Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The 1000-Year-Old Tradition

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher in ancient China, whose teachings have deeply influenced the Chinese community for over a millenia. His teachings focused primarily on filial piety and respect for elders and seniors. Until today, Confucius' teachings are evident all over Asia. The Chinese community in Malaysia is no different, especially those who've gone through the Chinese schooling system. Malaysian Chinese have fought for decades to maintain their independent schooling system against integration with the rest of Malaysia's national schools. In these Chinese schools, Confucianism is hard-wired, by default, into the system. As a result, students are automatically indoctrinated with his teachings from a young age.

A lot of Malaysian Chinese tie their cultural identity to Confucianism, so much so, that children are automatically expected to revere their parents undyingly and unquestionably. They believe that parents created the children and so, the children owe them everything. This is markedly different from Christianity where Christians believe that there is only one Father in Heaven and parents are merely conduits for God. In Heaven, you and your biological father become brothers-in-Christ. Confucianism is not a religion, but a way of life, but it's impact on society today is just as profound as that of religion, if not more.

So, what is so wrong with Confucianism? What's wrong with respecting your parents and elders? Nothing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving and respecting your parents. Everyone is encouraged to do that. Moreover, Confucius also taught the Golden Rule, which is universally accepted and should be practised.

What I find unacceptable about Confucianism, though, is that you must put the interests of your elders ahead of your own, with no questions asked. Why should you let your parents/elders make decisions for you if you are capable of thinking on your own? Even if your own thinking is reasonable enough, why does Confucius demand that you obey your parents? Theoretically, if they ever asked you to kill yourself, then according to Confucius, you absolutely must kill yourself! Where did Confucius get the misguided notion that all parents are rational people? Such rigid rules are not without disastrous consequences.

One example I can remember is from Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers' about Korean pilots. In August 6, 1997, Korean Air Flight 801 crashed in Guam, killing 228 people. Prior to this, Korean Air also suffered unusually high rate of crashes. Going through the plane's blackbox, investigators found that the Flight 801 Captain, who was fatigued throughout the flight, had blundered. The First Officer and Flight Engineer were both uncomfortable with their Captain's decision, but because of their Confucianist culture, were not able to strongly voice their objections to him. Instead, they had to remain subservient and politely hinted on potential problems. The result was a tragedy. Confucianism crashes planes!

The truth is, everyone deserves respect regardless of their status/position. The young must respect the elderly and likewise, the elderly must respect the young. We cannot have one-sided rules where someone is always right because of their higher status. The fact is, nobody is perfect. The elderly can be just as flawed and misinformed as the young can. It is imperative that we respect each individual's freedom. Also, one doesn't need to observe such archaic rules in order that one can be identified as a Chinese. It is much more important to be a rational person first, and a Chinese, second.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Populii - Speak your mind!

Hi folks! Here's a new website made by a friend of mine. It's called Populii ( In case you're wondering, the name comes from populi, as in, vox populi which is latin for 'voice of the people'. I guess it's quite appropriate since the site is about Malaysian news.

Populii crawls several of Malaysia's English dailies like The Star, New Straits Times, The Edge, Sun, Malay Mail and more. So you get all the news in one place. You could probably do the same thing using an RSS reader, right? But there's more. The news is ordered by popularity, so you can always see what the popular news of the day are. If you're too busy to read all the news, you can just to scan through the Popular page to keep yourself up-to-date. See something interesting, you can click on the title and it'll bring you to the news site for the full news.

And since it's all about voice, you can post comments on any news article you find interesting. Hmmm, sounds too good to be true! You ever sometimes get really worked up when you read some piece of sloppy reporting?? Like the journalist/editor is giving a very biased, pro-government or racist slant and you just want to give him/her a piece of your mind? Yeah, now you can... on Populii.

Oh, and another feature that I like is the Search, especially the Timeline feature. You can key in a phrase, say 'Wimbledon' and do a Timeline search. The results are presented in a timeline and you can see all the reported events in chronological order. Pretty neat.

This site is still very new, so do join me there.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Malaysian Atheist moves to a New Place

About a month ago, my girlfriend and I moved to a new place. It's a mid-sized, three-room apartment near the city. Needless to say, we were very thrilled to finally have our own home.

Right before we got the keys to the new place, my girlfriend's Mom told her about the customary practice of throwing rice, tea leaves and salt around the house to ward off evil spirits before moving in. Apparently you are to mix the uncooked rice with tea leaves and salt, and spread them all over the house, especially the corners as that's where the ghosts and spirits love to hide. You need to leave the mess overnight before sweeping. That's the recipe for chasing off evil spirits (while at the same time inviting ants and bugs into the house).

I can't help but wonder how this practice came about. I'm just not convinced that evil spirits are afraid of rice, tea leaves and salt. After all, I don't see people performing exorcisms using rice, tea leaves and salt. What if I'm out of tea leaves? Can I substitute it with coffee powder? How about add a dash of pepper, to make the evil spirits sneeze while they're tumbling out the door?

Could it be just a hoax started by a greedy grocer, eager to sell more rice, tea leaves and salt? Or could it be a joke started by a jealous brother? Anyway, I don't know how it got started, but it sort of reminded me of a story I read before:

A child was watching her mother cook a roast. The mother cut off both ends of the meat and placed it in a big pot for cooking. When the child asked, "Why do you cut off each end?" the mother replied, "I do it because my mother did it that way, so it must make the meat taste better." When the child asked, "Why does it make the meat taste better?" the mother replied, "I don't know, go ask your grandmother." So the child asked the grandmother and she replied, "I do because my mother did it that way, so go ask your great-grandmother." When the child asked the great-grandmother why she cut off each end of the meat, her great-grandmother replied, "Because my pot is too small!"

Often, we find that some of the things we do, we do for no good reason at all, other than because that's how it's always been done. Whether it's cutting the ends of a roast or throwing rice, tea leaves and salt when moving to a new house, or doing the rain dance, this process of non-thinking can eventually lead us to do actions that make no difference whatsoever apart from the false feeling of security. I'd rather not have any ants and bugs around, thank you very much!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FSM Meal

My girlfriend and I cooked up a Pastafarian meal for dinner. It's really simple and delicious. Here's how we did it:

2 tsp olive oil
2 tomatoes
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
500g spaghetti
8 beef meat balls
1 can whole mushroom
1 tsp margarine (salt reduced)
1 bottle Prego pasta sauce (onion & garlic)
40g Grozette cheese powder

You can substitute the olive oil with regular cooking oil. You can use instant noodles instead of spaghetti. You can add chicken or shrimps if you don't like beef. You can add grated parmesan for a cheesier taste.

Heat oil and fry the meatballs till they are brown. Cook the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and stirfry for 2 minutes. After that add the pasta sauce and some water. Cover and simmer. Add the cheese and the sauce is done!

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling water for approximately 15 minutes. Drain the spaghetti and place them in a bowl. Add some margarine to prevent spaghetti from becoming sticky.

Serve the spaghetti and meatballs on a plate. Pour the pasta sauce and there you go! Serve with Kickapoo Joy Juice.

Don't forget to give thanks to the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster. May He bless this meal with His Noodly Appendage. RAmen!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Step down-Lah!

PM Abdullah Badawi needs to resign.  The people no longer want you to lead this country.  We have had enough of your lies and your flip-flopping.  In the past four years, you have done untold damage to the economy, society and the administration of this country.  You have failed to deliver on your pledges of transparency and accountability.  Under your watch, corruption, crime and cost of living have sky-rocketted.  If not for the unfair use of the government-controlled media, public funds, phantom voters, postal votes, vote-buying and etc.  by the government machinery throughout this election, Barisan National might not even win a simple majority.  It is time to go, Abdullah.  If you stay on, you will be a laughing stock amongst the national leaders all over the world... kinda like President Bush who's the President of Africa!

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The people have spoken!

Congratulations my fellow Malaysians! The people have spoken! We've shown that we're not easily fooled by PM Abdullah Badawi's lies and empty promises. With yesterday's massive defeat, Badawi will confirm his status in Malaysia Book of Records as the worst prime minister the country has ever had. We've also shown that we will not accept leaders who have overstayed their welcome, and who instead of serving the people, are subservient to UMNO's wishes.

I for one, look forward to the new state governments of DAP, PAS and PKR. I'm also happy to see almost 40% Parliamentary seats taken by the Opposition. Monkeys are no longer allowed into the august House of Parliament. A lot of work is needed to make things right. We need to free the mass media from government control. Even as the election results were streaming in last night, the media was still in denial mode - not covering the (newsworthy) huge Opposition wins in northern states, but merely reporting on the southern and East Malaysian states where the national front is very strong. Guys, your boss, Information Minister Zam is out! You'd better start serving the people instead of your political masters.

Then there's the local universities. We need to sack all those useless chancellors and lecturers and replace them with qualified, world-class academicians. Also the Police, government agencies and the judiciary will need to see massive reforms. Some will need to be hauled to court, trialed and jailed for corruption and misuse of power.

Underperforming GLCs and business monopolies need to be dismantled and competition need to be encouraged. I expect foreign investors will flee the country in this time of reform and uncertainty. Our country will be undergoing massive albeit necessary change. But I'm confident with this new bunch of leaders we've elected, we will be steered in the right direction and pretty soon, the foreign investors will return to Malaysia.

On the religious front, I hope this means the end of Islamisation of the country. We are a multiracial, multireligious country, and so it is imperative that we tolerate each other's culture and beliefs (and disbeliefs). There is no other way to it. We must practise tolerance if we're going to live with each other peacefully.

Once again, congratulations to all Malaysians. I look forward to this exciting, new beginning.  

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Famous Atheists: Steve Wozniak

I haven't written about any famous atheists for a while. Not that there aren't any worthy candidates to write about, but I didn't want to write about anyone until I know more about them - their achievements, their philosophy, their attitudes toward life, etc.

So, not too long ago, I finally read Steve Wozniak's autobiography - iWoz. It was an interesting read, but I think if you are not an electronics/computer engineer you'll find some parts difficult to understand.

We all know Woz as Apple's co-founder. He is the guy who single-handedly built the Apple I and II computers, which are the predecessors to all modern personal computers. So we really owe what we have today, to his technical wizardry.

After reading the book, you sense that Woz is really just a simple, fun-loving and honest guy. He's the guy with a big heart. For example, he wrote about how, in the early days, he felt everyone who contributed to Apple's success (even those who're not employees) should be allowed to own shares in the company and so he sold them his own shares really cheap. He also wrote about how he and Steve Jobs continued to become friends before they started Apple, even though he found out Steve cheated him off some money on some designs he did for Steve. Imagine, if Woz had gotten angry and never spoke to Steve again, there would be no Apple, no iMacs, no iPods and no iPhones!

On a personal level, Woz says he's been an atheist all his life. A lot of it has to do with his non-religious upbringing. Woz advocates thinking independently and differently.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007


Sorry, I haven't posted anything here since end of May. My last post was kinda depressing, people must've thought I killed myself after that. Sorry to disappoint the religious fundies, but I'm still alive. I've just been pretty busy (with work) and expect to remain busy till the end of the year, so I don't think I'll be blogging too much.

Also, the present situation in this country, under the (non-)leadership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is extremely hostile towards dissident blogs. I'm sure many have heard of the arrest of opposition blogger Nathaniel Tan, the police report against Raja Petra and most recently, attempts to charge a Malaysian Chinese student in Taiwan. Clearly in Malaysia, the government doesn't want you to have an opinion. The government doesn't want you to ask questions. The government doesn't want you to think on your own. So, now isn't quite a good time to be expressing my opinions quite so openly, though I will be expressing my opinion at the coming polls!!

In other news, I really feel for the group of South Koreans who were captured by the Talibans. I really, really despise the Talibans. Even before 9/11, I've read and warned people about them. They represent the worst of religion. I don't know what kind of religion can justify murdering a human being and taking people hostage? But the Koreans themselves need to shoulder the blame. No doubt, they had noble intentions to help the Afghans (and spread the gospel, perhaps?) but it is also extremely foolish of them to be walking into the lions' den. Just because, in the Bible, God sent an angel to protect Daniel from the lions, doesn't mean that in real life, an angel will come and stop the Talibans. There are no angels, just as there are not fairies and unicorns. But there are plenty of misguided, militant and unsound religious fundamentalists out there.

So, I'll try my best to blog when I have time or whenever something interesting comes along. Hope you all will drop by from time to time.

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