Freethought

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Every notion that any man, dead, living, or unborn, might form as to the universe will necessarily prove wrong. ~ James Branch Cabell

Freethought or free thought is a philosophical stance which holds that opinions regarding any forms of truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and experience, rather than authority, tradition, or dogmatic doctrines. The application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers".

See also:
Absurdism
Agnosticism
Anarchism


CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links

Quotes[edit]

Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

It's important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. ~ Robert Anton Wilson
  • I say that I am an agnostic. People think that's pusillanimous and covering your bets. But it's not based on any belief or yearning for an afterlife but on the fact that we actually know so little about the cosmos. It is a tribute to the complexity and, at our present stage of development, the unknowability of the universe.
    • Martin Amis, in "The New Amis" in The Telegraph (13 May 2000)
  • As the days went slowly by he came to see that Christianity and the denial of Christianity after all met as much as any other extremes do; it was a fight about names — not about things; practically the Church of Rome, the Church of England, and the freethinker have the same ideal standard and meet in the gentleman; for he is the most perfect saint who is the most perfect gentleman. Then he saw also that it matters little what profession, whether of religion or irreligion, a man may make, provided only he follows it out with charitable inconsistency, and without insisting on it to the bitter end. It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma or want of dogma that the danger lies.
  • You don't understand, you fool' says Yegor, looking dreamily up at the sky. 'You've never understood what kind of person I am, nor will you in a million years... You just think I'm a mad person who has thrown his life away... Once the free spirit has taken hold of a man, there's no way of getting it out of him.
  • The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go. And in the work of abolishing it the Catholic and the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jew, the Catholic and the Freethinker, the Catholic and the Buddhist, the Catholic and the Mahometan will co-operate together, knowing no rivalry but the rivalry of endeavour toward an end beneficial to all. For, as we have said elsewhere, socialism is neither Protestant nor Catholic, Christian nor Freethinker, Buddhist, Mahometan, nor Jew; it is only Human. We of the socialist working class realise that as we suffer together we must work together that we may enjoy together. We reject the firebrand of capitalist warfare and offer you the olive leaf of brotherhood and justice to and for all.
  • One should not have the arrogance to declare that God does not exist.
    • Umberto Eco, quoted in "Belief or Nonbelief? : A Confrontation By Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini" in The Los Angeles Times (18 March 2000)
  • I do not believe in the God of the theologians; but that there is a Supreme Intelligence I do not doubt.
    • Thomas Edison, in The Freethinker (1970), G.W. Foote & Company, Volume 90, p. 147
  • The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. However, I am also not a "Freethinker" in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition. My feeling is insofar religious as I am imbued with the consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as "laws of nature." It is this consciousness and humility I miss in the Free-thinker mentality.
    • Albert Einstein, in a letter to "Beatrice F___" (17 December 1952), in response to a question about whether he was a "free thinker", as quoted in Einstein and Religion : Physics and Theology (1999) by Max Jammer, p. 121-122
The Blind Leading the Blind. - Darwin did not know what a bitter satire he wrote on mankind ... when he showed that free competition, the struggle for existence, which the economists celebrate as the highest historical achievement, is the normal state of the animal kingdom... - Friedrick Engels.
  • Darwin did not know what a bitter satire he wrote on mankind ... when he showed that free competition, the struggle for existence, which the economists celebrate as the highest historical achievement, is the normal state of the animal kingdom. Only conscious organization of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal.

G - L[edit]

  • Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
    Say not, "I have found the path of the soul."
    Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
    For the soul walks upon all paths.
    The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
    The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”
  • The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has—from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.
  • Yet the ivory gods,
    And the ebony gods,
    And the gods of diamond-jade,
    Sit silently on their temple shelves
    While the people
    Are afraid
    Yet the ivory gods,
    And the ebony gods,
    And the gods of diamond-jade Are only silly puppet gods
    That people themselves
    Have made.
Freedom and order are not incompatible... truth is strength... free discussion is the very life of truth. - Thomas H. Huxley.
  • No one who has lived in the world as long as you & I have, can entertain the pious delusion that it is engineered upon principles of benevolence... the cosmos remains always beautiful and profoundly interesting in every corner--and if I had as many lives as a cat I would leave no corner unexplored.
  • Cinderella [Science]... lights the fire, sweeps the house, and provides the dinner; and is rewarded by being told that she is a base creature, devoted to low and material interests. But in her garret she has fairy visions out of the ken of the pair of shrews [Theology and Philosophy] who are quarrelling downstairs. She sees the order which pervades the seeming disorder of the world; the great drama of evolution, with its full share of pity and terror, but also with abundant goodness and beauty... ; and she learns... that the foundation of morality is to [be] done, once and for all, with lying; to give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence."
  • I am content with nothing, restless and ambitious... and I despise myself for the vanity, which formed half the stimulus to my exertions. Oh would that I were one of those plodding wise fools who having once set their hand to the plough go on nothing doubting."
    • Thomas H. Huxley in: “Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest”, p. 84
  • I do not say think as I think, but think in my way. Fear no shadows, least of all in that great spectre of personal unhappiness which binds half the world to orthodoxy.
    • Thomas H. Huxley in: “Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest”, p. 169
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. There is not a truth existing which I fear... or would wish unknown to the whole world.
I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. - Thomas Jefferson.
  • ...shake off all the fears and servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
  • Rational free spirits are the light brigade who go on ahead and reconnoitre the ground which the heavy brigade of the orthodox will eventually occupy.
  • Man is a masterpiece of creation if for no other reason than that, all the weight of evidence for determinism notwithstanding, he believes he has free will.
  • With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.
...Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man--this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in and inferior position.... - Abraham Lincoln.
  • Christianity is not my religion and the Bible is not my book. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of doctrine and dogma.
  • ...Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man--this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in and inferior position...Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal.

M - R[edit]

  • It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living. It is clear also that thought is not free if all the arguments on one side of a controversy are perpetually presented as attractively as possible, while the arguments on the other side can only be discovered by diligent search.

S - Z[edit]

It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. - Carl Sagan.
  • I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.
  • If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits? For me it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
  • The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
  • There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That's perfectly all right; they're the aperture to finding out what's right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.
  • I'm sickened by all religions. Religion has divided people. I don't think there's any difference between the pope wearing a large hat and parading around with a smoking purse and an African painting his face white and praying to a rock.
It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus.
  • About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.
    I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I'm dead.
    My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?"
    I myself have written, "If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake."
  • Words to intrigue, inspire, examine, question, praise;
    Words to help us appreciate our world, our selves, our games;
    Words to dance]] our true soul fires gracefully free.
    • Julia (Jay) Woodman, in Love & Life, Radiance-Solutions.

Emerson: The Mind on Fire[edit]

Is it not better to intimate our astonishment as we pass through this world if it be only for a moment ere we are swallowed up in the yeast of the abyss? I will lift up my hands and say Kosmos.

Ralph Waldo Emerson in: Robert D. Richardson Emerson: The Mind on Fire, University of California Press, 6 March 1995

  • Who is he that shall control me? Why may not I act and speak and write and think with entire freedom? What am I to the universe, or, the unvierse, what is it to me? Who hath forged the chains of wrong and right, of Opinion and Custom? And must I wear them?
    • In: p. 51
  • Life is wasted in the necessary preparation of finding what is the true way, and we die just as we enter it.
    • In: p. 55
  • The dead sleep in their moonless night. My business is with the living.
    • In: p. 55
  • All that can be done for you is nothing to what you can do for yourself.
    • In: p. 69
  • Whenever the average intellect of the clergy declines in the balance with the average intellect of the people] the churches will be shut up and a new order of things [will] begin.
    • In: p. 77
  • Is it not better to intimate our astonishment as we pass through this world if it be only for a moment ere we are swallowed up in the yeast of the abyss? I will lift up my hands and say Kosmos.
    • In: p. 122
  • I will not live out of me
    I will not see with others' eyes
    My good is good, my evil ill
    I would be free.
    • In: p. 126-27
  • Religionists are clinging to little, positive, verbal, formal versions of the moral law... while the laws of the Law, the great circling truths whose only adequate symbol is the material laws, the astronomy etc. are all unobserved, and sneered at when spoken of.
    • In: p. 151
  • The end of being is to know; and if you say, the end of knowledge is action,--why, yes, but the end of that action again, is knowledge.
    • In: p. 153
  • Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language--not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book which is written in that tongue.
    • In: p. 155
  • The exercise of all the senses is as intense pleasure, as anyone will find, who recovers the use of one after being deprived of it.
    • In: p. 155-56
  • Natural science sharpens the discrimination. There is no false logic in nature. All its properties are permanent: the acids and metals never lie; their yea is yea, their nay, nay. They are newly discovered but not new.
    • In: p. 170
  • We are always getting ready to live, but never living... The wave moves onward but the particles of which it is composed do not... It cannot be but that at intervals throughout society there are real men intermixed . . . as the carpenter puts one iron bar in his bannister for every five or six wooden ones.
    • In: p. 180
As I walked in the woods I felt what I often feel, that nothing can befal me in life,... Standing on the bare ground, with my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into the infinite space, I become happy in my universal relations. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental. I am the heir of unaccustomed beauty and power.
  • As I walked in the woods I felt what I often feel, that nothing can befal me in life,... Standing on the bare ground, with my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into the infinite space, I become happy in my universal relations. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental. I am the heir of unaccustomed beauty and power.
    • In: p. 199
  • when the vain speaker has sat down, and the people say 'what a good speech,' it still takes an ounce to balance an ounce.
    • In: p. 203
  • I will no longer confer, differ, refer, defer, prefer, or suffer. I renounce the whole tribe of fero. I embrace absolute life.
    • In: p. 205
  • Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?
    • In: p. 226
  • Why should we grope among the dry bones of the past? The sun shines today also.
    • In: p. 227
  • We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner, that is, must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall see nothing, learn nothing, keep nothing.
    • In: p. 258
  • What is the end of human life? It is not, believe me, the chief end of man that he should make a fortune and beget children whose end is likewise to make a fortune, but it is, in few words, that he should explore himself.
    • In: p. 261
  • [Young persons] grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.
    • In: p. 265
  • I believe in Eternity--that is that I can find Greece and Palestine and Italy and England and the Islands--the genius and creative principle of each and all eras in my own mind.
    • In: p. 317
  • Heaven walks among us ordinarily muffled in such triple or tenfold disguises that the wisest are deceived and no one suspects the days to be gods.
    • In: p. 342
  • To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
    • In: p. 403
  • The wise skeptic does not teach doubt but how to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting.
    • In: p. 416
  • The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.
    • In: p. 438
  • So far as a man thinks, he is free.
    • In: p. 502
  • The world exists, as I understand it, to teach the science of liberty.
    • In: p. 503
  • This day for all that is good and fair. It is too dear with its hopes and invitations to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays.
    • In: p. 543

External links[edit]

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