Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

recent articles

Seeing Things: Another Vision of Philosophy

According to the commonly accepted story about the early spread of Christianity, the followers of Jesus, taking their cues from Judaism and the Master’s personal teachings, converted the ancient Greeks, Romans, and other peoples from a superstitious polytheism—usually joined with a more or less open licentiousness—to a belief in the one true God and a … Read more

Seeing Things: A Man of Desires

Apologetics has always been a difficult business, but it has gotten even harder as the very starting points for religious argument have receded from most people’s minds. And to modern ears, apologetics sound too much like an apology—for what the clerics, or the Church, or even God have been up to over the last 20 … Read more

Seeing Things: The Two Cultures Revisited

Ever since C.P. Snow delivered his famous 1959 lectures, “The Two Cultures,” the English-speaking world has had a ready-made formula to sort out the problems created by the immense power and prestige of science and technology on the one hand and the uncertain status of the rest of human knowledge on the other. But this … Read more

Seeing Things: Music of Our Time

Europe is the heartland of Western culture, and it bodes ill that so little of enduring cultural value has come out of that heart in recent decades. Europeans look down on the United States as a powerful giant with an inferior culture, but at least America still has the vitality—and the will—to do something in … Read more

Seeing Things: The Future of the Past

Discontinuity with the past has become a familiar feature of modern life. In the developed nations, popular traditions of religion, family, and community have all but evaporated as people move out of settled locales and into a highly mobile and fluid new society. What most of us have lost in this process has generally not … Read more

Seeing Things: Seven Modern Martyrs

“We have cut the throats of the seven monks as we said we would do. It happened this morning. May God be praised.” This expression of ferocious Muslim piety appeared in a communiqué signed by Emir Abou abd al Rahmen Amin on May 21, 1995, and records the deaths of seven Trappist monks who had … Read more

Seeing Things: A Philosophical Journalist

Journalism is not philosophy. Which does not stop journalists from entering into areas where angels might fear to tread. There was a time when journalists were drawn from a different class than they are today. Both they and their readers took what they said about matters beyond mere reporting with a grain of salt. Oscar … Read more

Seeing Things: Breaking With Etiquette

Since September 11, an unfortunate etiquette has grown up around the subject of Islam. Our political leaders fall all over themselves to make it clear that America is at war with Islamic terrorists, not their religion. In public debates, most American intellectuals bemoan our lack of—what else?—openness and inclusiveness towards other cultures and decry American … Read more

Seeing Things: Kindly Light

History occupies a different position in the modern world than it once did. Since roughly the French Revolution, large swaths of the West have made liberation from the past a conscious project. And because out civilization depends heavily on technology, we have grown accustomed to the notion that what is old—bursts of nostalgia notwithstanding—is gone … Read more

Seeing Things: Literature Regained

Why is so much modern literature disappointing? One plausible answer is that most literature in any age is mediocre and that our sense of the emptiness of a large percentage of what comes from the publishing houses merely reflects the fact that there are few geniuses alive at any moment. A fair assessment. But contemporary … Read more

Seeing Things: Epic Struggles

The bombing campaign against the Taliban began on October 7, 2001, the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary and the 430th anniversary of the 1571 defeat of the Turks in the naval battle at Lepanto. Osama bin Laden and his evil minions, who pay attention to such things, probably noted the date and chalked it … Read more

Seeing Things: Counselors for the Defense

In case you haven’t already noticed, for some years there has been a growing effort in diverse educational and cultural circles to paint Christian history as a blot on human existence. There are more than a billion Catholics and several hundred million Protestants in the world today—very few of whom are self-evidently wicked or convinced … Read more

Seeing Things: The Mystery of the Agony of Simone Weil

I do not know whether the French mystic and writer Simone Weil (1909-1943) was a saint. On balance, I think not. She may have been something even rarer: a true contemplative who still had many deep flaws. In the plus column, Weil wrote about spiritual questions with a penetration that may be unequaled since John … Read more

Seeing Things: The Boys of October

Some conservatives look back with nostalgia at the Cold War. It gave us, they believe, a moral crusade that kept our country at least minimally engaged in something loftier than the getting and spending that are so much a part of modern American life. I am not one of these romantics. Too many people suffered … Read more

Seeing Things: The Way We Live Now

Morality and freedom are related terms. It is impossible to conceive of a being who lacks freedom but also wonders what is the right thing to do. And what would moral freedom mean without competing moral choices? A free being without a moral dimension would be a bizarre beast. That is why the Christian tradition, … Read more

Avery Dulles’s Long Road to Rome

When the phone call came from the papal nuncio telling him he had been named a cardinal, Rev. Avery Dulles, S.J., was in his Fordham University office talking with a student. Father Dulles had heard rumors about his pending appointment, but he also knew that it is as easy to be dropped from a gossipy … Read more

Seeing Things: Poetry That Matters

Flannery O’Connor once warned about the pious overvaluation of an often unhappy literary hybrid: “The Catholic novelist doesn’t have to be a saint, he doesn’t even have to be a Catholic; he does, unfortunately, have to be a novelist.” Dana Gioia is a poet, essayist, and a Catholic. But no fair reader will ever accuse … Read more

Seeing Things: Boomers and the Buddha

The only religion that enjoys near-universal respect in our culture is Buddhism. Even revelations of corrupt Asian “holy” men or Buddhist nuns involved in fund-raising scams never seem to touch its vague prestige. Christianity and Judaism are well-known and widely practiced. But in the academy, in Hollywood, among journalists, and at publishing houses, both faiths … Read more

Seeing Things: Quick Thinking

A former boss, a Protestant with a strong religious sense of the importance of not wasting time, passed out a copy of The One- Minute Manager to the whole staff at an organization where I worked some years ago. It was a pious effort to get us all to consult with him, and for him … Read more

Seeing Things: Funny Papers

People read newspapers for many reasons. The purest spirits go straight to the sports or the comics. In my adopted home, Washington, D.C., national politics (it’s a company town) starts the morning for many poor souls. You can tell when someone with the habit hasn’t scanned the day’s Washington Post: shaky hands, shifty eyes, fear … Read more

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