The 1940s and America’s Proto-New Age

The decade of the 1940s represents a profoundly underappreciated era in American history, and that is especially true in matters of religion. The period is of course dominated by the events of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath, together with debates over race, civil rights and desegregation. Oddly, though, in so many ways, [Read More...]

Be Nice to Missionaries

Harline Way Below

There are many good reasons to read Craig Harline’s Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. First of all, it offers solid proof that at least some historians have a wicked sense of humor and can employ it in writing. This [Read More...]

American Sniper, Blue Bible

American-Sniper-Movie-Poster

Spoiler Alert: In the post below, I disclose some of the details of the plot of American Sniper (2014).  Most people already know how the story turns out, but for those few who may not, I offer this alert. When I went to see American Sniper (2014) last week, the showing was sold out and [Read More...]

Mani the Prophet

There is an excellent new contribution to the literature on the Manichaean religion: Iain Gardner, Jason BeDuhn and Paul Dilley, Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings: Studies on the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex (Brill 2015). Yesterday, I described the rediscovered ancient texts on which this book is based. Although this is a rich [Read More...]

Mani and the Persian Kings

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I have been reading an excellent new scholarly book on the Manichaean religion: Iain Gardner, Jason BeDuhn and Paul Dilley, Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings: Studies on the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex (Brill 2015). This post is not intended as a serious academic review, but rather as a series of thoughts and [Read More...]

Enter Adam

Michelangelo,_Creation_of_Adam_03

In the mid-first century AD, St. Paul wrote some hugely influential words about Adam, the Fall, and original sin. As I have argued, these ideas seem  at variance with earlier Biblical traditions and Jewish thought, in which Adam’s story made little impact. Around Paul’s time, though, that saga was attracting increasing interest. Paul, oddly, was [Read More...]

The Kirtland Temple

Kirtland Temple, 1934, from the LOC Historic American Buildings Survey collection

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836 by what was then the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The vast majority of those visitors are members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they come in part to see where Joseph Smith and Oliver [Read More...]

Divided by Reason: Molly Worthen on Evangelicalism

For good reason, Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason has enjoyed a lot of attention (Slate, Christian Century, National Review, Religion and American History blog, The Nation). It is a wonderfully provocative and ambitious book with a panorama of fascinating and diverse characters. As I point out in my review of the book over at Marginalia, [Read More...]

The Church and Robert Nisbet’s Quest for Community

I recently read Robert Nisbet’s classic work The Quest for Community (1953), a challenging and far-sighted book that attributes much of modernity’s unease to the collapse of the mediating institutions – village, church, and family – that traditionally stood between the individual and the state. It is a work that has inspired generations of reflection on [Read More...]

The Slain God

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I have been enjoying the latest book by Timothy Larsen, The Slain God: Anthropologists and the Christian Faith (Oxford University Press, 2014). At first sight, such a study of the rise of an academic discipline might seem like an odd topic for a scholar who has established such a splendid reputation writing on specifically religious [Read More...]


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