Tag Archive | "Manny Pacquiao"

The Good Intentions of Religious Conservatives


“Name me a moral action made by a believer that could not be made by a non-believer.” This was the late Christopher Hitchens’ storied moral challenge against theists who claimed that it is impossible for atheists to be moral without gods. Hitchens turned this around by showing how ethics is prior to religion. He continued, “If I were to ask, could you name a wicked action made by someone attributable only to their religious faith? There isn’t a person here who would hesitate for a second.”

In a debate between David Wolpe and Hitchens, Wolpe countered the moral challenge by presenting a personal example. Wolpe recounted a story about his father, “When I think of the most powerful and intimate moments that I had with my father, it was when he put his hands on my head and blessed me on a Friday night.” Such an action is definitely unavailable to the logically consistent atheist. Hitchens dismissed this response, saying that he was not convinced that this was truly a moral action.

Even as an atheist, it is apparent to me that Hitchens’ skepticism was misplaced. You don’t need to believe in a supernatural deity to accept that mystical activities could possibly be conducive to well-being, if only for the false consolation that things are going to be okay. This is not to say that there is any evidence for the supernatural any more than there is evidence that placebos are universal cures. This is also not to say that the comfort produced by delusion is even worth the opportunity cost of being mistaken about the nature of reality. It is sufficient to show from this example that even delusion can be compatible with ethical motivations.

 

 

In the middle of the culture wars, it is easy to get lost in the absolutist narrative (I’m often guilty of such thoughts): conservative Christians are backwards Puritanical parrots, atheists and liberals are the height of pure rationality. The opposite view that Christians are the sole keepers of moral truth and liberals are mindless instruments of Satan is also a popular belief. Obviously, such black and white views are seldom accurate for any argument. By embracing such unconditional beliefs, we lose sight of the fact that we share a common human nature, regardless of our views.

 

The religious meme

It’s a common little jab by pro-RH activists against Catholic bishops that they are against the RH bill because they want more children—children that they can indoctrinate. This, however, is an unfair accusation. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has been more or less consistent about its sex negative stance for ages. This opposition to liberal views of sexuality comes from their own idea that sex was created by God for the purpose of procreation. Anything that falls short of God’s purpose is the privation (or the prevention of achievement) of the intrinsically good nature of creation. And anything that falls short of nature is evil. Having more children to indoctrinate is a bonus, but it does not come into their reasoning at all.

There can be, however, a naturalistic explanation for how the Church came to be so adamantly against contraception. We can appeal to the idea that the proliferation of cultural ideas, like religion, can follow a Darwinian analogue to genes called, “memes.”

Genes are selfish hereditary units. If they weren’t selfish, they wouldn’t be passed on. But this self-interestedness at the gene level need not be consciously held by the organisms they build. Animals, human or not, can exhibit altruistic motives, even though these behaviors are ultimately determined by selfish genes. Similar to genes, memes are selected for in cultures such that the ones that survive are those that exhibit characteristics that are conducive to virus-like proliferation in the minds of conscious beings.

To extend the Darwinian analogy to religion, the religions that dominate are predicted to have certain traits that are conducive to self-preservation—such as child-indoctrination and zealous opposition to change. Consider the Shakers, who prohibited any sort of procreation. They practically don’t exist anymore. Now, the Roman Catholic Church may have despicably self-preservationist doctrines (as in their protocol for shielding rapist employees) but this does not necessarily contradict with any benevolent motive. As in the selfishness of genes, the self-preservationism of religious memes need not manifest in persons as conscious malice. But, the road to hell, after all, is paved with good intentions.

 

Questioning motives

It is important to understand that apparently evil actions can have thoroughly good intentions because the assumption of malice tends to be the root of misunderstanding and conflict. Relevant to this is a psychological effect called, “the moralization gap,” described by the psychologist Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature. It is a self-serving bias where injured parties tend to see hurts, no matter how small, as undeserved, permanent, and egregious, while offending parties see hurts, no matter how bad, as justified, temporary, and exaggerated. This is a consistent bias in human psychology that makes any sort of dialogue difficult. Parties on the opposing sides of disputes tend to hold distorted accounts of their own experiences.

Since this is a bias built into our brains by evolution, we must be constantly aware whenever it pops up so we can avoid such things. It is best to adhere to the principle of charity and steer clear of assuming malevolence in the motives of people.

The truth is, most people on either side, religious conservative or liberal, have well-meaning intentions and do not go out of their way to maliciously provoke. That is, both sides see an end that would be good for all parties concerned. The problem stems from competing notions of what “good” is.

 

Competing notions of good

Conservatives, such as Manny Pacquiao, Miriam Quiambao, and Toni Gonzaga, are learning more and more that moral indignation is no longer the sole turf of the religious. From seeing the horrors of sectarian violence and the petty tyranny of religious self-appointed censors, people are growing more and more skeptical of religion’s purported monopoly on moral claims.

What liberals can fail to see, however, is that religious conservatives truly believe that they have everyone’s best interests at heart. Whether it’s closing down sacrilegious art installations or protesting blasphemous pop stars, religious conservatives honestly think that they are preventing future harm on all people—the fires of hell that will welcome all sinners. However detached from reality this motivation is, it does not diminish in any way the sense of urgency religious conservatives feel about the escalation of irreverence in the social zeitgeist. Theirs is an earnest and well-intentioned concern that liberals simply must accept and deal with.

 

 

The change in social values led by liberals is denounced by religious conservatives as moral relativism—the idea that there are no objective moral truths, only subjective moral preferences. However, liberals are just as morally motivated as their conservative opponents. It is just that liberals tend to view “bad” in light of the suffering experienced by conscious beings. This view of ethics is just as objective as the conservatives’ natural moral law, even though it is open to revision and correction as we learn more about human nature. Compare this with how medicine is an objective exercise despite the definition of health constantly changing as the years go by.

In contrast, conservatives tend to detach suffering in this world from the meaning of “moral.” They see morality as prescribed actions that lead toward the accomplishment of what they believe is their god’s desire. This is how they can find the “perversion” of the sanctity (God’s “natural” purpose) of sex and marriage more abhorrent (and more worthy of their time) than abject poverty and maternal deaths.

 

More noble than the “middle ground”

I see, in this state of affairs, an impasse. It is very difficult to argue ethics when either side comes from such completely different premises—the conservatives’ duty to God versus the liberals’ concern for earthly suffering. There is, however, hope for those who despise the notion that homosexuals do not deserve equal rights and that mothers do not have the right to raise the kind of family they want. It is this: conservatives always lose. It is only a matter of time. Our change in attitude towards slavery and the rights of women and homosexuals, clearly points to the possibility and reality of moral progress, as hard as religious conservatism may fight the rising tide.

In the meantime, we must be sympathetic to the motivations of all parties: we all mean well. We all want to make the world a better place. It is just that we mean very different and incompatible things by “better.” There is, in the understanding of this fact, a place higher and more noble than the so-called “middle ground” built by flawed notions of “tolerance” and “respect”. Acknowledging where each side is coming from without tritely asserting that everyone is right in their own way is, to me, the real meaning of respect.

Hindu Prayer Image Credit: Lauren Pursecki

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, ScienceComments (9)

God is Not a Fundamentalist: He laughs when proven wrong


Let’s say you’re having a conversation with someone. Perhaps with a friend who has a different perspective from yours. As a thoughtful and considerate person, you want to understand your friend’s perspective. You dissect it, analyze each part,  and in the process you ask questions whose answers can potentially dissolve the ground on which the perspective stands. But just like any one of us who has been so attached to our initial perspectives, your friend will attempt to escape this belief-threatening situation by uttering this effective conversation stopper: “I’m entitled to an opinion.” Along with “This is what God said…” and “Science proved it…”, this is one of those rhetorical abracadabras that when uttered will effectively close the cave of further investigation.

John Jackson aptly illustrates this so elegantly in this fictional dialogue between Tom and Jerry:

Tom: I believe X works.
Jerry: There’s no evidence to support the fact that X works.
Tom: Well, I believe that X works.
Jerry: X has been tested in scientific trials and was not found to work.
Tom: I’m entitled to my opinion.

In the non-fiction realm, this rhetorical abracadabra is currently being used by Manny Pacquiao.

The Christian Post Reporter recently featured Mr Pacquiao’s interview with the National Conservative Examiner. Reacting to US President Barack Obama’s support of extending State-sanctioned marriage to same-sex couples, Mr Pacquiao allegedly used Leviticus 20:13 as the basis of his objection. He allegedly reiterated the two elements in that verse. The rule: prohibition against men having sex with other men; and the punishment: they should be put to death. I say allegedly because according to this ABS-CBN news report, Mr Pacquiao denied saying what the Christian Post Reporter attributed to him. He even claimed that he has never read Leviticus. He defended himself, saying that he is not condemning gay people, but he is just voicing out his opinion: “Sinabi ko lang ang opinion ko na against the law of God ang same-sex marriage (I just said my opinion that same-sex marriage is against the law of God).”

In that statement, Mr Pacquiao used the two powerful rhetorical abracadabras at the same time: “God” and “I’m entitled to my opinion.”  These two are actually the same thing: God is simply the non-secular version of the other. Using both devices in a sentence has the effect of attracting support from both the religious and the secular camp. Who would be against what the creator, owner, and master of the universe says? And who would be against someone exercising their right to speak? The secular version is of course subject to more argumentation than God. Hence, if you really want to stop someone from further questioning you, use “God” immediately. Miriam Quiambao did this after she was told that her truth was just one of the many truth-claims out there. She salvaged her perspective from being weighed by other perspectives by using the God argument. By elevating her opinion to the Heavens, her opinion transformed into an absolute, irrevocable, eternal, and infallible Truth to which everyone should bow. In the secular world, God is oftentimes replaced by science, so that whenever someone says that this is the truth because “Science says so…” one is often bullied into a corner and forced to give up further inquiry.

One of the consequences of further dissecting the claims of those who already uttered these rhetorical abracadabras is being accused of being disrespectful. “Why aren’t you respecting my/God’s/science’s opinion?” “Why are you not respecting my culture?” When the “respect me card” is thrown onto the table, any further challenges would be considered rude, cruel, and as we call it in our language, bastos. The situation will become very emotionally charged. The only way out of it is to calm the sea of emotions by just sailing away from the conversation. Sometimes this is called the “live and let live” strategy, to each-his-own-therefore-shut-up.  But in the face of opinions — whether they are from gods, mortals, and scientists — should we just shut up? Sometimes we should. Sometimes we shouldn’t. The times that we should are probably during our private conversations when the interest of maintaining peace by shutting up outweighs the interest of further dissecting someone’s opinion or belief. Most of the time the latter interest outweighs the former.

Opinions are rarely without purpose. We don’t just happen to speak something; we are speaking because we want something: for other people to believe us. Mr Pacquiao, Ms Quiambao, and everyone who says something controversial are not simply sharing their thoughts, they want people to believe them. And believing is not a simple act. When you believe in something, you let it have a very powerful influence over your life. Indeed, we couldn’t live our lives without any belief of any kind; we may not be able to function at all without them. However, the importance of believing in something doesn’t preclude the importance of evaluation. The process of evaluation allows us to exercise our power to accept or reject opinions and claims. It is through this process that we give our consent to a claim for it to have an influence over us. Those who suggest that we believe and then evaluate later is like a salesman who wants us to pay him for a product that we have never seen. More importantly, without exercising this power, we give up one of the qualities that make us human: the faculty of reason.

God and reason

Speakers of any kind shouldn’t demand listeners to immediately believe what they have said. They should encourage listeners to challenge and weigh their opinions. And  instead of demanding blind faith, they should urge their listeners to fully investigate their claims.  They should be humble enough to inform their listeners that they could be wrong. In the Buddhist tradition, the historical Buddha warned against people blindly believing in him, saying:

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion.”

Even the God in the Bible allows people to question him. In Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists, Susan Neiman offers an elegant analysis of the implication of Abraham’s act of bargaining with God, who is hell bent on destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. (NB: Neiman argues that Sodom and Gomorrah was not destroyed because of homosexuality but because of their grave inhospitality: they wanted to gang rape Lot’s guest but were denied. And hospitality was a great deal during those days. As Neiman said, “…kindness to strangers forms the framework of civilization”).

The story goes like this…

Upon learning that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham bargained with God. He asked God whether he will still destroy the city even if there are X number of innocent people there. Abraham was able to convince God to forego his plan if there are at least ten innocent people in the city. In this bargaining, “Abraham dares to remind the King of Kings that He’s about to trespass on moral law.”  Neiman further adds, “If [Abraham] can make God stop and think…none of us is ever exempt.” Arguing and reasoning with God is not something that God forbids.

In He Who Sits in Heaven Shall Laugh: Divine Humor in Talmudic Literature, Hershey Friedman contends that “God is open to suggestions from mortals and is even willing to change His mind when proven ‘wrong’.” This is far from the infallibility of the word of God that is being promoted by those who are taking the Bible as if it is the last word about anything under the sun. When God is proven wrong, Friedman concludes, “[He] laughs when He realizes that mortals refuse to accept Him as the final authority on religious matters.” Friedman based his conclusion from this Jewish parable:

“Rabbi Nathan met Elijah the Prophet and asked him: What was God doing at that time [when His Heavenly voice was disregarded]? Elijah answered: He laughed and said: My children have triumphed over me. My children have triumphed over me.”

This a demonstration of the humility of God. Despite being considered as perfect, God still considers his words not final and irrevocable. And despite His omniscience, Friedman says, “God but laughs when bested by His children.” This characteristic of God is far from the arrogance of those who proclaim that they are simply reiterating what God allegedly said. He wants his children to practice their faculty of reasoning. And yes, I dare add, that He, just like the historical Buddha, would surely want His children not to blindly believe what He says. Neither does he want His children to believe him because others convinced them of His words. God didn’t create His children to be an echo.

Respect

No opinion is immune to criticism, to questioning, and to further investigation. Every opinion needs to be weighed against the feather of critical thinking. Every opinion, no matter where it comes from, needs to be challenged. Challenging, questioning, and criticizing an opinion are activities that weigh the validity of the opinion. They are expressions of the innate capacity of humans to reason. But sometimes, these activities are considered as a disrespectful act. It isn’t clear however whether it’s the opinion that is being disrespected or the one giving the opinion. Conflating the opinion giver and the opinion is always seductive. We see this conflation in the article published on the website of CBCP for Life, entitled Superficial idea of beauty may be seen in natural born men’s desire to be beauty titlists. Reacting to the criticisms received by Miriam Quiambao, writer Nicole Bautista was quoted as saying:

“I think Miriam Quiambao doesn’t deserve the flak she’s getting because one, she’s been diplomatic about it, and two, if everyone got blasted for saying something that somebody else disagreed with then no one should talk at all… It’s true that there is a limit to freedom of expression, that is when this freedom oversteps others’ rights, but Miriam Quiambao’s statement does not do this.”

This was further supported by a quote from a homeschooling mom named Stef Patag:

“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.”

It isn’t clear which “flak” Ms Bautista was referring to. I hope that she means  the ad hominem attacks Ms Quiambao received after she twitted “Homosexuality is not a sin but it is a lie from the devil. Do not be deceived. God loves gays and wants them to know the truth.” Ad hominems are of course a no-no in the traditional rules of argumentation. But if Ms Bautista also wants people to just shut up and blindly accept Ms Quiambao’s statement, then she is contradicting her position about freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression doesn’t include freedom from criticism. Restricting criticism is actually a violation of freedom of speech.  Indeed it takes courage to speak what you believe in public, but that courage shouldn’t stop when you’ve already said what you want to say. The speaker should also have the courage to accept the reaction that her expression will generate; and that courage should also include the humility and modesty to accept that her perspective is just one among the many.  Saying that your perspective is the absolute truth because it comes from God is nothing but arrogance. And even if it comes from God it still needs to be challenged, evaluated, and weighed,  just like how Abraham of the Bible challenged God’s initial decision.

Criticizing Ms Quiambao’s belief is not even equivalent to removing her right to believe what she wants to believe. This is even far from the religious persecution that Ms Patag implied in what she said. This criticism is not even a sign of disrespect for Ms Quiambao.

But what is respect? Does respect mean acceptance? Let’s do an etymological investigation. Respect comes from the Latin word respectus, which means the “act of looking back at one;” and it is the past participle of respicere, which means to “look back at, regard, consider.” To respect Ms. Quiambao doesn’t meant that we should just accept her words, no matter where she thought they came from. To respect her is to treat her with regard. It is to consider her as your fellow human being who just happened to have a different perspective. To respect her is to allow her to express what she wants to say; but doing this doesn’t mean that you cannot react with civility to what she is saying. And about respecting an opinion? Opinions are not human beings that have rights.  Rights regulate our relationship with one another and our relationship with the State. They were not created (of whoever you think created them – Gods or mortals) so that opinions will have the same status as people. More importantly, opinions are not sentient beings that need respect. What opinions need is evaluation. They need to pass through the critical eye of the needle of reason. Once they have entered that eye, that’s the time that any thinking individual should allow opinions to have the power to weave a story that s/he can believe. When that opinion fails to pass through that eye, let’s hope that those who consider their opinion as the infallible word of God do what their God does when proven wrong: laugh and be willing to change.

God is not a fundamentalist.

Photo credits:

1 – Image by Mort Gerberg,  Conde Nast Collection
2 – Interaksyon
3 – Image by David Hayward, Naked Pastor
4 – LOLROFLMAO.COM
5 – saintandcynic.blogspot.com

Posted in Humor, ReligionComments (0)

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.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (3)

National misogynist hero


Manny Pacquiao“I don’t want to use a condom. Using a condom means I’m just using you for sex.”

That’s what my friend’s boyfriend told her when she suggested protection. She thought it was romantic. When he found out she was on the pill, he was insulted and asked her, “Why? Are you afraid of having my baby?” After they broke up, during the requisite mourning period, I listened to her talk about the highlights of her just-ended relationship, and concluded the guy was a chauvinist ass. She had no idea, for some reason, and the fact that I could still see his douchiness despite her sugar-coating (she still liked him) meant he must’ve been more of an ass than I could determine from what she was telling me.

That was almost a decade ago. Since then, my observations of my friends’ relationships have brought me to the conclusion that there were more guys like that out there. And these friends are mostly from middle-income families, and dated men who were more or less in the same income bracket, with the same level of education. I remember when I was little, I asked our laundrywoman why she had so many kids. She told me that whenever she refused to sleep with her husband, he’d accuse her of having an affair, so she just gives in to him. She didn’t even mention contraception or family planning, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t too aware of either their existence or that they applied to her. I’m tempted to generalize and say that my friend’s ex’s and our laundrywoman’s husband’s attitude is typical of Filipino men’s attitude towards women’s choices regarding reproduction and sexuality, but I won’t because (1) I want to be an optimist, and (2) I like to hang out with more enlightened men, and these guys make me optimistic.

And then Manny Pacquiao decided to join the Reproductive Health Bill debate.

An undisputed national hero and distinguished gentleman representative from Sarangani, Manny Pacquiao was staunchly against the RH Bill. He quoted the Bible, and said, in effect, that any attempts to curb reproduction was against the will of his god. While we’re not sure how the personal religious beliefs of this pregnancy-challenged man have to do with us uterus-carrying citizens, people pointed out that his wife Jinkee has admitted to being on the pill. Now he’s bragging that he made his wife Jinkee stop taking pills and have more kids. (I wonder if my friend would’ve found this romantic too.)

Now if Cong. Pacquiao’s constituents meant to elect someone who insists on controlling his wife’s reproductive health choices, I suppose that’s democracy for you. What puzzles me is this: Pacquiao is an international superstar. He has fans all over the globe. He’s a celebrity’s celebrity; Hollywood big shots are falling over themselves to meet him. Why oh why does he not have the sense to hire — or listen to — a public relations agent or firm who will tell him that this sort of misogynist douchbaggery isn’t going to be good for his reputation? Granted, it’s nothing close to Mike Tyson’s conviction for rape, but for us Filipinos, this is an insult to women in general, and not because Pacquiao’s a boxing superstar but because he is an elected public servant who is tasked to improve the lives of his constituents — male and female. It’s difficult to expect him to protect women’s rights and welfare when he seems unconcerned about flaunting his blatant sexism all over the place.

The Pacquiaos are luckier than most Filipino couples — they actually have the choice of buying any form of legal contraceptive there is. Hell, they can buy an entire condom factory if they want to. Not everyone has that luxury. A lot of families are so poor they can barely afford three meals a day, much less birth control pills (mine are less than PhP 50 for a whole month’s pack) or condoms. The Reproductive Health Bill is mostly to help them, to give them a choice on whether to have 1, 2 or a dozen children. Or none, if that’s what they prefer. And the Pacquiaos can afford to feed, clothe and spoil the heck out of their four children. If they have two dozen more kids, the Pacquiaos can give each of them a mansion with servants. Thousands of families in the Philippines can barely afford to feed theirs. All Cong. Pacquiao can talk about is his god’s will, not even trying to propose solutions to the problems of families having to feed more kids than they can afford. Or the problem of an average of 11 women dying every day due to birth complications. Not all those who are anti-RH Bill are opposed to artificial contraceptives in general, and they don’t have to be. Cong. Pacquiao didn’t have to flaunt his staunch opposition to pills, but he seems to be trying to show off for his church’s bishops, so much so that his wife’s reproductive choices had to get dragged into this. Jinkee Pacquiao now says she’s against the RH Bill and that she has stopped taking pills. Her husband says they fought over the issue of her taking pills, but that they’re of one mind now concerning the issue of contraception, and one wonders if Manny Pacquiao, national hero and boxing superstar, will make sure to get her pregnant soon just to prove it.

Tania writes about stuff at The Entropy Blog.

Resources:
Jinkee Pacquiao says Pacman didn’t know she took birth control pills before – Spot.PH
Pacquiao: Jinkee and I fought over RH bill – Yahoo! news
Pacquiao slips RH advocates’ jab on Jinkee’s pill use – Inquirer.NET
Pacquiao opposes RH bill while Jinkee pops birth control pills – Philippine News
Jinkee stopped taking birth control pills, Pacquiao says – GMA News

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (111)

First State of the Nation Address by Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, July 26, 2016


To my teammates—Chief Justice Lito Lapid, Senate President Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Vice President Manuel V. Pangilinan, GMA-7, Head and Shoulders™, Vitwater™, and Datu Puti™…

To my family—my wife Krista, and my beautiful children Jimuel, Michael, Princess, Queenie, Countess, Baron, Duke, Viceroy, and Juan…

And to all of my beloved kalahi…

…good morning everyone.

I will keep this short and sweet, for I am a man of few words.

I have been the President for a short time only. But I have done already many good things and I know that we are doing the plan of God Our Father. We promised Him that we will go out to the world and multiply and we did that and obeyed Him. Please see the Powerpoint behind me—that is how many more Filipinos are since 2011. We are three times many people unlike before. Good job. Now, we all must remember patience, because patience is a virtue. When it comes to twenty years there will be bigger Filipino workforce and we will get prosperity at last. This I promise you.

And before the twenty years happen, the You Know Educational Campaign Project will make sure our children have brains that are rich. Especially full of moral values and right conduct like loving God Our Father and for girls obeying your husband and for boys being a good breadwinner. There will be also Nike™ Vocational Institutes in every city and on every province. They will keep girls from being impregnated because they are learning sewing and shoe repair and other lifeskills. And the Wildcard™ Sports Institutes in every city and on every province will let boys learn also many things. Like teamwork and being brothers and tough and not to love one another like the sodomites.

Okay, I must conclude because I will have training today also. Once again, I would like to say thank you to the Filipino people and my sponsors for being faithful in me and believing who I am. Thank you again so much and I will not let you down. Para sa ‘yo ang laban na ‘to. Everything I do, I do it for you, because the honesty’s too much.

Good morning and thank you. Take care and God bless.

Posted in Entertainment, Featured, Humor, Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (10)

Sex, Slavery, and the Pro-Life Movement


With seven Bataan village councils issuing unlawful copycat ordinances of the infamous Ayala Alabang one, it is time to call a spade a spade. This is not about unborn children. This is not about the RH Bill. What we are seeing is a war of attrition against sex, fought one village at a time.

Recently, Congressman and pugilist Manny Pacquiao was quoted as saying that if his parents had used contraceptives, he wouldn’t be here. Many RH opponents like him and Manoling Morato seem to be under the impression that contraceptives are depriving human society of celebrities like Pacquiao. The fact is, the odds against anyone’s birth are astronomical. Having contraceptives in the equation is a drop in the ocean of prerequisites necessary for anyone existing. Your exact set of ancestors going all the way back to the first sexual organism had to meet in the exact set of circumstances that led to your being. The millions in the batch of sperms in which you developed had to lose to you. For men, by choosing not to be procreating right at this moment, the next Einstein is now being reabsorbed into the male genitourinary tract. For women, by not being pregnant right now, the next Shakespeare is now being thrown out on a used tampon. And this is not even the half of it. Successful conceptions prevent the birth of other potential Newtons and Joyces. And these lost geniuses go unnoticed because they don’t exist and probably never will. If you weren’t here to exist, someone else will be.

Contraceptives do not make it any less likely in any significant way that any specific person will be born. The failure to understand this simple fact is what makes anti-choice superstars like former Chief Justice Davide embarrass themselves by disgustingly decrying contraceptives as worse than the tsunami that drowned thousands in their houses and cars in Japan.

The unborn aren’t a set of prefabricated people you draw out from heaven and into a vagina. They’re hypothetical permutations outnumbering the stars in the sky. Pacquiao’s line of reasoning was not only fallacious, it was unfairly self-deprecating for him. He was arguing that the only reason he has achieved what he has as an athlete was because he was born. It is a shame for someone like him who’s worked his fists to the bone to fall prey to manipulative quacks using his fame to impose their frumpy puritanism on the nation’s free citizens.

This has always been about sex. They want to dictate how it can be done. They want to dictate when it can be done. This is what keeps them up at night in cold sweats: someone at that exact moment may be enjoying themselves in a way they do not approve of.

The true intentions of the pro-life movement are betrayed by their obsession about an issue as innocuous and as private as the intimate relations of their neighbors. It is not just that they are anti-choice and against women having the right to do what they want with their bodies. What the conservatives of the Holy Roman Catholic Church want is to regulate sex. This is why even condoms, a mere physical barrier between an ejaculating penis and the womb, have to be lumped with contraceptive drugs. This is why former public officials like Lito Atienza compose hateful tirades about how gay marriage will destroy the Filipino family. This is why the pro-life movement of the Roman Catholic Church has always been about situations that involve sex and not about ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or the sectarian violence in Egypt.

Those who fashion themselves as more sophisticated than the rank and file opponents of the bill may use supposedly secular distractions such as “population collapse” in an attempt to mask their religious motives, but why is the burden of propping up an obviously flawed economy on our descendants who never chose such a fate? Since when has it again been acceptable to treat people as commodities and before they’re even born? Since when has it been honorable to deprive people of the informed choice to decide whether or not they want to have children? RH opponents have to resort to such shameful and despotic economic arguments just to hide their prejudiced belief that sex must be controlled at all costs.

At this point, if those disagreeing with me are even still reading, I have to address the old canard that sex is a gift from God and that liberals are trampling on it with their sex positive attitudes and their promiscuous lifestyles. Even if we were to allow this absurd and flawed premise, since when has a gift meant that the giver has total control over the use of said gift? Apparently, God’s gifts to man include the not insignificant requirement of human enslavement. Thanks, but, no thanks.

“Pro-life” is a misnomer. It is marketing speak for the larger culture war the social conservative movement is waging. It is a ruse to hide the desire at the core of the anti-choice anti-sex movement to become serfs ruled in absolute tyranny by an invisible thought police. In a bout of resentment against the freemen who reject such nonsense, conservative Catholics twist the arm of the national government to appease their sexual neuroses.

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Battle Line for a Misplaced Cause


“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

In an article I came across at fairly recently, the Catholic Church as represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is preparing to draw the battle line against the Aquino government should the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill gets passed into law.1 While I do not wish to join the bashers of the Church or Christianity as a whole who insist that the Church’s involvement in the debate itself is a Constitutional violation of Church and State separation (which I do not particularly agree with), I would like to submit a critical assessment of the Church’s stand and its battle’s misplaced cause.

Critics of the Church have been rooting “delusion” on the part of the Church as reason why the Church seems to hold on to beliefs that go contrary to reason and evidence. Just yesterday, one of my Facebook acquaintances, Ms. Rish Velasco, shared an interesting link that seems to correlate religiosity and psychosis.2 While I do agree that some of the aspects of religiosity such as “hearing divine voices” or zealotry may have some psychological kink like “Schizophrenia” or “Cognitive Dissonance”, I think it is important that we be careful not to jump into the conclusion that all people of faith are necessarily deluded or psychotic. I think it is important to understand why these folks, many of whom are quite normal and rational individuals, embrace some aspects in life outside of reason.

Filipino boxing sensation Congressman Manny Pacquiao said that he is against the RH Bill because “it is against God’s law”.3  While I do admire Pacquiao’s humility, passion, and excellence in the sport of boxing and even in some cases, outside of boxing, I think that Pacquiao, like many people who support his view, just do not understand the purported “God’s law”. It is one thing to know what the Bible says but it is quite another case to understand what it says.

Of course, Congressman Pacquiao was referring to Genesis 1:28 where God was claimed to have commanded Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply”.4  However, what Pacquiao and many others do not see is the history and purpose behind the verse. Readers of the Bible need to ask what the words meant to those who wrote them. How were these words first understood? What was the human experience that caused our ancestors to express these words?

The book of Genesis was said to have been written from 922 BC to 587 BC. It is also worth mentioning that the writer of the part in Genesis where the Creation story was described lived within the period before the destruction of Jerusalem in circa 586 BC5,6, which also covers a period in the ancient Jewish history when they were under Babylonian Exile.7  Putting the Genesis verse into historical perspective, we can say that the Jewish writer was part of the generation when the Jews were captives and deportees to the foreign land of their conquerors (Babylon). So it is not too farfetched to reason that the captive Jews had dreams about returning to their sacred land of Judah and/or at least for their culture to survive and realize this dream. However, since they were merely captives, they had very limited rights (if any) and they had no realistic hopes. According to Bishop John Shelby Spong:

“To reproduce and to grow their tribal numbers so that some of them might someday return home was keenly important.”8

The words behind “Be fruitful and multiply” came out from the human experience and instinct for survival and the enhancement of life; that is the universal context from which one must understand the verse. That should be the basis for reasoning out that the verse is a testament of loving and valuing life. The Church and many of its adherents see the surface about the love and value for (human) life. Unfortunately, they fail to see the message underneath the surface.

Our instinct for survival and life enhancement has pushed us to achieve scientific and technological (even moral) advancement. Medical breakthroughs have helped increase human life longevity. Agricultural and animal husbandry sciences and technology have helped us secure food supplies so that we can prevent hunger. All of our advancement paved the way to enhance our rate of survival resulting to the exponential rise in our population.

The increase in population comes with it the increase in the demand to use more resources to ensure survival and the enhancement of life. Unfortunately, we do have finite resources and as our resources get depleted this situation brings with it a threat to our survival and quality of life. Bishop Spong states:

“So the need to “be fruitful and multiply” has over the centuries slowly but surely lost its urgency. But if you have been programmed since the dawn of conscious time by a survival mentality and are convinced that this injunction was somehow the command of God, then the power of the injunction lives on when the need to obey it is no longer relevant. That is where we are today. The command originally given to enhance life has now become a command that threatens to destroy life.

Once the supposedly divine command to “be fruitful and multiply” was seen as necessary to enable the human race to survive. Now it must be seen as nothing less than a prescription for human genocide. Once it was accepted as the “Word of God”. Now it must be viewed as a terrible and life-threatening text.”8

To give a closer picture of the issue in the Philippines, I would like my readers to visualize this situation.

Suppose you have a devout Catholic couple with very minimal means. The husband does not have a steady job while the wife is focused on taking care of their 4 kids. The husband, so overburdened with the anxieties of his life and the absence of any hope drowns his pain in alcohol and drugs. The wife, old and haggard before her time, beaten down by the combination of inadequate diet and constant pregnancies and enduring traumas that a woman in those circumstances has to confront, is unable to care adequately for her kids. A doctor’s assessment of the wife reveals a case of post-partum depression from their fourth child. The doctor urges the couple not to have any more kids because the financial and emotional resources of their family were simply not adequate to cover another pregnancy. But the couple believes that the “Word of God” must be obeyed by them – “to be fruitful and multiply”. Like many human beings and couples they do have sexual urges but they hold on to the dogma that the act of sex must be for procreation; this makes them rule out the use of artificial contraceptives because the use of such tools is a “sin” in the eyes of the Church and God. After a while the wife becomes pregnant again and gives birth to their fifth child. The depression has sunk in so low that the wife one day snapped and decided to kill all her kids.

The story above comes from a combination of stories told by Bishop Spong in his book “The Sins of Scripture”. Some of the details are inspired from the award-winning novel “Angela’s Ashes” and the true-to-life story of Andrea Yates.9,10  Stories like these are not uncommon in poverty-stricken countries such as the Philippines. We may not hear of extreme cases such as killing one’s kids much but stories of hardship, burden, and misery that come with having so many mouths to feed with very limited means and hope are very much common. Are institutions, such as the Church, responsible for expressing what they believe are divine laws, even if those laws turn out to increase or even cause enormous destruction? As Bishop Spong stated:

“Ignorance has certainly never been declared a crime. But this question does raise the issue of the responsibility of an institution that becomes obsessed with its ability to tell the gullible and easily manipulated what God thinks.”9

Can the Church, by placing its rules ahead of a woman’s health and her children’s safety, honestly say that it is acting on women’s best interest and their children’s? I do not think so.

So the CBCP is preparing to draw its battle lines against the government’s push to pass the RH Bill. The RH Bill is intended to ensure the people valuable information that may very well be life saving and enhancing – which are the very same values behind the biblical message discussed. The cause for the Church’s fight against the RH Bill is so misplaced that it actually threatens human life’s enhancement and even survival. Would the glory of the Church be worth the blood of many poor women and children? Heaven help them.

===============

Background References:

1 http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl110094.htm

2 http://www.bharatvani.org/books/pp/ch1.htm

3 http://www.usnewslasvegas.com/national/cbcp-elated-over-manny-pacquiaos-pro-life-stand/

4 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NIV

5 http://mb-soft.com/believe/txs/genesis.htm   

6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_diaspora

7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_captivity

8 The Sins of Scripture, pp. 33-35, 39, John Shelby Spong (2005), Harper Collins

9 The Sins of Scripture, pp. 29-32, John Shelby Spong (2005), Harper Collins

10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Yates

Posted in Politics, ReligionComments (13)

Pacquiao: Petitionary Prayer plus Painstaking Preparation


Perhaps only the most fundamental of theists actually believe that it was Manny’s prayers that got him to win fight after fight from one weight division to another. The moderate theists, on the other hand, probably believe that prayer has at least some bearing on his game, complimenting his hard work and preparation, so if he ever should come face to face with an equally skilled fighter, prayer would tip the balance to his favor.

Now what if the opponent – as well as his mother and millions of fans – prays just as hard as Manny, Aling Dionisia, and the millions of Filipinos who support Pacman? What would God do? Would God just sit back and enjoy watching one hell of a fight?

A friend recently expressed his joy that his relatively new business has finally taken off. He of course acknowledged the role of prayer and divine blessing, but I just let it go. I did not bother to ask him if he didn’t think it could be because of the fact that he is a hardworking, talented and conscientious businessman that the odds are on his favor.

For as long as believers live by the words Nasa tao ang gawa, nasa Diyos ang awa – roughly God helps those who help themselves – I guess it really doesn’t matter whether God intervenes or not because the pertinent part for man is the gawa or work.

Which leaves one to wonder, what’s the difference between living your life on the assumption that God exists and living it on the assumption that God doesn’t exist if you’re going to have to work your ass off either way? I guess the difference is, believing in God boosts one’s confidence, which should have been a good thing except that it’s probably baseless; it’s one thing for a boxer to be confident because of the amount and quality of training he endured or for a businessman to be able to act decisively after years of experience – than for either of them to be cocksure because God is watching over and doing them divine favors.

Well I am confident that Pacquiao, despite his deep religious faith, has taken his training as if it’s the only thing that dictates the outcome of a match. I couldn’t care less about whoever he gives credit to after the fight. But if he ever gets beaten by Antonio Margarito on Sunday, I’m sure it must be God’s will.

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