Archive | September, 2010

Rizal behind bars: the arrest of Carlos Celdran

Rizal behind bars: the arrest of Carlos Celdran

Jose Rizal is behind bars. Or at least someone who looks like him (give or take a few pounds).

This afternoon, Carlos Celdran was arrested for disrupting an Ecumenical Mass in Manila Cathedral. During one of the readings, he went in front of the altar wearing a faux Spanish era costume — black pants, black suit, black hat.

He held up a sign that said “Damaso,” first for everyone to see then for those seated in the first row — a few Cardinals and Bishops, including Archbishop Cruz. Also in attendance was Mayor Lim. They didn’t get what he was trying to do, so he helped them out.

“Damaso!” he shouted.

Eyes opened, mouths gaped. “Stop interfering in politics,” Carlos shouted. “Stop meddling in government!”

They finally got it. Mayor Lim ordered the policemen in attendance to take him away (a warrant-less arrest). He was to be taken to the Police Community Precinct in Intramuros, where he was held until he was transferred to Ermita Police Station 5 in UN Avenue, where we met him at around 7pm.

Carlos, who’d been under arrest for almost three hours, welcomed us with a smile. He was being held in the juvenile delinquent cell. Although five other prisoners were with him, he was impossible to miss – he was still in the Rizal outfit.

He told us the whole story, which brings us to now. There were reports that Cardinal Rosales wants him in jail for embarrassing the whole Church. Rosales is thinking of filing a case against him. Carlos is willing to make a public apology, but he wants to emphasize that he is apologizing for the manner of his protest – not for its meaning. “The CBCP threatened civil disobedience. This is my version of it.”

Carlos started a protest that is long overdue. But he is not alone. Friends, family and fellow advocates of secularism and Reproductive Health continue to arrive to show their solidarity. Tomorrow there will be bigger demonstrations near Malacañang and the CBCP headquarters. And as long as the Church continues to block RH progress and meddle in politics, there will be many more.

In the same way that Jose Rizal stood against the oppressive friars of his time, we must take a stand against the CBCP. I’m not suggesting we do civil disobedience of any sort. Let’s just keep the spirit of Rizal’s protests alive in whatever way we can. Costume not required.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society55 Comments

Rage Against the CBCP (Flashmob/Rally to support RH)

Filipino Freethinkers, Carlos Celdran, Bagong Pepe and a few others will be in front of San Agustin Church at 11am tomorrow Friday Oct 1 to do a FLASHMOB PHOTO OP in front of the CBCP. It will be fun and it won’t take long. Wear anything!

This is a counter movement against the CBCP threatening the government with civil disobedience for daring to take care of their citizens. This is a stand against dogmatic “morals” with horrible consequences. This is to show the vocal minority who stand against the reproductive health bills that the other 80% of the country want RH reforms NOW!

Where: San Agustin church, Intramuros, Manila. In front of the CBCP. (map)

When: Friday, October 1, 11 AM (come at 1030!)

Facebook event page.

Posted in Others17 Comments

CBCP’s Scheme to Prevent RH Progress

The CBCP is on the defensive. Since Noynoy declared that he would give poor Filipinos the option to use contraceptives, the bishops have been planning their counterattack. Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of the Catholic bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, threatened to “do everything just to block the measure.”

Yesterday the CBCP revealed their strategy:

A network of 100 Catholic lay groups across the country Tuesday geared up for protest actions.
Preliminary consultations among lay leaders will be held in Metro Manila this week.

“Initially, they (the lay) would write letters to legislators and national leaders and, without discounting the great possibility of [holding] rallies in the streets… we are gearing towards that,” Castro said.

“We fear that (Mr. Aquino’s statement) will not end here but we are praying that we are wrong,” Castro said.

But prayers and protests are just one side of their strategy. Because they lack reason and evidence — not to mention the numbers — to support their cause, the bishops have once again resorted to myths, misinformation, and manipulation.

Here are just some of their dirty tactics:

Misrepresentation and Hasty Generalization

The CBCP has around 133 members. Their voice is not even a whisper in a country of 92 million. But for their protest to have political clout, they’re going to need the numbers. This is why instead of admitting that the CBCP is the main force behind this protest, they’re making it seems as if they’re not prime movers but mere consultants:

Castro said the Catholic clergy, including the bishops, would back the lay groups’ actions. “On the side of the clergy, we will simply support them in this initiative,” he added.

CBCP, if you want to continue using this strategy, you can start by replacing Fr. Castro as the spokesperson of the movement.

But hiding behind the lay groups is not enough for one bishop:

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Caloocan criticized Mr. Aquino’s statement. “The whole Church is against it,” he told The Associated Press.

The whole Church is against it? How did he know? Did he do a new survey? Because in the most recent surveys, two-thirds said they wanted contraception. Or maybe this Church he’s referring to only includes Catholics who agree with the CBCP on contraceptives.

Emotional Blackmail

Fr. Castro said their actions would “not be confrontational” with the President. He lied. Just ask presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who called “unfair’’ and “below the belt’’ a statement made by Castro:

“It’s just a small amount compared to the moral values that we are going to lose,” Castro said in a press release. “Apparently for that measly sum of money in the name of fighting poverty, here we are again, selling out the Filipino soul. It’s just sad.”

And in case the “Filipino soul” is too impersonal to induce enough guilt, Castro thinks appealing to “family” might do the job:

Castro said the Church and the faithful had hoped that Mr. Aquino, as the son of the late former President and prolife champion Corazon Aquino and being surrounded by four sisters, could be “influenced” to address the issue of poverty through economic means, not by population control.

Promoting Theocracy

For an organization that is against choice, the CBCP uses the word “freedom” quite casually:

“Our lay leaders, who have their own families, see the need to be very visible in this protest and we respect their freedom.”

In this case, it’s good that Castro qualified freedom with “their.” Because the CBCP only respects the freedom of those who already agree with them. What about the freedom of those who choose contraception? As Rosa Luxemburg said, freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.

Yet all this is consistent with the CBCP’s preferred political system — theocracy.

In another statement, Castro said that the President should listen to those who protest contraceptives because “among them are people who really supported him during the elections” and “elected him into office.”

But what about the voters who support contraception? And what about those who didn’t vote for Noynoy but support his stance on contraceptives? It seems that Castro thinks only those on the CBCP’s side deserve to be listened to. Which is just a roundabout way of saying that only the CBCP deserves to be listened to. Ignoring the majority in favor of a few bishops is not democracy. But then again, that’s not what the CBCP wants.

Indoctrination and Misinformation

The CBCP is also intensifying its brainwashing efforts:

The CBCP was gearing up against any other future government moves through mobilization of lay groups and the faithful and by intensifying value formation and catechism down to the barangay chapels.

“So whatever the government will do in the near or far future, our faithful will have a well-formed conscience,” he said.

And what kind of wisdom will the faithful form their consciences with?

Church officials have argued that contraception is a type of abortion, which is banned by the Constitution.

Saying this over and over will not make it true. Once again, CBCP, abortion is the termination of a pregnancy; contraception is the prevention of a pregnancy. But I guess the CBCP can teach whatever it wants. After all, what they’re doing is not education — it’s indoctrination.

Discrediting the Informed

It’s useless to spread lies when those pesky doctors and health officials keep telling the truth. Which is why for the CBCP, disparaging them only makes sense:

Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Francisco de Leon viewed Mr. Aquino’s statement as a “passive stance” on birth control. “But what is happening on the local level is more aggressive,” De Leon said on Radio Veritas. De Leon said local health officials were the ones telling couples what should be done, instead of letting them decide.

Health officials cannot decide for a couple. The most they can do is give advice based on their research and experience. Since when has giving advice been the same as making a decision for someone? Could it be that given the right information, the bishops know that people are more likely to choose contraception?

They’re making it seem like health officials — and those who promote RH information — are robbing people of their freedom. But freedom requires having options. These health officials aren’t taking away freedom; they’re giving people more of it.

Monopolizing Morality

Whenever the CBCP is threatened, you can be sure they’ll spout the word “morality” pretty soon:

Fr. Francis Lucas, the CBCP executive secretary for social communications and mass media, said it was morally incorrect to let people decide what was right and wrong according to their needs.

First they say that people should make their own decisions. Then they say that it’s morally incorrect to do so?

Fr. Lucas added that “the ‘optional’ use of contraceptives blurs the lines between right and wrong.”

That is their solution to complex issues of morality? Removing options? This shows just how much they trust their flock. But didn’t a bishop say that the “whole Church” is against contraception? If so, then what are they afraid of?

* * *

The CBCP came close to the truth when they said that providing contraceptives “is a serious matter” because “it is the Filipino family at stake here.” Yes, this is a serious matter. Yes, the Filipino family is at stake. But the danger doesn’t come from the president’s promise. We got in this predicament because the CBCP has been blocking RH progress for too long.

Revealing the CBCP’s manipulative strategy weakens it, helping ensure Noynoy follows through with his promise. We will have to organize counter-protests, but thankfully, we don’t have to stoop to their level. Reason and evidence — not to mention the majority of Filipinos –are on our side. In a democratic country, these should be more than enough.

Posted in Politics, Society30 Comments

The Strategy of Being Nice

Robert Axelrod‘s Work (The iterated prisoners dilemma):

  • Be nice – this means don’t be the first to take advantage of someone’s vulnerability or an opportunity that changes the status quo to the detriment of everyone else (assuming everyone else has roughly the same status as you).
  • When you draw a line, enforce it. Be ready to put your money where your mouth is. This includes punishing those who fail to be Nice not just to you but to others.
  • You must be Just/fair. In this instance it means being forgiving. When you have punished and the price for the betrayal or transaction has been paid, be able to move on and rebuild relationships.
  • Some measure of openness. Be sure people know how and why certain actions will influence your own actions. This does not only refer to punishment, but also to negotiations and cooperation.

Working closely with my father, I wondered why he is such a trusting person. Given his experiences in business and how many have taken advantage of him, I find it strange that he is not in grievous debt – or very cynical. Getting into Game Theory opened up the perspective allowing me to analyze the advantages of his behavioral pattern (strategy).

In the bullet points above, the attributes provided by Robert Axlerod are general guidelines to be Fair and to be Nice.

Chapter 4: Cost of Social Norms from Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely adds another dimension to Strategic Niceness.

Being nice is an Investment in Good “Faith” that you will be treated the same way. It is a strategy that cannot be easily quantified or broken down to rates of returns. Behavior is very much circumstance driven because environment and history of temperament are factors that are hard to account for in such assessment.

We begin being nice by being courteous and amiable, ignoring small transgressions (giving the benefit of the doubt until being able to draw a reasonable conclusion). A lot of being Nice is being receptive and being patient with the information you have gleaned when there is enough to act on either building a relationship or establishing that person is not trust worthy and merit avoidance – or giving punishment for abuses of good will.

Being receptive doesn’t mean being anyone’s fool. It doesn’t mean habitually leaving oneself vulnerable to abuse, nor does it mean letting people walk all over you. Part of being nice is being honest enough to communicate how much you are willing contribute, with the skepticism that the other party should meet you halfway. Drawing a line and communicating certain expectations doesn’t stop one from being nice. In fact, it becomes a selfish breach of social norm to prevent the other from taking reasonable measures for themselves against deception.

Now acting nice because you want to be treated well in exchange may seem draconian to some. It only seems that way with the pervasive conditioning of Entitled Selfishness. Some people expect people to be Nice or Good for its own sake. It is these people who find themselves entitled to be treated fairly and well, and who are more likely to violate the social norms that govern common courtesy and more serious matters like costly exchanges.

In the studies cited in Dan Ariely’s work regarding the chapter on Honesty and Character, preventing the temptation to be abused or deceived is an important aspect of honest relations, even when these safeguards are not tested.

In the end being a Nice Person has a time and place. Often, those of us who are habitually this way forget that there are times and places that call for us to be something else: firm, confident, certain, suspicious, careful, etc. This flexibility does not stop us from still considering ourselves “Good People”.

Posted in Personal, Science, Society2 Comments

The Plight of Pedro, the Pious Poor Pinoy

I was reading about Archbishop Cruz’s crusade against jueteng when I found this:

“Gambling, legal and illegal like jueteng simply impoverishes poor people while gambling operators, the politicians and some law enforcement people take advantage of the people’s ignorance making them hope of winning instead of working hard,” he explained.

Impoverishes poor people. Authority figures taking advantage of people’s ignorance, making them hope instead of working hard. Sounds like organized religion to me.

Anyway, it reminded me of a post I wrote in 2009, but haven’t shared on this site. It may not be about illegal gambling, but it’s just as relevant. Here it is.

* * *

Symbols of Salvation

Pedro Perez is poor. A 40-year old factory worker, his salary is barely enough to feed his five children — let alone send them to school — and his wife has one more on the way.

But he has hope. Kneeling in front of a tiny TV, he waits, holding in his hands the symbols of his salvation — a lottery ticket on the left hand, a rosary on the right.

Our hypothetical hero, however poorly I’ve caricatured him, is not alone. With the jackpot reaching a record P348 million, millions of Filipinos have been flocking to PCSO lotto outlets for weeks [This was in March 2009].

And every Sunday, especially on that fateful Sunday when the winning number would be revealed, Pedro joined his flock, fervently praying in church that his ticket be blessed, instead of the tickets of those praying beside him.

Because for millions like Pedro, pious and poor, the only solution that can save them is a miracle. And who better to create a miracle than the Creator? What better miracle than turning one piece of paper into millions of Pesos?

As the lottery TV show starts, Pedro tightens his grip on the ticket and rosary. In their fight against poverty, these weapons are more related than we realize.

Continue Reading

Posted in Religion, Society2 Comments

The Bear, The Cloud, and God

The Bear, The Cloud, and God

Posted in Entertainment, Humor7 Comments

Noynoy’s Choice

Today, Noynoy made a choice. It was a choice between filling the shoes of his mother and becoming his own man. It was a choice between theocracy and democracy. A choice between the beliefs of 133 Catholic bishops and the needs of 92 million citizens.

Today, Noynoy made the right choice:

The Philippine government will provide contraceptives to poor couples who request it despite strong opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic church, President Benigno Aquino said Monday.

Speaking in a satellite television interview from the United States where he is on a seven-day visit, Aquino stressed that the number of children a couple had was a matter of personal choice.

“The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method,” he said.

“I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth.”

“They face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and government is willing to assist them.”

But the CBCP thinks he made the wrong choice. Or rather, they prefer he didn’t make it himself:

“I won’t conceal the fact that we are hurt… we were hoping that he will be like his mother.”

~ Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life

They’re also threatening to “do everything just to block the measure even if it means going back to the streets again in protest.” Even if it means robbing Filipinos of their right to choose. Even if for millions of them, it may be a choice between life and death.

It remains to be seen whether Noynoy bows to these bishops or has the courage of his convictions. But if he does follow through, he will be giving Filipinos something he had today: the power to choose for oneself — and the courage to choose correctly.

Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life

Posted in Politics, Society27 Comments

BEING SEXUAL…AND SPIRITUAL AT THE SAME TIME

How does one accept that as it is you are a sexual being, but also a spiritual being? Is there hope for both identities, important parts that make up the human psyche to co-exist comfortably at the same time without there being any discordance within? I have many friends who are gay, & as it is oftentimes they lament that the Catholic Church, or even most religions for that matter, are too limiting when it comes to accepting who they are. I’m saying this because most of my friends who are gay are quite sexually liberated, although I’m not necessarily saying that being gay immediately connotes that one is sexually active. Still, I’m not gay, but even I find myself wondering at times if I should go to Sunday Mass, after a Saturday evening spent carousing & hooking up with someone for a, well, much needed amorous treat.

Which brings this specific, personal dilemma to mind, is there room for the practice of one’s sexuality and spirituality in one’s life? How can one make heads and tails of such seemingly discordant messages? Much of the hullabaloo in this site awhile back had to do with the use of contraceptives, or that whole mess over the Reproductive Bill. I’m going to muddle the issue a little bit more by talking about sex. Can one be both sexual and spiritual at the same time?

The Bible certainly teaches us to shun fornication. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). A Christian friend of mine wisely had this to say, that rather than focusing on the dire warnings against sexual depravity, the Bible counsels against premarital sex for our own good. “Sexual immorality is so blinding and persuasive that we cannot linger around and “play with fire”. The pragmatic reason we are to flee sexual immorality is that it is a sin against our own bodies. The medical toll from promiscuity is high – abortion, infertility, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract and bowel infections, emotional and psychiatric disorders plus the side-effects from various contraceptives are just part of the cost that our bodies are paying for a sexually liberated lifestyle. Our body does not like being sinned against.” (From a Christian counseling text advising against sexual promiscuity).

Much as the case for sexual purity as pointed out above makes sense, it’s still not very realistic, given today’s loosening of sexual mores. I also find the case of relegating sex to within the bounds of marriage too constricting & altogether impractical. Kudos goes out to those practicing celibacy. It’s admirable how there is even resurgence nowadays of people wearing chastity rings and the rise of celibacy clubs. Still, I find Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:8 for those unable to control themselves to marry than to burn with passion – just too much! Certainly sex is a very intimate act with deep spiritual and emotional consequences, where oftentimes a “bond” is established. Sex is serious – and that is what I think Paul is trying to state here. He is saying “there is no such thing as harmless casual sex”.

Perhaps, as in the case with the use of contraceptives and the matter on reproductive health, it all boils down to the same issues: to choice and acting responsibly. We all must deal with our own sexual dilemmas and come to terms with one’s sexuality in light of our religious beliefs. Easier said than done, especially for one who still professes to believe in Christianity. The only writing I came thus far in my research on the sexual/spiritual dilemma that was a bit more lenient on this matter is surprisingly that of a report on the Jewish Law and Standard in April 1994 by the Commission on Human Sexuality: Essentially the reports says, “Committed, loving relationships between mature people who strive to conduct their sexual lives according to the concepts and values described can embody a measure of holiness, even of not the full portion available in marriage”. The Conservative movement’s rabbinic organization is NOT giving carte blanche to non-marital relationships. The report still upholds the importance of marriage but does not condemn more, uh, modern practices. Ah, in this case, I wish I was born a Jew!

So how do you reconcile your religion with your sex life? The truth of the matter is, you cannot. Looking at it from the vantage point of religion is downright impossible. Ultimately, I think this is a personal decision. You have to listen to your own conscience, or since conscience is still a touchy reference point, maybe a better gauge would be how at peace you can be with yourself, hence the slant on spirituality versus religiosity. Whilst being sexually active doesn’t make it evil, it doesn’t necessarily make it right to be promiscuous either for any people of any religion. So look at your life and see how you are adding value to it and to your body by having sex with many different people. Sex is a powerful thing so as long as you respect it and respect yourself, as well as who you do it with.

Not that I’m making a case for premarital sex here, or advocating sexual depravity. It’s just that one’s sexuality is an important part of one’s identity. How you as a person experience the erotic and express yourself as a sexual being is a natural and beautiful part of being human. What is deplorable about religion is that it often paints a very constricting picture and limits the expression of one’s sexuality. Putting aside standards of morality and ideas as to what is wrong and what is right, sex by itself, has biological, physical and emotional aspects. Biologically, sex is as important as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep as shown in Abraham’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Emotionally, sex is a natural progression in any relationship. After all, aside from physical intimacy, there are a lot of things you can get to know about a person when engaging in sex. From intentions (if he/she disappears after sex then you know he/she is just after the physical – poor you!), to knowing if he/she is a pervert (I mean really! From uh, bedside manners to unusual sexual acrobatics or fetishes!), to his/her sensitivity as a lover (does he/she put a premium on your pleasure and happiness in having a genuine willingness to assess the lover’s state of well-being and plan on doing something about it by asking the three most important words: “Did you come?”). Hilarity aside, after all, sex between two consenting adults can prove to be not just a highly pleasurable physical experience, but it can prove to be, a spiritually riveting experience as well.

So yes, in my opinion, it is possible, to be both sexual and spiritual, all at the same time.

Posted in Religion4 Comments

Bright Beacons

At the last meetup, several newcomers asked me: “What does FF stand for? Why do you do what you do?”

I simply gave them a summary of our about page, which is what I usually do when asked similar questions. But I realize now that also sharing stories, like the one below, would have made for a much better answer.

Last week, Richard Wade gave advice to a lonely Filipino Atheist. In case you haven’t yet, do read their exchange at Friendly Atheist. (Seriously, it’s a quick read. And do leave a comment while you’re at it. Better late than never 😉 )

Some of you showed your support in the post’s comments, and for this, Richard thanks us:

My sincere thanks for your warm and welcoming comments and suggestions for the letter writer P. Atheist, on the recent Ask Richard column at Friendly Atheist.

You have put up a bright beacon for someone in a dark and lonely place, and many others may see it as well. I hope that many people find their way to your group as a result.

At Friendly Atheist, we tend to fall into a habit of being focused mainly on American and British issues, but I suppose that is understandable. It’s natural for people to be more concerned about the gophers in their own garden first, and in their neighbors’ gardens second.  But I’m always thrilled to hear from or about freethinkers in other parts of this shrinking planet. I’ve received letters from India, Polynesia, Sweden, Germany, South Africa, China, Argentina, Egypt, and now the Philippines. These remind me that we are all united in our working and struggling for free thinking for anyone who desires it and dares to express it.

I’ll keep Filipino Freethinkers among the first of my bookmarks list, and I’ll enjoy visiting your energetic group. I wish you all the very best.

Gratefully yours,
Richard Wade

And thank you, Richard. Not only for all that you’ve done — and are still doing — but for reminding us of our purpose.

I used to be like the lonely atheist. When I needed friendship or inspiration, I’d read books and blogs written by authors who were either dead or a thousand miles away. I’d email them (the living ones) and leave comments on their blogs. I’d get replies, but they’re never enough. What I would’ve given for the chance to be with a group of people who thought the way I did, who I could listen and talk to, laugh and argue with, see, hear, feel.

Now, I have all of that. We have all of that and more. And the best way to show appreciation is to share what we have.  We may be late, but we’re here now, and hopefully, for good.

I don’t know whether the lonely atheist found our group. Lonely atheist, if you’re reading this, do let us know so we could meet some time. Till then, we’ll be waiting for you, and for those who might need our friendship.

To be “bright beacons for someone in a dark and lonely place.” This is what we stand for. This is why we do what we do.

Posted in Personal, Society5 Comments

World Expo 2010: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF?!!…

The World Expo is a bi-annual event that showcases the best each country has to offer in terms of culture and technology. Each participating country has the chance to put its best foot forward and show the rest of the international community its proudest achievements. It’s an architectural smorgasbord too, with each country housing its display inside a specially designed structure that’s part of the overall presentation.

If one were to summarize the spirit and flavor of a nation at a glance, this is the perfect opportunity to show the rest of the world what image each country is trying to project. Some succeed, some do a lukewarm performance, and an unfortunate few fall flat at the task.

Its a rather curious social barometer too, with popularity being measured in how long people were willing to wait in line to get in. The longer the queues, the more prestige and interest generated for that host country. If you’re hosting a particularly impressive show, people will line up as long as 4-6 hours (and that’s on a slow day) just to get a glimpse of what you have up your sleeve.

 
The 5 hour long queue to get inside Saudi Arabia's famed Space-ark themed Pavilion
.

The seemingly endless queue at the China Pavilion
(approx waiting time:4 hours)
.

Some try to highlight their culture and rich history, some going as far as bringing in original pieces of high profile artwork like what France, Italy and Mexico did. Some went for the technological prowess angle like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia (who spent close to USD 0.2 Billion to build their cutting-edge pavilion which houses the world’s largest IMAX theater). For first world countries, it was a chance to show-off; for countries not so fortunate, it was still an opportunity to gain some PR points and perhaps generate interest to boost their tourism.

Click to enlarge


There’s a lot at stake in this year’s World Expo as the host country China went all-out (like they did with the Olympics) with the logistics. With over 5.28 square kilometers (just traversing the breadth of the Expo grounds is already akin to running a marathon) and more than 200 participating countries, this is the largest, most expensive, and comprehensive world showcase ever. One would have to spend 2 whole weeks from opening time at 9AM till 12MN at a minimum if you plan to see everything the fairgrounds has to offer.

The towering China Pavilion - a gigantic reverse pyramid 
with a Chinese red lantern theme
.

UK Pavilion
.

France Pavilion
.

Italy Pavilion
.

Germany Pavilion
.

Norway Pavilion 
.

Spain Pavilion
.


I’ll leave the architectural critiques to the more specialized websites in the Internet and jump straight on the social implications of some of the country’s offerings. If you had 10 minutes to describe to a total stranger what your country is all about, that should be answered in the way you designed your overall presentation. The pavilion’s architecture should express your cultural heritage and artistic expression. What you choose to put on display tells a lot about your country. What is it most proud of? What does it want the rest of the world to think of it? What image is it trying to project? These are some of the important questions that need to be answered when designing a well-made presentation.

Needless to say, religion plays a big part in the overall presentation of some countries. Iran in particular, designed its pavilion with a mosque-inspired architecture.

Above the doorway’s threshold : “One limb impacted is sufficient for others to feel the mace”. Not the most welcoming of messages to greet visitors with. Some might even detect the hint of a threat implied, which led me to wonder at first why this particular passage was chosen.

I later googled up the passage which turned out to be a poem from the 12th century Persian (Iran in ancient times) poet Saadi.

Of One Essence is the Human Race,

Thusly has Creation put the Base.

One Limb impacted is sufficient,

For all Others to feel the Mace.

The Unconcern’d with Others’ Plight,

Are but Brutes with Human Face.


It’s a quotation often used as an Islamic call towards world unity, thus the “one human race”. It’s supposed to be interpreted as “if one person is hurt, others would empathize with the pain thus our humanity is based on compassion for the welfare of all.”

[*whew* for a minute there, I thought it meant that you only had to whack one person’s limbs with a mace to scare everyone else into submission]

Palestine came up with a rather “hopeful” display, declaring itself a “city of peace” with the symbols of both Christianity and Islam prominently displayed in the background.

Before leaving the building, you can stop by their gift shop, stocked with all manner of religious icons and knick-knacks from crucifixes to rosaries, strangely no Islamic-themed trinkets are available which does present something of a detraction from the over-all theme of “religious equality”.

Afghanistan brands itself as the “heart of Asia” (probably after suffering a stroke and having to require a triple-bypass…). A “land of opportunities and resources” too… though as to what “opportunities and resources” in particular, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Mongolia’s pavilion is closed (I am not kidding). A black cloth shrouds the glass doors and all the windows so you can’t even sneak a peek inside. There’s a note on the door that this exhibit is closed until further notice. One can’t help but speculate if the strained relationship with China had anything to do with it.

Fortunately, Japan didn’t suffer the same fate. Despite its rocky relationship with China, its pavilion [if you’re wondering what the heck it’s suppose to be, it’s a gigantic anime silkworm made of high-tech space-age fibers] is still going strong and quite popular with the locals too (the queue is 4 hours long). Thus, the great irony embodied – the eternal love-hate relationship of China and Japan that started all the way back in the 1930’s with the invasion of Manchuria then followed up by the Rape of Nanking … an unforgivable  crime in the eyes of many Chinese up until the present day. Even today, the hatred burns deep and any diplomatic ties between the two super-powers are perched precariously on a needle’s edge. So it’s unsurprising that one would read headlines in the papers that mention of such animosity. Just this week, China revoked entry of a thousand Japanese schoolkids and popular Japanese rock band into the Expo following yet another territorial dispute. Some call it patriotic extremism, some call it justified retaliation… though I suppose some Filipinos could relate, seeing as there are still a few here who still harbor resentment towards the Japanese for similar war atrocities committed well over a generation ago.

And then we come across another oddity… North Korea has also decided to participate. Flashbacks of watching Angelina Jolie in “Salt” came to mind and we wondered if we would be able to get out in one piece if we tried to sneak a peek inside.

But lo and behold, nothing would prepare us for what lies inside. It simply defies explanation. Inside, visitors are greeted with rainbows, and murals of dancing oriental fairies, colorful fountains with statues children frolicking with doves of peace…

The sign says it all…

But before you go, do stop by the gift shop and grab a copy of Kim Jong Il’s bestsellers (quick, take a guess why they hit the all-time bestsellers list in its home country)

But not all the pavilions were as cringe-inducing as those. Some countries did pull off rather tasteful and creative ways of integrating its religious traditions into the overall design.

Saudi Arabia’s state-of-the-art “space-ark” features a wrap-around LED marquee that flashes different messages throughout the day, among them a lunar countdown of the different moon phases during the season of Ramadan.

With Greece’s recent declaration of bankruptcy, it would be understandable that it would experience budget constraints in its presentation. But what it lacks in resources, it still managed to think up creative ways to showcase its rich cultural heritage. It highlighted its role a major port hub in the Agean Sea and designed its whole display area as a huge indoor maze probably as a nod to the story of Theseus entering the minotaur’s labyrinth. Each dead end leads you to an audio-visual room showing various facets of city life in a typical Greek “polis” or city.  When you find your way out of the maze, you end up in the Garden of Hesperides with the iconic mythic tree that bears the golden apples. Guests can dine under the Tree of Hesperides and choose from a wide variety popular Greek cuisine.

Kazakhstan, eager to rehabilitate its international image as a modern, thriving, and bustling metropolis after its unfortunate encounter with Borat, did an impressive job in convincing visitors that it has indeed come on its own into the 21st-century. It shows the country as a clean, orderly, and technologically updated young nation proud of its cultural heritage (funny hats and all).

Nepal designed a twisting helix going up and around its pavilion to the shrine on top that holds the All-Seeing Eye. A nod to the pilgrimage devotees undertake going up Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains. Not up for climbing the peaks of mount Everest? Then take this fast-track tour.

Sri-Lanka had an elegant Buddhist-themed display complete with an abstract gold-leaf Bodhi tree (the tree the Buddha meditated under). Watch native craftsmen creating intricate works of art in gold, silk and other local materials while sipping hot Ceylon tea.

But atheists need not feel left out. Denmark is high and proud of its non-belief as the sign staunchly proclaims. Aside from giving us Lego, the Little Mermaid, and Carlsberg beer, all of which were also prominently displayed in their showcase, Denmark is proud to be predominantly atheist. A refreshing sight, to say the least, that a nation wouldn’t hesitate to tell the rest of the world that yes, there are places where prayers aren’t de rigeur.

It’s not a statement meant to flaunt atheism nor denigrate other countries who are religious, it is merely a statement of fact. Short, simple, and honest. So its good to know that at least one country is paving the way for secularism in the international arena. It’s a hard road ahead but I think the Danes are up for the challenge.  Remember all the hot water that Danish newspapers got itself into for publishing cartoons of Muhammad? Well Stine wasn’t that infamous cartoonist but apparently, he draws too.

Venezuela may be better known for its winning streak in the Miss Universe, but one of the central themes in its presentation is Humanism.

Rough translation (oh my aching Chinese reading skills…) : we are building a social model centered on people focusing on peace and equality. It is based on the rational use of natural resources while balancing population growth and pollution. Keeping in mind the needs of even the poor to health, food, education, and culture. Quality of life through 21st century infrastructure like roads, bridges…


One of my personal favorites was Hungary’s display. It was unique from all the others because it chose to feature a rather geeky presentation. It didn’t go the high-tech route nor the historical or the artistic. Instead, it featured Hungary’s contribution to the world of mathematics – the Gomboc. Never heard of it? The textbook definition of the Gomboc is: a convex three-dimensional homogeneous body which, when resting on a flat surface, has just one stable and one unstable point of equilibrium.

In layman’s terms, its like the rolly-polly toy you used to play as a kid, the one you tried to knock down but it would always roll upright again. It had one center of equilibrium so it would always bounce upright on its own. But it kinda cheated the effect because the material wasn’t homogeneous since its base was rigged to be heavier than the top. A Gomboc is made of the same material all throughout, its the unique shape that makes it stand upright by itself.

This one is the biggest model in the world. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to rock the model to see it in action. But still, its kinda cool in a geeky sort of way and the presentation was top-notch. I give their presentation two-thumbs up for the sheer novelty.

And last but not least, the Philippine Pavilion. Though I honestly hoped for the best, it sadly fell way below expectations. The lack of anyone actually lining up to see it bears silent testimony to the apathy and general lack of interest in what the Philippine Pavilion had to offer. I had to agree with a local journalist who called for our pavilion’s designers to be thrown into the Pasig river for such a dismal show of lackluster effort.


Philippine Pavilion: Performing Cities
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To be fair, we shouldn’t be comparing our pavilion with those of other 1st-world countries who had bigger budgets to create their masterpieces. But it still pales in comparison beside other Asean countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand (which incidentally rates as one of the consistent favorites among the pavilions in the SE Asian region). While our Asian neighbors put up quite a good show and was heavily promoting their tourism industry to millions of people attending the Expo, ours was just a plain generic boxy warehouse. No effort at all was expended in designing a unique architecture that would attract attention and capture the essence of what the Philippines is today (for better or for worse). Its only saving grace was a rather artistic mosaic tiled outer layer that lights up well at night.

At first we were puzzling over what the hands represented. Were they begging for alms? In light of the never-ending massacres and shoot-outs that always finds its way into our headlines, Was it a stop-sign gesture as in “Wag po kuya!” or “Don’t shoot!” ?

With special guest appearance of a certain un-named boxer
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Notice the hands with boxing gloves in the mural. so that’s what the hands stand for – the Philippines is proud of its boxers, its “world-class” performers in the arts, and the “working hands” which most probably alludes to its OFW’s. Predictable… but honest. At least we didn’t try to project a totally irritating false image like some other countries did. We may be underachievers, but we’re not liars 🙂

Inside, you get a taste of down-to-earth Philippine living… perhaps a bit too down-to-earth… Perhaps the people who conceptualized the display didn’t quite grasp the notion of trying to impress visitors enough to actually want to visit our country. And with the recent tourism hit the country suffered, it really needs shock-and-awe tactics to upstage our Asean competitors in luring tourism dollars. I doubt anyone’s to be impressed by showcasing typical tiangge trinkets, ordering halo-halo in a faux carinderia and getting a 5-minute hilot massage.

It’s really time to step up the game if we’re still trying to peddle our tourism industry to the rest of the world. Other Asian countries are already pulling out all the stops in their tourism marketing. Indonesia focused on its bio-diversity tour packages with a bit of ethnic cultural flavor, Malaysia went for the high-end resort angle, and Thailand totally impressed everyone with their cultural tours.

Malaysia Pavilion
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Indonesia Pavilion

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Vietnam Pavilion
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Thailand Pavilion
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If we don’t up the ante soon, its a sure bet we’ll be trailing behind other Asean neighbors who know how to properly market themselves. It’s not for the lack of talent as our pavilion’s theme does ring true… we really are quite rich in talent in the performing arts. It’s that we don’t know how to package ourselves well. Unlike Thailand which has got its tourism industry running like clockwork, we still have miles to go in terms of improving our basic tourist infrastructure and weeding out travel hazards like what has recently occurred in recent headlines. Only time will tell if we can still get back in the game.

If given the chance, how then would you have designed our Pavilion? What aspect of the Philippines would you have chosen to highlight to the rest of the world?

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For more information:

Visit the official website for a sneak peak of the 200+ pavilions on display:

http://en.expo2010.cn/pavilions/hqzg.htm#C

The World Expo 2010 in ongoing until October 31, 2010

For a detailed look at some of the unusual architecture and other artistic oddities, including the Hungarian GÖMBÖC:

http://www.archdaily.com/33339/hungarian-pavillion-for-shanghai-expo-2010/

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[All photos herein copyrighted by the author. Please permission from author prior to any sort of external usage]

Posted in Society2 Comments

On Death and Euthanasia

The Road Less Traveled author M. Scott Peck, MD wrote about euthanasia in his book Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Mortality. This is basically his stand: Euthanasia should only be considered when the physical pain accompanying a terminal illness can no longer be managed with painkillers. Peck claims that with the discovery of morphine, relatively few cases now fall under this category. What he doesn’t condone is euthanasia on a dying person who can no longer endure the psychological pain such as the humiliation of a tough chairman/CEO of a company who, because of Alzheimer’s or some other debilitating disease, is slowly losing control over his own mind and bowel movement. Peck explains that as long as the physical pain is properly managed (he even criticizes the doctors who lower the dose lest the dying patient overdose on morphine), the psychological pain is good for the growth of the soul.

And that’s where Peck’s views will have to be set aside because this is a freethought site and the existence of the soul is being met with healthy skepticism here. For those who do not believe in souls, the pointless psychological suffering of a terminally-ill patient can almost be as hard to bear as physical pain, hence, euthanasia would be a logical choice.

I guess pain is a great stimulant while we are still physically and mentally active; pain encourages us to grow, to learn, to become better in whatever it is that we do. But when we stop being truly alive and start rotting in mind and/or body, pain ceases to be of any use to us. An ounce of humiliation might be a good thing for an arrogant CEO because it could make him become a better boss, but if this CEO can no longer do his job because of some untreatable disease, humiliation and humility will serve him no purpose.

In the wild, death often comes quickly. When an animal is sick or getting a little too old to catch up with the herd, it is immediately taken down by predators. Some are lucky enough to be attacked by lions because a single bite to the neck will sever the spine in two places, resulting in instant death. Others are unfortunate to be chased by a pack of African wild dogs because they are not as efficient in killing as lions. Nevertheless, no one grows old and decrepit in the wild.

Being on top of the food chain with only a few microscopic bugs to worry about, humans tend to hold on to something inevitably fleeting, stubbornly grasping at the vestiges of a life that will never grow back. Patients in an irreversible vegetative state are sometimes put on life support for as long as financially possible, draining the relatives’ funds by virtue of guilt, compassion, and “love”. But these good intentions are often misplaced, prolonging unnecessary suffering. A few may eventually realize and accept that, but sometimes just pulling the plug is not enough to prevent any more suffering. And sometimes even morphine is no longer effective in alleviating the pain.

The Catholic Church, of course, is strongly opposed to euthanasia. Let’s take a look at what some of their bishops have to say:

“A person who gives in to the desire for death opens the doors to expediency and undermines the foundation of social and civil life.” – Archbishop Rino Fisichella

Does this mean that suffering – including intense, needless suffering – is the foundation of social and civil life?

“No person has the right to take his own life, and no one has the right to take the life of any innocent person. In euthanasia, the sick or elderly are killed by action or omission, out of a misplaced sense of compassion or misguided mercy. True compassion cannot include intentionally doing something intrinsically evil to another person.” – Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron

Now how can ending someone’s suffering be intrinsically evil? Is compassion defined as the refusal to render rest and relief from excruciating pain with the assumption that God wants his beloved creatures to suffer a bit much longer before finally taking them into his loving arms?

Perhaps we take for granted or simply refuse to think of the fact that dying is not fun. And by ‘dying’ I don’t mean that exact instant when we take our last breath. I’m talking about the last few moments – which could be as “short” as minutes or as long as days – when you know you’re going to die because of the pain and suffering associated with a deadly disease. As Dr. House once described to a patient, “Your lungs slowly fill with fluid. You gasp to catch every breath but never can. Every breath is petrifying. It’ll be slow, painful; torturous.”

But an overdose of morphine can end all that. It will not only quicken the dying process – it will actually make the transition smoother and relatively pain-free. The patient will at first probably get high, then fall into a deep sleep, then finally die peacefully. How bad can that be?

Posted in Religion11 Comments

The Hideous Grind of Life; the Wondrous Effect of Faith.

Last week I received the following message from a facebook friend:

“A Catholic high school classmate of mine posted this: ‘The only way to find happiness in the grind of life is by faith. A faith-filled life means all the difference in how we view everything around us. It affects our attitudes towards people, toward circumstances, toward ourselves. Only then do our feet become swift to do what is right.’ How would you counter this?”

My reply follows:

It’s unfortunate that some people are so shallow, their lives so unfulfilling, their grasp on reality so loose, and their willingness to surrender their personal responsibility for morality and ethics to an imaginary being is so strong; and that is precisely what that childlike testimony of your friend expresses. That he disparages life as a “grind” as opposed to a marvelous and wonderful experience to be savored and enjoyed to its fullest all by itself, is the mindset of so many Christians whose pained existence and/or perspective on life as just god’s waiting room causes them to seek escape into the fantasy realm of religion.

Did Mother Teresa’s faith influence her “attitude toward people?” Indeed it did. And it caused her to glorify the pain of her patients as “god’s gift, a blessing.” As a result her order withheld pain medication that would have eased the misery of her patients in their final weeks, days and hours. This in spite of the millions of dollars her order amassed. Somehow I don’t see that as a good attitude towards people, or doing what is right by any measure of reasoned thinking. Your friend will likely rationalize that to have been a wonderful thing, for such is the affect of faith on the mind.

A “Faith-Filled Life” effects how religionists view everything. Some faithful view the unnecessary death of a child caused by parents withholding medication in favor of prayer as “God’s Will.” Others view competing religions as from the devil and provoke hatred and inspire terror by mindless acts of book burning for Jesus. Others encourage the spread of AIDS among third world peoples by rejecting the effectiveness of condoms and the reality of the human sex drive. Still more reject scientific evidence and proofs of the natural world- passing along the foolishness and intellectually crippling their children – because it contradicts an ancient myth written by Bronze Age misogynists.

Faith causes some people to fly airplanes into buildings; blow up clinics; discriminate against their fellow human beings for their sexual preference; mutilate genitals; kill apostates; justify sexism; disparage all other beliefs or lack there of because THEIR faith is the “true” faith and the only way to properly live and die.

Yes, it takes the expectation of a supernatural reward for them to be moved to “do what is right.” That or their “doing what’s right” is motivated by the proselytizing agenda of their imagined man-god or church shaman. Their sense of right is not out of pure empathy, compassion and humanity. To them it can’t exist without make-believe. The fact that empathy exists in all humans, save sociopaths, is lost on them. No, only when their minds are willingly vacated of all personal responsibility and the void filled by make believe do their “feet become swift” to do the right thing. That is what they call happiness, and doing what’s right; it’s what I call zombie like denial of reality and crediting natural human emotion to the supernatural.

We the thinking can do what’s right, and we do. We can enjoy life to its fullest and experience happiness, and we do. And we do it without the fallacy of life after death rewards, the mind-numbing drug of religious delusion, or attributing our charity, happiness and personal success to a boogie man.

But all this will be lost on the religiously deluded, your friend included. The ignorance of faith is indeed bliss to them. They cannot see beyond what they have been programmed to see … and that never included questioning their belief, or challenging their tiresome platitudes.

* * * * *

Editor’s note: Although Bart Centre is not a Filipino, he is an active member of the Filipino Freethinkers Forum, and he was kind enough to share an article with us. He is a lifelong activist in the culture war between theist demagoguery and freethinkers, and frequent outspoken contributor and guest columnist to various newspapers and periodicals. He is the co-creator of the celebrated post rapture pet rescue website Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA. A New York native, he now lives in New Hampshire with his saintly and much-put-upon Episcopal wife of thirty-nine years and two atheist dogs. You can check his other posts here:

http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/

Posted in Religion11 Comments

What's new with the "New Atheists?"

The “New Atheism”…wow…what’s that?

According to Wikipedia, the New Atheism refers to a 21st century movement in atheism. The term, which first appeared in the November 2006 edition of Wired magazine. It is sometimes pejoratively meant, to a series of six best-selling books by five authors that appeared in the period 2004–2008 (Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens)

They and other supporters of the New Atheism movement are hard-line critics of religion. They state that atheism, backed by recent scientific advancement, has reached the point where it is time to take a far less accommodating attitude toward religion, superstition, and religion-based fanaticism than had been extended by moderate atheists, secularists, and some secular scientists.

According to CNN, “What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”

Christian apologist Robert Morey wrote on his book “The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom” said, “The atheists of the old school took a rather relaxed, passive attitude toward God and the Bible. They felt that if people were foolish enough to believe in religion, that was their problem. These atheists did not feel the need to read through the Bible, desperately seeking contradictions or errors. They did not sit up night after night feverishly trying to formulate attacks against religion. They simply ignored religion. Thus modern atheists deny God’s existence because they actually hate God. They hate Him because this God demands they serve Him and fulfill the destiny He has decreed for them. This God gives man a revealed law which dictates what is right and wrong. God thus robs man of the freedom of being and choosing whatever he wants. God is viewed as the enemy that must be destroyed in order for man to reach his full potential. Instead of God being the measure of all things, man must be the measure of all things.”

So…what’s new then?

For centuries atheists, materialists and libertines have been critical with every religious claims and have been exposing errors and other ridiculous avers of certain religious doctrines.

In ancient Greece for example, the poet Diagoras of Melos broke a statue of Hercules and used it as firewood to cook turnips. The Carvaka in the 6th century BCE and Purana Kassapa attacked the Hindu doctrine of Karma. There were also Xun Zi (298-238 BCE) who questioned the uses of prayers and divinations.

Before Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett, there were those who have already criticized the Christian religion and its holy book, the Bible.

In 200 CE the pagan philosopher, Celsus challenged the belief on Neoplatonic Christianity. In his treaties “The True World”, Celsus pointed out that Christianity took most of its concepts from pagan sources and plagiarized some of its stories from early Greek ideas. Christianity, according to him was a collection of borrowed and intellectual bankrupt ideas.

In the early part of 11th century, Ibn Najjah hinted the possibility of atheism and Ibn Tufayl showed awareness in evolution.

It was quite ironic that true atheism arguments started with two Roman Catholic priests: Cristovao Ferreira and Jean Meisler. Fr. Ferreira was a former Jesuit who after being tortured by the Japanese in 1614 recanted his faith. In 1636, Ferreira wrote a small book “The Deception Revealed” which he asserted that God did not created the universe. He also stated that religion like Christianity is just an invention of men to hold powers over their fellow men.

Jean Meisler (1664-1729), once the parish priest of Etrepiquy in the Ardennes, secretly wrote volumes of testaments against God, religion, the Bible and Christianity. These testaments were published after his death in 1729 and were titled as “Common Sense”.

According to Meisler, theology is but ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system and it is an insult to human reason. He also believed that faith is irreconcilable with reason and we must prefer reason to it.

Before the coming of the renaissance period, we already have people like Anthony Collins who questioned the prophecies of the Old Testament. Peter Ammet who argued that the resurrection story was a fabrication and Charles Blount who said that heaven, hell and the concept of original sin were just invented by priests to hold over the terror-stricken masses.

Critical examinations of biblical claims were not new. William Winston (1667-1752) and Jean Astruc started it in the early part of 16th century. Astruc established the Documentary Hypothesis that gives us the explanation why Moses did not wrote the first five books of the Bible.

There were books that show Bible errors in the early part of 17th century. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote “the Age of Reason” which he analyzed the Christian belief in God and the Bible. It did not stop there. Abner Kneeland, Kelsey Graves and DeLobique Montimer Bennett wrote books that criticized Christian beliefs.

Abner Kneeland was indicted on three counts of blasphemy in 1834 for publishing that the whole story of Jesus Christ was just a fable and the Bible as a pack of lies created by hypocrites. Kelsey Graves wrote books like The Bible of Bibles, The Biography of Satan and The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. D.M.Bennett (1818-1882) was the editor of the paper Truth Seeker. He wrote a criticism about Jesus entitled “An Open Letter to Jesus Christ”. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1877.

The American Atheists have already published a book about Bible errors before the term “New Atheism” was coined by Gary Wolf. Dennis McKinsey published the magazine Biblical Errancy in 1983 while in 1990 Farrell Till edited The Skeptical Review. Now we have more in-depth issues and scholarly works in exposing Bible errors – thanks to Mr. John W. Luftus, Dr. Hector Avalos, Shmuel Golding, Gerd Ludermann and John Allegro.

Criticism to the Bible, Christianity, Jesus and God already started somewhere in 200 CE, so…what’s new with the so-called “new atheists?”

Pinoy Atheist

Posted in Others, Religion16 Comments

The Hermit Crab – A Christian/Creationist Nightmare

Remember that issue about the banana as an atheist nightmare. Ray Comfort from “Way of the Master” uses a banana to prove that God exists which turns out to be a big joke.

It just proved that Mr.Comfort just don’t have the idea what a wild banana looks like. It’s interesting that Ray Comfort claimed that the modern banana was created by God. The banana was domesticated thousands of years ago, and the modern banana was created by humans via selective breeding and cultivation. The bright yellow bananas that we know today were discovered as a mutation from the plantain banana by a Jamaican, Jean Francois Poujot, in the year 1836. He found this hybrid mutation growing in his banana tree plantation with a sweet flavor and a yellow color—instead of green or red, and not requiring cooking like the plantain banana.

Now let us talk about the hermit crab (Elassochirus gilli). Hermit crabs (both marine and terrestrial) are members of the Phylum Arthropoda, Subpylum Crustacea, Order Decapoda. Unlike their crab cousins, these hermits have soft abdominal exoskeletons. Now here’s the problem.

Christian/Creationist like Mr. Ray Comfort argues that life came from a “Great Designer” – someone who can design Mr. Comfort’s banana.

And who is this banana designer? Why…it’s Mr. Ray Comfort’s God of course – the God that you can read in the pages of the Christian Bible.

Now according to the Genesis account, this God created all living creatures (Gen. 1:24) and this God is…ehem…perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), making all his creations perfect. In fact, God pronounced it “very good”.

Let us go back to the hermit crabs situation. Since hermit crabs have soft bellies, they will not survive without having something hard to cover their bodies. That’s why they need empty univalve mollusks shells in order to live.

I have some hermit crabs for pet (both marine and terrestrial) and believe me, without a shell to cover their asses; hermit crabs would die in less than an hour. Some hermit crabs will even kill snails just to get hold of that precious shell.

So what happened?

It seems this “perfect god” forgot to give the poor ol’ hermit crab a shell.

If Christian/Creationist like Ray Comfort and ex-child star Kirk Cameron are right about their God creating every creature living in this planet, then looking at a hermit crab only confirms the notion that this Bible-based god is a dimwit.

What is the purpose of these shells-less creature if having no shell will endanger its survival? Where’s the perfect design on that?

Maybe Mr. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron can provide us the answer using the power of the Holy Spirit…or…we can accept the fact that this Christian creation story is just a myth. There are no hermit crabs in the Judean desert and the writers of the Genesis myth are ignorant of the existence of such beautiful crustaceans.

Pinoy Atheist

Posted in Science17 Comments

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