Friday, March 6, 2009

Coming Home Part 2

They put me on their blogroll these Filipino Free Thinkers---- deists, secular humanists, agnostics and atheists.

So now, I need to ensure that the blogpost you get when you click on the link at their website at, is about freethinking. My last one had nothing to do with my agnosticism.

So I might as well write up what I have been blabbing to all my friends about.

It all begins with a link my eldest son sent me. It leads to a site where I applied to join the egroup of the Filipino Freethinkers. I sign up after repeatedly having to edit my short description. I tried to put too many justifications because I thought they needed much convincing about: 1) my worthiness; 2) my not being a security threat.

I feel like a spy the first week or two after I am accepted into the egroup. I have been an agnostic all my life so I should feel right at home. But I am silent because for one thing, I noticed most of the group is young(er). It is also not a grassroots organization (yet). This is not a criticism as much as self-reflexivity about what my comfort zones are when it comes to issue-based groups.

But I am thrilled because: 1)FINALLY there is a group I can relate to; 2) I am learning a new method of organizing. I am as a happy as a vampire who as found her coven. I learn that there will be a first-ever forum. I wanna go, I wanna go. Should I? Shouldn't I?

Then, someone starts a thread about the reproductive health bill and I cannot help myself. I answer. For that, I get invited to do a 10 minute talk about practical freethinking in politics and particularly about the reproductive health bill. I cancel everything for that Saturday afternoon and commit to go.

I am like a kid in a candy shop with this group. When my turn to speak comes, I need to ask something I have been asking now for decades: "Are my sister and I the only two Filipinas who were born into a household where both parents were agnostic (or atheist)? Could we possibly be the only 2 who did not have a religious education with our baby bottle? Amazingly, a young man says he too is like us. More amazingly, instead of getting the awkward or curious responses---they clap! Here I do not have to explain myself or justify my upbringing or defend my parents.

I had learned not to bring my beliefs up because, growing up in the 60's and 70's, people reacted to me as if I was insulting their religion for not having one. I had learned to just be quiet when in government and other secular events I am not told there will be a mass before the actual forum or I am asked to "stand for an invocation". I have learned because no matter how hard I try to explain, seek a little sensitivity or have a civilized debate--I get nothing. At most I get, "its ok, its ecumenical." When I answer "but I don't pray. It is against my spirituality to pray," I get no further answers.

Those of us who have felt any form of marginalization on the basis of our sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, religion or disability, know what it is like to have to deal with repeated and unwitting slights. It wears you down. It does not help when those who are not discriminated against trivialize these things (e.g. "the invocation is only for 10 minutes"; "she did not mean to be insensitive"). Sometimes too, being misunderstood is not about day-to-day slights but major hurts. My mother-in-law, a truly wonderful Catholic woman of profound faith, died without learning about my agnosticism because I loved her too much to upset her.

So this group, just being there--I did not care if I was the older-one-flowing-over-at the-mouth. I was home again, in a group of 60 or so people I had just met.

What is more, I am happy with how these young people are using the internet to fight their struggles. I am elated to find people who are a natural constituency for the RH bill. I am thrilled at the thought that one does not have to come from my socialist background to care about the rights of people.I am over-the-moon at seeing their committment to reaching out to the marginalized. I am overjoyed that they are committed to a better country (and world).

I am also glad to meet such a bright set of people. No anti-intellectualism here--unleash your inner geek or nerd. And, despite my teasing at the forum, not all of us geeks or nerds are socially inept.

In my political circles and with my NGOs, I have long suggested that we start a "coalition against moral tyranny". No takers. Perhaps I was talking to the wrong set of people. Perhaps my words were too negative. Anyway, I think I will stop nagging now.

I have a new place to be when I want sanctuary from the mindless religiosity of the insensitive majority or the sanctimonious malice of the moral police.


DearestWarrior said...

i love this article

Ryan Tani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Tani said...

Your talk at the forum was one of its highlights. We are honored -- and equally thrilled -- to have you with us.

As always, I look forward to your posts here and on the mailing list. And happy International Women's Day!

manuelbuencamino said...

great post.

and now for some criticism...there's no excuse for not posting more often, once a week at the very least. Please.

KapanaligSaWala said...


It's always refreshing to know somebody found our little "secret" of an online community of the irreligious and is actually happy about learning that "others" like us exist.


missingpoints said...

Going against "Moral Tyranny" might sound like you're going against morality itself. And while you are correct, it doesn't make for a good soundbite. :)

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Hey! Thanks for the comments everyone. As for you, Mr. Buencamino, I am not as prolific as you.

I do think that pro-freethinking is better than anti-moral tyrrany.

Danny Boy, FCD said...

Let me say that I find your talk on reproductive health to be the highlight of the entire forum. Simply the funniest, most engaging speaker I've heard in a long time. :)

nicjunkie said...

hi dr. claudio,

i'm not sure if you remember me; i used to work for womanhealth and i joined you and ms. princess nemenzo in a trip to mongolia for an esea meeting back in 2000. i was reading up on the progress of the RH bill on the internet and my research has led me to your blog, which really has the most interesting articles. anyway, i saw a newspaper ad for the bayi citation and read that you were one of the awardees, and i just wanted to say congratulations. i'm glad that i was able to work with you and ms. princess for such an important advocacy, even for a short time.

van tenorio-davidon

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Hey Danny Boy and Van,

I am glad I checked out my blog. Thanks for the kind words.

Van-of course I remember!

I am about to post my acceptance speech for the Bayi citation--so check it out.

joseph said...

I totally agree with what you have said. The APA stated that homosexuality is not a disease or abnormal condition after conducting extensive studies. How dare the COMELEC ignore scientific findings based on evidence