From The Faster Times, Oliver Miller reviews world religions. From the most rational standpoint, all religions — pagan, polytheistic, monotheistic, Zen, whatever — lie somewhere on a scale of wackiness. A look at 3 silly religious beliefs held by non-silly people. From The Scriptorium, an article on Oprah-style religion and choosing the truth over The Secret; John Mark Reynolds on reading old books like the Bible: It would help if more people with opinions about the Bible had read it; and a look at why Obama is not the Antichrist. A review of Global Catholicism: Diversity and Change Since Vatican II by Ian Linden. More and more and more on A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Enter the Holy Now: How African Pentacostalism is commercializing global Christianity. Can nations be "Christian"? An English debate (and more). A review of A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion by Catherine L. Albanese. A review of Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher. A review of Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality by Philip G. Davis. The Book of Harry: How the boy wizard won over religious critics — and the deeper meaning theologians now see in his tale. Scientology's no good, very bad week: Oscar-winner Paul Haggis breaks with the church, leader Tommy Davis storms off "Nightline", whither Tom Cruise? (and more and more)  Cult Busters: How governments decide whether a religion is real or not. From IEET, William Sims Bainbridge in Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0 (and more).

From Cabinet, a dry black veil: Brian Dillon on the hovering horror of the plague-cloud; and reading to the endgame: D. Graham Burnett and W. J. Walter on a novel approach to computer chess. Clever fools: Why a high IQ doesn't mean you're smart. The choice between logical and rude: Are manners logical or superficial? (and more and more) 10 TV shows you have to watch to understand the world: The master lineup of iconic shows that shaped our pop-culture landscape. Sparing a thought for endangered sites: An article on the World Monuments Fund’s biennial Watch List of at-risk sites. A review of Clive Finlayson's The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived. A review of The Best American Essays 2009, edited by Mary Oliver. More and more and more and more on Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. An interview with Ken Caldeira on which geoengineering schemes might work and which are fantasy — or worse. The limits of cleverness: More and more and more and more and more and more on Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. When figures get personal: Real-estate developers factor in love of 6 and 8, fear of unlucky 4 and 13 — what happened to floors 40 through 59? (and more) Shorter of breath and one day closer to death: Is the recession making Americans rethink our brithday mania? A review of Future: A Recent History by Lawrence R Samuel. Copyright from John Adams to mp3s: A review of Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

From The Daily Beast, for the president to have a chance at becoming another FDR, he needs a big push from the left; denouncing the Obama administration’s missteps or worse doesn’t get us far — it promotes exactly what the president’s adversaries seek; if only Obama's performance mattered more: The last year has taught a hard lesson about the power of a determined minority to keep the majority in check; and the dangers come after Year One: History has taught us not to take presidential first years too seriously. From Esquire, whaddaya mean Obama hasn't done anything? A blow-by-blow breakdown of the young president's first year reveals that today's frustration stems not from a lack of policy so much as a lack of common ground. On the first anniversary of his election, Obama's promise of change remains unfulfilled — but he could yet be one the of the greatest presidents America has ever had. More and more on The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe. Why hasn't the lunatic fringe shut up already?: Charles Pierce on how Obama's first year became a dangerous time for democracy. What if Hillary had won? Imagining the past year had Clinton clinched it in November. Why is Nancy Pelosi always smiling? Like Obama, she is more pragmatist than liberal ideologue; unlike Obama, she doesn’t care what you think of her; in fact, she may not even know. Defending a bomb-thrower: Thank heavens for Alan Grayson, who’s bringing moral backbone to the health-care debate (and more). The consciousness of a liberal: Wallace Shawn (aka "Vizzini")'s Essays is a rare contemporary example of artful, eloquent leftist writing (and more).

Mario Rodriguez (Penn): Sign Story: Shifting Discourse on "Signage" in Progressive Grocer Magazine, or the Supermarket Under Late Capitalism. A review of Tabloid Valley: Supermarket News and American Culture by Paula E. Morton. A review of Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor. A review of Checkout: A Life on the Tills by Anna Sam. Shopped Out: The mall is dead, long live the mall. A review of Shoptimism by Lee Eisenberg. A review of Lauren Weber's In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue (and more). A review of The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business by Nelson Lichtenstein and Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America by Lawrence B. Glickman (and more). Why we don't hate Wal-Mart anymore: The evil empire doesn't look so bad, now that Americans have Wall Street to kick around and a new appreciation for those everyday low prices. Localwashing: How corporate America is co-opting “local”. Built to Trash: Is "heirloom design" the cure for consumption? The first chapter from The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity by Russell Roberts. Critiquing capitalism and the relationship between consumer culture and power, Josephine Meckseper uses objects and images to express political dissent. A review of Land of Necessity: Consumer Culture in the United States-Mexico Borderlands. The Yard Sale: Among the things discovered on coming to the US: Americans' habit of selling stuff on their lawns. A review of Consumerism and the Co-operative Movement in Modern British History: Taking Stock.