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Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief [Paperback]

Dale McGowan , Molleen Matsumura , Amanda Metskas , Jan Devor
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2009
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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Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief + Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion + Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Amacom (1 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814410960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814410967
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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

From the Back Cover

“I raised my own freethinking sons not that long ago, and I had little choice but to do it without much practical support. This book is the best, most comprehensive com­pendium of secular parenting strategies and tips I can imagine. It shows how, without the aid of any supernatural overseer, you can raise kids who are moral, compassionate, curious,

and fully aware of the nuances of a truly civilized human society.”            — Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.,   social psychologist and author of Playing Smart and Loving in Flow, creativity blogger       for PsychologyToday.com, and advice columnist for Netscape.com and TheCradle.com


As a freethinking parent, you face a unique set of challenges in raising children with­out religious guidance. How will you help them understand issues like death, sexu­ality, morality, and religion itself, all while encouraging them to think for themselves?

Dale McGowan’s popular and compassionate guide Parenting Beyond Belief was the first comprehensive book to offer a general philosophy of nonreligious parenting.  Raising Freethinkers is a practical sequel, providing specific answers to common questions and more than 100 activities for parents and their children. Raising Freethinkers covers every topic nonreligious parents need to know to help their children with their own moral, intellectual, and emotional development, including sound advice on religious-extended-family issues, death and life, secular celebrations, wondering and questioning, and more.  Here parents will discover practical and effective ways to:


-           Help children achieve religious literacy without indoctrination

-           Explore life’s meaning and purpose

-           Promote a healthy perspective on sexuality and body image

-           Encourage ravenous curiosity

-           Help kids come to terms with death and loss

-           Find and create community


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


Dale McGowan is a writer, editor, and parenting educator. He edited and coau­thored Parenting Beyond Belief and lives in Atlanta. Molleen Matsumura has been a humanist activist and writer for more than 20 years and has contributed to Free Inquiry and The New Humanist. Amanda Metskas is the President of Camp Quest. Jan Devor is Director of Religious Education for the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.

For more information and parent resources, visit www.ParentingBeyondBelief.com.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent collection of tips and ideas 27 Jun 2009
This book pretty much does as the title suggests: it is a very clearly laid out practical guide for how to deal with lifes most puzzling issues from a non-religious point of view. Most of the common questions that have "easy" answers in religion (although how meaningful those answers are depends very much on faith) have been addressed in this book very well without resorting to anything more than reason and evidence.

The format of the book is set out in individual chapters which each address a different topic. After a few pages of introduction to each chapter, the author then sets out a good number of questions that are then answered very well. The format lends itself well to "pick up and read the relevant bit only" as well as easy cover-to-cover reading.

There are a number of activities at the end of each chapter, which are designed to get the family thinking and playing with ideas about the big questions. These activities cover age groups from a few years old right up to teens. There are also very good references to further reading and links to websites.

As good a starting point as you'd need, in my opinion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and very informative 4 Aug 2010
The title of the book does exactly what it says. Well laid out, wonderfully written and full of great activities with discussions on the theme and Q & A sections. A wonderful book for those of us that want our children to learn how to think, not what to think. Buy it today, it won't let you down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common sense 3 May 2012
By J. Wane
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A no nonsense approach to raising kids to question and look for evidence in their daily lives. I wish that I had had this information when I was growing up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich resource 8 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was exactly what I was looking for. A strong guiding framework for developing inquiring minds, secular ethics and critical thinking. Tons of really practical activities for children of a range of ages with each chapter. I would highly recommend this book.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
167 of 170 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, insightful and simply FULL of ideas 24 Mar 2009
By Laura Crowley - Published on Amazon.com
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.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful compliment to Parenting Beyond Belief! 10 Feb 2009
By Kelly W. - Published on Amazon.com
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.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where has this been all my life as a parent? 29 Jan 2009
By Katharine Miller - Published on Amazon.com
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.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable for Parents with Agnostic or Unconventional Spiritual Beliefs Also 13 May 2009
By L. Erickson - Published on Amazon.com
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.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good guide for agnostic parents, but some small issues... 4 Sep 2011
By R. Knight - Published on Amazon.com
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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