Would you like to start off a discussion with your local group? Then you’ve come to the right place! This collection holds official primers on science, health, and philosophy used by Group Leaders at the beginning of an official weekly meeting. Which topic would you like us to add next? Do you have ideas on how we can improve the discussion topics below? Let us know!
How to Use a Discussion Primer
Each discussion topic below is sorted by category. Once you’ve found the one that matches your previously scheduled meeting topic, feel free to save it to your device or print it off. (If your group members would like their own copies, be sure to print off enough to share.) When the time for your presentation has arrived, invite each group member to take a turn reading a paragraph aloud and pause for comments when needed. The entire primer should be completed within an hour.
Healthy Habits and Life Skills
Frequently Asked Questions
Are You a Church or A Religions Group?
No, we are not. We are a not-for-profit organization that invites all kinds of people from all political and religious backgrounds to come together and hold meaningful discussions. We have a blog post and podcast episode about not-being a church if you are interested.
What is the Cost to Attend?
It is FREE to attend, and participate in, our weekly meetings! Guests are always welcome and the fundamental programs and services of your local Free Thought Forum will always be free to the public. Since the entire Free Thought Initiative runs on donations, you are encouraged to become a member through monthly donations, but that is never required.
Who Is Invited?
Literally every kind of person is invited to participate in our Free Thought Forum, given that they are both capable and willing to agree to follow our Rules for Civil Discourse. You, your family, and your friends are all welcome to attend as guests or as members. If you plan on bringing a large group to your next meeting, it would be polite to contact your group leader to let them know ahead of time.
Is childcare provided for young children?
Some local groups may have members who volunteer to watch the children of adults who wish to participate in the forum. However, others may not. Please contact your local group leader to find out about possible childcare options in your group.
What is required of a Member?
An official member of a local Free Thought Forum is simply a person in the community who donates regularly to the group. Members have the opportunities to vote on their local membership councils on the future expenditures, schedules, programs, and activities of their group, but they are not at all required to do so. Members are asked to attend all meetings, activities, and volunteer projects, but these are also always optional. In short, membership entails minimal commitment.
When, Where, and how often do you meet?
Each Local Group has its own meeting schedule and designated meeting locations. To find out when and where your local group meets, you must first find the group nearest you on our Groups and Events page, and then proceed to look over your group’s listed events. Each event contains details on meeting locations and times.
What kind of programs, services, and activities do you provide?
Your Local Group offers a number of different programs and services, depending on its Group Level. These may include open public discussions, volunteer projects, support groups, and so on. The recreational activities planned in each group may include hiking, game nights, casual sports events, and hobby-based activities. To find what your local group has planned, please visit the groups and events page, then find your group’s page among the others listed.
What kind of Volunteer Projects do you sponsor?
Our Local Group Leaders work closely with their Membership Councils to determine where the greatest needs are in their community, and how their group’s volunteers can best meet those needs. These may include clean-up projects, care-package assembly, general volunteer representation at community events, classroom support, hospital visits, and more!
How large is your average group?
Roughly, a local group has between 10 and 100 members. Groups with less than 10 members are merged into larger ones (if possible), and groups with more than 100 members are split into two. Members donate monthly to support their group, and are joined by any number of guests who participate without monetary contribution.
Are you Anti-Religion?
No, we are neither pro-organized-religion, nor anti-organized-religion. However, we do promote values such as reason, logic, and scientific literacy, which runs contrary to certain religious teachings. In addition, one of the programs we provide is a Cult-Recovery service, yet this is not an anti-religious program. Rather, it is designed to promote healthy integration back into general society.
Are you Political Activists?
Generally, we are not a group that promotes any kind of political activism. However, if a public debate arises that challenges first amendment rights such as the freedom of religious choice, freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly, then we are prepared to mobilize in defense of those freedoms.
Who can be a Local Group Leader?
There is no general list of requirements or qualifications that must be met before one may be considered eligible for the position of group leader. That position is filled according to a case per case basis through an established interview, training, and hiring process.
Group Leader Printables
Welcome Form (2.0) — After printing-out each sheet, please separate it into two forms. One Welcome Form should be handed to each new visitor at the beginning of a Free Thought Forum and collected back by the end.
Meeting Report Form — Print and fill this out at each weekly meeting.
Volunteer Form — Use this form at each of your Volunteer Projects to keep track of the individual and total hours donated by your group members.
Record Book Cover — Please add this to the front of the three-ring binder in which you keep all Member Information Forms and Support Circle Forms. Don’t forget to add your group’s name to it!
Member Information Form — This form helps a Group Leaders keep organized and focused on the needs of each individual member.
Support Circle Form — Print off one of these for each of your regular members to be used to take notes at monthly Support Circle Meetings.
Newsletter Archives — Past issues of our newsletter are available for download and printing for personal use!
“About Us” Newspaper-Style Handout — In this fact-packed flier, what we do, our values, our programs, social media sites, dedication to volunteering, our email address, and the donation options are summarized! Print out as many as you like and hand them out at meetings, festivals, and any other in-person event.
Welcome to our free-to-use archive of memes and thought-provoking quotes, ready to be downloaded, shared, and used to let people know about our organization and to spread the love of #freethought!
Recommended Reading List
for your Personal Library
For a more cohesive, healthy and scientifically-literate society, what are the books that every person should read? Which texts would make meaningful gifts for a freethinker you know? For great answers to those questions and more, we are proud to present our Recommended Reading List!
Our members represent a mix of theists, atheists, liberals, conservatives, and others. Rather being an organization unified under a common belief system, the members of each Free Thought Forum share the same ultimate goal: to learn and live by what is actually real and what is morally right, whatever that may be. Below is a collection of works by authors who our Group Leaders believe share that important goal. Should other books should be on this list? Send us a message to let us know!
(The Free Thought Initiative is not affiliated with, nor do we receive compensation from, the following printers, publishers, or authors. Although these books are generally recommended, they do not necessarily represent, in their entirety, the beliefs or values of the Executive Board or the Free Thought Initiative.)
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos By Jordan B. Peterson
What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.
1984 By George Orwell
Written 70 years ago, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever...
A Brief History of Time By Stephen Hawking
A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
A History of Western Philosophy By Bertrand Russell
Considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of all time, the History of Western Philosophy is a dazzlingly unique exploration of the ideologies of significant philosophers throughout the ages—from Plato and Aristotle through to Spinoza, Kant and the twentieth century. Written by a man who changed the history of philosophy himself, this is an account that has never been rivaled since its first publication over sixty years ago.
Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism By Aron Ra
Religious fundamentalists and biblical literalists present any number of arguments that attempt to disprove evolution. Those with a sympathetic ear often fail to critically examine these creationist claims, leading to an ill-informed public and, perhaps more troubling, ill-advised public policy. As Aron Ra makes clear, however, every single argument deployed by creationists in their attacks on evolution is founded on fundamental scientific, religious, and historical falsehoods - all of them…
Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs By Steven Hassan
In the post 911 world, people are more susceptible than ever to charismatic figures who offer simple, black v. white, us v. them, good v. evil, formulaic solutions. The rise of the Internet; increasingly sophisticated knowledge about how to influence and manipulate others; and the growing vulnerabilities of people across the planet—make for a dangerous, potentially devastating combination. Steven Hassan’s new book Freedom of Mind provides the knowledge and awareness needed to help yourself and loved ones avoid or escape from such dangerous people and situations.
Guns, Germs, And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies By Jared Diamond
In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history…
How to Win Friends & Influence People By Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, How to Win Friends & Influence People will teach you Six ways to make people like you, Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, Nine ways to change people without arousing resentment, And much more! Achieve your maximum potential—a must-read for the twenty-first century with more than 15 million copies sold!
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us By Michael Moss
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back…
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.” One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?…
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
In 1989, Steven Covey published a business book or was it a self-help book? Actually 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a hybrid. Like a Toyota Prius or a Ford Focus blends electricity and gasoline to maximize efficiency. One can blend the way he or she conducts business and leads their personal lives to benefit both. The two are intertwined and when you lead life with poise, astuteness, dignity and a sense of purpose, success can be achieved. The paradigm or way to think about things is changed.
The Age of Reason By Thomas Paine
In this influential and controversial work, Paine turns his attention to a philosophical examination of Christianity. Paine lays the foundation of his Secularist Deist philosophy and argues that God is real but that the Bible is not the word of God and is merely a human work that is flawed and inaccurate. Paine further contended that Jesus was not divine, rejected belief in miracles, and argued the world was governed by the laws of nature. Paine criticized organized religion as power hungry and corrupt and advocated for religious tolerance and freedom of thought. Accessible, clever, humorous, and far ahead of its time, “The Age of Reason” continues to resonate with readers today.
The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined By Steven Pinker
Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species' existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker's exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark By Carl Sagan
How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, And The Future of Reason By Sam Harris
In The End of Faith, Sam Harris delivers a startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in the modern world. He offers a vivid, historical tour of our willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs―even when these beliefs inspire the worst human atrocities. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism to deliver a call for a truly modern foundation for ethics and spirituality that is both secular and humanistic…
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness By Dave Ramsey
The success stories speak for themselves in this book from money maestro Dave Ramsey. Instead of promising the normal dose of quick fixes, Ramsey offers a bold, no-nonsense approach to money matters, providing not only the how-to but also a grounded and uplifting hope for getting out of debt and achieving total financial health. Ramsey debunks the many myths of money (exposing the dangers of cash advance, rent-to-own, debt consolidation) and attacks the illusions and downright deceptions of the American dream, which encourages nothing but overspending and massive amounts of debt. "Don't even consider keeping up with the Joneses," Ramsey declares in his typically candid style. "They're broke!"
Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour By Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott
Welcome to the Universe is a personal guided tour of the cosmos by three of today's leading astrophysicists. Inspired by the enormously popular introductory astronomy course that Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott taught together at Princeton, this book covers it all―from planets, stars, and galaxies to black holes, wormholes, and time travel.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams By Matthew Walker, PhD
A New York Times bestseller and international sensation, this “stimulating and important book” (Financial Times) from the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science is a fascinating dive into the purpose and power of slumber. As the Guardian said, Walker explains “how a good night's shut-eye can make us cleverer, more attractive, slimmer, happier, healthier, and ward off cancer.”