Why I am an atheist – Sheila Galliart

My background: I will be 49 years old next week; I am a white heterosexual married woman with two almost-grown children (one girl, a sophomore at university majoring in computer engineering; the other a boy, high school sophomore). I live in Edmond, Oklahoma; a suburb of Oklahoma City. I was raised as a member of the Church of Christ; fundamentalist xtianity at it’s strongest here in the bible belt. The Church of Christ (COC) claims to be the only original, direct descendant church of the New Testament; members are right and everybody else on the planet is WRONG, including the local popular by numbers Southern Baptists.

Why are they wrong? Because they believe that being baptized is just something extra one does to demonstrate faith; whereas members of the COC count baptism, being physically buried in water (dunked not sprinkled) as a KEY, necessary action required for entrance into Heaven. Those that aren’t members of the COC? Why, they shall burn forever in the Lake of Fire aka Hayull.

Please understand that the following constitutes embarrassment to me, NOW:

I graduated from a COC university, Oklahoma Christian University, with a BS degree in Medical Technology, in 1984. I made a 30 on the ACT; I have always been interested in science. Since that time, I have been employed as a Medical Technologist/Clinical Laboratory Scientist (two terms meaning the same thing). My current position is as a US Government Employee (drone), as the Supervisor of Transfusion Services (aka ‘blood bank) at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK.

Unfortunately, I was a product of my environment and was a bible believing church-every-Sunday xtian until approximately five years ago; more or less, I cannot exactly recall. At any rate, I have not been ‘to church’ in over five years, for certain.

Okay, I hear the wheels of your mind turning, and you are thinking to yourself: GHEEZ LOUISE HERE IS A CLASSICAL MEMBER OF THE SLOW READING GROUP! A SCIENCE major who believes in the absolute truth of the Bible? Right?

Well, I can’t argue with that! Yes, I am a victim of my upbringing; in no small part which meant that as a person lacking a penis, I was to follow; not to lead. Please understand, I don’t BLAME anybody for my behavior but I am trying to explain how an intelligent human being can believe in total and complete BS until she is 45 years old. I was always a ‘good girl’; and ‘good girls’ made good grades; good girls studied. Good girls also married a fellow xtian; good girls submitted to their fathers and their husbands, good girls did not question.

In my case, I had the fortune of meeting a man with ‘no religion’ at all. Unfortunately, for HIM, I ‘converted’ him to my religion. And, his brother. And, his parents. OOO, look at me; I have converted four persons to the true gospel of keereyst! So many jewels, in my crown of the hereafter! Awesome; I am; and awesome is my jeeebus/gayd! NOT.

Let us Fast Forward, please, to absolve me of at least some embarrassment in your eyes. I began to read a lot of books. CORRECTION: I have always read a lot of books. I keep lists of every book I have read for the past 20 years. More and more, my reading lists consisted of non-fiction books (still overwhelmingly a favorite by at least a 4-1 margin).

The books I read that began to convince me that I and my religion were full of kerap? I know you are thinking I read ‘The God Delusion’. Well, Yes I did! But not right away. The books I read that began to convince me that I was; shall we say politely, in ‘error’?

The major one was, Ghosts of Vesuvius, by Charles Pellegrino. I bought this book just because I was interested in science, and archeology, and how ancient societies functioned. After that? I read a cople of his other books. Here is another mainstream media production that convinced me, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384766/, ROME, the HBO series. It explains so exquisitely the way the Roman gods affected the common societal norms. I began to see, that my beliefs were not unique at all, but just like the ancient Romans. In other words? Ridiculous.

After that? Laugh if you wish, but the comment threads on religion stories on www.fark.com; convinced me. I was furious, at first! Those heathen godless hellions commenting on the religion threads! But as I read, I assimilated, and I learned. Those horrible liberals! I need not mention that I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and the first presidential vote I ever made? Was for Ronald Reagan.

Eventually I made my way to Pharangula, likely through a Fark thread although I cannot recall for certain. At any rate, for the past five years I have been a ‘gnu atheist.’. I trust and believe in the beauty of the cosmos, and it is more than enough for me. Interestingly, long before I was an admitted atheist, I made sure my grade school children were exposed to Bill Nye The Science Guy. I have the VCR tapes to prove it. So I would have to credit Bill Nye as well as Charles Pellegrino, as ‘de-converting’ me.

Today, I visit scienceblogs.com daily, as well as The Friendly Atheist (Hemant deserves some credit too in my anti-xtian-conversion), and FARK, and am a member of Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Sorry, PZ, for the length of this. I realize you are a busy important person, and I want to extend my kudos to you and everything you do, everyday. PLEASE know that there are those ‘on the bubble’ out there, as I was at one time, who count on you and your blog to convince them of the truth.

In conclusion, if you have read this far, thank you so much! I hope to meet you at Skepticon in November.

Sheila Galliart
United States


  1. ManOutOfTime says

    Lovely statement, Sheila. Thank you – and congratulations! It always means a little more to read a story like yours coming from The Bible Belt – and to be brave and strong as you are in Oklahoma can’t be easy.

  2. consciousness razor says

    Because they believe that being baptized is just something extra one does to demonstrate faith; whereas members of the COC count baptism, being physically buried in water (dunked not sprinkled) as a KEY, necessary action required for entrance into Heaven.

    That’s a shame. Here I was, ready to get out the hose, thinking that’d mean they’d go to this “Heaven” place, but apparently that won’t work. I might try anyway, just to be sure.

  3. Gilbert says

    Sheila – great story. Glad to hear christianity and nonsense have lost their grip. I need to know though if your husband, his brother and their parents still believe in jeebus, or are they coming to lose their faith in christianity as well? It would be great if they all could be free of delusion.

  4. AussieMike says

    Sheila great story. It must feel like a weight off your shoulders but you left me hanging with what happened to the kids and husband! Was it hard for them or a releif? Are you deconverting the rest ofthe family as well :-)

  5. Chris Booth says

    Lovely essay, Sheila. I was much moved by it. I applaud your courage and your willingness to engage your brain against all the pressure not to.

    I hope that you have not lost friends or had family problems as a result of your natural intelligence and your enlightenment.

  6. Stevarious says

    I wonder how many people have to come forward to explain that ‘yes, I do in fact at least partially credit my de-conversion to rude commenters on the internet’ before the tone trolls will shut up?
    (not referring to anyone on this thread, BTW)

  7. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says



    Hee hee hee. I read that as KEY-rap! which made me smile.

    Excellent post. I love that Bill Nye gets some of the credit for your de-conversion– that guy is awesome.

  8. lobotomy says

    Thanks for the great story Sheila!

    And I don’t think there is any need to apologize or feel embarrassment with this group. We have all arrived here from many paths and there is no single “right way” to get here. Frankly, I am very impressed that you used your own mind to free yourself from 45 years of indoctrination and dogma. While raised in a moderately strong Catholic family I feel very lucky that I never really believed and only had to face my own guilt (I was raised Catholic) for not believing. I didn’t have to go through the major paradigm shift you must have gone through.

    And best of luck in Edmond. I am stuck in Bryan county, Oklahoma. It has all of the religious ferver of rural Oklahoma without very much of the “cosmopolitan” atmosphere that you can ocassionally find in the OKC metroplex.


  9. says

    Sheila, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I love the way you write! I have a feeling you’d make a great interview on our podcast. Would love to have you as a guest sometime!

  10. Blondin says

    Great story.

    Just to confirm, Sheila, in this bit

    …the comment threads on religion stories on http://www.fark.com; convinced me. I was furious, at first! Those heathen godless hellions commenting on the religion threads! But as I read, I assimilated, and I learned.

    are you saying that snarky, irreverent, perhaps rude or insulting comments helped you to ‘deconvert’?

    If so, well, so much for “Don’t be a dick.”

  11. Catherine says

    Sheila I love your subtle sense of humor and your transformation of previously “holy”words into caricatures–keyreyst!! Gayud!!!you are hilarious. Thank you so much for your story. Recovering catholic here, no penis, was never any good at submitting to anyone.. Go girl!!

  12. kazim says

    Great story, I hope this is happening over and over again out there! I will see you all at Skepticon because it’s here in my good ol’ home town of Springfield MO! I’ll be in the white Buick with the dinosaur eating the jesus fish and this bumper sticker I had made http://i.imgur.com/LLvQI.jpg Don’t be afraid to say hi! I am a bit embarrassed to say this but I never even knew about Skepticon until I started reading this blog at the beginning of the year! It’s not like they advertise it much around town, and until 2 years ago I wasn’t the prominent social media atheist I am these days :)>, though I’ve ALWAYS been an atheist since I could think for my self. I’ve also been an “out” atheist since I was 15, which back then everybody attributed to rebellion and I always tried to explain it was the one thing everybody wanted me to do (get an education) that was causing me to not believe in god. That’s 17 years now of being an atheist in the middle of the bible belt!

  13. hyoid says

    Hey Sheila!

    Great story! I’m from OKC and a lot of my family live in Edmond. It’s a nice place. I lke the Billy Sims Ribs when I’m there. One of the best parts of Pharyngula is when recommended readings are posted in the comments. It’s helped me to no end. Thank you for your story and reading references.

  14. Sheila says

    Thanks guys! I actually sent PZ a follow-up e-mail asking him not to post this because I thought it was too long and rambling and incoherent, lol. I guess he didn’t see it but that’s okay.

    And YES, absolutely, the rude snarkiness religion threads HELPED me deconvert. Not at first; at first, I was offended but I kept reading them anyway and eventually, I began to see things differently.

    Probably helps that I have always been a rude snark myself!

  15. Pan says

    Yes, please. Don’t feel the need to apologize!

    Some years ago, a guy demanded a little extra-admiration, because he was a straight, white, cis-gendered Male from a christian family, who gave up all his privilege and became an atheist. Basically, he wanted his privilege back. Luckily, this guy was called out on it immediately. There are no “better” or “worse” atheists. Of course, there are easier ways and starting points towards atheism, but at the end of the day all of us believe in zero gods, we’re all standing at the same point.

    Nevertheless, I think you’re a great person. You had the courage to admit that you’ve been wrong for so many years and that you dragged people into this system. I admire you because of this, not because you’re an atheist.

  16. says

    A little bit of that old Oklahoman snarkiness from Why I Am An Atheist 1.0:

    May 17, 1903

    Men have written books. We might also include preachers and jackasses in the list. This is a sufficient explanation of the existence and authorship of the Bible. The “perseverance of the saints,” in “replenishing the earth” with epileptic idiots, accounts for the fact that some people still cling to the theology of inspiration.

    The God of the Holy Bible was fathered by Fear and mothered by Faith. He was born in a filthy den of savages, where cannibals drank blood and fed with fang-like teeth on human flesh. Like Romulus, he suckled at the dugs of a gaunt wild beast, the impersonation of treachery, hatred, and revenge. His is a pedigree that would cause a hyena to hang its head in shame.

    Glenn Guernsey
    Kingfisher, Oklahoma

  17. Newfie says

    Aah… another Farker. Great story, Sheila. I had the good fortune to meet PZ and Hemant last year in Chicago, while I was in town for a Fark related event.

  18. Psych-Oh says

    Great story, Sheila. Also interested in the rest of your family… are they Gnus as well now?

  19. says

    I spent a few years in CoC as a teenager, but never quite drained the koolaid to the dregs. Got married there, and haven’t been back since (though it took another few years to dump fundamentalism, and another couple decades to dump religion altogether). I kind of feel sorry for anyone who actually grew up in that environment.

  20. Dhorvath, OM says

    That was awesome. I felt like I sat with you for a conversation. Very well written.

  21. Jeannie in PA says

    “I hope to meet you at Skepticon in November.”

    My guess is a lot of people will want to meet SHEILA too!

  22. westcoaster says

    Sheila, you don’t need to be embarrassed or apologetic for believing until you were 45. I’ve been an atheist all my life, but that’s because my parents were atheists and I never faced indoctrination. You were indoctrinated and yet you had the strength of mind to first question and then reject the beliefs that were piled on to you. Many (most?) theists never manage to do that. And as a “born” atheist, I will never know if I could have done it either. So as a person who has proven that she can break free of her childhood beliefs, I think you should be proud!

  23. TonyJ says

    All the non-atheist Farkers claim that nobody is ever swayed by our pointless snark and rambling, and here you are to prove them wrong.

    Fark handle: Ant

  24. Sally Strange, OM says

    You were indoctrinated and yet you had the strength of mind to first question and then reject the beliefs that were piled on to you

    This. Regardless of the belief in question, it is an extremely challenging thing to do. I have the utmost respect for anyone who manages it. Don’t apologize, Sheila, stand up and be proud!

  25. Sheila says

    @12: A podcast? I dunno, I hate my voice (probably because I sound like a hick, which I don’t like to admit to myself)!

    @20: I’m definitely NOT better than anybody! Rather worse, if anything, in that I allowed myself to be delusional for so long.

    @23: My mother in law passed away several years ago. Neither my father in law nor my brother in law go to church at all anymore. My husband doesn’t go either but he rolls his eyes at me a lot and is impatient with my ‘militant’ atheism especially since he remains a political conservative. Neither of my children go to church (college age and high school); both are non-believers.

    @28: I’m sure it depends upon the person, but I began to laugh in spite of myself at the snark. For those who are immediately turned off and never return, the rudeness doesn’t sway them, obviously. But then, those that refuse to question their beliefs aren’t going to be swayed by anything they read, whether it is ‘nice & polite’ or ‘rude & sarcastic’. My Fark handle is ‘BillGannon’ but I almost never post, just read for entertainment value.

    And it’s always great to see fellow bibble-belters here.

  26. grumpyoldfart says

    What about your husband, brother-in-law and parents-in-law? Are they still wasting their lives, believing the lie you taught them?

  27. BCskeptic says

    Very amazing story Sheila. It is liberating, isn’t it? No target on your back, no guilt for thinking this or that, and intellectual freedom. Your story makes me feel there is hope that the religious craziness that has infected the U.S. (and not far behind, my own country up north of you), might lose its grip.

    Question for you, if you don’t mind. My daughters (age 17 and 19) were religiously indoctrinated by my X-wife since they were young (first Catholic, now Pentecostal) and are fully hard-core religious (well, I don’t think they are knocking on doors…yet). So as not to have them caught in a tug-of-war, I’ve basically kept quiet about it (my angst…), although they do know I’m atheist, and they reluctantly watched the video production of God Delusion with me when they were younger.

    What do you think, as a woman, and looking back at what you were like at that time of your life, might be a good approach to introducing them to the “reality-based community”? Email them a link Pharyngula and see if they check it out? I really want them to fully experience life, get educated, and not be hampered by religious nonsense, but I feel a bit parallized as to what to do…I don’t want to alienate them or lose them. I do talk about science, the need to be skeptical so as not to be “taken in” etc.

    Just wondering…maybe others out there face a similar situation.

  28. abb3w says


    All the non-atheist Farkers claim that nobody is ever swayed by our pointless snark and rambling, and here you are to prove them wrong.

    Of course, an existence proof still leaves open the question of frequency that such shifts occur. I don’t see an easy way to measure that, however. And Fark wasn’t the only factor, merely contributory. I also wonder about the optimally persuasive ratio of humor-to-rudeness in the snark (or more subtly, optimally persuasive distribution of ratios); but that would be hard to rigorously define, let alone measure.

    It seems interesting that Sheila was more a lurker than a commenter. If reflective of a tendency, it might give some support to the hypothesis that while arguing on the internet may be rarely convincing for the other disputant, it may be more usefully persuasive to the broader audience. But extrapolating from a single anecdatum is, to say the least, a dubious proposition.

  29. Newfie says


    I’m not a professional, but I sometimes play one on the intertubes. ie. you’re about to get a suggestion from a dumb Newf

    1. ask the girls if they’d be interested in early Christian history, and why you’re an atheist.


    2. crack 3 cans of Kokanee (yes even one for the 17 year old.. I’m a bad influence, btw)


    3. read a couple of essays from this site together: http://www.earlychristianhistory.info/
    (don’t know who’s site it is, but the info jibes with much of what my own research has turned up, and they are nice little concise articles that will get their brains a churnin’)

    GOTO 4

    4. discuss, and make plans to do it again.. it’s fascinating stuff when looked at from the outside.

    GOTO 5

    5. GOTO 6

    6. crack 1 Kokanee for yourself


  30. Georgia Sam says

    I empathize with you in a big way, Sheila. I, too, was a member of the Church of Christ for a number of years, introduced to it by my high school girlfriend, who was to become my first wife. At first the fact that they didn’t believe in some of the crazier things that the more extreme charismatics did (faith healing, speaking in tongues, etc.) appealed to me. I eventually figured out, however, that their skepticism didn’t go nearly deep enough. The most devout COC members go to extreme lengths to keep their children away from any non-COC influences, often home-schooling them & sending them to COC colleges. It isn’t a cult by the strict definition, but it’s very hard to break out of if your whole family is in it.

  31. Sheila says

    BCSkeptic: you might try The Friendly Atheist, Hemant’s website, for your teens. Also, science shows like Nova or Nature or especially Cosmos with Carl Sagan, if you can get them to watch it, would be especially good.

    Georgia Sam: COC is similar to a cult the same way the Mormon church is, and the JW’s, and probably others; if the church considers your behavior out of line you are treated to a visit from the ‘elders’ who try to straighten you out. But since I left, not a single person has tried to get me to come back. I will give them that much.

  32. Sheila says

    @33: of course my story is anectdotal. But as the xtians say, if just ONE soul is saved, then it’s all worth it, right?

  33. raven says

    Of course, an existence proof still leaves open the question of frequency that such shifts occur. I don’t see an easy way to measure that, however.

    It’s not so hard. People are always counting the xians and non-xians.

    And people are leaving the churches at 1-2 million/year in the USA. The amount of loot the churches take in is also slowly declining.

    According to the National Council of Churches, 1.5 million people dropped off the membership rolls last year.

    The Southern Baptists have lost members for 3 years straight. Their retention rate of young people is 30% and they project a 50% decline in the next few decades.

    ARIS surveys always have interesting data.

    The numbers vary but they are rarely in favor of the churches.

  34. ckitching says

    Good ole fark. Corrupting young (and not so young) minds for over a decade. Who knows how many have had their comfortable illusions shattered by things like Fark, SomethingAwful, Reddit and similar sites…

  35. abb3w says


    of course my story is anectdotal. But as the xtians say, if just ONE soul is saved, then it’s all worth it, right?

    I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it at least looks like progress…


    People are always counting the xians and non-xians.

    Yes, I’m well aware there’s a massive ongoing shift. (The overall trend already seems pretty easy to model: the fraction of “Nones” is on a logistic curve versus Cohort, time constant circa 27 years, midpoint circa the 2007 cohort. Note “None”≠Atheist.) However, I was referring @33 to the more specific case of frequency of shifts specifically attributable to the snarky discussions on Fark. (PZ would probably be more interested in more effects of Pharyngula’s threads.) My interest is whether more specific catalytic agents can be identified that will accelerate the transition reaction without causing an explosion.

    I prefer the Pew Religious Landscape Survey and GSS over the ARIS analysis, but there’s not much difference in the trend numbers between them.

  36. BCskeptic says

    @35 (Newfie) Thanks! Interesting site. I want to read it myself to get more educated. BTW, I’m at the other end of the country.

    After I posted, I was thinking something along the lines of a heart-to-heart with my oldest. Nice intimate dinner with her, and then, explain that for her entire life I have almost entirely kept silent about what I believe (or disbelieve), and the reasons for it (to keep her mother from hating me even more –you know, the one who told me point blank, just before our separation and eventual divorce, I was going to hell, not to get into a tug-of-war etc.).

    Then, basically ask the question, “are you interested in knowing what my beliefs (non-beliefs) are, and why?” And, explain that I have come upon a number of “testimonials” of deconversion (such as Shelia’s, Matt Dillahunty’s etc.) of at one time very devout, hard-core believers, and that I don’t want to be asked years later, if she goes through such a deconversion, why I never spoke up and talked to her about it, and that she wasted so many years… And, tell her, to take as much time to think about it before answering as she likes.

    Continue dinner.

    Answer: Yes — I love you, no matter what. See Pharyngula, Blag Hag, Atheist Experience, read “The Greatest Show on Earth” (years ago she told me she was being taught both creationism, and evolution…rrrriiiigggghtttt).

    Answer: No — I love you, no matter what. Ok. Drop the subject, and leave the thought that if you ever wonder or want to know… Continue on.

    @37 (Sheila) Yes, thanks. Tried that. Everytime shows like that come on, they seem to have something else to do…sigh. Now that they are older they don’t spend much time with their dad…mostly friends (and boyfriend).

  37. BCskeptic says

    One little addendum to the last post.

    I believe it is a child’s fundamental right to “know” both of her parents core beliefs and worldviews. It should not be dominated by one parent, just because the one parent asserts he/she is correct, and has possession (of the children).

    Is that wrong?

  38. Jim says

    Hi Sheila,

    You and I have had a very different experience. I was exposed to christian religion when I was about six. My mother thought it would be a good idea that I know something about christian belief, and sent me off to Sunday School every, well, Sunday. My pretty little mother was what I consider a very good example of a kind of 1950s woman. She wanted the best for her family, was polite, never used profanity (without making a big deal about not using profanity), and believed that all good people go to heaven. She didn’t force any beliefs on me and never discussed religion with me.

    I went only because my mother wanted me to go, and I’m not sure what I thought about it as a child. The first story I heard was about Isaac being sacrificed by Abraham. It didn’t help to find out that this god had changed its mind. As I listened, I was wondering what kind of people talked about parents killing their children. The bible didn’t really catch me. My interests were in animals. By eight I knew about most mega-fauna, particularly big African animals. I knew the differences between African and Asian elephants. I knew about how dangerous hippopotamuses were; they could bite crocodiles in half. (I saw this on a documentary as a boy; the researcher took a camera underwater and filmed a female hippo biting a crocodile in half to save its baby. It was amazing.) I knew that tigers were in Asia, not Africa. (I acquired the ire of a seventh grade teacher who had told the class that he had seen tigers on a safari in Africa. I said, only in a zoo. His co-teacher confirmed that tigers are native to Asia. My bad.)

    By nine years old, I was well acquainted with the theory of evolution. I had seen and heard it discussed in many documentaries. I had seen documentaries on dinosaurs, archeology, and the biological sciences in general. I watched the Leakeys and Jane Goodall. Every week I went through the TV Guide looking for all the history, science, and animal shows. I never missed a week of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. (Though I got to admit, although I always watched the Jacque Cousteau specials, they were boring. And that always pissed me off.) By the time I was nine, I pretty well knew I didn’t believe in god.

    My mother and I got to talking one day and I told her I believed in evolution. She said that was nice. She also said that evolution and god aren’t incompatible. God could have created stuff and it evolved. I knew deep in me that wasn’t true and still know that it is not true, but I kept my opinion to myself. (It is what my mother believed and still does, so I didn’t and still don’t challenge her on it. She’s very rational, keeps her beliefs to herself, is shocked by the religious right, detests the idea of a theocracy, and believes in a strong separation of church and state, so there simply is no point.) After she told me that, she got us some ice cream and we started talking about something else. I was either nine or ten, probably nine. I appreciate that she didn’t really care and was happy that I thought things out. That’s just one of the things I love about my mother.

    As a teen ager I became born again when my best friend became one. He was the closest friend I’d ever had. We smoked weed together. I did my first acid trip with him. (It was the seventies and the LSD was excellent and amazing.) We’d get high and go look for aliens in a wooded area near his house. (I don’t believe aliens have been here or are here now, but it was the seventies; lots of people expected to find them.) We drove to concerts in his VW bug. We were very good friends, and I implored him not to become one of the wackos. But, he did. I joined about two months after he had. We went to a big rapture centered church in Orange County. He took me to see a movie about the rapture, and I was terrified. The church where I had attended Sunday School loved to talk about hell, how much god disapproves of most everything fun, but didn’t talk at all about the end times. I was completely unprepared. My friend and I did all we could to avoid being kept on earth when he who never existed comes back. The furor lasted about six months. After six months of what by then just seemed like a bunch of bullshit, I told my friend that I wanted to smoke weed again, to have fun, and to quit badgering people with these ridiculous stories. Sunday school had pretty much informed me on the brutality, hypocrisy, and politics of christian myth, so once I got over my fear of the rapture, I was back with darwin and with cannabis. I was back to enjoying myself. I admit, though, those were a very useful six months.

    In the early 80s I lived in Oklahoma for about two years. What an experience. I was from Southern California, and I had no idea how fellow Americans could be so different. I had no idea what a dry county was. I had no idea that there were bars you brought your booze to and then paid the bartender to pour you your own liquor. I had no idea that men really wore cowboy hats and that they didn’t take off their hat when entering a building, house, or room. I had no idea that so many people thought the bible was inerrant. I had no idea how hostile people were to the idea of evolution. I just had no idea. Point being: good for you for coming out of the fog. It must not have been easy. I can easily understand how being in Oklahoma could have kept you religious even with a background in science. Coming to a rational conclusion about origins was pretty easy for me because I was well informed and allowed to think independently. I don’t want to imagine what it would have been like to have had that denied. Good on you.


  39. Mark Bailey says

    Sheila’s is an amazing story. Inspiring too. We don’t really have such issues in the UK, there are some families and some church groups of course, but we don’t have the equivalent of a whole State or town where (how to put this?) ignorance is effectively officially sanctioned and promoted.
    (Actually, having said that, there is actually a significant percentage of the Muslim community which refuses to engage with the science behind evolution, and that is increasingly seen as a problem.)
    Reading this story would make one proud to be human.
    Sheila: Good on you.

  40. Sheila says

    Jim, this evil legislation called ‘liquor by the drink’ passed many years ago, and now Oklahomans have normal bars like everyone else.

    However, the only COLD beer we can buy is 3.2 (watered down); sold in groceries, convenience stores, etc. The good beer can only be sold in liquor stores, and it CANNOT be cold (cheapest business to run here is a liquor store; slap up some trailer-house paneling on the walls, put in some shelves, put bottles of booze on them–done). Liquor stores are closed all holidays, all election days, and have limited hours (not sure but I think it’s about 8 am to 10 pm). Can’t buy wine in any kind of store except a liquor store.

    So, after typing all that, I realize we haven’t come that far out of the dark ages of ‘BYOB to the bar’ at all!

  41. delictuscoeli says

    Just had to comment to add some love for Charles Pellegrino. I picked up his Unearthing Atlantis when I was 11 or so, and in addition to furnishing me with an enduring fascination with the Minoan civilisation, the long section in the middle of the book where he leaps backward in time by powers of 2 (2 YA, 4 YA, etc) absolutely blew my young mind. I probably have him to thank for my deep admiration for science and history, and my love for seeing the way they can interact–such as how he triangulates evidence from ice cores, riverbeds, and bristlecone pines to give a stunningly specific date for the Theran eruption, a date that still hasn’t been acknowledged by the more pottery-obsessed historians.