Archive | Secularism

Making It Our Problem

I am not a religious person and the reformation of any religion shouldn’t be my problem or anyone else’s. I wish I could respect other’s beliefs to the point of indifference. It shouldn’t be my concern how someone else’s superstitions, mythologies, and traditions evolve and adapt to survive in the modern age through reformation and reinterpretation. How their religion can withstand being disproven by science and refuted by universal human rights is not my problem.

But religious people have made themselves everyone else’s problem.

Religious terrorists have murdered, raped, and enslaved thousands across the globe and threaten tens of thousands more. Religious fanatics impose their beliefs on everyone else by seeking impose religious laws and deny others equal rights. Religious tyrants suppress free speech by outlawing it as blasphemy, suppress the freedom of choice by banning apostasy, and suppress women’s rights by imposing “modesty.” Religious oppressors use legend and prophecy to justify occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing.

Let’s recognise that the majority of terrorists, oppressors, and bigots today–be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist–justify their actions with a fundamentalist interpretation of ancient religious scriptures.

There are terrorists who are inspired by Marxism, Fascism, and other non-religious ideologies, but those do not diminish or absolve the actions of religious terrorists.

Denying the link between religion and terrorism, oppression, and bigotry will not make the problem go away.

We must support those who are reforming their own faith. We must recognise the problems within these faiths that these reformers are pointing out.

We may not share their faith or their culture. But it is in our own interest that they prevail in liberating their religion and culture from bigotry and terrorism. We must support reformers and secularists such as Maajid Nawaz, Raif Badawi, and Faisal Saeed Al Mutar.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Secularism0 Comments

Intolerant of Intolerance

Civil rights are not a matter of religious opinion or personal preference. If you seek to deny others their civil rights, you are a bigot.

Scientific facts are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. If you seek to deny others—especially your own children—education, then you are denying them a basic human right. And if you disbelieve in science despite the evidence available and reasons apparent, you are suppressing truth and spreading disinformation.

Your choice

Reproductive Health, sex education and science education, divorce and gay marriage—these are all civil rights issues. Denying others their choice is denying them their civil rights. In contrast, allowing other people their civil rights—specifically Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage—does not curtail your own freedom.

  • If you want to refuse the health and economic benefits of contraception and responsible family planning and if you stubbornly believe that an abstinence-only approach works despite evidence to the contrary, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse to believe in sex education after learning all the facts and if you refuse to believe in the science of evolution and natural history after learning all the evidence and how it is the foundation to understanding and making sense of this world, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you disagree with certain music, literature, or other forms of art because of their message, then you can simply choose not to watch or listen. That is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse divorce and want to stay in abusive, loveless, and failed relationships, or if you want a priest to have the power to refuse you annulment of your marriage, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you want to miss out on your friends’, your siblings’, or your children’s joyous weddings simply because they are gay or lesbian, that is your choice and your loss.

None of the proposed laws on Reproductive Health and sex education, divorce and gay marriage will stop you from voluntarily practicing your religious beliefs.

But what I cannot abide by is when you seek to deny others their right to Reproductive Health, sex education and science, divorce, and marriage equality before the law regardless of gender. That is simply oppression. That is simply bigotry. My friend, my kin, I do not want you to be a bigot.

Nor do I want you to prejudice your own children. Your children are individuals, guaranteed to have the same civil rights and choices as everyone. They should not be denied the information, the education, the science, the rationality, and the access necessary to make their own responsible choices when they come of age.

Science and reason are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. These are truths that all people—even children—have a right to access, which are a necessity for making responsible and informed decisions.

Education is a basic human right. It is wrong for parents to keeping their children ignorant or misinformed about sex education, literature, philosophy, evolution, natural history, cosmology, plate tectonics, and other fields.

Sex education needs to be taught at schools by professionals trained for the job. Evidently, Filipino parents have failed to educate their children about sex for generations. For many Filipino parents, the only thing they fear more than the possibility of their children (and younger siblings) having premarital sex is confronting them about it. Most youths learn from the media and their peers. Just as abstinence-only policies have failed to foster responsible parenthood, so have ignorance-only policies failed to foster young adults who are empowered about their reproductive rights and responsible about sex. The Reproductive Health bill and Sex Education are necessary because the status quo has evidently failed us.

Truth is truth and it is not for religious schools nor home schooling parents to subvert. There should be no exceptions to any religious institution as to how sex education or even mandatory pre-marriage counseling (as already required under the existing Family Code) is conducted or implemented.

We should love our children regardless of who they were born to be or what personal informed choices they make as adults.

Full Disclosure

I confess, I don’t discriminate. I have friends and family who are either gay, lesbian, separated, together from previous marriages, single mothers, etc. I may not know exactly what it is to be in their place, but I do know what it is to be friend and family. It means standing up with them against prejudice. You can’t be friends or family to someone while denying them equal rights.

I confess, I myself come from the majority in the Philippines. I was born to a Roman Catholic family. I even belong to the currently unfairly advantaged sex; I am a straight man. On the other hand, I am a minority in one crucial aspect; I do not need government help to afford responsible family planning or access information about my reproductive rights like most Filipinos. Many Filipinos do, hence the need for the Reproductive Health bill. And it is a dire need. The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The Reproductive Health bill only seeks to provide the poor the same choices and information that the wealthy Filipinos already enjoy, nothing more. But why should

I, a straight guy from the middle class, care about the civil rights of others? Because a republic isn’t just about the rule of the majority. It is also about respect and tolerance for all, most especially minorities, even ones whose lives you disagree with or cannot comprehend.

I confess, I do come from another kind of majority: the majority of Filipinos who support Reproductive Health, are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and are understanding of the realities and complexities of married life. This despite most Filipinos being Catholic.

I confess, it comes easily for me to support Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage because these do not threaten the sanctity of life, the sanctity of my marriage, or my manhood for that matter. I was born this way, and nothing can change that. It is not a choice; my gender is a pillar of my identity. And evidently that is the way for all. Oppression can only drive a person to hide their identity, not change it, as centuries of repression have failed to change people’s genders. People will be who they are, regardless. People will love who they love, regardless. However, being a bigot wouldn’t be me. It is not natural for anyone to deny others equality. More importantly, supporting civil rights not only frees the oppressed, it frees the oppressor. There is no neutral in the battle between right or wrong. Those who fail to act and testify against wrongs committed to others are accessories and accomplices to it.

I confess, there are beliefs and lifestyles among the people whose civil rights I defend that I do not share. But I also know that neither agreement nor understanding are necessary. None of us owes anyone an explanation when we all are in the constant process of self-discovery and realization. Even the ones we have loved for years constantly surprise us. We do not need anyone else’s permission to be ourselves. We only owe it to each other to tolerate one another, to allow one another the freedom to pursue happiness.

So what about your beliefs? Shouldn’t these be tolerated as well? Not if they impose on the lives of others. You just can’t claim that your religious sensitivities are offended every time you disagree with someone so you can shut them down.

It was your choice to be offended, not theirs. They are just being themselves. For as long as they are not forcing their choices on anyone and are not spreading hate, violence or lies, all people have a right to be who they are. Do not deprive others of the same freedoms you enjoy.

Science and Reason

Before you criticize, oppose or support anything, know and read about it. It seems obvious, but many apparently don’t.

With the Reproductive Health bill, opponents criticize it by claiming it “legalizes abortion” and “imposes an ideal family size.” Read the bill in its entirety and know that it says nothing of that sort. In adherence to the 1996 Philippine Constitution, the Reproductive Health bill reiterates its support in protecting the health of the unborn.

Then they claim that some forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and “morning-after pills” that prevent conception even a few days after unprotected sex are also abortifacients. IUDs and morning-after pills work by not only preventing fertilization—the fusion of sperm and egg—but also implantation—the adherence of the embryo to the wall of the uterus. American and British laws define the beginning pregnancy and the conception of human life at implantation, hence the classification of IUDs and morning-after pills as contraceptives, not abortifacients.

Doctors, bioethicists, law experts and theologians of several religions define implantation as the beginning of human life for several reasons:

  • The ability to create embryos in vitro (such as in test tube babies fertilized outside the womb) has proven that fertilization does not automatically result in pregnancy. Only after implantation does an embryo’s existence have an effect on the mother’s body. It is only upon implantation that a fetus receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother to grow into a human being. It is at this point when the fetus cannot survive except within the woman’s body. Any rights granted to it must come at the expense of the pregnant woman. Note that to be pregnant—which is to be implanted—means risking one’s life for nine months to bear a new one.
  • Majority of fertilized eggs do not go on to become infants. With unprotected sex, embryos are often formed that never undergo implantation. If fertilization were to be defined as the conception of life, then countless souls have been killed without knowledge or intent.
  • After fertilization and implantation, an embryo can segment to become identical twins—separate and distinct individuals who, despite their similarities, develop their own personalities, experiences and decisions and possess their own unique DNA, fingerprints, etc. If segmentation defines the start of an individual with an indivisible soul, then an embryo prior to the stage of possible segmentation cannot be defined as an individual.

Some even make the ridiculous claim that every sperm is a life. If that is so, then every act of sex is mass murder since the millions of sperm in ejaculated semen all die save for the single one that successfully fuses with the egg cell to form a fertilized embryo. And that’s if fertilization occurs. Often no sperm succeeds at fertilizing the egg and most fertilized eggs do not go on to be infants.

Those who cite “natural” family planning-only policy fail to note that it has simply failed to work despite years of implementation.

Those who cite the cost of implementing Reproductive Health avoid considering the cost of not implementing it: the cost in lives, in health and the economic cost of building more hospitals, homes, schools, jails, and cemeteries on a finite amount of land.

Those who see the Philippines’ environmentally unsustainable population growth as a positive fail to mention that natural resources are finite and that even renewable resources diminish when abused beyond their capacity to recover.

Worse, they see the Philippines’ unsustainable population growth as the solution to declining populations in industrialized countries. Migration has already robbed the country of its talent. Work overseas has already broken so many families apart and exposed so many Filipinos to racism and abuse. Nonetheless, the Reproductive Health bill does not in any way stipulate any means or programs of population control. It only provides the masses choices and information already available to the privileged in the Philippines.

Showing One’s Character

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health not only oppose IUDs and morning-after pills but also contraceptives that only prevent fertilization and not implantation. They oppose condoms—the only contraceptive device that protects against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as accidental pregnancies. They also are against sex education and knowledge empowerment of young adults. Their definition of conception is but one of many arguments used against all of reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and gender empowerment.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health continue using the false specter of “abortion” and “population control” for disinformation and fear mongering despite these being clearly absent in the bill. They also question the science behind it and imagine fantastic conspiracies.

Tellingly, those opposed to the Reproductive Health do so despite the fact that the bill simply affords the poor the same choices and information that wealthy Filipinos already enjoy. These opponents who rabidly denounce the bill had curiously stayed silent for the many years that their privileged class enjoyed these same choices and information.They claim to be “pro-life” but they do not want to foot the bill to truly alleviate poverty, uplift the lives of the masses, and empower women regarding their choices in a meaningful, long-term manner. Charity donations and other public relations and tax deduction gimmicks during holidays and disasters evidently do not substantively alleviate poverty.

Tellingly, those who claim contraception promotes promiscuity ignore that accidental pregnancies, premarital sex, and corruption have long been rife in the Philippines despite 400 years of conservative Roman Catholicism, first forcibly introduced by the rapacious Conquistadors during the time of the murderous Spanish Inquisition. Four hundred years of Inquisition-era Catholicism has evidently done little to make “Good Christians.”

Tellingly, this alarm at liberties already enjoyed by some spreading to all characterizes not only those who oppose Reproductive Health but also those who are against gay marriage, divorce, science education, and sex education as well.

Tellingly, those who denounce gay unions and divorce for supposedly defiling the sanctity of marriage were curiously silent for the decades that spousal abuse, arranged marriages, marriages for convenience and appearances truly made a mockery of the institution.

Tellingly, those who see sex education and science education as a threat to their “prerogative” as parents don’t see inculcating their own religious beliefs upon their children as an imposition.

Tellingly, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education and sex education tend to see themselves as devoutly religious, rejecting any facts that run counter to their beliefs.

Tellingly, when engaged in discussion and debate, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education, sex education, and other civil rights sometimes comment derisively, “masyado kang matalino (you are too smart).”

Tellingly, Church authorities have threatened those who support Reproductive Health with expulsion from Catholic institutions and excommunication, the same sentence they meted out to famous truth-tellers such as scientist Galileo Galilei who insisted that the Earth revolved around the sun as evidenced by his telescope, Martin Luther who exposed the corruption within the Church as it sold indulgences that“absolved”the wealthy of all their sins for a fee, and Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal who exposed how priests used religion as a tool of oppression by engendering unthinking docility and submissiveness.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health include a plagiarist, the unapologetic family of the late Ferdinand Marcos, ousted dictator who instituted corruption in the Philippines, and the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has been accused and convicted of endemic sexual abuse of minors and well as the systematic and leadership-sanctioned coverups of these cases.

Tellingly, those who are anti-Reproductive Health and anti-gender-equality have wished us ill and even dead. We have endured name calling and threats, disinformation and fear mongering. Anti-Reproductive Health zealots also see natural disasters and misfortunes as collective and indiscriminate punishment, as if those who were most affected deserve it. And yet when the same misfortune falls upon them, they see it as a divine test. In many aspects of their thinking, they lack both rationality and compassion.

Tellingly, we who support civil rights continue to engage in argument, dialogue, and debate. To attempt to communicate is to presume intelligence and humanity in one’s opponent, hence this message.

Nonetheless, the time is upon us when we all must come to a decision that determines our character and our relations. Will we be bigots and truth deniers, or will we be emancipators and truth-tellers? Will we be opponents, or will we be friends and family? I simply cannot tolerate bigots.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, RH Bill, Science, Secularism0 Comments

FF Podcast 099 (Audio): Candidate Santiago and the Duty to Vote

FF Podcast 099 (Audio): Candidate Santiago and the Duty to Vote

FF Podcast 099 (Audio): Candidate Santiago and the Duty to Vote

This week, we are starting a series on each presidential candidate, leading up to the May 9 elections. We start with Miriam Defensor-Santiago. We talk about her campaign and whether or not we have the duty to vote at all.

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 76: Freethinking in Singapore

FF Podcast 76: Freethinking in Singapore

This week, we head over to Singapore for the Asian Humanism Conference. We ask what it’s like to be a humanist in our neighboring countries.

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FF Podcast 73: Sexism and Tony Meloto’s GK

FF Podcast 73: Sexism and Tony Meloto’s GK

This week, we talk about Tony Meloto’s controversial speech in Hawaii where he suggested that Filipinas should have babies with white men for the benefit of the country. We also talk about the apparent cult of personality built around Tony Meloto and Gawad Kalinga.

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 Language, Media, Podcast, Religion, Secularism, Society, Video1 Comment

FF Podcast 68 (Audio): Is the Internet Killing Religion?

FF Podcast 68 (Audio): Is the Internet Killing Religion?

FF Podcast 68: Is the Internet Killing Religion?

This week we talk about a study that observes declining religiosity coinciding with increased Internet use.

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 67 (Audio): Freedom to Discriminate?

FF Podcast 67 (Audio): Freedom to Discriminate?

FF Audio Podcast 67: Freedom to Discriminate?

This week we talk about an Indiana state law that has effectively allowed discriminating against anyone for religious reasons.

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 67: Freedom to Discriminate?

FF Podcast 67: Freedom to Discriminate?

This week we talk about an Indiana state law that has effectively allowed discriminating against anyone for religious reasons.

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, Society, Video1 Comment

FF Podcast 65 (Audio): Decriminalizing Adultery

FF Podcast 65 (Audio): Decriminalizing Adultery

FF Podcast 65: Decriminalizing adultery

In the Philippines, adultery is a crime. This week, we discuss adultery and what reforms have been suggested.

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 podcast, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 61 (Audio): Don’t Criticize the Pope!

FF Podcast 61 (Audio): Don’t Criticize the Pope!

FF Podcast 61: Don't criticize the pope!

Pope Summer Slam parody! We’ll discuss that in this episode. Then, we talk about whether Filipinos respect the right to free speech in this country.

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, Media, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

After The Pope Has Gone

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle describes the recently concluded papal visit as a “miracle,” though I wonder what constitutes a miracle for the good cardinal. Miracles must indeed be in short supply these days if what transpired could pass for one.

It would have been a miracle, for example, if our security personnel did not have to eat, drink or piss on duty, obviating the need for MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino to suggest that they wear adult diapers. Though it was a practical suggestion, it would have been another miracle if God had bestowed the good chairman with a little more wisdom not to make a public announcement of the matter, as it quickly became the subject of ridicule and embarrassment, so much so that the PNP had to make a statement that policemen won’t be wearing diapers while on duty.

It would have been a miracle if corrupt politicians suddenly burst into flames as the Pope delivered his message at Malacañang, urging political leaders to “be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.” Oh what a happy bonfire that would have been. On the other hand, we would probably be left with no political leaders. But then again, is that so bad? I wonder.

It would have been a miracle if government did not have to spend millions of taxpayers’ pesos (not all of which are from Catholics) to ensure the Pope’s and everyone’s safety and security during the event. As it is, papal visits probably cost us more than we think they do. A worker’s group, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, is demanding to know how much was spent on the Papal visit, in the spirit of transparency. I do not have the exact figures for this but the same source states that a total of 40,000 security personnel were employed during the 5-day visit. This does not include opportunity and business costs lost during the cancellation of flights and the declaration of non-working holidays.

I am not talking about expecting angels to appear from the sky to act as the Pope’s bodyguards, thus nullifying the need for our government to spend for security. That may be too much to ask. The Vatican opening its checkbooks and offering to reimburse this third-world country for all the expenses incurred would be miracle enough for me.

It would have been a miracle if Philippine media had enough sense and dignity to refrain from making major headlines of the Pope’s every move. “Pope Opens Car Door Himself,” for example. How is that news? I’m glad I didn’t see “Pope Goes to the Toilet Himself.”

It would have been a miracle if the Pope could have provided a clear answer to the girl who asked him why children like her have to suffer — have to be abandoned by their parents or forced into prostitution. Yet, in the end, all he could do was embrace her in silence, and he later on implored the audience to “learn to weep, truly weep.” Now I am not belittling this response as I have no answer myself. But I would hardly call it miraculous.

It would have been a miracle if Kristel Padasas, who was listening to the Pope’s mass in Tacloban, had not died when strong winds caused the scaffolding beside her to fall on her.

It would have been a miracle if Metro Manilans picked up their own trash instead of leaving a mess after the Pope’s mass in Luneta.

And it would be a miracle, if after all this hullaballoo over the Pope’s visit, we see a decline in corruption and TRAPO politics. It would be a miracle if we see a decline in poverty levels, if we have more level-headed officials making sound and fair policies.

But as evidenced by a senator who doubts the Pope’s own words when he admonished Catholics to not breed like rabbits, even if it was clearly caught on video, and could easily be verified with the Big “G” (Google), nothing much has changed. Government is still filled with corrupt and inept people. The poor and suffering are still poor and suffering.

Miracles are indeed in short supply and I wouldn’t put much stock in them.

The pope has gone back home. The euphoria is over. There are no miracles or superheroes. If we want change, we better get to work.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao. Also appears in Freethinking Me.

Send me your thoughts at [email protected]. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

Posted in Religion, Secularism0 Comments

The Many Faces of Pope Francis

As the arrival of Pope Francis draws near, his visit has been heralded by all sorts of papal kitsch. Apart from the strange painting of the pope being surrounded by local celebrities dressed up as farmers (a piece of work that would have been biting in insight, had it not been so sincere), several media outlets have also come out with their own T-shirt designs with sayings attributed to the popular pontiff.

Pope_Francis_at_Vargihna

People have grasped onto one particular quotation from the pope: “Who am I to judge?” You can buy a shirt with this printed on it from whichever TV channel you feel loyal to. This quote has resonated strongly with people with the Catholic Church who have been aching for any semblance of change. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, after all said that the “homosexual inclination” was an “objective disorder.” It is certainly a breath of fresh air in a Church legendary for its glacial pace of progress… if Francis had meant that homosexuals were finally accepted by the Church.

Of course, the people Pope Francis was referring to were gay priests—people already required to be celibate. And not only that, he hedged that if a gay priest were “seeking God”, then who would he be to judge him? In so many words, Pope Francis was not accepting homosexuals, rather he was describing a person who was aware that it was wrong to act on homosexual desires. Who was he to judge a contrite homosexual priest who would never again act on his homosexuality? This is worlds apart from how the phrase has been used since then.

Had people listened a little more to what Pope Francis actually said, they would have heard the following. “The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worst problem.” To be fair, I don’t think this would have fit on a T-shirt.

So, how can such an accepting message be construed from such a specific and narrow meaning? For one thing, the quote is so compact and slogan-worthy that it, like all other clichés, has lost its context. But, the far greater reason is that people are reading into Pope Francis whatever they want to believe.

 

You’re so vain

In a 1999 study, Raymond Nickerson of Tufts University found that people assume that the knowledge they have is, by default, shared by everyone else. And, because of this, people tend to think that other people would have the same beliefs as they do.

A 2009 follow-up by researchers from Columbia university showed that not only do people project their beliefs onto others, they particularly do so on people they admire and, especially, God.

When asked about what they thought the opinions of God, George Bush (someone with well-known beliefs), Bill Gates (a well-liked person with largely unknown beliefs), Barry Bonds (a disliked person with largely unknown beliefs) and the average American were on controversial matters such as abortion and same-sex marriage, participants in the study considered the beliefs of Bill Gates and God to correlate well with their own beliefs. That is to say, when the participants admired someone, they tended to assume that they probably believed the same things they did.

I contend that the same thing is happening with the so-called “People’s Pope.”

 

Holding out for a hero

On the outside, Pope Francis appears to have rocked the Church to its foundations. He has abandoned many of the luxuries of popes, such as the papal limo and the papal apartments, which people had seen as extravagant and disconnected from the realities of the suffering of Catholics worldwide. He has been seen kissing babies and taking selfies with teenagers. This pope certainly appears more in touch with believers on the ground.

And yet, after each seemingly progressive statement by the pope, the Vatican would come out to backtrack, or rather clarify. After a synod that seemed to contain language friendly to LGBT persons (“homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”), later versions of the document came out without this statement. And, after the pope appeared to have opened the possibility of atheists going to heaven, the Vatican came out to say that people “cannot be saved” if they knowingly refuse “to enter [the Church] or remain in her.” So, yes, atheists can be saved, if they renounce their atheism and join the Catholic Church.

Lest it be said that the pope is trying to move the Church forward while he is being held back by conservative elements, it should be noted that when it comes to certain progressive matters, Pope Francis is a lot less vague than “who am I to judge” and more direct, like in calling abortion, euthanasia, and IVF “playing with life,” which is “a sin against the Creator” and in saying that children ought to have both a mother and a father. On the matter of women priests Pope Francis has said, “The church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

The epidemic of child rape that has plagued the Catholic Church shows quite clearly what kind of pope we really have. While the pope has criticized and apologized for those who have helped shield rapists from prosecution, he has gone ahead and appointed as top Vatican prosecutor a person who had failed to report a notorious child abuser. We see a pattern in Pope Francis’ Church—vague but impressive words, followed by clear but contradictory actions.

The fact is, Pope Francis has either been against progressive advocacy issues such as women’s rights and LGBT rights or just plainly silent about them. And in this absence of a clear narrative, people have made graven images of their own Pope Francis and ascribed to it their own beliefs, which they think the pope must certainly also believe.

The bigotry of low expectations underlies the popularity of Pope Francis. So much so that even matters such as whether pets go to heaven are misconstrued and lied about. The Church has had such a terrible reputation that even the most obvious pandering is enough to impress. This is unsurprising since the largely silent bloc of progressive Catholics have been famished for someone like Pope Francis for a long time. Even atheists have joined the bandwagon of wishful thinking. After years of burying their heads in their hands, sitting through anti-RH and anti-LGBT sermons in church, here comes the representative of Jesus Christ Himself and he seems to be the change that they’d been waiting for. Finally, the Church is going to change into the way they want it to be.

 

Look at all these rumors

But, this all seems to be some illusion induced by that same hunger. In the gaps of the feel-good platitudes from the pope, progressives try to find wiggle room in an institution that was never built for them. For if the Church were to surrender that maybe God can change his mind about homosexuality, maybe He can change his mind about condoms or women priests. And that’s not going to happen, not under Pope Francis and not under whoever comes after.

Compounding the trouble of people ascribing to the pope their own beliefs is a psychological phenomenon called “the backfire effect.” Researchers Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler found that when people are shown definitive facts that refute misconceptions, they are even more likely to hold fast to their false notions. In effect, this creates the whole endeavor of correcting pointless, which, in turn, makes articles such as the one you’re reading now practically Sisyphean. But, the optimist in me wants to believe, even against evidence, that through reading the pope’s actual words and seeing his actual deeds, some people will see through the many faces hiding the true one of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Tagle quoted the pope as saying that he hopes that he would not be the focus of his visit to the Philippines. It’s hard not to find this statement ironic as our traffic enforcers prepare to wear diapers in anticipation for the pope, as flights have been cancelled, as holidays have been declared, and as roads have been closed. He could easily have sent word that the Philippine government had gone overboard, but he hasn’t. No other head of state will be welcomed as Pope Francis will be. And why wouldn’t he be? No other pope in history has been as clever in creating an image. The trick was to let the people make it for him.

 

Image Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism3 Comments

Men are Cheaters; Women are Gold Diggers (Part 1 of 2)

This article was inspired by a post on the Filipino Freethinkers updates and announcements Facebook group page. One group member casually asked the question, “If all the single men and women left are either philanderers or gold diggers would you look the other way, commit to them and live in delusion because you don’t want to die lonely? Or would you stay single forever?”

The scenario, in my opinion, forces us into what we might call a “false dilemma.” For one it implies that one must “commit” to someone in order to not die lonely, and that loneliness is the reason for why people choose to be in a relationship. But that’s beside the point.

What I found interesting was my own interpretation of the question. I’m not sure if it was intended by the person who posted, but it seemed to me that when the person said “philanderers,” he was referring to the single men; and when he said “gold diggers,” he was referring to the single women.

This is a common association a lot of people make: Men are cheaters; women are gold diggers. I felt that these were rather unfair generalizations. However, I don’t make conclusions based on what I “feel.” I decided to take a quick look at the available information on the subject.

Upset TeenagersDo men cheat more than women? Quick answer: yes. Is it because men are inherently “philanderers”? Nope.

Zach Schonfeld, in a report for The Wire from 2013 writes that, “Wives Are Cheating 40% More Than They Used to, but Still 70% as Much as Men.”

According to Schonfeld, “According to recent data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, American wives were nearly 40 percent more likely to be cheating on their spouses in 2010 than in 1990. The number of husbands reporting infidelity, meanwhile, stayed constant at 21 percent, meaning wives are now cheating 70% as often.”

There are many theories as to why women are, as it seems, suddenly deciding to cheat. Some think it’s because of increased female independence. In other words, women can now afford the consequences of having an affair.

Other people attribute this rise to the cultural shifts happening due to the Internet. There are actually extramarital meetup services like, Ashley Madison, to help facilitate such endeavors.

Schonfeld reports that the data from Ashley Madison confirms the trends revealed by the survey:

“The ratio of males to females is greatest among users older than 65, with 14 men for every woman. The ratio is 4-to-1 among users in their 50s, 3-to-1 for spouses in their 40s, and evenly divided among people using Ashley Madison in their 30s.”

In other words, those whose culture have been influenced by Internet trends, and whose career options and access to resources are not as limited by their sex, are as equally likely to cheat. As the economic gender gap between men and women closes, so does the “cheating gap.”

Based on this information, I think that the reason why men seem to have a higher tendency to cheat is not entirely because of biological reasons (although there are correlations), but rather because society is more permissive of male cheating.

For one, men, especially in the past, often find themselves economically equipped to deal with the consequences. Secondly, when men cheat, they are not publicly shamed as much as women are. At the very least, men are not stripped naked and beaten senseless in public like the poor girl:

CEN_ConcubineBeating_03.jpg

 

In part 2, we’ll take a closer look at the myth that women are “gold-diggers.”

 

Image Sources:

Image 1: https://veronicagraham.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/cheater_1.jpg

Image 2: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2791108/mob-rule-chinese-adulteress-stripped-naked-beaten-senseless-latest-attack-kind.html

Posted in Gender Rights, Science, Secularism, Society0 Comments

Atheist Confession: “I like Pope Francis.”

Pope-Francis-GETTYI’m going to say something many of my fellow secularism advocates would probably not appreciate: I like Pope Francis.

Why?

I like Pope Francis because, in my opinion, he is more liberal than many liberals. American conservatives already hate him for his seemingly liberal position on many issues. He’s so liberal that Sarah Palin is actually taken aback by what she calls his “liberal agenda.” The Pope is so liberal that writer Damian Thompson, in an article he wrote for “The Spectator,” had to ask if we were in the early stages of a Catholic civil war.

Apparently, even Catholics think the Pope is too liberal. Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes:

“Some have given up on Pope Francis. Others say he is ‘the false prophet’ who will accompany the anti Christ in the end times. Others don’t like his dress sense, grumble about his media gaffes and some think they are all intentional and that he is a very shrewd Jesuit who wants to undermine the Catholic faith.”

I like Pope Francis because he openly criticized Capitalism and even compared it to “the worship of the ancient golden calf”:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

I like Pope Francis because he did a lot of cool stuff in 2013.

Mark Pygas wrote an article about the Pope in Distractify and among the highlights include:

He criticized the Church’s frivolous spending. He let a boy with Down’s Syndrome ride the Popemobile. He denounced the judgment for homosexuals. He encouraged the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. He acknowledged that atheists can be good people. He condemned the global financial system. He amended the Vatican law to make sexual abuse of children a crime, and also established a committee specifically to fight that kind of abuse. He declared that the Church has an unhealthy obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He broke tradition by performing the ritual washing of feet on women and Muslims.

I like Pope Francis because the things he did, which earned him “Person of the Year” honors, are things that I have, in my own little way, been trying to do as well: denounce judgment for homosexuals; bust myths about the “evil” atheists; criticize corporate greed, government corruption, and the sexual abuse of children by the clergy; point out the Church’s irrational position on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.

The Pope and I are like bros, you see? We have been supporting some similar advocacies, the only difference is, he does it even better than I do – with a much bigger platform and with greater effect.

I can honestly say that Pope Francis did a lot more for secularism than many advocates of secularism, including me.

Because of the Pope, it’s now extremely easy for me to discuss evolution and the Big Bang with Catholics. Before, they could just avoid the conversation entirely, claiming that it’s a “matter of religious belief.” Now, I can conveniently remind them that the Pope, the leader of their religious affiliation, agrees with me.

Apart from those, I also like that the Pope “revised” the Ten Commandments:

1. “Live and let live.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.

4. Develop a healthy sense of leisure.

5. Sundays should be holidays.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.

7. Respect and take care of nature.

8. Stop being negative.

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs.

10. Work for peace.

Now, before our readers declare me as a gullible, atheist, Pope-fanboy, I should clarify that I’m not declaring the Pope as the second coming of Chuck Norris. As much as I like him personally, I’m aware that there are reasons to get off the bandwagon.

In the article, “5 reasons you should stay off the Pope Francis bandwagon,” writer Timothy McGrath provides a breakdown of “concerns” regarding Pope Francis. McGrath reports that:

1. There are unanswered questions regarding the Pope’s inaction during the Dirty War in Argentina.

2. The Pope handles child sex abuse poorly.

3. The Pope’s current views on abortion and gay marriage is inconsistent with his previous stance.

4. The Pope continues the “inquisition” against American nuns.

5. The Pope may have performed a live exorcism.

And it seems too, that the Pope has recently backtracked on his liberal stance. Nick Squires, in his news article, “Pope: Children Need Mother and a Father,” reports that:

“Pope Francis appeared to bow to pressure from Catholic conservatives on Monday when he delivered a robust affirmation of the importance of the traditional family.”

I think that’s a little disappointing, but I’m still giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt.

Some people think that Pope Francis is just an extremely talented, one-man Catholic propaganda machine. I’m not ruling out that possibility. It’s entirely possible that he has an army of publicists and public relations specialists that script every single response and gesture that the Pope makes, even when cameras are not around, in order to convince the world that he is a good person.

Yes, that’s entirely possible.

If that were the case, he’s been doing a really good job. In fact, he seems to do it without much effort, which leads me to think that maybe, just maybe, he’s just a regular good person who just happened to be Pope.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that I tried very hard to hate the Pope as soon as he was elected. I wanted to hate him, not because of anything he did (he hadn’t done anything yet when I first decided to hate him), but simply because of a personal bias. I didn’t like the Pope, because I don’t like Catholicism, and the Church, and anything that is associated with what I consider to be symbols of oppression and subjugation. I didn’t like the Pope, because he was supposed to be the bad guy. I didn’t like the Pope because I was prejudiced.
In my desire to criticize religious organizations and promote my own agenda, I became similar to the homophobes who would hate someone just because they were gay, or self-righteous bigots who would assume the worst of atheists just because they were atheists. I hated the Pope just because he was Pope, and it was wrong of me to do so.

When I asked myself, “If Pope Francis weren’t Pope, would I like him as a person?” I realized that I like him.

He has a Master’s Degree in Chemistry. He believes in the Big Bang and evolution. He thinks atheists can be good people. He says that the Church shouldn’t be so obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He’s not afraid of the mafia. He doesn’t like capitalism and America thinks he’s a Marxist.

What’s not to like?

I realized that the only thing I didn’t like about him was the fact that he was Pope. If he were my college professor, or my neighbor, or my boss, I would probably like him. In fact, if I were single and the Pope was a girl around my age, I would totally ask her out.

So, I guess I’m an agnostic/atheist who’s a fan of the Pope. Is that weird?

 

Image Source:

http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article8629389.ece/alternates/w620/Pope-Francis-GETTY.jpg

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Politics, Pop Culture, Religion, Secularism, Society4 Comments

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