It has always taken an unapologetically atheist, anti-religious stance. In Issue 1 (May, 1881), Foote set out The Freethinker's purpose:
|“||The Freethinker is an anti‑Christian organ, and must therefore be chiefly aggressive. It will wage relentless war against superstition in general, and against Christian superstition in particular. It will do its best to employ the resources of Science, Scholarship, Philosophy and Ethics against the claims of the Bible as a Divine Revelation; and it will not scruple to employ for the same purpose any weapons of ridicule or sarcasm that may be borrowed from the armoury of Common Sense.||”|
Although closely linked with the National Secular Society for most of its history (NSS Presidents and General Secretaries have at various times also served as Freethinker editor), The Freethinker is strictly autonomous and is not, and never has been, published by the NSS.
In 2006, the magazine's front-page masthead was changed from "Secular humanist monthly" to "The Voice of Atheism since 1881".
Barry Duke is the current editor.
List of Freethinker editors
Here is a list of editors of The Freethinker from 1881:
- George William Foote, 1881–1915 (Edward Aveling edited the paper during Foote's imprisonment, 1883)
- Chapman Cohen, 1915–1951
- Frank Ridley, 1951–1954
- A Committee consisting of F. A. Hornibrook, Bayard Simmons, G. H. Taylor 1954–1957?
- Colin McCall replaced Simmons in 1957 and became sole editor until December 1965
- David Tribe, January 1966 – July 1966
- Kit Mouat, August 1966 – January 1967
- David Collis, January – November 1967
- Karl Hyde, November 1967 – August 1968
- David Reynolds, September 1968 – July 1970
- William McIlroy, 1970 – December 1971
- Nigel Sinnott, January 1972 – November 1973
- Christopher Morey, November 1973 – December 1974
- William McIlroy, 1975–1976
- Jim Herrick, January 1977 – 1981
- William McIlroy, 1981–1993
- Peter Brearey, 1993–1998
- Barry Duke, 1998–Present
- Cohen, Chapman (1940). Almost an Autobiography: Confessions of a Freethinker. London: Pioneer Press.
- Herrick, Jim (1982). Vision and Realism: A Hundred Years of The Freethinker. London: GW Foote & Co. ISBN 0-9508243-0-5.
- Marsh, Joss (1998). Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-50691-6.
- Smoker, Barbara (2002). Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism – Selected Egotistically from Template:'The FreethinkerTemplate:'. London: GW Foote & Co. ISBN 0-9508243-5-6.