Secular Pilgrims in America

Atheists have long been a vocal minority in America, their relations with the dominant Protestant culture defined by consistent, unresolved antagonism, unexpected ideological affinities and interdependencies, and the back-and-forth movement of individuals between atheism and belief. Continue Reading »

Freemasons in America

That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culturedavid g. hackett, 336 pages, berkeley, $49.95 While many readers will know about traditional Catholic opposition to Freemasonry, many may be surprised to discover how Freemasonry engendered significant Protestant opposition as . . . . Continue Reading »

Sons of Nones

On a recent train ride, I sat next to a young German woman living in the United States. She was raised by atheists, but had a deep religious longing. She was baptized and tried Christianity. Her experience of Christianity in Germany left her wanting something deeper, and through a friend, became a . . . . Continue Reading »

Letters

FREUD While “The Back Page” is usually my favorite part of First Things, I must object to David Bentley Hart’s characterization of Freudian psychotherapy as deterministic in “­Roland on Free Will” (February). As a psy­chiatrist who has practiced and taught psychodynamic psycho­therapy . . . . Continue Reading »

The New Intolerance

In November, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech at the Catholic University of America in which he said, “Mercy has become the theme of [Pope Francis’s] pontificate. . . . With this theme, Pope Francis has addressed countless individuals, both within and without the Church. . . . He has moved . . . . Continue Reading »

Our Death Mounds

As the Western suburbs of Chicago go, it’s a spectacular view. To the distant north is the angular, imposing steeple of Wheaton Bible Church. To the south looms the imperious tower of Fermilab, guarding its unnaturally circular particle accelerator. Continue Reading »

Who Am I To Judge?

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work—cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.” Continue Reading »