Interview with Dale McGowan Follow-up

There were a few follow-up questions after my interview with Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief.

Will this book have any resources listed in the back? Like websites, organizations, etc.?

Dale’s response:

Oh you betcha. I spent a full year compiling a list of the best additional resources (imho) — books, videos, and websites. They are divided by topic and listed at the back of each chapter. Some include brief synopses and/or reviews. I think we have over ninety recommendations in all. The book’s website (www.ParentingBeyondBelief.com) will have a page of links to every item mentioned in the book. That’ll be late February or so — my webmaster is currently in a sensory deprivation chamber after getting the site ready in record time.

One more question:

One thing I didn’t see addressed that I would like to read more about: How do you teach morality (both personal values and general compassion) without religious training that often emphasizes those things? Having been brought up in a very religious household and bringing up my kids the same when they were younger, I find myself somewhat at a loss now in instilling “values.”

Dale responds (with a bit of sarcasm :)):

Well the silly thing wouldn’t be of much use without that, would it? Fortunately, those are among the central topics of the book. Chapter 4, titled “On Being and Doing Good,” is devoted entirely to the question of moral development without religion. Gareth Matthews (an author-expert on the philosophy of childhood) wrote an essay for the chapter titled “Morality and Evil”; philosopher David Koepsell lays out the difference between principles and commandments, concluding that our practical morality includes both; and psychologist Jean Mercer presents a clear and compelling case for how moral development actually occurs. (I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it turns out that propping stone tablets in front of them at breakfast isn’t the way it works. Shocked me too.)

And even though morality and values are often conflated in popular usage, I separated them into different chapters since they are, in fact, different things. Whether defined as social contract or divine command, morality denotes a shared conception of right and wrong, whereas values can be self-selected. I can value solitude, for example, without insisting that you share that value. Different strokes. I can even consider generosity a virtue and think you should exhibit it, but I’m not going to make it a misdemeanor to tip 5%. Steal my car, though — that’s a Chapter 4 issue, and I’ll see you hang.

We get into trouble when we think our values should actually be moral dictates for others to follow (shall I name a social issue or three by way of illustration?). So Chapter 5 (“Values and Virtues, Meaning and Purpose”) explores ways to help children reason their way through these areas. Lots of great contributors in that chapter, including Matt and Shannon Cherry, Annie Laurie Gaylor, James Herrick, and Donald Ardell.



[tags]atheist, atheism, Dale McGowan, Parenting Beyond Belief, religion, parenting, On Being and Doing Good, Gareth Matthews, Morality and Evil, David Koepsell, Jean Mercer, Values and Virtues, Meaning and Purpose, Matt Cherry, Shannon Cherry, Annie Laurie Gaylor, James Herrick, Donald Ardell[/tags]

  • Karen

    Wonderful! Now I’m doubly looking forward to buying the book. :-)

    Hemant, thanks so much for doing this and for generally taking the time to bring the FA (Friendly Atheist) community up to speed on so many good things.


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