The New Privacy: How the NSA Protects Our Right to Be Isolationists

  Constant surveillance by an impersonal power preserves a modern society more autonomous and secretive than any that came before. You have never been watched more than you were today. The parking meter you paid with a credit card, the camera at the café’s door, the gift card you used to buy your coffee, the emails you sent from your laptop, and the status you posted on Facebook have tracked you, tagged you, placed you, recorded you, spotted you. Your information has … [Read more...]

Persuading Isn’t Just about Argumentation

This week First Things ran an excellent article entitled "Pope Francis and the Clash of Revelations." Its basic argument was that all humans look at the world through the lens of certain basic "revelations" or foundational beliefs. While it may be "technically possible" for us to step outside these beliefs, almost nobody will. The result is that theists and atheists, Thomists and Utilitarians, communitarians and classical liberals all hold certain basic beliefs that make dialogue with the other … [Read more...]

How Civil Religion Competes with Christianity

The Baptism of Constantine  In prepping for a recent interview with Robert Bellah about his upcoming visit to Notre Dame, I spent some time thinking about one of Bellah’s most significant contributions to the study of religion: a nuanced understanding of civil religion. Bellah’s argument for considering “American Civil Religion” (our public religion expressed in the religious language of politics and national rituals) a “real” religion like any other draws on a long history of theorizin … [Read more...]

Literature Alone Won’t Save Us

 The New Yorker's faith in literature has been shaken by the fact that a great reader like President Obama is capable of ordering drone strikes (h/t FF contributor Blake Neff). In an article published on their site yesterday ("A Reader's War"), Teju Cole gushes about Obama's literary sophistication: Barack Obama is an elegant and literate man with a cosmopolitan sense of the world. He is widely read in philosophy, literature, and history—as befits a former law professor—and he has sho … [Read more...]