A common label used by atheists to depict their style of thinking is the term “freethinkers.” I gather that the use of the term bears the meaning of being those who are liberated from the presumed archaic supernatural beliefs of all varieties.
However, at first glace the term connotes the idea of being released from a bound way of thinking to thinking more freely and broadly about the world. It seems to suggest that thinking for the Freethinker flows more freely to consider more possibilities than the limited view of the supernaturalists.
If Freethinking is more accurately described in the first paragraph that simply the old way of looking at the world has been replaced with a new more correct way and thus one is free of the old and embarking on the new, then, while I disagree with the premise, I accept the accuracy of the term. To put it another way, I understand why the term is used in that context even though I disagree that one needs liberating from supernaturalism as I don’t see naturalism as a more true view of the world.
If the second paragraph also contains the meaning of the use of this term in that the atheists believes they can see more broadly about the world than the theists then please consider the following. If, however, I was incorrect and the term is not used in this manner at all then simply ignore the following.
I cannot speak for all theists, nor all Christians, but I am going to speak as I usually do as a Christian and briefly compare and contrast the idea of freethinking between my worldview and that of an atheists/naturalist.
As a Christian I can look at the world and find something true and valid in any worldview, religion, or non-religion. For instance, I see nature as really there just as the naturalist does. But I also agree with the theists and spiritualists out there that a supernatural world also exists. I see a reality to spirituality like the Buddhist does. I see a God who is there and speaks to His people like the Jewish people do. I agree with the witchdoctor that there really is a dark power that he taps into. Thus, I find it difficult to see one who sets themselves apart from all the religions of the world and holds only to naturalism as a free thinker.
I am not advocating pluralism. I do not accept that opposite truth claims are equally true. The world’s religions have many opposite truth claims, however, there are things we have in common and things that I can see as mostly true, or somewhat true, or having a little truth, but a lot of distortion of that truth.
I would imagine though that a worldview that can see truth in more places would be more freethinking than one that only sees truth in naturalism and sets itself apart from the thinking of most of the world. Even the emerging term “Brights” depicts a mentality that naturalist/humanists/atheists are more intelligent than those who are not thinking their way. I’m not convinced that mentality is purposeful, I hope it is not. But I think the use of the terms gives the need for consideration of what exactly is being professed.
I’m not offended by the terms, but I wanted to analyze them a little. Maybe you all can tell me more about the use of these terms and what they mean to you.