Archive | Religion

A Conversation with DJ Grothe of JREF

A Conversation with DJ Grothe of JREF

This week, we talk with DJ Grothe, President of the James Randi Educational Foundation. We discuss freethought, scientific skepticism, and social justice activism.

You may also download the video file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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

Anti-RH Supreme Court Justices and the Arroyo Connection

We have confirmed through reliable sources within the Supreme Court that the instigator of the ongoing hold order against the Reproductive Health Law was Justice Arturo Brion, who was appointed by GMA and has supported her throughout her administration and, it appears, beyond that. He penned the dissenting opinion on Arroyo’s electoral sabotage charges, coming out in favor of her. He maintained this position when the motion was reconsidered. He also voted to grant Arroyo’s travel request.

He also made his sentiments on RH clear.

The other identified Justices leading the Anti-RH camp in the Supreme Court are Justices Teresita de Castro and Roberto Abad. Abad joined Brion in the travel request vote. De Castro, with Abad, joined Brion in his dissenting opinions on both times Arroyo’s alleged electoral sabotage faced the high court.

Over the last month it has been observed that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo entertained a series of visits from prominent leaders of the Catholic Church. From Bishops Tirona, Odchimar, Marquez, Talamayan, and Villena to Lipa Archbishop Arguelles, ex-president GMA, currently under hospital dentention on plunder charges, has no shortage of friends claiming the authority of the Almighty. With her close ties to the Church, she maintained throughout her presidency opposition to all forms of the reproductive health law.

(Pajero_Bishop_Scandal)_Filipinos_protest_against_the_Bishops_that_allegedly_accepted_money_and_luxury_cars_from_former_president_Macapagal-Arroyo_in_exchange_for_support

The former president has had a history of making deals with the Catholic Church hierarchy, purchasing their silence with checks for luxury SUVs. What is notable now is that even Archbishop Oscar Cruz, formerly a vocal opponent of hers, has visited her and is now calling for her to be moved to a more comfortable state of house arrest.

Other luminaries gracing the former president’s place of detention include pro-life partylist BUHAY’s representative Lito Atienza. GMA’s spokesperson confirmed that they discussed the passage of the RH law.

Legal experts and some members of the Supreme Court itself showed that the arguments supporting the SQA border on the farcical. This was further demonstrated by Anti-RH arguments from Francisco Tatad.

We know that the Supreme Court is supposed to be impartial, but we also know that GMA has subverted that impartiality to her benefit in the past. Given the circumstances surrounding the core Anti-RH bloc in the Supreme Court, it is not unreasonable to suspect that former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has recruited the Catholic Church leaders’ support in exchange for influencing the high court’s ruling on the Reproductive Health Law.

Image Credit: Westcrosse via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio): Rebecca Watson (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Rebecca Watson (Conversations for a Cause)

Rebecca Watson of Skepchick

This week, we talk with Rebecca Watson of Skepchick, about using skepticism to address sexism and social justice issues. We also talk about her show with The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe as well as some of her book picks.

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

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Gender Rights, Media, Religion, Secularism0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 28: Abortion Rights in the Philippines

FF Podcast (Audio) 28: Abortion Rights in the Philippines

Abortion Rights in the Philippines

This week, we talk about abortion rights in the Philippines. We go into detail about what’s been happening with the 7th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, which conservative Catholics have been trying to shut down.

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

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 28: Abortion Rights in the Philippines

FF Podcast 28: Abortion Rights in the Philippines

This week, we talk about abortion rights in the Philippines. We go into detail about what’s been happening with the 7th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, which conservative Catholics have been trying to shut down.

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, Politics, Religion, Video1 Comment

When Faith Becomes Fatal

Last week, I wrote about why faith is not a virtue and that generated some interesting discussions from people I know, both online and offline. Aside from the usual threats of hellfire and damnation (which is getting boring, really), I got some objections that I defined or understood “faith” wrongly, that life is basically uncertain and that we still need faith in some circumstances.

A certain Alfred Fajardo posted a comment on my blog and said:

Mr. Andy, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and I often find good insights and new questions to ponder on from it. But for tonight, I hope you won’t mind a little dissonance as it hopefully will provide a new kind of resonance.

How about interpreting Jesus’ words of providing for us not as literal protection from natural and man made phenomena like failing a test or germs getting to us but rather as pointers to the natural, as figurative language? When he says he provides for the birds and trees, I see it as him talking about how they don’t “worry” the way humans do. How all these organisms, as they live and die, form the biogeochemical cycle which will sustain the earth until the earth itself is destroyed.

As a whole, perhaps faith is something transcendent beyond our daily worries, not faith in certainties, but faith in uncertainty, that at the end of it all, we’ll become a better race.

Thanks Alfred, I don’t mind dissonance (I seem to be creating a lot of it anyway). Yes, we can reinterpret the word “faith” as you suggested, just as people reinterpret the word “God” in different ways. However, I think you would agree with me that most people do not think that way. The common usage of the word “faith” in the Philippine context is not figurative but literal, just as the word “God” is synonymous to “Jesus” for around 80% of Filipinos. For brevity and quick comprehension, I chose to use those words in the way they are most commonly understood.

Like you, I am all for humanity becoming a better race. However, I would suggest a better word to express your desire — not “faith” in uncertainty, but “hope” that things will be better in the future.

Faith is not the same as hope although a lot of people tend to confuse the two. Faith is a false sense of certainty of something you have no idea about. Hope allows for uncertainty but wishes for the best. Faith makes people do irrational acts. Hope allows for more rationality, second-guessing, and planning for the worst even while expecting the best.

For the faithful who are unconvinced of how I define faith, let me point out how the Bible talks about it. Hebrews 11 is well-known as the Bible’s Who’s Who of faith. The chapter begins with the grandiose statement: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.”

A popular Christian song echoes this sentiment with the lines, “to hear with my heart, to see with my soul; to be guided by a hand I cannot hold; to trust in a way that I cannot see, that’s what faith must be.”

Hebrews 11 then proceeds to commend certain individuals who “lived by faith” such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and other Israelite heroes.Their stories involve hearing a command or receiving a vision from God, and acting on it even without proof or evidence of its reality, even if the act is absurd (building a huge boat on dry land) or downright abominable (killing one’s own son).

Those are not figurative but literal and concrete acts that seem to defy reason and the Bible upholds these actions as commendable and these characters as worthy examples to be emulated. How does that translate to modern times?

How about the story of Madeline Kara Neumann, age 11 (reported in ABC News last March 27, 2008)? When Madeline became severely sick, her parents didn’t take her to the doctor because they had faith that God would heal her through their prayers. She died soon thereafter and the parents were eventually convicted of reckless homicide. But these were not evil parents. I believe they loved their daughter with all their hearts and wanted her to get well. They were just following what their preacher preached: “We are not commanded in scripture to send people to the doctor but to meet their needs through prayer and faith.”

Or how about the story of Mark Randall Wolford, a pastor from West Virginia (reported in NBC News last May 30, 2012), who believed that in order to prove their faith, Christians should handle snakes, and he didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the talk as well and handled snakes himself. He died, unsurprisingly, from a snake bite. What is surprising is that he persisted in this belief even when as a teenager, he himself saw his father, also a pastor with the same snake-handling belief, die of a snake bite. But they were not insane, they were holding on, by faith, to what was proclaimed in Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

These are not isolated incidents. There are many similar stories such as these. The Huffington Post reports that “At least 303 children have died since 1975 after medical care was withheld on religious grounds.” That’s only the reported cases in the United States. How about those that go on in other countries?

However, whatever else you may say about these people, you cannot argue that they did not have faith. They did. In fact, they had more faith than most people. They had conviction to follow through on their beliefs. They were willing to put their lives and the lives of those they loved on the line, very much like Abraham or Noah. But their faith went unrewarded and proved both fatal and tragic in the end.

That is why I do not believe that faith is a valid way to look at or interpret truth or reality. Faith is pretense and false assurance. Nothing more.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

This article also appears in Freethinking Me.

Andy Uyboco is the Meetup Director of Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter and is inviting Davao residents to join their next meetup on January 25, 2014 (Saturday) at 7:30 PM Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City. You may email him at [email protected].

 

Posted in Religion2 Comments

A Conversation with Russell Blackford, philosopher and author

A Conversation with Russell Blackford, philosopher and author

This week, for Conversations for a Cause, we talk with Russell Blackford, philosopher and co-author of 50 Great Myths About Atheism. We talk with him about misconceptions about atheism. Then, we discuss his views on theology and the ethics of human enhancement.

You may also download the episode file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Philosophy, Podcast, Religion, Science, Video0 Comments

FF Special (Audio) – Nicole Curato on Religion in Public Life

FF Special (Audio) – Nicole Curato on Religion in Public Life

Nicole Curato

This week, we have a special episode featuring sociologist Nicole Curato. She talks about the role of religion in public life.

This was recorded on January 4, 2014 during the first Filipino Freethinkers meetup of the year.

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

Posted in audio podcast, Religion, Society0 Comments

FF Special – Nicole Curato on Religion in Public Life

FF Special – Nicole Curato on Religion in Public Life

This week, we have a special episode featuring sociologist Nicole Curato. She talks about the role of religion in public life.

This was recorded on January 4, 2014 during the first Filipino Freethinkers meetup of the year.

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, Religion, Society, Video0 Comments

Why Faith Is Not A Virtue

Brick-Trinity

This article is for those who think that faith is a virtue. I would like to propose that it is not.

Over the centuries, the religious have extolled faith as a virtue, as a valid method of seeing reality, and that idea has taken such a deep root in our culture. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life declares that faith is “trusting God in spite of unanswered questions and unresolved doubts” and this sounds so deep and comforting but it’s really just a another way of saying, “I don’t understand anything that’s happening and I can’t do anything about it but I’m hoping for the best.” What does “trusting God” even mean when people can’t even agree what “God” means?

Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, defines faith as “pretending to know things you don’t know” and that seems like a very flippant way to put it. But if you happen to be a person of faith and are offended by that, my request is that you forgive the offense for a couple of minutes (forgiveness is also a virtue) and think about it.

In all those instances that you claim faith, isn’t it true that those are instances that you don’t really know but instead simply choose to believe? Because if there were proof and evidence in the first place, then you wouldn’t need to invoke faith. You simply point to the evidence. Take gravity, for example. It would be absurd to talk about having faith in gravity because there is overwhelming evidence for it. In other words we know gravity.

However, when we talk about something like Noah’s Ark and the global flood story - even amidst all the evidence and experts’ opinions pointing out its improbability - a sizeable number of people still choose “by faith” to believe that it’s true, even if they don’t really know whether it happened or not. In fact, they refuse to know. They rarely have the drive to do research and read contrary opinions – perhaps they are afraid that their faith may be shaken and they will no longer be on the list of “good and faithful servants” who never gave up their beliefs, who were foolish enough to test their faith. After all, didn’t God say, “Do not put the Lord God to the test (Leviticus 6:16)?”

So think of all the things you accept “by faith” (like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity) and honestly see if it isn’t true that you are simply pretending to know things you don’t really know.

Faith is not a very good way to live. It kills wonder, inquiry and research. It is not a virtue. And nobody really lives by faith all the time in all aspects of life.

Think about this:

If faith is so commendable, why don’t you simply have faith and pray when you get sick? Why do you go to the doctor? Why do you take medicine?

Why do you work hard to earn money to survive and feed your family? Why not have faith that God will provide? Didn’t Jesus say that all you have to do is to “seek his kingdom” and he will provide food, drink and clothing just as he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-33)?

For students, why do you study hard for exams? Why not have enough faith that God will provide the right answers at the right time?

Why do you wash your hands before you eat? Or brush your teeth before you sleep? Why not have faith that God will kill those pesky germs and protect you from disease?

Now, I’m sure you have rational and sensible answers for each of these questions and that’s just the point. If you apply reason and rationality to these aspects of your life, doesn’t it make sense to apply it to ALL aspects of your life?

Why do you use reason for practical living yet cling to faith for aspects of your life that are unsure and unknown? If faith were such a virtue, then you would apply it to every facet of your life, not just as a stopgap to fill in the holes in your knowledge and understanding, which is exactly what primitive people did. When they encountered something they did not understand, they would attribute it to either a god or goddess, spirits, angels or demons.

But it is now the 21st century. Reason, science, and logic have been proven to work time and again. When you build an airplane based on scientific principles, it flies. When you use mathematics to put a satellite in orbit, it stays there. When you put medicine through double-blind placebo-controlled tests, you have better assurance that it will cure what it needs to cure.

Now I will admit that there are still many things we do not understand and many things we do not know – but the proven and tested way to gain more knowledge and understanding is not faith, but by applying reason, science and logic.

That is my Holy Trinity.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

This article also appears at Freethinking Me.

Andy Uyboco is the Meetup Director of Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter and is inviting Davao residents to join their next meetup on January 25, 2014 (Saturday) at 7:30 PM Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City. You may email him at [email protected].

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Religion8 Comments

A Conversation with Guy P. Harrison

A Conversation with Guy P. Harrison

This week, for Conversations for a Cause, we talk with Guy P. Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God. We discuss skepticism, critical thinking, and his latest book, Think: Why You Should Question Everything.

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

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FF Podcast 27: MMFF and Fired for Trying Out Atheism

FF Podcast 27: MMFF and Fired for Trying Out Atheism

We return for our first podcast of 2014! This week, we talk about the Metro Manila Film Fest and the quality of its films (or lack thereof). Then we talk about Ryan Bell, the pastor/professor who was fired for “trying out” atheism.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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

Pope Francis: Well Said, But Not Well Done

pope-francis-and-doveDuring his papal address last year at the St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis made the call for peace a main point, noting that it was a common ground for believers and non-believers alike.

“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”

It’s a grand gesture from a pope who has become increasingly popular among Catholic moderates and non-Catholics alike, thanks to what looks like a reconcilliatory stance on formerly hot-button issues, such as homosexuality.

But as a new year begins and we’re bracing ourselves for what 2014 may throw our way, I’m wondering just how sincere the Pope was in his call for peace.

To start, I will establish what I believe.

I believe that part of any meaningful, lasting peace needs to be founded on the principle of equality. That the gauge of how well a community functions should be reflected in how it treats its marginalized and less fortunate. For us, a nation that’s survived three separate occupations from three foreign powers, this is a no-brainer.

It’s an idea that should be even clearer for the Roman Catholic Church, which continually reiterates its position as a bastion of peace and morality worldwide. Getting into specifics, I think that a truly peaceful society will make an effort to eliminate, or at least minimize instances of structural violence. Structural violence, as compared to blatant forms of violence such as murder or rape, is any inequality that is institutionalized.

For instance, a government that bans gay marriage or makes gay sex illegal is practicing structural violence. Segregating people and denying them health care due to their skin color, gender or race are also glaring examples of structural violence. Even blasphemy laws can be considered a form of structural violence, since they grant unfair privileges to religious speech.

And it is from this standpoint that I find myself questioning just how sincere the Church’s call for peace is, given how they figured in these incidents in 2013:

1. During the GOP’s US government shutdown last November 2013, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were among the groups pushing for the shutdown. The US bishops had been hoping to use this incident as political leverage to grant them exemptions from the contraceptive coverage included in the Affordable Care Act.

The resulting shutdown most directly affected the poor, which is especially ironic given that Francis’ latest speeches have been to renew the fight against poverty.

2. When the UN passed a resolution opposing violence against women, the Vatican, along with Russia, China, and Iran protested a section of the resolution that condemned violence committed in the name of religion, local customs, and culture.

3. Hospitals owned by the RCC are turning away women suffering from miscarriages, because the RCC’s moral guidelines forbid them from providing proper medical treatment or even advice if it has anything to do with birth control.

4. The Pope excommunicated Fr. Greg Reynolds, on the grounds that he talked about the ordination of women priests. Reynolds is also a known supporter of gay marriage, another issue that the church is currently opposed to.

5. Pope Francis himself has personally noted that the matter of ordaining women into the priesthood was not a matter for discussion.

6. Pope Francis had also encouraged Malta Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna to speak out against gay adoptions, after the country introduced a bill that would allow same-sex civil unions, and children to be adopted by gay parents.

7. The Vatican recently refused to provide a United Nations panel with full information regarding its (the Vatican) clerical sex abuse cases worldwide. The Vatican also stiffened penalties against whistle-blowers.

Given these recent events, I would like to ask: Is the Vatican in the right to talk about peace when it is blatantly clear that it is partly responsible, if not complicit, in perpetuating the sort of violence most decent folks would prefer to eliminate from society? From Francis’ Urbi et Orbi address:

“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces,” Francis said. “It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment.”

Well said, Francis. Now please practice what you preach.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism0 Comments

Why I No Longer Root For Pope “Bergoglio” Francis

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

If you have been following the recent online activity in my social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter), I’m sure you have seen me root for Pope “Bergoglio” Francis. I would share and retweet news of his activities, when compared to that of his predecessors, give us a breath of fresh air and hope for a more inclusive and forward looking Roman Catholic Church. I publicly announce my support and admiration for him. I would even jokingly say that I would head his fans’ club.

This is a big deal for me because I am an atheist… A very outspoken one and very critical of religious bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, and the protection of pedophile priests. Some may even say I have been critical to the point being on a permanent “attack mode” when talking about religion especially the Roman Catholic Church. (Probably because it is the predominant religion in my country and has great influence and impact over the government and the society that I belong to.)

Initially, I had a lot of misgivings against Bergoglio when I heard that he was elected to the seat of St. Peter. Reading about his past, I learned that he supported a dictatorship and had given very misogynistic and homophobic statements.

Then he became Francis. Pope Francis. The first Jesuit pope that started to shake up and “clean up” the Roman curia and the whole of Christendom! He made very controversial statements about being more open to the gay community and even, gasp, saying that we atheists can be good too! He spoke against capitalism and of Catholics being “obsessed” with gay marriage, abortion, and contraception.

He shocked the world with his simplicity. He lived in simpler home compared to the “castle” that he could have lived in. He became the people’s pope and reached out to the masses. He snuck out to feed the homeless at night. He allowed a child to hug him as he preached. He kissed a severely disfigured man. These are but a few of the good things he did that earned him brownie points to become Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.

Many in the online atheist community, including some of those in the Filipino Freethinkers and the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS), were naturally skeptical and still unforgivingly critical of Pope Francis. They said it’s all talk without the walk. They said it’s all a public relations spin. They belittled his efforts and said he has done nothing about the things that really matter. I somewhat agree with them. Being exposed to public relations, I know a lot of the news were PR stunts. I agree that the more important issues have not been addressed by him.

But I chose to stay positive and hopeful. I still supported and believed in him. I held back my tongue (fingers, to be more precise) and chose not to focus on what he lacked but on the good that he has done.

Then, BOOM! I read yesterday about him excommunicating an Australian priest for openly supporting women empowerment in the church and “married” gay couples in unofficial ceremonies during gay rights demonstrations. It’s actually old news that came out last September but it skipped my radar.

The forward walk I was patiently waiting for him to do was actually a run in the complete opposite direction of his talk. I would understand if he defrocked the priest, but to excommunicate?! That’s supposedly the harshest punishment for the most grievous of sins. The priest is banished and cannot receive his god’s grace. If I’m not mistaken, if the priest dies before the excommunication is reversed, it’s tantamount to being condemned to eternal hellfire. (Not that I believe in any of that.)

This made me ask, has any priest been excommunicated for sodomizing young boys? Apparently not. They are actually STILL being protected under Pope Francis’ leadership. He did talk of investigating and punishing those sick bastards. But all this is happening INTERNALLY. Erring priests are removed in “damage-control” efforts but we have never heard of the church cooperating in investigations of secular authority nor have we heard of any priest getting jail time. In fact, they are actually still witholding information and paying off victims. (If you do not understand the magnitude of this problem, I suggest you watch the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa.”)

So Francis EXCOMMUNICATED a priest for actually walking the talk while failing to do anything substantial on the issue of rampant sex abuses of his clergy. Talk about priorities!

I can go on with a list of other reasons why not to root for Pope Francis any longer, but I think this one act of hypocrisy is more than enough. (Since I am also trying to be more mindful and focus in the things I love and less on the things I hate.)

I still hope for positive change but I am not as confident in Pope Francis. I believe in the goodness of my family, friends, the rest of the decent people in the Roman Catholic Community, those of other faiths, and of those without any religious affiliations or beliefs. We as people can end most of the ills in our society if we promote goodness and denounce the bad.

Posted in Religion, Society2 Comments

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