07 January 2009


According to Susan Jacoby in her 2004 book (pp 4-5): FREETHINKERS, a History of American Secularism the term freethought "...first appeared in the late 1600s and flowered into a genuine social and philosophical movement during the next two centuries..."

The author continues: "American freethought derived much of its power from an inclusiveness that encompassed many forms of rationalist belief... Freethought can... be understood as a phenomenon running the gamut from the truly antireligious... to those who adhered to a private, unconventional faith revering some form of God or Providence but at odds with orthodox religious authority. American freethinkers have included deists, who, like many of the founding fathers, believed in a 'watchmaker God' who set the universe in motion but subsequently took no active role in the affairs of men; agnostics; and unabashed atheists. What the many types of freethinkers shared, regardless of their views on the existence or nonexistence of a divinity, was a rationalist approach to fundamental questions of earthly existence ---a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world. It was this conviction, rooted in Enlightenment philosophy, that carried the day when the former revolutionaries gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the Constitution."

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