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Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion Paperback – April 25, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


“Parents on both sides of the culture war will find this book a compelling read.”

-Newsweek, July 16, 2007

“…Parenting Beyond Belief provides engaging anecdotes about the challenges of raising children without religion.” Humanist

“Parenting Beyond Belief serves not only as a guide to families who choose not to make that identification, but it also made me feel that those of us who are struggling with these issues are not so alone.”

--PunditMom (

“The editor, Dale McGowan, a writer, educator, husband and parent of three, has pulled off the difficult task of weaving together diverse parts into a very cohesive whole. It sure helps that most of these parts (the individual essays) are simply terrific! … Parenting Beyond Belief is not only an interesting and enjoyable read, it is also stuffed full with good information and pointers to other sources.”

--John Logsdon, "Sex, Genes, & Evolution" and the Iowa Secularists Newsletter

Book Description

Foreword by Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

Contributors include Richard Dawkins, Penn Jillette, Julia Sweeney, and Dr. Donald B. Ardell

It’s hard enough to live a secular life in a religious world. And bringing up children without religious influence can be even more daunting. Despite the difficulties, a large and growing number of parents are choosing to raise their kids without religion.

In Parenting Beyond Belief, Dale McGowan celebrates the freedom that comes with raising kids without formal indoctrination and advises parents on the most effective way to raise freethinking children.

With advice from educators, doctors, psychologists, and philosophers as well as wisdom from everyday parents, the book offers tips and insights on a variety of topics, from "mixed marriages" to coping with death and loss, and from morality and ethics to dealing with holidays. Sensitive and timely, Parenting Beyond Belief features reflections from such freethinkers as Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, and wellness guru Dr. Don Ardell that will empower every parent to raise both caring and independent children without constraints.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM (April 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814474268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814474266
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author, editor, and Harvard Humanist of the Year Dale McGowan is the founding executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit putting compassionate humanism to work for a better world. His books PARENTING BEYOND BELIEF and RAISING FREETHINKERS are the first comprehensive resources for nontheistic parents.

In ATHEISM FOR DUMMIES and VOICES OF UNBELIEF, he explores the history and texture of religious disbelief, while IN FAITH AND IN DOUBT offers the first comprehensive look into relationships between religious believers and nonbelievers.

Dale lives with his wife and children near Atlanta, GA.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

303 of 315 people found the following review helpful By Eliza on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book fills a definite void in parenting literature. It contains a collection of perspectives from people who are dealing with raising children in mixed or nonreligious households. It covers topics like dealing with mixed beliefs, death and consolation, values, holidays, community, and critical thinking. It is not prescriptive in that you won't find a set answer for any topic but rather a variety of viewpoints and shared experiences from those who are dealing with them now or have dealt with them as they were raising their own children. It provides the background and resources to adopt those strategies that you feel are right for you or adapt your own. It has been great for me in thinking about issues and developing ideas with my husband as we are planning to start our family.
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181 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Kelly W. on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I had been waiting for this book for a long time. As a secular parent, it is always nice to read about other parents in the same situation and the various stumbling blocks we may run into. The collection of essays in this book outline most of those-religion and education, fostering a respect for religious people, the Santa question, teaching children to stand up for their beliefs, etc. The group of writers in the book focus on the many different viewpoints of secular parents. It isn't preachy in any way, and offers valuable insight into the big tent of secular belief. I highly recommend this for all secular parents, or anyone who follows a philosophy outside the mainstream.
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283 of 298 people found the following review helpful By Brian Hamilton on April 20, 2007
Format: Paperback

My wife and I are about to bring our first child into the world and were happy when we found a book that discusses ways to deal with the issue of holidays, belief in Santa/Easter Bunny, moral development in children without the threat of eternal punishment, how to tackle the questions kids are bound to ask about life/death, and so much more. Overall, it is a great resource for humanist or atheist parents (or wannabe parents) who wish to raise rational, freethinking children with the skills to make up their own minds as adults.

The essays are from a wide variety of people with viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas not always similar. It was the contrast of ideas that helped my wife and I form a game plan on how we can raise children who will never stop asking "why?" for the right reasons. Our favorite sections are Does God Exist, which is written in a wonderfully and easy to understand conversational style by Stephen Law, and Dealing with Death in a Secular family by Kendyl Gibbons. Although the piece that I'm sure we'll go back to over and over is the list famous freethinkers. Ahhh resources, magnificent, beautiful resources...

My only complaint, and it is to be unavoidable, is that this book didn't come sooner. It was my hope to find a solid community to immediately fall into, but it was not meant to be. And even though there are over 20 million of us in the US, it IS hard to rally secular people around that single ideal. So I send my heartfelt thanks to Dale McGowan for helping to foster our community.

Read the book, raise intelligent, freethinking children, and the next generation will not have to work so hard to find a common identity.

Edit: I also wish that more of the books suggested were still in print.
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104 of 107 people found the following review helpful By W. C. Huey on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
In my thirty-six years of counseling teens and families, it soon became apparent that whether consciously or not, the parenting styles of young couples are typically adopted from the styles employed by their own parents, as either a model to emulate or intentionally avoid. The lack of exposure to a variety of alternative, and arguably more effective approaches to parenting, leaves a void in this vital area of essential life skills. A parent's most important task could be described as leaving a positive legacy in the form of intelligent, compassionate, creative children who are able to rationally problem-solve and make well-thought out decisions for themselves. In the absence of required parent education programs, either in the school programs or community offerings, couples and single parents are left to their own resources, which too often turn out to be the old trial-and-error method, frequently to the detriment of the children and society. Although there is no shortage of "how- to" books on traditional parenting, most of them seem to have a fairly strong religious bent. Resource options specifically written for non-believers are essentially non-existent.

The contributing writers in Parenting Beyond Belief (2007) offer hope in the form of alternative perspectives from the other side of the playground. As editor, McGowan has somehow managed to compile an outstanding cadre of knowledgeable, free-thinking authors in this highly readable volume. I am particularly pleased that he approached the topic from an open, respectful and inclusive stance, rather than joining the growing list of those who choose to smugly attack all religious beliefs and believers. This is not a book on "rearing atheists" and/or polarizing parent groups.
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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this to be the best book I have found on raising children with respect and love. The importance of allowing children to think and act for themselves and eventually becoming who THEY choose to. This book was a great eye opener to me as a parent. It teaches the importance of honesty and the lack of need for parents to make excuses. It discusses the value and importance of open discussion. One of my favorite points brought out in this book is the power behind the statement "I don't know". I honestly believe that this is one book that should be a requirement for anyone who has or is planning on having children.
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