An imposter faith

Teens are becoming "fake" Christians

If you're the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:
Your child is following a "mutant" form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.
Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.
Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion.
The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.
The study included Christians of all stripes -- from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

(Via The Port Stands at Your Elbow.)

Miyazaki and Chesterton together

Legendary animated movie maker Hayao Miyazaki drew the cover for a Japanese edition of G.K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill. You can see it here.

Links, July 27, 2010

Critical reason isn't enough:

In my experience, although the modern university is full of trite, politically correct pieties, for the most part its educational culture is cautious to a fault. Students are trained—I was trained—to believe as little as possible so that the mind can be spared the ignominy of error. The consequences: an impoverished intellectual life. The contemporary mind very often lives on a starvation diet of small, inconsequential truths, because those are the only points on which we can be sure we’re avoiding error.

We can worry about getting on the wrong train in the foreign train station whose signs we can’t read. But we should also worry about dithering in the station too long and thus failing to get on the right train. We could starve to death in that station if we never leave. This, it seems to me, is the essence of Newman and Pascal’s insight. Sometimes, the dangers of failing to affirm the truth are far greater than the dangers of wrongly affirming falsehood.


In praise of wet blankets:

I too have a fervor—a fever, in fact—for political inactivity. I want to be part of a movement that makes electoral politics so boring that rather than having term limits, we’ll need laws requiring politicians to serve their full term. I want to join a party that make politics and government work so dull that political journalists and elected officials dream of leaving their fields for the exciting worlds of actuarial science and telemarketing.

I want to thrown in my lot with others who want to throw a wet blanket over politics and whose desire is to dampen the enthusiasm for all forms of political activity. I want to consort with citizens who are willing to arrest the ardor, dash the devotion, sap the spirit, and zap the zeal from anything that remotely resembles political enthusiasm. I want to create a new party, dedicated to the mastery of the art of anti-propaganda and committed to the conscientious devotion of alert inactivity.

If this is your dream too, then I hope you’ll join me in the Wet Blanket movement.


Daniel Mitsui has been posting a series of notes on Catholic pioneers of aviation, starting with Eilmer of Malmsbury, the first test pilot. The most recent post concerns the exceedingly eccentric Charles Waterton and includes links to the earlier installments.

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Links, July 20, 2010

{jcomments on}R.R. Reno on the status of the Catholic Church:

"I don’t think, however, that the Catholic hierarchy has grasped the sociological and institutional consequences of counter-cultural status. If you’re not a player, you’re much more vulnerable: more vulnerable to being flayed by public opinion, more vulnerable to journalistic Jihads, more vulnerable to politically aware governmental officials who see that skewering bishops can advance careers, more vulnerable to angry protesters and bitter victims.
"So, yes, of course the Catholic Church has brought the current scandals upon herself, with a great deal of blame going to the hierarchy. But the social impact, the lasting consequences, the feeling that a great deal it in peril? No, it’s not a function of sin within the Church, however horrifying the sexual abuse might be on its own terms. Instead, the scandals reveals a change that is part of a realignment within European societies.
"Put simply: the Church has become largely disestablished on the ground, with few going to church (a social reality the consequences of which were masked, perhaps, by the remarkable charisma of John Paul II), and therefore it can no longer retain the privileges of social establishment, one of the most important of which is protection from debilitating criticism."


Scientifically underdetermined: a note on John Polkinghorne:

"It's with that recognition that there is a possibility of giving an account of divine action within nature, which is compatible with science. It relies neither upon a God who intervenes outside the usual play of nature, nor seeks low-level causal gaps. Rather, God's action could be viewed as analogous to top-down, emergent causation – particularly when it implies signs of purpose or intentionality.
"An obvious – though obviously contentious example – could be the relationship between mind and the neural components of the brain. To put it simply, if neurons affect our consciousness from the bottom-up, mind might be said to do so from the top-down. That'd be one way of understanding human agency. Divine agency could be described by analogical extension."

(Via Steven Riddle.)


Steven Riddle on books like Lolita:

"There are some subjects, no matter how beautifully couched or archly written, no matter how knowing or humorous, no matter how smugly self-assured and self-involved (I think here of Nabakov whose writerly persona is so thoroughly repugnant that if one wishes to enjoy the fiction one needs to forget who has written it, and whose opinions are as pertinent and yet blindly prejudiced as those of certain other professional critics) that simply cannot be ignored for the sake of art. When we do so we coarsen discourse and society. I know, that is not a popular opinion; however, I'm very willing to say that the epidemic of sexual child abuse and of attempts to legalize it (NAMBLA, for example) is directly attributable to Nabokov's broaching of the subject matter and the beautiful and even sympathetic treatment of the monster at its center. The critical acumen necessary to twist Nabokov's distant and yet not disapproving treatment of Humbert Humbert into an indictment of what he does is not present in the ordinary reader. And the fact that the victim is punished as thoroughly as the transgressor doesn't help the case of the critics who would argue that Nabokov's work is not at least superficially sympathetic to the monster in the middle.
"So too with American Psycho...."