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 Jon-Jon Rufino. Jon-Jon works in real estate development and live-aboard scuba diving. He is a proud single dad of twins, and has been participating in Filipino Freethinker activities since the Gay Pride March of 2010. He is on an unfortunate hiatus from his past lives as a triathlete and yoga instructor.
Freethinkers are always willing to ask what if, and compare the assumptions made to the evidence that surrounds them. Religious people can be freethinkers when they hold in their minds the possibility that they are wrong about their beliefs and that someone else is closer to the truth. Freethinkers change their mind and alter their assumptions when there is strong evidence against their current beliefs. Freethinkers are always asking questions, and they pay particular attention to inconsistencies.
2. What belief system do you subscribe to?
I’d like to say I’m an empirical agnostic ethical humanist, but since a couple of friends and I recently created a Pastafarian baptism ceremony, I must pledge allegiance to the Noodly One. I’ll respect your sky god, if you respect my carbonara, okay? Or if not, that’s cool too, but then all criticism is fair.
In the above mentioned ceremony, we hold that by anointing my children with sacred truffle oil, the Flying Spaghetti Monster creates an impervious shield around the souls of my children that prevents anyone else from attaching indelible marks or erratic or guilt laden theologies. These kids will have to form their own theory of everything . We also had the guide parents read a passage from any source to my kids and allow them to make unique bonds. And the ceremony was conducted by Gandalf and a witch, Manila’s most famous pirate witch.
But to clarify, I don’t know if anything happens after we die, and that’s okay. We have a great opportunity now with this one life.
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 don’t go around telling people I’m a freethinker. It is a description of a system of thought, not an end or belief system in itself. I am happy to talk about what I believe when asked, but it rather rarely comes up these days, as there is the dangerous assumption here in the Philippines that we are all Catholics. Still, coming out of the closet as a gay man is in many ways easier than leaving the religion you are born into, but I’d argue just as necessary, especially when that religion treats people like you so badly. If I followed the dictates of my religion, I’d either be a priest or a numerary (traditional shelter for people not interested in heterosexual sex) or by now, I’d be estranged from some woman I was forced to marry. And I certainly wouldn’t have these wonderful kids that were created through a technology my former religion bans. I might have kids that hate me because their mother would have convinced them that I abandoned her. Or not.
But to answer your specific question, I’m usually warned about going to hell, or told that is the danger of thinking too much. To be fair though, the church creates no euphemisms when it refers to its faithful as the flock, and its leaders as shepherds. Do shepherds tend to their sheep out of pure love, or because they make their living out of it? And what eventually happens to lambs and sheep? Are they allowed to graze in the pastures until old age like story book retired racing horses when their wool is no longer of good quality or they can no longer reproduce? I think not.
4. In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?
The foremost benefit when you questions society’s norms is that you can chart your own path in life. Why can’t I create and raise two kids on my own? I have resources, which I must clarify includes the invaluable support of my immediate and larger family, to do so in a non-traditional way.
It’s also allowed me to question society’s pressures to find a partner. I would love to be doing all this with someone special, and indeed I tried for the better part of three years recently. But I am very comfortable knowing that doing it all while single will not diminish my joy in the family, though finding the right partner might magnify it.
I’m also eager to address the normal inconsistencies and double standards that crop up between one’s own life and what we expect from our children, especially with sex. The bi-monthly meet ups of the Filipino Freethinkers have forced this with their inclusion of one raunchy topic per session.
And lastly, it has been fantastic becoming part of a community of people (not at all like-minded, as we embrace all sorts of political, social and religious ideologies) who are unafraid to seek new answers to the old questions of life, many of whom are happy to sacrifice their time defending the rights of minorities when they see them oppressed by organized religion. The Filipino Freethinkers have about the proportion of gay members as the general population, but they show up with as much enthusiasm and as many numbers for LGBT events as they do for women’s equality and reproductive health issues.
And as friends, when these people are invited to climb a mountain, or dive into the middle of the sea, instead of asking why, they ask why not and then get their feet muddy or wet.
5. How do people react here when they find out you are a father?
Honestly, it blows their minds that I found women, an egg donor and several surrogates until we were successful, to help me create this family. Some of them have seen it on TV, others did not know that these things were possible. I’ve never encountered condemnation, which would be hard when you meet my twins. I do sometimes encounter some envy/guilt from other people, especially from women my age who seem to feel that if someone like me can have kids, it reflects very badly on them that they have not, and I try my best to point out that parenthood is but one of the many valid life paths one can take. Many people in this world are happy without children, and that’s a good thing.
6. What is your parenting style?
One of the promises that I made to my children during their Pastafarian Baptism A.K.A. Naming Ceremony is that I will do my best to explain the reasons behind everything I tell them to do. If they can come up with an alternative plan that is at least equally effective to my request, then we can go with their suggestion. I will not destroy their natural tendency to ask why; instead, I will answer it as best as I can, and when I can’t I will seek the answer of why with them.
7. Will you use only gender neutral terms for your children?
No. I have a boy and a girl and our language has pronouns for that. But if I find that my biological girl feels that she is really a boy trapped in a girl’s body, I’ll do my best to conform to his needs.
8. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen underwater?
This summer, there have been tiger shark, hammerhead, and guitarfish encounters, and in the past I’ve swam with whale sharks, a sail fish, pilot whales, and a sun fish. But nothing compares to sprinting in the bow of a slow moving boat with dolphins to my left and my right, part of the pod for several minutes until my legs and lungs gave out from pure exhaustion.