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 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 next freethinker is Kenneth Keng–entrepreneur, theater actor, and FF’s RH Advocacy Director. He is an Episcopalian, and became part of the Filipino Freethinkers in 2010.
1) How would you define a freethinker?
A freethinker is someone who does his or her level best to form their personal opinions and beliefs based on reason, through critical thinking and logic, with the best evidence available. They would hold no belief or idea as being right simply because someone authoritative said so, or because it’s been held by people for x number of years.
2) What belief system do you subscribe to?
Episcopalian, currently worshipping at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Makati.
3) What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?
They wrapped their hands around imaginary penises, began bobbing their heads up and down, and made sucking noises.
4) In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?
Perspective. I had always felt that one’s religious backgrond or lack thereof shouldn’t matter as much as simply trying to do the right thing as best as one can, but being part of the Filipino Freethinkers has concretized it for me. It can be easy when one is nominally religious to not have to think too hard about the ethics of one’s actions, and that can lead to a lot of regular church goers acting really shitty towards people. Conversely I’ve seen many in FF who don’t ascribe to religious faith constantly think and process their actions and behaviour through moral philosophy and honest discourse, and turn out to be kinder people for it.
5) How do you reconcile the seemingly exclusivistic Christian doctrine (salvation through Christ alone) with being a freethinker?
I admit to reconciling it on a more experiential or emotional as opposed to intellectual level. I count myself fortunate that the church that I grew up in has been a loving, open, and accepting community. While as imperfect as most anything organized by people can be, it incorporates through its vestry council system a degree of democratic self correction by the laity. Congregation members have a real voice in shaping day to day doctrine alongside our ordained priests and bishops, and this has made it supportive of many of the same advocacies that FF works with, including women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights (with the undeniable and reprehensible exception of certain branches in Africa and parts of the US). It doesn’t take the Bible literally so has no problem with evolution. It has a tradition of not forcing its doctrine onto anyone who isn’t interested in it, and I later found has a number of thinkers I admire, such as Bishop Shelby Spong.
In the case of Holy Trinity, its members and its presiding clergy are fully aware of my activities in FF and rather than censure, they have given me only encouragement. They’ve even granted FF free use of its facilities as a meetup venue on several occasions now, with our presiding rector fully aware of its many atheist and agnostic members. This support in turn has been invaluable to me through a lot of difficult times in my life when it seemed like most of the world thought me some incarnation of the devil. Going there Sunday mornings feels a lot like an FF meetup in that way.
6) As FF’s RH Advocacy Director, what would you consider your most memorable moment fighting for the RH Bill’s passage?
Winning was pretty memorable. I used to think the escalating actions of the anti-RH camp would be the most affecting going forward in life (progressively getting screamed at, threatened with litigation, and then hit), but none of it really compared to being there in the congressional gallery next to the guy who wrote its first draft, amidst the women who’d been taking to the streets for more than a decade, with the few politicians who really stood for it even when it wasn’t popular, when the vote finally came through. Tear-streaked faces and embraces and relief and release and vindication and humanity triumphant.
Wish I could say the other side stayed classy afterwards but the hands thrust outside the windows of the van of the BUHAY party list giving us the fuck you finger on the way out kind of means I can’t.