Filipinos who are religious strongly cling to their beliefs. This is not at all surprising given the fact that most Filipinos grow up in communities wherein almost every aspect of life is affected in one way or another by religion. A great example is the immense influence of religion on the country's educational system. This rings true whether a school is a public institution or a private one. From kindergarten to college, students are exposed to religious influence. Most private schools in the country are run by or are connected to religious organizations so their curriculum often include religious teachings.
Even public schools that are not supposed to be endorsing a particular brand of religion in accordance to the separation of church and state law often subject students to the trappings of religious belief. Displaying Christian crosses in public classrooms is an all too common practice in the country. This is of course a violation of the Philippine Constitution but you don't see people questioning or protesting it. This speaks a lot of how embedded religion is in Filipino society.
With all of that said, if you are an atheist in the Philippines, consider yourself to be in the lion's den. This is not the Netherlands. Don't expect to receive a pat on the back when you out yourself as an unbeliever. The truth is that coming out as godless in this country carries with it a lot of risks that can be quite serious. You might be disowned by your family. Your lover might break up with you. You might not get that job, or that promotion. You might lose friends. You can kiss your political ambitions goodbye. In short, you are entering a world of possible turbulence that can turn your life upside down.
This begs the question "How did it come to this?" Why the negative reaction when you come out as an atheist in this country? A major driver of this negativity are the rampant misconceptions that a lot of Filipinos harbor about atheists. Below is an overview of five of such common misconceptions.
1) Atheists worship Satan.
|Satan from the series The Bible on the History Channel.|
2) Atheists are communists.
In the Philippines, atheism has become almost synonymous to communism. Proclaim yourself an atheist here and some people will picture you waving the hammer and sickle flag or donning a beige-colored hat with a big red star in the front. However, atheists don't like being equated with communists as much as communists don't like being equated with atheists. And rightly so. Atheism is rejection of a deity while communism is a system of government. There's no glue connecting the two.
The idea that atheists are communists stemmed from the efforts of religious apologists who used the barbaric acts of well-known communists like Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong to discredit atheism. These apologists often make the argument that the atrocities done by these communists were due to their not adhering to a god. This is of course a lie. These men being atheists isn't the reason why they murdered millions of people. They committed atrocities because of their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas. For a detailed debunking of this myth being perpetuated by Christian apologists, read this and this or this.
3) Atheists are rebelling against God.
|Savages from the film King Athur.|
4) Atheists are sinners who don't want to accept responsibility over their wrong-doings.
|Al Pacino as the sin-loving Tony Montana in the film Scarface.|
5) Atheists believe they came from monkeys.
|Orangutan mother and child in Borneo. Photo by Hadi Zaher via Flickr.|
Of course, anyone who is familiar with the real tenets of the evolutionary theory knows that we did not come from monkeys. Instead, we humans and monkeys evolved from a common ape-like ancestor. Majority of Filipinos are not aware of this simple fact.
So there you have it. Five of the most common misconceptions by Filipinos about atheists and atheism in general. If you have anything to add, feel free to chime in on the comments section below.
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