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Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief Paperback – February 11, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“This unique resource will help parents looking for useful ideas and information on being a nonreligious family. Recommended for public libraries.” Library Journal

Book Description

Praised by Newsweek as “a compelling read” and Library Journal as “accessible and down-to-earth,” Dale McGowan’s Parenting Beyond Belief offered freethinking parents everywhere a compassionate introduction to raising caring, ethical children without religious guidance. Now, for the more than 40 million people in the United States who identify themselves as nonreligious, Raising Freethinkers offers solutions to the unique challenges secular parents face and provides specific answers to common questions, as well as over 100 activities for both parents and their children. This book covers every important topic nonreligious parents need to know to help their children with their own moral and intellectual development, including advice on religious-extended-family issues, death and life, secular celebrations, wondering and questioning, and more.

Complete with reviews of books, DVDs, curricula, educational toys, and online resources relevant to each chapter topic, Raising Freethinkers helps parents raise their children with confidence.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM (February 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814410960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814410967
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,093 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

180 of 184 people found the following review helpful By Laura Crowley on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read extensively, including many parenting books, and although I do nearly all of my reading from library books, I am very glad I purchased Raising Freethinkers, as I know I will be referring to it repeatedly over the years I'll be raising my children.

As a nonreligious parent among a largely religious extended family, I both appreciated the sense of community I felt (I'm not the only one!), but also the sense of respectfulness for religious folks evident in the book's tone. All the chapters come from a place of deep regard for children's capacity to learn and think for themselves, and highlight how exciting an adventure it can be to raise kids free from indoctrination. I love the ideas for encouraging scientific reasoning and critical thinking, as well as ethical living.

Since reading this book, we've modeled the scale of our solar system, read creation stories from around the world, found a way to support our daughter in her quandary with the Girl Scout pledge, discovered new ways to answer questions about death, found ways to handle interactions with religious family members, and uncovered a vast new list of kids' books we plan to read as a family. And this is just what I can remember off the top of my head. There are extensive resource lists and activity ideas at the end of each section.

Raising Freethinkers is simply fantastic, and unlike anything else I've found out there. I most strongly recommend it.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Kelly W. on February 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
I cannot say enough good things about Dale McGowan and the books he has written for nonreligious parents. This book didn't disappoint. The extensive list of resources and suggestions in Raising Freethinkers is invaluable. How to really give your child religious literacy without indoctrination, how to deal with death, handling the stages of moral development-it's all here.
This and Parenting Beyond Belief will now be in every baby shower gift I buy for my nonreligious friends.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By L. Erickson on May 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Although the primary target for this book is atheist or secular humanist parents, I do not fall into that category, but still found this book very valuable. I consider myself 'spiritual but not religious', and therefore am confronting many of the same themes as secular parents, in terms of trying to help my children navigate the social and cultural forces often tied to religion, and trying to build a sense of community and family rituals without organized religion as a guide.
This book offers lots of parent questions, exercises, practical advice, and resources for fostering religious literacy, developing an ethical foundation not tied to religion, dealing with relatives and friends with traditional religious beliefs, and developing family rituals and frameworks for helping kids deal with the life passages and death outside of a conventional religious framework. It is not a dogmatic atheist book, and is more oriented around developing tolerance and curiousity regarding religion and spiritual issues, so I was very comfortable with most of it.
In addition to the topics already mentioned, I liked the first 'Inquiring Mind' chapter, which I think any parent should read, in order to more deeply consider the ramifications of feeding your kids your own answers to life questions, and how to best foster a sense of curiosity and 'freethinking' in them. I did have issues with some of the themes and exercises that seemed to equate freethinking automatically with rationality or current scientific thinking, as for me these too have their limitations, but I think the message on those can be tweaked.
So, if you are grappling with unconventional spiritual beliefs, and how to parent your child within those, and/or how to best prepare them for dealing with a religious society, this book is worth a look.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By R. Knight on September 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good guide with some sensible, practical advice. The only issues I have are the chapters written by the guest authors which really seem to promote unitarian universalism and other organized "non-religious" churches as bases for community. Most of us who are non-believers also have no need or use for such organizations and to base so many solutions in them is not really very helpful. Even if I were so inclined to find such places, there aren't many choices in my area. This is not to take away from what is otherwise an insightful, helpful book, but it does overshadow the book so I wish I had known. Others had mentioned it, but I would want any prospective buyers to really be aware.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Katharine Miller on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is fantastic! Like many nonreligious parents, I'm always on the lookout for resources and activities for my kids that reflect my world view. They are so rare! Now these resources are collected, arranged, and sorted through in this very handy book.

And it's much more than just a listing. The resources are buttressed by practical, thoughtful writing on navigating kids through a religious world with grace, humanity, kindness and respect. What's not to like?

I recommend it as highly as possible. Get it for yourself, get it for your local atheist grandma, get it for that lonesome nonreligious parent in a religious family, get it for your local humanist society! Just get it, you'll love it.
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