Freethought is an epistemological viewpoint that holds that beliefs should not be formed on the basis of authority, tradition, revelation, or dogma and that beliefs should instead be reached by other methods such as logic, reason, and empirical observation. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a freethinker is “a person who forms their own ideas and opinions rather than accepting those of other people, especially in religious teaching.” In some contemporary thought in particular, free thought is strongly tied to the rejection of traditional social or religious belief systems. The cognitive application of free thought is known as “freethinking”, and practitioners of free thought are known as “freethinkers”.
Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking.
How to Become a Freethinker
- Doubt your beliefs. The first and most important step to becoming a freethinker is to doubt the beliefs that were handed to you by society. Whatever your beliefs are — religious, political, philosophical and so on — be sure to question them and start your quest for truth from scratch.
- Rebel against authority. A lot of people blindly believe and follow what external authority tells them is true and right. They don’t think for themselves; rather, they let others think for them. A freethinker, however, doesn’t adhere to any dogma just because someone else told him or her to, no matter how much power or status that person has. Instead, a freethinker questions everyone and everything, and is open to accept any answers that point to the truth, even if they contradict those of authority figures.
- Observe your behavior. Although we tend to think that we act out of free will, most of our actions are actually carried out on an unconscious level. In other words, we are victims to our habits. To become a freethinker, you need to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. How? By observing all those things. Once you do that, you’ll be able to bring into light your unconscious thinking and behavioral patterns, which in turn will allow you to consciously respond to the present moment, instead of reacting in ways that your habits compel you to.
- Escape the herd. Another important tip to becoming a freethinker is to detach yourself from groupthink. You see, people tend to conform to the ways others think and act just so they can feel liked and accepted by them. But oftentimes those ways are severely harming themselves and the world. By escaping the herd mentality — and by that I mean not mindlessly complying to group thinking and behavior — you’ll be able to think way more clearly and make far better decisions in life.
- Research. A freethinker understands that he or she doesn’t know everything, and that there’s much to learn from others. Hence, in his or her search to discover the truth about any topic, a freethinker tries to gather information from as many sources as possible, such as books, articles and documentaries. Unlike most people, however, a freethinker makes sure that those sources as a whole present a variety of different — even conflicting — opinions and perspectives, to avoid getting stuck in informational echo chambers and develop a spherical understanding of any topic under discussion.
- Use critical thinking. Learning how to think critically is of utmost importance to freethinking. If you can’t analyze and critically assess the information you come across, you’ll not only be unable to understand whether it’s true or not, but you’ll also be an easy target for manipulation. To think critically, there are several tools you can use, such as evaluating whether that information stands to logic and is backed up by scientific evidence, or whether it resonates with your emotional intelligence and experiential understanding. Of course, all of those tools are flawed, but if we’re sincere in our search for the truth, they can be of great use in helping us to approach it.
- Be open to change. Last but not least, a freethinker is a person with a flexible mind — that is, a person who is not locked in a particular belief system or ideology. Rather, a freethinker is open to receiving new information, and most importantly, ready to change his or her mind when presented with evidence that contradicts his or her opinions and beliefs. A freethinker doesn’t accept anything blindly, yet at the same time doesn’t shy away from engaging in ideas that challenge his or her worldview.