About Me

I write the biweekly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and also report for The Atlantic, The Nation, This American Life, and elsewhere. I have four daughters and two dogs.

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Cal-Berkeley to cut sports to save money

Cutting sports to save academics is the right move. Only an American could think otherwise. Oxford and Bologna and Université de Paris did not become great because of rugby or snooker or even soccer or crew.

Note that rugby, for example, will persist, but as a club sport, without the same level of funding. That is a perfect solution. Of course students should play sports in college; but at what cost?


One book I have no interest in reading

I noticed that Jennifer Senor — a very gifted and lively writer, many of whose pieces I have enjoyed — is going to be writing a book based on her New York magazine article about how having kids makes people less happy.

I think I read that article when it came out, or tried to, but boy am I the wrong audience. I think parenting is the best thing ever. If I had a trust fund I would work less and parent even more.

Now, I am very fortunate to have as much time as I do to parent, and to have a great partner, and to have had healthy children and a supportive community. I am gainfully employed, have a low mortgage, have no college debt, and do not have to worry about money. I am well aware that many parents have stressors I do not, and I also believe that, especially the way the poor and middle class are squeezed in this economy, many parents feel they are coming apart, with the burden of having dependents making things worse.

That said, I have a visceral reaction against people who complain about parenting. I think it is rather tacky, actually: I would not complain about my wife for public consumption, nor would I complain about my daughters to people I do not know.

And in fact it is one of the great virtues of Jennifer Senor’s piece (which I just took a quick break to read) that in fact it is very short on anecdotal whining and long on synopses of research. I hope the same will be true of her book.

But I still probably will not be able to read it. I hope it brings enlightenment, comfort, and joy to many others.


Christopher Hitchens is No Antony Flew (whatever that means)

It is intriguing to see my old article about ex-atheist (and now ex-human, in the Monty Python ex-parrot sense: dead) Antony Flew being dragged into discussion of whether people should pray for Christopher Hitchens. The author of the post seems to think that maybe Hitchens is worried that, in some future declined state, he will be persuaded to announce a belief in God, and that perhaps Flew's conversion to deism, after decades of famous atheism, stoked those worries.

Well, I am dubious that Flew is on Hitchens’s mind. But it is nonetheless a good time to re-read that magazine story of mine, in some ways the most troubling thing I have ever written. Basically, some evangelical ghost-writers wrote a book about God, favoring a kind of deist, Intelligent Design cosmogony, and put Flew’s name on it. He did not write the book, and when I asked him about what was in the book, he did not know. He had not heard of some of the writers “he” cited in the book with his name on the cover. It went way beyond acceptable ghostwriting. It was a scandal. And HarperCollins leapt to the book’s defense, issuing statements putatively from Flew that he did know what was in the book — although he never gave an interview to that effect, did no publicity for the book, and indeed had, well, failed to show that he knew anything about the book when I asked.

But look, go read for yourself...


More on money and religion...

Just so you know it's not all “Bishop” Eddie Long these days, here is some uplift about money and religion.


Hitch on Bishop Long (NO, not literally!)

Always good to hear what Christopher Hitchens has to say about a fallen (or falling) man of the cloth.

As for me and men and cloth, I will be debating Sam Harris about religion on The Economist's web site, next week I believe it is. The topic is “Resolved: Religion is a force for good.”