Can We Promote Atheism
In The Philippines? How?
I was searching on the web about the status of atheism in the Philippines, and I stumbled over old mail from Mr. Tan way back 2001 in your site (see: "God Has A Purpose For Filipino Situation"; also: "What A Good Boy Am I!"; and: "Response To 'The Fig Tree Enigma'"). I visited again a couple of times but it is only now that I found it interesting, when I discover a lot of interesting e-mails.
Unfortunately, I can't find any Philippine-based atheism group, bulletin board, chat room or mailing list. Maybe this is because atheism is taboo for a Catholic country like us. I find that a lot people are disgusted by the idea of atheism here. I remember finding Atheist Circle in the University of Philippines, but it's limited to the campus. A few of their debates were shown on TV, though. Most of the time we keep it only to ourselves.
I agree with John Woodside, in the letter called, "Atheists: Going the Way of the Dodo?" He says, "If no one makes an effort to increase our numbers, that percentage will never increase. Rather, the percentage will likely drop!"
I always wanted to start a group that will promote atheism in the Philippines, and I know that it is not easy. People will raise eyebrows and for sure we won't get a favorable support. I would like to get your opinion and your readers. Do you think it's feasible and how?
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Lito Lampitoc"
Subject: Re: Atheism in the Philippines
Date: November 09, 2003 1:24 AM
I cannot speak to the situation in the Philippines, but I can speak about America and Europe. The general population of most European countries appears to have finally shed its dependency on the Christian religion.
America appears, on the surface, to be getting more and more religious all the time, but this is just simply not the case. What's happening is that the religious fundamentalists are getting more and more vocal, and their ominous pestilence (pun intended) has intimidated many of our leaders.
But when we consult the more carefully wrought studies, we see religion's numbers dwindling and atheism's numbers growing faster than any others. In America! You can see what's happening in America in our article, "Atheists Come To Power: Atheists in America Make Significant Progress in Two Very Important Ways."
Religionists credit America's "freedoms" for the large amounts of religiosity here, but I don't think America has been all that "free" for very long (if at all). On the contrary, small but powerful groups have controlled large portions of our resources since America's inception, and until very recently, only White men had access to any power at all (and they still claim most of it, though opportunities are opening up for others to share in this power). We are free (for the most part) from governmental restriction, but the corporate structure and the disparity in wages and, more than anything, the media monopolies† make America almost anything but a country of diversity, as our original Motto said: "E Pluribus Unum" ("of the many, one" or, loosely, "from our diversity comes our unity"). (Note† Clear Channel Communications Inc. owns and controls over 1200 commercial radio stations; the frequencies formerly reserved for "Community" and "Educational" stations are now being given to huge Evangelical Christian interests.)
So under the pretense of "freedom" we have become one of the most religious countries in the world. Hmmm! I think the countries that allow the power and resources to be placed into the hands of a small, select group are the ones that will end up having one or two major religious groups dominating the cultural landscape. But when opportunity and information are placed into a diverse collection of hands, religious exclusivism has a difficult time even taking root, much less flourishing, like it does to a certain extent here and like (I hear) it does almost exclusively in the Philippines.
Is It Legitimate To Propagate Atheism?
I have spoken sternly against the practice of propagating atheism, but always the context has been in my own city and country. In addition, I have stated this about whether or not I should involve myself in this endeavor. If I lived elsewhere in this country, I would feel differently. And if I lived in a country such as India or Spain or the Philippines, I would probably be working very hard to counter the destruction wrought by the sheer prevalence of religion.
Yes, it is legitimate to try to propagate atheism, particularly in areas that are suffering from the frauds perpetrated by those who teach superstition. Read out posted book, We Become Atheists, by Gora and Saraswarthi.
This is their autobiography, and tells how one man and his youthful wife (the women were "married off" at age 12 back then) started at the University and ended up with one of the most influential charity organizations in India. Unable to find any fellow-atheists, he worked alone, trying to solve the destructive problems that threatened his fellow-citizens.
The most important thread that runs throughout Gora's book is that he becomes oblivious to what others think about his actions. He started out, in college, living in an abandoned house that everybody thought was haunted with ghosts. Practicing his atheism, he boldly marched up to the door, opened it, and moved his wife and belongings inside. Everything he did was based upon atheism being true.
Also, Gora, in every way, placed truthfulness above all other values or ethics. He finally reached a point where he had no use for atheists who would pretend to be religious during a festival or celebration just to please friends or family members!
The essence of atheism is the fight against this softness of the mind, a slavish obedience to a custom or to the crowd.... An atheist, to be worth the name, ought to resist both the faith and the convention and take up a firm, rational stand....
He later called this "Positive Atheism," realizing that "atheism" is, to most people, a lack of a god-belief.
Not many of us have the fortitude to carry one's convictions as far as Gora did. This is, however, the most effective way to carry your message against superstition. It is not a very good way to make friends, but then, who needs friends like that? Those who are ready to hear your message will hear it, though, and most of them will be inspired to carry the same message just as boldly as you have!
Is It Feasible to Propagate Atheism?
When it comes to dispelling superstition and a faith-based outlook, that is, one that depends upon the notion that the supernatural is somehow real, I think John is probably right. Psychologist and atheistic philosopher Albert Ellis spoke about recovery from alcohol addiction. The popular method in the United States is to attend meetings of a faith-based group (a religion, actually) called "Alcoholics Anonymous." In Europe, I hear, the most popular methods, as methods, involve understanding the problem and then applying oneself toward learning to practice self-control.
Doctor Ellis compares learning something by discovery versus being told to believe something through faith. The only way for a faith-based system to keep hold of the believers is for the believers to constantly surround themselves with reinforcements, including other like-minded believers (regular church attendance; shunning friendships outside the religion, etc.).
The kind of the Belief System you adopt does have some importance to long-term sobriety, however. This is because we often start out gung ho with a new Belief System, but the fire dims as time passes. Farfetched Belief-Systems with little general problem-solving, happiness-producing capacities frequently lose their hold....
We lose faith in faith-inspired Belief Systems unless we continue to surround ourselves with other true believers. This is why you have to attend most kinds of churches pretty well forever. The same thing is true of some kinds of recovery meetings. If you don't attend, your faith may fade....
You might want to start by forming a discussion group that meets regularly in someone's home or in a hall. Yes, this sounds like the weekly reinforcement mentioned by Ellis. However, it is not easy for recently deconverted people learning to depend entirely upon one's own sense of reason to gather information and come to a new outlook.
In America, if we want to meet people, start weekly meetings, etc., we place Classified Ads in the newspaper. On American college campuses, we place handbills on kiosks (and even tape them to walls or staple them to wooden utility poles).
Whatever are the popular ways to meet people where you live, these are the methods you'll want to exploit when trying to meet fellow atheists to begin a discussion group. Such groups can meet in someone's home if you cannot find a more neutral place, but problems arise when one person carries most of the weight of responsibility. In such a group, it is important to share the responsibilities, not to give the harder workers a break but because the health and even the life of the group depends upon a relatively even distribution of authority and responsibility.
No Atheists!? Pshaw! Balderdash! Horse Feathers! Bowl Sheet!
As for there being no atheists, I don't believe this. Even in Alabama, four or five percent of the residents are atheists: that's one in twenty adults! About five years ago I got a letter from a man in Iran. He estimated that fully 40 percent of his fellow Iranians (men) were atheists of the "There are no gods" variety.
We keep quiet, for sure, but we exist.
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