American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. One who has rejected authority and dogma, especially in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. One who is not guided in the formation of his beliefs by obedience to authority, but submits the claims of authority to reason as the ultimate arbiter. The early application of the term was to those who occupied a rationalistic position in regard to current religious beliefs and dogmas; hence it acquired the still current sense of skeptic, infidel, and even atheist. The word, though employed earlier, is generally supposed to have been brought into common use in 1713 by the publication of Anthony Collins's “A Discourse of Freethinking, occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect called Freethinkers,” Although this work defines free-thinking as the endeavor to judge a proposition according to the weight of evidence, and does not explicitly maintain any proposition which can offend a Protestant, it was rightly judged to be a covert attack upon fundamental tenets of the Christian religion. The free-thinkers specifically so called formed a class of deistical writers in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the chief of whom were Toland (died 1722), Anthony Collins (1676–1729), Woolston (1669–1733), Tindal (died 1733), and Bolingbroke (1678–1751). See
- n. Synonyms Unbeliever, Skeptic, etc. See infidel.
- n. A person who has formed their opinions using reason and rational enquiry; somebody who has rejected dogma, especially with regard to religion.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. One who speculates or forms opinions independently of the authority of others; esp., in the sphere or religion, one who forms opinions independently of the authority of revelation or of the church; an unbeliever; -- a term assumed by deists and skeptics in the eighteenth century.
- n. a person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it
“Now my first reaction to "freethinker" is "well, you get what you pay for," and nothing in the essay caused me to alter that opinion.”
“Next election, the freethinker is tossed, either by the nomination committee or the electorate.”
“* An unidentified Major in Iraq -- a fundamentalist Christian pretending to be a "freethinker" -- for attending the first meeting of atheist service members under the umbrella of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, then verbally berating the other attendees, accusing them of plotting against Christians and disrespecting soldiers who have died protecting the Constitution.”
“A freethinker is a person who forms an opinion about religion, politics and morals independently of tradition, authority or established belief.”
“I know, -- "and the Cardinal hesitated a moment," I know I can speak quite plainly to you, for you are what is called a freethinker -- yet”
“He is known as a freethinker, a supporter of women's rights, an advocate of equality, and a pioneer in everything from drama to technology.”
“at one time a freethinker was a man who had been brought up in the conception of religion, law, and morality, who reached freethought only after conflict and difficulty.”
“Reply: Oh? So it's okay for you to call me "lazy, inept, naive", but it is not okay for me to call you a liberal, for whatever substitution you may want to use (i.e. individual "freethinker")?”
“Four soldiers attended this meeting - all of them very junior enlisted soldiers with the exception of one Major an O-4, who claimed to be a "freethinker".”
“Only in the religious questions we meet with a clear system: they are all addressed to Malevole, who is represented as a kind of freethinker, similar to the one whom”
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