Hi, everyone. First time posting here. I just recently graduated from my Psychiatry residency program, and throughout my training, I’ve been surprised and dismayed at the Philippine Psychiatric Association’s (PPA) attitude towards, and ignorance of, atheist and agnostic beliefs. Multiple times during our conventions, the oldest consultants in the field would publicly lament the rise of depression and suicidality in the country, and haphazardly associate these with the increasing secularism and atheism in younger generations. Just today, we had a webinar entitled “Is Spirituality The Missing Link?” (Obvious answer: no.) Here, the speaker – a founding member of the PPA – encouraged the use of prayer and the open discussion of the soul/spirit in the clinical management of mental disorders. Clearly, the old guard wishes to push an agenda that is disconnected from emerging realities, and is a disservice to our community. I hope to bring this issue to light and perhaps, with you, find a remedy. I’m considering formulating studies on the psychology of Filipino atheists and agnostics, to increase public understanding – and I wonder if anyone else has brought this up in the past? It’s ridiculous but it seems that many Filipino psychiatrists don’t understand where areligious people come from or how they manage to find their sense of meaning, values, and happiness. And honestly, I’m sick of it. But I need help in calling it out.
For your reference, below is the comment I left on the webinar chat earlier (mine was the only contrary opinion presented), which was then only glibly addressed.
“Congratulations! But I wish to say also that, thanks to this age of information, atheists and agnostics – people who don’t believe in gods and the supernatural – are a growing population around the globe. This large group of people manages to live compassionate value-filled lives, with a deep sense of meaning and connectedness to this universe. And they do all these without necessarily resorting to phenomena beyond the natural world. Most are intellectually courageous and are content with the godlessness and finality of death. (To add,) countries that are richer and happier also tend to be less religious.
An objectively scientific and monistic understanding of the mind and of the world, one that abandons a dualistic mind-body separation, is therefore a valid and rich philosophy, and should not be seen as a problem. After all, it was this biological mind that created gods. As Douglas Adams wrote, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
Prayers may be good for certain individuals but are not a universal boon. And rather than reverting back to old beliefs about the soul, gods, and prayer, perhaps it would also be good for Filipino psychiatrists to equip themselves with the philosophies and languages of this increasingly secular and humanistic world.”