I, Freethinker or I, Troll?
Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. – Rosa Luxembourg
I’m often asked why I decided to get involved with the Filipino Freethinkers. Often in FF discussions, some people would find it weird that someone attacks Enlightenment assumptions in a fierce manner and not coming from the realm of faith. For some who worship Reason like a god, that would be anathema. For some, it can be just dismissed that I am a perpetual deviant.
To briefly introduce myself (a giveaway), apatheism by choice would be the best way to describe my irreligious convictions (I believe this should have been placed in forum introductions but I did it here nonetheless). I’m an apatheist because I don’t see any relevance whatsoever of belief or non-belief in deity/ies in general. I am more interested in discussing other issues that are of more relevance, like politics, economics, and others. “By choice” is because even if I don’t see its relevance, I can match anyone in FF in discussing philosophy of religion or participate actively in those endless “reason versus faith” or “existence of god” discussions (which are so very prominent in FF). I just don’t have the time and the passion for it.
Having said that, people would again ask, “what are you still doing here?”
The Problem of Evil, or Post-Evil, or Post-Problem
The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned. Its sole message is: “What appears is good; what is good appears.” The passive acceptance it demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any reply. – Guy Debord
The answer is simple, but first I will state these undeniable facts about Philippine society:
1. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC), represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), as well as its allies is one if not THE most dangerous and dominant power center in Philippine society because the social agenda it promotes prevents the people from achieving the level of thinking for themselves, and acquiring the ability to understand freedom and autonomy;
2. The Philippine State, with pragmatic opportunist politicians and bureaucrats running it (with notable few exceptions of course), maintains its power through a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship with the main organized religions. The Philippine State is operating as a theocracy, albeit an unofficial and less violent one; and
3. Religion, specifically Christianity has been so deeply ingrained in Philippine culture that it has become reality that can never be questioned. Its monopoly of images has obliterated other ideas, either in the form of marginalizing them as heretic and untrue, or assimilating them, thereby appropriating its symbols for its own.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand this, though in this case I don’t think rocket scientists would understand this (no offense to the rocket scientists). For the answer to the million dollar question, my apatheism as well as its peaceful coexistence with other faiths and un-faiths can only come forth in a secular society; and with the emergence of freethinkers as a recognized demographic in Philippine society, we would be able to do away (or start the path to that) with the three facts I have outlined above.
However, secularism won’t come as a gift or magically sprout overnight. It is like any human achievement – we MUST work to get it.
A Force to Reckon With
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea…and ideas are bulletproof.” – Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
The idea that humans can think freely without the influence of tradition or dogma is very dangerous for those in power. And that is what the Filipino Freethinkers are doing – sowing the seeds of skepticism and inquiry. FF members are not anarchists (well, not all of them), but they surely are a threat to the status quo, which is built on the hegemony of a dominant religion.
I work with FF on the basis of the promotion of secularism. I believe that FF is the current hatchery of our new breed of secular activists. From the newbie Mutalisks, I would see secular Guardians and freethinking Devourers in the future.
However, I also think that ideas are not enough.
Direct Action Gets the Goods
“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” – Edward Abbey
Or for those without souls:
“Sentiment without action is a fake orgasm” – Ram Fernando
I often hear freethinkers say that the underlying problem is the stupidity and ignorance of the masses. It is true to a certain point. The masses are ignorant and stupid because they were made so (disclaimer: not created from clay, but two large bamboo trees cracked). To paraphrase Chomsky’s idea, the consent that they give to a dominant line of thinking is manufactured. Using this idea, the hegemony of religious thought is not inherent. The institutions that promote and maintain this hegemony are under their control. My question for you as a freethinker and secularist is what are you going to do about it?
A dangerous display of elitism actually manifests among some of us. Responses like “they won’t understand” or “it’s better to talk to like-minded people” or “harump” aren’t so uncommon.
In this light, I would invoke Chomsky’s concept of the “responsibility of intellectuals”. He argues that intellectuals should make themselves responsible for searching for the truth and exposition of lies. This isn’t hard to grasp. This is what you desire actually. What would you freethinkers jerk-off more than the exposition of the lies of organized religions and its divine imperative to dominate civil society?
With this, I would ask that you go beyond your comfort zones and start doing something. Go to the people that you wouldn’t normally talk to if needed. Build alliances with not so like-minded individuals and interest groups who you feel have common goals. Start your revolution at home by coming out and being proud about it. Know more by reading and continuously engaging anyone possible about what you have learned. Be an activist.
This will not solve our problems overnight, but it’s a start. A secularist’s work is never done.