A Freethinker is a person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established Belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and rationalists.
No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation is invalid and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.
Freethinkers are naturalistic. Truth is the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality. Reality is limited to that which is directly perceivable through our natural senses or indirectly ascertained through the proper use of reason.
The scientific method is the only trustworthy means of obtaining knowledge. For a statement to be considered true it must be testable (what repeatable experiments or methods confirm it?), falsifiable (what, in theory, would disconfirm it, and have all attempts to disprove it failed?), parsimonious (is it the simplest explanation, requiring the fewest assumptions?), and logical (is it free of contradictions or non sequiturs?).
Arguments based on faith, authority or ad hominem character attacks are unacceptable.
Freethinkers accept human life as the primary basis for morality. That which enhances humanity is "good"—that which threatens it is "evil." There are no cosmic absolutes. Given our existence in the universe, life must be the basis for values. Hence, most freethinkers are humanists. This usually embraces a respect for the welfare of our entire planet, including the other animals.
An ethical choice is rarely a simple "right and wrong" decision. Most moral questions involve a conflict of values, requiring a careful use of reason. Obedient conformity to the dictates of another mind is supremely immoral and very dangerous.
Freethinkers know that meaning must originate in a mind. Since the universe is mindless and the cosmos does not care, you must care, if you wish to have purpose. Individuals are free to choose, within the limits of humanistic morality.
Some freethinkers have found meaning in compassion for needless suffering, social progress, the beauty of humanity (art, music, literature), personal happiness, pleasure, joy and love, and the advancement of knowledge.
The complexity of life requires an explanation. Darwin's theory of evolution, with cumulative nonrandom natural selection "designing" for billions of years, has provided the explanation. A Divine Designer is no answer because the complexity of such a creature would be subject to the same scrutiny itself.
Freethinkers recognize that there is much chaos, ugliness and pain in the universe for which any explanation of origins must also account.
Freethinkers are convinced that religious claims are false—they have not withstood the tests of evidence and reason. Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition.
Most freethinkers consider religion to be not only untrue, but harmful. It has been used to justify war, slavery, sexism, racism, mutilations, intolerance, and oppression of minorities.
Some religionists are good people but they would be good anyway. Religion cannot take credit for actions which are just as easily accomplished by freethinkers.
In fact, most modern social and moral progress has been made by people free from religion—including Clara Barton, Margaret Sanger, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, H. L. Mencken, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Robert Burns, Percy Shelley, Johannes Brahms and many others whom we honor today for their contributions to humanity.
Most religions have consistently resisted progress—including the abolition of slavery; women's right to vote and to choose contraception and abortion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the use of lightning rods; and the American principle of state/church separation.
No, freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position.
Freethought today embraces adherents of virtually all political persuasions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives. There is no connection, for example, between atheism and communism. Some freethinkers, such as Adam Smith and Ayn Rand, were staunch capitalists; and there have been communistic groups which were deeply religious, such as the early Christian church.
Atheism is not a belief. It is the "lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion.
Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a supernatural realm, deity, faith in "holy" writings and conformity to an absolute creed.
Secular humanism has no god, bible or savior. It is based on natural rational principles. It is flexible and relativistic—it is not a religion.
Yes. That is the only way we will have progress. A multiplicity of individuals thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes chokes progress.
Freethought is reasonable. Freethought allows you to do your own thinking. Freethinkers see no pride in the blind maintenance of ancient superstitions or self-effacing prostration before divine tyrants known only through primitive "revelations." Freethought is respectable. Freethought is truly free
This piece was printed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation as a brochure introducing freethought.
See also The Affirmations of Humanism
There is a large brass plaque prominently displayed on the main
street of Comfort Texas which reads as follows:
THE FOUNDING FREETHINKERS
From 1845 to 1861 large numbers of German Freethinkers emigrated to the Texas Hill Country. Freethinkers were predominantly German intellectuals who advocated reason and democracy over religious and political autocracy. Many had been active in the 1848 German Revolution and sought freedom in America. The Freethinkers established numerous Central Texas colonies including Bettina, Castell, Cypress, Creek, Luckenbach, Sisterdale, and Tusculum (Boerne). Settlements which conducted intellectual forums in Latin became known as “Latin Colonies.” Within a few years of the founding of Comfort in 1854, half the Hill Country Freethinker population was living in the area.
Freethinkers valued their new found freedoms of speech, assembly and separation of religion and government. Instead of religious dogma, Freethinkers believed in individual philosophy. They advocated equal rights for all persons, and their moral values were dominated by respect for life and nature. Many were active in political issues of the day including the rejection of secession and abolition of slavery. Intellectual pursuits were shared with agriculture and other crafts of physical labor. Secular education and organizations (Vereins) provided social and cultural fulfillment. Existence was peaceful and their influence rapidly expanded.
Loyalty to the Union during the Civil war had cost many their freedoms and lives. Some Freethinkers relocated to nearby urban areas or other states, and a few returned to Europe. Arrival of the railroad in Comfort in 1887 and other outside factors largely influenced the construction of the first church in 1892. Freethinker origins continued to influence the spirit of the community and surrounding areas. (2002)
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