Atheism in the Philippines: A Personal Story
By Marissa Langseth
Atheism is rising everywhere, and, surprisingly, the Philippines, a country of many superstitious people as a result of the majority Catholic population, has joined the bandwagon.
Out of confusion, personal conflicts, and elitism, PATAS (Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society) has emerged. Filipino atheists demand equal treatment and respect in the present world. No more hiding, no more lying—we are coming out of our closets.
I have found a small group of people who are as ebullient as I am with regards to atheism and humanism. We are straightforward atheists without frills nor an inch of pretension. We have no masks nor icing on the cake. We are proud militant Filipino atheists. Our tools are logic, critical thinking, reason, science books, and Richard Dawkins.
I attended my first American Humanist Association conference in Cambridge, Massachussetts , to see Richard Dawkins in person. He is the driving force of our group and our hero. I was successful in meeting him and have photos galore with him. These pictures were so valuable that our group in the Philppines tripled in no time.
PATAS has been “coming out” since February 14, 2011, the day it was founded. We’ve had events, educational programs, feeding activities, and we help individuals here and there as the need arises. We have a full time scholar, Levi Monton, who is also our full time employee in charge of planning events and “coming out” activities.
The Philippines is truly a very religious country, and with almost 80% of the population as religious, we expect being bullied by the Christians and Catholics anytime soon. Our proactive approach is to build alliance with international atheist and humanist movements. We may be just a “speck in the eye,” but being small does not mean we are useless. We are carving out ourselves slowly but surely and putting a dent in the religious landscape of the Philippines.
As the PATAS chairwoman and one of the founders, I see to it that our society is in good hands and in the right direction. Our President, John Paraiso, is the original Pinoy Atheist (www.atheistangpinoy.blogspot.com), whom I chose to be with, since he personifies my attitude and character if I still lived in the Philippines. He is for the masses, for the poor, for the regular Filipino who loves life, freedom, and equality.
Our website www.patas.co is now up and running. We are joyful that we have already received three international exposures since we were founded, something that we did not expect to see since we are just a pale blue dot in the humanistic world.
PATAS has numerous ambitious plans for the future. Our investments are not for this lifetime but for the next generations to come. Hence, we zeroing in on education as our platform in propagating atheism and humanism. But, we must admit, we cannot do this task alone as we are only a minority in the Philippines.
This is my legacy. My name is Marissa Torres Langseth, better known as Ms. M, a Filipino, a proud militant atheist, a humanist. I am not afraid.
Marissa Torres Langseth is a member of the American Humanist Association and the founder of the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics (PATAS).