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Freethought, or free inquiry, is a catch-all term referring to beliefs on "religious" subjects that reject tradition, authoritarianism, and established beliefs, including revealed or fundamentalist religion, insisting on the primacy of facts and reason, especially science. Hence the term "free" meaning "free from external dogma", implying that their beliefs came from their own thinking and research and on which there are no prohibitions on what may be doubted or questioned. It is the basis for rationalism, secularism, and democracy. It overlaps with atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism, but may also according to some definitions describe some theistic beliefs such as deism.

Those who favor freethought are called freethinkers and are currently the largest group of what you could call "organised" atheists. Other brandings have adopted the name "Brights", but their detractors find that term to be rather confrontational, arrogant, and somewhat embarrassing. Most freethinkers will typically be atheists and/or agnostics (since one may be both), and use the "freethought" term to indicate how they came to not believe in any gods or other forms of supernaturalism. Some, however, are theists of one type or another who also consider themselves to have reached their conclusions by independent thought.

The most radical Freethinkers are those who assert that Freethought may be construed as rational religion. This view takes religion to be the sense that people make of their personal, private, and subjective experiences, the "qualia" of their lives, while accepting science — and the rejection of supernaturalism — as the only satisfactory means of making sense of objective perceptions. This view calls attention to the US Supreme Court holding, in the case of Seeger,[1] that religion has to do with whatever one considers to be one's "ultimate concern".

The term "freethinker" emerged toward the end of the 17th century in England to describe those who stood in opposition to the institution of the Church, and of literal belief in the Bible.

Advocacy groups[edit]


Freethought Day is held on October 12 to commemorate the end of the witch trials in Salem, a Massachusetts colony. A letter to the Privy Council of William and Mary on that date in 1692 by Governor William Phips stated that the proceedings were "stopt" and that a major cause of the convictions and executions had been "spectral evidence" which had come under serious criticism even by clerics of the time. The day is widely celebrated with dinner, discussion, themes, and speakers.[10] It was first proposed by an FFRF member in 1992.

International Blasphemy Rights Day is observed by freethinkers on September 30, the anniversary of the publication in 2005 of a Danish cartoon that portrayed the prophet Muhammad. The holiday was initiated in 2009 by the CFI as a reminder that religion should not be immune from criticism. The Institute for Creation Research bills it as "yet another day to espouse their hatred for religion."[11]

Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, May 20, was conceived of by a Seattle cartoonist in 2010 following the Comedy Central channel censorship of a South Park episode depicting Muhammad. Most Muslims maintain that one should not draw or otherwise depict Muhammad in any way.

See also[edit]



  1. And, yes, this is in Texas.