Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Greatest Man in History

The "Greatest Man" in History....?

One of the most controversial accolades ever to be bestowed upon any person, the somewhat ubiquitous title of "the Greatest Man" in the world, let alone History, is often given to individuals who have, at some point in time, performed great deeds or sacrifices.

And it doesn't get more controversial than this: Ask the Christians, and they'd say that their supposed Son of God, Jesus, is the greatest man ever. The average Buddhist will vote for Buddha, and the Muslims will tell you that Muhammad, the dessert warrior cum Prophet, deserves the "greatest man" tag. Historians might get too obsessed with war and vote for Genghis Khan. Boxing fans will no doubt idolize Muhammad Ali or Bruce Li and call them "great", and so the list goes on.

All of these men (and possibly more) were enigmatic in their own ways; from baptizing armies with blood and slaughtering human beings by the cattle load along the way, to forging whole empires and religions, these are men, who for good or for bad, have left their legacy for posterity.

Yes, there have been suitors and pretenders for this inspiring title, but one man probably deserves this title more than anyone else.

Norman Borlaug

A great-grandchild of Norwegian migrants in USA, Norman Borlaug was born in 1914 in his grandparents' farm house.

Growing up in the Borlaug household, Borlaug was accustomed to earning his own keep; like many victims of the Depression era, poverty was a constant menace and threat for a young man who desired for himself a decent education. One of his stints included working in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Depression Era America, and that left a profound, indelible impression in the young Borlaug: The importance of living on a full stomach.

"At the camps they were able to recover some semblance of health and self-confidence. I saw how food changed them...All of this left scars on me."

Surmounting the terrible realities of poverty, a brave Norman managed to finish his studies and acquire a Bachelor Degree of Science forestry degree in 1937.

Norman's Turning Point

Norman Borlaug's turning point came when he attended a Sigma Xi lecture held by Elvin Charles Stakman, a professor who would soon become the head of the plant pathology group in the University of Minnesota. The talk was titled: "These Shifty Little Enemies that Destroyed our Food Crops", and after attending the talk it dawned upon him that humanity was in a constant battle with Mother Nature, and Borlaug was immediately hooked by the immense possibilities of creating crops that were resistant to fungus.

Under the advice of Stakman, Borlaug abandoned Forestry (his post was eliminated anyway due to budget cuts) and undertook another education odyssey, this time earning him a Masters Degree in Science in 1940 and a subsequent Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics in 1942.

Norman's Great Achievements

Feeding Empty Stomachs and Empty Dreams

Despite the advent of the Industrial Revolution and its prevailing technological advances, Mankind has to grapple constantly with Mother Nature in order to fill up empty stomachs, and it is to this end that Norman Borlaug dedicated his whole life to.

Heralded as the pioneer for the "Green Revolution", Norman Borlaug worked extremely hard in third world countries, ranging from the harsh terrain of Mexico to war-torn countries in Africa, bringing with him the expertise and know-how to increase food crops dramatically, and by some estimates, he managed to stave off hunger and saved the lives of 1 billion people.

1 billion people..... there aren't that many philanthropists or great men who can make what seems like a boisterous claim, but one man, moved by the plight of a starving generation, strove on, without the fame, the glory and the riches that accompany men aspiring for greatness and in the process saved so many lives.

Living in squalid conditions, dinghy hotels, mosquito-infested areas, Norman Borlaug put his heart and soul into his work, against numerous odds: Environmental nutcases, bureaucratic bullshit, and sometimes political problems, and through it all, his determination was stoic and unyielding.

Some of his achievements include:

1. Turning wheat dependent nation such as Mexico and India into wheat exporters by using genetic engineering to dramatically increase product.

2. Creating disease-resistant crops to avert famine.

3. Creating an awareness with regards to feeding a population of human beings which have already crossed the 6-billion mark.

4. A Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Such is the nobility of his accomplishments, that it is difficult to imagine anyone opposing it, unless, of course, you are one of those Green Peace morons who worry about whether your food is "organic" enough for your stomach. A hungry person is an angry person, and one can hardly expect peace and order in countries which are often living on the edge of famine and death.

Norman Borlaug: The Greatest Man on Earth

The Greatest Man on Earth: Norman Borlaug

Such is the humility of Norman Borlaug, that few, if ever any, outside the field of Science has ever heard of this man. At 94 yrs of age, he is still continuing his work, hoping to fill the stomachs of people living in atrocious, inhumane conditions in war-ravaged, poverty-stricken countries.

Norman Borlaug symbolizes the epitome and noble qualities of mankind: Kindness, endeavor and above all, a conviction to save the lives of his fellow human being, regardless of race, creed and religion.

Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, etc........none of them added together, in their insignificant, yet slightly alleviated statuses, had ever achieved what Norman did in 6 decades.

In sum, Norman Borlaug is The GREATEST MAN in the history of civilization.
And you'd probably never heard of him.

"You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.. "
-Norman Borlaug

"When he (Norman Borlaug) won the Nobel Prize in 1970, they said he had saved a billion people. That's BILLION. "BUH!" That's Carl Sagan billion with a "B". And most of them were of different race from him. Norman is the greatest human being. And you've probably never heard of him."

-Penn, the Biggest, louder partner of the magician duo, "Penn and Teller"

"It gives me great pleasure to add my voice to all those paying tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug on his 90th birthday. As we celebrate Dr. Borlaug's long and remarkable life, we also celebrate the long and productive lives that his achievements have made possible for so many millions of people around the world. And as the United Nations continues its efforts to reach the ambitious but achievable Millennium Development Goal of reducing, by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, we will continue to be inspired by his enduring devotion to the poor, needy and vulnerable of our world. Dr. Borlaug, for your many contributions to the work of the United Nations, please accept my best wishes on this happy occasion."

- Kofi A. Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Fan Mail

From time to time, I do receive comments/fan mail with regards to my specific posts; Christians, agnostics and other philosophical creeds drop me a note, telling me how well, or in some instances, how crappy my writings are.

The truth is, I appreciate fan mail. I really do, and it is heartening for me, not from a solipsistic point of view, that people are actually thinking about religion and not taking things at face value. The purpose of this blog is, after all, to give a different perspective of religion from a different point of view.

Good reviews aside, I take negative or sometimes ad hominem comments seriously; I am only human, and humans err, and I stand to be corrected if I have made an error on my part. Sometimes, Christians or religious folks send comments to address a whole spectrum of issues, and I regret to say that so far I have not been able to address a majority of them on my blog.

At this point, I would like to address one of the readers, who happens to call himself/herself a "Child of God" (Makes me wonder if this is Jesus I am actually addressing to!).

"Child of God" Replies

In addressing my previous post, "Of Talking Snakes and Talking Asses", "Child of God" takes aim at atheism's anti-religious stance:

"You "atheists" really aren't who you claim to be. You claim not to beleive in God, but all you do is talk about him. You know, there are plenty of gods out there and other religions other than christianity, so I don't understand why you would want to talk so much about something you supposedly don't beleive in. I don't beleive in getting drunk. So I don't do it. I don't go around talking about getting drunk all the time, that's just stupid. Just like the atheist religion. Lol...yea, that's right. You have found yourself in a religion here...something you speak against? Haha. Hypocrosy is a terrible thing."

To sum up his or her arguments:

1. One should not talk about God if one does not believe in God.
2. This blog only criticizes Christianity and pretty much nothing else is ever addressed.
3. Atheism is a religion.
4. Hypocrisy is a "terrible thing".

A Non-Sequitur Argument

Right off the bat, Child of God makes a fallacious, non-sequitur accusation: He or she insinuates that in order to talk about God, one must believe in God. If that were true, children's book authors must therefore believe in fairies to write about fairies for their juvenile clients!

Of course, Christianity is not the only religion I have addressed: Islam has also been touched on even if it has been regarded as a strictly taboo subject, and I have written about Scientology, Fengshui and a whole host of other religions and their respective charlatans. It is only with regards to Christianity and Judaism that I am capable of dissecting their holy books in such exquisite detail; I come from a Baptist background, so the bible is certainly not alien to me.

Why Religion?

"Child of God" uses a very weird analogy to define the atheist stance: A person who doesn't get sloshed out on alcohol should not be harping about the ill-effects of alcohol abuse. This may be the case, but if you have a close relation or friend who is an alcoholic addict, or if you are an ex-abuser of alcohol yourself, wouldn't you want to help others who have trotted down the same path as you had?

The reason why atheists talk about religion most of the time (well, not all the time; I do talk about human rights issues, for example. I am sure atheists are not all inept and dull and dreary to repeat the same drivel on religion!) has more or less got to do with the intrusive, abrasive nature of religion and their legions of believers. Ideally, beliefs, be it religious or philosophical stances and dogmas, are personal stances that constitutes part and parcel of what secularists deem as human rights. In layman's terms, you have your right to belief, and no one should be able to stop you from your right to belief.

That right of belief, however, does not entail the following:

1. The right to force or shove down your beliefs down the throats of others through intimidation, threats, or violence of any sort.

2. The right to infringe upon secular government or education to endorse your unscientific, baseless beliefs.

3. The right to get tax-free relief to uphold your religious belief.

For example, you may believe in the existence of elves. No one can stop you. Sure, some folks might snigger about your odd little belief behind your backs, and some people might even make snide remarks in front of you, but no one should be telling you, or even enforcing any rule of law, to stop you from believing in anything, regardless of ridicule.

That said, you cannot demand that your odd little belief be turned into standard curriculum in government schools, nor should you be forcing secular government institutions to endorse your quaint beliefs.

The reason why atheists feel aggrieved is this: Religious folks want to have the cake and eat it whole: They want us to respect their beliefs, but they have no qualms when it comes to criticizing other creeds, such as gays, lesbians and atheists. They want to enact laws to limit the rights of other groups, such as gay marriages and in some countries, the right to sex between two consensual, adult same-sex partners. They have lobby groups which attempt to discredit Science and other forms of secular education, while at the same time trying their darnest best to smuggle quasi-religious topics, such as Creationism and Intelligent Design, under the veneer of "alternative Science" or other equivalents into secular education programs.

And on the worst possible end of the spectrum, religious folks are quite inclined to commit violence on the hopes of getting prime tickets for a seat in paradise: Muslim males, driven by the horny desire to screw 72 virgins in heaven, are often too willing to subject themselves to indoctrination and subsequent martyrdom, and in the process killing scores of innocent people in their quest for a piece of the divine. This is religious mayhem and genocide at its worst.

Is Atheism a Religion?

If only it was true: Atheism lacks the decisive, cohesive trait to form any sort of institution like what the Christians and other theists do not find lacking. As a result, herding atheists is kind of like herding cats, and it gets worst when one of the basic, well-acknowledged fundamentals with regards to secular free thinking encourages independent thought.

To call atheism a religion is kind of an oxy-moron in any case; there is no elaborate religious ceremony (such as the Eucharist), no deity, no enigmatic figure (some religious folks may concur that Richard Dawkins is some sort of a mythical high priest of atheism; I find this to be more of a tribute to the great work of the scientist than anything symbolic) and no united philosophy or common ground other than a distinctive absence of belief in any form of deities or the supernatural.

Is Atheism Hypocritical?

It depends on how you see it. If you believe that our beliefs are religious in nature, you'd probably call us hypocrites of the worst possible nature for denying the religious aspects of atheism.

That said, atheists do have their own beliefs, but it doesn't stem from atheism: I am an atheist based on one single premise that I do not believe in God. I am also a secular humanist, a communist sympathizer (No, I am not a communist. Frankly, I think communism is not practical), and most importantly, I advocate Science because it works (for good and for bad). These are my core set of beliefs, and I do not expect every atheist to share all my beliefs and with it, my opinions. We atheists are too individualistic to behave like androids, or sheep in a farmer's pen.

Most atheists are not overtly offended by personal belief, as long as it stays personal and does not infringe upon the rights of others. Most of us don't have a tendency to judge other folks, no matter how absurd their beliefs may be, but all it takes is a flying circus of religious hucksters, murderous barbaric hordes of criminals eviscerating themselves in the name of God, to get us into an angry frenzy of words and denounciations. And even then, we don't generally bear arms, nor do we go on a spate of riots to prove our points.

Atheism in a Nutshell

While it is very easy to lambast "Child of God" for his somewhat lob-sided comments, I do appreciate this opportunity to highlight the misconceptions of atheism, and also the level of mistrust against atheists in general.

To sum it all up, atheists are folks who simply do not believe in your God, or anyone else's God. All we ask for is to keep your religion to yourselves, and in the process of doing so, try doing away with the flying grenades, time bombs and the occasional torture.

Beast FCD

One Less God = No Gods?

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Stephen Roberts

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Of Talking Snakes and Talking Asses

Science and Religion: Two Distinct, Separate Institutions of Philosophy and Thought

More often than not, Christian fundamentalists claim that the Bible is a literal, rather than allegorical, factual book, aligned with the standard tenets of Science. Such ridiculous claims can be gleaned by morons, such as the Ken Ham from "Answers in Genesis", an other unctuous religious morons who actually construe Science to fit into their narrow, biblical worldview.

In this post, I hope to highlight a few of these "enlightened facts" of the Holy Babble: Be prepared for a good hearty laugh.

The Talking Snake?

This slithery creature is the subject of vehemence in many a culture, thanks in no part to the fact that a good portion of snake species are poisonous (Even the non-venomous kinds, such as the anaconda and the python, can devour and swallow a small child), and the slithery, creepy nature of their legless, slender bodies.

In the Book of Genesis, the bible describes the beginnings of Creation, a supposedly perfect utopia which was supposedly created in 7 days: Light that engulfs the planet, the stars that light up the sky like Christmas lights, the Beasts of the Earth, and so on and so forth.

Amidst the grandeur and splendid myriad of God's wondrous Creation, the asinine Creator did let loose the one creature that was to foil all of his painstaking work: The Crafty, Willy Talking Snake!

Genesis Chapter 3:1-6 describes the chain of events:

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

How preposterous and pernicious a creature, this talking snake! To think that the charming creature (The talking snake would, if it was alive today, charm the pants out of our modern day snake charmers) had the temerity to tempt the very first two humans, God's very own image, on this lonely planet!

As the Cosmic super godfather, Yahweh couldn't let this dastardly Creature go unpunished: Along with Adam and Eve, who were banished from paradise (Eve got a worst deal for her role as temptress; she was made to suffer the pain of child birth, and most importantly, sow the first seeds of misogyny which would plague women kind for posterity), the snake became the first, ignominious creature to suffer the wrath of the deity:

Genesis Chapter 3:14 describes the extent of this divine punishment:

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

Ah, the snake now crawls on its belly: Now this would seem to suggest that the original talking snake could walk (or maybe fly!)! A walking, talking snake in paradise!

Indeed, the irony of this so-called perfect utopia was destroyed by the mere presence of a creature, which really gives us a glimpse of the fallacious idea of an omnipotent, omni-benevolent deity. If anything else, this dreary episode speaks of incompetence on the part of God.

Not to mention the ludicrous idea of a walking, talking snake.

Balaam's Talking Donkey?

The donkey shares a special place in the books of antiquity: Along with other forms of property, such as the ox and yes, women, the donkey is one of the few essential items in the desert wastes of the middle east. Turn to Numbers Chapter 31, and it is clear that donkeys are considered prized commodities in the list of war booty.

But.... a talking donkey? That certainly stretches the imagination a bit, but like the talking snake, when it comes to Biblical nonsense, the sky's the limit (Considering that a host of folks, including Elijah and Jebus, did fly to the heavens)!

King Barak's Fear for His People

Balaam Whips His Disgruntled Talking Donkey

As a continuation of Numbers Chapter 21, Chapter 22 opens with an pervasive fear expressed by the King of Moab, Balak, the son of Zippor.

Having witnessed the destruction of the Amorites by the Israelites, Balak sends his emissaries to Balaam, hoping that he will put a curse on these murderous hordes of God.

Barak Seeks Help From Balaam

Numbers Chapter 22: 1-8 highlights the dire situation:

1 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, "This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field."
So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River, [b] in his native land. Balak said:
"A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Perhaps the6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. n I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed."

7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

8 "Spend the night here," Balaam said to them, "and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me." So the Moabite princes stayed with him.

9 God came to Balaam and asked, "Who are these men with you?"

The idea of putting a curse upon your erstwhile enemies is, to put it bluntly, an exercise in futility. That said, what is baffling at this point is, God didn't know the identities of the elders and princes who were in the company of Balaam! An all-knowing God who doesn't know the acquaintances of his followers?

As the story unfolds, after God was informed of the ill-intentions of these visitors by Balak, God commanded Balak not to bow down to their demands.

God Changes His Mind

Undeterred, Balak sent in princes who were more distinguished than those emissaries from the first expedition; this time, Balak found it incredibly difficult to reject their pleas. Even God relents, telling Balak to "go with them, but do as I tell you".

15Then Balak sent other princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:
"This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me."

18 But Balaam answered them, "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God. 19 Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else the LORD will tell me."

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you."

So, God changes his mind, and, to Balaam's chagrin, God's mind changes so fast that Balaam simply can't keep up!

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.

24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again.

26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"

29 Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."

30 The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"
"No," he said.

A talking donkey, it seems, doesn't seem to alarm or startle Balaam: He carries on a verbal debate with his own ass, as if it were a mundane, household affair!!!!

What is more perplexing is that Balaam was actually obeying God's command when he followed the princes; yet, God was furious with Balaam for following his very own orders! A case of severe, medical dementia for the all-important Cosmic Godfather???

Biblical Hogwash: Snakes and Asses Do not Talk

Reasonable, rational people do not believe in fantastical, incredulous tales of the biblical sort: Extraordinary claims do require extraordinary proof.

Sane, rational people also do not accept the ludicrous idea of talking snakes and donkeys: Yet, the bible is full of ludicrous creatures and events which requires a gigantic leap of faith, and when faith has to be invoked to acquire belief, it is not difficult to detect the whiff of bullshit that permeates such exaggerating claims.

If asses and snakes could talk, we'd be having mass debates with these beasts: The ass would perhaps form trade unions and demand for higher wages, and the snakes, well.........they could become hucksters and chalartans in the Benny Hinn mould!

Christians who claim that the bible is a bastion of truth should really take a real good look at what really is written by these dubious authors of scripture, and stop making an ass of themselves.

Keeping an Open Mind???

By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.
-Richard Dawkins

Saturday, 20 December 2008

US of A Refuses UN Condemnation of Anti-Gay Laws in Favor of Bigotry

Matthew Shepherd: Murdered in Cold Blood By Christians

On the dark night of 6-7 October 1988, Matthew Shepherd, a student of the University of Wyoming, then 21, was lured to a remote area and brutally assaulted. He was left to die on a split rail fence for 18 hours, before being found by a cyclist, who initially thought he saw a scarecrow.

Such unimaginable acts of hatred. What kind of a personal vendetta would induce the murderer, or murderers, to commit such an insane, inhuman assault on another fellow man? The answer laid in the sexual orientation of the deceased victim: Matthew Shepherd is gay, and yes, he was American, and he died on American soil. You'd think that America is the home of the brave, and land of the free, that every man is entitled to live as a free man within the boundaries of law. Well, think again, folks. When religion rules the roost, bigotry, intolerance and the occasional murder are standard weapons brandished in the name of God.

Religious Tyranny:Respect as a One-Way Street

More often than not, religious people often demand that people respect their belief systems: They want prayers in schools, halal food in government canteens, their right to practice their cultures irregardless of the laws of the land.

While these religious folks do not admit it explicitly, the ends do justify the means: Draw a few offensive cartoons about the Muhammad, and you see hordes of Muslims up in arms, brandishing their AK-47s and Molotov cocktails, unleashing verbal threats of deaths against the accused perpetrators of these perceived acts of abuse and wanton disrespect for their religions.

As the civilized, rational folks would have you know, respect is a two way street: You respect my right to free speech, and I respect your right to belief. Unfortunately, these religious, barbaric hordes with mentalities of a bygone, feudal era do not see things our way. While we are denied the right to criticize their beloved religions, these morons expect every right to condemn people who are different from them in terms of creeds, beliefs and philosophies. And this, I am afraid, includes the right to outright bigotry and hate.

Persecution and Discrimination Against the Gay & Lesbian Community

1. Legal Violence under Religious Laws

In ultra-orthodox Muslim countries which adhere to Syariah, or Islam law, homosexuality is classified as a serious crime: A good lashing and some jail time might be in stall for gays unlucky enough to be caught in an "anti-vice" raid supervised and executed by religious officers hell-bent on upholding bigotry. In one particularly infamous raid, dozens of men were caught in what was deemed as a "gay wedding" by a Saudi newspaper; dozens of men were sentenced to a good whipping up to a grand total of 14,200 lashes (ranging from 200 to 2000: Ouch, that must hurt!), plus jail time from 6 months to 2 yrs (Link here).

2. Homophobia in Secular Nations

Religious nations aside, gays in supposedly secular countries are also vulnerable to physical and verbal threats from religious folks who feel vindicated by their respective archaic religious texts to spill their vitriol and sow their seeds of hatred. In certain cases, these may lead to verbal, social and even physical abuse against the homosexual community.

Abuses aside, the wanton discrimination against gays and lesbians means that they are automatically disadvantaged both at work and at school, which contradicts the "equality for all" mantra that is supposed to be the basis of all democracies.

The statistics tell a grim and depressing story:

1. Students who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered are five times more likely to miss school because of feeling unsafe. 28% are forced to drop out.
-National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "Anti-Gay/Lesbian Victimization", New York, 1984

2. Due to sexual orientation discrimination, lesbians earn up to 14% less than their heterosexual female peers with similar jobs, education, age and residence, according to a study by the University of Maryland.
-Badgett, M.V. Lee, "The Wage Effects of Sexual Orientation Discrimination," -Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 1995

3. The vast majority of victims of anti-lesbian/gay violence - possibly more than 80% - never report the incident, often due to fear of being "outed."
-New York Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project Annual Report, 1996

4. More than 70 nations in the world outlaw have anti-homosexual laws in their law books (This includes Singapore), with several of them (namely, the Islamic nations) advocating the death penalty for what is deemed to be a criminal act.

The United Nations Respond; No Support from the Supposed Bastion of Democracy, the United States of America

In light of this continuation of human rights abuse, the United Nations have come together to condemn such acts of cruelty against people who do not share the same sexual orientation as the majority.

In a show of solidarity amongst the more liberal, enlightened nations, 66 nations, including all EU countries (There you go, Europe is a liberal haven), Australia (Another favorite country of mine), Japan, Mexico, and so on.

The countries which object? Well, the usual suspects crop up, as usual: Arab/Muslim countries, the Vatican (Fuck, one would be hard-pressed to even classify them as a "country", but yes, the Vatican is recognized as a sovereign state), and most depressingly, the United States of America.

Considering that America has its fair share of shame in its treatment of the ethnic minorities, such as the clobbering and near total annihilation of the Red Indians and the enslaving of African-Americans and the subsequent apartheid laws, you'd think that the Americans might want to set the record straight on the rare occasion an opportunity opens up. But hell no. Oh well, the Bush Administration is still up there, and one would really need an overdose of optimism to expect morons of the conservative kind to grant gays and lesbians any leeway.

America: A Bastion of Human Rights, or A Sickening Den for Homophobia?

As far as human rights is concerned, America is an empty vessel of sorts: It calls itself a bastion of human rights, and Uncle Sam has no qualms when it comes to criticizing China's communist regime as an abuser of human rights.

Yet, America has not projected itself as a guardian angel either: The shame of Guantanamo still hangs ominously overhead, and the reluctance to even join the rest of the secular free world to denounce anti-gay movements is a good indicator with regards to where America stands with regards to human rights issues. By not voting to condemn anti-gay bigotry, America is tacitly agreeing and abetting bigotry against a minority who are being trampled upon by the largely religious majority.

As America slowly loses touch with reality and with it, its status of being the sole superpower (if one can still consider America a superpower) on this lonely planet, the last thing it needs is to alienate itself from the rest of the free, secular world.

"For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked."

-Bill Cosby, American comedian, actor, author, television producer and activist.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Religion & Terrorism

Crimes of a more mundane nature are often inspired by desperation: The need to vent one's hatred, hence murder, or the overpowering scent of greed, hence robbery or thievery.

More often than not, humans are frail, mortal creatures; we give in to our inane desires, commit crimes against the very society that we hang on desperately to for our livelihoods, and indeed we can all explain away and condemn such crimes as weaknesses of our own mortal selves.

How then, can we explain the impulsion of deranged, angry young men hell-bent on murder in the name of God?

Murder in the Name of God

Consider the lives of these three young men in question:

1. Eric Rudolph was a professional soldier with the 101st Airborne Division in the United States Army before he was discharged in 1989.

2.Mohamed Atta was a Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg student who was destined to have a bright future as an architect; in fact, his thesis professor was quite inclined to praise him, saying that "he has a bright future".

3.Ajmar Amir: A young man who desperately wanted to earn enough money so that his family can establish a decent business.

Three different men, all united by a common goal: Terrorism.

Rudolph's Mug Shot

Eric Rudolph is a Christian terrorist who is currently serving five consecutive life sentences for a series of murders and acts of terror: The Infamous Atlanta Olympics Bombings, the bombing of and abortion clinic and a gay and lesbian bar, killing and maiming hundreds in his bombing spree.

Mohamed Atta: The Leader of the Infamous 911 Attacks

Mohamed Atta was the infamous leader of the terrorist jihad group which hijacked four aircrafts and plowed then straight into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon (the forth aircraft was successfully intercepted by passengers and took a lethal plunge to earth in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, before it could reach its designated target, the White House). He did not survive the mission (None of those who participated survived. Same goes to all the passengers on board the ill-fated flights).

Caught in the Act by Security Camera: Amir in Action in Mumbai

Ajmar Amir is the sole survival of the latest Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Which leads to the inevitable question: What motivates the average Joe on the street to possess such strong will power to overcome the fear of death and the natural revulsion towards murder, to commit such large-scale, grandiose acts of murder and self-destruction?

The 2008 Mumbai Attacks

The Siege of Mumbai: Religious Terror in Action

On Nov 26, 2008, a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai marked a siege by Islamic insurgents which lasted all of three days, before Indian commandos and security forces managed to flush them out. The result of the carnage was chilling indeed: Approximately 200 innocent civilians were cut down by AK-47 gun fire, or blown into smithereens by grenades.

As the series of events, from the training of these Pakistani terrorists in their jihad camps right up to the execution of their operations began to unravel in the press, the ultimate question that faces modern civilization or the global community in general is this: Is Islam a religion of peace? Or, to put it more succinctly: Is religion the cause of extremism and the unbridled violence that has been wrought forth by religious folks hell-bent on the extermination of infidels and heretics?

Tracing the Source: Religious Holy Books

Holy Books, or Holy Nonsense???

What is not mentioned, or not mentioned frequently in mainstream media is the extremist, dark side of Religion's holy books: All too often, moderates who thump their holy books and attempt to sell their religions as the elixir to the woes of the world are apt to trumpet the kind, virtuous teachings of their religions: Thou shalt not kill, Be kind to thy neighbours and so on. Most of us are so hardwired to this kind of lame pandering to the religious right that we don't really take notice of the dark, sinister sides of religious texts that when something heinous is being carried out in the name of religion, folks begin to question and explain away the underlying issues behind such deeds: Lack of education, wrong religious interpretations of religious texts by errant mullahs and other religious leaders, poverty, etc.... Anything and everything is blamed except God, the Prophet and yes, the religious text in question. Secular folks are reticent when it comes to criticizing Islam, which comes as no surprise, considering that the general reaction towards criticism comes in the form of violence riots and mass assassination sprees.

Consider these unsavory verses from the Koran:

1. "Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . [I]f they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers"(2:190–93).

2. "Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not" (2:216).

While moderates will no doubt accuse me of cherry-picking and taking verses completely out of context, in the minds of a indoctrinated Muslim fundamentalist who believes that every word in the Koran is all but divinely inspired by God and granted to men via Muhammad, such fiery words of carnage, slaying and fighting against the bad eggs or infidels who refuse to submit to Islam, plus a couple of virgins with self-repairing hymens to maintain an eternity of virgin sex, are sufficient divine inspiration for the religious man to strap a couple of bombs and eviscerate himself (or sometimes, herself) in the name of Allah.

In the book, “The 9/11 Verses: Terrorist Teachings in the Koran”, by author Karl J. Trautwein, Islam is primarily based on the Koran (The equivalent of the Bible) and the Hadith ( A collection of stories about the life of Prophet Muhammad); both teachings are a bi-polar, often contradictory teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

According to Trautwein, these teachings can be classified under two categories: A milder, more tolerant collection of verses designed to preach tolerance and forbearance towards non-Muslims, and a more antagonistic set which calls for the fire and brimstone variety: "Passages teaching peace and tolerance are believed to come from the early days when Muhammad lived in Mecca. Verses calling for hate and violence are believed to have been revealed in Medina, which was later in his life.”

Such a dichotomy is hardly surprising: Unlike Jesus, Muhammad was a conqueror, and like Genghis Khan before him, he was the final arbitrator to many who cling upon his every word in deciding many of their actions, failing which, they were quite possibly inclined to lose their lives. And like the great Khan before him, Muhammad's behavior and demeanor would have coincided closely with the degree of hostility of his conquered tribes: If they were submissive to his rule, fair enough. Live and let live, provided, of course, you pay your taxes. Failing which, a blood path inevitably ensues. And it is due to such disparities and glaring contradictions that separates the fundamentalists and the moderates: The former wants to wield power and exercise terror in the name of Religion, while the latter preaches tolerance and moderation.

The stark reality is this: Like the Old testaments and the Torah, these holy texts were scribed in a time when tribal mentality, segregation and theocracy is the rule of the day. As such, these texts are rigidly segmented and confined within a compartmental mentality that enforces the "us-vs-them" mentality. In order to read this texts without taking them "out of context" (an accusation I am apt to suffer from the hands of the Christian brethren who couldn't even quote their beloved bibles right), one has to take them in the historical context of the era they were written (a tall order, especially for the Christians, since most scholars are still wrangling over the precise authors of these holy texts).

In short, holy texts from some forgotten era cannot be held as a standard barometer for modern, social behavior; holding a siege mentality based on nothing else but clan kinship and religious affiliation in a globalized setting is akin to a sexy model wearing a bikini and sauntering straight into a board of directors meeting: It is out of place, and is terribly embarrassing.

Religion As the Source of Violence and Discord

As pious folks of the fundamentalist kind will have you know, they yearn for a utopian society based on non-secular values, rigid religious codes and horribly eschewed priorities: A woman flashing half a tit is the criminal equivalent of a murderer: Both are criminal equivalents worthy of death (Beheading for the murderer, stoning to death for the adulterer/tit flasher).

It is time the mainstream secular media and common folks realize that if we continue to turn a blind eye to the real source of terrorism and other forms of religiously-incited violence, we are ignoring the full extent and scale of the true nature of Religion, and this, I am afraid to say, will continue to egg the egos of terrorists who conspire these acts of terror against the masses.

Joyous Murder in the Name of God

"Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions"
-- Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Whining Christian

As of late, I have been engaged in a debate cum discussion, more or less, with a Christian who has accused me, amongst a myriad of his misfortunes, of being abusive (kind of the abused housewife syndrome on his part), angry, morose, and worst of all, unsympathetic of his beliefs.

Indeed, those who know me well enough, online or otherwise, do know of my infamous temper; I am quite prone to anger, especially from those who commit the Sin of Stupidity (tis the only Sin in my vocabulary, the rest are imaginary), and yes, I have little patience for morons who act and behave like half-witted simpletons who have amoebas for brain cells.

With this in mind, Marcus Mok comes into the picture: I first came across one of his blog posts (link here), in which, amongst other things, he accuses atheists of untying the "good" work of his Christian brethren. Apparently, some atheists had tried to de-convert (if there is indeed such a word) a sheep whom had just joined the Christian fold, and he was crying wolf. Very vindictive stuff.

While my first reaction was to lampoon him with four-letter expletives, a short perusal of his blog seems to indicate the presence of brain cells in the Christian brain of his; maybe, just maybe, I thought, he might be intelligent enough for a decent debate. I thought wrong.

Whining Away.........

Now, folks, I have never been wishy-washy enough to deem myself as an angelic creature of sorts; after all, I am an ex-navy guy, and if anything else, I hate pusillanimous fellows who wish to peddle crap to me, or attempt to sneak in bullshit under my radar screen.

Right from the start, I have been quite cordial in handling this Marcus guy: No expletives (or kept to a minimum), no insulting of immediate relations, and the works. I have also invited him for a debate, which he neither accepted nor forcefully declined.

Subsequently, however, after my first blog post titled: "A Debate With a Christian, Part I", he over-reacted. First, it was that harmless little caricature which I had pasted on the post proper; it seemed a little bit too "extreme" to him. I had then assured him that the cartoon was nothing more than mere jest.

Things went down the proverbial hill after that: I was accused, amongst other things, of being a tyrannical bully and a shadowy character of the Hitleristic kind.

Excerpts from his latest blog post (His in Red, my rebuttal in Blue):

1. Oh Dear, I am so, so busy!!!

As many of my friends have already known, I am in a life phrase of massive changes and adjustments: our baby is coming in January next year. The mantle of fatherhood is something I am still readying myself for. My primary responsibility now is to my wife and baby, and we are looking forward to it.

As a teacher, I have lesson plans and materials to prepare. I am accountable to my students.

I am also accountable to my church youths whom I lead.

Sure Marcus, you are SO DAMN BUSY (Busy wanking yourself???). Indeed, teaching, baby-making, church, the works. Fair enough. I give it to you.

WHY MUST YOU REPEAT THIS EXCUSE EVERY TIME YOU SEEM TO RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SAY??? Are you alluding that I am a bloody loafer who depends on cash outs for a bloody living?

You are busy, so am I. I work ten hours a day, flat out. I understand how it feels to be industrious, believe you me, but don't make it sound as a sympathy vote or attention-grabbing ploy, because it doesn't work on me. Besides, I have never compelled you to debate with me on any time basis, or any other basis for that matter. So, quit whining.

2. I Hate Debates!!!

Marcus makes it clear, on this post, that he detests debates: His reasoning is somewhat pusillanimous: He thinks debates are anything but fruitful. I guess in Marcus's little fantasy work, Jebus features highly on his list; there are no debates in his little imagination. Just androgynous Christians believing in the same doctrines or a hippie-loving Jesus.

A summary of his points (The rest can be gleaned from his post):

1) Debates tend to entrench opposite parties in their own propositions.

2) Debates not well moderated ended up appealing to emotionalism and sentimentalism, with little clarity given for reason and reflection.

3) Outcomes of debates is not necessarily conclusive.

From here on Mr Marcus rants and rants about the mishaps of debating, and why he just ain't interested. Fair enough.

But why accuse me of skulduggery when I have not engaged in any?


I have been accused of the following nefarious deeds:

1. Taunting: Amongst other things, I have also commented on his tagboard and his blog.

Now, as a blog owner myself, I understand the open nature of blogs: As long as you invite people to comment, it is quite akin to opening the door of your home and inviting all manner of strangers: People will read what you write, comment, or sometimes abuse you. One has to be a little thick-skinned to endure negative comments, take it in your stride, and move on. Such is the nature of writing on blogs.

But Marcus doesn't want that. He doesn't want me to comment "excessively" on his tag board; so I inquired: What exactly is the problem? Why is he so afraid of my comments?

He takes that as a taunt of sorts:

Marcus: wow, u flooded my tagboard. We can carry our discussion elsewhere, ya? Over email and gmail chat, as we're doing

Which he tauntingly and inaccurately interpreted as worry:

Beast FCD: Why are you so worried? Let your Christian brethrens know the truth. Nothing but the truth.

A taunt of this nature will be too mild for me: Anyone with half my wit and talent as a bad-ass wordsmith can only take this as a token of insult. I can definitely craft a taunt that can insult your family line till the 18th generation, but for the sake of decency I haven't done that.....yet.

2. Rude for Debunking his Arguments

This is a bit of a sidetrack, but in a Gmail chat, I had torn down Marcus's half-arsed attempts in the art of the Apologetics Argument (Which to me is a half-arsed idea: How does one sum up any form of cohesive arguments in support of the Scriptures???), and in a follow up, I had kindly advised him not to waste any more resources and time on such futile endeavors:

My advice on the tag board:

Beast FCD: Ok ok. Got your point. Anyway, your apologetics class sux. I don't think you should pay money to attend it. I can debunk your arguments as easily as swatting a fly.

His Rebuttal:

Wait a minute. This is going overboard. I had written off my personal reflections, and I shall reiterate it as such: these are just my reflections. You do not take personal reflections as the sum total of my apologetics training. It is very unfair to my teacher, to say the least. It is also very unfair to me, and I'll explain why:

(What can I say? A bad master begets a bad student. A friendly advice of this sort is not a personal insult: If the teacher is a moron, change a new one. Incompetency should never be tolerated!)

I remembered he once promised to be civil if I remained civil. To my mind, I do not think I have acted in an uncivilised manner, unless he interpretts my probing questions as uncivilized. Surely, a civil response should be to point out my error first?

(Which I had done, numerous times: The most glaring error was the part when he said ADAM WAS A BIOLOGIST!!!!!)

To be fair, Beast had acted civilly before. Once I made a point about why he's so religious about his atheism. He pointed out to me that this is an ad hominem argument, and threatened me with retaliation. I learnt my manners, and a new word.

(Religious about atheism? Well, I think Marcus is talking about the art of oxymoron, or the philosophy of square circles. Point of note: I did not threaten Marcus in any way, physically, verbally or both.)

Could he be slightly more consistent in his manners?

(Always been, plus and minus a few cheeky remarks here and there.)

To my mind, I do not think he addresses my points adequately. In a Gmail chat later, he said that my arguments are phony. Well, 1) most of the arguments I've put forth are fairly original, so I'm happy you point out what is phony about them, as I can then refine it. 2) For the arguments that others more abled than I have put forth, I do not see him engaging adequately enough with it. For example, I made a reference to the kalam cosmological argument, and he dismissed it with some sweeping misconceptions and later a mathematical argument to disprove it (which reminded me of Dawkins). I later questioned the validity of that mathematical argument, and he tried to explain. All's well and good, but I remained unconvinced. There're loads of unqualified assumptions behind his explanation, but I had no time to seek further clarification.

(The argument was simple. If the idea that God has to be the first Cause, the mathematical probability that God's existence came from nothing would have been more infinitesimal than the Universe evolving all by itself.)

3. Rude for Requesting Christian to Wait his Turn

Being a concerned creature, I was wondering if the stress of all that counter-rebuttals was getting into our dear Marcus's head; when another Christian attempted to rescue Marcus, I kindly ask the 3rd party to wait his turn.

Guess what? I was accused of being an uncouth, uncivilized barbarian:

My comments on the blog post:

Wei wu:If you want a debate with me, you gotta line up.Marcus is first on my list. Beast FCD(Friend of Charles Darwin)

Apparently, asking someone to wait is akin to asking someone to shut up (I wonder if Marcus ever queues up for his food in the school canteen? He's a teacher.......).

Marcus's Response? I am the Devil with a two-pronged fork and a masking tape:

(Note that the same 'courtesy' was not extended to me when I commented on his blog. Others are free to engage with my points--I don't have a problem with that really--but when weiwu spoke up, he shut him up and ask him to line up.)

I did not extend the same courtesy? Read my blog post again, Marcus. Oh, if you can't read, allow me to quote myself:

"At no point have I assumed that you are here for a quarrel. While I cannot assure you the kind of response you will be getting (After all, I can't control the thoughts and reactions of posters who visit my blog, even if they do have nefarious motives), what I can assure you is that as long as we stick to the same decorum as we have done in the past, I am sure we can take this debate to some kind of a meaningful level."

A Pusillanimous Ending

Like a damn weasel he has proven himself to be, Marcus devoted entire paragraphs to mask the exact nature of the going-ons, sort of like white-washing a dirty wall:

"I doubt that you will read my blog post without a hint of anger or arrogance, though I certainly hope you could prove me wrong. If your or your friends' responses are vindictive and rude, rest assured that I will not allow you to tag/comment anymore. I certainly hope our friendship do not end on such terms.

The manner in which we sought the truth should match the gravity of the matter sought for.

You might want to know, Beast, that I did not quote from an apologetics guidebook, believe it or not. I write from my personal reflections, whether here or at your blog. Don't jump to criticize my course nor my books, just as I had refrained from criticizing any of the New Atheist writers."

To hell with you, Marcus. Stabbing me behind my back, and telling me not to be furious!

Sure, Marcus, you mentioned nothing from your Apologetics class? Remember "Adam is a biologist" crap you bantered about in my face like some kind of a Christian bait? Lying is a sin in your bible, Marcus. Remember that.

Add to the whole list of my insidious deeds, I had caused him to lose sleep: Gee, I never thought I was so scary (I know I have a face of a mutt, but mutts are ugly in a cute way.....):

"No, it isn't. I couldn't sleep the night I wrote this, so I got up at 2.30am and wrote all the way to 6.30am.

This shows the extent that I am affected. Rem u said u won't laugh."

Ok. I promised not to laugh. But I didn't promise that my readers won't be guffawing away at your abject cowardice and ineptitude.

Marcus: A Typical Christian Weasel

In any case, I have had enough of this Christian weasel. It has been a complete waste of my time; if anything else, I would like to comment on the Mumbai bombings and the sadistic and murderous nature of religion.

Until then, adios, and good night.

Beast FCD