First Things junior fellow Kevin Staley-Joyce examines how JFK secularized the Catholic conscience:
Perhaps the most cognitively dissonant trend that Kennedy set in motion was his self-styled dualism, a vice of mind now ubiquitous among Catholic politicians. The personal–private gap can hardly be parsed logically without resort to a radical division in the mind. Just as Kennedy claimed to be a neutral instrument of justice while privately a Catholic believer, so do modern Catholic politicians claim to possess multiple consciences to deal with ethically charged issues. Rhetorical acrobatics notwithstanding, this public–private divide simply fails to meet the standards of common sense. When would a Catholic politician claim private opposition to larceny while supporting it as a valid choice for a segment of his constituents?
Also, Thomas S. Hibbs takes a look at religious themes in recent films:
Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, a serious contender for worst movie of 2009, is noteworthy mostly as a disastrous attempt to channel Allen’s humor through the caustic verbiage of the increasingly unfunny Larry David. But the problem is deeper than casting. In Whatever Works, David plays the New Yorker Boris Yellnikoff, a once-famous scientist who inexplicably ends up taking in a young homeless woman, Melody St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), a former beauty-pageant queen from Mississippi who embodies every caricature of the God-fearing, gun-loving South. Replete with Yellnikoff’s screeds against the South and its religiosity, the film sees New York as the place of cosmic enlightenment for backward outsiders. The film also shows how ill-suited David is to anything beyond an extended skit and how astonishingly in decline are the artistic powers of Woody Allen. It is as if Allen set out to make a film that would fulfill the religious right’s worst allegations about Hollywood. Exceptional only for its poor quality, Whatever Works is among a group of recent films that embody the shallow critique of theology pervasive among the so-called new atheists.