Tag Archive | "blasphemy"

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

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Freedom of Expression, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (1)

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, VideoComments (1)

Lady Gaga vs. the Bible: An Obscene-Off


Lady Gaga will perform in the Philippines, but not if some bigots can help it. Biblemode Youth Philippines has gone on Bible Mode, calling for the blasphemous concert to be canceled. Their protest leader, former Congressman Benny Abante, threatened to file a lawsuit if she sings “Judas,” a performance protesters consider obscene, and therefore, illegal.

Penal Censorship

Former Manila Mayor Jose Atienza agrees, saying that such obscenity is punishable by six months to six years in prison under the Revised Penal Code. According to Article 201 — which was also used against Mideo Cruz’s Jesus-Penis-Juxtaposition in Polyteismo — obscenity applies to immoral displays that

(1) glorify criminals or condone crimes;

(2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography;

(3) offend any race or religion;

(4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and

(5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.

Judas vs. Jesus

The music video of “Judas” depicts “Jesus and his disciples as a motorcycle gang and tells the story of Jesus’ betrayal, with Lady Gaga playing the role of Jesus’ girlfriend, who is torn between her loyalty to Jesus and her love for Judas.”

Out of the 5 criteria for obscenity, “Judas” is guilty — by my judgment — of just one: (3) offending any race or religion. (1) doesn’t count (unless the motorcycle gang Jesus belonged to was a criminal one). Nor does (2) because beyond the stunts and gimmicks, many people actually like her music. (4) is arguable but unlikely. And (5) refers to laws, public order, and other supposedly non-sectarian rules — not the doctrines and opinions of a single sect or religion.

Fans vs. Fanatics

Lady Gaga is no stranger to such controversy — South Koreans protested to prevent infecting the youth with “homosexuality and pornography,” and in Indonesia, the Islamic Defenders Front said “they were ready to die to stop the concert.”

But should the concert be canceled — like in Indonesia — or censored — like what could happen here — it’s not Lady Gaga who’ll be affected most — it’s the fans. The right to freedom of expression implies the right to freely access artistic expressions in their uncensored form. To defend their right to enjoy an artist they admire — and to protect the ideals of free speech in general — Lady Gaga’s fans should counter-protest, and I’m suggesting this is how they do it.

Gaga vs. Bible

They should file a case against Biblemode Youth Philippines for giving the youth access to the most obscene artistic expression ever made: the Bible. Compared to the Bible, a Lady Gaga concert looks like an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. No one will dispute this, at least not anyone who has read the Bible — cover to cover, not just homily material. The Bible is so obscene that other than criterion (4), it is guilty of violating criteria (1), (3), and (5) many times over, and of (2) as well — unless you consider “being terrified of God” as a valid purpose.

The Bible is full of obscenity, filled with verses and verses not only of sex and violence, but every form of injustice, intolerance, and incitement of hatred against women, LGBTs, and even children.

I know many of you won’t read the Bible — especially if you’re a Bible-thumping Christian like Manny Pacquiao — so I’ll list just one example for each criterion of obscenity (except the fourth) to prove that more than Lady Gaga, the Bible is deserving of censorship, if not banning.

(1) glorify criminals or condone crimes

The Bible has many graphic stories that depict and even condone slavery, murder, genocide, torture, infanticide, and other atrocities that any non-psychopathic person would consider criminal. Here’s one.

To gain Saul’s approval, not to mention his daughter, Michal, David and his men not only killed a hundred Philistines, they also performed postmortem circumcisions, offering the Philistine foreskins — the 100 they individually counted — as bride price.

(2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography

Banging on a door, some wicked men wanted to gang rape a man, who was a guest in the house. The hospitable homeowner offered his own daughter and the guest’s concubine to be gang raped instead.

The wicked men didn’t agree, so the homeowner pushed the concubine out from the house into the wicked men. Gang rape ensues. The next morning the homeowner, finding the concubine dead, did the sensible thing and chopped up her body, limb from limb, into twelve parts before mailing them to all the areas of Israel.

Does the story have any other purpose “but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography”? And even if this did teach some moral lesson (pray tell, what?), the violence is just too gratuitous for an allegory.

(3) offend any race or religion and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.

God hates the Midianites because they worship Baal of Peor. He told Moses to kill all Midianite leaders, or else, he’ll keep punishing them with a plague. So Moses ordered Israel’s judges to kill Israelites who converted to Baal worship.

One day, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into camp. Phinehas, not a judge, followed the couple into their tent. As they were having interracial interreligion sex, Phinehas thrust a sphere through both of their bodies. (Talk about double penetration.) For taking things into his own hands instead of letting the state (judges) enforce the law, God rewarded Phinehas and stopped His plague.

Child Pornography

Any one of these stories depicts something more immoral than any stunt Lady Gaga could pull, and this is but a small sample of similar stories scattered in both the Old and New Testament. What’s worse, the Bible does more than depict immorality — it condones and even justifies it.

Yet with all the pornography and gratuitous violence in the Bible, it’s probably the easiest book for anyone to access — children included. (It’s a good thing children generally think the Bible is boring. That old copy at home won’t be so dusty if the children knew there was enough sex and gore in it to make most video games dull in comparison.)

Some may argue that the stories aren’t so bad when read in context. But imagine what would happen if a fundamentalist studio were to show a movie depicting these scenes. Would it get a PG rating from the MTRCB? Would it be any different if there was narration that put the scenes into context? And what difference does putting it in book form make? Didn’t fundamentalist groups also call for the censorship of Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code, and the novels of Jose Rizal?

I’d be interested to see the outcome of such a case should Lady Gaga fans follow my suggestion. If they don’t, maybe it’s FF that should challenge the Bible’s immunity to censorship. In any case, somebody should do it. Think of the children.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (51)

On Blasphemy and Sewage


As the president of Rationalist International, Sanal Edamaruku has made a name for himself among skeptics’ circles by debunking the mysticism surrounding India’s so-called Holy Men.

But while his efforts are admirable, and his exposes a never-ending source of lols (at the fakir’s expense, that is), he’s run into a bit of trouble.

Last month, Sanal participated in a Channel TV-9 report about the the “miracle” of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni – a crucifix that was claimed to have water miraculously appear and trickle down Jesus’ feet.

We say “was”, because shortly after Sanal arrived, he quickly pointed out that the source of the water in the “miracle” was from a nearby washroom drainage pipe, brought to the crucifix’s feet via capillary action:

 

As expected, the local Catholic Church was not happy with Sanal, who accused them of miracle-mongering in a follow-up program on TV-9.

A heated debate began, in which the five church people, among them Fr. Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni church, and representatives of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologize. But he powerfully argued against them. Via telephone, Msgr. Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, intervened in order to rescue the image of the Catholic Church. He claimed the Church was “always cautious in attributing supernatural causes” to such phenomena and always striving “to find ‘scientific’ explanations.” He even assured the Pope was a friend of science.

Following the exchange, the RCC gracefully conceded to Sanal’s superior argumentative style, while Sanal and Fr. Palett have since become close drinking buddies.

Just kidding. The RCC sued Sanal for blasphemy.

Sanal can be arrested any moment. In every single place where a petition is filed against him. He could be forced to appear in person to answer them. If his answer is not found satisfactory, he could be arrested. He could be forced to fight a multitude of criminal cases in different places. This is not only immensely time and money consuming. Given the fanaticism of some Catholic believers, it can be a danger for his life.

There are a couple of important points that we can take away from this incident. The first is that the Catholic Church has only been a self-proclaimed advocate of science only when it suits its agenda.

So for instance, while the RCC has declared the theory of Evolution as compatible with its doctrine, it’s been a staunch opponent of any discussion on stem cell research that does not adhere to its teachings. It’s gone as far as to cancel a conference when the invited speakers refused to be censored by the Vatican.

It might have worked to some extent, but after some of the speakers declined to censor their speeches, the Vatican abruptly canceled the conference altogether. According to the conference website, the event was canceled due to “serious economic and logistic-organizational reasons that have completely jeopardized the success of the 3rd International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research.” The scientists who were planning to attend say they are being stifled instead. “I think the only interpretation is that we are being censored,” Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, said in a statement. “It is very disappointing that they are unwilling to hear the truth.”

The other point we can learn from this is that when the RCC is backed into a corner, it will almost always invoke the Waaahmbulance – crying persecution and blasphemy when its fancy apologetics doesn’t work on fool dissenters.

And this is why Sanal’s story can feel like something so close to home. As many of you will already know by now, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has been actively promoting its own brand of mysticism to keep its flock sedate and obedient.

At the same time, it’s used this same mysticism to control its flock to strike down anybody it disagrees with, including local artists who dare to stick a penis on a carpenter’s forehead, to trying to justify that discrimination against the LGBT community is religiously protected speech.

On the bright side, Sanal’s plight also tells us that we are not alone in our fight – that we’re part of a continually growing community of skeptics who are becoming more vocal in our opposition to their baseless rubbish and dogma.

As a parting note, I’d like to cite that India isn’t the only country that’s assumed raw sewage to be an act of God. As written by professor Ambeth Ocampo in 1988, in an article titled “The Miracle of the Water and the Cross“:

Sometime during the term of William Howard Taft, a fisherman in Manila Bay found “bubbles like a crown of pearls… stretched upon the surface of the sea.” He tasted the water and to his surprise, it was sweet!

Sweet water in the middle of the sea? The fisherman returned with a priest who promptly pronounced a miracle. People from nearby Tondo came in boats and saw bubbles form a cross. They took bottles of the sweet miraculous water home. Two days later, one of the cholera epidemics hit Tondo.

Dr. Victor Heiser (who later wrote a book about his “adventure” in the Philippines) went to the site to investigate the “miracle” and discovered that the bubbles and sweet water came from a busted sewage pipe! Kadiri (Gross!). People were actually drinking, or should I say gulping sewage water. Taft could not do anything because keeping the people from the “miracle” could provoke a revolt.

Quaffing magical potty water – It’s more fun in the Philippines!

You can learn more about how to help Sanal Edamaruku by visiting his organization’s site, accessible through here.

Posted in Others, Religion, SocietyComments (0)

Blasphemy on the Cross


Me: Hey Jesus, did you hear about that photo of a certain Maike Domingo, of a girl in shorts who posed in a sexy-ish manner on the cross?

Jesus: Oh hello. Haven’t chatted with you in a while. But yeah, of course I know about it. I’m all-knowing remember? So even before she had the impulse to do that, I already knew she would do it.

Me: Then surely you also know about the 1,106 (and growing) comments on the photo — a lot of them calling the girl stupid, blasphemous, vulgar and so on?

Jesus: Yep.

Me: Well, since you’re obviously the object of blasphemy, and these commenters are defending the honor and sanctity of the cross, what can you say about it?

Jesus: Oh, I already said something two thousand years ago about those without sin casting the first stone, but the people casting the stones don’t really think it applies to them. Also, I don’t see anything blasphemous about the photo. The girl was just having fun, and she looked pretty decent. Although she may be a bit attention-starved as some of the comments implied, but that’s no excuse for calling on her to be stoned or to be nailed herself.

Me: The way these people are talking, they seem to think that you’re all fuming and foaming at the mouth up there in heaven.

Jesus: What? Me? Fuming and foaming? Whatever gave them that idea?

Me: They seem to be pretty convinced that you’re grossly offended by these types of displays.

Jesus: (laughs) That’s the most ridiculous notion in the world. In fact, this photo is pretty tame compared to some others.

Me: Really? There are others?

Jesus: Oh, lots and lots and lots. Take this photo of Raquel Welch taken by Terry O’Neil way back in 1970, for example:


Me: Oh my, we should hide this photo from all those rabid commenters.

Jesus: You can’t. It’s Google-able. Anyway, there’s even this painting from a (take note) Christian Art Blogger, Matt Stone:

Me: Oh but that’s different. That’s painting. That’s art.

Jesus: Tell that to the stone-casters of Mideo Cruz then. The point is, people have been making fun of me ever since I helped them get drunk on that wedding in Cana. But whatever gave them the idea that I would take offense? I didn’t take offense then, and neither will I take offense now. If these people really understood me, they would understand that. They should read and internalize this nifty little story about Offending God.

Me: Umm, that’s my blog.

Jesus: So?

Me: Some people might think it’s shameless self-promotion.

Jesus: It would be if you were promoting it. But it’s me promoting it, not you.

Me: But not everyone’s going to see it that way.

Jesus: Oh don’t mind them. They can go to hell. Anyway, have you seen these? These are hilarious.

Me: Okay, I think we better stop now.

Jesus: But there are lots more on Google Images. Dang, I should have created Larry Page and Sergey Brin two thousand years ago.

Me: This is getting weird now. Bye Jesus, gotta go.

Jesus: Okay, but don’t be a stranger. And remember, I’m watching you.

Posted in Humor, ReligionComments (5)

Bound by Belief: Are Catholics Obliged to Obey?


And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

– Matthew 16:19

A reader of my post on primacy of conscience had an issue with my use of the word “bound” when I implicitly concluded that Catholics are bound to obey the Church. His main objection was that together with my use of “prison” in the title, “bound” implied that the Church took away the freedom of Catholics to make up their own minds. He concluded that because a Catholic can refuse to obey the Church on certain things, he is not bound.

I’ll explain here that my usage of the term is accurate and the objection is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of obligations.

Bound by Duty

One of the synonyms of “obligated” or “obliged” is “duty bound.” Also, “bound” has several dictionary definitions, but I used (and use) the following one in bold:

bound 3 (bound)

v.

Past tense and past participle of bind.

adj.

1. Confined by bonds; tied: bound and gagged hostages.

2. Being under legal or moral obligation: bound by my promise.

The reader’s objection is probably due to his thinking that I meant “bound” in the first sense: confined and tied like gagged hostages. This is not what I meant, but I am aware of this connotation, which is an added bonus. But even without this there are several valid reasons to use “bound” instead of the alternatives.

Bound by Church Law

First, the Church itself is fond of using this term, and in the way that I meant it (obligation). Here are two examples taken from my post on primacy alone:

The Church’s Magisterium also teaches the faithful specific particular precepts and requires that they consider them in conscience as morally binding.

– Pope John Paul II

Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of church authority.

– Pope Benedict XVI

And don’t forget the bible verse I quoted to start this post, one of the pillars of Church authority. The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common in Jewish legal lexicon:

The phrase “to bind” and “to loose” was often used by the Jews. It meant to prohibit and to permit. To bind a thing was to forbid it; to loose it, to allow it to be done… When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God.

The Catholic Church, which has “what is claimed to be the oldest continuously functioning internal legal system in Western Europe”, sees this as Jesus giving them the authority to enforce God’s laws, laws written in the Code of Canon Law.

Bound by Civil Law

To this day the term is still used not only in Church law but in civil law as well, although in a different sense. Instead of forbidding, “binding” implies obligations [emphasis mine]:

What then are legal obligations? They are legal requirements with which law’s subjects are bound to conform. An obligatory act or omission is something the law renders non-optional. Since people plainly can violate their legal obligations, “non-optional” does not mean that they are physically compelled to perform, nor even that law leaves them without any eligible alternative. On the contrary, people often calculate whether or not to perform their legal duties.

This shows us that although binding obligations are non-optional, it does not mean physical coercion or absence of alternatives is necessary. The reader’s objection to my usage of bound is based on the misunderstanding that binding necessitates removal of all alternatives. On the contrary, a person can be bound and still have alternatives.

Bound by Belief

Consider theft. A buyer is bound by legal obligation to pay the seller the right amount. This obligation is binding; it’s non-optional. This does not mean the buyer is not free to ignore the obligation. He can try to pay less, pay more, pay with something else, or not pay at all, which leads to certain sanctions. But there are sanctions precisely because there is a prior binding obligation to pay.

In the same way, Catholics are bound to believe the Church. Again, being bound does not mean the Catholic is not free to ignore the obligation: he is free to dissent. But like theft, doing so involves sanctions — heresy, exclusion from communion, etc. — precisely because there is a binding obligation.

So being bound to believe (or obey) does not necessarily mean a Catholic cannot dissent (or disobey). Catholics are free to disobey, but they are not free to disobey without consequences. It is in this sense that they are bound. Thus, my original usage of the term is valid. But so is the connotation of the word: being tied and gagged like hostages.

When hostages are physically prevented from escape, their freedom is obviously limited. But what if the hostages are not physically tied? What if the kidnapper threatens the hostage with something else (killing the hostage, killing a loved one, torture, blackmail, etc.)? The hostage may not be physically prevented from trying to escape (in the sense that he can attempt it) but the effect is just the same.

Now consider clerical child abuse. A child who is raped by a priest is not physically prevented from telling the authorities. Nor is the child’s family. But through Crimen Solicitationis, which details a Church policy to silence victims and coverup abuses, threats of excommunication and eternal damnation were used to silence the victims and their families. They were gagged into silence because they were bound to believe.

Because to many believers, eternal damnation is the worst possible fate — far worse than kidnapping or torture or death. I brought this up because the sanctions for doubting dogmatic teachings are similar to those used to silence the victims of clerical child abuse.

The problem with such sanctions when it comes to religious belief is it puts the believer’s motivation into question. Surely, it is possible that a believer obeys the Church completely out of their own volition. But when threats of eternal damnation and rewards of eternal life are at stake, can you really say that a believer is not bound to believe?

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, SocietyComments (10)

Blasphemy and the Right to Blaspheme


A couple of weeks ago, actor-director-advocate Mae Paner (a.k.a. Juana Change) assembled a tremendous panoply of talent to produce the video you see below. For some reason, she also invited me, but anyone who can see past the travesty of my accent will surely enjoy and be challenged by the ideas contained herein. I firmly believe that pieces such as this embody what the artists’ community meant by utilizing the religious conservatives’ bullying and politicians’ opportunism as an opportunity to educate citizens of all ages.

Religious conservatives don’t belong to just the Catholic faith. In September 30 2005, an artist in Denmark published a cartoon that caused Muslim conservatives to call for his death over blasphemy. Join the international community in marking September 30 as “International Blasphemy Rights Day.” With the CBCP actively trying to create a blasphemy law despite the UN Human Rights Commission declaring that blasphemy is a human right, this day is highly relevant to the Philippines.

Image from mattcbr.wordpress.com

Posted in Religion, Society, VideoComments (10)

The Cultural Heritage of the Catholic Church


The great art critics of the CBCP are at it again! After saving the Philippines from the scourge of penes in Mideo Cruz’ work and the Reproductive Health bill, the Catholic church is now crusading to preserve its own great cultural contribution to the Philippines: hypocrisy.

At a forum about Republic Act 10066, the National Cultural Heritage Act, the CBCP dared to invoke the separation of church and state in demanding that the church be given exemptions from the law.

When it comes to the RH bill, Attorney Jo Imbong pounds away at the wall separating church and state with the force of a wrecking ball. However, she so easily turns on a dime and brandishes that very same wall of separation in defense of the Roman Catholic church:

“While the Church unites with the state in the national policy to protect, preserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, the law should not prohibit and penalize necessary works on churches,” said Jo Imbong, a lawyer of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

That whole colonization of the Philippines thing that the Catholic church was a part of? Where they got into the country and abused the people while they spread the good word? Yeah, that little part of Philippine history explains why the Catholic church is in possession of many cultural artifacts of the country, from religious artworks to historical landmarks such as churches.


Also, slave boys

 The National Cultural Heritage Act protects cultural property such as those churches, “against exportation, modification or demolition”. While I can understand the CBCP’s desire for exemptions to allow them to modify those old buildings to “tend to their flock” as they call it, I find it so appallingly hypocritical that they would ask for the exemptions by invoking the separation of church and state. Church-State separation: a concept that the CBCP has made abundantly clear it doesn’t give a shit about when it comes to matters like the RH bill.

But wait! Jo Imbong and the CBCP aren’t just content with this one level of hypocrisy. They’re like the Inception of hypocrisy: they’ve got to go deeper. While invoking the separation of church and state, Jo Imbong argues that the National Cultural Heritage Act should be extended to respect the Catholic religion. Never mind that the constitution, the very document that enshrines the concept that they are using (abusing?) says, “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion”, oh no no no. Screw the constitution, respect mah authoritah!

Respect My Authoritah, Boys!

 Prohibiting religious attacks

RA 10066 identifies cultural property as “all products of human activity by which a people and a nation reveal their identity, including churches, mosques, and other places of worship, schools and natural-history specimens and sites, whether public or privately owned, movable or immovable, and tangible or intangible.”

Because of the broad coverage of the law, many groups are suggesting limitations or explications on the proposed guidelines to govern its implementation.

Because of the furor recently over the Cultural Center of the Philippines, a state agency, mounting “Polytheism,” an installation work by Mideo Cruz showing the cross with an erect phallus and Catholic images dotted with condoms, Imbong said the CBCP had proposed to include among the prohibitions “any act that defiles, mocks, corrupts, debases or destroys the integrity of intangible cultural property or heritage.”

“Intangible cultural heritage” covers “oral traditions and expressions; the performing arts; social practices, rituals, and festivities; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.”

Acts of disrespect toward religious expressions, which are considered intangible cultural property, should be punishable, Imbong said.

“As a people, we have received a heritage of treasure in Church history, a heritage that gives us an identity,” Imbong explained.

So Jo Imbong reasons, keeping a straight face the whole time, that because the Church took part in colonizing the Philippines, it has established itself into the cultural heritage of the country and thus, deserves much respect. It deserves so much respect as a cultural artifact that this law must defend it against desecration! How dare you defile expressions of the established relig… excuse me, culture, with more cultural expression! There should be laws against that!

Mmm, delicious tasty hypocritical irony.

Let me be clear here: the CBCP wants to turn RA 10066, a law that protects our cultural heritage, into one that stops the further development of our culture. They wish to defile and twist the spirit of a law that has good intentions, the preservation of history, into a monster straight out of the dark ages: a blasphemy law thinly veiled to disguise its horrific effects on the freedom of expression.

Come to think of it though, perhaps I am wrong in my thesis. The CBCP aren’t just trying to preserve hypocrisy as their great cultural contribution to the Philippines. Maybe I should think bigger, as befitting the majesty of the church.

Perhaps the cultural heritage that the CBCP cherishes the most and wish to preserve is from the glories of the Church’s colonial past: the culture of the Filipino people, bowing subserviently and unthinkingly before the priests and bishops of the Catholic church.

Posted in Politics, SocietyComments (7)

God Goes to a Freedom of Expression Rally


To the protesters of the artwork “Poleteismo,”

The universe is composed of millions and millions of galaxies. Inside a single galaxy are millions and millions of solar systems. In one solar system, among millions, there is a star Earthlings call the sun. Around that sun are several planets. One of those planets is called Earth. The planet Earth has around 6.94 billion people.

The planet Earth has several continents. One of those continents is called Asia. Somewhere in Southeast Asia you can find a country called the Philippines. The Philippines has 7,107 islands. Sometimes it has 7,108, depending on the tide or depending on my mood. Those islands are divided into three areas – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

In Luzon, there is a city called Manila. In that city, there was an exhibit. In that exhibit, one artist displayed an artwork that was blasphemous.

So fucking what?

Gentlemen, I run the universe. Do you really think I’d give a fuck about one artwork, by one artist, in one exhibit, in one city, in one country, in one continent, in one planet, in one solar system, when I have billions of galaxies to worry about?

I’m God, dude. Like I told you in my last letter to mankind, I don’t sweat the small stuff because I have important things to do: plagues, diseases, earthquakes, epic, shock-and-awe, apocalyptic, God stuff.

Imagine a droplet of pee hanging at the edge of the rim of a random toilet bowl. Now, imagine that in that droplet of pee are millions of tiny little germs. Now, imagine that one germ from those million germs makes an artwork you do not appreciate. Are you going to go there and punish that germ?

You wouldn’t, right? Because the germ is so amazingly irrelevant, inconsequential, insignificant and unimportant to your existence that you would be embarrassed to even think of considering feeling even slightly bothered about some germ.

You know how you feel about the germ’s art? That’s how I feel about the “blasphemous” exhibit.

I am not offended.

In fact, I don’t care at all.

So, stop praying about how I should send fireballs from the sky and blow up some art because some dude put my image in vain. I told you, praying doesn’t work. I have a divine plan and my plan is divine so it’s better than your plan, so shut up.

I mean, seriously, do you think that the creator of the universe and a million galaxies would be “offended” by an artwork?

Just to show you how annoyed I am at these assumptions, I went out of my way and descended from heaven to attend the “free speech” rally myself.

I was there.

When I first got there, I was told that the march might not push through because of the rain. So, I was like, “Nah! I’ll handle that.” So, that’s me stopping the rain:

I was also introduced to Mideo Cruz. He was like, “I’m sorry if you were offended Jesus, there was a statement I wanted to make so I had to use your image in vain.” I was like, “Don’t worry about it, dude. Blasphemy is a human right.” So, that’s me forgiving Mideo Cruz:

That’s me NOT being offended:

That’s me being handsome:

That’s me having a little chat with Kenneth Keng. He’s like, “Hey Jesus, I’m a Christian.” I’m like, “Awesome, man. We’ll hang out later.” That guy on my left is Red Tani. He doesn’t talk to me. We will not “hang out” later:

I’m just kidding, people. I’m not really God.

I’m just some dude dressed up like this guy:

I seriously wanted to dress up like God, unfortunately, I didn’t know what God looked like. I’ve never seen Him before. Have you? See, when you accuse someone of using God’s image in vain, the premise has to be that you know what God’s image looks like, right?

So, tell me, what does God look like?

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Bastos is in the Eye of the Beholder


It has often been said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” that is, the things we see around us are interpreted differently from viewer to viewer. But what about the flip-side? Is the “profane” just as subjective as the “pleasing”?

In one of my travels, I found myself tagging along with my sister who was meeting her one-time Arts History professor Mr. Ybañez in Madrid. Now being a numbers guy, art was never one of my strong suits, in contrast to my kid sister who’s an Arts graduate. But thinking this was going to be a rare chance to expand my horizons, I begged to be the third-wheel in their art-tripping escapade.

The first stop was the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s largest art museums. Gazing at literally thousands of the world’s most treasured art pieces and listening to my two art-aficionado companions rattle trivia after trivia about the pieces we encountered was educational, to say the least. Turning a corner into another hall, we heard snickering from a group of teenage tourists who were calling their other friends to come see a painting that had piqued their interests. Curiosity got the better of me and I glanced at the artwork they were giggling at.

And there it was. A huge painting showing what looks like the Virgin Mary baring one of her breast, giving it a deft squeeze, and squirting a long stream of breast milk straight into the open mouth of a kneeling monk.

Kinky, I thought.

Some sort of Catholic breast-fetish perhaps? Surely this must be some sort of poe. The very thought of showing Catholicism’s most venerated symbol of virginity and purity actually flashing her breast and feeding a grown man her own breast milk? Oh, the Freudian implications! The very idea, mixing the sacred with the sexual, soon had me joining in the barely suppressed mirth of the other viewers.

Then my killjoy sister gave me a subtle elbow jab while giving me that “don’t you dare embarrass me in front of my prof” look.  Mr. Ybañez then graciously explained that the painting was one of Alonzo Cano’s best-known work, “The Vision of St. Bernard”. He further explained that the Latin inscription above the Virgin’s head “Monstra te esse matrem” meant “Show yourself to be a mother”. The painting was the artist’s depiction of a rather fanciful myth attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux where the saint was deep in prayer to the Virgin Mary. In response to his devotions, the statue miraculously came alive, pressed her bosom, and fed the devout saint her own milk to symbolize her divine role of motherhood over the faithful.

Now this tale, as well as the art depicting it, is rich in symbolism. If one were to interpret the painting or even the legend behind it literally, it would most certainly be fraught with sexual connotations. A shallow interpretation of this artwork would deem it “bastos” or even heretical. Thus the critical need to look beyond first impressions and try to figure out what the artist is trying to tell us. If there’s one thing I learned from my know-it-all sister and her erudite professor that day was that “art” is the process of relaying abstract ideas through symbolism. Juxtaposing symbolisms of the carnal with the spiritual does not automatically make something “blasphemous”. Compared to analyzing a mathematical formula, which is as straightforward as it gets, art is never interpreted the same way by different viewers.

Interpretation is part of the whole art experience. The artist creates the art… but that’s only half of the process. How the viewer perceives it is “creating meaning” on its own. We apply our own world-views, biases, and personal symbology on the artwork, creating an experience unique to each spectator. (plus, it helps if someone more knowledgeable gives you the cliff notes version of its back-story and history for us noobs).

One then would be led to wonder how this painting would fare if instead of being housed in the hallowed halls of one of the world’s top art museums, it was instead displayed here in the Philippines. Would it suffer the way Mideo Cruz’s works did?

Would the Catholic bishops likewise raise hell over its supposed “blasphemous” imagery?

Would Pro-Life’s Eric Manalang likewise attempt to file charges over its public display?

Would lawyer Jo Imbong likewise call it an obscenity for “offending religious belief”?

and…

Would religious extremist vandals also deface it… and have the CBCP actually blame the victim for the incident (perhaps, in the same way some bigots blame the victims of rape for “bringing it upon themselves” because of the way they dress)?

If art of this nature suffers so in the hands of our self-appointed local “art critics”, then maybe it’s a good thing they’re safely kept half a world away, far from the overzealous pinoy vandals and lawsuit-happy pinoy moral-police.

If this is the level of shallowness we can muster for art appreciation, then is it any wonder we are left with the mundane and banal which passes as “art”? While the rest of the world thrives in diversity and maturity in the appreciation of art, we are left with recycling what is safe and conventional lest someone be “offended” by what he sees.

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An Interview with Mideo Cruz


Mideo Cruz is the artist behind the controversial artworks being exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. His works have enraged bishops with their supposedly blasphemous content and have made Pro-Life Philippines take up a moral crusade, threatening to sue the CCP and the artist in an effort to censor Mideo Cruz’s freedom of expression for perceived outrages against their faith. What follows is an email interview with the artist. The interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.

Kenneth Keng: Kindly briefly introduce yourself for the benefit of our readership.

Mideo Cruz: I’m a visual artist who commonly tries to cross borders of discipline in producing my works. The most notable work I’ve created in the past is the “banquet” for which I was awarded the Ateneo Art Awards in 2007. I’ve frequently been invited outside the country for my creative works and was awarded the CCP 13 artists awards in 2003. Actually I feel uncomfortable with this question can I just attach my CV?

Could you describe the piece in question?

Mideo Cruz: A wall collage; I started doing it since 2002 from things that I’ve collected since I’m in high school. The manner was practically inspired by what we see in common houses where people put pictures of celebrities, politicians, etc on the wall of their houses.


Relic

Relic (cross) originally titled relic of my nation, done in 2004. The making of the Filipinos after several layers of colonization. Partly inspired by how we got the name of the country in paradigm to the monarchal trend of collecting religious relics.

Poon (chirst the king) deconstructing the sacredness and reconstructing the icon with parallel meanings. Coca cola and mickey mouse as epitome of neo liberalism.

Most of the outcry has been about the phallic object placed on the works. Phalluses have been objects of devotion in many cultures; they use them as amulets, symbolic statues, etc. They might be a symbol of power and patriarchy.

What would you say was the general intention of your piece, and how does it fit into your existing body of work?

Mideo Cruz: I’m exploring a lot about the nature of the deity. How people attributed the sacredness. How symbols evolve from various civilizations, how the worship evolves. But this particular piece is more regional and cultural attributing to our psyche as Filipinos. And also pertaining to our aesthetic perception.

How do you feel about the current threat of lawsuit unless your work is taken down?

Mideo Cruz: As far as I know the CCP is an independent institution. An arena where academic discourse is welcome. The conservative interference may be their means of showing their power over the so called morals very similar to what my motivation was in the work. Phallic symbols may stand for power. It contributes more to the readings of my work.

CCP has already organized a public forum on Friday to discuss the matter, but it seems that the CBCP and Pro-life Philippines then responded with an ultimatum for its takedown by Thursday. Have the CBCP or Pro-Life Philippines responded to any of yours or CCP’s invitations for dialogue?

Mideo Cruz: I don’t really know how it is going with the conversation of CBCP and CCP. And im wondering why they don’t want to wait for the dialogue. From their latest pronouncement it sounds like they are also agitating the administration of UST to go against CCP and the artists involved.

And finally, a follow up question that you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. Are you aware of any other “blasphemous” works in the Philippines? If there are, why do you think they targeted your work?

Mideo Cruz: A lot has been done before using the imagery of the catholic faith. In CCP Jose Legaspi did a Madonna and Child with Mary vomiting to the child Jesus, Paul Piper did a Sto. Nino out of a barbie doll and dressed it with comdoms. Alwin Reamillo did a Mckey Mouse Sto. Nino, Louie Cordero did a painting of Christ the King with a McDonald’s figure

With their criticism of the church, do you think El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere are “blasphemous”?

Mideo Cruz: Blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t even think of my work as blasphemy; instead, I think of them as a critque but if you will see it as blasphemy, I might as well consider that Rizal’s work is blaspmemy too.

Thanks for your time.

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (8)

Censor This


I recently spoke at a small RH forum in De La Salle University where Carlos Antonio Palad, Philosophy doctorate from UP and ardent opponent of the RH Bill, while accompanied by his companion from Defensores Fidei, said that though he might not agree with what I said, he would defend to death my right to say it.

I therefore would like to humbly ask for the good professor’s promised aid in this latest case of CBCP censorship. Their chosen organization for distancing and deniability this time is Pro-life Philippines, with the effort being personally spearheaded by its president Eric Manalang, who has been demanding that an art exhibit containing, among others, the work of Mideo Cruz in the Cultural Center of the Philippines be taken down.

“By Thursday afternoon, we will file a case if they do not stop the exhibit and if they do not also make amends because stopping is not enough. The damage has been done,” Eric Manalang, president of Pro-life Philippines, said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site on Tuesday.


“Relics”, one of the works by Mideo Cruz

To address their demands, CCP set up an open forum this Friday, inviting the general public and concerned parties to come and openly discuss the issue.

Pro Life Philippines’ response to this invitation has been to ignore it and any other attempts at dialogue, then threaten a lawsuit if the exhibit was not taken down by Thursday afternoon, the day before the open forum which was organized in large part for them.

Since the start of this year, the CBCP and its allies have taken down this fast food commercial with its obviously demonic children, as well as the society destroying pectorals of the Philippine Volcanoes rugby team. Having taken on the imperialist capitalist conspirators Mcdonald’s and Bench Apparel, perhaps they now finally feel confident enough to crush the greatest threat to the cultural heritage of the Philippines: the, er, Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Not that the CBCP or its allies would ever stoop to interfering with free expression and political discourse, of course. They have after all continually assured us that they seek only to create a space for them to practice their faith without interfering with that of others.

Perhaps Defensores Fidei felt that in threatening to sue us if we did not take down a video of their speaker at a public forum saying that the tsunami in Japan happened because the Japanese used artificial contraceptives, they were defending the right of their own to be cruelly insensitive and not be criticized for it.

I am also sure that when Eric Manalang and his friends told the ladies from Catholics4RH at another open forum to have their mothers abort themselves on the steps of Manila Cathedral, he too was expressing his right to be as crassly insulting as he wanted to his fellow Catholics.

Even good old Rizalito David was perhaps only expressing his right to threaten and then smack someone he didn’t like in the face, and then, together with Father Melvin Castro, was only exercising his right to quietly walk out of Congress and get away with physical violence while later calling the whole thing a non-issue.

Given all of this, I am glad that Dr. Palad has apparently promised his support for us in this endeavor to preserve the right of this one artist, Mr. Mideo Cruz, to express himself. After all, its not like there should be one standard for the Catholic church to express itself and another standard for any other Filipino citizen. I look forward to to Dr. Palad’s prompt and sincere reply.

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (13)

Christians versus atheists in Olympia


This was the scene last year in the Capitol of Washington State. Personally i applaud the handful of atheists who launched a counter-rally against the Christians, risking their security in the face of a literal mob of angry fundies.

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Of things concerning rock, paper, scissors, and other weapons


One of the common ways to decide things, or to just have fun with just your body parts is using the hand game jan-ken-pon or more commonly known in English as rock-paper-scissors. It’s quite a decision making tool, and it has been used in auctions and by CEOs in their companies to make decisions. This article is about the hand game, how to relatively improve it, and how to add some spices to it as well 😉

Read the full story

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