Golden Rules: Playwright George Bernard Shaw detected a flaw in the Golden Rule: "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you," he said; "their tastes may be different." The late Richard Graham had his own take: "You shouldn't do unto others what you wouldn't want done to you" (Washington Monthly, January/February/March).
Get moving: Americans could cut carbon emissions by 64 million tons if they’d either walk or bicycle for 30 minutes a day instead of driving. They’d also collectively shed 3 billion pounds of excess fat in the process. Even more would be done for the environment if people gave up eating meat, since livestock production produces 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions (Sierra, March/April).
Strange love: David Levy, an artificial-intelligence researcher from London, thinks the time is coming when humans will hook up with robots for love, sex and even marriage. "If the alternative is that you are lonely and sad and miserable, is it not better to find a robot that claims to love you and acts like it loves you?" he argues (Scientific American, March).
Say a prayer for java: It is not so unusual that Catholic authorities in Croatia have opened a coffee shop. What is unique is that their customers can pay for their caffeine fix with prayers. The café in Zagreb charges four “Our Fathers” for a cappuccino and five “Hail Marys” for a Coca-Cola, the most expensive item on the menu (The Week, February 22).
Advice for fledgling authors: The late Aldous Huxley was often asked by aspiring writers for advice. Once, after reading a manuscript, Huxley gave this advice to its author: “You would do better, I believe, to leave the book for a year or two, forget it, then take it out, read it with new eyes and re-write it” (Times Literary Supplement, January 18).
Done got Jesus: Baylor University professor Ralph C. Wood, who grew up in east Texas, says that when he was a college student, a Baptist evangelist, after learning that Wood was an English major, asked, “Why do you need Shakespeare and them boys when you done got Jesus?” Wood says he is still trying to come up with an appropriate answer some 40 years later. (Perspectives in Religious Studies, Winter).
Match made in heaven? Almost half of American Jews marry gentiles, a rate that has tripled since 1970. But now JDate—a matchmaking Web site for Jewish singles—is teaming up with rabbis to reverse this trend. JDate offers a bulk rate to rabbis who will make subscriptions available to members of their congregations, and some of the rabbis are picking up the tab (Newsweek, January 21).
Kudos: Jason Byassee, Century assistant editor, won the 2007 American Academy of Religion award for best in-depth reporting on religion for news outlets with less than 100,000 circulation. He has also recently had two books published: Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the Psalms with Augustine (Eerdmans) and Reading Augustine (Cascade Books).
Speechless: Poet Scott Cairns recounts a Dan Rather interview with Mother Teresa in which he asked her what she says to God when she prays. “I don’t say anything,” she said. “I just listen.” Rather then asked what God says to her. “He doesn’t say anything,” she responded. “He just listens” (Crux, Winter 2006).
“Earth Mother is fighting back—not only from the four winds but also from underneath. Scientists call it global warming. We call it Earth Mother getting angry.”—Talking Hawk, a Native American from the Mohawk Tribe, preparing for a sacred ceremony to pray for the Earth
Male abuse? A prominent Muslim cleric in Malaysia has urged Malaysian women to stop wearing figure-hugging clothes. He calls the wearing of such clothing a form of emotional abuse of men, since it makes it hard for them to focus on their prayers and disturbs their sleep (UPI).
Big scoop: Americans spend $20 billion each year on ice cream. But according to United Nations figures, over the next 10 years it would take only $7 billion to provide clean water and basic sanitation for the entire world, and another $4 billion to finance basic health care for the same period that would prevent the death of 3 million infants each year (Theology, News and Notes, Fall).
Back to your roots: EcoEternity is offering a green form of burial: for a price the company will place a person’s remains in a biodegradable urn and plant it beside a mature tree. In time, the remains will be soaked up by the tree’s root system.
Disaster capitalism: Blackwater USA, which the Iraqi government now wants to throw out of Iraq for killing innocent civilians, was hired to protect FEMA operations at the cost of $950 a day per guard. Blackwater has used revenue from these government contracts to build up its own paramilitary infrastructure.
A Christian nation? According to an annual poll measuring American attitudes about freedom of religion, speech and the press, 55 percent believe that the country’s founders wrote Christianity into the U.S. Constitution (Chicago Sun-Times, September 12).