Learn more about our Fall/Winter 2014 intern, Winsie Lee!
TheHumanist.com: What’s your educational background?
I just graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, this August with a double degree in sociology and communications.
TheHumanist.com: Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith?
I grew up in Hong Kong, China, in a predominantly non-religious culture with moderate Christian/Catholic presence (mostly in elite schools) because of British colonialism. I was raised in an agnostic family and we never went to church, but I attended a Catholic school during my middle school years for academics because most of the elite schools have a mostly Catholic presence. I had to recite prayers, attend mass occasionally, and take religious studies classes. However, in that culture, I felt like religious influence wass minimal and non-interfering, and I used to see The Bible as a metaphorical guide. I later came to the U.S. to expand my intellectual development and immerse in diversity. When I was in prep school in Connecticut for two years, there was minimal religious presence. The school had a chapel but it was mostly used for concerts and special occasions rather than for religious services. When I went to college in Virginia, I experienced a strong religious presence and was surprised to find out there are people who take the Bible literally. I found out that religiosity varies by state but is still pretty strong in the U.S. overall. Besides the surprise, I had felt religious discrimination, oppression, and marginalization.
TheHumanist.com: How did you first learn about humanism?
I found some pages for non-religious people and freethinkers on Facebook, as well as a page called the Global Secular Humanist Movement found by a brave fellow who escaped from Iraq and came to the U.S. That was when I learned of the term humanism and got more involved in the movement. I was surprised to find that religious presence is strong not only in the U.S. but in the world in general, and I felt like the non-reIigious humanist philosophy of focusing on humanity in the natural world rather than the invisible divine definitely needs to be preserved and needs a voice of its own.
TheHumanist.com: What interested you most about interning for the American Humanist Association?
The AHA is a major organization that advocates for the humanist philosophy. I think humanism is a good term as opposed to atheism because it focuses on embracing humanity rather than opposing religion. It focuses on equality rather than divisiveness. I love that the AHA not only works to fight for equality for non-theists but also civil liberties of various groups of people across gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. The organization is also involved in educational issues, which I’m deeply passionate about. What I love most about the AHA is its large scope and involvement with a variety of social issues (sometimes global ones too) and not just one or two specific areas.
TheHumanist.com: What’s your favorite book and why?
I’ve read numerous good books, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. The one that made the most impression on me is Louis P. Pojman and James Fieser’s Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, a compilation of many arguments by philosophers on the essential philosophical topics concerning the existence of God, the mind and consciousness, moral theory, and existentialism. I love the book because it includes the most essential arguments and contemplations on the meaning of the human existence and the world, which greatly expanded and stimulated my mind.
TheHumanist.com: If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?
The ones that came to my mind are Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, the founding fathers of sociology, my main major in college that became a great part of my life and identity. I have been really inspired by their intensive studies on the course of human history and how they came up with unprecedented theories of how hidden social structures and forces work and change over time. They have also come up with sociological theories for why religion exists and how it has sustained as an institution and evolved over time. I would definitely love to have an intellectual discussion with them where we can exchange our insights and perspectives, especially Weber who had studied Asian cultures as well. Yes, I’m a sociology nerd.