Would someone please answer the following question for me: Why do Americans – actually, I think Westerners generally, but I will stick with Americans – believe art is something that must be approached so … well … seriously? With most art, most Americans seem to believe that, when looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture or seeing a play or listening to a piece of music, they are obligated, on pain of being branded as culture-phobic philistines, to wear a facial expression that announces to the world Pity me! I am dying of terminal hemorrhoids!
Well, before anyone makes any cracks about that remark, I will back up a step or two and say that, yes, to be sure, some works of art are explicitly intended to evoke play, laughter, and light-hearted dalliance. A good example is
I am re-publishing this "Skeptic's" column today because, if anything, it is even more relevant today than when it first appeared. I am also re-publishing it because, when I originally published it, politics used to be ... you know ... both fun and funny. So for a few moments, we can share a trip down Memory Lane to a time of comparative innocence.
Well, we are in that time of year again – July in general, and the Fourth in particular -- when we all make the obligatory pilgrimage to the First Church of American Exceptionalism, also known colloquially and variously as "the back yard" or "the deck" or "the patio", where we celebrate the Sacrament of Opportunistic Patriotism with beer instead of wine, with burgers instead of unleavened bread, on an outdoor barbecue grill instead of an alta
Given my recent preoccupation with "life" issues generally and with the pro-life / pro-choice debate generally, I thought it might be advisable to reprint this column from several years ago for the sake of the statistics it contains about the incidence of spontaneous abortions / miscarriages worldwide, and the theological implications of these numbers. Debates about abortion tend to get lost in the intricacies of theologies and ideologies at the expense of appeal to actual hard data. My intent in reprinting this "Skeptic's Collection" column is not to ridicule pro-life people or their religious convictions. Rather, my intent is simply to make possible an appeal to empirical evidence vis a vis various theological reflections on abortion. Facts matter.
Back in February of 2014, I publishe...