2009-03-11

Another thought on freethought

Once again, Mike Chapman has gotten me thinking. This time it was a sort of direct challenge, because he asked me some questions directly. I thought my response to his question, "Do you label yourself with a term(s) related to unbelief? If so, what is/are these terms and how do you use them to signify your worldview?" is worth copying here. Again, it's something I've been thinking about for a while, but hadn't gotten around to writing it down. Thanks, Mike.


I have long identified myself as an "agnostic", and I mean this in an intellectual/rational sense of knowledge, and nearly completely distinct from any form of belief or faith. I use the term "agnostic" to say that evidence of the existence of a god or "higher" power is and never will be available. Scientific methods of inquiry would be the only rational way to show such evidence. However, what one believes is separate from what one knows, in that a person does not need to prove something to believe it. Feelings, epiphanies, moments of clarity, instincts, and many other things affect our beliefs and our faith.

I, personally, believe there is a higher power. That higher power could, from my perspective, be labeled as God, or just as well by any of the laws of physics that apply. There is order in the universe, and science is slowly uncovering its ways. Humans will never discover every law and every force under which our world operates, and this unknown can very easily be labeled as a god. I do, sometimes, find myself thankful for the way things happen, and I tend to revert to the judeo-christian standard of looking towards the sky and giving a quick thanks. i do this because I think upwards is as good of a direction as any in which to look, and I don't want to live my life ungratefully. This might make me some sort of spiritual, but I tend not to identify with such labels.

Similarly, I might call myself a fatalist, since I believe that, given the laws of physics that we have and have not discovered yet, and given complete knowledge of the state of every particle in the universe, as well as unlimited computing power, one could "see" the future, much as one "sees" that a ball falling from a rooftop will soon be on the ground. I doubt that many other people would consider this view to be "fatalism".

Only very recently have I become acquainted with the term "freethinker". I think this describes me very well, because I have long been a staunch proponent of thinking about reasons for anything instead of making decisions based only on tradition, previous impressions, rhetoric, or other non-logical methods of persuasion. If such a term has been defined, I would be a "passive freethinker", since freethought itself is not a cause or a belief, but a method and a way to arrive at conclusion, and not a conclusion itself. Thus while I firmly believe that the tenets of freethought should be made easily available to all people, I don't see freethought as an alternative or as a competitor to religion, spirituality, or faith. These are completely separate, and it is the antagonistic aspect of freethought with which I don't identify.