Same-sex marriage is a headline issue, but if there is a contest for advancing the decline of traditional marriage, co-habitation clearly takes the trophy. In many countries, more young people are living together "without the benefit of clergy", as they used to say, than are walking down the aisle.
Is "try before you buy" really a good idea?
Dr Patricia Lee June, of the American College of Pediatricians, says it isn't. In a stunning article below, she shows that life as a cohabiting couple is shorter, poorer, unhealthier and unhappier than life as a married couple -- even if the man and woman later marry. It is a sombre message which young people need to hear.
New research shows that the religious population is growing faster than the non-religious, but Christians have no reason to feel complacent. Muslims are catching up and could overtake Christians by the end of the century.
Still looking ahead, Marcus Roberts finds that he will turn 116 (the age of the oldest person in the world, Gertrude Weaver, for the six days prior to her death on Monday) in 2101. Gertrude said the key to longevity is to treat people with kindness, so I think there's a good chance Marcus might make it.
David Cameron in our new video -- recommended by a reader -- praises Christians for their kindness. That is kind of nice, although one cannot forget that he has made life more difficult for Christians in Britain (some at least) by introducing same-sex "marriage" on his watch. As the Welsh say, "There's nowt so queer as folk."
One of the big stories of the week -- a Columbia University report confirming that a sensational Rolling Stone story about rape at the University of Virginia was based on a big lie -- has people asking how that could happen. My own reaction is, beware of any sensational story. Barbara Kay in her piece traces the journalist's gullibility to "the myth that rape is a common crime on campus that is not taken seriously" and a readiness to believe the worst of men. I must say that I have wondered myself whether American university campuses could be as bad as all the reports about "rape culture" suggest. What do you think?
Today's good news story can be found in the front page video spot. In this two-minute film Dolmio combines self promotion with a great message about family life. I am guessing you will want to send it to your friends.
Today, Francis Phillips reviews what sounds like a fascinating , if controversial, book on how the "great dictators" of the first half of the 20th century attempted to mould and manipulate family life for political ends. According to the author, this tactic was as its most destructive in post-revolutionary Russia and least destructive in Italy, for reasons you can read for yourself. Paul Ginsborg also looks at the families which nurtured the tyrants, which in itself would be a fascinating read. It is good to see the family getting some serious attention from historians, even if, in this instance, it is during a period of extreme and and destructive forces.
It was only last week, was it not, that I said religion was a subject difficult for us to avoid, and so it appears again today in Zac Alstin's piece about the resurgence of paganism in Iceland. A Norse temple is under construction -- who could resist prying into that?
Among today's articles is an account of Paul Sullins defence of his study of the emotional wellbeing of children being raised by same-sex couples. The social science closed shop of America has tried to discredit it but Sullins' defence is almost as revealing as the study itself. This is all deadly serious stuff as it is arriving at the US Supreme Court in the form of amicus curiae briefs on the issue of same-sex marriage. We can never forget that the wellbeing of many children hangs in the balance.
It is that time of year when Christians throughout the world commemorate and celebrate, relive liturgically, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. At MercatorNet we try not to wear our faith on our sleeve, so to speak, but religious faith of one sort or another is so often in the news that it is difficult to avoid talking about it.
The more that articles of the Christian faith are questioned, attacked and ridiculed, the more reason there is for believers to understand them better and explain them better. This is what Jesuit priest Fr James Schall writes about in his article, Why the Resurrection? He says:
In this sense, the biggest skeptics about the truth of the Resurrection are, or ought to be, Christians themselves. This approach means that not only do the facts of time and place have to be coherent, but the understanding of what is going on has to be logical and explainable. It has been the considered judgment of philosophical Christians, reflecting on the evidence, that no effort of archeology, critical analysis, historiography, or science to dislodge the facts and thus the truth of this event’s reality has been successful. They remain open to consider any new hypothesis or evidence to the contrary.
In the end, though, such great mysteries can only be understood from the inside, after an act of faith, by contemplating them and celebrating them. To all who are about to do that this weekend, to all who are sympathetic but unable to believe, and even to those who find intellectual excitement in trying to demolish what they think is a myth -- Happy Easter!
From this distance, it's hard to tell, but Nigeria's election has been a great success. Despite some violence and lots of cash distributed to voters, it seems to have been free and fair. President Goodluck Jonathan is stepping down without contesting the result, a promising outcome for democracy. The accession of a former military strongman, Muhammadu Buhari, gives hope for reducing corruption and defeating Boko Haram. It's not all bad news in Africa. Read Richard A. Joseph's excellent backgrounder.
There will be one more newsletter this week and then we are taking a holiday over the Easter long weekend. Our next newsletter will arrive on Tuesday next week. Happy Easter.
A few years ago Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was a best-seller in the US and around the world. Written by a Yale law professor (and mother), it explained why Chinese/Korean/Japanese mothers force their children to excel or... Well, some of them do die, actually. In South Korea, suicide is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 30.
Our lead story today deals with the pressures of the Korean education system. It is harsh and competitive, but the hard work and tension appear to pay off, as South Korea is at the top of world education rankings. But is it good for the children and the country in the long run?Judge for yourself.
How much can mental illness explain? Unhappily, this is a question that we all face this week after the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately flew the plane into a mountain, killing 149 passengers and himself. Leaked medical reports about Andreas Lubitz suggest that he was depressed, but is depression enough to excuse mass murder?
In Boston, much the same question is being asked about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. His attorney is expected to argue that his 19-year-old brain was not mature and that he should not be punished as an adult.
In this issue Andrew Mullins, an expert in the intersection of neuroscience and morality, argues that the “teenage brain” cannot take away culpability. “Any 10-year-old can hurt another child on impulse but every 10-year-old can tell you that murdering the innocent is wrong. One does not have to be an adult, nor even a teenager, to know this.” It’s fascinating reading. Check it out.
The week’s most prominent tragedy, the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 killing 150 people, seems increasingly to be part of the mystery of evil. Zac Alstin, reflecting on the awful event before the latest indications that the co-pilot was a depressive, writes that the most likely motives for his taking all those people to their deaths with him seem to have been absent.
"So at present we are haunted by the more disturbing possibility that some undetectable, untreatable, simply malicious act of volition was behind it all. Like the mysterious tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH317, what we fear most is an unknown cause, a risk we cannot identify."
What such heinous crimes – if that is what this is – confront us with, says Zac, is the lack of a shared concept of virtue in our societies. We have become experts in dealing with people who “go bad” but “we do not know how to make people want to be good.”
He makes an excellent point, and one that shows that there is a positive, constructive response to such man-made disasters – if only our societies will embrace it.