Celebrating humanism with my “Roman Apostate Show” in Manila.
Of all social causes, education is the one I most wholeheartedly endorse. It is our top strategy and our best hope for the future. Every step we can facilitate out of ignorance is a step away from the pernicious obscurantism of the supernatural and religious thinking that continues to plague our societies. We, humanists, are on the right side of history: the amazing progress of our species ascribable to our collective intellectual awakening has irrefutably proved it, no matter how cynical critics can be about the current state of the world. But a lot must still be done. We have a battle of ideas to win, and that is done primarily by sharing with more and more people the same sense of appreciation we have acquired for the fact that our safest bet for the future is to embrace knowledge, logics and a rational posture as the basis of our ethics and worldview. We need an educated society. And that starts with literate children.
Embracing reason doesn’t mean, as some detractors claim, that we non-believers are supposed to be heartless, intellectualistic snobs. Yes, feelings can indeed be detrimental in the way they distort, pollute and clutter with biases our thinking, making it fallacious and unsound. But they are also the best thing about being human, the engine behind everything we do and wish to do, the colour, flavour and soundtrack of our earthly experience. The whole point of being alive and sentient. As soon as I started feeling the urge to express myself with music, I figured that the whole point of art for me was to capture, manipulate and control my irrational sides, forging them into something that could be shared and enjoyed. I also saw a potential there. What if – I wondered – the common process of letting feelings taint reason could be flipped around, infusing art with the promotion of rationality instead? That’s how my two first albums were born, as conceptual items that merged my music taste and artistic sensitivity with a kaleidoscope of ideas taken from psychology, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, science, all aimed at reaffirming the core tenets of humanisms. In this spirit I also started to construct my live shows, which I consider, rather than traditional concerts, a unique space for the celebration through music of these wonderful ideas. Because yes, atheists need to celebrate their values and their lives just as much as any fellow believer.
For my recent Manila event, which I cheekily titled “The Roman Apostate Show” after my refusal to belong to the “Roman Apostolic Church”, I chose a repertoire that included songs like “Natural Things”, where I criticise the outlandish notion of behaviours ideologically labelled as “against nature”, “The Unchristening”, inspired by my experience of de-baptising, “Pet Theory”, where I tackle cognitive dissonance and the confirmation bias, “Promiscuous Teleology”, about the evolutionary mechanisms that wired our brains to be prone to supernatural explanations, “Gnoseological Paradigms”, about the deep indoctrination we receive as children as we learn language from our parents, and “Thoughts of A Dying Atheist”, which is, well, about dying as an atheist. To complement the musical part of the show, and make it more stimulating for my enlightened audience, I introduced each track with explanatory comments, enriching it with further inspiring historical and scientific notions, live sketches with the participation of two brave members of HAPI, and even involved the audience in a collective recitation of my “Humanist Creed”, which closely reflects the wording of the “Nicean Creed” Christians repeat at every mass. The crucial difference is that we can “Amen” our beliefs only as far and until we are proven wrong!
It was a great joy for me to be able to bring my show for the first time to the Philippines, a land I’ve come to know so intimately during my last decade of travelling, and an honour to be able to do this in conjunction with HAPI, an organisation I deeply admire and that I’m always excited to support. The fact that the proceeds were devolved to the education of indigenous children brought things full-circle, making it a perfect and extremely valuable experience, which I will always cherish.