Name: Christina Schanda.
Where I live: Forsyth, Mo., about 15 minutes from Branson.
Where and when I was born: San Clemente, Calif., in 1967. My parents moved back to “the boot heel” of Missouri shortly after I was born and insisted I go with them.
Family: My daughter Jordan and her husband Joey live about an hour away in Springfield. My son Jett is a high school sophomore. My sister and her family live three miles away and my parents live next door. We’re very close, literally and figuratively.
Education: Forsyth School, K-12. Graduated from Florida State University School of Theatre in 1989.
Occupation: I do bookkeeping for my dad’s dental practice from my home office and work as dental assistant for him part time. I also enjoy painting and writing, but those “jobs” don’t pay the bills. I do the first two things so I can do the other two things.
How I got where I am today: It was pretty rough raising my kids in a little town [pop. 2,300] where it’s just accepted that that kids would come home from school with religious material and that some teachers are going to ask your kids if they attend church. After years of incidents involving the school and more trips complaining to the administration than I can count, I finally started referring to myself as a atheist and demanding that laws be followed.
After my daughter graduated, I started working with my friend, an editor and magician of the printed word on some of my experiences. I uploaded my collection of short stories Christina-anity about a year ago and had a few hard copies printed this year.
Even though the stories are fiction (lots of creative license has been taken with facts and names), they contain enough truth to get the point across. And of course, in a little town, you can change the names, but everyone knows whom you’re talking about. Self-publishing has given me a lot of gratification since I’m the obvious minority.
Since coming out and publishing my short stories, several things have changed. First, I have been shocked at how many people have come to me privately and told me how much they admire my courage to be an out atheist in a small town. They have told me stories of how they would lose their jobs/families if they even alluded to not being religious, but they feel satisfaction at seeing me call out the bullying of the religious majority here. That makes me feel bad for them, but I have really come to appreciate my situation since it allows me to be exactly who I am.
Second, I have connected with a lot of freethinkers in the process. That includes Springfield Freethinkers and Branson Freethinkers, my Facebook and Twitter groups/friends and, of course, freethought books and publications like Freethought Today. Without them, I’m not sure I would have felt like I had enough peer support to be the “town atheist.”
My family has always been supportive, even though I know they have experienced some negative fallout from my little book project. Otherwise, it would have been hard for me to put my real name on it.
Finally, since I am out so openly now, I have had several people come to me and tell me they thought they were the only nonbeliever in the area. I like being able to help those people connect with other like minds.
Most people don’t know that there are groups in the area and online opportunities and groups that they can join anonymously. I think it’s really important to feel like part of the freethought community without having to jeopardize one’s job and personal relationships.
A quotation I like: “I now consider myself a ‘dry’ Baptist.” (Said my father, Ed Schanda, son of a Baptist minister.)
These are a few of my favorite things: Anything Tim Minchin. Lists. “The Daily Show.” Slimming pants. Bill Maher. Free beer.
These are not: Toe shoes. Sarah Palin. Kirk Cameron. Tardiness. Litterbugs.
My doubts about religion started: When I argued with my parents about the ability of the Easter Bunny to slip under a door. At that point, they knew they had a skeptic on their hands. I think I was about 7.
I wish you’d have asked me: What’s been your favorite freethought event thus far? I had the time of my life at the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. I went with my daughter and met up with some like minds from the Branson and Springfield groups. It was a blast. The weather didn’t cooperate the day of the event, but it was still a great experience. I hope to go again someday. I think it made a huge statement in this country about the rise of reason.
Heath Ledger, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, Jim Morrison, Albert Einstein, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Mercury, Divine [the late actor Harris Milstead, associated with filmmaker John Waters], Christopher Hitchens.
Christina’s 12 disciples
Jimmy Fallon, Cartman [“South Park” character], Tim Minchin, Andy Samberg, Kathy Griffin, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Betty White, Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Seth MacFarlane.
Her religious holiday
Dionys-mus. Each Jan. 28, Christina-ists will in the ritual of drink, song and dance celebrating the fruits of the nonvirgin mother’s labor in 1967 and also the losing of Christina’s virginity in 1985. This is a truly nondenominational holiday. Nonconverts welcomed.