UPDATE: If you haven’t seen the interview yet, you may still do so at this site http://www.pinaswinnawin.com/2012/02/bottomline-february-4-2012.html
Today, Red Tani of Filipino Freethinkers was featured in Boy Abunda’s show, The Bottomline. “Discover the Life Without a God” was the headline of this talk show’s episode. It is in this interview that Boy Abunda digs within Red Tani’s life, beliefs, and philosophies, trying to understand why a former Catholic would become an atheist in a country made up mostly of people who believe in god.
But did Boy Abunda and the rest of the panelists understand what atheism is all about?
Perhaps the limited time and minds that are not so open to beliefs of a different kind could be the hindrance to full understanding. After all, one does not become an atheist in a day. And simply put, it was a show intended to let viewers know that there are people who are atheists. Nothing more.
Though, it definitely hurts that this interview was shown at a time slot when only the insomniacs or the nighttime people are viewing TV. But it’s a start. I agree with one of the panelists’ comments; atheism is definitely gaining ground in this country. But why and how, she asked.
What may not have been picked up by the theists is that Red Tani has given that one definite difference between an atheist and a theist, aside from the the absence of belief in a supernatural being: that even if in the both ends of the spectrum there’ll be strongly militant theists or atheists, the atheist will never be a fundamentalist. I have yet to encounter an atheist who will claim 100% that there is no god. They may be strongly atheistic, but never absolutely 100% percent sure that there is no god. Compare this with a religious fundamentalist who, no matter what happens, no matter what evidence comes up in contrary to his belief, he will still hold that faith. An atheist will respect reason enough to accept his beliefs were wrong, in contrast to a theist fundamentalist. And so, I agree with Red’s statement that, if presented with enough evidence, he will believe in god.
And this is partly the reason why atheism has taken root so well recently in this country. Internet is our boon; it has erased borders and encouraged exchange of ideas never possible during those times when we only depend on our elders for knowledge of what is right and wrong. Remember, those were the times when we were encouraged to “do as you were told” and “never question the wisdom of your elders”. But this age of technology encourages us not to be enslaved by such a thought, as information is already within our grasp and it is only up to us to use our intellect to discern what makes something right or wrong.
The internet has also taught us another important thing: that we are not alone in this. I think every atheist has gone through that phase, thinking “am I the only one who’s crazy thinking of this?” And the internet came. With the rapid exchange of ideas, we realized that this is not some solitary thing that we thought of because we are lonely or ignored. These ideas came about as a product of sound reasoning that is also shared by others who have come up with it using similar processes.
But it would be a disservice to attribute atheism to the increased availability of knowledge, since atheism has already existed even before these religions were born. Rather, it would be suffice to say that our increasing thirst for knowledge made more available to us by a more tolerant society and by technology have encouraged the growth of atheism.
This brings me to the question: why does it seem that the panelists (with the exception of the atheist, Marguerite) seem to be clueless about what atheism is? One of them even claimed that she only heard the topic being discussed during drinking sessions. I may be a little harsh here, but it seemed to me that these supposed educated persons have not even studied the topic prior to this interview. Or may be I should just accept that perhaps the level of discussion was limited to that level simply to be able to include a greater scope of audience, even those who have no background on atheism at all. And the talk show being The Bottomline, maybe it should be noted that they may not really be interested in atheism, but rather, they’re only interested in knowing an atheist…wondering what went wrong with a catholic that he chose to become an atheist instead. Do you believe in the devil? Why not? Do you believe in hell? Why not? Do you believe a person has a soul? Why not? These are the questions of those whose minds cannot grasp the concept that there are those who do not share their beliefs. I’d have to say the question of the priest from the panel seem to insinuate that Red probably had family relationship problems which contributed to his atheism. Such ignorance.
I do not like Boy Abunda’s closing remarks. I do not understand how he could be a “better person by being a better child of god”, when it’s obvious that he already find someone like Red, who’s an atheist, to be a good person. Or perhaps, it could be interpreted in this way: that since Red chose to be an atheist and is a good person in doing so, he chooses to believe in god and be a good person by being a better believer. Well, I still didn’t get it so…
Overall, I’m glad an atheist like Red was given this opportunity to be heard on TV. It may not have reached a wider audience, since the show is slated at such an hour. But this is just the beginning. We, atheists, all started with having questions…having doubts. Planting the seeds of doubt is the beginning. And the most important thing is that we continue to seek answers, not merely relying on passed down knowledge or fear of being on the losing end (Pascal’s wager).
So, to Red, congratulations! Job well done!