Question to self-identified ‘Freethinkers’: What is a Freethinker? What distinguishes Freethinkers from others?
Hey John B.
As a Christian, I didn’t really feel truly free (internally, anyway) to question God. Even just considering the possibility that Jesus wasn’t who he said he was felt like blasphemy. While I don’t self-identify as a freethinker, I can identify with the feeling that your mind is held captive by a religious belief.
I’d like to know, too. I know a few people who call themselves Free Thinkers and are part of various online groups and forums. At first, I thought this was a good thing – it sounded like a place where one could go for interesting debates and intellectual conversations. I quickly discovered that, in their forums, etc., their converstations were the exact opposite of free. It was more about back patting each other over how much smarter they were for not believing in sky fairies, attacking anyone who questioned their chosen ideologies (anthropogenic global warming was the big one at the time) and worshiping themselves.
What really struck me was how scripted their conversations were. I kept hearing the same phrases and arguments over and over. It was a couple of years before I found the source of their script – a two part tv show by Richard Dawkins. Interestingly, some of the people I hear quoting him don’t actually like him and had no idea he was the source of their phrases. To add irony on top of that, they were also home schoolers who decried rote memorization.
A long way of saying, I second your question!
The impetus for this question is that I hear Atheists call themselves free thinkers… a lot. They seem to imply that if one were truly a ‘free thinker’ they wouldn’t be believing in some imaginary God. Kind of the implication by 500 Q’s.
I get what he is saying, but it’s hard to empathize. While I don’t doubt there are a lot of churches out there who would discourage difficult questioning, the two churches I have attended do no such thing. They love questioning, they (and I) have considered it a way to strengthen our convictions, not lose them.
I didn’t become a Christian until my early 20s. Growing up in a secular home in a secular part of the country, it’s a wonder how I became the person I did. All by asking tough questions.
I would say that if a church discourages tough questions, it means they haven’t investigated for themselves and are blind believers. They dont want questions because they might not have answers. And that is a tragedy.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
n. One who has rejected authority and dogma, especially in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
n. One who is not guided in the formation of his beliefs by obedience to authority, but submits the claims of authority to reason as the ultimate arbiter. The early application of the term was to those who occupied a rationalistic position in regard to current religious beliefs and dogmas; hence it acquired the still current sense of skeptic, infidel, and even atheist. The word, though employed earlier, is generally supposed to have been brought into common use in 1713 by the publication of Anthony Collins’s “A Discourse of Freethinking, occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect called Freethinkers,” Although this work defines free-thinking as the endeavor to judge a proposition according to the weight of evidence, and does not explicitly maintain any proposition which can offend a Protestant, it was rightly judged to be a covert attack upon fundamental tenets of the Christian religion. The free-thinkers specifically so called formed a class of deistical writers in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the chief of whom were Toland (died 1722), Anthony Collins (1676–1729), Woolston (1669–1733), Tindal (died 1733), and Bolingbroke (1678–1751). See deist.
n. Synonyms Unbeliever, Skeptic, etc. See infidel.
n. A person who has formed their opinions using reason and rational enquiry; somebody who has rejected dogma, especially with regard to religion.
GNU Webster’s 1913
n. One who speculates or forms opinions independently of the authority of others; esp., in the sphere or religion, one who forms opinions independently of the authority of revelation or of the church; an unbeliever; — a term assumed by deists and skeptics in the eighteenth century.
n. a person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it
The definitions posted by Isu sound like me, especially the one from Wiktionary – except my free thinking accepts the Bible as the Word of God because I have used rational inquire without speculative thinking, and it isn’t about “religious” matters, because my faith is not a religion – religion being a human construct developed around a belief system. I have no religious construct – I follow just what GOD says. I judge every proposition by the weight of evidence, contrary to those who claim to be free thinkers while regurgitating atheist/evolutionist/socialist/liberal talking points rather than thinking rationally for themselves. I encounter them often in my ministry.
Funny how all those definitions have SOME similarities, but then go far afield of each other.
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