Monday, April 9, 2012

Can a Christian be a “Freethinker?”: My definitive answer is “it depends.”

Freethinker, n.
one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; especially : one who doubts or denies religious dogma
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freethinker

The question presents something of a dilemma for me. Instinctively, or perhaps more accurately – reflexively- I would answer in the negative. But to do so would likely be erroneous.

Christians who can isolate/segment belief in God, but do not permit it to supplant their ability to accept scientific evidence for evolutionary theory; who do not re-write history in favor of a "Christian nation," where no such historical support exists; who do not bastardize the meaning of the 1st amendment's Establishment Clause; or do not invoke God or the Bible to justify religious involvement in America's policies, laws, waging war, nor allow their religious belief to impede people's reproductive rights or pursuit of happiness based on sexual preference or gender; and who recognize and support Jefferson's intent for the Separation of Church and State; then my answer is YES, one can be both a Xtian and Freethinker.

The Rev Barry Lynn, Director of Americans United for the Separation. of Church and State is one of those. I have come to realize there are many like him.

But if a Xtian would require me to give objective evidence, irrefutable proof, for my claim that I have a monkey that recites Shakespeare, but requires no such proof that a snake talked and the first human was formed from mud by a super being, then they have accepted tradition, dogma, religious authority over reason and cannot be called a freethinker. A freethinker requires proof, objective evidence of something incredible proffered as fact, and applies that premise consistently.

If one rejects volumes of scientific data corroborated by multiple disciplines all of which point to evolution to explain origin of species; but accept a myth written by pre-scientific nomadic cultists to explain why species exist... he rejects freethought.

If one believes prayer has efficacy and can influence a supreme beings decision making for his life, or the planet, or their dog, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary through many controlled studies, accepting instead the dictates of the Bible and the anecdotal stories of like minded believers... they cannot be a freethinker.

If ones attributes certain outcomes to divine intervention (the most complex if all potential explanations), as oppose to natural physical laws and /or coincidence / probability as the causal factor, they defy freethinking.

If one believes morality and ethics are determined by a supreme being and not the result of culture and the evolution of civilization as a natural outgrowth for the need for a cohesive and cooperative society, you can’t be called freethinker.

The things I mentioned are not meant to be a definitive listing of what determines if a person is or isn’t a freethinker. There is no definitive list. These aren't any ones rules for joining the community of free thought. We don’t have rules. They aren't a doctrine or directive from some hierarchy of freethinkers. We don’t have a doctrine or hierarchy. They represent my strictly my perspective. But, I expect they would likely be agreed to by many freethinkers. And note that the definition of freethinker says “especially” those who doubt or deny religious dogma...not “exclusively” those who doubt or deny it.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. I'm open to being convinced otherwise by reason. After all, I am a freethinker.

16 comments:

Chatpilot said...

Hump, I think that to a certain extent you are right in stating that some xtians can be freethinkers. But it is my opinion that they cannot be true freethinkers as long as they hold on to their beliefs based on faith. In a freethinkers world there is no room for faith in the religious sense of the word. Even otherwise intellectual believers tend to compartmentalize their faith from reason. Their faith is sacred and untouchable while all other matters are fair game. This is not how a freethinker evaluates anything. There is no such thing as anything being sacred or immune from reason.

Den!s said...

To me the term freethinker means strictly secular, which means no god. That also includes Barry Lynn. As long as a person believes in a god, they are not freethinking in my humble opinion. Theists are not free to think; they are slaves to their god. They always defer to their biblical default position when questions arise; the direct effect of 'The God Virus'. You must rid yourself of this virus completely to think freely.

Dromedary Hump said...

Chat, Den!s: I understand your positions and reservation. But, I think it comes down to a matter of degree. Let me pose something to you.

If a man, who from all appearances is white, has 1/20th black bloodline...is that man still considered white? You see, if you are an absolutist, then the 1/20th % black bloodline must negate the guy being called white. So too would 1/100th, 1/1000th. In that regard, are any of us absolutely sure we are truly white or black?

If a xtian is committed to a myth only for the personal satisfaction and comfort he derives from it, but on all other matters of daily life he uses reason, reality; accepts scientific proofs; and embraces a modern sense of morality drawn from cultural norms and a humanistic perspective, rejecting the unthinking demands of ancient scripture, ... should the compartmentalization of his religious beliefs from all other reasoned thinking negate his being declared "free thinker?

I'm not an absolutist. Thus, I cannot take the absolute position that said self described Xtian doesn't warrant freethinker status.

Dromedary Hump said...

PS: "They always defer to their biblical default position..."

is a generalization predicated on what fundamentalist, evangelical, born again, conservative xtians do. It is not applicable to all Xtians.

It's important no to lump them all in together, there are differences between the 28,000 sects and denominations of xtianity, but even larger differences between individual Christians and how they approach doctrine/dogma and reality.

Den!s said...

Hump, I guess that I am much more absolutist than you, though to be honest, I have never thought of myself in those terms. I do put all xtians in the same basket though as well, never once stopping to wonder what denomination, sect, or cult of xtianity they adhere to. I disrespect them all equally. :)

People who believe in a creator god will never be granted freethinker status by me, but that's totally a personal position.

Valérie said...

Chatpilot,

"Their faith is sacred and untouchable while all other matters are fair game. This is not how a freethinker evaluates anything. There is no such thing as anything being sacred or immune from reason."

You don't know anything. I am catholic and I don't think my faith is untouchable. Or maybe you describe what you see in USA. I assure you it is completely different here in France: nearly everybody is non-believer, but there are also some catholics left, but I don't know a single one who is like what YOU describe.

Most catholics here never go to church. I only go to church to listen to the free concerts at Notre Dame de Paris.

Even here on the blog where I feel it is like my home (PP: http://ppblog.free.fr), all my friends are atheists and I never have any problem with them, or them with me. The only times there are problems is when the 2 stupid born-again American wacko women come to the blog and quote 20 km long bible shit.

I have never read the bible, I have never seen a bible in any church in France, but what I have read from these 2 born again crazies, it makes me think I haven't missed anything. I have never heard of a FR person who has read or even seen a bible.

Anyway, I believe that people have the right to believe anything they want, so think what you want, I don't care. In the meantime, I'll continue to have lots of fun on PP, where we never talk about religion because there is nothing to talk about, it's so very boring, but we talk about politics, societies, and films. And animals and anything that is funny in our lives. Like the ducks and the swans here at the Eiffel Tower pond, they are so cute and so funny, especially now because it is spring, and the ducks are very horny, LOL.

Dromedary Hump said...

To Valerie,

Your 2nd comment submission was a tad beyond the bounds of civil toward one of my readers.
I won't post it here. If you can drop the name calling/insult and express yourself more definitively, I'd be happy to approve it.

Hump

Chatpilot said...

Valerie,

Thanks for your reply, you have made a great point in distinguishing the difference between Catholicism in France as opposed to the United States. At the same time you made some other points that are actually very similar.

Many Catholics I know here in the U.S. know nothing about the scriptures unless they are trying to get into the ministry, or have a personal interest in advancing their knowledge of their churches doctrines and theology.

A lot of the Catholics I know here in the states are very liberal in that they only go to church on Sunday for mass and live like the rest of us heathens. They drink, party all night, fornicate, commit adultery and break every holy commandment under the sun. And finally, are severely lacking in biblical knowledge.

In closing, most fundamentalists believers are exactly the way I described them. It's rare to find a fundamentalist Catholic in my neck of the woods.

Chatpilot said...

"If a xtian is committed to a myth only for the personal satisfaction and comfort he derives from it, but on all other matters of daily life he uses reason, reality; accepts scientific proofs;..."

Hump, you make a valid point in your argument as stated and if you put it that way then I would have to agree. The only time I would disagree is if that person from time to time chose his religious convictions over reason on certain matters.

Dromedary Hump said...

Chat said:
"The only time I would disagree is if that person from time to time chose his religious convictions over reason on certain matters."

Agreed...100%!

Anonymous said...

The only freethinker Christian I can think of is Thomas Aquinas. He tried his hardest to reconcile reason and religion. He at least made a legitimate effort to resurrect Aristotilian thought. Anyway, would someone from the
12th century count?

Bookish Babe

Tyler said...

I would say I'm a freethinking Christian. I may not agree with your "brand," as I would call it, of Atheism, but have no problem with it as a rule. As for being freethinking, I believe in God and Jesus, but don't take the Bible as literal historical fact. For example, I do believe in the Big Bang and evolution, because I would like to think I understand enough science and data to know that scientists know what they are talking about. I DO believe that there is an afterlife, if for no other reason than the fact that I am a bit of a dualist. To me, the soul, or the driving force in the body, can never DIE therefore there has to be something else after this. I believe people should be able to look at all religions and make their own choice. One of the things I'd like to think makes me the most freethinking, is the fact that I am open to the idea that I'm completely wrong. I haven't died. I don't know what happens once I die. None of us, even you, know. I believe we all have an equal shot of being right. I may die and nothing happen, or I might die and go meet Vishnu or Buddha, or anyone else. I'd love to hear your thoughts. The big shocker? I'm a pro-choice, liberal gay Catholic. Figure that one out ;)

politicsandcardigans.blogspot.com

Sir Black said...

Tyler, I would ask you as a freethinker, on what evidence do you base your belief in Jesus (let us leave god out of it for the time) since there is no historical or archaeological proof of his existence? There is no historical record of him. What I mean by a historical record is the scientific exploration of the term, if Jesus existed then at least one of his contemporary historians (those who lived around his time of existence) or a script of the time would have mentioned him, but other than the bible there is no mention of Jesus, not even in the Roman archives of that era. So since there is no scientific proof of the existence of Jesus, as a freethinker how do you explain it? I once was a Catholic believer but could not keep lying to myself no matter how beautiful the christian faith was, and had to chose reason and for 4 years I tried to find one proof of the existence of Jesus (even as a man) and couldn't fined it.

Bassem Deaibess

Red Psion said...

Hump,

I would agree with your definitive answer of "it depends."

I have personally known Christians who believe to an equal degree in both God and science. They're of the mentality of not taking anyone's word for anything, apply the scientific method to every aspect of their lives including spirituality, and in general seek evidence before committing to any particular belief. When it comes to the existence of God, evolution, or whatever school of belief, their mentality is "Either it is scientifically provable fact or it isn't. And if it is, then there is scientific evidence to support it." I use this method for determining my own beliefs, mostly because I was once religious and made a few very bad decisions by listening to what people told me.

I know that not everyone will agree with my personal choice of beliefs because (I would hope, at least) they've asked a question, made observations, gathered evidence, verified their evidence, and come to a conclusion, which may not be the same as my conclusion because we may have found two different sets of evidence. The pieces of the truth which one person has may not be the same pieces stumbled upon by another.

Yes, there are Christians who believe what they believe simply because it's what they were told to believe. And also, there are people who subscribe to this or other belief systems just because they think it's cool to believe that or because they want to be different from everyone else. While I myself do believe in science, I don't necessarily take the scientists' word for things also, just because scientists, like everyone else, are fallible and can be wrong.

I describe myself as Christian in that I believe the teachings of Jesus (charity, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, so on) but not as religious because religion does limit freedom of thought in my experience. I've had to rethink and revise my own beliefs several times based on discovery of new evidence. Taking all this into account, I completely agree that a person can be both Christian and Freethinker. I arrive at my own conclusions, respect other people's findings on the matter and expect the same in return.

Red Psion said...

P.S.

If someone were to say that it isn't possible to be both Christian and Freethinker, it would be like saying "In order to be a freethinker, you have to have the same beliefs that we do." That is the exact opposite of free thought.

Dromedary Hump said...

Red,
Thanks for that.

I concur with much of what ou wrote, or at least have no objections.

Thomas Jefferson also respected the teaching of Christ. His bible was predicated only on the actual words, sans the msystery aspects. But you don't mention whether you accept the supernatural aspect of christianity: Resurrection, virgin birth, heaven hell and all the rest.


I agree that one must always be skeptical of a scientific claim, never accept every statement as fact. Sometimes they are allto quick to jump to a desire conclusio. But there is a built in safeguard vis-a-vis peer review, repeatable testability, corroboration with other disciplines, that helps keep the thinking from traveling dow the path of "wishful acceptence".

As for your PS: atheists/freethinkers have no "beliefs" . We have contentions, convictions, acceptence based on observational experience and overwhelming natural evidence...but not beliefs, which implies acceptence as true something with no natural basis in fact. Just a clarification.

Any way, I do not diagree with your primary conclusion.

Thanks again.