Archive | November, 2010

A Manifesto in Support of Choice

Manifesto In Support of Choice (video of RH advocates reading manifesto)

On November 26, 2010 the Filipino Freethinkers held an Excommunication party in support of the Reproductive Health Bill. The following manifesto was read and signed by the attendees.

It is an assertion of our government’s freedom from the meddling of the CBCP, a voice raised in anger against the CBCP’s lies and disregard for human suffering. This is one of the ways in which we show our solidarity with the legislators who stand for the Reproductive Health Bill, those who would use secular morality to guide their actions.

This is our manifesto in support of choice:

Tonight, we advocates of social justice and free and informed choice, come together in an expression of solidarity towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill.

Whereas the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has repeatedly imposed its agenda upon the government, in clear violation of the principle of the separation of Church and State;

Whereas the CBCP has threatened to withdraw its support of politicians and legislators who endorse the Reproductive Health Bill;

Whereas the CBCP and its allies consider Catholics who support the Reproductive Health Bill as “oxymorons”, “dissidents”, and “not real Catholics”;

Whereas the CBCP and its allies equate the Reproductive Health Bill to abortion, when nothing in its provisions promotes such;

Whereas the CBCP and its allies have knowingly and wilfully disseminated misinformation in their attempt to stop the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill by sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt among its constituents;

Whereas the Catholic Church has continued to uphold edicts and dogma that result in bigotry, human suffering and loss of life;

And whereas legislators who support the Reproductive Health Bill have remained stalwart in their efforts to combat bigotry, human suffering and loss of life, despite the Catholic church’s threat of excommunication;

We hereby declare that if supporting the Reproductive Health Bill means excommunication…

Then excommunicate me!



Posted in Religion17 Comments

The Moral High Ground

Conservative Catholics such as those that comprise the CBCP present liberal positions on matters such as sexuality as part of a continuing trend of social and moral decay. The problem with the social conservatives’ view on the current reproductive health issue is that this trend of “moral decay” that they are seeing is a lot more nefarious than they think. What they are actually seeing is growing skepticism and distrust of the last stronghold of religious authority—morality.

It used to be that the Church had a say in other spheres of thought such as cosmology and biology. With the embarrassment that is the Galileo affair (and the subsequent 1991 apology to the centuries dead astronomer), we can be thankful that no one seriously asks theologians for their say about string theory or the nature of the hydrogen bond (strangely, they are still asked about their views on developmental biology). Now, as our sciences have completely repudiated intelligent design and vitalist doctrines, the Church has lost all power of authority over descriptions of the universe and the mechanisms by which it functions, which is why they are fighting tooth and nail over the use of “morals” in discourse. But no matter how hard the Church tries to paddle us back to the more familiar shores of the 12th century, the human race will journey on and move forward, as it always has. Our children will see the denial of equal rights to homosexuals as abhorrent as we now see slavery. The hysterics Eric Manalang and his cohorts use in harping against contraceptives are already as bizarre and as ridiculous as phrenology. It is only inevitable that the more general religious obsession over what naked people do with their bodies will become as quaint and as obtuse as the practice of blowing smoke up someone’s butt to revive them after drowning. It’s just a matter of time. But with lives in the balance, we cannot wait any longer.

The Church holds values that are explicitly divorced from facts found in the real world. They not only hold such views, they are proud of them. Blessed John Henry Newman encapsulates Catholic morality as this, “She [the Church] regards this world, and all that is in it, as a mere shadow, as dust and ashes, compared with the value of one single soul. She holds that, unless she can, in her own way, do good to souls, it is no use her doing anything; she holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest [sic] agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful [sic] untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse.” While this distillation may set Catholic hearts ablaze with zeal, I find in this passage everything that is worthy of scorn and disdain in the Catholic Church. How can we build a lasting society where people can peacefully collaborate when this level of contempt for human solidarity and improvement of lives exists? It is from this doctrine-mandated disregard for the suffering of mankind that the vitriol of demagogues such as Manalang springs. This is the justification for the abject lies the Church uses to discredit the use of condoms to prevent AIDS despite its ravages—lies that the Vatican now must turn its back on as it accepts the impact of the recent words of its dear leader.

What conservative Catholics continue to call as “immoral” is the simple admission that human suffering is wrong and that we should do everything in our power to prevent it. It is far better for the Church that starving children are forced to peddle wares on the streets than to concede that planning pregnancies by more certain means can be used to prevent the anguish of more innocent children born into misfortune. The authority of God’s One True Church over sins is enough and any mere human attempt at alleviating affliction or delivering justice is heresy. This belief is why the Church squirrels away its rapist employees from real courts. This is irresponsible absurdity at full gallop. Despite its persistent assumption of it, the Church does not stand on the moral high ground. It is wallowing in its own valley of self-righteousness and blindness to human distress. How have we been swindled into thinking that the Church has anything useful or true to say about morals?

On the matter of the respect so fervently demanded by our friends across the aisle, it may perhaps be a shock to them that respect is earned. Respect, as with the moral high ground, is merited through the soundness of one’s positions despite dogged criticism. It is obtained not by steadfast dogmatism, but by an openness to changing one’s most cherished beliefs in the face of evidence. We show our respect for people of different views by arguing with them. This is because we believe that people are sensible and will listen to reason, lest we be guilty of the condescension of feigned deference and politeness, which passive-aggressively insinuates the unreasonableness of an adversary by keeping what you believe is true from them. We respect people enough to call them out when they are lying because we believe that they are not cynics and that they genuinely care about truth and the lives of the human beings their opinions affect.

The Church already recognizes some linkage between unplanned pregnancies and a life of hardship, albeit half-heartedly. Their promotion of the archaic and ineffective “natural family planning” betrays their hypocrisy. As HL Mencken notes, “It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.” They will eventually catch up with the modern ethics of sexuality and contraception, like it has with slavery and witch burning, give or take a few centuries. But until they do, their opinions on morality and human experience are as invalid and as retrograde as Pro-Life Philippines’ opinions on neuroscience and the effect of Satan on the prefrontal cortex.

Posted in Religion, Science, Society7 Comments

A Wageworker’s View on Humanity

Let me start things off by giving you a brief background on this penman. I won’t be too fancy in elaborating all of the things that I went through but let me do it comfortably casual. I’ll cut it to the chase: I finished up college in the city of the Durian fruit as they call it – Davao City, Philippines. I took up computer science and plodded through it a trimester longer than ideal. I had never been the computer geek that I was supposed to be. Instead, I’ve been akin to a frustrated philosopher/scientist who has got a computer-related bachelor’s degree. I’m currently working – well, probably the most common job in the country today – as a customer service associate. You might be wondering why I am talking about all these trifle details on my life. This is to give you an image of what I want to portray in my essay: a working-class dork that’s not too highbrow and not too lowbrow for you to relate to.

As a young child, I had always wondered on a variety of topics that people have been zealous with. It always puzzled me when grown-ups have distinctive opinions on a certain subject or idea. Moreover, I felt the conundrum of how a supreme being or plainly a God would have existed. I thought of how he foresaw all of the carnal and routine activities that we do. Despite being befogged, I chose to believe at the time.

As I grew more maturely as a Filipino citizen and essentially as a thinking human being, my thoughts had been more definite and rational rather than juvenile and undecided. I had been into what I call “a series of enlightenment” out of young adulthood’s distress – which actually helped me in the long run – to realize the ultimate reality. I’ve seen all these unsightly and troublesome issues on the world like genocide, famine, malnutrition, disease, disorder and so forth that dispelled the hugger-mugger out of me and dope out – are all of these mess permitted by an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-caring god?

I used to think that people who are religious enough to drive through a church every Sunday are dim (which I really kept to myself since my kinfolks are of that sort). Well, at least not all of them—they might just be going through the motions out of fear of eternal damnation. Yes, it’s true that a number of noticeably intelligent individuals believe in the teachings of Christianity and other organized religions – as their moral backbone but most of them haven’t really read all of the texts that would be relevant for their emancipation– taking into account that they are indeed intelligent.

Since I ought to opine on my views on humanity, here’s how I see it – it’s far more sophisticated than following some outdated guidelines on an outmoded book of moral codes and stories. In fact, what might have worked ages ago wouldn’t be applicable nowadays – albeit, there might be a legion of successful people who are religious but the truth is, it’s not the holy scriptures that made them who they are, it’s their work ethics, drive and a bit of luck that made them opulent in life and wealth – howsoever, this is the age of technological explosion, the age of over-the-top knowledge and we just don’t just go through the days without being bold enough to innovate and discover new ideas on our own – without some existing paradigm (as that principle applies to the heroes of science and technology).

There isn’t a sane human who would look down on the achievements of science, wouldn’t you agree? At the end of the day, like it or not, humanity will be better not by following some antiquated beliefs and practices but on the universal pragmatism brought by secular science and philosophy.

You might have noticed that I was alluding, generally to religious people here throughout this sound off on humanity. Utterly, those who are purged from their affiliations like what I’ve been through likely know most if not all of what I’ve been talking about – but you might as well want to know more, right? However, the genuinely religious are those who try so foolhardily to follow a life that leads them to the biblical gates one day. Otherwise, we can classify the group into two, the hypocritically believing and the truthfully faithful. Unfortunately in reality, only a few – if existent, are genuinely faithful. I mean, read through the verses of Judeo-Christianity books like the Bible and tell me – who among them followed all or at least most of the teachings? Even among the church leaders, friars, theologians and bible scholars can’t follow a Christ-like character as what they idealize to and they are obliged to according the books’ imperative commands. We don’t require them to and no one will since it’s natural for them to disobey that book – just like every one of us to commit their so-called sins and that’s what makes us human – doing the things that are normal to people since they’re not really “sins” if they didn’t label them that way – pride, greed, lust, anger, etc. – come on, are those innate feelings unnatural? Think it over.

Taking into account all of these facts on life – do we really adhere to the religious side or the secular stance? As a caveat, let me state that I’m not favorable to any radical religious liberalism of some sort. You may just divert head-on into humanism for humanity’s cause – but wait:

Let’s chew over the present news that the current pope in Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI, had made a crucial comment on a subject that they’ve been erstwhile antagonistic to. His comments that condom use would be acceptable on certain cases created a contestation among the media, the pro and anti-contraceptive groups and significantly among secularists and religious circles. Does this action by the pontiff insinuate to an eventual liberalism or revolution of the Catholic Church? Be it or not, what had transpired gave me that impression. I don’t see any coherent argument that changes can be made to their rather stifled dogma that’s been adhered to for presumably thousands of years.

Here’s what I can suggest, why don’t these people who gave the pontiff credits for his remitment on a hitherto forbidden act reckon on having a new religion – if they’re really into being a part of a religious assembly – like Unitarian Universalism where they can still have their innate spiritual selves without being guilty of disaffiliating themselves in terms of belief. Hence, they don’t need to have a revolutionary Catholic religion by then, thinking that this just might be one of the popish leader’s tactics to gain more votaries to his flock. As posted on a New York Times page, an artwork that portrays – know your scumbags.

De novo let me tell you – like it or not, the truth is withstanding comprehensively against the religious (especially now, the Catholics). Apparently, I’m not here to proselytize the faithful if you really are, I’m here sounding off what is relevant to all of us and that is knowing that humanity’s progress is stalling on what was supposed to be on a breeze of betterment: AIDS research, population control for poverty’s sake, stem cell research and a ton more unspoken nuances on humanity’s advancement. These were all hindered by the world leaders’ half-hearted respect toward the preachers of antediluvian knowledge.

It’s a popular knowledge that of all the religions of the world – that’s having a huge impact on the political spectrum – it’s the Catholic Church that’s doing most of the damage. That’s an understatement, especially here in our native country where a particular congressional bill is currently pending to be acted upon smoothly because of the church’s influence on the government. When you come to think of this circumstance logically and rationally, it’s obviously ludicrous. Personally, I can’t fathom how long this senseless actuality would last. Will this kind of fatuity go on forever? Nevertheless, I smell something fishy here; do these priests impertinently object the Reproductive Health Bill to keep the population growing – selfishly, for them to double their already gigantic Catholic multitude? More church-goers means more profit for them, doesn’t it?

Unless if the masses stop on being feeble and subservient to the preachers of death – only a lucky few, not even a majority, will prosper. All we need to do is to make a stand. You may label yourself as a god-believer, a religious Christian, a non-religious Christian or otherwise but we all need to make a stand. You may be an avowed atheist or a freethinker or possibly even a Catholic but a closet non-conformist to the current political and religious system; you owe to make a stand. Folks, as long as we live, we’re all part of this gargantuan species that we call “humanity”. We are all making a stand for humanity, not just a certain congregation.

Posted in Religion, Society2 Comments

Press Release: RH BILL ADVOCATES CHALLENGE THE CBCP IN EXCOMMUNICATION PARTY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Red Tani
[email protected]

Sylvia Estrada-Claudio
[email protected]

RH BILL ADVOCATES CHALLENGE THE CBCP IN EXCOMMUNICATION PARTY

“If supporting the RH Bill means excommunication, then excommunicate me!”

Quezon City (11/26/10) – Over 100 Reproductive Health (RH) advocates are attending an
excommunication party to express their support for the RH Bill and dissent against the Catholic
Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Expected attendees are RH Bill advocates from different
sectors, including legislators, activists, women’s groups, professionals, and students. The advocates will
sign a document that poses a challenge to the CBCP: “If supporting the RH Bill means excommunication,
then excommunicate me!”

Copies of the document will be sent to each participant’s parish church. The original document will be
delivered to the CBCP. Aside from signing the excommunication document, pro-RH legislators and
advocates will deliver solidarity messages throughout the evening. “Pro-RH lawmakers continue to
support the RH Bill even at the risk of excommunication,” said Sylvia Estrada-Claudio of the Filipino
Freethinkers, lead organizers of the event. “They are not afraid of the CBCP. Neither are we.”

The excommunication party is the next chapter of the conflict between pro-RH Bill advocates (many of
whom are Catholic laity), and anti-RH Bill advocates (led by the CBCP and Pro-Life Philippines). In a
recent incident at the Manila Cathedral, anti-RH advocates led by Eric Manalang of Pro-Life blockaded
and kicked out from a mass and prayer service members of the Filipino Freethinkers and Democratic
Socialist Women of the Philippines when they attempted to attend a mass wearing Damaso T-shirts, an
expression of their support for the RH Bill.

“For supporting the RH Bill, Manalang called even the devout Roman Catholics amoung us Satan,” said
Red Tani, President of the Filipino Freethinkers. “He branded the Catholics among us oxymorons, as
if it were a contradiction to be pro-RH and remain Catholic. We were told that our mothers should have
aborted us. If the church hierarchy thinks supporting the RH bill means heresy, then by all means —
excommunicate us! We’re throwing an advanced party for the ceremony,” said Mr. Tani.

Hosted by the Filipino Freethinkers, the excommunication party will be held at Adarna Food and Culture
Restaurant. “This will be a night of dinner, entertainment, and dissent,” said Mr. Tani. As Adarna serves
good food, improv comedians treat guests to creative, interactive comedy. There will also be adult party
games with prizes courtesy of SexandSensibilities.com and the event’s various sponsors.

“As far as we know, this excommunication party is the first event of its kind,” said Mr. Tani. “And until the
CBCP stops blocking the RH Bill from passing, this will definitely not be the last.”

The Filipino Freethinkers (FF) is a group of nonbelievers and progressive believers who practice and
promote reason, science, and secularism. They have over 2,000 members around the world, with
regional chapters in Davao and Cebu, university chapters in UP Diliman and UP Manila, and affiliate
organizations in the Asia and the US. For more information, visit www.FilipinoFreethinkers.org/about .

Filipino Version:

MGA TAGA-SUPORTA NG RH BILL, HINAMON ANG CBCP SA “EXCOMMUNICATION PARTY”

“If supporting the RH Bill means excommunication, then excommunicate me!”

Quezon City (11/26/10) – Mahigit isang daang taga-suporta ng reproductive health (RH) ay dadalo sa
isang “excommunication party” upang magpahayag ng suporta para sa RH Bill at ng pagsalungat sa
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Inaasahang dadalo ang mga taga-suporta ng
RH Bill mula sa iba’t ibang sektor, gaya ng mga mambabatas, aktibista, organisasyon ng kababaihan,
mga propesyunal, at mga estudyante. Ang mga dadalo ay pipirma sa isang dokumento na nagsisilbing
hamon sa CBCP sa pagsabi ng: “If supporting the RH Bill means excommunication, then excommunicate
me!”

Magpapadala ng kopya ng dokumentong ito sa mga parokya ng lahat ng pumirma. Ipapadala naman ang
orihinal na dokumento sa mismong CBCP. Maliban sa pagpirma, magbibigay din ng mga mensahe ng
pagkakaisa ang mga pro-RH na mambabatas at taga-suporta. “Patuloy na ipinapaglapan ng ating mga
mambabatas na pro-RH ang RH Bill, kahit nagbanta ang CBCP na maaari silang ma-excommunicate,”
ani Sylvia Estrada-Claudio ng Filipino Freethinkers, ang grupong pangunahing nag-organisa ng
pagdiriwang. “Hindi sila takot sa CBCP. Kami ring mga tagasuporta ng RH bill ay hindi natatakot.”

Ang excommunication party ay masasabing panibagong yugto ng labanan ng mga maka-RH (na
karamihan ay mga Katoliko rin) at laban sa RH (na pinamumunuan ng CBCP at ng Pro-Life Philippines).
Nung nakaraan lamang, nagkaroon ng insidente sa Manila Cathedral nang sinubukang ng ilang
miyembro ng Filpino Freethinkers at ng Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines dumalo sa isang
misa at prayer service habang nakasuot ng t-shirt na nagsasabing Damaso bilang pagpapahayag ng
kanilang suporta para sa RH bill. Sila ay hinarang at pinaalis ng mga anti-RH advocates sa pamumuno ni
Eric Manalang ng Pro-Life Philippines.

“Dahil sa kanilang pagsuporta sa RH Bill, tinawag ni Manalang na “Satanas” pati ang mga taimtim na
Katoliko na kasama namin,” ani Red Tani, pangulo ng Filipino Freethinkers. “Binansagan niya silang
oxymoron o hindi tunay na Katoliko, na parang kabalintunaan ang maging pro-RH at manatiling Katoliko.
Sinabihan kami na dapat ipinalaglag na lang kami ng aming mga ina. Kung sa tingin ng CBCP ay mali
ang pagsuporta sa RH Bill–itiwalag na nila kami! Sa pagtiwalag sa amin, ngayon ay may pauna na
kaming pagdiriwang.”

Ang excommunication party ay inorganisa ng Filipino Freethinkers at isasagawa sa Adarna Food and
Culture Restaurant. Magkakaroon rin ng pagtatanghal ang ilang improv comedians ng interactive
comedy, at adult party games na may premyo mula sa SexandSensibilties.com at sa iba pang mga
sponsor ng pagdiriwang.

“Sa aming pagkakaalam, itong excommunication party ay unang kaganapan ng ganitong uri,” ani Mr.

Tani. “At hanggang tumigil ang CBCP sa pagharang sa RH bill, siguradong hindi ito ang magiging huli.”

Ang Filipino Freethinkers (FF) ay isang grupo ng nonbelievers at progressive believers na sumusulong
ng katwiran, agham, at sekularismo. Mahigit 2000 ang kasapi mula sa iba’t ibang bansa, at may regional
chapters sa Davao at Cebu, university chapters sa UP Diliman at UP Manila, at affiliate organizations sa
Asya at sa US. Para sa karagdagang kaalaman, pumunta sa www.FilipinoFreethinkers.org/about .

Posted in Press Releases8 Comments

November 28 (Sunday) Anson's Starbucks Meetup

RSVP on Facebook

Location: Starbucks at Anson’s (Google map)
Date: Sunday, November 28, 2010
Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Another meetup at our home (Starbucks @ Anson’s) after an eventful two weeks! Having Satan cast out of us and then throwing your own excommunication party sure makes a person hungry for great discussions!

Once again we’ll be having post meetup dinner and beer drinking at Congo Grill El Pueblo’s unless someone else comes up with a place around Ortigas. Monday is a holiday so this is going to go into the morning!

Discussion Topics

  1. LGBT Pride March counter fundie funtimes and supporters video shoot
  2. Saturnalia party! (a very FF xmas party)
  3. Respect is a dirty word
  4. Ethics Question Grabbag!

We’ll be doing a video to show that we’re allies of the LGBT in the Philippines, no matter what your gender may be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUDhldbJepM

  • 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 is most likely at Congo Grill, El Pueblo. 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 post in the wall so we can contact you.

Posted in Meetup1 Comment

The Pride and Humility of a Freethinker

I believe freethinkers are a proud people in a sense that they often undertake to set themselves up as judges of Truth and Knowledge, laughing at the idea of being shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. When it comes to morality, for example, freethinkers scoff at some of the Church’s teachings on sex and birth control, calling them outdated and questioning whatever “sacred” authority is asserted on religious matters, even challenging religion itself.

But I also believe that freethinkers are a humble people because while undertaking to set themselves up as judges of Truth and Knowledge, they also acknowledge their own fallibility, that while they might someday arrive at the truth, they may never know if they already got there. For this they have developed tools like science and skepticism to help them get nearer to the truth by weeding out what’s false (much like how Dr. House’s team tries to rule out as many diagnoses as possible so that when House finally gets one of those serendipitous strokes of intuitive insight, the choices will have been narrowed down for him to see the answer as if it’s been sitting right there all along).

Acknowledging one’s own fallibility – and actually doing something to minimize it – is humility in the deepest form because it is practical humility, one expressed in actions rather than words, in unforgiving self-criticism instead of a resigned only God knows attitude.

As for morality, freethinkers also acknowledge man’s primal selfishness and moral biases as influenced by sex, age, income and other factors. And because of this they respect the state laws put up to contain unfair acts of selfishness and harmful expressions of those biases, laws that attempt to bring equal chances of a decent life to unequal people across a mixed society. Now compare this to those who haughtily hold on to their dogma, condemning everyone who disagrees.

It is especially dogmas like the ban on contraception that Freethinkers openly challenge, maybe partly because they are disturbed by the fact that such dogma greatly affecting married women was written and is being enforced by unmarried men. This somehow reminds me of what Michael Shermer said: “…male ownership of females was once moral and is now immoral, not because we have discovered it as such, but because our society has realized that women also seek greater happiness and that they can achieve this more easily without being in bondage to males. But while males no longer own females today, a worldwide group of single men still feels entitled to own every woman’s womb, not even considering that women also seek other things in life and that they can achieve them more easily without having their wombs and their time devoted mostly to child bearing and rearing.

Such pompous sense of entitlement is what often enrages the freethinker, leading him to criticize or even confront those who claim to be in moral authority. One confrontation happened last Saturday when freethinkers attempted to enter the Manila Cathedral where there was an ongoing Pro-Life Philippines affair that was supposedly open to the public. One can say that the freethinkers were arrogant because they had to wear those offensive Damaso shirts, but during the face-off they conducted themselves quite humbly, and real arrogance surprisingly came from the other side. The video says it all.

Posted in Religion4 Comments

What actually happened at Manila Cathedral: Revealing the lies and bigotry of Eric Manalang and Pro-Life Philippines

In TV interviews and several published articles, Pro Life Philippines President Eric Manalang lied about the events at Manila Cathedral, when members of Pro-Life Philippines harassed RH Supporters. Hopefully, this post (and the attached video) adds some clarity and reveals the lies Anti RH groups (including the CBCP) have been publishing — despite photos and videos that clearly shows what actually happened.

1. We were invited to this event.

Or at least we weren’t told that we couldn’t attend. There were invites posted on bulletin boards with the words, “Everyone is cordially invited.” The organizers did not say that the event was exclusively for anti-RH bill Catholics only. We were even given invitation flyers outside Manila Cathedral, despite the fact that we were visibly wearing Damaso shirts.

2. We were told to stay — at least initially. We weren’t asked to leave at once.

Marita Wasan, executive director of Pro-Life Philippines, told us we could wait outside until the mass was over. So we waited peacefully near the steps to the Cathedral — until Eric Manalang, president of Pro-Life Philippines attacked us, forcing us to leave.

3. Members of Pro-Life Philippines attacked us. We didn’t fight back in any way.

We were respectful — we kept calm, even as they repeatedly insulted us and eventually resorted to violence. They called us Satan. They asked us to tell our mothers that they should have aborted us. They pushed us and tried to grab our cameras. The media has made it seem that there was an exchange of harsh words. There was no exchange. We have videos proving that all the violence came from the Pro-Life side.

4. Eric Manalang is bigoted — even toward fellow Catholics.

When a Catholic mother said that she was still a Catholic despite her support for the RH Bill, Manalang said, “That’s an oxymoron.” Manalang was saying that you cannot both be a Catholic and a supporter of the RH Bill. If that is the case, then the Church should stop claiming that 85% of all Filipinos are Catholics, because recent surveys show that most Filipinos support the RH Bill.

But aside from claiming to know what it means to be a True Catholic, Manalang insults supporters of the RH Bill by calling them Satan. What’s worse, he — and other Pro-Life members — asked them to tell their mothers that they should have been aborted. Is he saying that he prefers RH Bill supporters were never born? Or worse — if abortion is killing — that they were murdered?

5. The Catholic Church Hierarchy and Pro-Life Philippines are liars.

In addition to expressing our support for the RH Bill, we attended the event to learn why the Anti-RH groups opposed the RH Bill. We found out that their opposition was based on nothing but lies.

They distributed pamphlets claiming, among other things, that even mere condoms — which they wrongly consider abortifacients — could give cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and disabilities to the user and their offspring. They claimed that there was universal evidence that condom use increased the spread of AIDS. There is absolutely no evidence that supports any of these claims — and plenty of evidence that contradicts them.

6. The writers of CBCP Online are liars:

In their retelling of the incident, they said that we “forced” to get inside the Church. We have video of the conversaton with Marita Wasan showing that there was no force — we simply asked if we could go in. When she said we should wait, we simply waited.

They said that the pro-RH group were mostly teenagers from the Filipino Freethinkers. Of the more than twenty people there, only two were teenagers. And more than half were members of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines.

They lied about what Manalang said. They quoted him saying the following:

“You are Catholics but you are dissidents. We are Catholics but we follow God’s commandment to protect life strictly,” shouted Manalang as the rallyists were leaving the cathedral.

Manalang never said any of this — neither did any of the other members of Pro-Life — while we were leaving the cathedral. What they actually said was harsh beyond imagination — “Satan!” “Your mother should have aborted you!.” Fortunately, we have the video to prove it.

* * *

The Church has repeatedly said that it is open to have a dialogue on the RH Bill.

But it’s now clear that not only are they unwilling to have a conversation, they are going to use lies, harsh words, and even violence to ensure that only their monologue is heard.

Catholics believe that Satan is the prince of lies. When Manalang shouted for Satan to stay out of the Church, it may have been too late. He was already inside.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society242 Comments

Pope Benedict says it may be a good idea for Male Prostitutes to use Condoms

After having been shoved and shouted at last night by pro-life Catholics who call the RH Bill and modern contraception the road that leads straight to death, I may be forgiven for taking the headline “Pope says condoms may be OK in some circumstances” as a joke, especially since the cited circumstance is to prevent the transmission of HIV. After all, this is the same Pope who condemned the use of condoms even in AIDS-ravaged Africa, from the same Church whose self-proclaimed “real” members just hours ago handed out pamphlets that claimed that condoms helped the spread of AIDS. How on earth could condom use ever be justified?

Apparently, if you’re a male prostitute.

Of course, since the Catholic Church is still opposed to contraceptives as a means to prevent pregnancy, we must take it to mean that this justification only applies to male prostitutes whose use of condoms does not affect any potential for procreation.

That’s right, gay prostitutes.

In so many roundabout words the Pope says in a an upcoming book that he thinks it’s a good idea for gay prostitutes to wear condoms, because “the intention of reducing the risk of infection” is “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility”, but maintains that for Africa, abstinence is the only sure way to combat HIV/AIDS. This begs the question of course of whether the circumstance of monogamous married couples where one spouse is infected are offered the same leniency as male prostitutes, or because using a condom still prevents the potential for conception we are meant to understand that the official Catholic stance remains; condoms are still outright forbidden.

This double standard Pope Benedict seems to have adopted in favor of the protection of male prostitutes and their clients seems all the more sickening in the face of the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases in Africa and around the world. It makes me wonder, perhaps with some amusement, if this was brought about by a rising number of HIV/AIDS cases among the clergy.

Posted in Religion, Society33 Comments

Anti-RH Lies About The RH Bill

A few hours ago, outside the Manila Cathedral, pro-life activists gave out a couple of leaflets attacking the RH Bill. They are attached below for your enjoyment/irritation; click to view in all their falsehood.

For the benefit of our non-Filipino readers, we’ve taken the liberty of translating a few sections:

The RH Bill No. 96 of Congressman Lagman and any version of it is the road that leads straight to DEATH!

2. What is the Reproductive Health Bill 96?
a. The use of contraception (abortifacients – condoms, pills, IUDs, etc.) endangers the health of mothers and children. This results in:

  • Cancer
  • causes heart attacks and stroke
  • the mother and newborn child will have disabilities and health problems like psychological disorders of the mother and abnormalities in the child.

The spread of AIDS – according to the strongest universal evidence, widespread condom usage leads to the increased spreading of AIDS due to complacence as regards to the dangers of negligent intercourse.

Why is there the desire to pass the RH-Bill?
Capitalists who benefit from the producing and distributing of contraceptives use money and dirty politics.

It is just this sort of misinformation the poor are subject to every day, and when the Church itself preaches this to their flock they are sadly compelled to believe.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society183 Comments

Anti-RH Bill Catholics Harass RH Bill Supporters

[UPDATE] For more comprehensive video coverage of the event, as well as clarifications on some damage control by the Pro-Life side, read this.

The Filipino Freethinkers and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines went to the Manila Cathedral where an anti-RH bill discernment mass was supposed to be held. Representatives from these two organizations wanted to hear the reasons that would be given in the lecture as to why the CBCP was against the RH bill.

Unfortunately, they were denied entry from the chapel for wearing Damaso-printed shirts, which these organizations have worn to express their disagreement with the CBCP’s position. However, they were told that the organizers would consider letting them inside after the ongoing mass ends.

Afterbeing denied entry to the Manila Cathedral, the RH Bill supporters decided to wait outside the church for the mass to end. Several pro-life supporters handed FF and DSWP members Anti-RH Bill leaflets which had misleading information, including the claim that condoms caused cancer.

After a few minutes , a group of anti-RH Bill Catholics, led by Pro-Life Philippines president Eric B. Manalang confronted the RH Bill supporters and told them that their presence was not welcome. Several members of both the Filipino Frethinkers and the DSWP attempted to reason with these people, explaining how some of them were also Catholic and simply wanted to hear why the RH Bill was considered “evil.”

Lorna Ferrer, a member of the DSWP, told Mr. Manalang that she was Catholic. Mr. Manalang responded with, “You are not a real Catholic! You are an oxymoron!” — implying that Catholics who use or support any form of artificial contraception could not possibly be “real” Catholics.

Other members from both organizations attempted to calm down Mr. Manalang and company, but these pleas fell on deaf ears as the harassment escalated and the RH supporters were attacked with harsh words and mild violence.

Here are just some of the statements hurled at members of the Filipino Freethinkers and the DSWP by Manalang and company:

“This is our territory. Get out of here!”
“Damaso is a fake. You’re a fake! You are the Damaso!”
“Get out of here, Satan!”
“You should tell your mother that she should have aborted you!”

There is video footage of Mr. Manalang and company pushing several supporters and trying to take away cameras from two members of the group. Police officers intervened and escorted the FF and the DSWP away from the premises of the cathedral for the safety of these RH supporters.

As the organizations walked away, Pro-Life advocates continued the barragewith “Get out of here, Satan!” “Away, Satan, away!”

Meanwhile, the anti-RH reflection service was going on inside. One of the speakers, Dra. Angie Aguirre, asked the churchgoers inside: How many have read the actual text of the RH Bill? Less than ten percent raised their hands.

Update: In place of what’s actually in the RH Bill, these are the lies the Church teaches its flock about the RH Bill.


Update: Anti-RH supporters handed out invitations to the anti-RH service outside the Manila Cathedral, even to people visibly wearing DAMASO shirts. Click to view the invitation.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society244 Comments

Excommunicate Me!

The CBCP threatens politicians who support the RH bill with excommunication. But our representatives are not backing down. To ensure the passage of the bill, they are willing to risk being excommunicated.

So are we.

On November 266pm, we’re throwing an excommunication party to celebrate our freedom to choose what’s best for our own bodies. Join us at Adarna Food and Culture for an evening of dinner and entertainment as we take a stand for secularism and call for the immediate passage of the RH bill.

Together with the various individuals and organizations that support the RH Bill, let us each declare:

If supporting the RH bill means excommunication, then excommunicate me!

Tickets for the party can be ordered online at the event minisite and are priced as follows:

  1. Be a Supporter: Entrance and dinner ticket for 396 pesos
  2. Be an Ally: Entrance, dinner ticket and an event shirt for 496 pesos
  3. Be an Advocate: Entrance, dinner ticket, event shirt and poster with an option to be listed as a donor on the website for 696 pesos

Facebook Event Page: Excommunication Party

Event Map: http://j.mp/ExCommMap

While previous Filipino Freethinker events – forums, film festival, meetups – have been free, this will be the first time we’re selling tickets to an event.

We want to spread freethought to as many as possible, and this event is no different. We planned to make this event free as well, but couldn’t raise enough money to pay for the expenses — food, equipment rental, venue rental, logistics, etc.

Which is why we decided to sell tickets. But here’s the thing: Even if every ticket were bought, we’d still be short on funds. The balance will be paid for by donations from several members of FF. In case it isn’t clear: We won’t make a cent from this event.

For those who can’t attend this party because of the tickets, rest assured that there will be another one, and that one will be free of charge. We’d tell you more details, but we’re busy working on the upcoming event — which is only a week away! 🙂

Spread the word about the ExComm Party on your Facebook wall, your blog, your twitter or Tumblr! Any way that you can help to get out the word about the Excommunication Party would be greatly appreciated!

Posted in Announcements9 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers on DZRJ AM 810 kHz this Saturday

Catch members of the Filipino Freethinkers on our guest spot on Hashtag Radio on DZRJ AM 810 kHz this Saturday, November 20, 4 to 6 PM. The show will also stream live video on http://ustream.tv/channel/hashtag-radio-dzrj.

Tune in, call in, and join the discussion this Saturday!

Posted in Announcements2 Comments

LGBT Pride March 2010 Counter Protest!

Location: Tomas Morato, Quezon City
Date: Saturday, December 4, 2010
Time: 2:00 pm onwards
RSVP on Facebook

As allies of the LGBT community, the Filipino Freethinkers have taken part in the 2009 Manila LGBT Pride March as well as an LGBT Flores De Mayo.

For the 2010 LGBT Pride March we would like to field a larger group specifically to counter the religious fundamentalists who inevitably protest at these events.

We love our fun here in the FF even when tackling a serious issue such as bigotry (or especially when tackling a serious issue) so here’s the plan: Epic photo bombing! The bigotry of fundies don’t deserve the respect that a serious response credits them with, what they deserve is a big heaping of humiliation on the internets.

So prepare your funniest signs for the homophobes! Bring blank signs too for impromptu responses to their stupidity! We’re going to go medieval on their bronze aged thinking and support the LGBT community against the hateful bile they spew!

We’ll post more details about this action on a closer date but for now lets come up with kick ass signs to take to the parade! Discuss your ideas for silly signs on the comments or on the dedicated forum thread. This will be epic!

Posted in Announcements, Religion, Society2 Comments

O’Rly? Ordonez: New Atheism is Anti-family

 

Yo Red! How about having this as the official Filipino Freethinker uniform?

 

A couple of months ago, I wrote a rebuttal article to Minyong Ordoñez, a certain fellow who wrote a comment to the Philippine Daily Inquirer likening the Reproductive Health Bill to throwing babies into trash bins.

Now while you’re still wrapping your head around how one eventually leads to the other (it doesn’t), Ordonez has written another post for the PDI and Manila Times.

This latest post discussed the recent speech of Archbishop Socrates Villegas regarding the need for universities to produce saints and his admonition that Catholics today revere angels before priests.

But while the main body of Ordonez’s commentary alone makes for a target-rich environment, it’s this particular rocket that grabbed my attention:

Ordonez’s portrayal of New Atheism, as he sources the Eternal Word Television Network:

In a recent telecast of EWTN, a concept called “The New Atheism” was discussed as the prevalent lifestyle among the student population in American universities. New atheism is not a vociferous and fiery activism like the isms of the rowdy 1960s and 1970s. Instead it is an accepted fact, a quiet mindset that one is free to do anything or live a life free from moral constraint, as long as one is comfortable with his opinion and respectful of others.

Like most deviations from norms and values which are religion inspired, new atheism devalues and promotes the eventual collapse of the family. When families break up, social diseases spread widely across the urban landscape: teen suicide, teen prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, melancholia, kleptomania, vagrancy, and street crimes. Deterioration of civil society shows in police blotters, city jails, psychiatric couches, morgues and cemeteries.

Where to begin? For starters, Mr. Ordonez, a quick definition of New Atheism.

New Atheism, at least according to my understanding (and copious amounts of Google searches), is the media brand for a recent string of high profile authors and bloggers that includes Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and PZ Myers.

The New Atheism movement is defined by its scientific approach to tackling the matter of religion, especially in Dawkins’ case—particularly, that God, like any other hypothesis, can be proven or disproven given sufficient study and research.

And if you happen to follow Myers on his Pharyngula blog, it’s also a very vocal and aggressive movement, actively calling out the various supernatural claims and doctrines that have long been held by the religious, moreso if they promote prejudice and needless discrimination against our fellow human being.

New Atheism is comprised of people who have had enough of the falsehood and harm that have been inflicted on people in the name of faith. They have decided to speak up, and directly confront the assertions made by religious organizations, using hard facts to prove them wrong.

Now that we’ve got a basic sense of New Atheism, we’ll move on to the main event:

In a recent telecast of EWTN, a concept called “The New Atheism” was discussed as the prevalent lifestyle among the student population in American universities. New atheism is not a vociferous and fiery activism like the isms of the rowdy 1960s and 1970s. Instead it is an accepted fact, a quiet mindset that one is free to do anything or live a life free from moral constraint, as long as one is comfortable with his opinion and respectful of others.

And here Ordonez gets New Atheism wrong right off the bat.

New Atheism is not about doing what one wants free of moral constraints. It is simply about being vocal about one’s lack of belief in a god. It is non sequitur to assume that since one does not have a deity to worship, one is suddenly devoid of all moral constraints.

“Atheism = No Morals” is a common fallacy consistently drawn up by apologists like Ordonez and his ilk.  This is based on their assumption that because atheists don’t believe in a god, the theist’s supreme source of morality, atheists are not moral.

I can’t speak for all atheists (I’m a Deist myself), but from what I have seen, the atheist community does have a multitude of personal reasons and motivations for having their own moral compasses. The more astute ones refer to secular humanism as their guide.  Secular humanism is an ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and the search for human fulfillment as its primary goals.  The Humanist Manifesto does a good job of summing up this mindset.

Atheists are not necessarily devoid of morals. Given their lack of belief in a god (or gods), the atheists I have met bear more culpability for their own actions, not relegating it to the tired scapegoat of “[Insert Deity’s Name Here] made me do it!

But to humor Ordonez, yes, atheists do not adhere to the Catholic faith—at least, his idea of what it means to be Catholic – idea of what is “moral”, and I think that’s a good thing, as we pursue Ordonez’s next statement:

Like most deviations from norms and values which are religion inspired, new atheism devalues and promotes the eventual collapse of the family.

And once again, I’m still wondering where Ordonez found his data to make this assertion (If you do find it, send us a copy).

If there is anything inherently “family breaking” about being an atheist, it’s having to live in a traditional religious family that still adheres to the sort of cooked up boogeymen that people like Ordonez fabricate.

The sort of communities that will not hesitate to ostracize family members not because they’re criminals, but simply for believing in one god less. It’s a dilemma that the atheist community shares with the LGBT community (whom we are close allies with btw).

What we can learn after peering closer into Ordonez’s assertion, however, is that most atheists on the net are against the idea of having to break up families, unless this really is the only way to mend hostilities between member with different beliefs. One classic example being Richard Wade over at the Friendly Atheist Blog.

Richard has a regular series called “Ask Richard,” where he answers letters regarding people whose non-belief have put them under extensive friction with their religious loved ones. Some of these letters are simply seeking advise on whether it’s worth it for atheist couples to send their kids to a religious school.

The more serious cases involve families whose ties have been broken because a sibling, spouse, child, or parent has expressed their atheism at one point.

While Richard encourages the letter’s writers to stay honest with their non-belief, he consistently and painstakingly advises them to avoid confrontation if possible, always encouraging them to resolve the matters diplomatically and tactfully so as not to disrupt the family’s bond, while at the same time advising them to look for support from fellow atheists within their area.

If there is anything anti-family in the “Ask Richard” segments, it’s in the form of uncompromising fathers, mothers, siblings, and spouses whose dogma pushes them to drive away a loved one just because of a difference in personal belief.

And speaking of anti-family, Ordonez would do well to look back at his own church. The RCC has been rife with controversy over the past few years, owing greatly to bigotry against LGBT community. Pope Ratzinger himself has been very vocal about his opposition to the LGBT community. Last January, Ratzinger declared that homosexuality was a threat to creation.

And two years ago, the RCC was also vocal in its support of Proposition 8, which would criminalize same-sex marriages in the region of California. Schadenfreude to them though, given Judge Vaughn Walker has recently deemed Prop 8 as unconstitutional.

And one didn’t have to be a homosexual to suffer their dogma either, as one unfortunate schoolgirl found as she was expelled from her school. The student’s crime? Her parents were lesbian. Sins of the father (or is it mothers) indeed.

If the church booting out hapless women from is institutions sounds like familiar territory for the Philippines, then it probably is, if you happen to have followed the passing of the Magna Carta for Women last year.

Among its tenets, the Magna Carta sought to remove discrimination against working women, namely using pregnancy as grounds for expulsion and job termination. It was a move that was opposed by the CBCP, which invoked its right to teach its own religious morals to its students.

Because as we all know, nothing teaches a woman the Catholic virtues of love and compassion better than kicking them out into the pavement, with no steady income or education, with a child on the way. And despite this, Ordonez insists that it’s New Atheism that’s responsible for breaking up families?

When families break up, social diseases spread widely across the urban landscape: teen suicide, teen prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, melancholia, kleptomania, vagrancy, and street crimes. Deterioration of civil society shows in police blotters, city jails, psychiatric couches, morgues and cemeteries.

And yet another claim that seems to be heavy on rhetoric, but sorely lacking in proof. Evidence to the contrary, on the other hand, is quite plentiful, and I won’t even have to explain them – you can read snippets from the news reports themselves:
______________________________________________
Teen Suicide and Melancholia

Two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at least partly because of messages coming out of churches and other places of worship, a survey released Thursday found.

More than four out of 10 Americans say the message coming out of churches about gay people is negative, and about the same number say those messages contribute “a lot” to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.

Catholics were the most critical of their own churches’ messages on homosexuality, while white evangelical Christians gave their churches the highest grades, the survey found.

The Public Religion Research Institute asked 1,017 Americans their views on religion and homosexuality between October 14 and 17, in the wake of a highly publicized rash of suicides by gay people.

Gay rights campaigner Dan Savage said the idea that churches send out an anti-gay message “totally jibes with my experience and that of millions of other gay and lesbian people.”

______________________________________________

Teen Prostitution

THE Roman Catholic Church has secretly paid thousands of pounds in “hush money” to dozens of Britons who were sexually abused by priests.

The disclosure will come as a further embarrassment to the Catholic Church in England and Wales and to its spiritual leader, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to paedophile priests when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.

One of them, Father Michael Hill, was jailed in 1997 for a string of sex offences and will be sentenced tomorrow after admitting further charges of indecent assault on three boys. Several of the compensation payments — which were made on condition that the victims did not talk about them — went to people abused by Hill and Cardinal Murphy- O’Connor is said to have been aware of them.

______________________________________________

Vagrancy and Street Crime

PORTLAND – A social service agency’s support for same-sex marriage has cost it local and national funding from the Catholic Church’s anti-poverty program.

Preble Street’s Homeless Voices for Justice program has lost $17,400 this year and will lose $33,000 that it expected for its next fiscal year.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development say that Preble Street violated its grant agreement by supporting Maine’s “No on 1” campaign last fall.

No on 1 opposed a ballot proposal to overturn the new state law legalizing gay marriage. Voters approved Question 1 on Nov. 3.

Homeless Voices for Justice, a statewide advocacy group, is led by people who have been homeless. It works on issues that affect the homeless, such as supporting affordable housing and preventing violence against the homeless.

Portland-based Preble Street, which runs a dozen programs to provide housing and other services for the poor and the homeless, provides staff support for Homeless Voices for Justice.

Catholics for Marriage Equality has begun an effort to replace the lost funding by raising $17,400 for Homeless Voices for Justice. Anne Underwood, a co-founder of the group that advocates for same-sex marriage, said Bishop Richard Malone is punishing the homeless because of politics.

______________________________________________

These are just among the many examples of the sort of damage the RCC has done in the name of trying to enforce its teachings.

To any Catholic who happens to be reading this: You are most probably honest, decent folks who truly believe in doing good for your fellow men, which makes me wonder how you can honestly stomach having to follow the directions and morals of a group that would willingly forsake a human being’s dignity and rights just to protect its status quo and reputation.

And with that, I’ll be leaving you guys to take the time to read through the links I’ve posted over this unexpectedly long piece. Red has convinced me to send a copy of this link to the PDI as a rebuttal letter to Ordonez, so just stay posted in case I have any updates.

Now I’m off to bag me some Deathclaws in the Mojave Wasteland…

Posted in Personal, Religion, Society69 Comments

Facebook.com/Freethinkers