Monday, 30 July 2007

Morals, Part II: From Morals to Ethics?

In Part I of my discourse on morals, I have attempted to explain partially, at least, why morals arising from religion are, at best, arbitrary and own their allegiance to the respective religions and the tribes which subscribes to the respective religions.

In part II, I would like to elucidate the reality behind the moral issue, and how, as a transcending species, human morality must emerge from mere instinct to perhaps take a larger role in dictating our actions from a more noble viewpoint, instead of being a mere pawn to be debauched by religion's manipulative ways.

Morals, as defined by the Oxford's Dictionary:

adjective 1 concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour and the goodness or badness of human character. 2 conforming to accepted standards of behaviour. 3 psychological rather than physical or practical: moral support.

• noun 1 a lesson about right or wrong that can be derived from a story or experience. 2 (morals) standards of behaviour, or principles of right and wrong.

Morality & Its True Origins

In one of my earlier posts (link here), one of the more intriguing observations made by scientists were the observation of moral rules that seemed to be laid down by alpha members of the various monkey species. While some would question the veracity of such observations with homo sapiens, the fact that a species that shares mores than 98% of our genes can exhibit some form of codified, moral behavior completely debunks the theist's assertion that only the pious can behave righteously. Far more important, however, is that even mere religion is derived from a more primitive, inane sort of morality, one which I will dub "Tribal Morals".

Tribal Morals: The Beginnings of Morality?

The concept behind morality, at least from the animistic sense, can be summed up in one sentence: "You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours."

Guinea Pigs: No Stranger To Procreative, Moral Dilemmas

When we observe herd animals, particularly apes, group cooperation and cohesion is vital for the survival of the entire herd. A group that stays together has a far higher chance of survival: prairie dogs take turns to perform sentry duty to warn their feeding compatriots before the unwelcome and deadly eagle swoops down upon one of its own and picks it up with the eagle's deadly talons. The lion pride which hunts in a team has a far higher success rate than a lone tiger on the prowl.

Besides safety and food concerns, animals that live in a cooperative setting tend to raise their young more successfully: Thanks to mutual cooperation, security and the abundance of food, the young of herd animals will have a better crack at survival than the young of animals with a two parents or worst, no parental care (Think of the poor sea turtle juveniles which are forced by circumstances to scurry hurriedly into the crashing waves moments after hatching. More than half of them are gobbled up by nasty predators before they can even make it to the coastline).

As we have observed, living in groups have its obvious advantages. The trouble, however, lies in the individualistic characteristics and the self-interests of each member. For any group that survives largely as a result of constant infighting and bickering, the end results can often be disastrous: Not only will members be hurt by constant bouts of infighting, a foreign intruder can take the opportunity and assume leadership responsibilities from the reigning alpha male. When such coups take place in a lion pride, the young lion cubs inevitably face destruction: Invading male lions often have no qualms killing young cubs of lionesses fathered by the previous alpha male. The selfish gene, unfortunately, spares no one.

As such, herd animals tend to enforce their own morality or rules to rein in unruly behavior. How the alpha male enforces its rules will determine the integrity of the group. These rules, fashioned by the alpha male in a group, becomes the basic tenets of the earliest rudimentary concept of morals.

In animal parlance, rank, hereditary or otherwise, must be obeyed without question: Wolves take turns to feed on their kills. The more senior the beast, the earlier it eats, and hence the more freedom to pick the choicest premier meat. Leisure time, too, can be a good opportunity for exhibiting a little bit of "bonding", monkeys tend to pick each other's ticks of each other's fur, as well as a fair bit of grooming and other "back-scratching" ethics.

In short, morals, in the tribal sense, is probably a mix of fixed, survival-crucial rules, plus other loosely or non-enforceable bonding behavior instincts. Every decision and every action must fit within a tight, cohesive social order.

True to form, human morals have more or less imported its early precepts from its animal counterparts. History is replete with wars fought by various groups of people: nations vs nations, religions vs religions, race vs race, tribes vs tribes. In all these instances, wars were fought because the stronger group chooses to impose its own set of superiority and values against the opposing group, particularly those that pertain to the early Crusader Wars. Religions, especially the monotheistic ones, superimposes an imaginary, all-powerful alpha male to dictate its own tribal flock, while Hitler set Europe alight partly because he wanted to assert upon his foes the Aryan superiority. For all the barbarity and atrocity Hitler's murderous Nazi party inflicted upon the Jews and other "undesirables", the fact that these Nazi officers go home each and every night to loving, beautiful families bears testimony to this kind of tribal morality and allegiance.

To be blunt, such tribal grievances only point to one workable set of morals: Be good and kind to those you pay allegiance to, and screw the rest who aren't with you.

Human Morality: A Case Of Ethics & Secular Humanism?

From a humane point of view, the subject of morality encompasses, or should encompass humanity and a broader range of issues: In the earlier post, a blogger quite succinctly invoked the study of ethics as a more relevant authority than morality, and I sincerely thought he hit upon something really, really brilliant.

Ethics, by its very nature, refers to the study of morals in relation to the issue at large. It is a more philosophical, well-rounded position. An ethical person is, after all, a more intellectual variant of the moral counterpart in that sense: A moral person contemplates issues in accordance to a code of morality that is more or less the accepted social norm, while the ethical person takes his viewpoint from a more in-dept study of the issue at hand, and forms his own judgment based on his philosophical position.

The question we need to ask at this point is: On what standards do we base our ethical basis? Religion cannot be relied upon because of its absolute stance in morality. Its deity-driven, and not human-driven purposes, too, makes it ill-suited for the task. Fascism, Nazism and all the malignant political machineries that have driven world populations into major world wars and wanton slaughters bode ill of such a noble philosophy cum ideal.

At the turn of the 20st century, greater emphasis had been placed on the emancipation of humans, not because of mere tribal races, but based on the sole entity of one race: The Human Race. Secular humanism has entrenched itself into the consciousness of the human civilization. From campaigns to liberate slaves to abolishing apartheid, greater emphasis has been placed on the emancipation of fellow human beings and elimination of human suffering. Secular humanism has, in a good way, emerged as one of the standard bearers for human behavior.

What was once an in-triad extension of manners and good grace within a community setting has been liberated to benefit every human being, and as we enter the 21st century, other issues, such as environmentalism, poverty and other far more important issues will begin to take root in the human conscience.

And all in good time too: In the age of globalism and science, there exists a greater need for humans to feel empathy towards each other: As humans become more technological advanced, the sheer weaponry and the power to destroy entire nations at the mere touch of a button means that surely, at some point, common sense and ethics must come into play.

We know the dangers of the nuclear age: As of speaking, nuclear missiles aimed between Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan can erupt in a full-scale nuclear war. Tribal moralities in the shape of religious exclusivity is not only detrimental to the respective warring parties, everyone on this interconnected planet can ill-afford to suffer a third, devastating global war.

Far from emphasizing and promoting unctuous praises towards rigid, redundant religious ideals and moral values, it would be a greater achievement if humans can simply lay down their tribal allegiances and religious beliefs and forge together towards a better humanity.

(Part III will deal with some issues and conundrums concerning conflicting moral dilemmas.)

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Morals, Part I: Separating Morals and Religion

Of late, I seem to be confronted quite a bit with regards to the issue of morals, whether it is online or otherwise.

An atheist friend, of whom I was recently of acquaintance, posted me a set of rather challenging questions, some of which I hope to present them adequately, without the usual lame quips and sniggers (tsk tsk).

By conservative accounts, I should fall under the category of "extremely indulgent/immoral" infidel: I love sex outside the normal realms of marriage, generally ignore calls for myself to be married, drink my occasional beer and whiskey, smoke my cigars and.......well, I break most of these traditional, archaic rules without so much as batting an eyelid. Well, I guess you could call me loose, although that sounds kind of insulting (loose change doesn't sound flattering. Neither is a "loose" person), or an infidel (That sounds cool, but turn the clock a few hundred years back, and this ignominious charge would have caused me to lose my head literally).

In short, most people will consider myself a poor critic of morals, if morals were to be preset along the lines of religion and conservatism. Having said that, it is because of my aversion towards the norms of morality, which ironically allows me to explore the outer limits of morals and mere trivialities.

With that, I shall proceed to present my anachronistic views concerning morals.

Absolute, Religious Morals

One of the most disconcerting, prevailing trends I hate to contend with is the constant trumpeting of morals by our religious brethren: The argument goes that God, the high and almighty deity who creates us in his own image, bestows upon us the ability to differentiate right from wrong, good and evil, and so on. As a deity-dependent race, we lean upon this deity as a metaphoric crutch, and derive our morals from this deity in the form of scriptures, written by illiterate, desert tribes or a distant, bygone era.

In fact, our inference to morals almost always invokes a scripture of some sort: Whether it is the Koran, the Bible or the Torah, the respective religions unequivocally refer to their respective holy books for advice with regards to morals.

Because of this stubborn insistence to equate morals with religion, morals have become rigid and stymied to become unreasonable laws unto themselves, yet flexible enough to allow religion to wrought the most unspeakable crimes in human history.

In particular, scriptures from the Torah and the Old Testament (the birth of the wretched Trinity: Christianity, Catholicism and Islam) tend to present us with the most succinct examples of such a spell-binding way of enthralling the masses with absurd morals. Witches, of all people, cannot be allowed to thrive; that such women are insufferable to the Jews became bound by the OT as absolute, irrevocable law. Mose's tablet of Ten Commandments, however, is given a far more liberal leeway: "Thou shalt not murder" is one law that does not seem to border the OT Christian tribes one bit (if you believe the stories are authentic, that is), as Christian tribes maul and unleash their loving wraths upon their neighboring, infidel tribes with gee, not to mention the booty that was to be shared amongst the faithful. Apparently, murder is ok, as long as your victims are of the broomstick sort who fancy a hot night brewing some strange concoctions in a dinghy little kitchen, plus those who happen to worship another deity that is supposed to make your God feel jealous and perhaps a little inferior (The patriarchal Gods of monotheism tend to be a little too chauvinistic, plus a little bit of inferiority complex syndrome).

In short, religious morals tend to bend in accordance to the will and whim of an imagined deity: Nothing at all is mentioned about conforming to evolving philosophical and moral concepts that would genuinely benefit mankind and civilization.

Absolutist, non-conformist laws are thus the hallmarks of archaic religions. The older the religion, the less likely people will conform to them. This trend, however, is not the benevolent result of religion: 3 centuries of enlightened thinking and secular humanism in Europe has been infused into our memes. This could explain why a fundamentalist Christian is less prone to violence of the suicidal kind (i.e terrorism) than its more violent counterpart, the fundamentalist Muslim.

The Conjoined Twins: Morality & Religion

One of the most perplexing questions concerning morals is the attempt to forcibly separate this mismatched pair of conjoined twins: If morals cannot be derived from religion, then from whence do we seek the most suitable set of moral codifications?

In a bid to elucidate this supposed conundrum, I would first examine the role of religion, and why its rigid set of morals do not conform with society's more humane needs.

Since the advent of time, Man, as a more intelligent animal, has seek to understand his realm, and the predicament he finds himself in. Unlike his quadrupled counterparts, Man has the inane ability to seek knowledge, and unfortunately, his extreme physical weakness, combined with his sheer intellect, combined to give him the sort of limbo that would be his bane for millennial.

There was much that early humans observed, but couldn't possibly comprehend. He learned, for example, that the Sun provided warmth, and it was the Sun that provided sustenance for his crops. Exactly how this rather miraculous events spun about to ensure his survival, Man knoweth not. Natural disasters, wild animals, and diseases threaten his existence, and conspire to wreck fear into his heart. This intense awareness of greatness and weakness were the direct results of his intellect, but in a bid to understand unfathomable phenomenons, he became too smart for his own good: He created his own deities, all of whom were fabricated in his own nasty, convoluted image, attaching these deities to the respective phenomena which he could not explain (Poseidon for the Sea, Thor for Thunder, and so on).

Because of the importance of the Sun to the livelihood of early Man, we find that religions in many parts of the globe tend to revolve around the Sun God: In West Africa Fon People have their Sun God, Liza, while the Chinese have ten suns, 9 of which were shot down by an indignant archer. And the Egyptians, too, have their Sun God, Ra, and so on.

Imagine, then, if these ancients were to learn, to their chagrin, that the Sun is no more anthropomorphic than a fiery ball of gas and other violent chemical reactions, that the tides rise and ebb without the invoking of deities. Would they have expended their energies into building massive temples, churches, pyramids and other places of worship? Would they have sacrificed unto their altars virgins, babies, goats and an assortment of other bloodletting sacrifices, all in the name of some imagined, bloodthirsty deity?

To compound this religious problem that had obviously arose from ignorance, the subsequent emergence of Kings and monarchies gave rise to the ill-effects of theocracy and feudalism. Religion became the accomplice of the most vile and vicious: Ancient Kings and aristocrats have no qualms about sharing their ill-gotten gains with priests and bishops, in return for beguiling the masses to contribute taxes, soldiers and other forms of outrageous demands to boost the war chests and booty of the high and Almighty.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the enigmatic and highly charismatic French Emperor, summed it up nicely: "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich." Religion works hand in hand with tyranny, and few understood this more succinctly than Napoleon Bonaparte.

If nepotism, tyranny and all the ills of monarchy depend on religion as a crutch, then religion would do well to borrow its inspiration from morals: By stressing on codified, uniform behavior which would ensure that the powers-that-be can sit comfortably on their thrones (render unto Caesar that which belongs to him), Religion becomes entwined with what I call the real axis of evil: Theocracy, Nepotism and Corruption.

In the modern day context, politicians who expound and proclaim about the virtues of their respective deities are left off the hook, free to commit every unspeakable crime unto individuals and even whole nations with virtual immunity from those who voted for them in the first place. Priests are allowed to wantonly molest kids because no one would dare point a finger at the parish for fear of a religious backlash. Anyone who even remote makes an unkind remark on some long-forgotten prophet is hurled with abuses and death threats.

Why, you might ask? Because religion is spoken almost in the same breath as morals. If one criticizes religion, one is automatically labeled as an outcast, an infidel, a charge, which in ancient law, demands death upon the offender.

If civilization wishes to progress morally, it is imperative that the chains that religion has wrought and enslaved civilization unto themselves and the powers-there-be, be broken and severed from human consciousness.

What, then, would replace religion, which has been nothing but an almost calamitous curse upon our civilization and indeed, our spirits? Do we really need another moral code to guide us for another millennial? Or perhaps, we have all along harbor an inane code of morality that has, in any case, been our moral compass since the advent of civilization???

(Watch out for Part II)

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Tower of Babel: A Tawdry Tale of Divine Bullshit

Confused and Conquered: A Bewildered Mass of Pious Fools, Spurned by a God of Wrath?

Every time atheists listen to silly, credulous biblical stories of cataclysmic epics and ugly tales, we tend to wonder why mature, grown-up adults of the 21st story would actually buy into such deluded drivel, written by uneducated dessert mules of a long-forgotten era.

From the catastrophic global floods of Noah's bullshit tale to the exodus of Jews into the wilderness of the desserts, these supposedly historical and archaeological events have been asserted as truth, and are even cited as God's "convent" to his beloved Creation; i.e us.

One of my least favorite (also the least violent of the biblical XXX stories) tales from the biblical crypt is the tale of The Tower of Babel, long cited by the pious to explain the myriad of languages and dialects that have proliferated the planet.

From the Annals of Genesis

Before we begin to understand the absurdity of such a tawdry, stupid tale, it would be prudent for us to examine what the good book of Gawd has to say with regards to this rather insipid tale of linguistic confusion:

Genesis 11:1-9 :

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children builded.

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel (confusion); because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Holy Gawd's of Almighty! Here we have a bunch of folks, presumably the remnants of only survivors of the human species, trying to settle down and irk a living.

Alas, these worldly folks get all too comfy for their own good. In their haste to grovel and prostrate before their deity, they had desired to build a tower stretching to the high heavens, as a sort of gratitude for Gawd's good grace. A pity, though, God doesn't like intruders in his heavenly domain when he's taking a siesta (gee, we know he needs to rest on the Sabbath. Cut it out, ye noisy humans!).

Suppose these folks didn't have the benefit of the pneumatic drill, these hardworking folks would have required a hell of an effort to construct this huge monument for Gawk, and all the chipping and mess must have disturbed our Invisible Sky God to no end.

So what does Gawd do? Like an old-fashioned despot and tyrant, he mixes their languages, rendering communication impossible, and cast them out of the land! Hey, at least he didn't smite them with lightning or some other highly creative means of torture and death, like he is usually wont to do! Be grateful and stop making a din, ye noisy humans!

If this story is to be held authentic, one can hardly begin to grasp the sheer narrow-mindedness of this Judaic-Christian God: Not only did he not appreciate the degree of piousness and thoughtfulness of such a beautiful monument, he even chose to "punish" them for their audacity.

The Tower of Babel: Historical Bullshit?

This absurd tale has often been cited as an explanation for the existence of many dialects and languages, and what is interesting is that the tale of the tower's subsequent destruction was not written in Genesis, but in the Book of Jubilees (not in the Biblical Canon), which really is a testimony to the sheer numbers of purported "words of God" being scripted or written by these ancient charlatans.

Given that the earliest records of Jewry was approximately 1200 B.C. Confirmed by the archaeological find of The Merneptah Stele (also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele) originally erected by the Ancient Egyptian king Amenhotep III, we can draw the assumption that if such an incident had been witnessed, then one would assume that this incident would have taken place some 3,200-3600 years ago (Add 400 years for margin of error).

Which means, modern languages would have been a singular entity before this time. Assuming this was true, consider the following:

Sumerian tablet, 3,100-2,900 B.C

1. The Sumerians, a distinctly non-Semitic people, were already settling down in southern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) since 5429 BC, and their Sumerian language had already existed at that time. [1]

The existence of this civilization would have easily debunked the Creationist's myth of a 6000 year old planet (for they would have been around 7000 years back), and evidence suggests that the Sumerians were conquering tribes, meaning to say their language could well be derived from other cultures too!

2. The Xia Dynasty, the earliest Chinese dynasty to have attempted the unification of China (otherwise known as the Middle Kingdom), ruled arbitrarily from 2070 BC–1600 BC,as described in the Records of the Grand Historian and unofficial Bamboo Annals, lasting some seventeen kings over fourteen generations 431 to 471 years. That would predate the existence of the Xia dynasty way before the Jews had even acquired their racial identity.

If such glorious, ancient civilizations, each with their own customs and languages, took place long before the first Torah was ever scribed, how does one begin to account for such a historically fraudulent story???

Invading God's Territory? Man and Hist Erstwhile Technology

Unfortunately for the good Gawd, in today's world of technology, Man is slowly infringing upon Gawd's private airspace.

Gawd hates Aircrafts???

We have herculean skyscrapers towering and pushing ever higher into the skies. Jet planes of all shapes of sizes, flying at supersonic speeds, create such deafening noises that would have put God out of his nap even on Sabbath days, and we are not even done yet.

We have Hubble Telescopes and all manner of military and commercial satellites in space, and enough probes to scour planets for rocks and signs of life.

In fact, one could safely speculate that Man has intruded into what was once God's sacred territory. And if he's going to get mad with one stupid Tower, then my presumption is that he ought to inflict worst physical punishments than mere speech confusion.

Such tales from the biblical crypt serve as a reminder to us that old scriptures of these nature are generally mere religious hogwash: They come from a pious era when anything that is remotely attached to higher learning was deemed as a blasphemy and a challenge to the powerful presence of a patriarchal God.

To regard such biblical nonsense as Gospel Truth is the equivalent of talking about the virtues of a flat Earth. It is high time that humans, as a rational, level-headed species, reject such infantile, servile beliefs and consign them to the annals of our history books.

[1]John Nicholas Postgate (1994). Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. Routledge (UK).

Monday, 23 July 2007

Murder With The Stamp of God: Alleged Homosexual Killed In Cold Blood - Who's Next?

Very often, our Christian brethren, buoyed somewhat by the slew of barbaric, atrocious spat of beheading foreign workers and soldiers by their more "stoic" Taliban and Al-Qaeda counterparts, have found cause to heap Islam as a "religion of evil", without realizing or acknowledging the fact that Christianity is just as blood-thirsty and deluded as the religion of the Arabs.

The spate of anti-homosexual campaigns, based largely on some ominous, blood-curdling verses in the obnoxious bible, makes it crystal clear as with regards to the state and final solution to the ignominious fate of homosexuals:

"If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." -Leviticus 20:13

"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." - Romans 1:26-27

Naturally, one assumes that, as pious, godly Christians, it is their supreme duty to "do away" with such reprobates, evil doers of the most obnoxious kind. And that was exactly what this godly, divinely-inspired man-of-god did, in the good old-fashioned way: Murder.

Excerpts (In Blue):
July 15, 2007, 12:34AM
Murder suspect says he was doing God's work
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Cypress man is being held in the June death of flight attendant

A Cypress man charged in the death of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant said Saturday that he was doing God's work when he went to a Montrose-area bar last month, hunting for a gay man to kill.

"I believe I'm Elijah, called by God to be a prophet," said 26-year-old Terry Mark Mangum, charged with murder June 11. " ... I believe with all my heart that I was doing the right thing."

Interviewed in the Brazoria County Jail Saturday morning, Mangum said he feels no remorse for killing 46-year-old Kenneth Cummings Jr., whom relatives described as a "loving" son who never forgot a holiday and a devoted uncle who had set up college funds for his niece and nephew. He worked at Southwest for 24 years.

Mangum, who described himself as "definitely not a homosexual," said God called on him to "carry out a code of retribution" by killing a gay man because "sexual perversion" is the "worst sin."

Mangum believed Cummings to be gay.

"I planned on sending him to hell," he said.

It is all god-damned sickening, my dear readers. Here is a man who is a veritable contributor to society, holds a pretty decent job as a flight attendant, an extremely charitable man who even manages to set up education funds for a niece and a nephew, and for all the world of good he did, he was, in the eyes of this fucking stupid son-of-a-bitch Christian killer (For ye Christian folks who are going to use your "oh he is not a true Christian" pretense, I am not about to let you fuckers get away with this: fuck you!), a man who deserved to be knifed to death with a 6-inch blade and dumped in a shallow grave. Not even a marking on his grave! Nothing deserving for a great, loving guy who has committed a crime's see.........nothing!

Oh yes, it was a great job this Mangum did. He certainly didn't feel remorseful, that's for sure. Ironically, but surely, he felt love: deep, passionate love, but pity it wasn't really for the flight attendant he had so cold-heartedly murdered and dumped carelessly in a shallow grave (he felt so cool about it, he didn't even bother to dig a deeper grave, for fucking Jesus' sake!!!).

"It's not that I'm a bad dude," he said, expressing concern that people might view him as "strange." Pausing briefly, he said, "I love God."

What an extremely loving and passionate God! Obviously, Mangum's been reading too much of the psychotically-inspired "Word of Gawd". Otherwise, how could he have impersonated Elijah, with his fire-brand hatred and all against gays? And the best thing yet: The bible justifies his actions by explaining very explicitly that those vile creatures who gave in to their lust had to be justified with only one outcome: Death.

How inspiring. I wonder what those bible-thumping fools of the Lord who preach their anti-gay antics teach their folks these days. Sure, they can even "moderate" their preachings to suit secular opinion, but hey, the bible is very succinct with its stand on gays: Their lives are automatically "forfeited".

Who's Next on The List???

One of the genuinely sublime features of the good old Word of Gawd is that, when blood and murder are on the cards, very few stones are usually left unturned.

If you belong to these categories of folks, you might just want to watch your back: You might be next on the religious hit list:

Top Ten List of Must-Kills, as Mandated by the Good Book:

1. Witches
You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17)

2. Homosexuals
If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 )

3. Fortunetellers
A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27)

4. Adulterers
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

5. Fornicators
A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 )

6. Nonbelievers (Inclusive of those who do not believe in Christianity)
They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 )

7. False Prophets
If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, "You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord." When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through. (Zechariah 13:3 )

8. Female non-Virgins on Wedding Nights (I think that includes virgin asses too.)
But if this charge is true (that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night), and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her fathers house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father's house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 )

9. Death for Blasphemy
One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD's name. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. His mother's name was Shelomith. She was the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put the man in custody until the LORD's will in the matter should become clear. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished. Anyone who blasphemes the LORD's name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die. (Leviticus 24:10-16)

10. Sons of Sinners
Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21)

Makes one feel warm and fuzzy all over, doesn't it?

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Creationism: Islam Joins In the Fray

In the Beginning......

When one speaks of Creationism and its Trojan horse, Intelligent Design, he or she is reminded of fundamentalists from the Christian and Catholic creeds, all clamoring for their ersewhile, 7-day Creation bullshit, as based on the Old Testament canon, to be taught in secular public schools alongside Evolution.

Now, it seems that another more violent-prone monotheistic religion is jumping into the muddled waters of pseudoscience.

Creationism, From an Islamic Point of View

Money, in seems, is the driving force behind the latest Creationism fad, funded by an eccentric Muslim who wants to persuade the intellectuals amongst the scientific community to buy into their brand of Islamofascist Creationism.

Excerpts (In Blue) from

Islamic Creationist and a Book Sent Round the World

by Cornelia Dean

In the United States, opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schools has largely been fueled by the religious right, particularly Protestant fundamentalism.

Now another voice is entering the debate, in dramatic fashion.

It is the voice of Adnan Oktar of Turkey, who, under the name Harun Yahya, has produced numerous books, videos and DVDs on science and faith, in particular what he calls the "deceit" inherent in the theory of evolution. One of his books, "Atlas of Creation," is turning up, unsolicited, in mailboxes of scientists around the country and members of Congress, and at science museums in places like Queens and Bemidji, Minn.

Atlas of Creation. Weighty Stuff, Good for Impressing your Girlfriends and Wives

At 11 x 17 inches and 12 pounds, with a bright red cover and almost 800 glossy pages, most of them lavishly illustrated, "Atlas of Creation" is probably the largest and most beautiful creationist challenge yet to Darwin's theory, which Mr. Yahya calls a feeble and perverted ideology contradicted by the Koran.

In bowing to Scripture, Mr. Yahya resembles some fundamentalist creationists in the United States. But he is not among those who assert that Earth is only a few thousand years old. The principal argument of "Atlas of Creation," advanced in page after page of stunning photographs of fossil plants, insects and animals, is that creatures living today are just like creatures that lived in the fossil past. Ergo, Mr. Yahya writes, evolution must be impossible, illusory, a lie, a deception or "a theory in crisis."

In fact, there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth.

The book caused a stir earlier this year when a French translation materialized at high schools, universities and museums in France. Until then, creationist literature was relatively rare in France, according to Armand de Ricqles, a professor of historical biology and evolutionism at the College de France. Scientists spoke out against the book, he said in an e-mail message, and "thanks to the highly centralized public school system in France, it was possible to organize that the books sent to lycées would not be made available to children."

While some proponents of Christian Creationism have no problems with acknowledging microevolution, this peculiar Islamic Creationist book, titled "Atlas of Creation", rejects evolution wholesale. Evolution, it seems, is no more than an outrageous lie, devised than an infidel without equal, Charles Darwin.

No Expenses Spared On Packaging Trash

While scientists were unimpressed with the contents of what is typically another lame attempt at lampooning Science, scientists could not help but marvel at the lavishness and costs of sending such a beautifully bound book:

Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, said he and his colleagues in the life sciences had all received copies. When he called friends at the University of Colorado and the University of Chicago, they had the books too, he said. Scientists at Brigham Young University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Georgia and others have also received them.

"I think he must have sent it to every full professor in the medical school," said Kathryn L. Calame, a microbiologist at the Columbia University medical school who received a copy. "The genetics department, the biochem department, micro — everybody I talked to had it."

While they said they were unimpressed with the book's content, recipients marveled at its apparent cost. "If you went into a bookstore and saw a book like this, it would be at least $100," said Dr. Miller, an author of conventional biology texts. "The production costs alone are astronomical. We are talking millions of dollars."

A Hidden Agenda?

While we can all marvel at the costs of propagating an agenda that has long been dominated by the Christian sector, one wonders what Mr Yahya has in mind.

Quite apparent is the obvious fact that he is targeting an uniquely intellectual audience, but really, how many, if any, of these "kafirs" or infidels does he really wish to convert with his half-baked bullshit?

Could this be the beginning of Islamofascism's foray into the educational sector? With the Christians already fishing in muddied waters, trying to sneak in religion and blending it with science classes, now Science has to contend with another Creationist nonsense from the Muslim community:

"My hypothesis is, like all creationists, they believe that they have a startling truth that the public has been shielded from, and that if they present the facts, in quotation marks, that the scales will fall from the eyes and the charade of evolution will be revealed," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which fights the teaching of creationism in public schools. "These people are really serious about this." That may be, Dr. Miller said, but it's also possible "that Harun Yahya and his people have decided that there are plenty of Muslim people in the United States who need to hear this message." In his e-mail message, Dr. de Ricqles said some worried that the book was directed at the Muslim population of France as a strategy to "destabilize" poor, predominantly immigrant suburbs "where a large population of youngsters of Moslem faith would be an ideal target for propaganda."

This indeed does not bode well for secular education, especially in the States, which already has its hands full dealing with Christian zealots lobbying to have their religion being taught in schools as Science. In any case, most would cringe at the idea of marrying secular education with Islam: What are the students going to be learning? Making bombs?

-"Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain." -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Atheism: The Emancipation Of The Human Spirit

More often than not, the philosophical stance of atheism is often juxtaposed with visions of gloom and doom: Given that the word "Atheist" is originated from the Greek word, Atheos: a, which means, 'without', & theos, meaning 'god', atheism's position as a default position of non-belief does sound a bit discomforting, especially for fence-sitting atheists and agnostics who may find little or no solace in what seems on the surface to be a huge emotional void.

Theists often muse over this quaint little attitude of atheists: Wouldn't the disbelief or non-belief in an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God be a rather despondent ideal, given that we live in a world that is essentially full of uncertainties? There is so much that we have failed to comprehend, that wouldn't it be a better preposition to seek the solace of a deity, real or otherwise, than be in a precarious position of non-belief, which seems bereft of any hope and meaning with regards to our very own evanescent existence?

The Theistic World View

For the purpose of discussion, I shall stick to monotheism as a representative of Theism and its adherent, Religion.

The theistic disposition is simple: This life that we cling onto is a spectral of a supreme deity 's supposedly perfect Creation. He creates us in his very image, and as such we own our very existence to his good grace. If we break his rules (which, rather unfortunately, were written by desert mules of a bygone era in the form of some rather insipid, erroneous scriptures), we are supposed to be punished for eternity in a specially designed barbecue pit, delightfully labeled as "Hell" by pious fools who claim that an eternity of roasting awaits the infidel foolish enough to defy belief. Of course, if you are a pious enough fool who has nothing but dumb faith in the belief of his supernatural abilities, you get to stay in the deity's designated residence, Heaven, for the rest of eternity.

Note that, in a theistic worldview, death can, and will be transcended: It is alleged that every human possesses a non-materialistic entity known otherwise as a soul, which, we are led to believe, has the ability to exist ad finitum.

In short, your afterlife is an ultimate choice between two extremes: An eternity of masturbating the Invisible Father's alter-ego and singing tawdry Christian hymns (Considering that I tend to fall asleep singing Christian hymns, this sounds a lot more hellish than heavenly to me. Any infidels share my sentiments???), or spending eternity in the fiery BBQ pits of hell, fueled by the fat globules of obscenely obese Reverends in the portly shape of Fall-well (As well as spending time with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and some really hot babes).

If one is to believe in such wishy-washy fairy tales, then I must admit, such a future (if indeed the atheist has any noteworthy future to speak of), is really bleak indeed.

A More Realistic World View: A Creator-less Existence

The truth, however, is far more emancipating than this depressing juxtaposition of unbelievers in relation to our existence. Most atheists do not believe for a second that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God can create something so awful an existence in the first place.

If we are to take a closer look at the universe, the universe does not bear signs of any form of "intelligent design" (An unintelligent phrase coined by Creationists to provide the grave image of God with a distinctly intellectual quality). Stars, such as our life-giving sun, will in time swell and collapse under its own gravity, creating gigantic black holes so dense that everything within its vicinity, including light, gets sucked into their vortexes. Asteroids hurl through space at such potentially devastating speeds, that one such massively destructive rock managed to destroy almost all life on Earth millions of years ago. Our very universe is currently expanding at an incredible rate towards oblivion, so much so that when it reaches the end of its lifespan, another "Big Bang" event reminiscent of the same event that created our Universe in the first place could very well spell the end of our universe's existence.

Life on Earth, as we know it, is hardly the stuff of intelligence. One particularly insightful person remarked that "Life is one giant restaurant. You either eat, or be eaten." Animals are constantly immolated by stronger, nastier counterparts with sharp claws and talons, and if this is the work of a benevolent Creator,I'd be better off worshiping the image of Hitler and his frenzied Nazi Party.

With the existing knowledge and evidence human civilization has garnered and continues to pile up at this point of time, the Atheist's position is sweet and emancipating: We, as human beings,are so insignificant in the grand scheme of the Universe, that atheists appreciate that we have survived sheer odds to make it so far in the passage of Time. We know, and believe that this is the only life we have in this spectacular, albeit imperfect existence, and that we strive to live the fullest possible life within our means. We are uninhibited by the fear of hell, nor are we driven to perform good deeds based merely on the imagined rewards of heaven (which is hardly enticing, in my view, unless you consider grovelling and prostrating in front of a male alter-ego the equivalent of sexual ecstasy).

Now, which religious creed can offer such pure, unadulterated emancipation, other than mere Atheism?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Interview Transcripts: Atheism, & What It Means To Be An Atheist In Singapore

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had the ignominious honour of being interviewed by a Straits Times journalist (Straits Times is a national, major newspaper in Singapore), who, upon chancing upon my post with regards to the issue of interfaith dialogues, decided to conduct a email interview, with what I presume as a further query with regards to the atheistic point of view.

Transcripts of the interview was sent to me on the 3rd of July, and my reply was sent out on the following day.

While I was hoping that the interview would be published (knowing full well the conservative nature of Straits Times, I was expecting a watered-down version of it), but the latest word I have received was that the journalist concerned, Ms Li (I shall not divulge the full name. For those who are infinitely curious, leave a note in my email or this blog's comments) seems to be occupied with her work.

So, without further ado, the transcripts, as follows. My replies, in red:

1) As an atheist, do you feel marginalised in Singapore? Why/why not? If so, do you have any specific examples?

With regards to feeling marginalized, I feel that much of what has been said and touched on about faith is mostly centered on two or three faiths, namely Catholicism, Christianity and its related denominations, and most important of all, Islam.

Take the latest issue on interfaith dialogues. We have imams, priests, reverends and even the odd Confucian scholar who gets invited. But no one, none from the scholastic circles, such as historians, scientists and the like, gets invited to such talks, much less atheists.

What is it about religion that allows them this privilege to get a piece of the limelight and spread their propaganda in such a manner? Are we saying that, short of discussing each other's religion, people from the various religions can't really communicate beyond mere religion? Or are atheists and other members of the free thought community so highly ostracized that we aren't even allowed a whiff of these bunch of self-appraised folks?

Dialogues are a good thing, but dialogues such as these are merely political tools fabricated by people who wish to glamorize religion and portray a falsified unified front of various religious views.

2) Do you feel that because of the sensitivity of religious issues and the emphasis on inter-religious harmony in Singapore, you do not have freedom of expression, when it comes to airing your views?

I think a few years back, two young people or teenagers were arrested and charged with the Sedition Act, one for slandering Islam and the other for drawing Jesus-zombies munching cute little babies.

To talk about freedom of speech in Singapore is pretty much like playing Russian roulette: You can heap as much vitriol as you want, but once you bothered some higher-ups, get prepared to be slapped with ignominous charges, such as the ISA (Internal Security Act) and the Sedition Act.

3) Do you think that atheism is a faith in itself? And should it be accorded the same "respect" that other religions have?

Atheism, by its very definition (Atheist from the Greek word, atheos: A, without, theos, God), refers to a negative position of non-belief. An atheist, in essence, is a person who does not believe in God due to the absence of proof (To some atheists, it means observable, empirical proof).

Faith requires an element of belief. In the case of faith, it is more aptly described as "Belief in things unseen", which really boils down to blind belief.

If anything, atheism is the exact polemic of faith: One is an atheist because one sees no proof to validate the claim, while a person who dwells in faith believes because he or she has subjected to himself or herself a creed irregardless of evidence.

As for the question of respect, I feel that we should respect everybody who is generally law-abiding. The case of the gay movement (which I did wrote on my blog), for example, is one that deserves respect, because gays have long been marginalized and in a way, segregated from the majority heterosexuals because of this misguided notion that sex outside the realms of procreation is an abominal sin, a view justified and mortified by the biblical code of stoning gays to death.

Just as law-abiding gays deserve respect, recognition and dare I say, the rights to marriage, atheists deserve to have their voices and views heard. Unfortunately in Singapore, the religious right has mostly reserved for themselves the right to be heard, and many times, their views are highly eschewed by their belief systems. For example, one would not expect a priest to extol the virtues of condoms and other contraceptives, despite the devastating effects of AIDS and other sexual diseases. To the priest, sex for pleasure is a sin, regardless of the outcome.

4) Do you think that atheists should be allowed to set up an organisation to propagate their views, such as Christians have church organisations, Muslims Islam organisations and Buddhists Buddhist organisations to propagate their tenets? Why/why not? How do you think the society and the Government will react?

I feel that the atheist community in Singapore is too small at the moment: Unlike the American Atheists (AA), atheists here are mainly closeted and disjointed, so no, at the moment, atheists should simply focus on getting out of the closet, which itself is a difficult thing to do, especially for those who are stuck in very strict, fundamentalist sects like I was in the past.

If an atheist organization were to exist here, I cannot really fathom the framework which we should go about in setting up such an organization. Religion in Singapore is something that is held in excessive awe and respect, even rationalized in the form of moderate belief systems. If the organization seeks to be just a freethought organization, then I would feel that there is no need for an atheist organization, or for myself to joing one. An active atheist organization that is highly vocal against religious irrationality may be too hot a potato for a distinctively conservative and highly cautious society here in Singapore.

5) Do you think that a Singaporean atheist would be allowed to write a book like that of Richard Dawkins' or Christopher Hitchens'?

The problem here in Singapore, I suspect, is that in higher academic circles here, is that any academic must be strictly neutral, or at worst, slightly sympathetic of religiosity in order to continue their research here.

That aside, most publishers in Singapore would baulk at publishing such controversial material here. If there is even an outside bet that one could actually sneak past such works, I would gladly be the first one to try.

6) Do you feel that there are increasing tensions between those who are religious, and those who are secular, within Singapore? Some will call you a "secularist fundamentalist". Do you agree with such a label?

One of my earliest blog posts (still there, but I have abandoned it) was about this pastor in a megachurch who actually proclaimed that "the red colour of the Singapore flag symbolizes the blood of Christ".

I had attended that service on the behest of a friend,and was profoundly shocked to hear this lie being spoken life in front of 20,000 church members.

While it is too early to say whether the secularity of our nation is under threat, I think there are people in Singapore who definitely enjoy the idea that the tenets of our Constitution is somehow aligned with the Ten Commandments, even if it clearly isn't.

At present, I do not detect this threat in the Parliament. To me, the status quo quo of "Equal playing ground" still holds true up to a point, and I for one would definitely not want to see our nation turn into a fascist theocracy.

The final question with regards to "secular fundamentalist" was left out, because I find that such a term is indeed a grave insult to rational people, religious or otherwise, who do not seek to widen the religious scope towards the secular sector, be it in government institutions or even to the tenets of government.

Frankly, I doubt this interview would ever be published in our closeted media, and hence I have decided to publish this without the permission of the journalist.

In concluding this article, I urge all Singaporeans to speak up in the face of religious domination within our media. We must find a voice in a society that continuously trumpets the need for religious reconciliation, without sparing a thought for the 13%-15% of us who refuse to be part of this hypocrisy of grovelling towards religious moderates who, ironically are the major source of inspiration for fundamentalists and their dastardly plans of terror and extremism.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Invisible Atheists of Singapore?

I must admit: in recent weeks, I have been thoroughly frustrated (to put it mildly) by the hypocrisy that has surrounded the recent rise of Atheism brought about by the meteoric rise of Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheist authors.

In response to this trend, the local media in Singapore has decided to entrench itself with the religious right. This pro-right stance is so pervasive that much of the opinions from the pro-left are either ignored, or moderated to a point that they do not offend "religious sensitivities". Our pro-religious Ministry of Home Affairs has actively supported inter-faith dialogues that effectively cater to the major official religions bypassing non-religious communities altogether. Everyone in Singapore is either religious to the hilt, or are merely non-Singaporeans to begin with.

In short, atheists and the non-religious do not exist within the Singaporean clique.

According to this article, written by Today, atheists do not even feature in the sectarian landscape. No atheists. No infidels. Period.

Excerpts From Today Online
Tug of War for America's Soul
14th July 2007
By Tiffany Tan

A wave of secularisation is again sweeping through industrialised nations, but will it come around to our corner of the world? Even though Singapore is on the same economic development scale as secular Western countries, experts say atheism in the city-state is a distant possibility. In a study, Dr Pereira discovered that Singaporeans value religiosity and it is "deeply embedded in society".

For some religious leaders, atheism is no reason to lose sleep over.

"If there is a war, it has been going on for the last 300 years and atheism is clearly not winning," said Dr Simon Chan, a professor of systematic theology at Singapore's Trinity Theological College.

"Previous generations of atheists had been no less vehement and hopeful, but a vast majority of the world's population are too incurably religious to be bought over."

A distant possibility??? For the love of Zeus, I don't know where these journalists got their facts from, but just for the sake of "objective journalism", we shall take a sneak peek into a population consensus report taken in the year 2000 (Link here).

According to the report, 340,094 Singaporeans have no religious affiliation, out of a population of 2,494,630. The minimum age group of this consensus was in the 15-19 category, so we can safely surmise that no kids were involved, which would have muddled up the numbers and give the religious ranks a higher boost in numbers.

With these figures, one can assume that at least 13% of Singaporeans do not subscribe to any religion. Unfortunately, there is no way to break the figures down further into atheists, agnostics, deists and other non-religious affiliates, but surely, there ought to be atheists amongst them?

Quite contrary to the news article, religion has not been "embedded deeply" into the fabric of society. Considering that there were only 9733 Sikhs reported by the consensus, the non-religious community occupies a sizable chuck across the sectarian board.

And then there is the "vehement" culture of atheists. Of course, we are riff-ruffs of the sort that really do speak out against religious abuse, but hey, we aren't the ones strapping bombs and flying planes to skyscrapers for the sake of paradise and some 72 virgins (I am sure most atheists like sex, but we are not delirious enough to believe in bullshit of this nature), or for any particular father figure in the sky.

Not a good word, it seems, can be said about atheism. If this article is to be taken as gospel truth, then atheists are no more than invisible shrews, so to speak, good only for spewing vitriol at our persecuted religious counterparts.

Ignoring the Non-Religious Community In Singapore

But why are we, the non-religious sector, constantly ignored by the mass media? Are they trying to tell us that we do not belong here, or that we are, at least in the metaphorical sense, "expendable"???

On a more personal note, I have had an email interview with an ST journalist, who has somehow stumbled on one of my articles regarding interfaith dialogue. While she did not promise to mention about it from her political correspondence desk, I doubt she will ever publish it (again, to my frustration) because of the anti-religious nature of my replies.

Perhaps it is time for the atheist community in Singapore to rally together and break this religious monopoly within the ranks of the mass media. Only then, will our voices be heard by those who will spare no afford to undermine the interests of the non-religious community.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Thanking The Invisible Man In The Sky

Thank God We Won The Match (Oh, And Thank You, God, For Screwing The Losing Team!)

Scenario 1:

Mike's playing the match of his life: The inter-school championships has finally come down to the wire, with both teams failing to score a goal after extra-time.

Its the fifth penalty kick. If he scores, he lifts the trophy, and will earn the adulation of his fellow team-mates and fans (not to mention all those pretty chicks in school). With a wing and a prayer, he says his final grace.......and shoots.......

It goes in! Now, the opponent's turn.......he steps up, runs towards the ball and shoots........the goalkeeper dives the wrong way, but the ball inevitably hits the crossbar, to the dismay of the opposition team. Mike's team wins, and with great aplomb, he strips off his tee-shirt which reveals the words, "I Love Jesus". A nice gesture, provided, of course, if Jesus was a true-blue soccer fan.

Scenario 2:

Louis is trapped in the rubbles of a building, an extremely unlucky victim of a terrorist attack in the shape of a young, vengeful Muslim strapped in a nail-spiked bomb.

As he lays prone, trapped under tons of concrete, metal bars and other debris, he comforts himself with the thought that somewhere, somehow, God is watching, and the Invisible Man in The Sky will somehow answer his fervent prayers.

Salvation arrived, some 100 hours later, in the form of gallant, duty-bound firemen from the various fire departments who have been activated and patched up in short notice. Instead of thanking these brave souls, the grateful Louis directs his thanks and his graces to.......yup, you guess it, the Invisible Man In The Sky, who somehow couldn't do a damn shit to the 2000 lives that perished in the pile of rubble.

"The Cosmic Father"

It's a quaint, egocentric idea: A supposed deity, who supposedly created a universe filled with billions of galaxies, planets, asteroids and stars, is actually no more than a voyeur who loves to supervise his creation, which, incidentally, is smaller and tinier than a speck of dust in the grand scheme of the universe, tugged away in a remote corner of the cosmos.

Out of this little (And I do mean really little) spot of the galaxy, our Heavenly Father resides on this very little planet we call Earth: Every move that you make, from the harmless act of stealing cookies from your mum's cookie jar to watching that odd porn movie, is being monitored by a patriarchal figure in the sky.

Since antiquity, religion and deity worship has thrived on the supposed "truth" that Man is the centre of his universe. In his egoistic, self-centred world, a loving God exists, so that Man can seek solace in a world ridden with diseases, wars and other pleasantries. It is this imagined relationship with God that explains why we need to attach some form of
father figure to this deity, and to attribute the kind of anthropomorphic characteristics to a imagined heavenly patriarch.

Have You Thanked God Yet?

With this "fatherly love" in mind, God becomes an intricate part of a theist's mind. Every fiber in the body, every action and every thought must be accountable to this invisible deity.

In the first instance, the footballer thanks God for his last-grasp victory, which, to me, is an oddity. Why didn't God help the opposite team? Perhaps they didn't pray hard enough?

If that is the case, what happens if both warring sides on the pitch pray just as fervently? How does God choose? How about a throw of a dice?

More importantly, what does God, with his purported responsibilities, have anything to do with a mere mortal game? Could the soccer game be part and parcel of his "divine plan"?

In the case of the lucky survivor, it is more understandable, at least from the survivor's point of view, to thank the deity, although the gratitude would have been well placed had it been directed at those who risk life and limb to save his ass.

Most importantly, the survivor has neglected the fact that his deity has thoroughly failed to saved the lives of thousands more. All things considered, the idea that God would have abandoned 2000 lives for the sake of one sole survivor makes the Christian's excuse of "God's ways are not yours" seems somewhat ludicrous and downright cruel.

In both scenarios, one behavioral trait stands out: The natural propensity to attribute positive (sometimes perceived) outcomes to a invisible deity, regardless of the overall picture of the scenario or event.

Thank The Right Person, Not An Imagined Deity

Suffice to say, the need to pay compliments to an imaginary deity is highly irrational. A patient who recovers from a potentially debilitating disease should find more cause to thank the doctor than a mystic, much less an imagined deity.

Thanking divinity for what is largely a mortal business is as bizarre as thanking a chef for removing your tooth. God, as it stands, remains in the realms of supernatural stupidity, and if you really have to thank, thank someone who really has done you a huge favor.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

A Case Against Torture

The Iron Maiden

According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is defined as:

"Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."
In today's humanized society, one finds it extremely deplorable, even in the most extreme of circumstances, to justify torture, one of the most ancient forms of information-gathering tools ever devised (and an extremely cruel one at that too).

When under the duress of torture, the wretched prisoner, in the midst of severe, mind-boggling pain, ceases to keep his mouth shut: He or she divulges information, allegedly truthful information, be it the admission of being one of those erstwhile, plague inducing witches during the Inquisition Era, or the admission of guilt involving high treason or assassinations.

Of Terrorists And Nuclear Bombs

The Dreaded Scenario

In today's context, the argument for torture has began to creep back into our human conscience with the advent of the "War on Terror". Even the atheist author, Sam Harris, advocates torture in singularly impossible scenarios: A terrorist has been caught. You know he has the answer to where a nuclear bomb is hidden, which, according to intelligence, is hidden somewhere in the middle of New York City. Do you torture this man to get the information you want, or do you simply try to interrogate him, as secs, mins, and hours tick away, inching towards the dreaded detonation?

Pain, it seems, is a great way to ensure loose tongues. The question here, is this: How much information gathered from such a dastardly device can actually be authenticated as true?

The Case of Guy Fawkes

While post 911 America has often brought up the case of terrorism to justify the use of force to coerce information out of suspected terrorists, the idea that torturing someone somehow makes a person spew out fountains of truth may be somewhat misleading, or even delusional.

If history is any guide, torture is a very poor tool for extracting valuable information from its victims.

Guy Fawkes, a rather contentious British rebel, is notorious for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The plot, masterminded by Robert Catesby, was an attempt by a group of English conspirators to kill King James I of England (VI of Scotland), his family, and most of the aristocracy in one fell swoop by blowing up the House of Lords building in the Houses of Parliament during its State Opening. Because of his experience in explosives, he was to be handed the responsibility of executing the deadly plan.

Before he could carry out his plan, he was caught red-handed in his cellar with his weapons of mass destruction.

Hoping that he would divulge the names of all his conspirators, the authorities wasted no time in torturing him: While the torture did coerce him to name his conspirators, all the names of the conspirators he divulged were either dead, or already made known to the authorities. In the end, he was executed for his role in the plot.

USA: An Exclusive Haven For Torture?

Beastly Mania: A Photo From the Now-Infamous Abu Ghraib Prison

According to the Red Cross, terror detainees once held in the CIA's secret prisons were kept and questioned under highly abusive conditions.

In a confidential report based on interviews with 14 high-value terror suspects, the Red Cross said the techniques reported by the 14 prisoners, including sleep deprivation and the use of forced standing and other so-called "stress positions," constituted a sadistic sort of combo that was deemed “harsh” by Red Cross standards.

According to the CIA, The detention methods were designed to "soften" detainees (Kind of like making ice-cream???), making them pliable during interrogation.

The End Result? Only one detainee (Out of more than 700 detainees since the detention program commenced in 2002), an Australian by the name of David Hicks, and that after five miserable years of incarceration without being charged officially with any damn crime.

Torture Does Not Work for the Stoic, Much Less the Weak-Minded

While Sam Harris and other pro-torture advocates have a point in stating their case for torture, the truth is, the use of torture to gain information is a highly unreliable technique.

Contrary to popular belief, obtaining information through the torture of a weak-minded person may be more difficult than a stoic one, since the latter is far more likely to throw up false information under duress, so as to earn temporary respite from the regime of torture. Even if the weak-minded individual is sufficiently convinced to reveal true information, his current state of mind, after having been wrecked by severe pain, may be in no condition to reveal any coherent information, however truthful he may be, hence rendering such leads useless for the interrogator.

A stoic-minded person, hell bent on keeping his evil deeds a secret, would remain silent even under extreme physical pain. He may also divulge false information as a means of throwing his interrogators off-trail, rather than a means of relief against torture. Added to that, the urgency to obtain information, or the sheer impatience or anger of the torturer may hasten the victim’s death, hence rendering the torture as nothing more than cold-blooded murder.

If anything else, torture is one of the most ineffective, archaic methods of coercing information out of prisoners, which is precisely why most police forces around the world no longer advocate torture as a viable means of information collection.

"The strong will resist and the weak will say anything to end the pain."-Ulpian