Freethinkers – false advertising

First impressions count. And the name that one gives to oneself, the label one places upon him- or herself, can say a lot, not so much about the label or the group that the individual affiliated him- or herself to, but rather about the person who holds that label. When it comes to “freethinkers” you find a fat ego-stroke in the name itself.

Those who choose to label themselves as “freethinkers” already show a pomp, an arrogance, a superiority in the name itself. Think about it. The word “free” is seen as something positive. People tend to like the idea of being free and unrestricted. In light of such a positive sounding name, who wouldn’t want to be seen as “freethinking”? It’s a bit like the myth of being “open-minded”.

[Aside: Some may say “what myth of being open-minded? I’m open minded.” Well, it’s a bit like the myth of “common sense”. Hmmm … I’m digging myself a hole here, aren’t I? LOL! Back to being “open minded”. I’ll make this as short as I can. To be open is to be vulnerable, especially in a world were there are forces that are not beneficial to you or out for your good, being truly open minded, open to letting anything in, is unwise and dangerous. Imagine a human body without natural defences, like skin or an immune system. That’s a truly open system. What about our planet without something to protect us from the lethal rays of the sun or a magnetic field to push meteorites away. But it will be dead or ruined relatively quickly. In the same way, openmindedness is neither safe nor is it realistic. People need filters, mental filters, to protect from harmful notions. Funnily enough, although people may believe that being openminded is a positive quality, sometimes not to be so “openminded” is better, i.e., filter-minded. Sometimes even being closedminded is a better option. Being closedminded doesn’t necessarily make you unreasonable.]

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.

So these so-called “freethinkers” promote themselves at the get-go, the name suggesting that they are somehow better because they claim to be freethinking.

But looking at the history of the word and the way it is used now, I personally find that it’s not as positive or as true as it seems to suggest.

The word seems to have come about when people wanted to oppose religion in the way that these individuals came to conclusions. The rejected what they saw as religious dogma and tradition to “instead” use reason, logic and science. A modern definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary of “freethinker” is:

one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; especially: one who doubts or denies religious dogma

Thus we can see the word “freethinker” is very much tied with atheism or at least the rejection of the sort of God that gives divine commandments and edicts and clear revelations of truth. Check out some of the information about it online. Very telling. Let me show you what I’ve found.

free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth. (http://ffrf.org/component/k2/item/18391-what-is-a-freethinker)

freethinker (plural freethinkers)

A person who has formed their opinions using reason and rational enquiry; somebody who has rejected dogma, especially with regard to religion. (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/freethinker)

Even with this information we already come at a falsehood.

A person who thinks of the word “free” as unfettered and unrestricted. Yet when a person say that they reject or downplay one area of thought (i.e., authority, religious or otherwise), then that isn’t exactly unrestricted. Once you say “I’m not going to use that to help me think”, then you’ve inevitably restricted yourself. So a “freethinker” is not a thinker who is unrestricted in his thought. It is a person who had limited his thought to certain areas that he deems best. So the term “freethinker” is false advertising.

Essentially this sort of freethinking is not freedom in the sense of lack of restriction, but rather a thinking that attempts to be free from what it defines as “religion” or certain types of authority. So it is not “freethinking” but rather “anti-religious thinking” or “thinking that has prejudices against religious tradition and dogma”. Why don’t we call a spade “a spade”? If a person states or acts in a accordance to a principle that says “I will only use x, y, and z to come to conclusions” then this person is not a freethinker. They are just as limited as everyone else. They just choose their own philosophies and worldviews to build upon. Even if a person says “I will only use rationalism, logic, and science to come to conclusions rejecting statements from religion or tradition” they are not free. In fact, they fall pray to the same subjective notions that plague all things God-rejecting, one person having one idea, another person having another idea, and no truth in between, just pragmatism.

And I haven’t gone into the other things that naturally restrict a person’s thinking such as previous experiences, biases, personal tastes, political allegiances, mental conditions, lusts and cravings. A freethinker has not ascended above his own humanity or the limits of his own nature.

I guess I wrote this article because false advertising irritates me. People who try to make themselves superior to others by applying deceptive yet ego-stroking labels to themselves do no justice to themselves or to truth. We as humans can only do the best we can to find truth and live by it. Even the person that rejects truth or the notion of it must live by his rejection and its consequences.

Addendum: What is stupid about the point of view of too many “freethin…” – let me correct myself – anti-religionists and anti-theists is that they think that having dogmas or divine commandments or divine revelations of truth negate reason. Too many think that you can’t be rational, can’t use reason properly, if you have a bible or a creed. Such thinking is more the result of bigotry, not the spirit of understanding.

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4 Comments

  1. Pat

    I’d previously thought “Freethinker” sounded harmless enough to not warrant investigation. Your words have highlighted my tendency to take things at face value. Thank you so much for your thorough explanation. It has been enlightening, refreshing and has given me plenty of food for thought.

    • Wow. Thanx for the complimentary words. I didn’t think anyone would be interested. I’m glad it at least gave you food for thought.

  2. LarryB

    Great article, many good points.

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