Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you find the humanist community within the Philippines?
Ralph Alvin Ace Rapadas: I found HAPI because I was a member of Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) where a lot of HAPI’s members were originally from. I found out about PATAS in Facebook the summer before I started my 1st year in college way back in 2011. I actually became really active and revived/founded a freethinker/humanist organization in my University. Things have slowed down with my involvement in these organizations but I still keep in touch with the people I met.
Jacobsen: What was your early experience with religion in life?
Rapadas: I’ve been raised a Roman Catholic. When I was still residing in the New Jersey, I attended after school church programs. During my 6th grade in elementary school, I was certain I wanted to become a priest. I enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas High School, the Catholic University of the Philippines. Ironically in my 2nd year, I became an atheist after learning about biology and the incompatibility of science and religion.
Jacobsen: Do you think that religion is a net benefit or not negative?
Rapadas: I strongly respect and support an individual’s rights to have a religion. There is no doubt that religion has helped many people overcome their hardships in life however, I believe that religion is unnecessary especially in the advancement of society. I view religion as outdated and preferably obsolete in terms of how we understand the world through science and the societal norms encompassing morality.
Jacobsen: How does religion influence politics in the Philippines?
Rapadas: For a secular country, religion plays a major part in influencing politics in the Philippines. The Catholic Church once campaigned for and against certain candidates depending on their stance on the then Reproductive Health Bill which is now a law. Another example would be the bloc voting practiced by members of the Iglesia ni Kristo (INC) wherein leaders of their church would dictate who their members should vote for in elections.
Jacobsen: What is the nature of religious faith to you? What is its core aspect?
Rapadas: For me, religious faith deals with the human need for emotional support and it also conveniently provides “answers” to life’s questions. Why are we here? What is my purpose? It also addresses the human fear of mortality by selling the idea of an everlasting life. In a nutshell, religious faith for me can work in a manner similar to a placebo but is ultimately unnecessary.
Jacobsen: If you could advise youths about humanism, what would you advise?
Rapadas: Try to develop a strong understanding of philosophy and ethics. Be proactive in seeking out new information. Do you think that there is an ultimate meaning to life or that we make her own meaning of life? I think that we make our own meaning out of life. For myself, I am currently leaning on the epicurean/hedonistic philosophy.
Jacobsen: What books do you recommend about humanism from Filipino authors? Who is the Filipino hero for you?
Rapadas: I currently don’t know any humanism books from Filipino authors.
Jacobsen: If you could reference one quote or statement that best represents humanism, what would it be?
Rapadas: An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated. -Madalyn Murray O’Hair This quote is for atheists but mostly applies for humanism.
Jacobsen: Do you think ordinary humanists or the stars of humanism are the best people to speak on it?
Rapadas: In other words, those who talk about it in a high level or those who live it day to day. I think both have a right and authority to speak on it. The stars may have a bigger following but it doesn’t necessarily relate to expertise in humanist philosophy.
Original publication in Medium.