Why Facebook Can’t Replace Religion

Drawing on social-science research that has noted Americans’ declining participation in associations both religious and secular, and that has also found a strong correlation between churchgoing and charitable activities, Mark Zuckerberg recently argued that social media can help rebuild social bonds and encourage good deeds. Mark Bauerlein is skeptical:

Zuckerberg [sees churches as] communities held together by no other glue than the interests and needs of their members, plus strong leadership. God plays no necessary role in the process, though nothing in Zuckerberg’s description rules Him out. We can find our “sense of purpose” in one another. We don’t make strong demands upon ourselves and our brothers and sisters (and we certainly need not allow God and His deputies to tell us how to live), but we do give comfort and succor and belonging to each other.

A little more than a century ago, this draw-down of God went under [the label of] humanism. . . . Once you’ve adopted the humanist we-can-do-it-alone conception, you may start believing that the church did indeed come together as a therapeutic social contract. We convene and pray and give because we love one another. A religious community/church is just one kind of gathering, and it’s declining. . . .

Two years ago, I chaired a panel at Virginia Military Institute on social media and the social good. . . . [One] speaker . . . stated that [social media] were the largest and most effective instrument of charitable giving in existence. He displayed data demonstrating the diverse causes and promptings of donation in the United States, with social media standing clearly at the top. . . . I had to ask, “In your surveys, did you include weekly church collections?” He paused before issuing a modest “No.”

Read more at First Things

More about: American Religion, Charity, Civil society, Facebook, Religion & Holidays, Social media

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict