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This Life

James Wood wrote a tremendous review of Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom called If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything. Since I’ll be quoting a review that quotes the book, we’re two degrees removed from the source, but I don’t have the book yet and there are tons of ideas here I want to mark. Here’s one:



The year is 1943. The Supreme Court upholds the right to not say the pledge of allegiance in a classroom:

The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.


Charlton Heston: Commencement Address

I’m not sure I agree with all the points in Charlton Heston’s speech to Harvard Law School’s class of ‘99 entitled “Winning the Cultural War,” but I do think he makes some good observations:


Facebook Pictures: And Again

I recently wrote about the absurdity of using social networking photos as indisputable evidence in a piece called Puritanical, Tyrannical, Overreaching Public Schools. I centered my argument around events at Eden Prairie High School, events which have been essentially repeated at Woodbury High School (my alma mader). I’ll keep writing the same journal until something changes, I guess. Here’s the story this time around: instead of controversial pictures being reported to the school by an anonymous meddling informant (as they were at Eden Prairie), they were shown by a student at Woodbury High School as part of a health presentation about underage drinking. The common reaction is: “wow those students sure are stupid for putting these pictures online, then presenting them to a class.” Such a statement is an oversimplification of the situation and it conflates stupidity with naïveté. Allow me to explain.


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Puritanical, Tyrannical, Overreaching Public Schools

You may enjoy the discussion at Slashdot about an Eden Prairie, MN school attempting to punish students for pictures of the students drinking found on Facebook.


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