Meet a Freethinker: Marguerite de Leon

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our brand-new series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our first freethinker is Marguerite de Leon, a 27-year-old social media executive. She was baptized Catholic, and became part of the Filipino Freethinkers in 2010.  

1)     How would you define a freethinker?

A freethinker is someone who chooses not to tolerate bullshit. They don’t immediately believe in something because someone from a position of authority told them to; or because that’s what most people have always believed in for so long; or because there’s some man-made rule that tells you to. They adhere to empirical evidence; they only believe in something if there is actual, tangible, measurable proof that such a belief makes sense. If there is no such proof, then they will continue questioning this belief and searching for the truth.

2) What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am an atheist. This means that I do not believe in the existence of a god or gods. So in terms of religious beliefs, I have none. The closest thing I do have to a belief system is secular humanism, which basically means being a good human being, no religious strings attached.

3)     What was it like when you first seriously questioned the dogma you were told to believe?

The defining moment was when I outright asked my mom and grandmother if I could skip Sunday masses and pray at home instead. I even offered to do the chores, or whatever other good deed they felt like assigning me. I found masses excruciatingly tedious and pointless (those scary rebultos didn’t help, either), and thought it sensible that I do something beneficial to others on Sundays instead of just sitting in a church staring at the clock. I also figured that praying to god directly was more sincere than sitting around reciting words lifelessly.

But no dice. Both my mom and grandmother got incredibly upset with me, and the afternoon ended in tears. They said I was being disrespectful. But no matter how hard they chastised me, however, I still knew I made sense. What I’ve been told to do and to believe just didn’t add up. Soon enough, religion started to look more and more inane and insincere, and I eventually wanted no part of it.

4)     What’s the biggest misconception people have about you as a freethinker?

That I’m holding on to the excuse that I can think however I want, no matter how inane or removed from reality it may be, like some post-modern, “anything-goes-let’s-all-believe-in-magic” kind of thing. That’s definitely not what freethought is. True freethinking has very strict criteria. My beliefs need to be backed up by reason and evidence, and should not be beholden to authority, tradition, or dogma.

5)     What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?

“So that means you’re smart, right?”

Yes and no.

I’d consider freethinkers smart in that they try their very best to think well—that is, logically and rationally. Having said that, it’s not like I have a PhD, have a bazillion awards under my belt, or refuse to watch films in color or English. For the record, I love trash TV like The Voice, and would much rather read a fashion magazine than a Borges short story. It’s just that when I’m faced with situations like the CBCP telling me to fear the Pill, I don’t blindly follow them. I get my facts straight first and make my own decisions based on what I’ve learned. You don’t need to be cum laude to figure that out.

6)     In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?

I finally found something I truly believed in and wanted to fight for 100%. I’d been pretty apathetic before then, mainly because I could never fully relate to any of the causes and concerns being trumpeted around me. Most charities and groups I’d encountered had an underlying religious bent to it—you’re doing all these good things for god, or because we are all god’s children, etc. I would feel like a poser or a hypocrite joining such groups.

The Filipino Freethinkers, on the other hand, was a group against bullshit, against people being sheep, against shitty excuses to be horrible people. It was right up my alley. I’d never felt more purposeful, more excited to do things for others.

7)     Would you date someone who was a fervent follower of your old religion?

Let’s just put it this way: If he WERE a truly fervent, by-the-book follower of Catholicism, then he would not have sex with me until we were married; he would prohibit me from using artificial contraceptives; he would have our kids baptized and sent to gender-exclusive Catholic private schools; he would force me to go to mass every Sunday; he would remind me to be miserable and penitent on Good Friday because god just died; he would keep me from meeting up with my LGBT friends; he would donate part of our hard-earned money to the church; he would delete most of my videos and music and throw away most of my books; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So, no. Unless, of course, he looked like either Frank Mir, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hardy, or Ryan Gosling. Then all bets are off.