Classics of Free Thought

Classics of Free Thought

Classics of Free Thought

Classics of Free Thought

Excerpt

The phenomenon called the free thought movement is more like a capricious cannonade than a movement. The pattern of conduct runs something like this: Isolated iconoclasts aim their verbal weapons at the primary enemy, organized religion, and oc casionally a shot reaches its mark. Then the preachers continue to preach and the doubters continue to doubt, and the world moves on.

But the effort is not wasted. Orthodoxy has been weakened and superstition reduced. The stream of culture has been slightly diverted. The world is wiser because some freethinker has dared to speak.

The capricious cannonade of free thought has been going on almost continuously during the two hundred odd years since the French Enlightenment, and it has transformed much of Western thought about religion and morals in the process. Anyone who doubts this should compare the puritanical English and Ameri can society of the late eighteenth century with the society of today. Officially both England and the United States are religious countries, England with a nominally established church and the United States with perhaps the highest average of nominal be lievers in God of any large modern nation.

But the credibility of the creeds is plummeting and the pulpit is losing its once-magic power. Science and philosophic realism have replaced Christian orthodoxy as the standard guides of mor-

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