The Problem with “Conscience”

The last time a state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) made news, I argued that the law’s critics were letting the word “discrimination” distract them from the real issues at stake. Everything I said then bears repeating: not all discrimination is wrong, not all wrongful discrimination should be illegal, and sometimes religious freedom really does give people the right to discriminate.But it’s only fair to acknowledge now, with another RFRA controversy lining outrage-mongers’ pocket … [Read more...]

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Why an 80-year-old children's book feels newer and more grown-up than the high-tech PG-13 epics recently based on it.Reviewing the Hobbit movies at this point would be, well, pointless. If you care about these things (and I do), then you already know that the Hobbit movies are bad Tolkien fan-fiction1 or even a parody—The Battle of the Five Armies reuses material from the Lord of the Rings movies in such silly ways that I’m half convinced it’s making fun of them. On the other hand, if you don … [Read more...]

The Liberal Soul, by Richard Davis

“How can a good Mormon be a Democrat?”If you’re Mormon and politically conservative, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. I certainly have, though it’s been a very, very long time. (Another question on my mind back then: “Why do people hate the Backstreet Boys?”)I had thought a lot about my faith and my politics—I’d read my Pres. Benson and my Rush Limbaugh, my Joseph Fielding Smith and my Ayn Rand—and I’d concluded that the one led pretty directly to the other. The War in Heaven … [Read more...]

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...]