The introduction has whetted my appetite for the rest of the book. It has also reminded me of how spotty my education is.
Jacoby (and this forum) use some terms that I'm either unfamiliar with or have never really thought about carefully. Seems worthwhile to see what my trusty _Unabridged Websters 3rd New International Dictonary_ has to say about them. I don't have anything profound to say about them; it just seems worthwhile to be clear about terms.
1: one that forms opinions (as about religous matters) on the basis of reason independently of authority, especially: one whose beliefs differ markedly from those of an established religion usually in the direction of skepticism or denial of established belief.
** free thought
free thinking or unorthodox throught; specifically: 18th century deism
1a: the doctrine that the existence or nature of any ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable or that any knowledge about matters of ultimate concern is impossible or improbable; specifically: the doctrine that God or any first cause is unknown and probably unknowable b: a doctrine affirming that the existence of a god is possible but denying that there are any sufficient reasons for holding either that he does or does not exist
2: skepticism 1b
3: an agnostic attitude or disposition
1b: a viewpoint that universally reliable knowledge is unattainable in particular areas of investigation
1a: disbelief in the existence of God or any other deity b: the doctrine that there is neither God nor any other deity 2: godlessness especially in conduct
a rationalistic movement of the 17th and 18th centuries whose adherents generally subscribed to a natural religion based on human reason and morality, on the belief in one God who after creating the world and the laws governing it refrained from interfering with the operation of those laws, and on the rejection of every kind of supernatural intervention in human affairs.
** The entry on agnostic has an interesting comparison of atheist, agnostic and freethinker
syn AGNOSTIC, FREETHINKER, and ATHEIST can all apply to one who does not take an orthodox religous position. AGNOSTIC is the most neutral; it usually implies only an unwillingness on available evidence to affirm or deny the existence of God or subscribe to tenets that presuppose such existence. FREETHINKER is broader; it can apply to one of no determinable religous position or to one who feels truth is made more available by not committing oneself to any orthodoxy, especially a belief in God's existence. Often it can suggest a reprehensible and dangerous license of opinion. ATHEIST can apply strictly and neutrally to one who denies the existence of God or tenets presupposing it. More frequently than FREETHINKER, however, it has carried ideas of reprehensible license of opinion and meanacing godlessness.