What free thought means to God
I am a free thinker. To me, that means that there are no restrictions, checks or filters on the information my mind processes. Raw data, as my mind computes it, does not have to be fed through a belief system before I can decide whether to accept it or reject it. I can assess any piece of information in its purest form – without prejudice, without preconception, without fear.
However, ‘free thought’ means an entirely different thing to the Abrahamic God, if he exists. To him, it means that he is free to view any thought I have as he would his own. It means my mind is not private and exclusive to me, but available at all times to him, and known at all times by him. The freedom is his, and I am merely a prisoner in my own mind.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. Matthew 6: 8
In the UK, church and state, far from being separated are very much intertwined. I went to a Christian primary school, and I vividly remember, when I was about 7, a teacher telling us in assembly “you can lie to your parents or your teachers, but God always knows what you’re thinking”. I try to avoid drawing on my own experiences to illustrate a point because I feel my arguments lose their objectivity, but I’ll make an exception in this case. What that teacher said scared me.
Telling a child that his thoughts are not private is one of the cruelest things I can imagine (aside from physical/sexual abuse, obviously). Every time I had a “bad” thought after that, I felt an eerie sense of intrusion in my mind, as if the invisible man were in the room with me and I could sense his presence and maybe hear him moving around, but not see him. Was he angry? Was I going to be punished? Was I going to hell? These thoughts tortured me.
I didn’t want to believe it was true, but it made sense. God was all-knowing, if he knew everything then it logically followed that he knew all my thoughts. I found myself worrying about my thoughts, imagining ‘bad’ thoughts and then trying to ‘stop’ them before they properly materialized in my mind.
If you’re wondering what the bad thoughts were, you will have to use your imagination. They were nothing incredibly exciting and I did originally intend to reveal them in this post, but I think my decision not to will better illustrate the point I am trying to make:
Everyone, absolutely EVERYONE has the right to private thoughts, and more importantly, no thought, no matter what it is, can ever, EVER harm anyone by itself. Only words and actions can hurt people. A thought may lead to a harmful act, but it is within our power to control our actions. That power does not come from God, it comes from our own moral conscience.
The doctrine, in keeping with most Christian dogma, does not hold water anyway. As well as being omniscient, God is also described as omnipotent. If God created the universe, then, as he is perfect, he created everything the way he intended. And being all knowing, he knew how every single event through out time would unfold and, again, through his perfection, could only create the universe in such a way that everything would occur how he intended. If this were true, God would have known every thought in every person’s mind before they were even born. God could not condemn or punish anyone for their thoughts, as they would actually be his own thoughts, magically superimposed onto one of the many slaves he created to worship him.
It saddens me deeply that millions of Christians want to share their thoughts with a god who doesn’t exist. They look up to the skies for purpose and meaning when they can both be found within their own minds, and here on Earth, with their fellow human beings. We all have a right to contemplate the universe and anything or everything within it privately. In most parts of the western world, fortunately, we are also granted the freedom to express those thoughts openly, if we so choose. The voyeuristic God who roams children’s minds is a concoction of Christian dogma, designed to frighten children and adults alike into obedience. We all have the right to see this for ourselves. We all have the right to be truly free thinkers.