COLUMN: 'Freethinker' response to Faith Today page
I describe myself as a freethinker.
“What is a freethinker?” you might ask. “Isn’t it just a fancy name for atheists?”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a freethinker as “one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; especially: one who doubts or denies religious dogma”.
What do freethinkers believe?
Freethinking or free thought is a philosophical viewpoint, which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas (Wikipedia).
Freethinkers aim to build their opinions and knowledge of the world around them based on facts, on scientific inquiry and evidence and on logic. They do not believe there is enough evidence to support the idea or belief in a supernatural entity or entities or in supernatural phenomena.
Many freethinkers also describe themselves as skeptics. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and humanists.
Sounds simple enough but in reality the fear associated with calling oneself a freethinker can be nothing less than paralyzing.
We live in a community of churches. We live in a community where, to be frank, religion rules. At one time Chilliwack had the highest ratio of churches to citizens in Canada.
“You’re being paranoid! What do churches have to do with being scared of saying you are a freethinker?”
“Love your neighbour as yourself.” Sounds good, great even, but there’s a catch. They will love you as long as you agree with their religious doctrine, as long as you attend their church, as long as you agree to be silent about evolution and evidence-based science in the classrooms and don’t worry about your sexual identity because their god will heal you of any confusion you may have.
They will love you as long as you conform to and agree with their doctrine, their dogma, their traditions and their faith.
But what if I don’t agree? What if I don’t accept your doctrine, your dogma, your traditions, and your faith? What then? What will the consequences be?
Will my family disown me? Will my friends ostracize me? Will I be scared to go to the mall because of the nasty comments? Will I get hate mail? Will my house be egged? Will I be shouted down in the Letters section?
Will I be prayed for? Prayed over? Prayed at?
These are the reasons why freethinkers hide their true selves and yet we are in your churches, your mosques, your synagogues, your schools, and your workplaces.
The 2001 Canadian Census found that 16.2 per cent of the population held no religious affiliation and that 42.2 per cent of residents in Vancouver hold “no religious affiliation.” A survey in 2008 found that 23 per cent of Canadians said they did not believe in a god (Timothy Avery—the Toronto Star). The numbers of people in Canada who believe in a god are dropping.
Here in Chilliwack we have a section or column in the Chilliwack Times called “Faith Today” where local pastors provide insight to the community from a Christian point of view. I would like to see a section/column devoted to providing insight to the community from the freethinkers point of view.
It’s time Chilliwack truly loved their neighbours and allowed freethinkers the freedom to act, speak, or think without hindrance or restraint or fear.
• A. Murphy is a de-converted fundamentalist Christian. Happy Freethinker. Married to a Humanist. Father of five.