Let me lay some cards on the table, if only to provide a bit of context for what I want to say. I am a strong and unequivocal evolutionist who places Darwin at the very core of my philosophical mindset. My relationship to religion, on the other had, is …. complicated. I don’t think any of the standard categories unambiguously matches up with what I think and feel, and I’m somewhat okay with that. I just hope that these confessions serve to clarify rather than obstruct the conversation I hope to have. (more…)
In marketing, we often drive for major events which through their magnitude will create an ongoing halo effect, a self-generating gravity which continues to attract thinkers to them for some time to come. In our modern media age, for such an event to be effective, it needs to be really massive to garner any form of lasting halo, and needs to be well supported with a ready network to handle the load it creates. Also, it needs be somewhat controversial while having the ability to deflect some of the controversy away from itself. It’s kind of like a perfect storm, to use N. T. Wright’s favorite analogy. (more…)
In my last post – which fell stillborn from the wordpress – I articulated my position as a Darwinian Anti-intellectualist. Briefly – and somewhat differently – I rejected the practice of construing all beliefs as if they were automatically answers to some question or another, the premises or conclusions to some argument. The two stalking horses in this project of mine have come to be Socrates and Descartes with their respective question/answer dialectic and methodological skepticism. In this post I will roughly follow Aladair MacIntyre in framing my own de-conversion from Mormonism in terms of a (mistaken) Cartesian framework. (more…)
Fourteen years ago today I was baptized. It still is the single most important decision I have ever made in my life. For the past five years, I have posted about it each year. I post less frequently than I did five years ago. It seems that one of three things have happened, either the blogging genre has begun to cool as a popular medium, or I have begun to have less interesting things to say, or my kids have kicked me off the computer. Probably the third bit is an excuse for the reality of the second bit. In any case, thanks to everyone who has read here at New Cool Thang, who has taken time to comment, who has been patient with me as I thought through things, misspelled things, or generally butchered the standardized grammatical forms. I apologize if I have offended any, whether in comments, postings, or the lack of the same. Life is, if anything, busy. (more…)
Let’s say we have 52,000 missionaries right now. A little googling shows about 10,000 (18-20%) of those are sisters currently. A little missionary shows we average about 5 baptisms per missionary per year. With the new age limit drop on young women, there is an expected boost in the number of sisters serving. If the number of sisters jumps from 20% to 30% of the total, that,s an increase of 10,000 sisters, doubling the number of sisters in the field now. (Getting us back to the number of missionaries we had in the late 90s). That takes our convert numbers from 250,000 to 300,000 per year, at current rates. If sisters begin to go at the same rate as men, the missionary force jumps from 50,000 to 80,000 with baptisms jumping from 250,000 to 400,000. Of course this doesn’t include any sort of diminishing returns on the additive value of more missionaries, but it also doesn’t include any sort of boost for moving the men’s age to 18, and the men’s boost you get from all the girls doing it.
Who knows where it will land, but it is an exciting moment of potential, for this and so many other reasons. It will be fun to watch the next 10 years.
This morning I asked my four-year-old how many eggs she wanted for breakfast. After thinking about it for a few seconds she said, “umm, 6.” No, she does not have the appetite of a lumberjack. Instead, this reminded me that humans seem predisposed to making things up when they don’t know anything. Having never made eggs, my daughter has no idea how many eggs go into the small pile of scrambled eggs she can eat. One would think that after careful consideration she would say something like “I don’t have any idea” or “Dad, why do you expect me to know that?” or “my regular amount” etc. There are many reasonable responses she could make without knowing anything. Instead, she asked for 6 eggs. (more…)
One of the salient contrasts in Lehi’s dream is that between those who cling to the iron rod and those who enter the great and spacious building. On the one hand, the former grope about in a blinding fog, doing their best to find their way along a path which they cannot see. The latter, on the other hand, are (somehow) able to see this path from their vantage point up in the building, but are thus unable to follow it. The question I wish to raise is this: which is more rational, to do without understanding or to understand without doing? Indeed, one can interpret the river which separates the rod from the building as the distance which is required for any kind of “objective” analysis. Obviously, Lehi thinks it better to follow the path rather than survey it from a distance. (more…)
I just read an article/post by the always interesting and intelligent Kristine Haglund over at a site called ReligionAndPolitics.org. Kristine’s post is titled “Why Mormon Men Love “Church Ball” and Are Scared of Homosexuality“. Sounded interesting. And the article is interesting. But I have some questions and quibbles with it so I figured this would be a good place to bring them up.
1. Is being kind really “coded feminine”? I see this idea passed around as if it were some self evident fact but it just isn’t. Mormonism, like many other religions, teaches men (and women) to have self discipline, bridle our passions, and be generally good and productive members of our families, communities, and overall societies. I don’t really see what is particularly feminine about that.
2. Church ball is not really all that different than pick up ball anywhere else. Most church ball happens on weekdays either before work or after weekday activities. The games are pretty similar to any pickup hoops game you might get into at the local gym or YMCA. The fact is that men at church ball tend to be significantly less likely to get into fights or start dropping F-Bombs than the guys at the local gym. But perhaps the church ball gets its reputation because expectations for Mormons are extremely high, and yet those blowups, while rare, are not completely absent in church ball.
Also, we rarely bro-hug after ball. Who wants to hug some sweaty bro?
3. I’m not sure Mormon men cry more easily than any other men. Most men love their families intensely and given the proper circumstances would get choked up discussing them. I think Mormon culture just gives men a platform and reason to publicly discuss their loved ones more often than most cultures.
4. Why is effeminate being treated as interchangeable with gay in this conversation? Aren’t there a lot of non-effeminate men who are sexually attracted to other men and a lot of effeminate men who are only sexually attracted to women? Seems to me that treating these two as interchangeable further clouds an already cloudy issue.
(Anyone remember Dana Carvey’s “Lyle, the effeminate heterosexual“? (Warning: PG-13))
5. Mostly, the dots in your post just don’t connect for me. What exactly are you saying? It seems to me that you are implying that because there is a strong fraternal aspect to Mormon culture, that makes Mormon men “scared of homosexuality”. But there are lots of groups that have similar strong fraternal aspects — the military, firefighters, police officers, male sports teams, and so on. In my experience there is nothing about Mormonism that makes Mormon men more “scared of homosexuality” than anyone else. In fact in my experience on sports teams, Mormon men tend to be a lot less mean about the subject than others.
I guess the real problem I see is there is nothing in the article that indicates that there is any significant causal relationship between being a Mormon man and being “scared of homosexuality”.
What say you all?
One popular website running around on Favebook is Isidewith.com. It’s a website which asks you a few questions, then tells you how the candidates answered the same questions. One question is whether you believe in evolution. After you take the survey, you get to see how you align with the candidates. Just to make R. Gary’s head explode, here is Mitt’s response.
Question #1- What does that even mean?
Question #2- Should I be offended that it tells me I should vote Green Party?
Suppose that the office at which you and 99 other people work asks each of you to individually write down the directions from your respective houses to the office. Suppose further that from these accounts – and only from these accounts – somebody then tries to make a detailed map. How reliable should we expect such a map to be? What purpose should such a map serve that the directions themselves could not? What details should we expect to find in the written directions but not in the map (or vice versa)? Most importantly, which would you rather have if you were simply trying to get to the office from some person’s house? (more…)
I don’t know if it is because I am the father of three little girls or what, but I was just looking at my phone and thinking about all the church apps I have for being at church on Sunday.
Feel free to judge me by my apps:
I wonder if this is just because church is 3 hours long and it is easier to pocket a phone than haul scriptures, coloring books, crayons, quiet books, friends, toys, etc.
Most used are:
Most used by me: LDS tools- always using it to visit other members, call other members, etc. Close second, Gospel Library.
Most used by the family- read the scriptures. Helps keep us on track to read as a family, BUT the app breaks a lot, save your money and just use the website.
Most used by the 2 year old- Primary sing along. She is hooked on “I Am A Child Of God”
Most used by the 5 year old- Coloring games are a big hit here.
Most used by the 8 year old- Where’s the water trumps church games generally, but she’ll play Lamanite or Jonah.
What church apps do you have/use?
One of Neal A. Maxwell’s most memorable themes was that we have nothing but our wills to give God that was not already his. As he put it, “The many other things we ‘give’ are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us” (Neal A. Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996, pg. 55.). He expounded on this theme frequently and his reasoning seemed to hinge on the idea that whatever thing we think is ours is really God’s because he enabled us to obtain it in one way or other. We could not have it without air to breath, or earth to live on, etc. etc. (more…)
There once was an army of soldiers who considered themselves to be fighting a war which must be won at all costs. What this war was over or who the enemy was are both questions that need not concern us here. What matters for now is that any other objectives which these soldiers might have also valued in life paled in comparison to the primary objective of victory. Accordingly, the goodness or desirability of these other goals or ends was essentially measured in terms of the degree to which they tended toward victory in this war rather than defeat. (more…)
A great deal of my thought surrounding the nature of (R)eligious, (S)cientific and (P)ragmatic (or pre-modern, modern and post-modern) approaches to truth is based in the premise that rule-following is the only path to truth. Empirical observation, logical deduction and everything in between only get us anywhere inasmuch as they are normatively constrained by rules of various kinds. In this post I would like to briefly unpack this position in terms of a familiar metaphor. (more…)