Every picture tells a story …

AND this one speaks volumes about the rapid growth of the recently launched Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS).

At the end of April this year, we carried an exclusive interview with Levi Chui Monton, corporate secretary of PATAS, and have since kept in close touch.

Founded to promote atheism, agnosticism, humanism, atheism, rational thinking, and education through science, PATAS immediately embarked on a number of outreach programmes aimed mainly at young people. The first of these was a “Good without Religion” feeding programme, where food was distributed among around 300 children.

The picture of the 11-year-old girl holding a copy of Richard Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth, was taken at a later feeding programme in Cavite:

Levi told us:

This girl grew up in a religious family, and her mother was member of a religious group in their locality. The girl asked us a lot of questions about the creation of the world and about dinosaurs. PATAS president John Paraiso spoke to her, and, using Dawkins’ book and other teaching materials, explained evolution to her.

We were amazed by her reaction and acceptance of Mr Paraiso’s explanation, which dispelled the confusion she started out with. It was all fantastic. We also received many queries from parents of the children and were so happy that their feedback was positive. They even wanted to learn more about our science lectures.

What PATAS is doing in the Philippines – which is overwhelmingly Catholic – is nothing short of amazing, but from France comes dismal news.

A growing number of young Muslims there are falling for the creationist claptrap peddled by the the ridulous Harun Yahya, an outspoken Turkish-born Muslim advocate of creationism. Harun Yahya is the pseudonym of Adnan Oktar – and since January this year the 55-year-old has been on the offensive in France with a campaign that is clearly targeting the Muslim faithful.

Maroua Gousa was one who attended a creationist lecture at a mosque in the town of Évry. She admits she has always wondered about:

The dinosaurs and the origin of man … but at school, it cannot be refuted: we’re taught that man descended from monkeys. At home and in the Koran, [we’re taught] that we descended from Adam and Eve, and that God created all living beings.

Depressingly, she finds Yahya’s creationist explanation “convincing”.


13 responses to “Every picture tells a story …”

  1. Newspaniard says:

    It has been long been prophesied that France will become the first islamic republic in the EU…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations PATAS!

    Newspaniard, I think you might want to dial it down a few notches.

    About Harun Yahya/Adnan Oktar, he’s the guy who got Dawkins’ website banned in Turkey:

    A Turkish court has banned internet users from viewing the official Richard Dawkins website after a Muslim creationist claimed its contents were defamatory and blasphemous.

    Adnan Oktar, who writes under the pen name of Harun Yahya, complained that Dawkins, a fierce critic of creationism and intelligent design, had insulted him in comments made on forums and blogs.

    According to Oktar’s office, Istanbul’s second criminal court of peace banned the site earlier this month on the grounds that it “violated” Oktar’s personality.

    His press assistant, Seda Aral, said: “We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people.”

    -The Guardian, Sept 2008

    Here’s a crazy New Humanist article about him from late 2009

  3. Levi Monton says:

    Thanks Barry for featuring this girl.

  4. Stuart H. says:

    I believe there’s also a very lively Philippines Freethinkers group too – saw them on Facebook once or twice.
    We should try and support these guys if an odd phenomena I’m noticing round here is true elsewhere too.
    This area has a more than average percentage of retired people, which also means more retirement homes trying to recruit cheaper staff. No suprise that this includes Filipino nurses, but the odd side-effect is that churches ranging from Catholic through to Pentecostal, 7th Day Adventist and all stations on to complete Loonytunes are kept going by such short term health workers, just at a point when they were closing daily due to lack of local interest.
    No problem with the Filipino nurses themselves, by the way, as they seem cheerful, competent and caring. Great for our oldies, but the money they aren’t sending home props up hateful institutions and ideologies, and that IS a problem.

  5. remigius says:

    I doubt very much whether Maroua Gousa’s school taught her that humans are descended from monkeys. That sounds suspiciously like the straw man constructed by creationists to ‘explain’ what the silly atheists believe. It’s the old if we come from monkeys why are there still monkeys? arguement. She was most probably taught about common ancestry but the heard the truth from Yeahyeah and her memory became selective.

    As far as I am concerned the most convincing arguement in favour of creationism is that Darwinian natural selection should never produce something as stupid as Adnan Oktar.

  6. Broga says:

    The response of this girl to scientific facts, compared the religious fantasy, demonstrates why religion must curb free speech. As soon as an alternative, persuasively presented, to creationism and much else in religion is available then the problems for religion become overwhelming. They cannot respond with convincing arguments, they cannot offer facts and quoting their holy book nonsense will be exposed.

    What they have left is censorship imposed, where possible, by violence. Where violence is not available then, witness the activities of the religious cabal at the BBC, free and opposing views must be choked at source: the perfect example is the witless and boring Thought for the Day. This is possibly the greatest reflexive switch off for an audience in the history of broadcasting.

  7. JohnMWhite says:

    Agreed, Broga – the fact that I grew up in an environment where questions were evaded or met with hostility made it pretty hard to cling on to those old beliefs, particularly once a look at science started to provide real and elegant answers. No wonder the religious authorities despise information and try to control what people are able to see and hear – real information blows their fantasies out of the water with ease.

  8. AgentCormac says:

    Broga & JMW

    Despite constant protestations from all sides that religion is about love, it is actually fear that is at the very heart of it all.

    Whether that means teaching children they will be condemned to eternal agony in the pits of hell for deviating, in thought or deed, from the rules; whether it means being told god has constant, direct access to your every thought, impulse and emotion; whether it means being warned that terrible, cataclysmic events will be unleashed against mankind for misdemeanors perceived or otherwise; whether it means being berated by priests, rabbis and imams from the pulpit every week; or whether it means being someone like Damon Fowler who is victimised by fellow students and kicked out of the house by his parents for standing up for his right not to pray, it all adds up to the same thing: religion has become what it is not because it is or represents the truth, but because it has terrified millions of people into submission for millennia.

  9. Stonyground says:

    Isn’t Oktar the guy who looks like a Bond villain? I wonder if he has a white cat and a secret lair inside a hollow mountain.

  10. remigius says:

    @Levi Monton. Keep up the good work. We are 100% behind you.

  11. Robert Hagedorn says:

    Adam and Eve and confusion? Do a search: First Scandal.

  12. Robster says:

    BBC’s “Thought of the Day”…There’s an oxymoron.

  13. Broga says:

    @JMW @ AgentCormac: I am old enough to have gone to Grammar School. We had a vicar come in every Thursday to teach us “Divinity” as it was called. One Thursday one of the boys, we were aged 14, produced Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian” which his father owned. He asked the teacher if he had read it as it raised some interesting questions.

    “I have not read it,” said the vicar. “And I strongly urge you and everyone in this class not to read such a book.”

    “If you have not read it then how do you know that it is so terrible?” asked the boy greatly daring – we were polite and careful in those days.

    “I know that with a title like that, it is a vile book and I do not need to read it,” said the vicar.

    What followed was that we all wanted to borrow the book. Fairly tame by today’s standards. However, for me that sums up the religious attitude. Ignorance is important to maintain their beliefs; facts and open debate destroy them. For the BBC religious cabal a weekly appearance of an atheist on Thought for the Day would be their worst nighmare so they have to hold the fort.