What exactly is a free thinker? Is it someone who simply thinks without placing limitations on his thoughts? Ironically, no. A free thinker is someone who has refused to be held captive by what he would suppose to be the tyranny of religious thought and instead opted to side with what he would perceive to be freedom from that manner of thought. The free thinker would think of himself to be more rational for not believing in God having supposed that this sort of belief is nothing short of superstition. The free thinker would perceive to be free from the “bondage” to superstition and of religious belief, that the person has come to a rational knowledge of reality instead of believing in things on the basis of faith. But whether intentional or unintentional, by ascribing to himself labels which make him look superior based on this new-found “freedom,” the free thinker would implicitly passively denigrate those who would believe in God.
Now, while rational thinking is a good thing, we must still ask – is the “free thinker” really free from this “perceived” bondage? The modern “free thinker” has thought himself to be free from the “false” proclamations of the past. But what if he’s wrong? It is, of course, a great endeavor to come to a true understanding of reality and to reject things that are false, but the brazen claim of a person who ascribes to a title of “free thinker” makes the person a victim of his own perception. The truth, on the other hand, requires no such titles, no special designations, nothing at all but itself. Truth simply is.
And what of the extent of the freedom? If we claim we have more truth than the generations of the past, we must be able to disprove the generations of the past to a large extent. The extent of the freedom of the “free thinker” would depend on truth. The “free thinker” would not be as free as he thinks himself to be if he has put up a straw man argument in order to debunk the claims, has not carefully weighed the arguments he’s refuting or has subconsciously chosen to overlook the opposing views. Then perhaps the “free thinker” is ironically not so free, as he may have moved from the state of truth to a state of error. If the “free thinker” has not accurately and honestly appraised the arguments of the opposition he’s claiming liberation from, he has ironically imprisoned himself in his own errors as he asks for liberation from the truth, which he is unknowingly rejecting beforehand. Labels often replace substance and become nothing but a token of prejudice. As such, the self-professing “free thinker” needs only to create such a label in order to appease himself with false hope and in passing perhaps denigrate his opposition by suggesting that they are imprisoned.
To be a true “free thinker” (though none should really call themselves so), one must refuse to be swayed by popular and catchy positions but to be more interested in the truth, a humble and earnest search for what is really true and what is truly real. The humility alone should show us how foolish it is to use the term, “free thinker.” In time many truths that eluded us will come to light. In the meantime, there is no good reason for the “free thinker” to call himself so, lest he presupposes the dogma himself against all rational opposing evidence.
If truth is a good thing to which we aspire, then an error is a bad thing. If we suppose that those who call themselves “free thinkers” are good people, and if they are wrong, they may not know their error. And “if large numbers of nice people are held captive by error, that is all the more reason for destroying the error and setting them free.” Alas, unless certainty is certain no one should boast to be a “free thinker,” because truth is the only thing that truly liberates.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.
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