Page last updated at 11:04 Asia/Manila, Saturday, 19 November 2011 PH
In my frequent visits to Indonesia, I am always impressed by the fact that God is often invoked in public events. There is no inhibition for public officials as well as private individuals to refer to the existence of God, unlike in some Western societies that want to keep religion and reference to God to the private sphere. I am glad that we can say the same thing about the Philippines. I never cease to give thanks that in both public events and private conferences there is more often than not a prayer that is said after the singing of the national anthem. It is part of Philippine culture to invoke the presence of God and allude to His existence in public documents (like the Philippine Constitution) and events.
W should, however, always be vigilant that the very small minority among us who claim to be atheists or at least agnostics do not succeed in imposing a practice that is spreading in societies like the U.K. and the U.S. where those who accept the truth of the existence of God, either through faith or reason or both, are increasingly prohibited to publicly acknowledge this firm belief. Prayers and displays of religious symbols in public are banned. A subtle way to introduce atheism in schools in the U.S. is to prevent the teaching of an alternative to evolutionism as a scientific explanation of the existence of man and the world. Celebrities like Richard Dawkins, author of "God Delusion" are given full freedom to teach their version of science while those who criticize Darwinism as an insufficient explanation for the existence of living beings are increasingly persecuted and even expelled from academic institutions and think tanks.
It would be alarmist to fear that the Philippines would be facing a similar situation soon. It is best, however, to be ready in case the few atheists who occupy important teaching positions in some of our leading universities (unfortunately, even in some so-called Catholic universities) would be voted to Congress or occupy certain positions in the Cabinet that may give them the opportunity to follow the example of their counterparts in some Western societies who have already succeeded in operationalizing the "God delusion" hypothesis. It is a slippery slope from advocating moral relativism (the ideological foundation of some of those who are supporting the RH Bill or divorce) to saying as Richard Dawkins does that "religion is terrorism."
On July 27, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of priests in a small Italian town. He addressed the raging issue of evolutionism. I would like to quote from his address to anticipate the arguments of the atheists or moral relativists among us: "At first sight, it seems as if we do not need God or indeed, that without God we would be freer and the world would be grander. But after a certain time, we see in our young people what happens when God disappears. As Nietzche said: 'The great light has been extinguished, the sun has been put out.' Life is then a chance event. It becomes a thing that I must seek to do the best I can with and use life as though it were a thing that serves my own immediate, tangible and achievable happiness. But the big problem is that were God not to exist and were he not also the Creator of my life, life would actually be a mere cog in evolution, nothing more; it would have no meaning in itself. Instead, I must seek to give meaning to this component of being."
The Pope did not hesitate to address frontally the debate now raging in the U.S. and other Western societies revolving around the teaching of Charles Darwin: "Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called 'creationism' and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other hand, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? "
Reason alone, as demonstrated centuries before Christ by the Greek philosophers, can demonstrate that God exists. That is what the Pope proceeded to do in his address to the priests: "Reason should be more open . . . it should indeed perceive these facts but also realize that they are not enough to explain all of reality. They are insufficient. Our reason is broader and can also see that our reason is not basically something irrational, a product of irrationality, but that reason, creative reason, precedes everything and we are truly the reflection of creative reason. We were thought of and desired; thus, there is an idea that preceded me, a feeling that preceded me, that I must discover, that I must follow, because it will at last give meaning to my life. This seems to me to be the first point: to discover that my being is truly reasonable, it was thought of, it has meaning. And my important mission is to discover this meaning, to live it and thereby contribute a new element to the great cosmic harmony conceived of by the Creator. If this is true, then difficulties also become moments of growth, of the process and progress of my very being, which has meaning from conception until the very last moment of life."
Indonesian and Philippine societies do not have to invoke religion to make public declarations that there is God. God's existence can be demonstrated by human reason alone, although belief in it is greatly bolstered by faith, especially among the unlettered and less educated. God's existence is a secular truth that can be invoked outside of Churches and private homes. May we never see the day when Filipinos will be prohibited to invoke God in the public forum. As in other important spheres of life, constant vigilance is the price of freedom. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.