Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Theology From The Plain Part Three - Pantheism, Panentheism and Double Meanings.

This entry is longer than I wanted it to be, but this is convoluted territory for me, admittedly.  I appreciate the thoughts of any readers. Obviously, this is a process of working through thoughts, so feedback is essential.  And for anyone reading who does not prefer God-language, hopefully I will have some entries soon that rely less on this terminology, but still deal with basic questions and thoughts we all have about existence.

Last time I wrote that God cannot ultimately be separate from creation -  after all, can God create, and therefore be the explanation for, something that is ultimately not-God?  If so, where did the not-God elements come from?  
So I am a pantheist, believing that God is identical with creation?  Or am I a panentheist, believing that creation is contained within God?  
One way to characterize the difference is this:
Pantheism - God is the whole.
Panentheism - The whole is in God.
I am sure there are several versions of both of these positions that are very interesting.  I think I could be either one depending on how one defines “the whole.”   Is the whole this cosmos?  Or is it everything that exists at all?  Or maybe this distinction isn’t even that important?  For even this cosmos, this creation, surely has elements that are quite beyond our comprehension and perception.  How is are these intangible elements distinct, in any practical sense, from elements of God that are supposedly “beyond” this cosmos?  
I suppose I like panentheism a bit better, because it seems to imply a God that is beyond the part of the whole which we, as limited pieces of the action, are able to experience or to conceive of. Surely pantheism implies the same, but panentheism seems to make this sense more primary in its definition.  In other words, the actual whole, all that is, is greater than the whole that we can experience or conceive of.
I realize that some may differentiate between an idea like “the whole” and “creation”, but I have pointed out how I think that ultimately creation must be considered an extension, a reformulation, of God Himself.  
So perhaps I like a phrase like, “All is in God, and God is all.”    The first phrase implies that all creation is a part of God, and the second part implies that this creation cannot be ultimately separated from God.
So, if God encompasses all, then does it do any good to talk about God?  All things are a part of God, so nothing can be distinguished as more Godly than this or less Godly than that, right? me it depends.
I think we can communicate about God in two ways, depending on our purpose and chosen perspective.  “God” can have a double-meaning. The first meaning of God is the all, and reflects a focus on the ultimate.  This meaning seems fairly uncontroversial, as most people probably believe in “the all” even if it is just a concept.  Some people may reject the word “God”, but that is another subject.
The second meaning of God refers to the portion of the all that reflects the ultimate purpose, direction and character of the all. This meaning pertains to the elements of our experience which reflect our faith in what God’s ultimate purpose is.   
Another way to think of it is this:  I am included within God.  I am a part of God and part of His ultimate purpose which is also my ultimate purpose.  But I am limited and far from perfect.  However, there may be a part of the whole of God which is unlimited and perfect - or at least as close to those states as possible, or at the very least, much more than I - that knows and seeks to enact the ultimate purpose of this creation, while not overly interfering with creation (which would probably spoil the whole point of it, but more on this later).
This view of God is a lot more controversial.  It is the God of faith, and even though a person can and should have good reasons, the only truly compelling reason to believe in this God is if one wants to.  I plan to write more about that later, but for now the two elements of faith would be first, that there is a purpose, a directionality to existence that makes some sort of sense. And second, that there is a portion of this existence now that reflects this ultimate purpose, that guides the universe, however slowly from our point of view (two steps forward, one step back), through the experience of creation, which is a series of similarities and contrasts with this ultimate purpose.
I am agnostic about this second view of God, but I choose to have faith that something/someone like it exists.   Can one be agnostic and still have faith?  Actually, I think faith as a concept is completely contingent on being, to some extent, agnostic.  If I had anything close to certain knowledge, then there would be little room for faith.
So is this idea of the double meaning of God a cop out on my part?  Am I trying to have it both ways?  For God to be all, yet also a part of that which exists?  Can God be a part of the whole and ultimately the whole at the same time?
Consider other words and concepts which have double meanings.  How about “physical”?   When I am not feeling well, a friend might ask me if the problem is physical or emotional.  I know what she means, even though ultimately the physical encompasses both.  
What about the word “nature” or “natural”?    When a person speaks of nature, I know what she means - things which exist apart from humans -  even though all things are ultimately encompassed by the word, including humans.  Humans are certainly a part of nature.
Have you ever wrestled with your own will?  What is it exactly that is wrestling with your will?   Yet, I know what you mean.   There is a portion of your will which you are temporarily separating and labeling “your will”, and a portion of your will that you are labeling “I”.   
I will get more into why God would possibly create - why He would re-imagine Himself into separate limited parts.   But I think the term “God” can mean the all, and can also mean a portion of the all which reflects the ultimate purpose and character of the all. Which meaning we use depends on our “level of zoom”.   
When you say or think “God” are you thinking in ultimate terms, so that the term must encompass the all, or are you speaking of God as the portion of creation which reflects all that is good - a kind of perfect awareness (at least compared to us)?  Do you switch back and forth?   Does this way of thinking make any sense to you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Theology From The Plain Part Two Questions

I have had some great thoughts and questions from a couple of friends about the last post.  They very astutely mentioned the exact things that I need to address if God is all and all is God.   
How do we account for the existence of evil.  Is God part evil if He is responsible for it?
Does the idea of sin or morality have any meaning if God encompasses all?
If God is all, can we attribute personal characteristics to God?
Why refer to God as "He"?
These are great questions that I have thought about quite a bit - whether successfully or not remains to be seen - and I will attempt some ideas about them soon.   Thanks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Theology From The Plain Part Two - Is God Separate?

In part one, I talked about how the term God may take on many different meanings, but how it is still a helpful term, as it is universally used to describe a direction of looking, namely towards whatever is ultimate - or at least what is ultimate from our perspective.  A “next layer of ultimate-ness”, perhaps?
I think most people would agree that there is some sort of explanation for things that is more ultimate that what we know.   It does not require an “outside the cosmos” way of thinking, although it could.  It could be a deeper level right here inside the cosmos.  The question of whether there is a more ultimate level that we can have access to in any meaningful way is another issue.  But that has to do with leaps of faith - another subject.
In this next short part, I want to introduce a simple idea that follows from the idea that God is ultimate.  God, whatever we mean by that, cannot be truly separate from creation.
If there were truly God and a created “other”, then surely this duality would imply another layer of reduction, another layer of explanation.  And therefore, from our perspective, God could not be an ultimate explanation for all things in any meaningful sense.
In other words, if we see God as being separate from something, then how can He be the underlying source of everything?
So what is creation then? If God is the ultimate source, then creation reflects His intentions, His character, His desires. So then creation must be seen as an expansion or reinvention of God Himself.      
I can make a painting, but I am reconfiguring things that already exist in a new way.  If God creates something with intention that is completely new, then this new creation, in the most ultimate sense, is a re-imagining of Himself.   
So what is existence?  Is it to be a part of God.  
In the next part, I will talk about how it can still be meaningful to talk about God even if He (or “It” or “She” or whatever we mean) is the animating force underlying all things.  I will also write soon about whether we can consider God a person or not.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Overwhelmed By Written Words - Forgive Me For A Moment

After re-reading several hand-written letters from friends over the years, I am once again overcome with just how wonderful people are - all people. To be connected with others is the joy of life - even for one as introverted and as unskilled in that practice as me.

I hope that today's youth, in this electronic age, will still take the time to write a letter by hand to a friend, to a love interest, now and then.   Emails, phone calls and texts are wonderful, but to have proof of the physical care of writing is something that is overwhelmingly lovely.

I am universally grateful to friends who wrote to me from visiting beer breweries, friends who wrote to me on summer vacation from college, friends who wrote to me after summer camp, friends who wrote notes to me when we were apart, friends who wrote to me when we were together. I am grateful for letters from girlfriends who helped me on my journey.  I am grateful for affectionate notes from my mother and honest letters from my father before he died.  I am grateful for words from my brother, a constant teacher to me.  I am grateful for pastoral letters from my grandparents and birthday poems from my uncle. And I am grateful to read letters from my future wife - someone whose faith in me helped me to become who I am, and who I can only hope to have helped in the same way.   These are words that sing with quiet, steadfast life, through an undercurrent of excitement, concern and hope; words which almost sing of our future family without ever daring to think that was a possibility.  

All these physically written words from the friends of my life fill me, or better yet, they remind me that I am filled.

My greatest wish is that from time to time we should all feel this connected, that we should realize our relationships are the fabric of that most blessed state - to feel an essential part of the the whole.

I am unworthy, but to think this is an irrelevant absurdity when this state is upon you - for it is you.  Can you be unworthy of yourself?  Surely the answer is yes!   And no, at once.  And thank God for that.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Violation of Religious Freedom or a Prevention of Religious Domination? - part three, Engaging A Catholic Argument

This is the last installment in this series of posts.  This issue has obviously interested me greatly, as I can understand why it appears, on the surface, to be a question of religious liberty.  But I do not think this is the case.  No individual is being required to take birth control, and no doctor is being required to prescribe it.  However under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance policies will be required to provide birth control free of charge (though, of course, people still pay for insurance policies).

Here is an argument against the Obama administration’s position.  I took it from a Facebook page called “Stand With the US Bishops Against The HHS”.
“ make the case that the state can force the Church to pay for contraception for employees requires at least three premises to be true: 1) that all people have a right to contraception under natural law, 2) that all people have a right to receive that contraception free of charge, and 3) that employers have the duty to pay for the contraception.  The 1st premise is false because contraception violates nature by ceasing or altering natural bodily functions. The 2nd premise is false because no one can say that his rights must be secured by another. The 3rd premise is false because employers provide health care as a matter of convention and a part of wages, but it could also be that an employer pays enough for an employee to acquire independent insurance. Further, the 3rd premise is false because while employers do have an interest in the health of employees, they have no interest in the sex lives of employees, and contraception, which is a violation of the body's health, is about sex, not healthcare.”
Here are a few brief criticisms.
One:  If access to contraception is considered an essential part of a woman’s health care, then can we argue that a person has the right to it?   This seems to be the case, as the criticism of the premise offered is one that debates the validity of birth control as an aspect of health care.  They argue against this because the pill “violates altering bodily functions”.  

Death is a part of nature. Our bodies are programed to self-destruct over time. Is it wrong to “alter” this bodily function when you have the chance?  

Perhaps a better example is pain.  For instance, a woman’s body is designed to feel pain during childbirth.  Is altering this bodily function OK?
So health care is not about what one considers natural per se.  It is about promoting health and well-being.  When a woman is able to have an intimate relationship, setting the stage for the possibility of a family, but can also have access to education and career opportunities by delaying child-bearing, then this contributes to her well-being.  When she can wait to have children until she is financially ready, then this contributes greatly to her and her child’s well-being.  When a woman can choose to have a relationship but not to have children, then her freedom and well-being (and that of her partner) is enhanced. The list goes on and on.  When considering the status of women in less developed countries, access to birth control becomes an even more dire issue.
Two:  The individual mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act supports the idea that all people must contribute to paying for their own health care.    Participants in health insurance are paying for their insurance policies.  Obviously these policies must offer  coverage for prescriptions that promote well-being.  Whether the policy covers a portion of birth control costs or all of it, the policy would still be paying for birth control.  So this criticism seems irrelevant to me.

Three: Here is where they may have a good argument.  I don’t think that employers should have to provide health coverage to employees.  I think it is a bad way to facilitate the coverage required by the individual mandate.  But this is how things are set up, so until (and if) it is fixed, health coverage must include birth control.
Here is an argument in support the administration’s position:
One:  All people have the right to life, which includes health care.
Two:  The government has decided that all people must contribute to the practice and the preservation of this universal right by taking responsibility for their own health insurance.  This is called the individual mandate.
Three:  The government must therefore decide what constitutes adequate insurance coverage to satisfy this individual mandate.
Four:  Access to birth control is recognized by the government, the public and the medical community as being an essential part of a woman’s health and well-being.
Five:  The government must therefore require insurance policies to cover birth control.

My conclusion is that most of the arguments about this controversy can be reduced to arguments about whether birth control is really health care, whether the invidual mandate is a good idea, and whether the individual mandate should be satisfied through employers.   Arguments about religious liberty are off point.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Violation of Religious Freedom or a Prevention of Religious Domination? - part two, The Real Problem

The real problem which is causing the controversy between the Obama administration and some US Catholics is not one of religious liberty.  It is one of the public sector using the private sector to accomplish its purposes.  
There will soon be an individual mandate for health insurance coverage in the United States. Here is a small snippet of an exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum where Romney offers up a concise and effective argument for the individual mandate for health insurance coverage.

"If you don't want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care," said Romney. "So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care." 
"Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?" asked Santorum.
"Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care," Romney shot back. "Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea."

But this is a bit of a side note, as whether we accept it or not, the individual mandate will soon be the law of the land.  And of course, if we are required to purchase health insurance, it must meet certain criteria for contributing to the health and well-being of the citizenry.  The individual mandate would be worthless if individuals  could satisfy it by buying insurance thats cost $5 a month and only covered a bottle of aspirin a year.  There must be standards as to what constitutes an insurance that adequately satisfies the individual mandate.
Access to birth control is widely considered to be an essential part of a woman’s health and well-being.  It was listed by the CDC as one of the top ten most important health advances of the twentieth century, and it is promoted by a myriad of mainstream science-based medical organizations. Therefore it must be covered under any insurance that would meet the requirements of the individual mandate.
According to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute, a poll quoted in USA Today, most Americans, and even most Catholics, believe that birth control should be covered under health insurance plans.
So the real problem is not that health insurance should be required to cover birth control.  The problem is the primary method the government uses to satisfy the individual mandate - the employer/employee relationship in the private sector.
If health insurance was done completely publicly, then we might disagree with a national health care system and/or birth control, but we all pay taxes and watch the government do things with which we disagree (because it represents us all).  But this will not happen in the foreseeable future.
However, if the individual mandate was satisfied by individuals purchasing insurance directly,  instead of having it provided through their work benefits,  then there would also not be a huge problem with the requirement that insurance must include birth control coverage.  Catholics who disapprove of birth control would still be purchasing insurance from a company whose benefits would almost certainly include someone else’s birth control.  But this different accounting scenario would eliminate the perception some have that Catholic institutions are specifically being forced to purchase something with which they have moral objections.
So the real problem here is that the government is maintaining the link between the employer/employee relationship and health insurance coverage.   There is a middle man that might disagree with what the government, the public, and the medical community deems a very necessary component of adequate health insurance coverage for women, and the perception then emerges, because the benefits they offer must meet these standards, that the liberty of these middle men is being violated.  
But unfortunately, this is the world we live in.  Therefore the government simply must maintain standards for what constitutes adequate health insurance coverage, or else the individual mandate loses its effectiveness.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

The False Household Analogy

Periodically, we see the idea surface that the federal government’s budget should be compared to a household budget. We see what the debt is compared to yearly income.  We see how much the debt payments are, how much spending might be eliminated, etc.
Then people freak out.  And that makes sense. We have a large public debt, and we are spending more money than we take in. If the federal government’s finances are like those of a household, then we are in deep doo doo.  
But luckily, these are two completely different animals.   There are many differences, but I am presenting just a few here that show some of the substantive contrasts between the federal budget and a household budget.  Before we start, please remember that we are talking about the federal budget here.  State and local governments are a different matter. The analogy to a household in that context is certainly less wrong.
I have tried to be brief.  There are many extensions of each of these points that can be discussed, but I erased a lot of that in an effort to be clear and succinct......somewhat!  I hope that the points are clear.  Hopefully readers will point out any murky spots to me.
ONE:  Perhaps the main budgetary difference between a household and the federal government is this:  A household is a user of currency.  The federal government is an issuer of currency.
This means that a household needs an income in order to spend.  It must get money from somewhere else. The federal government does not, simply because it is the creator of the money to begin with!  
When the government spends money, it creates dollars out of nothing. This introduces currency into the economy.  So why does the government tax if it does not actually need taxes for the sake of revenue?  One reason is that taxation helps establish a currency.  If taxes are required in dollars, then people must obtain dollars through economic transactions.   Taxation insures that people will use dollars.
But the more important reason for our purpose here is this: The government taxes to reduce the amount of dollars in existence.  This offsets the dollars created by government spending in order to prevent inflation.  If government spending creates dollars, then taxation destroys dollars. 
Sure, people SAY that the federal government needs to tax in order to spend, but we also say that the sun rises and sets.  It is a helpful, shorthand way of talking about it.  But operationally, the most accurate way to describe government spending and taxation is to say that the government creates money out of nothing when it spends, and it destroys money into nothing when it taxes.
So federal spending must predate federal taxation, or else there would be no money in existence to tax.  Therefore the government does not need an income to spend.
Here is another way to put it:  A household must have money coming in before it can spend.  A government must spend before it can have money coming in!
So why does the government sell bonds?   I don’t want to stray too far off topic here, so I’ll just say that it sells bonds to “soak up” extra dollars in a similar way to taxation.  And the Federal Reserve buys and sells those bonds as a way to control interest rates, but that is another subject.
TWO - A household must pay its debts off or have them retired at some point.  The federal government does not.
I must pay my debts or my ability to borrow will be compromised.  I may even face legal action if I do not pay back my debts.  When I die, my debts will be paid out of my estate or retired if there is not enough money.
However, the federal government does not ever have to settle its debt. When bonds mature they are rolled over into other bonds. 
So is a more-or-less permanent public debt sustainable?   First of all, without the public debt there would be no dollars owned free and clear (often referred to as “net financial assets”) in the economy.  Without public debt, every dollar in existence would either be from a loan, and therefore owed back to a bank, or owed to the government in taxes.  Even if I had money that I owned free and clear, elsewhere in the economy someone else would owe the corresponding debt.  So in terms of the aggregate, of the whole dollar-based economy, there would not be any net financial assets.  One person’s money would be another person’s debt.
Another way to think of it is this:  The government debt equals the savings of the non-government sector.  For any net financial assets to exist, in the form of cash, bank reserves or bonds, the government must have a public debt.

We have run a public debt since 1837, and it has been added to almost constantly since then, so I suppose that is evidence of a fairly sustainable system.
THREE - The federal government does not borrow money in the same way a household does.
This is a continuation of the same idea, but I thought it would be good to explore it further.  When a household borrows money, it does so from another institution - a bank, credit union, etc. The US does not borrow from any institution.  Rather it creates money when it needs to spend.
But wait - everyone says that China loans us money, right?  It is true that China owns US bonds, but they do not lend us money like a bank would lend a household money. 
I repeat, the US does not really borrow from China, at least not in the way we think of a household borrowing.  How could it?  China has zero capability of making dollars.  China has decided to own dollars.  They sell us products and instead of spending the dollars they make on US products, they simply prefer to save those dollars for their own reasons.  Then, instead of sitting on cash, they invest in bonds.  That way, they make interest on their savings.
And if they wanted to convert those bonds to dollars, they are free to do so at any time.  Boom.  Debt to China paid off.
Here is a concrete example of how public debt is different that private debt. Let’s think back to World War II when the government’s debt, as compared to the gross domestic product (often referred to as “GDP”), was bigger than it is now.  Did the government pay back that debt?
When was the last time you thought, “Boy, it’s tough paying off all this debt we accrued during WWII”  or  “As soon as we get all these tanks and planes paid off, we can really start living it up!”?
Public debt does not work that way. It is not borrowing money from an outside institution.  It is the creation of net financial assets into the economy. 
FOUR:  It’s great for a household to run a surplus.  It’s not necessarily great for the federal government to do so.
If I have a surplus at my house, it means I brought in more money than I spent.  I can save the remainder, which is great!
However, when the federal government runs a surplus, it means it is taxing more money out of the private sector than it is spending into it.   It is destroying more money through taxes than it is creating through spending.
A public surplus is a private deficit. 
There have been seven relatively short periods of surplus since the current public debt began accumulating in 1837.   Every single period of surplus has been closely followed by a depression or recession.   This is not a coincidence.  Destroying money out of the economy, by taxing more than spending, is counter-stimulative.
This does not mean it should never be done.  Raising taxes could be a great way to cool off the economy if excessive inflation arises.   This is because taxation destroys demand and inflation is caused by demand outstripping our ability to create products.
But surpluses are certainly counter-stimulative.
So there are a few thoughts on how the federal government’s budget is different from a household's.  It is potentially dangerous to compare the two, as it can lead us to make decisions that will hurt our economy in the name of helping it. 

A well-meaning person may think we need to run a surplus to help the economy, but it might actually damage the economy.  A well-meaning person might worry about how we are going to pay back China, but we must ask ourselves what that even means when the government needs no income to spend.  A well-meaning person may worry that the federal government will go bankrupt, but the government spends at will with money created out of nothing.  It can never be forced into bankruptcy, because it controls the unit of currency in which all its “debts” are based.
Everything stated here is true (unless I have made mistakes) whether you believe in a bigger or smaller government than what we have in place now.  There are great debates to be had about what the proper level of balance is between the public and private sector.  But these are political arguments, and while they have bearing on economics, most of the economic arguments put forward these days are wrong, and are used (wittingly or not) to try to legitimize political arguments.
I owe a lot to the following sources (another debt that doesn’t need to be paid back, I hope?):
New Economic Perspectives - a blog by several ecomomics professors at the University of Missouri at Kansas City
“In Defense of Deficits” by James K. Galbraith

Also thanks to friends Burk Braun for his writing and references, and Eric Reitan for suggesting I write a little bit about this issue.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Violation of Religious Freedom or a Prevention of Religious Domination?

The Obama administration has decided that large institutions run by religious organizations cannot be exempted from including birth control in the health insurance plans they offer.  The rule does exempt churches and other places of worship whose primary purpose is to facilitate the practice of religion.  However, if a religious institution runs a hospital, a university, or another organization that goes beyond religious services, thereby servicing and possibly employing many people outside that religion, then they must comply with this new ruling.  Making sure birth control is easily available to women is a feature of the Affordable Care Act.
The Obama administration’s reasoning is based on the position of many, many medical organizations that making birth control easily available to women is a good for the public health that cannot be compromised by an employer, even if the employer is affiliated with a religion that disagrees with the practice.  Once again, churches would be exempted, but not institutions affiliated with religion serving the greater community beyond the specific practice of religion.  Of course, the Catholic Church is very, very unhappy about this decision as they run many hospitals and universities which would fall under the birth control coverage mandate.
I had to think about this for a while.  Religious liberty is a foundation of our society and should never be taken lightly.  But after considering it for a couple of days, I agree with the administration’s position.
First, we must establish that there is a limit on the practice of religious freedom.  Few would argue that Native Americans should not be able to smoke peyote in their ancient religious rituals.  (Actually, I think anyone should be able to do this, but I suppose that is another subject!).   However, imagine a religion with an initiation ritual requiring five year old children to walk five miles barefoot in the snow.  Let’s call this religion Freezism.  And when practicing this Freezist ritual, hypothermia frequently sets in.  Would our society tolerate this tradition?  Probably not, because of how the religious practice would affect others - namely five year old children who are too young to choose this religious practice for themselves.   So this barefoot snow ritual would not be an exercise of religious freedom so much as it would be an exercise of religious domination because of the risk of severe physical injury to those too young to participate in a truly willing manner.
So religious liberty is not an absolute - just like freedom of speech does not cover threats of violence or yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
Now imagine a university or a hospital run by a religion that does not believe in treating heart disease.  Let's call this religion Coronism. Their theology posits that God’s relationship with man dwells physically within a person’s heart, therefore no medical treatment should directly interfere with a person’s ticker.  It is a danger to a person’s soul.  Now imagine that this institution, a hospital let’s say, employs many, many people not affiliated with Coronism, and the hospital tries to exclude heart disease treatment from the health insurance policies offered to its employees.
Surely this would be too great a burden on the public health to be allowed.  It would be religious domination rather than religious freedom.  The Coronists would be forcing their employees to go without heart disease coverage, or to pursue coverage elsewhere at much greater personal expense.  The Coronists would be forcing unwanted religious restrictions, or at least the hardship of bypassing (haha) them, onto employees, onto workers in the community.
By requiring the Coronists to include heart disease treatment in the health insurance policies they offer, no one is forcing any Coronist to receive heart disease treatment.  But no one is allowing the Coronists to make it difficult for their employees to get the treatments they may need and desire and which medical science tells us are associated with health and well-being.
Now imagine another religion that does not believe in fire alarms.  Pyroism? Surely if the Pyrists ran a hospital for the general public, they would not be allowed to subject their employees and clientele to that danger?
At the risk of changing the subject temporarily, I actually think the real problem with the Obama/Catholic conflict is the link between the employer/employee relationship and health insurance.  This link is terrible.  An employer should offer pay.  That’s it.  Then individuals should purchase their own insurance.  We would have greater job mobility for workers, and Catholics could create their own policies which do not cover birth control, while employees at Catholic institutions (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) could buy the insurance they want which provides the services they desire.
But that is not the world we live in.
So the issue of religious freedom means deciding when one person’s “freedom” infringes on the freedom of another.   And the Obama administration has decided that when a church operates an institution that goes beyond the specificities of religious practice, not covering birth control creates an undue burden on the health and well-being of employees.  It is not an expression of religious freedom, it is an expression, however big or small, of religious domination.
And I agree.  Do you?