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There are many varieties of fame. Jesus Christ was the first person to achieve it globally, Clive James wrote, “without conquering the world by violence.” The best kind for a poet to earn, W. H. Auden said, is like some valley cheese — “local, but prized elsewhere.” Yet if all fame, like all politics, is to some degree local, how thoroughly it has been transmitted across the planet and through the centuries has been difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab, is giving that a stab. It has collected and analyzed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. With a few clicks on its website, you can swing through time and geography, making plain the output of, say, Brazil (largely soccer players) or Belarus (politicians). It also ranks professions from chemists to jurists to porn stars (No. 1 is Jenna Jameson; No. 2 is the Czech Republic’s Silvia Saint).
This week’s Newsweek cover: Who was Jesus?
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR!
And Don’t Miss Andrew Sullivan’s Latest Cover Essay:
“Forget The Church, Follow Jesus“ [Christianity In Chrisis]
This week’s cover features a very average-looking Jesus Christ, whose cover line urges we follow him—and ditch the church. The cover story is written by Andrew Sullivan, who who argues that Christianity in America is “in crisis,” as political issues like contraception, health care, and abortion have been usurped by religious thinking, and the kind of Christianity that is most essential and pure has been lost.
Here’s an excerpt (full story online and on newsstands tomorrow AM):
It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert. The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been? That’s why polls show a huge majority of Americans still believing in a Higher Power. But the need for new questioning—of Christian institutions as well as ideas and priorities—is as real as the crisis is deep.
Update: Cover story writer Andrew Sullivan will host a live Q&A Tuesday at 2pm ET if you’d like to join and discuss the piece.
This week’s cover (on iPad today, newsstands tomorrow) features a Jan 1., 2012 photograph depicting a blood-spattered poster of Jesus. It was taken at the Coptic Christian Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt after a bomb attack that killed at least 23 people. The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Army of Islam.
[Photograph by Ben Curtis, AP]