To have a sensei as well as senoir students laugh at a question reguarding such an important part of Aikido seems somehow foreign to me and wrong as well. If you are not learning the philosophy which accompanies the physical actions, it seems to me you are learning something other than the Aikido which O Sensei handed down to us.
Well, I think people should understand that there are schools of aikido that focus on the actual 'on the mat' training, and not so much philosophy. While some might prefer the more shinto based approach, others might like a zen approach, and yet others focus strongly on Omoto Kyo. I think its all good, depending on what an individual prefers and is seeking.
I believe Xu Wenfung trains in a Yoshinkan dojo. This school of aikido was founded with Ueshiba Sensei's approval and support, by Gozo Shioda, one of the founder's most famous (and long term) students. The dojo in that 'style' of aikido tend to eshew any discussion on the mat of philosophy, or religion. I believe that it is for a few reasons:
Aikido should be for everyone, regardless of religion. If religious practices or discussion are brought into the dojo, it might turn some students away if it conflicts with their beliefs.
Aikido is primarily a physical practice, learned through physical training. Exploring the other facets is fine on your own time, but it is not really the focus of training/keiko. And even in so far as keiko may lead to these other areas, it is indeed the physical practice that gets you there, not the talk.
Philosophy is best discussed over beer.
None of this is to say that having a different perspective in wrong. It's just a different perspective. Each dojo has it's own culture, and there are times when someone may be reminded of the culture in not so wonderful (in the moment) ways. My own teacher is part of the Yoshinkan. He does not discuss aikido philosophy on the mat. But he does discuss it sometimes (one place is on the website where his yearly message to the students is posted). He speaks of things like 'aikido for all', aikido / harmony being meant to raise the dignity of others, and things like that. You may find Utada Sensei's yearly messages here: http://www.doshinkan-aikido.org/sensei/messages/
But on the mat, it's physical practice. Just a different way, that's all.