Tan's Remarks
Ignore Filipino History
Elena M. Lester

When next I realized that the Philippines had dropped into our laps, I confess I did not know what to do with them. I sought counsel from all sides -- Democrats as well as Republicans -- but got little help. I thought first we would take only Manila; then Luzon; then other islands, perhaps, also.

I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed to Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way -- I don't know how it was, but it came:

(1) That we could not give them back to Spain -- that would be cowardly and dishonorable;

(2) That we could not turn them over to France or Germany, our commercial rivals in the Orient -- that would be bad business and discreditable;

(3) That we could not leave them to themselves -- they were unfit for self-government, and they would soon have anarchy and misrule worse then Spain's was; and

(4) That there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them [emphasis mine] and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.

And then I went to bed and went to sleep, and slept soundly, and the next morning I sent for the chief engineer of the War Department [our map-maker], and I told him to put the Philippines on the map of the United States [pointing to a large map on the wall of his office], and there they are and there they will stay while I am President!

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Elena Lester"
Subject: Re: What A Good Boy I Am
Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2001 9:30 PM

Thank you for your thoughtful and provoking reminder of the role that religious loyalism plays in the affairs of world politics.

I have read Twain's works concerning what was then the Philippine situation, but Twain presupposes that the reader has kept up on the news reports of the various developments during his day. Lacking this perspective, some of what he wrote went right over my head. Also, his analysis lacks the advantage of knowing what transpired over the course of the next hundred years. Historical analyses tend to overlook the point you make about religion in the interest of refraining from criticizing religion (a case of politesse taking precedent over a more complete understanding of the situation, with the prospect of preventing history from repeating itself).

The original discussion to which Tan refers is "Why Are There No Atheist Charities?" from Christi Habrock. I apologize for neglecting to link to that work as the reference to the Tan discussion, and have since uploaded those changes. The piece by Dr. Gorski, "Concerning Christian Charity," was eventually published in our print edition and has since become a staple response to Tan's very common misnomer about the nature of the Christian charity industry. Tan's statement was more toward pointing out that atheists do not erect charitable organizations than toward lauding Christians for any good they have done.

Since this was Tan's direct comment, and because I lacked even the grasp of the Philippine situation that you have so graciously provided here, I chose to respond directly to Tan's direct complaint. Even a cursory reading of our Forum will show this to be a very common misunderstanding of the charity issue: his remark could have come from anywhere in the world.

Tan's having overlooked the history of his own country is but an incidental irony. We thank you again for reminding us of this history.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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