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Scott Jacobsen interviews Dan Arel who is a secular activist, author, blogger and Godless parent. In this interview, they discuss secular activism, Dan’s blogging and parenting methods, as well as his favourite topics to write on.
You are a godless parent. You wrote a book on the subject. How does someone parent secularly in the 21st century?
Buy my book and find out!
Also, it’s evidence based, and it’s about fostering your child to think for themselves, and giving them the tools to question everything and find the truth on their own. They need to learn from their mistakes, but also trust you and know they can come to you with questions, and be mentored.
You are a secular activist. As someone working for secularism and against the encroachment of religion on the ‘public sphere,’ what seem like the perennial battles for the separation of religion and government?
It seems today the biggest issues we face are religious attacks against the LGBTQ community and women’s rights. They are using their bible and “personally held beliefs” to find ways to discriminate, legally, against people they feel are “living in sin.”
This seems to be the focus right now, especially against the transgender community. I think they know they lost the battle against the LGB community and won’t be able to do as much damage, so now they are focused on the T and hoping they gain some ground they lost.
One does not need to be godless to be secular. One does not need to believe in gods, or God, to share rituals (e.g. rites of passage), sentiments (e.g. feelings of transcendence and awe), and values (e.g. the Golden Rule) important in the upbringing, experience, and raising of well-rounded children—barring some specific gift, talent, or interest of the child needing targeted care and nurturing to the detriment of being ‘well-rounded’. Who are unexpected allies in the battle for secularism in public life and godlessness in parenting?
Some of the biggest allies are simply anyone, religious or not, that allows their kids to be themselves and do not dictate their beliefs. Religious parents, like my own, brought me to church, but allowed me to ask questions. I asked enough to become an atheist, and they never tried to stop me. I know many parents like this who are more concerned with their children being smart and kind, rather than obsessing about what they believe.
You blog, too. As Seinfeld might say, what’s the deal? What are your favourite topics to write on?
Politics. Atheism is important, but not as important as politics are on everyone’s lives. This includes church and state separation, but also healthcare, education, etc. These issues are important regardless of what someone believes.
I am a far-leftist and I think I have an important role of using my voice to make sure people understand what the left wants and what we stand for.
What have been the most moving moments in your parental life?
Honestly, any time one of my kids accomplishes something they have been working hard on -from potty training, to reading, to my son learning to ice skate, play hockey, and then score his first goal. Each and every moment like that is just awe-inspiring.
Another important part seems to be the creation of a community; a parental culture. How do you build relationships, associations, and bonds of mutual solidarity for, not only a secular family, but a secular community; someone else to babysit, coach the Little League game, take out the trash for the elderly widow or divorcee next door; to give parenting lessons to the younger couples with newborns on the way, and so on.
I started coaching youth hockey and found a community here. Another coach knew my work and we hit it off. For me it’s easy because people in our community know me from my work, so I didn’t have to seek out much, it was just there.
However, just joining community events, volunteering at my kid’s school, coaching, all of those things build community. I don’t ask for people’s beliefs up front, and only if they bring up negative beliefs is there a problem, but overall, I find people are just amazing and want community too, regardless of their beliefs.
I have a new podcast called Danthropology and you can find out more by visiting www.danthropology.com
It’s mostly a political podcast with a lot of atheism and intersectionality.
Also, head over to Amazon and check out my books!
Also, any upcoming projects?
Drafting up some ideas for book number three, and working on some summer speaking gigs about how to mount a secular resistance to Trump.
Any closing thoughts or feelings based on the discussion today?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Thank you for your time, Dan.