Matthew Krevat is a Board Member of the Triangle Freethought Society. Here we talk about his background, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?
Matthew Krevat: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970 and 1980s, moving to Raleigh, North Carolina in the late 80s for college. My grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, my paternal grandfather having emigrated in 1905. Religion equaled tradition in our house (complete with Zero Mostel singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof in our heads whenever we hear the word tradition). My grandfather (born ca. 1890) never believed (to the dismay of his very religious parents) and so my father was raised with little religion. My mother was raised with more religion, but it didn’t transfer much to our house. We were never kosher, only went to temple for weddings and bar mitzvahs, and rarely observed holidays in any but the most casual manner. My parents are both still alive (in their 80s) and live near me in North Carolina, my brothers are both married and have moved to the West Coast, visiting a few times a year.
Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?
Krevat: My parents were both college-educated, my father going on to pharmacy school to become a pharmacist. My younger brother has a Master’s Degree in education, my older brother graduated from a top computer science school with honors (before com sci was even a major, technically his degree was in advanced mathematics), and I have a bachelor’s in English literature but ended up in marketing. I’ve taken many certificate programs and other continuing education in my field. I read a lot of nonfiction, listen to a lot of legal and political podcasts, and enjoy scientific documentaries.
Jacobsen: Was there ever a moment of “aha” in terms of moving to freethinking? Is there any sense in which some purported freethinkers aren’t so freely thinking?
Krevat: Freethinking is on a spectrum. I find it unlikely that anyone is a perfect skeptic. We all have our biases and while we can recognize and minimize many of them, there will always be more lurking. My father raised us with a healthy dose of skepticism, so while I may have not understood formal and informal fallacies when I was young, I was always wary of accepting claims without sufficient evidence or consensus in the field.
Jacobsen: As a Board Member of the Triangle Freethought Society, what will be the substantive tasks and responsibilities coming with the position?
Krevat: Our board is currently made up of five members with no official titles or ranks (e.g., there is no president). We are responsible for planning events, booking educational speakers, arranging volunteer opportunities, day-to-day operations and finances, and serving as a central point of contact.
Jacobsen: Why was the Triangle Freethought Society originally formed?
Krevat: I wasn’t around in the early days, but the story goes that it was originally a meet-up group for some secular residents of the area who felt a little overwhelmed by all the focus of religion in our area. Things evolved from there (and continue to evolve) and now we are the local chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association.
Jacobsen: What are some fun social and communal activities of the society?
Krevat: Our signature events must be our program meetings. The third Monday of the month we have a guest speaker on a topic we hope will be of interest to our community. For example, this quarter we have Kim Ellington from Camp 42 (a secular summer program for kids and teens), Aaron Rabi from Embrace the Void podcast (a philosopher who will be talking about Moral Realism), Bart Campolo the author, podcaster and humanist chaplain, and Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist blogger. We have 2 “Happy Heathen Hour” meetups a month (in 2 different cities in our area) hosted by TFS, but open to all like-minded people who are interested in community. We have a monthly game night hosted by one of our members. Every summer we have an open to the public (no membership required) picnic with a music jam, sports, juggling, pot luck food and of course grilling food. Every December we have our Festivus celebration which is part pot-luck, part food cooked and supplied by the Board members, with a number of fun activities including an improv comedy performance by a local improv troupe of mostly atheists (coincidentally, the director did not plan this…I know, because I am the director). We have some “day at the museum” weekend events planned for this year.
Jacobsen: Who have been important allies in the work for the increase in freethinking?
Krevat: The bloggers on the Internet. The YouTube atheist community (despite pockets of it turning caustic recently). The podcaster community. But most of all the religious community for being such an amazing example of how toxic religion can be. When the Catholic Church is protecting pederasts, we don’t have work hard to present a better option.
Jacobsen: When you reflect on the ways in which people have been mistreated because of their freethought stances? What are some of the common ways? What are some of the more nuanced or subtle ways in which these can manifest themselves?
Krevat: My best friend hasn’t seen his oldest grandchild since June, 2011 when the child was 2 or 3. He has never met his next grandchild born a few years later. Why? Because my friend almost died. When his son visited him in the hospital, he asked if his father was ready to die, if his soul was ready. My friend beat around the bush a bit, but finally said, “Listen son, your mother and I don’t talk religion with you because we know how important it is to you and we don’t want to push our beliefs on you. But we don’t believe. We don’t go to church any more and we don’t believe any more.” His son walked out of the hospital room, blocked his parents (and eventually his sister who was, at the time, still a churchgoer) on all social media, and has never made contact again. I don’t need other examples.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved through the donation of time, the addition of membership, links to professional and personal networks, giving monetarily, exposure in interviews or writing articles, and so on?
Krevat: Yes, those things. And just living an Openly Secular life. Just let one person a month know you’re secular. Be a good example of good without gods. If you can. I mean, you can lose your grandchildren over it.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?
Krevat: Thank you for the opportunity to share and for the work you are doing to promote freethought, secularism, and humanism.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Matthew.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.