Archive | October, 2011

Faith Fails, Science Saves

It is apparently controversial to say that science will be able to tell us what is important in life. Science, as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said, tells us how the heavens go, while religion tells us how to go to heaven. And for the most consequential things, it seems that science must yield to faith when considering what it means to have a good life.

But there is something gravely wrong with this kind of thinking. What it says is that reason cannot be used to distinguish right from wrong, happiness from suffering. But, even if reason, evidence, and methodical thought fail to illuminate our understanding of what constitutes a life worth living, what are our alternatives?

The mere suggestion that science can determine how we ought to behave understandably irks religious conservatives. For the faithful, this is an act of war against religion, which has always claimed for itself the realm of ethics and human values. That this assumption of moral authority still holds sway, when religions have failed in accurately representing practically anything in the world, is baffling. If religious traditions have been completely wrong about what goes on in the universe, why would they suddenly be unquestionably correct about what goes on in the mind?

A morality that is not based on authoritarian precepts is merely the acceptance that the world is not black and white and actions can have unforeseen consequences. And a science of morality would have to agree with what religious demagogues have been saying all along: there are moral truths to be found and there are objectively wrong ways to act. It seems especially strange then that, while they decry moral relativism, conservatives try to explain away the disgusting depravities in the Bible by calling for them to be placed in “context.” This precisely argues for a relativist morality—justifying mass murders (by Yahweh himself), rapes, and social outlooks by the culture at the time.

Saying that there are objectively good acts means only that there is a difference between an action that can bring about happiness and another that results in suffering. We can be right or wrong on whether homophobia is conducive to well-being. We can be right or wrong on whether misogyny is a good principle on which we should run our society. Our beliefs regarding these matters are, essentially, claims about conscious experience—how the brain responds to stimuli and how well-being is realized in the brain. And in this realm of facts, as in all others, there is no reason to put religious claims on a pedestal.

As we study more about the brain, our opinions on ethics will become increasingly constrained by psychological research and neuroscience. Findings such as those on the effect of corporal punishment on children and on the structural differences between the brains of normal and psychopathic human beings will change how we relate to each other and how we organize our societies. Our traditional views on parental roles and on how responsible people are for their actions may be altered as we continue to investigate how the evolved mind interacts with its surroundings. We might find that our justice system is not conducive to a peaceful society. We might find that our economic system inevitably leads to abuse and suffering. We might find possibilities for moral awareness that were never available to our pre-scientific ancestors or contemporary religious leaders.

There is public trust in science for many things that we’d never look to religion for answers, such as in believing in corrective glasses over faith healing. But, why is it that when the stakes are highest, when we are considering lives and the happiness of conscious human beings, science, reason, and logic take a back seat? The question on what makes a life worth living is, to say the least, hard to solve, but there are answers: based on facts and not on the musings of men who thought that all animals used to be herbivores.

Not only is science considered impotent when contemplating the deeper questions in life, it is generally believed that rationality ruins romance.

Consider the classic challenge against atheists. When questioning the existence of God, atheists are invariably asked to compare God with love. That is, love is said to be intangible and it admits of no rational inquiry, but we know it’s there. We can just feel it. While the analogy is false (love is realized in the brain as the sum total of specific neural activity and, thus, exists in the natural world), it reveals a common perception that scientific scrutiny is incompatible with an awareness for wonder in this world.

But that is clearly not true. The chemical process that results in feelings of love is itself a thing to behold and appreciate. That there is something material underlying our affection for others or art takes nothing away from our experience. And here we can expand our moral circle beyond even just humans.

Since our capacity for love and moral action evolved (not to say that morality should reflect the cruelty of Darwinian natural selection), it necessarily implies that other animals have similar, if not identical, capacities for compassion and cooperation. And here is where Christianity, in particular, is extremely impoverished. That humans (and specific kinds of men) are set apart by God is nothing short of speciesism and bigotry. Though there are cognitive differences between humans and other animals, that is what differentiates our moral responsibility to each other and not the entitlement assumed to be bestowed by a creator.

A non-supernatural outlook emphasizes the importance of our relationships in the here and now. We should thank doctors for healing us; we should thank farmers for providing for us food; we should thank our friends and families for comfort and companionship. These are the people who should matter to us, and attributing our happiness to something that isn’t there steals away from what other people rightly deserve.

Many believe that one day the world will end and that this would be the greatest thing that could ever possibly happen. Every action we do here in life is meaningless outside the goal of eternal paradise. This nihilism is why we must rid ourselves of religion wholesale. How could we ever endeavor to build a lasting society when our neighbors secretly yearn for doom and destruction, leaving all us suckers who never bought into religion to burn in perpetual torment. These are beliefs that are not conducive to mental health, let alone peace and human flourishing.

Science allows us to comprehend the world around us in a way our ancestors never could. Still, many choose to bind themselves to the follies of the past, relying not on evidence but on the servile desire to let other men think for themselves. It is a shame, when available to us now are methods and insights that will allow us to not only have greater knowledge, but a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what it means to be alive and how we must act.

The acceptance that all that there is is this natural world requires from us the understanding that there is no delaying justice to an afterlife. There is no point in deferring mercy and charity to a final judgement. If we yearn for anything that would resemble heaven, our only choice is to create it here.

Posted in Religion, Science22 Comments

How to Celebrate Halloween the Christian Way

The CBCP released a missive yesterday accusing Halloween of being ‘anti-Christian’.

In said announcement, Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, CBCP media director, lamented how some Filipinos celebrate All Saints Day as a holiday “of ghouls and witches.” I don’t know about you, but people I know celebrate Halloween that way, not All Saint’s Day. Perhaps the monsignor’s friends and family are in the habit of going to the cemetery dressed up as characters from Twilight but the rest of the world is content to do their merry-making a day before.

 “All Saints’ Day was intended to enhance the feast of the saints but it morphed into something else… no longer about saints but evil,” laments Msgr. Quitorio. “Let’s celebrate it meaningfully because we would be emulating the saints. We can do whatever we want for as long as you don’t fall down to that level that would be glorifying the evil one,” he said.

 For once, I agree with what the CBCP has to say. Glorifying the works of the evil one, aka. Stephanie Meyers’s ghoulish Twilight series is just plain tasteless…

 If you’ve missed it before, read my vampire rants here.

So in an effort to put the “Saint” back in “All Saint’s Day”, I’ve decided to give Msgr. Quitorio a helping hand by coming up with list of helpful suggestions on how to dress up as your favorite Catholic Saint to really get in the spirit of All Saint’s Day.

Saint Agatha of Sicily – The Saint with Regenerating Boobs

 

Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. An apparition of Saint Peter cured her… Saint Agatha is often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter, in which Agatha sweetly contemplates the breasts on a standing salver held in her hand. The shape of her amputated breasts, especially as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and as the patron saint of bakers, whose loaves were blessed at her feast day. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.

Props / Costume: A plate with a pair of boobs


Saint Agnes of Rome – Hairy Virgin Martyr

 

The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and, on Agnes’ refusal, he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind.

Props / Costume: Wig/hair-extensions all over your girly-parts


Saint Apollonia – The Toothless Saint

“According to legend, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered… These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words. Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire, but miracolously the fire did not do harm her. She ended up decapitated.

 … the major part of her relics were preserved in the former church of St. Apollonia at Rome, her head at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, her arms at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, parts of her jaw in St. Basil’s, and other relics are in the Jesuit church at Antwerp, in St. Augustine’s at Brussels, in the Jesuit church at Mechlin, in St. Cross at Liege, in the treasury of the cathedral of Porto, and in several churches at Cologne. These relics consist in some cases of a solitary tooth or a splinter of bone.”

Props / Costume: False Teeth, Pincers, Ceramic Tooth


Bartholomew the Apostle – The Skinless Saint

 

“Christian tradition has three stories about Bartholomew’s death: “One speaks of his being kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and cast into the sea to drown. Another account states that he was crucified upside down, and another says that he was skinned alive and beheaded in Albac or Albanopolis”,near Bashkale, Turkey.

 The account of Bartholomew being skinned alive is the most represented in works of art, and consequently Bartholomew is often shown with a large knife, holding his own skin (as in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment), or both.”

Props / Costume: Full-body suit of the musculatory system


Saint Brendan of Clonfert – The Saint and the Sea Monster

“St Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to The Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator. Many versions exist, that tell of how he set out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixty pilgrims searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to have been Saint Malo, the namesake of Saint-Malo. If it happened, this would have occurred sometime between 512-530 AD, before his travel to the island of Great Britain. On his trip, Brendan is supposed to have seen St. Brendan’s Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encountered a sea monster, an adventure he shared with his contemporary St. Columba. The most commonly illustrated adventure is his landing on an island which turns out to be a giant sea monster called Jasconius or Jascon. This too, has its parallels in other stories, not only in Irish mythology but in other traditions, from Sinbad the Sailor to Pinocchio.”

Props / Costume: A whale or giant sea-monster


Saint Christopher – The Dog-Headed Saint

 

“The German bishop and poet Walter of Speyer portrayed St. Christopher as a giant of a cynocephalic species in the land of the Chananeans (the “canines” of Canaan in the New Testament) who ate human flesh and barked. Eventually, Christopher met the Christ child, regretted his former behavior, and received baptism. He, too, was rewarded with a human appearance, whereupon he devoted his life to Christian service and became an athlete of God, one of the soldier-saints.”

Props / Costume: A dog-head mask


Saint Denis – The Talking Head

“Saint Denis is a Christian martyr and saint. In the third century, he was Bishop of Paris. He was martyred in connection with the Decian persecution of Christians, shortly after A.D. 250. After his head was chopped off, Denis is said to have picked it up and walked ten kilometres, preaching a sermon the entire way, making him one of many cephalophores in hagiology.”

Props / Costume: A decapitated head, preferably one that talks

 

Saint Drogo – Patron Saint of Ugly People

 

Image credit: http://adamdavisart.blogspot.com

“During a pilgrimage he was stricken with unsightly bodily affliction. He became so terribly deformed that he frightened the townspeople. In his twenties, a cell was built for him to protect the local citizens of the village from his appearance.”

Props / Costume: A sack over your head or Quasimodo make-up


Saint Edmund – The Talking Head, Part 2

“Local legend has is that, after being routed in battle against the Danes, King Edmund of East Anglia hid under the Goldbrook bridge. The reflection of his golden spurs glinting in the water revealed his hiding place to a newly wed couple. They gave away his position to the Danes who promptly captured Edmund and demanded he renounce his faith. He refused and was tied to a nearby oak tree. After whipping him, the Danes shot spears at him until he was entirely covered with their missiles – like the bristles of a hedgehog. Even then he would not forsake Christ and so was beheaded and the head was thrown into the woods.

 His severed head was thrown into the wood. Day and night as Edmund’s followers went seeking, calling out “Where are you, friend?” the head would answer, “Here, here, here,” until at last, “a great wonder”, they found Edmund’s head in the possession of a grey wolf, clasped between its paws. “They were astonished at the wolf’s guardianship. The wolf, sent by God to protect the head from the animals of the forest, was starving but did not eat the head for all the days it was lost. After recovering the head, the villagers marched back to the kingdom, praising God and the wolf that served him. The wolf walked beside them as if tame all the way to the town, after which it turned around and vanished into the forest.”

Saint Lucy – Eye-ay-eye!

 

“She consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork. In another version, Lucy’s would-be husband admired her eyes, so she tore them out and gave them to him, saying, “Now let me live to God”.

The oldest record of her story comes from the fifth-century accounts of saints’ lives. By the 6th century, her story was widespread, so that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I. At the opening of the 8th century Aldhelm included a brief account of her life among the virgins praised in De laude virginitatis, and in the following century the Venerable Bede included her in his Martyrology.In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy’s eyes are gouged out prior to her execution. In art, her eyes sometimes appear on a tray that she is holding.”

Props / Costume: A plate of eyeballs


Saint Margaret of Antioch – The Lady and the Dragon

“According to the Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived in the country, which is now modern day Turkey, with a foster-mother keeping sheep. Olybrius, the praeses orientis (Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East), offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards.”

Props / Costume: A dragon


Saint Mercurius – The Original PinHead

 

“The Emperor called Mercurius and asked him, “Is it true that you refused to worship the idols who helped us during the war?”

Mercurius answered with courage:

Your Majesty, the victory was not due to dumb idols made by human hands. It was accomplished by the grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who sent His archangel to give me a sword and strengthened me. I cannot deny my God and worship statues.

The Emperor was infuriated, and tried to persuade him to no avail. Mercurius’ faith was unshaken. He stripped him of his ranks and ordered him to be thrown in jail.

That did not stop the saint from praying and singing hymns in prison. During the night, Michael the Archangel appeared to him and told him: “Do not be afraid of the tortures. Confess your faith in Jesus publicly because He is the only One able to save you”.

The next morning, Decius’ soldiers hung the saint between two poles so that they could hit him with sharp nails. They tried also to cut his body with sharp blades and burn it, but Mercurius endured all these tortures in silence.

Props / Costume: A PinHead mask


Saint Perpetua and Felicity – Mauled to Death by a Cow

 

“Felicitas, who was eight months pregnant, was apprehensive that she would not be permitted to suffer martyrdom with the others, since the law forbade the execution of pregnant women, but two days before the games she gave birth to a daughter, who was adopted by a Christian woman. On the day of the games, the five were led into the amphitheatre. At the demand of the crowd they were first scourged; then a boar, a bear, and a leopard, were set on the men, and a wild cow on the women. Wounded by the wild animals, they gave each other the kiss of peace and were then put to the sword.”

Props / Costume: A mad cow


Saint Quiricus and Julietta – Massacred Mother and Child

“According to legend, Julietta and her three-year (sometimes described as three-month) old Cyricus had fled to Tarsus and were identified as Christians. Julietta was tortured, and her three year old son, being held by the governor of Tarsus, scratched the governor’s face and was killed by being thrown down some steps. Julietta did not weep but celebrated the fact that her son had earned the crown of martyrdom. In anger, the governor then decreed that Julietta’s sides should be ripped apart with hooks, and then she was beheaded. Her body, along with that of Cyricus, was flung outside the city, on the heap of bodies belonging to criminals, but the two maids rescued the corpses of the mother and child and buried them in a nearby field.

An alternative version of the story is that Julietta told the governor that his religion could not be accepted by a three year old child, whereupon Quiricus testified to his faith, and mother and child were tortured before being decapitated.”

Props / Costume: A doll of a dead baby


Saint Simon the Zealot – Saw, the Catholic version

 

“One of the original 12 disciples, “One tradition states that he traveled in the Middle East and Africa. Christian Ethiopians claim that he was crucified in Samaria, while Justus Lipsius writes that he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia.”

Props / Costume: A giant saw

.

So is there a point to all this? Perhaps the monsignor has failed to realize how Catholicm itself has acquired its fair share of legends and lore… interwoven with historical facts are elements of fantasy, magic, and all sort of ghoulish wonders… some so astounding that even the mythology of vampires and werewolves may even pale in comparison.

When a man of the cloth criticizes the public obsession with witches and wizards yet fully believes in a man who can cast spells, duel with demons, and resurrect the dead from the grave, it seems too glaring a hypocrisy.

So whether you’re Team-Edward (vampire), Team-Jacob (werewolf), or Team-Jesus (zombie-wizard)… have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Posted in Humor37 Comments

An Open Letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer

To the editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I still recall a lot of basic journalism rules from my days as writer and editor for my high school paper. One of them is that the paper’s main editorial is supposed to reflect the views of the entire staff or, at the very least, of the editorial team. A consensus is made as to what topic to feature in the piece, as well as what the paper’s stand is on the chosen issue.

 

While most of your editorials reflect—or, at least, appear to reflect—these rules, I found today’s piece on San Pedro Calungsod a bit troubling. It talks about the impending canonization of Calungsod, to whom a doctor prayed in the hopes of recovering a woman who’d been clinically dead for two hours. It then goes on to mention Christianity in the Visayas and folk Catholicism, and even dismisses secularists’ notion that Catholic feasts are “wastes of time and resources” with a few handy quotes from two National Artists for Literature. The piece then ends with the following:

“The examples of Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz should indicate that the ‘hometown’ has grown to embrace as well the globe. Both of them earned the palm of martyrdom abroad—the latter in Japan, the former in what’s now Guam. They may as well have been the first Filipino OFWs! And although they died with clerics (Calungsod with the Jesuit Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, and Lorenzo with several Dominican friars), they were laymen, an indication of how Christianity had really taken root among the Filipinos. Their martyrdom having sown and watered the seed of Christianity elsewhere, they’re veritable ambassadors and embodiments of the catholicity of the Catholic faith. They’re the Philippine Church’s gifts to universal humanity. They make us proud to be Filipinos and Christians.”

Given the above rule as to what an editorial should be, is it true that every person working for your paper (or editorial team) is a proud Catholic? Is it true that all of you decided that this issue—which affects fewer people than you think, given that not all Filipinos are serious believers, much less Catholic ones—was significant enough to be the main opinion piece, when there are quite a few other issues (OWS, MILF, GMA, etc.) to be tackled?

I kind of understand why your editorial last October 17 was on the newly-appointed Archbishop Tagle.  Our country’s government, unfortunately, tends to be swayed by the opinions of the local Catholic Church’s leaders, so making mention of the new head honcho can be justified. As Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes admitted, “He could wield more influence to spread the opposition against the [RH Bill] legislation.” This piece gives “unrepentantly secular” individuals like myself reason to be alert. (And by the way, your use of “unrepentantly” in the piece’s first sentence smacked of prejudice.)

But an editorial on some guy from Guam who magically healed a dead woman from the future by way of a doctor who closed his eyes and mumbled for help, which is a story that is not based on a shred of evidence and is only sincerely believed by some people?

Sincerely,

Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon

Posted in Personal, Religion, Society6 Comments

Re-aligning Goals and Strategy: Preparing for the 2011 FF General Assembly

We’ve come a long way since we started on February 1, 2009. In around 3 months, Filipino Freethinkers will be 3 years old. We’ve done a lot to promote reason, science, and secularism. We want to do even more, so we’re asking for your help.

We’re getting organized — or at least more organized — and we’ll be re-aligning our goals and strategy to get better results. But before we can talk about new goals and better results, let’s review what we’ve achieved so far.

Here are some highlights:

  1. We’ve spread freethought on social media through Twitter (almost 3,000 followers), Facebook (almost 3,000 group members and over 8,000 fans), and our website, which has almost a thousand posts, has been viewed more than half a million times, and has won the overall prize at the recent Globe Tatt Awards. (And don’t forget our forum, Tumblr, and YouTube pages, too.)
  2. We’ve presented the freethinker’s perspective — on secularism, skepticism, and the RH Bill — through our appearances and interviews on AM and FM radio; and both local and foreign TV.
  3. We’ve hosted more than a hundred events — meetups, forums, a film fest, and an excommunication party — in Metro Manila and Davao; and in our university chapters in UP Diliman, UP Manila, and DLSU.
  4. We’ve helped educate students on freethought and secularism, giving interviews and answering questions for homework and research papers; delivering talks and participating in panel discussions; and providing a forum for learning and discussion through our university chapters.
  5. We’ve become advocates and activists, mobilizing creative demonstrations for causes we believe in: fighting for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill and refuting irrational arguments against it; walking (and running) with our LGBT allies and distracting the bigots who bother them; reminding people to guard their freedom of speech from opponents who cry blasphemy and call for censorship.

We achieved all this keeping our original vision and mission in mind:

Vision:

Long-term: Freethinkers can live in a Philippines free from all forms of violence, discrimination, and prejudice, their rights and freedoms fully protected by a government in which their opinions are fairly and adequately represented.

Short-term: Freethinkers can easily get in touch with fellow freethinkers to enjoy online and offline activities wherever they live and whatever their cultural or socioeconomic background.

Mission:

PROMOTION: Promote freethought, science, and reason online (websites, blogs, wikis, and forums) and offline (magazine, radio, and TV) with a positive, non-adversarial approach.
PUBLISHING: Publish materials for freethinkers such as newsletters (monthly), magazines (quarterly), and books (yearly).
EDUCATION: Create a freethought library where freethinkers can donate, lend, and borrow books, movies, and other freethought media.
EVENTS: Sponsor and organize events for freethinkers such as meetups, forums, talks, workshops, and film showings.
FINANCE: Raise money for the above purposes through donations, grants, membership fees (maybe when we’re formal), and merchandise sales.

You’ll notice that result 5 (advocacy and activism) was not part of our original vision and mission. Should we revise the vision – mission so that it’s included? Are there other goals and objectives you’d like to see in there? Or are there goals and objectives you don’t want FF to be involved in?

We’ll discuss all this and more at a general assembly we’re planning this November. Before then, let us know what you think by contacting us or leaving a comment below.

Thank you so much for all your support, and we welcome you to become even more involved in FF. With so much irrationality and bigotry in our country, we need all the help we can get.

Posted in Organization1 Comment

A Slice of Occupy

In case you haven’t heard, there have been people protesting in New York since the 17th of September. (Yes, they’ve been there for more than a month now.) Possibly taking some inspiration from the recent Arab Spring, this movement, aptly called Occupy Wall Street (OWS), has now spread to over 1000 cities in over 80 countries.

What exactly are these protesters hoping to achieve with these demonstrations? I wouldn’t blame you if you’re confused, since most of the mainstream media have been terribly inaccurate with how they cover these events. There are a multitude of issues and different localities may have different focuses, but the following are an outline of what I see as the root causes for these grievances.

The problem most talked about is the terrible state of the US economy, which includes glaring income inequality, gross levels of unemployment (which is actually undesirable only in our economic model, but I’ll get to that later), and the visible corruption of government by financial institutions. A lot of these problems can be attributed to the crashing of the real estate bubble in 2008 thanks to a whole package of fraudulent practices by banking and speculation giants such as AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bear Stearns, to name a few.

These problems can be traced to their roots at different levels and, at each level, a different potential solution emerges. At the shallowest, we can see the problem as corporate greed and lack of integrity. The quick “fix” for this would have been legislation allowing for more government regulation of businesses. Unfortunately, for the American people, their government seems to have been hijacked by the very financial institutions that have broken their economy. With this comes the realization that in the prevailing system, not everyone has an equal say in government, as not everyone can set aside a budget for funding a flurry of lobbyists. To quote P. J. O’Rourke, “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” Because of this loss of faith in government, many participants in the occupations would rather focus on direct action for solutions and do not even bother with forming demands knowing that they would only be trying to remedy a hopelessly broken and dysfunctional institution.

Taking it a level deeper, it can be seen as a failure of capitalism in general and not due to the lack of integrity in government. This can be realized only if we recognize the fact that humans are fallible and susceptible to bribery, and much more so if you immerse them in a system which pits monetary gain against ethics. This makes it a basic duty for everyone to check and double-check the legitimacy of all forms of authority. I must admit that not many have made this shift in political paradigm, I suspect partly because it moves so much responsibility onto the shoulders of the common man. Indeed, it is much easier to delegate the task of governance and overseeing justice to a small group of people, but as we have already seen, this does not work as well as we would hope.

Still, others including myself see this movement as a long time coming due to fundamental flaws in the current economic system, particularly technological unemployment. Technological unemployment happens when new technology has become efficient enough to replace a human in his/her current line of work. Simply put, technology is supposed to improve human lives. In our system, however, the need for profit causes a clash between technological development and human welfare. The irony in this is that as people are replaced by machines, we can produce more but are unable to make use of these products due to reduced purchasing power. In the past, workers simply moved to different industries. However, technology has now come to penetrate almost all aspects of our daily lives such that there really are no new jobs to generate. A backwards solution that some have been using is to create new problems to solve simply because of the need to have an excuse for jobs.

There are many interesting characteristics that make this movement worth supporting or, at the very least, observing.

For one, protesters have been very conscious of their actions with regard to how they reflect on the immediate community. Because of this, there has been a tremendous display of self-restraint on their part when police forces attempt to break up their demonstrations and disrupt their peaceful assemblies. While I would usually argue that they have every right to self-defense and resisting arrest, it is interesting to note how their attitude and commitment to non-physical retaliation has gained them the support of a great number of people. And I am supposing that this might actually be a good strategic maneuver, since a great majority of their potential sympathizers still believe in the right of state enforcers to practice a monopoly of legitimate violence. Whenever police arrests and disruptions are made, people simply do their best to stick together and repeatedly chant short phrases such as “The whole world is watching!” and “Shame!” And with the help of social media and widespread video capture technology, “The whole world is watching” no longer sounds like much of an exaggeration, as the movement seems to have grown with every display of police brutality. In the spirit of a real popular movement, if you take one away, ten will take his/her place. In a sense, the police are also helping the movement with their needless initiation of the use of force by making a good example of how the state cannot handle people who have chosen not to speak their language of violence and blind obedience.

Another point of great interest is how the movement is organized. Most protests have been organized from the top-down by NGOs or political parties with an existing structure in place for mobilizing entire groups of people all at once. OWS, however, has adopted the use of a general assembly to facilitate a more horizontal type of organization. General assemblies are held once or twice a day in Zuccotti Park wherein facilitators and speakers take turns at addressing the assembly for direct participation in making decisions that will affect the entire group. This has brought about interesting social phenomena, such as the use of the people’s mic and fluttering fingers to express general sentiment.

This model has many significant differences from our current form of social organization, the most prominent of which is probably the use of consensus for decision making. An ideal that more and more people are now realizing is how decisions are best made as close as possible to the parties that are most affected. This becomes all too clear once people recognize how representative democracy has shown to be a failure, as elected representatives consistently make incredible promises with one breath and turn their backs at their constituents with the next. The disconnection between the representative and the represented is partly due to a weak sense of social accountability.

Most politicians, once elected, stay in office for years, during which the governed have little to no control over his/her decisions. In a direct democracy, however, positions are voluntary and subject to the approval or compliance of the whole group. This means that a good record of competence is of utmost importance. Also, positions are hardly ever about decision-making per se, since that is already mostly handled by the assembly. Positions and titles are usually there for mere delegation of tasks and responsibilities. Considering the frequency of the general assemblies (once to twice a day), it would be quite easy for the group to raise concerns and replace an incompetent individual in his/her position right then and there.

Another important quality of the general assemblies is that they are non-coercive. If you do not find merit in participating in the general assembly, you are free not to. You are even free to start your own form of social organization elsewhere, whereas governments commonly have harsh sentences for secession. Under a government, you are only allowed to fix the system from inside through reform, which is often painfully slow. If you see fundamental flaws in it, you are not allowed to start from scratch. This policy can be seen as a huge barrier for progress.

One thing that cannot be ignored in all of this is the role of the Internet in serving as a platform by which a multitude of people were able to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate across vast differences of location, age, race, gender, and religion. Without this public space for discussion, they would not have realized that they are not alone in their grievances and that they could actually work together to achieve their common goals. Currently, the Internet still serves as a worldwide hub for these movements, so protecting it from centralized control should be a priority. People would do well to be on guard for any more future attempts to shut down or take control of the Internet. (Yes, this has been attempted before.)

At any rate, I find these events to be greatly exhilarating, as they signify a shifting tide in our collective consciousness. People across many generations are finally finding their voices, rejecting old norms of selfishness, obedience, and coercion, while experiencing firsthand the great power of communities coming together in a spirit of volunteerism and cooperation. We truly do live in exciting times and I feel incredibly fortunate to be witnessing history unfold before me.

For more information, visit the websites for Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together.

 

Image sources:

Posted in Politics, Society6 Comments

Against the Apple Apologist

Now that the rudimentary over-praising of Steve Jobs has subsided, a compelling deluge of criticism regarding Jobs’ decisions has flooded the Internet.  According to pieces such as this one, Jobs was a tyrannical boss, an unethical entrepreneur, a selfish billionaire, and an asshole of a dad. Not only that, he used to be a staunch believer in alternative medicine, and initially refused to undergo life-saving treatments for his cancer, only regretting his decision when it was far too late.

 

One author, however, has taken it upon herself to defend what she calls all this “finger-wagging” regarding Jobs’ death. She says that:

“…the notion that if we are not doing absolutely everything our doctors and our friends and our shamans tell us, we will commit the great error of not wringing the maximum amount of time out of life, well, that’s really a hell of a lot of pressure.”

“The pressure to make the right choices, the wrenching doubts and fears of disappointing everybody: Aren’t these too much to weigh upon any of us? How much ‘if only’ are we expected to bear? Mortality is grueling enough. But guilt-tripping is an entirely curable condition.”

She wants people to give the guy a break. Personally, though, I feel that it is important to take advantage of all this so-called “finger-wagging,” most especially since Jobs is a celebrity. Alternative medicine doesn’t work, but a lot of people still believe in it. Jobs’ example will continue to be one of the best and most visible cases you can pit against mumbo-jumbo meds. His death, in a sense, can help save lives. At this point, I would rather forego walking on eggshells if it means educating people about the dangers of pseudo-science.

Would you?

Image from technology.ezinemark.com

Posted in Personal, Science, Society11 Comments

October 23 (Sunday) Anson’s Meetup

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (Across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City (Google map)
Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

We’re having our meetup on a Sunday this week in Pasig City at the Starbucks in Anson’s. We’ll be discussing the new taxes that are looming for residents in Quezon City. The city will be using the tax hike to help squatters find new homes. Also, there’s a new archbishop in town and the Philippine Daily Inquirer is complaining that people don’t care. Do you care? A tragic accident left a 2 year old girl dying on the street as 19 passersby ignore her. Saving her could have meant paying for her full recovery. What would you have done?

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.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

  • 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 Announcements, Meetup, Organization0 Comments

What Animal Suffering Means to Me as a Non-Vegan

I cause the death of animals for my pleasure. Not directly, but ultimately, because the butcher or fisherman would not end the lives of sentient beings if not for consumers like me. And yes, for my pleasure and my pleasure alone; I cannot justify the killings in the name of survival, because I know I can very well afford and survive on a purely plant-based diet that would even result in me having a healthier body and a longer life.

If it’s any consolation, as much as possible I try to eat only those animals that live in the oceans, animals that were not raised in cramped captivity in order to minimize production cost and maximize profit for the growers. My philosophy is that all animals die; what matters is how they live. A lapu-lapu (grouper), for example, would experience the same gruesome death whether in the jaws of a bigger fish or some other sea predator as it would in a fisherman’s hook, net, or spear so it could end up on my plate. And no matter how it died, it was lucky to have lived free to swim in the ocean, infinitely luckier than the farmed chickens and pigs who were forced to spend all their lives in tight cages and never got to see the sun or breathe fresh air except on their way to the slaughterhouse. Bottom line, by eating fish I am not adding to the overall suffering of sentient beings in the world.

Every once in a while, however, my beloved mom cooks her specialty, which is humba (braised pork legs), and other meat dishes. While I do not crave for meat (I prefer the lighter taste of seafood), I cannot afford to break my mom’s heart by shunning her dish in the hope that such an act would result in fewer animals dying in the long run (by eating animals that were miserably bred in captivity, I take part in perpetuating the inhumane meat industry where animals suffer unimaginably). Besides, her cooking is really great. Call me a speciesist if you must because that’s what I am, and I value my aging mom’s feelings many times over the physical pain of non-human animals. Even the thought of an animal’s lifelong suffering distilled into a piece of meat only manages to make it lose some of its appeal, but never my appetite.

A vegan once asked me why, in spite of my keen awareness of animal suffering, I continue to eat them. While I can justify eating fish and seafood, at least to myself, I regret to say that such awareness never caused me to totally give up meat, including farmed meat. What it did, however, was to make me grow cynical of man’s morality and compassion. It seems most of us are capable of loving only our own kind – or even only our own kin. Which reminds me of the Old Testament where God commands His people to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (probably because in those times their neighbors were mostly their kinsmen) but to kill the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.

But what I really find disturbing is seeing people gather around the table and pray in front of a lechon (whole roasted pig) and thank God for the bountiful blessing they are about to partake. Here lies the body of a dead animal who never once got to enjoy a natural life of freedom and whose death was predetermined by this very occasion. Instead of a thanksgiving prayer, a eulogy would seem more appropriate.

Posted in Personal, Society33 Comments

October 8 (Saturday) Anson’s Meetup

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (Across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City (Google map)
Date: Saturday, October 8, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

We’re back in Pasig at the Starbucks in Anson’s for this Saturday’s meetup. Technology visionary Steve Jobs died this week, while the protests at Wall Street in New York rage on. Teachers’ Day was also just this past week; tell us some stories about your favorite and not-so-favorite teachers and how they changed how you think.

Discussion Topics:
– Occupy Wall Street
Blasphemy Day Contest
– Teachers’ Day: Stories About Your Teachers
Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* 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 Announcements, Meetup, Organization0 Comments

Sin, Smallpox, and Sympathy: Why the Church Will Continue to Let Mothers Die

11 deaths a day. From a mere statistic it has become a mantra of the reproductive health (RH) movement. No matter how often it is repeated, 11 deaths a day still moves many to action and some to tears.

Yet the anti-RH — led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and anti-choice Catholic organizations — doesn’t seem to care about 11 deaths a day. Some, such as Senator Sotto and his supporters, have more disparaging reactions, ranging from mere denial to outright ridicule.

Invariably, the anti-RH believe they are never responsible for 11 deaths a day. Yet even if they eventually realize that their anti-contraceptive position is indirectly responsible for thousands of maternal deaths — and even more due to AIDS and hunger, casualties that can also be minimized by effective contraception and sexual education — the realization wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Because for these anti-RH conservative Catholics, protecting human lives is not as important as respecting God. The act of disrespecting God — and the Church that claims to represent him — is called blasphemy:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name… The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things.
Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Gravity of Blasphemy

St. Thomas Aquinas, whose teachings also form the basis for opposing the RH bill, taught that blasphemy is a mortal sin punishable by death. For Aquinas, there’s no contradiction in killing someone for blasphemy, because he believed that blasphemy was even worse than murder:

If we compare murder and blasphemy as regards the objects of those sins, it is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one’s neighbor. On the other hand, if we compare them in respect of the harm wrought by them, murder is the graver sin, for murder does more harm to one’s neighbor, than blasphemy does to God. Since, however, the gravity of a sin depends on the intention of the evil will, rather than on the effect of the deed, as was shown above, it follows that, as the blasphemer intends to do harm to God’s honor, absolutely speaking, he sins more grievously that the murderer.

— St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

If blasphemy is worse than murder itself, it is surely worse than merely letting mortals die. So it doesn’t matter if maternal deaths — or deaths due to poverty and AIDS — do infinitely more damage to people and the families they leave behind; no damage can be dealt to an immortal deity. What matters to Aquinas is the intention, not the effect; the gravity of the sin, not its actual consequences. Blasphemy must be avoided at all costs — even if the cost is suffering and death.

The Speckled Monster in Montreal

In 1885, one of the most horrible examples of avoiding blasphemy at the cost of human lives happened during the smallpox epidemic in Montreal, Canada. Smallpox was also called the “red death” and the “speckled monster” because of how it stained and ultimately killed its victims:

No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal –the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

— Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

Although he wrote one of the most poetic descriptions of the disease, Poe was wrong about one thing: It was not fear of their appearance that kept the diseased from the aid and sympathy of their neighbors. It was dogma — the fear of blasphemy.

If the Catholic Church hadn’t used dogma to meddle with the government trying to contain the disease, many lives would have been saved. As James H. Marsh, editor in chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia, wrote, this is the real tragedy:

Smallpox is one of the most contagious and loathsome diseases ever to menace humanity. But the real tragedy of the smallpox epidemic in Montreal was that it was preventable. The practice of vaccination, developed by Edward Jenner in England in 1796, was so widespread and so successful that it was widely believed that the disease had been eradicated.

Deaths that can be prevented. By a scientific solution. That has already become so widespread and successful. Sound familiar?

Red Death and Reproductive Health

When it comes to the Catholic Church, history often repeats itself. Contraception is not the first scientific solution to a serious problem that bishops have blocked because they considered it blasphemous. Many examples of this meddling are recorded in Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. The book chronicles how the Church prevented progress in several sciences — geography, astronomy, geology, archeology, anthropology, biology, meteorology, chemistry, physics, medicine, and many others.

In each instance, the story would be the same:

  1. Someone proposes a theory that is contrary to Church teaching — dogma, doctrine, or tradition.
  2. The Church does everything in its power — blackmail, torture, murder — to oppose inquiry into and development of the theory.
  3. Accepting or even considering the theory becomes difficult — especially when reputations and lives are at stake.
  4. After unnecessary delay, the scientific community — and then society in general — accepts the theory and develops it further.
  5. After even more delay, from years to centuries, the Church finally accepts the theory.

This pattern is especially pernicious when the Church hinders progress in Medicine. When it comes to medical progress, delay is measured not only in time wasted but in lives lost. The smallpox epidemic in Montreal struck me especially because it’s so similar to our RH experience. Below is White’s account interspersed with my comments, comparing Montreal’s experience with ours:

In that year [1885] the smallpox broke out with great virulence in Montreal. The Protestant population escaped almost entirely by vaccination; but multitudes of their Catholic fellow-citizens, under some vague survival of the old orthodox ideas [1 paste below the early protestant theological basis of the old orthodox ideas], refused vaccination; and suffered fearfully.

Many who have escaped Catholic brainwashing already use contraception effectively. More than their conservative counterparts, contraception users are capable of reaching their desired family size, avoiding HIV and AIDS, avoiding induced abortions, and preventing infant and maternal deaths.

When at last the plague became so serious that travel and trade fell off greatly and quarantine began to be established in neighboring cities, an effort was made to enforce compulsory vaccination. The result was, that large numbers of the Catholic working population resisted and even threatened bloodshed.

11 maternal deaths a day, 500,000 induced abortions a year, and 7 new HIV cases a day should be enough to convince us: the RH bill is badly needed. And unlike vaccination, contraception will not even be compulsory. Yet the resistance was just as intense: from misinformation and fear mongering to threats of revolution and civil disobedience.

The clergy at first tolerated and even encouraged this conduct [threatening bloodshed]: the Abbe Filiatrault, priest of St. James’s Church, declared in a sermon that, “if we are afflicted with smallpox, it is because we had a carnival last winter, feasting the flesh, which has offended the Lord; … it is to punish our pride that God has sent us smallpox.”

This is no different from religious leaders saying that HIV and AIDS are god’s punishment for promiscuity, homosexuality, and even contraception. This also reminds me of an anti-RH lecture, wherein the lecturer said that the disaster in Japan was sent by God to punish them for having population control.

The clerical press went further: the _Etendard_ exhorted the faithful to take up arms rather than submit to vaccination, and at least one of the secular papers was forced to pander to the same sentiment.

Rather than cooperate, the anti-RH threatened to react with revolution, civil disobedience, or by not paying taxes. And instead of just one secular paper pandering to the anti-RH, I’ve read several columnists and cartoonists whose opinion seems to be based on nothing but Catholic bias.

The Board of Health struggled against this superstition, and addressed a circular to the Catholic clergy, imploring them to recommend vaccination; but, though two or three complied with this request, the great majority were either silent or openly hostile.

Instead of helping the DOH educate those at risk, the CBCP and anti-choice organizations instead give out misinformation about contraceptives: they don’t work, they all cause cancer, they are abortifacients. They even said the RH Bill is worse than corruption.

The Oblate Fathers, whose church was situated in the very heart of the infected district, continued to denounce vaccination; the faithful were exhorted to rely on devotional exercises of various sorts; under the sanction of the hierarchy a great procession was ordered with a solemn appeal to the Virgin [2], and the use of the rosary was carefully specified.

By the time rosary was recommended, prayer had already been shown to be ineffective in other parts of the world. Inoculation and vaccination, on the other hand, had already saved countless lives. [3]

Maternal deaths, abortions, HIV, poverty — what does the Church recommend to solve today’s problems? Prayer. Faith, abstinence, natural family planning — we’ve tried these solutions and they’ve been shown to be inadequate at best, and outright failures at worst. And instead of just praying for solutions, the Catholic Church is even asking its flock to pray against the RH Bill, the most valid solution in sight.

Meantime, the disease, which had nearly died out among the Protestants, raged with ever-increasing virulence among the Catholics; and, the truth becoming more and more clear, even to the most devout, proper measures were at last enforced and the plague was stayed, though not until there had been a fearful waste of life among these simple-hearted believers, and germs of skepticism planted in the hearts of their children which will bear fruit for generations to come.

Like the other stories in White’s book, there was a happy ending for Montreal. But not before they paid the price. Smallpox is considered by many to be the most devastating disease known to man, killing more people than all other infectious diseases combined. The Catholic Church may not have known the extent of the devastation and the effects of their dogmatism then. But history and hindsight are now on their side.

True Blasphemy

They have a chance to learn from the smallpox tragedy for which they were indirectly responsible. But it seems they are content to continue committing the same mistakes. How much suffering and death must humanity pay before the Catholic Church finally learns that protecting human lives is more important than respecting an immortal God? And if there were a God, and if that God were good, I’m sure she’d agree.

If there were a good God, she’d take more offense at the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy: claiming to have the Truth while they continue to lie about contraception; claiming to be against corruption while they’re in cahoots with corrupt officials; claiming to be against poverty while they have billions they choose not to use for the poor; claiming to be experts on morality while they cover up and coddle clerical child abusers.

These hypocrites are the earthly representation of divine truth and righteousness? Now that’s blasphemy.
______________

[1] Theological Opposition to Inoculation and Vaccination

Below are excerpts from History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom showing how dogma made it difficult to accept inoculation and vaccination:

Rev. Edward Massey, who in 1772 preached and published a sermon entitled _The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation_. In this he declared that Job’s distemper was probably confluent smallpox; that he had been inoculated doubtless by the devil; that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is “a diabolical operation.”

Not less vigorous was the sermon of the Rev. Mr. Delafaye, entitled _Inoculation an Indefensible Practice_.

A large body of ministers joined in denouncing the new practice as “flying in the face of Providence,” and “endeavouring to baffle a Divine judgment.”
Having thus settled his case for this world, they proceeded to settle it for the next, insisting that “for a man to infect a family in the morning with smallpox and to pray to God in the evening against the disease is blasphemy”; that the smallpox is “a judgment of God on the sins of the people,” and that “to avert it is but to provoke him more”; that inoculation is “an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite.”

Among the mass of scriptural texts most remote from any possible bearing on the subject one was employed which was equally cogent against any use of healing means in any disease–the words of Hosea: “He hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.”

So bitter was this opposition that Dr. Boylston’s life was in danger; it was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house in the evening; a lighted grenade was even thrown into the house of Cotton Mather, who had favoured the new practice, and had sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it.

“It was good that Satan should be dispossessed of his habitation which he had taken up in men in our Lord’s day, but it was not lawful that the children of the Pharisees should cast him out by the help of Beelzebub. We must always have an eye to the matter of what we do as well as the result, if we intend to keep a good conscience toward God.” But the facts were too strong; the new practice made its way in the New World as in the Old, though bitter opposition continued, and in no small degree on vague scriptural grounds, for more than twenty years longer.

The steady evolution of scientific medicine brings us next to Jenner’s discovery of vaccination. Here, too, sundry vague survivals of theological ideas caused many of the clergy to side with retrograde physicians. Perhaps the most virulent of Jenner’s enemies was one of his professional brethren, Dr. Moseley, who placed on the title-page of his book, _Lues Bovilla_, the motto, referring to Jenner and his followers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: this book of Dr. Moseley was especially indorsed by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1798 an Anti-vaccination Society was formed by physicians and clergymen, who called on the people of Boston to suppress vaccination, as “bidding defiance to Heaven itself, even to the will of God,” and declared that “the law of God prohibits the practice.” As late as 1803 the Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against vaccination in a sermon before the University of Cambridge, mingling texts of Scripture with calumnies against Jenner;

[2] The Church’s Failed Smallpox Solution: Devotion to Mother Mary

At high mass, yesterday, in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Rev. Father Emard read the Papal decree, which is considered as applying to the smallpox epidemic in Montreal, and which was issued by his Holiness Pope Leo XIII… The decree alludes to the ravages of epidemic and plagues among the faithful throughout the world last year, and impresses upon Roman Catholics the efficiency of prayer in crushing these regrettable calamities.

New York Times Archives

To Mary, therefore, we must fly – to her whom rightly and justly the Church entitles the dispenser of saving, aiding, and protecting gifts – that she, graciously hearkening to our prayers, may grant us the help they besought, and drive far from us the unclean plague.

Leo XIII

[3] The Effectiveness of Vaccination

In Berlin, during the eight years following 1783, over four thousand children died of the smallpox; while during the eight years following 1814, after vaccination had been largely adopted, out of a larger number of deaths there were but five hundred and thirty-five from this disease. In Wurtemberg, during the twenty-four years following 1772, one in thirteen of all the children died of smallpox, while during the eleven years after 1822 there died of it only one in sixteen hundred. In Copenhagen, during twelve years before the introduction of vaccination, fifty-five hundred persons died of smallpox, and during the sixteen years after its introduction only one hundred and fifty-eight persons died of it throughout all Denmark. In Vienna, where the average yearly mortality from this disease had been over eight hundred, it was steadily and rapidly reduced, until in 1803 it had fallen to less than thirty; and in London, formerly so afflicted by this scourge, out of all her inhabitants there died of it in 1890 but one. As to the world at large, the result is summed up by one of the most honoured English physicians of our time, in the declaration that “Jenner has saved, is now saving, and will continue to save in all coming ages, more lives in one generation than were destroyed in all the wars of Napoleon.”

— Andrew Dickson White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society169 Comments

Join Our “What Would Jesus Do?!?!?!?” Cosplay Contest!

In celebration of Blasphemy Day 2011, the Filipino Freethinkers invite you to join

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?!?
a Jesus H. Christ cosplay contest

Dress up as Jesus doing something batshit blasphemous, and be in the running for awesome prizes!

Rules:
1) Participants must be fans of the official Filipino Freethinkers FB page

2) Submissions can be either a photograph or a video

3) Persons/animals/objects other than Jesus may be in the entry

4) Entries featuring Jesus in public are very highly recommended

5) PLANKING IS NOT ALLOWED. EVER.

6) If the submitter wishes to remain anonymous, they should ensure that they are unidentifiable in the entry

7) Post your entries on the COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS EVENT PAGE.

8) Entries must be submitted no later than 11:59 PM, OCTOBER 23, 2011, FRIDAY

9) Criteria are as follows: 40% creativity, 30% offensiveness, 20% execution, 10% online votes

10) Online votes (i.e. number of “likes” per entry) will be collected from SEPTEMBER 30 to OCTOBER 28, 2011

11) Three finalists will be announced on October 29, 2011 via the FF FB page

12) Finalists will be invited to come in costume on October 30, 2011 at the FF HALLOWEEN PAR-TAY

13) Finalists’ places (First, Second, Third) will be announced at the PAR-TAY

14) Prizes are as follows:
Third Place – 1 official FF t-shirt
Second Place – 1 official FF t-shirt + 1 Fully Bookd gift certificate worth Php500
First Place – 1 official FF t-shirt + 1 Fully Bookd gift certificate worth Php1000

Again, the crucial dates are as follows:
Deadline for Submissions: October 23
Voting Period: September 30 to October 28
Announcement of Top 3: October 29
Coronation Night: October 31

Visit our event page to post your entry!

Posted in Announcements2 Comments


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