Laura Ingalls Wilder’s annotated autobiography

I remember well our teacher reading to us fifth graders the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilders, which were based on the author’s childhood on the American frontier.  Her descriptions in The Long Winter of the blizzards, the isolation, and Pa surviving in a snow bank by eating oyster crackers still come to my mind whenever there’s a heavy snow.  The series of novels on her family’s moves all over the West are classics of children’s literature and masterful works of art by any standard.

Her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, which tells about  the actual experiences that the novels were based on, was published a few years ago.  In November, it is coming out in an annotated edition, which will spell out all of the connections to the novels, as well as specifying the differences between the novels and the reality.  The edition will also include a wealth of pictures and unpublished material from her diaries and notebooks. [Read more…]

How scholars proved that the “wife of Jesus” text is a forgery

I’m a little late on this, but I just learned the details.  You will remember a few years ago when a Harvard professor announced the discovery of an ancient manuscript fragment in which Jesus refers to “my wife” and says “she will be able to be my disciple.”  Many questioned the text’s authenticity, but everyone had to wait for further tests.  Then there were tests, and news reports said that the fragment is very ancient and that the text appears to be authentic.

But, finally, just before the summer, scholars proved once and for all that the document is a forgery and a hoax.  Read how they did so after the jump. [Read more…]

The youth who stopped Pickett’s Charge

President Obama will reward the Congressional Medal of Honor to two  Viet Nam War vets, Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and, posthumously, Specialist Donald P. Sloat (who jumped on a grenade to save three comrades). Also winning the nation’s highest honor posthumously is Lt. Alonzo Cushing, a 22-year-old who commanded an artillery battery that took the brunt of Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Read what he did after the jump.
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The political roots of atheism

Atheists are always invoking science, but notice how often their arguments and rhetoric use political language.  God allegedly “oppresses” human beings, taking away their “freedom.”  They say that God is “immoral,” that, in the words of John Lennon, if we imagine no religion, “the world would live as one.”

In fact, as Nick Spencer shows in Politico, the origins of atheism in the West had little to do with the rise of science; rather, it grew out of radical political movements.  Marxism, of course, but before that the mindset of the French revolutionaries, with their anti-clericalism and opposition to the Catholicism that was allied to the old royal order.  Many of these revolutionaries were Deists, but others took the next step of atheism.   There were, however, some countries–such as the United States–in which the church did not oppose the new “liberal” ideas, so that atheism had little traction.   After the jump, a link to Mr. Spencer’s article and an extract. [Read more…]

Alexander Hamilton on religion

July 11 was the 210th anniversary of the death of Alexander Hamilton, who was killed in a duel with the sitting vice president Aaron Burr.  Hamilton was one of the important founders, having written most of the Federalist Papers, being a key aide to General Washington, and organizing the foundations of the American economy.  He well deserves to be on the ten dollar bill.  But, according to Mark Movsesian, “he also wrote one of the most important texts on the place of religion in American public life.” [Read more…]

Lessons from Bastille Day?

Today is Bastille Day, marking the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.  There were some major differences between that and the American Revolution, but there were some major similarities too.  What can we learn from them both?  We celebrated our country on July 4, but maybe this could be a time for some healthy self-criticism. [Read more…]