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 Andy Uyboco, a 39-year-old businessman and blogger (zenbananas.com) in Davao City. He became part of the Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter in 2011.
How would you define a freethinker?
A freethinker is one who is unafraid of asking questions and is quite comfortable with having a contrary opinion. He does not take others’ statements at face value unless they sound plausible or reasonable. But he is also grounded in science and reality. When actual experimentation or observation proves a statement wrong — no matter how “reasonable” it may seem — he abandons (or modifies) the idea in favor of the evidence. Where evidence is lacking, however, then reasoning and logic must be used on whatever evidence is available. One thing a freethinker never does is appeal to authority, tradition, or any holy book to support his statements.
What belief system do you subscribe to?
I am a pantheist on Mondays, an agnostic on Tuesdays, a deist on Wednesdays, an atheist on Thursdays, a zen master on Fridays, and I like to take the weekends off. I do not really know what to believe about god since he (or she) has not spoken or appeared to me, at least in a way that makes me absolutely certain that it’s not my own mind playing tricks on me. And when other people tell me about god, it is always based on this or that holy book and you can see what I think about that in the paragraph above.
This is not to say that I absolutely deny the existence of any god as there are some versions of god that I find sensible enough — such as the deist view advanced by Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason or a pantheistic perspective as laid out in the Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch. However, I have come to a point in my life where these belief systems do not guide my life. They are interesting for me to think about and discuss with others, but what rules in the end is reason and common sense. If there were a creator, then it created me as a thinking being, a rational being, and it would be a great disservice if I were to throw these away and mindlessly swallow any belief system out there.
What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?
Well, someone once asked me what made me leave my former belief (Evangelical Christianity), and so I elaborated my reasons for doing so. His response was something like “Well, you know, science changes everyday but the Bible never changes,” and that just made me scratch my head.
In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?
When I started questioning, it was quite a lonely journey as almost everyone in my close circles believed as I did. The freethinking community gave me assurance that I wasn’t the only crazy one out there. At the same time, I was glad to see people with different belief systems in the community, which proved this wasn’t just another cult or religion with a charismatic leader out to convert me to his way of thinking. I was happy to be in a place where people can have different beliefs but are able to have sane and rational discussions about them.
Word has it you almost became a pastor. How did that part of your life come about?
When I was a believer, I was not your run-of-the-mill lukewarm types. I was an officer several times over in church fellowships. I was always in the choir and in special singing groups. I read Christian books extensively as I was always concerned with my “spiritual growth.” When I was in college, I attended a Youth Camp and made a decision there to “dedicate my life to the Lord in full-time ministry” which meant that you would eventually be a pastor or missionary or something to that effect. And the next several years of my life were lived in that perspective. What happened to change that is a journey of several years that would be too long to recount here. For now, let me just say that the good Lord probably had other plans for me.
As a parent, how do you incorporate freethought into your parenting style?
When I teach my kids, I tell them why they should behave a certain way. For example, “You shouldn’t hit others because they’ll get hurt. You don’t want others to hurt you, do you?” I do not say “God will become angry” or “That’s a sin.” So I try to explain in a reasonable manner why they should do certain things and why they should avoid others.
What is interesting though is that my three kids study in a Christian school and go to Sunday School, except for my eldest. But when they don’t feel like going, I don’t force them to go (well, sometimes I do it as a punishment, especially for the eldest). But generally I let them go when they want to but have no qualms about taking them to the beach on Sunday morning if we feel like it.
If you are going to critique the belief system you subscribed to, what would you say?
One of my biggest issues with Christianity is that it is based on a book which claims to be inspired or god-breathed. Yet it is filled with so many inconsistencies, errors and contradictions that the layman cannot hope to resolve on his own. He has to read explanations from apologists and theologians, he has to read the original Greek or Hebrew text, he has to understand the historical context, and so on.
If you had good news and you wanted to share it to as wide an audience as possible, you would make it availabe to the “lowest common denominator” so to speak. In other words, it should be so simple and so accessible that even a moderately educated individual can understand it. As it is presented, however, this is the all-important message of salvation — this affects your life for ALL ETERNITY — and the best that this omniscient creator can come up with is a book which requires a lot of mind-bending, logic-twisting explanations from scholars, Ph.D.’s and whatnots (who don’t even agree with each other)?
To be fair though, I have many Christian friends and family and I still do, and I love them with all my heart. My quarrel was never with the people around me but with the doctrine itself. If there is one thing I still adhere to in Christian teaching, it is to “love one another.” That, for me, is the most sensible way to live and be happy.