Religion and Conflict


I have been studying a very interesting MOOC put together by the University of Groningen. Some of the case studies are particularly stimulating.

The Hobby Lobby case is about how freedom of religion legislation applies to companies in the USA. The Christian owners of a chain of craft shops objected to providing health care insurance that would include contraceptive health care for its workers.

In the Supreme Court ruling that decided in favour of the company, some dissent was expressed “The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood,” Justice Ginsburg wrote, “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.”

However, corporate America can now go about its business with the same religious freedom/restrictions as its citizens. Justice Alito explained why corporations should sometimes be regarded as persons. “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends,” he wrote. “When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.”

The National Health Service in the UK launched by the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948 was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Medical disputes involving religion in the UK are usually about patients or their parents demanding the withholding of treatment (such as blood transfusions). End of life decisions are sometimes contentious, and a Do Not Resuscitate instruction may be the start of a slow dehydration of the patient, rather than a dignified end.

The other Religion and Conflict case study that interested me involved three young friends in Cairo, Egypt. Here is the link to the NYT video. One young man, who enjoyed body building and discussing girls with his buddies, became radicalized and took off without warning to join IS in Syria. His photographer friend reflected that it could have happened to him, and expressed his frustration with the authoritarian conservatism of his elders.

It is a fascinating insight into the pressures on young Muslim men.


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