Name: Diane Uhl.
Where I live: Oro Valley, Ariz.
Where and when I was born: Milwaukee in 1937 (the town that beer kept happy). I was raised in the small town of Evansville, Wis., where we drank beer but didn’t tell anyone.
Education: I survived high school in a small Wisconsin town where there were no divorces and the only ethnic groups were Germans, Swedes and Norwegians. I received my B.A. from Ripon College. Teaching became my goal when I found out a nurse had to be able to tolerate the sight of blood.
I received my M.A. from Northwestern University in speech correction/special education, which equipped me (I thought) to save all those children with special needs. Those children taught me more about life than I ever imagined.
Occupation: I taught people of all ages, from preschool to adults with special needs. The adults were always the toughest due to the usual adult prejudices and hang-ups. Thirty-three years in public schools provided me with untold opportunities to encourage students to always be free to say “show me” or “prove it.”
How I got where I am today: My parents taught me the rewards of hard work. The one action item I took from my Lutheran upbringing that seemed to make sense was the Golden Rule. I always say they should put “She Tried” on my tombstone (which I won’t have).
During college summers, I worked for a couple (both totally blind) who gave me a real perspective on what “vision” really is. I freely moved forward to prepare myself to teach others and to enjoy a successful, happy independent life. Along the way, I met and married my best friend, Steve. We retired in 1993, sold it all, bought an RV and traveled full time to all 49 continental states. Geography lessons and people opportunities were boundless and furthered my education and vision of a world where we should all be able to accept and live comfortably with our differences while not forcing our choices on others.
Where I’m headed: To dust, but I like to think of it as my personal sunset.
Persons I admire: Arizona state Rep. Juan Mendez, who in May as a nonbeliever offered up a nonprayer in the House to open a session, and Rebecca Vitsmun, the Oklahoma tornado survivor. Rebecca, when asked by Wolf Blitzer on national TV “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right?” replied, “I’m actually an atheist.”
These are real people stepping up, not just a number in the “nones” column of a Pew Research report. More power to them and to us.
A quotation I like: “I respect people for their deeds not their creeds.” (See my FFRF billboard that went up in Tucson.) “Facts are true whether or not you believe them.” (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” (Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor)
These are a few of my favorite things: Chocolate, my best friend, positive people, Kermit the frog, laughter, more chocolate, the First Amendment, secular humanist actions, Frank Sinatra singing “I Did It My Way.”
These are not: People who are takers, not givers, spam email messages, promises not kept.
My doubts about religion started: Religion in my childhood home was not a big thing. I enjoyed singing in choir with my friends. In college I was reading more philosophy. Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian started me seeking the answer to “Who am I?” I soon found I could not find satisfactory answers to “Why religion?”
By my sophomore year, I made the conscientious decision that since I did not know and it couldn’t seem to be proven whether there was or wasn’t a god, that I would live my life as I thought moral and right, and if there was a god he would forgive me if I didn’t get it correct. This life stance served me well for many years.
Many birthdays provided me with time, and I felt challenged to learn more as science and technology advanced. I learned more about evolution and gained more insight into myself and others in regard to our needs and fears and how that related to life and death and gods. I could see more clearly that I had to apply the lessons I taught to my students in regard to a god: “Show me, prove it!”
What I wished (prayed) for as a child: I used to wish and pray for peace on Earth. As an adult, I’ve learned that reason, science, critical thinking and acceptance of others’ views and perceptions are what would bring peace. Deeds, not creeds.
Ways I promote freethought: Steve and I share a comfortable lifestyle. We now have the freedom to contribute more time and money to those organizations and institutions that represent our philosophy of the need for a more secular and humanistic worldview.
We continue to support reason, science, critical thinking and state-church separation in our work with our local FreeThought Arizona group, as well as with state and national organizations. Above all we try to live and support the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
Editor’s note: Diane very modestly doesn’t mention her and Steve’s totally tremendous $250,000 donation to FFRF’s building fund. Thanks to the Uhls, FFRF’s new addition will include the Diane Uhl legal wing and the Stephen Uhl “Out of God’s Closet” recording studio. A $50,000 “medium grand” piano “of Dan Barker’s choice” will bear a plaque with Diane’s name.
See list of new donors to FFRF’s building fund on page 17.