Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mark of the Beast

The trouble with Biblical literalism is that it really needs to be all or nothing. My main objection to it, in fact, is that if you read the Bible in its entirety you will find conflicting accounts of the same events. That means the text can't literally be true, so some degree of interpretation is necessary in order to make sense of it.

When people who are not very bright try to do this they usually get themselves into trouble. An Ohio man who refused to provide a social security number to his employer, because he believed that it represented the "Mark of the Beast" from Revelation, lost his position and sued the company for religious discrimination. But a federal judge recently ruled that employers do not have to accommodate religious objections to social security numbers.

Donald Yeager, of Austintown, Ohio, was accepted in 2012 as an intern at FirstEnergy in western Pennsylvania, but he eventually lost the position because the company would not process his application without a Social Security number, reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He believes that the government-issued, nine-digit identification numbers are foretold in the Book of Revelations and associated with the Antichrist, and he renounced his Social Security number at 18. U.S. law refers to Social Security numbers in a statute numbered 666 – which is commonly understood as the biblical “mark of the beast.”

The Internal Revenue Service by law requires employers to provide their employees’ Social Security numbers for tax purposes, although they may still hire workers without one but must fill out additional paperwork.

Yeager sued the company last year, claiming that FirstEnergy had discriminated against him due to his religion. FirstEnergy argued that case law had established that employers do not have to accommodate religious objections to Social Security numbers, and a federal judge agreed.

This is clearly the correct ruling. According to the law, government does not have to accommodate religious beliefs that conflict with its "compelling interest." For example, even though Warren Jeff's Mormon polygamist group saw no problem with older adults marrying girls as young as twelve, he still wound up in jail because in the eyes of the government statutory rape is a crime regardless of the perpetrator's religion.

Likewise, the collection of social security numbers by employers is used to make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to find work and to administer the withholdings that support the social security trust fund. If anyone who wanted to claim a religious exemption could just opt out, neither of those functions could be adequately performed.

Furthermore, equating social security numbers with the Mark of the Beast requires a staggering lack of both intelligence and critical thinking skills. It is not printed on the hand or forehead, and it is not required to buy or sell anything. Yeager's sole piece of evidence is that social security numbers are referred to in a statute numbered 666 - which again, if you read the text, is the "number of a man," not the number of a statute.

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