Meet a chapter president: Angela Combs

Name: Angela Combs.

Where I live: I’m currently residing in beautiful, enchanting New Mexico, just a short walk from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Where I was born: Baltimore, Md.

Family: For various reasons, my freethinking ways being not the least of them, my family size has significantly waned over time. The family members that remain active participants in my life include my niece, Liz Barbour, an intelligent young woman with whom I am proud to share some of my better genes, and Sam Robinson, a caring and supportive family member, one that genetics failed to provide.

Education: Math/science associate’s degree, 2010. I’m currently working on a B.S. in psychology and evolutionary anthropology and intend to pursue graduate studies in 2016.
Occupation: Research assistant in an experimental psychology lab at the University of New Mexico.

How I got where I am today: From a life entrenched in fundamental Christianity, abuse and isolation, my lengthy quest to understand god’s loving neglect, as well as to find god’s defense for his blessing on those who afflict the innocent brought me to the momentarily terrifying and ultimately freeing realization that god is not. Time invested in working with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and members of the homeless population revealed to me how prevalent the abuses of religion are.

The harm that religion does is frequently deep and severe. Religion too often takes otherwise healthy, strong individuals and transforms them into either perilously vulnerable or dangerously arrogant people. That long-coming recognition is how I got to where I am today. I cannot stand idle while others continue to be oppressed and manipulated by the unjust and discriminatory justices of religion. I am not here only to take back my own life, but to help others do the same.

Person in history I admire: My greatest admiration goes to Robert Oppenheimer. He was able to lead a team of the greatest minds of his time to achieve one of humankind’s most remarkable accomplishments. Even more impressive than his intellectual abilities, however, was his conviction. He lost so much in the course of doing the right thing, and even in the face of aspersion, he spoke up for what was right. He spoke out for the protection of those who didn’t even understand that they were in danger. That, to me, is the epitome of beauty.

A quotation I like: “If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.” (Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great)

These are a few of my favorite things: Neanderthals, tiger sharks and intellectual honesty.

My doubts about religion started: When I was 21 years old, I questioned a few specific “facts” and became quite unsettled by my own conclusions. This resulted in my living as a closet atheist for three years before backsliding. From that time, I remained a zealous Christian until I began to feel some alleviation of the intense abuses that I had suffered throughout my 20s and into my 30s. Having moved beyond a time of literally struggling to survive each day, I was able to breathe, to consider, to reflect on why god was failing.
Before I die: I want to see a lot more of this amazing world.

Ways I promote freethought: I promote freethought in my service as president of the Albuquerque chapter of FFRF. We have a great group of freethinkers and we’re quite interested in engaging our community.

I cannot claim to fully understand everyone else, but I do try to understand myself. An occasional deep and honest look at myself reminds me of where I came from, who I have been, and what I have believed. I can see in myself that many common approaches to confronting religion would have had no beneficial effect on me in times past. However, demonstrating freethought is powerful.

Even when I was a zealous, fundamentalist Christian, I admired solid thinking. Not arguments, accusations or insults, but crisp, clear, clean thinking. My go-to means of promoting freethought is by being a freethinker, by sharing not only my thoughts, but also sharing my thought processes as well as any doubts I may have.

Acknowledging that one doesn’t have all of the answers, and even that the answers one has may be somewhat lacking, can be confounding and amazing. I have respected others who have done so, and so I suspect that others can be inspired to give it a try as well. I am ever grateful to the freethinkers who demonstrated the simple art of freethought for me. While others sought to take from me, they gave to me the single most powerful tool one can possess.

Freedom From Religion Foundation