Archive | April, 2011

Seven Dirty Words: What they've called pro-RH so far

Ever since the whole business with the Reproductive Health Bill erupted, I’ve witnessed just how creative the Filipino people can become in trying to push an issue.

Now, while I’d love to gloss over some of FF’s accomplishments in the past, the frequently requested performance at the Women’s Day Rally (go Margie! w00t!), I think it’s only fair we cover the other side.

Supporters of the Consolidated Reproductive Health bill have been battered left and right by the Anti-RH bloc, who have resorted to some truly diverse choice of language.

But aside from the usual accusations of us being “murderers,” “heathens,” “secularists,” and “abortionists”, some of our detractors have gone the extra mile with one-of-a-kind statements that take the mudslinging up to eleven, leaving our own “DAMASO!” seem feeble by comparison.

So sit back, take a break from the frantic exchanges regarding this issue, and witness some of the more colorful accusations that have been thrown at the RH Bill and its motley lot of supporters.

On a side note, I do understand that there are plenty more colorful names on the net that I have yet to discover. If you find any, do let us know over at our FB page :D.
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The Dirty Word: Satan
Who said it: Bishop Leo M. Drona

“In this fight against RH Bill, our true enemies are not the people (who proposed it) but Satan. It is the evil that is manipulating the minds of all (pro RH Bill Congressmen) or those higher ups in the world. This is the reason why it is difficult to fight this enemy,” the prelate admitted.

He said this issue about the RH Bill is not only the concern of Catholics (Christians) but of all Filipinos of good will.

On a related note guys, it was not too long ago, that a Vatican official – their chief exorcist at that seriously tried to blame the Devil for the ever-increasing reports of sex abuse being committed by priests. Padre, do you know who else blamed the devil for everything?

Kathy Bates.

It goes without saying that Satan has always been the church’s umbrella term for anything that displeases them, and I am seriously beginning to feel sorry for the guy.

And apparently the RCC’s beginning to realize it’s becoming very old rhetoric too, as another high-ranking member of the CBCP attempted to pull something straight out of Dubya’s scare-monger’s cookbook…
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The Dirty Word: Terrorist
Who said it: Archbishop Jose Palma

“Walang pinagkaiba sa mga terorista ang mga mambatas na sumusuporta sa RH Bill” (Law-makers who support RH Bill are no different than terrorists), said Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP vice president.

Earth to Palma: It wasn’t those damn dirty atheists and freethinkers that resorted to veiled threats of civil disobedience, if their demands were not met. Neither were the Pro-RH guys the ones guilty of a conceited self-entitlement that made them think that their belief over sexuality is the only rule to follow, or that separation of church and state only happens to other people.

But looking it another way, I guess Palma might have a point: A lot of guys on our side are ‘da bomb! (Sue me, I’ve been waiting to say that for a week XC).
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The Dirty word: Tsunami
Who said it: Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

“Let us not only walk for life. Let us, without cease and without fear, stand, fight, work and pray for life … For today, there are forces that threaten the right to life itself, especially the right of the Unborn,” Davide, a KC member, said in a statement.

“The threats to life caused by earthquakes or tsunamis, or even nuclear radiation, and terrorism and war pale in comparison to the destruction of life or the threat to life by state policies or legislation,” he added.

To put his statement in context, at the time Japan was still reeling from the effects of massive tsunami that struck the Fukushima prefecture, which resulted in billions of dollars of damages, and tens of thousands of deaths.

And at a time when the world was rightfully grieving for those who died and sending whatever aid they could, Davide just couldn’t resist feeding off the victims’ suffering just to fuel his few minutes of fame.

And speaking of shameless ghouls…
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The Dirty Word: Martial Law
Who said it: Lito Atienza

Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza said yesterday that the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill is “worse than Martial Law,” reports PhilStar.com. According to the report, Atienza claimed that people who will not practice contraception use stand to be jailed from one to six months.

Calling the RH Bill “unconstitutional” and “anti-life,” Atienza added that congressmen who support the passage of the bill would expect an extra P10 million, which he calls their “condom development fund,” to be added to their pork barrel.

Strong words from a man who banned contraceptives in Manila back in 1998, in an attempt to distract the populace from his atrocious choice in floral-pattern shirts. Rounding out his retinue is the blasting of gay marriages alongside the issue of the RH Bill, and banning The Da Vinci Code film in Manila not because it bored viewers to tears (Sorry Tom Hanks – we still love you), but because he genuinely thought it might damage his Catholic Faith.
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The Dirty Word: Imperialist
Who said it: JC De Los Reyes

He has opposed the reproductive health code, saying it is a dictated and imperialist law that muddles women’s rights. He is also against the establishment of Ocean 9 Casino in Subic and the commissioning of the Bataan Nuclear Plant.

He has been an organizer of Kapatiran sa Pangkalahatang Kabutihan (KPK) as early as 1998 and worked for the Comelec accreditation of AKP in 2004. He was the lone winner of AKP in 2007 when the Party fielded 30 candidates for national and local positions.

An imperialist that subverts women’s rights? For a minute there, I was almost convinced that JC was actually on our side.

JC’s stance (and probably his young, boyish looks) won him the overwhelming support of the CBCP and its followers back in the 2010 elections. He subsequently finished dead last in the elections, losing by several magnitudes to Vetallano Acosta, a disqualified presidentiable.
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The Dirty Word: New World Order
Who said it: bebarrs

Reproductive Health Bill is a conspiracy created in order to allegedly stop the ballooning population of Filipinos in the guise of addressing poverty issues that were apparently exaggerated by the New World Order in the Philippines.

The truth and purpose behind restraining the Filipino population via the approval of the Reproductive Health Bill, is nothing but to easily monitor and control the activities of each and every Filipino local and abroad and continue the New World Orders dominion over Philippine Politics, Media and Businesses.

Alright, I admit I cheated a bit here. Bukisa is hardly known on the web, and I have no idea who bebarrs really is. But c’mon – where else can you find an article that lumps together the UN, the Illuminati, the New World Order, and the RH bill into one grand conspiracy against the Filipino people? I’d cite Jose C. Sison over at Philstar, but even he hasn’t gone over the deep end. Yet.
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The Dirty Word: NAZIS!!!
Who said it: Froilan Vincent D. Bersamina

I’m talking about the latest Hitlerian, neo-fascist stunt of pro-Reproductive Health bill’s mindless mob composed of socialists and a collective of neo-mystics and neo-Nazis (the Filipino Freefarters) who protested and attempted to desecrate the gathering of anti-RH bill Catholics inside the Manila Cathedral.

I call their stupid, pathetic stunt “Hitlerian” because it simply parallels the evil strategy employed by Hitler and his followers before the Nazis’ rise to power: the use of subversion and provocative demonstrations to promote their statist agenda designed to fool the unthinking people. I call this pro-RH bill mob “socialists”, “neo-fascists”, “neo-Nazis”, and “neo-mystics” because of their rights-violating acts and their subversive intention to impose their will on others. Their rights-violating acts are the by-product of their utter stupidity and ignorance.

Of course, no list of this sort would be complete without our old friend, the dude who runs the Vincenton Post. I can’t honestly say anything that’s even half as entertaining as what he’s already said in there, so I leave our readers to enjoy his text.

Posted in Humor, Personal, Religion, Society19 Comments

April 23 (Saturday) Holy Week Meetup


Location: Starbucks, 32nd Street, Fort Bonifacio (Google map)
Date: Saturday, 23 April, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Ahhh… Holy Week where believers and non believers can come together in agreement on one thing: long public holidays are great. We’ll be having the meetup at the Starbucks in 32nd Street, Fort Bonifacio. This is the one beside MC Home Depot.

Discussion Topics
– TBD

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking but we’re not sure where this will be as we’re unsure of the restaurants that are open on Saturday. 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 or comment so we can contact you.

* 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.

Posted in Meetup2 Comments

Should the CBCP excommunicate themselves?

Should the CBCP excommunicate themselves?

In a recent interview, Ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz said that Noynoy deserved to be excommunicated if he was proven to have an indirect hand in abortions due to the passage of the RH Bill (emphasis mine):

There are 2 ways for someone to be excommunicated. Abortion or harming the pope. But just in case the President signs the bill into law…he will not be excommunicated. Unless, if the church proves that he has an indirect hand on abortions, meaning because of his approval of the bill and abortions happen, then he becomes guilty,” Cruz warned.

According to Oscar, indirectly causing an abortion is grounds for excommunication. According to this logic, if the passage of the RH Bill causes a single person to have an abortion, then all those involved in passing the RH Bill are equally deserving of excommunication.

If the RH Bill passes, popular support will be one of the main reasons. According to a 2008 SWS survey, 7 out of 10 Catholics favor the passage of the RH Bill. Should pro-RH Catholics be excommunicated as well?

Whatever the CBCP decides, excommunication is their call — the Vatican’s, to be more precise. But consider this: If indirectly causing an abortion is grounds for excommunication, then the CBCP should excommunicate themselves first.

Here are the facts. Studies from all over the world show that increased contraception use reduces the number of induced abortions1:

Recent studies offer strong evidence of a widely supposed but difficult-to-demonstrate benefit of reproductive health services: that increasing the use of effective contraception leads to declines in induced abortion rates.

In 2008, there were an estimated 560,000 induced abortions. If CBCP hadn’t been blocking the passage of an RH Bill for 13 years prior, this number would probably be a lot smaller. Stated more plainly, the CBCP is indirectly responsible for every abortion in the Philippines that could have been avoided through the information and contraception that a family planning program could have provided.

So before Oscar and the CBCP goes excommunication-happy on pro-RH Catholics, they should study the facts and check whether they still have the authority to excommunicate. They might have been auto-excommunicated a long time ago.

***

1 In cases where increased contraception use fails to reduce abortion incidence, here’s the story:

In seven countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Turkey, Tunisia and Switzerland—abortion incidence declined as prevalence of modern contraceptive use rose. In six others—Cuba, Denmark, Netherlands, the United States, Singapore and the Republic of Korea—levels of abortion and contraceptive use rose simultaneously. In all six of these countries, however, overall levels of fertility were falling during the period studied. After fertility levels stabilized in several of the countries that had shown simultaneous rises in contraception and abortion, contraceptive use continued to increase and abortion rates fell. The most clear-cut example of this trend is the Republic of Korea…

Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, Science, Society32 Comments

The closest thing to objective moral values

[Continued from Do objective moral values exist?]

The Christian apologist William Lane Craig says that certain actions like rape and torture are not just socially unacceptable behavior but moral abominations. He also argues that the Holocaust would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them. And I agree with him on both counts. However, the term “moral abomination” does not necessarily mean objectively wrong since we have no way of finding out if our list of moral abominations would still be the same had we evolved in a different way, and I would also argue that we’re only able to make such judgment on the Holocaust precisely because we haven’t been exterminated or brainwashed by the Nazis and, more importantly, because evolution has “taught” us that genocide is not a very good way of perpetuating our species. The moral values that evolution has conditioned into our minds may not be objective since they cannot exist independently of our minds, but they are definitely more than just moral fads.

Not surprisingly, Craig expresses skepticism with evolution-based morality:

[T]here’s no good evidence that our perception of moral and aesthetic values has been programmed by evolution. Darwinists are extremely imaginative and creative in coming up with what are called “just so” stories in order to explain things via evolution for which there is no empirical evidence. Indeed, these stories are almost endlessly adaptable, so that they become almost irrefutable and, hence, unfalsifiable.

I admit that Craig has a good point, and I admire his skepticism. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to apply the same skepticism when it comes to the existence of objective moral values:

Why should I think that objective moral values exist rather than that evolution has made me believe in the illusion that there are objective moral values? Because I clearly apprehend objective moral values and have no good reason to deny what I clearly perceive.

This is the same answer we give to the sceptic who says, “How do you know you’re not just a body lying in the Matrix and that all that you see and experience is an illusory, virtual reality?” We have no way to get outside our five senses and prove that they’re veridical. Rather I clearly apprehend a world of people and trees and houses about me, and I have no good reason to doubt what I clearly perceive. Sure, it’s possible that I’m a body in the Matrix. But possibilities come cheap. The mere possibility provides no warrant for denying what I clearly grasp.

I think the key difference between moral values and the physical world lies not in the perception but in the applicability. The physical world applies to everyone and everything regardless of their sense capabilities and even whether they are sentient or not. For example, a blind zebra and a deaf bat will both hit a tree standing in their paths, and even the unconscious wind will have to blow around that tree. Lack of perception does not exempt anyone or anything from the reality of the physical world.

Moral values, however, apply only to the acts of those who are able to perceive moral values in the first place. Non-human animals do not commit murder when they kill other sentient beings, and even young children and mentally disabled adults are often excused from certain moral duties. It is only the mentally-fit humans who can perceive moral values, and it is only the mentally-fit humans to whom these values apply, making moral values doubly dependent on perception. How then, can we call such values objective with the same confidence that we say that the physical world is objective?

Now without objective moral values, what are we left with? It seems that no matter how we try to get some purchase for our morality, there is an is-ought gap we just can’t quite cross. Just what is it in life, or the flourishing of life, that makes us ought to act in certain ways?

Others are more qualified to answer that, so I’ll just try to approach it from the semantics angle, particularly with the word objective again, which happens to have another definition: undistorted by emotion or personal bias. In this context, objective moral values could mean something like the kind of morality Richard Dawkins says he wants: “thought-out, reasoned, argued, discussed, and based upon – you could almost say – intelligent design.” And I believe we have what is arguably the closest thing to objective moral values, and that is the objective reasoning of an evolved brain.

Posted in Religion142 Comments

Your Face is an Ordinance: A Recap of FF’s Latest Weekend Extravaganza

Your Face is an Ordinance: A Recap of FF’s Latest Weekend Extravaganza

Keep Your Theology out of My Biology; Get Your Rosaries out of My Ovaries; ‘Ala Bang May Utak sa Council; and the crowd favorite, Your Face is an Ordinance

Last April 9, the Filipino Freethinkers (FF) helped kick some ideological ass at the second protest versus the infamous Ayala Alabang Barangay Ordinance 01. Our placards were a hit the second we walked up to the village’s Madrigal Gate, lending a good bit of snark to the morning’s events.

Keep Xerez out of my Cervix; Abstinence Ain’t Valid

The protest kicked off with a lot of chanting among villagers and non-villagers. It was a heartening mix of people–upper, middle, and lower class alike…

Jesus! Give Us Some Privacy; CBCP Checklist: Delay RH Bill, Oppress Women, Protect Child Molesters, Pass Ordinance

united in their stand against the barangay council’s blatant violation of church-state separation and their outright mangling of the truth regarding reproductive health.

Alliance Against Vaginas; Modern Dei Fascists

Kenneth, FF’s RH Bill Committee Head and a member of Silly People’s Improv Theater (SPIT), was especially happy that day…

Thespian titillation at its finest

…after having met Broadway star and outspoken RH ally Lea Salonga.

The ironically-named “Team Unity,” composed of the barangay council members responsible for the ordinance

Apart from the chanting, villagers also encouraged motorists to honk their disapproval of the ordinance…

Honk if You are with Us!

…which many motorists did!

The chanting was soon followed by a brief string of speeches from some pro-RH personalities, such as Jay Ignacio, whose footage of the anti-ordinance villagers’ meetings and the latest ordinance hearing have made the rounds online…

…former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral…

…Lea Salonga…

…Peter Wallace, one of the most prominent foreign businessmen in the country…

…Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) Chair Elizabeth Angsioco…

…and Dr. Guy Claudio, Director of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women’s Studies, Senior Faculty Adviser of FF-UP Diliman; co-founder of the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, prominent member of the Akbayan Party List…

Word up.

…and the person responsible for The Most Awesome Pic Evar.

The following day, FF banded together for its fortnightly meetup, which generated one of the liveliest discussions we’ve had in a while. This came as no surprise, however…

…thanks to the day’s main topics: Medication to Boost Your Morality, and Rights for Ugly People.

Kenneth is an Episcopalian, as evidenced by his shirt

Even Kenneth made sure to attend the meetup, despite the understandable aftershock of having met Kim/Eponine/Fantine/Jasmine/Mulan in the flesh.

In the end, whether rallying on the streets or engaging in discourse, the Freethinkers know how to make good use of the typical weekend–sans drugs and violence!

Although moments like this one can’t be avoided. Let’s call it an occupational hazard.

Photos courtesy of Garrick Bercero, Jeiel Aranal, and Patrick Charles Rigonan

Posted in Media, Meetup, Pictures, Politics, Recap, Religion, Science, Society5 Comments

Lying for a Cause (part 2)

Lying for a Cause (part 2)

Cherry pciking image from http://outofthestormnews.com/2010/07/22/louisiana-continues-to-improve-punts-cherry-picking-restrictions/The article “Lying for a Cause” generated a response from the creator of the anti-RH video, the core paragraphs of which are as follows:

In the said article, they accused us of purposely lying because in the video was a picture of a small kid being vaccinated. The video subtitle said it was sterilization and they point out that the picture was taken from another article regarding swine flu (?) and they go on ranting about this mistake, and how sterilizations are about vasectomy and ligations. They therefore concluded that we lied.

First of all, it is a given that I used pictures from all over the internet. Is this how Freethinkers are supposed to think? Cherry-pick on a small issue that is virtually a non-issue? That’s just shows the intellectual void between your ears. By focusing on that small point, they missed the larger point of the video. You miss the forest for the trees. But hey, let’s not stop them from doing their thing. They’re freethinkers after all. That is how they think.

Lastly, the article pointed out vasectomies and ligations as ways of sterilizations. Haven’t they heard of vaccines that were deliberately sterilized people? Try visiting this and read up: http://www.whale.to/m/sterile.html

Anti-RH groups have consistently hammered on artificial contraception as their main issue against reproductive health. Female sterilization is the most popular method of artificial contraception worldwide (20% use) and ranks second here in the Philippines (10% use). Opponents of RH should know what they are opposing. Sterilization, tubal ligation and vasectomy are not esoteric procedures. If the video’s creator thinks that not knowing what he is opposing is “virtually a non-issue”, I do hope responsible members of his group will tell him otherwise.

Besides the cherry-picking defense, the video’s creator came up with a bolder counterpoint: that there are vaccines that deliberately sterilize people. This claim is dangerous to infants and mothers and deserves a longer response.

First let’s tackle the source. Whale.to is a conspiracy theory site. It gave rise to Scopie’s Law which states: “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses the argument immediately, and gets you laughed out of the room.” Others have written extensively on the website which you can read here and here, or you can simply browse www.whale.to and judge for yourself the general credibility of the site. This article’s point is more on the anti-RH video, specifically these two contradictory claims:

Anti-RH video says: “In 1916, Margaret Sanger formed Planned Parenthood. She believed in racial purity and targeted Black People. Adolf Hitler eventually adopted Sanger’s Eugenics… and killed more than 4 million Jews.”

Whale.to says: “There isn’t any evidence for homicidal gas chambers, only gas shelters or disinfection chambers to kill lice that spread Typhus (hence the use of Zyklon B), a major cause of death at the time and the reason for all the bodies seen in the mass graves at Belsen, that were used to convince people of Nazi ‘death camps.’ The gas chamber myth can easily be seen in the absurdity of the morgues that are passed off as gas chambers at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, and in the actual mechanics of using gas to kill humans (see Mechanics of Gassing Gas chambers). There also isn’t any written evidence for a policy of genocide known as the ‘Final Solution’.”

If the video’s creator thinks whale.to is credible enough to support his bold claim on vaccines that sterilize people, will he also believe the site’s extensive denial of Nazi death camps and drop his Sanger-Hitler-genocide argument? Or will he just admit his mistake on the sterilization-vaccination link? (Before answering, he may also want to examine first articles in the site that touch on Catholicism such as this one The Homosexual Colonization of The Catholic Church and this page Popes.)


This photo was used in the anti-RH video with the caption “…and killed more than 4 million Jews.” On the other hand, whale.to claims in the photo caption that these are victims of typhus and starvation.


Caption of the anti-RH video: “The rest of the world have adopted an RH bill in one form or another. These countries eventually embraced abortion and the culture of death.” At the whale.to site where this photo is also posted, the topmost part of the page says: “Belsen photographs … Typhus victims were stripped after death in order to burn the clothing and destroy the typhus-bearing lice.”


Now on to the video’s message that contraception leads to genocide or is genocide. One test of this claim is to look at the Jewish people—the victims of Hitler’s genocide—and their current handling of contraception.

Genocide is punishable with death in Israel. Similar to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Israel defines the crime as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious (hereinafter referred to as ‘group’), as such:

(1)   killing members of the group;

(2)   causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(3)   inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part;

(4)   imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(5)   forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Yet, despite Act number 4 above being defined as genocide, contraception is legal and practiced in Israel, with 30% using IUDs, 13% pills, 4% condoms and 5% other modern methods. The key word in Act number 4 is “imposing”—making people use birth control against their will. Contraception based on free choice is legal and accepted.

Another test of the contraception-leads-to-genocide claim is to look at disparities in the use of modern methods in the Philippines. If less powerful groups are being targeted for destruction through contraception as part of a eugenics agenda, then we should see higher rates of contraceptive use among these groups. But the opposite trend is quite apparent—more powerful groups use more contraceptives (see table below). Instead of evidence of genocide, what we have are signs that marginalized people do not have equitable access to contraception.

Percentage Current Use of Modern Contraceptives
Richest region (NCR) – 32% Poorest region (ARMM) – 10%
With college education – 36% With no education – 9%
Highest wealth quintile – 33% Lowest wealth quintile – 26%
Highest wealth quintile
using female sterilization – 12%
Lowest wealth quintile
using female sterilization – 4%
Source: 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, p. 56

 

Forcible sex is rape. Forcing others to follow your sexual practices violates a host of civil rights. Sex between consenting adults is accepted by society. Similar norms are applicable to contraception. Imposing birth control is genocide. Imposing Vatican-approved methods—as was done in Manila by ex-mayor Lito Atienza of Pro-Life Philippinesis a violation of human rights. The freedom to choose a family planning method and government services to realize the choice is a fine policy, and is at the core of the current Reproductive Health bill.

(Next: Erroneous claims on vaccines and abortion/sterilization and the deadly consequences for infants and women)

Posted in Society34 Comments

Sanctity of "Sanctity"?

Sanctity of "Sanctity"?

A news article at The Daily Tribune narrated a story about a woman having been conned by a “fixer” who was supposed to ensure her marriage annulment. The victim, who has been separated from her husband for about four years, paid the suspect Php85,000 in exchange for the suspect’s services to facilitate a “sure thing” and “hassle-free” annulment ruling. When the victim received the document for a favorable court ruling, she was very happy as this would enable her to proceed with her new life with her British boyfriend. However, her happiness was cut short upon learning that the court ruling document she received was a fake.

I see a couple of tragedies here. First, we have a victim who lost a huge sum of money from a scam. Second, we have someone whose hopes for having a new and promising life get crushed. While losing hard-earned money from a scam is a painful experience, I feel that having one’s hope crushed compounded with a feeling of helplessness is even more devastating. The Philippine government is certainly not helping out in preventing such tragedies from happening with its zealous Family Code. The Code aims to preserve the “sanctity of marriage” but when a marriage is irreparably broken what is the point of being confined in a mere nominal union if not to merely preserve the sanctity of “sanctity” itself?

Cavite Congresswoman Lani Mercado-Revilla said that people should work in preserving the holiness and purity of marriage. Marikina Congressman Marcelino Teodoro expressed his surprise upon learning of an increasing number of annulment filing in the country. Teodoro said that the figure: 

“…is an alarming percentage for a predominant Catholic country. There is a need to strengthen the law on the family as an inviolable institution.”

 

He further states:

“The problem with couples getting married is the lack of informed decisions which should have been provided by the seminars required before marriage…What couples fail to realize before getting married are the legal implications of their actions as husband and wife which entails deep thought and understanding. These obligations stretch out from co-habiting, obligations of the man to woman and vice versa as well as supporting the family. These are vital legal obligations that must be fully understood by couples and strictly informed to them by legal and Church-related seminars… Annulment should not always be the option. We must not relax the rules on annulment but make the provisions of the Family Code be clearly informed before entering the marriage. Marriage should not be done out of impulse or mere feelings but both parties should be psychologically prepared and legally informed for the lifelong commitment that it entails.”

 

I feel that it is this kind of thinking that is to blame. While Teodoro and Mercado-Revilla may believe that marriage is a holy sacrament according to their religious inclinations, preserving this religious ideal may not spell justice and promote happiness to the many lives trapped in an irreparably broken union. Granting that it is an assumption on my part to assert that a marriage involved in an annulment application is irreparable, I submit that it is also an assumption for the respectable lawmakers to say that the root of the problem stems from couples’ lack of psychological preparation and lack informed decisions for what is meant to be a lifelong commitment. We simply are not gods to have omniscience and omnipotence to ensure and maintain order in our lives all the time.

Is it a sin or is it wrong to have a marriage annulled by estranged couples? Why is this so wrong? Is it because of the perception of the “sanctity” of marriage? What does “sanctity” mean, anyway? When the marriage itself becomes a problem where can we find this “sanctity”? It may have been forgotten in bed the very moment the actual “sin” was committed!

I see marriage as a contract between two persons to love and honor one another till death parts them. Suppose that a man and a woman get married and everything is all nice and happy. Then after 10 years things in their lives have changed. Let’s say the man changed. Let’s suppose that he refuses to protect his wife; that he abuses, assaults, and tramples upon the woman he wed. Is his wife under any obligation to him? He has violated the contract. And despite all the counseling and intervention done to make the marriage work, the woman is still being hurt and tormented. Don’t we see that the husband has failed to live up to the oath in the contract, to love and honor his wife? In addition to physical injury and mental anguish, the kids are being affected by the constant violence they are seeing from their father. Is the wife under any obligation to the husband in that case? Is she bound by the contract the husband has broken? Must the wife live with the husband for the husband’s sake? Must the wife live with the husband and stay married to him for the sake of a religious ideal? Should we insist upon a wife to remain with a husband who torments her? Even married women have a right to personal security, don’t they? Do they lose their right of self-preservation the moment they say “I do” in the wedding ceremony? Does the woman have the right to seek a new life and a new happiness? Do we picture God, with His infinite wisdom and compassion, insisting that His child remain the wife of a cruel man? If our honorable lawmakers insist that marriage is a sacred inviolable union under God, even for a marriage that threatens the happiness and self-preservation of an individual, then I can only wonder why God could be so cruel as to limit and permit a person to live in a living hell. It’s easy to say that “God will find a way to make the marriage work if you just have faith” as well as “Having faith in God will make changes in the cruel partner’s ways, thereby saving the marriage”. It’s easy to say that those who opt to annul their marriage do not have faith and are immoral and so on. It is easy to condemn and judge these people but it is another story to actually feel their pain by walking in their shoes.

Those who oppose relaxing the annulment requirements or any bills with a shade of divorce may invoke religious beliefs or even quote Biblical passages to support their contention. That is fine and dandy and they have every right to express themselves. However, it is quite ironic that the only time Jesus was known to have actually written anything was the time when he wrote something in the sand when he challenged any sinless accusers of an adulteress to cast the first stone. Do all of our honorable lawmakers know how it actually feels like to be helplessly trapped in a miserable married life? Perhaps some of them do. But if they choose to remain in such a life, what makes it right for them to dictate how others, who perhaps don’t have the same means and privilege, ought to pursue their own new happiness and self-preservation?

To our Philippine lawmakers, please read the writings on the wall. Please look at the facts and please look at pragmatism once in a while instead of being overly fixated on cultural or even religious beliefs that are just simply too archaic and out of touch with the present reality. Laws are made for the sake of promoting and accommodating justice, not for the sake of promoting and accommodating laws.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society10 Comments

Do objective moral values exist?

“If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist,” says an apologist. This will soon be followed by the contention that objective moral values do exist, leading to the inevitable conclusion that, well, God exists.

From my discussions with the resident theists in the FF Forum, I have come to understand moral values as the rightness/wrongness of certain human actions, while Collins English Dictionary defines objective as “existing independently of perception or an individual’s conceptions.”

The famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig defines it even more narrowly:

To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.

I think the fallacy of Craig’s argument lies in his use of the word objective. Craig says that objective moral values exist whether anyone believes them or not, and by anyone, that should include God, otherwise it would be special pleading. However, moral values themselves do not exist inherently with human actions; moral values exist only when someone judges the actions and establishes moral values on them. If moral values are established by God, they are only objective as far as man is concerned but they are actually subjective from the point of view of God.

And that’s why I don’t think it’s right to call the moral values allegedly established by God as objective moral values since they cannot exist independently of God’s perception or judgment. They should be called divine moral values instead, but I think I know why Craig would refuse to call them as such. That’s because his moral argument would turn into something like this:

1. If God does not exist, divine moral values do not exist

2. Divine moral values exist

3. Therefore, God exists

But the problem with the new Premise 2 is that it’s easier to refute than the original “objective moral values exist” because skeptics would then demand a list of moral values unmistakably coming from God, and I’m sure the Bible would fail miserably. (As for the existence of objective moral values, however, Craig doesn’t seem to offer much support apart from saying that the Holocaust would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and that we intuitively perceive certain acts like rape and torture to be wrong, but instead challenged skeptics that they could not prove that physical reality exists either and that even as one could only rely on his own sense perception to perceive reality, no one in his right mind would deny that objective reality exists, so it should follow that no one in his right mind would also deny that objective moral values exist even if he only had his own moral perception to rely on.)

I posted this objection on the FF Forum along with the Euthyphro dilemma (does God command something because it’s good or is something good because God commands it?) and got very interesting answers from our resident theists who call themselves Miguel and XIII. What they are practically saying is that God does not command the good nor likes the good but that God is the good, and being good, he cannot command something that is not good. I took the liberty of refining their argument to make it more relevant to objective moral values (Miguel and XIII, if you think I did not give justice to your views you may rebuke me at the comments section):

1. Objective moral values are moral values that exist whether anyone – including God – perceives them or not.

2. God is inherently good, so he cannot perceive something evil as good and vice-versa.

3. So even if moral values are directly dependent on God’s perception, such perception is not subjective because it is anchored on God’s goodness, which cannot be separated from him, and therefore the moral values established by God are ultimately grounded on his objective goodness.

While the conclusion seems logical, I’m going to try to refute Premise 2, that God cannot perceive something evil as good. In the Old Testament, God established extremely negative moral values on homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, and losing one’s virginity before marriage – and positive moral values on killing homosexualsSabbath workers and non-virgin brides. And in both the Old and New Testaments, God/Jesus never established a negative moral value on slavery but actually condoned it. So in order to honestly say that “God is the good,” one would have to agree with the above moral values established by God.

Otherwise, the moral argument will be gored by the second horn of the Euthyphro dilemma (something is good because God commands it, making the good arbitrary), refuting the premise that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, because objective moral values are supposed to exist even if everyone – including God – does not agree with them. And that’s why I believe that not only do objective moral values not exist but the term “objective moral values” itself is an oxymoron, because moral values will always be subjective to the mind (whether man’s or God’s) that perceives them.

[Continued on The closest thing to objective moral values]

Posted in Religion15 Comments

Lying for a Cause

Lying for a Cause

A video entitled “RH BILL – Filipinos For Life Oppose the RH Bill!” uploaded by www.filipinosforlife.com on YouTube made a hilarious mistake about a contraceptive method (or so I thought at first). The video claimed:

In 1974, Henry Kissinger and the United States saw the need to curb the population of 13 developing countries including ours. Planned Parenthood and UNFPA went to these countries and in exchange for foreign aid… sterilizations, condoms, intrauterine device and oral contraceptives.

With the word “sterilizations“, the video showed a picture of kids in line and a young girl screaming and being given an injection (see screen capture below).

A young girl forcibly sterilized to curb population growth—who would not be furious at this scene? Except that a minimal effort at research will show that sterilizations in family planning refer to tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men, done through surgical procedures and not through injections.

Where did the photo come from? How can this anti-RH group make such a silly mistake? With the obvious guess that the photo is about vaccination for kids, I found the source of the photo with a single Google image search.

After seeing that the source of the photo has the word “vaccination” in the article’s headline, I have to retract my initial “silly mistake” reaction. The group behind the video wants to shock and anger its audience into an anti-RH position, and simply lied to further its cause. Now let’s wait and see if they will change their video and stick to speaking the truth.

Posted in Society40 Comments

April 10 (Sunday) Anson's Starbucks Meetup


Location: Starbucks at Anson’s across the Podium (Google map)
Date: Sunday, April 10, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Hey folks! We’re going home again for our meetup! We’re all fired up after our general meeting, a lot of work ahead of us but our future looks great!

Discussion Topics
– General Meeting Recap
– A Drug for Morality?
– Rights for Ugly People

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Congo Grill (see map). 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 or comment so we can contact you.

* 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.

Posted in Others0 Comments

RCC: Attacking our bigotry violates our human rights!

Proof once again that the Catholic Church is a big, spineless bully: Attempting to play the victim when people start calling out their anti-gay bullshit.

People who criticise gay sexual relations for religious or moral reasons are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views, a Vatican diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples. But those who express these views are faced with “a disturbing trend,” he said.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex,” he told the current session of the Human Rights Council.

“When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature … they are stigmatised, and worse — they are vilified, and prosecuted.

“These attacks are violations of fundamental human rights and cannot be justified under any circumstances,” Tomasi said.

What pisses me off the most is that while this news report was written in the context of the church’s activities in Europe, it is also an issue I find close to home; One I literally found in my own backyard.

As you’ve seen in my previous article, the RCC has gone as far as attempting to indoctrinate innocent young minds with their brand of hatred, while their leaders have had the audacity to demand that matters such as women’s welfare should not be forced on their schools, because it would infringe on their religious “moral” teachings.

It’s a blatant double standard that’s become a signature of RCC apologists, and the more they try to play this game, the more I am convinced that these bigots deserve no respect.

They are, of course well within their rights to talk about their stance on homosexuality. But the same rules apply to us too. And while they may bitch and moan, they can’t invoke “blashpemy” or religious discrimination when we decide that enough is enough – at least not anymore – and actively call out these shameless motherfuckers for the cretins they are.

Posted in Personal, Religion, Society19 Comments

Atheists of Color

Greta Cristina has made a list of prominent atheists of color to reflect the diversity of the atheist community:

If you’re helping to organize an atheist conference, and you want your conference to be more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? If you’re an atheist writer or activist, and you want your quotations/ citations/ blogroll/ etc. to be more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? If you’re simply part of the atheist community/ movement, and you want to be more familiar with the work of a wider range of atheists, a range that’s more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? Hopefully, this list will help.

By the way, person of color is used primarily in the United States, so here’s a brief definition from Wikipedia:

a term used, primarily in the United States, to describe all people who are not white. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism. People of color was introduced as a preferable replacement to both non-white and minority, which are also inclusive, because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority frequently carries a subordinate connotation.[1] Style guides for writing from American Heritage,[2] the Stanford Graduate School of Business,[3] Mount Holyoke College,[4] recommend the term over these alternatives. It may also be used with other collective categories of people such as students of color or women of color.

Aside from getting more diversity in the atheist movement, Greta wants to address the impression (at least in the US) that most, if not all, atheists are white Americans. She addresses the issues and problems related to this in two separate posts.

As far as I know, there are two Filipinos on that list: me and Maggie Ardiente, director of development and communications, American Humanist Association; editor of Humanist Network News (AHA’s weekly e-zine). Filipino Freethinkers is also included on the list of organizations.

If you know of an individual or organization that should be on that list, please help Greta out by leaving the details in the comment section of that post.

Posted in Society3 Comments

“Bishops agree sex abuse rules”

Despite being a silly headline, this is good news coming from the Roman Catholic church’s sex abuse cases in Ireland. Because of the rampant abuse in Ireland and the church’s utter failure to address the issue, they are coming up with standard rules for how diocese’ should handle sex abuse cases.

Under [previous] rules, a bishop or the head of a religious order effectively has the power of deciding whether a cleric should be forced to take priestly leave, when accused of a sex offence. In practice, this has meant that different bishops and heads of orders have applied widely different standards and interpretations when dealing with abuse accusations.

In some cases, bishops have forced priests to stand aside after relatively questionable accusations while, in other cases, bishops have allowed priests to remain in full ministry for long periods after a number of complaints had been made against them.

The bishops are understood to have accepted a set of new proposals made by Ian Elliott, the chief executive of the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC).

This is a step up from the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s usual move of sweeping sexual offenses of their clergy under the rug. A whole lot better than getting priests shuffled around with no punishment brought upon them, leaving them free to sexually prey on more people.

Hopefully these reforms will continue internationally so that less lives are destroyed by sexual abuse.

Posted in Others3 Comments

HIV Adoptions: A Positive Outlook

Whoopi Goldberg with Kami, Sesame Street's HIV-positive muppet

Huffington Post recently published an uplifting story: adoption of HIV-positive children is rising in the United States.

While most societies (including the Philippines) are still fearful and biased toward HIV-positive people, there are a growing number of parents in the U.S. opting for so-called “HIV adoptions.”

Most of the children are orphans who would otherwise have died of neglect in their countries of origin. Gedeleine, a Haitian orphan rescued after the January 2010 earthquake, was flown to Florida with a group of other children. Tim and Annette Franklin of Vermont later adopted her. While they have biological children of their own, the Franklins feel their adoption was such a success that they are now considering adopting an HIV-positive Ethiopian boy.

74-year old Margaret Fleming of Chicago, IL, has nine adopted children, three of them HIV-positive. She stated that she “can’t think of a more significant way to a make an impact” than to adopt the children.

While the stigma of HIV still lingers in society, these parents are open about their children’s condition. For Tim Franklin it is nothing to be ashamed of. “By being secretive, we would be contributing to the stigma,” he said. Ryan and Stacy Vander Zwaag even briefed their four biological sons on the condition of their new HIV-positive sister, Luisa, a 2-year old from Colombia.

What makes these parents’ choices more admirable is their commitment to their children’s long-term development. These children will endure a lifetime of medication, and there’s the need to address their sexual development when they mature. Such is the case with the Ethiopian boy the Franklins hope to adopt.

The arrival of 13-year-old Epherem will speed up the timetable for the Franklins to tackle one of the other distinct challenges of HIV adoptions – having frank discussions with the child about the impact of their status on any future sexual relationships, and the need to be honest with any partner.

The mere idea of a child in the family being adopted is still taboo in our country’s conservative sectors. Adopting one with HIV may then seem outlandish. The story makes one yearn for our country to be more open, and considerate of the conditions of our HIV-positive brothers and sisters, no matter how old they are.

While HIV and other sexually transmittable diseases are still global and societal issues that need proper solutions, it is inspiring to see people embrace the idea that people do not embody the diseases they carry. They are still entitled to—and full of—the value of a good life.

Featured Link:

Project Hopeful: The Resource on HIV Adoptions

Posted in Society0 Comments

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