Announcement: Join the FF Saturnalia Party 2017.

Tag Archive | "secularism"

The Government That Prays Together Steals Together

Senate Prayer

How does one know that a politician accused of plunder is a devout Catholic? Don’t worry — they’ll tell you. One even put a Bible quote on a shirt — Bong Revilla’s had the following on his the day he surrendered:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

This kind of religious gesture is usually shorthand for, “I’m not corrupt, I’m Catholic, for Christ’s sake!”

But a recent study concluded that if you’re a Catholic politician in a predominantly Catholic country, you’re probably corrupt. I had read several studies that confirm the correlation between religiosity and other signs of societal dysfunction.

But this most recent one, titled “A Cross-National Investigation into the Effects of Religiosity on the Pervasiveness of Corruption,” went a bit further. It argues that religion, instead of just being correlated with corruption, actually promotes it.

Secularism and Societal Health

A few weeks before Revilla’s surrender, Alex Gonzaga, a celebrity contestant of reality show Pinoy Big Brother, preached about the virtue of theism and the vice of atheism. She said that while believers solve their problems with God, nonbelievers “deteriorate,” trying to solve their sins with yet other sins.

But such statements can only come from someone who doesn’t know about Scandinavia and other secular societies. Study after study has shown that when it comes to countries, a strongly religious population is rarely a good thing. The more religious the population, the higher the incidence of, among others, poverty, crime, corruption, inequality, infant mortality, inability to access education and a decent standard of living — the list goes on. The least religious countries are better at most, if not all, of these measures.

However, correlation does not mean causation. Just because strong religiosity usually coexists with high crime rates does not mean one causes the other. When it comes to causation, I share the conclusion of the sociologists at the World Values Survey. They argue that what causes both high religiosity and low societal health is existential insecurity. When you live in a society where you can’t count on your government for survival, you’re more likely to pray to God for help or to get the help yourself — regardless of the legality of the means.

But this doesn’t quite explain why politicians — particularly those who are rich enough to own private jets — would plunder millions, especially while professing belief in a God that sees and judges everything they do.

Hamid Yeganeh & Daniel Sauers of Winona State University, USA, provide an explanation.

Corruption By Catholic Privilege

Even after controlling for the effects of socioeconomic development — making sure that how developed a country was didn’t significantly influence the outcome — they concluded the following:

“Considering the variety of corruption measures, the reliability of data, and the large number of included countries, we have to conclude that religiosity not only does not impede corruption but tends to promote it… The fact that religious denominations did not have considerable effects on the level of corruption suggests that religiousness inherently increases the occurrence of corrupt business behavior.”

But isn’t religion supposed to make people more moral and less corrupt? Yeganeh and Sauers argue that “while religiosity provides guidance on morality, some of its characteristics practically promote corrupt business behavior.”

The first of these characteristics is the creation of “a hierarchical socio-cultural structure promoting the elites’ discretionary power that ultimately endorses corruption.”

Consider clerical child abuse. The abuse of children and adolescents had been happening for centuries before it was brought to public awareness. Then it was discovered that systematic cover-ups and cleric shuffling made it difficult for the proper authorities to get involved.

I emphasize “proper” because the Catholic Church claimed that abuse cases were handled by their internal courts. They thought that whether the abuses should be handled by external authorities were up to their discretion. Because they could ensure the victims’ silence with threats of excommunication, they alone could decide whether to report the crime to the police. And the decisions usually favored the priests over their victims.

Now consider the psalm on Revilla’s shirt: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” This sentiment was shared by Vatican and its bishops when it decided that their authority alone was enough. What can man (the law) do to one with the Lord on his side (Catholic official)?

Thus bishops and politicians see themselves as privileged. But they wouldn’t have any power if the population didn’t actually share this perspective. Unfortunately, this is the case. The more religious a country, the more faith citizens have in both priests and politicians. These privileged people deserve more special treatment, more respect, and more trust.

On the other hand, secular societies are more skeptical of authority. They realize that there’s nothing special about priests, politicians, or any other person of authority. The more power they have, the more scrutiny and skepticism they are subjected to. Because the idea of faith is more foreign to secular societies, reason and evidence hold more currency. In the researchers words, “rationality, without too much emphasis on morality, wordlessly and effectively hinders corruption and supports ethical behavior.”

Religion: Sedation, not Solution

Another characteristic of religion that promotes corruption is the doctrine of forgiveness. In the researchers’ words, “the function of religion with regard to corruption is to provide sedation rather than a solution.”

If the allegations of plunder are true, then condemnation should be the least the people could do to ensure that justice is served. Yet CBCP President Villegas found it necessary to ask Filipinos not to condemn the alleged pork scammers.

You may think that there’s no way the public could be that stupid. Surely Filipinos would never forgive, never forget. But what kind of country would make Revilla consider running for president right after his arrest? What kind of country would elect a president impeached for corruption as Mayor of Manila? What kind of country would have so many of its people forget the atrocities of Marcos and elect his family into power?

A country that can forgive a corrupt politician seventy times seven.

The Government that Prays Together

To this day, the supposedly secular Philippine Senate starts every session with a prayer. Most, if not all, of them are implicated in either the PDAF or DAP scandal. A lot of Filipinos ask, “How can a government that is so religious be so corrupt?” If you’ve read up to this point, I hope you’ll agree that the correct question is, “How could it not?”


Image source:
Author’s note: This article was previously titled, “The Government That Prays Together Plunders Together.” “Preys” was also suggested, but “steals” sounds better (and sounds closer to “stays”).

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (8)

FF Podcast (Audio) 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry


This week, we talk about Alex Gonzaga and her prejudiced rant on Pinoy Big Brother about atheists.

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, Pop Culture, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

Secular Morality and the Is-Ought Problem

The topic of morality has always fascinated the freethinker in me that I’ve been reading, writing, and debating about it for years. But what fascinates me most is the realization that just when I thought I had it all figured out, there remains a gap that just can’t be bridged.

My position had been that we can be good without God, and that science and reason are all we need to chart morality.

Today I no longer hold that position.

But not because I no longer believe that science and reason can answer the question why we act in ways that are considered good, but because science and reason simply cannot answer the basic question of what is “good.”

Richard Dawkins as well as other scientists have shown how evolutionary biology can explain altruistic behavior, why we help others when there is no obvious benefit to ourselves or even when it would actually harm us, but they fail to explain why altruism is “good” to begin with.

Sam Harris has shown how science can objectively measure well-being and flourishing, but he fails to explain why we “ought” to pursue well-being and flourishing in the first place.

This is the argument of the philosophical theists, which happens to be more challenging to rebut than those of the fundamentalists who say that the Ten Commandments or the Bible (or the equivalent holy book of their religion) is the true moral code. Not unexpectedly, whenever an atheist blogger criticizes religious morality and asserts that secular morality is better, philosophical theists would accuse him of attacking a strawman and go on to say that he utterly has no idea what he is talking about.

Any attempt at establishing a moral code not derived from religion inevitably runs into the is-ought problem, an unbridgeable gap between what is and what ought to be. For example, there is nothing in the statement “people are suffering” that allows for the conclusion that we ought to find ways to alleviate their suffering – even though it feels like the most natural, instinctive, intuitive, and “moral” thing to do. That may sound absurdly callous and inhuman, but there is also nothing in the statement “that is absurdly callous and inhuman” that establishes why we ought not to be callous and inhuman at all.

Philosophically speaking, there can only be an “ought” when such ought is inherent; oughts are not emergent, that is, they cannot be derived from an “is.” And, philosophical theists would contend, the only way to have a moral ought is to have it built into us by a creator: if God created us and laid down certain rules, we ought to follow those rules not because of the fear of eternal punishment or even out of gratitude for the gift of life, but because that’s what we were created to do.

While the term ought is currently used to indicate duty or obligation, its etymology traces back to “owe” and “own.” In other words, one could say that we ought to obey God (assuming he exists) out of moral duty because we owe him our lives and he owns us.

But then here comes the Euthyphro dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” If it is the former, then there is higher standard of morality to which even God must adhere; if it is the latter, then there is nothing to stop God from giving arbitrary commands that are capricious and oppressive because whatever he commands will always be morally good, whatever that means.

The philosophical theist, however, addresses the Euthyphro dilemma by postulating that God is the good, or God = good, so he cannot therefore command anything that is not morally good, and at the same time he is not subject to a higher standard of morality because God is moral goodness itself.

The only problem with this argument is that the contention that “God is the good” is a bare assertion, a matter of arbitrary definition and not a universally accepted fact or a logical conclusion derived from verified premises.

722px-The10CommandmentsOne can imagine that a perfectly objective and binding moral code is something written by a perfectly moral creator and directly handed down to all humanity, that is, not through prophets or some self-proclaimed divine messenger.

This is where both religion and philosophical theism fall short. Religions cannot agree among themselves what God’s laws are or even who or what God is; philosophical theists, on the other hand, merely assert that there is a moral law not found in any holy book but somehow written in our hearts, but they fail to establish that it is our God-given conscience talking and not our own selfish manipulative wills considering that there seems to be no consensus among the hearts of men and women.

Philosophical theists like to boast that their morality is superior to secular ethics because it has an ontological base (i.e., God), meaning they have an objective basis for conceptualizing such moral system. They do have a point, but unfortunately such ontological base is simply assumed. Take away that assumption or challenge it by demanding proof and the base crumbles, leaving their morality hanging by the thread of a bare assertion.

Of course, philosophical theists like William Lane Craig would say that the existence of God is an altogether different debate, and that all they are claiming is that “if God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties; if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.” Craig himself pointed out that these are conditional claims, so until they conclusively win the debate on the existence of God and, more importantly, prove that God not only created us but indeed wrote his moral law in our hearts, theistic morality remains sitting on one huge assumption.

And while secular ethics also makes an assumption that well-being is good without explaining why it is good, it appeals to the moral nihilist which I seem to have become. With all this talk of the is-ought gap, I no longer use the term “moral” without qualifying it. Instead, I prefer to use the term “civilized.”

While civilized is a relative term particularly when used to refer to society (e.g., societies of decades past considered themselves civilized but some of their practices like discrimination are barbaric by today’s standards, just as future generations will surely have something to condemn about today’s norms), I like how civilized societies continuously expand their circle of awareness, granting rights to more and more displaced groups and individuals (and even animals), taking care of their well-being.

I may not be able to explain why we “ought” to be civilized, but it feels good to me as it apparently does to a lot of people – civilized people, that is, people who do not require an ontological base or demand to bridge the is-ought gap before deciding that it is the moral thing to do.

Eventually, the secularist will have to admit that his morality is not objective insofar as his moral values are not founded on something that transcends humanity. But this is not to say that his concept of right and wrong is determined by nothing more than the norms of society notwithstanding how civilized or compassionate a particular society has become.

Whether society matures or degenerates into a dog-eat-dog world where “might makes right,” secularism offers the following principle laid down by George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the term secularism: “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.

Such principle may not have an objective foundation in the sense that it is nothing more than one person’s assertion regardless of how many others may have intuitively come up with it on their own or how practical it may sound (e.g., personal welfare achieved to the detriment of others is often short-lived), but once internalized, it is a straightforward ethical code to objectively judge and guide people’s actions in an ever changing society. Opponents of secularism may easily point out that we have not established what “good” is, but it would take a lot of semantic acrobatics for them to argue that we cannot objectively define what welfare is.

Once we decide that we’ve had enough philosophizing over the is-ought problem in relation to the moral value of what we take for granted as good, we can focus on how to pursue our welfare by means conducive to the welfare of others. If you consider such pursuit good without obsessing on why we ought to pursue it, it can be said that you’re a compassionate, practical, and civilized person. But if you can’t subscribe to secular ethics because it lacks an ontological base – because there is nothing in the statement “people are suffering” that allows for the conclusion that we ought to find ways to alleviate their suffering – then congratulations! You are a philosopher.

* * * * *
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, SecularismComments (5)

FF Podcast (Audio): DJ Grothe of JREF (Conversations for a Cause)

This week, we talk with DJ Grothe, President of the James Randi Educational Foundation. We discuss freethought, scientific skepticism, and social justice activism.

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, SecularismComments (0)

FF Podcast (Audio): Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America (Conversations for a Cause)

Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America

We talk with Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, and discuss her experiences as a freethinker working with conservative political figures.

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief and rehabilitation efforts.

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, MediaComments (0)

Edwina Rogers of Secular Coalition for America – Freethinker Interview

We talk with Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, and discuss her experiences as a freethinker working with conservative political figures.

You may also download the episode file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Religion, Secularism, VideoComments (0)

Freddie Aguilar and Special Rights for Muslims

The matter of 60-year-old musician Freddie Aguilar’s marriage to his 16-year-old girlfriend has courted a firestorm of both defenders and critics. Indeed, the knee-jerk reaction to an intimate relationship with such an age gap would often be disgust. Granted, such initial feelings are seldom rational, given their strong emotional motivation. What Aguilar defenders seem to miss, however, is that there is much more cause for concern here than just the private relationship of a public figure. Exempting themselves from secular Philippine law, Aguilar has decided to convert to Islam, despite describing himself as a “born-again Catholic,” to marry his underage girlfriend.

Negative reactions to Aguilar are commonly rebuffed by pointing out the shallow and tabloid nature of the issue. This defense is only supported by the crass and insipid nature of Aguilar critics painting him as a pedophile or a “dirty old man.” Both apologists for Aguilar and his detractors completely miss the far more nefarious implications of Aguilar’s marriage.

However simplistic it may be, Philippine law requires that marriage involve persons aged 18 and above. Given this, Aguilar and his lover have chosen to enjoy the special laws and privileges given to Filipino Muslims by Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree 1083—the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.

This special law so deeply controverts the Constitution’s principle of secularism that it overbearingly points out that “The provisions of this Code shall be applicable only to Muslims and nothing herein shall be construed to operate to the prejudice of a non-Muslim.” Not only that, should any conflicts (such as those regarding marriage and divorce) arise between secular law and this special law, the Code shall prevail and that secular laws should be “liberally construed” in order to accomplish the provisions of the Code. The Code establishes special Shari’a courts that are appointed to adjudicate and mete out the appropriate punishment for violations of Islamic laws, as recognized by the Code. Between a Constitution that declares that “No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights” and a law that literally requires belief in Islam, something has to give. Unsurprisingly, in the good old Republic of the Philippines, religious privilege wins out.

Among other provisions, the Code also includes the sexist decree—a belief shared by Catholic opponents of the RH Law—that it is the male in a heterosexual marriage that must exercise authority over the family: “In case of disagreement, the father’s decision shall prevail unless there is a judicial order to the contrary.”

Non-Catholics in the Philippines have long suffered under the tyrannical majority of the Catholic Church and these special rights for Muslims are, ironically, a side effect of this tyranny. While masking as benevolence, these special rights are rooted in the same xenophobic entitlement as the common patronizing expression, “mga kapatid nating Muslim (our Muslim brothers).” This saying paints Muslims automatically separate in any discussion.

Instead of fully recognizing the diversity of religious belief and non-belief, the Philippine state instead split the baby and framed much of our laws under Catholic prejudice, while creating these special exemptions for Muslims—leaving everyone else out of the social contract. This flies in the face of any expectation of justice and the belief, however naive or clichéd, that the law applies to all, or none at all.

The secularist indignation against Aguilar is only inflated by just how insincere Aguilar seems to be in his conversion. It’s bad enough for one religion to enjoy rights not afforded to all Filipinos. Here we have what appears to be the disingenuous and opportunistic exploitation of an already unjust and backward legal system.

Image Credit: Christopher Sundita

Posted in Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (2)

FF Podcast (Audio) 020: “Traditional” Marriage and Freddie Aguilar Converting to Islam?

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.09.23 AM 1

This week, we talk about “traditional” marriage and how romance ruined it. Then, we talk about Freddie Aguilar and his consideration of converting to Islam in order to marry his underage girlfriend.

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, MediaComments (0)

FF Podcast (Audio) 018: Iglesia ni Cristo’s Medical Mission and the Bohol Earthquake

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 4.09.15 PM 1

This week, we talk about Iglesia ni Cristo’s Medical Mission that caused the cancellation of classes throughout Metro Manila as well as massive gridlock along major roads. Then, we talk about the Catholic response to certain statues surviving the terrible 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol.

Support relief efforts in Visayas by donating to the Red Cross.

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 podcastComments (0)

FF Podcast (Audio) 014: Carlos Celdran Convicted and Offending Religious Feelings

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 2.04.00 PM

This week we talk about Carlos Celdran’s conviction for the crime of “offending religious feelings.”

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, Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (0)

Bishop Conflates Censorship with Secularism, Settles Nothing

ConflateIn an article published in CBCP for Life, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the “church hierarchy is entitled to speak and express its opinion on public policies that could affect the welfare of the majority.”

I don’t see anything wrong with this statement. Nor should anyone. What I don’t like is how the article says that this obvious sentiment — that the clergy can criticize the government — somehow “settles the debates pertaining to the constitutional provision on the separation of the church and state.”

What the bishop has done is conflate disallowing criticism of the government with enforcing secularism. Throughout the article, both Pabillo and the writer quoting the bishop make it seem as if secularism asks the Church to keep silent on political matters:

“The separation of the church and state does not imply that members of the clergy are not allowed to criticize the mishaps of politicians in governing the public. We are allowed to criticize them for we are citizens of this nation, too. As Filipinos, it is just right and fitting for us to point out what is wrong in our government… If we would remain silent, we are not doing our rightful duty as citizens of this nation.”

Again, no one is asking the clergy to end their criticism because it is proscribed by secularism. This is not what the public debate on secularism is about.

What secularism advocates ask for is not Church silence but government neutrality. A Church leader, like any other Filipino citizen, is free to say whatever he wants about politicians or policies, however religious or theocratic it sounds.

But if secularism is to be respected, public officials must not do the same. Their words and actions must be secularly motivated — motivations do not privilege one religion above others — or at least appear to be.

What this means is that a public official is not prevented from being motivated by religious convictions whenever they fulfill public duties. But they owe the public — which may or may not share their private convictions — secular justifications for their political actions. “Because my bishop/Bible says so” will no longer do.

This is why many conservative politicians must now resort to secular arguments — based on non-religious reasoning and supposedly scientific evidence — to further their religious agenda.

Although the motivations of these arguments are primarily religious — which is often evident in how little reason and science are actually involved — they can at least be debated legislatively, countered with other secular arguments, and tethered to consequences in the real world that all citizens can appreciate, regardless of religious affiliation.

That politicians make an honest effort to behave politically as though they had no religious bias: This is really all that secularism requires. Unfortunately, many politicians still act like sectarian Church preachers intstead of secular public servants.

This patent sectarianism is really what secularists want to correct. By making it seem like secularists are instead asking to silence the Church, Bishop Pabillo and the article writer cast not only secularists but secularism itself in a bad light.

Pabillo (and the article writer) hasn’t settled any debate on secularism. But he has started a small one in my mind: Either Pabillo doesn’t understand secularism, or he doesn’t want others to.

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill, SecularismComments (1)

From Bibles to Baboy: The Problem of Christian Privilege

In reaction to student outrage at the distribution of Bibles in University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) by its Office of Student Affairs (OSA), its Chancellor, Rex Cruz described the incident as merely the “giving away [of] freebies.” Several apologists had similar reactions, saying that students were free to refuse the Bibles. In his interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Chancellor even suggested that they throw the Bibles away if the students didn’t want them.

Still others invoked the Christians’ right to freedom of religion. Indeed, Christians are free to express their religious views and evangelize, even in UP. In fact, one of the key features of the religion is that they spread it all over the world through proselytizing. This tactic has been so effective that Christianity, in all its flavors, has become the de facto state religion of many nations, including our country for the past 400 years.

Christianity has enjoyed a hold on the majority in our country for a long time. So long that many Christian Filipinos seem to be unaware that they share this land with non-Christians. There is an embarrassing lack of empathy from many Christians that leads them to say statements like, “you don’t have to take the Bibles if you don’t want them.” This lack of empathy is so fundamental that the government can go around distributing Bibles and it would still be treated as a non-issue.


The government gave Bibles away, that’s the problem

Yes, of course, students can refuse the Bibles. Though I’m sure that if they threw them in the trash en masse, that would suddenly make the story into one about sacrilege and persecuted Christians. The issue is not about Christian doctrine. The problem is that government officials distributed Bibles. And, based on reports, the director of OSA Leticia Afuang directly preached about the values of Christianity to incoming freshmen.

The mere fact that a person of authority gave religious materials to subordinates already implies coercion. It doesn’t matter if they were told they could refuse. These were students, and freshmen at that. A superior gave them a document. It is not the same as a street preacher giving away Bibles. You can ignore the preacher without fear of consequences.

It doesn’t matter if the OSA intended no harm or threat. It doesn’t matter if they wouldn’t really care if the students threw the Bibles in the garbage. There will always be the lingering fear that disobedience will lead to punishment, precisely because of the power dynamic between student and school administrator.

This power dynamic is the very reason OSA distributed the Bibles. OSA gave the Bible distribution activity credibility. It gave it the weight of the state University behind it, making students more receptive. There is a reason The Gideons (the apparent Bible donors) did not distribute the materials themselves and in their own event. Even on campus grounds with proper permits, that wouldn’t be a violation of secularism. Instead, a public office endorsed and distributed a sectarian document. I’m sure their intentions were good, but it cannot be glossed over that it is far more effective to have the University itself distribute the Bibles.


“You don’t have to read it!”

To apologists, the problem always seems to be with non-Christians being whiny than Christians abusing their power.

“Why don’t they just throw the Bibles away? They don’t have to believe! Nobody is forcing them to convert!” These are statements that can only be said by people blinded by privilege. The Christian majority don’t ever need to worry if their interests are considered. They are always the standard.

As excellently put by David Gaider, privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem just because it isn’t your problem. Christians, especially Filipino Christians, don’t ever have to face the prospect of having government officials give away copies of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian.” They don’t ever get mandatory school-sponsored lectures on the irrationality of the doctrine of redemption. Non-Christian problems aren’t their problems, therefore non-Christians can’t bitch and moan about these non-problems.

Consider Pol Medina Jr and his long-running Pugad Baboy strip. He wrote about the hypocrisy of Christians and their bigotry against lesbians and gays, all the while taking their money in exclusive private schools. For the strip that named St. Scholastica’s College as an example, the Philippine Daily Inquirer promptly apologized for Medina and suspended his strip. Though Medina did himself apologize, he also resigned from the Inquirer, after 25 years of publishing there.

Catholics complained that Medina’s comic was offensive. And yet, and yet, nobody from the Inquirer ever told them, “you don’t have to read it.” Catholics don’t have to read the comics section of the Inquirer, and they don’t have to read Pugad Baboy. Of course, that won’t satisfy them. Medina must suffer. He needs to be put in his place as a critic of Christians.

What’s worse is that the Inquirer is a private enterprise where “you don’t have to read it” would actually be a legitimate answer. UPLB is a public university. Our taxes pay for its operation. It is an institution that should reflect the secular principles, if not practices, of our nation, as a nation of both Christians and non-Christians.


May I have my rights, please?

Continuing with Gaider’s view on privilege, privilege is the luxury to not understand. Though the term is usually used in feminist contexts, the concept is quite appropriate here. The Christian majority can live their lives worry-free, not understanding what non-Christians have to deal with. While, non-Christians are always reminded to be sensitive to Christian beliefs.

The problem of Christian privilege prevents many Christians from seeing that secularism protects them as much as it protects non-Christians. If Christians could empathize with the minority, they would see that religions being equal in the eyes of the government protects their rights, rather than curtails it. Since Christians will be in the majority for the foreseeable future, it isn’t their problem, yet.

I don’t really know how to appeal to the empathy of Christians to at least consider the rights of the minority. If we had a properly functioning government, I wouldn’t have to.

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (9)

Solidarity with Bangladeshi Bloggers

BANGLADESH — Several atheist bloggers have recently been prosecuted for blasphemy by Islamic political parties. The said parties are calling for the death penalty as punishment for the bloggers’ “insulting religion” online.

bangladesh-bloggers-leaflet-thumb-p1Despite how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claims that the Bangladesh constitution is secular, she still goes on to contradict herself by saying that “existing laws are enough” and “If anybody tried to hurt any sentiments of any religion or any religious leader, there is a law. We can take any action.”

The Filipino Freethinkers stand in solidarity with these bloggers as the religious groups of Bangladesh seek to trample upon their right to freedom of speech.


If you would like to help out as well, the following are just some of the many ways to take action:

[the following is taken from this webpage]


Express your dissent online. There is a “Scarlet B” campaign for bloggers and others to express solidarity with the Bangladeshi bloggers (use the image on the right). The Twitter hashtag #HumanistSolidarity has also been used in connection with the Bangladeshi bloggers.


scarlet-B-zapfino (1)


Contact the ambassador to Bangladesh from your country. The American Humanist Association has urged its members and supporters to contact the US Ambassador to Bangladesh and express their concerns. Individuals in most countries can undertake a similar action, writing to protest the arrests, and the threat to freedom of speech they represent. If a national ambassador receives even a small number of letters on the same topic this can draw an issue to their attention and raise its priority with the foreign government.




It can’t be said enough that ideas do not have rights, but people do, and that no expression of criticism warrants harming one’s fellow humans. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Politics, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

Marriage Equality and the Unequal Society

Marriage Equality vs Unequal SocietyBrace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.

But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.

They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.

And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.

They made this very clear a century ago when France first introduced secularism. In response to the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State, Pope Pius X promulgated Vehementer Nos, an encyclical that called secularism “a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.”

Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:

The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.

So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.

But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.


* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.

** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Religion, SecularismComments (1)