One of the most satisfying aspects of a practice of freethinking is teaching Freethought. Like Science, Philosophy or even Religion, this is about discovering various ways of seeking truth. We might say it’s simply a Way of Life. Not simple at all, yet centered on a rather simple premise: truth, wisdom and the ethical life are always open to question, investigation, trial and error. Orthodoxy stifles exploration and creativity. Curiosity pushes through and moves us forward. At their best, Science, Philosophy and Religion are driven by freethinking.
Teaching Freethought brings great joy. I often teach a class on one representative freethinker such as Thomas Paine, Frances Wright, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ralph Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Robert Ingersoll, John Muir. Few of these people called themselves a “Freethinker” yet each, in their own unique way, in their own historical context, modeled the essence of Freethought.
You’ll notice that most of these radical voices were also people of faith. None were strictly atheist. And, none were traditional believers. Each spoke out with a free voice and lived in a way that exhibited the meaning of freedom in body and mind.
I’m encouraged by the responses I receive from my classes. While some students find these thinkers a bit too radical for their taste, many others find them stimulating and liberating for themselves. As one student told me not long ago: “I didn’t know what to call myself. Now I know I’m a freethinker!”
Here are some recent responses from students in my Emerson class:
“I am astoundingly humbled at your knowledge and extensive reading of Emerson. The amount of time and concentration required to read and reread in order to plow through and make sense of his dense writing is impressive and, yes, humbling.”
“Always enjoy your informative and inspiring classes.”
“It strikes me that you strike a fine balance and that you guide and also allow new ideas and observations to percolate.”
“Chris is an excellent teacher who presented Emerson’s complex prose in simple English. He encouraged all attendees to express their views and listened patiently. I enjoyed this course very much.”
“Fascinating subject expertly presented.”
“Chris presents historical ideas that are pertinent to our lives today.”
See more responses from students on the Classes and Presentations page.
If you are teaching or studying Freethought or Freethinkers, I’d like to hear from you. We all have much to learn from each other. After all, that’s what freethinking is all about!