Winning the Cosmic Lottery

Winning the Cosmic Lottery


Dale McGowan is a writer, editor, critical thinking educator, and the author of several books, including Raising Freethinkers, Atheism for Dummies, and In Faith and in Doubt: How Religious Believers and NonBelievers Can Create Strong Marriages.

I asked him to join me on my podcast this week to talk about the newest edition of one of his earliest works, Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion (2nd edition).

The first edition of the book came out 10 years ago, and was really a first of its kind resource for non-religious people. It’s actually a compilation of essays by 27 different writers, including Julia Sweeney, Penn Jillette, and even Mark Twain, each addressing an important topic area that non-religious parents struggle with:

  • parenting-beyond-beliefTalking to kids about religion
  • Holidays and celebration
  • What is good and evil (ethics and morality)
  • Death and consolation
  • On wondering and questioning
  • Community and identity

About 40% of the material in the second edition is new. So even if you’ve read the original, this one will have plenty of new ideas.

One of the reasons I like Dale’s work is that it can be just as useful for people who are religious, but want to be able to offer their kids more rational reasons than “because it says so in the Bible” when teaching them about ethics and morality.

On the podcast, Dale shares one of his techniques which is familiar to my followers: storytelling. One type in particular he calls “age stories.” That’s when his kids pick an age, say 22, and he has to tell them a story about him when he was that age.

He shared two examples during our discussion that really are worth listening to. One was when he was 26 and is the unlikely story of how he met his wife, the mother of his children. The other is from his age of 31, when he and his wife had been trying unsuccessfully for 6 months to have a baby. Then a casual glance at a men’s magazine in the barber shop gave him the advice he and his wife needed to finally get pregnant.

What his kids learned from the stories was how statistically unlikely they are to have ever been born in the first place. And that we’re all winners of life’s massive cosmic lottery. Of the quadrillions of potential humans who could have been born, we were, and not someone else.

Click the play button above and listen to Dale tell the stories. You’ll be quickly thinking up your own similar stories for your kids.

You can learn more about Dale at

PAS square profile Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

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