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

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security