Journeys to Humanism: Bringing Out the “Human”

Marceline Dotson

Journeys to Humanism,’s regular series, features real stories from humanists in our community. From heartwarming narratives of growth, to more difficult journeys, our readers open up about their experiences coming to humanism.

Marceline Dotson
Dallas, Texas

I’m an atheist. Scary, right? That’s what people in the Bible Belt think at least.

I grew up snuggled in the suburbs of North Carolina, swaddled in Southern Baptist Christianity from the day I was born. I thought I had a golden childhood, and in many ways, I did because I was their golden child. Never in trouble. Never questioning. Always on my parent’s side.

So in college, when I was finally exposed to the outside world, I developed like a fresh photograph in a red room. My niche interests started to form. My music taste evolved. My opinions on hot-button topics began to shape around what I observed. It was long overdue. I learned pretty quickly that my “golden child” status depended on me being a very specific type of person, and I no longer fit the mold.

My parents held on to me tight. I’m their only daughter and the youngest of five. They pushed me to attend an extremely conservative university for the second half of my college years. What I saw there surprised me. My liberal community college and my conservative private school were like day and night. The students at my new conservative school functioned like a pack, and their “objective morality” proved too stringent for the realities of the world, often making their well-meaning actions or beliefs immoral. Ironic, right? Over time, I shifted away from those strict morals, unable to reconcile them with the subjective experiences of myself and people I met outside the Christian community.

To my horror, I also learned that my “Exploring Creation” textbooks failed me. I knew nothing about evolution except the limited arguments against it that I had been fed in high school. I think my time at the conservative school pushed me even further from religion, and it started a process in me where I wanted to learn and explore above anything else.

In my senior year, I took a risk and wrote an essay about my deconstruction for one of my classes. In it, I expressed my frustration toward religion and my desire to have something outside of it in these words: “Can I not take credit for my own successes, my own mind, my own morality? I would take responsibility for my failures as well. I don’t wish to be deprived of all that is human in the name of the divine. I don’t wish to give up the physical, the tangible world around me, for the spiritual one others deem more holy. My flesh and bones are sacred by right of being, and I cannot give them up for what one calls sacred that, from my observation, has no being at all.”

Just a few months later, I discovered humanism. I realized that my new outlook on life completely aligned with humanist values: taking responsibility, acknowledging our potential for good, and seeking answers through reliable methods like science.

I became a humanist before I even discovered it. Honestly, it feels more like humanism discovered me. Although atheism and humanism aren’t the same, my journey to one brought me to the other. My “atheist” label has estranged me from certain groups of people, but my “humanist” label keeps me connected to all people. I’m no longer shut off from the world. I can learn and love freely. I can embrace parts of myself that I had to hide before. Humanism has brought out the “human” in me and let it live in the light.

We all have our own stories of how we came to be humanists, and we want to hear yours! Fill out the form here to be featured in this series.