Meet a Member: Judy Saint

Name: Judy Saint.
Where I live: Northern California, near Sacramento.
Where and when I was born: Oregon in the 1950s.
Family: My partner (and still nonlegal wife), Kathy, and a wonderful son and daughter, both contributing well to society and to those who know them.
Education: University of California-Davis, bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and psychology and an M.A. in educational leadership.
Occupation: Retired, now doing part-time driving instruction for those great, inquisitive 15- and 16-year-olds. In my time, I’ve owned my own companies, written books, taught high school math, programmed computers (Fortran, of course) and oh, so much more. It’s been a good ride.
How I got where I am today: My mother avoided her well-heeled family, instead living in near poverty with five children. She shunned their materialism and judgmental ways, teaching us kids the better lessons the bible offered, without ever saying the words bible, or God, or Jesus, or salvation. She emphasized goodness, education and a helpful spirit. She felt there was a god taking care of her, but never spoke of it.
I was allowed a lot of freedom, from chores and from rules, because she believed we were all good at heart, and would find our own way by making our own rules. My abilities led to a full-ride scholarship at UC-Davis (thank you, social programs for poor students). My first husband was ill for 10 years, before he finally died at age 27 from a hereditary condition. Taking care of him all those years helped me learn what really matters in life. I’ve always been out there at the forefront taking risks and living life.
Where I’m headed: Same as everybody.
Person in history I admire and why: Jim Henson, because he long pursued working in a field he loved (puppets) before it was socially acceptable. Cervantes’ fictional character Don Quixote, also for following his convictions and taking risks beyond the norm. Marie T. Rossi, military helicopter pilot, who showed me what it felt like to be touched by a role model, helping me learn how important role modeling can be. I saw her in her cockpit and said aloud to myself, “Wow, women can do that?” Marie was killed in action just after her interview on TV.
A quotation I like: Shakespeare: “This above all, to thine own self be true, then it shall follow as night follows day, thou shalt not then be false to any man.” (Polonius to Laertes in “Hamlet”)
These are a few of my favorite things: Nonfiction books and valid documentaries, motorcycles, big rigs, changes in the weather, counterintuitive learning and thinking.
These are not: Using words like fault, blame, should, ought to, must; talking with food in your mouth, as is so popular in movies; political game-playing (scamming the public); poor grammar.
My doubts about religion started: Several years ago, around Christmas, I began researching the history of our major holidays. I was fascinated by the way these supposed traditions all fell apart when I saw how sloppily they were hodgepodged together, mainly by the Catholic Church. I mean, a bunny that hides eggs being connected with a dead man coming back to life? Seriously? Christmas being outlawed in early America? For real? That made me look into the history of the church itself, which led to examining history of religion in general.
One day I let myself realize that prayer actually did nothing. That was the turning point. It took a few months more before I let myself wonder if there was even a God. It took two years and much more research for me to conclude there wasn’t even a real Jesus. The website (Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth) made a big difference for me, showing me how ubiquitous christs were, and stories of others who traditionally were born of virgins, walked on water, etc.
Then I found many websites giving me all sorts of information, which I now use in my contact with others when I discuss atheism. I would not have been prepared to talk about it openly had I not spent hundreds of hours reading books, researching online and involving myself with memberships. Now there is no stopping me.
One relative thinks I will someday revert back, but that would be like believing in Santa again — just can’t happen. I know too much. I also study how the brain works and psychology and other sciences to help me understand why people believe in superstitions. That tells me, as it seems most of our leaders in this movement agree, that our time is better spent talking with the open-minded, not the religious fanatics.
I’m still finding new areas to doubt. I recently heard Christopher Hitchens say he has no respect for faith. That struck my “respect for religion” nerve that was embedded at a young age, and I quote his phrase now! So, my doubting continues to grow.
Why I’m a freethinker: The question I can’t answer is, “How could I have ever not have been a freethinker?” I mean, there I was a believer, better able than most to apologize for the bible right down to handling the tough questions about evil and seeming contradictions, the whole thing. I used my intelligence to reinforce my belief, and I was good at it! How could I have not questioned this whole arena before hitting the age of 57? I was too smart for that. How did it happen?
I’ve studied lately enough to realize I was using “confirmation bias” and other survival skills which have evolved in humans, so I’m not too hard on myself. But I can surely identify with those believers who are still caught up in the words of that man-made book. It’s like seeing your childhood playground again: “Gee, I thought the slide was so much taller than that. It’s actually pretty small.”
There’s no going back once you see behind the curtain and realize it’s only man-made. As a teenager in the hippie era, I saw the “Question Authority” poster and thought I was, but, oh no, I was only questioning which shampoo to buy. Little did I know what was really out there waiting to be questioned.
Ways I promote freethought: I bought 50 bright-blue T-shirts that say “Ask an Atheist” front and back, with our local meetup group name at the bottom. We walk around local public events in pairs for visibility, smiling and making casual eye contact in case anyone wants to ask a question. I also created the website to help others do the same. Even if no one asks anything, we are doing our part to dispel harmful myths by showing the public we buy hot dogs and pet police horses just the same as they do.
It’s working very well so far. I also wear my T-shirt once or twice a week as I go shopping, to a car wash, stopping by work briefly, or stepping out to grab a hamburger. Sometimes older people stare or look away, but usually I get either positive support or a valid question or two. I’m not trying to persuade staunch believers. That’s a waste of my time on this earth. I care more about being visible for others who might be on the fence or too scared to come out. At events sometimes, someone will approach me specifically because they have seen several others wearing the same shirt at the same event. It helps break the ice. Now is the time we must come out and be visible. This is the best thing atheists can do.
I feel this passionately. Hey, why not buy your own T-shirt, either from FFRF or have a local shop make one for you with your own saying? If it’s cold outside, put your T-shirt on over your other clothes. It’s even a little trendy. I think we need to display the word “atheist” specifically, even though it’s taking a bigger risk than using less-stigmatized words for nonbelievers.
My Facebook profile picture is my FFRF Out of the Closet billboard, which says, “No God, no Christ, no Lord: There isn’t even a real ‘up.’ Goodness comes from people.”
I’m “out” everywhere I can be. Not everyone is ready, willing or able to take such a risk as this, so since I am a risk-taker and ready to be approached, that is what I do for the cause.

Freedom From Religion Foundation