Name: Elizabeth Murad.
Where I live: Fort Pierce, Fla.
I was born: In North Bergen, N.J., in 1939, the eldest of six children. My father was a CPA, my mother an at-home multitasker. Our family was devoutly religious but not painfully so. Mass on Sunday and macaroni and cheese on Friday were as natural and normal as any weekly events.
Family: Marann, my best friend and fellow humanist; Azziza and Jack, our Jack Russell terriers; and Romeo and Boots, our cats.
Education: I went all the way to a degree in elementary education in Catholic schools. Everything seemed to center on sin and punishment. Hell and purgatory were as real as Earth. Heaven was our goal. I was well-indoctrinated.
I entered the “juniorate” in my sophomore year of high school to prepare for “real” convent life, which started in the Felician Sisters novitiate in 1957 in Lodi, N.J. Even in the early years, I had doubts. They were labeled “dark night of the soul” or “tests from god.” Life became a daily struggle to hang on to my faith, to banish logic and reason and temptations. I was told to be patient, but year after year went by with no change.
Finally, with the advent of Vatican II and some degree of openness, I realized that the god these nuns adored was a miserable construct of a puritanical mindset. I believed in a much friendlier god. I left the convent in 1971 and tiptoed back into the world. My family welcomed me home with open arms. I had one course left to complete my education degree, which I did. Then I completed an accelerated master’s in clinical social work in 18 months at Rutgers University.
Occupation: I spent the first 11 years of my work life as a teacher and then 30-plus years as a social worker.
How I got where I am today: There was a concept in the convent called “custody of the eyes” (and of the ears and other senses) to shield us from worldly sights and sounds. The “holy” habit covered us from head to foot. So I walked with my head bowed, my eyes cast down, my ears covered and “protected” by the habit. When I left, I was free of all that!
I walked tall, swung my arms, looking at everything with a big smile on my face. I touched everything: the rough bark of a tree, cool green grass, puppies and, most of all, people. As my sensual freedom increased, so did my reason and logic. There are still some sniggles of “nuniness” left in me, but that’s all they are — sniggles. In the convent, my free will and ego were crushed, deliberately, and with my cooperation. It took years to recover.
Still, I believed in god, a nice one but still a god. I explored other religions and philosophies but nothing fit. I finally threw it all away, and there was no baby in that bathwater! Five years later, I moved to Miami Beach and met Jim Murad, the love of my life. He introduced me to humanism and to nudism. We had 29 years together. He died, as he wished, at home in my arms.
At first I wanted to die, too, but found reasons to live as time went on. My new neighbors took me into their hearts and groups. I joined FFRF in 2007, my first contact with organized freethinkers. I became active in local atheist and humanist groups, and in between, I found a best friend. Now we own a home together.
Where I’m headed: Straight for my 101st birthday! Life itself is my goal, to live as fully and freely and as long as possible. My mind has become a vast playground where I joyfully read, listen, watch, speak and write. Unlike brilliant theologians, my mind is not constricted by such bugaboos as faith and infallibility. There are no “Do not trespass” signs. Every idea is grist for the mill of my mind.
I especially love to write. It was the only way I could express myself at first. Once I joined local freethought groups, I could also use my voice.
Person in history I admire: One among many is Robert Ingersoll. His writings inspire me, spin my mind and warm my heart. I only wish I could have heard him speak.
A quotation I like: Humbly, two of my own. “What a wonderful feature, for such a small creature, to have my own mind as a teacher.” And, “Theology is the never-changing, faith-filled study of superstition. Science is the ever-changing, logical and reasonable study of reality. I choose science.”
These are a few of my favorite things: Meetings of the Treasure Coast Humanists and Atheists, new issues of Freethought Today, having a best friend, my garden, science shows, my computer (sometimes), books by Dawkins, Hitchens, Barker, etc.
These are not: My computer (sometimes), weeds, the Religious Right, “reality” shows, the tea party movement, TV ads for medications.
Ways I promote freethought: Without being pushy. I wear my humanist pin and talk about freethinking. I’ve given talks to my groups (preaching to the choir?), and I’m starting a freethought writing group.
I’m a hospice volunteer and emphasize that I’m a humanist who’s especially interested in assisting nontheistic patients. I’ve written a children’s story on freethinking called “Scio and Theo,” which is is being illustrated by Marann.
By Elizabeth Murad
A star is born in chaos,
lives in glory,
dies in splendor;
then there is only stardust.
Stardust — tiny, yet with immense promise,
lighter than a feather,
yet the stuff of all matter
in the universe.
Stardust — so fragile, yet so powerful,
giving birth to galaxies,
to stars and planets,
to our own Earth.
Stardust — the stuff of the Grand Canyon,
of the smallest virus,
the majestic sequoia,
the roaring tiger,