Archive | Religion

The Ugly Reality of Transphobia in the Philippines

Jennifer Laude was found dead in the bathroom. She was slumped on the toiled seat, peppered with black and blue bruises. She also had bruises on her neck. Her feet were also bruised. Reporters are not sure whether she died from the injuries she sustained from the beating that she took, or from being strangled. She was murdered.

Let’s try that again.

Jefferey Laude was found dead in the bathroom. He was slumped on the toilet seat, peppered with black and blue bruises. He also had bruises on his neck. His feet were also bruised. Reporters are not sure whether he died from the injuries he sustained from the beating that he took, or from being strangled. He was murdered.

I’m not here to discuss whether Jeffrey/Jennifer Laude should be considered a he or a she. People can debate on his or her gender all they want, but what we can’t debate about is that this person was the victim of a crime. This person was murdered.

Laude 5

When a person is murdered, regardless of sex or gender, the ethical human response should be outrage or, at least, sorrow. If this tragedy happened to a straight woman or a straight man, that’s exactly the kind of response we could expect from the majority.

However, I don’t think some Filipinos see transgender individuals as people. That’s the only reason I can imagine why there are over 200 comments posted on inquirer.net insulting, cursing, and mocking the murder victim.

Many of these comments express disgust and indignation, not because a person was brutally murdered, but because “a tranny tried to have sex with a straight man”:

Laude 1

Many comments expressed satisfaction that karmic justice was served, not because a murderer was caught, but because “a sinner was punished”:

Laude 2

Some comments even suggested that it was funny, and it was Jennifer’s fault that she was murdered because she was “pretending to be a woman”:

Laude 3

The insults and curses hurled at the victim has even inspired its own photo album in Facebook:

Image 1
 

This attitude towards the transgender is not surprising though, especially in a country with a reputation for being religious and conservative. The Philippines, for one, is the last country without divorce and many of our religious countrymen are proud of being the last stronghold of idiocy.

Unfortunately for the LGBT community, research done by Wade Rowatt and colleagues from Baylor University in the States learned that religiousness and conservatism are the top two factors that account for a person’s homophobia.

Here’s a graph:

Image Source: http://goo.gl/jZSpX1

Image Source: http://goo.gl/jZSpX1

 

It should be no surprise that hate crimes against the LGBT community are tolerated in a country where majority of the people identify as Catholics, Christians, or Muslims; all of them, religions that hate homosexuality.

I can provide a litany of research proving how those who believe themselves to be the holiest of the holy, the most righteous of the righteous, the most faithful of the faithful, the most religious of the religious, the closest to God, are the most determined advocates of hate and bigotry. The most fervent believers of homophobic religious doctrine inevitably become the most homophobic people. When a person is indoctrinated and trained from childhood to hate homosexuality, it’s rather difficult to unlearn it as an adult.

The suspect, obviously, is himself transphobic. He probably can’t tell the difference between a homosexual and a trans-woman. He probably doesn’t give a shit about those subtle differences either. This may sound a little racist, but studies do prove that Americans are less accepting of homosexuality than other westerners and religion may have something to do with it.

Many Filipinos have no empathy for the murder victim, Jennifer/Jefferey Laude, simply because of religion. They were raised to believe that any non-heterosexual person is a Sodomite; a disordered sinner that deserves divine punishment, in the same way the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished – with the righteous vengeance of a brutal God.

The Philippines’ religiousness and conservatism simply can’t peacefully co-exist with homosexuality. In the minds of some Filipinos, it might as well be God beating up the victim.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the Catholic hierarchy hates LGBT people. Just recently a bishop said that homosexuals should not be invited to the dinner table if there are children present, because impressionable children should not be exposed to something so “intrinsically disordered.”

Some people would argue that homophobic doctrines, like the Bible, don’t necessarily cause homophobia. They say things like, “But the Bible also has verses about love and tolerance…”

Are you serious? The Bible said that homosexuality is an abomination. The Bible also said that an adulteress should be stoned to death. The Bible also said that a rape victim should marry her rapist. Unfortunately, the context for these verses are not explained because the Bible doesn’t have editor’s footnotes. Many believers also suggest it’s “open to interpretation.” Well, anything can be open to interpretation. Even “Dora the Explorer” can be interpreted from a Marxist perspective.

However, there is a limit to the number of ways one can interpret, “Gay = Abomination.” If you think that these verses, as they appear in the Bible, do not at all, inspire prejudice or bigotry, you need a mental health evaluation.

The Bible, along with other homophobic religious doctrines, are books filled with hate. These books don’t belong in any society that aspires for gender equality. As long as there are people who adhere to Biblical authority, to verses that call homosexuals abominations, there will always be members of the LGBT community found dead in toilets and there will always be people celebrating the torture of the victim.

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Pop Culture, Religion, Society7 Comments

FF Podcast 52: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck on Islam

FF Podcast 52: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck on Islam

How is Islam related to extremism? This week, we talk about criticism of Islam and how liberals tend to discuss Islam.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Posted in Podcast, Religion, Society, Video1 Comment

Does The Church Accept Boy Abunda?

Boy-Abunda-health-conditionA special episode of “The Bottomline with Boy Abunda” aired last Sunday. In the show, Boy Abunda was asked if he believes that living the life of a gay man is a sin. Boy Abunda explained, “I do not agree to all the teachings of the Church, and one of them is saying that, ‘We’re okay with homosexuality, but the moment you practice, the moment you have sex, it is a sin.'” He later added, “How can love be a sin?”

I’m glad that Boy Abunda asks the right questions about love and faith, but I don’t think he has the right information. I’m sorry, Boy, but The Church is not okay with homosexuality.

John Finnis’ article, “Reason, Faith and Homosexual Acts,” provides a very thorough breakdown as to why homosexuality can never be “okay” from a Catholic perspective.

The article mentions that:

The Church refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

The Church does not believe in sexual orientation or sexual preference. There is no such thing as a homosexual. People are not gay or straight, and their preference for men or women is irrelevant. People are either men or women, period. So, The Church doesn’t consider Boy Abunda a “homosexual.” The Church was never okay with Boy Abunda being a homosexual; they were okay with him being a man who has homosexual inclinations, but doesn’t do homosexual acts.

What The Church wants Boy Abunda to do, really, is to not have sex with boys, and start having sex with a girl that he has married, because The Church believes that although Boy Abunda may prefer men, they don’t think he’s incapable of having sex with women.

According to the article:

That is to say, most people who engage, or have an inclination to engage, in homosexual activity also engage, or are more or less inclined to engage, in sexual activity with a person or persons of the opposite sex.  Very many homosexual persons – persons with homosexual inclinations – marry and have children by their spouse.

The Church thinks that the only reason Boy Abunda doesn’t want to have sex with girls is because something went wrong with his sexual development, or because he saw gays having sex, or because he didn’t get a proper education, or he developed a habit of homosexuality. But, even though there are a lot of disordered gays out there, it’s okay, because gayness, according to The Church, might be curable.

According to the article:

The Church observes that in some homosexual persons the homosexual inclination (= orientation) comes, it seems, “from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable.

Although The Church acknowledges the fact that a person’s homosexuality may have been inborn, meaning it wasn’t a choice, they still think it’s wrong.

According to the article:

The Christian teaching from the outset, has been that no homosexual acts are ever justified, even the acts of someone whose inclination to engage in them is ‘innate’ (that is, present at birth) and, in one sense of the word, ‘natural.’

The main reason homosexual attraction can never be morally justified from a Christian perspective is because they view homosexuals as inevitable adulterers.

The article says:

As Jesus makes clear, this natural communion requires for its integrity not only the sexual intercourse of the spouses (Matt. 19: 5), but also the complete and unwavering mastery and overcoming – by everyone, married or unmarried — of every desire for sexual contact or enjoyment outside marriage (Matt. 5: 27).

What that means is that it is morally wrong for anyone to lust outside of marriage. Unfortunately, for gays, they can’t ever lust within a marriage, because they’re not allowed to get married. The Church is basically telling Boy Abunda, “It’s okay to be a man with gay inclinations as long as you don’t do any sex outside of marriage; but you can’t get married, so doing sex in any circumstance is immoral.”

The Church doesn’t accept Boy Abunda, or any homosexual for that matter. But in my opinion, Boy Abunda shouldn’t worry. I personally think Boy Abunda has more moral authority than The Church. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Boy Abunda did not have Galileo arrested and imprisoned for being right about heliocentrism.

2. Boy Abunda never burnt a 19-year-old girl at the stake for heresy.

3. Boy Abunda didn’t start an Inquisition to drive Muslims out of Europe.

4. Boy Abunda didn’t cover up child abuse crimes by priests. Neither did he spend over 4 billion dollars in settlements to shut victims up.

5. Boy Abunda never threatened his followers with eternal damnation just so he can sell them Indulgences, to buy back their salvation.

If The Church doesn’t accept Boy Abunda, he doesn’t have to accept them. They don’t have monopoly on God. Boy Abunda can worship, love, believe, and serve his God from the comfort of his own home, or his new Hummer, free from any discrimination based on gender, orientation, or preference.

The good news is, you can too.

 

Image Source:

http://amazingnews.ph/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Boy-Abunda-health-condition.jpg

Posted in Gender Rights, Personal, Pop Culture, Religion, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

FF Podcast (Audio) 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

FF Podcast 49 - I'm an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

This week, we talk about the Pennsylvania kid who is facing two years in prison for simulating oral sex with a Jesus statue.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Freedom of Expression, Religion, Secularism, Society1 Comment

FF Podcast 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

FF Podcast 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

This week, we talk about the Pennsylvania kid who is facing two years in prison for simulating oral sex with a Jesus statue.

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, Video1 Comment

Atheists and Satanists; Bedfellows?

This post was inspired by a question directed to me by a fellow faculty member. She asked me whether or not atheism was similar to satanism. Well, the obvious answer should have been, “No, they’re different.” However, it’s not as simple as that, really. For one, there are a number of similarities between the atheist and the satanist, beginning with the prejudice both individuals have to deal with on a daily basis.

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Here are some of them:

1. Both atheists and Satanists are accused of sexual deviance

An atheist’s sexuality is often judged as deviant simply because atheists are often sex-positive and LGBT-friendly, having no religiously-motivated biases against homosexuality or sex, in general.

Similarly, Satanists are often accused of being sex-crazed, devil-worshippers who commit unspeakable sex crimes on unsuspecting strangers.

That’s false.

In fact, it clearly states in the Satanic Bible, written by Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan that:

“Satanism encourages any form of sexual expression you may desire, so long as it hurts no one else. If all parties involved are mature adults who willingly take full responsibility for their actions and voluntarily engage in a given form of sexual expression – even if it is generally considered taboo – then there is no reason for them to repress their sexual inclinations.”

Furthermore, the fifth rule of “The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth”  is, “Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.” In other words, a person is not supposed to make sexual advances until provided consent. In Satanism, there is a huge emphasis on consent from a partner.

What’s strange is that it’s often the accusers of these transgressions that often commit them. It’s not the Satanists or the Atheists that encourage the violation of female autonomy, it’s the Bible.

These are verses from the Bible that legitimize rape, if the women were acquired through conquest:

“In the cities that god delivers into thine hands you must kill all the males with “the edge of the sword …. But the women … shalt thou take unto yourself.” — Deuteronomy 20:13-14

“If you see a pretty woman among the captives and would like her for a wife, then just bring her home and go in unto her. Later, if you decide you don’t like her, you can “let her go.” — Deuteronomy 21:11-14

In this verse, it is stated that a victim of rape should be killed if no one heard her scream:

“If a betrothed virgin is raped in the city and doesn’t cry out loud enough, then “the men of the city shall stone her to death.” — Deuteronomy 22:23-24

Atheists and satanists do have something in common, with regard to women. Neither of them considers the Bible as a guide for how women should be treated.

 

2. Both Atheists and Satanists are often accused of sacrificing children in weird rituals.

Another common misconception about both atheists and satanists is that they harm children. However, in “The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth“, the Satanist equivalent of the Ten Commandments, the ninth rule is, “Do not harm children.”

Once again it’s not atheistic or satanistic beliefs that encourage that attitude; it’s the Bible.

These verses encourage the beating of a child with a rod:

“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” — Proverbs 23:13-14

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” — Hebrews 12:11

It’s not Satanists and atheists who sacrifice kids as part of a ritual to appease their god, either:

In Genesis 22:2 there was Abraham who was told by God to kill his own son: “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

And, of course, in Judges 11:29-40 there’s Jephthah who promised God that, “I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Unfortunately, after his victory, his only daughter ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. So, he kept his promise to God and burned her.

 

3. Both atheists and Satanists are accused of hating God.

This will sound strange, but most Satanists don’t actually believe in God or Satan. There is a thing such as theistic Satanism, but even these people do not worship the Satan of Christian mythology. For many Satanists, Satan is a symbolic adaptation. “Satan” comes from ancient Hebrew and means “opposer.” The contemporary Satanist is someone who opposes the ideas and commandments of the Judeo-Christian religion because they see them as evil. Yes, both the atheist and the satanist have this in common, “neither of them hate God.” They don’t even acknowledge his existence.

According to the Satanic Bible:

“ALL religions of a spiritual nature are inventions of man. He has created an entire system of gods with nothing more than his carnal brain. Just because he has an ego, and cannot accept it, he has to externalize it into some great spiritual device which he calls ‘God’.”

But there are many atheists who do oppose religion. Some of them are even very vocal about it. Richard Dawkins wrote “The God Delusion.” Christopher Hitchens wrote “God is not Great.” So, technically, when an atheist opposes the Judeo-Christian religion, he is being Satanistic, as in, being an “opposser.”

Furthermore, many atheists are also skeptics. Skepticism is another quality that both Satanists and Atheists have in common.

According to the Satanic Bible:

“The Roman god, Lucifer, was the bearer of light, the spirit of the air, the personification of enlightenment. […] It has been said “the truth will make men free”. The truth alone has never set anyone free. It is only DOUBT which will bring mental emancipation. Without the wonderful element of doubt, the doorway through which truth passes would be tightly shut, impervious to the most strenuous poundings of a thousand Lucifers.”

I have sometimes been called a Satanists by people who can’t tell the difference between atheism and Satanism. However, I don’t consider it an offense. As far as I can tell, Satanism, at least the atheistic LaVeyan incarnation of it, is not so bad. In all honesty, I would rather be mistaken for a LaVeyan Satanist than a fundamentalist Christian.

 

Image Source: http://leavingitblank.wordpress.com/tag/atheist/

Posted in Religion, Society4 Comments

Cheering for Equality

I don’t understand the Filipino sense of national pride. The Filipino sense of national pride is hard to distinguish from geographical bias, or outright racism. Filipino pride, to me, is similar to being proud of being born in a territory one did not choose to be born in. In other words, it’s like being proud of an accident.

Filipino pride, as it is commonly expressed, is like watching a male human being with a complete set of fingers being proud of being male, human, and having a complete set of fingers. Personally, I have these qualities too, but I don’t think I should take pride in any of these qualities because I was born with them. I am grateful about these qualities, but there was no effort on my part done to result in having these qualities. In other words, I didn’t work to be human, or male, or to have a complete set of fingers. I was simply born that way.

What I’m saying is, as Filipinos, we should not be proud, by default, for being Filipino. What I believe people should take pride in is having qualities that come as a consequence of effort. Being disciplined,for example, is an attribute that a person should take pride in because discipline is a product of self-control; a consequence of effort. Being kind, I think, is another quality that one can be proud of. Any person who decides to be kind is worthy of praise in my book.

If there’s anything Filipinos should be proud of, it should be something that is achieved through a collective effort. For example, I do not think Filipinos should take pride in Pacquiao becoming champion, because most Filipinos didn’t really help him train. They contributed very little to Pacquiao’s achievement.

However, Filipinos could take pride in the fact that the Philippines ranks among the most gay-friendly in the world. On the survey called, “The Global Divide on Homosexuality,” 73% of adult Filipinos believe that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”

This is something Filipinos can take pride in, because being considered gay-friendly, as a nation, takes a collective effort, a collective decision to be tolerant.

Just recently, the University of the Philippines expressed a similar, LGBT-friendly message as part of their performance in the recent 2014 UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Since the theme of the performance was gender equality (#pantaypantay), the UP Pep Squad had their female pep squad members lift their male counterparts. As they were performing, the same group initiated the passing of a rainbow flag, a LGBT symbol, to further highlight their advocacy for equality.

UPPEPSQUAD

As a long-time student of UP (8 years and counting, for various reasons [don’t judge me]) I felt very happy that the UP Pep Squad members did that. I was happy because they promoted an advocacy that I was also promoting.

I felt a sense of kinship with them; like we were comrades and colleagues, fighting for a common good. I felt a sense of pride; I wanted to think that maybe I contributed somehow to the UP community that fostered this environment of tolerance that encouraged the UP Pep Squad to highlight gender equality in their performance. But the pride of the Pep Squad does not and should not extend to me, by default, just because I go to the same school as they do.

I didn’t help them train. I didn’t risk my life being thrown10 feet into the air. I wasn’t part of the group that made a collective decision to take advantage of a national platform to bring consciousness to an advocacy that they collectively supported. They deserve to be proud of what they did.

I don’t.

I didn’t take the risks that they did. I didn’t voice out my support for the LGBT community as loud as they have. In a simple cheer dance performance, the UP Pep Squad was able to force a nation confront the issue of gender equality. That’s quite an achievement, I think. If anything, I should be humbled by that effort.

All I can say is that I’m grateful and happy that I’m part of the academic community whose image these people represented in the best way I can imagine. Congratulations to the UP Pep Squad!

 

Image Source: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/379148/sports/campussports/binuhat-yung-lalaki-eh-up-pep-squad-s-pantaypantay-routine-a-hit-online

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, Religion, Society3 Comments

Why Catholics Need to Acknowledge Evolution

Catholicism is strange. That has always been my attitude towards it. Even as a kid, I thought it was strange that I was made to get up at 3:00 a.m. to sing the Passion of Christ. I also thought it was strange that I was encouraged to kiss the bleeding knee of a Jesus sculpture after so many people already did. I thought there was something unhealthy about that.

One can say that I belong to a Catholic family. Although our beliefs vary, my family and I have always been culturally Catholic. I’m sure a lot of Filipinos are as well. And because Catholicism, as a culture, is ingrained in many Filipino families, few take the time to examine or study what Catholicism is about. Many assume that Catholicism is simply whatever their parents believed.

I have long accepted the idea that conservative Christians will not accept evolution, but I was definitely surprised to learn that many Filipino Catholics reject evolution too. In classes where I sometimes breached the topic of evolution, I would often ask Catholic students how many of them acknowledged evolution as a fact, and it’s always in the minority. My own Catholic family does not acknowledge evolution.

This is strange because, as far as I knew, the Roman Catholic Church has been claiming that there is no conflict between evolution and the faith, as early as 1950.

pope 2

Even Pope John Paul II acknowledged that evolution is not just a guess or a hypothesis. In 1996, he told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:

“Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

Pope John Paul II’s descendent Pope Benedict XVI shared a similar belief. Pope Benedict mentioned that the perceived conflict between creationism and evolution was absurd. In a speech in 2007, he said:

“Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called “creationism” and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.”

In the article, “Does the New Pope believe in evolution?” George Dvorsky reminds Catholics that the Roman Catholic Church has recognized Darwinian evolution for the past 60 years. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church openly rejects both Intelligent Design and Young Earth Creationism. The Vatican’s very own chief astronomer, Rev. George Coyne argued that intelligent design should not be taught in science classes.

If it’s not clear yet what I’m implying here, let me clarify: the Roman Catholic Church WANTS Catholics to acknowledge evolution and incorporate it into their faith.

The only requirement the Vatican gave with regard to a Catholic’s acceptance of evolution is to acknowledge that the process is guided by God. This belief is called Theistic Evolution. It’s basically the same as Darwinian Evolution, except that in the theistic version, God is involved.

As Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, is quoted to have said, “As long as in every understanding of evolution, the hand of God is recognized as being present, we can accept that.”

I think a lot of Filipino Catholics remain confused about the Vatican’s official position on evolution, or even how they’re supposed to react to the Vatican. Either way, if you’re Catholic, acknowledging evolution as fact would make your beliefs more similar to the Pope’s, than rejecting it.

Posted in Religion, Science2 Comments

It’s Okay for Christians to Believe in Evolution

evolution-cartoon-11One of the most commonly acknowledged conflicts between men of faith and men of science is the fact of evolution. For many people with faith, scientific evidence for evolution is in direct conflict with the word of God, the Bible. Science, in their opinion, challenges biblical authority. Science, to them, is  threat to their faith. This has led a lot of believers to be skeptical of science, as a whole.

Skepticism, of course, is a healthy attitude, in general. However, it would be a little absurd to be skeptical of science, since skepticism is essential to science. If an individual is being skeptical of science, he is occupies an absurd space, mostly because he’s basically being skeptical of skepticism. Skeptics yield to science, because the scientific process is an extremely thorough form of skepticism.

In any case, people of faith often dismiss the theory of evolution as being “just a theory,” meaning they dismiss it as something similar to a “guess.” But there is a difference between how the word “theory” is used by scientist and how “theory” is used in common language. The question scientists ask when they devising a theory is not,  “Did evolution happen?” but rather “How did evolution happen?”

What that means is that there is evidence for evolution. Evolution is a fact. The only thing that scientists are doing is guessing how evolution happens. To provide more clarity on the situation, I should point out that there is also a theory of gravitation. However, developing a theory as to why gravitation happens does not discount the reality that gravity is a fact.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to deny facts, such as evolution, to keep to your faith.

In the article, “God vs. Science,” Dean Nelson tells the story of John Polkinghorne.

Polkinghorne is a famous physicist from Cambridge University, who achieved renown for his work in explaining the existence the world’s smallest known particles – quarks and gluons. He has been awarded membership in Britain’s Royal Society, one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. But one day, Polkinghorne invited some colleagues into his office for a meeting to tell them, “I am leaving the university to enter the Anglican priesthood. I will be enrolling in seminary next year.”

Polkinghorne admits that a religious scientist is confusing for some people. For many people, including some of his colleagues, confessing that you are a religious scientist is similar to telling someone that you’re a vegetarian butcher.

However, Polkinghorne argues, that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to him, both are necessary to our understanding of the world.

In the article he was quoted to have said:

“Science asks how things happen. But there are questions of meaning and value and purpose which science does not address. Religion asks why. And it is my belief that we can and should ask both questions about the same event.”

That doesn’t mean to say, however, that Polkinghorne completely embraces religious mythology.

In the article, “No Need for Christians to Fear Science,” Dean Nelson discusses Polkinghorne’s initial encounter with the religious community.

As a student in Cambridge, Polkinghorne had a brief encounter with conservative evangelical Christianity. He joined the Christian Union, because he was a believer, and enjoyed fellowship within a community of believers. However, it was not an entirely positive experience, because it felt narrow minded, guilt-inducing, and fearful of other points of view.

According to Dean:

“There was a certain bleakness that seemed to be expected of the faithful, which cast something of a shadow,” he told me. “They thought that their certainty was reality, but they were mistaken.”

Polkinghorne, unlike many conservative Christians, fully embraces evolution. In fact, from his perspective, a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the process. Porkinghorne says, “The world is ever-evolving, still being created, and is much more complex than that. That’s what makes it so beautiful. Genesis is poetry, not history.”

The author, Dean Nelson, reveals his own confession:

“In the time I spent with him and in reading his books, I never felt like he was challenging my core beliefs in a loving God who has created a beautiful world. In fact, he challenged me to think bigger, not smaller.”

One does not have to be unscientific to be spiritual. Faith and science, as exhibited by one of the greatest priests/scientists who ever lived, can co-exist. It just takes a little tolerance, a little imagination, and a little faith. To a faithful man, scientific discovery is just another means by which God reveals himself.

 

Image Source: http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/theological-mental-gymnastics-over-evolution/

Posted in Religion, Science1 Comment

FF Podcast (Audio): Michael Shermer (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Michael Shermer (Conversations for a Cause)

Conversations for a Cause: Michael Shermer

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.

This week, we talk with author and founder of The Skeptics Society, Michael Shermer. We discuss whether God is dying, atheism vs skepticism, and why smart people believe in strange things.

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, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Secularism0 Comments

A Conversation with Michael Shermer

A Conversation with Michael Shermer

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.

This week, we talk with author and founder of The Skeptics Society, Michael Shermer. We discuss whether God is dying, atheism vs skepticism, and why smart people believe in strange things.

You may also download the video 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, Science, Video0 Comments

Believers and the “Myth” of the Angry Atheist

One of the most criticized aspects of an atheist is the tone he selects to convey what he believes. He sounds so angry, doesn’t he? That’s because he is. It’s not a myth. A lot of atheists are angry. For a long time, I was angry too. And throughout that anger, it never felt wrong to be angry. I felt that my anger was righteous. I also felt that it was important that this anger was conveyed.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that matters of belief are emotional issues. The same goes for non-belief. The atheist believes what he believes because of certain experiences that he encountered. For many atheists, the journey from belief to disbelief has been a painful one. It has not been an easy transition. Religion has been kind to some people, but it has not been kind to everyone. For some people, religion has been cruel.

 

I have some anger too, but recently I have been trying my best to communicate with a neutral tone. I have begun to consider the purpose of my writing and have decided that there’s no point to writing for an atheistic audience. Many of them already agree with me. However, my confrontational tone has been alienating not just religious folk I have never met, but many of my personal friends as well.

If I write with anger, all I would accomplish is either amplify the anger that many atheists already feel or offend many theists. I think my job, as a writer and educator, is to provide information and to encourage the peaceful discussion and evaluation of contradictory ideas.

However, if I do encounter an angry atheist, I will not tell him to stop being angry either. Anger is not a pleasant feeling. Many atheists who choose to feel something as unpleasant as anger have legitimate reasons to make such a choice.

Alex Gabriel, in his article, “To the Atheist Tone Police: Stop Telling Me How to Discuss My Abuse,” provides a comprehensive defense of his anger.

As a young bisexual man, Alex suffered from a lot of religion-inspired abuse. He was told that all Muslims were terrorists. He was told that he was an abomination. He was told that he would go to hell. After all he has suffered from religion, he believes that his anger is the correct response to religion. Part of his goal is to be rude to religion, and the anger that he is able to express is, for him, an achievement – a symbol of his freedom from religion.

In his article, he mentions others who have been labeled as “angry.” He mentions Shasheen Hashmat who was labeled as “angry” because she spoke openly about living with a mental disorder because of the traumas she endured from honor abuse. He mentions Sue Cox who was labeled “angry” because she revealed that her family told her that being raped by a Catholic priest was part of God’s plan.

Some “angry” atheists have had their genitals mutilated. Some have suffered sexual abuse from members of the clergy. Some have been living with shame because they were told that their “lack of holiness” was what caused a man to force himself on them. Some have been living in terror after being told that they were possessed, instead of depressed.

Some atheists are angry with religion simply because they suffered from religious abuse, and they are within their rights to express their outrage at the injustice they suffered.

Whether or not I agree with the communicative efficiency of an angry or bitter tone, I’m in no position to tell an angry atheist to “calm his tits” because I am not completely aware of his personal traumas to make a judgment about his capacity to calm down. It’s difficult to talk about abuse without anger.

And the last person who should be telling an atheist to stop being angry is the believer.

As Greta Christina writes in her article, “Atheists and Anger“:

“It is not up to believers to tell atheists that we’re going too far with the anger and need to calm down. Any more than it’s up to white people to say it to black people, or men to say it to women, or straights to say it to queers. When it comes from believers, it’s not helpful. It’s patronizing. It comes across as another attempt to defang us and shut us up. And it’s just going to make us angrier.”

I understand that theists will be offended by the atheists’ anger, and will make judgments about atheists based on his angry behavior. However, I also understand that atheists have legitimate reasons to be angry, not only because many of them suffered abuse, but also because these feelings of outrage are necessary for social progress.

“Social movements are hard. They take time, they take energy, they sometimes take serious risk of life and limb, community and career. Nobody would fucking bother if they weren’t furious about something,” says Cristina.

Personally, I’m not as angry as I used to be, but I can’t promise that I will never speak with anger again. What I do want believers to understand is that when I express my anger, it’s not directed at you, believers. It’s directed at a system that has enabled this abuse. I’m not attacking your relationship with God. I’m attacking misguided manifestations of your faith that has led to human abuse.

The real battle is not between believers and atheists. The battle is between cruelty and kindness; bigotry and tolerance. I would like to think that as ethical human beings, that we’re all on the same side.

 

Image Source: http://churchandstate.org.uk/wordpressRM/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/reason.jpg

Posted in Religion, Society2 Comments

A Catholic Apologist’s Open Letter to Atheists

I always thought that the term apologist was an oxymoron. My idea of an apology is a regretful acknowledgement of error, and offering a humble gesture to compensate for any damage that might have been caused. Apologists, on the other hand, are people who do not apologize often. They rationalize religious behavior and belief. They make excuses for outdated traditions. They make arguments in defense of contradictory religious doctrines.

When I saw the article, “An Open Letter to Atheists,” written by a Catholic apologist, this was exactly what I expected – empty rationalizations. To my surprise, that wasn’t what I found. In fact, the letter begins with:

As Catholic apologists, we want to do something that our name would suggest we do far more often:

We’d like to apologize.

By that we mean exactly what you would think; we want to say that we’re sorry. We understand that you might be suspicious right now, that you may be thinking that this is another “tactic” for drawing you in. It isn’t. In fact, having tactics is one of the things we’re sorry for.

In the letter, this particular apologist conceded that, historically, apologists didn’t know what to do with atheists or how to respond to them. They were threatened by the very notion of an individual who refused belief, worried that his lack of faith could weaken their own. They didn’t know how to deal with modern atheist rhetoric that challenged the divine purpose of human suffering.

The apologist himself admitted that he finds the notion of “defending God” with rhetoric rather unnecessary, “God can take care of himself; he doesn’t need our defense like that. Neither do we need to defend ourselves from looking foolish or from seeing what you see as clearly as you see it.”

The point he’s trying to make is that a true Catholic will not bother defending his faith. He will not be afraid to admit that his beliefs are irrational. He will not be afraid to acknowledge the merits of an atheist’s arguments without his faith being threatened.

The open letter was what it said it was: an apology to atheists.

In all honestly, I liked it, and not just because it was a sincere apology to atheists. I think it makes a lot of sense. Matters of belief require faith. A Catholic can’t defend his religion with reason. He must do it with his faith.

He must be able to say, “Yes, there is overwhelming evidence that evolution is a fact, but I still have faith that my God exists. Yes, there is no scientific or historical evidence that the Bible is fact. For all I know, it could be a book full of metaphors, but I still have faith that my God exists.”

The faithful are not supposed to need evidence, because the point of faith is to believe without guarantees. Faith does not require facts, but neither does it require ignorance. You don’t have to deny evolution to believe in God. You just need to interpret the Bible in a way that would accommodate your new knowledge, like the Vatican did.

Faith is not static. The religions of today are practiced much differently from how they were practiced in the past. It undergoes its own evolution. The key is to allow one’s faith to accommodate facts, not the other way around.

I believe that a person’s personal, subjective, belief in God should not be used as a basis for matters that need facts, such as: science, health, gender, & sexuality. But I also believe that a person’s faith, if it is strong, welcomes new knowledge and evolves. I believe that the faithful should re-interpret and re-contextualize religious doctrine when they come across new information.

The conflict between atheists and the faithful is not caused by a religious person’s faith in his God, but in a religious person’s insistence on using his personal, subjective “faith” as the basis for facts. As long as we can all agree that religious doctrine should not be the basis for facts about the observable universe, I don’t think I’ll ever have to argue with another person about religion.

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Here’s a confession from me, an atheist:

I don’t hate people who have faith in God. In fact, I like a lot of people who have faith in God. My mother, whom I love dearly, believes in God, the law of attraction, and other new age stuff. My girlfriend believes in the dhamma and in a non-anthropomorphic higher power. A close friend of mine is a deeply Catholic poet. Another is an Islam convert who used to teach about the Koran. I seriously don’t mind that people love and worship God.

But you know what? I should apologize too.

I have often criticized religion, in general, and blamed it as something that generally caused pain and misery. But it’s not really religion, in general, that I don’t like. What I don’t like is when a person’s faith in his or her God is used to rationalize homophobia, hypocrisy, misogyny, slut-shaming, censorship, violence, and medical malpractice.

But whether or not God exists, acts of kindness will still help people and acts of hate will still hurt people. I don’t think atheists and faithful people should be arguing about the existence or non-existence of God. I think people, in general, should simply discourage hateful behavior and encourage kindness and tolerance in everything that we do, regardless of what we believe.

Instead of insisting that knowledge and faith are mutually-exclusive, atheists, like me, should start encouraging the faithful (everyone, really) to see scientific knowledge not as a threat to their faith, but a tool they can use to assist them in their own personal spiritual journeys.

As S. N. Goenka, a pioneer of the secular meditation movement, once said:

“Rather than converting people from one organized religion to another organized religion, we should try to convert people from misery to happiness, from bondage to liberation and from cruelty to compassion.”

I agree. Converting people from one religion to another, or from faith to un-faith, should not be the priority. I used to think that I had to disagree with faith, in general, to achieve my secular goals. I now believe that encouraging the pursuit of knowledge would achieve a lot more in spreading good will than criticizing, or ranting about, what I perceive as ignorance.

After all, it doesn’t really matter what people believe as long as they treat each other well.

 

Image Source: http://harmoniaphilosophica.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/ae1.jpg?w=251&h=300

Posted in Religion5 Comments

FF Podcast 47: Secular DepEd, Catholic Bullies, and Ramon Bautista

FF Podcast 47: Secular DepEd, Catholic Bullies, and Ramon Bautista

In this week’s jam-packed episode, we talk about the Philippine government, for once, respecting secularism by removing “God-loving” from the Department of Education vision statement. Then, we talk about Pro-Life Philippines President Eric Manalang and his homophobic and violent comments against Carlos Celdran. We also talk a bit about Ramon Bautista and his being declared persona non grata by the Davao City local government.

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, Secularism, Video0 Comments

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