Miscellany, December 29

  • Per John Tierney in the Times, a new review of the literature has “concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control”, which may help explain why religious belief is often associated with greater success in such goals as personal health and marital stability. Mere going through the motions doesn’t seem to be enough, “Dr. [Michael] McCullough told me, because personality studies have identified a difference between true believers and others who attend services for extrinsic reasons, like wanting to impress people or make social connections. The intrinsically religious people have higher self-control, but the extrinsically religious do not.”
  • A new Vanity Fair article based on interview with GWBush administration insiders includes this quote from David Kuo:

    “The reality in the White House is – if you look at the most senior staff – you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders,” Kuo said.

    “In the political affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at … basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable. These guys were pains in the butt who had to be accommodated.”

    Note, by contrast or otherwise, DH’s just-preceding post on GWB’s personal beliefs.

  • For those who haven’t overdosed on the subject, the gang at Volokh Conspiracy have a lot to say about the “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” question, with attention to the use of the latter phrase (long before the recent culture wars) as an attempted way to avoid awkwardness between Christians and Jews. Relatedly, David Kopel brings word that readers of the Boulder, Colorado, Daily Camera, have now heard from one of the world’s touchiest atheists on the subject.

About Walter Olson

Fellow at a think tank in the Northeast specializing in law. Websites include overlawyered.com. Former columnist for Reason and Times Online (U.K.), contributor to National Review, etc.
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