Someone asked me an interesting question in our last Filipino Freethinkers Davao meetup. Our topic that time happened to be the Christ Myth Theory — exploring the idea that Jesus was not a historical person at all but purely legendary. Anyway, this person asked why we were discussing such a topic and what was the point in doing so?
Someone else also asked me a similar question about why I write against religion. Am I perhaps angry at religion and want to make atheists out of people? Is that the point in all this?
The answer, of course, is no. My main thrust as a freethinker is not to make people believe or disbelieve. I am an educator at heart and my goal is always to teach people to think for themselves, to apply critical and logical methods. I have very good friends who are Christians, pastors even, or priests, and they really know me and don’t feel threatened by me. I don’t go out of my way to de-convert them or to engage them in debates. In fact, I don’t like debating with them and don’t even bring up religion when I’m with them — unless they ask, of course, and then it’s usually a calm and reasonable discussion that we have.
Many people think that religion (or relationship with God) or belief in some deity is necessary for society to survive, for people to behave and be good. A lot of atheists are very much against that and think that religion is the root of all evil and does more harm than good.
I would like to think that the truth is somewhere in the middle. I personally believe that even if there were a god of some sort, he ultimately leaves us to our own devices. We are truly the only ones responsible for what we do and how we live. We chart our own destiny.
I also believe that many people are not able subconsciously to handle this knowledge. In the graphic novel, Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman, one of the main characters, named Destruction, reminisces a conversation he had with his sister, Death. He talked about wanting to know more about the universe, that he felt so small despite the tremendous power he had. And Death’s reply was “not only could [we] know everything. We do. We just tell ourselves we don’t to make it all bearable.”
So for many people, it is their faith or their god that makes it bearable — that there is some all-powerful being out there pulling the strings, conducting the orchestra, directing the play (or whatever other metaphor you find useful). That ultimately, he/she/it is responsible for whatever fate befalls us. That takes a lot of weight off our shoulders and indeed makes it more bearable.
But I do not begrudge people their religion if their religion makes them organize and create programs that benefit society like feeding programs, literacy programs, and so on. In the condition that our world is in, we could certainly do better than to fight over religious beliefs. We could just go out there and actually do some good.
Live and let live. That is my motto. I may feel strongly against certain beliefs and belief systems but if in the end, you still feel that is the right path for you, then go ahead. I will not stop you, and have no right to do so. But bear in mind that I expect the same courtesy in return.
Ultimately, I do what I do because it gives me pleasure to do so. I like writing, I like sharing ideas, and I like meeting people of a similar mind. So, I’m just here doing my thing, and if you get something out of it, good. If you don’t, fine, not a problem, and I wish you the best in your own life journey, because I for one, am having a blast.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.