This is an article written by Tim Stratton from Kearney Nebraska. I’ve pondered this, and argued this with ‘freethinkers’ as well, but Tim has done a fantastic job of breaking this argument down and explaining it. His new site at www.freethinkingministries.com will be up and running soon so please pay it a visit!
Atheists love to label themselves as “freethinkers” because they claim to have no restraints to follow the facts wherever they lead. These so-called freethinkers state that a modern-day atheist is “someone who has heard the claims of various religions, has read the books on which those claims are based, and has found the claims to be ridiculous.” There are a couple of problems with this statement. For one, just because a freethinker subjectively judges certain religious claims as ridiculous, it doesn’t logically follow that they are, in fact, ridiculous.
Moreover, if these atheists happen to be right, that God does not exist, it is also highly implausible that the immaterial aspect of humanity called a “soul” exists. This has led me to the conclusion that it is impossible for an atheistic naturalist to really be a “free thinker.” Sure, they can join the club and call themselves “freethinkers,” but if they happen to be right about atheistic naturalism, no one could freely think anything.
If God does not exist, it is difficult to see how anyone could ever freely think about good evidence and argumentation and choose to deliberate and think rationally to come to the most logical conclusions. I will demonstrate this in an argument I crafted after dwelling upon what it means to freely think:
The Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism
1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.
Basically, premise (1) is synonymous with “If naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.” That is pretty straightforward. Premise (2) is tantamount to “If all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.” Premise (3) is equivalent with “If all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.” If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume it.
Here is the big problem for the atheistic naturalist: It logically follows that if naturalism is true, then atheists cannot possess knowledge (no one could)! Knowledge is defined as “justified true belief.” One can happen to have true beliefs; however, if they do not possess warrant or justification for a specific belief, their belief does not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then one has no justification that their belief really is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).
Obviously humans possess rationality and knowledge. To argue this would affirm it. If one rejects knowledge, why should anyone listen to them? Therefore, libertarian free will and the soul (or some immaterial aspect of humanity) exists, and therefore, naturalism is false.
Returning to the original question, how can an atheist (if he’s right) truly be a “freethinker?” If God, and therefore, the human soul, does not exist, people are nothing more than material mechanisms bound by the laws of chemistry and physics. To put it bluntly, human beings would be nothing more than “bags of chemicals on bones,” or “meat robots.” If this is all we are, we do not possess libertarian free will. If humanity has no free will, then we are not free to think anything (in the libertarian sense). Therefore, knowledge, rationality, and morality are illusory. We would not be free to choose to be reasonable or to engage in logical argumentation or even to freely choose to follow evidence wherever it leads. Ultimately, if atheistic naturalism is true, we are not free to choose anything; that includes what we are going to choose to believe or think.
A naturalistic atheist has no justification to label himself as a “freethinker.” I think a better name for the freethinkers would be the “determined determinists.” Given naturalism, there’s no freedom to think otherwise!
Bottom line: The supernatural must exist for the naturalistic atheist to “freely think” that it doesn’t.
The FreeThinking Theist,
If you would like to see a deeper expanded version of this argument you can go here: