Century Marks

Century Marks


This is the first year that Thanksgiving Day in the United States and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah coincide, which has led to a flurry of Jewish levity and commercialism. A nine-year-old New York boy raised over $48,000 on Kickstarter for his trademarked “Menurkey,” a turkey-shaped menorah. A mother outside Boston teamed with an artist to create and sell Thanksgivukkah- or Turkukkah-themed shirts, cards and posters. Ten percent of sales are going to a Jewish hunger relief organization. Hanukkah actually begins the evening before Thanksgiving (AP).

As good as cricket

Speaking at a book launching, the militant atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is a cultural Anglican. He would miss church bells if they were gone, and he views evensong in a country church with the same appreciation as he views a cricket match on a village green. Dawkins lauds the “benign tolerance” of the Anglican tradition, which makes it possible to appreciate religious traditions without actually believing in them. He suspects that many Anglicans “don’t believe any of it at all” (Telegraph, September 12).

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).