Vrijzinnigheid, vrijmetselarij en lekenbewegingen

Author: Hubert Dethier

  • Vrijzinnigheid, vrijmetselarij en lekenbewegingen


    Vrijzinnigheid, vrijmetselarij en lekenbewegingen



In this contribution an attempt is made to clarify a number of aspects of the problems of "free-thinking" in Flanders. Starting from this rather unique meaning of the concept of "free-thinking” (a combination of atheism, unbelief, progressiveness, anticlericalism) and from the specificness of "free-thinking” in Flanders, an attempt is made both to describe its form of organization and to investigate its relationship with Belgian freemasonry. The majority of persons surveyed in a study of nonbelievers (Willemyns) claimed to be a member of a "free-thinkers" association. Their occupational status is found to be very similar to that of key-members of "free-thinking" organizations as described by other authors: an intellectual elite, consisting of professional men, such as teachers and university professors, and others working in the socio-cultural sectors. As a result of this it can be presumed that the concept "free-thinking", as it is used by the "unbelievers" in the survey, reflects the view of organized "free-thinkers". At the same time it raises the problem whether the only "free-thinking" people are the organized ones. At any rate there exists a large discrepancy between the numbers of non-church people and the membership figures of "free-thinkers" associations. In spite of the fact that in the literature on pillarization a rather strict parallel is drawn between the make-up of Catholic and "free-thinking" structures (within them a liberal and socialist political variety), an essential distinction must be made between the Catholic and "free-thinking" pillar. There can be no question of a "free-thinking" pillar comparable to the Catholic one. Historical studies make clear that class-differences kept the free-thinking movement divided as early as the 19th century. Thus, unlike Catholicism in its building up of the Catholic pillar, the divided movements of free-thinking (and, indeed, freemasonry) have not functioned as a cohesive force. Nonetheless, in the actual concrete realization of organized "free-thinking", we find a tendency towards the erection of a 'duplicate-pillar' as a safety-net with respect to the dominant Catholic pillar, though the majority of the free-thinkers stress its strategic and provisional interest.

How to Cite:

Dethier, H., (1986) “Vrijzinnigheid, vrijmetselarij en lekenbewegingen”, Tijdschrift voor Sociologie 7(1-2), 31–71. doi:

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Published on
20 Feb 1986