Tag Archive | "catholic church"

Against Empire: The Celdran Revolt


Celdran’s political protest challenges the hegemony of the Catholic Church, while his case tests the independence of the judiciary from the Church

Article 133: Legacy of Colonialism

In her review of Carolyn Brewer’s Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, Barbara Watson Andaya tells us of how Spanish friars aggressively sought to replace the spiritual role of elderly women in the lives of our ancestors. During that time, women were the spiritual leaders.  Summarizing Brewer’s findings, Andaya tells us that “humiliation became a primary weapon [of Catholic friars], as young boys were recruited to locate sacred items and then urinate on them or perform other acts of desecration.” Our indigenous spiritual rituals and beliefs were replaced with “Christian rituals and symbols.” Our indigenous priestesses were called “bruja (female witch),” which we then “localized into bruha.”

If this happened today, we might say that under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code our indigenous priestesses would have a cause for action against the Catholic Church. After all, what the Catholic Church did to our ancestors was not only “notoriously offensive;” it was arrogant, violent, cruel, and inhuman. They deprived our ancestors of their own beliefs. They oppressed and dehumanized our ancestors because they are of a different civilization. They did this because they were so convinced that they had a mission to civilize the world; and for our Spanish colonizers, civilized and human meant Christian and European. The rest are savages, barbaric, non-human.  Article 133 wasn’t intended to protect our ancestor’s indigenous religions. The revised penal code is largely derived from the penal code of our Spanish colonizers. Since during that time Church and State were not separate entities, Article 133 was probably not meant to protect all religions but a legal tool to secure the hegemony of the religion of our colonial masters, who believed that Christianity is the only one true religion.

Separation of Church and Judiciary

Celdran’s simple act of protest challenges that hegemony. He deliciously used Rizal’s critique of that hegemony: Damaso. Some say that Celdran is just seeking attention.  If we are going to reduce Celdran’s action as mere attention seeking, then what is stopping us from doing the same to all acts of revolt against the Catholic Church that happened all throughout history in all nations that have been colonized by this religion? Others say that there is a “civilized” way of protesting against the Catholic Church. This view needs to be interrogated by an analysis of hegemony.

In The Conservation of “Race,” Kwame Anthony Appiah informs us that “hegemony sets the framework. It defines the dominant system of concepts, the ‘common sense,’ in terms of which social and political reality will be lived.” The “civilized” way of protesting against the hegemon is determined by the hegemon itself, who became the hegemon precisely because of having such authority to determine the norm.  So the civilized way of protesting against the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. The acceptable way of objecting to the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church says there is no acceptable way of objecting to it, then every form of objection to them will be considered  “notoriously offensive.” This danger is actually reflected in the 2013 ruling against Celdran that quoted the 1939 Supreme Court ruling on the Baes Case.

The 1939 Supreme Court ruled that, “whether or not the act complained of is offensive to the religious feelings of the Catholics, is a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones.” In his dissenting opinion, to which Justice Imperial concurred, Justice Laurel objected to that circular argument:

I express this opinion that offense to religious feelings should not be made to depend upon to the more ore less broad or narrow conception of any given particular religion, but should be gauged having in view the nature of the acts committed and after scrutiny of all the facts and circumstance which should be viewed through the mirror of an unbiased judicial criterion. Otherwise, the gravity or leniency of the offense would hinge on the subjective characterization of the act from the point of view of a given religious denomination or sect, and in such a case, the application of the law would be partial, and arbitrary, withal, dangerous…

Given that the Philippines is 80% Catholic, judges would most probably be Catholics. Whether or not we can get an “unbiased judicial criterion” to determine whether an action is notoriously offensive to the Catholic Church is a question of how courageous our Catholic judges are in ruling against the feelings of their fellow Catholics. Can Catholic judges say that they are not experiencing undue pressure in ruling in favour of their religious group?  This now leads us to the greater significance of the Celdran Case: If the RH Bill tested the independence of the executive and legislative branch against the Church, the Celdran Case is testing the independence of the judiciary against the Church.  Since the passage of the RH Bill into law, we are witnessing what the formal separation of Church and State means in substantive terms. Hence, there are two trials here: a legal one, which involves Celdran; and a political one, which involves the judiciary who must convince us that they are independent of the Church.

To conclude, Celdran’s political protest is a challenge to the hegemony of the Catholic Church, a legacy of Spanish imperialist ambitions. Depending on our attitude towards our colonial masters, we may view Celdran’s political action either as an insult to our masters or as a rightful defiance against our colonizers.  On the other hand, Celdran’s case tests the independence of the judiciary, who must convince us that it can come up with an unbiased judicial discretion that will determine whether or not Celdran’s action is notoriously offensive to Catholics.

Decolonizing the Philippines is an ongoing process. The separation of Church and all branches of government is a continuous struggle. Celdran’s revolt is part of that process and an embodiment of that struggle. Celdran’s action is a legitimate political protest against the oldest living imperial power in the world.

 

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Bullets and Dogma: A Musing on Religiously Inspired Misogyny


A few weeks ago, Taliban gunmen stopped a bus carrying students home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, singled out Malala Yousufzai, and shot her.

Her crime was advocating for women’s education – which the Taliban banned – and for openly speaking out against their atrocities through her blog.

The good news is that as you read this, Malala is on the road to recovery, while the Taliban are being rightfully condemned for their act of brutality and cowardice; it says a lot about how insane a group is, when they think a girl who just wants to go to school is a justification for them to shoot people in the face.

But as I look at the outrage, the sympathy, and at the end of it all, the hope getting mixed into Malala’s story, and I look at the reactions from the Philippines’ own community at the whole thing – which is thankfully supportive – I just have to ask…

Are we really any different?

Because in their own way, the women of the Philippines are under threat from bearded, out-of-touch, religious conservatives who abide by silly religious laws, and run around in sillier robes. These people are intent on stifling not only women’s access to quality education, but also their ability to simply speak up and criticize them.

And the magic is that unlike the Taliban, they don’t have to whip out a gun to get the job done. So how did they do it? Let’s look at some of their more recent examples:

1. Resorting to erudite rhetoric that celebrates the fact that their morally superior university doesn’t put up with liberal nonsense such as dissent, free thought, critical thinking, or scientific facts. God was apparently so touched by this show of devotion that he forgot to bless their last game.

2. Legislators bravely stating the truths of the RH Bill while in senate, buying time for their side, not to mention creating a new, proudly Pinoy meme along the way.

3.
Fearlessly speaking against the Magna Carta of Women, which removes their god-given right to eject pregnant students from getting a proper education. Who has a time for school (much less a decent job), when you have to raise a kid before you’ve turned 18, right?

4. Righteously defending their right to condemn the evils of lesbians, a fine trend that they and like-minded predecessors have done for decades.

5. Selflessly sacrificing whatever esteem and respect they had left to support the cybercrime law under the guise of defending people against bullying. After all, calling out an anti-gay/anti-woman bigot for being an intolerant asshole can be painful to their self-esteem.

6. Heroically citing that none other than our national hero, Jose Rizal, would never condone providing women with better access to family planning education.

Who needs bullets when you have a few well-chosen words and the support of powerful, religiously devout, but ultimately imbecilic leaders in politics and educational institutions to shape society according to your whims?

I’m not writing this to reduce any of the much-deserved attention that Malala is getting for herself and a woman’s right to education in Pakistan. What I am simply saying is that as we read about what happens to her, we shouldn’t dismiss it as just a story being told in a foreign land thousands of miles away.

It’s similar to the story of our women here, except that the attempt to murder them comes in inches. The perpetrators do this through through the denial of a woman’s right to proper academic and reproductive education, and through the poisoning of society’s opinion about providing better awareness regarding their rights.

And that is just as deadly – if not deadlier – than a few grams of copper-jacketed lead.

“In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs.” – Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, Personal, Religion, RH Bill, SocietyComments (2)

An Atenean’s Reflections on the CBCP and the Catholic Church


I remember our discussion on Berdyaev in class. Nikolai Berdyaev wrote the book “The Destiny of Man,” wherein he discussed about the sin of the Pharisees. Berdyaev explained that the sin of the Pharisees was their legalistic religion. The Pharisees are concerned more about the “legal technicalities” of their religion rather than the true meaning of its teachings. I quote from a letter written by Berdyaev in reply to V. Lossk:

“But to put the Sabbath higher than man is a betrayal of the commands of Christ. Christians have often become suchlike betrayers. Everyone for whom an ortodoks teaching stands higher than man and his human fate betrays the Gospel commands. The legalism within Christianity is a distortion of Christianity, a victory of non-Christian principles. There is nothing higher than the humanness, which likewise is the Divine, the testimony of the God of love and sacrifice.”

I cannot help but see that the same is happening in present-time Philippines. Our church leaders are too obsessed with the legalistic aspects of their religion that they fail to see the true face of their faith. They are committing the very same crimes Christ condemned. In a way, the CBCP is our present-day Pharisees. They would place their “rule of law” above humanness and risk the suffering and death of many people. And they would do so clinging to their “authority,” fueled by their “lust for power”.

But why should “authority” be such a heavy crime? After all, without a central figure or institution of authority, society would simply be a mess. But an adherence to order and community is different from obeying authority. Authority is built on fear, violence and dictatorship, while harmony is built on trust, communal understanding, and cooperation. Following rules because you fear the consequences is different from following rules because you believe in, respect, and understand the spirit of the law.

Authority begets blind conformity, hypocrisy, and false allegiance. And we can only liberate ourselves from this sin through questioning. Questioning, not in the sense of attacking, destroying or throwing away our values, but as an affirmation of our values, to evaluate and reevaluate our principles so that we avoid inflicting harm on others as well as on ourselves. We question to break away from blind conformity, and to unlock the possibilities, to transcend our current situatedness.

I champion the kind of hope built on a basic, intrinsic human quality, and as a Catholic would say, “God’s design”: the ability of human questioning, to liberate us from the chains of blind faith, to bring about change and improvements to our lives, to seek new and better ways of doing things, to open ourselves to “God’s Grace,” to unlock possibilities and accept truths may they be palatable or not, to evaluate and reevaluate our values so that they may be strengthened.

Quoting from my previous essay: “I wish to espouse hope, the kind that is found in human inquiry, learning and our ability to solve problems—the kind that speaks the human language and promotes understanding and connection. My only aspiration is to be proven wrong time and time again so that new and liberating paradigms may triumph over old and oppressive ones. And hopefully through our sincere discernment, may we find true salvation.”

The Catholic Church that I once hated but have grown fond of was one that stood for freedom. The Catholic Church that the Jesuits introduced me to is one built on questioning, on sound discernment, on possibilities, on hope. The Catholic Church I know is a community that I respect, love, and one I will staunchly defend to my death, despite being an atheist.

Based on the CBCP’s attitude and behavior so far, theirs is a Catholic Church I do not know.

But despite my frustrations, anger and disappointment, I still have hope. And hope is found when you learn to trust. Trust in the human desire and ability to question. Trust in our collective wisdom, in our ability to learn from our past mistakes, and our ability to move forward. Aspire to be “proven wrong time and time again so that new and liberating paradigms may triumph over old and oppressive ones.” It is alright to be wrong.

In letting go of our ego, of our authority, of our need to be right—in emptying our cups, we invite greater things into us. And as we continue to discern, to question, to invoke change, we open ourselves to a greater future, a future that a Catholic would say “we created, through our own actions, inspired by His Grace” and may “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven.”

I invite you to read some of the works I mentioned/used in the discussion above

The Philosophical Enterprise by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J

The Destiny of Man by Nikolai Berdyaev

http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1936_409.html

Image from lossofsoul.com

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, ReligionComments (6)

Anti-RH Blame Rains on RH Win


Yesterday, August 6, the House of Representatives finally voted to end the period of debate for the Reproductive Health Bill. This was a surprise move by the bill’s proponents as it had been expected that the vote would be on August 7.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales put forward the motion to end, which faced several objections. Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella allowed all representatives some time to voice out their positions on the vote with Rep. Amado Bagatsing furious about the early vote. He cited the bill’s opposition to the nation’s “public religion” and that the date, August 6 was unlucky and that 6 was the number of the devil. From these premises, the honorable representative from Manila concluded that it was not a good day to vote for the bill. Rep. Rudolfo Biazon was the last to speak, asking his fellow congressmen whether they ought to listen to the people of the Philippines or to the clergy.

The RH Bill pushed through into the period of amendments despite a last minute attempt by anti-RH congressmen to force a nominal vote. This would have given congressmen 3 minutes each to explain their vote, further delaying the procedures. Such a procedure requires 20% of the representatives to agree to it, which was 50 given the attendance that day. The anti-RH representatives were unable to muster the numbers, belying the Catholic Church’s claim that they had 140 representatives against the bill.

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The day ended with severe rains that continue as of this writing. Several areas in Metro Manila are flooded to as high as 6 feet. Several opponents of the RH bill see this coincidence as divine punishment. The following is a collation by Red Tani of several posts on Twitter by users finding divine purpose in completely natural phenomena.

Update (1:00 PM, August 7): One of those objecting to the vote, Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay has put her say regarding the rains, calling it “heaven crying.”

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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.

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Bigotymology: What it Really Means to Be a Bigot (Like Sotto, Pacquiao, and the CBCP)


Whenever I listen to Senator Sotto on the RH Bill, Manny Pacquiao on homosexuality, and the CBCP on pretty much everything, one word uncontrollably comes to mind: bigot. The impulse is almost as strong as God bless you! follows a sneeze.

In Catholic Philippines, it seems that some people can’t help sneezing, the most recent being former beauty queen Miriam Quiambao. And always, freethinkers everywhere can’t but say bigot! in response.

Recently, some conservatives have gone on the defensive, because intolerance is no longer as fashionable as it used to be back in the good old Dark Ages. Conservative cohorts of the CBCP are arguing that anti-LGBT Christians are being called bigots just because “it’s so cool” (it’s actually so mainstream that it’s not) and that their accusers are equally deserving of the accusation:

But you know, it’s so ‘cool’ these days to call Christianity bigotry… It’s funny, though, how those who scream and call for tolerance are the very same people who are the first to call ‘foul’ when their own beliefs, behaviors and/or lifestyles are challenged…

Let’s face it, anti-Catholicism/anti-Christianity is the last acceptable prejudice. Tolerance is only real when it goes both ways. The LGBT crowd have their own beliefs, let Miriam have hers.

In other words, calling out Christian bigotry is just as intolerant and prejudiced as being anti-LGBT in particular and anti-conservative-Christian in general. Thus, the critics themselves have become the bigots.

But is this true? Is harsh criticism of the Christian perspective a form of bigotry? If both progressives and conservatives can correctly call each other bigots, has the term bigot become meaningless? What does it really mean to be a bigot?

These questions are important to me because I’m guilty of being one of the first to call bigot! — sometimes even before whole sentences are formed — and I belong to an organization that recently gave out a Bigot of the Year award.

To answer them, I studied the word bigot: how it is defined, how it was formed, how it was originally used, and how related words clarify its meaning. By the end of this post, you’ll know who you can call a bigot and whether doing so makes you one.

Bigotefinition

The dictionary defines bigot as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

No one can be faulted for being opinionated, but bigotry lies not merely in having opinions but being devoted to them. Obstinate devotion means you believe something “in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion.”

You might think that we’ve finally hit the nail on the head, but reason is another problematic word: everyone has their own criteria for what is rational, so it’s easy to accuse anyone of bigotry simply because you cannot persuade them with your reasoning.

When it comes to the second half of the definition, conservatives can deflect charges of hatred and intolerance with the usual excuses: “We hate the sin, not the sinner.” (Although there’s absolutely no excuse for inciting violence, the way Pacquiao recently did.)

At this point, some might think that “obstinate devotion” can equally apply to progressives, but this won’t be the case if you understand what it means to be devoted.  Devotion is more than mere commitment; it implies “religious fervor,” an act of “private worship.”

A bigot isn’t just passionate about an opinion — holding the opinion is a form of worship, a prayer to God. And as you’ll soon find out, it’s by God that we’ll separate the merely opinionated from the blatantly bigoted.

Bigotymology

There are three theories about bigot’s origin. The first is that it’s based on Visigothus, the name of a people in southern Gaul. The second is that it’s from the Germanic oath, “by God.” The third — my favorite — is that it came from the Spanish, bigote or mustache.

There’s not much evidence to support any theory, but they think the third is the strongest “by virtue of it not having any evidence against it.” (Maybe I’ll send them some articles on Sotto and pics of his signature ‘stache to cement the third theory’s position.)

Anyway, without no clear origin, we can focus on its original usage. Bigot was first used in the late 16th century to mean “sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite.” Bigotry (based on the French bigoterie) came in the late 17th century to mean “sanctimoniousness.”

A sanctimonious person is “hypocritically pious or devout” — he projects a righteous image through religiosity, a self-righteousness that is contradicted by his own actions. As hypothetical examples, consider an outwardly pious politician involved in the rape of Pepsi Paloma or a Bible-thumping boxer involved in an affair with Krista Ranillo.

Compared to its current usage, the earlier one lost this sanctimonious sense of hypocrisy, while retaining, however subtly, the sense of religiosity. In the original usage, a bigot projects a religious image through behavior; in the current one, he does so using belief.

It is this strong sense of religious belief that characterizes a bigot. This becomes even clearer when we examine bigot in relation to words with similar meanings.

Bigotesaurus

Searching Roget’s International Thesaurus (1922) online returns three words strongly-related to bigotry: credulity, certainty, and obstinateness. These words — and other related ones — illuminate how a bigot believes. As you look at the words below, think about whether it applies more or less to progressives or conservatives. I highlighted ones that are particularly revealing.

CREDULITY, credulousness &c. adj.; gullibility, cullibility [obs.]; gross credulity, infatuation; self-delusion, self-deception; superstition; one’s blind side; bigotry (obstinacy); hyperorthodoxy
BE CREDULOUS &c. adj.; jurare in verba magistri [L.]; follow implicitly; swallow, swallow whole, gulp · down; take on trust; take for -granted, – gospel; take on faith;

CERTAINTY; necessity [See Necessity]; certitude, sureness, surety, assurance; dead -, moral- certainty; infallibleness &c. adj.; infallibility, reliability, reliableness; indubitableness, inevitableness, unquestionableness.
gospel, scripture, church, pope, court of final appeal; res adjudicata, [L.], res judicata [L.]; ultimatum.
FACT; positive fact, matter of fact; fait accompli [F.].
BIGOTRY, positiveness, dogmatism, dogmatization; fanaticism.

OBSTINATENESS
BE OBSTINATE &c. adj.; stickle, take no denial, fly in the face of facts; opinionate [rare], be wedded to an opinion, hug a belief;
creed-bound; prepossessed, infatuated; stiff-backed, stiff-necked, stiff-hearted; hard-mouthed, hidebound; unyielding; impervious, impracticable, impersuasible, impersuadable, unpersuadable; untractable, intractable; incorrigible, deaf to advice, impervious to reason; crotchety [See Caprice] BIGOTRY, intolerance

A bigot is credulous: he believes things strongly, even superstition, to the point of self-deception because he takes things on faith.

A bigot is certain: he believes with such sureness the infallibility of his chosen authority to the point of dogmatism and fanaticism.

A bigot is obstinate: he believes even in the face of contradictory facts because he is married to his opinion and bound by his creed.

To a bigot, it’s not the opinion itself that has power; it’s the authority figure from whom the bigot received the opinion. Whether you believe by authority — especially religious ones — is ultimately what determines whether a believer is a bigot.

Bigotefinition Revisited;

I actually made a mistake and checked the thesaurus too early, entirely forgetting that the dictionary also provided related words: synonyms and antonyms, which can better define the boundaries of a word’s meaning. My dictionary lists the following related words:

Synonyms: dogmatist, dogmatizer, partisan (also partizan), sectarian
Related Words: doctrinaire, fanatic, purist; jingoist, nationalist; racialist, racist, supremacist; chauvinist, sexist
Near Antonyms: freethinker, latitudinarian, liberal

There’s so many here that we can use, but the first synonym and near antonym are more than enough.  A dogmatist takes dogma as fact, forming opinion based on it; A freethinker denies religious dogma, forming opinions independent of authority. Both form opinions; what differentiates them is whether they’re based on dogma. A bigot is a dogmatist, not a freethinker.

If the Bigote Fits

Let’s go back to our original question. Is harsh criticism of the Christian perspective a form of bigotry? If the criticisms are based on reason and not infallible dogma, then no. Criticizing Christianity, however harshly, is not a form of bigotry.

The term bigot has not lost its meaning. When examined closely, it correctly applies to only one side of the debate: the right (conservative) side.

Although both sides hold their opinions strongly, only one side does so because of their credulity, certainty, and obstinacy to believe the Bible and every authority that claims to represent their God.

Yet it’s not enough to call someone a bigot and just leave it at that. It’s better to explain why you think certain people are bigots — or at least hold bigoted beliefs. Doing so raises awareness not only of bad opinions but also of better opinions and the ways in which they are formed.

And who knows? Maybe someday Sotto or Paquiao or the CBCP will finally listen and learn. Even bigots deserve compassion. Remember: hate bigotry, not the bigot.

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Blame Thrower 101: The RCC’s recent scapegoats


For those who’ve never watched Mystery Men, a blame thrower is a non-lethal weapon that causes the targets it affects to start blaming the guy nearest to them for their woes.

The end result is usually a fistfight, followed by much hilarity (and finger-pointing).

While the movie’s heroes have had to use a mechanical blamethrower though, the Catholic Church has gone far beyond mere toys.

In its years of existence, this institution has developed its skill to Sith levels of mindtrickery, conveniently throwing one scapegoat after another in its constant attempts to evade public outrage regarding its hypocrisy.

If you thought their name game was bad enough with the RH bill, wait ’till you get a load of their other material. Every statement is a worthy read in its own right, so like a good serving of sashimi, I’ve opted to present each snippet in its raw form, sans the usual snark.

Without further ado, here are the choice cuts:
_______________________________________

1. Secular society

Pope Benedict XVI told Vatican officials Monday that they must reflect on the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society in which he said the mistreatment of children was frighteningly common.

In his traditional, end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops, Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen,” the pope said.

Benedict also said, however, that the scandal must be seen in a broader social context, in which child pornography is seemingly considered normal by society and drug use and sexual tourism are on the rise.

“The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times,” Benedict said.

_______________________________________

2. Hippies

(Reuters) – A study commissioned by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops concludes that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The five-year study says the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s, according to the newspaper.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops for years but the study was likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America, The Times reported.

_______________________________________

3. Satan

Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”, according to the Holy See’s chief exorcist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon”.

He added: “When one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia.”

_______________________________________

4. Gays

Speaking on a visit to Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

_______________________________________

6. Liberalism

The most obvious change must occur within American seminaries, many of which demonstrate the same brand of cultural liberalism plaguing our secular universities. My hope was rekindled last week as our American Cardinals proposed from Rome an “apostolic visitation” of seminaries emphasizing “the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality.” It is an arduous task. However, the Pope made it clear last week that he expects the strong appeal of the Cardinals to be followed by decisive Episcopal action.

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

_______________________________________

7. Secular Media

The Vatican has attacked the media over charges that the Pope failed to act against a US priest accused of abusing up to 200 deaf boys two decades ago.

A Vatican newspaper editorial said the claims were an “ignoble” attack on the Pope and that there was no “cover-up”.

The head of the UK Catholic church said the Pope had made important changes to the way abuse was dealt with.

The Catholic church has been hit by a series of allegations in Europe and the US over the past months.

The latest allegations stem from the US, after it emerged that Archbishops had complained in 1996 about a priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy. Their complaints went to a Vatican office led by the future Pope Benedict XVI.

_______________________________________

8. Jews

Monsignor Giacomo Babini, the Bishop Emeritus of Grossetto, was quoted by the Italian Roman Catholic website Pontifex as saying he believed a “Zionist attack” was behind the criticism of the Pope, given that it was “powerful and refined” in nature.

Bishop Babini denied he had made any anti-Semitic remarks. He was backed by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), which issued a declaration by Bishop Babini in which he said: “Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me.”

However, Bruno Volpe, who interviewed Monsignor Babini for Pontifex, confirmed that the bishop had made the statement, which was reported widely in the Italian press today. Pontifex threatened to release the audio tape of the interview as proof.

_______________________________

Of course, with the RCC as it is today, you may also want to keep on the lookout in case they decide to take their scapegoating up another notch in the near future.

Now if you’ve just finished reading all that, I leave the floor to the readers. Enjoy. Discuss. Deconstruct. Facepalm.

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CBCP trademarks the term “Catholic”


Manila, Philippines — In response to the existence of Catholics™ for RH (C4RH), the Catholic™ Bishops Conference of the Philippines have trademarked the term, “Catholic™.”

An official of the CBCP said Monday that the term “Catholic™” is reserved for those who obey the Pope’s teachings and are granted an official license by the Vatican through its newly formed franchising agent in the Philippines, the CBCP Commission on Franchising and Life (COFAL). COFAL recently filed a complaint with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines against C4RH.

“Catholics™ for RH are not authentic,” added Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, COFAL president. “They are not recognized as Catholics™.” Last week, Archbishop Palma refused to meet members of the group unless it changed its name. “Either they change the ‘Catholic™’ part or they change the ‘for RH’ part. As it stands their name is an oxymoron, let alone illegal.”

In accordance with the guidelines of COFAL, Laguna Bishop Leo Drona, COFAL vice-president, issued a “clarificatory note for the guidance of all Catholics™ so that they may not be deceived or misled by C4RH.”

Bishop Drona added that COFAL “does not consider nor recognize this group to be an authentically Catholic™ association or group since it espouses and supports a stand contrary and in direct opposition to the magisterial teachings of the Church. Their group violates not only Canon laws but intellectual property laws as well.”

According to Drona, trademarking the term prevents the formation of other groups such as Catholics™ for Divorce, Catholics™ for Abortion, Catholics™ for Euthanasia, Catholics™ for LGBT rights, and Catholics™ for Choice.

Because of the CBCP’s recent actions, some Catholics™ said that they’d leave the Catholic™ Church and form their own.

COFAL President Palma casually dismissed these threats. “They can do whatever they want in their own church but it is useless,” said Arhbishop Palma. “The sacraments, the prayers, even the bread and wine have no holiness or power unless properly franchised by the Catholic™ Church.”

COFAL have recently filed applications to trademark the terms “moral,” “family,” and “life.”

Posted in Featured, Humor, Religion, SocietyComments (37)

RCC: Attacking our bigotry violates our human rights!


Proof once again that the Catholic Church is a big, spineless bully: Attempting to play the victim when people start calling out their anti-gay bullshit.

People who criticise gay sexual relations for religious or moral reasons are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views, a Vatican diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples. But those who express these views are faced with “a disturbing trend,” he said.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex,” he told the current session of the Human Rights Council.

“When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature … they are stigmatised, and worse — they are vilified, and prosecuted.

“These attacks are violations of fundamental human rights and cannot be justified under any circumstances,” Tomasi said.

What pisses me off the most is that while this news report was written in the context of the church’s activities in Europe, it is also an issue I find close to home; One I literally found in my own backyard.

As you’ve seen in my previous article, the RCC has gone as far as attempting to indoctrinate innocent young minds with their brand of hatred, while their leaders have had the audacity to demand that matters such as women’s welfare should not be forced on their schools, because it would infringe on their religious “moral” teachings.

It’s a blatant double standard that’s become a signature of RCC apologists, and the more they try to play this game, the more I am convinced that these bigots deserve no respect.

They are, of course well within their rights to talk about their stance on homosexuality. But the same rules apply to us too. And while they may bitch and moan, they can’t invoke “blashpemy” or religious discrimination when we decide that enough is enough – at least not anymore – and actively call out these shameless motherfuckers for the cretins they are.

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Forty-four Thoughts of a Founding Freethinker


While the world watches Egypt in revolution, many are unaware that almost three centuries today, one of the greatest revolutionaries was born.

January 29, 1736 is the birthday of Thomas Paine, a man Thomas Edison regarded “as one of the greatest of all Americans.” He influenced intellectuals for centuries with works such as Common Sense, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. He inspired such great men as George Holyoake, the father of British secularism; Bertrand Russell, a champion of humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought; and Abraham Lincoln, who lead the fight to end slavery in the United States.

In the 1990s, Truthseeker magazine began celebrating Freethinkers Day on Paine’s birthday. If you doubt that these celebrations should coincide, you haven’t read any of his works, and I strongly suggest you start soon.

For now, here are some excerpts from the writings of Thomas Paine, a founding father who fought not only for freedom in the United States, but for freethought around the world. Happy Freethinkers Day!

  1. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  2. It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  3. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  4. The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. [The Theological Works of Thomas Paine]
  5. Accustom a people to believe that priests, or any other class of men can forgive sins, and you will have sins in abundance.[The Theological Works of Thomas Paine, p.207]
  6. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication– after that it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it can not be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to ME, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  7. Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as ameans of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  8. It is far better that we admitted a thousand devils to roam at large than that we permitted one such imposter and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God and have credit among us.
  9. The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are of themselves evidences that the human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God. The Word of God exists in something else. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  10. It will be proper to take a review of the several sources from which governments have arisen, and on which they have been founded.
  11. They may be all comprehended under three heads — 1st, Superstition; 2d, Power; 3d, the common interests of society, and the common rights of man.
  12. The first was a government of priestcraft, the second of conquerors, and the third of reason. [Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man]
  13. Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but it is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. The one is the pope, armed with fire and fagot, and the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences. [Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man]
  14. …Thomas did not believe the resurrection [John 20:25], and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I, and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  15. What is it the Bible teaches us? – raping, cruelty, and murder. What is it the New Testament teaches us? – to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.
  16. When I see throughout this book, called the Bible, a history of the grossest vices and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales and stories, I could not so dishonor my Creator by calling it by His name. [Thomas Paine, in Toward The Mystery]
  17. Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
  18. Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death, and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  19. The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  20. Prophesying is lying professionally. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  21. If thou trusteth to the book called the Scriptures, thou trusteth to the rotten staff of fables and of falsehood. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  22. One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  23. Science is the true theology. [Thomas Paine, quoted in Emerson, The Mind on Fire pg 153]
  24. All this [Paul’s writing] is nothing better than the jargon of a conjurer who picks up phrases he does not understand to confound the credulous people who come to have their fortune told. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  25. …to argue with a man who has renouced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead. [Thomas Paine, The Crisis, quoted in Ingersoll’s Works, Vol. 1, p.127]
  26. Everything wonderful in appearance has been ascribed to angels, to devils, or to saints. Everything ancient has some legendary tale annexed to it. The common operations of nature have not escaped their practice of corrupting everything.
  27. No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.
  28. When an objection cannot be made formidable, there is some policy in trying to make it frightful; and to substitute the yell and the war- whoop, in the place of reason, argument and good order. Jesuitical cunning always endeavors to disgrace what it cannot disprove.
  29. The story of the redemption will not stand examination. That man should redeem himself from the sin of eating an apple by committing a murder on Jesus Christ, is the strangest system of religion ever set up.
  30. Yet this is trash that the Church imposes upon the world as the Word of God; this is the collection of lies and contradictions called the Holy Bible! This is the rubbish called Revealed Religion!
  31. The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.
  32. The countries the most famous and the most respected of antiquity are those which distinguished themselves by promoting and patronizing science, and on the contrary those which neglected or discouraged it are universally denominated rude and barbarous. The patronage which Britain has shown to Arts, Science and Literature has given her a better established and lasting rank in the world than she ever acquired by her arms. And Russia is a modern instance of the effect which the encouragement of those things produces both as to the internal improvement of a country and the character it raises abroad. The reign of Louis the fourteenth is more distinguished by being the Era of Science and Literature in France than by any other circumstance of those days.
  33. The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and as, after the lapse of more than three hundred years, no handwriting could be proved or disproved, the Church, which like former impostors had then gotten possession of the State, had everything its own way. It invented creeds, such as that called the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicean Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged.
  34. The Christian religion begins with a dream and ends with a murder.
  35. All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for imposters to preach and fools to believe.
  36. Had the news of salvation by Jesus Christ been inscribed on the face of the sun and the moon, in characters that all nations would have understood, the whole earth had known it in twenty-four hours, and all nations would have believed it; whereas, though it is now almost two thousand years since, as they tell us, Christ came upon earth, not a twentieth part of the people of the earth know anything of it, and among those who do, the wiser part do not believe it.
  37. There is scarcely any part of science, or anything in nature, which those imposters and blasphemers of science, called priests, as well Christians as Jews, have not, at some time or other, perverted, or sought to pervert to the purpose of superstition and falsehood.
  38. Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.
  39. I put the following work under your protection. It contains my opinion upon religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
  40. The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.
  41. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
  42. Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true.
  43. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.
  44. But though every created thing is, in this sense, a mystery, the word mystery cannot be applied to moral truth, any more than obscurity can be applied to light. … Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention, that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery, and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself.

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FF Podcast 002: The Black Nazarene


Second episode of the Podcast, now with better lighting! In this episode we talk about the Black Nazarene, Power Balance, works of fiction and the secular movement in Pakistan.

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The Justice System, Courtroom Fashion, Typos and Why You Need to Read the Noli Me Tangere


The Trial of Carlos CeldranLast Tuesday was the first day of Carlos Celdran‘s trial. The charge? Apparently, he hurt some people’s feelings toward their imaginary friend — a crime in the Philippines. His trial is one of the highlights of the fight for the Reproductive Health Bill, which is encountering a ton of opposition from the Catholic Church and other Catholic organizations, even though the people themselves seem to be all for it. When Carlos entered that church in Ibarra garb, held up a sign saying “Damaso” and shouted to the priests to stop interfering with politics, it was because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had been trying to use religion to influence the outcome of the RH Bill’s passing, such as making thinly veiled threats of excommunication towards the president of the country.

The court session was scheduled at 1.30 pm, so some of us from the Filipino Freethinkers met up with Carlos at Starbucks around noon. I was trying to hold up one of the posters from the people at Sex and Sensibilities, but turns out I was holding it upside down.

Today in court

Carlos was in good spirits, even giving us a short demo of his current favorite gadget, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. (Which totally rocks, by the way.)

Today in court

Inside the courthouse, we saw a bunch of people in anti-RH bill shirts. These shirts were unfortunately colored bright yellow — the exact same color as that of the detainees who were there for their criminal trials. (Note to self: when dressing for court or planning propaganda shirts to wear to court, make sure to not wear the same regulation prison colors as suspects in custody. Because when you leave, the judge will try to get security to stop you.) I was wearing the grey “excommunication” shirt, while the others were in white, “Damaso” printed on the front and “Pass the RH Bill Now!” on the back. (Speaking of suspects, it was interesting that there was no effort made to separate the detainees and the spectators. There were guys in prison outfits and handcuffs standing right next to me during the session.) The room was airconditioned but there were too many people inside so it was still hot, and I kept fanning myself with my poster. It looked like this. I was seated close to the anti-RH bill people, so I’m pretty sure they saw it. No one said or did anything confrontational, though, which was promising.

It was over under an hour, I think. The complainant presented their case, the defense denied everything. The judge advised them to settle out of court. I don’t blame him. There was a woman who was jailed because she stole clothes amounting to around 1 to 2 thousand pesos, which was bailable, but apparently she couldn’t afford bail, so she’s been in jail for months. I believe our judges have better things to do than entertain ridiculous cases like “offending religious feelings”. After all, who here thinks we should go to prison for mocking Xenu? Oh, and next trial date was set for March 10. (Or was it May? I’m getting old.)

Today in court

When it was over, we trooped outside with the other pro-RH Bill advocates from the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) in the parking lot and waited for Carlos and his attorney to finish up the last details with the MTC. There were a few media people there with cameras and they took photos of us. When Carlos appeared, he posed for photos with us, holding up the posters.

Today in court

Today in court

The anti-RH Bill advocates had a banner. Don’t ask me why being the world’s greatest boxer should make your opinion on whether or not women should have access to reproductive health care weigh more than the rest of ours, because I’m stumped. Don’t ask me either why they spelled Pacquiao’s name wrong — I didn’t notice because I was too distracted by that colon. Later, a friend had to point out to me the missing ” ‘s “.

Today in court

Oddly, the Anti-RH advocates wanted to have photos taken with Carlos, too. They did not appear hostile in any way. In fact they were quite nice, logical fallacy and typos notwithstanding.

Today in court

The epic moment was when they shook hands with Carlos.

Today in court

Oh, and someone asked for Carlos’s autograph on a poster.

Today in court

There were some spectators watching us speak with the anti-RH Bill advocates and talk to the press. Lots of them wanted to have their photos taken with Carlos, and even one of them asked Carlos to kiss her baby (he obliged, laughingly). The funny thing was, some of them thought he was a priest. Most of them thought his name was Damaso. I’m not sure they knew what exactly was going on, it just seemed they wanted to have their photo taken with him.

“Magpapa-picture ako kasama si Father!” (I’m having my photo taken with Father.)

“Hindi siya pari! Tour guide siya.” (He’s not a priest, he’s a tour guide.)

“Oo, pangalan lang niya Damaso.” (Yes, he’s just named Damaso.)

(Ah, so they know Damaso was a priest, at least. Madame, I suggest you should put down your books once in a while and turn on the TV to watch the news. Haha.)

One of them asked me if I was the girl in the poster. Flattering, but no. For one, she clearly had better hair than I did.

Today in court

The posters were a hit, though. Lots of women (the spectators were mostly women) asked us if they could have some. One of them asked me what they meant. Before going home, we gave Carlos the remaining posters so he could distribute them on his tours.

Some of us stopped by Makati for a late lunch before braving the traffic home. The trains were full and the lines at the taxi stand were ridiculously long, so we took the bus. It took me more than an hour to get home. The truth is, no matter what side of the condom debate you’re on, we all get screwed by rush hour.

This post was reposted by the author from her personal blog.

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The Genetic Case Against God


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gravitywave/7715395/

Upon the completion of the first draft of the Human Genome Project in 2000, United States President Bill Clinton called the three billion letters that compose the human genome “the language in which God created life.” Indeed, the head of the HGP, current director of the National Institutes of Health, and devout Christian Francis Collins alludes to genetics as the “language of God”—the same title of his book-length presentation of supposed evidence for Christianity—and “God’s instruction book”.1

If there was any branch of science that could have ever vindicated the doctrine of vitalism (the belief that something nonphysical is the force behind the phenomenon of life), it would have been molecular biology and its study of the genetic and chemical underpinnings of life. It would also have been the prime candidate for debunking On the Origin of Species, which was published a hundred years before Avery, McLeod, and McCarty provided Darwin’s theory with DNA as the hereditary unit of life2 and Watson and Crick discovered its double helical structure3. A failure of molecular biology to reflect the wastefulness of natural selection and its reliance on ad hoc solutions for survival would have been proof positive that a physical description of the basis of life is intrinsically impossible. If genes were found to be too complex to have been the product of simpler parents, materialism would instantly cease to be a viable perspective. Scientists would then be forced to let go of their naturalistic premises. And yet, with junk DNA4 and genes co-opted for other functions5, we clearly see the fingerprints not of an intelligent God that deftly sculpted life, but of random chance whittled down by billions of years of natural selection.

Unfortunately for the religious intelligentsia, materialistic biology has only brought the hammer down more strongly against metaphysical and supernatural conceptions of life and consciousness. This is not to say that the religious have not tried to put on the white coat and the credibility of science in a counterintuitive attempt at showing that their beliefs are based on evidence and not on faith claims. Science is currently being assailed by unscrupulous hucksters and obscurantists trying to peddle the Bronze Age hokum of the Bible as scientific—thinly disguised as nondenominational under “Intelligent Design.” Less delusional believers adeptly see through this canard and rely on the self-refuting “theistic evolution” to ease their doubts about Adam and Eve while paying lip service to scientific consensus.6 Today, the claim that life and the human mind has no basis on physical events and the neurophysiology of the brain, respectively, is on par with the belief that demons are the generative cause of epilepsy. In this stage of human scientific progress, it is safe to announce that vitalism and its variants are intellectually indefensible and thoroughly deserve the muffled laughs they elicit. Despite its use by respectable scientists such as Dr. Collins, the “language of God” metaphor used for DNA is no less ridiculous. And, as we shall see after an inventory of genes and genetic disorders, believers may want to refrain from implicating God as the writer of the mess we call the human genome.

After the sperm and egg meet

The development of a human embryo involves a complex interplay between the genes it inherits from the much obsessed about union of the 23 chromosomes of the father’s sperm and the 23 chromosomes of the mother’s egg.7 These genes direct the development of embryonic structures at specific points in time and in specific amounts. Any error in the process will derail the entire endeavor and will have catastrophic consequences. Now, it often escapes the religious mind how such an intricate crosstalk between genes could ever have arisen by itself without the forethought of a designer. Of course, as the watchmaker argument goes, this failure of imagination necessitates that God must have carefully designed each gene to turn on at the right time and at the right amounts in order to produce each one of God’s precious little children. As Rick Warren says, “[God] carefully mixed the DNA cocktail that created you.”8 However, a moment’s additional thinking will reveal the vacuity of such an argument. Alternatively, what will be revealed by a little critical thinking is that God is either inept or cruel.

Once the embryo develops into a child, is born, and the doctor hands off the child to the mother, the next step, after a well-deserved embrace, is to look over the child for obvious defects. The parents check if the child has all its toes, if its head is round, and if its face possesses all the standard features. Once inspection confirms a healthy child, the parents breathe a sigh of relief over their little bundle of joy. This image is the best-case scenario for expectant parents. This is what happens when everything goes well with the 46 chromosomes of the child. However, in spite of the omnipotence and goodness of God, the alternative happens a little too often for someone who doesn’t make mistakes.

As much as 20% of all recognized conceptions result in spontaneous abortion—also known as miscarriages.9 This number does not include women who never even knew they were pregnant. Miscarriages occur for many reasons. Some of these reasons are embryonic developmental problems such as those involving errors in the inheritance of parental DNA (e.g., missing chromosomes, embryonic fatal genetic mutations, etc.). These problems arise by sheer chance because of the nature of DNA. Right at the get go, God’s perfect design seems to fail at least 20% of the time, without discrimination. And since the Catholic Church claims that the soul enters the embryo at the point of conception, then the Church must concede that God is the most prolific mass murderer of all.

Divinely mandated seclusion

While miscarriages are horrifying for expectant mothers, there is at least a modicum of comfort to be had in knowing that the fetus, lacking the neurological structures, did not suffer its own death. If a random mutation is lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be) enough to cross the threshold of birth, a human child with a functioning capacity for suffering will be involved in its ravages.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) is a genetic disease that is caused by various mutations, one of which involves the mutation of a gene on the X chromosome that codes for a protein that recognizes cell signals.10 Having this variant of SCID means that mothers that carry this mutation will pass it on to 50% of their offspring, since females carry two X chromosomes. Because of the two X chromosomes of females, they are unaffected by the disease since the defective copy on one X is compensated for by a working copy on the other. Therefore, the mutation is recessive, which means that since males only carry one X chromosome, males will have no functioning copy of the gene and will absolutely have the disease, regardless of environmental situation. The result is that the child with these genetic errors will have such a crippled immune system that he will need to live in an aseptic plastic bubble for all of his brief years on God’s green Earth. He will never even feel the touch of his mother’s uncovered skin until his body begins to fail catastrophically due to a chance infection and the sterile equipment that protects him is discarded as it will be of no use in a few minutes.

The curse of Huntington

 

Image credit: http://www.watchinghouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/househead5.jpg

Some genetic diseases remain benign until a certain point in adulthood. While many of these are largely environmentally determined such as heart disease and certain forms of cancer, some are completely deterministic. If you happen to have inherited a particular mutation in your huntingtin gene from your parents, there is no amount of vitamin C or exercise that will prevent you from becoming a quivering and demented shadow of your former self. This is Huntington’s chorea, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects adults at around 35 years of age. If it sounds familiar, it may be because the character Olivia Wilde plays on House has it. Huntington’s is caused by several repetitions of a DNA base triplet of CAG in the huntingtin gene. The more CAG repeats in your copy of huntingtin, the earlier the devastating effects of Huntington’s will be for you.11 You just need one disordered copy of the gene since the disease is dominant. This means that carriers of the mutated gene have a 50/50 chance of passing on their dreadful disease to their children. Many people who have a history of Huntington’s in the family opt not to be tested for the gene. Since there is no cure for the disease, many people would rather not have a ticking time bomb alert them of their guaranteed dementia and prefer to live in ignorance until the symptoms finally kick in.

This is but a sampling of the horrific genetic mishaps that follow the indifferent laws of statistics. They affect the lives of conscious creatures through no fault of anyone but chance. There are about 25,000 genes in the human genome.12 All of them are subject to mutation and failure. Most mutations are fatal; a tiny few are beneficial. This is the raw material in which evolution works.  This is how cruel natural selection is. The facts can’t be ignored by anyone defending the Christian idea of God. It takes a colossal amount of callousness to square evolution with a benevolent Creator. It takes an even greater amount of doublethink to use genetics as evidence for a loving God.

References

1 Collins, F. S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  109 (Free Press, 2006).

2 Avery, O. T., MacLeod, C. M. & McCarty, M. Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III. Journal of Experimental Medicine 79, 137-158 (1944).

3 Watson, J. D. & Crick, F. A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 171, 737-738 (1954).

4 Ohno, S. So much ‘junk’ DNA in our genome. Evolution of Genetic Systems 23, 366-370 (1972).

5 Fraser, G. J. et al. An Ancient Gene Network Is Co-opted for Teeth on Old and New Jaws. PLoS Biology 7, e1000031 (2009).

6 Trese, L. J. The Faith Explained.  50-52 (Sinag-Tala Publishers, Inc., 2003).

7 Gilbert, S. F. Developmental Biology.  (Sinauer Associates, 2000).

8 Warren, R. The Purpose-Driven Life.  235 (OMF Literature Inc., 2001).

9 Griebel, C. P., Halvorsen, J., Golemon, T. B. & Day, A. A. Management of spontaneous abortion. American Family Physician 72, 1243-1250 (2005).

10 Davis, J. & Puck, J. X-Linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=gene&part=x-scid> (2003).

11 Watson, J. D. DNA: The Secret of Life.  323-324 (Arrow Books, 2003).

12 ibid., p. 201

Posted in Religion, ScienceComments (11)

Why Carlos Celdran is NOT My Hero


On September 30, 2010, late in the afternoon, Carlos Celdran did what most of us could only hope to achieve. He a gave voice to the growing number of secularists in the country, a voice to those who are sick of the undue influence the Catholic Church holds over society.

Arrested and detained for “offending the feelings of the faithful” after his daring stunt, Celdran became an overnight sensation. And we know this for a fact because his Facebook fan page skyrocketed to almost 15 thousand fans. On a more important note, this provided an avenue for people to actually have intellectual discourses regarding the issue.

Well, at least, for the most part.

Personally, Celdran’s feat inspired me so goddamn much (pun very much intended), to the point where I even cried my eyes out just to be allowed to go to the rally in front of UN Avenue Precinct No. 5. This, coupled with P-Noy’s uncompromising stance against the Catholic Church made me feel for the first time that maybe there is hope for the Philippines. Maybe things really are about to change!

And then, of course, Celdran had to apologize.

“I am sorry for the method I used, but my message is unapologetic.” – Carlos Celdran

Whether or not, this apology comes from immense public pressure or was sincere, I wouldn’t know. But while this statement generally appeased the people, I was, on the other hand, disappointed.

I personally think that the method was perfect. It was exactly what the Philippines needed! Think about it. The Catholic Church has the gall to threaten civil disobedience against the very own government which grants it tax exemption because it knows (or rather, believes) that the masses will back them up. No one would ever dare disrespect the Catholic Church because it is legitimized by the scriptures (READ: THE BIBLE)and a god who supposedly put them there to lead us to salvation. Of course, NO ONEwould ever dare question the validity of that because ZOMG YOU JUST DON’T QUESTION THE BIBLE.

The problem, I think, is that people actually acknowledge the supposed moral unsoundness of the RH Bill, and are now morally conflicted as a result, despite seeing the necessity of the legislation of the bill. However, the problem with this mindset is that we are conceding that the Church is right. And this, in turn, makes them believe that they are empowered to prevent the legislation of the RH Bill. In other words, you give them the moral authority over you and society.  (On a side note, assuming without conceding that the RH Bill is morally unsound, does this mean the bill should not be legislated? The answer is in this short reaction paper I wrote on Holmes’ essay, The Path of the Law, regarding the congruence of law and morality, which can be read here.)

It was, however, Celdran’s attempt at moderating his fan page that got me to go cold turkey:

.

LOL U MAD?

Despite previous claims of standing up for free speech and democracy, here we see Celdran contemplating on killing the fan page because people are expressing their distaste for the Church, such as this:

How does one know for certain if a priest is good or bad?

Okay, I concede that the previous comment wasn’t the most sensitive or appropriate statement. Still, if Celdran is actually attempting to segregate priests between “good” and “bad”, even so far as to suggest that we should “reform them”, then he’s doing no better than the Catholic Church because he’s also imposing his on standards of morality on others.

We can’t say that a priest is “good” just because he supports the RH Bill. Conversely, we can’t say that a priest is “bad” just because he condemns it. The Catholic Church is entitled to their own opinions, just as we all are. No one can take it against them for going against the RH Bill because they’re just doing what they think is right, which is their interpretation of the scripture. It’s just the same as Carlos Celdran believing the RH bill is goodOr that I think fraternities do more harm than good to society. Everyone is entitled to opinions. What we are not entitled to are facts.

So what now? What we can (and oughta) do is exactly what Carlos Celdran did: Tell them to stop getting involved in politics and tell them to stop shoving their moral standards on other people’s throats just because they can’t even adhere to it themselves.

And why he had to apologize for that, I’ll never understand.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (19)

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