2014 Leadership Conference Reflection: Ashton Nicewonger
August 12, 2014
When I walked through the front doors of the Center For Inquiry at almost midnight, I had no idea what to expect. An intern had told me that I would be spending a few days with a few people who share my values and convictions. To be honest, I was laughably skeptical. How could I not be? I come from a town where praying over your lunch is expected and everyone is terrified of Obama coming to their houses to take their guns.
My whole life I have been berated for questioning things and using rational approaches to understand the world around me. I knew that there were other people who shared this logical way of life (thanks, Internet!) but I had never known any. After moving in on my campus last fall, I searched desperately for a freethinking group and after relentless questioning of professors and students alike, I found a tiny, barely functioning organization with a handful of students showing up once every month to eat pizza and watch documentaries or discuss issues. I thought, “there has to be more than this.”
As it turns out, there is. On the night I arrived in Amherst I was met with smiling faces and warm welcomes—from everyone, not just the people whose job descriptions required them. The next morning, we dove right in with content, and I immediately felt a spark ignite. Not only did I learn that there is a huge, loving community of people who feel the same way that I do, but that there is more for us to do than eat pizza! The Center for Inquiry gave me a chance to reach out to others—some with similar experiences of ostracization, some with bewildered looks after learning that such a thing exists—and the tools to show other people in this world that this loving community exists and that we are wonderful, caring people. Today I am more confident in who I am and eager to share this confidence and support with those who have none. CFI welcomed me and showed me how to welcome others with open arms, and for that I am grateful.
About the Author: Ashton NicewongerAshton Nicewonger, a sophomore at Furman University, hails from Pelion, South Carolina, a town with two stoplights, one elevator, and seventy-two tractors on the main road. She's an open atheist studying vocal performance who has multiple life plans, though in all honesty probably none of them will be used.
#1 Avery Thompson (Guest) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 at 6:24pm
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