Hobby-Lobby is the antithesis of religious freedom

Religion is an attempt to define the unknowable: to place personality, qualities, and characteristics on that which cannot be explicitly qualified. Thus, no two religions will ever agree, because there is no way to prove whose interpretation of personality, qualities, and characteristics is right and whose is wrong. In the absence of this proof, all religions (even the lack of religion) are, by definition, simultaneously all right, and all wrong. In the absence of quantifiable data, one belief is no more correct, or incorrect, than any other belief.

By siding with one interpretation of religious personality, qualities, and characteristics over another, the Supreme Court is wading into dangerous waters. The proper place for a secular government is to ensure that all religions are treated equally, and that is best done by treating all religions the same. By siding with Hobby-Lobby in this case, they have not only given preferential treatment to the owners’ specific interpretation of religious personality, qualities, and characteristics, they have also conferred on that interpretation legitimacy that has now been taken from other religious interpretations. By making this decision, the Supreme Court has stated that no longer are all religions simultaneously all right and all wrong, but that this one interpretation is right, and all others are wrong.

It is easy to see that this is a very dangerous slippery slope, and one that can easily slide into state sponsored theocracy, which is the antithesis of the religious freedom the decision’s supporters are claiming victorious. When the government sides with one religion over another, it is doing what science cannot do: provide legitimacy to that which is based on the unknowable. That does not support religious freedom, but is, in fact an intolerance of it.

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Radicalism is not free speech

So the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that hateful and often violent action constitutes protected free speech.

The U.S government and the courts have had a long, tumultuous relationship with the rights of the citizenry to participate in speech critical of the government and others, including the rights to assembly and freedom of association that allow the people to voice their opinions singularly or collectively without fear of imprisonment. However, a recurring theme in this right to protected free speech is that it is protected as long as it is executed in a peaceful manner. For the preservation of public safety, speech that is destructive, and assemblies and associations that are violent, are not generally considered protected. Thus, the passing of pamphlets is protected; the throwing of bricks and bombs is not.

The purpose of Massachusetts’ decision to enforce a 35 foot boundary around abortion clinics was clearly in the spirit of public safety. Anti-abortionists have earned their reputation for non-peaceful assembly and harassment. Doctors have been murdered; clinics have been bombed; people have been physically assaulted. Therefore, while the case can be made that these boundaries interfered with the anti-abortionists abstract right to assembly, this had to be balanced with the real world duty of the government to protect the citizenry. By the fact that anti-abortionists have demonstrated a recurring inability to assemble peacefully, Massachusetts was well within its rights to keep those demonstrations at a safe distance from others.

That being said, there is also an argument here for the difference between civil disobedience and radicalism. While the government may feel otherwise, the people have a right to engage in activities that push the envelope in terms of what is protected and what is not. The difference in this regard, however, between civil disobedience and radicalism is in both undertaking and intent. Civil disobedience is, by definition, the assembly of people who believe that the government can be pushed into realigning itself with the will of the people. Radicalism is, by definition, the assembly of people who do not believe that the government can be pushed into realigning itself with the will of the people. Civil disobedience is about working against the constraints of the system—by stressing it—in order to enact change. Radicalism is about destroying the system altogether in favor of something else. Civil disobedience tends to be peaceful, radicalism tends to be violent.

Within that context, then, can the anti-abortion protests that led to the state creating a 35 foot buffer around abortion clinics be considered civil disobedience? Does harassing the people entering and leaving clinics, threatening doctors, and even resorting to murder and bombs constitute the peaceful assembly of people working to change the system? Clearly, it does not. Indeed, resorting to those actions is undoubtedly in response to a lack of faith in the ability to change the system: hence radical. What the Supreme Court has done in siding against Massachusetts is to side with radicalism: radicalism, as long as it is conducted by anti-abortionists, is now considered protected speech and assembly.

It should be easy to understand why this is a dangerous precedent. If the state cannot protect citizens from violence, then citizens will understandably result to violence as a means of self-preservation. If a citizen has to carry a club to legally enter an abortion clinic, then he or she will. The decision made by the Supreme Court is bound to end in more violence and tears.

When radicalism becomes the rule of the day, then widespread violence will eventually follow. This was not only a bad decision with regards to the ability of the state to protect its people, but yet another bad decision by the Supreme Court with regards to our democracy in general.

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Science education is best left to the church

Now that I have your attention, do you find the idea of requiring science to be taught by the church to be patently absurd? Ridiculous? If so, then why would you support the merging of the church and the state in a democracy?

Organized religion is, by definition, an authoritative power structure that is antithetical to the concepts of freedom and freewill required for a robust democracy. The founding fathers of the U.S. Constitution—all of them “Christian” men—knew this full well when they envisioned our democracy as a secular form of government, since no theocratic dogma with the power to do so has ever tolerated equal representation for a competing dogma, theocratic or otherwise.
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Why I’m Still Here

It was just over a year ago that I kicked off this blog with the following quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas:

The name of being wise is reserved to him alone whose consideration is about the end of the universe, which end is also the beginning of the universe.

I then proceeded to write on a variety of topics—technology, politics, global warming, philosophy and religion, whatever—some of which I extended into multi-post series, and so on. And then I stopped for a little while. You see, I had started this blog to vent some things (much to the happiness of my wife, who was, frankly, tired of hearing me gripe about them), but as a side effect of venting, I eventually began to feel a lost sense of purpose. After all, those of us who take the time to start and write on our blogs are, to some extent, just yelling into the wind. And after yelling into the wind for a while, I began to ask myself: what’s the point?
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The Circle

I just finished reading The Circle, the highly entertaining and disturbingly thought provoking novel by Dave Eggers, in which the plot concerns a fictional corporation (“the Circle”) that is best described as what would happen if Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many other social media companies that are now currently disconnected were to merger under one roof. I will not get into great detail about the book in this post, but you can go here and here if you want to read the reviews. Suffice it to say that the brilliance of the book is that it is both simple and entertaining to read, yet very deep on many levels. I would consider it perhaps the most astutely written warning to date concerning the lack of privacy in social media; a thought-provoking meld between 1984 and A Brave New World.
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To Dissent

The Internet tells me that “to dissent” is to publicly disagree with an official opinion or set of beliefs; to withhold assent; to express an attitude of non-agreement to a prevailing idea or an entity; to refuse to conform to the policies of the state. It is a guiding philosophy of activism; it is the spirit that drives civil disobedience and radicalism; and, at its heart it is the battle for the soul that rages within each one of us every day, in foro conscientiae: before the tribunal of conscience.
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Nothing lasts forever

In December of 2010, a Tunisian street vendor by the name of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi stood in front of the governor’s office in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid, doused himself with gasoline, and set himself on fire to protest the severe economic conditions suffered by himself and much of the local population. Outraged by the events that led to this act, thousands of people staged public protests that quickly spread throughout the region, engulfing not only Tunisia, but nearly the entire Middle East and parts of North Africa. At the time of this writing, some three years later, the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have been forced from power, with major protests and civil unrest still occurring in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Algeria, amongst others. It is yet to be seen which of these governments will survive the coming year.
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