strive to form their opinions on the basis of facts and reason.
An idealized statement of this attitude is "Clifford's Credo,"
an aphorism of the 19th Century British mathematician and philosopher
William Kingdon Clifford who wrote in his "Ethics of Belief"
that "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to
believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Because so
many popular beliefs are based on tradition or authority, freethinkers'
opinions are often at odds with established dogmatic, political,
social, intellectual or religious views. Many freethinkers, although
by no means all, believe that there is insufficient evidence to
support the existence of such supernatural entities and phenomena
as ghosts, gods, angels, devils, leprechauns, reincarnation, heaven,
hell, and so on. In Western society, freethought often involves
a rejection of Christianity, or indeed of any religious doctrine.
This rejection itself may arise from dogmatically held prejudice,
and a true freethinker will be on guard against such prejudgements.
Where other dogmas or doctrines are prevalent, those who dissent
from them on the basis of facts and rational analysis also exhibit
the principles of freethought. This will apply regardless of what
the prevailing or approved doctrine might be, whether religious
are often ties between freethought and atheism, agnosticism, deism,
heresy, skepticism (scepticism), and both humanism and secular
humanism, but none of these terms are synonymous with one another
nor are their referents necessarily compatible with freedom of
thought. Even Freethought is used to refer to different things
by different people. An orthodox believer in any faith, for example,
may be a freethinker if he or she has come to accept those beliefs
on the basis of reason, if they question and/or reject one or
more articles of their religion's doctrines, or if they have rejected
alternative beliefs on the basis of free and rational thought
in accordance with reason. Deists claim that they can know that
a deity exists through rational argument which demands the existence
of a first cause.
Credo" and the writings of many freethinkers indicate that
nonreligious thought can have moral foundations as strong as those
found in religious traditions.
atheist freethinkers hold that freethought may be considered a
religion itself, or at least as a form of religious philosophy,
since it offers alternative analyses of and conclusions about
religious questions which do not include supernaturalism. In 1994,
this idea was acted on in the founding of the Church of Freethought,
which now exists as two active congregations of freethinkers:
the North Texas Church of Freethought and the Houston Church of