24 February 2009

Reply from Catholic Youth Apostolate's ghost writer

Selwyn Lee felt that my brief quote from the Catholic Youth Apostolate's letter to Ngee Ann Polytechnic student newspaper was "irresponsible and self-serving". His case can be seen here in his complete response, together with the original unedited letter (which I had not seen before this). Responding email.


Anonymous said...

YB, I understand your frustration, and I'm not saying what I'm about to say because I'm (non-practising) Catholic myself from a 500-yr history of Catholicism in my ethnic community. (I've even told the Monsignor to his face that I will not be returning to church until the church changes its position on gays.)

But I would like to point out to you that the in practise, the Catholic Church, its proselytyzing zeal, and even its attitudes towards gays is vastly different from the non-Catholic ones - not all of whom identify as Protestant but 'non-denominational' especially the ones that have their headquarters in the US.

The Syrian Orthodox Church, which I think Mathew Mathews is from is also similarly unantagonistic.

I venture that the campus non-Catholic groups did not respond to Vinod's letter because they are the ones who are guilty of the agression that write about.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply offended by your comments about the Catholic faith
"Actually I would also take issue with the letter's claim that the Catholic Church does not coerce. Baptising children when they are too young to understand, and then programming their minds with all sorts of religious stuff, and making them feel that it would be a grave betrayal to renounce Catholicism even when they are adults, is coercion. "
Baptism is one of the sacraments of the religion. As parents, we make the decision for our children to take the same faith as us. Just as you would make other decisions for your child from the time he or she is born i.e. what schools to attend, what clothes to wear etc. We do not "program their minds with all sorts of religious stuff" - we attend bible class weekly to learn more about our faith and the Bible. What is so wrong with that? Just because you do not practice the faith does not make what we are doing wrong. Each religion is entitled to their own practices, be they Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist. You are projecting your own personal beliefs here which I find extremely unfair.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

To Anonymous 25 February 2009, 01:57 - I agree with your last paragraph, and I said as much in the sidebar: "In fact, if we are familiar with Christian proselytisation in Singapore, in all likelihood, they were not; more likely a protestant group."

To Anonymous 25 February 2009, 11:03 - The point about coercion through children is hardly an original idea of mine, that is to say, it's a well-known and common criticism of organised religion.

The rebuttal is that a child is not the property of parents to do with as they please. Raising a child should be seen as a form of trusteeship. Others, including society and the world at large, have an interest in how that child is raised, which is why the state can justifiably butt in with compulsory education, when there is abuse, child trafficking, etc. The debate is on where the line is for society/state to step in, and I for one will argue that we privilege religion too much to think that the this can be carte blanche for parents. What, for example, if a parent prepares his child to be a suicide bomber, or organ donor in the name of religion?

Wang said...


"Doth protest too much". likewise, others would protest secular extremists step in too much.

As per your tenets of LaVeyan S mentioned by you which you profess "attraction"?. Likewise the same argument of utiliritianism since no harm is done to the child until proven otherwise why should you insist for society to step in unless abuse occurs.

Unless you wish to state that minds are so malleable that even upon adulthood , they do not change which would defeat the idea that genetics determine everything. As per your professed "studies", people destiny are in the main determined by their genetic DNA with slight influence by variety of influences.

Gerald Giam said...


"Some christians nowadays believe that they have the right to tout their religion freely. "

Actually, they do have the right. All persons in Singapore have that right, guaranteed in the Constitution:

Article 15. —(1) Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it.

In fact, it's an even greater right than freedom of speech, which is guaranteed for only Singaporeans.

Your point about coercion is misleading. Hard sell in some cases, yes. But coercion means they are forced to convert. This is not true.

Are you equally offended about insurance agents peddling their products at MRT stations? If not, why?

Anonymous said...

"Are you equally offended about insurance agents peddling their products at MRT stations? If not, why?"

Their message does not include
what happens to me if I
choose to reject what they are
selling. Or that my late grandmother is already suffering
the full consequences of her

Anonymous said...

"others would protest secular extremists step in too much."


calling what is done to children as coercion in a rhetorical context


actually keeping anti-gay laws that only make sense if you believe in Exodus 20 or similar nonsense.

You would be secular extremist too if your Muslim compatriots
became powerful enough and want
to turn your country into an
Islamic state.

Anonymous said...

To Gerald Giam:

Mine is the first reply on this thread, and I'm the same person to point out the constitutional guarantee to freedom of religion as a reply in the other related article.

I had written there - a slip - that the freedom of religion is interpreted to "mean" the freedom NOT to have a religion. I actually meant to write that the freedom of religion is interpreted to "include" the freedom NOT to have a religion, which effectively places atheists/agnostics on an equal legal footing. (This would also be consistent with the legal equality clause, Article 12.)

You are correct to point out that the freedom to propogate one's religion is also provided for in the Constitution. Following from my earlier point of legal equality, atheists too have the legal right to propogate their beliefs.

However, thus far, this has only been a discussion of the legality of certain acts.

In reality, the ethics of social discourse come into play: Why evangelize to the unwilling?

I also make a distiction betweem "force" and "coercion". YB is correct to use "coercion" to describe the evangelical efforts of many Christians if you consider the many scare tactics they often employ in this exercise. They also have an uncanny knack for picking on people who are emotionally at a vulnerable phase in their lives - scare tactics work very well on this group.

Finally, the freedom to propogate one's religion is NOT a greater right than the freedom of speech; only the PAP's often selectiveness of human rights in Singapore has made this so.

There is no legal provision for the PAP government in this regard.

Anonymous said...

I have met pesky Christians (protestants, charismatic, non-denominational) evangelists. They seem to take their target's politeness as an invitation to insult their target. Shame on them. Many do not even know they their bible well, simply mouthing whatever their "leaders" said. It's from my personal experience, cos I have stumped many with references to their bible (both old and new testaments). These evangelists are giving a bad name to the many more decent Christian folks I've met.

I have met Catholics. Honestly, they are much more amicable when it comes to "sharing knowledge". They have some ground rules (which I do not agree but it's still their right) such as you need to convert to Catholism to marry a Catholic spouse in the church and your children must be brought up in the Catholic faith. Honestly, that's nothing compared to the pushy Christians.

Lastly, the new Taoist movement (mainly from Taiwan) are also adopting some of the pushy evangelistic tactics of the Christians. A real shame too.

p.s. I'm agnostic, vegetarian and honestly replies that I have no religion when asked. Maybe that's why I get a lot of the Christian and neo-Taoist flake. These fellers equates "no religion" to fair game to their verbal abuses? Sickening. However tempted I may be, I have now refused to stoop as low as them in my repartee.

Anonymous said...

Alex, how does one 'coerce' another to believe in something/ someone? Is it possible??

My view is that Christians who evangelise are just sharing their knowledge out of good intentions. The 'targets' can just walk away or ask them to leave if they're not interested. Unless the evangelists ignore his request to stop sharing or worse, physically restrain him from leaving, they have not done any thing wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Alex, how does one 'coerce' another to believe in something/ someone? Is it possible??"

We have secularization to thank
for the present state of affairs.

When their spiritual forebears
wielded the instruments of
state, the coercion was real.

Milder forms of coercion exist
even today. What happens to
non-believers in taxpayer-funded Mission Schools?

This seems to be a peculiarity
of Abrahamic religions. Use
whatever power you have to convert
non-believers. "Thank God" they have lost most of their power."Thank God" for

It sickens me that they now
present themselves as meek and

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic, but this
ties in with your other articles
about foreign workers. You
can beat your maid as hard as
you want. But make sure she
is able to get back to work
in two days. Then God is OK with
it. You see how convenient
Christianity is for the modern
Singapore lifestyle?

From Exodus 20:

20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

Weeping Saint said...

I'm a Catholic. I go to Mass and I attend dhamma talks at temples.

Evangelism means "to spread the good news". I asked a Buddhist monk what he thought of Christian evangelism; well he said that every religion would want to spread its beliefs because they felt that they were bringing benefit to others.

Theoretically, that sounds OK. Unfortunately, history has shown that religious groups have used extreme methods to spread their 'good news'. The history of the Catholic Church has revealed times when 'pagans' were forcibly converted. At the same time, Protestant persecution of Catholics (and the reverse as well) has been horrific.

Article 16 of the constitution of the Republic of Singapore which deals with religious freedom does state:

(4) This Article does not authorise any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

Section 8 of the Maintenance of Religious Act states:

"Restraining orders against officials or members of religious group or institution
8. —(1) The Minister may make a restraining order against any priest, monk, pastor, imam, elder, office-bearer or any other person who is in a position of authority in any religious group or institution or any member thereof for the purposes specified in subsection (2) where the Minister is satisfied that that person has committed or is attempting to commit any of the following acts:

(a) causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups;

(b) carrying out activities to promote a political cause, or a cause of any political party while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief;

(c) carrying out subversive activities under the guise of propagating or practising any religious belief; or

(d) exciting disaffection against the President or the Government while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief."

I think that many evangelistic groups will fall under 8(1)(a) once they start criticising or attacking other religions.

I will just collect their brochures, get their contacts & go to the police!

Anonymous said...

To Weeping Saint:

This is what your Pope says:

"The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns"

How is this "good news" and
how do you propose to spread it
without "criticising or attacking other religions"?

Or is it forbidden to reveal this
to people of other faith?

If so, what else are you forbidden
to reveal?

Anonymous said...

Is Singapore the only
country where people
say that Catholics
are not Christians in
a non-ironical context?