Cassidy Slinger is a general AHA officer. She is a freshman majoring in Pharmacy and Toxicology. Cassidy had heard about AHA through various atheist news sources prior to coming to college. When saw the table at the student organization fair, she signed up immediately. Once she attended her first meeting and experienced a true community of atheists, she was hooked. In her spare time, Cassidy likes to buy pop-tarts at really low prices, craft, play with animals, perform musical theater, and watch Broad City.
Cassidy's Secular Story
I grew up in a technically Catholic home: I went to church somewhat regularly with my Catholic mom, and we would pray before eating sometimes (I asked for a horse at the end of a prayer once. I was hilarious as a child), but other than that religion wasn't a huge part of my early life. I did end up going to a Catholic school from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, which kind of made Catholicism a part of my identity rather than strengthen my faith in any deity or whatever the reason is to send a kid to Catholic school. I thought of myself as a "good Catholic," not necessarily because I had such strong faith in God or anything, I just liked following rules and memorizing things, so learning prayers and learning how a church service ran were just kind of things I liked doing because I liked patterns and structure or something. I never really had faith beyond just accepting that God was real.
I think I had my first big issue with religion when I was about seven. I was at vacation bible school, where we were learning bible stories and singing songs and playing games, and we were learning John 3:16 in song form. Terror struck through me and I began tearing up as everyone around me sang about how believing in Jesus would give you eternal life. But what if you didn't? My dad didn't believe Jesus was the son of God, would he not get to go to heaven with me, my mom, and my brothers? From then on I was a little brat in religion classes. One teacher was going through the sacraments and mentioned marriage as something that lasted for life because Catholics don't get divorced, to which I responded "my grandma is very Catholic and she got divorced." Through all my doubting and questioning and being a pill though, I think the thing that most represented my eventual shift to atheism was how I pictured God. Most drawings and portrayals of God are of an old man with a long white beard. In my conscious thought I knew that's what I was supposed to picture, but instead of that standard image, my subconscious figured that God was Reverend Lovejoy from the Simpsons.
My official conversion took place in 6th grade; we were learning about Ancient Egypt and the gods they worshiped. I remember thinking "the Egyptians were so sure that their gods were real that they constructed massive pyramids for them. What makes the Christian god any different?" and that day I went home and told my mom about my new beliefs. She was unhappy at first, and still took me to church for a while after (I do have two younger brothers who weren't quite old enough to figure out what they believed at the time, but it clearly would not have been "fair" for me to stay home when they had to go to church) but has never been anything but supportive. My grandma once asked me why I wasn't getting confirmed and my mom changed the topic in a way I can only remember seeming like a Jedi mind trick.
I can't talk about my secular "journey" without mentioning my dad, though. He's been my role model for what being moral and secular looks like, and he helped spark my interest in science (my mom does get credit for my interest in medicine, though). He encouraged me to join AHA and lets me know if there's anything about atheism on tv or in a newspaper, and also has a collection of books by famous atheist writers, which he keeps on a bookshelf that he shares with my mom, which results in the Bible hilariously being on the same shelf as books like "God is not Great." I honestly couldn't be luckier to have grown up in the environment that I did; my family and friends have been nothing but supportive, and I've become even more thankful after seeing the environments other AHA members have come from.