The inside dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence
February 5, 2016

The top floor of Giotto’s campanile—just a few feet below the very peak—is 414 ever-narrowing steps above the pavement. That puts you almost at eye level with tourists who stand at the base of the lantern that sits atop Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome, the crowning symbol of Florence and, perhaps, of the entire Renaissance.

A light mist fell today as I looked the length of the duomo and at that magnificent, octagonal, and still-not-quite-finished dome. I imagined the double faith the Florentines had in constructing a new cathedral over the one that had served them for centuries. They not only had faith in their religion, which they wished to glorify along with their city, but faith that someone would come up with a way to construct a dome wider than any that had built before,...

February 2, 2016

Should I believe in miracles? This question doesn’t pertain to whether I should believe in this miracle or that miracle. It has to do with whether I’m rationally justified in believing in miracles as such.

DAVID HUME’S WISDOM FOR THE WISE

The eightenth-century Scottish skeptic philosopher David Hume argued the wise man should not believe in miracles. The basis for his assertion was what might be called the “repeatability principle”—evidence for what occurs over and over (the regular) always outweighs evidence for that which does not (the rare). Since miracles are rare and contradict our uniform experience, Hume argues the wise man ought never to believe in miracles.

While it’s true that a wise man should base his belief on the...

February 2, 2016

Controversy concerning sports mascots has been raging in our culture for the past several decades. Many groups have found certain mascots offensive due to pejorative racial or ethnic epithets, such as the National Football League’s Washington Redskins. The clamor to change these mascots to something more palatable to modern sensibilities has been growing.

This campaign has taken aim not only at professional sports franchises but also colleges and universities. Recently, the University of North Dakota changed its name and mascot from the Fighting Sioux to the Fighting Hawks after an acrimonious process involving an official Nickname Committee and a period of time when the university’s sports...

January 27, 2016

Sara Winter, 24, is a summa cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, the curriculum of which featured an abusive father and brother, exposure to drug abuse, a stint in prostitution, a painful abortion, and the thick darkness of despair.

Winter is a pen name. It befits the harsh experiences she has undergone. Her real name is Sara Fernanda Giromini, and she became the face of FEMEN in Brazil. She got herself in the papers and in jail, having been arrested more than a dozen times.

FEMEN is a feminist-activist group founded in the Ukraine in 2008 by Anna Hutsol. (In 2013, Australian documentarian Kitty Green outed a Victor Svatsky as the group’s financial svengali.) For her part, Sara quickly identified with FEMEN’s cause, particularly with its anti-male...

January 26, 2016

The Hindu practice of raja yoga has become popular in Western culture, especially within the New Age movement. Chanting om while sitting in the lotus position is meant to make one consciously aware that all is one (monism) and all is God (pantheism).

That’s right! You read correctly. As a meditative technique, yoga is supposed to lead to knowledge that the tree is god, you are god, and I am god.

I would argue that such a technique is futile. No enlightenment can ever occur because the end goal is not real—all is not God.

Among the many ways one can disprove the notion “All is God,” I will offer two simple arguments.

Argument #1: God's immateriality

The first is from God’s immateriality. The reasoning is as follows:...

January 25, 2016

“How to win friends and influence people” has a flip side: “How to lose friends.” One of the easiest ways is by sticking to one’s convictions—or, at least, by sticking to them while making them known. There can’t be many readers who have never lost a friend or, at least, annoyed someone dear by maintaining a principle and conforming their actions to it.

Your Uncle Filbert abandoned his wife, got a civil divorce, and now is intending to marry someone else. Do you attend the wedding to please him, even though by doing so you may give others the impression that you see nothing wrong in what he is proposing to do (enter a state of adultery)? Or do you decline to attend on principle, knowing that your relationship with him may be...

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