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 Ron de Vera. Ron says he is a whole lot of “-ists”; LGBT Rights Activist, Journalist, Linguist, Artist, Photographist, Teachist, Writist and Sportsist. He writes for the Filipino Freethinkers website, Digital Journal, and Outrage Magazine. Ron dreams of winning a Palanca award someday even though he has never submitted, and has no plans of submitting an entry, ever.
A person who is not a freethinker eats a cupcake just because the server says it’s tasty. But a freethinker goes to the kitchen to ask the crew what they did to make the cupcake tasty, and perhaps to get a copy of the recipe.
2) What belief system do you subscribe to?
I’m an agnostic theist. I have a spiritual self. I believe there may be one or many superior (not supreme) beings out there who definitely do not match the gods described in many holy books. But my freethinker self always trumps my spiritual self. Thus, I require hard evidence to prove the existence of these superior beings that I refer to. Although I believe there may be superior beings (or gods, if you may) out there in different dimensions of the multiverses, I am not aware of any reliable, satisfactory proof of their existence so I question my own belief. Yeah, my “selves” engage in logical debates with each other. I’m schizophrenic that way.
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?
I remember this conversation I had with a classmate back in college. I had to reconstruct this based on memory. These are not the exact words:
Ron: I’m a freethinker.
Classmate: So you’re an atheist?
Ron: Not necessarilly. Some freethinkers subscribe to a religion.
Classmate: Then what are you?
Ron: I’m an agnostic.
Classmate: But isn’t that just a phase? Aren’t you eventually going to become either a Christian or an atheist? Just like how bisexuals eventually go back to being straight or turn fully gay?
4) In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?
I’m a highly extroverted person so I love meeting people to expand my network, especially those who have similar interests. But in addition to making friends, being part of Filipino Freethinkers keeps me on my rational toes. It has been crucial in keeping my reasoning skills sharp because it’s one of the few circles I move in where logic is valued. Also, as an LGBT rights activist, I’ve found that it’s easier to make allies out of freethinkers.
5) Which did you find more challenging: coming out freethinker-wise, or coming out gender-wise?
I guess it depends on how you define “challenging.” If I base it on the emotional turmoil I had to go through with my family and friends, then it would definitely be coming out gay. It takes a lot for me to cry but that episode of my life actually got a few buckets of tears out of me. On the other hand, the decision to become a freethinker had zero impact on my family. To a certain extent, I’ve always been a freethinker ever since I learned how to argue – and trust me, that was at a very young age. There wasn’t a specific moment where I declared to my family that I no longer recognized my certificate of baptism. It just sort of happened magically -er- naturally.
But if we were to define challenging by the amount of effort in explaining what being gay or being a freethinker is, I would say it’s been easier to come out gay. So far, the people I’ve come out to found it relatively easy to understand what being gay meant. In contrast, not a lot of people truly understand agnosticism and atheism, let alone freethinking. Here’s a confession; I sometimes still stay in the freethinking closet when I feel it’s not worth the time and effort to explain myself. How arrogant is that?
6) You are an advocate for LGBT rights. What is the greatest obstacle you’ve faced so far during your efforts?
I would have to answer this wearing my educator hat. I’ve found that much of what we teach about LGBT rights remain at the knowledge level because of our culture. I’ve seen people use negative gender stereotypes right after a learning session on why we should not use gender stereotypes. As a result, I’ve had to double my efforts in making sure that participants (and even fellow LGBT activists) don’t just think of stereotypes as fancy images on powerpoint slides but that they should also change the way they treat others when they leave the classroom. Of course, it doesn’t help that most of these negative stereotypes were created and are being perpetuated by the church (gaerdemmit!).
7) Any particular lifestyle changes you’ve made since adopting freethought?
I can’t think of a specific point in my life where I made lifestyle changes because I had liberated myself from dogma and had adopted freethought. I think I’ve always been a freethinker but one who was forced to comply with certain religious practices. I went to a Catholic elementary school and that environment reinforced those practices. But the high school and university I went to were both secular and my family was never strict about rituals. The presence of these conditions served as a catalyst. I would say that the lifestyle changes happened over a number of years so it would be difficult to point them out one by one. I do love the fact that I call the shots on what I do with my Sundays. Oh, and one minor little thing. I’ve stopped ‘repenting’ ever since I realized there is no scientific evidence to prove that gays burn in hell.