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freethinkers

freethinkers, those who arrive at conclusions, particularly in questions of religion, by employing the rules of reason while rejecting supernatural authority or ecclesiastical tradition. The freethinkers believe that independence of thought from such authority leads all men to essentially identical conclusions concerning morality and religion. The name came into general use in the 18th cent. after the publication (1713) of Anthony Collins's Discourse of Freethinking Occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect Called Freethinkers. The movement took different forms in different countries. In England it was intimately connected with deism but did not break completely with traditional Christianity. It took a more radical form in France. Voltaire renounced all connection with Christianity, and the Encyclopedists broke with religion altogether. Freethinking also has an important social side and influenced the philosophies of the Freemasons and, in France, the Culte de l'Être Suprême. In the United States the organizations established to further freethinking include the American Rationalist Association, the American Secular Union, and the Freethinkers of America. The International Order for Ethics and Culture, organized at Bern in 1908, is designed to investigate the ethical factors in society without theological or metaphysical bias.

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freethinkers

freethinkers People whose opinions and ideas, especially on matters of religion, are not influenced by canon law or dogma. The original freethinkers were part of a post-Reformation movement that sought to assert reason over religious authority. Deism emerged as the chief expression of freethought during the 17th and 18th centuries. See also atheism; humanism

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freethinker

free·think·er / ˈfrēˈ[unvoicedth]ingkər/ • n. a person who rejects accepted opinions, esp. those concerning religious belief. DERIVATIVES: free·think·ing n. & adj.

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freethinker

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