The Great Agnostic

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  Some biographies praise their subjects so effusively that they seem to take on the status of demigods, full of power, wisdom, and something more than mere humanity. Others do a disservice to the subject by making, perhaps unintentionally, his concerns seem narrow and his work seem uninspiring. Susan Jacoby’s The Great Agnostic is of the latter category. It recounts the life of Robert Ingersoll, the 19th-century American Freethinker dubbed “The Great Agnostic.” Relatively … [Read more...]

Strange Gods

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  Pop quiz: define “idol.” If the first thing you think of is Israel dancing around a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia would have you know that you’re a bit out of date. But with the publication of her new book on idolatry, Strange Gods, it might be more appropriate to wonder if she’s the one late to the party. From Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart to Presbyterian pastor Timothy Keller, Seattle mega-church preacher Mark Driscoll to pop … [Read more...]

This Town

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  As a recent transplant to Washington, D.C., I seemed well-placed to review This Town. My hope was that Mark Leibovich, a veteran political journalist with the New York Times and previously the Washington Post, was going rogue and painting a vivid and gruesome picture of how America’s capital really works. The book would be a call to arms and show how D.C. is sick and needs fixing. But This Town is not a book that shows how D.C. really works. Instead, the book itself is a perfect … [Read more...]

The New Digital Age

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  3D printing leading to global manufacturing on demand, the complete reshaping of the idea of going to school, fleets of driverless cars... these are just some of the innovations Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen describe in their new book, The New Digital Age. In the book, Schmidt and Cohen don their Nostradamian hats and offer a slew of predictions about how emerging technological innovations will dramatically change our lives. The authors are interested in the wide array of impending … [Read more...]

The Village

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  The first time I ventured into Greenwich Village — that quintessential New York City neighborhood, celebrated for being at once countercultural and culture-defining — it was for a cupcake. Tourists and locals alike used to line up around the block at Bleeker and West 11th, waiting up to two hours for a Magnolia’s vanilla-vanilla. (That’s vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.) Today, however, we Uptowners don’t have to venture so far from home to get our hands on … [Read more...]

Death, Diversions, and the Credo

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  In the face of death, Tocqueville and Pascal saw two paths toward despair. Pope Benedict XVI offers a third way of confronting mortality  The French writer Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “[M]an comes from nothing, traverses time, and is going to disappear forever into the bosom of God. One sees him for only a moment, wandering, lost, between the limits of the two abysses.” Throughout history, most philosophers, theologians, and psychologists have, with Tocqueville, … [Read more...]

Prodigal City

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  The bankruptcy of Detroit is a consequence of multi-faceted social problems that defy simple solutions and pat answers. To love the city will require more than creative thinking.  When news broke of Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy, The Onion dealt with the matter, as it so often does, with sharper insight than any of the news articles my concerned friends and family sent me—“Report: Detroit Bankruptcy Might Transform City Into Some Kind Of Hellish, Depopulated … [Read more...]


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