Dale McGowan Came to Town

January 5, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More

Actually, Dale “Parenting Beyond Belief” McGowan spent his first 10 years here. On his blog, “The Meming of Life” he has a speaking schedule posted. When he posted a solid date in my town, I posted about it and sent emails. So yesterday I drove out to the local Humanist hall. I got there early to take some snapshots with my tiny camera.

Ethical Society of Saint Louis, MO

I went to Sunday School here, wearing a suit that one morning every week from the age of 4 till my early teens. One sure way to chase a kid from the fold is to make him dress up in stiff clothes known to inspire mocking from his peers. I hadn’t been back for 35 years. But it is a cool building!

Assembly hall ceiling in the Ethical Society

Glory, Glory light from above

Anyway, we were there to see a short talk on raising moral children who won’t be very susceptible to cults, fads, and other charismatic followings. McGowan is a good speaker. He has a pat routine, nuanced with assorted topical interludes. A sober talk, well punctuated with wit. He didn’t quite “plug” his next book, but it did get mentioned.

I sat in the back, just in front of Erich’s neice and her parents. So pardon the long shots.

Guitarist on the left, speakers on the right

A Long Shot from the cheap seats as Dale emphasizes a point

Afterward, a small crowd gathered for Q&A (and a couple of autographs).Many parents wanted more details on how to deal with inter-generational clashes of faith, or specific materials besides his own books to raise well rounded kids.

A comfortable, casual speaker, despite the suit


But what is his message? Essentially, knowledge is power. Don’t teach your kids with arguments from authority, because one can always find a competing authority. Get them in the habit of working things out for themselves. Don’t protect them from faiths with which you disagree; expose them. Show them all the ideas and cultures they might want to consider. Let them reach conclusions. Even wrong ones. At least those that can’t really hurt them.

Inoculation is the way to keep your kids out of cults. Let them see how religious ecstasy affects people, so that they aren’t completely swept away by their first experience.

Note that neither McGowan nor the Ethical Society are anti-religion. The basic precept is Ethical Humanism, that this life is the one to be led well, with respect for others and yourself. Any afterlife that may exist, any deities that can be imagined, are subordinate to this.


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Category: American Culture, Education, Meaning of Life, photography, Religion, Web Site

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (5)

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  1. What's going on? Is DI turning into a photography blog?? Just kidding! Nice pix of the interior of the building Dan! And a great post. I want to learn more about this Dale's message.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: Based on several of the posts at this site, it seems that skeptics tend to get all excited about going to church!

    I think McGowen's message sounds about right.

    BTW, I suspect that we'd quickly become a nation of agnostics/atheists/ignostics/skeptics if only religions had the courage to teach about OTHER (competitor) religions, putting each competitor religion's best foot forward. Can you imagine getting a vigorous course in comparative religion each Sunday, where you learned not only about your own religion but you heard lots of good things about other peoples' religions?

  3. Erich wrote: "…skeptics tend to get all excited about going to church!"

    My theory is that there is part of us that is disappointed that we could never get to the good feelings that the church offered. I went "back to church" several times in my life, each time finding the lack of enthusiasm and the dusty drudgery of the Catholic ceremony increasingly distasteful until I gave up entirely.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    He's coming again: 04 OCT 2009 Presentation on "Raising Freethinkers" to the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Parent discussion 10am, Platform address 11:00-noon.

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