Two fine not-behind-paywall items from this week’s New Yorker:
Adam Gopnik on Elaine Pagels’ new book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
As Stephen Batchelor has recently shown, the open-minded, non-authoritarian side of Buddhism, too, quickly succumbed to its theocratic side, gasping under the weight of those heavy statues. The histories of faiths are all essentially the same: a vague and ambiguous millennial doctrine preached by a charismatic founder, Marx or Jesus; mystical variants held by the first generations of followers; and a militant consensus put firmly in place by the power-achieving generation. Bakunin, like the Essenes, never really had a chance. The truth is that punitive, hysterical religions thrive, while soft, mystical ones must hide their scriptures somewhere in the hot sand.
Hendrik Hertzberg on the Satanic Reverses of the GOP:
…the Republican “base”—an excitable, overlapping assortment of Fox News friends, Limbaugh dittoheads, Tea Party animals, war whoopers, nativists, Christianist fundamentalists, à la carte Catholics (anti-abortion, yes; anti-torture, no), anti-Rooseveltians (Franklin and Theodore), global-warming denialists, post-Confederate white Southrons, creationists, birthers, market idolaters, Europe demonizers, and gun fetishists…
…Romney has had remarkable good fortune in those he has shared the stage with. His rivals in reputed reasonableness obliged him by dropping out sooner (Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty) or later (Jon Huntsman). What remained was a kick line of clowns, knaves, and zealots for the fabled base to examine, exalt, and, as soon as each surged past Romney to the top of the polls, expunge. The Donald flashed first, but Trump the Candidate smelled less sweet than Trump the Fragrance. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin’s understudy, muffed her lines. Herman Cain fell fast when the grievances of a disgruntled ex-mistress packed him off to political Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan. Rick Perry slunk out with an “oops,” but his most damaging lapse was to blurt that only people without “a heart” would treat as criminals the blameless children of immigrants without papers.