Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Moral Arc

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether people are serious when they make preposterous claims, or are just riling up their fellow believers. For example, a British politician noted, “Since the passage of the Marriage [same-sex couples] Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods.” Blaming God’s anger at gay people for bad weather is nothing new. It’s an American tradition: after every tornado of hurricane, at least one religious wingnut points the finger at same-sex coupling as the reason for God’s liquid wrath. Apparently hurricanes are God’s way of teaching humanity, once again, that straight sex is the only kind of which the Almighty approves.

-Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom


The Body Keeps the Score

As human beings we belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from our relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), and the violence and betrayal in our own lives. But traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations. They also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even on our biology and immune systems.

-Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma


Our Only World

On the day of the bombing in Boston, The New York Times printed an op-ed piece by a human being who had been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than eleven years, uncharged and of course untried.

-Wendell Berry, “The Commerce of Violence,” in Our Only World: Ten Essays

Our Kids & More

“If we can begin to think of these poor kids as our kids, we would not sleep for a second before we figured out how to help them,” says Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis). Here‘s one of the year’s most important books.

Says Lawrence Wright (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief): It is really interesting to understand why people are drawn in to the church. What do they get out of it and why do they stay? If you can understand that, in reference to a belief system that most people regard as very bizarre and has a reputation for being incredibly vindictive and litigious, then you might understand other social and religious and political movements that arise and take very good, kind, idealistic, intelligent, skeptical people and turn them into people they wouldn’t otherwise recognize.” Here.

“The trouble comes when people can interpret any religious text to mean whatever they want. ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ gives you permission to physically abuse your child. The notion that one can pray for healing is taken to its illogical end to where you can pray instead of giving modern medical advances a chance to work.” Here‘s Paul Offit (Bad Faith).

“An epic American tragedy.” Here‘s a review of Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel A Little Life.

My Sunshine Away

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk on Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot.

-M.O. Walsh, My Sunshine Away: A Novel


The Big Seven

Sunderson must have been about ten and was burning up with fever from strep throat and still had to go to Sunday morning Lutheran service.

-Jim Harrison, The Big Seven

Into the Savage Country

I was twenty-two years old and feverish with the exploits of Smith and Ashley.

-Shannon Burke, Into the Savage Country: A Novel


American Reckoning

The first popular American book about Vietnam was a love story.

-Christian G. Appy, American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity


The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture

The Committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.

-Senate Selected Committee on Intelligence, The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture


The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate?

-Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins: A Novel