To those who actually haven’t googled the term, Wikipedia defines freethought as:
“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 other dogma. The cognitive application of freethought is known as freethinking, and practitioners of freethought are known as freethinkers.”
In the FF forum and Facebook page, every once in a while someone oblivious to the standard definition butts in with the assumption that freethinking means setting the mind completely free – unrestrained even by reason, logic or reality. More commonly, people have assumed that freethought is synonymous to atheism.
It is important to note that the free in freethinking only means freedom from dogma imposed by “authority” – but not from the rules of logic and the cold test of science. In fact, freethinking is actually a very strict discipline that keeps the mind on its toes, preventing it from jumping into convenient conclusions. Once an argument commits a single logical fallacy, all its conclusions are automatically void; long-held scientific theories are discarded like yesterday’s paper once contradicting evidence is found. (Scientific theory differs from the layman’s definition of theory in the sense that the latter is actually just a hypothesis.)
As such, freethought is a journey where one takes the road paved with science, logic and reason; atheism, agnosticism, deism, and even philosophical theism are just the destinations, none of them final. This may come as a surprise, but while the majority of the vocal Filipino Freethinkers are atheists, we do have some members who acknowledge the possibility and even the probability of God to a certain degree but are well aware that all they have are circumstantial evidence and logical arguments, not proof. There are no fundies in Filipino Freethinkers or even strong theists (#1 in Dawkins’ spectrum) who claim not just to believe, but to know that there is a God. Remarkably, there are also no strong atheists (#7 in Dawkins’ spectrum) in Filipino Freethinkers, or at least none have declared being so at the forums. More importantly, our beliefs (or non-belief) matter less than how we arrived at such beliefs (or non-belief). So you’ll never hear the words “because the Bible says so” from a freethinking theist or “because Richard Dawkins says so” from a freethinking atheist.
So what does it mean to be a freethinker? I guess it means being a truthseeker, relentlessly holding on to reason amid powerful forces telling society that blind faith is preferred. The Filipino Freethinkers are sometimes accused of being angry at religion. Well I can’t say that we aren’t, because religion, being very influential, pervading education and politics, has become the embodiment of ignorance and the eternal cause of poverty, overpopulation, and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases while the churches continue to rake in the offerings. And yet they have the guts to say that we are the bad guys.
But how can freethinkers be the bad guys? We never ask people to give up anything – not their money, not their reason, not their freewill, not even their beliefs. Freethought is not telling anyone to believe in a certain freethought doctrine or creed; it is merely asking that we open our eyes and use our minds, to see for ourselves what is right, what is good, and what is true. How can that be bad?