Archive | April, 2010

Writing a Social Commentary

One of the primary objectives of this blog is to encourage people to express what’s on their mind when it comes to socially relevant and often controversial news and current events. After all, the right to free (but responsible) speech is a most cherished right of any democratic society. It’s when good people do [or say, or write] nothing that evil triumphs. Though that statement may seem a tad bit too melodramatic, it has a ring of truth to it. Media today is full of differing and oftentimes opposing opinions. Each one has a different agenda it is pushing. Often times, it’s the loudest, most oft repeated sentiments that stick in people’s minds. A clever jingle here, a celebrity endorsement there… that’s good marketing savvy.

But what about those tiny voices that still have something sensible to say? How do they make their voices heard? It is our hope that sites like this will give that chance to aspiring writers who care enough to make the effort to write about the ills plaguing our society today so people will take notice and open lines of productive dialogue. Sure, we may not always agree with each other, but now pertinent issues are brought out into the open. We’ll know how other people feel about certain issues, whether there are others who share the same sentiments or take a totally different stand from ours.

But of course before such exchange of ideas can start, a good writer has to open up the topic with a well-written intro on the issue. Hopefully, these series of articles aimed at developing a responsible writer will help everyone come up with their own future posts.

So we begin with lesson one. After you’ve decided on a good topic that piques your interest (and hopefully everyone else’s), you have to decide on the tone. Most social commentaries fall in either one or a combination of any of these three:



1. The Research Paper – Everyone’s familiar with this one from school. It requires the most elbow grease and preparation of the three because of the research work involved but it’s also the most informative. It’s usually composed of a distillation of different sources ranging from news articles, wikis, or even someone else’s blog post.  Don’t forget to cite your sources properly and do your due diligence to ensure that your sources are credible. It won’t help your case if you just quote-mine data from dubious sources to support your arguments. Those type of bullshit are easy to spot by intelligent readers and will just make you lose credibility altogether.

If your source document is long or technical, do your readers a big favor and summarize the highlights for them else their eyes might just glaze over upon seeing the voluminous amount of text and just might skip it altogether. You don’t have the luxury of a captive audience and your work is not required reading on any syllabus so part of your job as a writer is to keep the interest level up.

2. The Opinion Piece – This is more an appeal to emotions. It can range from an in-depth analysis on what’s wrong with the world to a frustrated rant on what pissed you off lately. It doesn’t require as much researching as the latter; all you need is a good critical eye and a talent for self-expression.  And because it’s more reliant on emotions rather than intellect, it has the potential for greater reader impact.

It’s great for human-interest stories and informal personal-opinion essays but great care has to be given not to fall into the trap of irrationality. Since you’ll be relying more on philosophical arguments rather than facts like in #1, it’s easy to be tempted to use faulty reasoning or bad metaphors. Be frank but fair. Nobody likes a whiner or a faultfinder. If you must complain about something, make sure you end in a positive note by suggesting ways to solve the problem. As they say, be part of the solution, not the problem.

The best advice I could give before publishing essays of this type is to either let a level-headed friend give his two cents or sleep on it after finishing the first draft then do a final edit the next day before publishing it publicly. You may find that with a cooler head, you can be your own best editor. I know a lot of people who later regretted posting something written in the heat of the moment. When it’s already on the net, it can sometimes be hard to take back. It may look like a masterpiece of self-expression for you today, but if you take another look at it next time, it just might make you wonder what was going on in your mind when you wrote that. Remember the cardinal rule of writing – write in white heat, edit in cold blood.


3. The Humor Post – humor is oftentimes ephemeral. Sometimes it depends on the timing, sometimes on the delivery. More so for humor writing. The most common type of humor used in the genre of social commentary is the satire. One can use humor to accentuate faults by exaggerating or by putting it in a different perspective. Coupled with a dose of irony or clever wordplay, it’s easy to find something funny in even the most serious of issues.

There’s a fine line between funny and offensive and it’s what separates the true comic genius from the lame wannabes. Social commentators like Colbert and John Stewart have perfected the art of political satire in their respective shows. Late night talk show hosts like Leno and Letterman have likewise made a living out of poking fun at sensitive issues. In the online world, theonion.com and landoverbaptist.org have a good track record of satire done right. Even cartoons like South Park and the Simpsons made a name for themselves by playing political incorrectness to the hilt. But as Drawn Together [the Movie] has said – in the end, it has to make a point. It won’t work if you’re just making fun of something at someone’s expense just for the sake of getting a few laughs, you’ll just end up looking like a douchebag. The best satire makes people realize how shallow something is. If done correctly, it’s a win-win situation for you, you get to entertain and make a point at the same time.

[Author’s note: Just a word of warning before I end, satire is especially tricky when played to a Filipino audience. There’s a big chance they won’t get the humor and end up going all up-in-arms about some racially offensive slur that they just can’t take. I don’t know if we’re just culturally thin-skinned (balat-sibuyas) or that local noontime shows and low-brow comedy movies have successfully devolved our national sense of humor to the point that we can only find green jokes and toilet humor funny. We have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. Sure, we can laugh at ugly people or gay people but the minute you even try to make a joke about mail-order brides or OFW’s, be prepared for a shit-storm of public outrage. Never mind if there’s a nugget of truth to it, there are just some things we can’t admit to ourselves as a nation. You have been warned.]


So that’s lesson one in a nutshell. Hopefully we can get a whole series of articles geared towards giving out writing advice for the aspiring freethinking author. I’ll try to post a few good examples for each type when I get the chance.

Any [constructive] comments and suggestions are welcome.

Posted in Others17 Comments

FF Top Ten: April 25, 2010

To say that it’s been a hot, sweaty week is an understatement – PAGASA has already announced that Manila has experienced two of its hottest days in the year last week, on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. Make sure to drink your fluids folks.

Speaking of heat, the blogosphere has caught wind of a recent article film critic Roger Ebert has leveled against video games. The short version is that he does not see video games as ever becoming an art form.

As much as I like his well-written reviews, I must respectfully disagree with Ebert on this note. As a video gamer, I have met my share of truly engrossing titles that not only perked my imagination, but have also left me walking away with profound thoughts and perspectives on how I see the world.

Among other titles, Bioshock was an interesting take on one developer’s reinterpretation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, while my romp through Fallout 3’s nuclear wasteland took me through an amusing tour of caricatures sentiments of Cold War America. In short, games for me are a just as much social commentary or a reflection of society at large as any portrait, picture, or novel.

Besides, haven’t we already seen this argument being raised against comic books and cartoons before (I’m against those arguments too given I’m a moderate otaku)?

Of course I think that it’s simply a matter of Ebert not having discovered the more profound titles in the industry, such as Heavy Rain and the like, and hence he might be speaking out of a genuine lack of understanding for video games, and not out of malice.

Moving on, make sure to visit the News thread if you find any other interesting news bits you’d like to share with the community. On a parting note, kudos to Shepard for that article on heaven – ‘twas a good read!

==========================================

Belgium’s Catholic bishop of Bruges quits over abuse (via BBC) Link

Adam Savage’s speech to the Harvard humanists (via Boing-Boing) Link

Pure pwnage: Hontiveros debates Tatad debate on RH Bill at Harapan 2010 (via ABS-CBN News) Link

Iranian Cleric: Hot, sexy women rock my world…well’s that’s one way of putting it (Stuff.co.nz) Link

Calling the cleric’s bluff: Behold the Boobquake, this Monday! (via Blag Hag) Link

Ebert: Video Games can never be art. Somebody get the man a PS3 and Heavy Rain, stat! (via Roger Ebert’s Journal) Link

Yes, they do women too: A news report on nuns victimized by priests (via Salon) Link

Heaven: A fool’s paradise (via The Independent) Link

The new hotness: Metro Manila temperature hits 36.8 degrees Celcius (via Philippine Daily Inquirer) Link

Media bloodbath vs. Church (via Philippine Star) Link

Posted in Others0 Comments

Fundie Paradise

Here is Weird Al’s Amish Paradise, a parody of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise.  I changed some words and phrases to turn it into Fundie Paradise while loosely retaining the general flow of the song. I suggest you play the video and sing along with the new ‘lyrics’ I wrote below.

FUNDIE PARADISE
.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I shall fear no evil ‘cause I feel my Shepherd’s breath
And that’s just perfect for a Fundie like me
Because I have an abs’lute stand on morality
Early morning ev’ry Sunday I go to church
Sing with the minister as he comes down from his perch…fool
And I’ve been praising, arms raising so long that
Even Peter thinks that my mind is gone
I’m not a man of this world, I’m into…afterworld
Into hell all you heathens will one day be hurled
But if I finish all my prayers and you finish yours
Then we can get back to reading those Bible verses some more
.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a Fundie paradise
I spoke in tongues once or twice
Living in a Fundie paradise
No human effort will suffice
Living in a Fundie paradise
Only His blood, sacrifice
Living in a Fundie paradise
.
An atheist challenged my belief last week
I just smiled at him and said, “Your future’s so bleak”
From nothing to nothing and this life’s everything?
“Thou shall have eternal life” – on this promise I cling
But I never bashed an atheist even if he deserved it
A Fundie’s never rude – though he may get sarcastic
I never use reason ‘cause it’s all there in the Bible
We must take to tradition – no matter how tribal, fool
There is a beautiful promise to which I adhere
A promise yet to be fulfilled after two thousand years
But we ain’t realy dumb so please don’t be despaired
We’re just a little logic’lly impaired
.
There’s no proof, no solid evidence
But Faith is all I need
I will never trust in reason
Because reason can mislead
.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a Fundie paradise
We’ll have mansions in the sky
Living in a Fundie paradise
On this future we rely
Living in a Fundie paradise
In a life of great supply
Living in a Fundie paradise
.
Saying all my prayers, reading all those verses
Asking for forgiveness for those blasphemous curses
Think you have the answers? Think you know the truth?
Well for abiogenesis will you please show me some proof!
I’m the Fundie guy those poor lost souls wanna be like
Lest upon them divine wrath like lightning will strike
So don’t deny, and don’t rebel
Or else you will be spending all eternity in hell
.
We’ve been spending most our lives
Living in a Fundie paradise
Someone else died, paid the price
Living in a Fundie paradise
Saving us from our demise
Living in a Fundie paradise
Because the Bible never lies
Living in a Fundie paradise
.
.

Posted in Humor, Poetry, Religion3 Comments

In the Philippines, Wolves Amidst the Sheep?

In the Philippines, Wolves Amidst the Sheep?

A conviction over a sex abuse scandal more than 20 years ago continues to hound an American Catholic priest who was ordained in and continues to serve in the Philippines.

[Joseph] Skelton was ordained in the Philippines, with Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak ordaining him without knowing about his conviction.

Here’s my reaction to the sex abuse Catholic priest found in the Philippines: not surprised.

I’m only surprised that our local media hasn’t caught on to the Filipino priests who have been accused of sexual abuse within our borders.

Based on this comprehensive (but almost outdated) 2004 report by the Catholics for Free Choice and Likhaan, no priest accused of sexual abuse in the Philippines seems to have been successfully prosecuted.

Most of them have overcome their cases in different ways: settled out of court, acquitted, or moved to other parishes by their superiors, or have cases pending but are quietly reinstated to pastoral duties.

After acquittal, settlement, or a wait of a year or so, the priests mentioned in the report have mostly been reintegrated into active ministry within the Catholic Church.

Here’s a brief run-down of the priests mentioned in the report, and the results of a morning’s Googling of their names. Assuming the search hits reflect the same people mentioned in the Likhaan report (insert margin of error here), it’s my opinion that the Catholic hierarchy’s actions show a tendency to minister to the wolves at the expense of the sheep.

AGUSTIN CUENCA

According to the CFFC/Likhaan Report:

On 1 August 1990, Fr. Agustin Cuenca, OFM, a parish priest assigned to the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church in Sta. Ana, Manila, was accused of sexually molesting two of his teenaged acolytes. The complaint alleged that his accusers, 15 and 16 years old, were abused sexually for a period of two years starting in December 1988 until June 1990 by Cuenca.

A certain Agustin Cuenca OFM is attached priest at St. Anthony Padua Shrine in Sampaloc, Manila. As of 2006, Cuenca was the director of the Franciscan Missionary Union. Claretian Publications lists a Fr. Cuenca as the house bursar of St. Gregory the Great Friary in Quezon City. Here’s a Flickr image of a Fr. Agustin Cuenca blessing a privately-owned icon of St. Anthony.

MACARIO APUYA

According to the CFFC/Likhaan Report:

In the city of Dagupan, north of Metro Manila, Fr. Macario Apuya, SVD of the Saint Therese Parish, was accused of two criminal charges, one charge of rape and one of child abuse as defined under R. A. No. 7610.... The case had historical significance since it was the very first time that a priest was being prosecuted for pedophilia in the Philippines.

A priest with Apuya’s name is seen here celebrating the Jubilee Mass for the Divine Word Missionaries. A Macario Apuya is currently serving in Mary Consolatrix Convent in La Union – if it’s the same Apuya who was accused of raping underage girls, is it wise to have him running loose in a cloistered convent?

POLIENATO BERNABE

According to the report’s overview of reported cases of sexual abuse by priests: “Florida officials issued a warrant for the arrest of Fr. Polienato Bernabe, 61, a native of Pangasinan, who had been charged with sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl more than two decades ago in Gulfport, Florida.” Bernabe took shelter in the Philippines and died – avoiding  trial to the end – in 2006.

ARWYN N. DIESTA

The overview cites that Fr. Diesta was the subject of a request from a US lawyer regarding an accusation that Diesta had abused him when he was a boy. Another report, issued by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, maintains that “Plaintiff reports that he was sexually abused by Fr. Diesta from approximately 1982-88.”

A certain Fr. Arwyn Diesta is still active in the Parish of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Sorsogon. Other Google search hits turn up a Fr. Arwyn Diesta who said a funeral mass in 2008. A Father Diesta is also mentioned as an English professor. A priest named Arwyn Diesta is seen here celebrating a Mass in Sorsogon in 2006 – the blog entry shows a clear picture of Fr. Diesta.

APOLINARIO MEJORADA

The overview cites the case of Fr. Apolinario Mejorada, who was accused of sexually abusing altar boys in Cebu between 1995 and 1998. “About a week later, Mejorada’s superiors admitted he was involved in some ‘transgression’ and paid Php 120,000 pesos in settlement.” Where is Mejorada today? All we know is that a certain Apolinario Mejorada is currently a parochial vicar somewhere in San Pedro, Laguna.

The following priests were involved in cases that went public AFTER the CFFC/Likhaan report was issued.

JOSE BELCIÑA

In 2006, Jose Belciña was charged with rape and child abuse – the rape charges were later dropped for lack of evidence, but the child abuse charge was allowed to stand. Belciña laid low for a while – to quote SunStar columnist Bong Wenceslao: “When asked by the authorities on the whereabouts of Fr. Jose Belciña, Msgr. Achilles Dakay answered: I am not his custodian. Reminds me of Cain’s answer when asked about the whereabouts of his brother Abel: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

As of 2008, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has restored Belciña to pastoral duties in Minglanilla, southern Cebu – a move that has stirred up more controversy.

BENEDICTO EJARES

In 2007, Fr. Benedicto Ejares was accused of sexually harassing teenage girls under his charge in a “Life in the Spirit” seminar in Cebu. Despite orders not to publicly say Mass, Ejares did so in a government building in 2008. Ejares has contested a ruling finding probable cause in charging him with child abuse.

Posted in Politics, Religion21 Comments

Explaining the situation of churches in Germany

Explaining the situation of churches in Germany

The churches in Germany are losing members drastically every year. Look at the following figures showing the number of people signing out of the organization year by year:

Year    Evangelic Church     Catholic Church

1970   202.823                    69.454

1980   119.814                    66.438

1985   140.553                    74.112

1987   140.638                    81.598

1988   138.700                    79.562

1989   147.753                    93.010

1990   144.143                  143.530

1991   237.874                  167.933

1992   361.256                  192.766

1993   284.699                  153.753

1994   290.302                  155.797

1995   296.782                  168.244

1996   225.602                  133.275

1997   196.602                  123.813

1998   182.730                  119.265

1999   192.880                  129.013

2000   188.557                  129.496

2001   171.789                  113.724

2002   174.227                  119.405

2003   177.162                  129.598

2004   141.567                 101.252

2005   119.561                   89.565

2006   121.598                   84.389

2007   131.000                   93.667

2008   168.901                 121.155

The figures are officially taken from the Federal Statistical Office of Germany and the administration of the evangelic and catholic church in Germany.

The following chart shows the number of people leaving the evangelic and Catholic Church every year in Germany.

Kirchenaustritte

The churches use their income from the church tax for the following:

Catholic Church:

  • Employees: +- 60%
  • Administration: +- 10%
  • Buildings: +- 10%
  • Schools and education: +- 10%
  • Social work and help for the poor: +- 10% (What a scandal, because the churches always ask to help the poor)

Evangelic Church:

  • Employees: +- 70%
  • Administration: +- 10%
  • Buildings: +- 10%
  • Schools and education & Social work and help for the poor: +-  10%

Income out of church tax 2002:

  • Catholic Church: 4.1 Billion Euros
  • Evangelic Church: 4.3 Billion Euros
  • Total: 8.4 Billion Euros tax free money
  • Paid by church members: 5.05 Billion Euros (60.1%)
  • Paid out of country tax funds: 3.35 Billion Euros (39.9%)

The following statistics show the amount of members of the church organizations.

Year Population Ev. Church in % Cat. Church in % Total in %
2001 82 440 309 26 453 592 32.1 26 656 014 32.3 53 109 606 64.4
2002 82 536 680 26 211 487 31.8 26 466 076 32.1 52 677 563 63.8
2003 82 531 671 25 836 192 31.3 26 165 153 31.7 52 001 345 63.0
2004 82 500 849 25 629 534 31.1 25 986 384 31.5 51 615 918 62.6
2005 82 437 995 25 385 618 30.8 25 905 908 31.4 51 291 526 62.2
2006 82 314 906 25 100 727 30.5 25 684 890 31.2 50 785 617 61.7
2007 82 217 837 24 832 110 30.2 25 461 118 31.0 50 293 228 61.2
2008 82 002 356 25 176 517 30.7

Nondenominational people in Germany

Since the 20th century there is no more state church in Germany.

In 1970 the figure of 3.9% for nondenominational people was determined by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany in the Federal Republic of Germany at that time (Protestant 49%, Roman-Catholic 44.6%, Muslim 1.3%). The portion of the population without denomination amounted to 32.3% in 2004 and 32.5% in 2005 in the whole federal republic. In 2008 it rose once more to 34.1%. Besides, the group of the people without denomination is especially high in the new federal states where – according to statistics – between 65% and 80% of the population are not members of any religion. Causality for this high value was the atheistic adjustment of the GDR by which the churches had strongly lost to social meaning and humanity.

In Europe a trend towards the disengagement from church is recognizable in general.

The group of atheists, agnostics and therefore nondenominational people are growing from year to year.

The chart below shows the figure in 2008: Konfessionsfrei = nondenominational people

Konfessionen Deutschland

Posted in Religion12 Comments

Leverage

If I were forced to work with a bully or a slacker as a peer/coworker, how could I make them do their share of the work? First of all, it is quite obvious I cannot just tell these people to do their job; I would have to make them. Realistically, the world doesn’t work on good intentions alone; self interest is a part of it. In order to make the bully or the slacker do his/her job, I need some form of leverage over them. This leverage can be in the form of authority, telling my boss the problem in order to rescue myself from being taken advantage of and in order to prevent a precedent for future abuse. Another form of leverage is manipulating them by playing on their character weaknesses, something left to more canny individuals. Another still is by stamping my handiwork with my indelible signature to create evidence of their omission.

Leverage is neither evil nor good. People might get the bad idea that leverage is evil, since it is power to compel someone against their will. However, it is merely a tool. Like any other tool – hammer, knife, accounting software, the Internet, money, etc. – it is the ethical consequences of the action that clears up this ambiguity.

There are three groups that provide leverage to the people:

Competition and Market Forces – Free-market forces give the people, who are consumers, leverage by choosing one supplier or service over the other. Without the power of choice, how are people able to punish inefficiency, or framed in another way, reward innovation and hard work?

Courts of Law, Law Enforcers, and Legal Experts – If someone violates a serious binding agreement, the ability to take them to court is a form of leverage. The law is a tool, a way to keep people from breaking promises others depend on for their welfare, stability and happiness.  Without such leverage, there is very little to prevent abuse and the public from being taken advantage of.

Free Speech, Free and Impartial Media, and… Free Thought – Public expression is a way to communicate to others serious or vital concerns with regards to their conduct. Free speech allows people to attack and defend their credibility, and gives the truth opportunity to prevail. Part of free speech is the ability of individuals to apply the more impartial tools of logic and reason to come to their own conclusions, which we know as Freethought.

I might address that these forms of leverage may not be perfect tools, but without them we certainly diminish our power to affect change and improve our situation.

Looking at the three groups: Free trade, Law and Order, and Free speech, how much leverage does the Filipino have? Among them, what is the easiest to achieve given our own individual abilities, and that can be achieved by our collective groups? Which group precedes the others or by what degree?

Understanding leverage helps me determine what is the most cost-efficient application of effort towards change. I hope this helps you too.

Posted in Others, Personal, Politics, Science, Society6 Comments

FF Top Ten: April 18, 2010

A lot of science fiction fans here wish for the privilege of meeting a real extraterrestrial at least once in their lives Here’s a pop quiz though – would you know what to do when that happens? Fortunately for you guys, we’ve found a guide on what and what not to do on your first contact.

This guide can mean the difference between you becoming our very first ambassador to some star league light years away, or having the said star league having earth atomized due to some unfortunate failure to communication. And you better read up quick – Obama’s set 2030 as the year for NASA to cobble together a manned trip to Mars.

Seriously - don't piss off the Martian

In other news, Ang Ladlad has been recognized as an official partylist in time for the May 10 elections, Europe’s airlines is still feeling the brunt of the eruptions from Iceland’s volcano, and Christian conservatives are giving Twilight the Harry Potter treatment.

They’re dissing the vampire novel series for sending the wrong messages to teens about matters of romance, love, and vampires. Wow, the FF and fundies having something we unanimously agree on. In other news, hell froze over.

In any case, make sure to send in your updates via over at the Filipino Freethinkers forum!

=================================

Mars or Bust: Obama announces new policies for NASA (via Discover Magazine) Link

What to do if you’re the first human to ever make contact with aliens (via io9) Link

They’re here, and they’re queer, so get used to it: Ang Ladlad now in May 10 elections (via Danton Remoto 2010) Link

Irony: Iceland, a country touted for clean energy, emits enough smoke and ash to halt all of Europe’s air traffic. (via Yahoo news) Link

Better late than never, I guess: Pope says church will better protect young (via The Philippine Star) Link

Parents and teachers blast Twilight series (via Yahoo news) Link

Judge declares National Day of Prayer unconstitutional
(via Gawker) Link

Here’s an idea to promote free thought and literature: Trade in your bible for other works of fiction! (via Purdue Non-Theists Society) Link

Video: Michael Specter on the danger of science denial (via Youtube) Link

Schadenfreude: German court finds bishop guilty of Holocaust denial (via Salon) Link

Posted in Others0 Comments

First FF Cebu Chapter Meetup

It’s short notice, but if you’re a Cebuano Freethinker, or any Freethinker currently in Cebu, you’re invited to the First FF Cebu Chapter Meet-up!

Date: Saturday, April 17
Time: 2pm to 6pm.
Place: Starbucks, Ayala Center Cebu

Agenda: Anything goes.

There’s never a shortage of interesting topics for a First Meet-up; introduce yourselves, tell the story of your journey to enlightenment, share what it’s like being a Freethinker in a city built around a rotting cross.

RSVP at the Facebook event page

Posted in Announcements, Meetup16 Comments

Poisoning the Well

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article represent the views of this particular author and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

* * * * *

With the recent embarrasment brought about by one of our articles, I sometimes wish that the Filipino Freethinkers had a formal organizational and editorial structure where we could actually sanction erring members and take down their articles. But the FF is not a formal organization, and the fact that most of our readers – and critics – believe otherwise does not change this. In fact, the FF can be described better not by what it is but by what it is not:

  • The FF is not a cult where members are indoctrinated to blindly follow a leader.
  • The FF members do not have a common philosophy or a guiding philosopher or thinker.
  • The FF members do not have a common preferred political system.
  • The FF members do not have a common preferred economic system.
  • The FF members do not have a common goal for the Philippines.
  • The FF members do not have a common stand on the existence of God.
  • And this may come as a surprise: the FF members do not have a common stand on the RH Bill.

If there is anything the FF tries to foster, it is freethought, meaning members are encouraged to form their individual opinions on the basis of science, logic, and reason and not be influenced by authority, tradition, or any other dogma. As such, the FF actually does not have an official stand on contraceptives and the RH Bill; what we strongly oppose is the meddling of the CBCP on an issue that should have been independently decided by the lawmakers of the state. The CBCP represents everything that is against freethought: papal authority, Christian tradition, and Catholic dogma. So whether we dissent or agree with the CBCP on certain issues is beside the point; it is their arrogant insistence that Philippine law should be subservient to Vatican law that pisses us off.

But in spite of this informal structure of the FF, as one of the writers I am deeply saddened by the recent damage to our website’s credibility. Forgive me for saying this, but what I find more disturbing is the cavalier manner in which my fellow writer tried to dismiss the accusations by downplaying the issue. I take my writing seriously, and the FF website is not “just a blog”.

As such, I urge my fellow writer to post a real response because that dismissive comment simply made it worse. If the accusations are unfounded, do say so and state for the record. But if the allegations are valid, I believe the following would be the courageous thing to do:

  • admit it
  • take down the article
  • apologize
  • offer an explanation, not an excuse
  • acknowledge that this explanation does not justify the act
  • apologize again

I must stress that this is no longer about our stalker; just because it was a Randroid who found out and exposed the alleged plagiarism doesn’t make it any less serious. But again, I’m speaking only for myself as an author and not as an ‘official’ editor.

And to our stalker, thank you for keeping us on our toes. Bask in Schadenfreude while you can because I believe you actually have something valid against us this time. But as to your other accusations about us being enemies of reason, let me share with you Wes’ comment in another post, which also explains why this article is titled Poisoning the Well, because that’s exactly what you are doing:

“…it’s the fact that VB and his group resorted to a lot of below-the-belt name-calling and personal attacks *aimed at the whole group* that really showed their lack of maturity.

Generalizations like what he did could be akin to saying that *all* PEX’ers are complete assholes just because he didn’t like what one writer had to say. This site hosts a lot of different viewpoints, some may agree with Objectivism, some may not. It’s how well you defend your side that shows what you’re truly made of.

But all I saw in VB’s counter-arguments (aside from the oh-so-mature name-calling) could be summed up into “you just don’t understand the true essence of our philosophy because you disagree with us. Go read our sacred scriptures again until you agree with us.” How can you even begin to open up a constructive discussion with a mindset like that? Shouldn’t they instead call themselves “Objectionists” because they object to other people objecting about their object of infatuation?”

Posted in Others21 Comments

Meetup: April 18 at Shangri-la Starbucks

Facebook event page

Sunday, April 18, 2010
1-4PM
Starbucks Shangri-la (near cinemas)

Agenda:
* Mini-lecture: Singularity by Jed Segovia
* Shoptalk: Courtship tips from and for freethinkers
* Storytelling: Corporal punishment — Did your parents spare the rod?
* Discussion: Plagiarism: venial sin or grave matter?
* Debate: Is piracy unethical?
* Pseudo-Support group: 1-minute-share-anything round
* Communion Song: Jesus Christ: Gotta save ’em all (somebody bring lyrics)

Posted in Announcements, Meetup0 Comments

FF Top Ten: April 14, 2010

FF Top Ten: April 14, 2010

Justin was kind enough to get me the links to this week’s post.  Thanks Justin!

Go to the News Thread to send your links.

========

Lesson No.1 kids – don’t publish a video blog endorsing beliefs that you’re not supposed to be supporting. E.g. Religion scholar who believes in evolution and blogs about it. Smart!  (via Huffington Post)

MIT conducts workshop on secularism in India. Read the program and some of the discussions here. (via twocircles.net)

Justin’s so freaked out by these planets that are orbiting backwards. (via MSNBC)

Catholics for Choice support DOH. (via Manila Bulletin) Sorry guys, the priests say you’re not real Catholics. You’re half-assed erring Catholics.  (via GMAnews.tv, Ryan’s post)

Church inadvertently campaigns for Ang Ladlad by reiterating once again their disapproval of the LGBT group.  (via GMAnews.tv)

RP lags neighbors in poverty reduction, according to the ADB (via Inquirer.net)

Here’s the church blaming gay priests for pedophilia.  They like making enemies, no? (via Inquirer)

Here’s the church blaming Jews and freemasons. Really. (via Salon.com)

Here’s the church effectively saying that lifting the statute of limitations on child molesters is a bigger damage to the church than actually having child molesters as church leaders. (via CNN.com)  Are they saying that once this is lifted, there will be no priests left?

The Catholic Church out of the blue decides to forgive the Beatles.  (via NME) The timing is so odd.  Do they think this will distract from the scandal?  I personally think it has something to do with the recent super-crappy Beatles Week on American Idol. The Church was all, “This is horrible!  Who are these talentless singers butchering these great songs?!  The Beatles have suffered enough! Let us forgive them.”

Posted in Media, Politics, Religion, Science, Society5 Comments

From the elephant’s mouth: Interview with Bishop Yniguez

In my previous post about the HIV summit, I wrote about my unanswered question (What should the DOH do about the CBCP problem?) and the elephant in the room (Bishop Yniguez, public affairs director of the CBCP). The guys in the faith-based table (particularly the Catholic priest) probably told the bishop about my question, so I was a bit hesitant to do what I did next.

I interviewed the elephant. After some media representatives interviewed him, I thought I’d take advantage of inertia and cut in right after with my trusty camcorder. It paid off. He took a look at my ID and asked about my surname. I told him my grandfather was Turkish. If that’s what he asked me, he must have missed “Filipino Free Thinkers” written below my name.

Anyway, are some highlights:

He was vague about condom use being a mortal sin. Last I checked it still is a mortal sin. But instead of using those words, he said it was a grave matter, which is the same thing.

He said that the Catholic statements against the effectiveness of condoms were supported by scientific surveys and facts.

He said that even if condom use were proven to be effective (by the CBCP “scientists”), if it was opposed to the principles of the Catholic Church, it would still be wrong. Which will always be the case, since condoms are intrinsically evil. (I was surprised he had to think twice about whether this was the case.)

He said that condom use would be OK between a married couple and only if one of the spouses had HIV or AIDS. Now here he is going against the official Catholic stance that condom use is intrinsically evil. Maybe there is hope. (Jail the Pope? Sorry.)

He said that half-Catholics, those who disagree with the Church’s position on matters such as condom use, “are not Catholics.” Though this would probably be bad for publicity, and as public affairs director, he knew better. So…

He said that Catholics who do not agree with the Church can still call themselves Catholic. But they would be erring Catholics.

I didn’t get to prepare, so now I have a lot of tougher questions I wish I’d asked. But I guess it’s good enough when you get a bishop to say, “Nadali mo ako dun a.”

Posted in Politics, Religion, Video36 Comments

On Freethinking, Objectivism, and Plagiarism

I’ve recently learned about the plagiarism in a recent post and think that some sanctions are necessary. Therefore, together with our stakeholders and board of directors, we, the official leaders of FF, have decided to suspend Karlo from his post as official FF writer indefinitely until he edits his post and publicly apologizes and says ten Hail Marys.

But seriously.

First of all, the FF is an informal group. Although we’ve been trying to get organized, herding cats is close to impossible. Nor would freethinkers want to be herded anyway. I’d thought that we — the original members of FF — made this clear from the beginning, but apparently we haven’t, and for the benefit of nonmembers and new members here it is again:

The Filipino Freethinkers is not a formal group with an official, homogeneous stand on anything.

We do not have an official stance on gods — although many are atheists, we have agnostics, deists, pantheists, panentheists, apatheists, etc. We even have several theists — Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Spirituals, and yes, even a Satanist.

We do not have an official stance on politics — although most prefer democracy and capitalism, we have all sorts of socialists, anarchists, and even one fascist (that I know of).

We do not have an official stance on anything. I thought this was unnecessary, but maybe each post on our blog should be introduced by a disclaimer: The views on this post are my own, and do not reflect those of any other member of FF.

What we do have is a common language that we do try to speak: freethinking. You are freethinking when you try to use reason and evidence to figure something out for yourself. At least that’s my definition. Others may have their own definitions, which is why our members are so varied. And that’s a good thing.

What we — the original members — tried to achieve with FF when we started it was not a WE (a group of people with the same thoughts on everything) but a WHERE. You could compare FF to a room where anybody could come in and talk to each other about whatever. The only thing is, the people in the room speak in the language of reason and Science, and your enjoyment in that room would depend on your fluency at freethinking (our lingua franca).

Obviously, people define Reason and Science in different ways, from the absolutist definitions of Objectivism to the relativist definitions of Postmodernism. But even with the wide range of interpretations, I believe we can all agree on some things:

One, that freedom to talk about things is a good thing, and that no idea is too sacred to justify its permanent status as Truth. In short, nothing is sacred, so there’s no such thing as blasphemy. Even Science does not grant such status to any theory. (Indeed, if it did, it would cease to be Science.)

Two, that assertions made without supporting arguments can be dismissed without any argument. That an argument is only as good as the reason (critical thought free from fallacies) and evidence (repeated and repeatable, peer-reviewed and scientifically valid) backing it up.

Three, although freely thinking (and talking) about something (One) in a way that is rational and evidence-based (Two) is the best way to arrive at conclusions, those conclusions may be different, especially with complex and complicated topics. And even when a group of people — however rational and scientific — somehow reaches the same conclusion, that conclusion does not gain the status of Absolute Truth (One).

Again, I hate to have to say this, but this is MY point of view and it may be different from those of the other FF members.

Now let me share some of my thoughts about this conflict with Objectivists, particularly VB and some of his friends. First of all, we have at least three members (that I know of) who are now Objectivists. Geri was once an Objectivist. I read enough Ayn Rand to understand her philosophy, and although I do not agree with all of her conclusions, I do think she deserves to be called a Philosopher (some FF members think otherwise) and as a writer I particularly value her thoughts on the writing process (I have both her books on the topic).

So I have nothing against Objectivism. In fact, several times I’ve invited Josh Lipana, and through him, VB, to attend our meetups and even to write about Objectivism on our blog. (Both invitations are still open, by the way.)

This was before all the free farter talk on VB’s blog. Personally I do not appreciate personal attacks used in rational discourse. And besides, it only weakens your argument — when you have to resort to it, it usually means you’ve run out of reason.

But things have been said and the discourse has devolved into name calling, unfortunately on both sides. And where there is some semblance of reason it has been quite irrational — again on both sides. Because of the support of some members (myself included) for the RH bill, all of our members have been called irrational, unscientific, and even a fellowship of death. As if the only proper way to be rational and scientific is to agree with Objectivism. And some FF members have called Objectivism a cult of Randroids, lumping together all Objectivists, even though there are those who do value the ideas without any reverence for Ayn Rand.

This has led to the ugly situation we have now. I’d rather we all move on and talk about something more relevant, say HIV/AIDS and the Vatican scandal, but that’s just me. If some members still want to wage an all out war with VB, that’s fine. But please, when you argue with someone, be it VB or anyone else, make it clear that you are arguing for yourself and as yourself — not as a representative of FF.

Sadly, any argument between VB and an FF member has been framed as a battle between Objectivism and FF. Please guys. Keep it between yourselves. The way you have been arguing you might as well have a Yo Mama contest.

Which brings us to the latest attack against Karlo for the plagiarism in his first article. This attack on Karlo is an attack manufactured by those who want to discredit the FF and can be compared to anti-semitism, the Holocaust, and the recent attacks on the Catholic Church.

But seriously. In case your bullshit detector wasn’t on in my first paragraph, we do not have stakeholders and directors and official leaders. We do not even have full-time editors, let alone fact-checkers. I say full-time because sometimes our volunteers fix mechanical errors — spelling, grammar, etc. — and even peer-review articles before posting. But these editorial fixes will remain a rarity until we get volunteers who can dedicate a lot of their time to the necessary work. Or until we get a lot of money (any takers?).

This bears repeating: We are a group of volunteers. We are not paid for what we do.

But still, I agree with the comments so far that Karlo should take responsibility for his actions. He has already replied and said that he will fix the plagiarism in his post. Do I think Karlo should be punished for what he did? Personally, not so much. But again, that’s just my opinion. If you think plagiarism, particularly what Karlo did, is a grave matter deserving of excommunication, do say so. Write a post about it if you like. You will not be censored. But please, try to stick to the issues and avoid the insults.

I’ve already passed the TL;DR point a couple of paragraphs ago, so let me end this rambling (sorry for any errors in spelling, grammar, or plagiarism) with this:

If FF is to be about something, it is not about shared conclusions but shared conversations. Once conclusions are reached conclusively the conversation is over, and a fellowship without conversation is a fellowship concluded. Peace!

Posted in Humor, Organization, Personal34 Comments

What should the DOH do about the CBCP?

I asked the titular question at this morning’s HIV Summit hosted by the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC). The event started with several speakers discussing the state of HIV and AIDS in the country; and the measures that must be taken by the people in attendance — mostly leaders from different sectors of society who share HIV/AIDS as an advocacy.

After the talks the participants were allowed to ask questions and make comments. Several participants had their say, some raising issues not mentioned in the talks. These issues were addressed, often at length, sometimes by more than one person.

Yet with the hundreds in attendance, in none of the talks, questions, and comments did anyone raise the CBCP issue. The CBCP is and has been the strongest political opponent of the DOH or any other sexual health advocacy group since Ever. The recent death of the RH Bill is almost entirely thanks to them. More recently, Secretary Cabral, PNAC Chairperson and Secretary of Health, has received harsh criticism and has even been pressured to resign from her post.

The CBCP Problem was the elephant in the room, and I couldn’t wait to cry elephant.

I got my chance toward the end of the open forum. I’ve embedded the video below. (It’s not in the video, but I asked the question using the microphone at the table assigned for members of faith-based groups, which was only a few meters away from mine.)

In case you’re wondering what the answer to my question was, there was none. The reason for this could have been the lack of time (we were about to have lunch) or the lack of an answer. But I realized later why they had their tongues tied.

Shortly after I asked the question, at the faith-based table sat an elephant — Bishop Yniguez, CBCP public affairs director. Ceremoniously, the event host acknowledged the presence of His Eminence. And the participants, leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS, advocates of artificial family planning and comprehensive sexual health education, applauded.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Video24 Comments

Facebook.com/Freethinkers