Apparently, I need to periodically explain what freethought means, because right now I’m being helpfully informed by many people who don’t have a clue that it means thinking any damn thing you want.
@pzmyers clues in the name "free", ie without limitations. Irrational belief always attempts to limit freedom of thought
— Graham Davis (@AgendaForReform) December 22, 2015
clues in the name “free”, ie without limitations. Irrational belief always attempts to limit freedom of thought
My response: If naive etymology were your guide, then freeways don’t have any traffic rules.
Look, I know a lot of people experience total brain lock when they see the word “free” — just see the usual response to the phrase “free speech” — but you’re wrong. Free speech does not mean there are no limitations on what you can say, it just means the government can’t control the expression of opinions. You still don’t get to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or commit libel with impunity, or be obnoxious without social repercussions.
Likewise with freethought. We don’t need a damned philosophy to allow you to think whatever you want — there is no way anyone can control your mind. Of course you can think freely! But freethought refers to something more specific: having ideas that are not dictated by dogma or authority, but by reason and empirical evidence. It means free of dogma, not free of all constraints. If you are using the phrases “because that’s the way it’s always been”, “because it’s human nature”, “because the Grand Poobah said so”, “because it’s written down that way in this book”, you are certainly free to think that, but you are not being a freethinker.
I know this is going to blow some minds, but reason and empirical evidence are limitations on your thinking. We impose them on our minds because we value consistency, reproducibility, consensus, and independent confirmation of our conclusions, and those restrictions enable us to achieve that. If we didn’t care about those requirements, well then Jesus loves me and I can fly and weeee, let’s go all kittens and fluffy pillows and pass me that cloud, I need to get high.
The same people who insist on the dictionary definition of atheist seem incapable of reading the dictionary definition of freethought, or even the wikipedia entry. But then, those definitions are more complicated and difficult than off-the-cuff knee-jerk not-thinking that they specialize in, so it’s no wonder they shun the actual evidence.