freethought vs. FREE thought

So since I’ve been out as an atheist I’ve heard and played around with different labels trying to find one I felt best described me. This was mostly due to the fact that atheist has such a negative connotation among many people, a fact I’m happy to say I’ve gotten over. Around the same time I came to terms with the fact I was an atheist was freethought. Freethought, for those of you that don’t know, is a concept where people form opinions and beliefs based on evidence and reason. Freethought just like skepticism doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with atheism per se except that many atheists consider themselves freethinkers and or skeptics. Freethinkers don’t accept an idea or belief just based on how it makes them feel, freethinkers question information and ideas they come across. Freethinkers examine the evidence, they look for inconsistencies, etc.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about what freethought is. I found this out through participating in a number of online forums of supposed freethinkers, emphasis on free not so much on thinking. Now I’m not deriding freedom or creativity or the right of an individual to perceive the world the way they choose necessarily. I can appreciate differences of opinion particularly when a person can back up their opinion with evidence. But the key is evidence. How else are we to make decisions about what is true except by examining what can be known?

This is why I have come to dislike the term freethinker generally speaking because unfortunately its true meaning gets distorted by postmodern beliefs that suggest that all knowledge is relative and boils down to mere opinion. This is demonstrably false and infuriating to come across especially when the conversation you are having is taking place in a virtual environment- as though the person you are conversing with thinks computers operate on unicorn farts and children’s laughter. When I debunk or argue whatever topic I’m confronted with, the first thing that the other party retorts with is freethinkers consider all the possibilities. This is true but only to the extent that those beliefs are based on sound evidence and reason.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this to suggest that all freethinkers hold no beliefs that are not based on evidence or reason. Many otherwise rational freethinkers believe in a whole range of irrational beliefs from bigfoot to homeopathy. And so, of this I generally describe myself as a skeptic to avoid this confusion that seems to hinge on the free in freethought.

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4 thoughts on “freethought vs. FREE thought

  1. Good and valid points, author whom I do not know. I agree with you and know first hand that not all freethinkers think freely. I often question this title myself. I take the short and narrow of just saying that i’m an atheist, often, but also refer to myself as a non-believer. Thus eliminating a need to fit a certain sans-religion mold.

  2. C.S. Stone says:

    the interesting thing about “free thinking” is… you are “thinking freely” if you actually consider what you “think” and you aren’t if you let others consider for you.

    So, simply regurgitating someone else’s noise and not being able to support your affinity for that particular noise.. would fall under… not thinking freely….

    *smile*

  3. Beckie says:

    Great post; thanks for sharing. I am working on my insecurities related to the word atheism; that is how I self-identify, but I’d be lying to say I’m totally comfortable with the word. Freethought reminds me of those who say they are spiritual but not religious, where spiritual is used as a catch-all for justifying your personal agenda. Both terms feel like a cop-out to me and not based or grounded in anything.

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