I have seen people categorize themselves as free thinkers as part of an argument for a certain point of view. This is a neat word trick on many levels. It's always cute to name your own position something that you would have to be crazy to disagree with. Who wants to be a slaved thinker or a brainwashed thinker? The term free thinker is used here to make the category do the thinking for us. Someone will say that I don't believe in God because I'm a free thinker. If you are not free to think that there is a God seems to me that this is a position that is less free. It's being used to limit the thinking options. If you are using the category of free thinker to discount a position before you actually think through a position then you are actually less free and actually doing very little thinking. People who use this term are really trying to limit thoughts and beliefs to a certain type. This term is used as a herding mechanism. Kind of iconic in that they are doing that which they usually accuse the Catholic Church of.
Lets think through the possibility of being a faithful Catholic and a free thinker.
We need to look at the nature of freedom. Freedom does not mean having no limits. If you put me into outer space, free from the restraints of gravity, I would have little freedom to get around. I would not be able to control my direction at all. Scientists are not free to think whatever they want in regards to the data of an experiment. If they do, they are no longer doing science. Artists are not free to draw a picture of a giraffe with a short neck because then it would not be a depiction of a giraffe but something else. So freedom of thought needs some level of restraint, a strong foundation, a starting point to get from point a to point b for thoughts to have any freedom and practical use.
Thinking is a lot like flying a kite. Your thoughts need to be connected to true data for them to be useful. A kite needs to be connected to a string that pulls back. If you let go of the string the tension comes off the string and the kite will fall to the ground leaving no freedom. The wind is like every day life and there is some freedom to move back and forth, up and down, but this freedom comes from the string providing tension.
The question then becomes how do we get access to the data that will give the tension for free thought. The secularist will answer that the data comes from science and personal experience. There is a couple of problems with restricting the data to these two points. The problem with science is that it only gives a certain type of data. Science gives us the objective facts for the material world. Science doesn't give much relevant data for questions that are the most important to my personal life. The data that I really need is the data of who I am, what I should do, my purpose, and my place in the universe. Science gives little relevant existential data. The secularist will respond that he is able to create his own data based on his own experience. The problem with this is that the data is not separate from oneself. It's like tying the kite string to the kite. There is not going to be enough tension to get the kite off the ground.
The data that is needed is Christ. Using Christ as the data does not make me less a free thinker just like the scientists conforming to scientific data doesn't make scientists less free thinkers. The reality is that the Logos, by providing the data, makes the act of free thought possible.
So how not to be a turkey? Don't fall for the idea that free thought equals a rejection of Christ and his Church.