Founded in 2009, Filipino Freethinkers is an Associate of Humanists International since 2019. In 2021, with the support of this Digital Humanism Grant, Filipino Freethinkers will organize five “Non-Discrimination and Inclusivity” workshops and will produce the #FeaturedFreethinker series to normalize humanism in the country with the aim creating a a more inclusive society for humanists, non-believers and any other religion or belief minorities.
Filipino Freethinkers has been advancing humanism and secular values since it was founded in 2009. In 2019 Filipino Freethinkers has been awarded with a Regional Hub grant to produce a travelling vodcast called “Hello Humanists!“, interviewing humanist activists from South-East Asia. Between 2019 and 2020, Filipino Freethinkers organized five Café Humaniste events on the following themes:
Across the Philippines, non-Christians are a minority, and compared with the numbers of those who count themselves believers or religious, the nonbelievers and nonreligious are an even smaller minority, still today. Everyone is assumed to be Catholic, Christian, or at the very least religious (or spiritual). And conventions reflect the dominance of Catholicism in society: Catholic prayers are said to start even secular events, casual Christian greetings are assumed to be appreciated, Bibles are distributed to the state police to protect them from evil criminals, Holy Mass and Christian music dominate malls and other commercial space — the list is endless.
Proselytizing and praying are seen as unquestionably good, while merely expressing doubts are seen as suspect, and turning away prayers is ungrateful. Coming out as doubting, agnostic, or worse, atheists, is unimaginable for many as they fear social rejection, exclusion, or even violence. This is especially difficult for those whose finances depend on their hiding non-belief — children of devout parents, employees in religious businesses, etc. Even for those who aren’t in such apparent and immediate danger, mental well-being is still harmed by the constant and compounding chorus of societal queues that shout, “nonbelievers are not welcome.” We have heard at many freethinkers meetups how hard the situation is for most, and some have even expressed suicidal tendencies stemming from the lack of secular acceptance.
Filipino Freethinkers will conduct various activities that aim to educate audiences about the challenges faced by humanists, non-believers and other religion or belief minorities. Alongside building a foundation of awareness and empathy, the project also offers alternatives to the status quo with the primary goal of fostering a more inclusive Philippine society — homes, workplaces, community spaces and gatherings, etc. — for humanists of various labels to not only survive but thrive in a conservative, religious country.
Filipino Freethinkers believes that a multi-pronged approach works best here: some activities focus on identifying problems humanists face, some focus on telling stories, giving a face to said challenges, and some focus on solutions: be it solutions others can implement with guidance from our toolkits, or solutions we implement ourselves through our workshops.