Archive | January, 2010

Announcing Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival 2010

ff film fest

Films:

  • Letting Go of God
  • Root of All Evil
  • Enemies of Reason
  • Sex, Drugs, and Religion

and short films about

  • Reason
  • Science
  • Secularism

Plus a short documentary on freethought in the Philippines presented by the Filipino Freethinkers (who else?).

More details about the films, the documentary, and the event itself will follow (plus a prettier poster) so please stay tuned 🙂

In the meantime, RSVP on our Facebook group page now! 🙂

Posted in Announcements, Entertainment2 Comments

Of Burgers, Beers, and Bible Bashing (2nd Davao Meetup)

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The 2nd Davao Meetup was a success. I wish to thank both new and old members for making it. We had a really great time sharing our journeys and bonding with fellow freethinkers.

We had too much fun (and beer) actually, that we were not able to do an initial planning for the First FF Davao Forum. (For this we will have to do it online and discuss it on the next meetup.)

Now I’ll just give the highlights of our little Saturday night and let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

  • Special thanks to Narsdoktor for the generous donation which easily took care of all the burgers and beers a dozen freethinkers consumed from 6pm till midnight. You truly were with us in spirit. 🙂
  • Special thanks to Bdul for lending us his books.

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  • Special thanks to Harley Blvd. Motor Cafe for the great food and accommodation.

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  • To Ryan Tani and the rest of the FF community for your encouragement and support.
  • And of course, to Skyline Bugoy for the great pictures, the rest of which can be found here:

http://s816.photobucket.com/albums/zz83/SkylineBugoy/FFT/

Thanks everyone. Can’t wait for a third. 🙂

Posted in Meetup13 Comments

The Black Nazarene is stupid: Red on Rocked Radio

black nazarene

This RockEd Radio episode was supposed to be Dean Jorge Bocobo’s commentary on the Black Nazarene, with me chiming in every once in a while.

Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Dean never arrived, so I had the whole show to talk not only about the Black Nazarene — which I don’t know much of anyway — but atheism and freethinking in general.

But on second thought I didn’t get the entire hour. When I was about to say something particularly blasphemous, God cut the power.

Still it’s the second longest broadcast of blasphemy in Philippine radio. (Second to John Paraiso’s old radio show, of course 🙂 ) Enjoy!

(Thanks so much to Gang Badoy for allowing me to post this.)

Download mp3

Posted in Podcast, Religion, Society16 Comments

Faith as reason?

glassandfinger-fullTo escape the problem, believers seem to assert that religious faith is very different from faith per se. According to believers, faith, like reason, is a method of acquiring knowledge. So there! Reason and faith are not the same but different systems. Some say that faith is above reason. Others, like most theologians today, accept faith as compatible with reason…but faith is…as they say, the last recourse. Everything that reason cannot explain must rely on faith, and some believers insist that reason assists faith (liberal Christians are more into this kind of faith.)

Nevertheless, whatever its use is, well…faith is still not reason.

Let me illustrate this.

Suppose Wikipedia tells me that the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second. If I accept this because I have faith in Wikipedia…will that make faith compatible with reason? Some believers say that, “Reason tells me that my faith in what Wikipedia tells me is justified because such things have been (or can be) scientifically demonstrated by technical experts with the proper equipment. My faith in what Wikipedia tells me can be backed up by evidence.”

It seems these believers are not talking about an act of faith. First, the article in Wikipedia can be collaborated in other books. If Wikipedia declares that light speed is 299,792, 465 we can always check it using other books available. Remember, in the example, it is the Wikipedia article about the speed of light that’s in question, not the speed of light itself. You do not need to verify the speed yourself or to measure it. All you have to do is to check other books that claim this. At least you may have an accurate or near accurate figure to the Wiki’s claim. Furthermore, we assume that these believes have already heard of light speed – Gosh! Every wide reader knows that light has a speed, so it is not strange for Wikipedia to have an article about light speed. That means the Wikipedia article about light speed has evidence and it already came to pass.

Will I say that I have faith in something if I feel my proposition is backed-up by evidences? If I said that, I will sound ridiculous. If you are so cock sure about the claim and you believe that it is backed-up by evidences, you do not need to address it as faith. I will never say that I have faith in the existence of the aswang (Philippine Ghoul Demon) or mananaggal (Self-Segmenting Viscera Sucker), UFO, Area 51 and that space man who lives under the White House because I believe they are true and that there are evidences that point to their existence. Nor will I say that I have faith in Fung Shui or astrology or Extra Sensory Perception if I believe that they are backed-up with scientific evidences. Remember that faith is belief in some proposition that is without evidence. If it is backed up by evidence (or it claims to have an evidence), then technically speaking that is not faith. You will not hear a parapsychologist claiming he has faith that ghosts exist. That’s because he already believes that the existence of ghosts are backed up by evidences…of scientific proofs.

Hey, do not blame me with this definition of faith!

According to Fr. Pablo Pastells, faith cannot be called the result of a reasoning process; it is a supernatural gift from God our Lord. Inasmuch as it is the beginning and source of justification, it cannot be acquired by our natural powers without the necessary assistance of divine grace. Faith is a voluntary act of homage by which man freely submits his reason to the authority of the revealing God. Faith is not blind for it finds support in the evidence and irrefutable motives of credibility which assure us of the objective truth, or the existence of revealed dogmas, even if our limited rational faculties cannot comprehend them.

Nevertheless, though it is human, hence deliberate and free, the supernatural act of faith cannot be blind. For the will reasonably submits the understanding to the yoke of faith, that is, to the authority of the revealing God. And both intellect and will, enlightened and strengthened by divine grace, give assent to the revealed truths of the supernatural order. (Fourth letter of Pastells to Rizal dated April 28, 1893)

Obviously, Fr. Pastells’ definition of faith is highly influenced by Thomas Aquinas. This brings us to the problem of Thomas Aquinas’ concept of faith. Aquinas believed that reason and faith could not contradict each other because they come from the same divine source. He is really against Averroës’ (Mohammed ibn Roshd) concept of the so-called twofold-truth theory that states a proposition may be philosophically true although theologically false (or vice versa). So in order to understand both Pastells and Aquinas’ view on faith:

P is not capable of rational demonstration until proposition Q (God revealed P).
However, proposition Q can be true if (1.) it must assume that God exists (2) miracles occur within the Christian church (3) scriptural prophesies have been fulfilled. Therefore, P is compatible with rationality.

For Thomas Aquinas faith is rational if we accept some proposition as true by means of…well you guessed it – FAITH! Let me elaborate. According to him, there are two kinds of faith: faith that is guided by reason (which he called general revelation), and that which cannot be demonstrated with human reason (special revelation). Let us concentrate on the “general revelation”. Based on Aquinas’ definition, you have to be preconditioned to some belief to accept natural theology as revealed truths. Without it, his general revelations fall apart.

Therefore, you need to rely on faith for you to make faith rational. Does it sound circular or it is just me? To make faith “rational”, you have to accept proposition (1) That God exists without question. According to Aquinas, he already proved it using his Quinque Viae (Five Ways). You also have to accept propositions (2) and (3). Remember, in theology, appeal to authority carries most weight; in philosophy, it carries least. Let us make something non-religious as an example: If we use Aquinas’ definition of faith by general revelation, well…

Suppose you went to see an “albulario” (faith healer) to cure a growing tumor in your balls. The albulario told you if you want to get better, you have to drink a potion made from the fruit of the “tuba-tuba” plant.

Using Thomas Aquinas’ general revelation, faith becomes reason when we accept the albulario’s claim for a cure if (1.) You accept that the tuba-tuba plant juice will heal the tumor in your testicles. (2.) You believe the town folks that say the “tuba-tuba” plant is medicinal. (3.) There is a book written by their ancestors that says the tuba-tuba plant is medicinal.

Without investigating evidences that will back-up proposition (1), (2) and (3), you drink the prescription because you think you are being reasonable with your faith in the albulario’s treatment, not even knowing that the tuba-tuba fruit is poisonous. You did not really use your reason here because you just accepted this point blank!

If the patient accepts this prescription by faith, he is not being rational, yet that is what Thomas Aquinas wants us to accept. What can I say about Aquinas in the issue of reason? In his writings, Aquinas gives more weight to faith rather than reason. Being a devoted Catholic and a believer, Aquinas believed that he already knew the absolute truth, truth as declared by the Catholic faith! If he could find apparently rational arguments to back-up his faith, so much the better; if he couldn’t, he needed only to fall back on divine revelation. That is not reasoning, that is special pleading. Therefore, Thomas Aquinas’ faith by general revelation has failed to provide us the link between faith and reason.

We now go to Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard’s definitions of faith. According to Kant, faith is the acceptance of ideals, which are theoretically indemonstrable, yet necessarily entailed by the indubitable reality of freedom. I think he calls faith as practical belief. Kierkegaard believes that faith is a total and passionate commitment to God.

Gosh! It is epistemology – but epistemic sense represents our knowledge about the world, which requires that we believe a given proposition to be true, not because we just want to feel good about it! Is Kant and Kierkegaard’s faith compatible with reason? Can I put someone behind bars just because it feels good? Will I believe Jun Lozada’s testimony not on the merits of his evidence but because I hate the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s ugly mug? You call that reason?

In trying to figure out the mind of Kierkegaard, a defender of faith may say, “Kierkegaard does not suggest that belief is not rational, but rather, it is not just a rational act. Sure, belief includes the passionate decision to make that “leap of faith” but no way is Kierkegaard suggesting that this leap is “blind” because the individual has to know (or has to have the reason) what they are leaping for. The individual must at least understand Christianity as the paradox of the Transcendent god entering into history as god incarnate (Christ), and must know why one needs to leap over the mystery of Christianity. (Because our sin prohibits us from understanding God.)

Faith, which Kierkegaard contends is a gift from God, is a necessary tool in overcoming our incapability to understand God (because of sin). This is the reason behind his words that faith is needed to believe in the paradox and the absurd. Faith, as per the context of Kierkegaard’s mind, is based on this reason; faith is not merely from a blind leap.”

However, such belief will also lead us to the problem of Aquinas’ “general revelation”. In order to apply Kierkegaard’s faith to reason, you have to leap “by faith” on Kierkegaard’s concept of god, sin and Christianity. That is circular reasoning.

We now go to Wittgensteinian fideism.

Blogger El Sordo from his blog, “Yet There Is Method In It”, offers an explanation through an example:

“Consider a group of Catholic theologians who meet on Wednesday afternoons to discuss metaphysical questions. These people use a number of curious words and expressions such as ‘essence’, ‘ground of being’, ‘grace’, ‘dialectic’, and so on. Yet the discourse in progress clearly is not arbitrary, but rule-guided. A beginner who uses an expression incorrectly is reprimanded, and may even be ostracized if he or she does not conform. Within the group it is well known who are the experts whose pronouncements are listened to with most respect, and so on. Here we could propose is a language-game, it is a rule-guided activity and probably (being religious) is a form of life. Within this language game, words and expressions have a use which is circumscribed by rules and conventions. On Wittgenstein’s later theory of meaning, therefore, we must surely say that these words and expressions have meaning, and that the metaphysical discourse is (to its game-players at least) meaningful.”

This whole language-game philosophy is on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s beetle in the box story. In Philosophical Investigations (1953), Wittgenstein says:
Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a “beetle.” No one can look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle.— Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing. —But suppose the word “beetle” had a use in these people’s language? —If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language game at all; not even as a something: for the box might even be empty. —No, one can “divide through” by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. [Section 293]

According to Wittgenstein, religious discourse is embedded in a form of life and has its own rules and logic. It can only be understood and evaluated in its own terms, and any attempt to impose standards on such discourse from the outside – for example, from science – is quite inappropriate. Since religious discourse is a separate unique language game different from science, religious statements, unlike scientific ones, are not empirically testable.

I have used Wittgenstein to secure my contention that faith is not reason nor it is compatible with reason. I will now elaborate this using El Sordo’s example. If you notice El Sordo used a singular group in his example, which was a group of Catholic theologians. He is right that any person outside the group may not understand their religious language play. However, what if the group started to talk about Catholic doctrine like the Eucharist (where the Catholic believes that the bread and wine will transform into the actual blood and flesh of Christ) and a “Born-Again” Christian is listening. Well even that Christian (which also uses the same religious terms like essence’, ‘ground of being’, ‘grace’, ‘dialectic’, and so on…) will be estranged with the Catholics’ discourse. Let’s see…in a Catholic language game, the Pope is infallible in spiritual matters but the Born-Again Christian language game makes the Pope fallible. Gosh! I can’t distinguish who’s right between the two! The problem with Wittgensteinian’s fideism is that it will make it appear that all religious discourse uttered by different religions are relative to the language game in which they belong. How can we use reason if there is no place for errors in the religious language-game? How can we make any investigation and arrive at any conclusion if truth is relative in the religious language-game? If believers claim that Wittgenstein’s religious language game secures religious faith, its relativity makes it irrational.

On the contention of Griffith-Thomas and McGrath in relation to faith, well what can I say…It is suggested that both people agree with Aquinas’ notion of “General Revelation”, it is a logical conclusion to say that both also fell on the issue of the problems of Aquinas’ general revelation.

As I have said earlier on this article, do not blame me on the definition of faith. According to the Christian sacred book (which is the Bible):

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrew 11:1

That means faith is to believe something which has not yet come to pass or for which one has no evidence. However, most believers sometimes contradict this very definition of faith. For them, faith must reconcile with reason. A reasonable faith? Sounds like an oxymoron.

How does a believer reconcile faith with reason? Typically, a believer has to place reason in a narrow framework and then place this framework in a large sphere occupied by faith. Then the believer will create a scenario to place faith as compatible to reason by making reason accept the believer’s “truth” derived from special pleading from his source of authority which was derived from…that’s right folks…faith!

So now, you know the secret of this magic trick.

Posted in Religion6 Comments

Common sense is not so common

common senseWhat do you do when you see the train coming? Common sense tells you to stay away from the tracks.

What happens when you are short of cash? Do not spend.

It’s just common sense.

A lot of people have no common sense. They need people to tell them what to do. In the USA, the rich pay financial advisors to teach them how to invest. The obese have  to pay more money to nutritionists to teach them what food to eat. The wealthy hire personal shoppers to shop for them. People usually get an interior decorator to decorate their houses for them. What a waste of money. Why would you hire and pay people to tell you what to do? Why would you let people choose things for you?  This could be done by what you call common sense.

If you know you are overweight, you need to stop and examine what you are eating; if not, go to a medical provider to find out why you cannot lose weight. A normal person usually would maintain his/her weight if an adequate amount of food is consumed everyday which is proportional to the body’s requirement. The extra calories are stored if not burned by any activities. If your energy level is higher than your calorie intake, expect weight loss. It is common sense to eat less and behooves you to understand weight management without the help of an expert.

If your salary is just enough for your household, learn the art of budgeting and proactively make plans for your future. Why wait for a disaster to happen before saving? Why wait for a calamity to happen before setting some funds for emergency situations?

Do not waste your time and money or any resources you have at hand. Use your time wisely instead of talking to somebody to tell you what to do. Use your funds wisely by doing things on your own. Why would you pay an interior decorator to decorate your home? That means it is the interior decorator’s taste, not yours!

Why waste your time  going to church every Sunday, or maybe every Wednesday, Sunday or feast of whatever patron saint? In short, why waste too much time inside the church? Are you sure somebody can hear you besides the altar boy lurking in between the pews?  Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.  (Anonymous).

In my personal opinion,  we don’t need the Church to dictate what is moral because we have our intellect and reason to determine that.  We have mental faculties to decipher which behavior is acceptable or not. We are all rational human beings, capable of changing the world.  Each of us has about 100 billion neurons in our brain; why waste them? Think, think, think… the brain is a terrible thing to waste. Do not cloud your mind with ideas that do not make sense at all. Try some mental exercise and ask yourself, “am I using my common sense in my choices in life?”

Wake up, common sense is not so common, but choose to use it anyway!

Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius.

George Bernard Shaw

Posted in Others, Religion10 Comments

War Weariness

high-ground-of-an-argumentThis constant battle can exact a huge toll. I sometimes wonder where all these arguments came from and why I couldn’t have just avoided them.

There is a huge difference between a fundamentalist and a free thinker in this battle for ideas: the fundamentalists are trying control everyone else, the freethinkers want to be involved with the processes of making a world where they can be happier.

My claim that fundamentalists are trying to control stems from the pattern closer inspection of their behavior reveals. The pattern that emerges is mostly concerned about imposing their will on what is “theirs”. There is a gross amount of egocentric rationalization and not any allocentrism in the pattern of behavior. Strangely this control quickly extends to thoughts, words, and Ideas. It even gets more apparent when anecdotes of the extreme just confirm the overwhelming opinion.

The anecdote of the woman who complained to a school that the dictionary contained an offensive definition, the constant attacks on secularism, and the moral superiority are all patterns of control. One particular degree of control that gets really irrational is the easily offended sensibilities, when they consider themselves immune to criticism.

As much as they are free to criticize people who deviate from their arbitrary sensibilities, they don’t seem to realize this goes both ways. They don’t see that relative to other people, they are different and subject to the same criticism.

It’s funny to see someone who criticizes other people’s beliefs take offense when they are criticized. There is that very subjective and arbitrary moral point of view in action. It’s quite interesting to see someone who assumes that people who agree with him/her have a perfectly homogeneous point of view.

The delusional, those who think they are above criticism, don’t appreciate the world of the freethinker. A world where if everyone is free to criticize each other, one better have some good answers to why they do what they do. There are no cop outs and no argumentum vericundum.  The world of the Freethinker is hard; even if he/she can fire a better argument back, there is just few of him/her surrounded by multiple opposition and barriers. Even if their arguments are better crafted and honed after long experiences in the “battlefield”, they can be rendered instantly useless by those who have compartmentalized or isolated reason into one small aspect of their mind.

Living in blissful irrationality is really a choice not everyone is willing to give up. In a pragmatic view: if it’s easier, why not do it? Unfortunately, it is the irrational adherence and diligence to reason and some degree of altruism that cause free thinkers to be masochists or have a strong resistance to hyperbolic discounting.

It is easy to give up, and that option is always open; it would be so much easier than hitting one’s head against a brick wall of crazies. Unfortunately, irrationality only brings freethinkers further into the battle through escalation of commitment, which both sides suffer.

So what is a freethinker ought to do? On this, I go to Sun Tzu:

“A general does what he needs to do, regardless of what it may appear”.

It’s hard not to let the same irrationality controlling the crazies get the better of oneself. It is best to break off, even if it would make one appear weak. Then proceed to save strength, rally mental forces and proceed with a different plan of attack.

The Freethinker is powerless or less helpful when burned out. It would be ideal that he/she chooses the battles better, take into account war weariness and start having and developing an exit strategy.

Looking at constructive methodology from Qualia Soup: starting off constructive statements has a built-in exit strategy. The second the other side stops being reasonable, it’s a quick, clean and easy termination. It follows the same principle of preparation through conditioning and a well-thought approach.  Since it does take some time to dig up the empirical data, there is an implied proposition of the amount of work needed to come up with an objective conclusion: allowing people to make the practical decision if they have time to really undertake that data gathering needed.

Imagine only having to deal with constructive statements. Instead of a wide angle search, you can begin with a more narrow and easily defined search parameter. There is no “opinion” – just facts and data. It’s like looking over a math formula to check if it was done right. Wouldn’t that be so much easier than escalating into argument where emotions begin to color the exchange of information?

Rest for the Weary, comes from working smarter.

Posted in Others, Science, Society7 Comments

Blaming

blaming-othersIt is interesting how education and science allow one to look at the world and honestly admit that it is far more complex than one can ever hope to comprehend. Still, even with the discipline of empiricism, human nature, fear and impatience cause us to simplify things to a point of useless opinions instead of something constructive and usable.

Blaming is one of those things that can oversimplify a situation that is certainly complex. Not all “blaming” is an oversimplification; some are a result of study targeting one particular factor as the most reasonable primary cause. Although, it may depend on the perspective and temperament of the people involved when it is a factual statement of cause or a nonconstructive accusation of blame.

We all are capable of understanding the principle of cause and effect. Applying it to basic worldly situations, we can look at an action or a situation and “look back” to what caused it. When we look back, what mostly determines the precision of reasoning is how much we are trained in logic, our education regarding factors that affect the situation, and how keenly we can observe details.

If looking back to what caused several consecutive events doesn’t sound complicated to you then let us proceed to analyzing what are the skills needed to empirically analyze motives and factors:

Knowledge of Human Nature: This is the knowledge that allows us to understand a situation through the human factors. We learn Psychology or empathy as a necessary skill in dealing with people even if we are not familiar with the precise academic nomenclature.

Often we hold our observation, experience and what we currently know at a higher regard than the scientific knowledge that is not reinforced by experience. Despite the experience everyone may have with absentmindedness, their emotions getting the better of them, and lapses of better judgment, sometimes it is easy to throw away the precision of structured thought for the reckless generalizations to satisfy a fear, impatience or other emotional pressures.

There is a level of certainty that allows us to infer human motives with empirical methods. If human nature was that much of a mystery then it would not be possible to send criminals to jail. We wouldn’t have the whole host of crime TV shows that were inspired by these methods and professionals. It is not a very precise process but most people can live with that level of certainty. If we didn’t know a bit about what people can be thinking, we wouldn’t have any reason to base our emotions of trust, respect, fear, love, or hate.

A whole mess of factors. Sociology, Anthropology, Game Theory and Economics, among others, are the sciences that seek to understand the behavior of a group of people. If you didn’t find analyzing one person hard enough, try analyzing a group of individuals and all the subtle factors that influence them.

Common sense can only take one so far; without the basic principles of any scientific discipline related to the matter, one would be secretly thinking they’re a super genius if they think they can work it all out without thought structuring tools.

One of the aspects that make this complicated is that every empirical conclusion is based on observation, psychology, statistics and probability; factor-able forces and historical data must be considered: “within reasonable certainty” (which semantic grymlyns would try to confuse victims with existential contrivances to the meaning).

After enumerating the factors involved in having a better appreciation of the complexity of a situation, would it be responsible to give in to baser human nature and hastily generalize things?

The knowledge to understand and correct situations exists; it’s used everyday to shape our world. We find it in policy making, in our economy, in business, in marketing strategies,  in law-enforcement, in diplomacy and politics, in our most basic interactions, in infrastructure development and engineering etc…

Why generalize? Why not make constructive statements that can be answered by tools made even more accessible by the internet, cooperation, and advanced inventory management in our book stores?

Why result to (hastily generalized) blaming and blanket statements of accusation, when the tools for making a reasonable and constructive claim are available?

Posted in Others0 Comments

Theodicies

haitiHaiti was hit by a 7 magnitude earthquake a couple of weeks ago. 150,000 (and counting) people were already declared dead. Aside from that it also destroyed countless properties, livelihood, and shelter. It also displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Instances like this are a great challenge to the people who are affected. How will they move on with their lives when they have almost nothing left? How will they move on if their loved ones were killed? Where will they get the money to start again? Where will they get help? I think all of these questions and problems can be answered and solved as time will pass or if  someone will eventually help these people. Time will heal all wounds, a quote says. But a more important question still remains unanswered for a long time. Well many have tried but I guess their answers still face a lot of criticisms and contradictions, making the problem still a problem.

Where was the God that believers, mostly Christians, claim to be true/existing, loving, and powerful? Why would God allow this to happen? Well these questions are not really original or new but I think it would be good to ask again and again for emphasis. I asked these questions subtly (subtly so that they will not be offended) to my theist friends and they all had their own explanations and theodicies. I wasn’t able to reply and criticize them because of time constraints and I also did not want to offend and humiliate them. So below are the four and most common theodicies that I encountered and my reply and criticisms to these four:

Punishment Reply: The people that suffered in the earthquake were just punished by God because these people disobeyed God’s laws or that these people were very sinful.

My reply: Not all of the people that were killed or suffered were sinful; there were children and good people who suffered and died in the said earthquake. Theists could reply that this is just a result of Original Sin. But I say that this is not just, and it does not show that God is loving. I mean, is it just to punish the great(x 100)-grandchildren of a person who committed a sin long ago? You know the answer.

The Heavenly Reply: These people and children may have suffered and died but they will be compensated many times in heaven/eternal life.

My reply: But what’s the point of them suffering here on earth? Why didn’t God put them straight to heaven even before they suffered? Heaven does not justify their suffering. This act is immoral even if heaven is so good because God could’ve put them in heaven or given them eternal life without making them suffer first.

Soul-Making Theodicy: This contends that God allows evil because it builds a positive character in the victims, and this compensates for evil and suffering.

My reply: Is this how a loving God builds a positive character in its followers? I think there are still many other ways that are less evil and crude. Also, evil and suffering do not necessarily build a positive character; greater losses also occur. Families would break up, morale would go down, people would turn away from God.

The Privation response: Evil is just the absence of good just as darkness is the absence of light.

My reply: Evil is not really a privation of good. If you are hurt, say you were punched or kicked in the ass, you know it hurts. It is a positive sensation and not just the absence of pleasure. People who are numb or asleep do not feel pain, even though they experience the absence of pleasure and any other feeling.

There are also other replies to the problem of evil and suffering out there but these are the most common I encountered. Theists have a choice here. They can accept that either their God is not capable (not powerful) of helping the ones who are in need, or that their God is capable but doesn’t want to (not loving). Of course, they can also simply accept that there is no such thing as a loving and powerful God.

* * * * *

This post was originally published at discreetinfidel.blogspot.com.

Posted in Others, Religion12 Comments

Malum Prohibitum

ten_commandmentsIn law, a crime can be categorized as either malum prohibitum (“wrong because prohibited”) or malum in se (“wrong or evil in itself”). In a civilized community, murder, rape, theft, robbery, and kidnapping are generally perceived as mala in se regardless of where they were committed or even if there were no written laws punishing them. On the other hand, illegal possession of drugs or firearms and traffic and tax violations are mala prohibita – crimes in certain societies because their statutes made them crimes.

It isn’t hard to see why some acts were criminalized since they compromise public welfare. Offenses involving drugs, firearms (possession), and driving are mala prohibita because they “result in no direct or immediate injury to person or property but merely create the danger or probability of it which the law seeks to minimize”. A drug user may enjoy his ‘trip’ peacefully, but there is the possibility that later on his addiction will lead him to steal, rob or kill to support his habit. A man carrying a gun might be a very responsible owner, but what if ego and testosterone take over during an altercation? Beating the red light may not be the same as deliberately hitting another vehicle, but it greatly increases the risk of collision.

Other crimes, on the other hand, are debatable (and have actually been the subject of widespread debate) as far as their rationality, logic and sensibility are concerned. I just mentioned a possible reason behind drug laws, but marijuana advocates over the world are clamoring for legalization, insisting that it is very much harmless compared to other drugs, including alcohol.

In the novel Primal Fear, there is a part that mentions malum prohibitum and malum in se:

Malum prohibitum is the way society defines the limits of acceptable behavior. So if everybody in the country wants to drink booze and booze is against the law, the law gets changed. But malum in se never changes. If everybody in the country suddenly went kill-crazy, they wouldn’t legalize murder.”

In the first half of the twentieth century there were certain periods in the United States and other countries when alcohol was illegal – not just the consumption in certain places or times, but also the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of it. But the people loved their drink, and through their elected representatives they eventually managed to have the prohibition lifted.

Now let us see how malum prohibitum and malum in se apply to religion by taking a look at the Ten Commandments:

1. “You shall have no other gods before me” – malum prohibitum and does not even compromise public welfare

2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol” – malum prohibitum

3. “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God” – malum prohibitum

4. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” – malum prohibitum

5. “Honor your father and mother” – malum prohibitum. M. Scott Peck, MD said that this is probably the commandment that did the greatest damage (although I disagree with him because the term used was ‘honor’ and not ‘obey’) because there are psychologically sick parents who make their children do sick things, and a child who follows this ‘divine’ commandment would surely do what his/her parents say lest his/her days will not be long.

6. “You shall not commit adultery” – malum prohibitum but also touches on morality issues

7. “You shall not murder” – malum in se

8. “You shall not steal” – malum in se

9. “You shall not bear false witness” – malum in se, causing direct and immediate harm to a person’s honor and might even risk the his/her property, liberty, or life

10.  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or goods” – malum prohibitum. It is one thing to covet (immoderately desire), but it’s totally another thing to act on this desire.

Out of the Ten Commandments, only three can be considered mala in se – murder, theft, and bearing false witness. The rest are mala prohibita and do not even compromise public welfare. The Commandments do not mention rape, plunder, and child abuse, and these acts were clearly condoned and even commissioned in the Bible. Most of its ‘laws’ are about pleasing the religion’s deity, who is actually also guilty of murder and genocide (Sodom and Gomorrah, the great flood, killing of the firstborn, etc.).

Now all this begs the question: Is religion (and the Ten Commandments) an ideal basis for what is right and wrong? Should our society’s morality be based on what the Church declares as moral and immoral? Governments have created laws to punish and prevent every imaginable mala in se crime. However, religions seem to focus on malum prohibitum, and the things they prohibit do not even compromise public welfare, but simply undermine the source of their power and authority.

* * * * *

Related article: Malum In Se

Posted in Others, Religion125 Comments

Filipino Freethinker’s Freesharing of Books!

Filipino Freethinker’s Freesharing of Books!

Hello fellow freethinkers! If you’re just lurking on the facebook page or just following the blog feed, you might not be aware of the the book sharing program that’s being organized in the forum. As people who treasure real knowledge of the world I’m sure quite a few of us have a small library of great books, be it non-fiction or fiction, that we find relevant for sharpening our minds and widening our breadth of knowledge, the very things that started us down the path of becoming freethinkers.

As books do tend to be quite expensive, it would be great if we could circulate these tomes of knowledge throughout the group instead of just sitting around on our bookshelves gathering dust. A great decentralized library of freethinking if you will. To me this would do two great things for the group:

  1. Enrich the group as a whole intellectually and perhaps spiritually (in the secular sense!)
  2. Build a greater sense of community and fellowship amongst the FF members.

To facilitate this, I’ve started a Filipino Freethinker’s community on the Unlibrary website. Unlibrary handles the logistics of collating the list of books that members have  and presenting it as a lending library as well as the requests for books between members of the community.

The Rough Rules of Sharing

As we’re just starting out on this, I’d like to keep the rules for the book sharing pretty loose. Here are  3 uncommandments of the FF unlibrary:

  1. This goes without saying but take good care of the books. These are books someone is personally entrusting you with! It may be a good idea to exchange phone numbers so there’s a way to contact each other,  just in case.
  2. The default pickup/drop-off for books are on the FF meetups – this gives a default book loan period of 2 weeks. Do feel free to make arrangements outside the FF meetups though if it’s more convenient.
  3. As an indicator that you’re going to be at the meetups regularly (and thus able to return books), borrowers should have attended at least 3 other FF meetups on a roughly regular schedule.

If you have any other suggestions or refinements to these rules, please bring it up on the forum thread or the comments section.

Getting Involved in the Unlibrary

Make an account on Unlibrary and follow these steps! Unfortunately I can’t seem to link directly to the FF unlibrary community page so please bear with me:

Step 1:  Add your books to the library

  1. On the left navigation bar, click on My Library then Add Books
  2. Search for a book you want to add to the library by title, author or ISBN.
  3. Hover over the book you own and click Add book to Library
  4. Tag and rate the book and save
  5. Repeat for other books you want to share!
  6. You can now see your books by going to My Library and Bookshelf. While you’re over there you might want to add reviews of the books!

Step 2:  Join the FF community

  1. Go to the left navigation bar, click on Communities and then Find new Ones
  2. At the search box type “Filipino Freethinkers
  3. Click on Join on the right side of the search results

Step 3:  Browsing and borrowing

  1. Click on Borrowing and then on Find Books
  2. The books from the people you can borrow from should show up. Most likely this will only be books from the FF community.
  3. To ask to borrow, look at the right side under the stars.
  4. These are the people who have a copy of the book, click on their avatar to request to borrow from them.

Once again if you have any other questions about the book sharing, please feel free to ask away on the forum thread or in the comments section.

As of writing, the FF community library has 27 copies of 25 books ranging from intellectual pleasures such as Breaking the Spell (Daniel Dennet) and Uncommon Sense (Alan Cromer) to the intriguing stories that facts can tell such as Microtrends (E. Kinney Zalesne, Mark Penn) and Freakonomics (Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt). Also, big thanks to Terrence for making the first loan to me on the January 24 meetup of What the Dog Saw!

Post photograph by Or Hiltch

Posted in Entertainment, Organization, Others0 Comments

Did you just say that!?

lgbtI haven’t been to the past hearings and technical working groups for the anti-discrimination bill. All I know of them is that Rep. Abante (dist 6, Manila) and other conservatives told horrible, horrible lies and stereotypes about us gays. The usual stuff. These mean prudes claim that we’re intrinsically evil, and thus immoral, dangerous to children, destructive to families, yada yada yada. And that passing the bill would only empower us to destroy society itself! Of course they’re dead wrong. We are not intrinsically evil. They are just hateful, irrational, and mean people who are afraid of liberal change and the different.

Back then, this guy Abante was super strong and managed to shoot down the bill. Now, he still is, but not too strong to block its passing to the working group stage. I attended the very last of these working groups, sessions dedicated to deliberating what to change, add or remove from the draft anti-discrimination bill. This one went relatively calm, with brief but infuriating interludes from the resident Filipino and foreign catholic bigots. Previous ones were much more animated because Abante was there to be the loud and uber angry conservative congressman.

Last week’s enemies of liberty was the effeminate, maybe closet gay attorney from the CBCP and that white Republican spokesperson from ALFI—a person whom I think should be deported along with other foreign agents of bigoted beliefs. The police and the military reps were not enemies of liberty during the session. Sure, they were a bit homophobic, espoused a don’t ask, don’t tell-ish policy, but at least they overtly showed willingness to work on passing the bill with minimal changes. Very much unlike the bigots who were only there to make sure the bill gets severely weakened.

The guy from the CBCP said things becoming of an attorney for Catholic Bishops. Homosexuality is something internal, he says. But when someone acts on it, society will frown on it because of “conscientious objection”. That phrase right there can be restated as “objection based on religious grounds”. Opting to use the word conscientious makes it seem that their religious morality is the one true morality, thus making their decisions super right and everyone else wrong. From that belief, the Catholic Church thinks it has the right to be against this bill, code for “No way are we gonna let this pass! Cuz you know, we have faith that God hates gay sex”.

The gentle attorney also retardedly suggested that people and institutions be exempt from the punitive aspects of the bill if the discriminatory acts they did were committed in obeisance to religious beliefs. In obeisance to my beliefs, I rebutted that asinine statement saying that adding such clause to the bill would defeat the purpose of the bill itself. I made it very clear–like some bigshot, in front of that attorney, amidst the reps during the session itself–that the clause would enable people to circumvent justice, even after discriminating gays, as long as they say they did it out of their religion. That little performance earned me praise from none other than Risa herself. *clapping to myself, thankyoubow*

White American bigot, like many Republicans back in the US, was acti’n way evils. He said that passing the bill will: endanger children (because we’re more likely to be pedophiles – WTF!), promote public sex (this guy is insane) and criminalize human relations a. k a. being a practicing bigot. He said these f’d up things with such conviction that even the military and the police joined Risa, Jonas and me in taking this guy down a peg. Long story short, white bigot was a total loser in this session, even the police and military guys think he’s absurd.

I am of a disposition to assassinate guys like white bigot and Abante, because frankly, the world would be much better without them. But I shouldn’t. Because if I do pull it off, it might put gays in a worse light and muddle efforts for gay equality. Anyway, us libs came off that session as victors. It is a wonderful sign that the military and the police are cooperative in the further formulation of the bill. I just hope that they remain that way all throughout the process of passing it. Abante et al can be defeated as long as us libs gain stronger mass support. It’s because guys like him operate on the assumption that gays and their supporters are of such a small number that they can be pushed around. We libs, through more appeals to the masses, just have to prove him wrong. Or maybe we could just challenge them to a series of public debates and pwn their asses.

Posted in Others, Politics, Religion3 Comments

It Made Me Think

I watched a youtube video titled “Imagine If All Atheists Left America” and it served as another eye opener for me. It made me realize that atheists are the most important people in America and possibly, the world! Most Nobel Prize winners, university professors, scientists, and charity founders are ATHEISTS!!! And the video showed what would happen to an atheist-free America: it will have a poor, unhealthy, unhappy economy. Come to think of it, countries with the least atheist population are those in the third world: Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and the Philippines. Then I did some research. All of this is true, and there is more. Countries with 50%+ atheist population are healthy, happy, and economically stable.

And those in history’s most evil were THEISTS!!! Not atheists but THEISTS – those who worship the Judea-Christian God. Stalin, another mass murderer, was an atheist, no doubt, but he didn’t kill for atheism. Hitler, on the other hand, killed Jews for his religion. It is utterly absurd and ridiculous to say that atheists are evil people. There are relatively few atheists in jail since most of the convicts are theists. Terrorist are Theists. Few atheists even killed anyone.

Most of the notable atheists are promoting peace; they are scientists, trying to improve humanity as we know it. It’s illogical, irrational, and ridiculous that I can’t express my feelings for those who say atheism kills society. Let’s say, what if the theists left society? Maybe less war, less stupidity, less genocides, less freaks, less trouble.

Atheists are good people, no doubt. It’s just a matter of time before you’ll realize this. I’m an atheist and I love humanity. I promote peace. Just because we don’t have God doesn’t mean that we also don’t have morals. Humans should help each other, not discriminate one another. And who do you think does the most discrimination? Think again.

Posted in Others, Religion, Society9 Comments

Delusion Of The Ancient Scripture [DOTA]

Delusion Of The Ancient Scripture [DOTA]

dotaI am not really into gaming [PC games in particular], but I’ve tried playing Defense Of The Ancient aka DOTA Allstar… and then I realized how this game is similar to religion or the different faiths’ battle for supremacy. I mean no offense to believers who play this kind of game but that’s how I see it, so allow me just write about its similarities with religion…

First, let me state how the game is played: each player has to select a hero from his/her respective clan [the sentinel or the scourge] and train it on basic survival skills against waves of creeps (monsters) that are distributed through each lane. The key objective is to destroy the Frozen Throne/Tree of Life of the opposing town. Killing another player is just a sub-objective in order to slow the enemies from strengthening themselves while leveling yourself up and receiving bounty which can then be used for strengthening your own Hero with better items.

Now I would like to continue to my real intention of writing this article…

As for the objective of the game, I can relate it to the believers of religion [or believers of god/s]: The Frozen Throne/The Tree of Life is the religion/god of each clan for which the heroes are ready to die. Players equip their characters with items to strengthen them so they will not be killed by the enemy. Just like the preachers of religion, they arm themselves with the word of “god” so they can never be shaken by the other religions’ doctrines…

Heroes of DOTA gain gold by killing creeps and opponents and by destroying enemy structures. Religions/preachers of religion make money from people so they can equip themselves and their churches…

The more items the heroes of DOTA acquire, the more difficult they are to kill. In religion, the more people and resources they gather, the more dangerous and cunning they become, making it easier for them to vanquish the weaker faith of people from other religions…

Posted in Others, Religion10 Comments

Good without God

6a00d8341c60fd53ef0120a6669ab9970c-320wiLooking at Mr. Daniel Razon’s reasoning we can clearly see the problem: People like him have defined goodness as equal to God. There are two versions of this “argument” – One, Goodness and God are almost the same entity (based of some quotes from the Judeo-Christian holy scripture) and Two, As long as there is goodness and a person believes that goodness exists, there is a moral Lawgiver which is God.

According to the article I have read regarding Mr. Razon’s so-called refutation on the issue of being good without God, he used several Bible passages such as Mark 10:17-18 and Psalms 100:5. VIOLA! Case closed…or is it?

I don’t know…Is Mr. Razon pulling us by the leg? Anyway, based on his..er…refutation..Uh what makes God good? Is it his love, his mercy or his sense of justice?

And what is meant by “good”?

Goodness is an action that purposely benefits the human organism or society. That’s how I define it. The problem here is that people like Daniel Razon simply equate goodness to God, based on their holy scripture. Christian apologists like Giesler and Ravi Zacarias for example use this to connect God to the concept of a moral Lawgiver – So God must be good all the time. But is the goodness of God based on the Bible just a perception of the writer on how goodness should be defined? It seems like it. God is good because the author of a particular chapter in the Bible wants God to be good…based on his own definition of goodness. For example, God is good because He supposedly loves the people of Israel. That’s not a universal definition of “good”. Is it?

According to the authors of Mark and Psalms only God is good. But do these writers include…well those other books in the Bible that Daniel Razon didn’t include in his argument? Verses like: Numbers 31: 17-18, 1 Samuel 15:3 and Ezekiel 9: 4-7.

Tell me, are slaying infants, the elderly and women amount to goodness?

How about verses like Numbers 11: 1-2; 16:27-32, Lev. 10:1-2 and 2Kings 2: 23-24? Do they tell us of an onmi-benevolent deity that is full of mercy? Giving punishments that are shockingly harsh in comparison to the acts committed is not about mercy and justice.

Why do we need to kill innocent lambs, bulls and doves to appease a so-called good God? Surely an omni-benevolent deity does not need blood and death to calm his nerves.

There more of these found in the pages of the Old Testament which lead Thomas Paine to write, “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.” [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]

How about the New Testament?
Sure the New Testament contains some good moral value…but again the whole plot of the book is about blood sacrifices. Again, why is blood and death necessary to mollify the wrath of an omni-benevolent God?

Also, there are some stories and parables that were told by Jesus that betray the concept of an omni-benevolent Father in heaven like that of Luke 19:27 and Matt. 15:22-28.

It is also interesting to note that Jesus believed that love could be commanded and that those who disagreed with him would be damned. He believed in compulsion to comply with his viewpoint. He also portrayed his Father in heaven as the instigator of a morality based on “promises and threats” – too far from Daniel Razon’s “Good God”.

In the light of the following issues, it seems that Daniel Razon and others like him have failed to prove that goodness is impossible without God. In fact it seems that goodness is independent from God.

Besides, since God’s goodness is prescribed by rewards…well it really doesn’t tell us exactly what is “good”. Goodness is good because it is good – not because of benefits or by force. People who do well solely for personal gain or to avoid personal harm are not about being “good” – it is self-interest.

There are other sources of being good…contrary to popular Christian belief. For example, there is what we call our “common moral decencies” which are deeply rooted in us for our survival as a species as Joseph Fletcher wrote based on his studies in 1979:

1.) Our highest good is survival of the human race – Our posterity has a moral claim on us for the consideration, both as to its safety and as to its biological improvement.

2.) Look at how the consequences will, on balance, effect the total human well being.

A rational person needs no God belief to understand that murder or lying is bad. It’s not because God opposes them, but because of the consequences these acts will produce in the human community. Morality as I have already said is deeply rooted in human experience for our survival.

Posted in Religion, Society102 Comments

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