Archive | February, 2010

Church Dialogue: An offer we can (and should) refuse

NOT the Pope (But definitely better dressed)

NOT the Pope (But definitely better dressed)

Most of you already know I’m a stickler for being (painfully) blunt, so I’ll get right to the point. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a press release from the Vatican announcing an initiative aimed at opening dialogue with atheist and agnostics.

“Firstly, it is to create a network of agnostic or atheistic people who accept dialogue and enter as members into the foundation and, as such, into our dicastery,” stated Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture (PCC), the group in charge of the foundation.

It sounds like a noble gesture, the church wanting to sit down and talk with nonbelievers.

It is also a hollow gesture, in light of the fact that time and time again, the Vatican has attacked various issues we non-theists hold dear in one way or another. If you (the Vatican) are serious about opening dialogue with non-theists, then you’re going to have to explain your actions regarding several prior issues:

What are you planning to do about Bishop Nelson Williamson? Early last year, Pope Ratzinger lifted the Vatican’s excommunication on Bishop Williamson (along with four other bishops), despite the fact that Williamson has continually denied Nazi Germany’s hand in the deaths of close to six million Jews?

Williamson himself stated this same view during an interview on Swedish television, broadcast on the same day that Ratzinger lifted his excommunication.

Speaking of excommunications, you know what else stinks? The fact that only a few months after this, you excommunicated the medical team that performed an emergency abortion on a nine-year-old girl in Brazil. Never mind the fact that this surgery saved her life – you were too caught up spouting your rhetoric on protecting the life of the unborn. What about the child? Doesn’t she matter?

Not only did you excommunicate her mother for allowing the doctors to perform the surgery (and the child too, had she been of proper legal age), but you said nothing about excommunicating the sick bastard of a father who had repeatedly raped her. What do you plan to do with him? Absorb him into your ranks?

Actually, that’s par for the course for your ilk, given the recent reports documenting your priest’s sexual molestation cases against the young in Germany, Britain, and Ireland. Not only did you fail to penalize your clergy, you transferred them to different parishes to prevent their prosecution by local authorities, while resorting to delaying tactics to keep the victims silent for decades.

And when one of your own decided to speak up against you, you silenced him too. Whatever happened to “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor?”

And since we’re on the topic of making babies, let’s talk about your stance on reproductive health. You have repeatedly crossed the line in the country I live in, threatening any politician who supported House Bill 5043 with excommunication. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

And whatever happened to common sense as well, given your claim that any form of contraception is automatically a form of abortion, and your insistence that natural family planning is the only proper form of birth control? Never mind that government health departments and accredited health organizations have already confirmed that NFP-only policies result in failure.

What is your issue with women having a choice in the matter and deciding not to have a baby before they’re ready? Actually scratch that – what is your issue with anybody who doesn’t fit your concept of masculinity?

Two years ago, Pope Ratzinger declared that homosexuality was a threat bigger than the destruction of the rainforests. And just last year, he upped the ante by saying that they were an attack on creation. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – there are also the decades that you have actively discriminated against the gay community, treating it as if it were some social evil that must be eradicated (ironic given your own track record with children).

And finally, there is your blatant hostility against atheists and agnostics. Three years ago, your Pope went on public record to say that non-theists were responsible for some of the world’s greatest woes. His statement conveniently forgets your own hand in colorful incidents such as the Inquisition, the Crusades, the aforementioned sex abuse cases, and the fact that Hitler himself was Catholic, and was quite vocal in using his own brand of Catholicism to push the Nazi agenda.

Yes - logic kills!

Yes - logic kills!

In short, here is what I think: despite your misogynistic views, despite the way you have repeatedly demonized the community I belong to, you still think you have credibility claiming to enter genuine dialogue with us, or that it will eventually help “men and women who don’t believe but want to move towards God.”?

I’m sorry, but I see this offer as nothing more than a poorly done PR stunt – we don’t have any clear reason to trust that you’ll really listen to us. In fact I see this gesture as your attempt at becoming a media darling by “attempting” to open dialogue with us, and playing the martyr card when these talks fail. It’s tantamount to twisting the Italian Government’s arm to have comedian Sabina Guzzanti arrested for her statements against Papa Ratzi. When you realized no charges could be raised against her, you were quick to state that she was not arrested because you “forgave” her.

What a load of crock. What bullshit. It’s for this very reason that this is all I have to say to you regarding your offer (Warning: Explicit Language at the click!)…

Posted in Others16 Comments

Three Primary Truths

three pansiesI stumbled upon this article and found this:

There are three truths which must be accepted at the beginning of any investigation into the problem of knowledge and truth:

  • The First Fact: The fact of our existence. “I exist.”
  • The First Principle: The principle of contradiction. “A thing cannot be and not-be at the same time in the same respect.”
  • The First Condition: The essential capability of the mind to know truth. “My intellect can reason and discover truth.”

These primary truths cannot be “proved” by a positive demonstration because they are presupposed and involved in every demonstration. They are so evident that any attempt to doubt or deny them would already mean they have been affirmed and accepted. They are, therefore, fully grounded in reason and no reasonable person can dispute them consistently.

To some it might sound like circular reasoning, but these truths are indeed self-evident in any logical discussion. Let’s see:

  • The First Fact: The fact of our existence. “I exist.”

The fact that we are able to read this proves the first fact. Now what more proof do we need in order to know that we are reading this indeed?

  • The First Principle: The principle of contradiction. “A thing cannot be and not-be at the same time in the same respect.”

Of course. Otherwise, something can be both true and false at the same time in the same respect. If that’s the case, then there is no longer any point in logical discussions because anything can be right and wrong at the same time, so everybody is just wasting time. And this goes hand in hand with:

  • The First Condition: The essential capability of the mind to know truth. “My intellect can reason and discover truth.”

And that’s why we are here at Filipino Freethinkers, to discover truth through Reason. (We appreciate theists who check their dogmas upon entering the site, because doctrine and ‘authority’ have no influence here. But those who don’t believe in reason are wasting their time here and it would be better spent praying for divine enlightenment.)

On the other hand, religion only subscribes to the First Fact (our existence), but not to the First Principle (contradiction) and the First Condition (intellect’s ability to discover truth). Religious dogmas have so many contradictions that are conveniently answered by “our minds are too finite to grasp God’s infinite wisdom”.

As freethinkers, we know that belief is no longer a matter of choice, but of conclusion; no matter how the religious (including our parents) try to proselytize, as long as what they preach is unscientific, illogical, or irrational, they cannot force us to believe. Well the most they could do is to make us (falsely) claim belief. We do not choose to be atheists, agnostics, or deists; we just become, most likely as a result of freethinking.

Now the question is, do we choose to become freethinkers? Is it a matter of choice when we base our beliefs on science, logic, and reason instead of authority, tradition, or dogma? Or is it a matter of conclusion (same with becoming atheists, agnostics, or deists)? I think it’s the latter, when we realize that science, logic, and reason are more reliable in terms of finding the truth than authority, tradition, or dogma, but I would like to hear other points of view. How do people become freethinkers in the first place?

And with this we invite everyone to write. We’ve been coming up with fewer articles lately but that’s probably because of the film fest, after which there will be a lot to write about. 🙂

Posted in Others, Religion10 Comments

Who says agnostics are atheists without balls?


An agnostic with balls

An agnostic with balls

The agnostic does not simply say, “l do not know.” He goes another step, and he says, with great emphasis, that you do not know. He insists that you are trading on the ignorance of others, and on the fear of others. He is not satisfied with saying that you do not know, — he demonstrates that you do not know, and he drives you from the field of fact — he drives you from the realm of reason — he drives you from the light, into the darkness of conjecture — into the world of dreams and shadows, and he compels you to say, at last, that your faith has no foundation in fact.

— Robert Green Ingersoll

Posted in Religion24 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers T-Shirts

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

As you already know, we can’t fund ourselves the usual way because no corporate sponsor would want their brand associated with a bunch of baby eaters. So to fund projects like the film fest the rest of the year, we’ll ask you guys for donations. (No, we won’t sell you stuff, that’s cheap).

And in exchange for your donations (a minimum of P300 and a maximum of P200M), we’ll be giving each donor a plain white shirt with an FF logo on it. Wait, that doesn’t sound special enough. We’ll give each of our platinum donors an Official 2010 edition FF iShirt pro 3G — absolutely FREE! There.

Anyway, we’re having the shirts printed soon, but before we place the order, we need to know how many are interested and how many to make of each size. (Last year we forgot to take into consideration the fact that most of our male members are scrawny).

So please fill up the form below, and thanks for your support.

*Cue choir music*

Lord, teach me to be generous / teach me to serve you as I should . . .

Posted in Announcements, Organization4 Comments

Women, Sex and the RH Bill: Understanding the real reason for the opposition

The RH bill is dead.  Many of us hope that the next year is our year.  Many of us blame the Church for killing it, and we may be partially right.  However, I that I think we have failed to acknowledge the fact that ultimately, the RH bill is about sex, and it is our attitudes about sex, particularly, the role of sex in a woman’s life, that is really what’s in the way of getting this bill passed.

How does society view women and sex?  The Philippines is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to equal employment of women; however, we still view sex and women in a very limited way.  Our very traditional society treats women as innocent fragile creatures that need to be cared for and protected, or as old maternal figures that need to be respected.  This is great to some extent, because women get first dibs on MRT seats; doors get opened; also, women are generally accepted as leaders in the workplace.  However, these traditional images do not really allow for a lot of sex.  The innocent, fragile archetype is expected to pray a lot, be good, and be a virgin until marriage.  The maternal figures is, well, a mother.   Sex is viewed in the limited context of these two archetypes – a newlywed virgin making babies; a married woman wanting more babies.  Outside of these two scenarios, the imagination goes to the Katrina Halilis, Carrie Bradshaws or fun, fearless females of Cosmo – irresponsible, slutty single women who are asking for it.   There is no room in between.  Sex is only viewed as either a baby-making activity or the sinful hobby of whorish women.  I need to state the obvious, I guess – it is not.

This limited definition of sex and its role in a woman’s life is at the root of most, if not all opposition against the RH bill.  A lot of us have debated about what is or what is not an abortifacent when the true opposition is not to the tools of contraception but to the act of having baby-free sex.  It implies the absence of consequences for a perceived sin.  It is feared that if women have sex freely, immorality will destroy the very fiber of society; that somehow, if women had free rein to satisfy their libido, we will be the next Sodom and Gomorrah (I mean, who cares what men do, right?).  What Will the Whores Do? (WWWD ™)

Of course, this also relates to the new favorite anti-RH discussion about financing birth control and sex ed in this country.  It makes the opposition look like fiscal conservatives while hiding their true sexist nature.  In truth, the same people questioning funding for reproductive health services will likely not question funding for cancer research or for respiratory illnesses or for pediatrics.  Somehow, they have viewed reproductive health as frivolous, probably like cosmetic surgery.  At the root is the view that sex is a luxury; childbirth is easy.  Let’s forget the fact that babies are born every minute out of human vaginas.  It seems like we will be funding the sluts of this country, giving them the tools to be irresponsible and even healing them afterwards.  Abstinence is the answer, right?  We don’t need to fund abstinence.

This article is not just a reproach to opposition but also an invitation for everyone to examine your own views about sex in society. What do you really mean when you say you’re pro-RH? Do you think there is such a thing as sex without consequences?  What do you mean when you say you’re pro-RH but anti-abortion?  How can you be pro-RH when you’re anti-RH bill?  What do you really mean when you’re qualifying what you think should be allowed and what is not?

Lastly, I leave you with this: the birth control pill has changed society and has expanded the realm of what’s possible for women around the world.  The pill has allowed women the freedom to work and to achieve fulfillment outside the family.   It has doubled household incomes.  More women are educated now than they ever were before.  The collective contribution of the recent generations of women to the wellness and development of the world is astounding, all because they were free to have sex when they choose without having to give birth, allowing them to plan for education and jobs and eventually, families.  The true meaning of choice – having a say in your own destiny and choosing to have sex without being imprisoned by the body you live in –is overwhelming.  Just ask any of the women looking for so-called abortifacents in Quiapo.  Do you think that quibbling over the science of zygotes or the fiscal implications of this bill is worth the lives of millions of Filipino women robbed of this choice?

Posted in Politics, Society19 Comments

My list of some of the most romantic sci-fi lines

Okay guys, this is, among other things, a work/list in progress, so please feel free to suggest others I might have missed/forgotten. I’ve very limited time but I managed to draw these out of the top of my head. In no particular order, here they are:

kyle reese & sarah connor, The Terminator (1984)

“John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn’t know why at the time. It was very old – torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve. I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have”

-Kyle Reese, father of John Connor, talking to Sarah Connor in the movie Terminator (1984) while hiding form the terminator. Aaww. That is so romantic,  moving across time (and space) to be with the one you love. :D

mulder & scully

Mulder’s email to Scully:

I’ve resisted contacting you for reasons I know you continue to appreciate. But, to be honest, some unexpected dimensions of my new life are eating away at any resolve I have left. I’m lonely, Dana, uncertain of my ability to live like this. I want to come home. To you, and to William.

Scully’s reply to Mulder’s email afterwards:

I hold no hope you can respond to this. Or that it reaches you. I only hope that you are alive.

I cannot help believing that you jumped off that train because you knew what I now know – that these “super-soldiers,” if that’s what they are, can in fact be destroyed. That the key to their destruction lies in the iron compound at that quarry.

I am scared for you, Mulder. And for William. The forces against us are unrelenting. But so is my determination. To see you again. To regain the comfort and safety we shared for so brief a time.

Until then, I remain forever yours… Dana

– In ‘The X-Files’ season 9 episode, ‘Trust No 1″. Mulder is separated for a time from Scully and their son, because if he hadn’t, he would be putting Scully and their son in danger. Aaww. Sniff sniff. :)

Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane kissing, before Superman dies in Lois' arms, Superman #75 (1993)

Just remember…no matter what happens…I’ll always love you. ALWAYS.

– Superman to Lois Lane, before finally dying at the hands of the monster Doomsday, in Superman #75  (1993). The line really isn’t something new, but the situation and the overall atmosphere made it really special in my opinion.

So there you go sci-fi buffs, geeks, and nerds. Happy Valentine’s day. :D

Posted in Entertainment, Media, Personal, Pictures, Society13 Comments

An Agnostic’s Valentine

378px-Victorian-valentines-cards-two-cherubs-red-heartsby Ramon Garcia

A reflection on that Valentine’s Day evening when everything began to fall into place for me…. at the time I was an agnostic attempting to rediscover Christianity in a more practical way….but I would soon realize it was pointless…here’s the first installment.

Valentine’s Day 1998

When Patsy told me point blank at dinner that she didn’t believe there was anything after death, my first impulse was to agree with her. Having been an agnostic for so long, I reverted to what seemed a natural response for me.

But it then occurred to me that I was a Christian now, and that I should have a more hopeful answer. As I groped for something to say…it hit me full in the face— I knew right then, with no doubt whatsoever, that she was right!!! I sat silent for a moment, dragging on a cigarette.

How ironic it all was. I had been praying for her conversion for years. That she would gradually become more open to coming to church regularly. That she would grow into our little community at Holy Trinity. But in the blink of an eye, her confession brought my whole pietistic edifice tumbling down like a tower of mahjong tiles.

It was as if I had known all along… even through the two years I’d been with Holy Trinity, that I had only wanted to believe in the Christian myth.

The next evening we talked some more. She was despondent–“there isn’t anything more than this. I’ll never see my father again… nor my brothers. When you’re dead, you’re just dead…It’s so sad. There isn’t a God who can help us.” None of this was new to me. I had been there before. But my anguish had grown numb…like a dull, nagging headache. A cobweb of memory from some distant Ash Wednesday service played back in my head—“dust you are, to dust you shall return…”

And yet the implications of such an insight had never struck me with such magnitude. Even during my days of agnosticism, a shadow of my childhood faith had always stalked me. For instance, I would find that I would revert to a habit of prayer (of silently talking to God during difficulties in my life). My worldview, though consciously agnostic, was subconsciously religious.

That Valentine’s Day, however, the sheer finality of it seared me all the way to my heart and stomach, penetrating my very spirit, my guts and pancreas–all within the time it took me to finish that cigarette. I tried to wash the sourness of it down with beer: there is no “other world”, no “heaven”, no “hell”, no after-life. There isn’t a personal God watching over us. But only a concept of a “God” that we’ve created in our own image—-of a super-human parent, with all the qualities of a perfect human being who possesses our most supreme values. Now I understand Byron when he said:

Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth,
The tree of knowledge is not that of life.

How do I relieve Patsy’s pain? In the Christian scriptures it is written: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

No, I’m afraid the truth does not set one free. It is a horrifying prospect for someone who once thought herself eternal –as a soul. I’m afraid that Nietzsche will ring truer to her ears than John: “In man’s awareness of the truth he has now seen, only the horror and absurdity of existence are evident to him.”

The abandonment of religious constructs means that we are left with no choice but to try and live life without the comfort of the illusion of a caring God. Having moved on from Valentine’s Day, the dark clouds of despair have dissipated. There doesn’t seem to have been any obvious effect on our day-to-day living. It’s been business as usual for Patsy and me. But crises will come. Nietzsche’s image, of a new journey on an infinite sea no longer defined by religion and conventional pre-suppositions, mirrors how I’ve been feeling, and articulates what I fear:

“We have left the land and have embarked! We have burned our bridges behind us— indeed, we have gone further and destroyed the land behind us! Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean: to be sure, it does not always roar, and at times it lies spread out like silk and gold and reveries of graciousness. But hours will come when you will realize that it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt free and now strikes the walls of this cage! Woe, when you feel homesick for the land as if it had offered more freedom— and there is no longer any ‘land’!”

Desperately, I find myself reaching again for dry land…for some sort of transcendental construct. To weather a storm, especially one of immense proportions, one requires a sturdy boat. In a Greek legend, it is told that Odysseus had himself bound to the mast of a ship in order to hear the song of the sirens without having to follow it to his own destruction. He dared to listen to the temptation of truth, but accepted the fetters of culture in a quest for self-preservation. The siren’s song is Patsy’s confession. Its peril is despair.

Perhaps out of an ultimate sense of unease, perhaps out of sheer horror, I find myself backing away from the abysmal call to atheism that tore open before me that Valentine’s evening.

I find myself venturing anew towards the concept of God that I held during my days as an agnostic– God as awesome reality, in all its quantum and astrophysical dimensions… God as a “bigness”, a “smallness”, a “one-ness”, a unity, even a multiplicity. Perhaps “God” is no longer the right word to use. It carries too much baggage.

But I can no longer, in all honesty, conceive of a super-consciousness, a supreme being with power over history… certainly not a “someone” who listens to our prayers, much less answers them.

Since Valentine’s Day, I continue to wonder what to do about Church. I’ve come to love our little community at Holy Trinity. I’ve come to love the Anglican liturgy, the hymns, and the solemnity of its high church tradition. I’d hate to leave it.

As I’ve pondered this over the past few of weeks, I’ve come to realize that the Christian myth might yet remain open for me as a doorway to the profound…as a way for contemplating transcendence—the bigness and the smallness of it all!

The Christ-myth that we celebrate with all of its stories and rites- Christmas and the Emmanuel (God-with-us), the Passion and the Resurrection, and most compelling of all, the Eucharist–all still speak to me as awesome metaphors and symbols of transcendent reality. Yes, and the liturgy, though laced with intercessional prayers, is a supreme movement in itself—much like a musical composition that uplifts one out of the ordinariness of daily life and propels one outward into that bigger, wider, deeper realm of “being-one-with…”, towards that “all-ness” which the pre-modern mind once called divinity. Prayer has become for me an act of connecting with “it all” rather than communication with a super-human helper and fixer of things.

As I assisted at Communion that first Sunday since Valentine’s Day…as I offered up the chalice and uttered the words, “the blood of Christ, cup of salvation”, I was overcome by the experience of that “thin place” between the everyday and the transcendent that has always spoken so powerfully to me through the liturgy…it gripped me forcefully…that cup with the wine conjured up an image of the dry land I had left behind… and more…with it also the infinite sea… and with it too the dreaded abyss…all converging in a transcendental experience I cannot put into words, but which was both horrifying and exalting at the same time!

I think I may be back at church again… though I fear I cannot in all honesty say I am a Christian… I do not subscribe to mainline doctrine… but I am gripped by the mystery of the cross, the beauty of the liturgy, the boldness of the glad tidings proclaimed, as it were, in the face of the siren song….

And yet, in my heart, I cannot help but feel that these Christian constructs, rooted in my childhood, are really nothing more than my own Odyssean tethers….

My post-Valentine experience has been a humbling one in that I find I am now essentially no different from a scapular-wearing Roman Catholic or a Bible-quoting fundamentalist– alas our pieties are similarly motivated by sanity-preserving instincts! There is one point of departure, however-—and that is on the question of honesty…

I am afraid that this queen of virtues will now linger on as the “thorn in my flesh”….Honesty– she cuts deeply, relentlessly… constantly beckoning towards the abyss that has remained open since that Valentine’s evening. Now, when we sing hymns at church, I cannot help but wonder whether I am not in fact offering up dirges as the madman once did who mourned the death of God…

(Image by Vintage Holiday Crafts)

Posted in Personal, Religion4 Comments

A Cynical View on Attraction

attractionI remember a Darwinian article in Time (Asia) Magazine’s special issue, The New Age of Discovery (January, 1998) because it tried to answer questions like why do we find certain human body figures sexy. It said that most men find a specific waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of women sexy (now I won’t tell the exact figure to avoid causing unnecessary insecurities) because that ratio signals fertility. Men don’t consciously know this, but evolution somehow programmed it in our instincts to ensure the perpetuation of our genes.

In another article, I read about an experiment on human scent. It involved a certain number of men and an equal number of women. The men were made to shower using only unscented soap (no cologne or deodorant either) and sleep with a white shirt on. They would shower again on the second night but would wear the same shirt to bed. Then the shirts would be sniffed by the women, who would each try to determine which shirt smells the “sexiest”. After their genes were tested, it was found out that the sexiest scents for most of the women belonged to the men whose genes were very much dissimilar from theirs. Parents with diverse genes often bear stronger offspring, and once again evolution has hardwired this into our physiology to help us find a suitable mate – and perpetuate our genes.

But in this overpopulated modern society of ours, procreation is no longer the primary purpose of sex. In one of our joint articles, a fellow freethinker wrote:

Sex may lead to pro-creation but the two are still two totally distinct acts, no matter how much some belief systems may insist that they’re one and the same. When you start a fire, you aren’t obligated to go cook something. Sometimes, it’s enough just to enjoy the warmth of a blazing fire on a cold night. The same goes for sex. It’s a social activity and a recreational sport as well. From a liberal point of view, it’s not even that different from a couple going dancing (that’s why it’s also called the horizontal tango).

Still, our instincts kick in when a genetically suitable specimen from the opposite gender walks by even if having kids is the last thing on our minds. But as we get to know a person, after a while we get attracted to non-physical traits like kindness and a sense of humor. Perhaps we instinctively know that certain personal attributes are preferable for long-term companionship, especially when it comes to the point when procreation and even sex are no longer possible.

But the beauty of these personal qualities is that they can be enjoyed now as much as in the future. Being the most highly evolved among all creatures, humans interact in ways beyond touching and smelling. A nice conversation connects us more profoundly than two chimps grooming each other. Although touching is nice, it is often meaningless unless coupled with an emotional bond. And so while evolution already dictated what we should find physically attractive, it is our longing for a deeper connection that needs to be satisfied if we are to truly enjoy being human.

Happy Valentines everyone!

Posted in Others, Science3 Comments

When I Was Cheated

I was cheated. I was cheated when I was in school, not by my classmates but by the very exams that were supposed to measure my ratings and academic performance.

Grade 1: Math Subject

We were given an exam on multiplication. Part 1 was a timed exam due within 5 minutes. We were supposed to answer a set of items such as 8 multiplied by four and 7 times 51 using mental math. No calculators were allowed.

With a snap of a finger, the teacher shouted, “Finished or not finished, pass your papers.” I was hesitant to do so. I was not finished with ten items to fill up. But, hell, I had to move on to part 2.

The second part was easy. No time pressure. You just have to solve the problems given.  For example: Your father gave you a daily allowance of 100 pesos. How much will you be able to save in a week after spending 65 pesos a day?

The teacher checked the papers and after a day we were informed of our grades. I was given a perfect score for part 2 but the results of part 1 were devastating. Bottom line, I failed the test because part 1 had more items and thus had more bearing.

I was cheated that day. I felt that part 1 should have less bearing on exam. Why? Because part 1 is not a math exam. It doesn’t measure how good you are in applying mathematical principles. It just tests how good you are in memorizing the multiplication table.

I was not just cheated in math. I was consistently cheated in my other subjects due to the traditional belief that memory retention is the ultimate measure of academic success as thus success in later endeavors.

High School: History Subject

I was given an exam. The first part was enumeration. I had to write down names of Filipino Heroes. There was a question: Who was the Filipino hero who killed Magellan? I was tempted to answer Lapu Lapu because that was written in the history book that we were asked to memorize. I didn’t answer Lapu Lapu. Why? Because I believe he was not a Filipino in the first place. There was no national identity back then, only tribal identity.

This is just my opinion and I may be wrong. What bothers me is not just that we are expected to memorize what is written in our textbooks but that we are also expected to believe what’s written as if it was the ultimate truth.

I’m sure you can relate to what I am saying: that one time or another, we are expected to memorize and believe what our teachers and textbooks say. We are taught to believe that what’s written in our textbooks are ultimate truths and that memorizing these texts will make us succeed later in life. This is misleading because wrong measures lead to wrong results.

If we make our children memorize the multiplication table instead of making them understand the application of mathematical principles, we are inhibiting their learning and analyzing skills, making them good memory chips but poor mathematicians. If we strictly enforce the ideas of our social science textbooks to our children as if these were ultimate truths, we are prohibiting them to think independently.

Yes, the educational system sucks and we are all cheated. But the fact that you are reading this article right now is a proof that you keep an open mind and that you search for learning beyond the classroom walls of traditional education. You reflect on what you do and why you do it or why you believe what you believe. Instead of asking what, when and where, you ask the more important questions of how and why. How we all wish others would ask these questions too.

We are freethinkers. We were cheated once before and we do not want to be cheated again.

Posted in Personal, Society, Stories27 Comments

If I’m a non-believer, why patronize theist music, film and other forms of artwork?

The Merriam-Webster website definition for patronize here that I use is the following:

“3 : to be a frequent or regular customer or client of

And not the derogatory meaning of the word, although this should not mean that all theist work of art, music, etc are all praiseworthy (at least from my viewpoint).

One of the things people ask me, assuming they know I’m a non-believer, is how I can possibly enjoy theistic works of art, music, etc. without believing in their religion, or even in theism itself.

What I would normally reply, given the appropriate amount of time, is that it’s quite easy to understand or imagine, really. This reply of course has little assumptions of its own, and one of those is that the listener should have an open mind. For the listener to somehow even ‘glimpse’ the reason why or how I can enjoy theistic works of art, music etc, he/she must have at least a mind that is open to rational,sensible logic and imagination. He/she must also not be one of those religious fundamentalists, whether it be in Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, etc. What I mean by religious fundamentalists in this sense are those people who kill or are willing to die and kill others, not just themselves, just because their holy books think it’s appropriate to do so. Although I’ve actually never met someone like that before, I would think that it will be really hard, if not impossible, to reason my cause with them. And I believe the reason for that deserves another blog post on it’s own.

Going back to the reason for my answer as to why I manage to enjoy theistic works of art, music, etc while being a skeptic, my answer is this:

For those of us who enjoy, for example, The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Star Trek , or Disney movies, we gather the fact that we acquire entertainment and amusement and wisdom from these works, without ever believing the characters really existed. Even as kids, teens, young adults, and adults, we enjoyed watching them, and probably at some points in our lives we deemed them to be true to life, we now know for a fact (I hope so) that they didn’t really happen or the characters never existed at all. We can enjoy songs by Josh Groban or Pavarotti for example, and be moved by how they sing, the emotions they put in their songs, the beautiful compositions, and the abstract or poetic meanings of their lyrics and still not be lulled into believing myths and fantastical stories they refer to in the scriptures.

Star Trek TOS (Spock & Kirk) - Alice in Wonderland (Alice & the mad hatter) - Return of the King (Aragorn & Frodo)

From this reasoning, it follows that one can appreciate, enjoy, marvel at, and even be astounded, amazed, and moved by works of different people from different walks of life and belief. And from that reasoning also it should be clear that when, for example one sings or watches or buys theistic works, be they movies, books, paintings, songs, one doesn’t (and I believe should not) have to believe in all those supernatural stories and myths. One can appreciate and enjoy Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and other great artists and their works, as purelyfiction, and nothing more.

Of course the argument that what motivates people, artists, geniuses to create their masterpieces is faith, theism or religion is another matter altogether, and again deserves another blog post. One good reference for that is professor Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion in the chapter titled The Argument From Beauty.

The God Delusion -by prof. Richard Dawkins - UK paperback edition

In that chapter prof. Dawkins excellently explicates ( I always admire alliteration ) the arguments pertaining to this line of reasoning. Prof. Dawkins goes on to say that, since there was hardly any other option other than to believe in the local religion back then (particularly Catholicism or Christianity if we’ll be talking about European artists in this case), naturally the artists would’ve decided to be theists. The other, extremely harsh consequences of not believing in God then was not receiving any funding (even for example, food and money) to complete one’s work, a chance to display one’s talents, and it would even be tantamount to death. In other words, it’s believe or suffer/die. Obviously the choice is usually rather easy. And people of different religiosity, theistic or otherwise  derive their sense of awe, wonder, their motivations and inspirations not from the belief in a supernatural creator, but if you look closely, to more human sensations and experiences: respect, love (e.g. for a mate, one’s country), death, suffering, sex, etc.

In closing, for us non-believers (doubters, skeptics, agnostics, what have you) to be bothered as to why we allow ourselves to be immersed and to be able to appreciate theistic works of art, music, etc, thinking that it contradicts our non-belief, please don’t be. Enjoying something and believing it to be true are two entirely different things. For those of you out there who still cling onto faith, religion and theism just because you think you can’t leave your craft, be it making music, movies, books, etc. while being mentally gnawed by the irrationalities and inconsistencies of religion, you don’t have to be. There is a way out, and you can still enjoy your lives and your craft.


Posted in Media, Personal, Pictures, Religion, Society15 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival 2010 Challenges Religion, Celebrates Reason.

Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival 2010 Challenges Religion, Celebrates Reason.

A series of films about faith and belief will be screened at UP’s Cine Adarna on February 27… but these films will leave you with more questions than answers.

The Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival is the first film fest in the Philippines intended to challenge your thinking about belief, faith, and reason.

The films include a bittersweet one-woman show by a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, a documentary exploring the link between religion and terrorism, and a couple of short films originally screened at the American Atheist Film Festival.

“Most of us don’t question our faith or religion at all,” says Ryan Tani, president of the Filipino Freethinkers. “But when religion increasingly conflicts with reason in society, we need a public discussion of the merits of faith. Especially we Filipinos, who live under laws shaped by the Catholic Church whether we’re Catholic or not.

“Showing films that question that assumption, that faith is always a good thing… I think that’s a really important first step to get the debate going,” says Tani.

The films screened during the Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival are intended to reach out to both the religious and the irreligious, questioning long-cherished assumptions on both sides of the debate.

Letting Go of God, a one-woman show by Saturday Night Live alumna Julia Sweeney, is a funny yet touching tale of Sweeney’s conflict with the Catholic faith of her childhood. The story (with its surprising conclusion) is told in an upbeat monologue style that the New York Times called “searing and bracingly funny”.

Root of All Evil? is biologist Richard Dawkins’ look at how religious faith serves as a primary motivator for evil in today’s modern world. Throughout the two-part film, we see Dawkins taking on religious fanatics of all stripes, including disgraced pastor Ted Haggard, and building the case for humanity being better off without faith.

Fun For Heretics showcases bits of classic comedy, shocking songs and searing rants from all around the world, with clips from George Carlin, Monty Python, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Woody Allen, Roy Zimmerman, Marcus Brigstocke, Edward Current, and many more.

Imagine No Religion blends the funny and the serious to tackle the conflict between faith and reason. With excerpts from the late Theo Van Gogh & Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Submission” and Lisa Seidenberg’s moving memorial to 9/11, “In the Name of God.”

The Filipino Freethinkers Film Festival is on for one day only, on February 27, at Cine Adarna from 1pm to 8pm. Admission is free. For more information on the Film Fest and Filipino Freethinkers, and to RSVP, visit the FF Film Fest Facebook event page.

Posted in Meetup13 Comments

Come Into The Light

light1Last night I watched Creation, a film about the life of Charles Darwin and how he came to write On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. What I found especially moving was his own struggle against the authority of religion and the beliefs of his religious wife. With religion he had no qualms, but the fear of breaking his wife’s heart almost stopped him from finishing his book.

In one of the scenes, Darwin described to his friend, a reverend, how some caterpillars never become butterflies because parasitic wasps lay eggs into them. Once the egg hatches, the wasp larva will feed on the flesh of the caterpillar, leisurely devouring it from the inside, killing it slowly and painfully until all that is left is an empty shell. And then the larva will emerge as an adult wasp, ready to mate and repeat the cycle. When confronted with such cruelty in nature, the reverend simply said that it was really not for them to speculate on the mind of God.

How convenient it was for the reverend to say that they had no right to second-guess God’s reasons while religion has eternally claimed to have the ‘revealed’ word of God and stubbornly holds on to this ‘revelation’ amid contradicting evidence, insisting that it is the truth.

Ah, Truth. A word not to be taken lightly. How do we know the truth? That is a very hard question, but we can ask an easier one: How do we know if something is false? For starters, we could shed the light of science into claims asserted from behind the dark shroud of ‘authority’. If there is a God, he/she/it gave us eyes to see and minds to interpret what we see. Science isn’t asking us to believe anything; science is merely asking that we open our eyes.

Religion’s authority is derived solely from what they claim to be ‘divine revelation’. Who indeed would dare question an instruction or doubt a story if it was God Himself who said it? To answer that, one simply has to look at the deists’ definition of ‘revelation’:

Revelation: The act of revealing or of making known. In the religious sense, revelation usually means divine revelation. This is meaningless, since revelation can only be revelation in the first instance. For example, if God revealed something to me, that would be a divine revelation to me. If I then told someone else what God told me it would be mere hearsay to the person I tell. If that person believed what I said, they would not be putting their trust in God, but in me, believing what I told them was actually true.

Now the lack of credibility of this hearsay revelation is not as sinister as the supposed message from God. Religion is basically telling us that this life is infinitely less significant than the next. And because of this, a lot of people fail to live their lives fully in terms of time and freedom, and some don’t get to live a life at all. And for me that is the ultimate wrong.

If religion is this influential in the Information Age, just imagine how powerful it must have been at the time of Darwin when knowledge could only be found in a few books held by an elite few. One of this few is religion of course, and they even have their own brand of ‘knowledge’ which they gladly publish and distribute.

Fortunately, science is steadily keeping up. Religion has practically let go of the literal creation story, shifting to a metaphorical translation disguised as Intelligent Design, but this too is losing ground to natural selection. Then there is the question of the origin of life itself, to which abiogenesis, although not yet a scientific theory in the strict sense, is offering plausible explanations.

With these significant grounds being conquered by science, religion is desperately holding on to its last bastion of authority in its claim for holding the truth: the origin of the cosmos. And with this I remember what Richard Dawkins said in a debate with John Lennox:

“Cosmology is waiting for its Darwin.”

Posted in Religion, Science9 Comments

New Film Fest Poster

In case it’s not obvious, the first poster was one I made effortlessly in five minutes (while Mikong was effortlessly winning the first national Go championship). But it served its purpose in getting things started and announcing the event officially for the first time.

Anyway, here’s a proper poster Tin made. Now when you print the poster, post it all over your school and village, and hand it out to your religious family and friends, you won’t be ashamed. Ok, maybe a little.

Here’s a high-resolution version ready for printing.

And in case you haven’t already, please RSVP for the event or for the preparation meetup.


Posted in Announcements26 Comments

Short review on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episode ‘The Einstein Approximation’

Warning: For those who haven’t seen this episode yet, spoiler alert!

This is the first, and hopefully won’t be the last, of a series of short reviews I’ll try doing each week for ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

This week The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) episode ‘The Einstein Approximation’ came out,  and is the 14th episode of the show’s 3rd season.
Let me just start this quick and short review of the episode by further stating what the guys there and I have in common, apart from the quite obvious facts that we’re all geeks/nerds by heart.
Even before TBBT, I’ve admired and idolized Einstein myself, because of his great mental feats (which were of course, backed up by other physical theories and experiments at his time). Great because by just the power of his mind Einstein was able to revolutionize our lives and the 20th century, paving ways for faster transportation, not to mention telecommunication and computing, which drove and is still driving the information revolution today. And of course, so much more benefits which we more or less take for granted in our daily lives. In fact, Einstein is oftentimes synonymous with the word ‘genius’.
Einstein was also very much interested in philosophy and politics, not just physics. He’s written several books, articles, letters to people outside the scientific community. He also has a quirky sense of humor, as seen from this  picture of him. At first I thought this photo of Einstein was edited. But as it turns out it was really him, tongue hanging out and all. :) It was at the time he was making fun of people taking pictures of him. Great stuff.

Silly Einstein

Of course Einstein is not without criticisms. Great and accomplished a scientist he maybe, history tells us he left much to be desired when it came to being a father or a husband.

Now, back to the episode review of TBBT. At this point I shall establish a partially objective, partially subjective point system of each episode relative to the earlier 2 seasons (which I have watched at least 2 times…) and a number of judging criteria.

This episode is a classic Sheldon episode, which is great in itself. Again we expected lots of ‘weird’ humor: Sheldon’s ability to complicate relatively simple things, as well as him belittling his friends, most noticeably Penny. Hilarious stuff once again. Bravo to TBBT production team.
Not a lot of scifi or comic book references were made though. But lines such as:

Howard: How long has he been stuck? (referring to Sheldon)
Leonard: Umm…intellectually about 30 hours, emotionally about 29 years.


Howard: Have you tried rebooting him? (referring to Sheldon)
Leonard: No I think it’s a firmware problem.

Are classics. :)

The part where Leonard and Sheldon were arguing inside the ‘ball play room’, with Sheldon going ‘bazinga’ everytime, was also hilarious.

Sheldon, and of course the rest of ‘the guys’ are fans of Einstein no doubt. Sheldon of course thinks he’s at the same level with Einstein so he tries to do what Einstein did in order to come at the epiphany that is the special theory of relativity: to work for a menial job so he can occupy his basal ganglia with a routine task so he can apparently free his pre-frontal cortex to solve his physics problem.

Another classic moment in this episode is the guest starring of Yeardley Smith, the not so well known voice actor behind the famous cartoon character Lisa Simpson (yes, of ‘The Simpsons’ fame). Absolutely entertaining piece of the episode.

Another classic dialog is again with Sheldon and Penny:

Penny: What are you doing here?
Sheldon: A reasonable question. I asked myself, what is the most mind-numbing, pedestrian job conceivable? And 3 answers came to mind: toll booth attendant, an Apple Store “Genius”, and “What Penny does”. Now, since I don’t like touching other people’s coins, and I refuse to contribute to the devaluation of the word “genius”, here I am (meaning at the cheesecake factory).

Lines like these make me think of the real meaning and application of LOL. :)

I suppose myself and those guys, as well as the show’s production team, can’t help cracking jokes at Apple. :D

Overall I’d give this episode the following scores:

* reference to sci-fi, comic books, and other geek/nerd pop culture: 6/10

* reference to physics and other fields of science: 9/10

* dialog humor factor: 9/10

* techie/technology factor: 8/10

which gives an overall score of: 8/10


Article originally published here.

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Media, Personal, Pictures, Reviews, Science11 Comments