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An Interview with Marissa Torres Langseth, B.S.N., M.S.N. (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/01


An Interview with Marissa Torres Langseth, B.S.N., M.S.N. She discusses: PATAS; inspiration for its founding and titles’; HAPI; effective strategies for advancement of the humanist movement; books; wedding ceremony as a non-believer; irreligious ceremony; difficulties and problems of community; younger generations’ difficulties; experience for men and women non-believers, the differences; notable education and social initiatives by HAPI; cynical use of political language to demonize non-believers; HAPI demographics; heroes and heroines; last talking to Paul Kurtz; Harris and Dawkins; women’s rights and religion, and women and religion; acknowledgement of an issue; secondary citizenship; fears for younger generations of women and girls; Noam Chomsky’s analysis of the media; denigration sourced in religion for women and girls; Margaret Atwood and the Robber Bride quote; those happy for Marissa’s potential failure; contributing to HAPI; common narrative of lives threatened; and tragic story for someone who came out as a non-believer.

Keywords: HAPI, humanism, Marissa Torres Langseth, PATAS, Philippines.

An Interview with Marissa Torres Langseth, B.S.N., M.S.N.: Founder, PATAS; Founder, HAPI (Part One)[1],[2],[3],[4]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So let’s start from the top. What was your family background regarding geography, culture, language, and religion?

Langseth: I was born in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija. It’s part of Luzon.

We are of course Catholics. We were poor. So, I was born poor and then at the age of 5 my father, who was a soldier then, was moved to Cebu.

Cebu is in the middle part of the Philippines; it’s an island. And of course my mother is so religious, she goes to church almost e day. And this is why I see that religion is a poison. It’s dangerous to society because people will go to church instead of working.

They would ask for food and money from the church. I mean from God not from the church.

We speak Tagalog in the Philippines. I speak different languages because I’ve been to so many places. Culturally speaking, religion is a big, huge part because it’s like e Sunday, my mother would kick me to go to church.

She would buy new clothes for me so I could go to church. It’s like she would force us to go to church even if there are no new clothes. She would force us. If you won’t go, you have to be kicked several times and be woke up to go to church.

I didn’t understand then but when I was in grade 5, when I discovered science, I began to ask the questions, “Why are we here? What is our purpose?” Nobody could answer me.

2. Jacobsen: What were some pivotal moments in early life or past grade 5 that you can remember?

Langseth: Pivotal moments, I would say in grade 5, it’s science. When I was looking at the stars, I would imagine who made this. I was asking questions already in grade 5. And then in high school, I could not understand why I could not get gifts from Santa Claus when I was a good girl.

So, I did my experimentation, no my research. Why is it that Santa Claus doesn’t give gifts to poor people? Now, I understand it’s because their parents are poor. So, I applied that to God. Why is it that God does not bless the poor people? So, maybe, there is no God

3. Jacobsen: What were some mystical or supernatural or transcendentalist beliefs that you had while growing up a “good girl”?

Langseth: I didn’t have any superstitious beliefs. I was one of those who was always going against the grain. For example, the number 13 is not bad for me. It’s not bad. People believe that you should not eat because during Ramadan Muslims celebrate and they don’t eat, right?

In the Philippines, we have a holy week. You’re not supposed to eat for 3 days, or eat a little bit. I didn’t follow that. I didn’t get sick or have any issues. Because it was stupid not to eat.

4. Jacobsen: What were some other early moments of moving towards an irreligious orientation or non-belief in God?

Langseth: There was one time when a priest in the military, we lived in a military compound. There was one time when that priest was trying to rape me. Of course, I’m good in running, so I ran away.

Why is it that these supposedly good people would try to touch other women, other girls? The part that made me turn to irreligion was when I was in Saudi Arabia, when I worked in Saudi Arabia, I worked there as a registered nurse.

I saw the different culture in Saudi Arabia. They’re Muslims there, and how they treat women. They’re treated like animals, like secondary citizens. Men were eating in a restaurant and the women were outside waiting for them.

And in fact, it’s just so different. So I said if there were a God, why is it that the people in Saudi Arabia are worshipping another God named Allah? And then the highlight of my irreligiosity is 9/11 in 2001.

I saw the 2nd plane surgically slash into the 2nd building. So I thought if there were a God, why can’t he stop that?

5. Jacobsen: What was the emotion running through you when you saw the plane hit the tower?

Langseth: It was terrorism, of course.  That if there were a God, why can’t he stop these kinds of atrocities? Why can’t he? So I said to myself, “People who would still believe in God at that time. It’s just so unreal to believe at that time really.”

Because it was preventable. That was not an act of nature. It’s not like a typhoon or earthquake. It’s preventable. It is a human invention, a person. I looked at that plane blow up the twin towers. If there were a powerful human being or a God, he could have stopped that, right?

6. Jacobsen: Why move to New York of all places, the United States in general?

Langseth: I was hired as a registered nurse in Cebu and they were hiring for New York City. That’s why I’m here. In fact, it’s the best place in the world. I’ve been to so many places and it’s the best place. I retired here two years ago from my job.

7. Jacobsen: Why did you pursue the post-masters in nursing?

Langseth: I want freedom. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. When you are a nurse practitioner, when you have that post-master degree leading to being a nurse practitioner, you are free to practice.

You do not need a doctor to be on top of you or screaming at you and telling you what to do; you do it. There is what you call an equivalence. We’re like doctors in a way. We’re independent.

There’s freedom to practice wherever you want, whatever specialty you want. And of course the pay is high compared to just a registered nurse.

8. Jacobsen: Also, it’s not a profession that will necessarily go out of demand too.

Langseth: [Laughing] We are so much in demand, believe me. I still get a lot of calls and invites to apply to them. It’s always in demand, especially since there is a shortage of doctors in the USA.

9. Jacobsen: You founded the Philippine Atheism, Agnosticism and Secularism Inc. (PATAS)? 

Langseth: Yes, I started it in February, 2011, but it used to be the Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society. They just changed that recently, the name.

10. Jacobsen: What was the inspiration for founding it? Why those three labels: Atheism, Agnosticism and Secularism?

Langseth: My inspiration was PATAS. PATAS means equality in Tagalog. That is why the first society I founded was named PATAS. I want people to see us as equals, not secondary citizens because we are atheists. Equality, not only because I stand for equality for all human beings, like LGBTs and people who are poor, they don’t have human rights because they are poor.

That’s the reason why I named it PATAS. Of course, it’s no longer in existence, but it’s still PATAS to them as they changed the S to secularism instead of society.

11. Jacobsen: Also, you founded the Humanist Alliance Philippines International, or HAPI. 

Langseth: Yes, because when I left or when I decided to leave PATAS in November of 2013, I found myself waking up at night and I couldn’t sleep. I said if I leave and don’t do anything, this group will eventually die.

So, I need to do something because I love to be happy and I want to be happy. I’m always happy. I said, “I will name it HAPI because I want it to spread and I want to share my happiness.” I’m a member of American Humanist Association, for a long time. I said, “How come nobody even have made a society called HAPI? It starts with H. It stands for Humanism.”

Then I crowdsourced: what the name should be? But I already had something in my mind like humanist, like it was supposedly the Humanist Association of the Philippines. The P for Philippines, obviously, and the I for international.

They said alliance is better. This is why it became the Humanist Alliance Philippines International. But if you call it HAPI, it’s a positive acronym. And there’s a music, it’s also happy. I purposively launched it in January, 2014, so that people will say HAPI New Years with HAPI. It’s called strategy [Laughing].

12. Jacobsen: What have been some of the more effective strategies for advancing the humanist movement?

Langseth: Number 1, I was always looking out for someone who can manage children. Or who has children, so we can feed them. That is a come on, so that people will see that we are good: we are good without God. We feed children, because the children, are our future.

So, I found Jamie. She has 200 kids. This was effective. We started feeding them in December of 2014 because it took a long time to find them. We have to interview. In fact, I asked around and she came to us.

It’s so funny. She came to us because she saw HAPI members during one of our stints. One of our LGBT stints. She spoke to them and these people at the stint. We were so nice and they gave her food. And that was the reason why she said, “When I go back to Manilla, I am going to look for HAPI.”

At the time it was coincidence and blessing you might say. We were looking for somebody like her. Then we found the children, we started in September 2014 and then it was bi-monthly, every 2 months.

That was for me just a come on because I am visionary. My vision is to attract these kids, to feed them, to make them feel we are not evil people and then finally the highlight of this is when we introduce literacy projects.

Like, for them, how to read, how to do some science work, and introduce some technology, I donated a computer to them so that they can look up our website instead of going to church. And we are successful because Jamie, the person in charge of these children, is now agnostic.

Sometimes, she says she’s atheist, but she’s agnostic, because at this time she still goes back and forth. So, that is the highlight. We are for education. Because when I was a kid, that’s what the pastors do. They call us.

I was in high school. After school, they would invite us to go to one house and feed us, give us food and then they talk about religion, of course, there. Their God, and this and that. So, this is the way, maybe, but ours is better because we don’t impose.

It’s up to them to listen to us or not, but it’s genuine feeding of kids because these kids don’t get enough nutrition because they’re poor. It’s the slum area. We went there last June.

The convention was also my ambition because that would be the culmination of my leadership in the Philippines because I was ready to retire. The second highlight is the book, the HAPI Book: From Superstition to Reason is now in Amazon, EBAY and Barnes and Noble. But we get very little royalties. It is also available in kindle.

13. Jacobsen: Is there a plan to expand not only the number and type of books on associated topics but also to increase outreach through publication of ebook platforms such as Kindle?

Langseth: That is the plan. However, again, I have retired, so that task has been passed on to the next leaders. The ebook and, maybe, Amazon, I don’t know what their plan is, but I heard something like that. But who knows?

It took me 5 years to produce this book to be honest with you. It started in 2011 when I started with PATAS. I asked people to submit stories so they can have something. My inspiration for that was a book. I forgot the title. It’s like ‘50 Stories of Atheism in the USA.’

I want to copy that, so we started collecting. But it’s difficult for Filipinos to submit things, to submit articles. It will take them a month or two. The sense of urgency is not there. I am Westernized already.

I used to be like that, so I understand. That’s our culture. I did an article now; they will give it to you after one month. If I need an article, I will give it to you tomorrow. Because that sense of urgency is already in me. I’m Westernized. I’ve been in the USA since 1990.

Jacobsen: Also, you’re a nurse and live in New York.

Langseth: Yes.

Jacobsen: These are important factors about living in the United States.

Langseth: I used to work 3 jobs, 3.

Jacobsen: I believe it.

Langseth: While taking my masters, I got married on top of that. How lucky could I be? It varies a lot.

14. Jacobsen: What are some differences in the wedding ceremony that you as a woman take into account as a non-believer – with planning and getting ready?

Langseth: When I got married, I was still a closet atheist. So, I went through the motions. If you see in my primary, in my first FB page, I have some wedding pictures there. That’s why I added you. That’s my husband. I went through all the motions because I was closeted then.

15. Jacobsen: And if you were to do it over again in terms of having an irreligious ceremony, how would you do it?

Langseth: I would do it on the beach. In fact, we had our renewal of vows in a cruise ship in 2006. I would do something like that. It was the captain of the ship who renewed our vows. I would do something like that

16. Jacobsen: What are some of the difficulties as atheists and agnostics and secularists and humanists as a community? What are some of the problems of community that we have generally?

Langseth: Generally, they think that us atheists are not good people; we are demons, evil people. We eat children. But to be honest with you, I have not felt that way here in New York City. Maybe, because I am in a different city and my neighbours are all diverse.

My neighbour on the right. She is a non-devout Muslim. She accepted me. I told her, “I don’t believe in God.” She accepted me as a human being. The one in the front, they’re Chinese. Of course, they don’t believe in God, the Chinese.

So in my neighbourhood, I live in an upscale neighbourhood in Queens. You cannot see homeless people running around. We’re not near a train station. Everyone has a job. Maybe, it’s because it’s my neighbourhood is why I did not feel any stigma, but in the Philippines it would be different.

In fact, Jamie told me she has to hide her being irreligious now. Of course, she goes to Church only upon pressure from her husband. But with me, I still go to church. It’s not pressured from my husband.

I go with him because I love my husband and that is one form of showing him how much I love him and how much I respect him. And the pastor is friendly with me.

Jacobsen: That always helps.

Langseth: Yes [Laughing], they’re nice people in the church. This is a Dutch Reform Church in Queens. It’s an older population. They’re nice. In fact, I even told them, “I don’t believe.” They said, “That’s okay. You’re here with us” [Laughing].

17. Jacobsen: What about from the outside, while in the Philippines? For the younger generations, based on self-importance that you’ve been told just in conversations with them – as you’re one of the organizations that have them, what have been their difficulties? What have been their trials and tribulations?

Langseth: I have read in one of the forums that some of them when they put N/A or not applicable, none, or no religion in their application in their job application: they will not get hired. That’s unfair. This is why I made PATAS because I want equality in everything.

If these people put atheist or no religion, they still should be hired based on their credentials, not because of their religion. And it’s so frustrating when I see some job applications they would say religion, “Catholic only.” That’s just so discriminatory.

18. Jacobsen: In some universities, they have covenants or faith pledges.

Langseth: That’s funny. Also, in the Philippines, they look for a certificate of confirmation, or baptism, and for the parents’ certificate of marriage and certificate of how do you call that? Baptism. Would you believe that?

19. Jacobsen: It’s the easiest course to pass. Statistically, the experience of women non-believers will probably be a little different for men non-believers. Is this true and what are some of the differences that you can note?

Langseth: Again, with me, I can’t experience much because I’m in New York City, but, because when you’re a woman in the Philippines; they think if you are irreligious, then you are a woman of ill-repute. That’s how Filipinos think. They equate being religious to having moral values.

I have a nephew in Missouri. I didn’t know that he was like me. But when I spoke to him, I asked him questions. He said, “If there were a God, he is useless. Because I prayed a long time for so many things. They did not come” [Laughing].

He’s a kid. So, what do you expect?  kids like him are open to the fact that instead of praying and asking via going to church. Why not work? So, you get what you want. There’s a lot of irreligious people. My husband is also agnostic because he does not believe in life after death.

20. Jacobsen: So if Christian, a very here-and-now Christian, what are some of the more notable educational and social initiatives that HAPI has done?

Langseth: I have launched something as my retirement project: SHADE. Secular, Humanist, Advocacy, Development, Education, or SHADE, of course, it’s HAPI SHADE. With that, we have two cities that are active.

One is in Cebu. I met them. It’s called HAPI COMPRE in Cebu (Comprehensive Science High school). Would you believe that? I went to their school and presented something to their principal. One of the administrative personnel in their school as well. They accepted me so warmly.

I was like them. This is in the Philippines. This is in Cebu. HAPI COMPRE has 20 students who would help clean up the street. Their recent project was cleaning the street. Afterwards, 20 kids, they clean up the streets and then to show good will to the neighbourhood they would be fed with simple food, nothing fancy.

And then, of course, this is science school, so you expect these children to be intelligent. These people have chosen also during the general assembly. I was not in the general assembly in Cebu. That was in 2016, so that was last years. They said their questions were out of this world and these kids.

They are our future. They are future scientists. So, I was happy to make a special event for them while I was in Cebu. We had lunch. We had unlimited ice cream and chocolate from the USA. Guess what, I took them to my mini library in the 2nd floor.

They read most of the books there, maybe 95 percent. They’re all irreligious books. That was my style. I said, “Who wants to read?” So, they went with me. They went up and the most read book was From Superstition to Reason, from HAPI There were 3 books about me.

One is, of course, our own HAPI book. Number 2 is Godless Grace. I was presented there as one of the contributing authors to Humanist Paths by AHA. I’m a member of AHA. They also got my story, so a lot of these kids. They have read about me.

Now, they realize I am godless. I tell them face-to-face. Their teacher is also a militant atheist and an open atheist. I ask him, “My God, these kids. They’re going to read about you!” He said, “That’s okay. They know all about me.”

So, that was the highlight in Cebu. Then when I was in Bacolod, I cried because they launched a HAPI SHADE event with the school. It’s called Jamie Elementary School. So, there are 2. We are not just in the street; we are in academia.

The first one was in the Lyceum Debate Society of the Philippines. So, we are going to academia, but I would prefer elementary and high schools because these children – I don’t like to say, but they are – malleable.

I hate to use the word brainwash because we were all brainwashed when we were children. But what I’m saying is, we can always direct them or make them realize that there’s an option to religion: it is Humanism.

So, these kids are the HAPI COMPRE. These kids are so bright. When I ask them what Humanism is all about, they know what it is from the word human. Of course, trust in human beings but they are still children, they still say believe in God.

Finally, when I straight face told them, “Humanism, we don’t believe in supernatural beings.” They were not shocked. They were not shocked at all. So, I have an inclination to believe that we are Godless, or mostly Godless, but some are maybe apathetic to religion.

21. Jacobsen: To reflect on the recent, one to two years in the United States, there has been cynical use of political language to demonize non-believers. Do you notice this too?

Langseth: Honestly, I have not felt that. I have not felt being demonized. Although, there was one time only I would say when I was still working. I worked with one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. It’s United Healthcare.

During the meetings, I told them that I was an atheist. I don’t believe in God. They were not as friendly and as welcoming to me. But I didn’t mind it because I’m confident about what I do and I don’t depend on them.

For me, it did not affect me whether they are friendly or not. They didn’t like me because when I told them I don’t believe in God. But who cares? That’s my attitude. In fact, with my patients when I talk to them, they say, “What? I pray for this one.”

I said, “We don’t have to pray. We have to go to surgery. Sorry, I’m straightforward.” I didn’t get any backlash. I never got sued for my atheism. There were no parents, no relatives. No patients have sued me for letting them know this is the best plan, the best option.

Because that’s how I always talked in my practice. I’m objective and don’t take things personally. If they don’t listen to me, that’s fine, but they always take my advice. For example, if a patient needs to go to the hospital or needs surgery, they always follow. They always agree to my medical advice.

22. Jacobsen: What are the demographics of HAPI?

Langseth: It’s mostly concentrated in Manila, Metro Manila. Because some islands, some of them are poor. They would need extra effort. They would need to put food on their table rather than do activism in Humanism.

Lately, we only have one or two active people there. In Cebu, we have many active people. In fact, some of them are not active because they always say, “I’m busy. I’m working.” Metro Manila has a lot.

Also, the distance of the commute is better. So, we have more in Metro Manila. This is why we have HAPI Con in Manila. That is one of the many reasons too. Although, it’s more expensive, but the attendance is more when we do it in Metro Manila than in Cebu or other places.

23. Jacobsen: Were some personal heroes or heroines presenting there for you? People who are giving a message about Humanism or speaking on a topic within a humanistic framework that you admire, or the person has gone through something and have come out stronger and you also admire them for that.

Langseth: My hero is Richard Dawkins. In 2011, I went to a convention because of him in Cambridge, in Massachusetts. In my first FB page, you can see my page. A convention with Richard Dawkins. I have so many pictures.

And that was the reason why PATAS was effective because they saw I was serious in promoting PATAS in the Philippines. I went out of my way to go to this convention. Everything is from my pocket anyway. The seed money from PATAS and HAPI is from my pockets.

Anytime I go and attend conventions, it is from my pockets. I have never utilized any donations from them. In fact, I am the biggest donor when I started PATAS. They cannot move without my donation.

When I started HAPI, they cannot move without my donation. Finally, we got a little bit of wind and windfall, so we were able to have better events. Richard Dawkins inspired me. I would have met Christopher Hitchens, but he died before I met him.

I was going to meet him in Melbourne, Australia. I went there to see him. I was going to see him at the global atheist convention but he died before that convention. I have met Dan Barker. He’s also one of my inspirations. Of course, Paul Kurtz at Columbia University.

Jacobsen: Yes.

Langseth: We were chatting before he died, would you believe that? He said Marissa I’m going to see you and we’re arranging to see each other. He was going to New York City in Colombia for that convention and I said good, I’m going to see you. And the next day he died.

24. Jacobsen: So you were one of the last people to talk to him?

Langseth: Yes, we were chatting a lot. He’s one of my idols. I’ve read a lot of his books about Humanism. I kept a few over here. Of course, I gave some away; I have a lot of these books. About neo-Humanism, this is the reason why I am promoting a lot about educating the kids, the young, because of him.

The true humanist, according to him, has compassion for educating the children. That’s what I got it from him, Paul Kurtz. But Richard Dawkins made me militant. I read The God Delusion.

25. Jacobsen: Was this around the time that you saw, or not long after seeing the towers hit, the books came out a little bit after? Some argue the movement started at that time with Harris and the Dawkins.

Langseth: I don’t remember which came first. I saw 9/11. I was angry. I bought that book, God is Not Great by Hitchens. That book changed me. I met Richard Dawkins in Cambridge on March the 11th.

26. Jacobsen: Do you feel religion is friendly or unfriendly in general towards women and women’s rights?

Langseth: If we take the positive parts, like what my husband said, if we take the positive parts of religion or Bible or whatever it is, it’s a good thing. However, there are too many things that are not right. It creates a lot of confusion, religion.

It has created a lot of confusion with me. When I was small, I would say if we go to Church for money, to ask God for money, what is it? It’s like magic, we think it’s like magic. Religion is poison in so many ways.

There are a lot of families who think that they can do evil things to their children because of religion. One example is my mother. My mother could not accept that my sister is a lesbian. So, she arranged for someone to kill my sister.

And that made me so angry with not only her, but with religion. Because she was too brainwashed. She was told by her priests and friends that it is a sin to be a lesbian. This is the reason why I’m empathetic to LGBT rights.

And I’m straight as can be. Because I don’t want people to think that they’re not human beings. A lot of the religious people in the Philippines dehumanize the LGBTs. You must have heard of a trans being killed and gay people being bashed.

Jacobsen: Of course.

Langseth: Even in New York, I’ve read of that too.

27. Jacobsen: The follow up of that is the denialism of it. It happens. To have a conversation about something, there has to be an acknowledgement of the issue. There are many social mechanisms, sometimes political, to stop the conversation even starting, by stopping any acknowledgment of it: of the killing of trans, of the demonizing of gays, and so on.

Langseth: Because they have not seen it, maybe, and have not felt it. I have felt it. That’s my sister. Even now, there’s still a lot of struggle with reproductive rights, especially in the Philippines. Unfortunately, it’s because they see women as secondary citizens and not equal to them.

28. Jacobsen:  What do you mean by secondary?

Langseth: Secondary citizens meaning there’s no equality. The women are not equal to men. In fact, men have higher salaries in the USA than women. And how, you are just a woman. You stay there, you produce children. You shouldn’t have rights like me. And that is still ongoing, especially in the Philippines. Look at our president.

Jacobsen: Both, the United States and Duterte.

Langseth: Yes, they’re like brothers.

Jacobsen: Two peas in a pod.

Langseth: Yes, two peas in a pod. But Duterte, it’s because of their upbringing. Those men should be higher, it’s like patriarchal society. Men are better than women. They were brainwashed like that. But it’s still a struggle, unfortunately. It is still a struggle.

In fact, the reproductive health bill, it took them 10-15 years to pass that law. Until now, it’s not being implemented. It’s like pulling teeth.

29. Jacobsen: What are your fears for the younger generations of women and girls?

Langseth: My fear would be this culture of rape and women are like playthings and women are treated like sexual objects. I hate that with a passion. When I see ads displaying women, for example, coke ads or cigarette ads. They show women instead, what advertisement is that?

30. Jacobsen: I agree with Noam Chomsky’s analysis of the media. The theory in economics is to have a rational consumer making rational choices with their purchases through the money that they’re using. However, there are funded marketing campaigns and organizations devoted to making irrational consumers making irrational choices.

So, you have these two things coming together, especially with representation and presentation of women’s bodies – taking advantage of what seems like a natural phenomenon of attention to women’s bodies more often than men’s.

As with the ads, the ones that come to mind, or the prominent ones, are car ads. What does this beautiful woman have to do with this car? How does this increase its horsepower or gas efficiency, for instance?

Langseth: [Laughing] There you go. As I’m a feminist, as you can see that, though, why do they use women? Because they know sex sells. The flesh of women sells. This is why they objectify women as just things, not human beings. T

This is my fear. It did not happen to me because I’m this way now. I’m going to be 60 in the next few years. But the next generation, if they do not stand up like real rationalists and real feminists, this will go on forever, especially in the Philippines.

The children are brainwashed like “you’re just a woman, you’re just a girl.” It’s so unfair.

31. Jacobsen: Does this denigration source itself from religion, mainly?

Langseth: That is 100% accurate because in religion the woman is supposed to be humble, should not talk, should not go against the will of the husband, should be submissive, should be subservient. And I’m the exact opposite. So, religion is poison.

That poisoned the whole society in the Philippines. Look at when before religion came to my country, there were pagans; they were worshipping the trees and the sun and the moon, at least they’re not worshipping any God.

They think that it’s nature that is God. That is even better. But when the Spaniards came, it’s all different. They became slaves. They became slaves to religion. So that’s how we got our religion. One hand the sword, the other hand the Bible. So which one will you choose?

32. Jacobsen: There was a good quote from Margaret Atwood, the Canadian author. From the Robber Bride, I pulled it up. May I be indulged to read it?

Langseth: Sure.

Jacobsen: “Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. “

“Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”

This stuff is deeply rooted; it’s hard to extirpate. So, as a women’s rights activist myself, it has to be tackled from many, many angles, having humanist organizations is one. But also working, as you’re doing nobly, with the younger generation, it is also important, and part of that as Paul Kurtz would advocate for it, too.

Langseth: We have to band together. This is why during the HAPI Con we invited Filipino Freethinker or Red Tani. In one of my pictures, there’s a picture I presented our book. He’s also a contributing author to that book.

I specifically, personally gave him one. So, he realizes, he is important to me as an ally to our cause. They are doing great. Education and they have meet ups. A little on the higher echelon, but they don’t have an outreach movement like ours.

Like we go to the outskirts and teach children, they don’t have that. But we are allies. The bigger we are, the stronger, because there is strength in numbers and diversity. We are diversified. That’s why it’s HAPI, its international.

We are not stationed in the Philippines. I am here. We have people in California. We have people in Belgium, in other places of the world, in Germany, so I saw to it that we have diversity. Because a homogenous society sometimes cannot survive like our Filipino culture.

If they’re all Filipinos, they will not know that sense of urgency. Because I was a Filipino before. This is why I have made HAPI International. We have Americans in our group. I am a US citizen already, but I am a Filipino by heart.

We now have other citizens in the group because we can drive them. For example, I need an article for the website. I am retired, but I still run the website. I own the website. I own the domain. I paid for it, for the everything, so I demand two articles a month. That’s all.

But sometimes they still fall short. So, I always light their butts [Laughing]. I need an article! This one is a good one, please do this. That’s the only time they will move. So, Filipinos by heart, they’re like Spaniards. Mañana habit, mañana saying later, I’ll do that later.

I’ll do that tomorrow, next week, next year. And this is why we are successful. And this is the reason why. Because we have different personalities in our group. I want everything done yesterday.

You might not like me, I’m a dictator sometimes, but look what I’ve done. They called me dictator before. They called me Hitler. They called me several names because I want everything done in a timely fashion.

For example, I would say I want this merchandise done, the HAPI T-Shirt next week. After one week, I’ll be on your butt. I’ll be following you up. This is why we are successful. Look at the other groups, they don’t have community. I’m not comparing.

However, you can see the difference in a way. In a short time, HAPI is in the Philippines, we have done a lot. I want to showcase to you what we have done. Not me of course, I’m a facilitator. But we have done a lot more than any society, any irreligious society in the Philippines. In fact, the PATAS Con was the first atheist convention in South East Asia. I paid 80% of that.

Jacobsen: Wow.

Langseth: It’s because I want it done. And they say I’m such a dictator.

33. Jacobsen: And as I know with any organization, there will be many people in the Philippines who would be happy for you to fail.

Langseth: Absolutely! Believe me. That’s why I told you I get bashing from both sides. The theist side is much better bashing than the atheist side believe me. The atheists they put me to shame like who the fuck does she think she is?

Something like that. It’s bad publicity. However, I see that bad publicity is still publicity, right? This is why I’m successful. Now, I need to retire. I wanted to retire since September, 2016. I planned that because I plan everything in my life, including my retirement.

Because I want to pass the torch to the younger generation because I’m getting old. I’m not as healthy as before. I used to run. Now, I cannot run. I’m getting older. A lot of people are praying for my demise while I’m still alive. Until now, they’re still praying for my demise.

Jacobsen: To no effect, apparently.

Langseth: I’m honest, I’m straightforward. I am a bully too.

Jacobsen: That points to a substructure of the interactions you’ve had with the societies you’ve been in with the social privilege of religion.

Langseth: Yes.

Jacobsen: People talk nice about the dominant faiths, but when people talk direct, not aggressively, just direct, then it’s taken as aggressive.

Langseth: That’s me. That’s why they think I’m aggressive. I’m a dictator; I’m a bully. I said, “Yes, I have to be. Otherwise, there would be no PATAS. There would be no HAPI. We would still be the same people praising religion and praising Catholicism.”

This is the reason I’m like this. If I was not tough, there would be no PATAS. There would be no atheistic society in the Philippines. They don’t like it that I had this society, so what? And now I have HAPI, I have two.

However, the first one, again, they lost all their marbles. They even dissolved the website that I put up for them. I gave that to them for free. It was dissolved because there’s no money. There’s no funding. Because they don’t know how to do it, how to raise funds, I am a donor.

I have people who follow me. They like what I do. They give 20 dollars, 50 dollars. It adds up. If you change them to pesos, that’s a big amount. These people don’t know how to do it. That’s why I’ve been teaching them.

I’ve been teaching them fundraising. I am so flabbergasted because nobody has learned. Now, we don’t have funds right now because we all spend it in the HAPI Con, which is fine. So, that means they need to do more fundraising.

They cannot rely on me now because I’m retired. I have retired both ways. I have retired from my job. I have retired from HAPI. But still, I will donate. In fact, when I went home to the Philippines, I donated a lot. I couldn’t count anymore how many donations I have given to HAPI.

34. Jacobsen: If people want to donate to help HAPI, and the humanist, atheist, agnostic, and secularist communities within the Philippines, how can they do so? How should they do so?

Langseth: It’s easy. We have a website. That’s why we have the website. We have PayPal: donate via PayPal in the Philippines. That will go to the Philippines automatically. We have a HAPI bank because most of the Filipinos don’t have PayPal.

They don’t even know what PayPal is. So, they send their donation directly to the bank. We have PayPal for people who are abroad like me, like people in Europe. They go to our website. They read my articles, our articles and donate. We get a little here and there.

We have a few Americans who donate regularly, like 5 dollars, 10 dollars. That’s fine. I met some of them. 99% of them are my friends who donate regularly. Some are overseas Filipino workers. We have a big donor from California.

She saw our article. She’s a closet atheist. She saw our articles on the website and donated. I befriended her. Now, we’re friends. She’s been a great donor. he donated a projector, two projector sets. I gave her a book, our HAPI book. Another one is in Indiana.

I take care of our donors. They don’t know how to take care of our donors. I take good care of them, even if I’m retired. I send them books, our HAPI book, because they want to read it. Because on the dedication page of our book, I mention their names.

That’s how I took care of them because they’ve been with us since last year. That is one way to appreciate them and recognize their huge help to HAPI. I hope that they will continue to donate even if I have retired.

Of course, they are not happy. I have retired, but I have to or I’m going to be dead soon [Laughing]. I had death threats by the way. So, when I went to the Philippines for the HAPI Con, I hired two security guards. I paid them.

35. Jacobsen: That’s a common story. A common narrative of people having their lives threatened for in essence not believing in the mythology. What are you hoping for your legacy?

Langseth: I’m hoping that my legacy will continue. What I’m doing right now, I am working to improve awareness of humanism, making HAPI a better place to join in. Maybe, better than what I have done, having more education, especially science, promotion of science; and in the future if I’m still alive, I want to build a secular school.

There is one guy in Cebu who also wishes that we build a secular school. This is why he’s active with HAPI. He’s looking forward to building a secular school with me. He is promoting my legacy, which is promoting to be good without God and to believe in you and me and humanity.

So, that’s my legacy. Believe in you, to believe in me. We believe in each other, to believe in each other.

36. Jacobsen: What’s the most tragic story you’ve heard of coming from someone who came out as a non-believer?

Langseth: I have experienced at least two people coming to me. They were young kids. They were thrown out. One was thrown out from his household. One disappeared, he reappeared and I asked him, “What happened to you?”

He said he was in rehab for a long time because his parents thought that he was crazy. This guy is in Cebu. He is gay. He used to be pantheist. He became atheist because of that. He was in rehab for a while.

Whenever he had the chance, he would send me an email saying, “Miss M, when I come out, I will be like you.” Something like that. He is still in school. He is promoting the LGBT in Cebu. He promised me he is going to donate the books to the public library because his father is a politician in Cebu.

He has the teeth to do that. So, he promised he’s going to help me. He’s been following me since he was a teenager. Now, he’s like in his 20s. We knew each other when he was in California, but, again, he was told to come home to the Philippines and do rehab because of what was going on.

In fact, I had a debate with his uncle who is a doctor saying that I am brainwashing his nephew not to believe in God.

Jacobsen: It was the opposite.

Langseth: I have another one who wants to commit suicide. He is gone. I told you. I have so many experiences with these young kids coming to me and now taken away because they’re like me. One of them Gaston.

Now, he is forced to play the piano in a church. One time he sent me an email. He said he wanted to commit suicide because he is gay. He told me he is gay. I said, “That’s wonderful. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

He said, “How come my family, they want to kill me because I’m gay?!” He wants to commit suicide. I said, “No, you should not commit suicide, hide your identity and go with the flow for now until you become self-sufficient and get away.”

So, they forced him to go into a school. I forgot which school, some religious school and now he plays the piano for the church. And there’s another one, at 12-years-old, I met him in 2011. His mother was even there when they attended the PATAS convention.

I made a good impression because we are good people. Suddenly, he disappeared. He said his mother did not like that he was going out with people like me. I said, “But I met her. She thought I was nice.”

He said, “Yes, but then again, there was pressure from her mother’s family.” There you go. And that the whole neighbourhood told him that he should not become an atheist. So, he went back to school and he was threatened. He was told if you will not stop that foolishness we will send you to school. So, he has no choice.


  1. Angeles, M. (2012, August 20). World Trade Center ‘cross’ causes religious dispute among Fil-Ams. Retrieved from
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  3. Comelab, M. (2012, May 26). Filipino Atheists Becoming More Active. Retrieved from
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  8. Langseth, M.T. (2013, March 20). Kwentong Kapuso: Registered nurses and the alphabet soup of nursing. Retrieved from
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Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, PATAS; Founder, HAPI.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 1, 2018 at; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2018 at

[3] Post-Master’s degree, Certificate for Adult Nurse Practitioner with prescriptive privileges – College of Mount Saint Vincent, NY, USA; M.S.N., Adult Health, CUNY, NYC, USA; B.S.N., University of San Carlos, Cebu, Philippines.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Marissa Torres Langseth.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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