Regarding Religious Freedom

purelyspeculationOver the past several months, Religious Freedom has been one of the most prescient topics in the minds of many. People nationwide are having full-fledged meltdowns at the idea of baking a cake for a couple who view things differently than they do (Link), and a pea-brained Kentucky clerk has managed to convince a bunch of hysterical nitwits that she’s some kind of martyr (Link). At the same time, we observe mass hysteria at the entirely misguided notion that Sharia Law is coming to the West (Link).

Happily, much of this uncertainty is being put to rest even as we speak. With the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (Link), the Western World has done much to define how we will soon interact with the very populations we claim to fear the most.

The RFRA was passed in part to ‘protect’ Christians from being forced into such heinous and sinful behaviours as baking cakes for loving couples in a public bakery, or issuing a marriage-license at the county registry. See, to be expected to do your job for any member of the public interested in utilizing your services has of late been perceived as religious-persecution. If this is true, then the only thing we can glean of the religious convictions held here is that they demand first-refusal rights for persecution itself.

Yet the ploy has been working. While there can be no argument made that people in any civil society must be free to worship in any way they see fit (assuming no harm to others), we must be careful about the extremes we go to in protecting these rights, and more especially, the ways in which we define them.

Over the next few years or decades, we will inevitably see a great influx of Muslim immigrants—and understandably so (Link). Just as we must for any influx of people, we will need to learn how to coexist with these folks; setting up fair and equitable boundaries which allow for their comfort and ours alike.

Much as we see in ‘China Towns’ and other such cultural hubs, some level of independence must be afforded to any emerging population. Yet many in the west are understandably paranoid about the active assertion of ‘Sharia Law’ on our soil.

Now at the present, I consider this a hysterical over-reaction, but the current machinations of the right wing are actually doing much to strengthen the possibility.

As the religious right defines its adherence to age old biases as a ‘fight for religious freedom’, and asserts new laws protecting this notion, they are laying the groundwork for similar legal enforcements of other religions—one expression of which could conceivably be Sharia law.

Protection to practice religion is a fundamental right in any decent country, but it must be clear that this will not be limited to the most popular religion—nor should it. Everyone must be afforded the right to practice as they choose—so long as it does not affect another. Passing laws that allow Christians to refuse the sale of a product on an open counter to a gay person sets a terrible precedent: one that the courts could (and by rule of precedent doubtless should) use to justify the banning of ‘infidels’ from Muslim operated stores, and other such seemingly inconceivable rulings. If this is not the precedent we want to set for our growing minority populations, then it mustn’t be what we practice for ourselves. Any public storefront should be available to all—just as a non-Asian citizen is not barred from entering a restaurant in Chinatown.

As we go forth defining the ways in which we legislate behaviour and respect, we would do well to bear in mind the broader implications of our attempts. Currently, debate rages over the display of the Confederate Flag (Link), and this is another example of how our rulings on local issues will do much to define our interactions with foreign influences. Ultimately, the Muslim community may have an entirely legitimate claim that depicting the prophet Mohammed constitutes a hate crime under the same sort of laws which prevent Nazi sympathizing and holocaust denial in much of Europe. This is a slippery slope to be sure, but one we must navigate nonetheless.

The question is—where does it end? Common paranoia paints a picture of an America destitute of pork products, while strict public dress codes are enforced by threat of corporal punishment. This certainly may seem absurd to anyone who is not a strict adherent to Islam. Equally absurd to the non-Christian population is the notion of getting up-in-arms over a rainbow on a cake.

If it bothers you, consider simply looking away when you see men kissing (or women kissing…or anything else you may see). Alternatively, consider simply choosing not to order the pork option on a menu if it is against your religion. Such concessions as these are ones we have to make for the simple fact that we live in a society. And that moreover, is the essential point here.

The most effective place for Religion is to help us in coping with society, not in controlling it. As long as we continue to insist otherwise, it is imperative to remember that the way we define our relationship between the law and our currently-dominant religion will ultimately define how we interact with every other religion as well.

So for the sake of us all, let’s keep an open mind here people.

-Brad OH Inc.

In Defense of the Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp..

Green Desklamp

There is a great deal of credit to be given to the pivotal villains in our lives. They are the flavour—the spices to the bland and basic nutrients of daily experience. Without the villains, there is no story, and without villains, it’s pretty damn hard to have a hero. Without the Joker, Batman is just some crazy asshole in tights; without Scar, Simba just an entitled burgeoning monarch.

Whether we look to the great novels of our time, or fine films—in daily life and even in professional wrestling, it’s inevitably the villains that make the story matter. They create the conflict, and more often than not, provide the personality so lacking in a world without them.

At Brad OH Inc., it’s a role we are often more than happy to play, and why not? Villains walk the less familiar path, and the great ones do so for reasons worthy to make us question what might otherwise be a simple matter of rote knowledge. They are the equation before the solution, the seduction preceding the climax.

In contrast, the hero is an easy role, and one driven merely by the most basic values and expectations which everyone should know. They’re accessible, simple, and fundamentally uninteresting. Ultimately, the hero can by nature do little more than reaffirm that which we already know, and while this can for a certainty be a great comfort at times, it lacks the potential to teach us anything new. Practice makes perfect—but mistakes are where the fun comes in.

Yet if you ask any given person, at any random time, you will with little variance hear them claim that they are a ‘good guy/ girl’, that they do what is right, and condemn its antithesis. It’s not a hard claim to make, and it shouldn’t be a difficult line to walk. The right choices are—or at the very least certainly should be—incredibly easy to make. Decency is a concept confined to no language, limited by no culture. It’s the same in most any society, and is the basis of every religion. Be honest, treat others well, consider the effects of your actions—Christ, I’m getting bored just typing it. Reiterating such basic concepts ad nauseum is like selling a math book with only the answers—it tells you everything, but teaches you nothing. It’s the job of the villain to provide the questions, and that is by far the more compelling role.

But while the villain may be the more fun and interesting role, it’s no earth-shaking thesis to say that decency remains the logical choice as far as actual action goes. After all, if everyone were to simply follow even the most basic principles of decency, we would be living in a veritable utopia of equity and compassion. A quick and informed look around however should tell even the most simple-minded observer that that is far from the case.

So what’s going wrong? Is it that the majority, or even a highly impactful minority, is choosing to play the villain role out of passion for its inherent interest? No, I don’t think so.

If we accept the basic assumption that the world would be paradise if everyone were to follow simple precepts of decency, and further that this is such a self-evident truth that awareness of it can never be far from any one person’s worldview, then the current state of the world presents us with a significant conundrum.

The problem as I see it is that for such a system of basic decency to have any success whatsoever, it must be a tenet to which everyone holds dear. Not a few, not even the majority. It’s a platitude to be sure, but in this case it’s true that even a few bad apples will spoil the barrel. If your neighbour is likely to rob you blind and leave you for dead, showing trust and decency is a quick ticket to being a victim.

For decency to work, it must be ubiquitous. To this end, the impetus to act morally is a shared responsibility of all; unfortunately, this tends to translate in the minds of the simple majority as tantamount to and inseparable from diffused responsibility.

Herein lies the problem. The perception of diffused responsibility is erroneous from the start, as it functions to break down faith in others, and provides excuses for the self. ‘It’s up to everyone, not just me’, is an easy call to arms for the ethically impaired, and could act as an effective summary of society at large. Ultimately, diffused responsibility serves as a lessened sense of purpose for everyone involved.

The fact that a successful society is the shared responsibility of so very many people makes the idea of personal responsibility seem like a distant pipe dream, whereas in truth it should serve to increase the motivation. In place of diffused responsibility, I would submit that it should be felt as a sense of compounded responsibility. The more people share in a responsibility—and the more significant the good that stands to be gained—the greater should be the personal impetus to adhere to it.

Obviously, that expectation is a fruitless hope, but there have been respectable approaches to creating this sense in the past. For starters, an obvious attempt is rule of law. This applies consequences to anyone who strays too far from the path of decency, as defined by the courts. Law certainly succeeds in maintaining a status quo, but the threat of punishment is insufficient to snuff out ill-will in those who see no future in honesty.

Another historical attempt to keep people adhering strictly to the righteous path has been religion. Religion has—to an extent—managed to help overcome the notion of diffused responsibility and settle on the greater ideal of compounded responsibility to be decent—at the threat of eternal fire. But with the rate of active practitioners dropping steadily (Source), and the very notion of faith being bastardized by legislation such as the Right to Corporate Religion (Source), there is again little in the way of keeping the average person from shirking this fundamental personal responsibility.

The death of god is one thing, the death of the human spirit is another entirely—and a far more regrettable one at that.

So what solutions remain? If the threat of punishment by measures such as laws only motivates cooperation as long as the benefit of compliance outweighs the motivation for misdeeds, and religion is increasingly ineffective at providing internal motivation to respect the compounded responsibility to decency, what options are we left with?

I think the key question here is, beyond the delectable irony of playing the villain role, why do so many people choose to break public trust—diffused responsibility notwithstanding?

Above, we established that the world would be a utopia if everyone simply made the right choices, and acted with dignity and respect. There would be no need for dishonesty or competition. However the problem that arises is distrust—if you cannot count on other people acting this way, then you will be ripped off and fooled. Thus, very few people bother to act correctly.

The problem here is that society is presently functioning as a zero-sum game: the gains of one are the losses of another. This is increasingly true in a world where Corporations are bleeding money out of the economy, hoarding it in non-taxable offshore accounts and leaving the population as a whole to struggle on with exponentially limited resources.

If our goal is a society where people will willingly make choices that benefit society as a whole, the solution is not singularly in punishing those who break this social contract, but rather in fostering a nation in which there exists the option for all people to safely make this choice.

With effectively balanced social supports: healthcare, welfare, affordable education and housing, etc., we could strive towards a society where living in a moral way will never leave a person wanting or starving. If citizens were not forced into unbearable debt, they could realistically get by simply living a just life. If people had that faith in their society, it would make true the false promises of all past religions.

Despite the fun of playing the villain, I firmly believe that people would choose to be good if it were a realistically safe path free of treachery and betrayal. If we want people to act morally, they must be provided with the option to do so unburdened by the threat of a neglected family life or crippling debt.

It is possible, but first we must move past the selfish machinery of Corporate profit-motivated nihilism which continues to keep the citizenry shackled to a lifestyle of simple survival without positive growth.

It’s just an idea mind you. It’s a complex issue, and there can be no doubt the obstacles in the way are unthinkably vast. In the meantime, there’s no sense in not enjoying ourselves. If we can’t have perfection, at least we can have fun! Here at Brad OH Inc., we’re happy to continue to play the villain, at least until a better role comes along.

-Brad OH Inc.

The New Corporate Religion of Brad OH Inc.

cropped-blogbanner1.jpgHere at Brad OH Inc, we cherish the indelible right to Freedom of Religion for all people, and this is especially important when that person happens to be a Corporation. Corporations clearly have a right to religion, just as any citizen of this marvelous country must if we are to continue to earnestly support the timeless and indelibly pertinent values of our ancient forefathers.

But it’s important that we not be unreasonable with the application of such essential considerations. While there can be no coherent argument made against the notion that humongous, international monetary entities are entirely interchangeable with living, breathing individuals, certainly there must be some concession made in regards to how those rights are enforced.

While an individual person must be allowed the right to choose and practice their religion in their own way (so long as that practice does not affect any other person in a manner otherwise illegal…especially a Corporate one!), the Corporate right to Freedom of Religion must be exercised in a somewhat different manner. Specifically, if we are to respect the Religious Sovereignty of a Corporation such as ours, it is essential that the given Corporate Religion and its implied doctrines be extended to anyone working for or affected by (or even in distant contact with) said Corporation.

This may seem like a stretch, but the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the U.S of A. confirms that these aspirations are entirely within our reach (Source). Call it a Brad OH’men!

Given this new precedent, we here at Brad OH Inc. feel it would be utterly obtuse of us—disrespectful to the constitution even—to not take full advantage of this god given right. Therefore, it is with careful consideration and great anticipation that we announce the new Corporate Religion of Brad OH Inc.

Now, the religions of old share a variety of key traits: a unified mythology, a concept of good and evil, a calling to a higher purpose, the promise of salvation. But to be honest, it’s pretty hard to deny these things are utterly boring, to say nothing of having been covered ad nauseum by other religions. So if that’s what you’re looking for, pick a church and take a seat, you’ll find plenty of stories there.

Here at Brad OH Inc., we are far more concerned with practicality, after all, pragmatism is one of the core tenets of Brad OH Inc.

Therefore, without further ado, we are pleased to present the 5 Central Commandments of the Corporate Religion of Brad OH Inc.:

  1. Thou Shalt Share: This one should be easy people. Sharing is nice, plain and simple. It’s so nice in fact, that we hold it to be sacrosanct. Therefore, henceforth, all patrons of Brad OH Inc. should consider themselves divinely mandated to share all content created here. To do otherwise would be a sin.
  1. Divine Duty of Discourse: If there is one key ingredient to any good society, it’s the free flow of public discourse. Don’t bother arguing—any contrary thought is wrong, plain and simple. To read an article here at Brad OH Inc. and fail to express yourself in the comments section is not only inconsiderate, henceforth it shall be considered an infringement on the Freedom of Religion of Brad OH Inc.
  1. Fundamental Freedom of Expression: We don’t think anyone can argue that the right to free expression is a fundamentally good concept. So good in fact, that we here at Brad OH Inc. consider it a moral imperative. That’s why we are so entirely dedicated to expounding erratically extreme philosophic tenets. Don’t believe us? Just check our banner! Therefore, if at any point you feel that some idea expressed on the site is contradictory to the nature of our Corporation, please remember that any such thought is a blatant violation of our religious right to free expression. If you have any further problem with it, kindly refer to Commandment #2.
  1. Functional Faithfulness and Loyalty: What can be said of any person who doesn’t hold dear the invaluable trait of loyalty? ‘False Hearted’, ‘Fly by Night’, ‘Insidious’, ‘Recreant’, ‘Craven’… and that’s just to name a few. Without loyalty, people just flit around all willy-nilly, doing what they will and going where they please. It’s certainly no way to run an empire. Therefore, Brad OH Inc. considers loyalty to be one of the most essential values a Corporation could ever hope for in a religion. So don’t forget about us, or you can expect a civil-suit for violation of our right to Freedom of Religion.
  1. Sacramental Self-Determination: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, self-determination is one of the most important traits any Corporation can have. After all, if left to the vile volitions of the common people, we’d be out there paying taxes, showing restraint in our environmental impact, and feigning sympathy for issues of social justice. Clearly, that’s no way to operate. So if at any point you find that the hearts and minds of us here at Brad OH Inc. have shifted, or that we’ve decided to go in a direction that doesn’t suit your selfish personal agenda, please remind yourself that we are simply following our Constitutionally Protected right to Freedom of Religion.

There you have it, the 5 Central Commandments of the Corporate Religion of Brad OH Inc. It is with a great sense of relief that we are able to share this with you today, and we know that you’ll surreptitiously revel in our joy as we celebrate our devotion to Freedom of Religion. After all, if a Corporation can’t profit off the liberties of the people who populate them, then what’s the point?

Your Sincere Friends and Mentors of Freedom,

-Brad OH Inc.

The Religious Rights of Corporate America

purelyspeculation

Here at Brad OH Inc., we are firmly and indelibly entrenched in the minutiae of Corporate politics; or at least that’s what they’d have you believe. Given recent developments therefore, it would seem natural that we address the issue of Corporate Religion.

Recently, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers may opt out of the Affordable Health Care Act’s (AHCA) provision of comprehensive birth control coverage based on grounds of religious freedom. The decision came as a result of the Supreme Court’s claim that ‘American families do not give up their constitutional right to religious freedom just because they open a family business.’ (Source)

The first point to clarify is that of Religious Freedom. Religious Freedom is an absolute necessity for any decent society, this I feel goes virtually without saying. The fundamental right to Religious Freedom is essential to allowing citizens of a diverse yet ultimately secular society to practice their faith in their own way without persecution.

Another core right in this society of ours is that to own and operate a business. In a society allegedly driven by free market enterprise and initiative, all citizens must have equal opportunity to join and function in the market place freely.

However, I believe that this issue represents a conflation of these two rights, and ultimately results in significant sacrifices to individual freedoms.

Religious freedom is fundamentally an individual right. Any citizen must be allowed to practice whatever faith they see fit, so long as in so doing they are not breaking any other laws, including bringing harm to other citizens.

However, the concept that a business too has the ability to practice religion is a deeply flawed notion, and serves moreover to allow the imposition of one person’s faith onto another; namely, that of the employer onto the employee.

In this particular case, businesses such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are being given explicit permission to deny to their employees important health care provisions as a result of the owner’s religion. This strikes me not as an example of religious freedom being protected for the owners of these businesses, but rather an example of their religious values being legally imposed on their employees, much to their detriment.

Let’s examine the initial quote. The court claimed, as noted above, that ‘American families do not give up their constitutional right to religious freedom just because they open a family business’. I believe this to be true beyond debate. No law could or should be passed requiring business owners in America to have abortions, or eat pork, or to do anything else which violates their personal liberties. However, that’s not what’s happening here.

Rather, the ruling dictates that anyone working for them must conform to their particular religious beliefs—if you work for hobby lobby, your right to have contraceptives and other forms of birth control covered by the AHCA are forfeit. The natural extension would be for these businesses to say that no employee will be allowed to eat pork in their private lives. An absurdity to be sure—but healthcare and family planning choices are certainly just as much an aspect of private life as are dietary decisions.

Now, the business owners would claim that making them pay for these provisions is a violation of their individual right to Religious Freedom—not so. While they are free to practice their religion in any way they choose (within the confines of the law), they must be expected to operate their business in a way that respects all given laws of the nation they operate in—and healthcare can be no exception. By ruling otherwise, the Supreme Court is disrespecting the right to Religious Freedom for all employees, while falsely claiming the moral victory of defending it for the owners.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify one important aspect of the equation at this point. In a respectable move, Congress assures that women affected by this ruling will be subsidized by the government rather than their employers. While that is a commendable step by the government, it is still skirting the issue, and opens the door for myriad other violations of personal freedoms grounded under such trite and non-consequential claims as Religious Freedom.

This approach opens a veritable Pandora’s Box. Inevitably challenges to Corporate Religious Freedom such as do-not-resuscitate orders and vaccine coverage will ultimately be laid on the government as well; another example of Corporations bastardizing the legal structure of our society to save costs, and allowing the government to foot the bill.

It comes down to a key issue we’ve covered before here at Brad OH Inc., namely the concept of Corporations being treated as people. It’s a dangerous and foolhardy idea to be sure, and it leads invariably to socially damning decisions such as these. When a business or Corporation is viewed as being fundamentally equal to an individual human being, the rights of the individual will unequivocally be trampled underfoot. That’s what’s happened here, and that’s what will continue to happen until this absurd notion is dismissed as the mad miscarriage of social justice that it is.

-Brad OH Inc.