Century Marks

Century Marks

Room for doubt

In a recent interview Pope Francis addressed the topic of faith and certainty. If someone has the answers to all the questions, Francis said, “that is the proof that God is not with him.” The great leaders of the faith have always left room for uncertainty. “You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties.” There is one principle about which the pope is certain: “God is in every person’s life. . . . Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life” (America, September 30).

Unequal pleasures

Philoso­phers have long talked about two different kinds of pleasure: hedonic pleasure gained through good food and drink and eudaimonic pleasure gained from serving the common good. Researchers have discovered that the two kinds of pleasure have different biological consequences. Hedonic pleasure leads to a gene expression associated with inflammation that can cause arthritis and heart disease. Eudaimonic pleasure has the opposite effect: it reduces the stress associated with inflammation. Hedonic pleasure may be the emotional equivalent of empty calories: it offers short-term pleasure with long-term ill effects (ScienceDaily.com, July 29).

Priestly digs

Archaeologists from the University of North Carolina are excavating a first-century mansion on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion near the walls of the Second Temple built by King Herod the Great. The mansion has fancy features for the time, such as a bathtub and a cistern 30 feet deep. A large number of Murex sea snail shells have been found among the ruins. A blue dye extracted from these snails was prescribed by Jewish texts as the coloring agent for religious garments. The archaeologists think the mansion could have belonged to a priest of Jesus’ time, possibly even the high priest Caiaphas or his father-in-law Annas (NBC News, September 17).

They’re here

The Muslims Are Coming is a documentary film by an Iranian-American and an American with Palestinian-Italian roots. The film takes on Islamophobia by showing what happens when a troupe of Muslim comedians do stand-up comedy in red-state America. “It was alarming to me that being a Muslim became an accusation,” said one of the film’s producers. They have found that most Americans are usually tolerant, especially once they get to know a Muslim (RNS).

Sick system

The United States spends more on health care than any other country, with too little in the way of results to show for it. The U.S. ranks 25th in maternal mortality, 26th in life expectancy, 28th in low birth weight for infants and 31st in infant mortality. Compared to countries with better health outcomes, the U.S. spends far less on social services. This results in more ill health and requires the health-care system to provide social services that should be available elsewhere. Five percent of Americans account for 50 percent of all health-care spending. These are often poor people who are locked into bad habits in bad environments (Ezra Klein’s Washington Post blog, September 19).