The Intellectual Prison of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism

I've often written about Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which is, in my opinion, one of the worst religious cults in existence. Whether in the U.S., in Israel, or any of the other countries where they put down roots, the Ultra-Orthodox live in closed-off enclaves, trying to keep their members isolated and ignorant of the world all around them. Daily life in these communities is a maze of rules and prohibitions, the result of centuries of elaboration by rabbis who only ever grow stricter, never more … [Read more...]

The Collapse of the Christian Vote

Earlier this month, I wrote about the rise of the atheist voting bloc and what it means for the future of American politics. Here's a perspective on that same trend from the other side: Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, has a new book out titled "The End of White Christian America".As Jones says in an interview, the decline of Christianity in America is generational. Young adults are rejecting organized religion at startling rates, resulting in the collapse of … [Read more...]

Friday Night Music: Criminal

I've mostly focused on newer stuff rather than nostalgia for these music posts. But reading about President Obama's 2016 summer playlist put me in mind of this '90s classic from Fiona Apple (which is now just over 20 years old, yikes): … [Read more...]

Why We Have to Pay for Media

I think it's a good moral principle not to be a free-rider. I want to pay my fair share of upkeep for whatever I use. If you agree, then this John Oliver segment on the decline of print news is essential:This is something I've been concerned about for a long time. It's no accident that freedom of the press is written into the First Amendment, making it as foundational as freedom of speech or religion. But that vitally important right is empty if there's no one to exercise it. And in the … [Read more...]

Conservatives Trapped in Their Own Bubble

After the 2012 election, I wrote about how the Republicans' epistemic bubble blinded them to their coming loss. Because they deliberately isolated themselves from all contrary opinion, they had no idea that there were people who didn't see the Obama presidency the same way they did, and thus failed to frame their argument in a way that would have been persuasive to those people. At the time, I mused on what they might do next:The very defect that's laid them low also makes it almost … [Read more...]

This Is Not Normal

The latest polls, which suggest that Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead over Donald Trump in many critical swing states, give progressives a reason to take a breath of relief. The data suggests that Trump is such a poor candidate, he's even at risk in traditional Republican strongholds like Arizona and Georgia.But even if Trump and all he represents is soundly beaten in November, there's reason to fear for American democracy. His transgressive rhetoric and campaign style has normalized … [Read more...]

Why We Shouldn’t Want Manufacturing Jobs Back

The words "Rust Belt" evoke a vanished age of American greatness.Cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, once mighty economic powerhouses, now have a reputation for dwindling and decline. Their factories have closed; their populations are aged and shrunken; their civic architecture has fallen into desolation and decay, spawning the genre of "ruin porn". And the resentment and despair of rootless former blue-collar workers is a central issue in the presidential race.This story resonates … [Read more...]

Are the Olympics Worth It?

I rarely watch sports, but I make an exception for the Olympics. I can't deny that it's thrilling to see the world's top athletes in one place, showing off the greatest feats of strength, speed and grace that human beings are capable of. And I still believe the international cooperation that makes the games possible is a triumph of diplomacy and a good sign for human civilization.But it's getting harder and harder to ignore the problems threatening to overshadow the competition. Every … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: That’s Not What “Miracle” Means

The newest charity that's sent me an explicitly religious solicitation is American Leprosy Missions, "the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases around the world". Take a look:Imagine pulling a dollar bill out of your pocket and seeing it multiply 33 times, like Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes!That's what you can do today. Because now every $1 you give will turn … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Primitive Technology

My latest obsession is Primitive Technology, a video blog from remote northern Australia. The creator, who hasn't identified himself by name, has an ambitious goal: to go out into the wilderness and recreate as much human technology as possible, starting from the Stone Age and working his way up.Working with nothing but his bare hands and whatever natural materials he can find, he makes tools from scratch, which he can then use to make more complex tools: knapping stone into hand axes, using … [Read more...]


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