This is an ongoing and new series devoted to the South African Secular Society (SASS) and South African secularism. The Past President, Jani Schoeman, and the Current President, Rick Raubenheimer, and the current Vice-President, Wynand Meijer, will be taking part in this series to illuminate these facets of South Africa culture to us. The whole SASS-y gang join us.
Here we talk about online communication some more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When it comes to press releases and outreach and building a greater public image in South Africa, how do you go about it? What have been some notable publications or press releases or events that have garnered some further attention for SASS?
Jani Schoeman: Anybody’s welcome to answer. I’m quickly searching for the article on the website.
Wynand Meijer: I would just like to make a brief observation. What I have noticed in interactions on our social media platform is that articles pertaining to children and education and religion are generally very interactive, where people would have a type of interaction. My on-the-fly translator is broken again. There’s much more interaction with people.
Schoeman: What’s the word? Tell me.
Rick Raubenheimer: Participation.
Schoeman: It’s participation.
Meijer: That’s the word. Thank you. Yes. I think, specifically, the article that Jani was referring to earlier, when it comes to politics. We would touch on some government policies now and again and things like that but not really get into the politics side per se. I think that’s possibly what made that article stand out that much.
Schoeman: Exactly. Now that you say that, the court case was something that involved all those aspects. It involved the government. It involved children, and education, and religion. That’s why, also, that court case was something that was very well-known in the country when it happened.
Jacobsen: What is it in South African culture, where the focus is on education, the focus is on the young, in these particular cases, of church and state separation that makes them flammable and noteworthy?
Schoeman: I think that would be something that is, around the world, probably going to be flammable, when something happens in that space. South Africa is a third-world country, so education is still getting there. I think that people here, now, are really starting to wake up to education.
I think most people care about their kids, and most people care about religion, and when you put the two together – or even government and politics. In the beginning, when we were talking about the aim of SASS and what we are going to do about politics, we decided that we’re going to try and stay out of it a little bit, which is maybe one of the reasons that we haven’t been noticed, really, or gotten that much media.
I think if we were to go more into that space, we would probably. But this marriage officer project is also something that touches on government and religion. It’s been one of our most successful and popular projects. It just took off. It’s almost like it needed to happen. That’s what I think.
Jacobsen: What about you, Wynand or Rick?
Raubenheimer: Wynand has children at school, so he’s a good one to talk at this point. Wynand?
Meijer: I’ve got a lot to say. I actually have an appointment with some of the school’s legal representatives tomorrow regarding things like that.
Schoeman: Go! Yay! Go, Wynand.
Meijer: That’s why I would like to reserve comment for now. Let me go through all of the hoops and then I would like to revisit this topic a bit later. So, yes, I do have a vested interest in this. I would like to elaborate on it, but now it would be a bit premature.
Schoeman: Yes, and you probably have to leave now.
Meijer: Yes. This is for a debate that I’m organizing in July. I’ll let you guys talk about that one.
Schoeman: I think we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg, here.[Laughing].
Meijer: I will need to excuse myself, currently. Guys, it’s been fun. Thank you very much. Scott, I will see you in two weeks. Jani and Rick, I will see you this weekend.
Jacobsen: Rick, how have you seen the changes in the educational system over time?
Raubenheimer: The major change, of course, was at the advent of democracy in 1994 when we changed from Christian National Education, which we’ve talked about previously, to the democratic era, at which point the change was from everything supposedly being under a Christian ethos to, “Differences are not tolerated, they are celebrated.”
An ethos that has not filtered down to all the schools yet, by any means. The schools that are giving us the most trouble are what we call former “Model C” schools, which relates to the old education system.
Model C schools were schools that were given a lot of autonomy and run largely by parent governing bodies. They tended to adopt an Afrikaans ethnic character. They haven’t quite caught up with the idea that other cultures are both welcome and celebrated. They tend to have the Christian ethos and the Afrikaans Calvinist ethos, as well.
Where we haven’t really done much penetration is into the black schools where, of course, Christianity is rife as well. However, we have a much smaller percentage of secular parents in the black community. We haven’t, as far as I know, made any contact with them to find out whether they’re having the same problem, which they probably are.
Jacobsen: Jani, I’m not sure how appropriate it is or not. If you’re planning a family, how are you looking towards these things in a different light now?
Schoeman: I must say I know that it’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s something I know I’m going to have to face when I get there. All I can say right now is it seems like a mountain in front of me because I know I’m going to run into some problems. I’m not going to be okay with letting it go. I think I’m going to be a bit like Wynand. I’m going to end up seeing the school and seeing the legal people and all of that.
It’s something that I’ve been thinking about. It’s going to be an uphill battle, for sure.
Jacobsen: I suspect that this may tie into press release items.
Schoeman: Yes. I think the moment it involves education, children, and religion. There’s probably going to be a lot more attention than any other topic.
Just a side story for you guys, I’m on this fertility app called Glow. It’s for people who are trying to conceive. A lot of times, I see comments on there. It’s a little community. They have several forums on there. A lot of the time, you’ll see comments like, “I’m praying for you,” and people saying like, “I’m praying for my miracle baby,” and all of this. It was a little bit irritating, obviously, to see that.
They have this little poll feature on there, as well. People can post questions and have the community answer them.
Somebody on there posted today, “Is your partner the same faith as you?” They had these answers, options. I think the first one was, “Yes, and it really matters to us.” The second one was, “Yes, we are the same faith but it doesn’t really matter to us.” Then there was, “No, we are not the same faith but it doesn’t matter,” and “No, we aren’t the same faith and now there are problems.”
There was a fifth option which said, “Other / Comment.” I went on “Other”, obviously, because they didn’t have there, “Lack of faith”. I pressed the last one, for “Other”. They sort these comments according to the most popular. The top comment on there was, “We share a lack of belief.” I was so surprised to see that it got something like 800 or 900 likes and a whole bunch of people commented on there saying, “We share a lack of religion,” or “We also don’t believe in anything.”
Some people were saying, “It’s very important that both of us believe in objective morals or the scientific method. It’s very important to us.” Some people are saying, “I don’t think that I could be with someone religious,” and stuff like that. It was very interesting to me to see that that community seems to really be growing.
When you think of families and people, a lot of the time, people used to think of atheists as loners, or maybe people that aren’t really into family. Actually, for a lot of people and a lot of families, now, it’s becoming more normal. People were like, “Why wasn’t this an option? Why wasn’t lack of belief an option up here? Why didn’t you put it up there?” I was very surprised to see that. I just thought I’d tell you guys.
Raubenheimer: Jani, it sounds like you should do some recruiting in that group.
Schoeman: [Laughing] it’s a global thing. I think most people on there are from the USA, from all over the world, actually. If it had been a South African group, I would have been super surprised, obviously. I think it would have been different.
Jacobsen: That’s good. If there are 900 people, you might find another South African.
Schoeman: Maybe. I commented on there. I said something like, “Yay. Happy godlessness from South Africa.” I think someone else from here might see that.
Jacobsen: So, you had the 900 likes. What was the comparison?
Schoeman: Yes. That was what was quite cool. The second top comment was a Christian that posted, “We both accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior.” That comment got half the likes that the lack of belief comment got.
Jacobsen: Something about technology is skewing the results.
Schoeman: Yes. I think it’s the Internet. I think so. I don’t know. It just seems like when I’m looking physically around me, and meeting people around me, the majority are Christian, but when you go online, as soon as you go online, then it’s more even.
Jacobsen: Rick, you want to say something. What’s up?
Raubenheimer: It just occurs to me that possibly; it’s people who are focused on science and technology that are happier on the Internet, and particularly happier about communicating their points of view on the Internet. Hence, yes, as Jani says, of course, this particular group, Jani, it sounds science-based. Although, you get the people praying, as well, so not entirely. There might be a bit of a bias towards science and rationality in the group.
Schoeman: Perhaps, yes. If you’re using an app to track your fertility, and as a tool in your efforts to try to conceive, I think you’re already taking a scientific approach to conception. Although, you do see a lot of religious people on there.
For example, my family and other people I’ve mentioned our journey to, a lot of people will be like, “You just need to relax. It will happen when it happens,” and all of that bullshit. “God will send you a baby when it’s the right time.” Like, please. Come on. [Laughing] If you want to get pregnant, I think you need to do something about it if you’re serious about it.
Jacobsen: The way they phrase that, too, “God will send you a–” It sounds like there’s a stork that’s going to fly in with a…
Schoeman: [Laughing] Sometimes, I just want to say to people, “You actually need to have sex to have a baby. Do you know that?”
Raubenheimer: I think you should, Jani.
Jacobsen: That’s funny.
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.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.