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Science and technology are transforming the world’s values more dramatically and more completely than organized religion has ever been capable of. Because so many people cannot deal comfortably with the moral dilemmas raised by the new technologies, one reaction has been a backlash. With the end of the Cold War, as democratic change sweeps the globe, the ironic effect so far has been an incredible growth in religiosity and irrationality. The Humanist alternative to traditional belief should be vigorously promoted in a way that answers the nagging questions in the minds of the people. The next century will be the humanistic century only if we change our ways, open up, and reach out to others. And our outreach must appeal to them not only intellectually, but also emotionally, aesthetically, sentimentally, and even physically.
In this revision of an earlier essay quoting Bertrand Russell, Lowder explores two widely held assertions, namely, that all nonbelievers are freethinkers and that no believers can be freethinkers. Lowder argues that theists can be freethinkers and that not all nontheists are freethinkers.
Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers paints a broad picture of American secularism, beginning with the US Constitution’s break with all precedent in failing to make even a passing reference to a deity, then outlining the importance of Enlightenment values–particularly the concept of natural rights–in propelling the abolition of slavery. Though Jacoby surveys a cast of nineteenth-century secularist heroes, she does not sufficiently emphasize the battles taken up by late nineteenth-century freethought organizations. But she does enjoin us to educate ourselves and ensure that the public never overlooks the harm that religion has caused, offering no compromises for the sake of political correctness.
Barker explains what it means to be a freethinker, and answers several frequently asked questions about freethinkers.