Hello, sir! My name is Teresa. I was born in 1983 in Florida to a pair of pseudo-hippies who after “dabbling” with ouija boards in Cassadaga had their attention turned toward playing peaceful songs about Jesus on acoustic guitars in a very non-threatening kind of way. We went to church every Sunday, but as a child I mostly just played games with other children while the adults enjoyed the service.
The preacher of our church spent a great deal of time at our home and when my parents divorced, he also divorced his wife and moved in with my mother. He resigned from his official position of preacher and we went to a different church every Sunday for awhile, as he kept running into people from his old congregation. Finally he gave up for a few years and we had traumatizing bible studies in the home every Sunday, all fire and brimstone, rapture and revelations, manipulation by fear. My sister and I had our childhoods ripped from us and replaced with this nonsense. At twelve, I became a fervent Southern Baptist not because I believed in it, but because I sought my mother’s approval.
I went through a typical teenage rebellion of becoming a Spiritualist and hanging out at Cassadaga a lot myself, playing with ouija boards and half-heartedly lighting candles for positive energy and reading tarot cards. This was a stepping stone to the comfort of Agnosticism and eventually admitting against everything I’d been taught that I was an Atheist.
I moved back into my mother’s house when I was 22 because at the time I had nowhere else to go. I was leaving an abusive relationship, and when I tried to talk to my mother about it, her advice was that I should get rid of my tarot cards because the rapture was coming soon. I was able to see a therapist at the time and I spent most of my sessions with her talking about atheism, philosophy and science, because I could not talk about these things in my own home.
During the time I lived in my mother’s house as an adult, I had a ritual. Every Sunday, when they would go to church and wouldn’t be there to vigilantly helicopter around my computer lest I be looking up something offensive to them, I would pull up History Channel videos about the bible and how it’s been altered, political debates, but most of all any lectures and debates I could find from you and to a lesser extent, other atheist authors. You were my preacher for all of those Sundays, and it was so refreshing to know that there was hope in the world for science and reason. I am so grateful to you and though we are very far apart and I understand that you are an incredibly busy man, I want you to know that I often think, “I would love to have a cup of tea with him.”
Thank you so much for giving us a voice and fighting the stigma associated with the word “atheist”.