What is a freethinker?

What is a freethinker

by Matt Slick
1/9/2018

A freethinker is someone who believes that truth, knowledge, and facts should be based on logic, reason, and experience instead of religions, anything that is faith-based, or is derived from any traditional heritage. They lean heavily on science since most freethinkers think that the scientific method it is the best way to gain the best knowledge about our world.

"The skeptical application of science implies freedom from the intellectually limiting effects of confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, or sectarianism." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freethought)

Freethinkers like to see themselves as being free from various things.

  • Free from religious dogma
  • Free from absolute truth
  • Free from absolute morality
  • Free from tradition

Freethinkers consider themselves to be objective, clearheaded thinkers, who objectively seek to learn truth about our world, ourselves, morality, politics, social structures, etc.  They to use science and sound reason.  However, I have found that most freethinkers are rather dogmatic and automatically reject Christian principles and revelation even when their reasoning is not sound. The ones I've encountered are often condescending and boast of their knowledge gained through reason and science. But, I find that they routinely fail to see their own subjective preferences imposed upon reason and science and at the same I fail to see that subjective preferences filter what is and does not acceptable.  I really don't think there that free. In my opinion, they are bound by their subjective preferences which they can't know the right ones to hold.

Nevertheless, there are many different kinds of freethinkers. Some are politically liberal as well as conservative. Some hold to traditional values where others reject them entirely. some freethinkers are skeptical about most everything and yet there are those who have assurance that there are facts and moral truths.  I have encountered freethinkers were polite as well as angry, educated as well as ignorant.

Following are different definitions offered for the term "freethinker."

  • "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." (ffrf.org/faq/feeds/item/18391-what-is-a-freethinker)
  • "A philosophical viewpoint that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science, logic and reason. Ideas should not be derived from religion, authority, governments or dogmas.." (urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=free thinker)
  • "a person who forms opinions about religion, politics, morals, etc., independently of tradition, authority, or established belief." (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/freethinker)

Analysis of the freethinking position

Freethinking is a philosophical position. It is based on assumptions and circular reasoning. when I cross-examine freethinkers and ask if they can justify their assumptions, I usually get various forms of begging the question mixed with subjective preferences.  Following are some of the questions we can ask about the freethinking philosophy that can help generate good conversation.

  1. Is the freethinking position the right one? How would they know?  Or is it a belief?
  2. How would a freethinker know if his thinking was really free or not?
  3. How do they know that their freethinking presupposition is not an merely assumption and thereby a violation of what freethinking is, since it would not be based upon reason, logic, or even the scientific method?
  4. If a freethinker believes only in science and the material world, how can he justify the idea that his physical brain is producing proper conclusions about our world since it will be restricted to limitations the laws of physics?
  5. What makes a freethinker truly free if he rejects certain perspectives about knowledge such as divine revelation, subjective experience, etc.?  Where is the objectivity in that?
  6. If a freethinker automatically rejects the possibility of divine existence because God cannot be reasoned to exist or proven to exist by the scientific method, then doesn't his assuming the freethinking position automatically exclude God's existence by definition?
  7. Since they believe that logic and science are the best ways to learn about the world, and since God is by definition, not limited to our logic and science, how then are they really free to learn whether or not God exists?
  8. If one freethinker concludes that God exists in another freethinker concludes that God does not exist, which one is correct?  How would you know using the principles of freethinking?
  9. How do they know that the denial of all divine revelation is the right approach to getting knowledge about our world?  Or, do they just assume it is?
  10. If they assume the validity of reason and logic, how did they arrive at the conclusion that reason and logic are the proper approaches without begging the question when they assume the validity of logic and reason to begin with?
  11. How do they know that nothing is true unless it can be verified? 
  12. Can they verify the statement, "Nothing is true unless it can be verified"?
  13. How would they know which moral values are correct based on logic?

Conclusion

Being a freethinker sounds good on the surface. But, nobody is completely free from prejudices, preferences, and external influences. We live in a world where we are the sum total of our natures, characteristics, education, familial influence, and social structures. We are not independent of these things and freethinkers, though they recognize this, fail to properly implement their own philosophical assumptions of reason and science.

You see, for a freethinker to claim to be free from religious dogma is to deny his own freethinking because if someone is truly objectively seeking truth, then he needs to keep the door open to the possibility of God's existence as well as divine revelation. To presuppose that reason and science are the proper methods for learning about our world is a philosophical assumption that is not based on reason and science. Instead, it is based on an assumption about reason and science; namely, that they are capable of arriving at ultimate truth. But how do they know that? How can reason and science, which are restricted to human thought and failures, discern whether or not there is a spiritual world, God, and transcendental truths? Therefore, I conclude that freethinkers are not as free as they claim but are restricted by their own freethinking dogma in a similar way to which they accuse the Christians.

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.