Archive | October, 2010

‘Contraceptive Mentality’ and the ‘Culture of Death’

In the battle against contraceptives and the RH Bill, the CBCP keeps saying big words like “contraceptive mentality” and the “culture of death”, but do we know what they really mean? For example, let’s take a look at what Jaro archbishop and then CBCP president Angel Lagdameo said in 2007:

Since the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, the church likewise objects to their dissemination, creating thereby a contraceptive mentality towards a culture of death.

Or what San Fernando, Pampanga archbishop Panciano Aniceto wrote in late 2009:

Textbooks consistently using the term “reproduction” instead of “procreation,” even if intended for Catholic schools, should be thoroughly checked for the contraceptive mentality.

It seems those phrases were popularized if not coined by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 enclyclical Evangelium Vitae, where he wrote:

It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”—which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act—are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected.

That last sentence reminds me of the Christian Courier writer Wayne Jackson’s comment on Human Life International founder Dr. Paul Marx’s argument that “widespread contraception always leads to abortion”:

In reality, his argument is a non-argument. He might as well contend that people who engage in sexual activity are more likely to procure abortions than those who do not! This is a truism. But sexual activity per se does not always lead to abortion.

So even assuming that “the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected”, do we now condemn contraception, a lawful act, based on its tendency to increase the probability of acceptance or even desensitization towards abortion, a procedure deemed illegal in our country?

And how do we differentiate between “contraceptive mentality” and “responsible parenthood”? Pope John Paul mentioned “respect for the full truth of the conjugal act” with regards to responsible parenthood, and if by “full truth” he meant the inviolable inclusion of procreation in every sexual act, why does the Church allow natural family planning methods where the act is deliberately timed during the wife’s sterile period, or sex between couples who, because of sickness or age, can no longer bear a child?

Let’s see what else Pope John Paul had to say:

…despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree…in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment…

Does the use of contraceptives exemplify a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility”, which probably means engaging in sex solely for pleasure without regard for the consequences? Hardly. The mere act of wearing a condom, for instance, shows concern for the woman’s health – at the cost of decreased pleasure. Does that reflect a “self-centered concept of freedom”?

…The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.

Now that sentence is made of two parts existing in different tenses, but taken as a whole it seems to make sense. So let’s try to break it down. The first part talks about a potential (future) pregnancy which should be avoided at all costs, but in the second part that pregnancy has already occurred (present) due to failed contraception, and yet it assumes that the great effort spent to prevent the former automatically dictates a similar degree of proclivity to end the latter. No, being pro-contraception does not necessarily mean pro-abortion.

While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit.

Did Pope John Paul (or Archbishop Lagdameo) just associate contraception with euthanasia on top of abortion? I hope not, because in contraception there is no life “not yet born” or “in its final stages” – there is simply no life at all! So it isn’t really a freedom of the strong against the weak, because in contraception the weak hasn’t existed yet. It’s just personal freedom.

But contraception is not all about freedom. It’s about health, and of using our human intellect to maintain a healthy, happy life without killing the “weak”. As Wayne Jackson said:

Frequently a woman’s health is an issue relative to the number of children she should bear. Shall a woman be forced to jeopardize her physical welfare simply to satisfy the demands of a conclave of bachelors in Rome?

The Catholic clergy makes much ado about the use of “artificial” devices to facilitate birth control. But by what spiritual criterion does one determine that the use of some artificial devices to accommodate physical needs are permissible (e.g., eye glasses, hearing aids, etc.), and yet, the use of other material devices (to assist with physical needs) are prohibited? It is a manifestation of arrogance to set oneself up as a pontificator of such matters.

And that is where the Church is good at, as a self-appointed pontificator, expressing not opinions but judgments – authoritative, arrogant assertions of what is right and wrong – on matters which lifelong bachelors should have no business to begin with.

Posted in Religion7 Comments

Is this Necessary?

When we talk about any form of cosmological argument whether it’s from Thomas Aquinas or something as sophisticated as Dr. Craig’s Kalam Argument, the issue about “necessary” will always enter the picture.
So let us just talk about what most theists meant when they use the word “necessary.”

A Brute Fact?
I’ve notice that whenever God believers talk about the cosmological argument they always start the conversation that God as a necessary Being is a brute fact. That prompts Prof. Richard Dawkins to say, “They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress” (The God Delusion, p 101). That means before everything else, I have to accept the fact that God exist.

Getting a little bit technical, that means God is a necessary truth – if you conceive of it as false, you’ll end up contradicting yourself, because its truth is built right into the concept that composed it. To know that it is true, you don’t have to know anything but the meaning of those concepts; you don’t have to know any other facts about the world. So it is either God exist or the whole universe is unexplainable. This has something to do with the Principle of Sufficient Reason. According to this principle, nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence.

This is an advance form of Anselm’s ontological argument. According to Norman Malcolm what we have to accept in talking about God is the following: (1) Either God’s existence is logically impossible or (2) it is logically necessary for God to exist. But we can’t select the first option since God is the greatest conceivable being we can think of. For God not to exist is a defect which contradicts the concept of God’s very nature. (Not a very good selection to choose eh?) So when we apply the Principle of Sufficient Reason, then VIOLA! God exist!

And what is the “sufficient reason?”

Bertrand Russell explained that the contingency argument rest on a misconception of what an explanation is and does and singularity on what it is that makes phenomena “intelligible.”

Suppose we have been asked to explain why Benigno Aquino III won the 2010 election. Do we have to look for his genealogy or to go back to Prehistoric Philippines to answer this? We can always answer things like his popularity on his rivals or the fact that because of his famous mom and dad, he became too popular to most Filipino voters. We can think of different reasons (causes and effects) but what matter is that we understand the reason. As stated by Russell, in order to explain a phenomenon or to make it intelligible, we don’t need to posit a necessary being.

God believers says that the Principle of Sufficient Reason can’t be wrong since it has been a part of the scientific worldview for a long time in the sense that scientists are committed not only in figuring out the way the world is but also the reason why it is that way. That’s true…but science is controlled by rules of discourse. In science necessarily entails objectivity whose propositions are constructed from data.

Going back on the issue, the facts of the matter in the issue of “necessary” is that there really aren’t any established reason to say that the existence of anything (including God) as necessary. Can you tell me one?

Necessary truths are not established on the basis of sense-experience. They are either intuitively analytic or deduced from intuitively acceptable premises. Logical and mathematical truths are generally regarded as the paradigms of necessary truths. It is a difference between “matters of logic” from “matters of facts”.

Want to know the difference?

OK…It is matters of logic to say that a triangle is an angle with 3-sides…Now to say that it doesn’t you are contradicting yourself. But it is a question of fact which logic alone cannot settle whether there’s a giant triangle standing in the middle of EDSA near Cubao’s Farmer’s Plaza on October 27, 2010 at exactly 7:30 AM.

Necessary truth can only be applied to statements because logic applies only on statements. So to accept that God is the most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine is a necessary truth and to say that it doesn’t exist will lead me to a contradiction. But to say that this “most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine” is here, talking to me right now and He’s wearing a pink boxer short…well…we’ll have a problem with that.

Ciao!

Posted in Religion10 Comments

October 31 (Sunday) Starbucks Meetup @ New Home

RSVP on Facebook

Location: Starbucks at Anson’s (Google map)
Date: Sunday, October 31, 2010
Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

We’ll be having our second meetup at the Anson’s Starbucks. This time we’ll consider it our new homebase for the meetups! Hopefully the weather and the traffic will be kinder to us this week.

After the meetup most of us go for dinner and beer somewhere in the Ortigas area, most likely El Pueblo. If anyone knows of a nicer/cheaper bar in the area, we’d be glad to know of it!

Discussion topics have yet to be decided but if anyone wants to suggest a topic or wants to lead a discussion, please post on the event wall.

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Post meetup dinner and drinks would either be at El Pueblo or The Podium. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a comment or a post on the event wall so we can contact you.

Posted in Meetup4 Comments

CBCP: Catholic Bishops, Criminals of the Philippines

Since Carlos Celdran shouted “Damaso!” Filipinos have been echoing his call for secularism — the separation of church and state. But were they right in asking the CBCP to stay out of politics?

Some people say “no.” They think that however wrong the CBCP is, it’s their right to meddle in politics.

But they’re wrong. Because when the CBCP meddles in politics, they perpertrate a form of tax evasion. (I’ve written about this before, but this time I have a legal precedent.)

The regulations on charitable institutions

The CBCP is registered as a charitable institution. In exchange for doing some public good, the government grants such institutions tax exemptions and privileges. But there’s a catch: charitable institutions must only participate in activities of a charitable nature — religious, educational, scientific.

Once they participate in non-charitable activities — private, commercial, political — their status as a charitable institution is investigated. Which is what happened to the Lung Center of the Philippines in 2004.

The case of the Lung Center of the Philippines

Like the CBCP, the Lung Center of the Philippines is registered as a charitable institution. They are also entitled to tax privileges in exchange for participating in charitable activities: free treatment of patients with lung-related ailments, and other activities that aim to reduce the incidence of lung-related ailments in the country.

But the Quezon city assessor discovered that in addition to their charitable activities, the Lung Center also operated for profit. Because of this, the assessor taxed both the land and the hospital. The Lung center made an appeal, claiming that as a charitable institution, they are exempted from paying real property taxes. They appealed — and lost — to four other courts. Eventually, they brought the case to the Supreme Court.

The Lung Center’s (and CBCP’s) defense

It’s important to understand the arguments used by the Lung Center because they are the same ones used by defenders of the CBCP’s political meddling.

The Lung Center argued that the profit gained from leasing out space (a profitable activity) is used to fund their primary purpose — attending to charity patients, reducing the incidence of lung-related ailments, etc. Defenders of church meddling are saying that meddling in politics (a political activity) fulfills their primary purpose, which is ultimately religious.

Essentially, they’re both saying that although they also participate in non-charitable activities, these activities are performed to further their primary goals. And since their primary goals are still charitable in nature, the organization still qualifies as a charitable institution exempted from paying real property taxes.

But is this defense valid?

The Supreme Court’s decision

The Supreme Court decided that those parts of the hospital leased out for profit are not exempted from taxation. It doesn’t matter whether the profits are used to fund the Lung Center’s main goals. The fact that a non-charitable activity was done at all automatically disqualifies a property from tax exemption.

How does this translate to the case of the CBCP? When a priest makes political statements during a sermon, the church in which the sermon is made is liable for taxation. In the same way, other CBCP properties — publications, radio stations, TV stations — that make political statements should be taxed.

How much politics can a sermon include? To answer this question, let’s review why the Supreme Court decided to tax the Lung Center.

Actually, exclusively, and directly

Before 1973, the arguments of the Lung Center (and the CBCP) would have worked. But since the 1973 Constitution took effect, replacing the 1935 Constitution, their defense is no longer valid. What’s the difference?

Under the 1935 Constitution, properties exclusively used for charitable purposes are exempted from taxation. Under the 1973 Constitution (and our present version), properties must not only be used for charitable purposes exclusively, but actually and directly as well.

What does this mean? Here’s a section of the Supreme Court decision:

What is meant by actual, direct and exclusive use of the property for charitable purposes is the direct and immediate and actual application of the property itself to the purposes for which the charitable institution is organized. It is not the use of the income from the real property that is determinative of whether the property is used for tax-exempt purposes.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what the Lung Center uses the money for. The fact that they made money at all is enough to disqualify their hospital from tax exemption.

A property is liable for taxation the moment a non-charitable activity is performed — even if it ultimately serves an institution’s charitable purpose .

In the CBCP’s case, it doesn’t matter whether a political statement is made to ultimately fulfill a relgious purpose. The fact that a political statement is made at all is enough to disqualify a church from tax exemption.

But what if the dominant part of a sermon is religious? What if only a minute out of a half-hour sermon is used to make political statements? Here the Supreme Court ruling is also relevant:

If real property is used for one or more commercial purposes, it is not exclusively used for the exempted purposes but is subject to taxation. The words “dominant use” or “principal use” cannot be substituted for the words “used exclusively” without doing violence to the Constitutions and the law. Solely is synonymous with exclusively.

So in the same way that a single lease could disqualify a hospital from tax exemption, a single political statement could disqualify a church from tax exemption.

Tax-evading Damasos

The CBCP does not have the right to meddle in politics. At least not while they are registered as a tax-exempt charitable institution. If they want to continue their pulpit politicking, they must register as a political institution and pay their dues. Otherwise, they’re just evading taxes. What’s worse, this illegal politicking is funded indirectly by every Filipino — whether they agree with CBCP’s politics or not.

Carlos Celdran was right when he shouted “Damaso!” and called for bishops to stop political meddling. And every tax-paying citizen is right when they make a similar call.

Image by functoruser

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society51 Comments

Why we keep on criticizing the Church

Some of us have already acknowledged, albeit reluctantly, that the Church’s meddling with the affairs of the State does not violate the Separation mandated by the constitution. But why do we keep on churning articles that attack the Vatican and the CBCP from all angles ranging from Humanae Vitae to the cover-up of sex scandals? That’s because we are not writing for the pope or the bishops, but for the Catholics.

The Church’s hierarchy has pronounced loud statements reaching and echoing in the halls of congress because of sheer influence, drowning out the voices of millions of women who are supposed to hold the largest interest as they are the most affected by such issues as birth control. But for all that exercise of power, the Church is exercising nothing more than freedom of speech, hence it is not only futile but outright wrong to tell them to shut up.

This perceived influence the Church tries to wield is not a direct authority over the congressmen; rather, it is an indirect influence through the Church’s flock of believers who happen to be the same people comprising the majority of the voters. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The Church’s influence lies on the Catholics. It’s the people who has the real power. But such power has to be unified and controlled in order to use it effectively, and for quite some the Church had been very effective in doing that, claiming not only infallibility but the authority to send dissenters to Hell.

But now the minds of Filipinos are beginning to awaken and starting to question such authority. And lest these questions are trampled by the threat of eternal fire, we at Filipino Freethinkers try to bring that threat into open scrutiny, shed light into its mysteries, and expose the faulty if not nonexistent foundation for its claims of authority.

Posted in Religion9 Comments

L2MF Post #07: On Religious Bloc Voting

Dear Dad,

Today I would like to talk about events that are of great importance to a democratic society: elections.

Two elections have been scheduled for the year 2010. First, the national elections which were held on May 10th, and the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections today.

In a republic with a free society, elections are held in order for the citizenry to choose their leaders. Voting is both a right and a duty of every individual citizen. It is only during elections when everyone, regardless of socio-economic standing, religion, creed, gender, and ethnic origin are equalized. “One man (or woman), one vote”, so they say.

Now I would like to explore a rather controversial issue concerning elections in the Republic: religious bloc voting.

There are religious organizations that practice bloc voting. I would not mention the most prominent one, for it is common knowledge that it is the one being courted by most politicians, even though its members only comprise a tiny percentage of the population. Their unity is both admired and criticized by various segments of the society.

I have enlisted the help of a crack research team to find answers to questions surrounding the practice of religious bloc voting.

____________________

1. Why is it that even in elections, unity is enforced in the church?

This question can be answered by using verses from the Bible.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,

“then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

– Philippians 2:1-3 NIV

Members of the Church should thus be united in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is often said that the Church is the body of Christ, with the members as the many parts with different functions.

____________________

2. What does the word “vote” mean?

There is an oft-quoted dictionary definition of the word “vote”, which is used to justify the act of bloc voting.

vote – expression of judgment

– Webster’s New International Dictionary p. 2295

There is also a verse that features the word “judgment”:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

– 1 Corinthians 1:10 English Standard Version

Here are links to other definitions of the word “vote”:

Should I bet my jackboots and pigs?

____________________

3. Did the early Church practice bloc voting?

There was once an issue during the time of the early Christian Church where a debate about the uncircumcised Gentiles and their inclusion in the Church and the promise of salvation. (See Acts 15:1-19.) The leadership of the Church had to come up with a decision in order to avoid unnecessary divisions.

(Side Note: In Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War, under the part of organizational (team) warfare, it is said that divided leadership is dangerous. Unity of command is a must if victory is to be achieved.)

____________________

4. Isn’t voting just a worldly matter?

“You know that in the future we will judge angels, so surely we can judge the ordinary things of this life.

“If you have ordinary cases that must be judged, are you going to appoint people as judges who mean nothing to the church?”

–  1 Corinthians 6:1-4 (New Century Version)

This has something to do with legal disputes, and little or nothing to do with voting.

____________________

5. Should church members obey the government authorities?

The members of the church are also part of the citizenry. Church leaders say that the flock must participate in the exercise of their right and duty to vote.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,

“or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

– 1 Peter 2:13-15 NIV

In the case of our Republic (which does not have a king), we have the President and other authorities who execute the laws of the land.

Here’s another oft-quoted verse used in support of bloc-voting:

…Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

– Matthew 22:21 NIV

This has something to do with the payment of taxes, which is a duty of the citizen to the State (symbolized by Caesar). Since voting is also a duty to the State, the preachers also used this verse for their purposes.

When a member complies with the Church’s ruling, he/she fulfills both the duty to the State and the duty to God.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

– 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,

“so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

– Romans 15:5-6 NIV

Therefore, to vote as a bloc would bring glory to the Lord God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether or not the endorsed candidate wins the election, the flock would still uphold the unity.

____________________

6. Wouldn’t bloc voting curtail the church member’s freedom to choose?

Basically, a free individual can do whatever he/she wants. In a free society, every individual should have the freedom to choose his/her food, drink, jobs, and everything else. The choice of candidates is no exception.

Here is yet another oft-quoted verse to answer the question:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

– John 8:36 NIV

The Son referred to in this verse is Jesus Christ. An obedient church member is the truly free individual.

6.1 But free from what?

“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”

– Romans 6:21-22 NIV

6.2 So that means the church member can’t do what he/she desires?

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

– Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

Yes. This could only mean that an individual cannot be free in worldly sense, but free in the spiritual sense. The poor soul is therefore compelled to subdue his/her free but “sinful” nature and comply with the church dogma.

____________________

7. Is there something in the law that is against this practice?

There is a section in the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines which enumerates the prohibited acts in elections.

Section 261. Prohibited Acts. – The following shall be guilty of an election offense:

(d) Coercion of subordinates. –
(1) Any public officer, or any officer of any public or private corporation or association, or any head, superior, or administrator of any religious organization, or any employer or land-owner who coerces or intimidates or compels, or in any manner influence, directly or indirectly, any of his subordinates or members or parishioners or employees or house helpers, tenants, overseers, farm helpers, tillers, or lease holders to aid, campaign or vote for or against any candidate or any aspirant for the nomination or selection of candidates.

(2) Any public officer or any officer of any commercial, industrial, agricultural, economic or social enterprise or public or private corporation or association, or any head, superior or administrator of any religious organization, or any employer or landowner who dismisses or threatens to dismiss, punishes or threatens to punish be reducing his salary, wage or compensation, or by demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, excommunication, ejectment, or causing him annoyance in the performance of his job or in his membership, any subordinate member or affiliate, parishioner, employee or house helper, tenant, overseer, farm helper, tiller, or lease holder, for disobeying or not complying with any of the acts ordered by the former to aid, campaign or vote for or against any candidate, or any aspirant for the nomination or selection of candidates.

Here you go, either this is crystal clear or as clear as mud. This would place the church member between observing the law and obeying the word of the Church. No matter what the Code says, obeying God’s (or the Church authorities’) Words has a higher priority over the laws of the land.

Conclusion:

Those who practice bloc voting, though small in number relative to the national population, can still be a force to reckon with. Even in other controversial issues such as the RH Bill, the Church I am referring to in this letter is the David to the Roman Catholic Church’s (or CBCP’s) Goliath.

As private organizations, churches, especially religious corporations, have the right to influence their members. The Constitution recognizes the freedom of religion in this Republic. I just do not know of any religion which is free.

I am human, not sheep, and my birthright is freedom!

Seluj Albatini

Posted in Others, Personal, Politics, Religion0 Comments

Kumakalam Nanaman

In my recent article regarding the Kalam Argument on the existence of God, I have a…well…a reaction from a certain Christian reader. Ok…let me address his comments and at least the said comments can serve as an update on how Filipino Christian apologists approached the Kalam argument (as I have said in the last article, we all need an upgrade).

Christian: on Premise 1, William Lane Craig has already answered the atheist’s question. (Link: Question 106: Is God Actually Infinite?)

Is that the answer of premise 1? Let see…

(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.

I don’t even see any question to this premise.

I think what the premise is saying is that everything that came to existence has a cause.
Now going back to the issue, it seems the Christian taught that I was talking about the infinite existence of God. The issue here is if actual infinity cannot exist and God is infinite then how did He have lived through an infinite number of hours. I’m not talking about God but on the infinite “hours” that God have lived His life in another dimension.

Well, the best response here that a Christian can used is that God is outside time.

So again, that brings us to the problem of a God that is outside time.

Another response is that God’s time is different from the time in our universe. God’s time is different than our way of viewing things. It is much larger. Really?

So how can we be certain of this “God time?” Well, Dr. Craig calls this a “God’s metaphysical time.” (For more about Craig’s metaphysical time see this link.

According to Dr. Craig, metaphysical time is tensed, dynamic, and non-relative. There is an ever changing fact of the matter about which events are future, which present, and which past. Future events become present, present events become past, and past events sink further and further into the past. Now does this metaphysical time have a beginning? Yes according to Dr. Craig and the very first event in metaphysical time must be a timeless person.

If I’m going to accept this God could have created this metaphysical time long before creating the space-time of our universe, it follows that there could have been something temporally prior to the earliest point in space-time, and Dr. Craig’s argument for creation ex nihilo would then be false.

Anyway, according to Dr. Craig, “denying that God is actually infinite in the quantitative sense in no way implies that God is finite. This inference does not follow, since the quantitative sense of infinity may be simply inapplicable to God.” In short, only finite things are under that rule (pwera ang diyos).

So here’s the problem. Actual infinite cannot exist, yet an absolute infinite time can exist (that’s the time when God created the metaphysical time of course)..weh?

Those who started the Kalam argument feels that time is finite…for example, al-Kindi felt that time was finite because an actual infinite is impossible and time is a quantitative thing that must be finite in measure (1979, 25). Saadia also felt that the concept of infinite time is reduced to absurdity because of the problem of regressing an actual infinite (Craig, 1979, 39).

So that’s it…time is finite, yet God existed for an “infinite time”…oh well…

The Christian may not have been updated after all when he said: “God is outside our universe. He is also not subjected to time.” For WLC, God is “timeless, spaceless”(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5180), which is different from the Christian’s response.
Moreover, I wonder where the Christian got the idea when he said,“God created this ‘place’ on his own being.” Actually he was led into it by the previous answer of the atheist, because he himself gave the wrong answer to the atheist.

Additional:
On timeless and spaceless:
“For as the cause of space and time, this entity must transcend space and time and therefore exist atemporally and non-spatially, at least sans the universe. This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since timelessness entails changelessness, and changelessness implies immateriality. Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any antecedent causal conditions. Ockham’s Razor will shave away further causes, since we should not multiply causes beyond necessity. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, since it created the universe out of nothing.” —WLC (http://www.euroleadershipresources.org)/resource.php?ID=51)

What are the problems to such claims? According to John R. Lucas, “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” (Concepts of Person and Christian Ethics by Stanley Rudman p. 154) He continues, “if I will try to resolve the problem of God’s omniscience by making him timeless, I may create a worse problem by denying to Him the essence of what it means to be a person.”
Ah OK…so a timeless and space less God is not a person. I can’t make a relationship with a non-person, can you?

The western Christian God is a personal god. He is a deity who judge people. This god in not a mere impersonal being – he thinks, imagine, act, he has emotion – he can be jealous, happy, sad and angry (a lot)

Being outside time.
The guy to be blamed here is the pagan philosopher Plotinus (204-207 CE). Plotinus took the idea from Plato who took it from guys like Parmenides. So, if you guys want a God who is quite beyond intellectual discourses, you can always rely on Plotinus to do the job right (Yep, Plotinus is also the guy who invented the Trinity Doctrine).

Now, since God is considered immutable (cannot and does not change) it was deem to be compatible on being timeless (again…thanks to the Neo-Platonists). Immutability and being eternal are Greek ideas of a perfect god.

If you believe that God is a person, well…you might encounter some problems.

A timeless being cannot think since mental events and successions of thought use up time. He doesn’t have any intelligence since thinking and planning requires time. Also, a timeless being is a block of stone since time is necessary for movement. In relation with space, a being who is timeless and space-less will be trapped in his own attributes.

On Premise 2:
With the introductory statement:
Pinoy Atheist just dumped Physics’ own definition of the universe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe). I wonder how he could even start discussing about the universe with an atheist-physicist, if he could not even agree with the physicist in the definition of the universe.

With Pinoy Atheist’s question:
“Now if the universe is not included (or the same as) everything, then how can its beginning (the universe) the same with the beginning of everything?” he should ask a physicist, because that is physics’ claim.
Defining the Universe.

The Christian seems to define the word universe base on a physicist’s definition…now, how can we define the word “universe?”

According to his own source, the Wikipedia, it defines the universe as commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all physical matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, although this usage may differ with the context. The term universe may be used in slightly different contextual senses, denoting such concepts as the cosmos, the world, or nature.

The word universe was derived from the Old French word Univers, which in turn derives from the Latin word universum.The Latin word was used by Cicero and later Latin authors in many of the same senses as the modern English word is used. The Latin word derives from the poetic contraction Unvorsum — first used by Lucretius in Book IV (line 262) of his De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) — which connects un, uni (the combining form of unus’, or “one”) with vorsum, versum (a noun made from the perfect passive participle of vertere, meaning “something rotated, rolled, changed”). Lucretius used the word in the sense “everything rolled into one, everything combined into one”.

So what’s the difference between everything and the universe?

Well just look at your dictionary folks. Everything means, “All things or all of a group of things.”

Now again…is the universe included with everything or is it separate? If ‘universe’ is defined as the same as ‘everything’ (or vice versa) then a set should not be considered a number of itself. Now if the universe is not a member of itself, its beginning is not the same with the other beginning. Simple rule huh? And of course I don’t need to bother a physicist about it.

Pinoy Atheist claimed he dumped Premises 1 & 2. I did not even see any falsification that “The universe began to exist” in his presentation/imaginary discussion. I can’t even trace what he believes about the universe: if it eternal or temporal or what? So how does this dump the idea that “the universe began to exist,” if Pinoy Atheist affirms spontaneous cause of the universe? Did he not just agree with Premise 2?

Now let’s see, did I agree with Premise 2? In syllogism, the axiom or premises are not independent with one another. That means each premise is in relationship with each other. Now let see… In premise one: Everything that exists has a cause must follow premise 2 that the universe began to exist so we can have the conclusion that the universe has a cause.

Let’s review the following syllogism:
(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.

So how did I eliminate those two?

In Premise (1) we found a problem in the word “everything”. 1.) It doesn’t include God. Remember that the Kalam argument is proving the existence of God, right? So why he is already excluded in the argument?
In Premise (2) I am questioning if the universe and “everything” (in premise 1) is the same entity?
So if Premise (1) and Premise (2) has a problem, how can we arrive at the conclusion?

If he says that I agreed to premise two that…”the universe began to exist in spontaneous cause” that violates premise one and that will have an effect with the conclusion. Oh, and why talk about what I believed? The article is not about me.

There are at least 10 possible interpretations of quantum mechanics, including determined and indeterminate. It cannot be conclusively said that quantum mechanics are spontaneous and accidents, not yet! Moreover, physicists are having a hard time proving that quantum mechanics can cause a universe. Probabilistic Causation is not WLC’s own. It is part of Philosophy

Who’s saying the term probabilistic causation is Dr. Craig’s own invention? You can find some references about this on Dr. Craig and Dr. Smith discussion on that matter (Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology By William Lane Craig, Quentin Smith).

Dr. Craig claims that quantum events are caused in a non predetermined manner which he calls probabilistic causality. That means the cause could be accidental, spontaneous – not predetermined.

I’ve already wrote a response to this base on David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779)
According to David Hume, “In such a chain too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes which succeed it. Where then is the difficulty? But the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.”
That means when we speak of causes there must be an explanation for an event. Spontaneous events don’t have any explanation. No explanation, no cause.

Let’s be a little scientific here… According to Quintin Smith, “The wave function of the universe in Hartle and Hawking’s paper gives a probabilistic and noncausal explanation of why our universe exists. More precisely, it provides an unconditional probability for the existence of a universe of our sort (i.e., an expanding [and later contracting] universe with an early inflationary era and with matter that is evenly distributed on large scales). Given only their functional law of nature, there is a high probability that a universe of this sort begins to exist uncaused.” (Philo: A Journal of Philosophy, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998, pp. 75-94.)

Until next time.

Posted in Religion, Science19 Comments

The Poetry of Science

As freethinkers, we value science as a method of truly seeing the world for what it is. While some people might say science is just a boring body of knowledge or even reject science outright for conflicting with their presupposed ideas, we have had the inkling that it is otherwise.

How can science be boring? The methods of science has given us access to realms beyond our own senses, to vast new vistas of the cosmos that humanity can never otherwise have seen. From the bizarre world of the quantum to the vast magnificence of the galaxies, science has taken us there.

Science is so much better than the dogma of presupposed ideas. Science has enriched our sense of humanity by showing us the common roots of our past. Beyond the commonality of humanity, we have found that we are truly only animals. We are not fallen angels, we are so much better. We are the rising apes.

To do my little bit to promote science in the Philippines I’ll be writing more science centric posts on the blog. It might seem like preaching to the choir but I’ve got to start somewhere right?

To begin, here is an inspiring conversation between two great proponents of science, Richard Dawkins (Atheist Pope) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (Sexy Science Man). You might not learn anything new scientifically other than that the Atheist Pope doesn’t watch too many movies but I personally had a braingasm from the inspiring ways Sexy Science Man explained some concepts.

Posted in Science8 Comments

The disturbing politics behind the Church’s anti-contraceptive stand

In a previous post I mentioned that the real reason why the Roman Catholic Church is against contraceptives is Humanae Vitae, a 1968 encyclical written by Pope Paul VI insisting that sex must be kept open to the transmission of life. While the infallibility of such encyclicals may already be questionable to non-Catholics and even to liberal Catholics, what is more disturbing is how Humanae Vitae got promulgated even if the majority of the members of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control proposed that “artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves about the methods to be employed“, as stated in the majority report:

The acceptance of a lawful application of the calculated sterile periods of the woman–that the application is legitimate presupposes right motives–makes a separation between the sexual act which is explicitly intended and its reproductive effect which is intentionally excluded.

Here the Commission acknowledges that even the “accepted” natural methods of birth control deliberately try to separate the unitive from the procreative purpose of sex.

The tradition has always rejected seeking this separation with a contraceptive intention for motives spoiled by egoism and hedonism, and such seeking can never be admitted. The true opposition is not to be sought between some material conformity to the physiological processes of nature and some artificial intervention.

My understanding here is that there is no difference between “material conformity to the physiological processes of nature” (i.e., scheduling sex based on the wife’s fertility cycle to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant) and using contraceptives.

For it is natural to man to use his skill in order to put under human control what is given by physical nature.

Whether by slipping a condom or counting the days since his wife’s last mentruation, man is using his skill to put nature under his control.

The opposition is really to be sought between one way of acting which is contraceptive and opposed to a prudent and generous fruitfulness, and another way which is, in an ordered relationship to responsible fruitfulness and which has a concern for education and all the essential, human and Christian values.

The Commission is saying that what’s important is to distinguish between hedonistic sex and responsible family planning. In short, what matters is the intent, not the method.

Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI “explicitly rejected his commission’s recommendations in the text of Humanae Vitae, noting the 72 member commission had not been unanimous (4 theologian priests had dissented, and 1 cardinal and 2 bishops had voted that contraception was intrinsically evil–significantly Cardinal Ottaviani, the commission’s president and Bishop Colombo, the papal theologian).

But the real reason for Pope Paul’s rejection may be a lot more disturbing. In an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao talked about a book titled Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church” written by an insider, Robert McClory. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online version of the book and so I hope the readers will forgive me for quoting heavily from Tiglao’s article since contraception is a very hot issue today and the message couldn’t wait until I’ve read the book.

The overwhelming majority in the commission concluded that artificial birth control did not violate the Church’s teachings, and that Catholic couples should decide for themselves what methods to use. However, a Jesuit theologian wrote a dissenting report, signed by three other theologian-priests, a bishop and—this proved to be most crucial—by the ultra-conservative Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani. It was Ottaviani who is said to have single-handedly convinced Pope Paul VI to reject the pro-contraceptive report signed by the 70-plus members of the commission, and instead adopt the dissenting report of just six members, that the Church should label artificial contraceptives as intrinsically evil.

Ottaviani was the most influential cardinal in the 1963 Papal Conclave, which elected as pope the bishop of Milan Giovanni Batista Montini, who assumed the name Paul VI. It was solely Ottaviani who was authorized to announce to the world the election of the new pope, whose Humanae Vitae encyclical set in stone the Church’s uncompromising stand against artificial.

The picture that emerges is as follows: Like all politicians, Ottaviani reminded Paul VI that he, indisputably the most powerful prince of the Church then, helped him become pope, so that he should therefore take his advice to reject the commission’s majority report. Pope Paul VI gave in, thinking that the Second Vatican Council was the more important battle, instead of contraceptive use, which wasn’t after all, a burning issue at that time. Ottaviani’s “Semper idem” abhorrence of contraceptives became the Church dogma, and succeeding popes never dared reverse a predecessor’s encyclical.

Ottaviani passed away in 1979, and his ultra-conservative bloc in the Church that wanted it to remain in the medieval world view weakened to insignificance. His legacy—or his curse—lives on though, most prominently in our country.

And that, my friends, is how all this mess began. The Church teaches that Humanae Vitae as well as every other Catholic dogma is infallible because it comes from divine revelation as the Holy Spirit descends on the pope. It seems now that such dogma had been conceived with less spirit and more politics, to the detriment not only of the faithful, but the rest of the Filipinos.

Posted in Religion54 Comments

Faith as a Virtue?

October 25 will be election time again and this time we’re going to elect local candidates that will represent our baranggay. Funny that most of these aspiring candidates include Bible verses or the name of God on their campaign slogans and printed materials as if belief in God is a plus. It was not surprising that when Mrs. Aquino died in August 1, 2009, many reporters and articles (on newspapers, magazines, TV talk shows and the Internet) have pointed out her being faithful. The former President in known to her devotion to the rosary and the Roman Catholic Church.

I won’t criticize her on her personal devotion to God. That’s her business. What I’m after is how the common masses assume that when a person is devoted to God that makes him/her a good leader. As if faith is a positive virtue.

Believers assume everyone (even atheists and agnostics) have this er…faith. They say that non-believer have faith in the books that they read. They also say that we used faith daily in our lives. When we ride a taxi or a plane, we have faith that the driver or the pilot knew what he or she is doing. And so on.

So is this the same faith we used when talking about religious belief?

If you try looking in the dictionary, we see that faith is sometimes expressed to be synonymous with the word ‘trust’. Maybe that’s what some believers meant when they assume that even non-believers have faith. But we’re talking about faith in a religious sense. Trust or confidences about a high degree of belief are used for some certain claims or products. Well…your trust may be ill-based or inadequate. Your confidence from something or someone might be reasonable or unreasonable – but this is not the faith we are talking about. Trust or confidence doesn’t make a worldview. The faith that we are talking about doesn’t require any empirical evidences unlike some advertisements that show us data or statistics perhaps…Nope. This type of faith creates gods.

When our leaders rely in this kind of faith it means we as a nation are wishing for a Divine Providence to fix our problems by using His divine will for us…as if we can’t do it without the aid of a supernatural wishy-washy!

Hey! Believers will still insist that faith can strengthen our will. Just look at what happened in those miners that were trapped for two months in Chile, right?

Really huh? Remember that the will to survive is stronger that the will of God. If those miners surrendered their fate to the will of our Lord, I don’t think there will be any survivors left. Those Bibles and prayers just served as an inspiration to their will to live and even without those religious paraphernalia, the love to family and friends (plus the nature of the cave-in, air pockets, etc.) will also serve the same effect.

But was it an act of faith?

If we will define faith base on how religious believers define it then the answer is no. Even if those miners believed that God will save them, they still acted together to ensure their survival. The will to live is to cling on worldly matter, not on spiritual salvation.

Going back to the Philippine scenario. To believe that God will work a miracle to save your country is a different matter. When people start to believe that religious faith is a very important factor in selecting their leaders that spells trouble. Since God cannot (and doesn’t) speak certain people will claim to do the speaking for Him.

Bishops, priests, pastors and Ayatollah will imposed their doctrines and dogmas, their opinions based on their sacred writings to the rule of the land. Faith is now replaced by theocracy run by these “holy men.” Sacred books and divine knowledge will replace text books and science. Prayers will replace medicine and divine revelation will replace experiments.

The problems of this kind of faith are more than just believing, for this type of faith requires obedience and total control of someone’s life. Since this so-called “Supreme Being” is invisible, men will rely to the visible so-called self-appointed spokespersons of God, giving these “men of God” total power to control his life.

So this is what this faith can offer. It is an invisible shackle that some people are willing to place on themselves. It is a blindfold that believers willingly cover their eyes – a voluntary rejection of knowledge. A nation whose sovereignty wrapped by a thick veil of this faith is trap – it will never prosper and its people will remain ignorant. It will be ensnared in the doctrines of a few Ecclesiastical authorities.

Being a lifetime religious stooge is not a virtue.

Posted in Religion, Society23 Comments

Cruz on Choice: The Curse of Free Will

Ex-CBCP President Oscar “the Borg” Cruz wrote a new post on his blog, and once again it defies logic, reason, and grammar. But what’s surprising in this post is it seems to defy Catholic theology as well. Then again, that could just be his poor writing skills. You be the judge.

He starts by praising the concept of “pro choice:”

“It is salutary to hear and encouraging contemplating. It is very human in its substance and humane in its implications. ‘Pro Choice’ properly means and correctly implies that all ordinary adults in particular, have their respective intellectual faculty plus will functions to depend on and use accordingly.”

Fair enough. But then it gets weird. Whether our choices result in good or bad, we take it for granted that choice is something that we have; choice implies having options. But Cruz seems to think that the choice we take for granted is optional:

“Strictly speaking wherefore, choosing instead what is inherently wrong and in effect unjust can be made an option – but for a cost always, for a profound and pervasive cost at times.” (emphasis mine)

After revealing his premise — that choice is optional — he starts to reveal his argument: We should not make choosing bad things a choice. Only the option that leads to what is good — by Oscar’s standards — should be given to people.

But again, his argument changes direction. While he first argued that choice is optional — that people can choose to make unethical choices — he now says that choice is not optional — that people can only choose what is ethical:

“Again, given his or her operative deliberative faculty, a man or a woman is only free to choose what is ethical or moral – certainly not what is unethical or immoral.” (emphasis mine)

Finally he reveals his twisted logic. He says that choice is only good to have when there are only good options to choose from:

“The phrase wherefore ‘Pro-Choice’ is great to contemplate and noble to act upon, not unless it is intentionally coined and twisted in order to purposely accommodate – – favor or defend – the freedom to choose what is objectively vicious or evil, purposely depraved or nefarious.”

So let’s review Oscar’s argument (the most recent version of it anyway). He is arguing that choice is good unless there are options that lead to bad outcomes. But there are always options that lead to bad outcomes. Does it then follow that choice is bad? Shockingly, Oscar thinks it is:

“Is there really a right or sound choice between life or death, between peace or war, between integrity or deceit, between poverty and development, and so on?”

Each person can and does make right or sound choices (based on their own judgment) on a daily basis. Although individual choices may be different , there is a right or sound choice between the options you mentioned above.

Catholic morality is based on prescribing a certain criteria for choosing among sound and unsound options. Why would such a criteria be necessary if only sound options were available? So yes. Most people believe — Catholic theologians, especially — that there is a “right or sound choice.”

“Is there? If there really is, then this is really a helpless world, a cursed humanity!”

Has Oscar heard of a Catholic doctrine called “free will“? For Oscar’s benefit, Catholics believe that free will is God’s gift to man. Is Oscar saying that free will is not a gift but a curse? Does he really think the world is helpless?

Oscar Cruz should go back to the seminary and brush up on his theology. (While he’s at it, he should brush up on logic, grammar, and rhetoric as well.) His message is not consistent with the creed he professes, which may lead some of his flock to do evil. Therefore, going back to the seminary is, by his own standards, the moral and ethical thing to do.

Does he have a choice?

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society21 Comments

Fighting may be “inutile,” but reform is inevitable

Ex-CBCP President Oscar V. Cruz has been assimilated by the Borg. Or at least he sounds like one: “Fighting is [sic] the Catholic Church is inutile!” he wrote in a recent post on his blog.

Unfortunately, some screws are loose in his language processor. First of all, inutile means “lacking in utility or serviceability; not useful.”  He probably meant “futile,” which means ” having no useful result” or “completely ineffective.”

To his credit he made it clear that this was not meant for “for agnostics who acknowledge no God” or “eclectics who simply choose what they want to believe as their own private and personal choice” or “people who subscribe to any sect here and there that come and go, or any system of beliefs that blatantly defies all logic and reason.”

In other words, this is meant for the Katoliko Sarado (fundamentalist Catholic). But why is he giving the “Resistance is Futile” speech to the already assimilated?

This and the following fallacies and faulty reasoning shows that his rational processor needs upgrading as well.

“The Catholic Church is the only worldwide institution that is some 2000 years old and counting.”

Old Paganism – 30,000 years ago
Modern Paganism – 1,000 BCE
Hinduism – 1,500 BCE
Judaism – 1,400 BCE
Buddhism – 500 BCE

“There is not a single entity in the whole universe that is as one and universal, that has remained that global and vibrant as the Catholic Church. Yes, they are other old creeds – but there are neither one and universal.”

First , where did Cruz get his data about the whole universe?

Second, is he sure that “there is not a single entity in the whole universe that is as one and universal”? Even God? And please don’t tell me that God is the same as the Catholic Church — panentheism is anathema.

And yes, “Catholic” translates to “universal,” but that’s all. That there are more than a thousand other religions (and over 30,000 denominations of Christianity alone) tells us how no single organized religion has been and can be “one and universal.”

“The fact is that the central site of the Catholic Church is officially known, called and acknowledge by the civilized word as the “Vatican City State” that has formal diplomatic relations with most Countries, that sends to and receives Ambassadors from said Countries.”

Are you sure you want to play that card, Oscar? The Vatican was only made a state in exchange for recognizing the fascist government of Benito Mussolini.

“One: In the past, there were Priests, Bishops and even Popes who tried to destroy and erase the Catholic Church from the face of the earth – not to mention secular potentates of all kinds that attempted to do the same. Yet, the Church is still here.”

The Church of 2,000 years ago is no longer here. It has gone through several schisms which resulted in over 30,000 different denominations. The Roman Catholic denomination may be the largest, but it is a modern creation, influenced by all the schisms, internal improvements, and changes in culture caused by mostly secular influences.

The Catholic Church of 2,000 years ago no longer exists, and that’s a good thing. The Crusades and religious wars, the Inquisition and witch hunts, banning books, allowing slavery — these are gone today, and so is the version of the church that condoned it.

“Two: In this period of Phil. History, there are a number of politicians and citizens who harbor hatred for the Church — and if possible, want her out of their way. But as sure as the sun will shine tomorrow, the Church will be then up and about.”

I don’t really get what Cruz wants to prove when he argues for the Church’s power and resilience. There is one institution that is more widespread and resilient than the Catholic Church — slavery.

Does the fact that it was practiced in all continents and that it’s been around for 11,000 years validate its existence? If Cruz wanted to prove the value of the Catholic Church, why didn’t he give reasons it’s a force for good in the world instead of spouting appeals to antiquity and popularity?

“Three, finally, it is good to remember an ominous reality, viz., those Catholics of whatever political affiliation and ideological persuasion, will be usually brought to the cemetery by the Church.”

Ominous means “giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen.” At least Cruz got one thing right.

“Lesson: Fighting is the Catholic Church is inutile!”

Trying to reform an institution is different from fighting it. You might not like the word “reformation” but it is inevitable. (Please review Church history, Oscar.)

If the Church has become a more humane, more beneficial, and more relevant institution than it was 2,000 years ago, it is thanks to the people who have fought to reform it.

Awesome image by Jeiel

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society44 Comments

Cruz’s Lament, Silent Dissent

“Damaso!” Carlos shouted. “Damaso!” critics of the CBCP echoed.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz waited for Filipino Catholics to reply in their defense. All he got was silence.

“The silence of these well spread Catholic organizations was deafening,” said Cruz. “They were almost all so peaceful and at ease during such a shameful episode in their Church.”

While Cruz lamented the Catholic organizations’ actions, he seems impressed by ours:

“It is definitely amazing how such a notably well-concerted effort could be staged – fast and effective – saying but one and only substantive and loud shout, viz: Shut up CBCP! Step aside Church! Shame on you Churchmen! Angry texts and bitter calls suddenly invaded the tri-media.

There were even lighting rallies made here and there – all denouncing the supposedly Church doctrine thus perceived, shouting the shameful sins of the clergy, and most of all, cursing the CBCP for its alleged dictatorial nature and pursuant stance,” he said.

First of all, good job, people! When a former archbishop calls our efforts well-concerted, fast, and effective, we must be doing something right.

But why were we so effective? Shouldn’t we be outnumbered by the 80% of Filipinos allegedly represented by the CBCP?

Cruz thinks that they still have the Catholics on their side. It’s just that they’re . . .

“Oh, yes, Churches are full on Sundays,” Cruz said. “People frequent novenas and processions in honor of their favorite saints. But their faith appears both eclectic and superficial while their morals remain juvenile.”

Cruz seems to think that if you go to Church, you should blindly follow what it says, which in this case means opposing the RH Bill. If you don’t support it, if you keep silent, then your faith is superficial.

I agree that most Filipino Catholics have an eclectic faith. Eclectic means “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles” or “composed of elements from various sources.” Despite being against their doctrine, contraceptive education and use are now accepted and supported by many Filipino Catholics.

But my agreement ends there. Having an eclectic faith — choosing to believe what you think is right instead of believing everything your Church tells you — is not a sign of a juvenile morality; it is a sign of a mature one.

And not responding to criticisms against the CBCP is not a sign of a superficial faith. If Catholics do not appear to support the CBCP, maybe it’s simply because they don’t. If they were quiet during such a “shameful episode” for their church, it could be because they are ashamed — not because the church is being criticized, but because the criticisms are valid.

They may not have joined the protests or even spoken out against the CBCP. But sometimes, the most deafening form of dissent is silence.

Posted in Politics, Society28 Comments

Authority in Religion, Law and Science

Pope Benedict XVI, Chief Justice Renato Corona and Albert Einstein

In debates and discussions contenders often cite authority to support their assertions. In some cases citing authority is the strongest strategy while in others it is the weakest.

The German sociologist Max Weber identified three types of legitimate authority:

In law, or more particularly in the interpretation of the law, final authority is clearly vested in the Supreme Court, so whatever the Supreme Court says about how a certain law should be interpreted, that’s the way it should be interpreted. The authority of the Supreme Court is an example of rational-legal authority, hence, citing jurisprudence is very effective in legal arguments.

In religion, it gets a little tricky. If the debaters are from different religions, they will be citing different authorities (holy books, popes, pastors, prophets) that often contradict one another. But even if they belong to one religion, say, Christianity, authority may not be as clear cut as it’s supposed to be.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Church’s authority was originally derived from Jesus’ alleged charismatic authority which overcame the Pharisees’ traditional authority at the time – at least among his disciples, who later on “routinized” Jesus’ charismatic authority into the traditional authority of the Church. But centuries later a ranking member breaks away to wield his own charismatic authority, and the cycle continues. So now the question is, who is the final authority in Christianity – meaning who gets to say what Jesus supposedly meant to say (in the same degree as the Supreme Court gets the final say as to what the framers of the constitution meant to say)?

Weber’s three types of legitimate authority have been exercised by the State (rational-legal) and the Church (traditional and charismatic), so what is left for science? Nothing. When someone cites “scientific authority”, such authority can be quickly refuted by presenting new evidence or by performing the same controlled experiments and coming up with different results.

The philosopher and lawyer Morris Raphael Cohen wrote in Reason and Nature:

To be sure, the vast majority of people who are untrained can accept the results of science only on authority. But there is obviously an important difference between an establishment that is open and invites every one to come, study its methods, and suggest improvement, and one that regards the questioning of credentials as due to wickedness of heart, such as Cardinal Newman attributed to those who questioned the infallibility of the Bible… Rational science treats its credit notes as always redeemable on demand, while non-rational authoritarianism regards the demand for the redemption of its paper as a disloyal lack of faith.

As the proponents of science would say, in science there are no authorities, only experts, so when we debate about science the “authority” is only as good as their last experiment or observation. If we debate about the law, authority really counts and is virtually absolute. But when we talk about religion, authority is limited within each sect, where the leaders can teach their dogma to their respective members and no one can openly question or disobey them without having to leave that particular sect. But once outside the sect, religious authority ends, and no one is deemed infallible.

Posted in Religion, Science1 Comment

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