|Diderot the man who brought the encyclopaedia as work-instrument for free thought|
To get some anti-church reaction under way, sometimes the teachers were not afraid to present themselves as martyrs. In 1600 with the execution, or martyrdom to some, of Giordano Bruno for heresy by the Inquisition some consider it to be the beginning of the modern Freethought movement.
In its earliest roots the Freethought movement explicitly organized itself as anti-church, or more specifically anti-dogma and anti-hierarchy. “Free” “Thought” simply referred to thought free of the control religious institutions.
When you take Freethought to be a philosophical viewpoint that holds free opinions, it should be formed on the basis of free thinking, not bounded to dogma's but following logic, reason, and empiricism and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas. Freethought should then be build on an experience by which people also allow others to think freely and to pose questions and to give answers according to their own experiences in this life on earth.
We would expect from such a free thinker he or she also allow free thinking to the other, but recently we have seen many so called freethinkers and humanists who want to press their own ideas onto others and laugh with those who prefer to keep on the idea of there be existing a Supreme Divine Being, Creator of heaven and earth.
Those ‘freethinking’ people not always are so free thinking as they seem to pretend. More than once they also are anti religion people, though not always atheists or secular paganists.
What we would like to see of those practitioners of freethought or ‘freethinkers’ is that they stimulate interaction of thought. Freethought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Freethinkers should strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas.
For a lot of freethinkers there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena and therefore to come to worship and having meetings for holding certain rites, having a formation of religion, would be considered wrong because it would give a sign of a believe upon insufficient evidence.
Toward the end of the 17th century in England the term ‘free-thinker emerged and was used to describe those who stood in opposition to the institution of the Church, and of literal belief in the Bible. Several people had started to examine the Bible and to compare it with the dogmatic teachings of the 'catholic' and traditional state church. They were convinced in what the Bible taught that each should examine the Word of God and could be formed by it. They believe god loved His people so much He was willing to give it enough information so that they could come to learn the Truth. God wants everybody to study His Word and to come to understand the world through consideration of god His Creation (nature, plants and animals).
In 1697 William Molyneux wrote a widely publicized letter to John Locke. 16 years later Anthony Collins wrote his ‘Discourse of Free-thinking,’ which gained substantial popularity. In France, the concept first appeared in publication in 1765 when Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond d’Alembert and Arouet de Voltaire, who disliked the Jews, not because of racial prejudice but because they seemed to him responsible for Christianity, included an article on ‘Libre-Penseur’ in their ‘Encyclopédie.’
The European freethought concepts spread so widely that even places as remote as the Jotunheimen, in Norway, had well-known freethinkers, such as Jo Gjende, by the 19th century
According ne of the oldest still running Freethought publications is The Freethinker, first published in Britain in 1881.
In line with the reactionary origins of the movement, it’s founder, G. W. Foote, wrote of its purpose: “The Freethinker is an anti-Christian organ, and must therefore be chiefly aggressive. It will wage relentless war against superstition in general.”
However, the earliest roots of the Humanist movement identified itself as a religion. Like other secular movements, for instance Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity, historic Humanism in the US, with a capital ‘H’, was designed as a brand new naturalistic religion. This is clearly seen in a document created by many of the first leading Humanist thinkers, scientists and activists: the First Humanist Manifesto 1933. It states that:
Today man’s larger understanding of the universe, his scientific achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion.
The focus was on a broader definition of religion that included naturalistic and non-theistic worldviews. Religion was something to be re-thought and updated instead of countered.Please do find his ideas in: Is Humanism a Religion?