The freethought movement has seen something of a resurgence lately, particularly on college campuses. With very few exceptions (and speaking strictly from personal experience as a 23-year-old American), freethinkers are marked by their progressive social and political views, their disdain for organized religion (sometimes veiled for the sake of “tolerance”…but sometimes not), and their visceral distrust of traditional beliefs and values.
So what, exactly, do freethinkers mean when they describe their thinking as “free”?
- If they’re referring to freedom from religious or institutional bias, then they’re fooling themselves. When it comes to our thoughts, all of us are subject to social and moral biases – regardless of where they might come from. Some are influenced by religion, certainly…but even our freethinking friends are influenced by secular philosophy, education, public opinion, peers, and the media. Taken literally, nobody is a “free” thinker, since nobody is completely insulated from outside influences.
- If they’re referring to the ability to define one’s own unique worldview, then they’re doing a poor job of it. We would expect to see some intellectual diversity within the freethinking community. Instead, they all seem to have reached almost the exact same conclusions.
This brings me to the biggest question I have for freethinkers. If our thinking is to be truly free, should we not also be free to accept the Christian narrative as being compellingly true? Because it seems that “free thought” is revealed as a sham when it eliminates the option – and even the possibility – of freely embracing traditional Christian doctrines.
Letter to a Free Thinker (J.W. Wartick)
Common Sense Orthodoxy (Reviewed Thought)