The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers is the group responsible for Monday’s court ruling requiring Secretary of State Charlie Daniels to open the Capitol grounds up to displays from virtually any group in Arkansas. As we told you yesterday, this means that the Secretary of State must now allow a “winter solstice kiosk” to be placed right next to the Nativity scene that has been a part of the Capitol’s Christmas decorations since at least the 1940s. This new display does more than simply discuss the astronomical event of the winter solstice. It encourages people to take part in becoming a “freethinker”. With that in mind, we want to set about explaining in detail exactly what Freethinkers believe and what their society is advocating both in Arkansas and across the nation.
What is Freethought?
According to Wikipedia, Freethought is founded on the notion that a person’s beliefs should be dictated by “science, logic, and reason.” This sounds like a very honorable goal: To understand the world around us as completely and truthfully as possible. But what are the other implications of the Freethought movement? Is the Freethinker’s goal really to understand Truth, or is Freethought a form of dogma unto itself? The fact of the matter is that Freethinkers are incredibly dogmatic, and openly work to convert others to atheism.
Who are the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers?
To better understand what we’re talking about, let’s take a look specifically at the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.
According to their website, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers consists of atheists and other freethinkers from Central Arkansas, and is “open to anyone who has no belief in any god.” This is the same group who sponsored a billboard last year along the interstate that read “Beware of Dogma” (you can see a picture of it here). They meet regularly at Vino’s Pub in Little Rock, Carinos in West Little Rock, the Main Branch of the Little Rock Library, and elsewhere for “lively discussions, interesting people, provocative ideas, challenging conversation; if you like people who make you think and let you talk, if you’d like to get to know your fellow freethinker/atheists better, what they’re really like with no pretensions, no censorship, no affectations, this is the place for you.” Their website also says that their meetings are open to anyone who is atheist-friendly, but no proselytizing is allowed.
Are these simply another group of atheists?
So far, this sounds like purely a social group of atheists who enjoy “lively discussion,” with “no censorship,” except when it comes to anyone trying to convert them to a particular religion; that would be “proselytizing,” and is not allowed. But the obvious contradictions aside, their group seems to be fraternal, and nothing more. Digging a little deeper on their websites, however, shows that this group keeps some rather militant company.
Enter The Reason Project. According to their website:
“The Reason Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. Drawing on the talents of the most prominent and creative thinkers across a wide range of disciplines, The Reason Project seeks to encourage critical thinking and wise public policy through a variety of interrelated projects. The foundation will convene conferences, produce films, sponsor scientific studies and opinion polls, publish original research, award grants to other charitable organizations, and offer material support to religious dissidents and public intellectuals — all with the purpose of eroding the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world” (emphasis added).
A quick look at The Reason Project’s website is even more telling. According to their website:
“We believe that religious ideas require a special focus. Both science and the arts are built upon cultures of vigorous self-criticism; religious discourse is not. As a result, religious dogmatism still reigns unchallenged in almost every society on earth—dividing humanity from itself, inflaming conflict, preventing wise public policy, and diverting scarce resources. One of the primary goals of The Reason Project is to change this increasingly unhealthy status quo.”
Let’s consider that statement for a second—specifically the notion that religious ideas go unchallenged and are not self-critical. Two very clear, historical examples of religious ideas being challenged within Christianity are the Reformation and the formation of the Church of England. In the first case, the Reformation, Martin Luther led a movement to form a Christian denomination separate from the Roman Catholic Church; in the second case, King Henry VIII formed a separate denomination in large part to secure an annulment for his marriage. Personally, I believe Luther was right to defy the corruption present in much of the Church at his time, and that the Catholic Church was right to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its disagreement with King Henry.
One cannot argue that Christian theology has gone unchallenged for the past 2,000 years. It began with Jesus, who even atheists must agree openly challenged the religious establishments of his day; its followers have challenged one another throughout the centuries; countless Christians have been persecuted and martyred for their faith. The very notion that these things do not constitute challenges to Christian beliefs is simply false. The Reason Project has an agenda it wants to implement, and knows the best way to go about it is to start by tearing down people’s religious beliefs and substituting their brand of atheism instead.
Not only does the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers endorse The Reason Project. It also promotes The God Virus, a book that compares religious belief to—you guessed it—a contagious virus that infects people, complete with all the symptoms of sickness. Naturally, the author’s solution is to help people “recover” from religion.
I wonder if the people being treated in St. Vincent or Baptist Hospital in Little Rock feel the same way. There’s a reason why so many medical facilities are named after famous Christians and denominations: They were founded by Christians and those same denominations. We take it for granted now, but many hospitals began with monastic orders or missionaries who wanted to help people recover from physical ailments. Mother Teresa is now a household name for her willingness to help the sick, but thousands more are content to work in anonymity, treating people with love and compassion. If that’s what the so-called “God Virus” causes, I’m not sure I want anyone to cure it.
The Reason Project and The God Virus are just two examples of the work the Freethinkers in Arkansas and elsewhere espouse. We ask the question, Are these simply another group of atheists? The answer is a resounding NO. Freethinkers are not simply a social group of people who happen to believe there is no God. They actively work to convert others to their worldview. They are essentially evangelists for atheism, and they are convincing people that the ridiculous statements they preach about Christianity are true.
What makes their form of atheism so dangerous?
When it comes to religion, freethinkers aren’t just atheists; they are atheists with dogma. They hold the belief that religion should be actively rooted out from society. To the ACLU’s credit, they at least tend to prefer opposing public religious displays; freethinkers seem to prefer that no one hold to any belief in God, publicly or privately.
When taken to this extreme, atheism becomes a religion unto itself. The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers hold regular meetings for fellowship and discourse; they openly discuss and advocate their worldview; and they elevate reason and knowledge to a virtually god-like level. In other words, the format is similar to many religious services, with the exception that the worship of God has been replaced with the worship of science and the human mind.
What’s more, there’s nothing free about Freethought. Freethinkers are liberated to believe anything they want—except that God exists. Even if you expand Freethought to include agnostics, deists, and others, you will never find a so-called freethinker who believes that God is real and active in the world. Functionally, everyone who espouses Freethought is an atheist.
The danger here is that Freethought ultimately censors religious thought. It seeks to convert religious people of all faiths to atheism, and it actively tries to shape public policy to reflect atheistic ideals through initiatives like The Reason Project. This is more than college philosophy professors teaching that God is dead. This is organized, well-financed work that has been gaining ground across our nation for years, and has only recently become apparent to Arkansans.
The danger of Freethought is that it works very actively to eliminate God from every aspect of culture, both public and private. Where other atheists are content to simply go about their lives without acknowledging the existence of God, these are atheists on a mission.
What can Christians do?
That is the question that all of this begs. Here we have a group of people fundamentally opposed to our worldview, and they are actively trying to change our public policy, our culture, and our friends to share their secular values. Many Christians, right now, do not address atheism for a number of reasons—not the least of which being that there just aren’t that many atheists on whole. Atheism flies in the face of human nature; if it didn’t, atheists would make up more than the estimated 2.3% of the world population that they currently do. The fact remains, however, that Christians need to recognize the value to openly proclaiming God’s existence; they need to be aware of the logical and scientific errors that Freethought-atheism accepts in the name of opposing religion; and they need to understand that if they do not engage in the fight over public policy in our state and our nation, the atheists will succeed in publicly suppressing our faith, regardless of how many or how few followers they have.
For starters, I would encourage each of you to get in touch with your legislators to discuss ways in which the Secretary of State and the legislature can regain control over the kinds of decorations that can and cannot be displayed at the Capitol Building in Little Rock. Arkansas doesn’t need federal court rulings dictating how the Capitol grounds are to be kept, and the Secretary of State needs the ability to ensure that the premises will remain dignified and professional looking, not cluttered and unkempt.
Freethought and the groups that promote it are more than just harmless social groups and individuals exercising their right to believe whatever they want to believe. They openly adhere to a dogmatic brand of atheism that vocally opposes religion; they treat the belief in God like a sickness that must be cured in order to improve society; and they want to shape public policy to reflect these same values within our culture until the world we live in is socially atheistic.
Tomorrow we will tell you more about the particular display the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers is placing at the Capitol, when they put it up. In the meantime, you can read more about the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and other groups like them by going to the following:
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.