Raising Freethinkers

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


After reading through Parenting Beyond Belief, I got my hands on the follow-up book, Raising Freethinkers. If you have children (or are thinking about having children), and you have not read these books, go do so now.

I really wish this book had been around in the 1980s when I was growing up, that my parents had read it, and acted on it. I was regularly sent the message that thinking is great, exploring other religious views is fine, questioning is wonderful, but at the end of the day Christian Science is the One True Religion (TM), and the only reason to pay attention in a science class is because you need to get good grades — because for some reason good grades are important in a world mired in the Adam Dream. I digress.

Raising Freethinkers is the follow up book to Parenting Beyond Belief, it is the “practical guide” and a gimmicky green faux-sticker boasts that it includes “more than 100 activities” (aka ways to encourage thought). It also includes pages of resources at the end of each chapter, with extensive lists and summaries of books, movies, websites, blogs, and organizations offering insight, advice, guidance, facts, and support. These alone make it worth the shelf-space.

There are nine chapters, an introduction and appendices. The chapters are done with a brief introduction followed by a Q&A style series of questions relating to the topic at hand. I found it to be a quick read, and there are little colored flags for areas I plan to go back and re-read when they relate more to situations that arise.

Chapters one and two deal with encouraging the inquiring mind, and introducing ethics, and yes, you can be ethical without God getting involved. Chapter two also discusses humanist discipline, which focuses on the “Five Es” exampleexplanation, encouragement, empathy, and engagement.

I’ve throughly tagged Chapter 3: Secular Family, Religious World which discusses the importance of religious literacy — the four main reasons are

  1. To understand the world
  2. To be empowered
  3. To make truly informed decisions
  4. To avoid the “teen epiphany”

Religious literacy is also important because they are going to have to interact with people who hold different beliefs, and I want to protect them from, not from all religion experience and information, but what the author of this chapter, Jan Devor terms “an emotional hijacking that interferes with their own reasoned decision making.” I’m going to use the resource guide and check out some of the basic-overview books on religion they recommend, because I’m not as literate on religion as I’d like to be.

Another chapter I know I will return to is Chapter 4: The Physical Self. This chapter really stood out as what was completely missing from my Christian Science upbringing. On p. 100 the question What are the basic humanist principles related to the body? The answer is about as far from the one I was given in Christian Science as possible:

  1. Health and safety come first.
  2. Our bodies are good and natural.

The author of the chapter, Amanda Metskas goes on to elaborate on these points, while my brain sits boggling at those concepts — in Christian Science accidents are unknown to God and we are always safe in God’s loving care. Man is spiritual, not material. I could pull out more CS-platitudes, but if you’ve read this blog (or were raised in Christian Science) you could probably come up with a few dozen more without too much effort.

Not needing to feel ashamed about one’s body is huge, being honest (and age-appropriate) with children about bodily functions, reproduction, etc. is important. My parents never really talked to me about sex, the over-arching message I got was my body was icky, sex was to be avoided until marriage, then submit in marriage, because if you husband isn’t happy he’ll go somewhere else. Sexual submission was not Ms. Eddy’s take on the issue, her views were differently messed up.

Chapters five and six talk about a life worth living and celebrations, while chapter seven discusses life and death. Chapter eight examines the human need for community — something we continue to strive for, and chapter nine is a “grab bag” of ideas that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.

I highly recommend both Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers for anyone who is raising or interacting with children on a regular basis. We should focus on educating our children so they can make their own decisions, not indoctrinating them.

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2 thoughts on “Raising Freethinkers

  1. tildeb says:

    Teaching children how to think for themselves and then be responsible for what they think seems to be such basic common sense that one might be tempted to think this would be the norm. But it isn’t in a world filled with teaching children to believe in hidden agencies and supernatural forces and some divine thought police.

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