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Apostasy Campaign in Chile

The AECH, Skeptics Association of Chile, started as a group of people who got to know each other through debates on online forums.  They were familiar with the work of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, among others, and were also catalyzed by the appearance of a very well known charlatan on television.

AECH’s work involves publishing articles online, running two radio shows, and also going after possible charlatans or quacks, explaining people why some benefits-for-little-money might be a scam.  They spread science through the internet and their radio shows, which a lot of people still don’t have access to in our country, where statistics about reading skills and reading comprehension are frantically depressing.

AECH’s objectives are to undertake an educational role in the mass media, create debate wherever and whenever it’s needed and raise awareness of all the quackery still going on.

I contacted Luis León Cárdenas Graide, better known as ‘Luchostein’, who is a member of this association.

But before Luis’ interview, what is the apostasy campaign and how does it work?

The apostasy campaign is a (hopefully) massive gathering of people to formally renounce their religion. People participate by attending a meeting in their communities where they are given apostasy letters to fill in.  The letters are handed in by groups to their respective archdiocese, which then has two days time (by law) to go through the papers and delete the apostates from its records permanently.

For more information on the apostasy campaign in Chile see:

Why an apostasy campaign?

“We were evaluating the possibility of forming, but what really made us go for it in the end was the clerical outbreak against public policies such as granting gay marriage to the homosexual community, whose legal status is not officially recognized yet. When the ‘joint life agreement’ was proposed, they opposed it as well. Also, the evangelical organizations organized the ‘family walk’, in which they blamed homosexuals for everything they could come up with from their theology and things imagined, as well as verging on the edge of madness”

I clearly remember evangelical bishops and the like claiming that homosexuals were to blame for a wide range of recent catastrophes and assuring they had a cure for it, enraged by the simple idea of a couple of men or women getting married. They were also telling the president that he should hold religious views above the law, because according to them, their god’s laws are above man-made laws.

“They wrote a public letter addressed to the president, in which they urged the state to enforce their religious agenda imposing their view on all citizens, of course, all in their slippery language filled with moral hegemony. This one was their most vile action of 2011, and its influence is still holding back the development of secular policies of a supposedly non-confessional state in subjects such as euthanasia, reproductive rights, sexual education, equal marriage, and tax exemptions diverting public money from the state to these cults.”

They have indeed messed with all attempts to grant gay marriage a legal status and oppose abortion, even if it is to save the mother’s life, by claiming, among other things, that a morula (an early stage of embryonic development) is a human being with full rights.  The church has politicians on its side holding religious views to stop legal reform.

“Chile is a moral monastery ruled by the Opus Dei, with the church holding the 85% of the population that identifies as Christian (63% Catholic) as a political argument. That’s why we started this campaign, as an act of minimum moral consequence and intellectual honesty; because disagreeing is not enough, when you are part of their numbers by being somehow still affiliated. And now that this year’s census is about to begin, apostasy is a civil action”

A civil duty I might add. Unfortunately I have met many atheists, non-religious people and agnostics whom feel like becoming an apostate is not in their interest, claiming their ideas are clear enough to them so they don’t need to go through the process required. But still, I can’t wait to see the AECH’s numbers once this campaign is over!

PS: thanks to Luis León Cárdenas for taking time to answer.

If interested you can follow him @luchostein_cl or the AECH @a_esceptica on twitter.

Original transcript.

Luis’ answers were long so I had to edit quite a lot to make it short and comprehensible for English speaking people, but if you can handle Spanish, Here is the full transcript.

Esteban: Partamos por cómo surge la idea y quien la organiza.
Luis: La estamos organizando la Asociación Escéptica de Chile (AECH). Desde el 2011 que veníamos evaluando si realizarla o no, pero la decisión
terminó de precipitarse a fines de ese año ante el irrumpimiento clerical contra el avance de las políticas públicas que, en este caso, estaban destinadas a permitir el matrimonio entre homosexuales, a quienes hoy todavía no se les reconoce su vínculo ni para efectos afectivos ni patrimoniales (entre otros). Por el 2010, ante la negativa al matrimonio, primero tuvieron que proponer como alternativa el Acuerdo de Vida en Común (AVC), siendo, esperablemente, rechazado por los sectores más conservadores. Tras múltimples tijereteos y contrapropuestas, hoy están trabajando en el Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja (AVP), pero el matrimonio sigue siendo una meta lejana. En julio de 2011, agrupaciones evangélicas convocaron a la "Marcha por la Familia" [], con vociferaciones rayantes en el delirio supersticioso, imputándole a los homosexuales cuanta barbaridad fueran
capaces de idear a partir de sus particulares teologías, que todo lo pueden demostrar. Sin quedarse atrás y tras múltiples declaraciones desafortunadas por parte de sus obispos y cardenales, en octubre del mismo año, la Iglesia Católica, en concomitancia con otras denominaciones cristianas, emitieron una carta pública "acerca de los Valores Fundamentales sobre la Vida, el Matrimonio y la Familia" [] donde insisten, con su acostumbrado lenguaje resbaloso, en su implícita hegemonía moral y su afán porque el Estado implemente su agenda religiosa particular hacia toda la ciudadanía. Esta ofensiva clerical fue de las más abyectas del 2011, pero su influencia sigue trancando el desarrollo de políticas seculares en un
estado supuestamente aconfesional en temas tales como los derechos reproductivos, la eutanasia, la educación sexual en las escuelas, la libertad de expresión, el matrimonio igualitario y excensiones tributarias que significan un trasvasije significativo de recursos públicos del Estado hacia los cultos.
Chile es un monasterio moral gobernado por el Opus Dei y no es indiferente que la Iglesia esgrima el 85% de cristianismo o su 63% de catolicismo como argumento de peso político. Por eso iniciamos esta campaña, como un acto de mínima consecuencia moral y honestidad intelectual, pues no basta con sólo estar en desacuerdo con su doctrina política si se le sigue apoyando del punto de vista institucional al permanecer afiliado religiosamente a ella. Ad portas del Censo 2012, la apostasía es un acto cívico.

Esteban: Excelente, cuéntame un poco más sobre la AECH respecto a como se forma y quienes la conforman. sobre lo otro como se está organizando, vias de  difusión y que zonas del país están siendo objetivo de esto, o si es en todo  el país. que resultado se espera y un punto de vista personal sobre el ateísmo en chile.

Luis: La mayoría de nuestros miembros ya llevaba un tiempo atento a temas de escepticismo y no era ajeno a las "cruzadas" que llevan, por ejemplo,
Richard Dawkins en Inglaterra y Sam Harris con Christopher Hitchens en Estados Unidos y alrededor del mundo. Viniendo cada uno desde su
nicho, participando en debates en foros por Internet, grupos religiosos y conocidos en general, terminó ocurriendo que, al menos virtualmente, un grupo de cuatro personas terminaron siendo "los conocidos de siempre". A comienzos del 2010 comenzó a aparecer por TV abierta un personaje de apellido-marca Salfate (y nombre Juan Andrés) dedicado a promover todo tipo de teorías de la conspiración y supersticiones en horario prime. Éste fue el evento que terminó por decantar el interés por crear una organización activa dedicada a la promoción del escepticismo, reuniéndose estos fundadores iniciales en abril de ese año, quienes levantaron ya en mayo. La idea era dejar la actitud pasiva, que usualmente se limita meramente a publicar contenido refutatorio, cosa que no dejamos de hacer, sino que vamos a buscar charlatanes y tratamos de interpelarles públicamente, dentro de lo posible. Buscamos un rol educacional que debe tomar en cuenta los medios de difusińo, considerando que no todo el público tiene acceso a Internet y, al menos en nuestro país, los índices de lectura y de comprensión lectora son flagrantemente deprimentes. Así es como nuestro Presidente ha conseguido insertar en los medios radiales un par de programas: Mundos Ocultos y un espacio en La Verdad de la Milanesa. Virtualmente, tenemos nuestras secciones de Charlatanes Nacionales, La Lista de la Vergüenza de las Universidades Chilenas, AECH Escucha, Agenda Chanta, Premiación Charlatanes 2010 (y 2011), etc. En materia cultural, tenemos nuestros Encuentros Escépticos, los cuales grabamos y dejamos libremente a disposición del público por Internet, con charlas y exposiciones de quien tenga algo a exponer de interés para el escepticismo científico, prefiriendo científicos cada vez que podamos conseguirlos. Como activismo, también enviamos cartas a las autoridades pertinentes cuando algún hecho de alcance público lo amerita, como ha sido el caso del uso de videntes para buscar a desaparecidos en accidentes aéreos, el uso de terapias alternativas en el sistema público de salud, campañas anti-vacunación o auspicio universitario a materias pseudocientíficas. Sin dejar de lado el humor, también realizamos nuestras Predicciones Escépticas anuales y coleccionamos públicamente comentarios "amorosos" en nuestra sección Troll, El Legado. Habiéndolo querido y sin saber cómo lograrlo, hoy los medios de comunicación puedan disponer de un centro donde ir a buscar a quien se atreva a refutar públicamente afirmaciones carentes de evidencia, ocupando así un nicho antes vacío en nuestra sociedad. Es un trabajo arduo para nuestro limitadísimo recurso humano disponible, pues participamos voluntariamente, en nuestros ratos libres, personas de múltiples nichos del conocimiento.
Felizmente, en dos meses cumpliremos nuestro segundo aniversario.
Sobre la Apostasía Colectiva, hemos intentado comunicados de prensa en los medios nacionales, con poca llegada, y publicidad en línea. La difusión básica la hemos hecho por Twitter y Facebook. El evento fue referido en un par de medios masivos cuando lanzamos la campaña hace un par de meses y, ya a una semana en víspera, estamos gestionando otra nota previa en un diario electrónico y cobertura en otros dos medios masivos, radial y televisivo. Ya veremos cómo resulta. Es probable que el día mismo del evento (1ero de abril) aparezca alguien más.
Apuntamos un alcance nacional, pero no contamos con activistas comprometidos en todo el país; sin embargo, ya tenemos coordinadores voluntarios en tres regiones importantes del país: Región Metropolitana (centro), Rancagua (centro-sur) y Concepción (sur). Todavía estamos por ver si conseguimos más actividad en el Norte. Los números virtuales siempre se inflan fácilmente, por lo que esperamos alrededor de un par de docenas en el centro, una docena en centro-sury media en el sur. Si llegara más gente, nos daríamos por superados en nuestras expectativas.
En Chile el ateísmo está creciendo. En el Censo de hace 10 años, el aconfesionalismo rondaba el 10%. Según una encuesta nacional publicada a fines del 2011 (Adimark), ya estaría rondando el 15%, cosa que habrá que ratificar durante este Censo 2012, por lo que esta campaña cobra relevancia, pues es importante que los ateos no-reconocidos vean que es posible y legítimo tanto ser como expresarse ateo públicamente (en la misma encuesta se evidencia que la amplia mayoría no ve negativamente a los ateos). Podría considerarse el comienzo de nuestra Out Campaign chilena más allá de lo meramente virtual. Otro tema aparte será cuánto de ese ateísmo sea o no cercano al escepticismo, pues el ser ateo no va necesariamente de la mano con el pensamiento crítico. Así, bien podemos encontrarnos con ateos supersticiosos creyentes en duendes, el horóscopo o la homeopatía y no veo cuánto se avanzaría con respecto a cesar la creencia religiosa en otro tipo de amigos imaginarios. De hecho, el ateísmo, si bien suele ser afín al
escepticismo, no es una consecuencia necesaria de este último.  Consideramos que lo importante es el desarrollo del pensamiento crítico, la razón, la ciencia y su soporte empírico; siendo el ateísmo uno de los desenlaces (usualmente) posibles, mientras que el ateísmo no necesariamente lleva al pensamiento crítico.
Por otra parte, ya que abordas la visión personal, encuentro todavía más relevante, aunque se requiere de lo anterior, el desarrollo social de un humanismo secular naturalista y el desarrollo de una sociedad fraterna, co-responsable, sustentable y comunitaria. La humanidad siempre está ad portas del fascismo en sus múltiples expresiones sociales y económicas, el cual no es un patrimonio exclusivo de las religiones (aunque lo fomenten piadosamente) y tampoco es excluyente con el ateísmo.