PREFACE: Fundamentals of Freethought by Marshall J. Gauvin

From "Fundamentals of Freethought"; 1922
by Marshall J. Gauvin,
Peter Eckler Publishing Company, New York
Fundamentals of Freethought has been chosen for the title of this book because each of the studies it contains deals with a question of fundamental importance in the field of religious thought.

Whether there is or is not in the universe a God--a conscience, controlling being who knows our wants and answers our petitions; whether Christ was an actual historical character, or an ideal elder brother evolved out of man's religious yearning--a figment of the imagination--a myth; whether assuming that there existed a quite human, Jewish peasant preacher named Jesus who was put to death, he really triumphed over the tomb and arose from the dead; whether we are or are not destined to enjoy another life--these questions, like the others discussed in this book, sound the depths of religious belief. They ask for a rehearing of the evidence for religion's major assumptions. They examine the foundations on which religion rests.

The facts involved in each study not alone justify but demand the attitude of Freethought—a frank facing of reality as seen in the light of reason.

Alike in the consideration of religious and secular questions the Freethinker relies on reason as the only guide to truth. The Christian, on the contrary, puts his trust in faith as the determinant of truth in religious matters. But a moment's reflection will suffice to show that faith is not a faculty of the mind, but mere acceptance, belief, trust. Reason, on the other hand, is a faculty--the faculty with which we resolve problems, weigh evidence and determine the relative values of thoughts and things, the faculty with which we judge and determine the merit or demerit of any proposition.

Being the critical faculty, the arbiter of the mind, reason is the instrumentality with which we distinguish, as best we may, the true from the false. Consequently, reason is the mind's supreme judge, and faith, acting in a subordinate capacity, has no other legitimate office than to accept and be governed by the decisions of this court. Intelligent faith is therefore faith guided by reason; while faith unsupported by reason is mere credulity, and faith contrary to reason is superstition.

Nor can the Christian rationally oppose to this fundamental fact what he regards as a revelation from heaven. For if the Bible is addressed to man, it must be addressed to his reason, since reason is the only faculty that can read and understand it. Accordingly, it is for reason to say whether that book is wise or foolish, humane or cruel, harmonious or contradictory, the perfect work of an infinite God or the fallible production of mistaken men.

The truth or untruth of what is called "revelation" must therefore be determined by reason. Likewise, the existence of God, the reality of Christ, the promise of heaven and the threat of hell, must abide the verdict of the brain. Into the court of the human intellect every claim made in the name of religion must appear for judgment. Religion, that is to say, must find its sanctions in humanity.

Freethought alone is the foundation on which can be erected the house of truth, and in showing that the claims of religion crumble at the touch of reason, this book lays down fundamentals of Freethought--foundation stones of the religion of humanity.

-- Marshall J. Gauvin.
Pittsburgh, PA
September 25, 1922

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