A few things you should read before you make up your mind about Hobby Lobby

I suppose this post is about a week and a half late, given the short attention span of online conversation. So if you find yourself wondering “Why on earth is this guy still talking about a Supreme Court decision from two whole weeks ago,” I totally understand—I, too, have trouble remembering anything that happened before Germany annihilated Brazil on Tuesday. That said, for the moment it's actually my full-time job to think about the Hobby Lobby decision, and if you’re still reading this post, … [Read more...]

On Church Discipline for Dissenting Groups

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Mormon community here. I am neither a Mormon Stories fan nor an advocate of ordaining women, so I write this column with some trepidation. No matter how hard I try to be sympathetic, some people will inevitably find me judgmental or condescending; try as I might to understand, some people will conclude that I have distorted their opinions to make mine l … [Read more...]

On religious freedom and discrimination

With the recent proposed amendment to Arizona’s religious freedom law, Facebook has fed me a lot of outraged comments about religion and discrimination. Some rejected that discrimination was the sort of thing anyone could do for religious reasons: real religion teaches people to be kind to each other. Others allowed that people might have genuine religious reasons to want to discriminate, but denied that society had any reason to let them: “you can’t force your religion on other people” was the p … [Read more...]

On Science and Faith, Part II: Of Seekers, Heretics, and Organized Religion

In August, I argued that faith and science have a lot more in common than popular understandings of them suggest. In response to arguments raised in the comments, I’m writing two or three more posts on the subject. When I argued a few weeks ago that belief in religious teachings and belief in a scientific theory have more in common than people usually recognize, a few commenters objected that most religion isn’t really based on evidence but on simply accepting what you’re told. That’s why (in th … [Read more...]

On Science, Faith, and Evidence

There is perhaps no idea I hear at church that I find more wrong, or more dangerously wrong, than that faith is a will to believe in the absence of evidence. I understand where the idea comes from, of course. Religious belief is not simply dictated by logic and observation. To get from even the strongest evidence to the acceptance of any particular creed requires an act of interpretation; ultimately, in some sense, it requires a choice. But the choice--take note--is not a choice between faith … [Read more...]

Thoughts on “Sexual Purity”

Earlier this week, Elizabeth Smart shared memories of her abduction that sent a powerful message about the way we should teach youth about sex. She said that after she had been raped, she had little motivation to escape her captor: “[it was easy] to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” She thought she was a “chewed-up piece of gum” that deserve … [Read more...]

The More Things Change: A Review of The Mormon People

Continuing Peculiar People's recent theme of ridiculously late book reviews, I offer the following. If Matt can review Lev Grossman's four-year-old book, I can review Matt's one-year-old book, right? When young Latter-day Saints learn their history, I think the most common challenge to their faith is not any specific controversy, like polygamy or the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but rather just how different the Church and its teachings used to be. Prophets attacking capitalism? Apostles … [Read more...]

Of caffeine and covenants

About two weeks ago, the Church Newsroom said in response to NBC’s “Mormon in America” that the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine. The Newsroom quickly hedged, but by then bloggers and tweeters were off to the races. “OK, Mormons, drink up,” wrote the Salt Lake Tribune’s Peggy Fletcher Stack; @nicknewman801 celebrated “the sound of a million cans of soda opening”; and cartoonist Pat Bagley, tongue firmly in cheek, compared the announcement to other great moments in Mormon history, like … [Read more...]