Tag Archive | "reason"

Killing for Faith


A woman prepares a lethal cocktail of pharmaceuticals. It’s for her partner’s two children. She had been listening to a sermon just the other day about Isaac, Abraham’s son. God tested Abraham and led him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. But this time, God doesn’t call out to stop her as she tries to kill the children.

A two-year old girl is now dead and Kimberly Lucas is facing charges for her murder.

In Lucas’ alleged suicide note found by the police, she referenced the sermon she heard from Pastor Lea Brown, “Lea’s sermon really, really touched me yesterday, but God never told me to stop!”

Kimberly Lucas

Kimberly Lucas

A family friend described her note as “the writing of someone who is really disturbed.” Indeed, other people listened to Lea Brown’s sermon and did not spend the next day trying to reenact the sacrifice of Isaac. Millions of people have read the verses in the Bible without facing any criminal charges.

Clearly, what happened to the two-year-old girl is out of the ordinary. But, why is it?

The other child survived. When the ten-year-old boy woke up from his drug-induced loss of consciousness, he found a locked bathroom. He forced the door open with a knife and found his two year-old sister dead in the bathtub. He tried saving her with CPR.

Lucas’ attorney has suggested that previous traumatic injuries may have led to the mental state that allowed his client to allegedly poison two children and herself.

The prevailing narrative among those affected by this tragedy is that Lucas was not operating like a normal person. However, though what happened may be a rare occurrence, it is not so unthinkable. Parents all over the world have denied their children access to vaccines, operations, and life-saving chemotherapy, all for religious reasons. Lucas was on the extreme, but she at least claims that her reasons were also religious.

Why is it that people immediately conclude that any person who acts violently and attributes their actions to religion is somehow unstable? Yes, in many cases, it is a safe assumption. But it is so only because modern believers have decided that only disturbed people ought to behave with utmost faith.

The Bible clearly shows that God has tested the faith of people with violence. But, in our world, anybody who performs comparable acts of violence are crazy. If an “adulterous” woman is stoned in Pakistan, Muslims in other parts of the world can call it heinous. If an abortion care provider is shot dead in the American South, Christians can call the man a deranged murderer rather than a hero.

These shocking examples of religious adherence should not be shocking at all, if we are to take religious faith on face value. There is a bewildering doublespeak from religious people who condemn certain acts that their religious texts clearly represent, if not out-and-out endorse. What makes their version of their religion not crazy?

If a Christian refuses to stone men who have sex with men, why is he the standard for laudable Christian behavior, when the Bible explicitly commands him to be violent?

The world has civilized religion to a large extent, but it can never let go of their ancient baggage. It’s the Word of God, after all. And, to the degree that believers dwell within modern standards of human decency and deviate from their ancient barbarism, they are considered good human beings.

Rightly so, let us rehabilitate those among us who believe it is right to own other people as property, so long as they are not of our tribe. Rightly so, let us rehabilitate those among us who believe that a woman’s place is to be a baby factory and that they should be denied education, upon pain of death. But, these are views that would merit ostracism, if not execution, had the religions never adapted to modern ethical standards. We live in a world where, largely, it is not the violation of religion that is most considered, but the rights of other persons—rights that we, as a species, agreed upon with our common reason, and not our various faiths.

Of what value is religion, when even believers agree that it is those most faithful to its origins who ought to be ridiculed, condemned, and considered deviants from The Truth?

Image Credit: NBC News

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Why Faith Is Not A Virtue


Brick-Trinity

This article is for those who think that faith is a virtue. I would like to propose that it is not.

Over the centuries, the religious have extolled faith as a virtue, as a valid method of seeing reality, and that idea has taken such a deep root in our culture. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life declares that faith is “trusting God in spite of unanswered questions and unresolved doubts” and this sounds so deep and comforting but it’s really just a another way of saying, “I don’t understand anything that’s happening and I can’t do anything about it but I’m hoping for the best.” What does “trusting God” even mean when people can’t even agree what “God” means?

Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, defines faith as “pretending to know things you don’t know” and that seems like a very flippant way to put it. But if you happen to be a person of faith and are offended by that, my request is that you forgive the offense for a couple of minutes (forgiveness is also a virtue) and think about it.

In all those instances that you claim faith, isn’t it true that those are instances that you don’t really know but instead simply choose to believe? Because if there were proof and evidence in the first place, then you wouldn’t need to invoke faith. You simply point to the evidence. Take gravity, for example. It would be absurd to talk about having faith in gravity because there is overwhelming evidence for it. In other words we know gravity.

However, when we talk about something like Noah’s Ark and the global flood story – even amidst all the evidence and experts’ opinions pointing out its improbability – a sizeable number of people still choose “by faith” to believe that it’s true, even if they don’t really know whether it happened or not. In fact, they refuse to know. They rarely have the drive to do research and read contrary opinions – perhaps they are afraid that their faith may be shaken and they will no longer be on the list of “good and faithful servants” who never gave up their beliefs, who were foolish enough to test their faith. After all, didn’t God say, “Do not put the Lord God to the test (Leviticus 6:16)?”

So think of all the things you accept “by faith” (like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity) and honestly see if it isn’t true that you are simply pretending to know things you don’t really know.

Faith is not a very good way to live. It kills wonder, inquiry and research. It is not a virtue. And nobody really lives by faith all the time in all aspects of life.

Think about this:

If faith is so commendable, why don’t you simply have faith and pray when you get sick? Why do you go to the doctor? Why do you take medicine?

Why do you work hard to earn money to survive and feed your family? Why not have faith that God will provide? Didn’t Jesus say that all you have to do is to “seek his kingdom” and he will provide food, drink and clothing just as he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-33)?

For students, why do you study hard for exams? Why not have enough faith that God will provide the right answers at the right time?

Why do you wash your hands before you eat? Or brush your teeth before you sleep? Why not have faith that God will kill those pesky germs and protect you from disease?

Now, I’m sure you have rational and sensible answers for each of these questions and that’s just the point. If you apply reason and rationality to these aspects of your life, doesn’t it make sense to apply it to ALL aspects of your life?

Why do you use reason for practical living yet cling to faith for aspects of your life that are unsure and unknown? If faith were such a virtue, then you would apply it to every facet of your life, not just as a stopgap to fill in the holes in your knowledge and understanding, which is exactly what primitive people did. When they encountered something they did not understand, they would attribute it to either a god or goddess, spirits, angels or demons.

But it is now the 21st century. Reason, science, and logic have been proven to work time and again. When you build an airplane based on scientific principles, it flies. When you use mathematics to put a satellite in orbit, it stays there. When you put medicine through double-blind placebo-controlled tests, you have better assurance that it will cure what it needs to cure.

Now I will admit that there are still many things we do not understand and many things we do not know – but the proven and tested way to gain more knowledge and understanding is not faith, but by applying reason, science and logic.

That is my Holy Trinity.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

This article also appears at Freethinking Me.

Andy Uyboco is the Meetup Director of Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter and is inviting Davao residents to join their next meetup on January 25, 2014 (Saturday) at 7:30 PM Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City. You may email him at [email protected].

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RSVP to the 3rd Filipino Freethinkers Forum!


It’s been three years since the Filipino Freethinkers began their quest to uphold reason, science, and secularism (RSS) in the Philippines. To celebrate this fact and set the course for the future of RSS, we’re holding our 3rd official forum this Sunday, April 1, from 1:30 PM to 6:30 PM at Tech Portal Conference Rooms A and B at the UP-Ayalaland Technohub (directions here). Entrance is absolutely free–simply RSVP here!

Apart from presentations by FF’s various advocacy directors and allies, we’ll also be presenting very special awards to individuals who have truly championed reason, science, and secularism in recent years. Moreover, we’re also giving an extra-special award to the person voted Philippines’s Biggest Bigot 2012! Click here to cast your vote!

This is a special occasion for those of us who truly value our rights and our freedoms. Join us as we celebrate a new chapter for freethought here in the Philippines!

(Download the press release/press kit here.)

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Nouthanasis: The Eternal Now


the birth of Another, the apathy of Otherness —

this altercation of the unconscious Self,

born of the irrational Yet:

the vague paradigm of Nothingness

 

as it unfolds, this phenomenon of alterity

embodied subjectivity of the ephemereal Doom

utterances coalesce with infinity;

impending Dread : anxious metanoia of Becoming

 

the All revolves, in this orbit of anamnesis

poignant reverie of what Was, and yet to Be

this-being-I, caught in the transitional flux ; between act and potency

the dynamic interpolation of mind and will; pervading Absence

 

— ,God; ? (It not is if what not is Be if what not is become of yet! )

 

I elude this context of  preconceptual knowing;

this frailty that succumbs to the Appearance

the unified multiplicity of understanding the Cogent:

derivatives of a preexistent Nous: language

 

and, as horizons, concrescence of reaching the Beyond

dissolution in the complexity of the Cogent, the face of its pull

all understanding converges in the evolution of mind

ideas converge in the Becoming;

 

but, not shall it Be for Yet it not is, what is yet not to Be

is not Shall, in the Be of the end and all of what is Yet —

to cry in the miscontextual co-promise; this Belonging

a failure of the messianic, redemptive fulfilment of what is bound to Become,

 

but is not Yet, 

— as faith dies, only to be reborn in the ashes of reason.

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On Reason, Rationalization, and Skepticism


It is an unwritten rule in Filipino Freethinkers that those who participate in the discussions must use reason and avoid citing dogma. And except for the occasional troll, I think this rule has been quite effective. While non sequitur arguments are still employed from time to time, I believe what matters is the attempt at using reason especially for those who, until just recently, have for so long taken for granted the factuality of certain traditional beliefs.

Proud as I am of our small but growing online community, I must emphasize that while we freethinkers practically revere Reason, sometimes what we are actually doing is rationalizing, so I guess it is important to define terms lest we confuse similar but non-synonymous words with one another:

Reason involves conscious explanation.

Reasoning as a process takes proposed explanations, considers them, contrasting them, or fitting them together in order to determine which beliefs or actions or attitudes are best.

Here the definition seems to cover both reason and rationalization, with the latter being defined as:

In psychology and logic, rationalization (or making excuses) is the process of constructing a logical justification for a belief, decision, action or lack thereof that was originally arrived at through a different mental process.

But if we look at the word rationality, we find something specific and determinate:

In philosophy, rationality and reason are the key methods used to analyze the data gathered through systematically gathered observations.

And here the difference between rationality and rationalization becomes clear. In rationalization, the belief which was “originally arrived at through a different mental process” comes first and then rational arguments are later formed to support this belief. But as for rationality, the data comes first and analysis comes second before reaching a conclusion – if it even comes to that. And here I am reminded of a brief introduction to skepticism:

Skepticism is a method, not a position.

Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can ‘provisionally’ conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis or the origins of language, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion.

I think most members will agree that freethought is more related to skepticism than atheism or agnosticism. Along with skepticism, freethought is a method, a way of thinking and forming beliefs; atheism and agnosticism, on the other hand, are more like the “positions” at which the freethinker or skeptic arrives.

But to people whose present beliefs are still those formed long before they were capable of rational thought, it is amazing to see how they try to rationalize now in the absence of solid evidence. They start off with a position based on religious doctrine and try to use rational arguments to back up such position. This is very hard to do considering they are performing the scientific method backwards, and I cannot help but admire the ingenuity of those who were able to keep their claims from being falsified outright. Of course, they could not prove their claims, but for one who has no real evidence, a technical stalemate is already a great achievement.

We freethinkers do not claim to be highly intelligent especially in philosophical discourse; we just learned to set aside our biases and let the observable facts speak for themselves. It takes a lot of brainpower to effectively rationalize something as confounding as the presence of gratuitous evil in the same universe where a loving and all-powerful deity supposedly exists; it only takes intellectual honesty and the continuous attempt towards unbiased rationality to become skeptical about such contradictory co-existence which can certainly cause cognitive dissonance in stubborn minds.

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Humility: Reason vs. Faith


I often hear religious people say that freethinkers are proud people, leaning on their own human understanding. The faithful claim to be humble, acknowledging our limited wisdom and thereby surrendering mind and will to the Almighty, the Supreme Being of the universe.

At first it seems they have a point, but if we look closely we’ll see that it’s actually the other way around. While theists may appear humble before their God, they are actually quite contemptuous towards people who do not share their beliefs. I could not explain it better than a commenter named Pecier Carpena Decierdo:

Reason is humble, faith is not. Reason is open to the possibility that its claims are wrong, faith is not. Faith is cock-sure and certain, scientific reason is not. Faith makes claims to super-human knowledge, scientific reason does not.

The only knowledge human brains can contain is human knowledge, that is, limited knowledge. Because all we have are human brains with limited human knowledge, we cannot claim to be certain about everything. Yet faith, that archenemy of reason, makes people believe that they can be certain about things they actually know nothing about.

I just watched a one-hour video on how the universe could have literally come out of nothing by accident, negating the necessary first cause or creator. The speaker remarked that this shows just how insignificant we really are. And it is a humbling thought indeed.

Which leads us to ponder, what then, is the purpose of our existence if we came out of nothing by pure chance? I guess my answer will be that the purpose of our existence is to find a purpose for our existence. Existence precedes essence, and if we indeed came out of nothingness because of pure luck instead of being created by a deity, then I guess that would be the greatest and most generous and most humbling miracle of all. And since we are lucky enough to exist at a point in time and space where conditions are suitable for life, it is wise to open our eyes to the world around and not waste our finite days haughtily holding on to some eternal “truth” that demands suspending our reason. Surely we have better things to do here.

innerminds.wordpress.com

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