Archive | December, 2013

FF Podcast (Audio): John W. Loftus, Author of The Outside Test for Faith (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): John W. Loftus, Author of The Outside Test for Faith (Conversations for a Cause)

John W. Loftus, Author of The Outside Test for Faith

This week, we interview John W. Loftus, atheist author, former student of William Lane Craig, and ex-apologist. We talk with him about indoctrination and debunking Christian apologetics.

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief and rehabilitation efforts.

You may also download the podcast file here.



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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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John W. Loftus, Author of The Outside Test for Faith – Freethinker Interview

This week, we interview John W. Loftus, atheist author, former student of William Lane Craig, and ex-apologist. We talk with him about indoctrination and debunking Christian apologetics.

You may also download the episode file here.

loftus

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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How a Freethinker Survived a Spiritual Retreat

DSC_0140One of the benefits of studying law in a Jesuit university is the opportunity to attend the mandatory spiritual retreat.

At first I felt very awkward, expecting to be forced to share in front of the whole class how I experienced God’s presence during my meditation, and having to either make something up or tell them outright that my skeptical mind requires empirical evidence before making any conclusions. I did not want to lie about my beliefs (or non-belief), but I did not want to rock the boat either especially since I saw how sincere and non-dogmatic the facilitators were. So I decided to ride it out.

The first activity was the Lectio Divina (prayer of a listening heart) where we were to choose from a list of three passages from the Bible and two from the Qur’an (since some of my classmates were Muslims), read it three times, identify a word or phrase that struck us personally, and try to make an application of it in our lives. After a fifteen-minute meditation we were to choose a partner to whom we would share our reflections. Sharing to the entire class afterwards was optional.

I chose 1 Kings 19:10-13 where God allegedly appeared to Elijah, but decided to read the entire Chapter 19, which includes the verses 15-18:

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

I told my partner that I am skeptical about the Bible as the word of God, briefly explaining the concept of hearsay and how God is so clear in the Bible but seemingly absent in the world. I pointed out that the above passage literally talks of the Lord commanding Elijah to anoint kings to kill the worshipers of Baal, and those who escape one king will be killed by another, and those who escape that king will be killed by a prophet. Today, that would be tantamount to ordering the deaths of all the native tribes who worship pagan gods. Good thing my partner, who was a Protestant Christian, actually seemed to appreciate the logic of what I said.

The second activity was the Ignatian contemplation. Here, we again had to choose among certain passages from the Bible or the Qur’an, and we were to imagine being physically present in the scene that was described in the passage. We were to pay attention to the setting and other details in the story, the characters, the dialogue. We were to take note of how we were feeling, and if we were drawn to speak with anyone including Jesus, and what we would say.

I picked Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calmed the storm while he and his disciples were on board a small fishing boat. After the meditation we formed groups of four. When it came my time to share, I told my groupmates what I would say to Jesus: Lord, it’s very convenient that you are here with us tonight to save us from this storm. But you know Lord, two thousand years from now in a country called the Philippines, a passenger ship named MV Princess of the Stars carrying hundreds will sail into a storm. I’m sure many will pray to you, and in your name command the wind and the waves to be still. But you will not be there as you are with us here, and the ship will capsize, and most of the passengers will end up dead or missing. And you know Lord, within a decade and in the same country, typhoons will claim lives, even as people who heard about how you calmed today’s storm will probably try to command those typhoons to stop in your name.

Luckily, I was the last in our group to share, and the facilitator said that time was up, so my groupmates didn’t have a chance to react to what I said, which was obviously very much different from what most of them shared, that is, how law school was like a storm.

Then came the third and last activity, the Examen, in which we were to look back and review our entire day, examine our feelings particularly the “consolations and desolations,” and try to figure out what caused our ups and downs. The facilitator explained that while it was an opportunity to see how God was present in our lives, the activity actually had a secular application in meditation.

Afterwards our class of about thirty was divided into three groups, each joined by a facilitator. I took advantage of that secular part mentioned earlier. When it was my turn to speak, I explained how I appreciated the meditation and decided to do it everyday, because by contemplating on my ups and downs and especially on what caused them, I could see more clearly how I should live every day, make the right choices, prioritize what’s important, and in effect live my life more efficiently.

And that’s how this freethinker survived the retreat. Even if it was supposed to be a religious or spiritual activity, it did have a nice secular application, not to mention the opportunity to share my skeptical views with my classmates. While I would choose any FF meetup over it, I actually enjoyed the retreat, and the experience was nonetheless enlightening.

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Image by Jong Atmosfera

Posted in Personal, Religion4 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio): Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America (Conversations for a Cause)

Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America

We talk with Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, and discuss her experiences as a freethinker working with conservative political figures.

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief and rehabilitation efforts.

You may also download the podcast file here.




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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America – Freethinker Interview

Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America – Freethinker Interview

We talk with Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, and discuss her experiences as a freethinker working with conservative political figures.

You may also download the episode file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Video0 Comments

CBCP vs US Embassy

usembassy

There is something raising the moral highbrow of Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of CBCP’s Family and Life Commission.

The United States now issues same-sex fiancé visas.  This is the consequence of the landmark 2013 US Supreme Court ruling rendering unconstitutional the section in the Defense of Marriage of Act defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  There is nothing new with same-sex fiancé visas being issued by foreign embassies in the Philippines. Prior to the US, a number of countries have already been doing so: Australia, Belgium, Brazil ,Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and even the Pope’s homeland – Argentina.

On December 6, the US Embassy Manila issued its first same-sex fiancé visa. Days later, in an interview by GMA 7 News-To-Go, Fr. Castro said that, “Dapat igalang nila ang batas ng ibang bansa. Tulad sa Pilipinas, hindi naman legal ang same-sex union so dapat irespeto nila ‘yun. (The United States should respect the law of other countries.  Here in the Philippines, same-sex union is not legal. They should respect it).” This is all form and no substance.

First of all, being in a same-sex relationship is not illegal in the Philippines. Surprisingly, despite being a predominantly Catholic country, we never had an anti-sodomy law, the law usually used to prosecute homosexuals. There was, however, a proposal to criminalize same-sex relationships. It was introduced in 2009 by the former Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante, who was also serving as the Vice Chair of the Committee on Human Rights. The bill sought to criminalize different acts: failing to declare one’s “true” sex or gender when applying for a marriage license; issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; solemnizing same-sex marriages; and cohabiting with someone of the same-sex as if you are  a married couple. The proposed penalties for them include imprisonment of at least six years and fine of at least 50,000 pesos. Luckily, Philippine Congress had better things to do.  There was really no need to introduce this bill because same-sex marriages, even those conducted in a foreign country, are not yet legally recognized in the Philippines.

Second, by simply granting same-sex fiancé visas, the US is not violating any law in the Philippines. The Philippines has no authority over the visa policies of other states.

Third, issuing this visa is not a sign of disrespect to the marriage law of the Philippines. The visa does not change the marriage law of the Philippines; it remains the same. However, the way the Philippines legally define marriage cannot be forced to other sovereign states, just as much as these states cannot impose theirs on us. Their definition may influence us to redefine marriage by legislating a new law but other states (nor the CBCP!) cannot do the legislating for us.

Fourth, the US is not compelling the Philippines to legally recognize same-sex partnerships. Nor the US visa policy compels the Philippines to adopt the same visa policy. The Philippines is a democracy. Its laws, including marriage laws, have to go through its own lengthy legislative procedure in order to become law. We may copy laws of other countries, but we cannot have them as law if Congress has not passed them as our own.

And fifth, a visa is not a marriage contract. Even if a same-sex couple marries in the US or any other countries where such partnership is legally recognized, the Philippines has no obligation to legally recognize them in its own jurisdiction, unless it passes a law.

CBCP should constantly remind itself that their prescriptions of how people should live their lives are not automatically the laws of the Philippines nor of other countries, which after all still relies on democratic and not on Catholic theocratic procedures to enact laws.

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights2 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 26: Feminism

FF Podcast (Audio) 26: Feminism

Sylvia Claudio and Leloy Claudio

This week, we talk about feminism with special guests Profs. Guy Claudio, director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies and Leloy Claudio, Ateneo de Manila assistant professor. We joined them to celebrate the UP CWS 25th anniversary.

You may also download the podcast file here.



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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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FF Podcast 26: Feminism

FF Podcast 26: Feminism

This week, we talk about feminism with special guests Profs. Guy Claudio, director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies and Leloy Claudio, Ateneo de Manila assistant professor. We joined them to celebrate the UP CWS 25th anniversary.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Gender Rights, Media, Podcast, Politics, Religion, Society, Video0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio): Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist (Conversations for a Cause)

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief  and rehabilitation efforts.

Hemant Mehta

This week in our series of Conversations for a Cause, we interview Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist. We talk to him about the stereotypes atheists have to deal with and living life as an atheist.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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Freethinker Interview: Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist

Freethinker Interview: Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist

This week in our series of Conversations for a Cause, we interview Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist. We talk to him about the stereotypes atheists have to deal with and living life as an atheist.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Follow our next interviews with freethinkers by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Leave a comment here or on our channel. Send us some questions we can ask during future interviews.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Video0 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup: Saturday, December 21 at Moshi-Moshi Katipunan

1523410_10152185979150555_183332328_oLocation: Moshi Moshi, Regis Center Katipunan
Date: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm
Google Map: http://goo.gl/eEjqTd

Join us for the last FF Meetup of 2013!

Topics:
1) RH Law Anniversary
2) Criminalizing HIV Transmission
3) 2013 Year in Review
4) 2014 Predictions
5) New Years Resolutions
6) Raunchy Topic of the Week

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. 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, and admission is free.
* Early birds get to play board/video/party games with the group.
* 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.

FB event page

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FF Podcast (Audio) 025: Do Believers Give More to Charity?

FF Podcast (Audio) 025: Do Believers Give More to Charity?

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.33.14 AM

This week we talk about believers giving more to charity than atheists. Then, we discuss what encourages charity and altruism.

You may also download the podcast file here.




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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media0 Comments

FF Podcast 025: Do Believers Give More to Charity?

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.33.14 AM

This week we talk about believers giving more to charity than atheists. Then, we discuss what encourages charity and altruism.

 

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Society, Video0 Comments

On Proof, Presumption, and the Existence of God

The debate on the existence of God cannot be resolved on the basis of proof. While atheists claim that theists fail to prove that God exists, theists respond by saying that atheists fail to prove that he doesn’t. Atheists would then say that the burden of proof lies on him who asserts and not on him who denies, and theists would point out that saying there is no god is also a positive claim that equally requires proof.

And so the outcome of the debate will most likely depend not on proof, but on presumption, because presumption determines which side has the burden of proof to overcome such presumption.

Presumption is defined as “an act of accepting that something is true until it is proved not true.” In law, this refers particularly to a rebuttable presumption (as opposed to a conclusive presumption), that is, presumed as such until defeated by proof to the contrary.

But are presumptions arbitrary? For instance, can atheists just presume that God does not exist while theists can presume that he does, leading to yet another stalemate? Another definition of presumption says that it’s not: “a legal inference as to the existence or truth of a fact not certainly known that is drawn from the known or proved existence of some other fact.”

If we are to apply the above definition to the existence of God, it would help to focus on the operative words and phrases: an inference drawn from the known or proved existence of some other fact. In other words, based on our present knowledge of the universe, which is more sensible to presume, that God exists, or that he doesn’t?

Centuries ago, before Darwin published his theory of natural selection, it would seem utterly foolish to presume that there is no Creator given the beauty and diversity of life around us, from the largest mammals to the tiniest anthropods. Today, however, our scientific knowledge would easily overcome any reasonable presumption of truth on the biblical story of creation.

Centuries ago, when Hume said that we cannot derive an ought from an is, it would be reasonable to presume that morality (or what we ought to do) can only come from the dictates of a Creator who defined right and wrong and bound us with the duty to do what is right. Today, with the achievements in evolutionary biology, while we do not claim to derive moral oughts from the acts that tend directly or indirectly to help perpetuate our genes, we can at least point out that the claim that God is the good is not just an unwarranted presumption but an empty tautology, a matter of arbitrary definition and not a logical conclusion.

Based on the above examples which show what we presently know of some other facts about this world, it would seem more plausible to infer that there is probably a naturalistic explanation for things that seem to require supernatural supposition to make up for our ignorance, such as the beginning of life and of the universe itself.

And while some philosophers might point out that the above arguments presuppose that all truths are scientific truths and all proofs must be empirical proofs, and that such assumptions cannot themselves be proven by the scientific method, it must be pointed out as well that science does not claim to hold a monopoly on truth. However, if one were to presume, science deserves the presumption of veracity because it has consistently been shown to work: cure diseases, predict typhoons and tsunamis, make our lives longer and better. On the other hand, would philosophers board an aircraft whose navigation and safety systems have only been logically proven to exist?

The God question then becomes a matter of presuming the negative until a clear and convincing proof that can survive scientific scrutiny surfaces to defeat such presumption. Of course, one can always presume the existence of God, but such presumption cannot be said to be supported by science. And while science does not claim to know all the answers, it is nevertheless associated with finding answers that can be verified with reasonable certainty.

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Image credit: Jong Atmosfera

Posted in Philosophy, Science1 Comment

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