Dale McGowan: How to Raise (Actual) Freethinkers

At the Oklahoma Freethought Convention a couple of weeks ago, Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, spoke about raising actual freethinkers (instead of kids who just echo your own non-religious beliefs).

Quick note: I have heard Dale speak a number of times and his wisdom never gets old. If you’re an atheist parent, listen to what he has to say; he talks about so many of the dilemmas non-religious parents face with their kids and his answers seem so obvious in hindsight. I feel fortunate that I can hear him talk about all of this before I have any of my own.

If any moments stand out to you, please leave the timestamp and summary in the comments!

(via TheThinkingAtheist)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Jade

    14:04-16 The exerts from the book for teens

    Honestly that is most terrifying thing I have ever read.

    • JET

      Yes, such “good” advice. Satan will fill your child with reason, stop trying to figure everything out, and don’t think too much. Argh…

    • Atom Jack

      Please be sure to tell us what was terrifying. Also, please be sure to change your mind many times as you consider this topic.

      Did you actually watch the whole presentation? I found it quite enlightening.

      • Jade

        Simple , encouraging your kids to never think for themselves is intensely terrifying . I have a 3 year old and the main value I wish to instill in him is to question everything. Without out thought there is no reason to be human.

        And yes, i watch the whole thing. I loved it.

      • Jade

        And i am pretty sure it will be most terrifying till something even worse comes along. :)

  • JET

    Since my kids are already grown, I planned on listening to just a few minutes of this – and ended up staying for the entire 48 minutes. McGowan gives valuable, practical, and lucid advice on raising children to problem solve and think for themselves. A gifted speaker with a great message on how to raise a (lowercase “f”) freethinker.

    • sk3ptik0n

      Same here. It was fascinating.

  • Atom Jack

    Quite an interesting presentation; one I would really have liked to have witnessed prior to raising my children. It would have made it easier. All three of my children (youngest is 24) are atheists. If freethinking was a word I was conversant with in their younger years, it would have made it easier.

    • Jade

      My son is still young but since we already decided to go this route, he gave us a better understanding of how to go about it.

  • Tel

    20:30. The story of his child discovering that Santa wasn’t real, and then at last? “He’s not real? Oh, good!” “Why good?” “The world makes sense again.”

    • Tonya Richard

      This is how I felt after finally leaving Christianity in my 40′s. The world FINALLY makes sense!

  • Larry Meredith

    Very cool. I sat back thinking I was going to get bored quicky and possibly skip through it but watched the whole thing instead. Very insightful even for a person who has no plans on being a parent or uncle.


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