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Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:30 pm
by LisaRidge
Hi everyone! I'm Lisa Ridge, the current Vice President and Membership Chair of NJHN. We've created this forum for people to introduce themselves. Share as much (or as little) as you want, including personal information, the story of your journey to humanism, etc.

I'm 51, married to Tim Ridge, live in Ewing, and work for the State Judiciary as a legal editor and librarian. I'm a crazy cat lady with 3 cats and I'll talk about them all day if you let me. I'm originally from southeastern Indiana and moved to NJ in 2001 after meeting Tim on a St. Louis Cardinals message board in 2000. Love the Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles.

My parents were Catholic and I was the middle child of five children, and we all attended Catholic school. But I was always asking questions, like why don't Adam and Eve look like cavemen in the bible. By age 9, I was decidedly agnostic, believing that the whole god thing was nothing more than a story, since there was no evidence for any of it, and I saw a lot of suffering that the god everyone was praying to was allowing to happen. After 5th grade, I was allowed to leave Catholic school for public school and I think everyone -- me and the priest and nuns -- was happier. I was a good kid, straight A student, but very headstrong and I was slowly able to stop participating in all Catholic rituals (including going to church) by age 15. My parents were always proud of my critical-thinking ability and they didn't force religion on me. They agreed with some of my anti-Catholic (and Vatican) views, especially on birth control. As I grew older I would start sentences with "If there is a god, and I'm not saying there is ...," but my life was free of religious trappings for the most part.

My 40th birthday present was to move to New Jersey and begin a new life. After living in Indiana, California, Nevada and Ohio, I think New Jersey is a fantastic place to live! After 9/11, there were so many candlelight vigils, gatherings, memorials, and they were all so soaked with religious belief and faith-based patriotism that Tim and I decided it was time to find some like-minded friends, who saw 9/11 as evidence that religious belief caused more harm than good. So we searched online and found the New Jersey Humanist Network website and contacted the founder, Harley Brown, who invited us to their next event, which was the very first HumanLight celebration in December 2001 at the Verona Boathouse. We started attending monthly meetings after that and we've been involved with NJHN ever since!

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:01 am
by Mike Jacobsen
Hi everyone! My name is Michael Jacobsen, I am a professional music teacher and performer and a proud member of the New Jersey Humanist Network. I currently serve on the Master Faculty of the Westminster Conservatory in Princeton and I live in Plainsboro with my wife Danielle (we're celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year!) and our three atheist cats. We love everything about living here, and really enjoy our work and the rich culture that this area has to offer. I am originally from Washington State, born and raised in the Puget Sound area. Danielle, a professional singer and voice teacher, is from Louisville Kentucky. We met while we were both finishing our Masters degrees at the University of Norther Iowa in Cedar Falls and, after living in Seattle for a few years, moved to New Jersey for good in 1994.

I endured a fairly strict religious (Lutheran) upbringing and was required to attend church regularly. my parents made sure that I finished the requisite catechism classes and was "confirmed" as a church member in my teen years. I was not a firm believer and resented being dragged to church to participate in what I felt was a pointless ritual. I was certainly not inspired to continue in the church tradition when I left home for college. As a college student, I discovered how wonderful life can be when you are open to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and are inquisitive about the world. Since that time I have been what I would describe as a proud, and still somewhat resentful, freethinker. Though I discovered Humanism, and the NJHN community much later in life, I feel that I have been a Humanist at heart for a very long time. There was no "conversion" to Humanism for me, just the simple, calm realization that Humanism best expressed my world view. More recently I began to search for a Humanist association to meet other like-minded people. I was very happy to find the NJHN and I look forward to participating in upcoming NJHN programs.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:24 am
by JaniceR
I'm Janice Rael, I live in Clayton, Gloucester County. Most of my activism centers around my other group, the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (DVAU), but I am a member of the Gloucester County Humanists and am GCH's representative on NJHN's Board. My previous adventures in secular activism have included Board positions with the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, Internet Infidels, the Secular Coalition for America, and Atheist Alliance International. I am also on the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

I've been a nonbeliever since age 19 and have used every descriptor in the book (atheist, agnostic, freethinker, Humanist) throughout the years. My spouse and 2 teens are also atheists.

My personal focus is on issues of church-state separation, and local-level community for nontheists.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 1:19 pm
by joe_vincenzino
Hi, I'm Joe Vincenzino, currently from North Plainfield in Somerset County. I've lived in NJ since 2001, living in Scotch Plains until April 2010. I'm originally from NYC, born and spending my first 30 years on Staten Island.

I come from a very typical and devout Italian Catholic family. Statues of saints everywhere, but that's not contributed to my humanist and atheist beliefs, really. i always say, and to the best of my memory, that I've been questioning and not believing since I was 8 years old, but not because of anything negative about religion, but just that for some innate reason, it all just didn't make sense. An invisible god just really didn't seem to be there. I never really labeled myself, and never really knew others that shared my beliefs (or non-beliefs), but it all just seemed natural and right to me. I had a Catholic education all the way through an all-boys high school, made all my sacraments (as they say), even thinking of going to Cathedral Prep (kind of seminary prep school) at one point, but all the time really not believing. I never went to church regularly, really only going to weddings or funerals.

I guess though in some ways, even though Staten Island is a very provincial environment, my Catholic education was somewhat atypical. A recent speaker at one of our group's program meetings described a rock mass where somebody played Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit and it made me think about my 8th grade religion class where we analyzed rock songs, like American Pie. Not what you'd think of as a traditional Catholic education. And it kind of continued into high school. I always said that high school was responsible for solidifying my atheism, but not because it was a negative experience, but because they taught me to think and question, and intentionally introduced us to the world. I had a religion class that was a true survey class of various religions (we read Siddhartha!), another in thanatology (the study of death) and another in futurology (think Future Shock).

It wasn't until 1997 or so when I learned that there were organized groups of humanists, which I had kind of started to call myself, not knowing that there really was such a thing. Living in Manhattan, one day near home I ran into an elderly woman carrying some humanist literature, who turned out to be Beth Lamont, the widow of one of the significant men in the humanist movement. I attended a couple of meetings of her group, and our paths crossed a few times, but I never really became much of an activist. When I was married in 2000, we had a humanist ceremony, presided over by an officiant from the Ethical Culture Society. We were divorced in 2009 (not at all humanism's or atheism's fault), and in an effort the grow my social life, found meetup.com and the Madison Atheist group, and eventually NJHN. And though I'm still not really an activist, I am definitely more active in the community, and am happy to know many others who share so much of my world view.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:41 pm
by Tim Ridge
Hello all, I'm Tim Ridge. I'm the webmaster of njhn.org and currently the Treasurer of New Jersey Humanist Network. Lisa and I, as well as Nick Mellis, are also representatives on the NJHN Board of Directors for NJHN-Mercer County (fka Mercer County Atheists & Humanists).

I'm 56 years old and reside in Ewing with my wife Lisa Ridge and our three cats Smeagol, Helo and Lily (four if you count our outside cat Mimi). I'm a technical consultant specializing in business applications.

One of my major interests is singing. Lisa and I recently joined a local chorus and are enjoying the change of pace. Another is baseball. We are both fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and thoroughly enjoyed last October's games. But what we love to do most is meet other Humanists, atheists and freethinkers, which is why we are involved in the leadership of NJHN. We joined the group early in 2002 after having attended the first HumanLight celebration on December 23, 2001 and have been involved in one way or another ever since.

This message board was originally conceived as a way to make communications with our Board of Directors more efficient. But it can be so much more. I encourage anyone that has a topical idea to post about it here.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:18 am
by marilynf
Hi, I'm Marilyn from Bridgewater, NJ. I greatly enjoy attending the NJHN meetings and meeting people who think more like I do.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:41 pm
by Beth
Hi everyone,

I am Beth Scott and I have been a member of NJHN for approx 2 years. I am happy to have found this group so close to home where I can be around people with similar views and values.

Re: Welcome - please introduce yourself!

PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:59 am
by sumware
ImageMy husband and Howard and I have been NJHN members for several years, at least since it met at the People Center in Bridgewater, time flies when you’re having fun. We live in Watchung, on a mountain, in the woods, surrounded by nature. I have been a professor at Union County College for almost 30 years. I teach Computer Information Systems, which is using Microsoft Office Software and Internet. I try to teach about how computers affect our lives as well as the mechanics of using them. I tweet under the username sumware, usually stuff about learning.

Speaking of time flying, Howard and I are empty nesters, our older son Adam lives in NYC with his wonderful wife Christine. Our younger son, Noah, is at Johns Hopkins University, a budding Biomedical/Electrical Engineer. You notice the two biblical names? Both Howard and I were brought up Jewish. Not super religious; though Howard’s mother kept a Kosher home, while he and his dad enjoyed cheeseburgers outside the home. We named Adam after the first bible dude because it is a Jewish custom to name your child after a dead relative (it is an Eastern European tradition, not all Jews, since if a child is named after someone living then the Angel of Death could come down to earth and take the wrong person!) We did not want our parents fighting over which dead grandpa we were naming our son after so we selected a relative from “both sides”. Then when Noah arrived 11 years later, we chose that name for the same reason. Besides we like the names, and they would be easy for the boys to learn to spell.

We attend NJHN meetings pretty regularly, enjoying the company and conversation at the Stage House meal afterwards. Last year we went to the Humanist convention in Boston, and I took the train down for the recent Reason Rally preceded by the Day of Lobbying training sponsored by the Secular Coalition for America. Every so often we join Enid at Madison Atheists.

I am an “out” Humanist. I tell folks that I am a Humanist and usually have to explain what that is. I try to do my share (more if possible) of helping people via volunteering. We give blood every couple of months. Howard is retired and volunteers of the Union County College Foundation. Each month Howard goes to the Whole Foods in Union and fills the car with the unsold bread and the next morning I deliver the loaves and loaves of bread to the Soup Kitchen run by Grace Church in Plainfield. A half a dozen times a years or so, Howard and I go to end booksale “bag day” where we purchase a dozen grocery bag full of children’s books. I store these in my garage and deliver a 100 or so every few weeks to fill a bookcase in the pediatric waiting room of the Plainfield Health Center. When I do this stuff I make a point of telling those who thank me or say what a good person I am to tell them I am a Humanist. PS If you have a hoard of children’s books, or know where I can get them cheap, please contact me.

Enough (too much) said. Thanks Lisa and Tim for setting up this board (and ALL the other work you do for NJHN!) I am on the Internet several hours a day and will post the Humanist (atheist) stuff I find.