Saturday, 30 June 2007

Interfaith Dialogues: An Exercise In Futility, Or Potential Bigotry?

In the aftermath of the September 911 attacks, one of the first knee-jerk reactions amongst religious moderates was to "reach out" to Islam and its "radical" elements in the form of "interfaith dialogues".

As with all knee-jerk reactions, interfaith dialogue is a uniquely novel political gimmick: By addressing and renouncing "fundamentalist" ideals through the united voices of a mismatched interfaith group of religious leaders, the voices of unreasoning in the name of religion could be "drowned out" and ostracized by a largely sympathetic, religious public.

According to some moderate religious scholars and even politicians, the idea is that "interfaith dialogues" (The very allegory seems to indicate that different people of various faith can only talk about faith and pretty much nothing else) involving bishops, imams and various "luminaries" from all religious sects will help resolve any misunderstandings between various religious groups, thereby promoting some obscure form of religious harmony in the form of religious understanding and tolerance.

Blair: Wants to have another go at "interfaith" gimmicks, after failure in Iraqi debacle

Such is the popularity and novelty of the "interfaith" game, that according to The Guardian, even the outgoing British Premier, Tony Blair, is dipping his hands into muddled waters: His 3.5 million pound home at Connaught Square may jolly well serve as his "headquarters" for a new interfaith dialogue movement. I guess Blair needs something corny to salvage his already-battered political image, mired by accusations caused by his unholy matrimony with Bush as his "unofficial poodle".

In this post, I will attempt to play the Devil's Advocate by presenting a case against such farcical officialdom: If anything else, Interfaith dialogues are almost always doomed to fail even before taking off and, as I shall present in my post, will constitute a new, unprecedented form of bigotry against the secular, freethinking world, if they were to somehow succeed in reconciling their polarizing differences.

A Question of Polemics?

Without question, all faiths share varying degrees of mutual exclusivity that defines them from one another.

Major religions from across the globe fall under three categories: Monotheism, Polytheism and Philosophical/Quasi-religious sects.

Of particular interest here is Monotheism, since it is the most exclusive and polemic of all three groups: The largest amongst them include Islam, Catholicism and Christianity, with Judaism having a profound influence in all three.

While these religions share the same Abrahamic forefather of Judaism, their differences are as polarizing as even the staunchest left-wing/right-wing divide: A Muslim, for example, will vehemently disagree with the Christian belief of a human super god dying on the Cross for Man's Original Sin, while the Christian would simply take note and disapprove of the Prophet Muhammad's obsession with marrying multiple wives (including a 9 yr old girl).

The internal strife within the Judaic sects across the sectarian board is all too evident throughout history.

Hitler: Brought Anti-Semitism to New Heights, Never Been Excommunicated, And Much Loved by The Catholic Church, Despite Staunch Denial

Anti-semitism, an almost singular industry that arose from the supposed betrayal and death of Christians' beloved Messiah, Jesus by Jewish priests (Jesus, curiously, was a Jew), would escalate into one of history's worst racial genocide against any single race through the systematic annihilation of Jewry via Hitler's (Hitler was a Catholic who, until today, has never been excommunicated) infamous gulags of World War II, run by Gestapo and SS thugs armed with sufficient hatred & knowledge to kill and little else to go along with.

Today, almost two millennial since Jesus' supposed death, Jewish settlers in the Middle East are still constantly forced to defend for their lives against suicide bombers and Islamic fundamentalist nations, all armed to the teeth for an eventual ouster of Israel and the "accursed" Jews.

Given such irreconcilable differences and deep-seated enmity, the presumption that an interfaith dialogue could somehow erase 2000 years of religious strife is as bogus as George Bush going through a speech without stammering and tripping over his own words.

Monotheistic religions aside, polytheistic religions, such as Hinduism, are pretty much regarded as "pagan" and "heretic" by monotheistic religions. While polytheistic religions are quite obliging in accommodating their rather more assertive monotheistic hosts, one should not be expecting too much from the more dogmatic monotheistic counterparts.

Religions more aligned with philosophical teachings, such as Buddhism and Confucianism, formed the final portion of this religious trinity. While these quasi-religions generally promote peace and harmony, certain virtues attached to them, such as the role of the submissive women and overtly-emphasized piety, can be just as every bit stifling and archaic as their monotheistic counterparts.

For any multi-faith dialogue to be successful, there is always a herculean leap of faith that has to be surmounted. Religious differences of the kind that goes with "I believe in A, he believes in B, therefore we cannot co-exist" may seem trivial, until you realize that each person's beliefs are aligned with a God in the Sky. Throw in the fact that every religion has his or her own personal heaven and hell, you get a potential confrontation and mayhem that may erupt anytime during a typical "interfaith" session.

Religious Violence & Terror Abetted By Moderates?

Because of the 911 incident and the subsequent spate of attacks in Britain and Madrid, there is a perceived need to "reach out", so to speak, to religious radicals of Islam, and the naive thinking that these terrorists are somehow "indoctrinated" by end-of-the-mill religious clerics and not mainstream ones seem to fuel the desire by moderates and interfaithers to reach out to them before the radicals do.

The real problem, however, is far more subtle. By relying on the perceived pluralism of religious moderates that somehow "tones down" the singular exclusivity of religion's tenets, moderates are ignoring the fact that religion is actually the core problem at hand.

While a religious moderate shuns violence, his adherence to beliefs that a supernatural being exists to fuss over his every need as well as people of his creed, and that everyone else who doesn't follow suit will find themselves becoming unwitting objects of everlasting torture in hell's eternal BBQ inferno, are so utterly egoistic and one-dimensional that his beliefs could have been very well-suited and subverted by radical fundamentalists, who simply reject the moderate portion of the benign moderate's beliefs and transform it into a dastardly recruitment tool for potential terrorists.

By constantly promoting the fundamental aspects of religion, moderates unwittingly provide fuel and heat for consistent propaganda, which, ironically, are used by radical religious teachers to spread and recruit more extremists.

In his article, The Problem With Religious Moderates, Sam Harris writes succinctly:

"While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out, in light of all that we have (and have not) learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence. The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don't like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God. "

In sum, interfaith dialogues are completely useless in reaching the intended targets: No matter how concerted the attempt to feign religious solidarity amongst various religious sects, the real underlying cause of the problem still lies with religion. The idea that the various sects, particularly monotheistic ones, can speak of tolerance and understanding of other religions while brandying exclusivity to God's unique channel and grace, is, to put it mildly, too quaint for even the most "liberal" fundamentalist (kind of like arguing about the squareness of circles), although the words "religious and political hypocrisy" may seem more apt here.

A More Sinister Motive?

At this point, I would like to consider what I perceive to be my own conjuncture, at this time of writing, on my part. Assuming, then, that interfaith dialogues work, what then, would be the inevitable outcome?

Taking today's political model as a rough blueprint, religion is, and has always been a significantly powerful political and lobbying force, in religiously-dominated countries such as USA and Iran.

Any political ideal, no matter how absurd, can transform into mainstream formality as long as you press the right political buttons. From spreading religiously-slanted doctrines into schools and eroding civil rights, religion has a way of buttressing the national consciences of many a nation, and herein lies a sinister undertone to this article.

In the face of what I perceive as another form of Renaissance by left-wing minority movements such as the Gay Movement and the more recent revival of the Atheist movement, religious fundamentalists, peeved with what they perceive as a form of rapid secularization of their respective countries, may find cause to unite with other like-minded creeds in order to combat these fledgling movements.

A Christian right-wing group, for example, could rally themselves with their Muslim counterparts under the banner of "Ban Abortion Now!", put aside their doctrinal differences, in order to strike a very powerful message of religious piety amongst the public. Such a move, if successful, could very well signal the first down-spiralling of human rights straight towards the nearest dumpsters.

Welcome to the world of burkhas and Creationist Museums.

Dialogues Need Not Be Interfaith

In concluding this post, it is important for me to highlight the importance of dialogues between people of various religions and creeds. By engaging in meaningful, sincere dialogues, one would be better adept in understanding each other's respective cultures and differences, which is of paramount importance in a increasingly globalized world.

This kind of dialogue, however, should not be restricted and monopolized by religion. Interfaith dialogues tend to foster the kind of depraved imagination that religious moderates seems to be at home with: That only religious leaders of various sects can communicate under the umbrella of religion, and no other forms of engagement exist outside this perceived hegemony.

The idea that imams, priests & reverends (religious scumbags, mostly in the Falwell mould) can come together for high tea, with smirks on their religiously-etched faces as they nod their heads at each other's parsimonious jokes against gays, atheists and other infidels that they share a common hatred against, resembles a modern-day meeting of Al-Capone and his merry gang of trigger-happy mobsters.

As an atheist, I find it infuriating and utterly ridiculous that atheists, agnostics and people with alternative or no faiths are somehow "non-existent" in the equation, despite the emergence of many a infidel in the mainstream circuit. In the minds of interfaith organizers, people like us cease to exist outside their sphere of self-imposed religious bigotry, which really is the main reason why I am so irked with interfaith dialogues.

Now that I am finished with this article, anyone care for a piece of halal-style smoked pork*???

"All talk and No Food Makes Jack an Angry Boy." Ok, I made that one up. Bon Appetite!

*"Halal" in essence refers to food prepared to make it palatable for Muslims. Since pork itself is categorized as an "unclean animal" under the Koran, "halal pork" still remains an incompatible oxymoron.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Religious Lunacy 101: Hospital Staff Refuses to Dispense Morning After-Pill to Rape Victims

It is a curious trait in monotheistic religions: Women are somehow inferior to men in every aspect: Not only are women look down as weaker counterparts of men, they are being discriminated by conservatives who seem to have this fixation with enforcing archaic, misguided rules and regulations upon women.

One need not look further from the annals of the bible to figure this misogynous attitudes towards women:

After Adam is created, Eve was created from the rib of Adam, suggesting that Eve, as the first woman (According to the Talmud and other religious texts, Lilith was the first woman created for Adam), was created only for the sake of alleviating Adam's boredom (and perhaps his sexual urges???).

In short, Eve, as a representative of women, must submit to her Man (in this case, Adam), because thanks to God's warped logic, she is now no more than an extension of Adam's rib.

According to the Original Sin concept, Eve, in the role of a temptress, persuaded Adam to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, after she had been similarly tempted by a talking snake (Which, according to Genesis, was Satan's animistic guise).

For her unflattering role, Eve was condemned to be a bearer of children, an inextricable fate which not only has to be borne by her, but every other women since.

If one buys into, and beliefs in this bullshit tale wholeheartedly, it is not difficult to understand the "moral" precepts behind this sad, misguided tale of neglect, heartlessness, and pure biblical misogyny.

Rape Victim Victimized By "Holier-Than-Thou" Doc???

Doctors' beliefs hinder patient care
New laws shore up providers’ right to refuse treatment based on values
By Sabrina Rubin Erdely
Updated: 2:26 p.m. ET June 22, 2007

Lori Boyer couldn't stop trembling as she sat on the examining table, hugging her hospital gown around her. Her mind was reeling. She'd been raped hours earlier by a man she knew — a man who had assured Boyer, 35, that he only wanted to hang out at his place and talk. Instead, he had thrown her onto his bed and assaulted her. "I'm done with you," he'd tonelessly told her afterward. Boyer had grabbed her clothes and dashed for her car in the freezing predawn darkness. Yet she'd had the clarity to drive straight to the nearest emergency room — Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania — to ask for a rape kit and talk to a sexual assault counselor. Bruised and in pain, she grimaced through the pelvic exam. Now, as Boyer watched Martin Gish, M.D., jot some final notes into her chart, she thought of something the rape counselor had mentioned earlier.

"I'll need the morning-after pill," she told him.

Dr. Gish looked up. He was a trim, middle-aged man with graying hair and, Boyer thought, an aloof manner. "No," Boyer says he replied abruptly. "I can't do that." He turned back to his writing.

Boyer stared in disbelief. No? She tried vainly to hold back tears as she reasoned with the doctor: She was midcycle, putting her in danger of getting pregnant. Emergency contraception is most effective within a short time frame, ideally 72 hours. If he wasn't willing to write an EC prescription, she'd be glad to see a different doctor. Dr. Gish simply shook his head. "It's against my religion," he said, according to Boyer. (When contacted, the doctor declined to comment for this article.)

Boyer left the emergency room empty-handed. "I was so vulnerable," she says. "I felt victimized all over again. First the rape, and then the doctor making me feel powerless." Later that day, her rape counselor found Boyer a physician who would prescribe her EC. But Boyer remained haunted by the ER doctor's refusal — so profoundly, she hasn't been to see a gynecologist in the two and a half years since. "I haven't gotten the nerve up to go, for fear of being judged again," she says.

Here, our good Dr Gish (Gee, doesn't his name bear some resemblance to that erstwhile director of Institute For Creation Research - Duane Gish?) refuses to dispense any form of assistance to the rape victim, despite the fact that doctors are sworn, by profession, to dedicate their lives to assist patients.

Perhaps, a few thought processes might be going through his mind:

1. It is better for the rape victim to bear the rapist's child - after all, what can a woman do, besides giving birth to and raising babies???

2. It must have been the victim's fault: If she had covered herself from head to toe in a burkha, tragedy would not have descended upon her like the plague. Conclusion? She deserves to be raped.

Seriously, is this the kind of vindictive, callous doctor we would expect to save our lives in times of difficulty? The type who would dispense religiously-slanted moral tidbits and bias instead of lifesaving, pain-alleviating health care?

Religious Nutjobs and Their Erstwhile Hospitals

From a personal perspective, I have never approved of religious encroachment into any education and medical institutions of any kind. Having witnessed firsthand how religious morons can basically screw up secular education to fit into their silly medieval concepts, I find it morally reprehensible that religious groups are actually allowed to roughshod and pervert the medical profession.

Incidents like this merely reinforce my belief in not only the Separation of Church and State, but the separation of the Church from just about everything else: Everything that the Church touches turns into a convoluted form of the Midas Touch: Education becomes a religious comedy of the Flintstones variety, hospitals become agents of enforced pregnancy and loss of civil liberties, and donations to mega churches are fleeced by bastards in the form of wealthy, fat, obnoxious Reverends.

The MSNBC Article further enthuses:

".....Catholic and conservative Christian health care providers are denying women a range of standard, legal medical care. Planned Parenthood M.D.s report patients coming to them because other gynecologists would not dole out birth control prescriptions or abortion referrals. Infertility clinics have turned away lesbians and unmarried women; anesthesiologists and obstetricians are refusing to do sterilizations; Catholic hospitals have delayed ending doomed pregnancies because abortions are only allowed to save the life of the mother. "

In a survey published this year in The New England Journal of Medicine, 63 percent of doctors said it is acceptable to tell patients they have moral objections to treatments, and 18 percent felt no obligation to refer patients elsewhere.

Religious Stupidity Has No Place In The Field of Medicine

If anything else, this episode highlights the need to ostracize religious-based medical institutions, particular those which force patients to submit to their religiously entrenched, archaic regulations which would have been more at home during the time of the Crusades than 21st century Medicine.

If religious hospitals do not wish to play God and dispense with medication, kindly close shop and allow secular ones to do so.

After all, no woman should deserve the ignominous suffering of rape, plus mental rape and abuse dispensed by self-righteous bastards in labcoats and stethoscopes.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Atheist Haven Has Been Tagged

There has been waves of Meme taggings going around the atheist blogosphere lately, and I am honored and privileged to be one of these blogs.

Many thanks to Vjack, whose blog, Atheist Revolution (Already in my blogroll), has included this blog in the latest wave of meme tags.

The rules for meme tagging are as follows:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 Facts, as follows:

1. I have a tendency to sleepwalk. One of my school mates had the misfortune of witnessing one of my sleepwalking episodes during a school camp, and he honestly thought I was possessed know who.

2. I still harbor a tinge of discomfort towards my Christian aunt, who first introduced me to Christianity. She has that stern, demeanour about her that seems to make kids shriek away in terror.

3. My first "sexual" arousal came from witnessing a braless nymphette in school uniform sashaying her way past our schoolgates.

4. I enjoy reading Science, philosophy and world history, rather than the overtly staid and boring bible.

5. My first childhood impression of God was a man in Jewish merchant clothes, a testimony, I think, to the early impressionable minds of children who attend mindless bible classes.

6. As a kid, I almost burned down my grandpa's house while playing with lanterns during the lantern festival.

7. I confess, I am older than I look. I once took my brother out for a shopping trip, when I met a friend who mistook my brother for my son (My brother is nine years younger than me.).

8. My favorite dream girl is Italian actress Monica Bellucci. Even though she is in her 40s now, she is still as gorgeous as ever.

My favorite blogs:

1. Confusion of Ideas

2. Atheist Wager

3. Beep! Beep! Its Me

4. Freethought Weekly

5. The Atheist Haven (Sister Blog of Atheist Haven)

6. Kill The Afterlife

7. The Atheist Resistance

8. PinoyAtheist

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Why Carbon Dating Works

Often times, I have come across websites, such as "AnswersInGenesis" (Judging from the title, it is obvious that this website isn't really about Science), which shamelessly debunk the basic tenets and empirical methods of Science.

Being the intellectual equivalent of hucksters and mobsters, Creationists of these sort are apt to criticize the Scientific Method in a bid to construe evidence to fit into their biblical bullshit. They thraw through scientific literature, pick the parts that supposedly criticize a scientific method, and put up claims that mainstream Science is bogus. These deranged fundamentalists are not interested in Science; they don't carry out any field work or research. All they ever do is throw around their banter and how that someone, somewhere, will lap up and believe in their God-induced beliefs, which coincidentally, have not scientific merit whatsoever.

So, without further ado, I would like to proceed to one of the more controversial topics amongst the Creationist community (not the Scientific Community): Carbon Dating.

Long regarded with as much vitriol as Darwin's revolutionary idea of Evolution, carbon dating debunks the "Young Earth" Creationist Model: Because of its ability to date fossils upwards to 60,000 years, radiocarbon dating has long been regarded as Darwin's (Read Satan's) advocate.

History Of Radio-Carbon Dating

Discovered by Willard Frank Libby and his colleagues in 1949, during his tenure as a professor at the University of Chicago, Libby invented what would eventually change the face of archaeology by giving a time frame to fossilized specimens.

Libby estimated that the steady state radioactivity concentration of exchangeable carbon-14 would be about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram.

In recognition of his work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1960.

The Mechanics of C-14

Before I begin to illustrate the basics of carbon dating (otherwise referred to as radiocarbon dating), it is prudent to explain how Carbon-14, the carbon compound that serves as a testing material for dating carbonaceous, fossilized matter.

Everyday, cosmic rays enter through Earth's atmosphere, bringing about certain chemical reactions which are essential for the sustainence of life on this planet.

When a cosmic ray collides with an atom in the atmosphere, a secondary cosmic ray is formed in the form of an energetic neutron.

When this neutron collides with a nitrogen atom (N-14), a chemical reaction takes place: The Nitrogen 14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) converts into a carbon-14 aom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom.

Why C-14?

Because C-14 is constantly being absorbed by plants for the purpose of photosynthesis, the natural cycle of C-14 (Radioactive Carbon), along with C-12 (non-radioactive carbon), is constantly absorbed to other animals via the food chain.

Every living plant and animal has roughly the same ratio of C-14 to C-12, which is about 1: 1 trillion. As such, the absorption rate is fairly constant, that is, until death starts to kick in.

When an animal dies, the animal stops absorbing carbon, for the obvious reason that it no longer can consume food. At this point, the C-14 atoms begin to decay, while the C-12 atoms remain constant.

Because of C-14's ability to decay in contrast to C-12's constant, a prediction can be made towards the age of a fossil.

Characteristics of C-14

One of the most important properties of C-14 is its half-life: A half-life refers to the time whereby the number of a certain atom disintegrates or decays by half its original number.

Radiocarbon C-14 has a half-life of about 5,700 years. In short, it takes 5,700 years to reduce C-14 by 50%, another 5700 years to reduce to 25%, and so on, at an exponential rate.

The formula for C-14 dating is:

t = [ ln (Nf/No) / (-0.693) ] x t1/2

-ln is the natural logarithm;
-Nf/No is the percent of carbon-14 in the sample compared to the amount in living tissue;
-t1/2 is the half-life of carbon-14 (5,700 years).

Problems Faced Using C-14 Dating Method, & Ways To Overcome Them

The truth is, C-14 decomposition is highly consistent, with a margin error of plus or minus 40 years. That, in scientific parlance, is a very good tolerance.

The real problems of C-14 and its so-called erroneous readings, however, have more to do with the natural elements than the consistency of its decay.

1. Exponential Decay

One of the more severe problems has to do with exponential decay: Because of its ability to decompose, most C-14 work can only be carried out on objects with a maximum age of 60,000 years, as counting decayed C-14 for older objects become more arduous due to the extreme lack of C-14 atoms.

In short, the older the object, the wider the discrepancy. Any fossil more than 60,000 yrs old would have too little C-14 to carry out any meaningful C-14 dating.

In order to circumvent this problem, Accelerator-based mass-spectrometric (AMS) techniques was introduced: All the 14C atoms can be counted directly, rather than only those decaying during the counting interval allotted for each analysis. The AMS technique allows one to date samples containing only a few milligrams of carbon.

2. Varying C-14 Compositions

Variations of C-14 compositions in the atmosphere (Up to 1%, according to Hessel de Vries, a Dutch physicist at the University of Groningen).

3. Natural Causes

Certain natural phenomenon, such as changing climates, can affect C-14 flow in the atmosphere, hence affecting absorption rates by plants and animals.

In order to resolve this discrepancy within a certain tolerance, calibration charts are often used to mediate the readings. Various calibrations may include distortions caused by magnetic disturbances or abnormally high C-14 concentrations found in the vicinity of the fossil's environment.

4. Man Made Causes

C-14 concentration can also be affected by human activities:

i. It was almost doubled for a short period due to atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

ii. C-14 concentration was drastiscally reduced by the release of large amounts of CO2 from ancient organic sources where C-14 is not present (i.e Fossil fuels). This was known as the Suess Effect.

For this reason, raw, uncalibrated readings before 1950 are classified under BP (Before Present), which indicates the number of years of an object in relation to the 1950 date. This was the date given in part because of the absence of large-scale nuclear testing, particular in the Northern Hemisphere, which increased atmospheric C-14 dramatically.


Radio-carbon dating has been shown to be pretty consistent, once external factors, such as environmental carbon content are pretty much factored in and calibrated into the readings.

While Creationists keep harping about the inconsistency of Carbon Dating, they tend to "negate" that Science has kept up with the times: Much has been known about C-14 levels and its interactions with the natural processes to provide a more accurate intepretation of C-14 data, and advanced techniques such as the AMS has dramatically assisted in providing more accurate readings.

If Creationists and other religious fundamentalists want to play in the real world of science, they'd better do some real research before babbling their bullshit and pandering them around as Science.

A Scene From the Flintstones Family: Great Fun For Family, A Disaster For National Education

Sure they can build their fancy Creationist Museums with their saddled Triceratops and some really impressive computer animatronics (no thanks to Hollywood animationists who sold their national conscience to rich fraudsters), but when it comes to real Science, I will suggest that they let the real scientists do the real work instead.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Salmon Rushdie: Target For Islamic Intolerance

Salman Rushdie: No Knighthood please, I am an Infidel.....

As far as religious tolerance goes, none stands out more prominently than the woes of an eminent writer, Salman Rushdie.

An exemplary writer of Indian origin ( 14 books, numerous awards, including the Booker's Prize for his work, " Midnight's Children"), he is now famous (or notorious, depending on whose side you are on) for authoring the book, "Satanic Verses" in 1988, which was deemed sacrilegious and blasphemous by the rigid Islamic world.

Controversy Behind "Satanic Verses"

The controversy that incurred Islamic wrath, it seems, centres on a little-known fact in the Islamic religion:Three pagan goddesses, which was written, according to an Arab historican, Ibn Ishaq (Approx. A.D 700), by Muhammad and incorporated with the Islamic religion. Muhammad himself later revoked the goddesses, claiming he was under the influence of the Devil (When shit happens, always blame the Devil. Its a great coup out).

As Islam is a "religion of peace", Muslims all over the world reacted in the only way they knew: General mayhem and rioting. All over the world, there were protests against Rushdie, and the general reaction was that Rushdie deserved to have his throat slit for outrageous Muslim sentiments.

And lo and behold: India, Rushdie's homeland, became the first to ban the book. Iran's Ayatollah at that time, Khomeini, was so incensed with Rushdies' blasphemous book, that he issued a fatwa (death edict) and a bounty for his life, a charge that still hangs about him like an ignominous plague.

At about the same time, the book's Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death in his university. Others, such as Italian translator Ettore Capriolo and publisher William Nygaard, survived assassination attempts.

Rushdie And His Knighthood: A Slight Against Islam?

Almost 20 years on, the fatwa against Rushdie still stands: He still requires maximum security, with his whereabouts known only to a few handful.

As details of Rushdie's impending knighthood granted by the British monarchy emerges, Muslims all over the world are again raving and cursing this literary talent:

1. 2000 people rioted in several cities in Pakistan, calling for Rushdie to be drawn, quartered, and killed in cold blood.

2. Khatami, a Islamic cleric, reminded the secular press that the death sentence still stands :"Awarding him means confronting 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. In Islamic Iran, the revolutionary fatwa ... is still alive and cannot be changed."

Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din, head of Kashmir's Islamic court, agrees that Salman was "liable to be killed for rendering the gravest injury to the sentiments of the Muslims across the world."

Apparently, freedom of speech in the Muslim world doesn't exist. Crude violence, not tolerance, runs amok in the fundamentalist Islamic world.

Islamic Intolerance: A Culture of Murder and & Violence

According to some theists, atheism has reached a new level of "militancy". With the emergence of more vocal atheists (Or anti-theist, in Christopher Hitchen's case) such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the rise of atheism towards a more public consciousness has indeed provide cannon folder for such an accusation.

Yet, there is nothing within this atheistic revolution that rivals Islamic intolerance. From brutally executed Fatwas to the murderous ravings of deranged clerics in turbans, the idea that "Islam is a religion of peace" is so eschewed in the face of Islamic intolerance towards just about everything they don't see fit is just about as logical as waxing lyrical about the Great White Shark tearing a doomed seal into itsy bitsy pieces.

It is not my intention to deride Muslims (I have Muslim friends who are just about as rational as the common masses), but surely religion, as depicted by Islam, is not as peaceful as some moderates claim.

It would be interesting to see if the British monarchy would cave in to these barbaric demands. As of writing, Salman's name is still on the honours roll.

It is time for the western world to stop kowtowing to these Islamic fundies and send a strong message to the global community: Religious fundamentalists must adhere to the basics of free speech and secular humanism.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Importance Of Church and State Separation

Most modern countries would, at least in the official sense, expound some form of separation between religion and politics (otherwise known as "Separate of Church and State).

While some democratic nations, such as Great Britain, do recognize an official religion (E.g: Anglican Church for Brits, Roman Catholicism for Italians), these nations are largely secular in terms of jurisdiction (One would be hard pressed to find anyone in Great Britain being persecuted for the blameless crime of blasphemy today), and the idea that a full-fledged theocratic nation can function efficiently in today's largely globalized world is, to put it bluntly, archaic in the worst possible sense.

Having said that, secularization of governments have often been vehemently opposed, or even denied, by some sections of the religious community (Usually Fundamentalist).

United States of America

One of the prime examples of this secularization is none other than the United States of America, although judging by the ubiquitous harangues of the fundamentalist rights movement, who seem hell bent on drowning out the voice of reason, it seems almost sacrilegious to claim that America was, and is still essentially a secular, democratic nation.

The Founding Fathers of America

Founding Fathers of America

The basic tenets of what is known today as the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were authored by a team of enlightened leaders, otherwise known as the Founding Fathers of America.

The Secularist Movement

The Founding Fathers of America were not all atheists (Some probably were, but that is not the point), but they were definitely secularists.

Having witnessed first hand the evils wrought forth by the terrible tentacles of organized religion, the Founding Fathers wisely sought, and even went out of their way, to ensure that such a travesty would not entrench itself in the cradles of a new, emerging nation.

In laying the blueprint for the First Constitution, all the Founding Fathers were quite adamant that religion should be allowed to co-exist amongst the masses, but must remain strictly separate from the affairs of the State.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights was drafted initially by President James Madison in 1789: It was a knee jerk reaction towards the different ideological stances held between Federalists and anti-Federalists.

Realizing the dangers of theocracy and the ill-effects of creating a hegemony under the banner of "state religion", James Madison was quite adamant that future US Administrations must never be allowed to officiate or create an external official religion that would threaten to overwhelm secular governance.

The First Amendment, under the Bill of Rights, explains it succinctly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Aptly named, The Bill of Rights was a masterstroke of pure genius: Not only did it prohibit the establishment of any form of state religion, it guarantees the right of the average American to free speech, freedom of religion and peaceful assembly.

US Constitution: An Enlightened Document (Not the Bloody Babble, err.....I mean Bible)

You could search through the annals of the damn holy babble/bible and all its 66 nonsensical chapters, and you wouldn't find one damn verse to rival the Bill of Rights.

Religious Lobbying Against Secularized Governance

More often than not, fundamentalists bemoan about the lack of religiosity of secular government:their persistent lobbying to infiltrate official school prayers and the teachings of religious pseudo-science in public schools attest to their continual disenchantment with secular governance.

Like well-oiled machines, religious fundamentalist propaganda has a sneaky ability to over-dramatize issues: They claim that their respective religious creeds are being threatened and undermined because their incessant need to infiltrate their religious creeds are somehow tangible to their individual rights, which really isn't the case.

Migrant Societies and The Need for Neutrality & Solidarity

Different races, different creeds, but most importantly, one united people

The unbridled truth is this: Unlike other homogeneous countries, such as Japan and England, America is a potpourri of many races, cultures and creeds. As in most immigrant nations, America has to contend with people from various racial and religious backgrounds.

For people of multiple, diverse identities and creeds to live and work together, there must be an environment that allows room for almost every religion to co-exist peacefully, and in order to achieve this common ground, a consensus must be reached that allows for neutrality and impartiality to all sides of the fence.

A secular government, free from the bias and influences from any dominant religious group, paves the way to achieving this state of harmony. By not appealing to any religious creed (no matter how powerful it may be), everyone is allowed a fair playing ground to operate on.

For example, a Muslim who works in a government institution will surely not appreciate the sign of a cross being displayed on the wall. While the Muslim will not show his or her displeasure, he or she will be wondering why the cross is displayed in the first place, given that the government institution is not a place for proselytizing. This doesn't equate, however, to a total ban on religion: One could read the bible and the Koran in an official government building, so long as it is kept private and unofficial.

In sum, the separation of church and state is the best status quo for America, as well as nations with large, diverse, immigrant communities. Any attempt by Christian groups or any other religious groups to circumvent this secular status would create a kind of social instability that would breed contempt and distrust towards a quasi-secular, limping government.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Gays In the Animal Kingdom: Homosexually Not So "Unnatural" After All

In a bid to somehow mask homophobia with a more "naturalistic" and "secular" reasoning, religious conservatives conclude, rather prematurely of course, that homosexuality is "unnatural", and that it somehow defiles the very laws of Nature which requires us to "go forth and multiply".

Because sodomy and lesbianism do not contribute to the procreation theme, homosexuality is somewhat perceived as an anomaly in Nature.

The concept of "unnatural" in this case may yet take another somewhat different twist.

Gay Penguins???

Roy & Silo

At New York’s Central City Zoo, in the penguin’s enclosure, are two cuddly penguins, Roy & Silo. They behave and resemble most penguins, except for one unique trait that binds both birds together: They are both gay!

Not only do the penguins nest together, they built their own nests, engage in sexual activities, and have acted as surrogate parents when an egg was placed in the nests by their handlers.

Homosexuality, once thought to be a product of man’s depraved sexual tendencies, has, it seems, unwittingly drawn gay animals into the spotlight.

Homosexuality in The Animal Kingdom

The idea that homosexuality is an abominable crime rests upon one religious dogma: The primary function of sex is not to partake in pleasure, but merely as a essential tool for procreation.

While humans are apt to observe this kind of archaic, convoluted protocol, animals, it seems, have no qualms with regards to humping each other whichever way they choose: Modern biologists have observed that at least 1,500 animals exhibit some form of gay behavior, with 500 species well documented to have performed "outrageous sodomy" in full view of the biologists.
Talk about hot monkey sex and animal gay porn....

Other species known to exhibit homosexual tendencies include:

Bisons: Giving a whole new meaning to "brokeback mountain".....

1. The American Bison: This stocky, well-built animal has long been known by native Red Indians to engage in mounting, and full anal penetration. Apparently, mounting of one female bison on another female counterpart is also common.

Baah......... (Translation: I am gay, I am gay, I am gay!!!)

2. At least 6-10% of male sheep engage in homosexual activities (makes one wonder where all the meat we get in supermarkets really do come from).

Birds of the "same feather" flock together.........

3.Pairs of male flamingos have also been witnessed raising eggs of female counterparts.

Homosexuality: A Genetic Anomaly, or a Case of Sacrificing for the Common Good?

Homosexuality seems to go against the very grain of evolution: If the genetically encoded goal of every animal is to ensure the survivability of its genes, why then, do some animals choose an act that, at first glance, seems to be the equivalent of an evolutionary dead end?

In scientific parlance, homosexuality does serve several purposes. In the case of the gay penguins, it may be that gay penguins like Roy and Silo may have somehow evolved to play the role as "male nannies" to help look after abandoned or lost eggs and chicks, which would surely help boost the survivability of chicks in the harsh environmental conditions in Antarctica.

Territorial aggression may also have a part to play. In the case of the flamingos, it may be that male flamingos hold larger territories than females: A pale of gay flamingos, followed by their heterosexual counterparts, may be boosted by a pair of alpha males, instead of just one alpha male. The presence of gay flamingos may also lessen the competition for mating partners amongst heterosexual males.

More importantly, homosexuality in herd animals may actually tone down and ease animistic aggressions amongst male animals, who may otherwise fight each other to the death in order to vie for the sexual services of their female cohorts.

Homosexuality: Not A Travesty Unto Nature

Contrary to popular opinion, gays are definitely not outcasts in Mother Nature's scheme of plans. Just as homosexuals play a positive role in the Animal Kingdom, gays can and will contribute to our society as well.

Rather than view homosexuals as travesties of Nature or some other bigoted religious mumbo-jumbos, the better, or should I say best, option is to regard gays as normal, healthy adults with a somewhat different take on sexual preferences.

After all, as the saying goes, one Man's meat is another Man's poison. So long as homosexuals practice consensual, adult relationships, there is no reason for anyone (Religious fundies included) to pry and poke his or her nose behind the doors of every locked bedroom.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Scientific Jargon, & Why Christians Get It All Wrong

As an atheist and an avid science fan, I have often been stumped by Christians who have trouble grasping the very basic tenets, or fundamentals of the Scientific Method.

Christians who buy into the "Evolution is not a fact, but a mere theory" junk are simply not bothered to educate themselves with real science, but instead immerse themselves with junk science, such as Creationism and the not-so-intelligent pseudo-science of "Intelligent Design".

In order to perhaps help clear the air a little, as well as elucidate what I regard as the essential basics of scientific jargon, I would like to illustrate some basic scientific terms that are often used by scientists to explain certain phenomena in the realm of science.

1. Hypothesis

A scientific hypothesis is an educated guess to explain a certain observable phenomenon. The main gist of any hypothetical phenomenon is that it can only be disproven, not proven, to be true.

The basic reason behind this somewhat ambiguous trait is the law of potential falsifiability: Any scientific phenomenon or observation has the possibility of being proven false.

Example: Suppose we test the effectiveness of several brands of car polish. After testing all the available brands on the market on several car prototypes, we conclude that all these brands work remarkably well in terms of stain removal and maintaining a shiny sheen.

My conclusion from this little experiment merely highlights that all the current available brands in the market do not offer anything that could make them stand out from the rest. This hypothesis, however may be disproved if, for some reason, one of the brands may work remarkably well on one of the test cars and thus make it stand out from the rest. On the other hand, I cannot take my conclusion as an absolute proof that all car polish have the same efficiency, since there may have been one brand that could have worked better in the past. There is also the possibility, however remote, that a brand could be created in future that would outperform all existing current brands.

2. Scientific Theory

Opponents of the Evolution Theory often trumpet ubiquitously that Evolution is mere theory, that the word "theory" itself somehow undermines the integrity and legitimacy of the study of Evolution itself. The truth is, however, the complete opposite of such a erroneous preposition.

The word "theory", when used in a scientific context, does not denote mere guess or simple conjuncture: A scientific theory is really the progression of a observable phenomenon from the hypothesis stage. To put it more succinctly, a scientific theory is a summarization of a hypotheisis or a set of hypothesises, all of which are validated and supported by a series of testing and subsequent empirical data which keeps track of the phenomenon.

Like the hypothesis, a scientific theory is potentially falsifiable: Until another validated scientific theory comes along to refute a current scientific theory, the current theory is considered true.
In short, the law of potential falsifiability applies.

3. Scientific Law

Contrary to the standard usage of "law", a scientific law is not a final arbitrator of scientific phenomenon.

A scientific law is a generalization of a body of observations, but does not reveal the mechanism behind these observations.

For example, the Law of Gravity can be observed, and even its rate of acceleration can be measured, but the mechanisms behind gravity cannot be explained.

The Rationale Behind Science

Most Christians and theists of the fundamentalist kind have trouble grasping the very basics of the Scientific Method because it is so divergent of the kind of ecclesiatical, one-dimensional dogmas that they have been so accustomed to.

The principle behind the Scientific Method is the cornerstone of Modern Science: Every scientific phenomenon can be potentially disproved, and the closest science have to an absolute are bodies of factual data to substantiate scientific phenomena.

That principle kind of contradicts the religious school of thought: Scriptural teachings are held to be absolute truth, regardless of the validity or the amount of evidence presented to show otherwise.

In short, Science is the application of evidence to justify certain prepositions, while Religion is the applicable of Scripture regardless of standing evidence.

Monday, 11 June 2007


Fraudsters and hucksters, it seems, tend to thrive within clusters or communities where conditions are ripe for the picking: The masses must, at the least, be gullible enough to be fooled, at the same time be "ripe" enough for easy pickings. It is therefore imperative that as rational, logical people, we must be able to sieve through such facades of deceit and unmask these scammers who have the temerity to perform such atrocious deeds of greed and deception.

In this article, I would like to highlight a case of one particular mumbo-jumbo that has been re-packaged with a mystical, "new age aura": The Art of Fengshui.

Origins of Fengshui

Chinese Characters of Feng Shui, Literally Translated as "Wind Water"
Feng Shui literally translates as "Wind-Water" in Mandarin: It basically translates into rearranging your home in a manner that bodes harmony with the environment.

The idea that the elements can somehow dictate your life was recorded in "The Book of Burial" (Zhang Shu), a book which was written by a Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D) writer. Alongside astronomy and other forms of fortune telling, Fengshui was deemed to be an arbitrator of one's fate: You could alter your health, wealth and even personal relationships with the mere re-arrangement of your furniture (Well, you have to pay for that damn Fengshui Master as well....tsk tsk)! Sounds too good to be true? You bet!

The Modern Day Fengshui Master

A Feng Shui Compass

The modern day Fengshui Master cuts a rather "scientific" and respectful figure: Armed with their assortment of lucky charms and that trusty magnetic campass, today's Fengshui Master abuses the name of Science to his advantage: Most Fengshui masters possess academic qualifications in their respective " scientific fields", although the dubious origins of their certification are sometimes questionable.

Most are eloquent, and have the ability to confound you if you already do not understand Fengshui jargon: "Qi", "Ba Gua", or some other profound nonsense are uttered incessantly, so that they create this impression that they really know their stuff, when in fact what most of them are doing is portray vague details of imaginary forces that may or have already wrecked havoc in your life.

In Asian countries, particularly Chinese-dominated ones, Fengshui has been touted to be a "cure-all" for Man's various ills and problems: From diseases to business problems, all you need is a fengshui master, a renovation company to "move" that "qi" around (meaning your furniture) and whoa la! Problem solved!

If only the real world was that bloody simplistic.


In one of the recent articles that came out in Singapore's local tabloid, the plight of two parents who seek the aid of a Fengshui master in a bid to save their daughter's life came to a sorry end.

Excerpts from Newpaper, 11th June 2007 (In Blue)

DESPERATE to save their dying daughter, two parents turned to a fengshui master for help.

They hoped that by changing the 'luck' of the family, their young child might miraculously recover from her illness.

Following the geomancer's advice, they sold their four-room Woodlands flat in 2005 and spent nearly $10,000 over six months to rent flats in places such as Jurong and Bukit Batok, hoping to change their daughter's luck.

They also changed the Chinese characters of all their names.

In all, they paid $4,000 to the geomancer.

But last year, the girl died just four days short of her 6th birthday.

Now, her parents want to sue the geomancer, but have been told that a lawsuit could be futile.
Reading such stories really does make my blood boil with anger: S$14,000.00 spent (And that is not including the poor girl's medical fees), all the fuss with changning names and moving from flat to flat, only for the little girl to die four days short of her 6th birthday?

If the Feng Shui fraudster still has a conscience, he should return every single cent to the stricken family, in addition to compensating for all the costs and upheaval caused.

Unfortunately, though, legal recourse for such obvious cases of fraud are scant, as the article continues:

There has been no precedent that would hold someone liable for practising an art or belief that cannot be proven scientifically.
The couple have asked that they not be named fully. They also declined to identify the girl's illness.

Their lawyer told The New Paper on Sunday: 'As fengshui practice hinges very much on belief, it would take a lot to prove any hint of a malpractice.

'It is not like there is a book of authority on the subject that one could refer to for verification.'

Like some of its closer cousins, such as crystal healing, magnetic beds and other new-age mumbo jumbos, the current trend of today's fradulent "pseudoscience" has manifested itself as marketable products and service providers, often even legitimately, by people who otherwise would have nothing to do with the word "science"in the first place.

Instead of seeking quackeries to solve your problems, it is always advisable to seek authentic, professional help: If you are sick, consult a doctor. If your business isn't doing well, ask the experts. Moving around and playing with your furniture at home won't get you anywhere close to the salvation you desperately seek.

It is important that the average Joe on the street recognize these fraudsters and the harm that they inflict on the weaknesses of the masses and be educated to avoid being scammed and hurt emotionally by these scumbags.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The Prohibition Era: Religious-Based Hysteria Gone Awfully Wrong

Party Time: A Bevy of Alcoholic Beverages for all and sundry

Alcohol: The very drink that is always synonymous with mindless fun and partying.

In most countries today (Not inclusive of those that require women to dress in burkas), alcohol is a very popular beverage: Sold in the form of wines and beers, it can be bought and consumed from just about everywhere. From the local convenience store to the trendy nightclubs, the sheer force of consumerism has ensured that as long as one is not under-aged, there really are a whole range of choices for the average drunkard as well as the high-classed wine connoisseur.

In fact, the consumption of alcohol is so pervasive that most people seem to take the right to consume alcohol for granted.

The Prohibition Era (1920-1933)

God: Clueless As to Why He Created Alcohol

Lucie: Lord of The Drunkards???

In the 1900s, the emergence of several fundamentalist Protestant Christian Groups began to voice their displeasure over what they deem to be “rampant alcoholic abuse”. While they claimed that alcohol was indeed a “gift” from God, its abuse was of demonic origins. A strange gift, indeed, from a deity who probably doesn't want his Creation to party in a sea of mass orgies and beverages.

Of course, there is always the Devil, who seems to enjoy sloshing himself drunk and slumping his naked body on some run-down bar tops. Boy oh boy, no wonder the fundies are all hot and bothered with Satan's horny ass.

Bloody Morons Of The Lord: No Drinking Please, We are Christians.........

As a result, far right Christian groups, such as the Independent Order of Good Templars (Sounds like a Crusade/Terrorist Organization to me!), the Sons of Temperance, the Templars of Honor and Temperance, the Anti-Saloon League and the National Prohibition Party allied in a bid to impose their arse-while duty to ensure sobriety for every God-damned citizen of America.

As a result of their conniving campaigns, conservative politicians began to sway towards these groups in a bid to seek political leverage against liberal-slanted ones. And the conservative bunch got exactly what they wanted.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (ratified January 16, 1920) and the Volstead Act (passed October 28, 1919) was thus born: Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Federal Prohibition agents (police) were given the task of enforcing the prohibition, which began to snowball into an obnoxious witch hunt.

Prohibition: A Case of The Forbidden Fruit?

As a result of the prohibition, legitimate alcoholic companies were forced to closed down overnight, and along with them, thousands of jobs went up in smoke.

As in the case of the proverbial temptation of Eve, the prohibition did little to curb the drinking habit amongst the masses; in fact, the reverse happened. More than ever, people turned to alcohol as a recreational drug: The difference, this time, was the source of the alcohol and the ones running the breweries.

The Mafia Steps In

Al Capone: The Infamous Mobster Who Took Full Advantage of The Prohibition Era

As is with today's drug cartels, when legitimate companies are banned from selling any lucrative, controversial product, the underworld of gangsters and evil mobster inevitably steps in and takes over that void.

These shadowy creatures hold utter contempt for the law, and when the legitimate alcoholic beverage companies closed down, these mobsters, like vultures circling dead and dying beasts, could hardly wait to sink their crooked beaks into raw, bloodied flesh.

A bootleg market emerged to fill in the demand for alcohol:The business of selling alcoholic drinks merely transferred from controlled, legalized enterprise to the hands of the mafia.

As a result, underground pubs began sprouting all across America, as non-prohibition countries in the vicinity, such as Mexico, began shipping in bootleg supplies.

As in the case of all gangland activities, violence became the unsavory hallmark of the illegal alcoholic trade: Rival gangs began to fight over the right to sell bootleg liquor, and many a gang member lost his life in shootouts that began to erupt and rage all over America.

In addition, many people died from bootleg alcohol, as the brewery plants that distilled them came from dubious sources. As a result, many people died of liver-related failures as a result of drinking poorly-distilled alcohol.

To further worsen the situation, racketeering amongst the law enforcement officers became rampant: Lured by the promise of bribery and a stake in the bootleg business, many police officers gave advanced tipoffs to mobsters to inform them of impending raids in exchange for monetary bribes.

In short, the Prohibition Era was a major political and civil rights blunder in the broadest sense, and the Christian morons who attempted to impose their stupid moral values on the American public had not only worsened the drinking problem, they had ushered in more problems that accumulated to the point whereby rampant shootouts and widespread bribery became the social norm across the American landscape.

End of Prohibition Era

By the 1930s, it was becoming painfully clear that banning alcohol was not a solution to alcoholism and its negative effects. Not only did the number of alcoholics not diminish, it gave rise to a whole spectrum of social problems, most of which would never have surfaced if not for the ban.

On March 23, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an amendment to the Volstead Act known as The Cullen-Harrison Bill, allowing the manufacture and sale of "3.2 beer" (3.2 percent alcohol by weight) and light wines.The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed later in 1933 with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, thus officially signaling the end of the Prohibition Era.

Lessons Learnt From the Prohibition

Like the fundamentalist Christians of today, the fundamentalists of the 1930s era were dogmatic, irrational and simply could not view any legal social norm and practice as a protected right of speech.

While it is true that alcohol is a very dangerous drug (many deaths, including liver failure and alcohol-induced driving incidents, have been attributed to alcohol), the right to imbue yourself with whatever you deem fit, as long as you do not threaten the lives and properties of other people, is a right only to be exercised by the individual himself or herself and not the State.

By attempting to arm-wrestle alcohol away from the hands of bevel-eyed drinkers, these fundamentalists did not realize that once you take away the legality of product, there is always someone to replace these legitimate manufacturers.

A precursor of today's "War on Drugs", the Prohibition shares many parallels with today's drug crackdown: Mobsters and mafias with their massive, yet intricate networks of shady dealers, gang leaders and violent turf fights, usually settled with the muzzled end of a gun.

If there is anything society in general can learn from this episode, it is this: Religion should always stay out of the affairs of the state.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Why I Am An Atheist: A Gradual Evolution Towards The Godless Creed

As a bona fide atheist, I am constantly questioned about my beliefs, or rather, lack of, and how I live each day without having to live with the supposed consequences that are supposed to keep typical humans within the boundaries of humanity and its moral values.

Other theists, mainly the more fundamentalist sort, would probe further, hoping to find traces of religious/sexual abuse, disillusionment, backsliding and everything that has to do with visiting a bad Sunday school church filled with naked dancing girls and sex orgies (All of this would have kept me from leaving church.......but ah well, that is another story for another day.), and other anal-probing questions.

Perhaps then, I would attempt to put all these questions to rest, with my deconversion tale.

My Family Background

Perhaps a little elucidation on my family's religious background would give a little hint with regards to my religious upbringing.

Unlike other atheists who have deconverted from Christianity, my family was not distinctively religious. My father was more of a pagan worshiper who would be just as at home with Chinese pagan Gods as well as Buddhist Temples. To him, God is a Santa Claus who delivers good tidings; respect, rather than blind faith and love, is the centre of his theistic view.

My mum's religious views are a little vague; I have never really questioned her with regards to her religious faith. All I know was she attended the odd Chinese festivals, carried out the rites only when she was required to, and was mostly silent about her faith, until cancer caught up with her two years ago, and she was somewhat leaning towards a Taoist faith which her friend had introduced to her.

Consequently, as a result of such a non-Christian upbringing, I was never subjected to any form of Christian brainwashing, until my Christian aunt turned up and brutally changed my rather religious-free world view.

My Christian Aunt Makes Her Move

When I was about five or six years of age, my Christian aunt, who had hitherto been just an utter stranger in my life, suddenly took it upon herself to lead my otherwise non-religious life into a world of supernatural piety. Mom was, well, neither supportive nor ambivalent about it. Dad was too busy to really care, and so it was up to me to make that choice.

Unfortunately, when you are that young, a little intimidation and cajoling can go a long way, and it took all of five minutes for my aunt to convince me that church was really kind of a fun place to hang out with (At that time, I thought Ninja turtles were fun to hang out with, but to my chagrin, it wasn't to be, according to church doctrine.).

Being a teacher at Harvester Baptist Church, she was duty-bound to subvert kids with Baptist-based, biblical teaching, and I was about to be her latest enterprise of kiddy indoctrination.

My First Day In Church

My first impression of the Baptist church was not what I had expected. It looked more like a modest home than a church. Located in a quiet suburb with rows of private terraces along a stretch of road (Eden Grove), it didn't have the grandeur nor sophistication that today's seemingly high-tech, mega-churches pride themselves with today.

My first day in Church was, well, to be frank, uneventful. I got lost amidst a bunch of other kids, and couldn't find my way to class. And to sum it up, my rather forgetful aunt had forgotten about me after every kid was safely transported home by church buses or their family cars.

I was left alone, one small scrawny five-year old, standing at the assembly point, and bawling my lungs out. So much for my first day in Church.

In a way, it was a sign of things to come: I was never really going to fit in.

Church Class: The Odd one Out???

Although I was five at that time, I was posted to a class of four year olds in Sunday School, primarily because of my "lack of" bible knowledge, which at that point, didn't really make a whole world of difference, since kids can't really tell the difference between Luke and John at that kind of age anyway.

On hindsight, I felt that it was more to do with my inability to sing Christian kiddy songs that led me to my first downgrade, and really, it was disheartening when boys of the same age were in a higher grade than you.

Naturally, the younger lads didn't really take on with me: I was taller, stranger, and worst of all, my parents never attended church.

I wouldn't say it was discrimination, but no one really talked to me at that time. I had nothing in common with them, and they knew it.

Ninja Turtles: Too Much Violence???

Ninja Turtles: A Contributor to Violence?

Being a young boy in the 1980s wasn't as fun as it was in the 1990s: The computer age hasn't really hit the market on any sort of scale, and TV was about the only real enjoyment for us lads.

And to be simply told that cartoons are products of the Devil was something that really could hit us thrice in my face.

Within the first few months of my joining Harvester Baptist Church, we were taught that cartoons, particularly those pertaining to the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", were not suitable programs for kids like us, and to support this insurmountable evidence, a newspaper clip that was written about kids in a US school being caught hunting for ninja turtles in some sewer was plastered on the Church Bulletin Board.

I think, at that point of time, I made my first evolutionary leap towards logic and rationality: Not every kid who watches Ninja turtles turns up in sewers looking for mutated turtles every other weekend!

If a five year old kid could figure this out, one wonders why the Church pastor who pasted this bulletin couldn't.

Maybe the word "Mutant", which alludes to Evolution, didn't sit well with the Church. Who knows? Its just a bloody cartoon, for goodness sake!

My Kindergarten Years:

My beginning forays in church coincided with my first two years in kindergarten.

At that time, I was kind of enjoying school in kindergarten, and to be frank, it was far better than Sunday School: I had friends whom I can still remember their names even today, they had far more in common than the kiddy stooges in Sunday school, and better still, they were able to relate to me in ways that seem devoid of the burdens of religious upbringing, which I was suddenly thrust into.

I think, as a child who is constantly undergoing indoctrination from religious authorities, you tend to breed two kinds of adults: The deep-seated fundamentalist type, or the other end of the scale, the ultra-atheist.

As I progressed on both fronts, my relationship with my fellow classmates in Sunday school didn't exactly thaw. I thought it became frostier in a way, because of my failure to adapt to the fundamentalist environment. It was at this time too, that some of my pagan aunts and uncles began to voice their objections at me being subjected to this kind of indoctrination, but my aunt seemed to have a stronger will power, and they backed off.

The Age of Realization: 7-12 years old

At this stage of my life, I began to embark on an odyssey of learning.

As I came to know about science for the first time, Sunday school also became a more formal place for bible studies, and strenuous efforts were made to convert us into hardened Christians, in the hope that we may someday take up the Church's mettle and spread the Word of God.

On weekends, we were told to read Christian publications, and even though I had reservations for this imposed-upon belief, I felt that reading could at least alleviate some of my pent-up frustrations in church. I was, in a way, tied by fear: A fear of my imposing aunt, and the instilled fear that my soul would have to spend an eternity in hell. Come to think of it, my aunt was the scarier of the two! (No Kidding!!!)

As time flew, Sunday School also began to take a more serious turn. Somewhat anticipating that secular authorities would have begun teaching Science at this point, Pastor Hunnicutt, the chief Honcho in the Church, formulated classes to teach us about the purported "ills" of evolution and the "truths" concerning Creationism.

In one session, he had a bunch of lego bricks placed on a table, and asked if evolution or the Big Bang could possibly bring about a change in these inanimate objects, in an apparent bid to debunk the evolutionary theory that "life springs from non-life".

At that point of time, I wasn't well versed in science, but I could begin to detect the first whiffs of steaming bullshit rising towards my nostrils in a rather obnoxious way.

Still, despite all my reservations and doubts, I remained committed, and in a way, I was progressing more and more towards the path of Christianity than atheism.

Somewhere towards my 12th year, I repented, but did not opt for Baptism, for reasons I felt to be personal. Baptism to me was a formality which I felt wasn't important, and for once my Aunt didn't push me into it.

The Gradual Loss of Faith

By the time I was 14, my faith in God and the Baptist teachings had taken somewhat a different turn.

I had enrolled myself into a Catholic school, and was actually further exposed to another form of the Christian faith (Some would consider Catholics as separate entities from Christianity, which to a certain extent I do agree with).

Although I would consider myself Christian (I repented of my sins, but I didn't go for baptism), I was reading stuff that neither my aunt nor the church knew anything about. Science, particularly evolution, was of particular interest to me, and when I was 15, I received a prize for being the best biology student, and had the dubious honour of participating in an inter-school science competition, in which we got thrashed in the first round!!!

Science became an object of my passion: I love biology and physics to the point of obsession. I love the fact that honest endeavor could yield so much data, and that truth, as it began to dawn upon me, was not the result of religious fiction, but the end product of hard work and scientific learning.

In short, I wasn't really into religion all that much: I read the bible because I had to, not because I wanted to. I was rapidly losing my faith without even realizing it.

And then came along one evangelical Christian group, who had the temerity to proselytize outside a Catholic school! I was wondering then, if a Crusade was about to erupt right outside the school gates, but evidently, it didn't happen.

These bunch of Christian hippies, well, to be blunt, were not particularly bright. They attempted to convert myself and three other friends, and being a "backsliding Christian", I suddenly realized how irritating the bible was, and the presence of these bunch of tongue-speaking, hippie-talking Christians made me realize that this very faith that I had been induced since I was five was beginning to feel like a thorn up my arse.

Add to that, the constant burden of going to Sunday School, plus the ad hoc Mass sessions in school.....well, you can imagine the religious hell I had to go through.

In the end, enough was enough. My church attendance on all three fronts disintegrated, one after another. The Evangelical loonies soon found my presence irritating: I was more into extolling about the virtues of pretty nymphs in my class than the wondrous works of God, and they sort of left me alone after a while. My attendance in my aunt's church became rarer and rarer, and it began to dawn upon her that she was fast losing me.

Dangling the job of pastor/Sunday school teacher, she had hoped that I would undergo the same training as she did. I refused. I couldn't see the reason why other children had to go through the shit hole which I had to undergo, and frankly my conscience wouldn't allow me to do it.

Catholic Mass was another big bane: I made several high-profile get-aways, and at that time it was mandatory for all senior boys to attend Mass. I found it an absolute bore and a dreadful waste of time: My youthful exuberance was more at home in the science lab than the throes of a pitifully archaic ritual of Jesus-eating and blood drinking cannibalism.

Towards the end of my secondary school days, I made it an effort to read about Christianity from a secular point of view, because I felt I had lingering issues towards religion, particularly of the Baptist faith in which my mind was still somewhat entrenched into, and in the end I was reasonably convinced that faith has never been my cup of tea.

The End of Faith

By the time I had enrolled into a local polytechnic, I was a true-blue heretic, and since then, I have been an atheist, and have no desire to seek any form of religious discourse.

To this day, I have no regrets with regards with my decision, although I wished I had the balls to dump religion far earlier. Part of it was my aunt's rather overpowering aura, the other part was simply the unwarranted fear of hell, which even today exhibits a kind of lingering fear in me, a kind of throwback remembrance some people may experience when hearing the stories of monsters lurking in cupboards and under their beds.

In the end, my love for rationality and logic triumphed. And I couldn't be more happier because of it.

(To visit the website of the Harvester Baptist Church, click here.)