The following article is a response to my previous post What It Means To Be A Storyteller. It was written by a commenter who calls himself Juan_After_909 and I believe this nice piece deserves to be posted here.
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My friend asked why I, the prayerful ‘altar boy’, became an atheist.
Uhm… atheist I am not. Well… almost not.
I’m no Whitney Brown who gave us this soundbyte: “I’m not an atheist. How can you not believe in something that does not exist?” Uhm… how’s that again?
I’m agnostic… really. Richard Dawkins, one of the most notable militant atheists today, considers himself a 6.9 agnostic (or atheist, depending on which end of the numbered onion thread that connects two extremes of opposite certainty you choose to hang on to), with “7,” let’s say, as representative of the strong uncompromising atheist. Professor Dawkins humbly puts himself in that category for the humble reason that he’s a scientist. What science is and what a scientist does, feel free to google.
I’m nowhere near Dawkins’ 6.9, although “69″ conforms with uncompromising sexuality to which my sexth sense is also nowhere near. Brangelina, the couple, are agnostics/atheists, so is Daniel Radcliffe of the “Harry Potter” fame. (Dang! Why do I need to name-drop?)
Why I became not a “Brod Pitt” but instead a “Don’t Taser Me, Bro… Prrrtt” is a long story that I could summarily trace back to the old old angelic rituals of Angelus days.
Anyone heard of “angelus”?
Well, it’s when dusk slowly fell, and hi-fi radio sound went like this: Dong!… Dong!… Dong!… Ga…bi.. ng… lagim…. Oops! I mean: “Takipsilim na muli… ganap na ika-anim ng gabi… oras ng pagmumuni-muni… blah blah blah….”
Surviving listeners and fans of the late radio announcer Johnny “Wow-wow” de Leon of the old DZXL can fill in the blanks. But I must confess that DeLeon’s hi-fi angelus sound of the Angelus hour creeped into my toddler bones and nerves – it was like the “Twilight Zone.”
For the little boy that I was during Johnny’s wowowees, Angelus was a wall in our house adorned by crucifixes, icons, statues and portraits of saints that 6 children plus a mother faced, all of us on our knees, with memorized rosary script that we murmurred in unison. No adlibs and alibis allowed, or you’d get beat. Then teased.
Unaware that I was learning not to like the wall and all, the church to me became an extension of the wall, literally perhaps, as the small village chapel was no more than a hundred steps away from the capizeed frontwindow of our house. So you see, if I was late for Sunday mass or refused to proceed for childish reasons such as fever and swollen tonsils, or missed one unintentionally, which were rather rare, father was quick to brand me a mason, a moro, a komunista, a gusto-mo-bang-mapunta-sa-Lulumboy? (do you want to end up in Lulumboy?) — lost as to who or what “Lulumboy” was. Oh, the dad might have figuratively or colloquially referred to the Boystown, a juvenile rehab located somewhere in, uhm… until now I can’t figure where.
The kind of verbal scares and insults (not including yet the harsh physical beatings) that made the little boy downright confused and subconsciously believed that he was bad — and maybe as “bad” as a good mason, a prayerful moro, or a productive komunista, while tearfully and painfully listening to the angry gospel(s) according to his saintly child-beating father — a father, who, like most fire-breathing priests and pastors, make their listeners miserable by creating in them a sense of self-loathing and inordinate fear.
Lucky enough I wasn’t named “Lulumboy.”
Catholic grade school wasn’t Lulumboy, alright, yet it was there that I got to swallow the teaching that, we, and even a newborn baby is steeped in original sin, and thus deserve to burn in hell. Eventually, street-honed adolescence and youthful activism made me the wavering believer who coldly despised the wall and churchbell klengs and bangs but occassionally and quietly recited the rosary mysteries and other prayers anyways, that, looking back, were done impulsively out of stress, tension, nervousness and outriight fear.
I must admit that the rosary and some other Catholic rituals, in no small way, helped calm me down. Ala tranquilizers they served to relatively clear the confusion in my head, the pounding on my chest, the sweating of my cheeks — momentarily at best. But the tension and fear remained. From what, I had no clear idea.
Until, by some clicks of the mouse, I came across Mother Theresa’s Crisis of Faith, then read Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and had a clear grasp of what the stress, tension, nervousness and fear was all about.
What tranquilizer? I asked, smiling, while re-playing this classic video of funnyman George Carlin: “Religion is Bullshit”.