This post is a bit hyperbolic and more than a bit from the heart (or is it the head?). At any rate, the following is derived from wherever it is my feelings and aspirations come from. This post is also a proud declaration of independence and interdependence! This post is self-reflective, an expression of how I feel about my first book the “Freethought Resource Guide (FRG)” and its role within the community.
Before articulating what an egoistic smart-ass I was for writing it, I’d like to begin with some positive points. After extensive research, I am supremely confident that the FRG represents a unique entry into the pantheon of freethought literature. It is a huge leap forward in sorting through, vetting, and cataloguing the mass of information available to the independent and critical thinker. There really is no other work like it available. I think I have discovered, to my chagrin and excitement, at least two reasons why this is the case.
There is no concise or unanimous consensus about what it exactly means to be a freethinker. It is certainly a bit of an open question. So who on earth was I writing for? Freethinkers are independent rationalists? Atheists? Secular humanists? Perhaps, God forbid, even Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Pastafarians?
Whatever one’s definition of freethought is, I personally did emerge with a few key aspects which I think are essential to my interpretation of the term. As I worked through the mass of material it became clear I was writing to and for non-believers. Since reason, logic, and science are central values to freethought, it should not come as a surprise that much of the guide focuses on world-views which are in opposition to these values. I do not consider religious or spiritual folks freethinkers. That being said, I do support those, of whatever world-view, who are earnestly seeking to think more freely, reasonably, and skeptically.
There is also the “marketability” factor. I approached several publishers with the FRG concept and was rejected by all of them. Those who responded told me that they thought it was a great idea but that since much of the information was available on the internet they didn’t see how such a project could be profitable. I understand that position. Yet, it was precisely because there was such a vast array of information that I thought such a “guide” was necessary in order to makes sense of it all. Not only is much of the internet info incomplete and spread out over hundreds of sites but much of it is unvetted and not sourced properly. Well, damn marketability! I wanted such I guide and I thought others might want it as well.
I hope it is clearer why such a work as the FRG has not been created before. Not only is freethought a somewhat nebulous concept, but the very values most freethinkers do share lend themselves to individuals who pursue innumerable other interests, perspectives, moral precepts. Freethought necessarily sparks diversity, creativity, and non-conformity. A few individuals have told me that freethought and guide is necessarily an oxymoron. I had the same initial reaction when I came up with it. Yet, I don’t currently agree with the sentiment for the FRG is simply an educational tool, a list of recommended works, not the ultimate “freethinker credo” or doctrine. I wished there had been a book like it when beginning my own journey. I thought others might benefit from my site seeing tour through the halls of this amazingly rich, varied, and rewarding perspective which has helped profoundly shape the world in which we live and enjoy. Take what you will from it, call me out on my mistakes and omission, but please don’t accuse me of indoctrination…. freethinkers hate that!
Shortly after deciding to write the FRG, I realized how arrogant and inevitably error ridden the project would become. What a fool to think that I, so young and so inexperienced, could create something which would be useful and appealing to the large diverse herd of cats that is the freethought community! What was I thinking? Take from the guide what you will. I do not think you will be disappointed. Buy it for the 80 poems alone, the huge list of references, the hundreds of songs, the 25 common logical fallacies, or the 36 arguments for the existence of god; hell, buy it because you pity a young man who spent more than 2 years of full-time work to put it together.
I have heard or read a number of individuals exclaim to me, “Who do you think you are!?” This dismissive rhetorical question is a verbal ejaculation quit often arising from the logical fallacy known as an appeal to popularity. “Who are you,” the person is thinking, “a single ignorant 30 year old kid,” they continue with a bewildered huff, “to question thousands of years of eminent thinkers and billions of believers? How outrageously foolish and silly!” I am perplexed that if a claim is asserted by enough people for a long enough time it becomes defacto true to many individuals simply because enough people for a long enough time asserted the claim. Yet, a great number of believers a truth does not make. To be fair, I understand why we often succumb to this fallacy. “We” as in you, I, and the lot of us. We all do it far more often than we should. We pick a group of authorities on a subject and have a very great tendency to trust every utterance they make. Theists often trust theologians. I often trust scientists or freethinkers whom I’ve admired in the past. So I get it. I also understand the knee-jerk reaction which induces such incredulous utterances to statements coming from the crowd of individuals I least trust.
My book is first and foremost a call to action! In some form or another such a guide is necessary for inspiring, informing, and connecting freethinkers. Sure, the internet and meet ups are great for organizing and learning. However, a comprehensive text is vital for connecting the various threads of our movement. I hope the guide puts all aspects of the perspective into a clear and interconnected context. If you think you can do better, by all means, please, I implore you to do so. More importantly, urge the leaders in the freethought community to create something like it. We urgently need their wisdom in a world dominated by well-organized religions.
It might be a bit old-fashioned, but I think experienced freethinkers need to set down on paper or air-waves or the intertubes what they have learned and what resources it took for them to learn it. And I think that you should demand it from them! We should demand such expression and collaboration from all corners of the rational community. We cannot and will not succeed in isolation. I have attempted to pass along what little nuggets have come my way in the hope that others will be better for it. If we all do the same the world will be better for it!
It might be presumptuous for me to hope that the atheism of today, while like a rolling thunder-clap of an approaching storm, full of sound and fury, becomes, after its passing, the nourishment for a perspective signifying something. Something that, through an atheistic saturation, the cleansing away of dead ideologies, becomes fertile ground for a truly secular and humanist approach to life which may enrich rather than diminish the scope, truth, and beauty of the human experience.