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FF Podcast (Audio): Darrel Ray (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Darrel Ray (Conversations for a Cause)

Darrel Ray

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 Darrel Ray, psychologist and author of Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality. We discuss polyamory, how religions use guilt, and curing the “God Virus.”

Darrel Ray is also the founder of Recovering from Religion.

You may also download the podcast file here.




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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Religion, Science, Secularism, Society0 Comments

A Conversation with Darrel Ray

A Conversation with Darrel Ray

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 Darrel Ray, psychologist and author of Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality. We discuss polyamory, how religions use guilt, and curing the “God Virus.”

Darrel Ray is also the founder of Recovering from Religion.

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, Society, Video0 Comments

Population and Poverty

Father Castro, a church executive, recently mentioned, “100 million population, it’s good for the economy. Ibig sabihin niyan meron tayong workers, hindi bad news ang population. Na brainwash tayo na malaking population is equated with poverty.”

100 million

This sentiment has been repeated by many; that the growing population is good for the economy and does not lead to poverty. Their logic is that the the more people, the more workers; the more workers, the better the economy.

There is some truth to the assertion that a fast growing population may lead to faster economic growth. Even the New York Times published an article by Floyd Whaley called, “A Youthful Populace Helps Make the Philippines an Economic Bright Spot in Asia.”

Although it is true that more people can produce more goods and services, leading to faster economic growth, the question we should ask is, “Who benefits from this kind of growth?”

About 1 million people enter the labor force every year, each one of them competing with each other and with existing employees for jobs. With such an abundance of labor, employers face very little pressure to raise wages. After all, if one person doesn’t want to work for next to nothing, there are hundreds of others lining up to apply for the same job.

To quote HSBC economist Frederic Neumann:

“The Philippines stands out as the youngest population. As other countries see their labor costs go up, the Philippines will remain competitive due to the sheer abundance of workers joining the labor force.”

In other words, the economy will grow rapidly precisely because wages will not.

Who will benefit? The rich who have an army of workers competing for a small number of jobs, willing to work for next to nothing just to stay alive, and Father Castro’s church which will gain legions of faithful poor.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, Society2 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 45: Do Selfies Cause Demonic Possession?

FF Podcast (Audio) 45: Do Selfies Cause Demonic Possession?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 45 - Do Selfies Cause Demonic Possession?

This week, we talk about the children from San Fernando, La Union, who were supposedly possessed by demons after taking selfies under a plum tree.

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 (Audio): Dan Ariely (Conversations for a Cause)

FF Podcast (Audio): Dan Ariely (Conversations for a Cause)

Dan Ariely

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 Dan Ariely, psychologist/behavioral economist and the author of Predictably Irrational. We ask him about attractiveness, cheating, and the value of human irrationality.

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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FF Podcast (Audio) 44: Priest Humiliates Unwed Mother

FF Podcast (Audio) 44: Priest Humiliates Unwed Mother

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 44 - Watching Your Words

This week, we talk about the priest who humiliated an unwed mother during the baptism of her child.

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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FF Podcast 44: Priest Humiliates Unwed Mother

FF Podcast 44: Priest Humiliates Unwed Mother

This week, we talk about the priest who humiliated an unwed mother during the baptism of her child.

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

The Government That Prays Together Steals Together

Senate Prayer

How does one know that a politician accused of plunder is a devout Catholic? Don’t worry — they’ll tell you. One even put a Bible quote on a shirt — Bong Revilla’s had the following on his the day he surrendered:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

This kind of religious gesture is usually shorthand for, “I’m not corrupt, I’m Catholic, for Christ’s sake!”

But a recent study concluded that if you’re a Catholic politician in a predominantly Catholic country, you’re probably corrupt. I had read several studies that confirm the correlation between religiosity and other signs of societal dysfunction.

But this most recent one, titled “A Cross-National Investigation into the Effects of Religiosity on the Pervasiveness of Corruption,” went a bit further. It argues that religion, instead of just being correlated with corruption, actually promotes it.

Secularism and Societal Health

A few weeks before Revilla’s surrender, Alex Gonzaga, a celebrity contestant of reality show Pinoy Big Brother, preached about the virtue of theism and the vice of atheism. She said that while believers solve their problems with God, nonbelievers “deteriorate,” trying to solve their sins with yet other sins.

But such statements can only come from someone who doesn’t know about Scandinavia and other secular societies. Study after study has shown that when it comes to countries, a strongly religious population is rarely a good thing. The more religious the population, the higher the incidence of, among others, poverty, crime, corruption, inequality, infant mortality, inability to access education and a decent standard of living — the list goes on. The least religious countries are better at most, if not all, of these measures.

However, correlation does not mean causation. Just because strong religiosity usually coexists with high crime rates does not mean one causes the other. When it comes to causation, I share the conclusion of the sociologists at the World Values Survey. They argue that what causes both high religiosity and low societal health is existential insecurity. When you live in a society where you can’t count on your government for survival, you’re more likely to pray to God for help or to get the help yourself — regardless of the legality of the means.

But this doesn’t quite explain why politicians — particularly those who are rich enough to own private jets — would plunder millions, especially while professing belief in a God that sees and judges everything they do.

Hamid Yeganeh & Daniel Sauers of Winona State University, USA, provide an explanation.

Corruption By Catholic Privilege

Even after controlling for the effects of socioeconomic development — making sure that how developed a country was didn’t significantly influence the outcome — they concluded the following:

“Considering the variety of corruption measures, the reliability of data, and the large number of included countries, we have to conclude that religiosity not only does not impede corruption but tends to promote it… The fact that religious denominations did not have considerable effects on the level of corruption suggests that religiousness inherently increases the occurrence of corrupt business behavior.”

But isn’t religion supposed to make people more moral and less corrupt? Yeganeh and Sauers argue that “while religiosity provides guidance on morality, some of its characteristics practically promote corrupt business behavior.”

The first of these characteristics is the creation of “a hierarchical socio-cultural structure promoting the elites’ discretionary power that ultimately endorses corruption.”

Consider clerical child abuse. The abuse of children and adolescents had been happening for centuries before it was brought to public awareness. Then it was discovered that systematic cover-ups and cleric shuffling made it difficult for the proper authorities to get involved.

I emphasize “proper” because the Catholic Church claimed that abuse cases were handled by their internal courts. They thought that whether the abuses should be handled by external authorities were up to their discretion. Because they could ensure the victims’ silence with threats of excommunication, they alone could decide whether to report the crime to the police. And the decisions usually favored the priests over their victims.

Now consider the psalm on Revilla’s shirt: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” This sentiment was shared by Vatican and its bishops when it decided that their authority alone was enough. What can man (the law) do to one with the Lord on his side (Catholic official)?

Thus bishops and politicians see themselves as privileged. But they wouldn’t have any power if the population didn’t actually share this perspective. Unfortunately, this is the case. The more religious a country, the more faith citizens have in both priests and politicians. These privileged people deserve more special treatment, more respect, and more trust.

On the other hand, secular societies are more skeptical of authority. They realize that there’s nothing special about priests, politicians, or any other person of authority. The more power they have, the more scrutiny and skepticism they are subjected to. Because the idea of faith is more foreign to secular societies, reason and evidence hold more currency. In the researchers words, “rationality, without too much emphasis on morality, wordlessly and effectively hinders corruption and supports ethical behavior.”

Religion: Sedation, not Solution

Another characteristic of religion that promotes corruption is the doctrine of forgiveness. In the researchers’ words, “the function of religion with regard to corruption is to provide sedation rather than a solution.”

If the allegations of plunder are true, then condemnation should be the least the people could do to ensure that justice is served. Yet CBCP President Villegas found it necessary to ask Filipinos not to condemn the alleged pork scammers.

You may think that there’s no way the public could be that stupid. Surely Filipinos would never forgive, never forget. But what kind of country would make Revilla consider running for president right after his arrest? What kind of country would elect a president impeached for corruption as Mayor of Manila? What kind of country would have so many of its people forget the atrocities of Marcos and elect his family into power?

A country that can forgive a corrupt politician seventy times seven.

The Government that Prays Together

To this day, the supposedly secular Philippine Senate starts every session with a prayer. Most, if not all, of them are implicated in either the PDAF or DAP scandal. A lot of Filipinos ask, “How can a government that is so religious be so corrupt?” If you’ve read up to this point, I hope you’ll agree that the correct question is, “How could it not?”

___

Image source: kickerdaily.com
Author’s note: This article was previously titled, “The Government That Prays Together Plunders Together.” “Preys” was also suggested, but “steals” sounds better (and sounds closer to “stays”).

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society8 Comments

A Letter to CSB on the Recent Hazing Incident

Dear College of Saint Benilde,

In the University Mall, next to my alma mater, DLSU, I once saw a 6-foot fratboy punch a much smaller guy in the face. Immediately after, he ran to his “brothers” excited to show them his hand, red and bleeding from a small wound, because the tooth of the guy he punched grazed his knuckles. He rushed to his brethren and said, “May sinapak ako! May sinapak ako!” Then, everyone got excited and they grouped up, around 8 of them, and they surrounded 3 guys to tell them, “Ano, babalik pa kayo? Babalik pa kayo?”

A fratboy once saw me laugh with his “brother’s” ex-girlfriend as I was walking next to her, a classmate of mine, from the smoking area to our class. Later, six people surrounded me around L. Guinto street, and I was randomly accused of “talking shit” about her ex. Whenever I denied it, one of them would slap me across the face and call me a liar, until I said, “Yeah. I was talking shit,” at which point I was sucker punched by the ex. Then, they left.

Here’s what I want you to know, people join fraternities for two main reasons: they want to satisfy their need to belong, or they don’t want to be bullied. Between those reasons, the latter is a more deciding factor.

In my high school, around 3-5 students in each section was a member of the same fraternity. Either you were one of them, or you weren’t. My classmates who were bullied by fratboys ended up joining the fraternities that bullied them. Almost overnight, the bullied is suddenly the one doing bullying. To be honest, the only thing that stopped me from joining a fraternity in high school is the fact that I was a member of the Taekwondo varsity team and the soccer club. It would have been impossible for me to train with injured legs. Otherwise, I might have joined.

I have been invited to join fraternities althroughout my academic life – from elementary to college. I’ve had friends who were fratboys, and friends who have been assaulted, bullied, extorted, sexually assaulted, and intimidated by fratboys.

At the end of the day, regardless of what bullshit excuses fraternities make for why one should join their “brotherhood,” fraternities are about violence. The currency of fraternities is violence: violence you are willing to commit (for a brother, a turf, a reputation), violence you are willing to endure (hazing, sexual coercion, institutionalized rape), and violence that you want to avoid (bullying, etc.).

The initiation rites of these organizations is not the only problem with fraternities. Hazing is just a natural element of a culture that functions through violence.

The site insidehazing.com explains that hazing is a rite executed to determine who’s “fit” enough to join the group. Furthermore, the site explains that the purpose of joining such a group “is for protection from outsiders; and by joining, one is assuming that the members of the same group will be protective towards one another.”

There are many studies that attempt to explain the nature of and logic behind hazing:

It creates cohesiveness within a group – you’re definitely going to bond with someone you spent an evening paralyzed from the waist down with. You’ve gone through the same trauma. You and a “brother” both know what it took for the other to survive the ordeal, etcetera, etcetera.

It’s designed as a slippery slope. An initiate’s willingness to consent to torture does not happen overnight. It happens over a period of weeks. An initiate’s tolerance for abuse gradually increases, in small increments, as he or she is assigned mundane tasks (cleaning, homework) at the beginning, but later escalates to more extreme forms of dehumanization. As mentioned in an article called, “The Psychology of Hazing,” “Even when we realize that we may find ourselves in the midst of hazing rituals, we may not step away because giving up at this point may feel like a sunk cost. We’ve already put in effort that we cannot get back, so isn’t it better to keep going than to feel like it was all for nothing?”

Another purpose of hazing is to destroy a person’s sense of self-worth through systematic abuse. After suffering through the humiliations you are forced to endure, you start to feel that the only people who can understand you are those who went through the same suffering – those who were spat on, beat, paddled, and sexually assaulted.

Sexual violence is one of the hallmarks of fraternity culture. Stacey Copper and Elizabeth Grauerholz conducted a study called, “Sexual Victimization Among Sorority Women: Exploring the Link Between Sexual Violence and Institutional Practices.” In that study they learned that, “24% experienced attempted rape, and 17% were victims of completed rape. Almost half of the rapes occured in a fraternity house, and over half occured either during a fraternity function or was perpetrated by a fraternity member.” Even in the Philippines, it’s not unusual for sorority members and initiates to be “gifted” to members of a brother fraternity.

When I was in high school, I was warned by a friend, a “brother,” not to court a girl, because many “brothers” already had their way with her as part of her initiation. They called it “hirap o sarap,” an institutionalized form of sexual abuse where an initiate is given the option to suffer physical injuries or provide sexual favors.

In many cases, these arrangements, these assaults happen in the presence of “sisters” and “brothers.” I don’t have intimate knowledge about fraternity logic, but I do know that most people consider it wrong to sexually assault your “sister,” or to watch your “sister,” get sexually assaulted by your “brother.”

Arguing for or against violent hazing rituals is pointless. It’s a moot point. Even the most naive freshmen know that there’s something wrong with being tortured for hours, or being coerced to fuck, and no one thinks that these are pleasant experiences. The question we should be asking is, “Why would anyone willingly endure hours of pain?”

The answer is simple: They are willing to endure a few hours of pain, in the hope that they could avoid years of pain.

Fraternities, despite all the negative consequences they cause young people, provide members with the illusion of safety. They are “supposedly” there to provide a young individual with everything his family, his community, and his school has failed to provide: security and a sense of belonging. The truth is, being accepted by, and being a member of, a group that has a reputation for violence immediately exempts one from being bullied.

Although fraternities have varied mission/vision statements, no one really cares what those are. A young person joins a fraternity because he doesn’t want to be beat up by a fraternity, without being able to retaliate. Violence is an issue schools have failed to address for decades.

The institutions that are supposed to protect the student can’t do its job properly, so young people are forced to look for alternatives. I mean, what statement did you, the prestigious College of Saint Benilde, release after another death due to hazing?

Well, you offered some very cheesy and useless advice:

“Brotherly Care not Brutal Hazings

and Real Friendships not Ruthless Frats.

Therefore, choose God not Gangs.”

Really? That’s your solution? Choosing God? When a kid gets his ass kicked over some dumb shit that probably involves women, money, or territory, it’s not God who helps him out; it’s his gang.

As much as you would like to pretend that your God, being the ultimate bully, will protect your students or retaliate on their behalf, He won’t be around when your students are mocked and humiliated by their peers. God won’t be around when your students are extorted and intimidated. Where I came from, gangs and fraternities provided confused, suffering, depressed, frustrated, young people the illusion of sanctuary from violence, something that this your invisible God couldn’t provide.

God wasn’t around when Guillo Servando was killed. No one was around; not his gang, not his school, not CSB’s God.

frat image

No one warned Guillo Servando about how fraternities used systematic violence to reduce his sense of self-worth and increase his dependence on the organization. No one told Guillo Servando what he could do if he made the mistake of joining a fraternity and wanted to withdraw from his initiation. No one told Guillo Servando that they could help him or protect him from those who threatened him when he wanted to quit. That’s your God’s job, right? Well, He’s not doing it, and neither are you.

There are all of these articles saying the same shit they’ve been saying for decades: “Hazing is dangerous.”

DUH.

Everyone knows that, and you’re missing the point. The point is that some kids think that joining a fraternity, with all its brutal initiation rites, is safer than going to school without one. That’s what you have to fix. CSB, in all honesty, “your house” does not have the structure to eradicate the institutionalized abuse happening in your own backyard. And the half-assed approach of encouraging students to “choose God” is not going to improve your odds.

*Addendum (July 10, 2014):

My response to some of the comments are found here — “On the Hazing Article: A General Response to Comments

Posted in Religion, Society82 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

FF Podcast (Audio) 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 43 - Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

This week, we talk about the Vatican report that said that a majority of Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on sex. We talk about whether dissenting Catholics should just leave the Roman Catholic Church.

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 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

FF Podcast 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

This week, we talk about the Vatican report that said that a majority of Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on sex. We talk about whether dissenting Catholics should just leave the Roman Catholic Church.

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

FF Podcast (Audio) 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

FF Podcast (Audio) 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

Alex-Gonzaga

This week, we talk about Alex Gonzaga and her prejudiced rant on Pinoy Big Brother about atheists.

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

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Pop Culture, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

Alex Gonzaga rants about atheists

This week, we talk about Alex Gonzaga and her prejudiced rant on Pinoy Big Brother about atheists.

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, Video15 Comments

The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways

Photo Credit: an untrained eye via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: an untrained eye via Compfight cc

I had the pleasure of meeting one of my readers this week. His name is Edgar. He wrote me the longest response I ever received for my article, Irreligious. That started a brief email exchange which culminated in a book exchange and a pleasant chat over coffee.

Edgar is a Christian.

In one of my emails, I mentioned: “I do not reject the idea that God is good, just and compassionate. It’s just that if he really is all that, then that’s not the God being described in those books because the God there seems like a petty, immature spoiled brat who goes on a rampage if things get too much for him.” In this sentence, I was referring to several instances in the Old Testament where God goes on killing sprees (think Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho, Saul and the Amalekites, etc.)

Edgar responded by giving a hypothetical situation where I’m in a safari, looking at some magnificent elephants when suddenly I see a couple of people shooting and killing them with high-powered rifles. Of course, I get outraged and demand that they stop what they’re doing.

It turns out, however, that one of these people is the park master, who explains to me that they are practicing a system called “culling” which balances the ecosystem in the park. The elephant population has become so large that it was endangering many of the other species in the park. It was a drastic measure and one they found no pleasure in doing, yet it had to be done for the good of the park.

The point then, was that God may have reasons for doing what he did, but I just don’t understand them, that I don’t know enough to judge the situation. In his words, “our perspective is limited. We don’t see enough. We don’t see the whole story, the larger perspective, the bigger picture.”

I am not unfamiliar with this line of thinking. I call it the “The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways” argument. Its flaw, however, is that it doesn’t really explain anything. It can be used as sort of a magic formula answer to every possible situation.

Why did God, at certain instances, command the Israelites to wipe out an entire race — including the women, the elderly, children and infants? The Lord works in mysterious ways. Why does God allow natural calamities to wipe out entire families and deprive people of their lives and livelihood? The Lord works in mysterious ways. Why does God allow charlatans to preach in his name and amass wealth by spreading lies? The Lord works in mysterious ways. Why does God allow supposed faith healers to do real harm to people by promising healing and giving false hope instead of offering actual, life-saving medication? The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Saying that we can’t really understand how God works doesn’t really improve the situation much. In other fields of study, we do not accept that answer. Science strives to always understand more and more. Not knowing enough is not an excuse not to work towards knowing more, or inventing reasons and preaching them as fact, which is what some do.

In the given example, the park master was on hand to give an explanation, which calmed me down and made me understand. Yet, where is the divine “park master” to explain what is going on in the world? I do not hear any explanation save from secondhand sources who have themselves not heard from the park master himself.

A better example, perhaps, that more closely matches our reality, would be that I see the elephants drop dead one by one. So I don’t know why they’re dying, and neither does anyone else who sees them. Some of the observers offer conjectures — for example, that there is a hidden park master shooting the elephants with a silenced rifle for the reasons given in the original example. Some of these arguments are silly, but I also grant that some are intelligent arguments worth considering (and I do consider them seriously, which is why I even have conversations with people like Edgar, otherwise, why bother?) — but however intelligent these arguments are, they are conjectures nonetheless, and I have yet to hear from the sniper (who may or may not exist and who may or may not be the park master — who knows?) himself.

Yes, there are many things we do not know, and many things our reason can’t grasp, but that doesn’t mean we shut it down and stop trying to understand. History will attest that reason, logic and the scientific method are by far the best tools we have developed to ascertain truth and reality.

As we were about to part and shake hands, Edgar told me about how C.S. Lewis (best known for the Chronicles of Narnia as well as being a stalwart Catholic apologist) described his own conversion: “I was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God, eyes darting left and right for some means of escape.” What he meant to say was that at the end, he was seemingly left with no choice. He didn’t want to believe, but he had to, because for him, that was the only logical thing to do.

I have not yet reached that point, and still see some logical and reasonable alternatives worth pursuing and worth attacking to see if they will really stand the test of reason. And if I am to once again recover my faith, it will most likely in a manner similar to Lewis’ own kicking and screaming. My commitment to truth demands no less than an honest and brutal appraisal of the best arguments on either side.

What will happen in the end, I wonder? Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Originally appears in Sunstar Davao.

Also published in Freethinking Me.

Want free coffee? Send me your thoughts and I might just treat you to one. Email me at [email protected]. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

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