Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Being Nothing by Larro

We are born. We live. We develop a concept of self.

Through the ages the human mind has come to a bizarre concept of the soul. When I say soul I refer to the notion that our self will exist beyond our physical death. This is a wish or hopeful mindset to allay the notion that we will cease to exist altogether. To me our "self" exists only in our physical brains. The reality of an afterlife exists only in the living mind and its conception thereof.

We are nothing after death. We exist only in the memories of those who have come to know us. Our accomplishments in this one flash of existence will live on only in the minds of future generations, nothing more.

It's hard to reconcile this concept with the so many great things that life has to offer, but wouldn't the reality of non-existence make everything all that much more pertinent and meaningful? Music, art, poetry...love. Wouldn't these things have all that much more meaning and significance? If you think about it, the belief that one will survive after death is so self-serving and selfish. That all the joys of life are centered on one particular tenant: that we simply live to die; that death is the final solution to all our ills. That death will somehow bring a glorifying, revelatory realization of the meaning of existence. Isn't that a cop-out, lazy way out of realizing existence? It really hinges on belief and faith (which I have neither of...not in the "spiritual" anyway).

I have a personal belief that we human beings are strictly biological and that our minds and ability to think and form a concept of self are material. It doesn't go beyond that. Sure, it would be nice to think that we can evade death by "passing" through it, but our bodies ARE us. Once our bodies cease to be, WE cease to be. Our brains are an organ a part of our physical selves. We have devised a way to interact with our surroundings as to ensure our survival as a species. Our brain is a superb tool and physical organ that enables us to interact with our environment not very differently than any other species on this planet. Do dogs have a concept of afterlife? Do dolphins...elephants? Surely, we can't know this, yet I would wager that they do not. They simply "are". Like we humans "are".

Nothing special. Nothing particularly pertinent to the reality we find ourselves in. Does this sound fatalistic? Only if you think or believe it does. If you believe your life will enjoy some kind of eternal afterlife then I suppose everything I have said here could seem quite sad and depressing. It's not though. It's much more rewarding and motivating to consider those that go before you in life and pass to them the knowledge you have garnered. That is the "real" reward of being alive.

Recycled from: Being Nothing at Ungodly Cynic

Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Gay Who Won The Great War of Britain

Every so often, religious conservatives tend to exhibit their homophobic tendencies in a few not-so-subtle ways: Writing to newspapers to vilify the gay pride movement, deriding them as "filthy beasts" or other derogatory words and basically treating them with contempt.

Of course, we from the infidelic community (Gay or otherwise) have no problems with socializing with the gay community, provided, of course, they do not sexually harass us heterosexuals (and the tit-lovers such as the likes of me), but generally, we applaud their courage to stand out and take a stand against the conservative majority who tend not to use their brains to discern matters, instead relying on ancient hocus pocus nonsense to justify their homophobic hatred.

In line with what I have discussed today, I wish to introduce a historical figure, a (gasp!) gay man who, with his absolute genius in the field of crytography and mathematics, literally won the battle of the minds against Germany's Nazi War Machine.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1911-1952)

Born in 1911 to Julius Mathison Turing and his wife, Sara, Alan Turing and his family returned to England, where he received his education. He had an elder brother, John, and his father's active service commission with the Indian Civil Service meant that he was to shuttle between Indian and England.

Alan Turing's natural inclination to Mathematicians was awe-inspiring, to say the least: At 15, he managed to single-handledly solve advanced calculus problems without any basic background in elementary calculus (Believe me.....calculus is inspired by the Devil. Tsk Tsk).

His mathematical talents were, however, unappreciated by the rigid British education system, which, like the Qing dynasty's education system in Imperial China, emphasized more on the Classics than mathematics.


Thanks to the brilliant genius of Turing, the Allies were able to decipher encoded messages from Germany's enigma machines in England's famous German-decoding center at Bletchley Park, hence turning the tide of war against the Axis Powers.

After the war, Turing hurled himself towards computer research, and would have been a leading researcher in the then new field of computing science had it not been the cruel intervention of the moral police.

Persecution and Subsequent Suicide

Unfortunately for Turing, he was born in a time when homosexuality was outlawed in England: When a known male acquaintance broke into his home in 1952, he reported the case to the police, who had adjudged that his homosexuality was a much graver crime than the burglary itself. Turing admitted to having a licentious relationship with the male acquaintance, and both were tried under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885.

Due to the conviction, Turing was left with two equally unappealing choices: Go to jail for his "crime", or undergo hormonal treatment to "cure" his gay tendencies. He chose the latter, and as a result of the conviction he had to undergo the humiliation of enforced estrogen injections and the loss of his consultancy post in GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

As a result of the traumatic blows to his high-flying career, the strain to his personal and physical life took a toll on his mental health (This time, it is for real: In those days, homosexuality was considered a mental disease! Boy have we moved on since the good ole days!). He had developed breasts, no thanks to the terrible hormonal therapy he was coerced into so that he didn't have to spend time in jail for what we know now as an innocuous charge.

And so it was, on 8th June 1954, the brilliant genius could take it no longer: His cleaner found him dead, apparently from eating a cyanide-laced apple which he had left half-eaten on his bed. An ignominious death indeed for such a brilliant talent.

Yesterday's Ignorance Must Not Be Repeated

It is a tad foolish for me, or anyone else for the matter, to blame the police for their actions: They were merely acting in accordance to the rule of law, and besides, psychiatry and medical science were not as knowledgeable as we know today.

That excuse, however, cannot exonerate us from the abject ignorance of today: Homosexuality, as we know today, is neither a mental disorder nor a crime; it is a rather minor alteration of preference and, to a certain extent, determined by our genes. The fact that religious morons still insist on banning homosexuality in some countries (which I am ashamed to say, includes my country, Singapore) and gay marriages in most countries speaks volumes of the incredible injustice and stigma against the homosexual community.

It does not take a gay to sympathize with the gay community: They are being slighted and discarded by self-righteous, unctuous religious bigots who have nothing better to do other than berate at others who do not serve their homophobic, racist and misogynistic beliefs.

Everyone deserves to be respected, straight, gay or otherwise. Otherwise, we may end up with the tragedy of losing bright, young talents based on nothing else but stupid religions and their irrelevant dogmas.

"Prejudice is the child of ignorance." ~William Hazlitt

Saturday, 16 February 2008

The Science of Playing God, & Why Fundamentalists Want Us To Live In The Stone Age

In my recent posts, particularly of the Space Age variety, I have elucidated at length about the voodoo religion plays in its retarded role of steamrollering Science in a bid to re-exert its own archaic, tyrannic influence on the common masses. From opposing vaccinations based on misplaced morality issues (e.g: Cervical cancer vaccines are vehemently opposed by Christian groups because it supposedly encourages promiscuous sex!) to outright rejection of biological theories (yes, my friends, the same old drivel about "your great grandma is a chimp". Don't they ever learn?), religious protagonists are quite staunchly rooted in their pin-sized, narrow-minded view of the world: A egoistical, God-centered world, where Man is the primal pet of a sadistic "Lord of the Fleas" parody of a loop-sided planet. Fawn upon him, suck his dick, kiss his ass, and ye shalt be beamed straight into the heavenly arms of this imperiously perverse Deity. The mere act of insubordination and non-belief will earn you an ignominious fate of being barbecued by this half-crazed deity. Throw in a demon or two, and you have a recipe of falsehoods, mass indoctrinations and irrational hysteria.

As human beings, we have a penchant for believing in things that make us feel like a million bucks: Sure, being a pampered, albeit in a masochistic way (if you include the barbecue episode), creature of a Cosmic Mac Muffin sure makes us feel a tad different from the rest of the beasts (including those which we recognize as "food"), but surely such an egocentric, self-centered view of the cosmos and our planet at large can only be considered a cryptic joke of sorts. Indeed, the religions of a bygone era have all but consigned themselves in the annals of history books: How many handful of folks do you witness today, who are actually prostrating before the Greek Gods of Zeus, Hercules and a whole host of deities from Mount Olympus?

In an age when Science has clearly overtaken Religion as the main vehicle for breaking new frontiers, Religion seeks to hang on to its paltry handful of hard core fundamentalists, who seek to regress Science so that we may all drag ourselves, along with the rest of humanity, back into the recesses of Stone Age piety and abject backwardness.

For the longest time, the United States of America and the Soviet Union were at the forefront of Scientific advancements: The race to send men into space and eventually, the Moon, thriving and building on medical science to eradicate small pox, building better and faster planes, cars and all manner of machinations and lest we forget, America was the first nation to utilize the atomic bomb on Japan (That, too, with the help of German scientists who had fled Nazi Germany, no less): The US of A was a major player in all these ground-breaking scientific endeavors.

For all its bravado about being "The home of the brave, land of the free", America is a world superpower because of, not despite, its scientific prowess, so much so that it would be quite unfathomable that the American public can spurn away the very tool that has made their nation a prima donna within the international community.

Religious People Against Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology: The Devil's Advocate?

Like other technological advances, the advent of nanotechnology holds tremendous potential, and along with it, the usual doom sayers and morons who cry hue every time scientists have a potential scientific breakthrough in the works.

Nanotechnology seeks to bring down engineering and even medicinal science right down to the molecular level: By designing materials, structures and even robotics down to such minuscule scales, nanotechnology provides the agility and maneuverability to produce products in a smaller and more advanced scale.

One would think that nanotechnology should be widely accepted in most nations, particularly more so with the developed nations: That is mostly true, except for the US of A. In a survey conducted by the UW-Madison Survey Center, Americans were asked how they viewed nanotechnology. The results are not very encouraging, to say the least:

"In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable. In European surveys that posed identical questions about nanotechnology to people in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, significantly higher percentages of people accepted the moral validity of the technology. In the United Kingdom, 54.1 percent found nanotechnology to be morally acceptable. In Germany, 62.7 percent had no moral qualms about nanotechnology, and in France 72.1 percent of survey respondents saw no problems with the technology."

The French (Boy, those libertines sure know a lot more than those hillbillies in the States!), it seems, tend to top the charts when durex sex surveys and Science are concerned: The US of A, stuck knee-deep in their quagmire of religious buffoonery, seem to find it exceptionally difficult to reconcile nanotechnology (oh, the devil of nanotechnology!) with their irrational, religious doctrines.

The Science of Playing God?

As a rule, fundamentalists of the Fall-well sort are diametrically opposed to all forms of "playing God": From issues relating to abortion to life-threatening issues such as vaccines, Christians, Muslims and religious fanatics seem hell-bent in rejecting scientific endeavors, even though most of them are not prejudiced enough to surf the net, visit a hospital or use other modern amenities which are direct products of 300 years of enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution and of course, modern Science.

Test-tube babies? No!!! Procreation is the job of the Gods, these morons chimed. Genetic Engineering? No!!! Save the unborn! Nanotechnology? No! That's the Devil's little horny tool.......

This morbid objection towards scientific discovery and research, it seems, has everything to do with offending the deity: By striving towards a more science-centered civilization, the role of God is getting smaller by the day, and much as they would like to deny it, people are getting less and less enamored with religion and more attuned with the altruisms and practicality of life: More people are visiting doctors to cure their illnesses than priests, and that secularism has become deeply entrenched in civilized thinking.

Interfering With God's Plan? Its All Good

The unbridled truth is, Nature, not God, dictates the very basic mechanisms of life.

Because Nature is hardly an anthropomorphic entity: You may be having a bad day in the office, or an office blowjob gone awfully wrong, but Nature isn't going to extend a hand to comfort your half-wounded manly pride (or your dick, for the matter). When you are down with flu, Nature has no obligation to eradicate the disease from your frail, mortal body. In sum, Nature is hardly Man's best friend: We have but ourselves to depend upon for survival as a distinct, unique species.

Religious folks postulate a cosmic father figure in place of the cold, aloof bitch that is Mother Nature: Steal a cookie, and God frowns upon the act of a little boy. Fail your exams, and God will comfort you and aid you in your endeavors. It is a quaint little idea, but try following this train of thought: The next time a fundamentalist falls sick, he or she should refrain from visiting the doctor or the hospital. Hasn't it occurred to the religious lunatic that God may have wanted him or her to fall sick, and that seeking professional medical aid may be a sign of disobedience towards God's sadistic plan?

The time has come for humans, Americans or otherwise, to understand that religious backwardness should be discarded as soon as possible: Unnecessary nostalgia and insinuations of the "God-playing" variety are just unnecessary barriers towards the advancement of Science and technology.

-"I turned to speak to God, About the world's despair; But to make bad matters worse, I found God wasn't there."

Robert Frost

Saturday, 9 February 2008

School Principal Bans Non-Halal Food In School Canteen; Students to Eat Halal Pork Instead?

Food, Glorious Food: Unfortunately, Religion Loves To Bastardize It

More often than not, Religion loves to enforce its culinary rules upon the secular masses: Hindus, for example, don't eat beef (Sacred cows, according to Mark Twain, do make the best burger), Muslims and Jews frown upon pork as if it is some form of a horror freak show (Quite frankly, I think pork is divine!), and Buddhists just about avoid all forms of meat altogether, preferring to adhere to a strict, miserable diet of leaves and shoots (yes, kind of like a panda bear, minus the dark rings around the eyes).

As far as living things go, the need to feed is a definite given: We need food for sustenance, and some of us, including myself, are food connoisseurs who are not exactly biased about the food we eat, as long as it is edible, succulent and delectable. Nonetheless, I, as well as most secular people, understand that some facets of society love to apply their religious prejudices against certain food sources, and no, we are not usually inclined to debunk their myths and prejudices (Other than a snide remark here and there), unless, of course, some insipid moron decides to apply his religiously-slanted palates upon the common masses, as this addle-brained principal of a government school in Singapore surely did.

School's 'halal zone' ruling causes stir
Parents upset; MOE says school's decision wrong; principal reverses his position By Sandra Davie, Education Correspondent
Feb 5, 2008

A PRIMARY school in Jurong West that upset non-Muslim parents by insisting that only halal food could be eaten or taken into its canteen will now overturn its policy.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) told The Straits Times yesterday that Boon Lay Garden Primary had made a mistake, and would let its pupils' parents know.

In a letter to all parents last Friday, principal Wan Imran Woojdy said that since the school canteen had been certified halal, children would not be allowed to bring non-halal food onto the premises.

The school security guard and discipline master had also been checking lunch boxes since last week to ensure pupils complied.

About 20 per cent of the school's 1,700 pupils are Muslims.

Halal refers to what is permissible for consumption by Muslims. A product is not halal if it contains, for example, pork or alcohol, both forbidden to Muslims. Boon Lay Garden Primary's move to declare its canteen a halal zone left some non-Muslim parents unhappy.

Three who spoke to The Straits Times said they did not mind that the school canteen sold only halal food, but they felt the ban on taking in non-halal food amounted to discrimination.

Madam Esther Chia, 36, who has two daughters in the school, said one of them resorted to hiding a pork floss bun in her pocket last week to avoid being caught for flouting the new rule.

Another parent, Mr Edward Ang, said: 'I have nothing against the school stalls selling only halal food, but they shouldn't restrict kids from eating non-halal food.'

When contacted earlier yesterday, principal Imran said the rule forbidding non-halal food in the canteen had been in place since 2002, when all eight food stalls were certified halal by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

He said that the school decided to enforce the rule as it had a new canteen contractor and had to get recertified by Muis.

'We decided to make the whole canteen halal to provide a common eating space for all our children, whatever their race,' he said.

Enforcing Bigotry In The School Canteen

When religious people keep whining about why us secular folks often complain and scoff against their religions, such an incident are stark reminders that if ordinary folks don't wake up and smell the coffee, all too often, religious zealots (And sadly, this time round, it is a school principal) will sneak through just about every tiny crook and cranny to impose their religious laws upon the secularity of government institutions.

In this case, virtually every stall in this particular government school has pandered to the demands of a distinct, Muslim minority by getting their food certified as "halal". While I doubt this has anything to do with political or religious pressuring from school authorities (This, I suspect, is one of the ways stall vendors can earn more money by catering to Muslim children), the principal has nonetheless made use of this paradigm shift to enforce his Syariah-inspired diet upon all and sundry.

And yes, like our good old parochial government, he has the temerity to enforce a ban on non-halal food, a-la "banning the chewing gum" style that has made us the butt of all American jokes: Open your bag kiddo.....holy shit, what the hell is this? Barbecued pork? Be prepared to roast in Allah's hell, kiddo! God hates pork!

By insisting on halal-only food in a school canteen, what kind of a message is the school board sending to the kids? That we are a bigoted Islamic country, where women cannot even be seen in the public eye without a head-to-toe burkha, and crimes are punishable by stoning and amputation? Or is this yet another sinister campaign to sneak more Islamic "values" into our secular system?

Thank goodness, then, that the parents of these kids were disgruntled enough to complain to the Ministry of Education about this errant, bigoted principal. Goodness knows what would happen if they didn't complain: The principal might insist on applying the customary "stoning the disobedient children" on disobedient students.

Halal Pork?

If school authorities in Singapore persist on applying Syariah laws in school canteens, perhaps I might offer a brilliant suggestion for these beleaguered kids who, like me, have a penchant for good ole bacon:

Goodness Me! Its Halal Pork!!!

Remove those stickers from the halal food shelves that sell halal food, and stick them to their pork-filled food packages. That might just elude the nosy school disciple master, or that zanny fundie school principal, from denying the right to eat pork (As if these authorities even have the right to pry into the lunch boxes of kids in the first place!).

-“Pork - no animal is more used for nourishment and none more indispensable in the kitchen; employed either fresh or salt, all is useful, even to its bristles and its blood; it is the superfluous riches of the farmer, and helps to pay the rent of the cottager.”

Alexis Soyer 19th century French chef.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Dangers of Religion & Sectarianism

Very often, I have ventured to investigate and explain why Religion is harmful, both from the mental aspects as well as the physical aspects: In many ways, Religion removes the wedge between what is rational from dangerous fantasy: When you believe that the cupboard monster exists, pretty soon it becomes real and succinct in your mind, and if you dwell on it too much, your physical and mental executions will mirror that of your delusions.

With this in mind, I will like to discuss about one of the more dangerous, but least understood effects of religion on people who have become too entrenched in their morbid, religious fantasies: Sectarianism.

The Secular World: A Virtual Minefield

The Fundie's View of the Demon-Haunted World

In the mind of a religious fundamentalist, the secular world is a virtual minefield: From the rock & roll songs blasting from stereo systems and radios to the highly attractive bulletins of semi-clad, bikini babes, just about every aspect of capitalism and commercialism is a devil's advocate, inciting deep-seated sexual lust for beautiful men and women, as well as insatiable hunger for the latest gadgets and fashion accessories.

That aside, seemingly harmless entities, such as secular education, threatens the very fabric of the fundie's narrow fantasy world: Evolution, for example, dictates that life has evolved over billions of years, a direct contradiction to the fundies' God-inspired design of the planet and its inhabitants.

From the very point the fundie wakes up for his morning coffee, to the point when he falls asleep, the fundie is, in essence, trudging along a narrow path, flanked on all sides by booby traps laid by a fictitious Devil.

Sectarianism and the Siege Mentality

As far as religious communities go, sectarianism is often the no.1 problem in multi-cultural communities: Because religions tend to run smack against the grain of secularism and even opposing religions, ultra-fundamentalist communities tend to employ a siege mentality towards others who do not share their erstwhile creeds.

Typical Jewish Class

Hard-lined Jewish communities, for example, do not allow cross-marriages: Children are enrolled into Jewish schools, cloistered away from secular education. Raised in such conditions, children are taught prejudices that would otherwise exist only in the dastardly world of religious, adult zealots. Muslim children are taught that the kafirs, or infidels, are filthy because they eat pork. Christian children are taught that non-believers of the faith will go to hell. Bigotry, it seems, can be traced all the way back to these religious institutions.

Raised in such communities, children are often taught a very distorted view of the world we live in: Modern medicine, such as psychiatry, is wrong, because mental illnesses are part and parcel of the Devil's stranglehold on our sinful nature. Evolution is a delusion invented by the Devil, who, Jebus knows where or when, decided to set up a fossil factory to plant all those erstwhile fossils for foolhardy scientists to dig and expound like excited little chimpanzees. Condoms are little pieces of rubber which are created by sinister capitalists designed to transmit the deadly AIDS virus. Homosexuals who practice anal sex are deemed no better than animals, and doctors who practice abortion are branded murderers and child killers.

Imbued with such devious fantasies, religious communities continue to perpetrate prejudice, falsehoods and dogmas down generations on end, and it seems that there is no end in sight to such bigoted nonsense.

Sectarianism Breeds Violence and Intolerance

History has shown that the "us or them" mentality, whether it is racially or religiously inclined, tends to yield disastrous results: From the ancient Protestant vs Catholic wars in Victorian England, to the massacre of the marsh Arabs by Saddam's regime, sectarianism breeds violence and intolerance.

The failure to inculcate a more tolerant and positive attitude towards other cultures and creeds, plus a persistent need to emphasize on the "My religion is right, yours is wrong" mentality, religious communities are perfect hotbeds for breeding terrorists and bigots of all shapes and sizes.

If there is a need to remind ourselves the inherent dangers of Religion, the ruins of September 911 are perfect reminders of the dangers we face in a religiously sectarian world.

- "Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them."

Peter Ustinov