It's always good to discover thoughtful voices in the blogosphere - so I'm grateful to Tom for pointing me towards Andrew Brown's Helmintholog.
Brown used to be religious affairs correspondent for the Independent - and seems to have written intelligently about an intimidating range of other subjects. On the blog, he makes neat work of the "new atheism", but I was particularly struck by another post about the effect of reporting on religion:
I don’t myself know any religious correspondent whose faith has survived writing about it — possibly some of the more radically pessimistic Catholics, but even there I am not sure... The most one can believe is that some of these deluded people are doing better, both for themselves and for the world, than they would be without their delusions. This is quite enough to keep me from full-on pharyngular atheism. I don’t think human nature is modular enough that you can simply swap out the delusional bits, and leave the rest intact. Believing fewer false things is a very long struggle. Journalism teaches you that, too, if you want to learn it.
I like the way he explains his position, even if I don't share it. But the thought which came to me was that the loss of faith he describes sounds like a variant of the general tendency to cynicism among journalists. It's an occupational hazard (and one of the reasons I was glad to quit the newsroom): an understandable response to prolonged, close-quarters exposure to "news", skewed as it is towards the worst in life. Most of the things which make life worth living aren't remotely newsworthy.
This leads to another thought. Once upon a time, people used to worry about the influence of TV on young people. What I worry about is its influence on the elderly. If I were frail and lonely and reliant on BBC news for my picture of the world, I think I'd soon be too afraid to leave the house...
(Other suggestions for blogs I should check out gratefully received, by the way.)