I posed a simple question to avowed ‘atheist’ Red Tani of the group Filipino Freethinkers (FFT) after checking out a rather quaint cartoon he drew that implies speculation about the personal wealth of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who currently stands on trial before a Senate impeachment court. My question to Tani was this: Do you believe or do you know? referring to what he seemed to be asserting in the cartoon he published on the FFT site which I exhibit here:
Now admittedly, there has been some fair but snide observations about the way Corona and many people who took the witness stand for both the prosecution and defense sides equivocate, dither, waffle, and squirm in their seats when thrown tough but simple questions. Most famous of all is star witness Harvey Keh who squirmed through what is arguably the biggest spectacle in this whole trial. So I find it a bit ironic that Mr. Tani would respond to such a simple question with this rather quaint equivocation:
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@benign0 That is my provisional understanding based on the arguments I’ve made here http://t.co/984ZSXTy
“Provisional understanding”. Hey wait… that just means one’s belief for now…
Anyways, in the end there was nothing much else to discuss. Mr Tani did not answer the question because he was no longer in the mood.
Coming from someone who defines his identity around his commitment to find meaning more in knowing than in believing, the act of implying a belief in something not proven comes across as a bit off-putting. It’s like spotting the pope ogling Roman chicks in hot pants as they scoot by on their Vespas just outside the walls of the Holy See.
Indeed, what this simple Twitter exchange illustrates is the expectations one attracts when one self-labels. As if labelling weren’t enough, self-labelling is kind of a self-setup for double jeopardy. Full disclosure first: I did write a while on my thoughts of why I think the concept of “atheism” may have degenerated into nothing more than a fashion statement in the Philippines…
For me the appeal of atheism, drawing from my own experience tossing it about in my head, would have come from a freedom to grow intellectually and to approach life from a broader range of perspectives. The problem is, atheism seems to be defined more by what one is not rather than what one is. An atheist does not believe in God, is what I keep hearing.
In that sense, I donâ€™t consider myself an â€œatheistâ€. There is a lot more to being intellectually free than not believing in God. Being intellectually free is to be open to confronting realities about oneâ€™s place in the universe. Religion, in contrast, considers the specialness of humanityâ€™s place in the cosmos as the cornerstone of the belief system it prescribes to its flock.
Some things are best left unlabelled.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.