One of the common responses to our billboard campaign from theists has been “Some ‘free’ thinkers you are! You dismiss anyone who thinks differently than you!”. The irony of these statements is overwhelming. There seems to be some confusion as to what “freethought” is and what it means to be a “freethinker”. Let’s start with the definition:
FREETHOUGHT noun (dictionary.com)
thought unrestrained by deference to authority, tradition, or established belief, especially in matters of religion.
Freethought is not, as many appear to think, the universal reverence and acceptance of
any idea or belief system. As freethinkers, we believe that every viewpoint should be rigorously tested, examined, and criticized. We believe that ideas conceived from sources that cannot be questioned, such as religion, authority, or dogma, are dangerous. When an idea or belief is above criticism, it cannot grow or change with how we see the world.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell in his 1957 essay “The Value of Free Thought” wrote:
“What makes a freethinker is not his beliefs but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after careful thought he finds a balance of evidence in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.”
Our criticism of the story of Noah’s Ark is the result of a pragmatic examination of the Bible, and not, as some would believe, out of hatred for Christianity. The story of Noah’s Ark is part of the Christian creation myth. Believing this story to be fact, despite overwhelming consensus from multiple disciplines of science, is not only wrong, but dangerous. Teaching children and adults to ignore scientific fact in favor of unquestionable dogma will prevent our society from progressing in areas of science, medicine, and human rights.