Humanist Voices
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Humanist Voices

Interview with Brenda Germain — President, MASH Ft. Bragg

Image Credit: Brenda Germain.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Growing up in Syracuse, New York area, what was the family life regarding religion? You worked a number of jobs including construction, restaurants, sawmill, and also water treatment. Did personal atheism affect work experiences at all?

Brenda Germain: Our family life did not include attending religious services at all. Those jobs I listed were here in NC. I kept my atheism hidden for years from everyone in this small yet very religious area out of concerns that I would be unable to find work.

The first time I actually let it be known that I was an atheist was in 1991 when I applied to return to Moore Regional Hospital after George HW Bush was reported to make the comment that atheists weren’t patriotic and that he didn’t think we should be citizens.

Jacobsen: Why did you attend Western Carolina University for undergraduate education in Clinical Laboratory Science? How did post-graduation transition into 10 years in a hospital lab?

Germain: I attended WCU Sept 1990 — Aug 1991. I began at Sandhills Community College earning an AAS in Medical Laboratory Technology in 1989 and continued there for another year picking up transfer classes while working at Moore Regional.

I returned to Moore Regional post-graduation. I stayed there until 2001 when my body could no longer tolerate the rigors of that job.

Jacobsen: You earned an AAS in Internet Technologies from Sandhill Community College and worked for 10 years as a web designer and programmer. Why select this path in professional life?

Germain: Practical considerations; I needed a job where I could sit down most of the time since my legs were giving out and I had already taught myself html and wanted to go to the next level educationally.

Not all that removed from laboratory science, just another field of science where logically thinking is helpful. I’m nearly 60 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! But over the years, I found that I gravitated towards sciences of all kinds.

Jacobsen: Now, you are the president of MASH Ft. Bragg. How did you earn this position? What are some of the activities within the group? What are the tasks and responsibilities of the president?

Germain: I’m not sure earned is the right turn of phrase. I was one of the last remaining members of the original group that worked on Rock Beyond Belief and the group’s treasurer. No one else wanted the responsibility, so I assumed the position to keep the group alive.

In an area such as this, it is vitally important to me to let other atheists know they are not alone and that like minded people are all around. I was astounded early in the process of working on Rock Beyond Belief to discover another atheist living less than 2 miles away.

Our activities fluctuate with our membership. Currently we do a monthly Secular Supper where we get together at various local restaurants to foster a sense of community and many of us wear our MASH t-shirts to public acknowledge that we exist.

On Memorial Day we have a cookout at our house for the members and a Solstice Dinner each December at our house. Our Solstice Dinner includes a Tree of Knowledge with science quote ornaments and forbidden fruit to be picked.

Every year we apply for a table at the local Dogwood Festival as an outreach to other area atheists, letting them know there is a community where they are welcomed.

We do two charitable events each year; School Supplies Drive each summer for a Fayetteville STEM school and our Solstice Food Drive for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC.

In the past we have had Critical Drinking (get together at local bars), Healthy Heathen Walks (nature walks), astronomy get togethers, speakers and attending secular events such as Reason Rally as a group. I always encourage our members to take on events that are of interest to them.

Right now, I’m kind of a one person show. My responsibilities are administrative, filing paperwork for our Dogwood table each year, keeping our website up and running, organizing and posting Secular Supper.

Fiduciary responsibilities include safeguarding the group’s money, writing checks as needed, collecting donations for our charity events and seeing to it the money is properly spent. I also design and develop graphics for our t-shirts, Facebook and website.

While I would love to do more activities, I am limited by lupus. No sunlight, no staying out in the heat and I get tired very easily. As we rebuild the group from the latest membership contraction, there will be more activities based on our new members interests, time and efforts.

Our ongoing challenge is stable membership as military members retire or are stationed elsewhere. This is part of why we welcome all secular people in the group, active duty, retired and civilians. Our community is too small to exclude anyone. We are building an interNOfaith community!

Jacobsen: How can people become involved in or support MASHH Ft. Bragg or other similar secular organizations?

Germain: Short answer, to become involved, become a member! People can join our group through Facebook or through our Events Calendar on our website mashfortbragg.org. People can support us by donating to our charitable events or to the other reputable secular organizations. For the non-secular folks out there, please stop vilifying us. We are your neighbors, your family and the people in your life who stand ready to help you without imposing our beliefs upon you.

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen supports science and human rights.