People who know me well know that I am a Duterte fan. My Facebook wall is testament to that as one can see many pro-Duterte articles and memes I have posted. While we can argue black and blue about the morality of his methods, the brutal frankness and vulgarity of his statements, or the future impact of his brand of leadership, the one thing we cannot argue with is results. It is because of him that Davao is what it is today.
(By the way, to those who read my column two weeks ago entitled “Would Duterte Make A Great President?” I would like to clarify that the only paragraph I wrote there was the first one. The rest of the piece was written by Mr. Abella, whom I mentioned there. I hope this puts a stop to people who keep asking me if I was really kidnapped, or if I was really a pastor in 1996, or if I am still a pastor now. Please read carefully next time.)
However, there was a statement he made in an interview with Jessica Soho of GMA that bothers me. At the conclusion of the interview, Soho asks, “May kinatatakutan ho ba kayo, Mayor?” (Is there anything you are afraid of, Mayor?)
Duterte replies, ”Nanay ko pati tatay ko, at ang Diyos. I am afraid of karma. Takot ako sa tao na hindi naniniwala ng Diyos, hindi naniniwala ng karma because that guy will do what he wants to do in his life.” (My mother, my father, and God. I am afraid of karma. I am afraid of people who don’t believe in God, who don’t believe in karma because that guy will do what he wants to do in his life.)
That is a statement I totally disagree with.
People who want to do what they want in life, who have headstrong personalities, will do it regardless of their belief or non-belief in God. They will simply find a way to justify what they are doing (if it is wrong). In 2013, the US Federal Bureau of Prisons released some information regarding the religious affiliations of the inmates and it shows that atheists make up only 0.07% of the prison population who were willing to divulge their religious affiliation. Christians (Catholic and Protestant) accounted for 53%, Muslims around 5% and smaller percentages spread out among other minor religions. We don’t have such statistics for the Philippines but I don’t see how the result will be much different given that a vast majority of our population are predisposed to believing in some sort of god.
One may even argue that belief in a merciful God may pave the way for desperate people to commit crimes. “Surely God will understand and forgive. He knows that I have to do this to survive or to help my child, or some other family member.” The hope in an afterlife may give a person the idea that there is still a chance to do better next time.
In fact, look at all the people we have in government who are involved in one shady deal or another. Chances are, you will also see them professing their faith, praying, and supporting their church. An atheist friend of mine, who happens to be a harsh critic of Digong’s “kill them all” methods remarked, “Isn’t it ironic that he says those who do not believe in God will do what they want to do? Yet, isn’t he doing what he wants to do by killing the criminals without due process?”
You have to admit that he has a point.
Let me share why an atheist might not necessarily be a person who will go around raping, pillaging, murdering and drinking babies’ blood. This is a stereotype I hope to shatter in this deeply religious country of ours.
A person who holds no belief in gods or an afterlife believes that this life is the only one there is. There is no reset button, no replay option. Once the game is over, it’s over. Therefore, this life is precious. It is not something to be taken lightly. This person has more motivation to live a good life instead of being reckless because there is no second chance and no redemption.
Penn Jillette, a prominent atheist and stage magician, once said, “The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.”
The mayor should be more afraid of are those who believe that God is on their side. Look at the suicide bombers, fanatics and martyrs. Almost all of them hold deep religious beliefs. They think they are obeying their God’s commands. They are willing to die because they believe they will be rewarded in the next life. These are actually the kind of people who will do whatever they want as long as they can justify it in the name of their god.
As for atheists/agnostics? You need not be afraid of us. All we do is write articles like this, or rant or debate on Facebook. We will not strap bombs on our body and threaten to destroy all your churches. We have no ideologies to die for and everything to live for. We live only once (and we believe that literally), so we have every reason to make sure that we live good, happy lives.
Let me end with a verse from Robert G. Ingersoll, also known as The Great Agnostic:
“Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to help make others so.”
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.