Filipino Freethinkers Speak at DLSU

Last Thursday, Garrick and I gave a lecture at DLSU, (one of) the best Catholic universities in the country. The lecture was for students of the Great Works classes, who were reading The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake, No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre, and Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Although we weren’t experts on any of these books, we were very familiar with their themes: damnation and eternal life; reward and punishment; heaven and hell; good and evil; and the meaning of life.

Natty Manauat, one of the philosophy professors who organized the forum, invited us to give a freethinker’s take on these themes. This is our second time lecturing in DLSU. Last year, Natty invited us to the philosophy department’s Darwin Day celebration. We served as panelists in a discussion of the film, Creation, and I gave a talk titled “Darwin, the Freethinker,” in which I argued that instead of being a dispassionate scientist, Darwin was actually a passionate advocate of reason and human equality. We don’t have a recording of that lecture, but we were prepared for this one.

In my part of the lecture, I showed how Christian morality has progressed from Biblical times to this day, and how history has shown that when it comes to telling good from evil, the Roman Catholic Church is incompetent. After I showed that a better framework for morality is badly needed, Garrick argued for a more scientific understanding of morality, one that’s grounded on human well-being instead of divine dogma, theological tradition, and arbitrary authority.

In spite of the unusually cold air-conditioning, only a few students fell asleep — most of them were engaged throughout the lecture, and some even told us that we gave an awesome lecture. The professors were also happy, and over coffee we were invited to give another lecture in April, this time on the life of Alan Turing. We’re equally excited about that, but for now, we hope you enjoy the videos below.

Ryan Tani on The Problem of Evil

Garrick Bercero on Morality Without God


  1. The book “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell explains how God was misinterpreted because the idea of God is supposed to be a metaphor. Hey says that God is something that ranscends all levels of intellectual human thought. Debating about God, or proving that God exists or does not exist, is a complete waste of time. =’) Before you claim you know God, read his book first. I have to time to debate with you if you biased with your church and you haven’t read the book, it’s like removing a handcuff without a key, you’ll wait for the handcuffs to be completely rusty first before you can easily destroy it. No time for nonsense words from both angry atheists and paranoid believers. Have common sense please.

  2. Simple answer to your first question Sir Garrick Bercero.

    The very existence of evil begs the question, “If God is all-good and God is all-powerful, why does he allow evil to exist?.”

    The answer at its core is remarkably simple: free will. God allows evil to exist because of free will.

    From the Christian standpoint, God tolerates evil in this world on a temporary basis so that one day,

    those who choose to love him freely will dwell with him in heaven, free from the influence of evil, but with their free will intact.

    In other words, God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it.

  3. My two cents. @ Garrick and Red. As finite human beings we do not posses the type of knowledge and capacity that will provide us with the absolute proof of Gods existence or nonexistence. Outside the knowledge of our own existence ( I know I exist because I have to ponder the question), we deal in the realm of PROBABILITY. Whatever we’ve concluded or lectured about the existence or nonexistence of God, it’s always possible that the opposite conclusion of God is true.:) So your view about God and His non existence cannot also be trusted:)

    • True true. But that then means we would have to resolve to agnosticism and de facto atheism (i.e. we live as if there were no god).

      • Not necessary. Agnosticism believes that they can’t or don’t know for sure if there is a God, whereas atheism strongly believes that there’s no God. Which I doubt If they can prove it. 🙂 With these two sets of belief you actually need to exercise some level of faith, to believe that they are true. And in some sense agnostics and atheists are as much faith base than the rest of the worlds religion 🙂

        And in this case, your putting your faith unto something you’re not absolutely sure.

        Bottomline. You don’t settle to agnosticism or de facto atheism but FAITH. 🙂

  4. It's always a problem discoursing with freethinkers because the platform is essentially incompatible. Freethinkers subscribe to reason as the end all and be all yet even even they agree that reason is finite. How can one with finte reason comprehend that which is beyond reason? Nonetheless, because i am a finite being I'm prone to errors and weakness. I can't fight the urge to reply despite knowing this is fruitless.

    Garrick contends that the 10 commandments are a disappointment but the "best" an infinite Being could come up with. Do you think with your limited mind you could comprehend a masterpiece from God? Do you suppose the Israelite (slaves, uneducated, etc) at that time would even comprehend something more complex say, the teachings of the Catholic Church. Heck, theologians and philosophers can't even be on the same page. You don't even realize it yourself. Hence you lost me already at the get go.
    Don't take the passages in the Bilble (Old and New Testaments) out of context. Slavery was a common practice in the ancient world; part of the spoils of war. "Give unto Ceasar was is Ceasar"s" Do you think proclaiming it evil at that time would have changed the people's hearts. They were so stubborn in their foolishness that they could not even believe even after seeing Lazarus come back from the dead. A simple, yet the greatest commandment, "love one another as yourself", is so difficult to follow but could have easily corrected your beef with slavery. Come on man. That's the only commandment the world needs to solve its problems (hunger, denigration of women, children, the weak, inequality and so on and so forth). But why are we still in this morass?
    Going back to my question. Do you think you would be able to fully comprehend something akin to a masterpiece from God? None are more blind than those unwilling to see. Be humble my friend. I don't think you could last 2 seconds against Aquinas. And neither would I.

    • Human reason is finite, and then you, a human being (I presume), go on to make claims that, by your own concession, are beyond your own reason.

      The funny thing about people arguing to put the Bible's hateful passages into context is that they concede that God himself is context-bound, as if his own morals were dependent on human culture. If slavery has always been wrong, God could have said so. But, no, he made humans decide for themselves that it was wrong centuries after he was supposedly in direct and visible contact with human beings.

      Christianity claims moral superiority and absolute moral knowledge, but when it's challenged for its lack of foresight, Christians retreat to the "everyone else was doing it at the time" defense. Sorry, for people who claim to be speaking for a god, that doesn't fly.

      You challenge my comprehension of "a masterpiece from God" and exhort me to humility but it is not I who make knowledge claims about what this "masterpiece" looks like, it is you who seems to be able to fathom what you yourself say is not fathomable.

      I don't claim to comprehend this "masterpiece from God." I deny that this "morass" is a masterpiece at all.

      Your argument boils down to, "you don't know, therefore I am right." That's not how rational discourse works. But, if you'd rather not play on that "platform," then there is little else to discuss.

      • I just like to speak to what you said, “But, no, he made humans decide for themselves that it was wrong centuries after he was supposedly in direct and visible contact with human beings.”

        God actually speak of us every time in our lives in our conscience, especially when we are before doing act, while doing it, and after doing it; however, we choose not to listen to it and to act in our way, meaning, our freedom does not choose to listen. But how does our freedom not choose it? Well, one of the reasons is the weakness of the will, because sometimes we know that an act is wrong but we cannot not do it because of external (i.e.peer pressure) and internal (emotions like lust and anger) influences. We can say that it is lack of faith for ourselves, because we do not believe that we can actually avoid it and thus we just do it, and lack of faith for God, because we do not ask for grace to avoid doing what we know is evil and sometimes we reason out just to reject it.

        But how do we know that it is the grace of God and not the voice of evil? Well, if it is for love, peace, kindness, consideration for the common good, and true joy.

        I think it is not enough but I hope it opens an argument for us. 🙂

  5. Sorry, sana Filipino o Tag-lish at hindi Ingles ang gamit niya
    para makaunawa lahat ng tao. Medyo mahirap nga lang ang ibang salita i-tagalog.

    Good lecture. Keep it up!

  6. Wouldn’t be better if you just played them a Sam Harris video? The delivery was weak, too many so’s, ah’s, but’s, of course… It’ll be hard to understand for some people if you try to prove a point this way. You ever tried to give lecture in Tagalog?

  7. Wow DLSU is right across the street from where I live. I wish I was there to watch you guys.xD Was this a DLSU-constituent only event?

  8. wow i can't believe it! atheists giving a wisdom of secularist to a fervent solid catholic school? guys' what do you think, is it penetrating? mind boggling? a big question marked on ur forehead after the lecture? search.. search.. .be steadfast on searching the truth! open your mind, read.. read.. . to widen your horizon and perspective in life. keep up the good works!

  9. The way you presented your research and arguments makes one believe thay your establishing a secular organization to join your beliefs.

  10. It's a shame that you went to DLSU when I'm no longer studying there.. Sayang! I've been a reader of your site for quite a while, and I enjoyed most of your articles. I try to convince my friends, believer or not, to check up your site, beefen up their knowledge and widen their perspective. During drinking sessions I can only debate about religion and God with just 2 of my friends, which is rather sad. Through reading your site, though, they became better equipped and at least they can understand some points that I'm raising.

    Well anyway, I have a question for you guys. The infamous DLSU philosophy professor, Mr. Gojocco, is he present there? For the unitiated, 4 of Mr. Gojocco's students killed themselves because of his "intense" classes. Though he warns his students and makes it clear during the start of the term to "not believe/not take it personally" any word that he utters, still a lot of students can't help but believe in that guy. Students from my class tried to disprove his stand and debate against him but all failed without him breaking a sweat. I have nothing but pure praises for that legend, in fact he solidified my stand against religion/God. The alien-loving, Nietzche-preaching prof is the meanest (BEST) professor i had hands down and it would be cool if you guys meet him. Or you already did? Have a nice day guys!

    • Gaah!!! that annoying urban legend's been around since my days in DLSU over a decade ago, dati 2 students lang yung supposed suicide headcount… now it grew to 4? Give it a few more years, maybe it'll reach a dozen victims na. The ghosts of those students are supposed to whisper ideas into your head that will "turn you into atheists" you if you dont say a quick "Our Father", clap three times, and and do the sign of the cross thrice when passing by the chapel. That was during our time, maybe today you have to dance the Macarena and do a Moonwalk as well…

      Though I think most of the philo profs in DLSUare agnostic, not atheist… Velasco was our INTPHIL prof and she was pretty open to all viewpoints. She said that if she had kids, she'll expose them to *all* the world religions and philosophies then let them decide for themselves. My final paper was a 20-pager arguing for deism – not atheism or christianity, and got a nice 95 for it.

      • Nah, he personally told us when one of my classmate asked him during our class.. He even said that during the late DLSU president Bro. Andrew Gonzales' term, he warned him to "play his cards right" because of the deaths of his students. And "atheists" not having a place in the academe. Well at least during that time perhaps..

        I almost failed Gojocco's INTPHIL but in the end i got 51! Its kinda low but enough for his passing grade of 50. That dude fails a lot of his students – at least half of our class failed as proof.

        • [I almost failed Gojocco's INTPHIL but in the end i got 51! Its kinda low but enough for his passing grade of 50. That dude fails a lot of his students – at least half of our class failed as proof. ]

          I had a journalism professor in admu who was like that. The old dude was an underground reporter during the Marcos Regime, and he brutal standards for journalistic integrity and proper writing; a literal grammar nazi 🙂

          He flunked 70 percent of the class by semester's end, but those of us who passed loved the guy – he wasn't an asshole per se, but after he illustrated just how much damage a poorly written story could do to an innocent civilian, we understood where he was coming from.

  11. Poor lecture on the Problem of Evil. Is this what counts as intellectual discourse these days? How did these guys score a guest lecture gig at a "top" local university? And for a Philosophy class, no less! Do they have the necessary qualifications?

    If I wanted a thought-provoking and nuanced discussion of the Problem of Evil vis a vis the Existence of God, I'd sit at home and just watch this on the internet:

    Voila! I wouldn't even have to pay tuition! And best of all, the lecturer is someone who actually knows what he's talking about and is actually qualified to talk about them!

    • It's a good thing you were able to point out the specific flaws of the talk instead of just resorting to ad hominem and loaded questions.

      • Ab hominem? Loaded Questions? Why does everything have to be a debate in this place? I'm just a commenter posting a comment at your "Comments" section.

        • And whatever made you think that we'd stay quiet when somebody spouts bullshit? Calling out fallacies IS also commenting IIRC, as is pointing out that Peter Kreeft isn't exactly considered the most credible source for arguments.

          Christianity doesn't hold exclusive claim to the concept of morality, and nothing pisses us off more than some witless prat parading in and pretending it does.

    • Cogito, I'll have to correct you about the "Philosophy class" thing. It isn't necessarily a Philo class, Great Works is a class about the works/books of authors that had a significant impact on our world (or anything of the prof's liking). It may range from Shakespeare to Rousseau to Stowe or even Nick Joaquin. In this case the theme of the books were of the Philosophical side (maybe their prof/s were from the philo department) hence, it seemed as if it was a philo class.
      I would like to congratulate you for discovering ways to actually learn more without stepping in an institution (such as DLSU) sans paying hefty amounts of cash for tuition. Good job!

      Nah fuck it. Instead of giving the link, why not present your argument for saying such? Is that the "intellectual discourse" you so proudly claim you have?

      • Sorry, but I just don't to waste my time spelling out re-hashed arguments for you when they're illustrated in a much better way in the video. Original is always best.

        • Well, don't let us interrupt you while you jerk off to Peter Kreeft while clutching your copy of The Way. Don't worry, we won't tell your confessor.

  12. I don't mean any disrespect, but I think for a more "accurate" discussion, the speakers ought to bolster their research. The "Good book" as Garrick mentions isn't an encyclopedia: it's not fact-laden. More precisely, you deal with it as one would deal with a work of literature, you understand its words and consider why it was written in the first place. You don't jump the gun just because it says "God created the world in seven days" and pronounce it as fact, because we all know it is not. It's like saying if "Twilight" happens to survive 2,000 years from now, people should read it as truth from the 21st century. The Bible was written for those who lived in that era, to teach those who did not actively seek out the truth, to evangelize — but it doesn't mean that what was true then, isn't true now. The implications and applications of these truths are just different.

    I am against being born into something, that your only fault as an individual is being born into a society that already has a complete set of beliefs. And I applaud your organization for thinking freely and going against the current. Be aware though that Christianity has stood centuries. Early Christians may actually be called the freethinkers of their era. And if it is true that you guys are on to something, then there would be no need for argument and just a firm conviction will suffice.

    I think we need more thinkers nowadays, especially when the Filipino "bandwagon-thinking" is very evident. People need to think more. But also, I think people need to do more and not just knock their heads together.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

    • We know it's not a book to be taken literally. The problem lies in that a good majority of pinoys think it should be.

      As for Twilight, I double-dog-dare you to visit a fangirl forum or two – what makes you think it's not being taken as the gospel truth today? 😉

  13. I know, right? I can't believe they still teach old wives' tales like virgin birth and bread becoming God in the 21st century.

    • none-sense -> referring to you… 😐
      The truth never fades through time. What was true then will always be true! so it doesn't matter whether we are in the 21 century or whether the ideologies of today are contradicting the ones before. What's important is that DLSU must preserve its being a Catholic University and must continue protecting the Church's Doctrine!

      • @seriously

        Yeah. Such dissidents! How dare they bring enlightenment into the cloistered halls of the school in complete and utter disregard of its TRUE and TIMELESS mandate to cripple and torture the psyches and self-worth of its students. Much like how dare Michaelangelo characterize the human spirit as a towering form of beauty when we have perfectly good Medieval gargolyes to do the job. Tsk.

        I'm with you on that one, dude. The truth never fades through time. But just a thought, in case it boggles you why I agree with you, in the words of one great philosopher: "check your premises, contradictions do not exist." 😉

        Have a great day.

        • I think he was referring to Garrick's laptop 😀
          How dare he bring an Apple product into the hallowed halls of DLSU! It mocks God by using the image of the forbidden fruit in its logo! Heresy!!!
          They're spreading the "fruit from the tree of knowledge"! burn that laptop! 🙂

      • I completely agree! That's why I dislike the Catholic Church. God clearly wanted humans to keep slaves but the Church doesn't preach that doctrine anymore! Such a shame! If it was true before, it's still true now!

  14. hmmm.. i think that Gerrick made a solid claim about having morality without religion
    i argue that the presentation failed to prove that there could be any morality without a creator who designed the blueprint of life

    • By 'creator' you mean some unknown and unseen entity, we have not yet come to understand.

      But for most Filipinos/Christians/Etc, 'creator' would immediately mean as the God in their Bible or "sa Bibliya nila." But what you have to or already know is that the Bible contains questionable statements about morality. Like most theistic religions, they get their morality from some Holy Book.

      Would you base your morality on the Bible?

    • The problem is God isn't self evident. He doesn't show himself to us regardless whether we are assholes or saints. We are therefore left to make sense of the whole thing by ourselves therefore the for a need of this creator is not needed because as Ryan showed in his part of the lecture it's people fucking people and people helping people. Religion (man made) made fucked up claims that sent people downhill up toll now and it was people as well who reasoned, debated and evaluated claims to counter things like slavery and similar outright bullshit created by his/her fellow man. If let's say there is irrefutable evidence that such a deity exists i would say, and I think history would be on my side that this deity does not care. Why would a creator create faulty humans with faulty brains, let them make up incredibly dubious and questionable moral claims, after wards roast their asses in hell or other similar places, and then let the same faulty creatures with faulty brains make up solutions for the aforementioned problems? Now that is taking "playing God" on a twisted new level 🙂

      • Why would a creator create faulty humans with faulty brains, let them make up incredibly dubious and questionable moral claims, after wards roast their asses in hell or other similar places, and then let the same faulty creatures with faulty brains make up solutions for the aforementioned problems?]

        Not to mention the myriad of other defects inherent in the human body XD:

        To quote Robin Williams:
        "See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time. "

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