1. If you’ve been scratching your head over the whole “Rob Bell universalism” uproar this past week, conference speaker Mark Galli will set you straight with this charitable overview of how the topic of Hell has been dealt with over the centuries. Suffice it to say, there’s nothing new under the sun, and the outcry says a lot less about Bell than about the folks reacting to his as-of-yet largely unread book. 

To lighten the mood, check the sort-of related and apparently very real After The Rapture Pet Care (ht CH).

2. The Guardian takes a look at the new laugh-or-cry memoir by comic Rory McGrath, The Father, The Son and the Ghostly Hole: Growing Up Catholic. Evidently it plumbs the depths of Catholic guilt – stemming in this case from an experience of religion as Judgment with a capital J (and zero Gospel) – in a particularly unflinching and let’s-face-it tragic manner. Not exactly groundbreaking, but nonetheless striking, ht AOC:

“[After being disillusioned in high school, McGrath] never returned to the church, and he never quite shook it off. He was expecting to embark on a binge of guilt-free hedonism at university, but it didn’t quite work out like that. He felt rootless rather than liberated. “You think, ‘What do I do now, where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to be doing?’ It had an effect on my first years at university because I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know if this is to do with religion or just my character, but I had a total lack of self-discipline.”

Nor did the sense of guilt disappear with his divorce from the church. In fact it grew, and he started to feel responsible for anything and everything. “I think guilt grows inside you. I’m still discovering it now, aged well whatever age I am. I’m over 40 and now discovering it’s all guilt.”

3. In an editorial that touches on some familiar themes, CNN accuses ABC’s reality show Secret Millionaire of “shamelessly promoting a fantasy about the redemptive power of wealth.” I haven’t seen it but would love to hear others’ thoughts:

The message is clear: through hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything, regardless of your educational opportunities or social circumstances. In fact, there’s really no excuse for you not to become a millionaire, as long as you’re willing to “boot-strap it” (baby)… Because, of course, one’s identity is inextricably linked to one’s bank statement.

4. A bit on the lengthy side, but The NY Times magazine’s recent profile “The Billionaire Who Is Planning His 125th Birthday” has a surprising amount to say about grief, mortality, health and wealth.

5. This American Life stopped me in my tracks again this week with its must-hear episode “Oh You Shouldn’t Have,” in particular the section on confessional culture that begins around the 23:00 minute mark with an amazing quote from singer-actress Lillian Roth (who very much ‘broke the 4th wall’ in 1953 when she talked about her alcoholism on the television program “This Is Your Life”), ht BM:

“In each man’s heart there’s a secret sorrow that the world knows nothing about…” 

6. An oldie but a goodie from Psychology Today, “Mixed Signals,” exploring the differences between how we see ourselves and how others see us (ht JD):

The difference between how you see yourself and how others see you is not just a matter of egocentrism… In some areas, we know ourselves better than others do. But in other areas, we’re so biased by our need to see ourselves in a good light that we become strangers to ourselves.

Social judgment forms the basis for social interaction itself. 

7. As a follow-up to this week’s neuroscience posts, The New Atlantis published a helpful survey of a couple recent books that seek to answer the question of “What Scientists Believe.”

8. Finally, in the good-job-Internet department:

p.s. It was certainly a thrill to see our Ash Wednesday post featured on The Atlantic. Vielen Dank, Herr Sullivan.

p.p.s. If you’re not on our mailing list and didn’t get the conference/new site update that went out earlier this week, click here to view. Register today! (Especially if you’re planning on eating…).

p.p.p.s. Last but not least, we can’t resist bragging on one of our own: Andrea Zimmerman, who will be leading the breakout session Grace for Single Moms” at our upcoming conference, was recently honored as Woman of the Year in Sewickley, PA for her role in starting Side by Side, a ministry to – you guessed it – single mothers. Bravo, Andrea! ptL.