In a country where more than 80% of the population is Roman Catholic and less than 0.1% of people have no religion, it’s tough to be an atheist in the Philippines. But Michael French shares some of their stories in a recent article for the Atlantic.
What’s really fascinating is the way some of them are using the tactics of the Religious Right to spread their beliefs, by educating students and bringing them food before teaching them about Humanism.
“I got this idea from the Baptist Church,” [Jahziel Tayco] Ferrer told me, with a smile suggesting she appreciated the irony of borrowing from the missionary playbook. “They’re helping the community and, while helping, they’re also spreading the gospel. So as humanists, if they can do it, why can’t we?”
Besides that, though, creating an environment for atheists to gather and meet each other is always important in areas where religion is so prevalent. And that’s happening more than ever before.
Speaking at machine-gun pace, [Red] Tani explained the purpose of the [Filipino] Freethinkers. “We don’t promote atheism, but what we do promote are the ideas that would make atheists feel safe in a country.” His aim, he said, is to make sure that Filipinos who are questioning their beliefs realize they are not alone. “More than a handful of times, there will be someone who will attend a meet-up and say: ‘If you guys did not exist, I would have killed myself a long time ago.’”
These are brave atheists who dare to speak out in a nation full of believers, and they’re providing an incredibly useful service for those who don’t have that luxury. In many ways, the same principles that hold true in the Bible Belt are also taking shape in the Philippines. You can learn more about Red Tani’s group right here.
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