For the 2016–2017 academic year, I served as a leader for Freethinkers of Portland State University, a student group with a similar mission statement to the Center for Inquiry. In the beginning, I naively assumed that the areligious ethos of ultra-progressive Portland and the PSU campus would be fertile ground for mobilizing students in secular activism. Instead, I learned quickly that the staunchly nonreligious social environment nearly rendered our group irrelevant.
My last semester at Central Michigan University, I received an email about the summer internship opportunity with the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY. It would be lying to say I immediately wanted to apply—in fact, I originally was not going to, as I felt a biochemistry major had no business applying as a non-profit intern. I was also about to graduate and move to Wisconsin from Michigan over the summer; the timing did not seem ideal. As I prepared my secular on-campus group before graduating, making sure leaders were in place and ready to take over, I realized I was not ready to let go of what had become a huge part of my identity while at university. Sitting at the library, all my campus group files organized, I decided I had to at least apply. I would worry about the details later since at the end of the day, I knew this was something I was passionate about and would make happen.
On the morning of June 12, 2016, I took this selfie after spending the past few hours at a popular Portland gay club. I just finished a grueling finals week at Portland State. Still having the medley of Rihanna and Beyoncé tunes in my head, I casually snapped this photo to memorialize the occasion where I could wear a Barbie pink tank top and white skinny jeans without care or concern.While reviewing my phone notifications, my eyes widened as I read the headlines coming in: “Orlando mass shooting; club shooting; active hostage situation.” The severity of the situation didn’t quite hit me while I drove home. Exhausted and perhaps desensitized to gun violence in America, I told myself I would read the news later. I couldn’t imagine how profoundly affected I would become in a few hours.
“Find yourself a good Christian man,” my grandmother once told me. I giggled to myself a little. She has no idea I am an atheist and as such I have no intentions of marrying a Christian man, or any religious person.Is it wrong of me to say that – to turn someone down based on their faith?
Currently, I’m quite sad as I write this. This reflection marks the end of my time as a CFI Outreach intern, but as this opportunity ends, I know that because of this summer more doors have opened. Nevertheless, the last two months have gone by way too quickly.