I am a believer in liberty. That is my religion — to give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself, and I grant to every other human being, not the right — because it is his right — but instead of granting I declare that it is his right, to attack every doctrine that I maintain, to answer every argument that I may urge — in other words, he must have absolute freedom of speech."'
- Robert G. Ingersoll, at the trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887.
Some of my own current thoughts on the issue of freedom of thought:
A really free person should be able to value ideas and actions on their own real merits. A free person will not do it based only on how new ideas do fit into an ideology one already has. This kind of state is naturally immensely difficult or even impossible to achieve fully.
However, at least understanding the dilemma and setting freedom of one's own thought as a real goal can give immense rewards, I think.
Every person does have a basic view of how the world should be. However, this view will inevitably change when life goes on. Thankfully, very often a person will see more and more shades of grey also when time passes.
A real-world problem is that if you don't fully subscribe to any ideology, you will very easily left out in the cold by followers of all ideologies. So, a real search for a freedom of thought will be a lonely journey.
On the other hand, morality is always based on human opinions and needs of the current society and sometimes on even very ancient human opinions. However, this is not the point here. The point is the ability to break free from any ideology that has stored ready-made, pre-programmed standard answers to your own brain.
This is extremely difficult task, and a very basic level of response comes always from the gut (or level 1 reasoning according to Daniel Kahneman). However, even noticing how ideologies can affect one's own thinking is a major step forward, given that one wants to evaluate the world as it really is.
Naturally, even the grand majority of people do not want to do it. The ready-made ideologies do offer safe-heavens, where one is spared from the heavy task of taking a stand and analyzing things by oneself. This is not a bad thing as such. Life just is too short to find out everything and people do have different kinds of goals in life. Short-cuts do just make ones life so much easier.
People who gather around ideologies do also very often initiate real changes in society. Ideologies have immense value as initiators and tools for political and social activity. However, people who are seriously interested in how human societies and the universe do really work need to be aware of the danger of ending up as a mouth-piece for a ready-made ideology.
(This piece was refurbished on 24th of December, 2012)
Robert G. Ingersoll is in Facebook at:
"Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism."