Before Modern Democracy was invented, most of the people in the world lived under THEOCRACIES of one kind or another. This was a natural outcome because religions are such powerful forces that for any lasting community of human beings, a single dominant religion or belief system eventually displaces and even exterminates all the others. Certain societies may have fought themselves to extinction in wars among competing theocracies. (Read Jared Diamond's classic, Easter Island's End)
Dean Raul Pangalangan seems to contradict the editorial stand of PDI on this issue in his column Saturday, The Intolerant and the Irreligious. Saludo! But in the less isolated parts of Earth, if you didn't believe in the politically correct Deity of your day and age, and wanted to worship in your own way, you basically had to run away. What happened was a kind of religious apartheid -- people of different religions have largely lived apart -- on different Continents if need be -- or else they have engaged in bloody tribal and racial wars, conquests and crusades in the name of Some Religion. And of course the Holy Roman Empire wedded Religion to Autarky and Imperialism quite early on and set the example that withstood the centuries. But something quite unique in human history happened in North America when that land became the refuge for European pilgrims on the run from State-run Religions. The first modern democratic, nationalist, anti-imperialist Nation-State was founded on the truly revolutionary idea that all men are created equal. That soon led to the logical Constitutional ergo that all religions must also be treated equally before the Law, but only as exercises in the individual's right to hold a private opinion about anything and to freely express it. So, it was most subversive of Theocracy for Democracy to invent the concept of personal freedom. Personal religious freedom is a revolutionary apostasy against ALL theocracies by declaring that individual human beings are created equal and have certain unalienable rights of security in their private persons, and even in their homes, possessions, writings, drawings, speech, expressions. These rights include the Freedom of Religion, which is the right to hold a private religious belief and express it. Democracy demotes religion and theology to just a form of guaranteed free speech and expression, on par with the rights of journalists and the media, called Press Freedom. In so doing Religious Freedom -- the Principle of the Separation of Church and State -- destroyed theocracy but saved Religion, by saving religions from each other.
Democracy ended the need for physical apartheid as the only possible peaceful solution to the mutually contradictory claims and beliefs of the various religions about the Supernatural. But the price that all religions must pay for their adherents' untrammeled right to worship is the surrender by Theorcracy of state power itself to Democracy. And an admission, an acceptance, an affirmation, that indeed any theology has the same rank before the Law in the Democracy as a newspaper column or a blog post, or some competing theology. Freedom of religion IS Freedom of Expression. The absolutely neutrality of the democratic State with respect to Religion is the price Democracy pays for that true People Power -- the right to enforce the Law as made by men, a just system of mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon, and not handed down from on high.
IDOLATRY OF THE FILIPINOS, SIMONY OF THE FRIARS Filipino Roman Catholics are the most idolatrous worshippers in the world. Talk about “graven images! Everywhere God and His Closest Relatives are found in paintings, sculpture, altars, crucifixes, rosaries, scapulars, stampitas, statuary, books, pamphlets, handbills, movies, television and indeed - in cartoons. Of course, it is no secret that Spanish friars in the Philippines largely cut-off from far Espana, sustained themselves by selling salvation from Hell and Purgatory and Free Passes to Heaven in the form of indulgences. (From OurLadysWarriors Dot Org: All the Ways to Get Plenary Indulgences.) The sale of all those idolatrous religious objects was a simoniac enterprise that also outlasted the centuries. One can still purchase a special stampita for about 50 pesos at the Libreria San Pablo on Harrison Street in Pasay City, and at most Churches, containing a prayer incantation that will free the faithful supplicant from any years in Purgatory due him or her should they die with only venial sins unforgiven. (Freedom of Religion!)
JEWS, MUSLIMS, PROTESTANTS AGREE But here is a curious parallelism. Islam abhors idolatry because Allah replaced the stone and rock idols of ancient tribal Arabia. Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, indulges extravagantly in such idolatrous, multimedia genres of worship in its liturgy and interior decoration. Yet Roman Catholicism grew out of Judaism, which like Islam, abhors idolatrous practices. Since the Reformation, Protestant Christians also share with Jews and Muslims an abhorrence for idolatrous practices. Perhaps there will always be war among the Religions, because their concepts of the supernatural are mutually antagonistic and contradictory. Take the current Danish cartoons controversy. It is essentially over the Islamic taboo on idolatry. Islam makes it anathema to create and display graphic portrayals of the Prophet, whether flattering or not, because it would only promote idolatrous practices that the true-to-life Prophet struggled against when he made Allah the One True God of Monotheism in the second half of the First Millennium. Unfortunately, the Other also claims to worship a One True God of a Monotheism half a millennium older. But of course, Roman Catholicism incredibly installed Yahweh into a Divine Trinity with Jesus Christ His Son, and a truly mysterious (to me anyway) Holy Ghost. Certainly in the Philippines, the idolatrous worship of these deities, along with Mama Mary and all the angels and saints in heaven, has been ongoing for five hundred years and is stronger than ever. Idolatrous Catholic practices, such as the Black Nazareno devotees parading graven images and effigies of Jesus Christ, have already been elevated to the "cultural traits of the Filipinos." But the carnival of simoniac enterprise run in the Archipelago by the Frailocracy was real and it has largely been continued by the Catholic Taliban of the Philippnines ever since, though now there is a free competition among the Merchandisers of God, Allah and Bathala.
DIFFERENT TRAILS TO THE SAME PEAK Yet the supernal irony of it all is that though the various religions differ radically in THEOLOGY they actually agree substantially on MORALITY except in matters that relate to theology! That is where Democracy comes in. The metaphor I’ve used previously is that of mountaineering - where there are many different trails to the same peak. Humanity has trekked all the various trails in history and its religions have largely arrived at the same conclusions about acceptable behavior. (Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal,...), though some of their adherents might not yet get the message. Unitl then, Democracy must guard the ramparts of that Moral Peak, by seizing upon eternal principles that everyone can actually agree upon and enforces the Moral Law that evolves from exploring the various trails going up, including those found by atheists, idolaters, humanists and patriots alike. It's the only way for Democracy to save religions from each other.