Quartet receive Catherine Fahringer activist awards

FFRF is pleased to announce that it has given $10,000 in scholarships in memory of Catherine Fahringer to four students chosen by Black Skeptics of Los Angeles.
The scholarship is part of the third-annual First in the Family humanist scholarship program to help students of color who are atheists and agnostics. Black Skeptics of Los Angeles held an awards program Aug. 8.

“We’re very proud to be providing the Catherine Fahringer Memorial Scholarships of $2,500 to these four recipients,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Texan Fahringer was a firebrand San Antonio feminist and freethinking activist who ran a long-lived FFRF chapter and served on the executive board for many years. She was especially interested in nurturing the next generation of independent thinkers. She died in 2008.

Recipients are:

Mercedes Hawkins, 18, University of California-Merced. Mercedes writes:

“Too many religious people insist upon waiting for ‘God’ to make a change. They fail to realize that the change is in them and it is their duty to cultivate it outwardly. Once more people embrace humanism, we will freely celebrate our differences in beliefs and promote acceptance.”

Mercedes is currently enrolled at Cal State-East Bay and plans to become a nurse practitioner and eventually a pharmacist. “I will use the skills I learn in college to promote health and wellness in my community. While in school, I plan to pursue a program that will allow me to work part time as possibly an X-ray technician, phlebotomist or CNA.”

Zera Montemayor, 18, University of North Texas. Zera writes:

“Religion is not the source for social change in the world. It is time the human race understood that words like atheist, agnostic and humanist are not truly as negative as the connotation they carry. We are not hateful, sinners, harlots or devil worshipers.

“There are so many things I would love to see before my life is over. I would love to see to gay people get married and the public not make a big commotion about it. I would love to see transgender people not be harassed or called ‘she-man.’ I would love to see women wear whatever they please and not be marked by words like slut or whore. I would love seeing men taking ballet or a cooking class and not be marked with the misnomer gay.

Finally, I want to be able to tell people I am an atheist without it ruining friendships. I believe humanism is the answer.”

Zera was born in west Texas, “a place with a church on every block, in essence a horrible place for a young and lonely atheist to live in.” Sports and school kept her focused. She stayed in the top 10% throughout her four years of high school and graduated 62nd academically out of a class of 700. She’s majoring in chemistry and plans to attend medical college to become a forensic pathologist.

Adrienne Parkes, 32, University of Pittsburgh. Adrienne writes: “One of the things that caused me to shy away from religion was the lack of acceptance of those who are different. Growing up, I felt like an oddball, one of the few biracial kids in a very white neighborhood. I had dabbled in church as a child . . . but I kept waiting to hear God answer me and it never happened. This made no sense to me, so I left and never looked back.

“Many people are using their religion to hurt the LGBTQ community. We see it in people like the Duggars, who are campaigning to stop trans individuals from using gender-appropriate bathrooms. Or in the recent cases of businesses using ‘religious freedom’ to justify not serving gay patrons. I believe that being a humanist, and being passionate about equal rights and fostering a positive community will create a much needed social change.”

Adrienne attended Community College of Allegheny County for two years and will be majoring in social work with a possible minor in Latin American studies. She earned a certificate in American Sign Language and “would love to become a trilingual social worker and help a broader range of people.”

Therrin Wilson, 18, University of Tennessee. Therrine writes: “I will be the first male in my entire family to receive a college education and I am also the first to disclaim Christianity. I do not condemn religion because it has influenced people to attribute a positive impact on society hence the Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. On the other hand, I admire humanism more because humanists act upon a worthy heart when doing positive things for the community.”

Therrin, from Memphis, grew up in a poor neighborhood and and was evicted with his family from their home when he was in fourth grade, “moving from house to house with relatives and friends.”

He was always very focused on academia “because my intentions were to overcome adversity, go to college and become something great so that my kids will never have to witness what I’ve went through. My parents would always tell me that ‘God would take care of us’ but at a certain point, I’d noticed that believing in my own abilities rather than the imaginary hand of deities has made me a more efficient man. Hence, my proud conversion from Christianity to agnosticism.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation