A freethinker is a person who claims to form opinions on the basis of reason, apart from tradition, authority, or established beliefs. Usually, freethinking is associated with those who are skeptical of religion. Freethinkers are naturalistic and do not base morality on a standard set by a higher being.
Free thought rejects traditional social or religious belief systems. What unites freethinkers is not necessarily their beliefs but the way in which they hold them. If a freethinker has beliefs because someone else told him they were true when he was young or if he holds them because they are what give him hope or make him happy, his thought is not considered free. If, instead, he holds beliefs because, after careful thought, he finds a balance of evidence in the belief’s favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.
Most freethinkers believe there is no God (although some Deists also call themselves freethinkers). Since they are naturalistic, freethinkers view reality as limited to that which is directly perceivable through the natural senses or through reason. They do not accept the ample evidences of God in our world as sufficient reason to believe in God. Nor do they accept the Bible as God’s revelation by which humans might know Him. The Bible tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Freethinkers ignore the biblical command to “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) and fit the description in Romans 1:22: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”
Freethinkers believe that the only way to truly be free is to rid oneself of all superstition, holy scriptures, creeds, messiahs, and other “untruths.” For them, all meaning is found and created by the self, since meaning originates in one’s mind. The Bible tells us that freedom is found in Christ (John 8:36). No one can bring freedom on his own. People are bound by sin until Jesus cleanses them and breaks the power that sin and death hold over them (Romans 6). God gives everyone the freedom to choose what to believe, but this does not mean that every idea someone thinks is true. Objective truth exists, whether we choose to believe it or not. By believing ideas “free from God,” freethinkers use the freedom God gives them to live ensnared by lies. They are bound, not free.
Most freethinkers are humanists, basing morality on human needs, not what they consider to be imagined “cosmic absolutes.” Often, their worldview includes a respect for the planet and animals, as well as a strong commitment to equality. While freethinkers are trying to do what they perceive is right, and while it is commendable to be a kind person, to recycle, and to preserve and uphold the value of life, it will always fall short. There will never be enough reason to continue doing these things—nor the unity to agree on what is right and wrong—if belief is solely the result of individual reason. Furthermore, even good, humanitarian deeds are like filthy rags to God apart from His Spirit (Isaiah 64:6). They can never lead to a right standing with God. Any attempt to bring goodness to the world without God is done out of wrong and selfish motives. The “goodness” of man apart from Christ is ultimately futile.
In The Ethics of Belief, mathematician and philosopher William Kingdon Clifford summarizes the freethinker’s belief that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” It is true that to believe something without sufficient evidence would be foolish. The Bible encourages us to have a defense for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15). Historically, scientifically, and archaeologically, the Bible can stand up to questioning and provide overwhelming evidence for belief (Luke 1:1–4; Acts 26:25–26). The Bible promises us that if we seek, we will find (Matthew 7:7–8). There is more than enough evidence to believe the truths of the Bible. Those who truly search for the truth will find it and will be freed by the God who is Truth (John 14:6).