Catherine Fahringer Black Skeptic Awardee Dia Brown

Humans have constantly cooked up new ways to explain what they perceive in the world. When there are things they can’t explain, they let it stew in their heads and eventually a way to explain it is served. One of those ways is religion. Religion has been used to understand and to moralize since the earliest days of humans.

But of those ways to solve problems, religion is only an optional ingredient.

For me, I have always been passionate about the environment. My mindset for caring is that there is an aesthetic value to keeping the Earth clean. It is also a concern for public health, and I concern myself with the well-being of the people and animals on this planet. When passion is mixed in with action, a healthy serving of effective change is made.

When I tell people I am atheist, they often ask how I got that way. It started when I was 5 years old. I was sitting in a local Baptist church with my family. People in the church were dancing and shaking as they “felt the Lord.” My sister exclaimed, “I feel him; I feel the Lord,” and in that moment, I realized I didn’t. I waited. Waiting turned to wondering. In that moment of isolation, I decided. From then on, I never went to church unless I had to, and I stopped reading the religious books. As a young mixed girl in a conservative county, I kept this hidden from everyone. When I was called rude names for the color of my skin, I just thought of the good in people because in my eyes, “everyone means well,” as my late grandfather would always say.

I had faith in humanity, but I had no faith in God. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was an atheist. This past year I helped to start an interfaith group and made sure that my voice as an atheist was heard. Despite my beliefs — or maybe because of them — I have an appreciation for religion because it is like a leftover soup. For me, I didn’t care for all the extra ingredients and went straight for the broth, and I enjoy it just the same.

Dia graduated from Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, Md., and now attends the University of Vermont.

Freedom From Religion Foundation