In gen., one who recognizes no other authority in religion than his own reason. In Eng. the term was applied to deists. Fr. freethinkers (e.g., Rousseau,* Voltaire,* and other Encyclopedists*) were usually agnostics, at times atheists. Ger. free thought led to organization of Freie Gemeinden (Free Congregations). Free thought is reflected in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which held that no one should be interfered with because of his views, also in religion, provided these views do not lead to disturbance of public order. See also Agnosticism; Atheism; Collins, Anthony; Darwin, Charles Robert; Deism; Diderot, Denis; Lichtfreunde; Paine, Thomas; Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of; Spencer, Herbert.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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