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What Freethought is
and why it is better to be a freethinker
Freethought is the opposite of dogmatic thinking. Therefore, nothing can be more incompatible with Freethought than religious beliefs, for nothing is more dogmatic than religion.
If dogmatism is imprisonment of the mind, religious beliefs cannot be anything else. Religion is harmful because it dictates how people should think and in what they must believe. However, of all dogmatisms religion is the worst, since in its followers it instills also the fear of doubting. And this it does in a perverse way: through threat of punishment. Incredible as it may seem, billions of people accept this obvious absurdity, as if being threatened with torture in a lake of fire and brimstone were the most natural thing in the world.
A freethinker is someone who does not accept indubitable and unquestionable “truths”, especially religious ones, which are imposed through “revelation”. If revelations were worth anything, all religions would have to be true. As a matter of fact, anyone can claim to have had a divine revelation, and no one will be able to prove that it is a delusion or a lie. Since for freethinkers intellectual honesty is above all, for them truth is only what is based on evidence.
In principle, the freethinker is not opposed to the existence of God. The freethinker is opposed to believing without evidence and accepting without question. In fact, if God’s existence were as obvious as the religious people say, there would be no need to have faith, for what is obvious is not doubted. If, however, believing in God requires faith, faith itself is evidence that God does not exist. On the other hand, if God exists it is not necessary to believe in him, and if he does not exist, much less.
In addition to nonconformity with death as end and to fear of Hell, I think the great majority of religious people believe in God because they cannot stand living without knowing why the universe exists and how life originated. However, not having answers to all the questions is not at all shameful. Quite the contrary: since it is intellectual honesty, the consciousness of not knowing is more satisfying than the illusion of knowing.
I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.(Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics)
Those who accept “truths” that are not based on evidence are irrational, and in irrationality there are no criteria. People who believe, for example, in angels and demons have no rational reasons to doubt the existence of fairies and goblins, and are in no position to disdain those who believe in vampire and werewolf. Moreover, those who think that being an atheist is illogical cannot find it foolish to talk to orishas, or wrong to be a Muslim.
Only freethinkers are truly rational people. Their skepticism does not let them be decoyed by any ideology. Not believing in anything devoid of evidence, freethinkers are immune also to every kind of superstition.
Religion is a pleasant prison: with its idea of chosen people, it makes its prisoners feel special. In fact, being a prisoner of a religion is principally comfortable, for one lives under the sweet illusion of having reached the end of the path and found the truth, which is unique and, consequently, valid for all mankind. Since being free is harder than being imprisoned, being a freethinker is not comfortable, but the consciousness of intellectual honesty is indeed gratifying.(Paulo Bitencourt in Freed from Religion [Currently under translation])