May 11, 2017
We’re excited to welcome Vicki Smith from Central Michigan University and Andy Ngo from Portland State University to the CFI Outreach team this summer! Before they arrive at CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY, read what they have to say about their religious backgrounds, their experience with the freethought movement, and why they’re excited to intern at CFI:
I joined Dogma-Free Society at Central Michigan University in fall 2013, my freshman year of college. I fell in love with the organization. After a year of membership, I ran for and became the president. I maintained the position through my senior year, for a total of three years. I loved having a place we could discuss ideas and issues that we didn’t always have the opportunity to discuss in everyday conversation or even with our friends who didn’t understand.
I grew up in a semi-religious household; my father is a devout Christian but my mother is a very relaxed believer in God, so they don’t always see eye to eye. I grew up in the Bible Belt of North Carolina so I did try frequently to find faith in order to fit in. I attended church every Sunday, began reading the Bible, even joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, it never worked out for me. I couldn’t get past this nagging feeling that this wasn’t what I believed, that this wasn’t for me. After some research on other religions throughout high school—and even trying out some meditations/prayers from other religions—it dawned on me that I didn’t need to have a religion. I didn’t know why I was trying so hard when I was already happy with who I was and where I was heading. Joining Dogma-Free Society was actually my first step to acknowledging that I’m an atheist, and that has opened up a whole new world to me.
I’m excited to intern at CFI so I can meet the people behind the scenes, and connect more with the secular movement. I’ve spent my college years getting to know myself and the different issues secular and humanist organizations are up against; now I’m ready to take the next step and see what I can do to promote a secular society.
My name is Andy Ngo and I am a graduate student of political science at Portland State University. My academic interests include secularism and political Islam.
I am a student leader in Freethinkers of PSU, a secular humanist student group. In this past academic year, I helped push the group to embrace a strong secular liberal identity—that is, values that emphasize individuality, free speech, and independent thought. In spite of the backlash we’ve faced by peers who brand us “bigoted” for challenging ideologies such as religion (Islam in particular), we have pressed forward with our events.
I grew up in a culturally Buddhist home. My family rarely went to the temple but on the few occasions that we did when I was very young, I remember asking myself why people would spend so much time repeating mantras in a language we didn’t understand. I wanted to play outside.
As an adolescent who suffered from an identity crisis relating to being a 2nd-generation immigrant, I started attending an evangelical Christian church with some new high school friends. For my later teenage years and early adulthood, conservative Christianity would come to shape my life, community and purpose. In 2009, I left religion altogether after I began to critically analyze the few “spiritual encounters” in my life. I found other explanations for those experiences that were more reasonable and grounded in evidence.
I am extremely excited to be an intern with CFI this summer. I have been involved with the organization since 2011 and feel extremely honored that I was accepted to this role. I look forward to using my skills in journalism and multimedia to further the cause of freethought and secularism.