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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The World's Newest Major Religion: No Religion, by Gabe Bullard, National Geographic

There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.

The Digital Afterlife Of Lost Family Photos, by Teju Cole, New York Times

Found photographs have long been important to artists like Lee. Photos taken by amateurs can sometimes acquire new value on account of their uniqueness, their age or simply the knowledge that they were once meaningful to a stranger. As part of a group, they can evoke a collector’s sensibility or tell us something about a historical period in a way professional photographs might not. For Lee, collecting found photographs of African-­Americans — a project he called “Fade Resistance” — had an additional and deeply personal meaning.

Chernobyl Prayer By Svetlana Alexievich Review – Witnesses Speak, by Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

I think it can be safely said that for the majority of Russians, over the greater part of recorded history, to have been born in that country has not been to draw one of the winning tickets in the lottery of life. A true history of its people need be no more than the howls of despair of millions of voices, punctuated by moments of incredible tenderness, courage and grim humour.

Inky The Octopus And The Upsides Of Anthropomorphism, by Rachel Riederer, New Yorker

Attributing human-like behaviors to animals is often thought of as unscientific, but in a new book on animal behavior, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?,” the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal argues that it is not, in fact, anthropomorphizing but its opposite—an unwillingness to recognize the human-like traits of animals, or what he terms “anthropodenial”—that has too often characterized our attitudes toward other species.

The Language Animal By Charles Taylor Review – How Words Change Our World, by Jonathan Rée, The Guardian

For the whole of his distinguished career in philosophy Taylor has argued in favour of the idea that language doesn’t simply map our world but creates it. This is the definitive statement of the case.

Bangkok’s River Of Kings, by Tony Perrottet, New York Times

When Somerset Maugham staggered from the Bangkok train station one steaming day in 1923, he knew exactly where to head: the Chao Phraya — the River of Kings — whose fresh breezes and open skies were even then a relief from the intensity of the Thai capital. Feeling the onset of malaria, Maugham checked into the Oriental Hotel, where verandas overlooked the busy waterfront. As his temperature climbed to 105 degrees, the writer, soaked in sweat and addled by hallucinations, overheard the Oriental’s owner telling his doctor that it would be bad for business if the author should die on the premises.

Try First Thyself, by Bill Beverly, The Paris Review

For thirteen years now I have taught at the same small women’s college. Its dining hall is an old building with high ceilings, long windows. I love the dining hall. My students hate it. But hating it is their job—I was like them once. I was a freshman grabbing food as if I were still playing high school soccer seven afternoons a week: the hamburgers, the pizza, the Coke machine and fried everything. Fueling the young body at full burn. The sandwiches. The glutinous cookies, perfectly round.

But I spent those freshman afternoons in the library, reading for Intro to Political Science: that fiery body was already gone. And quickly, I had had enough. One November day, I observed a classmate, Jenny, slender and freckled, sitting across the dining table eating a salad. Her plate bloomed with things that had recently lived. Broccoli and snap peas and sprouts and little tomatoes. A green apparition.