What ornate vestments you have, Father! All the better to…

why-priests

Because my computer has shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible, the Atheist round results from the Turing Test will probably run Friday or Saturday, once I've got a replacement.Over at Fare Forward, I've taken a crack at reviewing Gary Wills's book Why Priests? A Failed Tradition and, if you want a very quick glimpse of how I felt about it, here's how the review kicks off: The first priest that Garry Wills takes aim at isn’t a man in a cle … [Read more...]

Recommendations for the Lives of the Saints

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I've just finished reading Sigrid Undset's life of Catherine of Siena, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that most of my knowledge of the lives of the Saints comes from Wikipedia.  Admittedly, Catherine was no less terrifying at book length than in a short article, but sitting down with Undset's book helped me take her in a bit more in toto, instead of as a timeline of miraculous acts and grotesque suffering.But I haven't read many other hagiographies.  I've read G.K. Chesterton's lives o … [Read more...]

The Strain of Pride

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I've read most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, but I'd never gotten around to his Tiffany Aching series til this month.  These books are pitched as more for children than the main Discworld sequence (which doesn't explain why my local library stored them, in order, in YA Fiction, Adult SF, YA Fiction again, and finally the Children's section).I'd say they're enjoyable, but not as much so as the main books (try Witches Abroad, instead, which I've just gotten onto my gentleman caller's q … [Read more...]

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Atonement?

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Eve Tushnet visited “Atonement: Stories About Confession, Redemption and Making Amends” (a night of true stories told/performed in preparation for the High Holy Days) and she found that the stories touched on regret and error, but rarely on atonement and penance. I wonder if atonement is especially hard to talk about–harder than sin, rationalization, or realization of wrongdoing. I’m doing this series on portrayals of penitence and it’s easier to find examples of artworks which should include pe … [Read more...]

Intuition Pumps and Other (sometimes extraneous) Tools for Thinking

Intuition pumps

Daniel Dennett has written three or four quite good books in 2013. It so happens they’re all appearing together as Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, which, to be honest, I might have enjoyed a bit more as several separate kindle singles.In the first book (as I’d break it up), Dennett introduces the concept of an intuition pump – a thought experiment that helps us use our intuition to get a handle on a knotty problem – and starts running through ways you can use vivid hypothe … [Read more...]

Modern Stoicism – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

stoic joy

A number of my friends have gotten more interested in Stoicism of late and have been reading A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine for a practical introduction.  I give Irvine total credit for writing a philosophy book that's meant to be actionable, not a historical survey.  But, as a recovering Stoic, I'd like to couple any praise with a warning about the philosophy.    The GoodA Stoic avoids becoming attached or indifferent to the things ze ca … [Read more...]

Strange Idols and Strange Identities

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In Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, Elizabeth Scalia has a simple definition of an idol. In the decalogue, we are warned by God to have no other/foreign/strange gods before Him.  So, in our modern age, Scalia points out, our idols are less likely to be something like, say a giant golden calf that give burt offerings, and more likely to be letting Reddit usurp our prayer time.  An idol doesn't have to be worshiped to impose itself between us and God.But what would it be l … [Read more...]


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