Wil Hylton, who profiles Craig Venter in the most recent issue of The New York Times Magazine, observes that:
It’s been interesting over the years to see him become more open about his beliefs. Venter doesn’t believe in God. There was a time when he kept that private, and worried that it would muddy the perception of his work, which was a legitimate worry, by the way. It’s not trivial that his rival in the human genome project was Francis Collins, who’s now the head of the N.I.H. and a devout Christian. So you had this very easy narrative, irresistible to reporters everywhere, about the selfless public scientist who loved God and man, versus the greedy corporate atheist who wanted to buy life.
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely decided to look at 23 major cities on Craigslist to see how many people in each community were giving away their used items rather than trying to sell them. As he explains on his blog, “we took the number of free items being given away in one week and divided it by the number of items being sold in the furniture category, as a quick index of generosity. In a nutshell: for every 100 items of furniture being sold, how many items are being given away for free?”
Here’s what he found (click on image for larger view):
Michael Valpy of The Globe and Mail observes that:
Young Canadians, who religious leaders once hoped would find their way back to faith, are instead doing the opposite: leading the country’s march toward secularism. And with the exception of evangelical Christians, they are doing it at an accelerated pace.
More than half of Canadians in the 15-to-29 age cohort either have no religion or never attend a service of worship, says Statistics Canada. Only 22 percent say religion is very important to them, down from 34 percent in 2002. And in a recent poll done by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail, just one in five of the under-30 age group say they are the generation of their family that attends weekly religious services.
The cause, on the one hand, is a product of a progression that began with the crash of religious attendance 50 years ago, with each succeeding generation becoming further removed from—and ignorant of—religious beliefs and practices. Religious scholars see perhaps the majority of today’s young Canadian adults as disappearing down a black hole of spiritual illiteracy from which institutional religion cannot retrieve them. The cause is also a product of young adults increasingly seeing organized religion as illogical and out of touch with reality.
As Susan Orlean observes on her New Yorker blog:
Sometimes I’m dazzled by how modern and fabulous we are, and how easy everything can be for us; that’s the gilded glow of technology, and I marvel at it all the time. And then my mom will call, and in the course of the conversation she’ll say something disjointed that disturbs me and reminds me of her frailty, and then she’ll mention that it’s snowing hard in Ohio and I’ll wonder how she’s going to get to the grocery store, and I look at my gadgets and gizmos, and I realize none of them will help me. If anything, they’ve filled me with the unreal idea that everything is possible; that virtual is actual; that you can delete things you don’t like; that you can find and have whatever it is you want whenever you want it; but instead I’m learning that the truest, immutable facts of life are a lot harder and slower and sometimes sadder, and always mystifying.