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 Jong Atmosfera. Jong is the chapter president of Filipino Freethinkers Davao and a writer/editor of the FF website. He works as a regional marketing manager of a manufacturing company. He is also a bug-loving macro photographer.
Too often people focus on the “free” and leave out the “thinker” when they hear the word for the first time and try to speculate on its meaning. But as the English secularist George Holyoake wrote, “Free thought is founded upon reason. It is the exercise of reason, without which free thought is free foolishness.” The free in freethinking therefore only means freedom from dogma imposed by “authority” – but not from the rules of logic and the burden of proof.
2) What belief system do you subscribe to?
I subscribe to many “isms” since they are not necessarily mutually exclusive from one another (e.g., secularism, humanism, agnosticism, atheism, ignosticism, apatheism), but the belief system I can mostly identify myself with is skepticism – modern skepticism, that is, which is a provisional approach to claims using the scientific method; not the all-I-know-is-I-know-nothing skepticism of the ancient Greeks.
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 once told a friend (who happens to be a chemical engineer but at the same time a devout Catholic) that the only difference between us is that while we are both scientifically literate, I employ the scientific method in every applicable aspect of my life while he only uses it at work and leaves a few sacred cows untouchable by scientific scrutiny. His reaction: “Wow, you must be really bright because only smart people tend to apply science that way.”
4) In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?
The FF online forum, which I joined in 2009, helped keep my mind on its toes and on the lookout for logical fallacies. Then when I founded the FF Davao Chapter in December of that same year, the conversations during the drinking sessions became more interesting but at the same time sobering.
5) How would you describe the freethinking culture over in Davao?
Unlike other FF chapters, we don’t go to rallies and mobilizations, but that’s mostly because we live so far from the nation’s capital that such activities won’t make much impact on our government. Our offline activities are therefore limited, at least for now, to our monthly meetups where we aim to spread awareness of freethought and secularism as our membership grows. But I am really proud of our chapter here in Davao because the discussions are lively yet very professional, and we have generous members who buy platters of food and rounds of drinks for everyone during our meetups.
6) Since many in your family are still religious, how do you avoid conflict with them?
I simply avoid discussing religion with my conservative aunts and especially my mom who is a devout Christian (Protestant). Fortunately, they also don’t ask me about my faith. I do, however, take every opportunity to openly praise science for every achievement that helped make our lives better.
7) In what way has macro photography affected the way you think, vis-a-vis freethinking?
Capturing images of bugs with the level of detail no one can see with the naked eye – like the thick mandibles of a soldier ant and the large eyes of a jumping spider – has helped me gain a deeper appreciation of evolution. And seeing predation and even cannibalism at a near-microscopic scale reminds me that not all things are bright and beautiful, and that it is very unlikely that a loving creator made them all.
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