As a gay person I would have felt at home in ancient Greece, but as an atheist I would have been arrested and forced to drink hemlock or something. In present day China, I would have felt at home as an atheist, but then the communist party thinks homosexuality is a Western perversion that has somehow penetrated China, an undesirable import the cultural revolution failed to eradicate. Actually, I'm not the ultimate outsider. The ultimate outsider is this: gay, atheist, black, female, overweight, dyslexic, uneducated, unemployed. But where I live----racially homogeneous (Asian) Third World country soaked to the bone in religion and reproduction (Philippines), being gay and atheist pretty much comes close to it. On the other hand, it's not as bad here as it is in, say, Iran, Iraq, and most Muslim countries, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. Even in "progressive" Malaysia homosexual acts are capital crimes.

Gay rights are the last to be recognized, and the struggle has just began. Abject slavery and human trafficking still goes on in Africa, the Middle East, and and Southeast Asia, but it is now universally considered wrong and immoral. Women are still second class citizens in most Arab countries, but they are slowly being allowed to assert their rights, and all non-Arab non-Muslim UN-member nations are overtly on their side. But only a few countries allow same-sex marriage, and this act of the state to recognize marriage between two voting-age men or women is a measure of how far their culture have come to embrace diversity and harmony. That all these countries are democracies is no accident, although being a democracy is obviously no guarantee of not being homophobic. None of these countries are Islamic, that's for sure, but all of them, with the exception of South Africa, experienced Christian fundamentalism at one time or another in their history. At present all of these countries are in accord with the principle of the separation of government and religion. All these countries, again with the exception of South Africa, are European, or of a strongly European origin (Canada). Secularism and acceptance of homosexuality can, therefore, be taken as a measure of a democracy's maturity. These "maturing democracies" are:

1. Netherlands
2. Germany
3. Canada
4. Spain
5. Belgium
6. Norway
7. Sweden
8. South Africa

Please comment on this entry as a whole or on each of the 8 countries above. I am particularly curious with South Africa, being such a young democracy, making the leap into same-sex marriage acceptance from a hard-fought racial equality in so short a time. Is it because the form of Christianity that penetrated South Africa is less homophobic than the millennarian/evangelical fundamentalism of American Christianity?

I used my real name---Emmanuel---because I was asked to at registration. I don't use it if I can help it because it's contrary to my identity as a nontheist ("Emmanuel" means "god is with us" or something like that) so I'll sign this entry with "Manny" my AKA. I am twice Pacquiao's age so I have first claim to the name. Besides, he's religious---and that definitely turns me off. I'm Manny E. I sign my artworks Manny E-SPIN-ola

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Comment by Daniel W on May 28, 2009 at 5:46pm
Oh, Im not that young. I retire in 13 years, not 23. Although with the economy, I may have to work until I drop.
Comment by Daniel W on May 28, 2009 at 5:45pm
Hi Manny,
My colleague at work grew up in the Philipines, and she's trying to convinve me to retire there. That will be about 23 years away, and I have a feeling that the issues that you bring up, would be an issue for me too.

The chemicals do not sound yummy.

Impressions at a distance can be interesting. I used to have a friend who moved from Malaysia to Washington state, because he saw stories about how rainy and lush it is in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, he applied at a school, and was accepted, without visiting in person. It was a couple hundred miles east of the mountains, which is desert instead of rain. Oops.

You can brouse through groups or search with whatever keyword you want to use. Origins is interesting. THe philippine atheists group might be interesting for you. There are also 3 gay groups (why 3 separate groups, I have no idea), and lots and lots of others.

Best wishes,


ps. for some reason your profile pic does not display, at least on this computer. You might want to check, maybe it's unique to my operating system or maybe no one can see it.
Comment by Manny Espinola on May 28, 2009 at 12:02pm
Oh dear god in heaven, imagine the inner conflict, the outward confusions, the years of therapy I'd have had to go through had my hypothetical spiritually rainbow-colored parents named me Jesus Mohamed Krishna. Although adding "Jedi" after Krishna might humor things up a bit.

Dear Daniel---
Thank you for your cool comment. I guess you're right, we can't all find a community that accepts all our characteristics. I hear that even in the Netherlands, a place I'm frequently tempted to romanticize, there are still enough religious kooks in active service to ruin a happy homo's non-theistic day at the beach. It's just that I'll be 50 next year and, after Prop 8, I'm tending to lean more and more towards William Burroughs' side when he screamed "I want a gay state!" (And followed by Me:"And I want it now!")

It's interesting that you got criticized for being vegan. Here in the Philippines people would applaud you for not cutting in into their share of the pork chop. Christians are the most devout carnivores in the world, and as the biggest Catholic country in Asia, Filipinos in general have the most atherosclerotic blood vessels in Asia. On the other hand, there are important reasons why vegetarianism can be bad for your health here. Close to 90 percent of produce in the Philippines are commercially grown, which means every gram of plant matter you ingest contains 1000 parts per million of parathion, endosulfan, alachlor, tributyl and other choice poisons so your eggplant and cabbage look calendar-perfect. Organically-grown produce actually come out more expensive here than pork. And forget about free-range fish. Aqua-cultured fish are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Like commercial milk (high levels of estrogen), cultured fish are lowering sperm counts and inducing 8-year-old girls to sprout breasts and menstruate. As for me, I managed to look this yummy at 49 because of 50% genetics and 50% photoshop.

Dr. Terence Meaden suggests (in a comment to my original post) that I check out the "Origins" forum, so I'll do that right now. How do I get there...
Comment by Daniel W on May 23, 2009 at 1:41pm

I would like to comment on your post in general - I don't know enough about the countries that you list, to consider my own thoughts valid.

It's true that it's challenging to be gay in most of the world. Same for atheist. Sometimes, we have to pick and choose, and know that the people who we are comfortable with in one aspect of our lives may not be comfortable with another aspect. Taking an example from myh own life, I lived for a number of years in a very conservative midwestern town. I basically had 3 choices to meet other gay people - go to the secret, unhealthy places that were sometimes raided by cops or violent homophobes, or drive 2 or 3 hours to the nearest big city, or attend a local group that met in the basement of a liberal church. So that's what I did. I made some great friends, and that group was 'my community'. There wre still some rare occasions when we were 'infiltrated' by local christians, and got some abusive lectures, but mostly it was very rewarding.

What I had to accept was that I could not be too overtly atheist. This group met in a church. There was also almost no racial or ethnic diversity. Plus, I had chosen to be vegetarian, long before that, and was unwilling to change. I was often criticized for that choice, and chose not to involve myself in many of the group activities if they involved meals or eating out.

When I had a chance to move across the country, I did. I feel a lot more at home here, but it meant a loss of valued friendships, that I have never since been able to build.

I guess that what I am leading to is that we may not be able to find a community that accepts all of our characteristics. It's one of the reasons that I beleive in diversity, because in places where everyone is different, then what everyone shares in common is their diversity.

This is a bit rambling. Also wanted to add, there is an ongoing discussion in the forum about names. Being American, I think that "Emmanuel" has a nice sound to it, regardless of what it means. Be glad your parents didnt name you, say, "Jesus Mohammed Krishna Espinosa". :-)


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