The United States ranks as the most religious country in the developed world. And New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says that despite our politics, debates and doubts, this country is as God-besotted today as ever.
But in his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Douthat argues that religion has fallen into heresy (hence the feisty subtitle). Douthat recently spoke with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about why he thinks American Christianity has become distorted.
Many famous names went down with the Titanic, like the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on the ship, and Macy's department store owner Isidor Straus.
But you may not know about one of the ship's doctors — John Edward Simpson. Aboard the Titanic, Simpson wrote a letter to his mother back home in Belfast. It was mailed from the great ship's last port of call before it made its disastrous turn across the North Atlantic.
This weekend, the Farrelly Brothers' version of The Three Stooges arrives in theaters. You'll see plenty of Larry, Moe and Curly. But who won't you see? Shemp. Or, as NPR's Sue Goodwin calls him, "Uncle Shemp."
For more than 20 years, the indie-pop group The Magnetic Fields has been singing songs about love, though not always in the traditional sense. With a style that ranges from bitter to sincere to ironic, Stephin Merritt — the group's frontman, writer and producer — has created a growing cast of characters surviving love's vicissitudes.
In his characteristic deadpan, Merritt tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that he owes the inspiration for many of those characters to a particular ritual of his.
I think that one of the great works of humankind runs below an airport runway in Sarajevo.
Sixty-six feet of a 3,000-foot-long tunnel built during the Siege of Sarajevo have been restored. Twenty years ago this weekend, the city was surrounded by Serb armies, who rained down mortar, rockets and sniper fire.
Just when it seemed to be gaining steam, the U.S. job market pretty much stalled in March. Employers added a net 120,000 jobs during the month, defying the higher expectations of a lot of economists. And though the unemployment rate fell, it did so for the wrong reasons.
Over the past few months, the economy has been adding jobs at a good, if not spectacular, pace, and all the signs suggested that trend had continued through March. As it happened, jobs increased at a rate that barely keeps up with population growth.
A weaker than expected jobs report is a setback for President Obama as the election nears. The president says that while private employers have added some four million jobs over the last two years, economic security remains elusive. The president spoke yesterday at a White House conference on women in the economy, and as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, voters who are women may be the key to the president's political future.
The race for the Republican presidential nomination has hit a lull. The next group of primaries isn't for more than two weeks, so it might be a good time to look around at another campaign for control of the U.S. House of Representatives. After all, they control the federal budget. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute devotes his attention to Congress year round, and he joins us from their studios. Thanks very much for being with us, Norm.
Tomorrow, Christians all over the world will observe Easter Sunday with joy. But what is joy? Not just happiness, laughs, or satisfaction, but joy? We turn to Father James Martin. He's a Jesuit priest, a contributing editor to America Magazine, and the author of "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of Spiritual Life." He joins us from our studios in New York.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for your letters.
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SIMON: A particular phrase we used in last week's coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting prompted many listener comments. In our profile of Angela Corey, the Florida state attorney directing Florida's investigation into the circumstances surrounding Martin's death, we described George Zimmerman the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin in February as a white Latino.
Rascal Flatts is one of the most successful country crossover acts of the past decade. The award-winning trio has released eight studio records in 10 years and sold more than 21 million albums.
So why did the group recently consider breaking up?
"We had reached a crossroads to where we needed to dig deep to see if we, in fact, had the fire and hunger that we did when we first started out — to keep trying to forge ahead and be better than we'd been and push ourselves to be creatively energized again," bass player Jay DeMarcus says.
'Scuse me, but is someone trying to kill off food critics?
What about themselves?
Frank Bruni, the former restaurant critic of The New York Times, now an op-ed columnist, has revealed that he has gout.
Gout is a painful inflammation of the joints that's been called the King's Disease because it's historically associated with the kind of gluttony only kings could afford: profuse servings of beef, lobster, goose liver and strong drink.
The new movie Mirror Mirror stars Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen. In June, another Snow White movie opens starring another Oscar winner, Charlize Theron, in the same role. And Disney is working on a new animated film loosely based on Snow White set in 19th-century China. So what makes Snow White so right for right now?
Every day in New Orleans, Lily Keber rolls out of bed and walks to a flat, minor office building to meet her muse. Keber makes a cup of coffee with chicory, hooks up her computer and waits for what sounds like a dozen spiders to crawl across a piano.
The situation in Syria has deteriorated further this week. Government troops once again opened fire on thousands of protesters, armed rebels continued their own resistance, which looks more and more like an insurgency. All this despite a push by the United Nations fro a cease-fire. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.
KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: It's hard to know where to start when it comes to Syria. First, let's go the protests that continued despite the fact that violence is on the rise.
Americans have always been fascinated by con men. Why else would we have so many movies about legendary swindlers? Most real-life cons are probably less entertaining than the ones on the silver screen, but in her new book, Amy Reading unearths a historical swindle that rivals anything ever imagined by Hollywood.
Julia Nunes (pronounced "noonz") grew up in New York state, but went to college far away from her hometown friends and family. To keep in touch, she posted videos to YouTube — mostly goofy scenes from her dorm room.
The history of the city of London dates back to the Romans and beyond. So, when you start digging massive tunnels beneath that place, it's always going to be interesting. And that's just what's about to happen.
MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON: I hereby declare Ada and Phyllis unleashed.
As London prepares for an Olympic influx, the world's athletes are not the only ones limbering up. Composer Tom Hunt is at work with members of a British team who compete in the equestrian sport called dressage. He joins us from the BBC studios in Salford.
Thank you for joining us.
TOM HUNT: Thank you for having me.
LYDEN: The music that you compose for the equestrian competition, tell us how the music and the horse work together.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Jacki Lyden. The soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians is today being held at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales now has an attorney and the lines of his defense are beginning to emerge. The case has also put America's prosecution of the war in Afghanistan on trial. There are new disputes between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
In the Law of Dreams, Canadian writer Peter Behrens' first novel, an Irish immigrant, based on Behrens' grandfather, makes his way out of famine-starved Ireland to Canada. The novel came out in 2006 to wide acclaim and won Canada's Governor-General's award for fiction.
Now, Behrens has followed up with another multigenerational novel. The O'Briens opens in 1867, with teenage Joe O'Brien scratching out a living in Quebec after his father and mother have both died.
Though guitarist Moot Davis grew up a New Jersey rocker, he had an appreciation for country music thanks to his West Virginian parents. But it wasn't until he saw a certain cola commercial that he really turned a corner.
I hope it's not ungentlemanly to note that Junie Hoang is 40 years old. Her birth date appears in the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb, as does the fact that she has played a headless woman in Domain of the Damned and Ms. Fix-It in Voodoo Dolly.
She doesn't sound like a woman to cross.
Junie Hoang is going to court against IMDb, which is owned by Amazon, because it reveals her age in her entry. She believes that could cost her work.
Host Scott Simon reports on the other candidates for the Republican nomination for president: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. This week, they've been campaigning in the South and Midwest in the hunt for votes and nominating delegates.
As the candidates stump for votes, Republicans in Kansas and two U.S. territories will caucus today, and pick their choices to be the Republican nominee this fall. Many voters will show their support for a particular candidate. Long before they cast any votes, they might put up a poster or plant a yard sign for their candidate. These signs spring up like mushrooms every campaign season. Do they actually work?
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. One year ago this weekend, Japan was battered by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. One of the places hardest hit was the coastal community of Yuriage. What was once a beautiful fishing village, and home to a bustling community of thousands, is now a desolate and deserted place. Doualy Xaykaothao reported from there shortly after the earthquake, and has just returned to file this report.
NPR's Richard Harris talks with host Scott Simon about the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors, one year after multiple meltdowns there spread radioactive materials across a swath of northern Japan. Huge technical challenges remain and prospects for resettling the area are uncertain.