Name: Brenda Germain.
Where I live: Rural North Carolina, just west of Fort Bragg. It’s in the middle of nowhere, which is nice and quiet when Fort Bragg isn’t shooting off artillery.
Where and when I was born: Syracuse, N.Y., in December 1958. I grew up in a couple of small towns south of there, Lafayette and Tully.
Family: Paul, my husband, and Butterscotch, our 17-year-old cat. I am childless by choice and am a proud feminist in the central New York tradition.
Education: Tully High School graduate in 1977. I graduated in 1989 from Sandhills Community College with an associate’s degree in science degree. A year later, I went on to attend Western Carolina University, where I earned a B.S. in clinical laboratory science. After 10 years, I returned to Sandhills and earned another applied science degree, this time in Internet technologies.
Occupation: I spent 10 years working in a hospital laboratory and then 10 years as a Web programmer designing and developing interactive PHP sites. I’ve been disabled by lupus since 2010.
How I got where I am today: Hard work and the help of my husband, who made my going to college possible.
Where I’m headed: Where we all are, being a part of the circle of life replenishing the soil.
Person in history I admire and why: There are so many who stood up for what they believed despite the blowback, but three stand out for me. Giordano Bruno for not backing down, Margaret Sanger for advocating for women to control their own biology, and Christopher Hitchens for facing death with dignity and honesty.
A quotation I like: My favorites:
• “We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing, all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans and then blames them for his own mistakes.” (Gene Roddenberry)
• “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” (Epicurus)
• “Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.” (Carl Sagan)
These are a few of my favorite things: All things science, “Star Trek” (Trekkie since 1966), “Jeopardy!”, lifelong learning, advocating for acceptance of atheists, documentaries, bouncy music, honesty and reality.
I’m keeping alive the hope illustrated in “Star Trek” that we may someday grow up as a species to value and embrace diversity while being kind to each other.
These are not: Those who are purposely ignorant and proud of it, dishonesty, evangelicals showing up at my house, government promotion and entanglement with religion, indoctrination rather than education, and people who tell me to have “a blessed day.”
My doubts about religion started: The first time I heard the stories at about age 8. Our family didn’t go to church, though my parents were vaguely religious. A neighbor asked to take us to their church. A couple of visits listening to the improbable stories and realizing these people thought they were true rather than myths ended that activity. I’ve been an atheist ever since, though until 1991 I remained silent so I could be employable in the small southern community where I live. When the first President Bush said he didn’t consider atheists to be patriots or good citizens, I got mad and then vocal.
Why I’m a freethinker: I seem to have been born that way. To me, to be anything other than a freethinker is to be a slave to someone else’s agenda. I was always the “why?” child. If the answers to my questions were not logical, I deemed the answers nonsense and looked for rational answers elsewhere.
Ways I promote freethought: I’m the current president of the Military Atheists and Freethinkers at Fort Bragg. We help other atheists know they are not alone by helping build what I like to call an interNOfaith community of atheists, freethinkers, skeptics, secular humanists and agnostics in our area, consisting of soldiers, veterans and civilians.
I know from experience the isolation many atheists feel due to their nonbelief, especially in rural areas like ours. We shouldn’t have to live this one precious life we have feeling alone and disenfranchised just because we think rationally. The more of us who are open about our freethinking, the greater the likelihood that we will eventually be accepted.
What areas of life without religion need more attention? I’d like to see our community do more advocacy for elderly atheists to help them push back against society’s religious presumptions. When my agnostic grandmother died, the funeral home sent a representative and a preacher. I told them a preacher was neither needed nor welcome.
It made me think about our atheists in nursing homes who may have to endure religion when they are least able to decline and may have no one to speak up for them or fear repercussions.