“The Filipino Freethinkers is an organization that only talks about religion during their meetups.” This is probably the biggest misconception of friends who hesitate to accept my invitation to join our bi-monthly afternoon gatherings.
Consider the topics of our last meetup. They ranged from President Aquino’s 2 million peso bounty for the New-Year-reveler that shot into the air, killing a six year-old, to answering the following question: How many dates would you advise your children to go on before they have sex with their partner? The survey of 30 or so people in the room yielded answers from 0 to 365, with most people answering 1, 3, or 7. As a new parent myself, I said 10, but after the discussion was willing to revise down to 5.
We also had a speaker talk about internet security and cybercrime, part of our RSS (Reason Science Secularism) Talks, which have become part of every meetup.
It is true that many participants are agnostics or atheists, but there are also progressive Catholics, Episcopalians, Christians of other churches, Buddhists, Muslims (well, one Muslim I’ve counted so far), as well as Jews (I’ve met two on two separate occasions), pagans, and people who just believe in a higher power.
Religion is sometimes brought into the conversation, but not always, and it was not discussed at all in the last meet up. Newcomers who introduce themselves are asked to talk about what they believe in, as well as how they arrived at their current belief. But they are never attacked or criticized for it. The purpose of the meet up is just to talk, listen, and learn.
Advocacy and activism
The Freethinkers however, do have more politically-oriented activities. They fought hard for the RH Law, and they stand up whenever the opportunity rises for LGBT rights. But such activities are specifically planned actions that are completely separate from the meetups. There is also a lot of discussion that is encouraged on their website, and in their open Facebook page, which of course, feature intelligent as well as banal opinions from a range of people, many of whom we have never met.
But neither the protests nor the online writing are required of the people who show up to our twice-a-month gatherings. Participants aren’t even required to talk at all. We simply ask that people who do share their opinions on our topics do so in a clear manner.
The meetups are most interesting when we have intelligent participants of differing opinions, because those with open minds may have their perspectives changed.
Naturally, religion does enter the discussion from time to time. The next meet up, for example, is supposed to include Carlos Celdran’s case. There’s nothing wrong with someone arguing that Carlos deserves to spend some time in jail for breaking the law.
Undoubtedly, someone else would argue that it’s an unjust law, and here is where they may be a debate on the benefits of this law for protecting the range of Filipino citizens, of keeping the peace.
Or we’ll discuss how this law needs to be implemented more often, for example, with church leaders who offend the religious feeling of the laity by failing to act according to the words of the Good Book. Actually, it’s silly for me to speculate what the discussion will be like because it will take a life of its own depending on who is there and how they interact with each other.
Might you be interested in bringing that discussion to life? If so, join us on Sunday at 2:30 at The Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, McKinley Road, Makati, just across from the San Antonio Shopping Arcade.