Name: Nancy Dollard.
Where I live: Uniontown, Ohio.
Where and when I was born: I’m 39 and was born and raised in Ohio, primarily the Mansfield area.
Family: My husband and two daughters (ages 12 and 8), two dogs, two cats and several guppies.
Education: B.A. in communication with an emphasis in public relations, a minor in French and a certificate in professional writing from the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio.
Occupation: Homemaker and liberal atheist advocate.
How I got where I am today: I never really questioned church, or god, until something happened to me in the fifth grade. We had moved from the Mansfield area to southern Ohio. At my mother’s old church, girls and boys were allowed to be acolytes, but in the new church, only boys were allowed. As a former acolyte, I couldn’t understand why all Methodist churches weren’t the same, so I started a petition at the church asking members to allow girl acolytes.
I recall many wives immediately signing the petition but having to nudge their husbands to do the same. It stuck with me that the men would be reluctant to sign the petition. I always thought women were equals in church and everywhere else. This incident was the beginning of my journey to a secular path and becoming an atheist.
Where I’m headed: I currently speak out to support secular public schools. I’ve noticed increasing attacks on public school curricula, from science and evolution to inserting Christian dogma into reading, social studies and history. I’m grateful to the Foundation for contesting one of our public school’s illegal “belief in God” mission statement. As a resident of Lake Township, I was shocked to see the Board of Education promoting God in a public school.
I even checked with three neighboring school districts, which say nothing about God or religion in their vision/mission statements. Instead, they say “respects individual and cultural differences” (Jackson), “nurturing each individual to full potential” (North Canton), and “support student needs academically, socially, physically and emotionally” (Green).
Person in history I admire and why: Susan B. Anthony has earned my respect for being a 19th century feminist and earning women the right to vote. Taking a stand for female voting was risky, but Susan voted despite being arrested and fined for it (although never paying the fine).
A quotation I like: “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (Maggie Kuhn)
These are a few of my favorite things: Pro-choice atheists, liberals, gays, animals, separation of church and state, evolution, vegetarian foods, carbs, history and art museums, theater, travel, foreign languages and euchre.
These are not: Religion (particularly the “religious right”), anti-choice conservatives, war, hunting, homophobes, meat, exercise, car shows, sewing, cooking and creation museums.
How long I’ve been a freethinker: About three years.
Why I’m a freethinker: It really began in the winter of 2008 when my oldest daughter was in fourth grade. Her public school required the entire fourth grade to read a Christianity-based book about a Christmas pageant where a single mom is vilified for being single, and her six misbehaving kids are only “saved” through the church’s play about the birth of Jesus. I knew there was a problem with the book when my daughter came home from school and asked me what “sin” was.
I contacted the school and met with my daughter’s teacher and the principal to review the school’s policy on religion. My daughter was exempted from the reading material and asked to sit in the hall while the book was being read and reviewed for several weeks with the rest of the class. I wasn’t thrilled with my daughter sitting in the hall, but she is resilient and said she was OK with it. I think the incident may make her understand why we don’t go to church or have anything to do with religion.
Best way I promote freethought: By writing and blogging about it. Recently, I had two op-eds in the Mansfield News Journal, one on “Why Abortion Is Needed, and Why Ohio Clinic Violence Must Stop,” and one on “Happy Holidays from an Atheist.”
I think that sharing my personal stories on why I’m an atheist and why I’m pro-choice, helps people who are religious and have conservative values see that I am just as moral and ethical with progressive, secular values.