By Minette Joyce Avillanoza (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Minette Joyce Avillanoza (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Atheists are speaking out in the Catholic Philippines.

Educational aid projects in the Philippines are dominated by Christian groups. They are perceived to help the community. This help, however, comes with a rider: the recipient is forced to consume the gospel. About 26 million people of the 98 million individuals populating the nation live in acute poverty. The relentless emotional push by the Church over many years has made the country an extremely religious one. The nation also suffers from a variety of social and economic problems, the most prominent among them is stark economic inequality.

The number of Filipinos identifying themselves as atheists are only a minuscule 0.1 percent. A few of them, perturbed by the unhealthy power of the church, have started their own educational program among the poor. Volunteers run the Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI). It is one of the three organizations which identify themselves as secular. HAPI aims to bring humanist and secular ideals to the Filipino society which is overrun by religion. Utilizing food programs and weekend “schools” as to introduce the philosophy of reason and ingenuity to children.

HAPI was established in December of 2013 and identifies itself as not-for-profit community of international secular and progressive humanists. The organization identifies itself as an entity working for humanity's good, with a principal focus on Philippines. Advocates secular humanism as a kind of progressive philosophy with the suggestion, with the correct education human being could be morally and ethically upright sans divine interference. The organization envisages a world full of happiness, free from poverty, ignorance and famine. It promotes free secular education, independent of their background via intelligent discussions. HAPI wants to remove the old concept that only God's presence is essential to morality and promote the idea that there is no need for a supreme being to be nice to others.

Outspoken atheists have a hard time in Christian-dominated Philippines. The decision to tell near and dear ones about being an atheist carries consequences. The church put the fear of hell to keep the flock at bay. There have been a number of instances where atheists have encountered open hostility. One victim was Marissa Torres Langseth, the HAPI founder herself. She was hounded out from the Philippines and is now a resident in the United States. She was subjected to relentless abuse when setting up the organization. =

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