Monday, May 31, 2010

Bioflashback: Chronicles of a Crazy Stalker

There was this kid, my junior in high school. He may have changed his habit, or maybe not. I am telling you of my experience of this junior nuisance, let me tell you I'm nice enough to spare his name for his future!

This kid added me in MSN and Friendster, I approved him. Being a senior in school, I had to be at least, be in good terms with juniors to talk to them. Who knew, this gave him a foothold.

From the first chat he started asking me a lot of questions. That I didn't really mind, I do long first chats to get to know a person. In order to get to know people, you can't run away from asking questions! But of course, ask appropriate questions. So I entertained this kid.

Who knows, this kid continued to ask shitloads of questions, everyday, perpetually whenever I'm online on MSN. From personal information I'm comfortable with sharing with general people, he started asking about inner workings of school administration and my positions as a librarian. Eh, must I tell you everything for you to know it all? Do you need to know such thing when you're not in the position? Don't you understand some knowledge is sworn to secrecy?!

The went on for days, the more questions he bombarded onto me, the more irritated I became. In such a relatively short period of time, I just couldn't bear with him anymore. My fire of impatience was burning to the MAX, this kid just simply took up much of my time. In my wrath I scolded him: People like me are busy and have work to do; and this is not the pace you should chat in MSN!!!

When he don't get what he wants, he'd spam my Friendster testimonials with demands. In my judgment (I feel like lah) I removed him from my Friendster friends.

Two years ago, my senior wrote a post about the same person (ie. this kid). FYI, this kid is three years my junior, so you go count how old is he now lol! Shame on him.

Technorati tags: ,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

50 big ideas

Was out at Costco, Docklands today with roomies to shop for groceries in bulk. Reminds me a lot of Makro the commercial wholesaler.

Bought this for dirt cheap.


50 big ideas you really need to know

A light reading on everything! Covers topics from philosophy to science. I hope to collect all books in the series. I have 50 Mathematical Ideas you really need to know back home.

Technorati tags: ,

Friday, May 28, 2010

Darwinism vs Christianity

Had our pre-exam cell group, Ben Kane brought up a very interesting debate on evolution versus Christianity.

He took a breadth subject on Darwinism that introduces so much ideas alien to a Christian.

If you take the Bible word for word, counting from creation of the world to the present day, summing up age of the biblical figures as you go, the world is 6000 years. Contrary to creationism whereby Adam and Eve are the first humans on Earth (supposedly), how can we explain the existence of Neanderthals, another closely related, but extinct, human species? Do organisms come by intelligent design, or by evolution?

I took the opportunity to bring up some issues raised in Letter to a Christian Girlfriend: 1. Moses ordering the mass killing of married Midianite women and children and 2. Status of women in biblical times. The famous story of Abraham sacrificing his only son, Issac on divine command is remembered by many as an act of faith. But when you isolate the divine justification of Abraham's act, then he became the an insane child murderer. There are so many tipping points involved in incidents described in the Bible, none other than the personality of Jesus - He's either a bona fide Saviour of the World, or can be dismissed as a madman.

The conclusion is, the Christian Bible is God inspired but man written. Verses in the Bible are still significant to some extent, but I wouldn't take every event in the Bible as absolute historical truth. The act of reason encourage pursuit of knowledge, but don't let that pursuit spoil the faith and relationship. Faith must always come first when it comes to God, the sea of knowledge is vast and borderless, the only reassurance is God is greater than all knowledge of the world, He's real, and is & will always be with His creations.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jonathan's birthday surprise take #2

Val Lim decided to mount a birthday surprise for her brother, Jonathan Lim (who I've mentioned before). Why not have a take #2 for Jonathan?

We were to gather near Jonathan's house. Val was gonna pretend that her close friends were coming to celebrate birthday for Jonathan, so we just went into his house and SURPRISE!

Jonathan birthday surprise 2010



boon kheng and jonathan lim birthday surprise 2010
Must camwhore w/ birthday boy ok?

Jonathan may you enjoy life more and more!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Birthday dinner for Jonathan

Continue on the previous Kum Den Cantonese Delight it's birthday time for Jonathan Lim!

This dinner was a special Urban Life session to relax and catch up with each other's life. Also a good time to cool off, especially we close up our semester finishing assignments and studying for exams.

Jonathan Lim birthday cake

Jonathan Lim
Happy birthday to Jonathan!

Ching Chung, Joshua, Amelyn, Trili
The guys and girls.

ee-li and kim
Meet two charming ladies!

jonathan, boon kheng, joyce chee
Best friends forever!


Thanks all for attending!

There's another birthday surprise for Jonathan Lim!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Walkway in autumn

professor walk university of melbourne autumn 2010

A walkway in University of Melbourne Parkville campus. It's chilly air in sunny day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Response to Letter to a Christian Girlfriend

After reading the long letter, I shall answer some issues raised to the best of my capacity.

Question: God ask you to put to death people who believe in other gods

Since God saved the Hebrews aka Israelites from Egypt, God promised favour on them with some conditions. They are never to follow other deities. To further enforce that, death is the punishment, so whoever Israelite serve other gods at that time will be put to death. So if one is allowed to go astray in their faith, there will be dire consequences! Since the Israelites themselves have experienced that great rescue, they should known it.

But now we are living in the age of truth, no longer bound to the law. Idolatary is of course still a sin. But didn't Jesus commissioned us to tell others about our faith? So, those who have yet to come to Christ, we welcome them and let themselves choose to renounce their old religious practices. If you know the goodness of God, would you leave? Certainly not.

Question: Moses ordered all Midianite women and children be killed.

I read the part of the Bible that mentioned Moses ordered the killing of all Midianite women and children. When I don't understand what's happening, or why the prophets said that, I read the parts preceding it. What went on was that the Midianites lured some Israelites into idolatary. God asked Moses to attack the Midianites and completely destroy them.

Bible verses are not to be read in isolation. It's a continuous prose.

Question: Since God is all merciful and powerful, why not God forgive man outright for their sins?

God will judge, but He also loves. But don't you realize judgment and love are very hard to come together? That's why the Son of God descended onto earth to take our punishments in our place. Don't you realize God came down on earth and allowed Himself to die in the hands of man, the very thing He created? In the old days the Jews had to sacrifice an animal to atone for one's sin. The wage of sin is death, God's standard has not changed until now. When Jesus was crucified, every pain inflicted onto his body shows God's anger at sin.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Sunday

I came to know this day is called Pentecost Sunday after reading tweets from Catholics. Pentecost is held in great significance. Why?

This is the day when Holy Spirit, the third person of Trinity, descended onto Earth and empowered Jesus' disciples. The details of the events are written in The Book of Acts, chapter 2 in your Bible so grab your Bible and read it, if you haven't know it already.

To read the Bible, it doesn't matter to me whether you're a Christian or not! As long as you can afford (a copy of Bible only costs you a few bucks) and you can read, that's already a miracle in you, preparing you to hear the message. The rest depends entirely on your interaction with the Living Book.

Let me share with you Letter to a Christian Girlfriend:

Some Memories; No Doubt just Ramblings to the Passerby

When I first entered the National University of Singapore, I was the loner kid who did not bat an eyelid at girls. Girls, with all their idiosyncrasies like gossiping or buying pairs of shoes after shoes, were too much for me to handle. I was more interested in climbing, and girls only served to take away my climbing time.

You first approached me. You started giving me gifts, like chocolates and small cards. These little nuggets made a boring day suddenly exciting. In all your little notes, you asked about my life; you dropped encouragements; you made me feel special in a way no other person has managed to. Any unfeeling heart would melt under these circumstances.

In the one year that we spent together, I cannot remember a single unhappy moment. Sure we had disagreements, but we sorted them out as soon as they surfaced. Never once had we an argument. I still remember the incident when you crashed the car. To the best of my ability, I arranged for a mechanic to repair the damages, negotiated for a good repair price between the accident victim and the mechanic, and paid for all the upfront costs first. Do you remember how I told you then since you did not have any liquid assets; you could try to barter your fully stocked cupboard with the parties? A little nasty yes, but all for your own good. In the end, I still helped you make the payment with the money I scrupulously saved.

I still remember our overseas trips. Those weeks spent away from urbanisation, getting to learn more about each other, and gaining insights together. All these memories I hold close to my heart. But they aren’t important anymore. After one year together, without warning, you dropped a bombshell on me – convert or break up. I was devastated. I cannot begin to describe the hurt and anguish I felt. You’ve left me behind to walk the long road ahead on my own. I languished in my grief. I can’t even do the thing I loved to do most – climbing. All the fight has been drained out of me. How long will it take to pick up the pieces? I wonder. One Chinese proverb particularly lent me support: If you can pick it up, you should be able to put it down. In my desire to understand how a religion, which in its entirety claims to preach love and compassion, drove you to unilaterally and resolutely want the break up, I achieved revelation. Indeed, the learning process is accelerated when feelings are invested.


Undone by 2 Corinthians 6:14

Do not be unequally yoked together with non-believers. You believe that God created you in His image, and that He is ‘a member of your body’. Because of this religious doctrine, you believe that the resulting union between a Christian and a non-Christian is unholy. You believe that you will not be granted entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. You believe that if you commit the sin, you will burn for eternity in hellfire.

I realise now how you could be so calm when you made your decision to break up known to me. I collapsed with grief, whereas you could still go jamming with the rest in the immediate aftermath. You felt like you were doing God’s work, and you found peace in Him. I had no such consolation. My life just fell apart. In sorrow, I grasped at reasons at why you might be unhappy with me. Did I treat you badly? Was I overly possessive? Was I not spontaneous enough for you? All these queries drew a blank.

Only after reading the scripture did my hurt, disappointment and anger subside. I realised the very difficult spiritual position you were in. Just like how Christ is head of the Church, the man is to be the head of the house. I cannot provide you with the spiritual support that is demanded of me in the bible. The bible you believe to be the divinely inspired word of God.

A Reason-Driven Life

You shared with me how you attended Sunday school since you were in primary school and finally got baptized in secondary one. You shared with me how you were previously a naughty and unruly girl, and how religion has changed you for the better. Unfortunately, I do not share that same background as you. But like you, I am a social construct of our upbringing.

I used to be the typical nerd in school and studied diligently. From a young age, I’ve learnt to correlate good results with hard work. If I studied hard and obtained good grades, I deserved all the credit. If I decided to be lazy, took a back seat and get punished with bad grades, then I reap what I sown. I do not praise the Lord for everything good thing that happened in my life and vice versa, blame Satan for everything bad. Rather, I encourage and berate myself in accordance to my successes or failures. As a result of my firm belief in effort and reward, my grades have always been above average, if not excellent. In the blink of an eye, 23 years have passed. In that same duration I have lived without a God in my life.

Because of this upbringing, I am firmly steeped in reason and anecdotal evidence. Just like how you are indoctrinated in unquestioningly faith as a virtue, I am indoctrinated in intellectual scepticism as a merit. For me to convert to become a fundamentalist Christian like yourself, instead of becoming a half-past-six Christian (as one Christian friend has appallingly recommended me), I need to be surrounded by overwhelming, mutually self-reinforcing evidence. I embarked on reading the Bible, and within the first few chapters of the holy book I already found several distasteful contradictions. Contradictions I am unable to reconcile. At this point, we must decide if we think whether intellectual scepticism or blind faith more virtuous. Should a child be inquisitive and ask and question and debate or should he be obedient and servient and accept everything spoken to be the truth of the world? Perhaps I failed to read the Bible spiritually, or adopt its teachings with the same unquestioning acceptance as you did. If I were to become a baptized Christian, then all my queries have to be answered to me by the faith, one by one. Prepare yourself for a deluge of intellectual bombardment.

Big Bang Theory

Mathematicians have calculated that the probability of us coming into existence out of random chance is very, very minute. Therefore, some higher being must have created us. But this hypothesis creates more problems than it solves – the problem of infinite regress. If you follow the logical train of thought, if God created us, then who created Him? Christians tell me that their Judeo-Christian God is uncreated, and that he has simply always existed. There is no analogy, no basis for comparison against this argument in nature, and I cannot wrap my head around this claim. If I were to worship a God, then naturally it behoves me to worship the ultimate creator. Can you conclusively prove to me that your God is the ultimate creator? Just because you firmly believe in something doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct. If I firmly believe that there is a teapot orbiting around the Earth, then the onus is on me to prove my theory. The onus is on you to prove your God to me.


So many Religions, Which one is True?

How are we supposed to know which religion is the true religion? Just because someone follows a certain faith does not necessarily mean it is the right path. Perhaps no one religion contains all the truth of the world. Perhaps every religion contains fragments of the truth and it is our responsibility to identify those fragments and piece them together. Or perhaps there are no gods. No one can say for sure. There were 3200 religions in the world since the start of time. Since only 1 religion can be correct, then the other 3199 religions must be wrong. Christians say their God is the one true God, as do the Muslims, Jews, Hindus and more. And radicals from each faith are willing to be a martyr for what they think is the highest ideal.

Do you not see that the place of your birth determines your religion? If you were born in Japan, you’ll be a Shinto. If you were born in India, you’ll be a Hindu. If you were born in Tibet, you’ll be a Buddhist. If you were born in Norway during the times of the Vikings, you’ll believe in Thor and his hammer! The fact that Christians think a child to be the child of God, instead of a child of Christian parents, or Hindu parents, or Muslim parents, is unacceptable.

Do not all religions appear strange to those who stand outside of them? A case in point: when I recounted my predicament to a PRC friend, she found religion to be a ludicrous myth. Only an insidious force such as religion can break up such a happy relationship, she told me. She also shared with me how the Fa Lun Gong Movement is creating a lot of social problems in China.

Age of the Earth

Creationists argue that the world is 6000 years old. But science, through using several independent methods of radiological dating, has repeatedly proven the world to be about 4.5billion years old. Dinosaur fossils are tested to be about 65million years old. That the age of the Earth is 6000 years old is a myth. How Christians stand steadfast in their story of creation in the face of such staggering evidence defies understanding.

Noah’s Ark

Genesis 6:15 states that Noah's ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits in size. Today, experts agree that a cubit was approximately 18 inches, yielding a volume (if perfectly rectangular, the most voluminous possible shape of three unequal dimensions) of 1,518,750 cubic feet. Into this, you must fit two of each of the 30,000,000 species on earth (60,000,000 creatures altogether), plus all the food needed to keep all of them alive for about a year when the flood raged. Even without the mind-boggling amount of food required, it is technically impossible to pile all the creatures in the ark, together with space for bedding or room to stand. Furthermore, Noah has to go the Arctic to collect 2 penguins, go to Antarctic to collect 2 polar bears, go to Kalahari Desert to find 2 meerkats, go to Asia to find 2 tigers, and get 2 Tyrannosaurus Rex to enter the ark.

Also, if it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, then given the severe drop in salinity of the seawater, most of the fragile marine species should have died out – something not evident in the world today. Given the above analysis, the story of Noah’s Ark cannot be true.

Bible not being a Good Moral Compass

God tells you to stone people who believe in other gods to death

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy father; Namely, of the god of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the Earth; Thou shall not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him, neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shall thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die (Deuteronomy 13:6-10).

Abraham makes an offering of his son to appease God’s whimsical wishes

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of (Genesis 22: 1-2).

Abraham heard an imaginary voice in his head telling him to murder Isaac. He subsequently lifts the blade to his son’s throat. These actions demand unquestioning belief. It requires what philosophers refer to as a leap of faith. Earlier, God had promised Abraham that he would spread his seed far and wide for him. A dilemma is presented at this point. How can I possibly spread my seed if I kill my only son? That God ultimately did not claim the sacrifice is of secondary importance. What if one day, you hear an imaginary voice in your head, telling you to sacrifice your child? I can only imagine hapless believers, killing their children over what they think is God’s mandate. To people outside the faith, this act of abomination is nothing less than cold-blooded murder. Furthermore, this contradicts with the ‘Thou shall not murder’ commandment. So many inconsistencies, yet you can effortlessly accept where I find it morally repulsive to.


Moses the Prophet

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves (Numbers 31: 17-18). Moses, who was angered at the Israelites merciful restrain towards the conquered Midianite people, ordered his men to kill innocent children in cold blood, and kill every female that is married to the Midianite men. What sin did the Midianite male children and married females commit that demands this genocide? The greatest irony is that it was Moses who brought down the 10 unbreakable commandments inscribed in stone. Given the savage nature of what you have already witnessed, it should come as a big surprise to you that one of the commandments were actually Thou shall not kill. Yet, here was Moses, ordering the mass slaughter of children and women in cold blood, not unlike the gas camps of the Nazis or the killing fields of Pol Pot.

Rape My Daughter as you Please

Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid down hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel (Judges 19: 22-29).

This entire particularly nasty paragraph describes the inferior status of women, equivalent to that of playthings, as sanctioned in the Bible. The man offered his concubine to be raped, instead of fighting to defend her, as I would have done without hesitation. Following that, the same man desecrated her body when she died instead of providing her with a proper burial. I hope this piece of scripture shocks you as much as it has shocked me. In today’s civilised world, such acts of betrayal and moral destitution are considered socially repugnant, yet these are the teachings you meekly accept with unquestioningly faith. These are the issues that you must grapple with if you truly accept your faith in its entirety.


Cherry Picking within the Bible

Of course now Christians will be protesting, because they claim that Jesus, who has descended onto the world to die on the cross for our sins, has changed the world since the nasty days of the Old Testament. No doubt the New Testament is an improved version of the Old Testament from a moral position. The idea is that God had himself incarnated as a man, Jesus, in order that he should be hideously tortured and executed in order to redeem our sins. And not just the original sin of Adam and Eve, but all future sins, whether we decide to commit them or not. Ultimately when we die, God is both judge and jury in the decision to allow entry into the gates of the Holy City. So then, why does he need to die on the cross for us to atone us for our sins just so he can judge us again at the end? Why not just forgive us outright? Is he not supposed to be all powerful and all merciful?

In fact, contrary to what many Christians believe, the New Testament openly endorses the laws of the Old Testament. Think not that I am to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For I verily say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5: 17-18). All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3: 13). It cannot be any clearer. The laws in the Old Testament are to be obeyed. It is downright shameful how Christians can interpret otherwise.

Christian apologetics reason that in the days of the Old Testament, we had to follow the moral, civil and priestly laws. For them, because we are not under a theocratic system today and because by sacrificing himself Jesus fulfilled the priestly law, only the moral laws apply today. This explains why homosexuals and adulterers were stoned in the past, but are not today. This explanation is flawed. The moral law is created by God, the civil law by whichever political system was governing the country at that time, and priestly laws by the priest. If God commanded that adulterers be stoned, then it is solely a moral law set by him. Do the civil or priestly laws have the right to interfere? Do you mean to tell me that the state or the priests have more power over the supreme Creator of your universe? How can Christians allow the moral law of their God be tainted by the secondary laws set by humans, especially since human beings were intelligently designed to be imperfect? I would think that if you were a true Christian, you would follow your God’s law to the letter.

As much as the Bible supposedly preaches values of love, compassion and mercy, it also advocates slavery, hate, pettiness, anger, jealousy and narrow-mindedness. Just one line from Confucius could triumph all the moral pretentiousness of the Bible. “Do not do unto others what you do not wish to be done unto yourself”. Imagine if this phrase was incorporated as one of the tenets of the 10 commandments (instead of the morally inept “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife” commandment). It is obvious that the world will see much less conflict or better still, no conflict at all. Not to mention the irrational breaking up of a perfectly happy relationship.

Disagreement among the Different Sects

There are many different Christian denominations, all of which disagree with one another over which doctrine to place emphasis on, which church to follow, etc. The faith is spilt into the 3 branches of Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism. Under each of these denominations there are further sub-groups. For example, under the Protestant group, further denominations include the Anabaptists, Pentecostals, Adventists, Baptists, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists and Lutherans. Not forgetting other sects like the Puritans or Pletism that have died out since the 1800s.

As if the disagreement between various religions is not conflict enough, denominations within the Christian faith all disagree with each other. Catholics believe that Mary had no original sin, remained free of sin throughout her life, is the “Mother of God” and the new Eve. They also believe of her bodily assumption into heaven instead of death. Other Christian factions disagree. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Saturday, originally the seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, should be the Sabbath. Other Christian factions disagree. Mormons think that all drugs, including caffeine in coffee and tea, are a travesty to biblical laws. Other Christian factions disagree. It appears that conflict, not consensus, is a central theme of Christianity.


Debate over Homosexuality

Recently, the issue of gay pastors has been thrust into the limelight in predominantly Christian America.

In August 2006, leaders of the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination began a tense debate in Minneapolis on whether to ordain gay men and lesbians. The denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is considering lifting a ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian pastors, permitting the ordination of people in committed same-sex relationships. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them (Leviticus 20: 13). Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolater, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, not extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10). Is it not peculiar how the Lutheran Church leaders interpret the scripture in a vastly different way from how you interpret it? Such church leaders, with the power to influence the minds of all of their gigantic congregations, has despite the warnings listed down in the Bible, decided to go ahead with the vote to ordain gay pastors. Can you not see how religion is susceptible to starkly contrasting interpretations, and subsequently abuse? I cannot imagine the day when Singaporean church leaders decide to interpret the Bible in the fundamentalist way (that their religion is the one true religion and all other religions are profoundly false and necessarily wicked), and incite religious hatred against other faiths.

In November 2006, leader of the 30million-member National Association of Evangelicals in the US, Pastor Ted Haggard, resigned after being embroiled in a gay sex scandal with another man. The other party, prostitute and masseur Mike Jones felt he had to expose the hypocrisy behind Pastor Ted’s anti gay marriage preaching on one hand, but engaging in sexual activities with a man on the other. Pastor Ted has since been stripped of his ministry. Saying one thing but doing another? That’s old news to me, at least where Christianity is concerned.


A Holistic Interpretation

Here is what the Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, has to say on the issue of homosexuality. “Well if you take the issue of homosexuality, there is no doubt that more so in the Old Testament, but also present in the New Testament, that there are a number of texts, not as many as people think there are, but there are a few, that clearly regard homosexuality as wrong. But it is a question of how you interpret the Bible - whether it is right to extract a few isolated texts, rather than seeing the whole message of the Bible; the whole message of Jesus.” He says that in the past during the Roman times homosexuality as a choice is frowned upon; whereas from the understanding that biology gives us today, it appears that homosexuality is a circumstance. Progressive values espoused from such an authority figure in the religious circles are steps forward for mankind. Christians need to read the Bible in its entirety and inculcate the over-arching loving and compassionate message of Jesus.

If the Bishop of Oxford says that extracting a few isolated texts from the Bible is morally unjustifiable, then extracting the sole “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” line, and basing your decision to break up on religious dogma should be considered most absurd!


Worldwide Conflicts as a Result of Religion

I see how you remain blissfully (or should I use woefully) unaware of current world affairs. Whenever I point out conflicts arising as a result of religion to you, I notice how you always looked shocked. It is as if you live in protective little bubble your religion provides, and think it impossible how so much evil can arise out of a supposedly good thing like religion.

You are fortunate you reside in Singapore, where religion is kept separate from politics. Having the Internal Security Department hawk over the evangelical groups to toe them in line, though admittedly draconian, does have the merits of preventing religiously intolerant religions like your own from inciting racial and religious hatred. Case in point: Pastor Rony Tan shooting his mouth off in his sermons.

Do you not see that incompatible religious doctrines have divided our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have become a continuous source of bloodshed? Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it has been at any time in the past (Crusades and Spanish Inquisition). The recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews vs. Muslims), the Balkans (Orthodox Serbians vs. Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians vs. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants vs. Catholics), Kashmir (Muslims vs. Hindus), Sudan (Muslims vs. Christians and animists), Nigeria (Muslims vs. Christians), Ethiopia and Eritrea (Muslims vs. Christians), Sri Lanka (Sinhalese Buddhists vs. Tamil Hindus), Indonesia (Muslims vs. Timorese Christians), Iran and Iraq (Shiite vs. Sunni Muslims), and the Caucasus (Orthodox Russians vs. Chechen Muslims; Muslim Azerbaijanis vs. Catholic and Orthodox Armenians) are merely a few cases in point.

I sincerely hope that I have opened your eyes to blood spilt all over the world by people who fight over whose God is truer. You still think religion is always a force for good? Think again.

Radicalism

In 1994, Reverend Paul Hill shot Doctor John Britton and his bodyguard, James Barrett outside the doctor’s abortion clinic in Florida. The crime of the doctor, as religiously perceived by Hill, was the carrying out of abortion procedures for a woman who requested it. In a religious fervour to do his version of God’s work, Hill turned his back on progressive values and went against civil law. In a statement before his execution, Hill said that he felt no remorse for his actions, and that he expected a great reward in Heaven. In his last words, he encouraged others who believed abortion contravenes the word of God to ‘do what you have to do to stop it’.

This psychopath, who somehow managed to get himself ordained as a reverend, is telling his followers to go and commit more of such cold blooded murder of abortion practitioners. Has he decided to selectively skip the ‘Thou shall not kill’ commandment? In the course of his journey to become a priest, has the values of love and compassion and mercy (the same values that you probably hold dear to your heart) not been drilled into him? How can he commit such an atrocity and yet remain defiant even till his deathbed? Perhaps just like the peace you found in God when you decided to break up with me, he found his peace too. This same ‘peace’ has led to uncountable nights of me sobbing into my pillow. The same can probably be said for the wife and young children the doctor has left behind.

In Malaysia, dispute over the use of the word Allah in Christian doctrine had erupted in conflict. Churches were vandalised and set on fire by fanatical Muslim youths who believed that the word Allah belonged their faith and not to Malaysians who practiced other faiths. Retaliatory attacks were soon launched on Muslim mosques. How many more places of worship has to be defaced, how many more lives have to be lost, before you peer out of your cocoon and see the truth of the world?

Religion is seen by the scholars as false, by the commoners as true, and by the politicians as useful. Case in point: United States President George Bush Jr. told the American public that God gave him the mandate to attack Iraq. In a media boo-boo, he said that it was a crusade against evil. Crusade. The word rings a bell, doesn’t it? The reason behind the illegitimate invasion was to destroy the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein kept, but they found none. They found barrels of black gold though.

Christian Leaders as Good Role Models?

AWARE Saga

Earlier I pointed out how the Bible is not exactly the best moral compass. Similarly, the actions of some Christian leaders leave much to be desired. A right-wing Christian group who perceived the campaigns of AWARE (a non-profit organisation), as being pro-homosexuality, storm-troopered the advocacy’s group annual general meeting and snatched power. AWARE saw a stunning leadership change when newcomers captured 9 of the 12 executive committee posts. Older members questioned their motives as well as the sudden influx of new members who joined AWARE just months before the AGM. The new team sacked the AWARE centre’s manager, a paid employee, changed the locks at the AWARE office and had a stand-off with old guard members who turned up later.

With four of the new exco members attending the same church – and having the same ‘feminist mentor’ in the form of lawyer Thio Su Mien – and all espousing ‘pro-family’, anti-gay sentiments, it is obvious that a religious group is trying to impose its agenda on a secular non-profit organization. Do you not see the problem here when religious people, no doubt in the zeal to do God’s work, go beyond simply evangelising their beliefs to attempting to pass their preferred moral practices into legislation. By their actions, the Christian Right has notoriously established a benchmark for religiously inspired activism that may well be emulated by people of other faiths. This is the start of a slippery slope. The consequences of skidding down that slope are unimaginable for a multi-religious society like Singapore’s.

Father Joacquim Kang

Kang was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail in 2004 for misappropriating $5.1 million in church funds while serving as a parish priest at St Teresa's Church. I wonder if his followers will still have faith in him. Leadership by example, anyone?

Pastor Rony Tan

Rony Tan, the leader of Lighthouse Evangelism, an independent church with 12,000 members, ridiculed Buddhism and Taoism in his sermons to his church. The most appalling thing was that as he was inserting snide remarks and nasty untruths about other faiths, the entire congregation was laughing together with him. I shudder to think that some of my Christian friends may be sitting among those in that congregation.


Catholic priests molesting children

The catholic sex abuse cases are a series of lawsuits, criminal prosecutions and scandals related to the sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests against minors. Beyond the actual abuses, much of the scandal focused around the actions of some members of the Catholic hierarchy who did not report the crimes to legal authorities and reassigned the offenders to other locations where they continued to have contact with minors, giving them the opportunity to continue their sexual abuse. Again and again, we see examples of how these people with religious authority abusing their power and causing hurt and suffering in their charges. How many more examples do you need before you understand my unwillingness to be blindly led around by the blind?

Personal Contradiction between 2 of the 10 Commandments

Commandment 1: You shall have no other gods before me
Commandment 5: Honour your father and mother.

My father and mother pray to other gods. When they die, as the eldest son, I have the traditional duty to conduct funeral rites for them, which would inevitably conflict with Commandment 1 should I have converted to the Christian faith. But if I do not take up this duty, then I am guilty of contravening Commandment 5. A lose-lose situation. Personally, I place a higher premium on filial piety than on religious dogmatism. During his 2009 National Day Rally speech on religious tolerance, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted stories of Christian converts who refused to do as their parents wished on their deathbed and ended up hurting the very people who have painstakingly brought them up for many years. Fulfil your parent’s deathbed wishes – to do or not to do? Honestly, I am repulsed at the actions of those ingrates and will definitely do as my parents wished to the best of my ability.

I found it ridiculously easy to reach this conclusion just with rational reasoning. There is no need to commit to a book to resolve moral questions of this sort.


Natural Disasters

Explain the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami or the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. When the waves of the massive tsunami crashed into the city of Aceh and when the gusts of the hurricane slammed into New Orleans, what was going through God’s mind? Why did God, in all his omnipresence and omnipotence, not stop the tsunami from crushing the lives out of hundreds of thousands of innocents, many of them children? What crime did the children commit? Hundreds of thousands of lives were killed in an instant. These were people of faith, dying! In New Orleans, did he not hear the prayers of the elderly who fled to the attics to escape the rising waters, only to be slowly drowned as they murmured their prayers? What kind of all-powerful and all-compassionate God is this?

Not surprisingly, the people who survived reaffirmed their faith. Praise the Almighty Lord for delivering us from harm, they would say. But do they not see that the same God who has supposedly spared their lives has also mercilessly drowned infants in their cribs? If you accept that there is a God, then He must be powerless, or evil, or He does not care.

Why is it that the Bible can dedicate huge chunks of texts to encouraging slavery, to promoting gender inequality, to curtailing sexual behaviour, to describing in gory detail how to punish adulterers and homosexuals, yet it cannot prophesize natural disasters of such biblical proportions? God told no one of the impending doom. Science did. Hours before the tsunami or hurricane struck, meteorological calculations and satellite imagery foresaw the imminent disaster. Meteorologists rushed to warn people to evacuate the danger zone. Without science, more lives would have been lost.

Isn’t it amazing how God can address the prayers of those who ask for good grades in their exams, or good results for their competitions, but fail to hear the prayers of those about to die?

Promising Young Lawyer Killed in Mumbai

Ms Lo Hwei Yen, 28, a promising Singaporean lawyer, was one of at least 188 people, including 22 foreigners, killed in a shooting and grenade rampage by 10 militants who terrorised Mumbai for 60 hours in 2008. Incidentally, she happens to be a devout Christian.

Why did God put such a promising girl like this girl into the world, only to claim the life back when she is at the prime of her life? Is the purpose of her life to die in the cross fire of some religious extremists?

Do you think the Muslim terrorists from Pakistan, indoctrinated with their highest ideal of introducing an Islamic state in South Asia and liberating Muslims residing in Indian-administered Kashmir, cares about the collateral damage? It saddens me to note what extremism in the name of religion has led to the passing of a beautiful yet innocent soul like Ms Lo. It should sadden you too.

Satan as the Convenient Excuse

Please do not be so foolish to think that Satan is the cause of all these evils. It was apparent in my conversations with you that you think that Satan is solely responsible for everything you cannot explain. In my conversations with more enlightened Christians, they tell me that Satan influences, but ultimately the choice belongs to the person. Father Joacquim Kang and Reverend Paul Hill should have known better. And if God is all-powerful, why didn’t he eliminate Satan? Or better still, why didn’t He simply just not design Satan?


For Better or for Worse? Till Death do us Part?

Much to my chagrin, there have been several attempts by Christians who earnestly invite me to their church time and time again. I appreciate their goodwill and kind gestures. However, my issues with the faith cannot be simply resolved by repeated visits to the church.

In one of your letters to me, you told me that you liked me for my big brain. I’m assuming that you like me for my intellectual discourse. Oxymoronic then, that what attracted you to me in the first place is also responsible now for turning you away.

This brain of mine is my blessing. It is also my curse. I just wonder if I were indeed intelligently designed by Him, why didn’t He erase my persistence in reason.

The heartache
Dull sensation in my chest
Never seem to fade away


There is no all-seeing, all-loving God which keeps us from harm. Atheism is not a recipe for despair. I think the opposite. By disclaiming the idea of a next life, we can take more excitement in this one. The here and now is not something to be endured before eternal bliss or damnation. The here and now is all we have – an inspiration to make the most of it. Atheism is life-affirming, in a way religion can never be.
Richard Dawkins, Oxford Professor and Prominent Atheist

Praise yourself for giving your attention on this! It's a long read. After the church service today, I raised some points mentioned in this note to my Christian friend, so in the next post, I shall provide some answers on the points raised in this note. Meanwhile, do check out the link to the original Facebook note!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Melbourne season: autumn

yellow tree University of Melbourne natural philosophy building

Chilly air in a sunny day, tells you to prepare for another day. The day you prepare for, will not be the same today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Experimental Microbiology: last practical session

18th May 2010

On this day I had my final practical session! I can't believe it, from the moment I choose to read microbiology practical course up to the final days of teaching week, that was 12 weeks in total, covering 19 experiments.

As with any practical course, Experimental Microbiology is a hands on subject, every week I look forward to doing the work, get my hands dirty, observing the results and gain a satisfaction for work well done! Staining my unseen buddies for microscopy is like child's play of colouring; seeing them under the microscope takes me into another world, I was amazed by the diversity of the unseen buddies around!

To succeed, you need to pour out your spirit of diligence, dedication and integrity into your work. Preparation is vital too! In a relatively short amount of time given, you simply can't afford to go haywire in an experiment. Working with delicate microorganisms, I was made meticulous in my approaches; writing reports on what I saw anoints me to be truthful and precise in my words.


Bunsen burner my long term guardian on my bench.

In work involving microbes, I must practise steps called aseptic technique. This is to keep out the undesirables from contaminating my work! The Bunsen burner is there to keep those bad guys out. Opening fresh pack of disposable equipments is an everyday business! Well, aseptic technique isn't just for the lab, it's your best friend in your kitchen too!


Lab notebook is my spirit in the lab.

This book started off fresh, as time went by, it's filled with my observations throughout my journey in the lab. It's more than the few dollars used to buy it! More than words of observations, my feelings of the subject is written inside as well.

touchless sink microbiology lab
You dun nid to lay your hand to clean your hand!

Clean up your hands after you get them dirty, after you work with your best unseen buddies! To turn on the tap, simply wave it in front of the sensor. In my first experiment I was still jakun trying to find a knob! A futurisitic facility that I don't see anywhere :)


Groupie!

Not forgetting my practical tablemates ppl! You guys really make my semester so I'll miss you guys!

Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Australian Synchrotron tour

I'm just back from the super chunted tour at Australian Synchrotron at Clayton, Victoria!

Here's a quick summary of the tour.

interior of Australian Synchrotron
Interior of the synchrotron.

safety strong magnetic field
Safety features.

hutch workspace
Canggih workspace!

More photos coming!

Technorati tags: , , ,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kum Den Cantonese delight

On 14th May 2010 UL♥28 had a birthday dinner for Jonathan Lim in the original Kum Den restaurant, located in Chinatown precinct of Melbourne.

Kum Den entrance
It's located in an alley so you need to explore a little to get there.

The restaurant features an ambient lighting and cozy feel. Great for a relaxed friends' gathering or a romantic one on one dinner in the night.

First, we were greeted with...

kum den bak choy
Bak choy

kum den choy sum
Choy sum.

lamb brocolli mushroom in chili
Lamb cooked with brocolli and mushroom in chili. Mildly spicy.

fried pork with choy sum
Fried pork with choy sum

tofu in gravy
Bean curd with baby vegetables in gravy.

Stay tuned for part #2 of Jonathan Lim's birthday surprise!

Kum Den Chinese Restaurant
3-5 Waratah Place
Off Little Bourke Street
Melbourne
Victoria 3000
Australia

Opening hours:
11am-11pm daily
Tel: (+613) 9663 6508

Monday, May 17, 2010

The utmost paradox

To kill a life to preserve life

How can we kill life to preserve life? Sounds like an oxymoron that doesn't make sense to all.

Let us consider the video game series Halo. The storyline of the game goes like this:

In the distant past, a race known as Forerunners controlled the galaxy, using their advanced technology to protect lifeforms throughout the universe. However, they were caught off guard by the Flood, an alien parasite which devours life to obtain food. The Flood, spreading through infestation of life, threatened and overrun the universe before the Forerunners could contain them. The Forerunners solution was to kill all sentient lifeforms thus depriving the Flood of their food source, and repopulate the galaxy after that. So the Forerunners built the Halo array, when activated, would destroy all sentient lifeforms. They activated the array and disappeared.


Halo as seen in video games.

Die hard video game fans would praise the plot of the game in the Halo series. I don't play the game with my hand but I enjoy watching people playing, and see the story unfolds.

With this paradox I would also like to introduce how immune system in your body works. When you get sick, pathogens (bacteria/viruses) infect cells in your body, the battle rages on between immune cells and the pathogen.

Cytotoxic T cell
Cytotoxic T cell.

And guess what? Some specific immune cells kill infected cells in your body. Essentially, they function to "kill life to preserve life."

Infected cells in your body are unable to perform their normal function and they are turned into "virus factories". These cells must be removed from your body or else the pathogen would take over your whole body and you'll die. Infection of one cell with a viral particle can give rise to a thousand more viral particles, so removal of one infected cell saves the immune system from dealing with a lot more viruses later, this preserves your life.

Cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells are those immune cells that clear infections by killing your infected cells. To do the job, these cells must be able to recognize the infected ones and release appropriate signals. These immune cells "see" by reading the molecules "reported" on your cells, but I'm not going into the details of recognition and killing this time.

In both examples I illustrated, to take care of the greater interest, you can't spare the innocents to deal with the bad guys, in situations that arise you need to kill a life to preserve life.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just a quick recap of happenings on Sunday!

Went for morning service of church, Pastor Russell Evans decided not to deliever a sermon for this session so instead we just worshipped. The band taught us a new song! It's called "The Revelation Song", its lyric and tune depict the sound of heaven. But.....

I sense I've encountered a familiar thing. What's this?! A deep search revealed Stefanie Sun's 'chanting' song. The key and tune sounded alike! That Chinese pop song sounded so much like religious chanting in the beginning to the extent it was dismissed as "rubbish song" wtf.

At night, mounted a birthday surprise for Jonathan Lim at his place! That was a take 2 for his birthday. After that, I had dinner with Ching Chung at Vietnamese Grill Bar.

Pictures later!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Po Chu Che

9 May 2010

After service I went for lunch with Yenni's urban life group. They brought me to Richmond, an inner suburb east of Melbourne for a tradional Vietnamese delight!

Po Chu Che exterior
Front window.

The restaurant was filled with diners to the extent that I need to wait to be seated!

Po Chu Che interior
Inside.

The restaurant doesn't distribute copies of printed menu, which kinda reminded me of traditional Chinese coffee shops. We had to look at the menu on the board.

Till our orders were served.

salad
Salad.

special beef noodles
Special beef noodles.

bean sprouts
Bean sprouts to completement soup noodles.

beef steak with egg
Beef steak with fried egg. I tried it, and I really like the taste.

soda with egg yolk
Soda with egg yolk.


Groupie. My table mates.

Po Chu Che
270 Victoria Street
Richmond
Victoria 3121
Australia

Tel: +613 9427 7749

Friday, May 14, 2010

Words to take heart of

At the night of Frankie Heng's farewell party, he said these to me. In my own words,

I'm very passionate about science. I see things differently in things that doesn't make sense to laypeople, and bring (and relate to) God into the scene. In order to relate to me, and to know me, great effort must be put. I am the kind who speak my mind, whatever I don't like in my heart, I'll voice them out. I can be bold in my approaches. For the kind of person I am, I am set to make a major impact in this world.

So I shall take heart of what has been said, it's now a seed planted into the soil. Putting my effort and I shall see things come to pass.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Purpose in life

red starfish

Starfish often get washed up to seashores. The dry shores reduce their hydraulic legs to being useless, so the shores are not where they're supposed to be. At places where they're not supposed to be, they lose mobility (so as their freedom). Without mobility these starfish are helpless. My church pastors know this, so they do starfish a favour by throwing them back to the sea everytime they come across one.

The starfish has its purpose in the sea, so do we. God place us on this Earth for a purpose in life. We walk on this Earth, not merely to consume resources, but we exist for Him. God has given us more than anything else and also the authority over the creatures on this Earth, so how much more is our purpose to Him. Think about it.

Going astray will only make us feel helpless, what comes after, is the loss of freedom. By being at the right place at the right time, there is a purpose in life. Having a sense of purpose gives drives us forward, along with it comes freedom.

Freedom is not having to do anything we want, but having a sense of direction. That's the true meaning of freedom, your heart knows it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bioflashback: Port Phillip Bay trip model shots

At Ashcombe Maze, Mornington Penisula:









At Queenscliff:







She enjoys modelling and photography. You won't meet many of such people out there!

Cheerios.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sial microbio experiment

Before do experiment, must do prep. Jot down whatever will be done during prac session. Or if not, at least read through the experimental procedures so will not kelam kabut later. Boon Kheng is a good student :)

Eh where got lah. I kept on doing last minute work. This semester I don't have any essay type assignment so I live a relatively carefree uni lifestyle. All work managed to be handed in on time. At least no big deal for now.

Today I was working with phages in the lab! What're they?


You're right I was working with these buddies.

I mixed my buddies with these guys:


Escherichia coli. These guys are found in your gut, baby.

So it was phage + E. coli + nutrient agar. Next week I will meet my buddies again.

After that I admired my streak done last week. These were clinical samples from real people. Got to identify bacteria!

What's the first step you do to know what bacteria you got? Gram stain.



My demonstrator said skip the Gram stain for the first bacteria, 'cause already stated it's a Staphylococcal species. These bugs looks like bunch of purple grapes under the microscope after Gram stain. So I can be sure it's Gram positive.

But who knows the subject coordinator walked past me, noticed I took sample with agar dish on the bench (instead of taking the agar dish with my hand and scrape sample with the other), she corrected me, that I wouldn't mind. Then she asked whether I did Gram stain on the first bacteria I answered no, 'cause I knew the species already. I was like wtf.

Then she talked to my lab mates and found out they skipped Gram staining for the first bacteria so she rebuked my demonstrator, insisting that Gram stain should be done as first step. So I continued on telling apart what bacteria I've got, more tests to be done. I have not done some tests before, like oxidase test and oxidation-fermentation test so my demonstrator showed me. The results for some will not be known until another week.

That was my second last microbiology prac! Will miss the lab soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Yee Hooi Day!

I was rushed into a bedroom right after I arrived at her house. My friends were waiting for Yee Hooi's return, with anticipation. The bedroom was devoid of photons, light from the surronding Melbourne CBD was the only source of illumination. At some point we were chatting loudly.

Cue to act, she entered the house. I took a stance for papparazi mode. She opened the door of her bedroom and we yelled "SURRR-PRISEEEE!!!!"


She immediately recoiled. What a nasty surprise!


Joyce presented her birthday cake.

For the first time in my cell group, moments of a birthday surprise was captured and preserved.


Camwhoring with the birthday girl is a must.


Arlyn our guest!


Cute girls in the house.


An encounter with Arlyn.

Time for groupies!


Ze guys + birthday gal.


Ze babes.

So, we mounted a successful, nasty, pleasant and nice surprise for Tee Yee Hooi!