How internet porn explains the decline of American faith

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith. … [Read more...]

Revenge and the simplistic morality of Hollywood

Last week I watched Silverado with my son, Fionn. It's one of the greatest westerns ever made. But something bothers me about the flick, something that recurs in many movies. In short, revenge as a moral good.Movies tend to turn on rather simplistic morality, which is understandable since the whole drama must be condensed to roughly the same amount of time we spend in the bathroom each week.As a result, we tend to get whatever morality is quickest to explain. That means when it comes to … [Read more...]

How God uses work to fashion our souls

God sanctifies our labor. The Apostle Paul enjoined us to work with our hands (1 Thes 4.11) and provided the example, stitching tents as a common tradesman (Acts 18.3). Though we might mistake it as part of the Curse, work is a holy undertaking.Sometimes the church makes this point in explicit terms, other times in subtler language.Not long ago I looked at an icon of Archbishop Luke of Simferopol and Crimea, a recent Orthodox saint who lived from 1877 to 1961. Following the fashion, … [Read more...]

Writing the best version of yourself

"Is there a way in which all of us are fictional characters, parented by life and written by ourselves?" asks James Wood in his book How Fiction Works. I read Wood's book several years ago now but remain fascinated by that thought -- particularly the notion that we in some sense write our own lives.There are external forces that shape us; we are "parented by life," as Wood says. But we should never lose sight of the internal forces at work; our lives are also "written by ourselves." It's … [Read more...]

Why it’s good to remember our sins

Over the course of several books, crime novelist Philip Davison gave life to his character Harry Fielding, an operative in British intelligence tasked with undesirable jobs. A small train of colorful characters orbit through Harry's universe, including his flamboyant aunt Kate.At one point in the final Fielding outing, A Burnable Town, Kate wants her nephew to go to church."Oh God," Harry exclaims. "I don't have to contemplate my sin, do I, Kate?"She answered with "a very … [Read more...]

When you feel like judging your neighbor…

I can be pretty judgmental. It's one of my many failings. I read something about the topic a few weeks back that has stuck with me. It's from Bruce Marshall's novel, The Word, The Flesh, and Father Smith:Always remember that you can't see into other people's souls, but you can see into your own, and so as far as you know there is nobody alive more wicked and ungrateful to Almighty God than yourself.A helpful reminder. While we sometimes have to make calls on what people say or do, we … [Read more...]

Jesus vs. the philosophers

I just starting a new book by the contemporary Egyptian monastic elder, Matthew the Poor. He died in 2006, and Conciliar Press has published a collection of his talks under the title Words for Our Time. I plan on doing a full review soon but failed to make it past the first chapter before finding something I had to share:The teachings of Christ are not the type of wisdom boasted of by worldly philosophy; rather, Christ's wisdom is housed in very simple words. "Love your neighbor as … [Read more...]