Sex Helps You to Experience God’s Presence in the World?

Who knew this about sex and God?Well, the writers of the Bible and the medieval mystics, especially St. Bernard, that's who! For a recent study on this topic see Denys Turner's Eros And Allegory: Medieval Exegesis of the Song of Songs. It is constitutive enough that the spirituality of Catholic religious orders is dictated by (hetero-)sexual orientation.One of the most important developments in recent Catholic theology is the return to the nuptial mysticism of these biblical sources and … [Read More...]

Increasingly Secularized Americans Are Sexless, But Catholics Might Be Bucking the Sex Trends

The sexual revolution appears to have paradoxically liberated our libidos from sex itself.This seems to be the depressing conclusion from a much-publicized study on trends in sex frequency among Americans over the past 20 years as reported by The Guardian: Adults are having sex less often than they were 20 years ago, according a US study based on a survey of almost 27,000 individuals.Researchers have found that adults, on average, were having sex seven fewer times annually in the early … [Read More...]

Lent Blockbuster: John Paul II’s Private Spiritual Diaries to Be Published Soon

The matter of privacy is especially dear to intellectuals. Milan Kundera, whom I mentioned in my post about the remarkable film Arrival, has a whole collection of essays surrounding this very topic. Testaments Betrayed is his book about the betrayals of the intentions of high modernist artists, many of them from Mitteleuropa, such as Kafka, Witold Gombrowicz, Picasso, Herman Broch (a favorite author, discovered thanks to Kundera), Heidegger, Stravinsky, and so on. It reads like a really good n … [Read More...]

True Lent Humility Starts with the Realization That You’re Divine

 The first Sunday before Lent has an exotic name "Quinquagesima Sunday," which only means it's fifty days before Easter. As far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong, the first Sunday of Lent does not have a special name other than, maybe, "Quadragesima Sunday."This is strange, since all the readings on the first Sunday of Lent hone in on the mystery of Original Sin. The Gospel reading takes the dramatic crown by recounting Christ's temptation in the desert (breathlessly retold in one o … [Read More...]