by Eli Vieira*
One year and a half has passed since the foundation of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, LiHS, the owner of this debuting blog. So many things have happened since then that I am caught in the vertigo of loads of long term memory yet to be consolidated. (And my routine as a rebel sleeper has most certainly something to do with that.)
I remember vividly my dream of taking Brazil and more of Latin America to the global secularist community, especially reaching IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union). Well, we did it! And it happened last week, when our international relations director Daniel Martin traveled from France to Norway (yes, to Oslo, the site of that conservative Christian terrorist attack) to attend the General Assembly in the World Humanist Congress, where we were approved as members of IHEU. Also, before that, LiHS joined the Atheist Alliance International.
Now the secular community in the world has a renewed opportunity to spice itself with a Brazilian taste. And we indeed have much flavor to offer. Here are few examples of names, especially in the arts:
- our great author Machado de Assis and his humorous treatment of life after death and superstition in the 19th century;
- the arguably greatest living composer in Brazil, Chico Buarque, with his feminist emphasis of love and humanist political outlook;
- our affectionate deceased poet Mario Quintana, lyrically outspoken about his skepticism (as his overseas counterpart, the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa);
- our scientists Marcelo Gleiser, Drauzio Varella and Miguel Nicolelis;
among many other secular people from this birthplace for samba, caipirinha and flamboyant carnival parades
(and supposedly to that polemic female pubic hair style, according to Americans).
The problems atheist Brazilians face are many, as recent polls show we are more loathed than drug addicts and transvestites, who are also favorite targets for local Christian(ish) moral authoritarianism. Evangelical Christians and Catholics compete to earn the position of source of trouble for us, and the first ones usually get the prize – Evangelical politicians are defying our constitutional separation of church and state in increasingly creative ways.
For instance, Carlos Apolinário, Evangelical councilman for our largest city, has managed to pass a law to create the ‘Heterosexual Pride Day’ under the justification of ‘morals and good customs’ (guess whence come such customs?). It is certainly a relief to inform you that the mayor of São Paulo Gilberto Kassab has vetoed this law. But I am sorry to have to distress you again telling that the second largest city, famous Rio de Janeiro, has a state law that makes compulsory that public libraries have Bibles, fining disobedient ones. Moreover, Brazilian atheists have to hear from the National Justice Council that displaying crosses in courts does not harm our separation of church and state.
Well, maybe we should try telling our politicians and jurists that we just don’t like seeing a poor man bleeding nailed to wood or that we feel offended a symbol of death penalty should be displayed in buildings that belong to an establishment that has abolished the capital punishment so long ago.
But hey, we have our reasons to be optimistic, too! Official census says that in the last ten years the non religious Brazilian citizens have jumped from 5.1% of the population to 6.7%. (Yeah, our governmental statistics refuses to ask people if they are atheists or agnostics, merging us to the general ‘non religious’.) The number of Evangelical Christians who consider themselves as such but do not attend any church has also grown, what maybe shows that even some of them cannot afford to hear so much nonsense from often hysterical misogynistic homophobe bigots dressed as business men (and acting accordingly).
This year, starting from August 21st, we are having rallies in many cities demanding that the Constitution is respected and proselytizing politicians keep their religious fingers out of our public power cake. Thousands of secular people along with religious minorities are attending.
I hope this Flying Teapot becomes the optimal boiler for a critical coverage of this somewhat exciting, somewhat troublesome environment for atheism, secularism and humanism in Brazil. And we assure you we’ll be doing it in that unique style you have heard about, but promising you should be prepared to start breaking some stereotypes – as all of us are used to do in the secular world. Welcome!
* Eli Vieira is a biologist and graduate student in genetics and molecular biology, who was told he was born in 1987 in a small town in the heart state of Minas Gerais – he remembers the place very well. Now he lives in Porto Alegre, in the south, and was already there when he was elected as the first president of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil.