As expected, the Inquirer Editor stepped up as chief cheerleader in the recent “spate” of street activity, specifically the so-called “Walk of Life” organised by, who else, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Crowing about the 20,000-strong “crowd” that gathered in Luneta to sing hymns and wax prayerful over the situation of the day, the InquirerEditor issued this pronouncement to the Catholic faithful of the Philippines…
Governments and politicians easily forget: the Church is an institution that can outlast them all. As Marcos discovered to his chagrin, its ability to play the long game, to grow in moral suasion the longer it is subjected to official calumny and dismissal, could only result in a formidable outsider’s voice capable of clarifying the stark choices citizens have to make during crises.
If I were the Inquirer Editor I wouldn’t be too cocky about putting so much faith in an institution that is, itself, suffering its own crisis of relevance today. It may be true that the Roman Catholic Church stood out as a consistent and formidable political power over the last 2,000 years. But the easier thing that its apologists forget is that much of that power was wielded on the back of the abject ignorance of its adherents — power that capitalised on a prevalence of belief in superstition, fear of the unknown, and fear of eternal damnation that marked much of human history.
We easily forget that enlightenment and scientific inquiry are all recent human intellectual achievements. Homo Sapiens have existed as a specties in the last 300,000 to 500,000 years. Of that, less than 20,000 years have been marked by some form of large-scale social organisation within which religion was a strong tool used by monarchs to organise — and subdue — their subjects en masse.
Out of that human timeframe, it was only in the last 500 years that science and critical thinking took hold as a means to explain natural phenomena. Before scientific inquiry became normal for modern societies, everything was explained away as an act of one god or another. Apollo pulled the sun across the sky, demons dragged the souls of the damned to their hellish destinations, “angels” (i.e. “good” demons) lifted the “good” to their heavenly eternal abodes, fairies shot arrows at the lovelorn, and, more importantly, chief clerics crowned kings and queens and admonished the hapless subjects of their realms to obey or be damned.
The trend is unmistakable. As humans grow more and more scientifically savvy about themselves and their surroundings and get better and better at thinking through the problems and challenges they face, they get less and less dependent on religious hocus pocus to explain why things happen. As this happened, key ideas that served as civilisations’ pillars of ignorance fell — the idea that the world is flat, that the sun revolved around the Earth, that diseases are caused by witchcraft, that a bit of a fap causes hair to grow on your palms, and that heads of state govern on the back of divine authorisation.
If the Roman Catholic Church and the Inquirer Editor think that spectacles like this “Walk of Life” are something to be proud of, they should think again. Being beholden to religion and the calls of a bunch of supposedly “celibate” girls and boys in silly medieval costumes is so last millennium. Filipinos should know better by now.
[Photo courtesy Manila Bulletin.]