Can a god believer be a freethinker? That all really depends on the circumstance. We will be using the wikipedia definition of freethought and freethinker, so I will post it again just so we are on the same page.
Freethought (wikipedia) is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or any dogma.The cognitive application of freethought is known as freethinking, and practitioners of freethought are known as freethinkers.
Now please note that the definition of freethought is two fold in that it is a noun AND a verb. Freethought being the definition of process by which a person can come to a conclusion about things in life. Freethinking is a verb by which someone uses the tools of freethought to COME to the conclusion. This is important in my works to come that you understand that to me personally, freethinking is a VERB. Sure, some people (including myself) claim to be “freethinkers”, but this is where some of the confusion about being a freethinker comes from as far as I am concerned. Let me be more specific. Let me put in front of you 2 imaginary people; Bob and John. Bob gets up every morning and runs for 3 miles every day. Bob has clothing and shoes that he purchased and uses only for the sole purpose of running. John, on the other hand, only runs during emergencies such as trying to catch something from falling, or trying to catch the elevator before the doors close. In the very loose sense, both Bob and John are runners. When both of them are running you can say that are runners and be justified in that definition. The difference here is using the verb “runner” as a noun to define. If you were to call one of these imaginary people a “Runner”, then it makes much more sense to entitle Bob with the name. Let me give you an example of how funny language and definitions can be in this situation in a sentence: “Sure, John is one heck of a runner when it comes to catching that elevator. But Bob. Man he is one heck of a Runner.” Both uses of the word “runner” are verbs, but Bobs usage also contains a noun. Bob has devoted his life to running, and would openly identify himself as a runner as if it were a title. John on the other hand would not consider himself a runner, except for the occasional tardiness.Now lets use the same two imaginary people when it comes to freethought. John is a Methodist. He is easy going about religion, but he follows some verses in the bible because of tradition and partly from fear of going to Hell (something he will never admit in public). John pretty much believes in creationism and that the book of Genesis is more than likely historical record. Bob believes in God, but not creationism. Bob goes to the local Baptist church every Sunday, but mostly because his wife is a Baptist and he doesn’t mind the social setting. Bob thinks there are some good things in the bible, but on the most part he considers the traditions and stories (which he pretty much considers to be fables) to be unfounded. Something that people made up in the ignorance of the bronze age. Bob thinks Jesus has just as much chance of being real as Hercules has..not much at all. To Bob, “god” to him is nothing more than a “life force” in the universe that helped to start the universe. To bob, his God is what created science and evolution.
Which one deserves to hold the title of “Freethinker” in this situation? Bob or John
Right off the bat I would like to say Bob is the freethinker, but that is only because we are only comparing 2 people in this situation. If I were to have a few hundred more choices of people and their life views, then surely Bob would pale in comparison to some atheists or humanists. When compared to John, Bob is revolutionary in his views. Sure, John has utilized some freethought in picking and choosing his world views. John used freethought to ignore the bible verses commanding believers to kill homosexuals and witches, but John also believes that witches and homosexuals should repent or burn in Hell. Regardless of John’s utilization of freethought in his life views, he does not earn the title of Freethinker because he has allowed tradition, dogma, and arguments from authority to still dominate the majority of his world view. Bob’s belief in God is not based on dogma or arguments of authority. To him, his god is too big for any one religion. Bob still skirts close to basing his beliefs on tradition, as “Deism” (which is the name of Bob’s view) does have some connections to tradition in America, where he grew up. “Everyone believes in a God in America, but the devil is in the details.” Bob likes to say in jest when asked why he doesn’t subscribe to any particular religious creed. Surely I would be justified in saying that Bob is a Freethinker, but to other freethinkers Bob seems lukewarm in his approach.
Let me introduce a third imaginary person into the mix. Borris. Borris was raised in Soviet Russia. During this time it was traditional to not be religious and government propaganda helped to continue this tradition. Borris feared rocking the boat, so he went along with tradition and authority so that he could keep his job in low level civil work. Borris honestly believes that a god is nothing more than wishful thinking, the “opiate of the masses”, as Marx put it.
Now out of these 3 people, which one is the freethinker. Some would say Borris is surely the freethinker out of the three. He is an atheist, and all atheists are freethinkers. I disagree. Borris’ life views are held strictly for traditional and authoritative reasons. Borris never stopped to weigh his reasons against logic or science. Bob only has a small amount of tradition embedded in his world view, where Borris’ world view, although atheistic and excepting of science, is polluted with arguments from authority and tradition. I would say out of these three that Bob is the best likely candidate for being labeled a “Freethinker”, even though he does believe in a god.
The point I am trying to make here is that being an atheist does not automatically make one a Freethinker. Personally reflecting on life views by using science, logic, and reason as much as possible.. and rejecting arguments from dogma, tradition and authority…is what makes a person a freethinker.
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