On the Value of Dissent

I am embarrassed to admit that I only recently got around to reading Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman. This biography, published in 2009 for teen readers, focuses on the Darwins as a couple.  It begins with Charles’ famous pro/con list of reasons to marry or not marry, and it follows their sweet courtship and admirable marriage in a way that humanizes the famous scientist as few other books have been able yo do.

As I read, I couldn’t help but think of the polarization in our current culture.  We self-segregate based on what we believe to the point that interfaith marriages like the Darwin’s are the exception.

I’m guilty here too.  I’m a progressive, liberal skeptic, and most of the people I call friends are the same.  The subject is personal to the author, who is herself in an interfaith marriage, and her book certainly testifies to the value of dissent in our lives as she makes it plain her belief that Charles and Emma’s disagreements made their arguments stronger, and, perhaps, each of them better people than they might have been.

I highly recommend this book to all readers interested in exploring the idea of tolerance and thinking about what we might gain from learning to live and love those who fundamentally disagree with us.

For more about religion, science, and secular family life, see my Secular Thursday page.

Other books pictured above: Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen, Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life by Niles Eldredge, The Sandwalk Adventures by Jay Hosler, The Riverbank by Charles Darwin (on the blog here), The Tree of Life by Peter Sis

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How Non-Religious People Talk About Religion

I must admit that I have yet to read Richard Dawkins’ new book aimed at young people and their grown-ups, but I did read an interesting take on it on a new blog about secular parenting.

The blogger questioned referring to religious stories as “myths,” which the book does (and many non-believing parents do as well).  She puts forth some compelling arguments–most notably to me is the idea that there are no atheist children and we want our kids to feel comfortable exploring different beliefs to come to their own conclusions.  Allowing my daughter to decide for herself is among my strongest values–and the most complex.

Of course, Dawkins isn’t the first to talk about religion like this.  I blogged about The Story of Religion by Betsy Maestro in a post about religious literacy for secular families, and one of the things I liked about it was its somewhat understated way of saying that religions evolved for a reason, that people made up these stories to find meaning.  It never claims that any of these stories came from a supernatural source, but it does consistently remind readers that people believe these stories, which I think is a good point to keep in mind.

I try to keep that in mind as I write these Secular Thursday posts because I don’t want to alienate any reader.  I started the “Book for Secular Families” series because there really wasn’t anything like it out there, and that’s what librarians do–we look for people who aren’t being served and we try to help them.  I’ve spent my career immersed in children’s books, and, more than anything, I want to empower people find books that help them explore and explain their world.  I hope I’ve helped you–no matter what you believe!  :)

With that in mind, please feel free to download and share this bibliography for your next trip to the library.

See more posts about science, religion, and secular family life on my Secular Thursday page.

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