Noah movie is a gross distortion of the biblical story

From ‘GV notice for Noah is misguided’, 18 April 2014, Mailbag, ST Life! and the ‘Rock of Ages’ Facebook post, 12 April 2014.

(Kam Tin Seah): I was intrigued by the notice put up by Golden Village (GV) at the screening of Noah in Singapore. It read: “The film Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s version of the story of Noah. “Noah is inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic licence has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story.”

…Any informed person would have gathered from the media that since the release of Noah on movie screens, it has raised objections. Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the screening of Noah. Given such controversies, what does the notice intend to achieve?

I proffer that it will precipitate the divide between the money-making motive and religious conviction. Worse, it may be perceived by many as an intention to taint the minds of those who are unaware of the historical context and divine purpose of the flood as told in the Bible. This assaults the very tenet of respect for and practice of religious freedom enshrined in Singapore’s constitution.

Is it wrong to make movies only for profit? Not really, insofar as they do not show disrespect and distort the sacredness of any religious belief or racial norm. I beseech GV to immediately remove such a misguided notice from all the screening venues of Noah.

(Pastor Les and Adeline Chia): The Noah film is another example of the postmodern spirit at work. The film claims to tell the biblical story of the Flood but disappointingly, it does not stay true to the biblical narrative. Instead both the script writers and the director take excessive artistic license and reframe the story. The final product is a gross distortion of the original biblical account.

We understand from the bible that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his people and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9). God Himself has singled out Noah as one of the three most righteous men apart from Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14). But the film gives Noah a dark twist. It portrays him as a complicated, uncaring and evil person.

…In the film, the character of God is also distorted. God is portrayed as evil and unmerciful. Noah was led to believe that God intended to eliminate humans altogether. So, in obedience to God, he tried to kill his granddaughters but failed. And he sort of apologised to his Creator, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I am sorry. I am sorry.” Noah was just too compassionate to carry out God’s cruel plan. He was more loving than God.

I watched the film and found it surprisingly entertaining, especially for a non-believer. Aronofsky’s previous work include Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, and anyone familiar with his narrative and visual style will walk into the theatre expecting something radically different from what we’d imagine from the Bible. Yes, it’s a distortion of the gospel ‘truth’ and it has elements of typical Hollywood blockbuster fare, but with Paramount’s disclaimer, I thought it would be a simple matter of one man’s interpretation of events and their meaning vs another, since even the most devout people have different takes on the Bible anyway. No ‘biblical film’ has been spared this testament poison that is ‘artistic licence’, whether it’s the Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt or the Ten Commandments. If you were to make a film about the Bible literally word for word, it’d probably bore people, Christians included, to death. You’d have people nitpicking on the colour of Moses’ skin, the number of lashes on Jesus’ back and the type of wood that Noah used to construct his vessel.

Aronosky, incidentally, is a Jew, and had consulted texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls for the plot. It appears that what the above writers are disappointed about is not so much about how certain characters in the movie resemble fantasy beasts from LOTR (no spoilers, I swear), but how one of the most famous prophets in the Bible has been portrayed more like, well, a flawed HUMAN BEING. In the film we see a stoic, violent, fatherly, drunk, fat Noah played by Russell Crowe, a chosen one devoid of any humour whatsoever that all other plot devices (Methuselah, evil villain, snakes, sex in the forest) around him had to make up for his stony conviction and austerity. If Noah were evil, and his God were equally evil, then it only makes sense since God ‘made Man in His image’. If you wanted a biblical superhero, go watch Son of God.

The word ‘God’ was not mentioned once in the movie, with the writers opting for the more universal ‘Creator’ instead. In the film, the Creator comes across as merciless, stubborn and vengeful, and the ROA pastors were upset that Noah was above all His genocidal tendencies. Well, what’s new here? Isn’t this the same God who annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah? The same God who commanded one to go ‘smite Amalek..slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (Samuel 15:3)? One moment He appoints you to shepherd everything that ‘creeps and crawls’, and the next He slaughters your camels and asses.  Wouldn’t He be more of a Destroyer of Worlds than Creator in this instance?

What about God being portrayed as Morgan Freeman in a comedy with a similar Ark-building theme, Evan Almighty (Malaysian Muslims called for its ban, naturally). Are Christians saying that it’s OK if Noah is played for laughs, but unacceptable if it’s supposed to be a serious movie?

The writers stop short of calling for Noah’s ban entirely, though ROA concluded by urging their followers to educate the masses on what really happened in the build up to the Ark. MUIS also acknowledged that there were ‘alternative narratives’ of the prophets and indivudal discretion is advised. Isn’t this, then, what ‘religious freedom’ is all about? Would you rather have the general viewer watch a pedantic, preachy deluge of a movie that’s the cinematic equivalent of stuffing a Bible down your throat?

From the perspective of the movie industry, Noah is a resounding success, and it’ll take some convincing of the Christian community that Noah, as compared to more overtly religious films like Passion and Son of God, is more likely to pique the interest of non-believers, atheists even, to read up on Genesis than any other ‘biblical’ film in recent memory. If there’s one statement that I agree with the ROA pastors, it’s this:

In conclusion, I think that the Noah film is a great opportunity to engage people that would not otherwise want to talk about God.

Amen to that.

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Singaporean radical fighting against Syrian regime

From ‘S’pore man under probe for ‘going to fight in Syria”, 23 Mar 2014, article by Priscilla Goy, Sunday Times

Singaporean man is being investigated for allegedly going to Syria “with the intention to undertake violence” in the ongoing armed conflict there, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday. Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a 37-year-old supermarket manager, is a former Indian national who obtained his Singapore citizenship in 2008.

A member of the public informed the authorities of his alleged trip to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after he had left Singapore last November. The MHA confirmed it is investigating the allegations.

The ministry also said the authorities established that Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, a 37-year-old Indian national and former Singapore permanent resident, helped to radicalise Haja and assisted him in his plans to participate in armed violence in Syria.

Gul, who worked as a system analyst here, was investigated under the Internal Security Act. He was deported and banned from entering Singapore for his role in abetting and aiding Haja. When The Sunday Times asked when Gul was investigated or deported, an MHA spokesman said it “does not comment on operational matters”.

The initial reaction to such news is how on earth did we allow such budding extremists to become citizens and PRs in the first place, fanatics who would rather sacrifice themselves in another country than take up arms to defend ours. But ‘radicalisation’, sometimes of the ‘DIY’ kind, could happen to anyone with a passion for ‘militant jihad’, Singaporean or not.

It happened to Abdul Basheer in 2007, a bright law grad and lecturer who graduated from Raffles Institution and National Junior College and was an employee at Drew and Napier. Having succumbed to ‘MTV-style’ recruitment websites espousing extremist Islamic ideology, Abdul was seduced into joining the Taleban to fight in war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan against infidels (He was later re-arrested in 2012 for pursuing the same agenda). Henceforth the term ‘self-radicalisation’ was born, along with related terms that threaten to glorify self-service terrorism: The ‘DIY’ terrorist, the ‘Lone Wolf’, the Jihad Rambo.

In 2010, a full time NS men followed in Abdul Basheer’s footsteps. 20 year old Muhammad Fadil was exposed to online Jihadist propaganda, and ‘deeply radicalised’ by the lectures of personalities such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, whose videos you can download freely off Youtube (Feiz Muhammad has been suspected to be the inspiration behind the Boston marathon bombers). I can’t tell if these clerics were directly urging youths all over the world to buy a ticket to Pakistan and take up arms in Arabic, though it seems to boil down to a matter of selective interpretation. MDA and MFA should be doing more to ban inflammatory martyr recruitment sites, rather than forcing news/opinion sites to close down over licensing requirements, or blocking sites that encourage marital affairs or medical marijuana.

To ‘radicalise’ someone is a term that has been in use locally since 1987. Third Stage, a drama group, was accused of ‘radicalising’ the public with ‘Marxist propaganda’, producing ‘satirical plays’ which put the Singapore’s political system in a bad light. And these guys were put on watch by ISD presumably because at the time the pen was deemed mightier than the sword. You didn’t need to fly to terrorist school or even know how to load a bullet, you just needed to produce provocative government-bashing drama in order to be labelled ‘leftist’ or ‘radical’, capable of subverting people into overthrowing their rulers.

Trust religion to corrupt a word that once described a good thing (a radical idea, change) into one suggesting extremist violence. It’s likely that ‘radical’ has its roots in politics, used way back in 1846 to describe the act of questioning authority by ‘despots’ and ‘rulers’. Sometime in the 80′s, radical became ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’, and for a time abbreviated to ‘rad’, as popularised by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who subscribe to the ‘ideology’ of fighting crime, skateboarding and eating pizza. Today, you’d have to be careful about using the word in case the ISD comes knocking on your door searching your laptop for ‘radicalising’ material.

All this tight-lippedness over this mysterious Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar seems shady though. There’s no information of his previous arrest or deportation as far as I could find online other than he and Haja being ‘village friends’, unlike the media spillage that surrounded Abdul Basheer and Fadil. I hope it’s not too radical to ask: Why?

Folding paper ingots forbidden by some religions

From ‘Religion getting in the way of filial piety’, 22 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Evelyn Tan): My husband’s grandmother died recently at the age of 91. The last couple of years were difficult as she was bedridden and fading day by day….According to her wishes, the funeral arrangements followed Taoist tradition. This involved elaborate prayers, processions and folding thousands of paper ingots to send her on a comfortable journey to the afterlife. With that many offspring, one would have expected all hands on deck.

What materialised seemed to be a reflection of changing times and narrow beliefs. Several of her offspring have adopted other religions and refused to participate in any of the Taoist ceremonies, including the folding of paper ingots. I find this a strange phenomenon. Surely, what matters must be the wishes of the deceased, rather than the beliefs of the living?

As more Singaporeans become well-travelled, no one has qualms about visiting religious landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and the Tiger’s Nest monastery in Bhutan. In fact, many plan to visit these landmarks. As we progress in this society, we must remain tolerant of all beliefs.

Using religion as an excuse to distance oneself from religious ceremonies for a loved one seems to be a practice of double standards and the start of an intolerant approach.

Although the writer did not specify what religion her uncooperative relatives belonged to, it’s likely to be Christianity,  in which a related funeral custom, the handling of joss sticks, is frowned upon by some practitioners.  Some refuse to even touch a bag of it as if it were poison. According to a certain pastor ‘Steven Wong’, holding joss sticks is a symbol of ancestral worship, and God explicitly forbids ‘a relationship with the spirits of the dead (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). He goes so far to call the practice  ‘demonic and occultic’, and makes you a bad, bad Christian.

Joss sticks aside, burning ‘hell money’ is also discouraged, for its purpose is to ‘bribe’ the departing spirits and keep them from descending into our realm and peek at us from behind the closet. Tough luck for dead Granny if her only Christian child refuses to send a paper iPad up to her in heaven, which makes her more likely to come down and haunt your dreams. A baptised ‘child of God’ is also prohibited from kneeling before a corpse, because it’s an act of demonic supplication. All this coming from a faith where you ‘eat’ the body and ‘drink’ the blood of Jesus Christ, channel gibberish in fits of ecstasy, and you carry around wooden cross talismans as protection against vampires.

The Deuteronomy text is specific on what constitutes an ‘abomination’ in the eyes of the Lord: Divination, enchanter, witch, charmer, consulter with familiar spirits, wizard, NECROMANCER. There’s no disclaimer on conducting rites as a ‘mark of respect’ for a dead human being rather than a wandering garden deity. As long as you oblige your funeral hosts with the simplest of tasks like burning incense or folding pieces of paper, you’re deemed to be engaging in evil hocus-pocus and black magic, like you’re part of a seance communicating with dead punters for Toto numbers. By that argument, Christians are also forbidden from believing in fairy godmothers, or watching clowns perform magic in front of terminally ill children.

Christians are free to visit other places of worship, of course, as long as they don’t attempt to communicate with other spirits and look like they’re worshipping another invisible heavenly being. So there’s no ‘double standard’ to speak of. But it’s not just others’ religious rites that Christians condemn as cult behaviour. They may even be a wet blanket at wedding banquets. Christian forum writer Steve Ngo experienced one of a Chinese couple where it was forbidden to shout ‘YUM SENG’ because conservative Christians considered it ‘paganistic’. Even the 12 animals in the zodiac are not spared from accusations of occultism and idolatry. One Christian writer says it’s not right to even wish your loved ones ‘GONG XI FA CAI’. My God, can you guys even wish upon a star? Whether you’re Christian or not, we engage in little acts of ‘unholy’ divination every single day. We buy ‘lucky numbers’ at the pools, we refrain from lying on the bed of the dearly departed, we throw bouquets at bridesmaids in a wedding, we shake a pair of dice longer thinking we’ll get a better roll, we throw coins in a well, we seal a love letter with a kiss. If all these are signs of devil worship, then by all means, I’d rather be Satan’s little imp than an obedient servant of a nitpicky God. Life would be so boring without fantasy and ‘black magic’.

Refusing to abide by superstitious traditions, unlike what the title of the letter suggests, isn’t so much an act of impious rebellion (The author makes no mention of the words ‘filial piety’), than being a stickler to indoctrination.  Just making the effort to turn up or stand before the altar in silence is already a decent sign of respect and gratitude and no one has the right to force you to burn incence or follow a monk around a coffin if you don’t want to, for whatever silly arcane reasons. But if you look beyond these superficial rituals, you’d see such family activities not just as netherwordly appeasement, but they serve as a form of social bonding, and if it’s in your benefit to play along even if your religion labels it as sacrilegious, then indulge your relatives just for the moment.  If your God is the loving God that He claims he is, he’d understand your intentions. Of course most Chinese Christians don’t go so far as to rubbish the ‘Year of the Horse’ or refuse to wear red over CNY because it’s a sign of sucking up to Cai Shen Ye, a pagan magical troll in the eyes of the Lord, but if you’re the kind who thinks folding paper ingots is a satanic ritual, then you should be at least consistent in your beliefs, like, burning your Harry Potter books and banning your kids from watching the Wizard of Oz.

NUS Malay Studies Prof calling lesbianism cancerous

From ‘NUS looking into complaints over prof’s views on homosexuality’, 28 Feb 2014, CNA

The National University of Singapore said it is looking into a complaint from two alumni and a student on a professor’s views on homosexuality. In their letter to university authorities, the three took issue with two Facebook posts by Professor Khairudin Aljunied from the school’s Malay Studies Department.

They claimed that Professor Khairudin had described “alternative modes of sexual orientation” as “wayward”, and as “cancers” and “social diseases” to be “cleansed”. One of the posts has been removed while the other has since been edited.

The FB post from Prof Khairudin ended with the fiery, call-to-arms salvo: ‘Make the pure message of Islam VIRAL to cleanse the IMPURITIES of liberal Islam and lesbianism. Together we will stop these CANCERS in their tracks!’ Ironically, there’s nothing more ‘viral’ than monotheistic faiths, which in the course of history have done its fair share of genocidal infidel ‘cleansing’ of its own. PERGAS (Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association) were more subdued in their disapproval, calling the HPB FAQ’s merely ‘insensitive’. Fellow NUS staffer and Law Prof Thio Li-Ann thankfully has nothing further to add on the gay issue. YET.

Incidentally another zealot Lawrence Khong had this to say today in response to Minister Gan Kim Yong defending the same FAQs, in particular about the common level of ‘commitment’ required between two lovers regardless of their sexual orientation:

That is like telling our young they can pump themselves up with illegal and harmful drugs as long as they self protect by not sharing needles. (Pastor hits out at Health Minister’s reply on homosexuality FAQ, 28 Feb 13, ST)

So one Christian pastor compares homosexuality to crack, while a Muslim professor and scholar brands it, rather flippantly, as a debilitating disease that affects millions of people all over the world, including Christians, Muslims, atheists and yes even homosexuals. It appears that in religious texts ‘cancer’ is still synonymous with a vile scourge, but we’ve long left that medieval stigma of cancer as a biblical plague behind us. As someone who’ve seen good, perfectly kind people fight a losing battle against the dreaded disease, I find the Prof’s use of metaphor, given his position in academia,  unfortunate and dehumanising.

An inclusive society has no room for the Prof’s ultra-conservative ‘school of Islamic thought’. In Indonesia, we’re already seeing moderate Muslim scholars adopt a more compassionate stance towards homosexuals, that all beings are equal in the eyes of God. At the other extreme, a ‘Teachers Foundation’ in Malaysia has organised seminars and published handouts on how to spot a gay child so you can nip the homosexual ‘problem’ in the bud early. A gay boy would be wearing ‘tight, light coloured clothing’ while a lesbian has ‘no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women’. You also can’t make a movie about gay people in Malaysia unless the gay protagonist converts into a ‘normal’ heterosexual. Meanwhile, in smack-in-the-middle Singapore, films about gay love among Muslims like ‘A Jihad for Love’ remain completely banned. You can, however, download the entire film off Youtube, and no you won’t get cancer after viewing it.

In a 2012 interview with kita.sg, Prof Khairudin divulged that he ‘always wanted to be a celebrity of some sort’. If his FB anti-gay post goes ‘viral’, he may very well become one. For all the wrong reasons.

HPB sexuality FAQs smacks of liberationist propaganda

From ‘HPB’s sexuality FAQs undermine family’, 6 Feb 2014, contribution by Lawrence Khong, Opinion, MyPaper

The FAQs On Sexuality page on the Health Promotion Board (HPB) website is shocking and deeply upsetting. The tone of the entire article gives the impression that HPB condones same-sex relationships and promotes homosexual practice as something normal. The author appears to have taken sides on a highly contentious and politicised subject. Here, I address five issues covered in the FAQs.

ISSUE 1

The FAQs draw a false equation between heterosexual and homosexual relationships in a manner that smacks of liberationist propaganda intended to mainstream homosexuality.

ISSUE 2

HPB adopted a biased and selective approach by naming only a pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group to help those who are looking for support. We are disappointed that HPB’s original article referenced only one option for help, namely Oogachaga. Its hotline is run by specially trained LGBTs or LGBT-affirming counsellors.

To exclude other available avenues of care, such as Liberty League and Focus on the Family, is to discriminate in favour of LGBT-affirming organisations. This is both unjust and harmful.

Lawrence Khong is an avid supporter of the arcane 377A law that criminalises gay sex and believes that repealing it is a ‘looming threat’ to the family unit. His idea of ‘avenue of care’ is undoubtedly seeking a ‘cure’ for homosexuality. One of the support groups cited, Liberty League, aims to help people who want to ‘overcome same-sex attractions’. It is also partly financed by the Government. The ‘Focus on the Family‘ website is largely silent on LGBT issues, and pretty useless if you want to know more about sexual identity. What is ‘unjust and harmful’ is misdirecting gays who need counselling to what is secretly ‘sexual rehab’, the risks and consequences of which remain unknown.

Oogachaga, on the other hand, embraces LGBTQ individuals and ‘diversity’. The site itself has a wealth of resources for those interested, though it can be challenging telling your LGBTs from your GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, intersex). Then there are the bears, cubs and G-men from the ‘Bear Project’, which celebrates big gay men though it also sounds like a special interest group for ‘furries’.  HPB somehow deleted links to Oogachaga among other support groups after FAQ launch, and it remains to be seen if the conservative tyranny of Lawrence Khong, among other religious types, had anything to do with it.

ISSUE 3

…We disagree with the claim that moral objection to homosexual behaviour is based on “irrational fear, disgust, or hatred” of homosexuals or bisexuals because they “do not conform to traditional sexual roles and stereotypes”. Far from it. Moral objection is based on the intrinsic physiological nature of the male and female bodies.

I think what Khong meant is ‘human male and female bodies’. Anyone who reads beyond the Holy Bible would have heard about same-sex shenanigans going on even among our primate, God-created, cousins.  A pastor and magician, Khong is even claiming to be an expert in not just human biology, but ALL biology.

ISSUE 4

The FAQs fail to give an accurate picture and clear warnings of the health risks posed by alternative sex. According to medical research and mental-health studies, the threat is real and severe. Homosexuals have a shorter lifespan, more sexually transmitted infections and more health problems than the general population.

General population meaning compared to heterosexuals? What does Khong mean by ‘health problems’? If they do experience greater problems such as depression, could it be because of the rest of us – the ‘conservative majority’? A ridiculous, sweeping statement made with all fire and brimstone emotion and not an ounce of rational thinking or data to back it up, using annoyingly vague categories to disguise the fact that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

ISSUE 5

The FAQs make an unproven assertion that homosexuals can have long-lasting relationships and, in this way, the FAQs clearly promote a “mainstreaming homosexuality as normal” bias. We disagree because this claim is only theoretical. Some research findings show a different trend. Homosexuals register a higher incidence of short-lived relationships and sexual violence.

Looking at the rate of cheating, divorces and domestic violence among ‘normal’ couples, I find this assertion rather hard to swallow. We can, however, study the rates of divorce among same-sex couples eventually, since SEVENTEEN other countries in world have already legalised gay marriage. Lawrence would have none of that, obviously, and even if someone could convince him that gay marriages can work long term, he’ll pull some ‘research findings’ out of his magician’s hat to support his point that homosexuals are worse off than heterosexuals.

What I would like to see, however, is a live debate on national TV between pastor Khong and gay champions like Alex Au, though the entertainment of such a confrontation may be ruined by the likelihood of Khong making himself vanish into thin air when he’s on the verge of losing a critical argument.

Mission school students forced to attend chapel sessions

From ‘Respect faiths of others in mission schools’, 6 Jan 2014, ST Forum

(Poh Choon Kiat): WHEN my family went to the Open House of a mission secondary school, we were told that non-Christians were welcome and that my daughter would not be forced to attend chapel (“Religious knowledge lessons important in mission schools” by Mr Benjamin Wee; last Friday). But after admission into the school, my daughter was forced to attend fortnightly one-hour chapel sessions.

When she protested that she was not a Christian, she was taken to see the principal, who made cutting comments about her knowing full well she was joining a mission school.

My daughter’s suggestion that she do her own revision or homework during chapel sessions was flatly rejected. In Secondary 3 now, she is still being forced to attend these sessions. The Education Ministry should ensure that all government and government-aided schools do not force chapel sessions on students of other faiths, as respect and tolerance of other religions are the cornerstone of our country’s values.

In 1992, St Andrews JC made attending chapel sessions a condition for admission into the school for a group of ‘appeal’ students, prompting the Education Ministry to summon Article 16 (3) of the constitution that states that ‘no person shall be required to receive instruction in or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion OTHER THAN HIS OWN. In other words, no one can compel you to attend chapel if you’re a non-believer, even if the school has been established to promote the Bible as moral nourishment like pushing milk for strong teeth and bones. One of those students forced to ‘sing hymns’ and hear the chaplain preaching was a SIKH, who also lamented about Muslims being excused from such tedious rites.

‘Proselytising’ was a charge laid against the Anglo Chinese school way back in 1896, where about 60 Chinese boys were coerced into attending ‘religious exercises’. More than a century later, the ministry continued to warn schools against making religious activities compulsory or as a criterion for admission. PM Lee, himself from Catholic High, stressed in his 2009 National Day Rally that religious activities should be optional, and he didn’t want to see ‘Christians, Buddhists, Hindus all attending different schools’. But the evangelising wasn’t just happening in the confines of the school, some school teachers make it their personal mission to convert errant delinquents outside school hours.

Yet, it was in 1984 when the Government made ‘Religious Knowledge’ a compulsory subject for all secondary students, for it was deemed the ‘best and most dependable basis for inculcating moral values’, especially for rebellious teens corrupted by ‘Western’ influences. Except that no prayers, meditation or carrying of ‘artifacts’ were allowed during such classes. Which is like telling you to study a cookbook and not getting to cook anything, not even crack an egg. Within 5 years there were calls to scrap RK for good, and replace it with something more ‘inclusive’, like Civics, much to the agony of RK supporters who tried to convince us, and then Minister Tony Tan, that the scrapping of religious subjects was responsible for our young and impressionable becoming ‘materialistic and individualistic’.  Look what good decades of religious study has done to the likes of Kong Hee and gang then.

There are those who still believe that the touch of God is a necessary rite of passage for a ‘complete’ education and upbringing of a person. Some even propose to offer Religion 101 to students (Offer Religion 101 to students, 8 Jan 2013, ST Forum), which is like revisiting the 80s all over again. Except there is no evidence from history that being exposed to religion in school makes you a more moral, wholesome being than one who hasn’t. You don’t even need to be in a school, mission or non-mission, to get harassed by proselytisers outside, like how I’ve been targetted during my secondary school days by people trying to educate me about Jesus Christ. What I came to appreciate, and despise, about religion didn’t come from school, but from social encounters, family gatherings and IRC chatrooms.

In fact, it may be easier if you’re a non-Christian in a mission school to just pretend and attend chapel anyway, so that your staunch teachers or friends won’t single you out and try to shepherd you onto the path of eternal life. Or just report diarrhoea and bring your homework into the toilet with you.

Le Restaurant’s Buddha statue in the wrong place

From ‘Buddha statue in wrong place’, 5 Oct 2013, ST Life!

(Danny Cheong): I refer to the story Chinese Goes Chic (SundayLife!, Sept 29).

In Buddhism, devotees become vegetarian in order to refrain from killing livestock. It is improper and discourteous of Le Restaurant of Paradise Group to place a huge Buddha statue in its meateating outlet.

Even if it is a piece of art, it is certainly in the wrong place

Amita-Bar

Le Restaurant is the brainchild of former Entrepreneur of the Year Eldwin Chua, and has been described as a ‘bar featuring Nordic-style wooden latticed ceiling, sexy pink lighting, and a DJ spinning soulful house music’(Chinese goes chic, 29 Sept 2013, Sunday Lifestyle). It also serves ‘Asian tapas’, which sounds to me like swanky fusion dim sum with toothpicks, where you can pass off mantou as ‘sliders’. Not a place to celebrate Grandma’s 80th birthday I suppose.

A Buddha statue in Le Restaurant or plush ‘Asian bistros’ like Tao in New York seems ‘right’ for the concept, since the idea of Buddha and Buddhism has come to represent everything ‘hip’ and ‘mystical’ about the Orient, but wrong to those who revere the image as how one prostrates before the same statue at an altar. Other than sprucing up the place, a Buddha statue can even double up as a feng shui talisman for prosperity and luck. Westerners may find such themes appealing in a ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ kinda way but to me it’s just tacky decor, like a stuffed antelope in a BBQ diner, or a wax figure of Sly Stallone as Rambo in Planet Hollywood.

The liberal use of religious artifacts as a restaurant/bar/lounge theme isn’t new. The Buddha Bar was the pioneer of modern ‘buddhist chic’ back in 1996, with its own range of exotic new age CDs to bring the ‘neo-spiritual’ vibe of the establishment right into your living room.  Nevermind if the tracklisting contains titles like ‘Egyptian Disco’ or ‘Salaam‘, which makes you wonder if the French who came up with the idea thought Buddha resided in the ancient Pyramids or traversed vast Deserts on the back of a magical camel.

In 2010, Indonesian Buddhists in Jakarta protested against Buddha Bar for insulting their faith and tarnishing the ‘good name of Buddha’, not because of the meat they served, but that it came across as a debauched hangout for drunkard party-goers and prostitutes. Here, the Buddha Bar owners already decided in 2000 to change the ‘controversial’ name of their UE Square branch to ‘Siam Supperclub’ (Buddha at the Bar has gone off the Siam, 26 May 2000, ST), where not only can you gawk at Buddha statues but order a lychee martini called ‘Laughing Buddha’. If turning your restaurant/club into a temple alone isn’t New Age enough, why not name an alcoholic beverage after a deity too? Some practitioners believe the Buddha himself would turn a blind eye to the glamorous exploitation of his image. Not sure if you could pull off the same gimmick with Jesus on a crucifix; your menu would have to be restricted to wafers and red wine.

Cocktails aside, there’s even a meat broth named after Buddha, containing sharks’ fin, ham, abalone and scallop. An origin story behind this renown dish describes how monks would leap over temple walls just to have a whiff of this fragrant concoction. Why, it’s the famous ‘BUDDHA jumps over the wall’ of course, a delicacy that I’m sure some Buddhists do enjoy nonetheless without complaining that it’s not vegetarian. Not sure if Le Restaurant has its own version though. Maybe it’s called ‘Bouddha saute par-dessus le mur’ and comes in shot glasses with tiny umbrellas in it.

Locksmiths and real estate agents sticking ads all over the place

From ‘ Illegal ads a sticking point for HDB residents’, 12 May 2013, article by Lim Yan Yang and Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times

Now that Singapore’s “Sticker Lady” has been sentenced in court for mischief, some Housing Board residents are wondering if they will see the end of a sticky problem they have been living with for years. They say locksmiths, real estate agents and providers of all sorts of services paste small advertisements and labels all over the place, and seem to get away with it.

Tampines resident Francis Cheng contacted The Sunday Times and said he has put up with ads and calling cards that have been stuck to his meter box, doorbell, gate and on the railings along the common corridor. “It’s a nuisance. I peel it off and a few days later they paste it back,” said the 40-year-old business manager. Competing businessmen sometimes leave layers of overlapping stickers that are just unsightly, he added.

…The police website refers the public with such “non-police matters” to relevant agencies such as town councils and the LTA….Technically, the law has penalties for unauthorised advertisements, under the Vandalism Act and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

But lawyers said the courts are unlikely to act against businesses that do not adhere to the rules unless home owners pursue the matters themselves by lodging a magistrate’s complaint. “Some might argue that it’s a slippery slope: if you don’t arrest them, they will paste more stickers,” said criminal lawyer Amolat Singh. “But the courts operate under the de minimis principle, which means the law does not concern itself with trivialities.”

He said the law must strike a balance between the fact that advertisements promote a commercial service – unlike in the Sticker Lady case – and that most people do not view them as mischief or vandalism.

Most of the locksmiths, plumbers and air-conditioning repairmen The Sunday Times called declined to talk about their ads but one argued that his sticker has helped many people. The 40-year-old locksmith, who declined to be named, said: “Those who complain are those who haven’t had their door spoilt or forgotten their keys.”

Your grandfather meter box is it

I have to admit I once benefited from a vandal’s calling card stuck on a letter box. My door was jammed and I had no one to call. It was, for my intents and purposes, an emergency and I remain grateful enough to close one eye to rival locksmiths tearing each others’ stickers or sticking their ads on top of each other outside my house as long as it’s not on my gate. Property flyers on the other hand, are a downright nuisance, the only consolation being sometimes they come with eye candy amidst the eyesore, on which I’d waste a couple of seconds of my life ogling before tossing it away for recycling.

Need a house NOW

So we have one group of people running foul of Vandalism laws, another being annoying Litterbugs, with neither getting arrested for their deeds, while a graffiti artist with better aesthetic taste when it comes to stickers gets charged for mischief and has to serve 240 hours of community service. If Samantha Lo had inserted an additional line in her Press Until Shiok stickers advertising swimming lessons and a fake number, maybe the law would consider her actions ‘trivial’ as well.

I can’t say, however, that MOST people don’t mind such rampant defacement. Maybe some folks like myself do benefit from sticky ads, whether it’s breaking into their own house urgently or selling their homes at cushy prices. But I’m certain there are many who find it more disruptive and polluting than Sam Lo’s street work, so I question the lawyer’s assumption unless he had run a nationwide survey to ask Singaporeans what they think of sticker ads. There’s also a suggestion of exemption from penalty if your sticker is about a ‘commercial service’ rather than ‘art’. Which means there’s a chance you may be an illegal landlord, uncertified driving instructor or maybe even a prostitute sticking ads willy-nilly and not get caught. What if you’re spreading the gospel through stickers, like what happened in 1977 with a ‘I found it’ campaign? (‘It’ meaning ‘a life in Jesus Christ’). Would the authorities have hauled in a church leader for ‘mischief’ or use some fancy legal Latin term to convince us that he did no wrong?

It also begs the question of what exactly the law considers a ‘triviality’ which it doesn’t concern itself with. One man’s triviality is another’s outrage. If Sticker Lady had simply pasted ONE offending sticker in town, maybe less than 2 cm in radius, would it be ‘trivial’ enough to adhere to the ‘de minimis’ principle? One HDB owner’s complaint may be trivial, but if EVERY level on EVERY block of HDB flats reports a case of sticker vandalism, surely it becomes a PROBLEM, one that I forsee our authorities and courts will no doubt be STUCK on.

Lee Wei Ling is an atheist sent by God

From ‘ An atheist sent by God’, 31 March 2013, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times

I have a patient, R, who has been under my care since 2006. In 2008, she ran into a serious non- medical problem. She worked for someone who ran tuition centres, and her duties included taking children from one tuition centre to another and calling the pupils’ parents.

She was paid only $750 a month, but had to spend her own money to ferry the children by taxi, and she was not reimbursed for the telephone calls made on her own cellphone. She was naive, and her boss exploited her. Strapped for cash, she took money from the fees paid by the parents to pay off loan sharks. She had intended to repay the tuition centre from her future earnings, but before she could do so, her boss found out.

He threatened to report her to the police if she did not reimburse him immediately. Although her parents repaid the money on her behalf, the boss lodged a police report anyway and she was charged.

I asked a senior psychiatrist to see her. After examining her, he agreed that she was in no medical condition to serve out a prison term.

The law firm I approached agreed to help her pro bono. Their representation and the medical reports helped reduce her sentence from a jail term to a fine.

…In this cynical world, there are still people who want to do what is right, even if doing so will not profit them personally, as my psychiatrist friend and the lawyers who defended R pro bono show. This gives me hope that we can develop into a compassionate society no matter what our religion, or whether or not we believe in God.

R praised her saviour as a ‘person sent by God’, which the latter thought was ironic since she did not believe in His existence. If Lee Wei Ling weren’t the daughter of LKY, this would have been a perfect ‘Letters to Heaven’ bedtime story for Christian kids. Although intended as a Easter-themed celebration of the human spirit and compassion without faith intervening, Lee Wei Ling’s account of how she got a patient off the hook is not so much Good Samaritan as it shows the benefit of having powerful connections, or how having a mental illness and good lawyers can help you escape prison time. Pro bono also happens to be a fancy legal term for ‘free of charge’. It is usually administered for ‘the public good’, legal assistance for an ‘indigent stranger’ without expectation of reward. I would imagine it given to say elderly, disadvantaged workers seeking compensation for unfair dismissal at work, or to bloggers getting threatened for commenting on famous politicians’ celebrity daughters.

Dr Lee would deny that her position and influence had anything to do with R having an advantage over anyone else caught in the same situation. Regardless of R’s mental state or financial difficulties, the fact is she STOLE from her company, a crime that warrants a jail term. Lee carefully sidesteps the details; if R was indeed ruled out of a prison sentence on the basis of illness, was there any rehabilitation program mandated in addition to the fine? What illness do you need to suffer from to be spared a jail term? How did this article get past the Sunday Times editor?

Lee concluded with a cloyingly hopeful reminder that there is still some humanity left in us after all, that altruism is alive whether or not you believe in God.  Many people who have committed similar crimes out of desperation have landed in jail because they couldn’t afford expensive lawyers or psychiatrists to declare themselves medically unfit. Nor are they fortunate enough to have ‘atheists sent by God’ among their company. There is also too little information and too much sob-story from Lee’s perspective on R to say if she was truly deserving of the loving, unbiased touch of God. I also question if Lee’s doctor and lawyer friends did it out of genuine compassion, were returning a favour to ‘promote access to justice’, or acted simply because of who she was.

Maybe she should have written a story about volunteering in a tsunami-hit Third World country where the people believe in animal spirits instead of Jesus Christ, and then conclude that belief in a Man-God in a flowing robe and a halo over his head is not a prerequisite for miracles. Incidentally her father would call such disasters ‘Acts of God’, though he has been described as a man ‘agnostic’ in his approach to life.

Postscript: Lee Wei Ling reproduced the same ‘sob-story’ as an Easter special on 20 April 2014 (An atheist’s Easter story, Think, Sunday Times), but with further updates on R’s condition (depression coupled with epilepsy), who’s currently leading a normal life thanks to this ‘person sent from God’. Yes, we all know you did an Egg-cellent job, atheist.

Satanic soldier having sex with 11 year old cousin

From ‘Soldier jailed for sex with two minors; told one minor that he was a Satanist’, 12 March 2013, article by Elena Chong, ST.

A 21-year-old army regular was jailed for 20 months on Tuesday for having sex with two minors. Neither the accused nor the two girls, then aged 15 and 11, can be named as there is a gag order. A district court heard that he was initially given a 12-month conditional warning for having sex with his girlfriend, aged 15, at his home in November 2008. He was then 17. The girl, now 19, became pregnant and underwent an abortion.

He breached the condition of the warning to remain crime-free for the next 12 months by committing similar offences. This time, he preyed on his 11-year-old cousin. Claiming that he was a “Satanist”, he told her in October 2009 that since she was the first person to touch him, she must have sex with him or else “Satan” would “come after her”.

The girl became disturbed and later on, began to believe him as she started seeing “figures” in her bedroom. She was often scolded by her mother and she attributed the incidents of “bad luck” to the fact that she did not have sex with the accused.

Satanism is one way to use alleged powers of the occult to frighten gullible girls into sex, but the Horned One and the blood rituals committed in his honour have gone out of fashion in recent decades, which makes the victim’s fear of the Prince of Darkness rather surprising. Telling a kid horrific stories about Satan these days is as good as wriggling your fingers in a creepy fashion and summoning the Boogeyman. Parents no longer use scare tactics to send children to bed or ‘be good..or else’, when sometimes the threat of imaginary monsters may be more effective than a stern wagging finger and ‘rationalising’ with a brat who refuses to let go of your iPad.

There seems to be a trend of boys taking liberties with evil deities to deceive innocent girls. A certain ‘John’ fell into a trance in order to make girls succumb as he channeled Yan Luo Wang, the Chinese God of Hell back in 2011. Just earlier this month, Simon Wong Choy Chuan pretended to be possessed by ghosts whilst chanting and speaking in a different voice, calling himself ‘Gasura’, which sounds more like Godzilla’s bumbling arch nemesis than an embodiment of pure evil. For his theatrics he got 5 girls to submit to him, his hisses, fits and sputters probably more convincing than any of the professional actors on Channel 5′s Incredible Tales. But even blessed angels and saints aren’t spared from lecherous pretenders. You have fake monks ripping you off your ‘donations’ and priests touching boys where they shouldn’t be touching. If drawing inspiration from the pits of hell doesn’t work, there’s always the other side of the ‘supernatural’ to turn to.

The ‘medium con’ was first brought into public awareness by the shocking trial of serial rapist-killer Adrian Lim, who was an ‘ardent believer of the goddess Kali’. In 1983, he related to the courts how he SOMERSAULTED and rolled to the front of an altar, mimicking the ‘voice of an old man’. But it’s not just playing a vessel for spirit possession that makes people piss their pants. Conversely, you may trick someone into sex by convincing her that she herself is the one who needs a special brand of ‘exorcism’, taking ‘sexual healing’ to gruesome extremes. Lying alone is useless without a little persuasion, authority, plenty of charisma, and perhaps some gravity defying acrobatics for authenticity. You also have to choose your avatar wisely. It would be embarrassing to channel Hades, mythic Ruler of the Underworld and get a blank stare instead of reluctant undressing.

As customary as it is to symphatise with any victim of such a ruse, you’d have to wonder what good a little common sense and skepticism could do to save a child, or even an ADULT for that matter, from trouble. We teach our kids how to solve complex Maths problems but fail in our duty to protect them from malicious superstition or predators. Even if you’re the sort to be fooled by eyeball rolling and scary gibberish, at least ask yourself what our army is doing letting these wild, incestuous Satanists serve the country, what with their blood rite nonsense and heavy metal music and all. Let’s see what the Dark Lord has in store in return for this follower desecrating a nubile and blood relative like a good Satanist should. A hot tub in hell would be well deserved.

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