Saturday, February 18, 2006

Democracy Saves Religions From Each Other

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

To DJB and Manuel Bueencamino...

Thanks for the enlightening comments in the previous blog...

There are many mountains to that when we reach the top we would have a better view of the beautiful world!

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

You are right, DJB, Roman Catholics are idolatrous worshippers and Filipinos are the most. You are also right that Democracy saved Religions from each other.

It is however wrong to imply that the Original Christian Church of the Apostles founded by Jesus Christ in Caesaria Philippi is the Roman Catholic Church. They are distinct from each other, two separate religions. The former does not worship idols, they "worship God in Spirit and in Truth." The latter went full blast on idols worship and saint worship and Mary worship when they accepted pagans into the church. And before DEMOCRACY took a foothold in the world, this DIFFERENCE was responsible for the INQUISITION that led to the killings of millions of Christians by the idolatrous Roman Catholic Church at the height of Protestant Reformation began by the 99 Theses of MARTIN LUTHER.

Theorocracy went out and then you are right DEMOCRACY saved these two Religons from each other. Yes, I also believe that Freedom of Religion is Freedom of Expression, as in Freedom of the Press and of course the Freedom to blog.

Rizalist said...

I am sure the original Apostles had no idea what the Italians would do with their simple faith -- which was about love and hope for their people in diaspora. The First and Second Centuries were terrible times for the Chosen People of Israel. Many of them turned the Gentiles onto something that's lasted 2000 years already and more.

R. O. said...

You are fundamentally right, DJB, with regard to freedom of speech and all that, but I thought mutual respect is better than democracy and the irresponsible exercise of freedom.

Re. Catholics and idolatry, I can't believe that up to now, you can't see the difference between paganistic idolatry and the Catholic idea of veneration, which is no different from keeping your loved one's pics and 'relics.' If you keep things like that, then you are guilty of idolatry.

Re.Jews, the first apostles didn't just have their fellow Jews in mind when they set out to proclaim the gospel the world over.

Mr. Ronquillo, why can't you accept cold historical facts? There was no Protestantism, or Christianity as Protestants define it today, until after Luther.

AmericanPainter said...

Freedom of speech is what guarantees your right to express your views of “irresponsible exercise of freedom.”

It seems an obvious difference between having pictures of loved ones that one merely looks at as opposed to Catholics who pray to statutes. Freedom of religion guarantees them the right to pray to a brick building if they so choose. Though some might claim it’s an “irresponsible exercise of freedom.”

Rizalist said...

Hang on, lemme speak up for the pagans. If I admit to guilt in the matter of mistaking veneration for idolatry in Catholics, how are you so sure that what you've called "pagan idolatry" itself did not contain sincere feelings of awe, worship, and yes, veneration. In other words, isn't one man's idolatry another's worship, AND vice versa? I don't mean to deny that human beings are capable of deep spirituality, and personally don't find anything wrong with using material objects to help them with it. But then again I'm utterly liberal about religion. Each to his own fairy tale as long as we all act with nobility.


Id like to speak up for one of the greatest "pagans" I knew, my Dad.

Dad's friends were all devoted and 'practicing' Catholics, religion worshippers of the truly conservative type but they all respected my Dad's 'paganism' which I would really brand atheism.

(But hang on... didn't pagans worship things too and practised 'religious' idolatry? If so, then Dad wasn't a pagan at all - he was an atheist).

Dad and his religious friends all respected each other - they all believed in the freedom to believe or not to believe.

Dad allowed some of them to preach their relgious beliefs, perhaps because they were trying to convince him to 'convert' lest he went to hell.

When they met at home I used to hear them all go on debating, arguing, etc. endlessly about this and that deep into the middle of the night. But I know they all respected each other's opinion. They remained friends to their dying day (and never, ever went about burning each other's home because they differed in their beliefs).

(P.S. The only time my Dad said something remotely derogatory was sometime in late 1992 when he learned that Johnny Enrile had been distributing pictures and images of the Holy Virgin to the junior members of the Lower House! He laughed so boisterously and said 'Now, I see why they said Virgin Mary had power to save...! because he knew JPE so very well.)

Rizalist said...

HB--My parents I think did us a great favor when we were growing up. My father's family have been Protestants since the early 1900s, Lolo Jorge having been converted to Methodism while in the US. My mothers family were Catolico cerrado. But for many years we ALTERNATED Mass and Protestant service every week. The mysteries of existence are greater than any of our theologies, is what I learned from that experience, and the more points of view one has, the better the appreciation of how truly deep those mysteries are.


Tell you what DJB - that's what my family does too. When in the UK, we attend Anglican mass and when in mainland Europe, we attend Roman Catholic mass.

My older children have chosen to be Roman Catholics when they received their first communion from a Roman Catholic priest when they were in their teens but my youngest, although he's baptized Roman Catholic, has not been confirmed yet and at 14, has not decided whether he'll receive his 1st communion from a Roman Catholic or from an Anglican vicar.

To me, Protestants and Roman Catholics are all Catholics, as in one holy, Apostolic Church - isn't that what the Credo says?

I must confess, however, that I've remained a 'staunch' Roman Catholic although one not too keen on Philippine Roman Catholics' interpretation of Roman Catholicism (particularly by some of their Bishops or their Cardinals).

Rizalist said...

HB--Personally I liked the Protestant services better -- austere, lots of singing even before the Kumbaya craze hit. And they treat the Bible like a real library of books, not a "prayerbook". Course nothing like Catholic liturgy for pomp and circumstance.

But the next issue I've been thinking about is are Religions really equal? Do they evolve. Should they evolve. What for cxample ought the Ulama do about the idolatry thing that sparked this trouble.

Can Democracy force a religion to change one of its dogmas?

Amadeo said...


To be fair, the present RCC has largely done away with the practice of dispensing indulgences in the same way that obliquely and quietly it has also surrendered the teaching that pontificates that outside the faith there is no salvation. It is a lot more ecumenical.

Good discussion on a very delicate and typically contentious question – religion. And I say carry on. But some words of caution or advice, airing and delving into differences in whatever ideas and thoughts ought not to cause any sense of being left out or worse being “ganged up” because other participants pursue different tacks to the issues. Instead doing so ought to be a calming salve for each one’s own discomfit or unease, or even resoluteness, in one’s deeply-held beliefs or theses.

That said, I believe I have experienced the practice of religion, specifically the RCC faith, in closer quarters having spent most of my academic life in a Jesuit school, both as student and teacher, and even taught Theology. Then when my children went to public schools here in the US, I aligned myself with our parish teaching Christian doctrine to 13-14 year old public school kids, preparing them for the rite of Confirmation. But in hindsight, only to find out that only 2 of my 4 kids have been confirmed. HaHaHa.

Anyway, Dean’s blog entry detailed what wrongs could and did happen, and maybe continuing to happen, in the practice of the different religions. A RCC specifically that is very steeped in its practice through “sensible signs”, the cornerstones of its practice being hinged on the Sacrifice of the Mass and The Sacraments. All laced, bordered, and put together with various rituals and ritualism. For young devotees, they are well and good and ought to serve their purposes, instructing and instilling the fear of God in their malleable hearts. But we are supposed to grow in that practice, which should continue to be a work in progress until we die. We ought to be able to slowly unravel and discern the more profound reasons why those practices are still done. Thus, as one ex-Jesuit exclaimed, religion is not for kids but for adults.

BTW, the Pew Research came up with its usual poll on the happiness index here in the States, though the results are not novel. But it may be good to note the common factors that converge on the typical happy person here in the US. Mind you, these factors do not have cause-effect relationships, just correlations. But the typical happy person is also steeped in religiosity, is sufficiently endowed financially, and espouses conservative values. And there are other factors too, relating to gender, pets, etc.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

To X-P
The cold historical fact is this: The Christian Church did not begin with the Roman Catholic Church nor with Protestatism, which started much, much later. Rather, the Original Christian Church of the Apostles was founded by Jesus Christ HImself in Caesaria Philippi between 30-33 A.D. This is the true Church of Christ, which Christ Himself called, "My Church."

The True Church of Christ was not idolatrous but worshipped God in Spirit and in Truth, but the Roman Catholic Church was and still is idolatrous. Catholism and Protestatism were both after the fact but Protestantism chose to stick with the ideals of the Original Apostolic Church, the True Church of Christ, in worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth.

And this point of difference was the reason behind the killings of Christians during the Christian Persecution perpetrated by the Roman Empire in the first century
and the killing & burning to the stake of millions of christians during the Protestant Reformation perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church. It is said that the number of people killed during these periods were more those killed during the two World Wars. This happened because there was no FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND EXPRESSION AND NO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE then. But with advent of democracy, this should not happen anymore.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, I am glad that you mentioned the Protestant roots of your family from the side of your lolo Jorge, which during my time we pronounce Hor-he. I was in fact first attracted to your website by your name Jorge Bocobo, because you carry the name of your lolo who was a childhood hero of sorts to me when I was still studying in Union High School of Manila before I went to the University of the Philippines.

During my high school, we had chapel services at Ellinwood Church and was exposed to the Protestant worship that you described.

I am an student and sometimes teacher of the History of the Christian Church and I just want to make clear that the True Church of Christ of the Apostles which worshipped God in Spirit and in Truth IS NOT the Roman Catholic that venerated (if not worshipped) idols, saints, and worshipped Mary. The former originated from Antioch where they were first called Christian and the latter from Alexandria.

You ask if Religions are equal. No, I don't think so. They all think that they are more than equal to others. But is this not the beauty of Freedom of Expression? You ask if religions evolve. Christianity did not evolve because its message is so simple. What evolved is its OUTLOOK. It became wider and must accept the reality that we now live in GLOBAL VILLAGE where it must contend and prove itself in the MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS AND FAITH in this Global Village.

Rizalist said...

You make me cry BFR, Ellinwood was one of two churches my father loved. And often did we attend services there on the odd week. There did I learn the style of praying that says, "Listen to God. Don't try to TALK to him or ASK him for favors. He knows your needs and desires better than you!

But from my mother comes a different spirituality of the Roman Catholics, profound in its own right--the storming of heaven with good deeds and symbolic acts and rosaries and litanies of beseeching and supplication to the Lord, prayers for intercession from Mary and the Saints, and a conscience that must be daily examined.

I'm not sure who of them influenced me the most...for my blogging tends to start with listening, but ends with a lot of verbosity that I'm thankful you guys seem to put up with.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Rizalist I prefer your "verbosity" to the verbosity of those of a lot of the verbous Journalist and Opinion writers in all our newspapers and broadcast media and the real verbosity of the PR people of the Palace. Yours is scholarly but most of theirs are plain trash.

But what hurts is that it is plain that most of them are trying to shape our opinion if not our mind and yet they are only exposing just how shallow their minds are.

Mike Defensor for example is so presumtuous in his mind-conditioning efforts, it makes me weep. "So young and yet so misled.. or should I say so misleading!"

Blog on, Rizalist, by all means blog on! Your lolo will be proud!

ricelander said...

In most other people, God's presence must be simplified to an entity that could be more easily grasped and understood. We do not really expect that our religions originated from people with our generation's level of understanding of the universe, when earth was flat and the sun revolved around. Man has a deep need for spiritual anchor, something that must conform with his idea of his world, backward though it is as we now see.

R. O. said...

Can you people for one moment consider how a religion that forbids idolatry (Note: Baal is not a historical fact, unlike say Mary) would practice it so wantonly like you all said plainly.

(head shakes...)

Rizalist said...

I think that Martin Luther started the Reformation in part due to the SIMONY of the medieval Church which was using idolatrous merchandise in the service of well, avarice and greed. But I have read a very interesting essay by Paul Tillich (The Lost Dimension of Religion) in which he claims such externals as idols, images, statues, and all of liturgy, ceremony, etc. of religious worship, constitutes a kind of horizontal dimension of artificial surfaces and facades. What he says has been lost is a dimension of depth, in which spirituality is about mystery, but not nonsense, about the imponderables without going off into outer space. A dimension of depth.

Roman Catholicism in the Philippines is all horizontal dimension, all idols, prayers, masses, in an endless seasonal cycle from Christmas to Easter and back again. It's because the CAtholics don't seem to read, not even the Bible!



Re your "It's because the CAtholics don't seem to read, not even the Bible!"

Now, now... that's gross overstatement if not provocative even with your 'don't seem'.

Let's not start bashing Catholics, shall we? For starters, I personally know many Anglicans who are naturally Catholics who read the Bible.

Rizalist said...

HB--It is a fact though! By the time a Baptist child in the Mountain Province is about eight years old, he or she has a strong framiliarity with Genesis and the other Books of Bible. By their teenage years Baptists participate in preaching competitions. That's here in the Philippines. But Catholic school kids NEVER read the bible except as retold in various forms. They spend a lot of time studying Catechism.

It's not such an outrageous thing. Proof is the ranking of Bibles by market share. The mainstay Catholic Bible, the New American Bible is a distant fourth best selling, next to the N.I.V., the New King James and the Old King James in that order.

I guess it's just the observation that Catholics do a lot more reciting of prayers than reading of Books.

It's not Catholic bashing. It's "culture" or "trait."

But am I wrong in the observation, HB?


First of all, I was pointing out the Anglican all Catholic 'Credo' point of view, DJB.

At mass, Anglicans recite exactly the same Creed as we Roman Catholics during our masses, "I believe in one God,... I believe in the Holy Catholic Church..."

The Anglicans HAVE ALWAYS MAINTAINED that they are Catholics (and this was since Elizabeth I Regina). They are therefore technically, Catholics.

Second, the Bible is a must read for Anglicans - catechism is learned with the Bible from age six.

Hence, I thought it would be unfair to go into some form of general Catholic bashing without properly identifying which Catholics needed bashing.

I'm inclined to agree with you that Philippine Roman Catholics are not generally Bible readers, although I have heard that Couples for Christ members study the Bible regularly.

P.S.: I honestly didn't know that Baptists do not consider themselves Catholics.

Rizalist said...

HB--I've no intention of bashing Catholics or anyone else. Its just that the whole cartoon thing has me in a kinda mean mood when it comes to the worst things in religions, not the best things, which somehow are universal and don't belong to anyone of them. I think it is because the Muslims have had enough from me! Yet do I know that all the other religions are equally capable as they are of certain excesses and fanaticisms.

But I keep asking this question of myself now and others: Should Religions be forced to EVOLVE. Can they?

I think it is impt for world peace.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, you ask: Should religions be forced to evolve?

If by evolving you mean to change into something else, I think they cannot. But if you mean that they should expand their borders in order to better understand and be relevant in the present World, then I think they should, as my home church is now endeavoring to accomplish. God bless!

Rizalist said...

BFR--There's the dilemma, you've put your finger on it. Religions are by their nature DOGMATIC. They cannot admit of EVOLUTION because that implies they were not perfect from the beginning. It is a form of vanity though this dogmatism in theology. And it does not fit a world where there are MANY such competing dogmatisms. This is what I mean, I guess by asking, should religions evolve? Dogmatism is not conducive to world peace. Religions must bow to democracy or there will be Armageddon. Muslims have to undergo the evolution that Christianity did in overcoming the Inquisition.