Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rambling Thoughts on Religious Freedom

I have been absent lately on the blogosphere, especially in regards to this contraception/freedom of religion debate. Thanks, Basil, for continually keep us posted. I've been hoping for some time to really reflect and organize my thoughts, but alas, the busyness of school (and school) has been a tad extreme. So all I have the time and space for is a rambling in regards to a few personal thoughts.

First, I think that both sides misperceive the motives of the other. This has nothing to do with right or wrong, or logic versus illogic, but simply a matter of misunderstanding. For example, secularists tend to perceive the religious as illogical, irrational, superstitious, and generally authoritarian. "All must live by the irrational and superstitious opinions I get from some crazy book written thousands of years ago by God knows who," is their parroting of the religious. But I also think the religious often misperceive the secularists, despite the fact that I think the secularists are in the wrong.

For example, I think a lot of people view Obama – and all those who fit in his particular political and social ideology – as being consciously hostile, anti-God, and filled with an agenda to destroy every and all religious sentiment and ideology in America. There's often a viciousness projected onto the hearts of the secularists. “I’ve never seen people so directly and intentionally fight for evil,” one friend of mine said recently. You can conclude that the secularists’ basic political agenda is hostile to religion without projecting this conscious viciousness onto the motivations of the secularists as human persons. I think this restricts open communication, as well as allows the secularists to scoff at the religious for labeling them as “Satan.”

Let me make up an exaggerated example. If there were a religious organization that was fighting to prevent interracial marriage in the United States, I think a lot of us, even those strongly religious, would argue against these measures on mainly secular terms. We might find the group’s appeal to “freedom of religion” as thinly veiled racism; and we wouldn’t want their appeal to "religious freedom" to propel them to make their religious beliefs law.

I understand that this issue and the issues we've been talking about are very distinct. I understand that there are legal, constitutional, and reasonable distinctions between this imagined example and the present political example. I simply bring it up because I think that a lot of secularists in our present situation view us the same way that we would view those of the earlier religion. The secularists might not be right to equate the two situations, but it's not helpful, from any standpoint, to see them as hellishly hostile to religion, if they simply see this as a rights issue. From their standpoint, they're fighting for something basic and human. This can be true even if their political agenda is hellishly hostile to freedom of religion. I'm simply making the point that religious should consider the psychological motivation of secularists.

But now a word to those secularists. I have a lot to say, but I’ll leave it to one comment right now. If we were able to ask our Founding Fathers about this present situation, I don’t think they would understand it. The Christian ideology was so intertwined with everyday American living that the idea that a Christian belief might be labeled as dangerous or wrong by a prevailing social ideal would be foreign. Morality was grounded in faith.

Nowadays secularists scoff at this grounding. “What ridiculous superstition!” they claim. But herein lies the irony: Where and how do the secularists ground their morality? The vast majority would probably point to reason. Where Christians use faith the secularist uses logic. But this is pretty silly and empty. Reason and logic can never get you morality, for the simple fact that reason and logic can never get you to the worth or dignity of the human person. Reason got us the Holocaust. Reason got us Communism. Reason got us many a bloody, inhumane revolution. Reason doesn’t get us morality.

So what exactly are the secularists using to ground their morality? Quite frankly, it’s simply a set of populist ideas resulting mainly from emotional calculation: Gay marriage can’t be wrong! It’s gotta be wrong to make a woman have a baby! It can’t be wrong to prevent a pregnancy! But these are gut feelings, empty expectations that spring from societies that have almost no formed consciences.

So who's more ridiculous? The person who believes that humans have value because they were made in the image and likeness of God and that’s why certain things are right and others wrong? Or the person who throws out all of this and simply claims some things are good and others bad because he feels like it’s gotta be so, or if it isn’t it’d simply be terrible?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On the HHS Mandate, as delegated by Congress in the PPACA

Regarding this article ( that I posted on facebook, this beginning of a conversation took place:

A Voice: I'm not sure I get the stance here. It seems like this accommodation is exactly that. This places the choice back on the employee and health insurance beneficiary, where it should be. Perhaps I am just ill versed in this social concern but I've never heard that making sure my health insurance doesn't provide coverage for contraceptives, etc is a duty as a Catholic.

[Basil,] are you aware whether your insurance plan covers these things? Did that enter your mind at all when you signed up for it? Isn't the moral locus, my choice about use, as opposed to the option itself?

This seems to to be tangentially about religious freedom, and more about arguing about legality of catholic prohibited sex stuff. I.e no one is forced to pay for it, so the complaint is that it's available. Granted in the case of abortion pills that is a fair argument, (right to life trumping religious/secular freedom). In the case of straight contraception, doesn't a call to make contraception illegal amount to something like religious oppression, such as Evangelical's calling for a prohibition of alcohol?

I guess my question is: if you aren't forced to pay for it, you are complaining that health insurances have to cover it, short of the abortion pills, who cares?

ps. how is this about religious freedom, and not another complaint at the general moral decay of a society?
A Second Voice: How is this not about the 1st Amendment (religious freedom)? The administration claims to "strike the appropriate balance" between women's health needs and "the unique relationship between certain religious employers and their employees in certain religious positions" -- this is an incredibly narrow interpretation of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." If one defines freedom of religion to mean freedom to believe certain things inside your head, then almost anything is permitted for the government to mandate.

The first ppl affected by this are the insurance companies, who are now forced to pay for things which many believe to be unethical: the administration has said ITS ethical dogmas are correct, and so the companies must submit. Secondly, the people who purchase coverage plans from the companies -- and now under the PPACA (so-called Obamacare) that's every American -- are forced to A) purchase the insurance (and thus pay for contraception and abortion or B) pay a fine to the government or C) close operations. I don't know; to me this is not too murky.

Although I agree this is not merely a 1st Amendment issue. To me it seems more akin to the government funding of abortion that has been historically prevented by the Hyde Amendment and the Mexico City Policy (which Pres. Obama has circumvented in PPACA and repealed, respectively). This is a plain breach of the most basic responsibility of government - nay, of any society or community of human persons - to protect human life and defend human dignity, especially of the most vulnerable persons. In each of these cases, the ideology (the theology, or metaphysics, and the anthropology) of a group in power has produced an understanding of ethics which requires access to abortion and contraception as a fundamental right. Thus any opposition, whether religiously based or not, becomes unethical, and therefore justifiably suppressed, as a religiously based defense of slavery or stoning women would be. The Obama admin., and scientific progressives in general, see their task akin to that of the British Emp. in the 19th century, abolishing slavery and the mistreatment of women regardless of the religious and cultural opposition of the peoples they had conquered. So I do think that the freedom of religion argument is a little late in the game, and that ultimately the argument must be made on ethical grounds, universal justice, etc.

A Third Voice: I may not be as winded as you folks, but I do strongly side with the Church on this one. Im going to just touch on a few more specific statements that [First Voice] has made. First off, you are saying the benefits are going into the right hands...
it is clear in saying that you arent aware exactly what is occuring. Imagine for a moment that you are pro life. You honestly believe that at the moment of conception the egg and sperm are officially a human being. You firmly believe that it is murder. You own a company. A company you have raised from scratch that has grown so large that you require a health insurance plan that your company pays for and supports. This company is owned by YOU. YOUR private owned company is not owned by the government in any way shape or form. Now, the government is telling you that your PRIVATE, and SELFOWNED company is required to pay for acts that are against your beliefs. Even if you take the religious aspect out of why you have those beliefs and how the governement is telling you to defy them and pay for abortions... You are still being forced to follow regulations unnecessarily placed that also happen to go again your faith.