Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods?
Warriors among the Kwara’ae, a collection of tribal communities indigenous to the Solomon Islands, sacrificed pigs before battle. The tradition granted the combatants, so the belief went, aid from heroic ancestral spirits—like the mighty A’orama, a fierce fighter in Kwara’ae folklore. For every man who prepared to shed blood, a hog met its end.1 Any […]
Why We Had to Change the Meaning of Nothing
“Nothing,” in physics, is really quite something.Photograph by www.cafecredit.com / Flickr Nothing” isn’t what it used to be. It used to be something self-evident: the opposite, or the absence, of something. We still use the word this way colloquially, of course. When I’m asked, on the sidewalk, if I can spare some change or a […]
God Created Consciousness in Fiction
Given his grandeur, pettiness, and complexity, and his capacity for introspection, he’s the major exception to the flatness of ancient characters—God.Illustration by Humphrey King / Flickr Many modern novels do something that the earliest literature sometimes seems incapable of doing—representing the inner life of the individual, in all its complexity. The history of literature has […]
Science Is Not Constantly Being Proved Right
It’s a subtle point, but the British comedian Ricky Gervais was not quite right when he told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show yesterday, “Science is constantly being proved all the time.” Perhaps he misspoke. He was put on the defensive. Colbert, an idiosyncratic but sincere Catholic, was not really playing devil’s advocate when he […]
Is Santa Claus a God?
InnervisionArt via Flickr Santa Claus occupies a strange place in Christian belief. On the one hand, only children seem to really believe he exists; on the other, he gets a great deal more attention than many other purported supernatural beings, such as angels or Satan. Does Santa Claus count as a god of the Christian […]