Carvajal: Religious fatalism

·2 min read

THE other barrier placed in the nation’s path towards minimizing, if not eradicating, mass poverty is the good Filipino’s indifference to necessary essential reforms in the country’s economic system and in the political and cultural (religious and educational) systems that perpetuate it.

Since Independence (July 4, 1946) the country has had just the political party of oligarchs (with its many factions) on the right and the communist party on the left. One gathers from their day-to-day actuations that both are really interested only in gaining exclusive control of the country’s economy through means fair or foul.

Some Filipinos (Yellows, DDS etc.) stand on the side of one of the different factions of the oligarchy. Others (members of the NPA and of front organizations) throw their lot with the communist party. There is no credible group of others organized for the peaceful third or middle way where, according to Aristotle, virtue stands. These, sadly, are the good simple folks of the majority.

Why the indifference to a third and peaceful way of effecting social change? The answer can be seen in photos and videos of good Filipinos violating mandated health protocols when they attended masses for Christmas, for the Black Nazarene and now for Sto. Niño. The last have fortunately been stopped.

This fatalistic behavior has a deep cultural underpinning. Forty-eight percent of Filipinos polled by UP’s Octa research group picked prayer as their number one safety measure against Covid-19. Prayer topped social distancing and other health protocols.

This is like believing you can stand in the rain and yet stay dry with only a prayer over your head when reason dictates that a simple umbrella can keep you from getting wet. Similarly, reason tells us strict observance of health protocols not prayer is what will keep us from being infected with Covid-19.

Catholic Spain’s medieval brand of Christianity, that today’s business, political and religious leaders continue to promote in our unenlightening educational system, has conditioned Filipinos to be fatalistic. They accept poverty and the social systems that cause it as God’s will He alone can change if you pray for it.

The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza calls “him free who is led solely by reason.” Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for prayer in our life. But if poverty is pouring like rain, we cannot just pray to stay dry. We must listen to reason and take cover under a social umbrella.

The good Filipino’s indifference to social change stems from a deeply-rooted religious fatalism that puts faith above reason. We need an enlightening education to teach us to use reason as guide in the way we live, including the way we practice our faith.

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