Philippine-style religion equals Philippine-style poverty

Over at, blogger Doy Santos presents a comprehensive statistical picture of religious fervor in the Philippines. According to Santos’s figures the Philippines counts itself among the Top Ten countries with populations that have the highest rated “confidence in their church”. This Top Ten is predominantly Islamic. Tanzania is reckoned to be 50-50 Christian/Islamic and, while India possesses a sizeable Muslim population, 80 percent of its population practices Hinduism.

The Philippines and Zimbabwe are the only pre-dominantly Christian country in the Top Ten list of countries whose people seem to find the most comfort in the embrace of religious practice.

If we are to take a bit of generalisation license to interpret “confidence in religion” as meaning religiosity, we could then say that the Top Ten most religious countries according to Santos’s data are…

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(1) Morocco
(2) Saudi Arabia
(3) Nigeria
(4) Indonesia
(5) Pakistan
(6) Tanzania
(7) Philippines
(8) India
(9) Algeria
(10) Zimbabwe

… and the most non-religious countries in the study are:

(1) Japan
(2) Czech Republic
(3) Netherlands
(4) Sweden
(5) Germany
(6) Denmark
(7) Great Britain
(8) Estonia
(9) Austria
(10) Belgium

Interestingly, Vietnam comes in after Belgium as 11th among the non-religious covered in the study.

I have better things to do than be bothered to gather data to highlight the obvious. Any schmoe will most likely see the obvious strong correlation between religiosity and the per capita incomes (average individual citizens’ wealth) of the countries listed in the the study Santos cites. This correlation will most likely be strong across most measures of development levels and quality of life — personal security, health, crime, political stability, justice, equality, etcetera, etcetera.

Perhaps this frames the touchiness of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church when it comes to issues that threaten it at the very core of the belief system it has been shoving down people’s throats (or driven through their hearts with steel swords) for centuries. If we search our personal experiences dealing with people, we will find that those we know who have achieved the least tend to be the ones who are most defensive, the most easily roused to anger when challenged, and the most likely to lash out with arms flailing when asked innocent questions.

The Philippine Roman Catholic Church seems to be exhibiting behaviours consistent with such a character profile. An institution that is bankrupt of contribution to measureable achievement that yields clear outcomes along most measures of human development may actually be predisposed to throwing temper tantrums.

Philippine Reproductive Health and the proposed passing of a Reproductive Health Bill for Filipinos? Broach the subject and you get an army of men-in-robes snarling, teeth gnashing, and sicking their wrathful God upon their hapless congregations.

Compare the way Filipino officers of the Catholic Church think with the way their counterparts in more progressive societies think. In the article “Philippines bishops’ contraception conundrum” published by, a publication of Jesuit Communications Australia, author Fatima Measham highlights what can be used to describe the stark difference in the way Catholics in more progressive societies think compared to their counterparts in the Philippines…

The 1968 Winnipeg Statement, the Canadian bishops’ response to the papal encyclical against artificial contraception, accommodates such exercise of faith, declaring that ‘the unity of the Church does not consist in a bland conformity in all ideas, but rather in a union of faith and heart, in submission to God’s will and a humble but honest and ongoing search for the truth’.

This open-heartedness to a continuing understanding of God’s truth was echoed by Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner at the time:

‘Bishops should not act as though the encyclical were irreformable or as though everyone who dissented were guilty of contempt of authority or were separating himself from the church. They should refrain from imposing canonical penalties on persons who respectfully and discreetly propose another view …

‘If no one could voice his opposition to reformable doctrines, the development and correction of the Church’s official teaching would be seriously hampered.’

Philippine bishops, as well as others in the Catholic leadership, would do well to reflect on his words today.

Indeed, perhaps at the risk of contradicting the title of this piece, we could highlight the clear possibility that this may not, after all, be a strictly Catholic thing and more of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church simply acting (as it keeps asserting is the license it holds to do so) like typical Citizen Filipino — exhibiting that chronic lack of perspective, that renowned penchant for missing the relevant points, and the bizarrely banal rooting for the wrong argument, we’ve all become so sickeningly familiar with.

Then again maybe I have my causal relationships mixed up and therefore this question begs to be begged:

Is the behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church (A) a cause of or (B) caused by the Filipino’s lack of ability to apply modern thinking to sorting out their critical national issues?

Most likely a bit of both, I suppose. The key then, it seems, to resolving the issue of Reproductive Health, winding down the circus that surrounds it, and avoiding any future dramas brought about by a disproportionate input of sloppy thinking into the National “Debate” is to disentangle primitivist religious zealotry from Filipino civic life. Fact is, religion (or at least the type espoused by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) no longer holds the old lofty place it had been accustomed to occupying for centuries in a modern secular evaluation of state issues. This is not an easy path to take as most of the concepts that would underpin such an initiative is completely alien to the Filipino mind. Measham further observes how…

[…] in the Philippines, where Catholicism is woven through the culture and language, the teaching against birth control permeates even its politics. Electoral ambitions live and die according to the candidate’s stance on contraception.

The Philippine Roman Catholic Church is making complicated what should really be a straightforward ethical call by the average Filipino…

The reality is that people do want to act morally within their desire for a better life. That is why they would prefer to avoid getting pregnant than have an abortion. Many Filipino women are already making this choice but now feel stigmatised by the public brawl over the RH bill. What is lost is the idea that the decision to not have a child can be made in good conscience.

In short, take away the “teachings” on “morality” of the Roman Catholic Church, and we are left with a straight and true ethical path to take.

Shorter still but more comprehensive in scope is the obvious conclusion: The sort of Catholics the Philippine Church wants Filipinos to be is a notion that can be described with two words:

Cultural baggage.

Perhaps it is high time that we chuck the old baggage and the even older bags that fill it into history’s crapper and start looking for a (or better yet developing our own) alternative way of regarding the personal choices we need to make to secure a better future for us and our kids.

13 Replies to “Philippine-style religion equals Philippine-style poverty”

  1. correlation does not equal causation… no matter how much you wish/assert…

    “Any schmoe will most likely see the obvious strong correlation between religiosity and the per capita incomes (average individual citizens’ wealth) of the countries listed in the the study Santos cites.”

      1. my point? well, it should be clear since YOU claimed the following:

        “Is the behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church (A) a cause of or (B) caused by the Filipino’s lack of ability to apply modern thinking to sorting out their critical national issues?

        Most likely a bit of both, I suppose.” [emphasis mine]

        1. Let’s say for argument’s sake that you hadn’t made your point clear. The question remains: What’s your point? Best that you spell it out than speak in riddles. 😀

      2. riddles? this is so clear! naguguluhan ka ba? inaantok?

        how much clearer can i be: correlation doesnt mean causality, even though you assert it to be.

        what exactly are you confused about? this has very easy high-school level words. what do you want me to explain?

        correlation? causality? assertion?

      3. hahahaha! riddles. nice one benigs. 🙂

        living under a rock kinda forces some people to speak in riddles indeed.

  2. (A) is the cause of the current dysfunctions that we see these days in the country, while (B) is a product of the cause. Misguided thinking kills, basically.

  3. The difference; Poor countries’ people pray for more food and money while people from developed countries pray for strength in ther pursuit of wealth and contentment. People from poor nations believe that their God will physically provide for them. People from wealthier nations work their asses off and believe that prayers are useless if they don’t move their brain and muscles.

  4. For many centuries; the Roman Catholic Church had imposed its will to the Filipino people. This was a controlling factor established by the Spanish colonizers…A God that burns you in Hell, for eternity; is more frightening than the bullets of the Spanish Guardia Civil…
    The behaviors of the Bishops and Priests are just a HANGOVER of our past colonization…It’s time to wake up. Look more on the fields of Spiritual and Mental Development…rather than the Dogmatic teachings of existing religions…Existing relighions are OBSOLETE in our age of information technology, and digital age…soon, we will be exploring other planets…

  5. Superstitions are hard to abandon. They are like anchors for us. To let go means to fly free, or fall free. It is scary.

    I’ve been to many a church in my time. Most Filipino Catholics are not religious, they are superstitious. You can’t give yourself to God if you are wrapped up in yourself.

    When I think of the Church as an institution, I always flash back to Don Quixote, for the moral tone of the Church is equally high-minded and equally looney. Rather detached from things that are important to Man. Rather detached from reason.

    1. I agree, we filipino are not religious, but very superstition.
      Not to mention when we are in church we intend to make kwentuhan outside.

  6. Philippine-style poverty is actually similar to the Latin American style poverty. We are sometimes called the Mexico of Asia. The common denominator is their religion. The Philippine’s Roman Catholic-based culture actually is a local manifestation of its global figure–Europe as the center, elite HQ and command center, while the colonies or poor Roman provinces as the serfs, servants, slaves, or meagerly paid workers. In the Philippines, Cebu or Metro Manila is the Elite HQ, the command center, while the poor provinces are the serfs or servants. The justifier of this neo medieval set-up is still the belief system of the Roman Church. Yes, it is the superstitious, pseudo-miraculous, vicious (gambling) syndrome, and padrino or patrono system imbedded in the belief system of Roman Catholicism that made us hopelessly & holistically poor. The Protestant belief system at least made them world powers with widespread advantage or benefits to their colonies overtime, but Roman Catholic based culture made us slaves to the richer Protestant and even Islamic culture. Roman Catholic system, at least in the Philippines, is neither scientifically nor Scripturally straight. If it is not, then it is lie-based. If we want to be free, then, let us seek for the religion that is Scripturally & scientifically truthful. Or better still, directly learn from and follow the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Bible.

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