What is "Freethought"?


Here are some rudimentary questions to ask PZ Myers, aka The Naked Emperor directly, about himself and the entity he has grandiosely christened -

How do you come to entertain the notion that you are a "Freethinker"?

"Freethinker" is now suffering the same fate as other terms that have been bastardised beyond repair and no longer bear any relation their original meaning. Other terms to suffer this fate have been liberal, conservative, atheist, libertarian and the list keeps growing. It is worth reviewing what Freethought actually is and a nice summary has been put together in clear and simple language by a group called SKP Freethinkers - a summary which has since been incorporated into a pamphlet currently being distributed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Here are some extracts. The full item can be read here.
What Is A Freethinker? A Freethinker is a person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established Belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed1, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation is invalid and orthodoxy2 is no guarantee of truth.
1 - creed
1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
2 - or•tho•dox
1. of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, ideology, etc.
2. of, pertaining to, or conforming to beliefs, attitudes, or modes of conduct that are generally approved.
A double fail already by only the second paragraph. The consistent absence of evidence or citation in all of Freethoughtblogs hellfire sermons leave faith and belief as the only mechanisms to support the relentless accusations and denunciations. While here, it is probably appropriate to also include the definition for bigot - bigot
a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
It is fair to say that the whole raison d'être of Freethoughtblogs is the denunciation of individuals for voicing unapproved opinion. Most notable recent example of bigotry denouncing others' opinions is, strangely enough, seen in abuse aimed at a small time gelato shop owner over alleged bigotry.
What Is A Freethinker's Basis For Knowledge? Freethinkers are naturalistic. Truth is the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality. Reality is limited to that which is directly perceivable through our natural senses or indirectly ascertained through the proper use of reason... ...Arguments based on faith, authority or ad hominem character attacks are unacceptable...
This is a good representative selection of commentary from Freethoughtblogs acolytes, and there are countless thousands elsewhere. There is not a single example that does not base itself on either faith, authority or ad hominem character attacks.
...An ethical choice is rarely a simple "right and wrong" decision. Most moral questions involve a conflict of values, requiring a careful use of reason. Obedient conformity to the dictates of another mind is supremely immoral and very dangerous...
The Freethoughtblogs reality space can only really be described as one of a Manichean dualism - clearly demarcated into non-negotiable black and white, good and evil. This world is split into that of "enlightened", conscious men and misogynists/rapists; eternally suffering "violated nun" feminists and gender traitors/collaborators. There are no grey areas - and once branded you are branded for life. A deeper and more accurate paralled is to that of Nietzschean master/slave morality - where Freethoughtblogs is initiating a slave revolt at the insensitive masters who hurt their feelings and are fabricating "evil" as justification for the uprising. Slave morality strives to win equity by destroying the liberty of those that (justifiably) make them feel inferior and worthless. This dualism is actively promoted via personality cult machinations of the alpha-baboons such as PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson and Ophelia Benson who demand obedient conformity to their ideological demands. Reason has no place in this environment. This is a madrassa insulated from all external data that may conflict with approved groupthink. Fail.
Why Are Freethinkers Opposed To Religion Freethinkers are convinced that religious claims are false—they have not withstood the tests of evidence and reason. Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition. Most freethinkers consider religion to be not only untrue, but harmful. It has been used to justify war, slavery, sexism, racism, mutilations, intolerance, and oppression of minorities.
This follows from the previous extract. Whilst Freethoughtblogs may superficially claim to be godless and secular, they are overwhelmingly driven by the pseudo-religious impulses of the personality cult and ideological dogma - and demand a religious degree of unquestioning subservience to established ideology. In real terms, to most actual Freethinkers, there is no distinction between this and the actual religious impulse. The fruits of the Holy Inquisition, as an example, are not all that different from the former East German Stasi when taken to logical extremes. They are both driven by the same kind of unreason. Freethoughtblogs continuously promotes untruths (e.g. atheist misogyny) by virtue of the fact that many of their claims are hearsay or gossip, usually exaggerated for maximum impact, and are devoid of any evidence or citation that can withstand independent scrutiny. This can be equated to secular superstition, repetition of unsubstantiated allegations to the point they become tacit truths. This practice is deserving of the status of old wive's tales. This is an absolute betrayal of Clifford's Credo -

"It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

This is a massive fail.

Do Freethinkers Have A Particular Political Persuasion? No, freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position. Freethought today embraces adherents of virtually all political persua­sions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives. There is no connection, for example, between atheism and communism. Some freethinkers, such as Adam Smith and Ayn Rand, were staunch capitalists; and there have been communistic groups which were deeply religious, such as the early Christian church.
This is perhaps the greatest fail of them all. Freethought, and the often overlapping subsets of atheism and skepticism, are not ideological positions. To impose ideology on Freethought removes the "Free" - there is an artificial constraint imposed which restricts thinking. Ideological Freethought as a concept is an oxymoron. To proclaim yourself a Freethinker and demand adherence to ideological beliefs is hypocrisy. It is a position that necessitates cognitive dissonance to accept - universally recognized as an unhealthy, potentially hazardous, frame of mind to place yourself in. Freethoughtblogs seeks to impose its own style of ideology on all aspects of secularism. This ideology is a very unhealthy mix of pseudo-Islamist spontaneous mass outrage at ideological heresies, and a strange quasi-Calvinist neo-puritanism that seeks to bring fear back to human sexuality and gender relations - all framed around a false "liberal" posture that is more correctly described as moral absolutist social authoritarianism where all individual action must be scrutinized and approved by the ingroup Soviet - where failure to receive group approval is punishable by ritualized public shaming and even shunning. The extent to which this ideological authoritarianism can breakdown any notion of Freethought can be seen in recent internecine squabbling over use of the term "lady" and the evils of cartoon characters using pink dialogue bubbles.
Is Atheism/Humanism A Religion? Atheism is not a belief. It is the "lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion. Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a supernatural realm, deity, faith in "holy" writings and conformity to an absolute creed.
How can a point of view that is defined only by the absence of a characteristic (i.e. belief in supernatural beings) possibly have an ideology? To Freethinkers, it is readily evident that it can't. Hardened, inflexible ideologues on the other hand simply view it as unconquered territory to be seized. Most of Freethoughtblogs seem to be convinced that atheism must be bound to ideology, but none more so than PZ Myers himself. He has even contrived a term of derision for those that object to the idea of ideological atheism - dictionary atheists. Quote, in true Freethoughtblogs style -
Boy, I really do hate these guys. You've got a discussion going, talking about why you're an atheist, or what atheism should mean to the community, or some such topic that is dealing with our ideas and society, and some smug wanker comes along and announces that "Atheism means you lack a belief in gods. Nothing more. Quit trying to add meaning to the term." As if atheism can only be some platonic ideal floating in virtual space with no connections to anything else; as if atheists are people who have attained a zen-like ideal, their minds a void, containing nothing but atheism, which itself is nothing. Dumbasses.
Much emotional opinion follows, but very little solid reasoning as to why Myers is right and the entire atheist movement is wrong. This is to be expected when ideology and not intellect becomes the dominating factor in any ecosystem. Intellect may be challenged, ideology must be obeyed. Period. This diatribe from Myers to subordinate atheism to his will may otherwise be described as a demand for conformity to an absolute creed.
Isn't A Plurality Of Ideas Unsettling To Humanity? Yes. That is the only way we will have progress. A multiplicity of individuals thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, dis­carded or adopted. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes chokes progress.
The final piece of the extracts pretty much lays it out clearly on the table - ideology is antithetical to Freethought. It has no place. It is a memetic parasite that if allowed to take root, will kill the host. Freethought will cease to be Freethought. This is not a negotiable position - it is a concrete reality. Freethought can only survive free from constraint and in a fully diverse ecosystem. The inevitable conflicts that arise in such a system are what fuels Freethought's growth and maintains its health. The banal homogeneity promoted by Freefromthoughtblogs will, conversely, starve Freethought of all its vitality and destroy it. What is clearly evident from all this is that Freethoughtblogs has absolutely nothing in common with the Freethought movement. Freethoughtblogs is in fact its very antithesis - and any attempt to merge the two will be fatal for genuine Freethought.

Given that Freethoughtblogs has absolutely no relation to the actual Freethought movement, why is there no disclaimer to that effect posted anywhere on FTB?

So PZ, or über-baboon or whatever, given that Freethoughtblogs has absolutely nothing in common with the Freethought movement, shouldn't you at least have the decency to let people know? There is a genuine risk that some people, especially the novice de-converts out there, may stumble across FTB and mistake it for the genuine Freethought movement. It is potentially enough to spook them back to their faith of origin. Really, much of the absolute mind-rotting garbage you let loose on an unsuspecting world is difficult enough to deal with even for hardened Cynics that have seen it all. Quite aside frome everything else, appropriating the moniker in the manner you have, without any clarifications or warnings or disclaimers, is highly misleading, even fraudulent. It's probably technically OK if you use it as a trademark, but again common decency should dictate that you clearly state it is only a trademark, and not in any way related to the genuine Freethought movement. Here, I'll even help -


FTB is an independently operated yellow journal in the proud tradition of William Randolph Hearst and public spectacle sideshow a la P.T. Barnum. As such, we must take this opportunity to disclaim that we have any relation or connection to either the genuine Freethought movement or any Age of Enlightenment legacy. We are in fact antithetical, and hostile, to both, and should for any reason we create the illusion that we may in fact be related, we wish to apologise in advance as any such connection will be entirely unintentional, not to mention impossible to even conceive. FTB exists solely for the purposes of injecting our ideology anywhere it is unwanted, ritualised public humiliation of ideological heretics, and turning on each other in internecine bloodbaths when things get slow with the previous. Thank you.

Come on Myers, it's time for you to make the first honest move in your life - just admit to the above. You'll feel much better for it.