Raising Freethinkers June 10, 2008

Raising Freethinkers

Dale McGowan‘s new book, Raising Freethinkers, won’t be released until early next year.

But if you start today, you can conceive and produce a child around the time the book comes out in late February.

If that’s not possible, you can at least see the cover now:


I like it!

My only issue is that the cover isn’t exclusively non-religious like the cover for Parenting Beyond Belief was — on that cover, the parent and child were decidedly not praying to some god.

In other words, I could imagine a Christian child or Muslim child examining a flower. The picture doesn’t scream “atheist.”

I’m sure the activities mentioned inside the book, though, will be unique to non-religious parents.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • In other words, I could imagine a Christian child or Muslim child examining a flower. The picture doesn’t scream “atheist.”

    Oh, C’mon, Hemant! Don’t you think that if the book screamed “atheist,” that could be perceived as the opposite of free thinking? True freedom should leave possibilities open in all directions, no?

  • Richard Wade

    The cover makes sense to me. I like it. It suggests “Examine the world closely and make up your own mind.” Looking is more important to freethinking than listening. A magnifying glass is a good symbol for it.

    Of course a Christian or a Muslim child could examine a flower in just such a way, but the photo is a symbol for more than what the kids of freethinking parents do, it’s also about the act of looking at the world very closely, an act that has resulted in many Christian or Muslim kids eventually escaping their theist upbringing and ending up as freethinkers.

    Parents who really want their kids to be true freethinkers must have the courage to accept that their kids are probably not going to grow up to agree with them on all things. That will of course include their personal tastes but it could also include their political, social and even religious outlook. Surely the title should not be “Raising Freethinkers Who Will Unquestioningly Accept Atheism.”

    My parents raised me to think for myself and that’s exactly what they got. When we didn’t agree on an issue they didn’t really mind because they knew they had succeeded in their goal. I have always carried a magnifying glass in my pocket.

  • JD


    I’m having a hard time even formulating a response to this post. I’ll ignore the fact that free thinking and atheism are hardly synonymous… it’s been covered….

    Are you honestly saying that a book could be filled with activities designed for children that are “unique to non-religious parents”? Certainly there are activities that *some* religious parents wouldn’t agree with, but a whole book full of things that no religious parent would consider? Really?

    And if that cover picture doesn’t scream atheist to you, I’m not sure what will. The cover for Parenting Beyond Belief was an adult hand pressed against a child’s hand in a way that evokes a traditional prayer pose. Are you suggesting that that is “exclusively non-religious”? GAH!

    Please stop embarrassing me. People I respect read this blog.

  • It’s fair to say the cover doesn’t need to “scream atheist” because you don’t want to force atheism upon your children.

    But I thought the cover from PBB was quite non-religious. While it did invoke a “prayer pose,” the picture was the very opposite of prayer. It was two people joining together, not just hoping and wishing for something to happen. I loved that image.

  • JD

    Oh don’t get me wrong, I love the picture. Actually, I’m pretty fond of both pictures. I just think it’s a little over the top to call it exclusively non-religious.

  • JohnB

    I think the cover conveys an attitude that is very dear to freethinkers: appeal to reality itself in formulating ideas, look closely, discover the world by engaging it directly. Exactly the opposite of a strictly religious upbringing, which tries to wangle reality into the strictures imposed by authority and dogma.

  • Hey what’s all this talk about “Christian” and “Muslim” children? I thought Dawkins was doing a better job raising atheists’ consciousness about the absurdity of labeling children. How about those “capitalist”, “liberal”, or “marxist” children? Do they like using magnifying glasses too?

  • Jen

    That is the best reason I can think of to have a child.

  • Alycia

    I will definitely be getting that book when it comes out.

  • *sigh* It’s sad to think that we need such a book to know how to raise free thinkers. It has always been my philosophy that leading by example is the best way to teach. And listening to them and showing them that you really value what they think, however silly or ridiculous.

    Oh… and letting them see you fail, be rejected for your ideas… and watch you rise and thrive again.

  • Linda-his books aren’t an instruction manual on how to raise them-it’s simply a resource for parents. The first book does cover what you talked about, and more. Famous freethinking historic figures, two sides on how to handle the Santa question, how to deal respectfully with religious family members, etc. I personally found it to be a invaluable resource.

  • Kelly,
    Okay… I understand. I was just thinking how our society seems to need more and more of these books for things that should come naturally to us if we, as parents, can just be brave enough to think for ourselves.

    I have no objections to resources, of course. Or even how-to books. Whatever works, I say…

  • Holly B.

    I am also an atheist, and though I have not read this book, I must say something very important that most people don’t know about.

    “Freethinker” is NOT a word owned by us atheists. Here on the Internet, and in this book, the word is used to mean atheist. Perhaps it has been done out of ignorance, but I must ask that people using the term provide the real meaning of the word “Freethinker.” Many atheists are Freethinkers, but not all Freethinkers are atheists. Besides which, “Freethinker” applies to any and all subjects and issues, not just religion.

    My father was of Norwegian descent. In Scandanavia, the word “Freethinker” originated. It never meant atheist. Freethinking is a discipline. He taught it to me, and it was the greatest gift any parent can ever give a child. He didn’t even care if I ended up agreeing with him on an issue, as long as he was sure I’d done my homework on it properly and fully.

    Freethinking is SO precious that it should be taught to every school child in the world. It won’t though, and when you’re through reading this, you’ll be able to guess at some reasons for it. Not necessarily nice ones.

    A real Freethinker is NOT someone who says, “You bet I’m a Freethinker! Nobody’s gonna tell ME what to think!” That isn’t Freethinking at all, and often people who say things like that are indulging in licentious thinking – thought without knowledge or analysis having been applied. It’s just plain sloppy thinking.

    Freethinking is a self-discipline, and it is often excruciatingly difficult and harsh. The goal is to enable a person to come as close to learning the true realities of things as humanly possible.

    Reality rules events. Too many people rationalize themselves into believing a reality exists that does not – usually a prettier one than the real one. It’s perhaps a form of self-protection at times, especially against realities too horrible to contemplate, much less accept. So they “plug in” a better one.

    Meanwhile, the real reality still rules events. Freethinking helps a person avoid indulging in this human frailty.

    To do this, study is involved. But you can’t just study the views on an issue that appeal to you. You must study, all the harder, those which are distasteful or even horrifying. And, in doing so, you must ACTIVELY be looking for all the merit in those views that you can.

    Freethinking is not thinking, or forming opinions, based on what you WANT to think. It is digging deeply for reality, facts, evidence, and applying a brutally objective analysis to the findings. Through it all, you must also be continually monitoring and analyzing your own thought processes, to find any bias that exists there. You will ALWAYS find some. Then you must bypass it entirely.

    Not many people would want to be real Freethinkers. But THAT is what Freethinking really is. I think you get the drift that it can be rather unpleasant. To a Freeethinker, it is worth the agonies, because knowing reality – the real one – is often necessary to survival itself. Besides which, living with a warm-fuzzy notion of reality can leave one very vulnerable.

    I don’t want to make a claim that atheists, as individuals or in groups, have “copped” the term and tried to make it apply only to them. I think it’s more likely they did so in ignorance of the real thing.

    While many – maybe even most – Freethinkers definitely DO end up being atheists, that does not, by any means, make the two terms synonymous. Because Freethinking encompasses all subjects, not just religion.

    I would appreciate it if, in respect for this venerable Scandanavian custom, you would start making this distinction as clear as you possibly can. Most atheists are fairly liberal thinkers, and respect for other cultures is an important value to them. I hope you will all honor this one.

    If this is not done, it will taint my respect for the honor of atheist sites and books, and quite frankly, I don’t want that to happen.

    Thank you.

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