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Connor (12) came across the word “dogma” in his social studies homework the other day and asked me what it means.

“Hmm, dogma,” I said. “Well, a dogma is a religious belief that a church says must be accepted without question.”

“WHAT?!?!!!”

If I tagged the html correctly on the word above, it’s an inch high and bright red, which is how it came out of his mouth. It made me jump.

“What…what do you mean, What?”

“If you can’t question it,” he said, incredulously, “how can you find out if it’s really true?!”

I was completely taken by surprise. He was literally standing there in slack-jawed disbelief.

My regular readers might be surprised by my surprise. There’s a line I include in all of my talks and many of my articles — something about my children never having heard of unaskable questions. It also occurs in the intro to the “I’m *so* glad you asked” page of the blog, phrased like so:

My hope in creating this page is to capture just a little of the electric thrill I get from being the father of three bighearted and curious kids who’ve never heard of such a thing as an unaskable question.

But when I’ve said my kids have “never heard of such a thing as an unaskable question,” I’ve always meant it a tad…you know…hyperbolically. I meant that they wouldn’t recognize the validity of such an idea. It never occurred to me that my kids — least of all my twelve-year-old — had literally never heard of such a thing as an unaskable question. I mean, come on.

But when I asked him, he assured me that he had never, ever heard someone say a certain question could not even be asked. Ever. My definition of dogma had shattered the best kind of ignorance for my boy. The unaskable question was quite literally a new (and completely asinine) concept to him.

My work is done here.

buddy x

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.