1. The results of a couple intertwining and potentially encouraging little social science surveys were made public this week. The first found that religious belief correlated with increased happiness, the second with increased education. This could well be a case of numbers being cooked, but hey, I’ll take it. The second one, reported by CNN, was a bit more surprising, ht JD:

After analyzing data from a large national survey, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel found that people actually tend to become more religious – by some definitions, at least – as they further their education… Schwadel found that with each additional year of education:

  • The likelihood of attending religious services increased 15%.
  • The likelihood of reading the Bible at least occasionally increased by 9%.
  • The likelihood of switching to a mainline Protestant denomination – Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian USA or United Methodist – increased by 13%.

2. Psyblog collects a fascinating round-up of articles on the Psychology of Creativity. There are more than a few echoes of what we talk about so often on here, that demand/criticism has a stultifying effect, whereas freedom/love an inspiring one. My favorite entries were 6 Ways to Kill Creativity and The Creative Power of Thinking Outside Yourself. Apparently, new research shows that we are more creative in the service of others than for ourselves (where there is less at stake). Go figure!

3. On Slate, a terrific article about The Coen Brothers by David Haglund, “I Watched Every Coen Brothers Movie.” I’m an obsessive myself, but could never quite put my finger on the impersonality of their work the way Haglund does:

The Coens, who edit and produce as well as write and direct all of their movies, take a supremely God-like approach to filmmaking...  Their shots are precisely, even ostentatiously composed (they “storyboard everything“), and often employ superhuman perspectives (moving through a drainpipe, say, to take one notorious example). Their stories are not, in any straightforward way, autobiographical…

At the mercy of these unpleasant men are our heroes and antiheroes: Fink, Larry Gopnik, Hi McDunnogh (Cage’s character in Raising Arizona), and so on.These relatively powerless men (and they are, for the most part, men; manhood is itself one of the Coens’ most common themes) move through a world ruled by uncertainty (Heisenberg’s principle makes notable appearances in two Coen movies) and chance (recall the repeated coin toss in No Country for Old Men, the wind in Miller’s Crossing, the many wheels of fortune in TheHudsucker Proxy). This world often seems bereft of inherent meaning (though several of the movies take a measure of comfort in simple human decency: The Coens are not nihilists), and it is haunted by evil and death. It’s also a world rife with misunderstandings and poor decision-making—hence, frequently, comedy.

For the record, if I were to rank their movies (as Slate does here), I would definitely put True Grit and Lebowski above No Country. And A Serious Man is much, much better than Burn After Reading. Of course, that’s just, you know, my opinion, man.

4. While we’re on the subject of lists, NPR put out a doozie this week with their Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels. If you’ve never read our take on the genre, go here. Elsewhere, NPR makes a rather half-hearted/lame attempt to answer Why We Revel in Other’s Humiliation:

But if most people are mortified at the thought of being humiliated personally, why are they also so titillated by watching others embarrass themselves?

“We live in a society which values power,” [sociologist C.J.] Pascoe says. “Watching someone else be humiliated gives us a sense of personal power. Because we’re not that person; we’re not the one being humiliated.”

5. Some inspired and close-to-home humor in Paul Simms’ short piece in The New Yorker, “God’s Blog.” My favorite comments are probably the one about the ducks and “epic fail” one. For a more serious look at the blog-trolling phenomenon, check out The Guardian’s “How the Internet Created an Age of Rage.” Clearly the Internet didn’t create anything that wasn’t already there (Mark 7), but man oh man, do they nail the (largely male) mentality that makes blogging about anything important such a mixed bag.

6. A timely interaction between Andrew Sullivan and an Eastern Orthodox seminarian, “Defending Christianity.” I’d frankly been wondering how the Orthodox natives had been handling the influx of (wide-eyed) refugees from Evangelicalism.

7. Finally, in music, October is shaping up to be an amazing month, at least where the major labels are concerned. In addition to the long-awaited George Harrison documentary and Noel Gallagher solo record (not to mention The Jayhawks’ Mockingbird Time at the tail end of Sept), both Ryan Adams and Coldplay announced this week that they’ll have new albums dropping then too. Yikes!