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Free?

The Slow Death of Free Speech by Mark Steyn.

How the Left, here and abroad, is trying to shut down debate — from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage.

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Wrong

You’re Wrong, Bart Ehrman by Robert Barron.

Well, it’s Easter time, and that means that the mainstream media and publishing houses can be counted upon to issue de-bunking attacks on orthodox Christianity.

The best-publicized of these is Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. Many by now know at least the outlines of Ehrman’s biography: once a devout Bible-believing evangelical Christian, trained at Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, he saw the light and became an agnostic scholar and is now on a mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of Christianity.

In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death. Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery.

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Wrong

What the Show Cosmos Gets Wrong about Religion—and Science by Elizabeth Yale. See here.

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Hysteria

Earth Daze: Overcoming Environmental Hysteria by John Stossel.

Environmentalism is now more religion than science.

More at Reason.

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Decline

PD reviews The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom by Steven D. Smith.

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Dante

How Dante Saved My Life by Rod Dreher.

A midlife crisis is cured by The Divine Comedy.

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Charlie

Roger Lewis reviews Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd.

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Matters

Yes, IQ Really Matters by David Z. Hambrick and Christopher Chabris.

Critics of the SAT and other standardized testing are disregarding the data.

More at Slate.

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Scientism

Against Scientism by John F. Crosby.

Steven Pinker understands the limits of scientific knowledge no better than the fundamentalist understands the limits of biblical knowledge.

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Searching

Searching for the Church of Islam by Amr Ezzat.

Amid the conflict currently underway in Egypt—between state authorities led by the military-backed government and the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies—another momentous battle is being waged over the country’s mosques and pulpits. Sermons, religious lessons, and charitable and development activities centered in mosques are an important sphere of influence for Islamist movements of various stripes. This arena is also a space to affirm the legitimacy of the regime in Egypt, whose government directly runs many mosques and oversees many more through the Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf). As such, mosques have long been the locus of struggles over power and influence between the regime and its men in the official religious establishment on one hand, and Islamist groups on the other. Currently, the Ministry of Endowments is instituting strict policies aimed at tightening its exclusive control over all Islamic rites and mosque-centered activities, in tandem with a sweeping security campaign targeting the activities of all Islamist movements, with the exception of the pro-government Salafi al-Nour Party.

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Puritans

Progressive Puritans by Matt Welch.

When I first started hearing people on the political left describe themselves with some frequency as progressive back in the 1990s, the term did not seem tethered to the epoch-defining, early-20th-century spasm of moral crusading and government centralization that helped give us everything from trust busting to Prohibition to the Federal Reserve. As articulated by champions like Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins, the progressive label was both a way to get out from under the generation-old baggage of liberal-a term Ronald Reagan and others had turned into an epithet-and to differentiate lefties from seemingly apologetic triangulators like Bill Clinton and that now-vanished tribe known as the New Democrats.

More at Reason.

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Assumptions

Philosophy and Morality in Public Discourse by Robert T. Miller.

If we want to move public discourse in the right direction, we should rely on the many assumptions we share with most of our contemporaries.

More at PD.

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Dishonesty

Diversity and Dishonesty by Ross Douthat.

EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.

Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”

No higher-up at Harvard endorsed her argument, of course. But its honesty of purpose made an instructive contrast to the institutional statements put out in the immediate aftermath of two recent controversies — the resignation of the Mozilla Foundation’s C.E.O., Brendan Eich, and the withdrawal, by Brandeis University, of the honorary degree it had promised to the human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In both cases, Mozilla and Brandeis, there was a striking difference between the clarity of what had actually happened and the evasiveness of the official responses to the events. Eich stepped down rather than recant his past support for the view that one man and one woman makes a marriage; Hirsi Ali’s invitation was withdrawn because of her sweeping criticisms of Islamic culture. But neither the phrase “marriage” nor the word “Islam” appeared in the initial statements Mozilla and Brandeis released.

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Disprove?

Alan Lightman reviews Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir D. Aczel.

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Postings

Postings will be light for the next week or so as I transition to a new computer.

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Jefferson

Juliane Hammer reviews Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg.

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Hope

American Hope: Don’t Conflate Political Culture and Christianity by Joseph Bottum.

If we have to make proof of Christian faith dependent on a willful attitude about politics in order to wage the culture wars, are they really worth fighting?

More at PD.

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Purity

Naked and Ashamed: Women and Evangelical Purity Culture by Amanda Barbee.

Throughout its history, the church has had a complicated relationship with the body, fraught with ambiguity and contradiction. The body has been seen as both a vessel for salvation and a barrier to salvation, and sometimes those positions have been held simultaneously. In the book Introducing Body Theology, Elizabeth Stuart discusses the evolution of a wide range of body theologies throughout major periods of church history. One such belief was that because Jesus took on a body and because that body was raised from the dead, nothing—even death—can now make the body impure. This idea was quite different from the beliefs of the gnostics, however, who believed that sin completely separated our bodies from God and that Jesus came to free our spirits from the shackles of the body. And the ascetics believed that while the body belongs to God, it is prone to decay, and they therefore refrained from marriage and childbirth, symbolically separating themselves from the patterns of the sinful world. In short, the church has gone through many different theologies of the body, struggling to make sense of our flesh and the role it plays in our eternal salvation.

More here.

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Virtue

Where Is the Virtue? by Anthony Esolen.

Our culture has become soft. We suppose that sex is too trivial to require virtue, yet we also believe it is so significant that to suggest any restraint upon its consensual exercise is an affront to the most important fount of human dignity.

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Marriage

Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado About Sex, Nothing to Do with Race by Ryan T. Anderson.

Whatever one’s views of marriage and however the state defines it, there is no compelling state interest in forcing all citizens to facilitate, participate in, or celebrate a same-sex relationship as a marriage. Believing that marriage is the union of man and woman is a reasonable position held by many. Bans on interracial marriage, by contrast, were grossly unreasonable. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not restrict anyone’s freedom to enter into whatever romantic partnerships he or she wishes. Americans should remain free to speak and act in the public square based on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman without fear of government penalty. No one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationships.

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