freethought? Is it thought that is free of
religious baggage? Or is there more to it?
Braithwaite has been thinking freely
about the issue.
The Oxford English
Dictionary defines a freethinker as:
n. someone who
rejects dogma or authority
Freedom from Religion Foundation (a site
I have a lot of time for) defines
n. people who
form opinions about religion on the
basis of reason, independently of
tradition, authority, or established
belief. Freethinkers include nontheists,
rationalists, deists, and pantheists
In general, humanists and
secularists are very good at using the
ability to engage in freethought when
arguing with religionists or attacking
religious dogma. Unfortunately, humanists
and secularists are often just as good at
adhering to their own dogmas, too.
Freethought doesn’t begin
and end with science over religion, despite
what many people claim. Freethought also
relates to the ability to question science
and contemplate the thought that perceived
wisdom is not always correct.
Freethinkers are people
who take the time to listen to opposing
beliefs and arguments before launching into
a tirade of abuse. Freethinkers are people
who can contemplate the possibility that the
beliefs they hold dear may be wrong.
Freethinkers are people who don’t just take
the words of others as fact without
investigating any given “fact” for
Unfortunately, there are
many people who believe they carry out
freethought when, in truth, they do not.
One case in point was the
furore that followed the publication of
a death cult in G&LH in 2003
(and which is reprinted in
this very issue.
For the record, at that time, I was not in
the “HIV doesn’t cause AIDS” camp and
I still find myself questioning this
However, I believed then
and still believe today that anyone has the
right to question the perceived wisdom on
this and anything else. One thing I
was forced to do after the original
publication of the article was to read
around the subject myself and listen to all
sides, instead of just relying on what
others told me, as I’d done before.
Another case in point is
article on the blanket ban on gay men
donating blood, and the anger directed at
him from many in the gay, AIDS and humanist
communities. I stopped giving blood years
ago because I was told that, as a gay man, I
was banned from doing so! This despite my
being in a stable, long-term, monogamous
I should have taken a
stance but I mildly accepted the judgement.
My fellow straight male (and female) work
colleagues, many of whom I knew to be
actively sleeping around, were free to keep
donating, simply because they were straight.
All this makes you think.
Unfortunately, many – so-called freethinkers
included – do not.