Friday, February 17, 2012

Freedom (and Religion)

From my perspective, freedom in the positive sense is fundamentally a privilege, not a right.  If I lose an arm or leg today, my freedom of movement will be impeded (regardless of laws: all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again).  If I fall out with all my friends and lose my job, my freedom to live and work in relatively pleasant prosperity will be curtailed.  It is impossible to change this (by law or even by divine decree, unless we wake up tomorrow and the world is radically different from the way it is today and has been as far back as anyone can remember).

Freedom in the negative sense is something I would really like to offer as many people as possible, and I really hope that they reciprocate.  I do my best not to interfere with them, and all I ask is that they do everything they can to avoid interfering with me.  But I am under no illusion that I have some inviolable "right" to be left alone: if people really want to interfere with me, they can and they will.  My job is to make it not worth their while, giving them as little motive for interference as possible.


The more my religion depends on other people, the less freedom it offers (to me or to anyone else).  The more it is about dictating to others, the less it can be about empowering them (or me, unless my goal is to be a dictator).  The more it depends on some kind of official character to do its work, the less vitality (and freedom) it really has.

Religious Freedom

I do not claim religious exemption from taxes, at this time.  I don't object to grocers who sell wheat (even though I think it is bad food for human beings).  I try to avoid giving business to Monsanto by refusing to buy their products whenever possible: that is my kind of religious freedom at work.  But I recognize that a good bit of my money gets back to them in one form or another (some of it in the form of government farming subsidies, no doubt).  C'est la vie.  If I were really committed, I would support local farmers more rather than attacking Monsanto more.  Why waste time poking the bear with sticks?  Just don't need him.  Don't feed him.  Stay the hell away from him, and if you're lucky he will get old, sick, and tired -- and then one day he will fade away into obsolescence.

My advice to the Catholic church: stop feeding the bear.  If your employees are so far gone that you cannot let them near birth control without their snapping it up like candy, then you have already lost the battle for their minds (and souls).  You need to convince their hearts, and then you can give them absolute freedom without fearing that they will use it against the Catholic truth that you all stand for.  Governments can and will force people to do things.  But here, all they are forcing us to do is leave the door open to a choice, a choice that nobody has to make: who is forcing women to use birth control?  Nobody.  If they want it, your friendly federal government thinks that they should have it.  But they don't have to want it (and businesses don't have to supply it merely because someone gives them some money: they do this because they have faith in your friendly federal government, faith that they may not keep if that government cannot find a way to stabilize its currency).  Ignore the government; let it crash and burn (or right itself and walk away).  Don't waste time fighting with it.  The Confederate States of America already tried that: it ended badly (for everyone).

The essence of faith lies not in what choices you allow others, but in the choices you make yourself.  Do you choose to be a dictator, fighting force with force?  Do you choose to spend your life fighting?  Those who live by the sword often die by it.  Sometimes, in the process, they ruin the dream they are trying to defend.  The greatest faith needs no defense: it exists outside of rights and laws, relying only on God (or whatever is out there) for its justification, and expecting nothing from others.  Great martyrs are witnesses to truths that they cannot deny: they don't get mad when others cannot see their truths.  They don't force others to see.  They don't pass laws forcing people to pretend that they see.  They just tell us what they have seen, and then let the cards fall where they may (without bitching or expecting more than reality promises, which is usually nothing).  That is real faith.  That is real "leadership" (though I hate that word).  That is real freedom.


  1. I agree with Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, who said, “No one — whether an individual citizen, a faith-based organization, or an insurance company — should be forced by the federal government to participate in any way in the provision of pills that can end the life of a developing human being." At least 4 lawsuits have already been brought against the Obama administration because of this unconstitutional mandate.

  2. I guess it depends for me. I don't think employers have a right to determine how employees spend their wages. (Jewish and Muslim employers have no right to make me abstain from using my pay to purchase pork. I have nothing against it, and so I am free to buy it with the money they pay me for doing my job.)

    I don't think people should be required to utilize or provide services to which they are morally opposed. And I think that the current system of healthcare is suboptimal (since it takes decisions away from the individual and puts them in the hands of companies). As long as we have this kind of system, in which the freedom of the individual to choose what he needs is restricted by company red tape, I support things that help individuals get what they feel they need (including contraceptives: as I have the right to use my pay to purchase pork, so others have the right to use theirs to purchase contraceptives, if they so desire; if I believe that pork is evil, I should preach against it, rather than try to ban it unilaterally).