Tag Archive | "ethics"

FF Podcast 105 (Audio): Sex Workers in the Philippines

FF Audio Podcast 105 Sex Workers in the Philippines

This week, researcher Sharmila Parmanand joins us. We talk about sex workers and their strange position in Philippine society as both “victims” and “criminals” in the eyes of the law.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Advocacy, audio podcast, Gender Rights, Religion, SocietyComments (0)

Sex Workers in the Philippines | FF Podcast

This week, researcher Sharmila Parmanand joins us. We talk about sex workers and their strange position in Philippine society as both “victims” and “criminals” in the eyes of the law.

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 Advocacy, Gender Rights, Media, Podcast, Society, VideoComments (0)

FF Podcast 098 (Audio): The Climate is Changing! Is it Ethical to Have Kids?

FF Audio Podcast 098 - The Climate is Changing! Is it Ethical to Have Kids?

This week, we talk about climate change and the environmental impact of having more children. We also discuss the stigma against women who choose to be child-free.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media, SocietyComments (0)

The Climate is Changing! Is it Ethical to Have Kids? | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about climate change and the environmental impact of having more children. We also discuss the stigma against women who choose to be child-free.

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, Society, VideoComments (0)

The RH Bill and the Disintegrating Moral Fiber of the Philippines

Today on ANC’s Headstart Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez has stated that she is against the RH bill because she worries about the bill disintegrating the moral fiber of Philippine society. Perhaps she should ask herself, is this moral fiber worth protecting? Is this wonderful moral fiber doing more for our country’s reproductive health than an RH bill would?

According to this social moral fiber, Filipino teenagers should not be having sex. What the Philippines has instead is one of the highest incidences of teenage pregnancy in Asia. Clearly this moral fiber has not been doing a very good job in stopping teenage sex. Contrast this with the sex education that is part of the RH bill. It’s been found that giving teenagers sex education delays teenage sexual activity. Informed sexual behavior serves our youths better than a moral fiber that denies what is happening in reality. Should we put a moral fiber that has not been working up on a pedestal to the detriment of our youths?

If this moral fiber is better than the RH bill, then this moral fiber ought to be stopping abortions. Its an undeniable fact that abortions happen in the Philippines. According to the national estimate, the number of abortions each year is around 400,000 to 500,000. When contraception has been shown to reduce abortion, then the people who decide to stand behind moral fiber instead of passing the RH bill are effectively saying they do not care enough for the women who feel forced to undergo abortion to do anything to lower that number. They care more for the moral fiber that hasn’t been working than they do for actual women.

The moral fiber argument against the RH bill becomes even more morally bankrupt when you actually have to use your moral courage. Can you do the ethical thing even if it means going against those who claim to be the keepers of “moral fiber”?

Maternal deaths are on the rise. It speaks volumes about your moral fiber when you choose not to do anything about deaths so easily preventable with a comprehensive reproductive health program. It says even more about your actual moral courage when you can defend your decision to do nothing by citing “moral fiber”.

Lucy Torres-Gomez speaks of social moral fiber. What does it say of our society’s moral fiber when abortion is so looked down upon that some health care professionals will shun women who require post abortion care, will have no empathy for these women in need of medical attention? A society of higher moral fiber would be able to put aside their judgement and condemnation and see a woman in need of care.

Critics of the RH bill who say they are defending “moral fiber”, or “Filipino values” need to actually examine what it is they are defending. Morals, values, and ethics are not static things. As we find out more about the human experience we progress in the way we think about things. Do the values you defend reflect the best of what we understand? The best that we can do to make the lives of our fellow human beings better?

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill, SocietyComments (4)

The Ethics of Secularism

One of the principles of secularism is doing good for goodness’ sake: “Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.” The English secularist George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the word “secularism” in the mid-19th century, asserted, “Individual good attained by methods conducive to the good of others, is the highest aim of man, whether regard be had to human welfare in this life or personal fitness for another. Precedence is therefore given to the duties of this life.

Since this utilitarian ethical principle is not grounded on the moral dictates of a transcendent being, i.e., God, it is not surprising that theists are quick to criticize it as lacking an ontological foundation, meaning there is no basis for conceptualizing such moral system in the first place. They then proceed to cite David Hume’s is-ought problem and G.E. Moore’s naturalistic fallacy, insisting that it is impossible to derive an “ought” from an “is” or to infer moral obligations from mere observations of nature, and that what is naturally pleasant or desired is not necessarily “good”.

While Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature that it surprised him to find an ought instead of an is, there seems to be nothing in the book expressing the impossibility of bridging the is-ought gap. Hume only said that “’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

Moreover, the rules apply to both theists and nontheists, and if the requirements for bridging the gap are set to go beyond common sense and into ontological obsession, I doubt that even Divine Command Theory can bridge it. Someone claiming that God exists and has laid down certain rules (an is statement) is also expected to explain why we ought to act accordingly, and after all the rationalizations have been exposed and eliminated, it all boils down to one thing: we ought to obey and please God for the welfare of our souls.

While the secularist does not necessarily rule out the possibility of a life after death since it’s unprovable either way, he gives priority to his welfare in this life: “For a future state Secularism proposes the wise use of this, as he who fails in this “duty nearest hand” has no moral fitness for any other.” And since claims of divine revelation are all hearsay and our common sense dictates that the Bible is a dangerous guide to morality, secularism “offers the guidance of observation, investigation, and experience. Instead of taking authority for truth, it takes truth for authority.

The word ought was originally used to express duty or obligation (and this is probably how Hume intended to use it), but modern usage has expanded its meaning to also indicate advisability or desirability. Since the secularist believes in the improvement of this life by material means and that science is the available Providence of man, if he wants to be happy then he knows what he ought –  what he is well advised – to do, and that is to seek happiness in ways that are conducive to the happiness of others so as to encourage mutual effort in perpetuating everybody’s happiness.

As for the naturalistic fallacy, while it is true that “pleasant” is not necessarily tantamount to “good,” it seems that all of mankind’s conscious acts are ultimately motivated by pleasure. The blogger Philosophy Bro put it succinctly:

“People want to be happy; that seems pretty clear. What makes people happy? Why, pleasure makes people happy…Pleasure is the only thing people want for its own sake, as an end; everything else people do is to attain some final pleasure…For some reason dudes keep insisting that there’s more to life than pleasure. And to them I say, “Really? Like what?” When they start listing shit like literature and the arts and human excellence, I know they’re not paying attention because all of those things are pleasurable.”

As for the theists who define “good” as something that God commands or desires, the is-ought problem is thrown back at them: why do we ought to do good and obey God? And if they are honest enough they will admit that it’s because they want to have a pleasant eternal life in Heaven and avoid perpetual torment in Hell.

And so it seems that for the theist and nontheist alike, morality, or at least the standard by which a person judges actions with either approval or disapproval, is ultimately rooted in the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In Of Vice and Virtue, Hume wrote, “For granting that morality had no foundation in nature, it must still be allowed, that vice and virtue, either from self-interest or the prejudices of education, produce in us a real pain and pleasure.” An article in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy paraphrases Hume: “[I]t is because we are the kinds of creatures we are, with the dispositions we have for pain and pleasure, the kinds of familial and friendly interdependence that make up our life together, and our approvals and disapprovals of these, that we are bound by moral requirements at all.”

And while the secularist does not concern himself with ultimate or eternal scenarios of pleasure and pain as much as the immediate and foreseeable consequences of his actions, it does not mean that his morality is inferior. In The Science of Good and Evil, Michael Shermer explained that “like everyone else, I face judges that are in their own ways transcendent and powerful: family and friends, colleagues and peers, mentors and teachers, and society at large. My judges may be lowercased and occasionally deceivable, but they are transcendent of me as an individual, even if they are not transcendent of nature…real people whose lives are directly affected by my actions, and whose actions directly affect my life.”

The secularist’s judges may not be as fearsome as a deity capable of sentencing people to eternal torture, but he nevertheless respects them deeply and holds himself accountable to them. That’s because in this life, which is the only life we really know exists, these human judges influence our welfare and happiness in ways that we can clearly see and foresee. As such, we are accountable to them because we are ultimately accountable to ourselves.

Posted in Featured, SocietyComments (20)

Evolution-based morals? Don't pick up the soap!

So I seem to have opened up a can of worms when I tried to point out the absence of empirical evidence support on accounting morality to evolution propelled by natural selection at the Filipino Freethinkers site. One good thing out of allowing such a topic to be published in the Filipino Freethinkers site is that it brings opportunity to show the reading public that the site is not just an atheist or a militant atheist site. One bad thing about it is having “fans” or “stalkers” (depending on whether the person is good-looking or not). My understanding of evolution (and perhaps even science itself) may be frowned upon by some of my atheist friends and acquaintances there but that’s okay with me. If they think that I do not know anything about science or that my understanding of evolution and science is plagued with so “many errors” or “stupidity”, because uhm… well… my articles do not fit a certain framework of what they think science and evolution ought to be then there’s nothing I can do about such a sentiment. I certainly do not feel the necessity to prove to any “scientists” or “science teachers” there my science background. Besides, scientific grandstanding in order to bolster credibility when it comes to discussions touching on science is just so… well… not my style. 🙂

Anyway, marching onward…

I’ve encountered a few self-professed atheists in the past who account morality to evolution. For these folks, at least the ones I encountered, they do not subscribe to universal values and truth. Also for them, there is no objective truth. I guess it is perfectly understandable for the atheist position to reject objective truth. Bertrand Russell, author of the “Why I Am Not a Christian”, although known for his “philosophical agnosticism and practical atheism”, also contended that with God out of the picture, no other objective standard for morality (which he called “The Good”) could be found. J.L.Mackie, one of the greatest minds of atheism in recent times also admitted, in his book “Miracle of Theism”, that moral value is most unlikely without a God to ground it. He wrote that if there really is objective value, it would make God’s existence more probable than if there weren’t. He said this is a defensible argument from morality to the existence of God. Mackie rejected the notion of a universal value because as an atheist, well… he had to. He adopted the evolution-based morality model and believed that we all have the feeling, the sense, that there is objective value but that this is only a feeling developed over a long evolutionary process.

Perhaps there is more to evolution-based ethics than meets the eye. Let’s assess, shall we? However, before my atheist “fans” or “stalkers” go ballistic on me again for seemingly going against the choir, let me first state that this article does not intend to make any claims on the existence of an objective truth or value or even universal truth. It does, however, present some arguments against some questions we may have in mind. It also intends to incite critical thinking and assessments on what we may already adhere to and some ideas that the readers may consider under an open mind.

In our assessment, I would like to touch on something that I feel is important to the subject matter. Is there such a thing as a “universal value/morality/truth”?

I was once told that:

“Man has evolved in such a way that he relies less on his instincts (which have gone subterranean) and almost fully on his consciousness (his most fallible organ, if I may say so). Values are important for the enhancement of human life and culture, for creativity and creation. They are important for the enrichment of human life, that is why value-creation is one of mankind’s most wonderful activities and experiments.”

So our moral sense was basically a result of our value creation stemming from our evolutionary process for the enhancement of our lives. So if that is the case, does this make truth a creation of the mind? If we accept this, as well as the notion that truth is merely passed on from one generation of human beings to another, one could say that this truth must be nothing more than a human invention. It originated from humans and could have been thought up differently from the way it is. Like the idea that a red light means stop and a green light means go; humans invented that and could easily have reversed that if it was favored by the human mind. However, not all things we have learned from humans (e.g. our parents and ancestors) are human inventions that could have been different from what they are. There are some things that we learn from others that are not human inventions; humans teach them but we don’t necessarily invent them. They could not be different from what they are. Take for example, basic logical truths such as “a whole is greater than any of its parts” or “a thing cannot both exist and not exist in the same sense at the same time”. We learned these from our schools, our parents, other people; but it doesn’t follow that these people (or the people before them) invented these or that they could be different from what they are. We only recognize them as truths that exist apart from us and pass them along to other people.

The next question I have is: Is truth relative?

Before we get into this, I think it is important to distinguish two types of truths I have in mind. There is the objective/absolute truth and the subjective/relative truth. I think it is a mistake to think of truth as a case of “either/or”. Anyway, looking at relative truth, please have a look at Theodore Schick Jr.’s “Is Morality a Matter of Taste?” ( http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/schick_18_4.html )

Other types of Relativism can be seen in:  http://www.iep.utm.edu/c/cog-rel.htm

Now regarding absolutism, there are various kinds of absolutism as well. Most commonly, absolutism refers to the view that says, for example, that the government or the head of that government has complete rights and powers over the citizens. Absolutism also commonly refers to the belief that there are moral absolutes that are valid universally, and in the case of various denominations of Christianity, for example, that God is the ultimate moral authority. Thus, some or a good number of Christians, and Muslims I presume, are ethical absolutists, but may or may not be absolutists in other aspects.

Prof. LaFave offers several other types of absolutisms in http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/melchert.html

Anyway, I do not support the notion of absolute relativism that says there is no “objective reality”. I do, however, support the existence of both objective and subjective realities.

Examples of objective realities are “Airplanes exist in the world”, “I have used a computer in my life”, and “I am a human being”.

There are also subjective truths such as who is more beautiful–Ms. X or Ms. Y. These are value judgments, which depend upon the perceiver/interpreter. Such “truths” are more or less relative to the subject.

As for absolutist vs relativistic ethics I recommend you check the link below:


As you will read, rather than just opt for either relativistic or absolutist ethics, the link shows an alternative—value (ethical) pluralism.

Now we may ask: What about the different moral practices in the world? Doesn’t this prove ethical relativism?

I do agree that we see different moral practices by different cultures at different places. However, different moral practices do not necessarily contradict the notion of a universal truth. Anyway, given the differences in moral practices that we see in different societies, what is remarkable is not really how different these are but how similar they are. In fact what we do find are fundamental value systems around the world. But before anyone goes ballistic on me with that statement, I will try to explain what I mean.

If we take the UN Declaration of Human Rights that was drawn in 1948, as an example, we would recognize the demonstration of this fundamental similarity in value systems around the world. Human freedom, dignity, life, liberty, security, and many other things are said to be morally good. Racial and gender discrimination, slavery, arbitrary arrest, torture, all forms of degrading treatment and other acts are condemned. Some may say that the UN Declaration is relatively modern and it may have evolved through preceding generations. But as the English writer, C.S. Lewis’ compilation of a list of ancient moral codes, we see a highlight of fundamental similarities between them. The moral imperative against murder or cruel treatment of other human beings is found in the moral codes of the ancient Egyptians, Jews, Babylonians, Hindus, and Chinese. The command to honor and respect others is found in the moral codes of the ancient Hindus, Babylonians, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, and Chinese. Values such as honesty, mercy and care are likewise found in a wide spectrum of ancient codes. I guess the point here is that despite the radically different conditions and situations we find people in, it is not the difference in moral practices that are remarkable, but the similarities.

Now, one may surely ask, “Ok, if there is indeed a universal truth (or value, if you will), and if people are truly guided by this set of objective and common moral principles, then how can different moral practices still exist?”

Well, it is one thing to recognize or know about an objective and universal moral standard, it is quite another to follow it. It is possible that when we find certain people who do things we condemn, they are acting in violation of moral standards that they recognize. But what about the societies that, without any remorse or any thought of wrongdoing, carry out practices that we condemn? A good example would be the classic case of the Eskimo societies recorded by anthropologists, as discussed in our Philosophy 101 courses. Anthropologists have found that in the past, infanticide was quite common amongst the Eskimos. They would leave their infant children out, to freeze to death. This was permitted by the parents and no social stigma was attached to it, yet we condemn this practice.

In assessing these kinds of things, I think it isn’t enough to ask what practices people do but also why they do it. We have to realize that a difference in moral practice may not always be because of a difference in moral principles held by the people. Different practices may be due to a difference in a group’s circumstances or conditions in life.

Considering the Eskimo example above on infanticide practice, people who hear of this practice may be quick to judge that Eskimos do not love their children as much as we do or that they do not have the same level of respect for human life as we do have. But if we ask the question why they did such things, we would see if they really love their children less than we do or whether they did have less respect for human life than we do. Perhaps this is just because they have different circumstances that forced them into such practice? Until we can answer that “why” question, we can’t really say for sure that they are following different moral values from ours.

The Eskimos in the anthropology study example lived in a harsh environment. Food was scarce in their region and mothers would often breastfeed their young much longer (up to 4 years). In addition, they were a nomadic people, unable to farm. They were always in a move to search for food. Infants had to be carried, and a mother could only carry one in her parka. In other words, these people lived on the margin of existence.

Let’s ask ourselves these questions:

1. What if I had more children than I could support?

2. What if I knew one was going to die because there simply was no way to keep that child alive?

3. What if neither I nor my community had the means to care for all my children?

4. What would we do in such situations?

Would we not search for the most painless way to bring about a child’s death because we do love our children? I think we might. That is what the Eskimos did, freezing to death, for them, is a relatively painless way to die. The child falls into a deep sleep and then dies in its sleep.

My main point is not that such practice is morally good but that it does not necessarily prove that the Eskimos held different moral values from what we hold. In other words, if we find ourselves in the same kind of situation as them, we would probably do the same. What we can learn from this is that infanticide did not signal a fundamentally different attitude toward children. Instead, we recognize that it was because of their love for their children and their respect for human life that they looked for the most painless way for them to die. So the question of “what” in differences in moral practices isn’t always sufficient, we also have to dig deeper and ask the “why” question.

Using another example, there are cultures in the world where it is believed that it is wrong to eat cows. This belief is held despite the hunger its people are suffering from. Such a society where killing cows is always wrong would appear to have different moral values from ours. It would appear that they have a greater respect for animal life than human life.

With a case like this, a person’s belief about reality makes a lot of difference. These people believe that after death, the souls of humans inhabit the bodies of cows. So a cow that we see may be our grandpa. But with this, can we really say that their moral values are really different from ours? No. The difference lies elsewhere. It is in our belief systems, not in our values. We both agree that we shouldn’t eat grandpa; we simply disagree whether or not the cow is or could be grandpa. The status of whether or not the cow is grandpa or could be grandpa does not have anything to do with morality.

So going back to the previous question on whether values such as moral values were invented for the enhancement of human life; if our moral convictions really do stem from the need to do whatever to promote the enhancement of human life, then shouldn’t we have the moral conviction to exterminate the sick, the aged, and the handicapped? I mean it may be said that these people do not really enhance one’s life. They can even be quite burdensome; they use up resources we need to survive. I don’t know up to what level these people contribute to the enhancement of our life but I’m guessing it may be minimal. So if we, as humans, are hard-wired to create values for the enhancement of our lives, then shouldn’t we then have a moral sense or sense of duty to get rid of anyone who hinders the enhancement of our lives? Shouldn’t we prohibit the (mentally) handicapped people from reproducing?

But we have not and do not regard these as our moral duty. In fact we have the opposite convictions. We would condemn anyone who did those and even thought about those things. If our evolution carried with our value creation activities for the enhancement of life, it doesn’t seem to support the human compassion for the sick, the aged, and the handicapped.

Now, we may also entertain the notion that morality is a necessity for the weak, that the compassion shown and given towards the weak makes life more pleasant for the weak and it would be nice for us all to know that we would receive that kindness too if we were in that position. However, this is not necessary if we go by the purpose of morality as an enhancement for human living. If it were only for human life enhancement, we’re actually better off without that kind of compassion. All those resources, funds, and energy would be freed up for use by the healthy ones. But as indicated before, this is not our attitude. We actually regard it as good to use resources to care for the weak. We do this even when the people concerned would not contribute to the enhancement of our lives; such as the comatose, the mentally handicapped, and others. And even if we decide to let the person die rather than prolong his or her life through extraordinary means, we do this with great reluctance and a deep “soul-searching”. There seems to be nothing in the evolutionary explanation which can explain these strong moral sentiments.

Now, let’s set aside the previous questions and grant that the evolution model is the most plausible explanation for morality. The question now is: “Can we condemn anything via evolutionary morality?”

Suppose aliens from Planet X came to Earth one day and interacted with us, would rape be wrong for them? Suppose that the aliens have an entirely different evolutionary history from ours, wouldn’t it be conceivable that rape would not necessarily be wrong for them? If rape is wrong for us humans, we cannot just say that rape must be wrong for the aliens as well if they have a different evolutionary history. On the evolutionary model, we cannot assume that the aliens’ morality would be like ours. It would depend on how their evolutionary process went.

Suppose that these aliens can have sex with us, how should they act towards us? Suppose they decide to begin raping humans at will and suppose we complain that rape is wrong and that they should stop, they would have a ready response to us by saying “Your morality is just a product of your evolutionary process. They are only like your other adaptations. Any other meaning is an illusion. It doesn’t affect us”.

If morality were strictly an evolutionary product, they would be correct. If morality is only an evolutionary product, then acts like rape would not really be wrong, we just have the conviction, the feeling, the emotion that say that it is wrong. So in the case of the alien rapists, they would be fully justified and we would have nothing to say to them. So with evolutionary morality, it appears that there is no basis for condemning such acts. On the evolutionary model, acts such as rape are no more wrong for us than they are for the aliens. The fact that we are humans does not make an act any more wrong in itself. It just means that we happen to have the feeling or emotion that it is wrong because of our evolutionary development.

Why shouldn’t we rape, and maim, and steal, and lie, and do anything else that we want to do? We may have a feeling that such acts are wrong but in the view of evolution, it is merely a biological adaptation passed onto us over millions of years. It’s a feeling, nothing more. There is no reason to regard any act as really right or wrong. In fact, on the evolutionary model, it may even be argued that rape is ethically good because it gives the rapist pleasure.

An evolution-based ethics, although interesting, I think has its share of flaws as well. It appears that there may be arguments worth considering that point towards universal values or truth. It appears that there may be arguments worth considering that point towards universal values or truths not necessarily having been invented or created by the human mind. Lastly, with an evolution-based ethics we may not be able to really condemn a morally reprehensible act because such an immoral act may be merely accounted to a feeling or emotion due to our evolutionary development. So if you’re abducted by aliens and sent to some alien prison out in galaxy XYZ… just make sure you don’t pick up the soap dropped by another alien inmate when you guys are in the shower. 🙂

* * * * *

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article represent the views of the author (hgamboa) and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

Posted in PhilosophyComments (91)

On Keeping Rosaries Away from Ovaries

Last November 20, my friends from the Filipino Freethinkers organization were bullied by Catholic faithfuls at the Manila Cathedral. For a backgrounder on what happened, please have a look at the following links first:



As you may already know, there is a huge debate going on in the Philippines regarding the passing of a law (dubbed as the RH bill, which stands for “Reproductive Health”) that would mandate the State to uphold and promote:

  1. Responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards.
  2. The right of the people, particularly women and their organizations, to effective and reasonable participation in the formulation and implementation of the declared policy.
  3. A guarantee for universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information.

The bill is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens. For more details about the bill, please refer to this link:

The biggest opposition to the bill is from the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The Church opposes the bill because it claims that many artificial contraceptives are abortifacients. Abortifacients are drugs or devices that will cause abortion or terminate the life of the unborn.1

Of course, as many people are aware, the Church is strongly opposed to abortion. The Church, takes on the “Pro-Life” stance and charges the bill as unconstitutional because the law says that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”.2 Since the Church claims that artificial contraceptives are “abortifacients”, the mandates of the RH bill are then, acording to the Church, a violation of the Constitution.

Honestly, even if I were to set aside my personal philosophical agnosticism or colloquial atheism regarding the existence of God, I do not see the point of opposing the bill if we are to look at things on objective grounds.

The Church claims to be taking the high moral ground on this because the issue of abortion is of a moral nature. While we can suspend the case for Situational Relativism (i.e. assessment of a moral act depending on the situation one is in) just to entertain the Church’s absolute stand on the immorality of killing a life (born or unborn), it seems to be missing the point that the RH bill is not about abortion.

The bill is about providing the people with informed choices on responsible parenthood. In family planning terms, it is not about terminating unwanted pregnancies, it is about preventing unwanted pregnancies. Preventing unwanted pregnancies would even render abortions useless in the first place. If one is against abortion, why would one oppose measures that would prevent it?

The problem with the Church’s disagreement on the “morality” of the use of artificial contraceptives is that it seems to be making moral judgments based on non-moral facts. It may be a “moral fact” that killing a life is wrong but there is nothing moral about the status of, say, a condom!

Let us say, for argument sake, that the condom can be used as an abortifacient (I don’t see how but I’m suspending my disbelief for now), how can anyone make a moral judgment call on that information alone? The condom having the possibility of being used as an abortifacient is no more immoral than the possibility of knives being used to mortally stab another human being.

Should the Church lobby to ban the production of knives too?

One may even argue that religion itself has been historically (and continues to be) used to justify atrocities and immoral acts, why can’t religion be deemed unconstitutional as well based on that ground? The thing is, artificial contraceptives, just like religion, are mere tools to be used to reach a moral end. The possibility or factual cases of abuse of such tools do not discredit the tool itself.

The Church claims that “Life begins at conception”. This is a debatable claim but let us grant that claim, for argument sake. Conception is defined as the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism.3

In other words, this occurs when an ovum (female reproductive cell) fuses with a sperm (male reproductive cell). Since artificial contraceptives prevent the fusion of the two sexual reproductive cells, there really is no conception to begin with! Surely the Church won’t go as far as to make the claim that life begins during the production of the sperm and the ovum, right?

The Church further supports its opposition to artificial contraceptives by invoking what it believes sex is defined as. It believes that sex must be both “Unitive” (express love) and “Procreative” (open to procreation).4 The Church claims that:

“Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.

But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.”5

Notice that the argument used by the Church stands on the assertion that the purpose of sex is procreation. But if you think about it, the assessment of the purpose of a subject is not a moral issue. What moral judgment can be validly formulated merely on the basis of the purpose of a pen and paper enabling people to write their thoughts?

Moral judgments can be formulated based on the assessment of “moral values” and “factual claims”.6 When the Church says that the purpose of sex is procreation, this is not a moral value statement but merely a factual claim.

Factual claims are either true or false and we determine the truth of factual claims through empirical investigation.6 Now the question is: What is the Church’s basis for their factual claim that the basic purpose of sex is procreation? Invoking what the Bible claims, just by itself, is unacceptable in a non-theocratic State.

The thing is, this is not really new for religious faithfuls. History has repeatedly shown us that religious zealotry has resisted many scientific (including medical) breakthroughs because they’ve been deemed to diminish God’s power, or is an outright attack on the divine capacity to control life and the day-to-day affairs of human beings.7

Timothy Dwight IV (1752-1817), an American academic and educator, a Congregationalist minister, theologian, and author, held that the then newly introduced practice of vaccination thwarted God’s will (a relatively common belief at the time), saying:

“If God had decreed from all eternity that a certain person should die of smallpox, it would be a frightful sin to avoid and annul that decree by the trick of vaccination.”8

The separation of Church and State in Article 2 Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution bars the government from embracing a “State-favored” religion. This means that the law is mandated to consider views about the purpose of sex outside the confines of the Church. 9,10 While we can grant that the separation of Church and State does not mean outright silencing of the Church on government affairs, the Church ought to be reminded that just like anyone else, it is just one of the many interest groups out there trying to lobby for their values.

Just like anyone else, they need to prove their arguments using objective reason that applies to every citizen, not just the Catholic (or even nominal Christian) faithful. Surely they are free to excommunicate or impose penalties on dissenting members of its congregation, and surely they are free to promote their preferred methods for responsible parenthood to its fold. However, it is absurd for the Church to validly claim the high moral ground when dealing with the entire citizenry especially when its arguments are just standing on non-moral facts or mere factual claims that are yet to be proven objectively.


Background References:

1 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abortifacients

2 http://www.philippineconstitution.co.cc/?cat=5

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertilisation

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_birth_control

5 http://www.catholic.com/library/Birth_Control.asp

6 http://web.mac.com/degatzia1/Site/Ethics_Honors_files/Ethics_MoralDisagreement.htm

7 “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” (paperback edition), John Shelby Spong, page 7-8, 31-32

8 http://www.creedopedia.com/topics/Timothy-Dwight-IV

9 http://mamador.wordpress.com/2007/10/11/misunderstanding-separation-of-church-and-state/

10 http://completewellbeing.com/article/purpose-of-sex-procreation-recreation/

Posted in Politics, ReligionComments (8)

Good without God

6a00d8341c60fd53ef0120a6669ab9970c-320wiLooking at Mr. Daniel Razon’s reasoning we can clearly see the problem: People like him have defined goodness as equal to God. There are two versions of this “argument” – One, Goodness and God are almost the same entity (based of some quotes from the Judeo-Christian holy scripture) and Two, As long as there is goodness and a person believes that goodness exists, there is a moral Lawgiver which is God.

According to the article I have read regarding Mr. Razon’s so-called refutation on the issue of being good without God, he used several Bible passages such as Mark 10:17-18 and Psalms 100:5. VIOLA! Case closed…or is it?

I don’t know…Is Mr. Razon pulling us by the leg? Anyway, based on his..er…refutation..Uh what makes God good? Is it his love, his mercy or his sense of justice?

And what is meant by “good”?

Goodness is an action that purposely benefits the human organism or society. That’s how I define it. The problem here is that people like Daniel Razon simply equate goodness to God, based on their holy scripture. Christian apologists like Giesler and Ravi Zacarias for example use this to connect God to the concept of a moral Lawgiver – So God must be good all the time. But is the goodness of God based on the Bible just a perception of the writer on how goodness should be defined? It seems like it. God is good because the author of a particular chapter in the Bible wants God to be good…based on his own definition of goodness. For example, God is good because He supposedly loves the people of Israel. That’s not a universal definition of “good”. Is it?

According to the authors of Mark and Psalms only God is good. But do these writers include…well those other books in the Bible that Daniel Razon didn’t include in his argument? Verses like: Numbers 31: 17-18, 1 Samuel 15:3 and Ezekiel 9: 4-7.

Tell me, are slaying infants, the elderly and women amount to goodness?

How about verses like Numbers 11: 1-2; 16:27-32, Lev. 10:1-2 and 2Kings 2: 23-24? Do they tell us of an onmi-benevolent deity that is full of mercy? Giving punishments that are shockingly harsh in comparison to the acts committed is not about mercy and justice.

Why do we need to kill innocent lambs, bulls and doves to appease a so-called good God? Surely an omni-benevolent deity does not need blood and death to calm his nerves.

There more of these found in the pages of the Old Testament which lead Thomas Paine to write, “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.” [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]

How about the New Testament?
Sure the New Testament contains some good moral value…but again the whole plot of the book is about blood sacrifices. Again, why is blood and death necessary to mollify the wrath of an omni-benevolent God?

Also, there are some stories and parables that were told by Jesus that betray the concept of an omni-benevolent Father in heaven like that of Luke 19:27 and Matt. 15:22-28.

It is also interesting to note that Jesus believed that love could be commanded and that those who disagreed with him would be damned. He believed in compulsion to comply with his viewpoint. He also portrayed his Father in heaven as the instigator of a morality based on “promises and threats” – too far from Daniel Razon’s “Good God”.

In the light of the following issues, it seems that Daniel Razon and others like him have failed to prove that goodness is impossible without God. In fact it seems that goodness is independent from God.

Besides, since God’s goodness is prescribed by rewards…well it really doesn’t tell us exactly what is “good”. Goodness is good because it is good – not because of benefits or by force. People who do well solely for personal gain or to avoid personal harm are not about being “good” – it is self-interest.

There are other sources of being good…contrary to popular Christian belief. For example, there is what we call our “common moral decencies” which are deeply rooted in us for our survival as a species as Joseph Fletcher wrote based on his studies in 1979:

1.) Our highest good is survival of the human race – Our posterity has a moral claim on us for the consideration, both as to its safety and as to its biological improvement.

2.) Look at how the consequences will, on balance, effect the total human well being.

A rational person needs no God belief to understand that murder or lying is bad. It’s not because God opposes them, but because of the consequences these acts will produce in the human community. Morality as I have already said is deeply rooted in human experience for our survival.

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (102)

Sinful Perfection

Blake,-Satan,-Sin-and-Death I’ve been visiting a lot of Christian chat rooms in Yahoo. Well…just for entertainment, you see you just can’t learn anything in a Christian chat room. Majority of people there are too terrified just reading the word “atheism” while others are too threatened to discuss their belief system. But just the same, majority always shove their “god” to everybody’s throat.

This brought me to my topic today. When I was in a certain Yahoo Christian chat room, most Christians told me that I become an atheist just to excuse myself into sinning. Whoa! What? Sinning? I don’t know the basis for this accusation. Maybe Christians think that it’s a better reason than to say I become an atheist because I started “thinking”.

Anyway, with this explanation, Christians therefore conclude atheists are morally bankrupt. But what does sin got to do with the concept of right or wrong? If a person is without sin, does that mean that the person is morally upright?

The best way to answer the question is to know the meaning of the word “sin”.

According to Christian theology, sin is the transgression of the law of God (1John 3:4). So it’s very clear that we are talking about the law of the Judeo-Christian god concept. Majority of Christians agrees that Adam and Eve were the first people to sin as a direct disobedience on God’s command. Generally speaking, if Christians think that God’s commandments are equal to good, so sin means everything that is evil – a direct rebellion to God’s command. So sin is unrighteousness. This is the foundation of Christian ethics.

Now we have a connection. Sin is the transgression of God’s law and commandments. God in inherently good and all his commandments is naturally good, according to Christian belief and to transgress God’s law and commandments you are automatically unrighteous or evil.

According to the dictionary, evil means morally objectionable behavior. The last six commandments of the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) apply here (Ex 20:12-17). To dishonor one’s parents, to kill, to commit adultery, to steal, to bear false witness and to covet are moral evils.

Now we go to the fun part. If Christians think that sin is evil because it transgresses God’s laws and commandments, and evil means morally objectionable behaviors, then Christians should show to us non-believers that all of God’s commandments and laws are intrinsically good. Sounds easy eh…Guess again.

Now let’s talk about some of God’s commandments and laws and figure it out if it’s morally good.

1. “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”
Now, what morally good can you find in this commandment eh? Beside, can you consider bigotry a morally good act?

2. Ex. 22:29-30 says, “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for 7 days, but give them to me on the 8th day.”

Are human sacrifices morally good?

3. Ezek. 9:6 says, “Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women….” and 1 Sam. 15:3 says, “…slay both man and woman, infant and suckling….”

So killing your enemies young and old, even babies are morally good?

4. Num. 31:31-40 says, “Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man…. And the half, the portion of those who had gone out to war, was….16,000 people, of which the tribute for the Lord was 32.” Women rank right up there with cattle, donkeys, and sheep. And they have to be virgins, at that! Imagine a righteous and perfect God wanting 32 virgins to be set aside for him!

5. Joshua 11:6 says, “The Lord said to Joshua,…You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

6. Deut. 21:10-13 says, “When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord you God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife…. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.”

7. Ex. 21:20-21 says, “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.”

8. Ezek. 4:12 says, “Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement as fuel.” Can someone explain to me the moral value of these commandments?

9. “Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2:9).
• “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Eph. 6:5-7).
• “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:18-21).
• “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence of the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:22-24).
• “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them” (1 Tim. 6:1-2).

Why does God command how a slave (or “servant” as how other Bibles changed the word “slave”.) should act and obey his master? Isn’t it more morally good when God should teach people to abolish slavery instead?

According to Norman Geisler it is presumptuous to think that our own moral standards should judge God and tell Him what is right and wrong. God’s unchangeably just nature is the standard of justice (When Skeptics Ask p 170). But does that statement just tells us that Christian ethics is arbitrary in nature? It just says that good is good because God wills it to be good and solve nothing. Beside, according to Christians, our moral standards came from God, if so, then what is the difference between His standard and our standard. Does that mean God can rape or plunder or murder because for God these actions are not evil and only in human standard that makes rape, plunder and murder evil?

So that is what sin is all about. It has nothing to do with upright morality since God himself is not really a good god. Reading the Christian “holey book” just shows us that this god really is a defective Law Giver. Hay my papaya, and these Christians accused atheists of being morally bankrupt? Maybe these Christians should start reading the Bible to see carnal banality and moral blasphemy face to face.

Posted in ReligionComments (10)