Typhoon Ruby is headed our way and already I see dozens of Facebook posts urging people to pray that it will be deflected, for God to spare the country, and so on. If the effectivity of prayers that came before past super typhoons are any indication, I doubt if the results would be any different this time around. Not that I am longing for a disaster. I would be delighted if some freak force of nature caused this one to go astray or to dissipate altogether. But I am of the opinion that prayers and holy books don’t make good shelters, life boats or first aid kits.
What good did prayers do when Yolanda struck Tacloban? Was there a divine force field that somehow blocked the path of Pablo when it struck various parts of Mindanao? How about Ondoy, Milenyo and so many others like them?
What stands out in any human tragedy is not the presence of some mystical force, but rather the resilience of the human spirit. Human hands reach out to help, comfort and rebuild. Human hearts feel compassion and sympathize with those who suffer.
Humans helping fellow humans, humans caring for and loving fellow humans — this is what humanism is all about, and it is what will save us — not some pie-in-the-sky salvation with promises of angelic choruses or 72 virgins — but real and tangible solutions in the here and now.
Humanism is a “philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively.” (from Wikipedia)
Being a humanist does not necessarily mean that one gives up religion or belief in a god. It means that one is able to see past the divisiveness and us vs. them mentality that many religions cultivate in their followers. The world would be a better place if people placed less emphasis on religion and more on humanism. After all, underneath our skin colors and beyond our regional cultures and practices, we are essentially the same.
Religion, when not tempered by clear and rational thinking, has a strange way of distorting reality. It can make you think that death and suffering in this life is ok, because you will be justly compensated for it in the afterlife. So it creates a fatalistic mentality of not exhausting all possible solutions to alleviate pain and misery (because “it can’t be done anyway, and this world is going to get worse and worse and will end soon and Jesus will come back and make things right.”)
Humanism, however, doesn’t wait for some magic man in the sky to come and make things right. It places the burden squarely (and rightly) on our shoulders. If we want to make the world a better place, then it is our responsibilty and duty to plan and act accordingly. It is on us to research and develop the means to stay healthy, prolong life, and improve its quality.
Religion teaches that your life is not in your hands but in the hands of some unknown, unseen entity. Religion makes you believe that you are pawns moved around according to the will and plan of some invisible master. Humanism teaches that your life is your own to shape and that you have a huge responsibility in creating your own future and the kind of world that you want to live in.
Humanism and religion are not incompatible though as many religious thinkers have pushed through the boundaries of doctrine and dogma and truly see and value other humans for who and what they really are, and I applaud and respect these people.
It is only when religion becomes too dogmatic that it becomes uncaring. Even Jesus berated the Pharisees when they stressed the law over compassion and kindness. “Man was not made for the Sabbath,” he said, “but the Sabbath for man.”
I may be critical of religion, but when a fellow human is in need, I will gladly help, not because God tells me so, but because I am human and I can empathize and share the pain.
The storm is coming. Stay safe. Be prepared. And I wish you well.
Originally posted in Sunstar Davao.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Violent Reactions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. View past articles at www.freethinking.me. To know more about humanist activities in the Philippines, visit the HAPI (Humanist Alliance Philippines, International) website: www.hapihumanist.org.